Where are you from?
I am from Germany.
What was your childhood like?
In Germany, I grew up on a farm and went to school. Between the ages of 14 and 16, I attended a teachers’ school away from home. In 1945, the Russians invaded Germany, forcing the school to close. I couldn’t return home, so I had to flee west. In the middle of February, I ended up in the center of Germany near Magdeburg. As the war ended in 1945 and since no jobs were available I stayed for three years with a family on a farm. This had at least food and shelter for me, as I became an orphan during the war. Then in 1949 I escaped by night over the border from Communist East Germany to West Germany. I then lived on another farm, because I would at least have enough food to live. Shortly thereafter, I entered an apprenticeship as a brick layer. In 1956 I immigrated to the United States. Since that time, I have been staying in Cleveland. When I first came here, I worked as a brick layer. However, I didn’t like it very much, so I decided to return to college to earn my bachelors. I taught in a high school from 1966-1993 and have been retired since.
What brought you to Cleveland?
I came to Cleveland because I had relatives here and because the weather was about the same as what it was in Germany. There was also plenty of work available here. I arrived on a Sunday and had a job by Monday.
What were your first thoughts about coming to the United States? Did those thoughts change?
Whenever I considered starting a new life, I always wanted to go somewhere where there hadn’t been war in a very long time. Germany had recently suffered from World War I and World War II. I figured I could start completely over in the United States.
I have always had a great interest in improving myself. Coming from a different country, I have experienced different cultures. This has enabled me to understand how people think. Since I’ve been in the States, I have visited every state in the Union. I have come to understand how people in the United States view things.
What challenges did you face transitioning here?
It was challenging to adjust to the English language and the customs here. Having lived abroad, I knew a lot about these world events, but I could not communicate any of my thoughts with those around me. This quickly changed, but it was very challenging initially.
What is your occupation?
I have worked on a farm and in construction. My favorite occupation, however, was working as a high school teacher. I taught business courses, German, and photography.
Are you a member of a sorority, fraternity, or any civic, religious or social organizations?
I am a member of the Cleveland Men’s Chorus. I attend church and sing in various choirs around the city.
How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?
The majority of people welcomed me very warmly. There were some instances that were not so pleasant. Some people accused me of taking jobs away from their children. I did my best to disregard these opinions. People had so many good things to say about me, so decided not to pay attention to the people who spoke about me without knowing me.
What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?
I still cook German food and practice German culture. I also observe German holidays whenever possible.
What do you love about Cleveland?
Living in Cleveland comes at a very reasonable price. We have a great symphony, theaters and museums. You get a lot of culture for the price.
Why is it important to welcome immigrants and refugees?
It has been proven that immigration into this country has caused the country to grow quickly and in many areas while other countries have remained stagnant. Immigrants have made this country. If any citizen goes back three, four, or five generations, they will realize that we are all immigrants. Some may not realize this, but they should be reminded of it.