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 November 2019, Anniversary, Archives, Societies, Museums, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Historical Events, History, Knowledge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
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
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
21. January 2018, General, Germany, Hamburg, History, Knowledge, Personalities
Aristide Briand and Gustav Stresemann, 1926. Photo [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aristide_Briand_and_Gustav_Stresemann.jpg).
If you haven’t noticed yet, our offices have moved within Hamburg in December 2017: From Cheruskerweg to Stresemannallee. That means, we are now just around the corner from the company Beiersdorf. In the first part of our series on street names, we already talked about its history. It is still located in Troplowitzstraße which is named after one of the owners of the company, Oscar Troplowitz.
Stresemannallee also commemorates a well-known person, the German politician Gustav Stresemann.
Street names: The Stresemannallee in Hamburg - Beyond History’s new address
25. December 2017, Birthdays, German-American, History, Knowledge, Personalities
Picture by Harry Pot [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Conrad_Hilton.jpg).
He was born in San Antonio on 25 December 1887 as a son of a local businessman, but he became rich and famous as an hotelier. His father Augustus Halvorsen came from Norway and immigrated to the US in 1870. Here he adopted the now famous surname of the family. He married Mary Genevive Laufersweiler who was of German descent. Her father Conrad Laufersweiler was from the Hunsrück, her mother Caroline Wasem was also born in Germany.
An international hotel chain and many headlines
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
27. November 2017, General, Germany, Hamburg, History, Holiday, Knowledge, Traditions
Every day, Santa Claus flies above Hamburg’s city hall Christmas market. Picture by Chorengel, Pixabay.com.
It’s time again. In Germany the Christmas markets are opening. Today, the season for many of the big and small ones in Hamburg’s quarters begins, too. But the cozy markets that invite to a cup of mulled wine and a bite as well as Christmas shopping are not only a favorite in Germany. The German Christmas market is, like the Oktoberfest, a real export hit.
German Christmas markets
31. July 2017, Emigration, General, German-American, Hamburg, History, Knowledge
Chicago Skyline at sunrise (2009), Photo by Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chicago_sunrise_1.jpg)
Since July 1994, to be precise since 20 July 1994, Chicago is Hamburg’s twin city. After the first initiative was made in 1957, the idea was readopted in the 1990s.
There are good reasons for being sister cities. Both are characterized by their waterside location (at Lake Michigan and the Elbe), despite at the same time being located at the inland. They are both economical as well as cultural centers and there are furthermore historical parallels and connections. Just to mention it briefly, both cities were affected by great fires (Hamburg in 1842, Chicago in 1871) that changed their appearances permanently. But most of all, both cities played an important role in the migration from Germany to America in the 19th century: Hamburg as an emigration harbor, Chicago as a place of refuge for immigrants.
Hamburg’s sister city Chicago
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
02. May 2017, Emigration, General, German-American, History, Knowledge, Personalities
American and Czech Budweiser, Photo: Dorisall at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABud_and_Budvar.jpg)
Without question Anheuser-Busch is one of the best known breweries worldwide. Today the American company is part of the international corporation Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABInBev), just like the German beer brands Beck’s, Franziskaner, Hasseröder, Diebels or Löwenbräu. The brewery originated in the 1850s in St. Louis (Missouri). It was acquired by Eberhard Anheuser and a partner in 1860. Anheuser died 20 years later, on 2 May 1880 in St. Louis.
Germans and their beer – Part 3
28. April 2017, Emigration, General, German-American, History, Knowledge, Personalities, Professions
Frederick Pabst, Picture by S.L. Stein (The Pabst Mansion) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frederick_Pabst_by_SL_Stein.jpg)
No more than Germans invented beer they were the first to brew it in the USA. Breweries are documented from the 17th century at the latest. Until the middle of the 19th century they mostly produced British-style ale. This changed with enhanced immigration from Germany and the associated higher demand for lighter lager. This was met by German brewers from about mid-century. Until the end of the 19th century lager had become the predominant beer in the USA. And especially German-American brewers like Busch, Pabst or Schlitz had made themselves known.
Germans and their beer – Part 2
11. March 2017, General, Germany, History, Knowledge
As genealogists we often come across addresses. We have written about the topic in this blog before and will do so again. Addresses people had years or centuries ago have often changed names over time. Sometimes it’s important to find out, how streets are called today. Mannheim, Germany, is a good example for even current street names that pose us riddles.
Street names: Circle the square and start a new life!
22. November 2016, General, Germany, Hamburg, History, Knowledge
In the urban region of Hamburg there are for example several granite steles that are unimposing at first glance. But these steles are evidence of the history of Hamburg and Holstein. One of the granit steles is located in the Tarpenbekstraße in the Hamburg district Eppendorf. On it several letters and numbers are written, they might appear cryptic at the moment.
Before riddling the stone’s and its inscription’s meaning, let’s talk about the history of Hamburg and Holstein.
History set in stone
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, ...“
09. November 2015, General, Germany, History, WW I, WWII
November 9th is a special day in German history. Four times in the 20th century has this day made history – in positive and very negative ways. This is why today a lot of commemoration festivities are taking place all over the country. They remember the crimes as well as the positive developments that are forever connected to this day.
On November 9th 1918 seamen that were tired of the war revolted against the command to once again go out to sea to fight against England. World War I had cost about 10 million lives and double as many were wounded, people were exhausted. The revolt spread like wildfire over the whole country. The November Revolution led to Emperor Wilhelm’s abdication and the formation of a German Republic with a government that was legitimated by democratic vote.
November 9th – a Fateful Day in German History
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
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