Blog: Week 6 (May 27th)

In this week’s longer blog assignment (≈ 250-300 words), please remark upon two things: (I) your thoughts and reflections about the history of German immigrants/German-Americans living in Michigan and Detroit; (II) briefly compare and contrast the different histories of African-American and German-American communities inside Michigan.

40 thoughts on “Blog: Week 6 (May 27th)

  1. Rieke Nachtigall

    I think the history of German immigrants/German-Americans living in Michigan and Detroit is very interesting. As a student of a German school, we learned mostly about the European and especially German history in school. Therefore the new information from the texts made me evaluate my prior knowledge with a different focus. As the texts mentioned one reason for Germans to migrate to the US, the political uncertainty in the 19th century, reminded me of my hometown because during four years it was changing being a part of the Rheinbund, France, and eventually Prussia. Also, the mentioned 1948 revolution, which failed, can be a valid reason to search for political freedom outside of Germany in the US.
    The assimilation after World War I is understandable but it is sad to lose the culture which continued to live outside of Germany for such a long time. I have heard before about German-Americans hiding their heritage during and after World War II but I have not thought about the influences World War I had on the German-Americans.
    The German communities interested me as well. I think it is very fascinating that there were German schools, German newspapers, and essentially German “towns“.

    In comparison to African-Americans, the background is of course very different. For a majority of African-Americans having their heritage live through slavery. And German-Americans not being forced to live in their new village and essentially not being kidnaped but choosing their new country freely. But they also have some similarities, for instance, the establishment of churches and staying in mainly their community, to consider here again that German-Americans had a choice in that, opposite to African-Americans. But one big aspect both groups had to undergo through is the assimilation with Americans to fit in.

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    1. Cara Bierwirth

      I didn´ t think of similarities between German-Americans and Africans-Americans while writing my own blog. I only thought of the differences between them. While reading about similarities between these two groups in your blog, I totally agree with you. There are definitely similarities between German-Americans and Africans-Americans.

      I also wrote that they mainly stayed in their community but I
      didn´ t think about looking at it from both perspectives and seeing these similarities, as you mentioned it in your blog.

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      1. Sabrina Schröder

        Like Cara, I like that you did not only focus on the differences between African Americans and German Americans, but also on the similarities. Although both these ethnic groups had to face different struggles, thes still had to adapt and assimilate to a “new” way of life.

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  2. Cara Bierwirth

    While reading about the history of German immigrants/German-Americans living in Michigan, it looks like that they immigrated to America because of several reasons. Mostly these reasons were personal reasons. Such reasons were e. g. decreasing family farms in Germany. German-Americans maintained traditions and the German culture and communities have nothing to do with each other. It is weird to read that they were forced to participate in politics even though they did it unwillingly. It is remarkable that they could build churches and own farm. The emphasis is clearly on farming. Germans also adapt easily to the American life. German-Americans also have their own household in an area where they are surrounding by others sharing their values, culture and ethnicity. It made me think why German-Americans relied on child labor. From nowadays´ perspective, it is kind of sad to read this and to accept this because children shouldn´t work until a certain age. They should be allowed to go to school to get a proper education.

    It is remarkable how German-American and African American were treated differently. In contrast to German-Americans, African-Americans were not allowed to own e. g. a farm. They were slaves and had no rights. They were seen as inferior. German-Americans on the opposite had more privileged rights. They could be educated and go to school. They could work at industrial factories. They could achieve more than African-Americans were allowed to such as achieving social prominence. Another fact is that German-Americans didn´t have to pay for something to e. g. guarantee to behave good.

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    1. Rieke Nachtigall

      I like that you put an emphasis on farming which was the central point in most of their lives. I think your comparison of the African-American and German-American experiences living in America is very neat. You highlight clearly that their experience is due to the social prejudices and the consequences for example in their education or work-space.

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    2. Gia An Ernst

      Regarding your point of child labouring I in general totally agree with you, that reading about this makes one kinda feel ‘sad’. But I would also say that this is not just ‘sad’ to hear from nowadays perspective but in every kind of perspective. Especially due to the fact, that this topic still plays a pivotal role in many less developed countries.

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  3. Marlen Hahn

    After reading the text about German settlers in Michigan, it came to my mind that there is of course a lot more history of Germany besides East- and West-Germany. Therefore the history of Germans or/and German-Americans is very interesting. Because Germany was not a whole country but separated in different parts with totally different people settling from one point in the world to another one. The people were all different – different in politics, religion, social environment and so on and so forth. BUT! They all had one goal: going to America to begin a new life. Therefore, they were of course one of the most heterogeneous ethnic groups but in the end weren’t they all the same?
    I was shocked that Germans or German-Americans lived in their social isolation and in their own part in the state. Of course one could imagine that it is hard to be open for new people if one comes to another part of the world, but would it be the right way to isolate a whole group and to avoid everyone else? I heard of and I also saw so-called “German villages” or also villages who looked like Switzerland but until reading Kilar’s text I thought these villages are just tourist attractions. I didn’t think about a larger history behind it and that groups of people isolated themselves in the past and built their own communities when they arrived in the states and that this history is the root of these villages.
    Besides fleeing from war, or because of other personal reasons, most Germans flee because of the upcoming industrialization. That surprised me a lot. They wanted to continue to live their farm life and to avoid the rise of industry. They often risked their lives and the lives of their family members on a months-long journey just to start a new life. In my opinion it is stupid on one side but it is so inspiring on the other side. They tried everything just to find a new way of life and to reach their goals.

    Before reading the text I couldn’t think of any similarities between Germans and African-Americans in Michigan. Especially after reading Boyd’s Black Detroit and the suffer of African-Americans I couldn’t imagine that there are parallels. But of course the main reason why both groups settled or fled to Michigan was one and the same: the dream of a new life. Both groups fled from their past lives, their struggles and they followed their dreams. Germans also struggled in the main society to find their place in Michigan. If we look at the African-American group we can see that they hoped for change especially regarding slavery and discrimination but on the other side German settlers “hoped for a new life distant from an economically and politically changing fatherland”. They did not want change. We see there are similarities with differences in it at the same time.
    One thing I still cannot understand is the separation of churches mentioned in Black Detroit. If one thinks of church, solidarity is what they preach. How is it possible that African-Americans had to built their own churches then? But on the other side the different churches from the German settlers lived in harmony with one another even though they had other beliefs. Religion was and is still a great topic in parts of the US and even though there are many different beliefs people should think about one important similarity: They all believe!

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    1. Gia An Ernst

      I liked that you put your focus on the beginning of a new life in America. This was also my main point, which I’ve seen in the American Dream and I think, that this is really an important aspect to focus on. Furthermore the fact that your focusses summarised can be seen as a statement for equality.

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    2. Acelya Ördü

      I partly agree with your statement “I was shocked that Germans or German-Americans lived in their social isolation and in their own part in the state“.
      Of course, you have to actively participate in the new culture and try to become integrated, but I also feel a certain empathy towards them because: who can blame them? A completely new state, new circumstances, new challenges, new people, a new CULTURE? These are things that are extremely challenging, especially back then in a non-globalized century (compared to our globalized world now, where it seems so easy for us to connect with people). Before, these people were nowhere but in their homeland, and I myself can really see why minorities or ethnic groups need some sort of “thing“ that reminds them of home, whether this be a Polish restaurant, a German village or an African-American Jazz club.

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      1. Acelya Ördü

        In addition to my comment, I also think this little part in the book is very important:
        “Living among people who spoke the same language and came from same culture enabled thousands of immigrants to adjust to life in crowded, dirty cities or in isolated farm houses. As they shared their lives in their churches, schools, mills, shops, and streets, they helped each other nurse their sick, feed their hungry, warm their cold, cele brate their marriages, and mourn their dead.“ (p.32)

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  4. Gia An Ernst

    I have to admit reading about the history of German immigrants or German-Americans living in Michigan and Detroit I had to remember the story of Arnold Schwarzenegger in general, although he is not German. But thinking of the topic of immigration I think one has to have a look at the reasons, which in this case of the German-Americans concern personal reasons foremost. And I really think, that it is often about building up a new life and this can be also combined with the thought of the American Dream – a dream of a better life, which in my opinion is clearly apparent in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s story about the American Dream. I think that this is very interesting and can be seen as one of the similarities to African-Americans and German-Americans, especially due to the fact that African-Americans had history concerning slavery.
    Further comparison to the African-Americans the German-Americans had always had the ability or more the opportunity to live in ‘higher standards’ than the African-Americans. And this kind of also made me sad regarding to the point that there is actually no reason for African-Americans to be put in such inferior position to almost every other human being and other ethnicities. This shows that such unfairness and, in my way of thinking, also irresponsibility and the fact that racism are still on-going topics in nowadays society. For example seen here: “Membership may be […] ascribed by the wider society, as is the case when physical characteristics like skin color or eye shape classifies membership.” (Helweg, 2001, p.17)
    A further interesting point for me was the statement about ethnicity always changing. It was kind of relatable for me when the author mentioned that the ethnicity is chosen through context, e.g. as a German-American, you would be an American in Germany, but a German when being in America and I think many of us can relate to that. This also made me feel a little bit like never really belonging to a community also if you feel like you do, but others somehow still pigeonhole and in a way ‘judge’ through various reasons that I cannot really think of.

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    1. Sabrina Schröder

      While reading the text, I had to think of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the American Dream as well. I like that you included Helweg’s quote about changing ethnicities. I think, like you said, many people can relate to having different identities and ethnicities depending on where they are and who they are with.

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    2. Stefan Becker

      I can totally agree with your statement and I also like the connection of Arnold Schwarzenegger in that context. He also had his own immigration story and this is different from German-Americans and especially African-Americans. And even though Arnold talks about all the possibilities and chances in America as an immigrant, the past showed the world something else… Most of those cruelties happened before Schwarzenegger was famous in America but there are still today problems for African-Americans in some societies in America.

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  5. Niklas Nitsch

    This text was really interesting to read. First of all, I found it surprising in some ways and really not in others that the German immigrants in Michigan did not share a sense of one, unified community like the African-American people – or at least how they were portrayed in the text “Black Detroit”. The text does explain and argues for this to an extent. That many German immigrants did immigrate in larger masses (i.e. in their already pre-existing communities). Or that the happenings of WW1 and especially WW2 made many Germans refrain and retreat from their German identity and furthered their assimilation into American culture. Maybe it’s an American (as in local) thing, but the stereotypes about the isolated German villages, etc., I have never heard/read anything about. I would have somewhat expected, due to the aforementioned reasons, that Germans would not share such an extensive sense of unified community as African Americans.
    I saw others point this out in their blog posts already, but I cannot but comment on how radically different the experience of a German(-American) immigrant and African-American (immigrant) in Michigan must have been. The way “Germans in Michigan) presents their history and the hardships they had to overcome are something very distinctly different from how “Black Detroit” portrayed those of African-Americans. Whereas German immigrants tended to settle in rural areas focused on farmlands, and often turned out to be the leading figures behind religious institutions in their areas, the African-American people faced discrimination and disrespect around almost every corner outside their own communities. Obviously it wasn’t all easy for German immigrants, but their story almost sounds mundane in comparison – more focused on economic success and personal prosperity. Contrary, the African-Americans struggled with the bare essentials of being accepted as members of society. Sadly though, with all that I have learned about American history, this wasn’t all too surprising. The style of the two texts does add to my impressions however, and I do take into consideration that the way the accounts of the German vs. African-American community members in Michigan/Detroit are integrated into the two respective texts may have a significant impact on how the reader (well, how I) interpreted and compared those two groups and communities.

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    1. Miriam Bieniek

      I liked that you depicted the different experiences of the African-American and the German immigrants due to their beginning of the new life in America. I totally agree with the comment that it is hard to compare those different overcomings as African American people seaked for a better life being treates equally and humane, whereas the German community moved to Detroit/ Michigan because of personal needs or religious convictions as you mentioned before.

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  6. Sabrina Schröder

    Before reading Germans in Michigan I never thought much about the history of Germans in other countries than Germany itself. Commenting on everything I thought to be interesting, would definitely go beyond the scope of this comment. That is why I am going to focus only on some aspects. First of all, I did not know that there were and still are so many people of German ascent living in the United States. When I spent a year in Albuquerque, New Mexico as an exchange student I met many people who claimed to have German ancestors. Still, I did not expect more than 18 percent of Michigan’s population to be German in the 1920s. Even though German Americans had to face discrimination during the time of the two world wars, there were still waves of immigrants leaving Germany to live in the United States.
    Germans had so many reasons for leaving their home country, like political instability, crop failure, or religion, but many of them still mentioned personal reasons as well. I think it is remarkable that the German working ethos of not focusing too much on “size and profit” was eventually taken over by the Michiganians. Obviously, German Americans had an impact on the development of the country as well.
    Another striking aspect is the fact that many Germans only “integrated culturally and linguistically” to the American way of life because of business and success reasons. Compared to other groups of immigrants, German Americans assimilated to the American Mainstream rather fast.

    Both German immigrants and African Americans living in Michigan had to face hardships and struggles. Compared to the way African Americans were treated though, the German struggles were rather small and irrelevant. African Americans were not only discriminated by other Americans, but also disliked by many German Americans. During World War II there was even a group of Nazis in Detroit. In general, Germans were able to build themselves a living in Detroit, while African Americans were treated as slaves. Both left their homes in order to leave their old lives behind and start all over. For African Americans it was simply not possible.

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  7. Acelya Ördü

    Yes, I too was surprised by the fact that Detroit/Michigan was a popular destination for many people, including a large number of immigrants from Germany. For these people, Michigan became a place to pursue a better economic status and to build their own communities. Just like Chinatowns are spread all over the globe, the German culture and ethnicity also served as an important factor in terms of shaping the ethnic map of Michigan or Detroit. “Germantowns“ opened their own locals, shops and churches in order to serve their communities, and they even established their own newspaper “Detroiter Abendpost“. Especially this aspect aroused my interest and so I searched for German towns in Michigan. What came up is the German town “Frankenmuth“, which was also listed in our reading at hand under the chapter “Michigan Ethnic Group Table“ (p. 58). The article that I’ve read gave following explanation: “Frankenmuth is known as Michigan’s little Bavaria, stands at the crossroads of historic Bavaria and modern Michigan. In 1845 fifteen Lutheran missionaries from Franken, Germany settled today’s town of 4,900 residents. Over three million tourists visit the small town experience Frankenmuth’s German heritage annually. […] Frankenmuth still invokes memories of Bavarian charm: Alpine architecture, cuckoo clocks, lederhosen, Black Forest Cake, sausage, pretzels, and beer.“ First, I’m amazed and surprised by the fact that this town attracts nearly three million tourists. But secondly, I find the history of it much more interesting because the purpose of their (conservative Lutheran immigrants from Roßtal area of Franconia in Germany) settlement during that time was primarily religious. What’s also very striking historical-wise is that they were keen to mirror the German lifestyle and culture and especially wanted to ensure that everything should remind them of their native “Mittelfranken“. They wanted this town to be exclusively for the German Lutheran community and also insisted on being faithful to the German language.

    This brings me to the similarity between the importance of the church in both, the German and the African-American culture: both groups were characterized by their strong faith that is reflected in their strong sense of community. Still, the history and all the hardships that African-American had to overcome to get there where they are “now“ (which, up to this day is still faaar from good), are much more terrifying and devastating than the German history regarding migration. I think that this is an undeniable fact. Yes, we can see similarities in trying to assimilate to a new country, trying to stand on your own feet, trying to feed your family and trying to be true to yourself and your origin despite being strangers in a new state; but African-American people had to face the most horrific hardships of them all: and that is slavery, racism and injustice.

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    1. Paul Spiegelberg

      Thanks for your input on Frankenmuth. I think it is an appealing tourist attraction to get a glimpse at German culture. From a critical cultural view however it is quite estranging what is conglomerated under the term “Bavarian”. The cuckoo clocks and the Black Forest Cake are from the Black Forest which is not located in Bavaria.

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  8. Kerem Celik

    When reading Germans in Michigan I wasn’t really surprised by the fact the Germans lived in their own society and their own circle. Thats because of the amount of German immigrants that thought Michigan as their new home. I wasn’t surprised because I thought that nobody really likes to step out of their own comfort zone. And to be honest, living in America but being surrounded by your German fellows sounds really comfortable for the German immigrants. Furthermore, we witness this also in current Germany. In some areas of any cities, there are areas where for example almost only refugees or arabs or turks are living. So the same thing happens here. When people are in a foreign country, but their neighbors are fellow natives and the shop where they buy supplements are fellow natives, they feel no need to socialize with the foreign people around them.

    When it comes to the comparison between German-Americans and African-Americans and how they were being treated, there is sadly one difference that distinguishes their positions in society: their skin color. Even though both societies were different of the American society, the Germans were at least white, which made their life a lot easier than of the African-Americans. Additionally, the African-Americans were also treated badly by the Germans, also because of their skin color. Whats ironic about this is that these two groups had not much differences of each other, yet they were treated so differently.

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    1. Paul Spiegelberg

      I also directly thought about the skin color, which is one of the most prominent features of a person. It was certainly easy for Germans to (literally) blend in with the white American majority.

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  9. Stefan Becker

    It was interesting to read though the text of Germans in Michigan because during the last weeks and months, I received a lot knowledge about other ethnic groups and immigrants who settled to America but nothing to very little about Germans. They isolated themselves at the beginning of their time in America and especially in Michigan to live toghether in their own small societies. I am not sure if you could say now that this is typical for Germans to do their own thing and be limited in their perspective but they seemed to have their reasons for that. As also mentioned, that a huge number of immigrants came to Michigan, it is maybe obvious and even more convenient to stay with your people, especially when you are in another culture and are not able to speak the foreign language. Another interesting aspect in this text is that in comparison to other immigrant groups, the German immigrants seemed to have no interest in creating or showing their specific heritage or pride for themselves. This is also the reason for Ameircans which makes it hard for them to generalize them in few aspects. They were so divers in origin, political beliefs and religion which made the generalization difficult.
    If we want to compare German-Americans with African-Americans now, you can say that the common ground between those groups is that both seeked a new soil/land to start a new life. All of them were immigrants and had similar conditions at the beginning. The difference is that the Americans had different perspectives towards each immigrant/ethnic group. The fact that German-Americans are white-skined and African-Americans have dark skin colors made their lives difficult. While they had to fight for their rights and tried everything to built up their living in America for many decades, German-Americans had a much easier way. They were not discriminated and were accepted relatively early in their time in America.

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    1. Paul Spiegelberg

      I think the sticking together of a group in an unknown country is very common, as a shared language, views, values and habits evoke a feeling of familiarity and intimacy – it makes you feel less vulnerable. I’ve once heard that immigrates automatically seek the company of “strangers” and tend to integrate when the number of fellow country people does not exceed a certain percentage. I can’t remember the number, though.

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  10. Janek

    Greart text about Germans in Michigan. I especially liked to read about farming as a way of life and living in rural areas in these little insertions within the text. When I think about rurality, I always have this picture in my head of looking in the distance and seeing nothing but trees and grass and nature. It is quiet, there is a fresh breeze, the air is wonderful and all you have to care about is your family and the farming of your field. Obviously, I know that this is a very naïve and dreamy idea of the life that these people have lived as their life was probably very hard work at most of the time. However, I find the idea of living in a quiet rural area as a contrast to the life in a noisy, hectic and crowded city very appealing.
    If we compare the history of German Americans and African Americans there are two striking differences: At first, Germans came to America voluntarily. They wanted to start over and build up a new life. African Americans on the other side were brought as slaves. Secondly, German Americans had a very different standing in society than African Americans due to the colour of their skin. However, there are also some similarities: Both German Americans and African Americans stayed within their own communities, even though German Americans were split within their own ethnicity. I feel like it is, as already pointed out by Kerem, a “natural behaviour” to try to connect with people you can identify with first when you start to live in a different country before getting in touch with people who seem to be “more different”. Another similarity, already explained by Acelya, is the importance of the church. Regarding this, I think this is more connected to the time period as it is characteristic for German Americans or African Americans.

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  11. Patricia Riemer

    While reading the text about German immigrants/German-Americans living in Michigan, it came to my mind that I have never thought about the German history in other countries. It was really interesting to read that in the early 1850’s several German immigrants came to the United in an attempt to seek access to land, as well as political freedom. They started to build their own area, where they opened their own locals, shops and churches with which they established the name „Germantown“. To read that German is still the largest ancestral group in Michigan, representing 2.6 million descendants, or 22% of the state’s population was a fact that I did not expect. The Bavarian villages of Frankenmuth and Gaylord stand as testaments to the once proud and vigorous German communities that dotted both rural and urban Michigan landscapes. That made me think about the influences of Germans in America and how avoidable american cities became german areas.

    First of all the backround of African-Americans and German-Americans is different. A lot of African-Americans had to live in slavery. They had no rights and it was really difficult for them to earn enough money so that they could pay all the bills (remembering the time were they had not water because they could not pay the bills). German-Americans had it easier. They could choose the area they wanted to live. Moreover they were also free to own a farm or to move to a different area. In addition to the differences, there were also similarities between the cultures. Both cultures had their own churches and lived in their own communities. Even though it was easier for the German-Americans to settle into the American community, the African-Americans also managed to adapt.

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  12. Fabio Wortmann

    After reading about how Germans settled in Michigan the image of the American dream came to my mind once again. After attending both introductory courses the plan of going to America to live a better and easier life always comes to my mind when reading or hearing about travelling to America. Though I do not believe that the “American Dream” is a thing that exists only because some people like Arnold Schwarzegger went to America to fulfill their dreams. Only a minority of people that travelled to America actually managed to live their dream and there are many examples that America is not the place you wish to live at. I think that the way the Germans lived is something very common in America. From my perspective it is common in America to live together with people that share the same origin. Other examples are ghettos or typical white areas. Also, I do understand that the people who moved to America from Germany are among themselves. I don’t think that nearly as many people as today were able to speak another language exept from their mother’s tongue so moving to America means you firstly have to get used to their way of living, “rules”, culture and obviously language.

    The first thing that came to my mind up when thinking about comparison of Afro-Americans and German-Americans living in Michigan is the skin colour. German-Americans were mostly white and they did not face heavy racial abuse whereas Afro-Americans clearly did. Furthermore African-Americans were often not even treated as human beings as they were often times forced to live their entire life in slavery to even survive. In my opinion German-Americans also had it a lot easier because they could freely choose in what area they wanted to settle down.

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  13. Paul Spiegelberg

    After having read the weeks texts I have a lot rather unsorted thoughts on the topic.

    First, the situation of German immigrants in the 19th century is quite comparable to the situation of foreign workers from Italy, Greece and Turkey in Germany in the 1950s and 60s. In both cases immigrants sent money to their family at home, success was measured in valuable goods and a lot of people were “waiting on packed luggage” (Germans in Michigan, p. ) to return home one day. Eventually we also find chain migration in both instances.

    What astonished me was that Catholic and Protestant congregations in the 1830s lived in unison or “Christian harmony” (p. 8, 15). In Germany even in the post-war 20th century, you could experience Christian division. Villagers would avoid neighboring villages because of differing faith, lovers were not allowed to marry for the same reason, protestant students on catholic schools were discriminated. However, I do not understand the passage “Germans have always been deeply divided over religion” in the text Germans in Michigan (p. 16). In how far does this coincide with the afore mentioned “Christian harmony”, or does it refer to the situation after the Civil War?

    The Case of the Stroh Brewery (p. 29), a family business established in 1850, encouraged my opinion on conscious consumerism. The brewery used to support the city of Detroit financially, however it had to close by the 21st century. Nowadays the beer market is controlled by five global beer conglomerates – which sometimes trespass laws and social values. Therefore, my appeal to my fellow students, support your local breweries such as Bergmann Bier (Dortmund) or Moritz Fiege (Bochum). 😊

    During World War II there were German Americans who were appealed by the Nazi-ideologies (p.42). I wonder in how far present right wing and neo-Nazi attitudes and movements in the USA and Michigan – as seen on the report about Anti-Corona protestants in Detroit – are rooted in the Nazi votaries of the past. The passage about the policies on “enemy ancestry”, detention centers and prisoner exchanges during WW II were really shocking. I wonder what happened to Germans who were exchanged as prisoners and ended up in Germany again. This would make an interesting ZDF History TV documentation.

    What was kind of amusing was the supposed tradition of “Little Bavaria” in Frankenmuth (p. 45) – I (not so honestly) wonder if it accounts as cultural appropriation. In Germany there is a regional rivalry between Franken and Bavarians – though Franken is located in the state of Bavaria. Frankens tend to point out that they are indeed Frankens and not Bavarians. They most certainly also join the Oktoberfest, yet they do have distinct Frankian traditions, architecture and cultural items (e.g. Rostbratwurst instead of Weißwurst).

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    1. Paul Spiegelberg

      Addition: Most of my thoughts on the comparison of German- and African-Americans would be a repetition. What I can add concerns the African-Americans’ history of slavery. The effects of traumatic experiences, such as suffered in slavery, can be inherited to the next and even third generation, psychologically but also genetically. The victims themselves, their children and in some cases even grand children may suffer from depression, panic attacks, a quicker arousal of stress hormones and other bodily symptoms and so on. The drug abuse of black Detroiters as a way of self-medication does not surprise me at all. After all they have to carry the weight of four centuries of slavery.

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    2. Niklas Nitsch

      Thanks a lot for all this additional info! Your point on the religious unity is really interesting and I would totally agree that this is curious. Concerning the quote you brought up in that paragraph, I do think it relates to a sense of division in “the Old World” (p. 16). So, back in Germany. Division due to the diverse ideas of Christianity from place to place, especially between the different ‘Bundesländer’ (or well, at that time and beforehand the different state practically). Hence, I guess the point the text is trying to make here is that the Germans that immigrated to America are actually more religiously united than any back in Germany ever where – which makes sense considering a sense of unity can really help you find your footing in a foreign situation.

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  14. Maedeh Mirzaei Ataabadi

    As we all know the United States is a nation of immigrants and the state of Michigan (in particular Detroit) can be a very good example of this American spirit. As we read in “German in Michigan” due to failed democratic revolution in 1848 many German Catholics and Protestants arrived in Michigan. I think that in all immigration waves, economic reasons are one of the main ones and German immigration wasn’t an exception either. However, what fascinates me about Germans was the fact that at the time Germans actually chose (decided deliberately) to immigrate to US, buy land and remain in their previous business which was agriculture. Here we have to note that for these people, there was another and somehow easier option to migrate to other industrial German cities and to start working as a wage laborer but interestingly they journeyed all the way to America to stick to their traditional way of life and I think this is one of the main differences of German immigration with African-American immigration because as we read in “History of Black Detroit”, people of color were forced to leave the south due to Fugitive Slave Law, so for them the immigration was the only choice they had to seek Freedom in north and escape from racism and discrimination in the south but even by doing so they had similar problems in Detroit such as being prevented from buying homes in certain neighborhoods . Another difference that came to my mind by comparing the two was that while Germans formed lots of religious, cultural, social organizations to maintain community identity, they still had their normal transition into American society but due to the vast discrimination and racism, people of color had to form their communities because they only could rely on themselves and wouldn’t be accepted to white communities. So I would say Black people had and have important impact on social changes to gain equal opportunity which wasn’t at all an issue for German or other western European communities.

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  15. Maedeh Mirzaei Ataabadi

    As we all know the United States is a nation of immigrants and the state of Michigan (in particular Detroit) can be a very good example of this American spirit. As we read in “German in Michigan” due to failed democratic revolution in 1848 many German Catholics and Protestants arrived in Michigan. I think that in all immigration waves, economic reasons are one of the main ones and German immigration wasn’t an exception either. However, what fascinates me about Germans was the fact that at the time Germans actually chose (decided deliberately) to immigrate to US, buy land and remain in their previous business which was agriculture. Here we have to note that for these people, there was another and somehow easier option to migrate to other industrial German cities and to start working as a wage laborer but interestingly they journeyed all the way to America to stick to their traditional way of life and I think this is one of the main differences of German immigration with African-American immigration because as we read in “History of Black Detroit”, people of color were forced to leave the south due to Fugitive Slave Law, so for them the immigration was the only choice they had to seek Freedom in north and escape from racism and discrimination in the south but even by doing so they had similar problems in Detroit such as being prevented from buying homes in certain neighborhoods . Another difference that came to my mind by comparing the two was that while Germans formed lots of religious, cultural, social organizations to maintain community identity, they still had their normal transition into American society but due to the vast discrimination and racism, people of color had to form their communities because they only could rely on themselves and wouldn’t be accepted to white communities. So I would say Black people had and have important impact on social changes to gain equal opportunity which wasn’t at all an issue for German or other western European communities.

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  16. Maedeh Mirzaei

    As we all know the United States is a nation of immigrants and the state of Michigan (in particular Detroit) can be a very good example of this American spirit. As we read in “German in Michigan” due to failed democratic revolution in 1848 many German Catholics and Protestants arrived in Michigan. I think that in all immigration waves, economic reasons are one of the main ones and German immigration wasn’t an exception either. However, what fascinates me about Germans was the fact that at the time Germans actually chose (decided deliberately) to immigrate to US, buy land and remain in their previous business which was agriculture. Here we have to note that for these people, there was another and somehow easier option to migrate to other industrial German cities and to start working as a wage laborer but interestingly they journeyed all the way to America to stick to their traditional way of life and I think this is one of the main differences of German immigration with African-American immigration because as we read in “History of Black Detroit”, people of color were forced to leave the south due to Fugitive Slave Law, so for them the immigration was the only choice they had to seek Freedom in north and escape from racism and discrimination in the south but even by doing so they had similar problems in Detroit such as being prevented from buying homes in certain neighborhoods . Another difference that came to my mind by comparing the two was that while Germans formed lots of religious, cultural, social organizations to maintain community identity, they still had their normal transition into American society but due to the vast discrimination and racism, people of color had to form their communities because they only could rely on themselves and wouldn’t be accepted to white communities. So I would say Black people had and have important impact on social changes to gain equal opportunity which wasn’t at all an issue for German or other western European communities.

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  17. Joe Troxler

    After reading the article I was reminded of the tremendous impact German immigrants had in the U.S. Furthermore what caught my attention is how collective opinions can change over time. Nowadays it is very common in the U.S. that when speaking to Caucasian Americans they will proudly refer to their German ancestry once I share where I am form. Many say they love Germany. It is hard to imagine how such an enthusiastic identification with your heritage can change, especially considering how many German communities have preserved language and tradition for such a long time.

    While reading the articles for this week I noticed quite a few similarities between German-Americans and Afro-Americans, and then substantial differences as well. For most part both communities searched at different times for a better life, fleeing hostile environments, suffering and oppression. An aspect that I have observed is that the hostility directed towards the Afro-Americans was aimed historically at the entire community which made them migrate to the North, while German-Americans seem to have fled for more individual reasons, like their individual religion, political view and for economic opportunities. When German-Americans arrived, they brought their individuality and richness of culture, identity and craftmanship with them, therefore they are referred to as GERMAN-Americans. They were able to persist and thrive in self-supporting, isolated, rural villages. The Afro-Americans on the other hand were robbed of their cultural and historical identity when they were enslaved and deported to the Americas. They were oppressed and doomed to this new ‘identity’ and were then collectively referred to as AFRICAN-Americans.
    Furthermore when German-Americans did struggle with their cultural identity because of the two World Wars, they could, as many have, blend in with the Anglo-Saxon communities by simply anglicizing their names and thus gaining a new and favorable identity in society.

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  18. Bente Buschmann

    Reflecting the text of immigration of Germans has shown how differently people from different countries were treated in their new home. Germans often decided to move to America as people living there were unsatisfied with their life. Issues like the political instability, unfair payments and religious restrictions made them feel leaving Germany in order to have a better life. At that time, America was known for their unrestricted possibilities where people could live out their dreams. For this reason, they started their new life in America.
    When getting in touch with Native Americans, Germans were neither discriminated nor disadvantaged. In addition to that, Germans were seen as hard working people who could be needed in merchandise and on many farms. They even had the possibility to create their own business, presupposed they had enough Know-How. Not every German family was well educated in the past which could be recognized by their job varieties in Detroit and Michigan. Their former issues of their religious life therefore could be lived out by them in America since they started creating religious groups that somehow where isolated from any other religion. They simply expierenced a life with own religious communities that had been establishing a new culture. Nonetheless, Americans accepted that, even if they were frightened of losing their own culture by them or other Europeans. One reason could be the dependence on workers and the huge masses of European immigrants that came to the USA.
    This shows how differently the salutations had been between Germans and African Americans. One of the main differences is that both cultures had a completely different base case as African Americans had to suffer under restriction, discrimination and slavery, whereas Germans only had issues with their politics, economy and religious freedom in Germany. I mean this can be tough as well, but one cannot compare their issues with horrific slavery of African Americans at that time. Black people were treated like objects that had been sold by Americans and even had no rights. They were suffering under mental and physical pain. However, Germans were only somehow very unsatisfied. Due to these facts, one can see that African Americans had a completely different background situation than Germans.
    As a consequence, even if slavery was abolished after a time, the bad and disrespectful treatment against African Americans had not been changed. They still had no possibilities to life a life without harassment or to fulfill their dreams. In contrast to that, Germans had the opportunity to do so, maybe because of their same antipathies against African Americans. Germans were always frightened of losing their jobs against African Americans. For this reason they also promoted discrimination against black people.
    In fact, I am very shocked about the great difference between two nations concerning their possibilities of fulfilling their dreams. I am shocked by my own culture of the past.

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    1. Falk Engberding

      I would completly agree with you saying that Germans started discriminating African-American because they were frightened of losing their job. I guess Germans tried to kind of defend their position in the always changing society of America. Allying with the original people of Michigan against the already unpopular African-Americans helped them to do so and furthermore it improved the bond with other whites.

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  19. Miriam Bieniek

    Reading about the history of German immigrants/ German- Americans living in Michigan and Detroit I noticed that the German immigrants had different reasons and purposes to start a life in America. Also did I realise reading through the text that first the German community lived seperately and in a limited unity with the Americans, in „social isolation“ with different political beliefs, religion, traditions, or culture. But after time has past German immigrants experienced less difficulty adapting to American life and „melted“ into the American culture. The business success was one of the reasons the German immigrants intergrated into to American lifestyle totally.
    Comparing the different histories of African- American and German American communities inside Michigan, it has to be said that those two immigrant groups were treated differently. While Germans lived through „self- supporting“ and in isolated villages peacefully, the black people were fighting for their freedom from oppression and for national liberation through so many years. They didn’t live the life they would deserve in the past, whereas the German community was accepted in any case. The reasons why the black community moved to north was because the seaked for a better life being treated equally and humane. German people immigrated to Detroit or Michigan for several reasons such as „religious convictions“ and „personal needs“. First a lot of missionaries moved to America to convert the Native Americans. With the bible knowledge and purpose to preach, the community started to settle down in Michigan and integrate the German morals.

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    1. Martina Grym

      While reading your comment I especially liked the comparison between the history of African Americans and German Americans. Although both left their homeland in order to start a new life with new options and chances, their opportunities were not the same or not “equal”. Especially your phrase “they did not live the life they would deserve” made me thinking why that was the case. Why do some people have more opportunities than others? I agree with you when you say that one reason was probably because German Americans were seen as “skilled” people as there were many businessmen among them from some parts of Germany. It is sad that African Americans had no chance to fulfill themselves in other jobs such as others. They should’ve been seen as skilled and talented people too. The only reason why they were not was because there were other people who had prejudices. This terrible mindset was gradually extended and ended in such an unfair treatment of human beings.

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  20. Falk Engberding

    I have read many texts about the history of immigrants who came to Germany back in the days, but when I read this week’s text about migrants from Germany immigrating to America I noticed that I know very little about the history of German immigrants in other countries. Especially as they may have had significant influence on the development of their destination’s culture after bringing their own customs to the region. This was also the case in Michigan, where the the share of Germans in it’s whole population reached almost one quarter in maximum.
    When the first Germans came to America, most of them sticked to their former lives as farmers. They tried to buy their own land as soon as possible in order to start a self-determined life with their families following old traditions. Whole German communities and towns were built like that, more or less adapting to the American life, but rather isoliting themselves from other ethnic groups, although Germans were known as good laborers. Despite the isolation from other ethnicities might not be the best strategy in long term when immigrating to other countries, it is still up today the usual practice of most groups immigrating to foreign societies.
    Comparing German-Americans to African-Americans, one can notice quite different backgrounds of their ethnicities and also different motives leading them to immigrate to the north of America – to Michigan. Although one of the most striking reasons to move is often of financial interests, many Germans had come because of religious convictions and to convert native Americans, while African-American were fleeing from oppression and bad living conditions in slavery practiced in the south.
    But while a decent share of German-Americans slightly worked their way up as skilled workers getting better paid jobs, the vast majority of the African-American did not really get rid of their status of just being tolerated in a minimum – just good enough for dangerous and lowest paid jobs.

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  21. Gökhan Kaya

    I always heard about the fact that Detroit used to be ‘the’ place to be but in addition to the fact that German Americans are the biggest ethnic sub group in the United States, now it makes sense to me that many people of German origin starting a new life went there, despite the fact that Michigan was historically identified as a French colony, which I read about before explicitly.
    “Germans rural conservatism, a strong work ethic, and dogged persistence are values that are remnant of the German immigration into Michigan.” It is interesting to read that these values that Germans are stereotypically known for on many parts of the worlds are here described as very shaping and beneficial for the uprising of Michigan and remain a dominant ethos of the state today.

    Although one could see many similarities between African Americans and German Americans living in Michigan such as the urge to live within their own communities and the importance of church, it becomes invalid and irrelevant the minute you compare the circumstances African Americans and German Americans were subjected to.
    Skin color was the upmost factor as it influenced your option to assimilate. For German Americans after a period of intentional ethnic isolation primarily in East-Michigan, assimilation succeeded anyway more or less.
    This has not been an option on behalf of African Americans obviously. It was a totally different position, which meant establishing oneself after 400 years of slavery, not comparable to whatever kind of subordination or social degradation German Americans would have to face. One should also consider that it is a big difference whether you decide on your own where you start a new life, as it was for German Americans, or you try to compromise the fact that you grow up and live in a country with many aftershocks and remnants of slavery, as it was and still is the case for African Americans.

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  22. Martina Grym

    In the 1890s German Americans were the single largest foreign-born group living in Michigan’s cities (Detroit & Saginaw). The majority of German settlers left Germany for political reasons. Further farmers fled Germany because family farms decreased in size.
    Michigan’s culture and character was shaped by German settlers as they interacted with groups in social or economic environments. Germans were both represented in merchant classes and as white collar office workers but also in Detroit’s factories.
    German traditions, attitudes and culture contributed to an ethnocultural mix of Michigan’s culture. Especially the strong work ethic and persistence are values that are left from German immigration and influenced culture in Michigan. On the one hand there were Germans who stayed in German neighbourhoods and isolated themselves from other Americans. On the other hand there were others who assimilated to American culture. Especially urbanization contributed to the fragmentation of German ethnic communities and encouraged assimilation.
    In comparison to the history of African-Americans it can be said that some parallels can be drawn to the history of Germans. Both“groups“ left their homeland to start a new life with new opportunities. African-Americans stayed in their communities or neighbourhoods and established churches such as Germans. However, German settlers had more opportunities and more“freedom“ to make choices . Many German settlers were skilled laborers, craftsmen, farmes but also businessmen so that they were able to do different jobs than working in a factory. It shouldn’t be forgotten that also African-Americans were skilled and able to do other jobs than working in a factory but they had to live with prejudices and difficulties in these days which unfortunately affected their lives. This could be a reason why most of them “only” had jobs in factories and had to work hard under bad conditions which is not fair.

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  23. Irem Cagla Akün

    The idea of a German immigrant in America brought “Gentle Lena” and “Good Anna” characters in Gertrude Stein’s novel Three Lives to my mind. Even though the stories take place in the fictional town of Bridgepoint in Maryland, I found many similarities between these characters and the explained German American identity in the Germans in Michigan written by Jeremy W. Killar. Both characters are honest, hardworking and good when it comes to have a ingenuous just like the description of the image of hardworking German Americans in Michigan. Good Anna is dedicated to her job and though she is an immigrant woman who works as a maid, she has a very strong and dominant character so that she even controls her mistress Miss Mathilda who pays her. Apart from Good Anna, Gentle Lena is another German American, but this time the character is rather more silent and passive, and she gets married to another German American and slowly fades into what her family wants her to be in the society. These two images came into my mind when I kept reading about the history of German immigrants in American society, and I saw how a Gertrude Stein draw these characters as she is also a German American herself. Reading Germans in Michigan, even though it is predictable, it was still surprising to me to learn that not everyone could afford to travel for this American Dream, because I always thought it was a brand new beginning to a life for most of immigrants so they travel to America to start making money. Even by being a “short-time immigrant” myself here in Germany as an Erasmus student from Turkey, I can understand the identity efforts of the immigrants because regardless of how one likes the place, culture is a rope bonding an individual to her or his motherland and people miss their identity and culture more when they are away and they are feeling different.
    I think the biggest difference between African Americans and German Americans in American society is the reason why they are in the continent. German Americans came to America for something inspiring, for the American Dream, while African Americans were brought to America by force to be a tool to be used to make this American Dream come true. Though, the Great Migration, in my opinion, is also a dream of African Americans who move to north, to get away from the violence they face in the south. It was surprising me to find out that some German Americans were against abolitionism, but again, they were free people from the beginning whereas African Americans did not choose to go America and they had to fight for their freedom.

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