New lives in a new world

    Medium US
    Auswandererhaus, Bremerhafen
    Von Jessica Mann

    “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddledzusammengedrängt; hier auch: unterdrückthuddled masses to yearnsich sehnenyearning to breathe free,” promises the famous line from Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus.” The well-known poem was written to to raisebeschaffen, auftreibenraise money for the pedestalPodest, Sockelpedestal supporting the Statue of Liberty, and it is famously to inscribebeschriften, eingraviereninscribed on a plaqueTafelplaque within it.

    The huge statue in New York Harbor was to dedicateweihen, widmendedicated in 1886, during a period that did indeed bring masses of immigrants from Europe to the United States. Visitors to the Statue of Liberty often imagine what it must have been like to see that famous figure after days — or weeks — at sea. But what about everything the passengers on those ships had experienced up to that moment? What had moved them to change their lives in such a dramatic fashion and to embark on sth.sich zu etw. aufmachenembark on such an arduousmühsam, beschwerlicharduous journey in the first place?

    Many Americans can to trace sth. backetw. zurückverfolgentrace their own families back to Europeans who emigrated to the New World during this era, and they are often interested to find out more about who these people were and where they came from.


    The German Emigration Center in Bremerhaven

    One place that helps them do just that is the German Emigration Center (Deutsches Auswandererhaus) in Bremerhaven, Germany. More than 2.2 million people have visited the museum since it opened on August 8, 2005. Researchers there also study German emigration and immigration throughout historyim Verlauf der Geschichtethroughout history.

    Even the museum’s location is a historic one — on the New Harbor of Bremerhaven, a city on the North Sea coast in northern Germany that was founded in 1827 as the coastal harbor of the city-state of Bremen. Bremen itself is situated further inland, up the River Weser.

    Its ideal location quickly made Bremerhaven an important shipping hubUmschlagplatzshipping hub as well as the largest emigration port in Germany. From 1830 to 1974, 7.2 million people sailed to the New World from here to begin completely new lives.

    Ninety percent of the emigrants to departabreisen, weggehendeparting from Bremerhaven in the 19th century made their way to the United States. Some of them are well known now: jeans magnate Levi Strauss, who arrived in New York in 1847, and film star Marlene Dietrich, who took the Bremen steamer to Hollywood fame and fortune in 1930. But most of them were regular people, such as the German farmers or merchantKaufmann, Kauffraumerchants whose descendantNachkomme, Nachfahredescendants now make up about 14 percent of the population of the United States.


    Video: an introduction to the German Emigration Center in Bremerhaven

    Quelle: Deutsches Auswandererhaus Bremerhaven / YouTube


    Discovering family history

    Last year, around 2,700 US citizens visited the German Emigration Center, many of them using the databases available in the family research room to look for members of their own families. beyondhier: abgesehen von, nebenBeyond providing passenger lists and statistics, the center to enableermöglichenenables Americans to experience the place where their ancestorVorfahr(in)ancestors may have left Germany or other parts of Europe behind — often for goodfür immerfor good and without knowing what awaited them.

    “Americans sometimes come with their German relatives, as a way for both sides of the family to experience what their ancestors to endureertragen, aushaltenendured so that future generations could have a better life,” says Ilka Seer, deputystellvertretenddeputy director and head of public relations and marketing. “It’s a very moving experience for everyone, even for those of us accompanying the families through the exhibit.”

    The entiregesamtentire exhibit is designed to give visitors a personal experience, whether their own ancestors departed from Bremerhaven or not. Visitors to the center receive a “boarding pass” with an electronic card that allows them to follow the story of one individual emigrant as they pass from room to room. Headphones throughout the exhibit (N. Am.)Ausstellungexhibit even enable visitors to hear the person’s “voice.”

    Immigration is always a human story that you can’t experience from just looking at a display

    All of the stories are about real people, highlighted by the fact that there are personal itemArtikelitems and letters from each featured emigrant on display. Visitors can look closely at family heirloomErbstückheirlooms or at German-English dictionaries in blackletter typefaceFrakturschriftblackletter typeface that carefully describe how to pronounce important words. This kind of authenticity is important to the museum’s curators.

    “Immigration is always a human story that you can’t experience from just looking at a display,” says Seer. “The aim is to create an emotional learning environment, which enables a very different level of understanding than would be possible with just numbers, data or statistics.”


    An emotional goodbye

    Upon entering the exhibit, the emotional aspect quickly becomes clear. You feel as if you were truly there as you move past crowds of figures in period dressOriginaltracht, zeitgenössische Kleidungperiod dress tearfullytränenreichtearfully waving goodbye on the wharfKai, Anlege-, Landeplatzwharf. You can even listen in to their thoughts, using the electronic card in your boarding pass. From here, you begin your journey as a passenger in third class, experiencing what life was like on three different vesselSchiffvessels — the Bremen sailing ship from 1854, the fast Lahn steamship from 1887, and the Columbus ocean liner from the 1920s. The reconstruction of the ship interiors includes dormitorySchlafsaal, Schlafraumdormitories, dining rooms, washroomWaschraum, Toilettewashrooms, and cabins.

    In the 18th century, ships sailed back and forth from America regularly, primarily transporting goods like tobacco and cotton to Europe. shipping companySchifffahrtsgesellschaftShipping companies began putting wooden bunk bedKajütenbett, Etagenbettbunk beds in the steerage deckZwischendecksteerage decks of these 30-to-50-meter-long ships so that — instead of being empty — they could transport people on their journey to America. Until the 1870s, millions of emigrants crossed the Atlantic on sailing vessels like this, sometimes with up to 250 other people.



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    The journey on a sailing ship could take as long as 12 weeks, and stormy weather might mean having to go for days without fresh air or sunlight. Disease was to be rampantgrassierenrampant as the result of insanitaryunhygienischinsanitary conditions, rottenverdorben, vergammeltrotten food, and close quartersenger Raumclose quarters. In the 1840s, transatlantic steamships began to cross the ocean much more quickly — taking less than two weeks, regardless of sth.unabhängig von etw.regardless of the weather.

    The conditions on board improved just as the technology of the ships did. By 1854, ships were required to carry basic supplies. Shorter voyages meant better, fresher food and, by 1887, ships were able to to distilldestillierendistill their own fresh drinking water. There was even an ice room for keeping food cold, though steerage passengers still did not have a separate room in which to eat.

    Steel had replaced iron as the primary shipbuilding material by around 1890. This innovation made it possible to build even bigger and safer ships. The age of the ocean liner began, and improved technology meant that passengers could reach New York from Bremerhaven in less than a week. Even third-class travelers finally enjoyed separate cabins and a dining room.


    2 minutes

    The time it took for an inspector to decide each immigrant’s fate


    Ellis Island: two minutes and 29 questions 

    The transatlantic crossing was not the end of the journey, though. The next part of the exhibit, and the next stop for 70 percent of the emigrants leaving Bremerhaven, was New York City — or, to be specific, the Statue of Liberty’s neighbor in New York Harbor: Ellis Island.

    The museum leads its visitors through a reconstructed waiting room at Ellis Island, which was the largest immigration station in the United States. From 1892 to 1954, 24 million immigrants passed through here. Third-class passengers often had to wait for hours. Following a medical examination, an inspector asked each immigrant 29 questions, deciding that person’s fateSchicksalfate in less than two minutes. Visitors to the museum can recreate this experience by quickly answering questions on behalf ofim Namen von, füron behalf of their emigrant on an electronic touch screen.

    The emigration section of the museum — an extensionAnbauextension focusing on immigration to Germany was added in 2012 — ends in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, which opened in 1913 and to usherführen, geleitenushered immigrants onto trains that took them to their new lives throughout the United States. Here, visitors to the museum discover how life to turn outsich erweisenturned out for the emigrant from Germany they have been following. Were they able to find success and happiness in their new home? That is a question which is still being answered today.


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