Greetings from the German-American Heritage Museum of the USA™ in the Nation’s capital!
It was a great honor to be in the Midwest last weekend visiting with friends old and new (thanks to the gracious hospitality of Yogi and Gitta Reppmann) at the first conference of the International Germanic Genealogy Partnership, to which I was personally invited to attend from key organizer Dirk Weissleder on a visit to Berlin in November 2016.
The organizers were hoping for 200-300 attendees; 700 enrolled, leading the hotel to request that no more be allowed to register! I spoke with a sizeable number of the attendees, including Germans, a Canadian, an Australian, a Brazilian, and Americans from all over the country, many of whom are already members of German-American heritage societies like the Germanna Foundation, the Sacramento Turn Verein, Germans in St. Louis, Germanic Genealogy Society, and the Mid-Atlantic Germanic Society.
Many of the people with whom I spoke were keenly interested in our Geman-American Heritage Survey (under the chairmanship of Dorris Keevan-Franke) to identify important heritage sites and are likely candidates to be GAHF state-coordinators for this project. The survey is intended to revive interest in local German-American clubs by demonstrating to their local communities the value to cultivating heritage tourism.
What was striking about the high energy and excitement of helping Americans of German-speaking background connect with their ancestral villages in Europe was the relatively glum statistics measuring German public opinion of the U.S.: the level of trust the Germans hold of Americans is at about the same level of confidence they hold communist China.
I am convinced more than ever that there is a deep commitment among Americans to keep the relationships we enjoy with our European cousins, and perhaps the renewed interest is being kindled because many of us perceive the connections to be under a greater strain than at any time since the deployment of Pershing II missiles at the height of Russian saber-rattling in the early 1980’s.
Because relationships are under strain, now is the time to get active. Elevate the energy of local German-American clubs, enlist volunteers for the German-American Heritage Survey of historic sites, and recruit volunteers with the German-American Heritage Foundation of the USA® at our museum in Washington or from your own home.
Soon, the Board of Directors of GAHF will be announcing that several board seats are up for election, and how candidates may apply to run. Please consider standing as a candidate – a healthy organization continually needs renewal through renewed energy, fresh ideas, and the variety of life experiences that can be brought to bear to revive German-American culture in the United States.
As you know, the one constant in life is change, and so it is that we bid farewell to Carl Anderson, a fine young man whom many members have come to know over the years through his cheerful and faithful work at our Museum. Carl is leaving us on August 11 to study in a master’s program in Florence, Italy. One day, we hope to see him in America’s diplomatic corps. Godspeed, Carl Anderson!
Best to you and your family,
J. Marc Wheat