Students Travel to Cincinnati to Experience German-American History, Culture

by Katie Bradley | May 07, 2015

On Thursday, April 23, Marian University students studying German traveled with German professor Wendy Westphal, Ph.D. and Angelia Zielke, director of student success and retention, to Cincinnati to learn about the German-American history of the Midwest. 

The Midwest has a very strong German heritage and Indiana is in the heart of what is called the “German Triangle” bordered by German-heritage cities Milwaukee, St. Louis and Cincinnati.  23 percent of Hoosiers claimed German heritage in the last census and in Cincinnati, roughly half of the city’s population has German ancestry. Cincinnati has numerous vibrant German-culture activities and it is easy to see the German influence by just walking through the city.  Numerous churches have German signs and Cincinnati offers weekly church services in German. 

“Our guide explained that the German language was suppressed during the First and Second World Wars—an outbreak of ‘anti-German hysteria’.  Schools in which German was taught were closed and German-Americans were persecuted.  Ethnically- and racially-based intolerance is a topic that the world is still grappling with, so I wanted students to hear about this close to home,” said Westphal.

The students took part in a guided walking tour of the Over-the-Rhine district of Cincinnati, which was led by Dr. Don Heinrich Tolzmann. Dr. Tolzmann pointed out that since about half of Cincinnati’s population has German heritage, there “is no single ‘German quarter’ of the city”, but as students walked through the Over-the-Rhine district, they saw a number of churches with German inscriptions and learned about the long German brewing tradition in Cincinnati. 

Following the tour, the students visited the Berlin Wall Memorial that is outside the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.  In 2010, the city of Berlin gave Cincinnati a piece of the Berlin Wall as a symbol of the pursuit of freedom.  Overlooking the Ohio River (for many the last barrier on the underground railroad), the memorial poignantly bridges the past. The day in Cincinnati concluded with a delicious German lunch at the Hofbräuhaus Newport, which is closely modeled after the original Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany (Cincinnati’s German sister city). 

Students enjoyed German brezeln, wurst, wienerschnitzel and black forest cake over good conversation about the history of the Hofbräuhaus with host Jim Egbert.

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