Margot Hamm, Michael Henker, Evamaria Brockhoff, eds. Good Bye Bayern--GruÖÂ¼ÖÅ¸ Gott America: Auswanderung aus Bayern nach Amerika seit 1683. Augsburg: Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte, 2004. 320 pp. EUR 18.00 (paper), ISBN 978-3-927233-94-2.
Reviewed by Alexander Freund (Department of History, University of Winnipeg)
Published on H-German (October, 2006)
Kaleidoscope of Experiences: Creating a Bavarian Story of Emigration
Does Bavaria have its own emigration history? The makers of this richly illustrated exhibition catalog are certain that it does, and much of what they present here supports their case.
The catalog surveys emigration from Bavaria to the United States of America during the past three centuries. In one way, this is a familiar story. It begins with the group of emigrants from Krefeld (Westphalia) who, led by Franz Daniel Pastorius from Sommerhausen (not yet Bavaria), founded Germantown in Pennsylvania in 1683. Two million more Bavarians and Palatines (the Palatinate was, albeit not continuously, part of Bavaria until 1946) followed over the next three hundred years.
In another way, however, this story is unfamiliar, because little research has been done on the subject. Ten brief essays in the catalog's first part shed light on some aspects of this story, from the changing socioeconomic and political conditions in Bavaria via Bavarians' experiences of travel to their acculturation in various U.S. locales. As Thomas Raithel notes in the first of these essays (p. 23), the gaping holes in research make this a difficult enterprise, and the authors succeed to varying degrees in writing about Bavarian rather than German migration. In his own article, Raithel traces the development and causes of migration from Germany and Bavaria and explores the emigrants' social composition and motives. More often than not, he breaks out of the Bavarian mold in order to contextualize better the phenomena he describes. This strategy allows him to make some interesting observations when he does focus on Bavaria. We learn, for example, that South Bavarians were under-represented among German emigrants throughout much of the three centuries. Americans' folk Bavarian image of all things German (Oktoberfest, sauerkraut and lederhosen), the author concludes, is therefore not based on "real emigration traditions" (p. 27).
Specific aspects of the migration are explored in three shorter essays. Cornelia Wilhelm's survey of German and Bavarian emigration laws and U.S. immigration legislation helps us understand better how laws on both sides of the Atlantic controlled migration by imposing high "emigration taxes" and harsh penalties for emigration agents, including the death penalty in late-eighteenth-century Bavaria. Cornelia Oelwein's brief piece on emigration agents in nineteenth-century Germany shows how Bavarian agents from the 1830s on could be both helpful and destructive for migrants. While agents were licensed by Bavarian authorities, their prices were not. Curiously, Oelwein ignores the history of international state and church agencies as well as of swindlers and smugglers in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. Marita Krauss's collage of mini-biographies of numerous Bavarians who fled the state during the Nazi era hints at the refugees' individual fates as well as at the great loss of human life and cultural riches to Bavaria.
Moving from the emigration aspects to that of the actual journey, Horst Roessler documents how changes in transportation technologies in the mid-nineteenth century affected not only the travel experiences of migrants, but also overall migration dynamics. The port cities of Bremen and Hamburg successfully attracted migrants by improving conditions in cities and aboard ships. In the same time period, however, in the late nineteenth century, conditions for landing immigrants worsened in the United States, as Barry Moreno shows. Castle Garden in New York City, the major port of disembarkation for immigrants between 1820 and 1960, was set up in 1855 to help the newly arrived find accommodations and jobs and to protect them from swindlers and crooks. In 1892, Castle Garden was replaced by Ellis Island, which focused on weeding out the "undesirables." Both authors, however, have little to say about Bavarian migrants.
The last four articles illuminate Bavarians' acculturation experiences in the United States. Stanley Nadel vividly describes Bavarian immigrants' experiences in Colonial America, especially their contact with the Mohawk and Seneca in the Mohawk River Valley, and the English immigrants' increasing resentment of the (in Benjamin Franklin's words), "Palatine hicks" (Pfälzer Bauernlümmel) (p. 69). Jewish Bavarians played an important role as peddlers and small-tradesmen in nineteenth century America, where English and German farmers relied on them because in rural areas, stores were often far and few between. Bavarians in general were more prone than other Germans to settle in cities, especially in Cincinnati and New York. Don Yoder's article sketches Bavarian contributions and contributors to American culture. A different perspective is presented by Udo J. Hebel, who traces the outlines of German migrants' representations of America in the form of paintings and photographs. While they mystified Amerindian culture and American landscapes until the end of the nineteenth century, these Bavarian emigrants became ambivalent toward American modernity and postmodernity in the twentieth century.
Frank Trommler concludes the catalog's first section returning to Pastorius and the beginnings of German immigration. He shows that German-Americans forgot about Pastorius until the late nineteenth century, when they resurrected him as the personification of their origins in America. They thus created a new German-American identity vis-à-vis the dominant founding myth of the Mayflower pilgrims (p. 91). By the time of the German-American tercentenary in 1983, Pastorius had been once again shuffled back into the gallery. Trommler thus underlines what Nadel shows in his article: By arguing that the Palatine migration to the Hudson Valley in 1708-9 can be more usefully seen as the beginning of German immigration to America--because most of the families from Krefeld were Dutch (p. 67)--Nadel, like Trommler, exposes 1683 and Pastorius as founding myths of German-Bavarian migration to America.
The second part of the catalog consists of twenty-two short biographies of Bavarian migrants, based on published biographies and memoirs, unpublished personal documents and oral history interviews. These biographies show the diversity of migrations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from the Bavarian soldier in the post-Civil War U.S. Army, Christian Barthelmess (1854-1906) to the 2001 winners of the U.S. green card lottery, Christina Siller and Rita Meeh. They document the famous (the blue jeans "inventor" Levi Strauss as well as Las Vegas magician Siegfried Fischbacher--of Siegfried and Roy) and the obscure (gold prospector and Arctic explorer August Enders-Schichanowsky [1865-?]). All entries are accompanied by photographs, paintings or images of material objects. Taken together, these biographies allow the reader to think about and imagine the multiple forms, turns and meanings of migration during the last three centuries.
The last section of the book is the actual catalog, which documents the exhibition's thirteen sections. These sections follow the migrants' journey from Bavaria to the United States and their lives in the new culture and society. Although images of the exhibition artifacts are already generously presented throughout the first two parts, this last part contains another 350 images of artifacts, ranging from a 1692 deed of sale from Germantown, Pennsylvania, to a Spencer carbine rifle used by a Bavarian soldier in the American Civil War or the desk and typewriter used by Oskar Maria Graf during his exile from Nazi Germany in New York. Like the second part, this last part invites the reader to retrace the migrants' many steps visually.
The catalog has some weaknesses. Although the exhibition makers grab the reader's attention with the use of high quality visual images, at times they do so aimlessly. A series of thirty photographs with no other explanation than "Cities, People, Landscapes in the United States, ca. 1900, unknown photographer" that accompany Raithel's article on emigration from Bavaria, are aesthetically pleasing, but images (and a map!) of Bavaria would have been more useful. The reader would also have benefited from guidance on how to "read" the images, which, just like textual documents, are not self-explanatory. There is also a heavy focus on the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The reader learns little about eighteenth-century migrations and even less about migrations after 1945.
Do the exhibition makers succeed in creating the story of a Bavarian Amerika-Auswanderung? In one way, they do. They present a rich history of migration from Bavaria that can be traced back, if not to Pastorius, then at least to early-eighteenth-century migrations. As such, the exhibition and catalog are part of a historiography that saw its heyday in the 1980s, when the tercentenary as well as new questions about immigration to Germany led to major research projects at several German universities. At the same time, they are part of a new, popular interest in German emigration history that has been marked most forcefully by the creation of emigration museums in Bremerhaven and Hamburg. In another way, however, the exhibition makers do not succeed in writing a new story of Bavarian migration, because more often than not it is not clear what was specifically Bavarian about this migration--how it was different from and similar to migrations from other German and European lands. Nevertheless, in creating this aesthetically pleasing and affordable catalog, and in amassing a great number of artifacts from Bavarian migrations, they have laid a foundation that, I hope, will stimulate others to fill the research gaps pointed out in the catalog's opening pages.
. On German emigration after 1945, see Alexander Freund, Aufbrüche nach dem Zusammenbruch. Die deutsche Nordamerika-Auswanderung nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 2004).
. For example, Günter Moltmann, ed., Germans to America: 300 Years of Immigration 1683 to 1983 (Stuttgart: Eugen Heinz for the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, 1982); Klaus Wust and Heinz Moos, eds., Three Hundred Years of German Immigrants in North America, 1683-1983: Their Contributions to the Evolution of the New World: A Pictorial History With 510 Illustrations (Munich: "300 Jahre Deutsche in Amerika" Verlag; Baltimore: Heinz Moos, 1983); Frank Trommler, ed., Amerika und die Deutschen. Bestandsaufnahme einer 300jährigen Geschichte (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1986).
. For German Emigration Center Bremerhaven, opened in 2005, see http://www.dah-bremerhaven.de ; for Ballinstadt Hamburg, to be opened in 2007, see http://www.ballinstadt.de .
. For further information and upcoming showings, the reader may wish to visit the exhibition homepage at http://www.auswanderung.hdbg.de .
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Alexander Freund. Review of Hamm, Margot; Henker, Michael; Brockhoff, Evamaria, eds., Good Bye Bayern--GruÖÂ¼ÖÅ¸ Gott America: Auswanderung aus Bayern nach Amerika seit 1683.
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