09. November 2019, Anniversary, Archives, Societies, Museums, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Historical Events, History, Knowledge
After the new travel regulations have been announced, thousands of GDR citizens cross the border at Invalidenstrasse in Berlin on 10 November 1989, Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1989-1110-041 / Hirschberger, Ralph / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-1989-1110-041,_Berlin,_Grenz%C3%BCbergang_Invalidenstra%C3%9Fe.jpg).
09 November is a special day in German history. In the year 1989 this finally meant something positive. On this day, the government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) announced a new and long-desired travel regulation. People now could directly leave the GDR in the direction of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). This caused the fall of the Berlin Wall and finally led to the German reunification.
For genealogy, the division of Germany plays quite some role, too. The foundation of two separate states and especially the construction of the Berlin Wall and the closing of the inner-German border tore families apart and led to very different living environments in East and West Germany. Until today this affects the German society. On the occasion of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall we are having a look at the historic events and also discuss sources that can be useful for researching ancestors and relatives in the former GDR.
30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall - Sources on the East German past
01. September 2019, General, Germany, Historical Events, Knowledge, WWII
Soldiers of the Wehrmacht simulate the demolition of a Polish tollgate close to Sopot on 01 September 1939. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-51909-0003 / Hans Sönnke / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons(https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-51909-0003,_Polen,_Schlagbaum,_deutsche_Soldaten.jpg).
With the invasion of Poland on 01 September 1939 the Second World War broke out. 80 years later, we remember its up to 80 million victims. Many of our clients‘ family histories are directly linked to WW II, the German National Socialism and their aftermath.
The beginning of the Second World War
14. August 2019, General, Germany, Historical Events, History, Knowledge
Election poster of the CDU with a portrait of Konrad Adenauer, artist/graphic designer: SI Klischees Entwürfe, source: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Archiv für Christlich-Demokratische Politik (ACDP), License: KAS/ACDP 10-001: 104 [CC-BY-SA 3.0 DE (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CDU_Wahlkampfplakat_-_kaspl001.JPG).
Free elections are considered something normal in Germany. Every four years the public votes for our parliament – the Bundestag. Today, 70 years ago the first federal elections were held.
On 14 August 1949, the first free federal elections were held after the last ones happened on 06 November 1932. Before that, the public could only elect the regional and local parliaments where elections were already held in 1946. The first federal elections were only conducted on the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), not on the territory of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), which was founded on 07 October 1949.
Election of the first German Bundestag
06. August 2019, General, Germany, Historical Events, Knowledge
German Autobahn 1964, Photograph by Harry Pot/Anefo, source: Nationaal Archief Nederland, Fotocollectie Anefo [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:De_autobaan_(Autobahn)_in_Duitsland,_Bestanddeelnr_916-9687.jpg)
Germany and its famous Autobahn (highway) - for almost 100 years it has been part of German infrastructure and is known all around the globe for its lack of speed limits. There are even tourists who visit Germany just for the sake of experiencing this "joy". But when exactly was the first Autobahn opened in Germany?
The myth of German Autobahn
11. November 2018, Anniversary, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Historical Events, Internet, Knowledge, WW I
Soldier in World War I on the western front, Source: Bundesarchiv (Federal Archive), picture 183-R05148, unknown photographer, CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-R05148,_Westfront,_deutscher_Soldat.jpg)
Today 100 years ago, World War I ended. The armistice of 11 November 1918 ended the fighting. However, formally World War I ended with the Treaty of Versailles. Signed on 28 June 1919, it became effective on 10 January 1920. On this occasion, we compiled some sources for researching German soldiers of World War I.
The End of World War I – Sources regarding German soldiers
09. November 2018, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Events, History, Knowledge, Judaism
Erinnerungszeichen plaque for Tilly and Franz Landauer in Munich, Königinstraße 85
09 November is a special day in German history. An especially sad chapter was written on 09 and 10 November 1938. Not only were synagogues and Jewish shops all over the then German Reich set on fire and destroyed, also thousands of Jews were abused, arrested or killed. The discrimination of German Jews since the seizure of control of the National Socialists became now a systematic persecution. Until today, the so-called “(Reichs-)Kristallnacht” (often used in international context, but a rather controversial term) or “Reichspogromnacht” is a symbol for the endless number of crimes against humanity that were committed by Hitler’s government and his followers.
We are helping many clients with their Jewish research in Germany. No matter how much you know about the Holocaust, it is always especially horrible and emotional to follow single family histories during this time - All the more important to maintain a social awareness and to commemorate especially individual fates. Since the year 2000, the project “Stolpersteine” (stumbling stones) of the artist Gunter Demnig helps to remember. In Munich there are no Stolpersteine on public grounds. However, since July 2018 there is an alternative, the so-called “Erinnerungszeichen” (reminder signs).
Remembering the victims of National Socialism
02. September 2018, Emigration, General, German-American, Germany, Historical Events, History, Knowledge, Personalities
Colonel Friedrich Hecker, unknown author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Colonel_Friedrich_Hecker.png).
Friedrich Hecker was one of the faces of the German revolutions of 1848-1849. Like many of his companions he emigrated after the failing of the revolution or single uprisings. On 20 September 1848, he boarded a ship to New York in Le Havre and became a farmer in Illinois. Later, He fought in the American Civil War.
Friedrich Hecker, „Forty-Eighter“
23. May 2018, Anniversary, General, Genealogy, Germany, Hamburg, Historical Events, History, Knowledge
The Thirty Years‘ War was one of the most destructive confrontations on German territory. Prior to the two world wars in the 20th century it was considered to be probably the most incisive event in German history. It also had an impact on today’s genealogy. The Thirty Years’ War was precipitated by the Second Defenestration of Prague on 23 May 1618.
Thirty years of war and their impact on genealogy
24. April 2018, General, Historical Events, History, Knowledge, WW I
On 25 April, people in Australia, New Zealand and Tonga commemorate the fallen soldiers of the battle of Gallipoli in the year 1915 (and by now all Australians and New Zealanders who served an died in wars etc.). On the first joint military campaign in WW I, forces landed on the Ottoman peninsula Gallipoli to prepare a way for the Allied fleets. They were hindered by the unexpectedly strong Ottoman troops though and both sides experienced an immense number of casualties.
11. April 2018, General, Germany, Historical Events, History, Knowledge, Personalities
Bike and briefcase of Rudi Dutschke after the attempt on his life on 11 April 1968. Picture by the police in Berlin [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:C_Polizei_Berlin_11.04.1968_Fahrrad_mit_Aktentasche_von_Rudi_Dutschke_am_Ort_des_Attentats.jpg)
Rudi Dutschke was probably the most known face and voice of the German student protests in 1967 and 1968. On 11 April 1968, he was shot three times in Berlin by the 23 year old laborer Josef Bachmann. Dutschke suffered severe brain damage and survived only just. Eleven years later, on 24 December 1979, he died of the long-term effects.
Attempt on Rudi Dutschke’s life, symbolic figure of the German 1968 movement
16. December 2017, Anniversary, General, Germany, Hamburg, Historical Documents, Historical Events, History, Knowledge, WWII
The predecessor of today’s “Stolpersteine” was installed in front of the historic town hall in Cologne on 16 December 1992. It displays the beginning of the implementation rules for the order to deport Sinti and Roma by Heinrich Himmler. Picture by Horsch, Willy (own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:K%C3%B6ln-Stolpersteiin-Rathaus-024.jpg).
It is probably one of the best known commemorative projects. By now more than 60,000 “Stolpersteine” of the artist Gunter Demnig can be found in more than 1,000 places and cities – not only in Germany but in more than 20 countries throughout Europe. The victims are commemorated in front of their last address of choice. Individual fates become visible within the cityscape. It becomes clear that deportations happened right there in the neighborhood. They are a reminder on the persecution and annihilation not only of Jews but of all victim groups of National Socialism. “Stolpersteine” are for example installed for Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, people who were persecuted on political and religious grounds as well as victims of euthanasia.
Stolpersteine to remember the victims of National Socialism
19. November 2017, General, Germany, Hamburg, Historical Events, Knowledge
Memorial stone for 1,138 people of Hamburg who died after they were banished in the winter of 1813/14 and buried in Ottensen. Picture by Wolfgang Meinhart, Hamburg (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hamburg.Denkstein.Opfer_der_Franzosenzeit.wmt.jpg).
On 19 November 1806, Hamburg was taken by Napoleon’s troops. The following 7 ½ years made an impact on the city in many ways. Today, street names and supposedly even the Franzbrötchen, a popular pastry with cinnamon, tell of the presence of the French. Economically it was a dark page in the history of the Hanseatic city and the population had to suffer a lot. At the same time, the basis for a modern administration was established. While it was taken back in Hamburg afterwards, it still was the model for today’s civil registry offices.
Hamburg under Napoleon
31. October 2017, Emigration, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Events, Knowledge
Detail of a church window in the War Memorial Chapel at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Martin Luther nails his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. Picture by Tim Evanson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clerestory_window_12_-_War_Memorial_Chapel_-_National_Cathedral_-_DC.JPG)
On 31 October 1517 Martin Luther is supposed to have nailed his 95 theses against the sale of indulgences to the door of the church in Wittenberg. Today it is debatable, if this really happened, but for many the date still stands for the beginning of the reformation. It is celebrated as Reformation Day in Germany and Austria.
Religious refugees during reformation
25. August 2017, Emigration, General, German-American, Historical Events, Knowledge, Personalities
Neil Armstrong working on the moon near lunar module Eagle, 20 July 1969. Picture by NASA / Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:As11-40-5886,_uncropped.jpg)
The first man on the moon, a German? No, of course not. But Neil Alden Armstrong had indeed German ancestors.
He was born on 5 August 1930 in Ohio and died in the same state on 25 August 2012 when he was 82 years old. Inbetween Neil Armstron made history with one step on 20 July 1969 (American time). It is not surprising that Armstrong, sometimes compared to Columbus, descended from immigrants as most Americans do. His ancestors had the courage to take steps on unfamiliar ground. To start all over in a new country was certainly not an easy thing to do. Especially as keeping in touch with the people that stayed behind wasn’t as simple as today.
A small step for [a] man – From Germany to the moon
21. July 2017, General, Historical Events, History, Holiday, Knowledge, Personalities
Leopold I of Belgium, Picture by unknown (Zeno.org, ID-Number 20001849204) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AL%C3%A9opold_I.jpg)
Since 1890, 21 July is the Belgian National Day. This goes back to 1831 when the first King of the Belgians, Leopold I, took the oath on the constitution of the newly independent nation. He came from a German dynasty.
Why a German became the first King of the Belgians
11. April 2017, 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 2007, 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
28. February 2017, Archives, Societies, Museums, Germany, Hamburg, Historical Events, Historical Documents, General
Flood in Hamburg, 17.02.1962; picture by Oxfordian Kissuth (own work). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHamburg_-_Flutkatastrophe_1962.jpg
In the night of 16 to 17 February 1962 the hurricane Vinicinette caused a storm flood at the North Sea coast of Germany. Hamburg was affected especially hard, the early warning systems failed and the danger wasn’t taken seriously. The residents of Hamburg were surprised by the water in their sleep. 315 people died in the city alone (of 340 people in total).
Documents that might have helped genealogists today were destroyed as well. The public record office itself was left unharmed, but the records of some administrative bodies were affected. It’s hard to estimate, how many records of private companies were lost as well. If one of your ancestors worked in any of those affected companies prior to 1962, it might be hard to find information today.
Flooded… Catastrophic influences on genealogy
11. November 2016, Historical Events, Personalities, Traditions, Anniversary
November is the month in which the traditional lantern processions take place in Germany. Children walking through the streets with their parents and colourful, self-made lanterns in the early hours of the evening is a custom that - like many other customs - traces back to a clerical holiday. In this case the holy Martin of Tours is to be honored by the rite.
Walking with lanterns
22. October 2016, General, Hamburg, Historical Events, Knowledge
It's happening again: this weekend in the night to 30thOctober the clocks will be switched to standard time. Since 1996, the EU has uniform regulations for the summer time; hence daylight saving time starts on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October. With the beginning of standard time in fall, the clocks are set back by one hour.
26. July 2016, Hamburg, Personalities, Historical Events
During the air raids of "operation Gomorrha" in the summer of 1943, large parts of the animal park were destroyed. Luckily some of the animals survived and thus it was that elephants helped with the clearing work afterwards - not only at the zoo but also in other areas of Hamburg.
The walrus lady Antje is also unforgotten as she was both the mascot of Hagenbeck and of the NDR [North German Broadcasting Corporation] from 1976 until her death in 2003.
Hagenbeck - a long-term institution in Hamburg - Part 2
06. July 2016, General, Hamburg, Historical Documents, Historical Events
Source: State archive Hamburg, collection: 373-7 I, VIII (Auswanderungsamt I). VIII A 1 Band 227, Mikrofilmnummer: K_1815, page 2269; also searchable on Ancestry.com.
There is a song well-known in Hamburg called "Geh'n wir mal zu Hagenbeck...." ["Let's go to Hagenbeck..."] and when somebody sings it everyone knows it's about a visit to the zoo. It must be remarked though that Hagenbeck is an animal park strictly speaking: the enclosures are embedded in a park with artificial lakes and mountains and also the concept of laying more emphasis on species-appropriate husbandry in outdoor enclosures was developed by Carl Hagenbeck in 1896; later he even had the patent for it.
Over the decades, what had started as a small animal shop with 6 seals in 1848 escalated into an animal park which was opened at today's location in Hamburg-Stellingen in 1907. "Hagenbecks Tierpark" became the animal park Hagenbeck over time showing several attractions like the "polar sea" and the tropical aquarium.
Apart from the animals, Hagenbeck was also famous for something else: the ethnological exhibitions. At a time when not everybody could read and owned books at home, when there were no cinemas and TV sets, these exhibitions were considered an appropriate measure to let the people of Hamburg " gaze" at other cultures which were considered to be savage and uncivilized; thus, Inuit, Saami, or indigenous peoples of Africa and America became a kind of special exhibitions in addition to the animals.
Hagenbeck - a long-term institution in Hamburg - Part 1
18. April 2016, Anniversary, Historical Events, Knowledge, WWII
It is the anniversary of one of the lesser-known war crime trials after the end of World War II, which were first initiated by the Allied Forces (such as the Nuremberg Trials 1945-49) and later also brought before German courts (Auschwitz Trials in the 1960s and -70s): The “Neuengamme Main Trial”.
70 Years Concentration Camp Neuengamme Main Trial / Curiohaus Trial 1946
08. March 2016, Anniversary, Historical Events, History, Knowledge
„ [...] do not try one but three.” (Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900)
Although there is a lot yet to be done in the area of gender equality, a lot has changed in the last one hundred years: While today a woman, Angela Merkel, is the head of Germany’s government, women did not even have the right to participate in political elections until far into the 20th century. Much less did they pursue a career: When, in our genealogical research, we work with documents from the 19th century or earlier we very rarely encounter women who carried on a profession. Responsibilities were clearly divided back then.
“Anyone looking for a beautiful woman, good and intelligent, ...“
28. February 2016, Anniversary, General, Historical Events, Knowledge
What we experience as one year is exactly the amount of time it takes the earth to circle the sun. In fact, this does not take exactly 365 days but 365 days and 6 hours. For our calendar year to nevertheless remain synchronized with the so-called tropical (or solar) year, the leap year exists: every couple of years February 29 is added to the calendar year; a leap year therefore consists of 366 days. Such as 2016 has been.
17. February 2016, Anniversary, General, Historical Events, Knowledge, Traditions
According to the German dictionary, the term "first language", or "mother tongue" describes "a language that a child learns (from its parents) [and that it uses primarily]". Hence language is a cultural good that is part of us from an early age on and that makes us part of a family or community.
But all languages are not created equal: while doing genealogical research you discover that language and scripture change over time, new meanings develop for certain terms or they disappear from the language usage completely. While doing genealogical research, we often come across terms which are dated: In case our ancestors got married in the 19th century, they arranged a “copulation” [marriage]. At a christening feast there were „Gevatter“ [godparents] standing at your side.
International Mother Language Day
09. February 2016, General, Historical Events, Knowledge
Source: Smithsonian Institution Collection: National Postal Museum, Curatorial Photographic Collection. Photographer: unknown. Image number: A.2006-22.
Yes, sending children with parcel service was actually a possibility in the land of opportunity, the USA! And it is another example for how genealogy can lead you towards bizarre and unbelievable stories from the past.
In 1913 and 1914 it was apparently possible - or not explicitly forbidden - to send human beings via parcel service. This was right after the postal service in the US started its parcel service on January 1st 1913. The service was received well. Within the first six months 300 million parcels have been sent.
Sending children with parcel service
22. January 2016, General, Historical Events, Holiday, Knowledge
There is a specific relationship between our French neighbors and us: lots of Germans read the comics of Astérix the Gaul in their childhood, some Germans choose the Eiffel Tower as the setting for a marriage proposal and the croissant is an inherent part of breakfast on Sundays.
The “day of German-French friendship”
21. January 2016, Anniversary, General, Germany, Historical Events, Knowledge
The year 1919 represents one of the most important caesuras in our history: After the First World War had claimed millions of lives it was officially brought to an end by signing the Treaty of Versailles. In 2016 the days in which that historical contract was closed have their 97th anniversary.
A little peace: Anniversary of contracting the Treaty of Versailles
18. November 2015, General, Hamburg, Historical Events, Traditions
When you visit Hamburg there is a distinct difference between going for a walk around the Alster or along the Elbe. As a native your cultural milieu will factor quite a bit into the decision where your steps will lead you. The same can be observed for the local soccer teams HSV and St. Pauli or if you live on the “right” or “wrong” side of the Alster.
Of Swans and Ravens
03. November 2015, General, Historical Events, Knowledge
When Daylight Savings make you reconsider time, questions arise. How did today’s time zones get defined?
The sun takes 24 hours to circle around the 360 degrees of the circumference of the earth, that is 15 degrees an hour, one degree of longitude in four minutes. Each line of longitude therefore has its own timezone that bases on the position of the sun. And this is exactly how it worked until less than 140 years ago: The result was that every location had their own time, and the time difference between Cologne and Berlin for example was 26 minutes. Today, this seems unthinkable!
Daylight Savings and Time Zones
06. October 2015, Anniversary, General, German-American, Historical Events
We at Beyond History research the German roots of US-citizens almost every day. Our American clients try to find out, where their families came from, why they made the big trip across the Atlantic Ocean and what their lives in Europe had looked like. The shared German-American heritage is huge – and today it has its own commemoration day.
30. September 2015, Anniversary, General, Germany, Historical Events, History
Every year on October 3rd, festive acts all over Germany celebrate the anniversary of the reunification of what was the German Democratic Republic (“DDR”) in the East and the Federal Republic of Germany (“BRD”) in the West. The German national holiday commemorates the joining of the DDR with the BRD that was decided on in August 1990 and concluded in October. With this happening, the federal states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and all of Berlin, the so-called “new federal states”, became part of the republic.
German Unity Day
08. September 2015, Anniversary, Family, General, Historical Events, Personalities, Professions
Early on the 4th July 1885, the baker Joseph Meister sent his son of the same name to the next village to get yeast from the brewery there. When young Joseph entered the village center, he was attacked by a dog and bitten into his hand and his legs. Some villagers who had witnessed the incident came to hunt away the dog and wash the boy’s wounds with water from the village well. Then they gave him a coin to make him feel better. Little did they know the little boy would make history as the first person successfully vaccinated against rabies!
Rabbits and Rabies or The Story of Joseph Meister
07. July 2015, Emigration, Family, Genealogy, General, Historical Events
It seems there are endless reality shows on German TV these days that follow German emigrants on their way to their new homes all around the world. The families sharing their hopes, dreams, and problems in front of the camera always make me think of the emigrant ancestors we researched so far. One of the favorite emigration destinations for Germans is and was Australia. Today, people go there for the friendly people, nature, beaches, and the sun. That sure was different back in the days…
Germans Down Under
26. June 2015, General, Historical Events, Old Customs, Traditions
When our parents, grandparents or great grandparents went grocery shopping, it sure looked different from today. Shops were smaller, the range of goods was limited and you couldn’t check what you needed for that special lasagna recipe on your smartphone in the middle of aisle 4!
But shopping also had a different sound back then. The monotone beeping at the check-out is something we are used to today. But it is the sound of one of the greatest supermarket innovations of the 20th century: I’m talking about the barcode-system. On 26 June 1974 the first product marked with a barcode was registered: It was a pack of “Juicy Fruit” gum in a supermarket in Ohio.
The Sound of Shopping
23. June 2015, Anniversary, General, Historical Events, History, Knowledge
The trains were late, kindergartens were closed and now mail services are slow: The year 2015 seems to be the year of strikes in Germany. While strikes always are a pain for everyone relying on public transport, childcare and the like, they seem to be crucial when it comes to negotiations over fair working conditions.
„We are hungry!“ – 3200 years of strike