Beyond History Blog

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Kurt Vonnegut and Germany

11. April 2017, Heike Leiacker - Emigration, German-American, Germany, Historical Events, Literature, Personalities, WWII

United States Army portrait of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., by United States Army [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AKurt-Vonnegut-US-Army-portrait.jpg)

On 11 April 2017, author Kurt Vonnegut died in New York. Born on 11 November 1922 as the youngest of three siblings in Indianapolis, Vonnegut was a fourth-generation German-American. Both of his parents, his father Kurt Vonnegut Sr. and his mother Edith Lieber, descended from German emigrants, that arrived in America in the 19th century.

Kurt Vonnegut and Germany

To build the best piano possible

15. February 2017, Heike Leiacker - Birthdays, Emigration, German-American, Hamburg, Personalities, General

Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg/Henry E. Steinway https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASteinway_factory_Schanzenstrasse_Hamburg_Germany.jpg

On 15 February 1797, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg was born in Wolfshagen/Harz in Northern Germany. Can you guess? Later known as Henry E. Steinway, the founder of one of the leading piano manufacturers of the world, Steinway and Sons, was a German emigrant.

To build the best piano possible

The Low-German Dollar

13. June 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - General, German-American, Knowledge

Not only 50 Million Americans have German ancestors – the Dollar has German roots as well!

This is due to the fact that mining in Germany made a lot of progress in the 15th century and that through the “discovery” of the new world more and more silver made its way to Europe. When gold became rare and more expensive, silver was the choice for coinage. Gold had a higher worth than silver though and as the silver gulden was to be of the same value as the golden one, it had to be nine times as heavy as the gold gulden. A silver gulden weighed 30 grams and was called “Guldiner”, a word close to “Gulden”.

The Low-German Dollar

The Christmas pickle – a German Christmas tradition largely unknown in Germany

27. December 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - General, German-American, Old Customs, Traditions

A German and not-so-German Christmas tradition at the same time. 

A few years ago we received a “Happy New Year” card from a client, she told us she had spent Christmas and New Years Eve with her children and her grandchildren. They were delighted by the German Christmas Tree and this year it was Peter who was the first to discover the pickle. Pardon me? A pickle in the Christmas tree?

At first we thought this was a typo as even during living for 10 years in New York, I never came across a pickle in a Christmas tree. So we went back to that client and asked her about this. She instantly and told us that even her grandparents had followed this German tradition of having a Christmas pickle in the Christmas tree.

The Christmas pickle – a German Christmas tradition largely unknown in Germany

Clark Gable’s German Roots

16. November 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - Birthdays, Celebrities, General, German-American

On 16 November 1960, Clark Gable, one of the most iconic and successful Hollywood actors, passed away. Born in 1901, he had made movie history with classics such as “Mutiny on the Bounty” and “Gone with the Wind”. He was said to be a box-office guarantee and was honoured with an Academy Award for his role in “It happened one night” in 1934. He played alongside Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly, just to name a few, and became a movie legend.

Clark Gable’s German Roots

From Warburg to the Moon – a special family history

27. October 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - Emigration, Family, General, German-American, Personalities

When an American, John Brinkmann, contacted us a while back, we had the opportunity to look at a very exceptional family history. You see, John Brinkmann Sr., his father, was director of photography at NASA and as such was responsible for bringing us all of the spectacular pictures from the Gemini and Apollo space programs, in particular the first photos from the surface of the moon in 1969 - photos that went around the globe then and still do (and you are probably visualizing them while you are reading this). John recalled to us how his father shared these photos with the family around the morning breakfast table, before they had been revealed to the press. The collectively shared memory of history that manifests itself in these images stands in contrast to each individual life and its often unclear ancestral past. Now, with his father advancing in years, John wanted to help reconnect his father with his forefathers roots in Germany.

From Warburg to the Moon – a special family history