Germans have been emigrating to the United States for over 300 years. Many years ago, an East German student in Berlin, Henry Schneider came across the story of the Giessen Emigration Society, while doing research for a script writing class. In 2004, he asked his close friend Peter Roloff, if he had ever heard of the group of five-hundred Germans, that left from Roloff’s home town of Bremen in 1834. Fascinated with the story Roloff decided to gather a few of his
friends to discuss this interesting segment of their history, by asking them to travel to the island of Harriersand, that next summer in 2005. Soon the Island Congress became an annual summer event, with historians and photographers all coming together, becoming the Traveling Summer Republic.
In 2009, the group wondered if there were more to be known about the Emigration Society in America, and Roloff contacted many historians across the U.S.
asking “were there any traces remaining of Germans?” where they lived. Historian Dorris Keeven-Franke, who lived near Dutzow had been studying the early emigration societies for years answered
Roloff’s question “of course!” When Roloff, joined by author Rolf Schmidt and photographer Folker Winkelmann visited the U.S. that summer the Republic became international.
In 2010, Roloff produced a short documentary “A Trip to a Forgotten Utopia” for those in Germany who could not be part of the trip, which explained what was still to be found in Missouri, the heart of the story.
Keeven-Franke was invited to Bremen for the premier of the documentary, where guests were invited to view a photographic exhibit of Winkelmann’s art, and sample Blumenhof’s Missouri wine, as well. Discussion of this huge story of emigration/immigration began, and further plans were made.
In 2011, Roloff, Schmidt and Winkelmann again visited the U.S. to take part in “Utopia Revisited” and the project grew further, this time in Missouri as well. Participants
gathered to tour the original sites on two school busses, dubbed the Olbers and the Medora as original members. Many were descendants and held family reunions as well. Plans grew for the “Utopia project” and Roloff began a search for funding.
In 2012 funding for the exhibition began, and with success found in Germany from the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Government of Germany, Magistrate of the University Town Giessen and Prime Minister of the State of Hesse. Venues and co-sponsors were located in the Cities of Giessen and Bremen, in Germany; Washington, D.C.; and St. Louis, Missouri.
The exhibition Utopia-Revisiting a German Republic in America was created by the Traveling Summer Republic team. Film makers, artistic designers, photographers, architects, historians, writers, archivists and theatre directors all joined together to create this fascinating experience. The dream of freedom and a better life for one’s family is relevant to today’s events as well and is also examined and discussed in the exhibition. It was created by the Traveling Summer Republic: Film makers, artistic designers, photographers, architects, historians, writers, archivists and theatre directors all joined together to create this fascinating experience. The exhibit is not just the story of the the Giessen Emigration Society or any one member, but the story of over five hundred emigrants who were united in one dream.
The exhibition opened on November 1, 2013 in Giessen, Germany to a great reception for two months. Followed by over three months in the emigration city of Bremen, Germany, it left for the U.S. in July. Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America opened September 6, in Washington, D.C. at the German American Heritage Foundation’s museum where it will be until October 25, 2014. On November 22, 2014 it will open at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, Missouri.
A catalog of the exhibit, the book Utopia-Revisiting a German State in America by the team is a group of essays for those wanting to further into the story. A documentary by maxim Films of Berlin is part of the St. Louis International Film Festival in 2014, and can be seen at 3pm on November 23, 2014 at the Missouri History Museum.
Project Management and Organization
Magistrate of the University Town Giessen
in collaboration with the Traveling Summer Republic
German-American Heritage Foundation, Washington D.C.
Cultural Church St. Stephen, Bremen
Missouri History Museum, St. Louis
Project Manager and Academic Director
Dr. Ludwig Brake – City Archives of Giessen
Project Managers and Artistic Directors
Oliver Behnecke | Bremen
Peter Roloff | Berlin
The Traveling Summer Republic Team
Andrew Cook | Translation | Berlin
Sala Deinema | Curator “Utopia“ Film Series | Berlin
Manuela Demmler | Press and PR | Bremen
Annette Eidmann | Organization, Program | Giessen
Julia Erb | Production Assistant | Giessen
Christiane Gartner | Young Student Programs | Bremen
Christoph Geiger | Graphic Design for Exhibition and Visual
Identitiy | Frankfurt
Manfred Hielscher | Montage, “VideoBook Dialogue“ | Berlin
Dorris Keeven-Franke | Research, Text, Organization |
St. Charles, MO
Helen Klinge | Travel Consultant Travel Agency “Muss i denn Tours & Cargo Trips” | Bremen
Kulturmassnahmen | Performances „The Message“ | Berlin
Andrea Kuserau | Utopia Library | Schweinfurt
Maja Maria Liebau | Exhibition Texts, Video “8 and 16” | Bremen
Gale McKiddy | Translation | St. Charles, MO
Gary McKiddy | School Programs | St. Charles, MO
Anaïs Marie Perier | Travel Consultant Travel Agency “Muss i denn Tours & Cargo Trips” | Bremen
Rita Rohrbach | Educational Syllabus “Stay or Leave” | Giessen
Rolf Schmidt | Research, Text | Bremen
Ulla Schmidt | Graphic and Editorial Design | Berlin
Henry Schneider | Rechearch, Dramatic Consultant | Berlin
Klaus Seifert | Travel Musician | Odenwald
Kilian Spiethoff | Research, Text | Bad Reichenhall
Esther Steinbrecher | Performances „Muss i denn Tours & Cargo Trips“ | Berlin
Christian Weber | Utopia Today | Berlin
Manuela Weichenrieder | Production Manager | Bremen
Hendrik Weiner | Exhibition Design and Implementation | Bremen
Folker Winkelmann | Photography | Bremen
Providers of Funding for Exhibition
Transatlantic Program of the Federal Government of Germany
Magistrate of the University Town Giessen
Prime Minister of the State of Hesse
Providers of Funding for Sub-projects:
Cultural Foundation of Hesse
Senator for Culture, State of Bremen
Chamber of Labor Bremen
The Hessen State Ministry of Higher Education, Research and the Arts
Cultural Foundation of Giessen
A contribution of the City of Giessen to the
Georg Büchner Commemoration Years 2012/2013