Last month I had the pleasure of visiting the “Auswandererhaus” (Emigration House) in Bremerhaven. It is a museum which focuses on the emigration of Germans to other countries throughout history. I really enjoyed the set up of the museum. There were many models which showed, for instance, how the harbor looked at various times and the different types of ships people traveled on. The first large room was made to look like the harbor with mannequins dressed to look like emigrants from various time periods and social classes. I really enjoyed how they showed examples of what people packed to bring with them. It was shockingly little, but I think it says a lot about a person, what few personal belongings they bring along to their new life.
In the second room you could hear personal stories about families or individuals. Much of the information was gathered from letters they wrote to loved ones or personal journals. There were also display cases which explained the main reasons why Germans were leaving their country during various time periods. In the time from 1871-1913 most emigration was from poorer classes who wanted to move up in society. From 1914-1918 the main reasons for emigration were the depression after WWI, inflation, and lack of work. In the years during and directly after WWII, many of the people who emigrated were political or Jewish refugees trying to escape persecution by the Third Reich. These are just a few examples, but I found it very interesting to see how peoples’ reasons for leaving their homeland changed throughout history.
The next section of the museum was my favorite. They replicated some of the living situations that passengers on different types of ships would have lived in. I am always surprised at how deplorable the living situations were for emigrants with little money, and just how long they needed to be living this way. The difference between the 3rd class and 1st class was actually disgusting.
I particularly liked this one map that showed the U.S. and in each state is said which country the majority of citizens had descended from. I liked this because you could see how the culture of the country were the most people immigrated from still shapes the culture of that area today. For instance New York is especially known for their pizza, and by no coincidence the most people who immigrated there were Italians. Whereas in Pennsylvania the largest immigrant group was German, and there is still a large Amish population which have roots in Germany.
After visiting the museum I had the pleasure of visiting the Bremerhaven Christmas market, which I must admit was not as impressive as Bremen’s but still very fun!
Katie Mooradian ’16