From Germany to America: The Immigration of German Jews Prior to World War I 

January 23, 2019

Germany to America

What caused German Jews to leave their native country for America, and achieve prominence so rapidly in their new country proportionally higher than any other immigrant group? In her upcoming class, “FROM GERMANY TO AMERICA: The Immigration of German Jews Prior to World War I” Dr. Ursula Muenzel will be answering this question and so much more. We caught up with her to find out more.





WIH Reporter: What is important for us to know about your upcoming class?

Muenzel: I will emphasize on the “push and pull” factor – the causes which pushed the Jewish immigrants out of their homeland and what was it that attracted them to the USA. I will also illuminate in which respect the German-Jewish immigration differed from following Jewish and non-Jewish immigration waves and what made these first and second generation German-Jewish immigrants so successful.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about this exodus from Germany?
Muenzel: Most people in the US – Jewish and non-Jewish – have the incorrect belief, that most German Jews arrived in this country during and after the Nazi period whereas they predated the immigration wave from Eastern Europe.

What would surprise us to know about your class topic?

The disproportion between the small number of these immigrants and their enormous influence in shaping modern American Jewry.

WIH Reporter: Can you give us an idea of the numbers of people that emigrated to this country?

Muenzel: About 250,000 German-speaking Jews left for the United States in the 1800s. This was a very small number compared to their more than two million co-religionists from Eastern Europe who flocked to America at the end of the 19th century.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Muenzel: It will be a mix of lecture, power point presentation and discussion.

WIH Reporter: We like to ask this question. What books are on your night table  right now?

Muenzel: J.M. Coetzee’s “Waiting for the Barbarians”, inspired by an article by Roger Cohen in the NY Times a few weeks ago where he applies the frightening message of this book to the current political situation in this country.