There has already been a report on ARD Radio on a project of the Goethe-Institut New York Library – and yet there has been (almost) no mention of it here in the blog. It’s time for that to change!
On December 2, 2011, the Information & Library department of the Goethe-Institut New York presented, together with Pratt Institute, the project, “German Traces”. Why would the Goethe-Institut be involved in a project having to do with German traces in New York? Why the Information & Library department? And why in collaboration with Pratt Institute?
At the end of 2009, a colleague here at the Goethe-Institut New York commented that he was astounded by the signs of German influence in New York and by how little notice was taken of them. His phrase for it was “invisible heritage” and it struck a chord. After all, around 1840 roughly one-third of New York’s inhabitants (c. 400,000 people) claimed German heritage. Only Vienna and Berlin had more German-speaking citizens. And these German immigrants of course spread their culture; they founded clubs and associations, built hospitals and churches, established businesses and industries. Over the years, however, the traces left by this large number of German immigrants to New York became increasingly invisible. This was greatly influenced by the fact that across the span of the 20th Century many Americans with German roots preferred to distance themselves from their heritage, for understandable reasons. Business firms as well – from Germania Fire Insurance to Germania Bank - had decided already by the beginning of the century to remove the German connection from their names. Whereas practically any New Yorker could direct tourists to “Little Italy”, most were clueless when asked directions to “Kleindeutschland” (Little Germany) or “German Broadway”.
And though the Holocaust is, of course, “the elephant in the room”, in the years since reunification, Germany’s image has improved among many Americans, and a German-sounding name or having German ancestors is now met with curiosity – or a reason to travel to Berlin. For even New Yorkers find Berlin cool (and one of the few places in this world that can hold its own against New York). So this is right time to draw attention once again to the many fascinating stories of German immigrants and to the many traces of them still visible in the city. And with this to stimulate an interest in Germany today.
(To be continued…)
Thursday, 15. December 2011
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