We the undersigned,
together with many of our most respected friends and fellow citizens, have decided to leave Germany and to seek our new homeland in the states of North America…So began Friedrich Muench and Paul Follenius’s “Call and Declaration on the subject of mass emigration from Germany to the North American free states” creating the largest organized German emigration society, the Giessen Emigration Society, to ever arrive in Missouri. These Germans were of all occupations and religious faith, came from little villages and large cities, all in search of the same thing – Freedom! Some called it Utopia – we call it America.
In 2004, screenwriter Henry Schneider asked friend and documentary film maker Peter Roloff, of maxim Films of Berlin Germany, if he had ever heard of the Giessen Emigration Society, a group of nearly 500 Germans that left for America in 1834. This became the project of the Traveling Summer Republic, a group of artists, writers, photographers, and museum experts revisiting this nearly forgotten story. In 2009, they contacted historians in the U.S., asking what remained of this large group of these immigrants, opening a new and long friendship and collaboration of venues resulting in an International exhibition: Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America.
When it first opened in Giessen, Germany, on November 1st, 2013, it received a tremendous response. Where once students involved in the German revolutions of the 1830s, struggled for change, the exhibit resonated with its City’s history. Then the story came alive in the beautiful port City of Bremen, Germany, the place of departure for thousands of Germans leaving for the U.S.. The exhibit opeed in the beautiful cultural hall St. Stephani, bringing the immigration story alive again with its fascinating programs.The Exhibition then travels by ship to the U.S., just as the original emigrants did, and where the containers arrive, today’s participants will encounter a fresh new reception in a modern American port. It will be on display at the National Headquarters of the German-American Foundation of America, on September 6, 2014 where it shares its’ story of the Giessen Society members’ search for the true American freedoms they so desired.
On November 22, 2014, the Exhibition will open at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, as a STL250 event. Bringing alive the issues an emigrant faces, with its language and cultural barriers. Exploring the issues of nationality and patriotism, slavery and emancipation, and how thousands of Germans impacted Missouri’s course in history during the Civil War. We will then explore how the arrival and assimilation of these early emigrants impacted today’s history, and will continue to do so for generations. Finally, we will explore with International friendship what Utopia meant to these emigrants, and what it means today for future generations.