German Immigration to the Midwest

Michael M

German Immigration: A story told by the ghosts of the past



"The day I left home, my mother came with me to the railroad station.When we said goodbye, she said it was just like seeing me go into my casket, I never saw her again." So is the story of Julia B. from Germany and many others who left their life and love for a chance of happiness in a new country. This is the story of the German immigrants in 1880-1930 who risked everything on a dream of better things.

What caused the German immigration to Ameica between 1870-1930? In this paper I'll answer that question plus: what caused the movement, what happined to them when they arrived, and how did they adapt. I'll also tell some of the more gritty stuff by using intimate and detailed quotes used by many real immigrants who came to America anywhere from 1880 to 1930. As you read this, be prepared to learn what really happened to these immigrants and why the streets were paved with anything but gold.

Today, many Germans live throughout the U.S.; especially in the mid-west. More likely then not, they came here in the late 1800's- 1900's. This would be because of the many revolutions in the 1860's and the poverty that almost always follows war. In one 20 year span in the late 1800's Germany went to war at least 7 times taking on neighboring countries such as: Austria, France, Belgium and Russia.

Like I said, much money was spent on the war effort in Germany. People were taxed heavily just to buy bullets for the army. Through all this, word was spread like wild fire through Germany that a new country in the west across the water was offering freedom and a promise of happiness for anyone who would make the long journey to the new country: America. So with somewhat heavy hearts, many men and women left their families behind to journey to America in hopes of something greater.

For many, the road to America was a hard one. Most of the emigrants were very poor and had to hitchhike or walk the long miles to the coast just to be able to get on the boat to America. Sometimes it would take months just to save up enough money to pay for rides out of Germany, expensive passports, and to pay for the boat fare and it would take weeks just to go to France where they usually only began the long hard trip to their destination.

By this time there were steam-ships (a better way to America then just regular ships which took 1-3 months to cross the Atlantic) which took only a merciful two weeks to travel the Atlantic. The bad news for the immigrants was that they were expensive and they had to crowed on to each ship; over 500 people over the limit. "Neither cleanliness, decency, nor comfort, is possible... sometimes two or three thousand persons are crowded into a

space hardly sufficient to accommodate 1,200. Steerage passengers can not, with any degree of truth or justice, be said to be humanly or properly treated at any stage of their long journey," said one Report of Conditions.

After about two weeks of pain and misfortune, the many people on these boats glanced across the water and looked at the best thing they had seen in weeks, the Statue of Liberty. "The first time I saw the Statue all the people were rushing to the side of the boat 'look at her, look at her,' and in all kinds of languages. 'There she is, there she is,' like it was somebody who was greeting them," said one women. A few hours after reaching the Statue they were rushed off of the boat into a place they called Ellis Island.

Ellis Island was the main immigration depot to America located just off the coast of New York City. It was a place where thousands of people coming from dozens of countries came through every day. " To me, it was like a House of Babel. Because there were so many languages and so many people and everybody huddled together. And it was so full of fear," the impression Ellis made on a young women. Immigrants were tagged for names and birthdays etc... and were then marked with chalk if they were