Emigrants from the Rhineland in the USA

History books tell us about emperors and kings, princes and archbishops, but not about people like you and me. Here at the Rhine Dragon, I write about the history of our region from the view of families who lived through these historical events.

Little is known about those people who in the early modern age left their beloved homeland because they were suffering hunger and hardships, or persecution for their beliefs. This story is about two families from the Rhineland, the Tombachs and the Bergmanns, who left their home to build up a new life for themselves in America. Nonetheless, they always keep in touch with their German relatives. We will accompany them through German and American History, from the time of Louis XIV of France until the Great War and the Allied Rhineland occupation. The historical events set the stage for the people and tells the story of a family that is at home on both sides of the Atlantic.

Chapter by chapter

1 | New Homeland Pennsylvania
Around 1700, wars of succession in the Rhineland, Colonial America
2 | Subjects and Citizens
Dire poverty, political oppression and failed revolution 1848/49 in Germany.
3 | Years of War
Secession War in the USA, unification wars in Germany.
4 | The Land of Limitless Possibilities
Guilded Age in America and Wilhelmine Germany.
5 | The Great War
World War I rages; in 1917 the USA enter
the war.
6 | American Forces in Germany
Versailles Peace Treaty and Allied Rhineland occupation.

This is not history for history’s sake. I am so grateful that, after the horrors of the 20th century, we are together in the Western community of values, and defend liberty, open societies, tolerance and compassion. I for one am not willing to leave the floor to the hatemongers of the 21st century. We all lose if we allow what separates us to grow stronger than what brings us together.

To include rather than divide

An important historical person in his story is Carl Schurz, a Rhinelander who had to flee after the failed revolution of 1848/49 and emigrated to the United States of America, where he became an important statesman. While doing research for the English version, I found an interview with Barack Obama in Harper's magazine, and in it the following passage (shortened). "[..] it is time to remember that the Republicans did far better in the past [..] once they elevated the nation's political dialogue, gave us hope and preached a new form of patriotism which sought to include rather than divide, which valued education and chastised ignorance, which extolled the liberties of our constitutional order and cursed tyrants and slaveholders. [..] Among those Republicans [..] I remember Carl Schurz."

I was deeply touched by the words "to include rather than divide". Today, a sense of togetherness within a society, within Europe and the international community of states is conjured in every time more urging words, but at the same time more and more deep rifts appear. Now my story got longer - I wanted to write about people who lived openness, tolerance and compassion. Let us give our best attention to the courageous and upright people, because its them who give us hope and courage - not the often destructive headlines.

Found here: Schurz: The True Americanism, Harper's Magazine: http://harpers.org/archive/2008/11/hbc-90003773 retrieved on November 8, 2011