Monday, 28 September 2015

Migrations through Bremen, Germany

A few months ago while my wife Phyllis and I were in Germany exploring Hanseatic towns I visited Bremerhaven, the modern-day harbour of Bremen.  The port town is located by the mouth of the Weser river, on the North Sea coast, while the city of Bremen is about 50 km upstream.



There were two reasons for going to Bremerhaven.  One was that my parents had left a war-ravaged Europe from there in January 1948 bound for Australia and I was curious to have a look at the place.  Today only a few historic sites remain as most the town was rebuilt in the modern style after the Second World War; nevertheless, there are a few buildings which survived the war and which would have been visible from the docks in 1948.



The other reason was to visit the German Emigration Center (Deutsches Auswanderer Haus) which had been highly recommended in guide books.  It is located on one of the docks from which millions of people emigrated to the New World and sits in the middle of a very interesting cultural/historical waterfront precinct which includes a large Maritime Museum.

  

The Emigration Center showcases representative stories of more than 7 million people who emigrated from Bremerhaven to North America, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, and other places between 1830 and 1974.  Their stories are spelled out in a number of highly entertaining ways: at the start of your journey through the museum each visitor is given a 'boarding pass' which allows you to follow the story of a migrant leaving Germany and also of an immigrant who settles in Germany.  Coming from Australia I was allocated a German migrant family story which by coincidence also had a Lithuanian element:



The Center has a great selection of static displays, for example recreations of a Bremerhaven passenger waiting hall, an Ellis Island arrivals hall, Grand Central station in New York, sailing ship and steamer cabins, as well as hundreds of interactive displays (buttons to push, drawers to pull out, and of course your own audio guide).  I'm not surprised that soon after opening in 2005 the Center was awarded an European Museum of the Year Award for its realistic staging and multimedia concepts.




Many of the early Lithuanian migrants to Australia started their sea voyages to Australia from Bremerhaven or similar ports.  Their stories are not as well preserved as those of the German migrants highlighted in the German Emigration Center, but I'm sure there would have been many similarities.  Here are a few more images from my visit to the Center which, I think, help inform our study of early Lithuanian migrants:




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