It was March 30, 1996, in the waiting room of the hospital in Sioux City, Iowa. A worried looking pastor approached me with the words, “Mr. Reppmann, I’m sorry to have to tell you your wife might not survive.” It was a terrible moment. Only a few yards from where I was standing, Gitta was fighting for her life. I could do nothing but helplessly pace and wait. The operation after the car accident lasted fourteen tortuous hours. Fortunately, Gitta was unaware of what was happening and would lie in a coma for the next four weeks.
As the doctors prepared for the operation, something happened that would have caused Germans to shake their heads. A friendly nurse said, “Come with me. You can talk to your wife.”
I stood at her bedside and in a long monologue, spoke to the silent person lying there, recalling our recent marriage in Las Vegas, painting our common future in bright colors, and hoping she would not only live but be returned to health.
I don’t know if my voice penetrated her coma’s silent armor. In any case, the doctors and nurses in usually conservative mid-America believed it did. And so, while I comforted my wife, the medical staff comforted me.
From the prologue (“Bedside Monologue”) of The Best of Two Worlds, an iBook about our German-American experiences
I, too, was caught up in this vortex of protest, signing leaflets every day at school, often without reading them. At the same time, and much to the chagrin and complete bewilderment of my friends, I vehemently defended my positive image of America.
I remained undeterred. From then until today, I am thankful to Americans for helping end hunger in Europe after the Second World War and securing West Berlin’s freedom with the airlift in the late 1940s.
The end of the prologue (“Bedside Monologue”) of The Best of Two Worlds. To read the entire prologue, please open the attachment to this e-mail.
While Gitta and I feel privileged to enjoy the best of two worlds, the group of European immigrants arriving in the United States following the democratic revolutions of 1848 (the “Forty-Eighters”) were definitely the best in two worlds.
Before this backdrop, we are dreaming of an Institute for German-American Forty-Eighter Studies. We would welcome your support and attendance at these upcoming events:
• June 14-16, 2013: Legacy of 1848 (weekend seminar Aufbruch zur Freiheit — details attached) at Akademie Sankelmark, which is located about ten kilometers south of Flensburg in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.
• October 20-22, 2013: Legacy of 1848 Conference at (details below) Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. (Nearby airports are located at Waterloo and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.)
Thanks to the efforts of Deutsche Welle (Germany’s international broadcaster) CEO Erik Bettermann, Schleswig-Holstein’s Minister-President Torsten Albig will deliver the keynote speech opening our conference at Wartburg College (October 20, 2013).
View a three-minute video on Erik Bettermann’s Wartburg College experience produced by Miodrag Soric (head of Deutsche Welle’s Washington studio) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcFJ8R66hX8.
— Background of our two upcoming Forty-Eighter events —
“The Legacy of 1848: Transplanted Ideas and Values in America’s Past and Present” celebrates what many historians believe to be America’s most remarkable and unique immigrant group, the “Forty-Eighters.” After unsuccessfully fighting for freedom with pen and sword in Europe, this group of several thousand refugees arrived in the United States between 1847 and 1856. They proceeded to provide an intellectual transfusion that had a pronounced effect on the political and social history of America during one of its most critical periods.
Many of the Forty-Eighters hailing from northern Germany and Hungary chose Iowa as their adopted home. There, some of their best and brightest began using their finely honed journalistic skills to argue for the freedoms and liberties so dear to them. Ironically, these recent immigrants’ patriotism was grounded more in the bedrock beliefs of America’s founding fathers than in many of the attitudes in the United States at the time.
Although far-reaching and profound, the extraordinary legacy of the Forty-Eighters is little understood by most Americans, many of whom are three or four generations removed from their own immigrant ancestors. The overarching purpose of the “Legacy of 1848” conference is to identify and come to grips with the important, timeless legacy left to all us by the Forty-Eighters.
We invite you to submit suggestions for panels or individual papers by May 1, 2013, to both Joachim “Yogi” Reppmann (email@example.com) and Daniel Walther (firstname.lastname@example.org). Abstracts should be no more than 250 words and should be accompanied by a one or two-page c.v. Topics include (but are not limited to):
Forty-Eighter contributions to life in America (arts, education, politics, mores, social organizations, journalism, etc.)
The acculturation of the Forty-Eighters: Lessons for today’s immigrants
Biographical sketches of Forty-Eighters
German-American immigration experience
Low German in America
“Freedom, Education, and Welfare for All”: How would widely held Turner beliefs mesh with recent developments in the fields of permissible governmental intrusions in our lives, the often adversarial roles played by public education and private religious beliefs, and mandated health care programs?
Were the events of 1848 (the “European Spring of Nations”) a blueprint for today’s “Arab Spring”?
See you at Akademie Sankelmark or Wartburg College! All the best for 2013, Gitta & Yogi Reppmann (www.moin-moin.us) P.S.: Some short news items from 2012 ...
• Christine Lieberknecht, governor of Thuringia, whose capital is the stunningly beautiful Erfurt, announced that American professor Karl Fink, a world-renowned authority on “Goethe as a natural scientist,” will receive Thuringia’s highest award. A German diplomat will present the award to Wartburg College alum Fink during our “Legacy of 1848” conference.
Through his “Institut für Talententwicklung” (http://www.erfolg-im-beruf.de/en/contact/company.html), Dr. Roderich Stinzing organized a booth at two of his many college fairs in Hamburg and Kiel to encourage German high school students to attend Wartburg College.
Northfield video specialist Paul Hager stayed with us in Flensburg and introduced us to the magic, transformative iPad. His video about an artisan bakery run by twin brothers in Flensburg is now viewable on (http://vimeo.com/56568861).
Former Rep. Jim Leach gave a speech entitled “The German-American Heritage of Scott County, Iowa” at the German American Heritage Center in Davenport, which is close to our heart.
Our taste buds were treated to gourmet cookies baked by Marliese Heimann-Ammon, the charming wife of Germany’s ambassador to the United States, Peter Ammon.
Rüdiger Lentz organized exhibits and events at the wonderful German-American Heritage Museum in Washington, D.C. His yearlong “Berlin Homage” will certainly be a highlight of 2013.
The private SALVE TV (located in the Thuringian capital of Erfurt), which along with “Tuscany in East Germany” (www.toskana-therme.de) is owned by Klaus-Dieter Böhm, produced a fifteen-minute interview of me talking about my Thuringian grandmother and the friendship between Wartburg Castle and Wartburg College. (http://www.dtoday.de/startseite/videos/video-detail_mmid,12259.html-)
I gave a PowerPoint presentation in the state library in Kiel entitled “Christian Mueller - 1848er Republikaner und Turnvater von Iowa.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckD74ngtAE4)
Kiel video expert Christian Plaas helped me produce a three-minute trailer for our “Legacy of 1848” conferences. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLdrj0SAd5M)
ZDF, a huge national German TV station, produced two videos dealing with the life of 1848 hero Robert Blum: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bp36aDI36VY)
and the much longer (forty-three minutes) “Die Deutschen - Robert Blum und die Revolution” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idiqzSuin90&feature=related).