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New Year's Greetings 2014

New Year's Greetings to all our friends on both sides of the Atlantic!

Although Germany will always remain our cherished Vaterland, America has been our beloved "Motherland" since 1992. Since that time, we've made twenty-three transatlantic trips "commuting" between our German home in Flensburg, Schleswig-Holstein, and our American home in Northfield, Minnesota.

In the spirit of German-American friendship, we invite you to enjoy an entertaining and informative sixty-minute video of our recent talk at Minnesota's New Ulm Public Library . Some of our American friendships hearken back to my first visit to New Ulm in 1978, when I traveled with my college buddy ("Dee" Eicke) from Flensburg, Minnesota, to Schleswig, Iowa, stopping for a while in enchanting New Ulm. We viewed the impressive Hermann Heights Monument (referred to by the locals as "Herrmann the German"), enjoyed lunch at the famous Kaiserhoff Restaurant, and visited the New UlmTurnverein where we saw the lyrics of the "Schnitzelbank" song, German-Americans' unofficial anthem. Ironically, I would later learn that in 1957-the year I was born-Bill Haley & His Comets recorded "Rockin' Rollin' Schnitzelbank" for their album "Rockin' Around the World."

While back in Germany this year, Dee Eicke and I gave a talk at Flensburg's library about democratic revolutionaries from Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany who settled in eastern Iowa at the Mississippi. Following the talk, about one hundred in the audience came to our apartment for a memorable party.

Once assembled, we all did our best to follow Martin Luther's sage advice, Feste feiern, feste arbeiten ("Work hard, party hard!"). Ten servers were tasked with keeping our favorite American drink (a bourbon/ginger ale highball) in ready supply, with everyone, including my eighty-five-year-old father Ingo, enjoying this heavenly fluid as if there were no tomorrow.

Even though the party was held in the middle of the week, the last guests didn't leave until 3:30 in the morning. Looking at my friend and houseguest Dee Eicke, I asked, "Can you handle one final highball?" Feigning mock anger, which I easily saw through-we'd shared an apartment for five and a half years during our student days-I proceeded to the kitchen, where to my utter dismay, I found thirteen empty Jim Beam bottles. No wonder the last guest had left! Undeterred, we reverted to our Germanic roots and quaffed a local Flensburg beer.

Several weeks later, Eric Braeden, our dear Hollywood friend and longtime star of "The Young and the Restless," showed up at our German doorsteps. Eric and I share a love of Schleswig-Holstein, as we were both born there, I in Flensburg on the Danish-German border and Eric (born as Hans Gudegast) in the village of Bredenbek. During his enjoyable visit, we played a long-planned tennis game. Although sixteen years younger than Eric, I was completely humbled by the athletic star of TV and movies. The final score? An utterly humiliating 6-1/6-0 defeat, leaving my self-esteem in tatters.

A wonderful surprise and THE highlight of the past year occurred on September 9th when the Steuben Society of America presented its Erick Kurz Memorial Award for German-American History to Germany's Stoltenberg Institute for German-American Forty-eighter Studies. We were honored for our research on the 1848 movement's democratic impact in Germany and the United States.

Besides the moving ceremony, New York City friends organized a tennis match on top of a skyscraper next to the Empire State Building, as well a taste of the Big Apple's extraordinary night life. [See "Poetry or Striptease? What night is it?" at]

Returning to Flensburg after this whirlwind four-day trip, we reconnected with our good friend, journalist Stephan Richter. We were excited to learn of Stephan's latest project, "paradiso", a glitzy new German magazine. The first issue features an article on my old friend and world sailor, Thies Matzen. Almost four decades ago, after our high school days had just concluded, I convinced Thies to join me hitchhiking across America, the country of our dreams. (For an interesting account of how Thies' unrequited high school love paved the way for my life's "obsession" of Forty-eighter research, check out the New Ulm lecture on our website, or the link above.)

Continuing with our long-held goals of both bringing the Forty-eighters' remarkable accomplishments to the world's attention and fostering German-American friendship, we are already planning several future projects for the coming years:

  • On March 26, 2015, 6 pm, we will give a talk about Germany's Lady Chancellor, Angie Merkel, in the New Ulm, MN, Public Library.

  • With the encouragement of many friends, we are planning another "Legacy of 1848 through today event" at Wartburg College in 2017. This one will deal with 1517 (Luther's Reformation) - 1817 (the tricentennial celebration at Germany's Wartburg Castle organized by Burschenschaft members, some of whom would later become Forty-eighters).

  • In 2019, we would like to see a Forty-eighter conference (possibly in cooperation with Wagner College in New York City, where our early supporter, Governor Stoltenberg, received an honorary degree in 1976) incorporated into the Steuben Society's Centennial.

For those of you who haven't seen our Forty-eighter video ("Forty-eighters and friends"), please check it out at So far, more than 2,300 people have watched this interesting and often emotional video produced by Wartburg College's Travis Bockenstedt and funded through the efforts of Erik Bettermann, former CEO of Deutsche Welle (Germany's worldwide television network).

For more information, please see:

As always, writing this New Year's greeting reminds us of how fortunate we are to enjoy the blessings of our friends and family, as well as the satisfaction of continuing the work we are so passionate and proud of. We wish all of you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2015.

Alles Gute!

Gitta & y.

PS: Please feel free to forward our New Year's greetings to any of your friends you feel may be interested.

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