Monday, July 6, 2015

Me and JC

When I first arrived in Clemson,  I knew nothing of South Carolina history.  While my parents were house hunting, the realtor tried to interest us in a historic property.  A classic two-story white house with four stately columns that John C Calhoun built for his mistress.  We inspected the house - I remember its musty smell and period furniture, the lovely view of the Blue Ridge out back, and my parents evaluation of it as a money sink.  Coincidentally, I absorbed the information that John C Calhoun was a locally revered big shot who had once been vice president.  I knew he was somehow connected with Thomas Clemson who founded the university I would eventually attend. 

A few years later, when I was a Clemson student, I was vaguely aware that the stand of old trees between the ‘Tin Cans’ - the boys dorms - and Sirrine Hall screened an old home called Fort Hill, and perhaps I knew it was build by Calhoun.  It wasn’t until the late seventies when I was on a visit with my fiancé and we were looking for a way to pass the time that I toured Fort Hill. I learned then that Thomas Clemson inherited the estate from his father-in-law and deeded it to the State on the condition that it would become the site of an agricultural college. I remember that the Clemson heat illustrated the desirability of having a detached kitchen. Perhaps I absorbed the fact that the cook would have been a slave woman.  If I did, I didn’t think about it much.  At the time, I was still very clear about being German. My guilt lay with the holocaust, not slavery.  If the tour guide mentioned that Fort Hill was a cotton plantation with about 100 slaves, I filed that as ancient history.

I visited Fort Hill again just last week.  My husband and I were on a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains with his oldest daughter and her kids, and they wanted to see the place I’d lived.  Clemson was in the grip of a heat wave, and Fort Hill is air-conditioned.  I’d been thinking about Calhoun’s legacy for a couple of reasons. One of the largest lakes in the city of Minneapolis is Lake Calhoun -  it hadn’t occurred to me that it was named after John C until local activists began a campaign to change its name a few years ago. I learned that Calhoun had been Secretary of War when Fort Snelling, the base white settlers used to colonize the state, was built.  And, of course, while we were in South Carolina, the fact that the Emanuel AME church was on Calhoun street was much in the news.  

The first thing that greeted us inside the doors of Fort Hill were recently added foam core posters titled “The African-American Experience at Fort Hill.”  The tour guide was able to supplement the detailed descriptions of particular sales and purchases of slaves, as well as living conditions and punishments.  I asked her where the field hands lived, and she pointed toward the south end of campus. “Do you know where the architecture building is?”  I did.  “That’s where the field hand cottages were.”  I had a sudden revelation. I had spent my college years trucking back and forth between classes on a former cotton plantation, walking past the ghosts of slaves and never had a clue.

The final poster showed a picture taken in 1940 of Mr. Greenlee, a handsome white-haired man who started life as a stable slave.  I don’t know if he was the great-grandfather or great-uncle of my classmate Harry, who was our sophomore class president in 1970 and who is now a professor at Howard University.  

I’m not sure what to do with the knowledge that my college years were spent oblivious, criss-crossing former cotton fields soaked with slave sweat, feeling no trace of my privilege.  How pre-occupied I was with how much I didn’t want to be there.  For now, I’d love to be able to call our Minneapolis lake Lake Medoza - Loon Lake in Dakota. 
Ron and his daughter and grandchildren at Fort Hill

Monday, November 17, 2014

Like a Tourist

The first few times I returned to Germany I was at that awkward age when I believed I was extraordinarily visible.   Every move mattered.  I didn't want anyone to think I was no longer German, or worse, that I was trying to show off  with my new American manners.  I also still believed I would someday return, so it was crucial that I pick up all the latest slang and dress.  Over the years, that charade became impossible for me.  But I still tried hard not to look like a tourist.  This became less and less possible as I dragged around Europe with my husband - I can duck into a German department store, pick up a few pieces to transform my wardrobe and refuse to wear hiking shoes for sightseeing, but my Midwestern husband isn’t going to take off his Salomons or swap his Levis for German ‘Freizeithosen’.  Nor can he disguise the fact that he needs me to translate the menu.  And while Sophie is proud of her ability to manage in German,  we are still going to walking down the street discussing where to go next in English.  I’ve adapted to these changes, and most of the time, I’m comfortable bridging the cultural divide, but once in a while I get sucked into the “I can’t look like a tourist” vortex. So it was with some embarrassment that I told my cousin Sassi what Sophie and her boyfriend, Brian,  were most interested in seeing in München.  “They really want to go to a Biergarten,” I confessed.  We laughed about it, but Sassi was game.  She’s a relatively recent immigrant to Bavaria, and often squires her friends from Berlin around the city.  Apparently they, too, associate München with beer and pretzels.  On a beautiful sunny morning, we set out to take a series of busses and subways to the English Garden.  We sat at a communal bench in the sun, listening to a Bavarian oompah band, drinking beer,  and eating Würstchen.  I had a nice chat with the tourist from Iran sitting next to me.  Afterwards we went for a Sunday stroll through the gardens, and I thought I had survived the tourist ordeal.  The next day, it turned out I wasn’t done.  After Sophie completed her obligatory foray into German clothes shopping, she and Brian needed a bite to eat.  So off we went to the Hofbräuhaus.  Really?  Really.  I watched Sophie polish off a half liter of beer and a pork knuckle; Brian’s stomach was a bit touchy, so he opted for soup to go with his beer.  The food was better than I expected, and by the time we left I decided I was done pretending.  After all, even if I lived in Germany, I would still be a tourist in Bavaria.  

Sophie enjoying her Eisbein

Monday, July 7, 2014


As a child, I often heard my parents reminisce about their trip to Ruhpolding.  My mother always pronounced the word with a look of bliss on her face, so I came to associate this mythical place with pleasure.  When I got old enough to delve into the family collection of photo albums, I stumbled on a series of vacation shots, labeled Ruhpolding.  Both my parents looked very young, although they had outgrown the bony look of their earliest years.  One shot showed my father in hiking shorts, smoking a pipe in front of a romantic alpine vista, aiming a smoldering look at the camera.  Another featured my mother, her dimples flashing, holding a paper cone of cherries.  “We couldn’t really afford them,” my mother confided each time we encountered this image, “but I was pregnant with you and really wanted those cherries. They were delicious.”

I’ve been planning a trip to Austria in August - the goal was to spend some time in the mountains and in Vienna.  After studying flights and possible routes, I decided we’d fly into Munich and make a loop.  Sophie’s asked whether we could go see the Eagle’s Nest - Hitler’s mountain retreat in Southern Bavaria. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, since she just finished a history course about daily life in Germany during the Nazi Era.  

Perhaps it’s her job to drag me to places I would avoid on my own.  Without her I would never have gone to Buchenwald.   I don’t want to close my eyes to that part of the past; it’s more that I’m afraid of getting stuck there.  Buchenwald brought cruelty alive in unexpected detailed ways that lodged in my heart and bubble up at unexpected moments.  For me, it was the path from the train to the barracks labeled Carachoweg ( which meant “ faster” path), where the guards harried the prisoners whose legs were weak from standing for hours wedged into cattle cars.  Their shouts echo in my imagination.  

I understand that the Eagle’s Nest is benign. It’s a lovely setting, with a great mountain view, that is said to have made Hitler dizzy, so that he only visited there a few times.   As I surveyed the map in search of a place close by to spend a few days, I spied Ruhpolding.  The town has a very user-friendly website that made it easy for me to reserve rooms.  Perhaps the site of my parents first vacation will provide balance and keep me from sliding too far into the past.  

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Inherited Memory

I was barely eleven, waiting for the tram with my friend Ulli.  Someone walked up behind me, reaching over my satchel.  Intense pain sizzled from a spot on the back of neck.  I jerked around.  Torsten grinned, as he tossed his cigarette butt to the ground.  I registered the sprouting facial hair on his chin - he was in my class but had been held back at least twice.  Ulli screamed at him, but I just clenched my jaws.  My only goal to not react, not give him the satisfaction of seeing the pain he’d caused.  Ulli kept yelling at him as she pulled me toward the slowing tram.  Then she turned to me: “Why didn’t you say anything?”  

Over the years I often wondered why my automatic response is not fight or flight, but freeze.   Was it the repeated border crossings when I was still an infant - watching my mother pretending to be meek while the guards treated her like she was subhuman?  Or does it go farther back?  

Last year, I came across this article:  Memories pass between generations. Recent work in the field of epigenetics shows that genes can be altered by trauma and those altered genes modify the behavior in offspring.

It felt like a revelation and confirmation.  Memory transmitted between generations.  Perhaps now I could stop blaming myself for shutting down like a frightened rabbit whenever anyone in uniform challenged me.  Maybe my fears and anxieties aren’t a defect of character, as I’ve always believed.  

Shortly after “Dreaming in German” was published, I received an email from Michael Reddy, a healer, coach and shaman.  He had come across the book on Amazon and wanted to know if it  might be useful in his work with family constellation therapy.  Here’s an excerpt: “I’'m wondering if you know about family constellations--which came out of Germany originally?  Individual trauma, if it is serious enough affects the families of ancestors as well as the individual, can lodge in the higher level family system (or family soul), where it stays until some descendent lives out something similar.  It's like the unresolved in the family soul resurfaces.  This is a chance to heal it, but few people understand that.  Family constellations are a tool for revealing and clearing these kinds of systemic traumas.  The US is the laggard in this kind of work, while it is growing very quickly around the world.”

We traded pdf’s of our books. His is titled Health, Happiness, and Family Constellations - How Ancestors, Family Systems, and Hidden Loyalties Shape Your Life - and What You Can Do About It. I found it fascinating reading.  Bert Hellinger, who developed this work, was born in Germany in 1925, the same year as my father.  He served in the German Army, became a prisoner of war ( though in Belgium, not the US). After the war, he became a Catholic Priest and spent 16 years as a missionary living with the Zulu in South Africa. The connection with ancestors ( a central feature in Zulu beliefs) is critical to family constellations theory.  Hellinger is not without his flaws, yet the central ideas of family constellations therapy resonated with me.  The basic premise, as I understand it, is that people experiencing trauma are frequently in survival mode and cannot process their experience, so they shut down and keep functioning.  This leaves their unresolved trauma for their children and grandchildren to resolve or relive.

My Father (front and center) as a POW

Monday, April 21, 2014

Letters from the Past

My father was a letter writer.   Sometime during every weekend, he would disappear into his study, sit down behind his large blonde wood desk ( one of the few pieces of furniture that made the move from Germany), and insert sheets of personalized stationery into his portable olive green Olivetti.  The keys began to clatter at a jerky pace.  My father had never taken a typing course, rather he hunted and pecked, but rapidly since he had lots of practice.  He didn’t handwrite his letters because his handwriting was famously illegible.  The letters went home.  To his mother in Gera, who would pass them around to his siblings that remained there, and to his sister Marianne who lived in West Germany.  

I rarely got a letter from my father.  One of the letters I do have is one he sent when I first began writing.  My original concept for the book was less personal and more historical.  I wanted to tell the story of recent German history through my grandparents’ and parents’ biographies.  One reason this letter is precious is that in recent years, my father lost his verbal skills to the degree that I couldn’t remember them.  The letter brings his manners of speech back vividly, and also illustrates a thing or two about his character.  I had asked him to describe an encounter he’d had with an SS recruiter.

My father had just graduated from boarding school, had enlisted in the German army and was at home in Gera waiting to be called up. The year was 1943.  He wrote in German, and I’ve translated this as well as I am able.  

“One day, I was summoned to the Police where those guys had made themselves at home. At that point in time, lots of rumors where already floating around that the SS who considered themselves elite troops and expected to acquire only the best, were having greater and greater difficulties filling their ranks and were using all possible methods of pressure to recruit sufficient “volunteers.”  One story had it that they enlisted young women for their interviews who accused unwilling candidates of cowardice and tried to appeal to their honor, working every possible patriotic register that governments, and not just dictatorships, use when they require people for something that’s not so very popular.  With this knowledge, I sat across from this blonde, highly decorated SS officer, and was looking forward to the game that would develop.  I let him go on for quite a while trying to work all angles in the full knowledge that I would be able to confront him in the end with the reality that the competition already had me in their pocket, which he would finally have to indignantly accept, but not without lecturing me harshly for wasting his time.  Those were the pleasures of the little people during this segment of German history.”

My father (in his German army uniform) with his Dad

Monday, March 31, 2014

Eulogy for my Father

I suppose it’s only natural that we try to summarize a person after they are gone. 

I could make a list of things about my father:

He loved to travel
He loved his family 
He loved his work
He loved good food
He loved parties
He loved to be a host
He loved classical music
He loved harmonious space and light
He loved a good political discussion
He loved to read

So many of the things he loved slipped away from him in the last five years.  If time strips us down to our essence, and sometimes I believe it does, then he was radiant love.  At the end, unless he was too tired, which was more and more of the time, he beamed at those he cared about, his entire face lighting up with pleasure. He became a very sensitive receptive soul.

When I was a child, I believed that my parents’ generation must have been different from me, somehow more courageous and less sensitive, to have survived the chaos, fear, and hunger of the thirties and forties.  It would have been too heartbreaking to imagine them as capable of pain as I was. I couldn’t admit to myself how terrified they must have been until I saw that sensitive human being emerge as age stripped away all the defenses. When my father told stories from those times, he hid behind an ironic, slightly humorous story telling style that had me fooled until almost the end.

When my father first moved to Minnesota, it became quickly obvious that he wasn’t able to make new friends, that he would be completely reliant on Ron and me for his emotional life.  It felt like a huge weight.  It was a big responsibility, and I won’t pretend there weren’t days and weeks when I wanted to run away from it. At the same time, I am glad for the time we had with him in our care.

Here are some of the gifts I received during these last years:  

My father had very definite musical tastes - he’d made these so clear over the years, that I didn’t feel comfortable imposing my own more wide-ranging ones on him, even when he no longer had the energy to protest.  Add to that the fact that one sure way to bring him pleasure was to take him to a piano concert.  My father’s presence renewed and broadened my appreciation for classical music and that has enriched my life.

As my father lost the will and energy to talk,  he taught me the importance of being present, nonverbally.  Our family was extremely verbal - we talked for the sheer pleasure of turning an elegant phrase or showing off complex vocabulary. The only way to get some quiet was to hide behind a book; that was a sacred act and anyone reading could only be disturbed if truly necessary.  As it became harder for my father to talk I struggled to keep the conversation going, at first.  I strained to fill the airspace and fished for topics that could provoke a response.  The first time I decided to just be quiet was on a car ride.  I had picked my father up at dusk to take him to my house for dinner.  I said nothing.  After about five minutes, my father said:  “Look at the moon. It’s beautiful.”   I’m grateful that my father reminded me to look at he moon.

My father loved sitting in the sun.  It was one of his last remaining reliable pleasures.  Over the last few years, I’ve spent hours sitting in the sun, listening to the birds, watching the leaves sway in the breeze.  I’m grateful for that.

The best present I received came one day while he was recovering from a broken leg and had to stay at a nursing home.  It was September, the sun was still warm, and every afternoon, I wheeled him out into the flower garden where we sat for about an hour.  One day, he said, looking away into the flowers: “I know that moving you from Germany to South Carolina was hard on you.”  It sounds so simple.  But it healed me.

Siegfried Poser  January 23, 1925 - February 19, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Many times a day I hear the trains rumbling by my studio - the old Northrup King Building  is hard on the railway line. I see either black tank cars carrying oil from North Dakota or the big open cars that used to mean grain, but now hold sand mined in Wisconsin and Minnesota, headed for the fracking fields.  Lucky for me, my house is a little further from the tracks, because the trains run all night long.  Depending on the wind direction, I can hear a soft mournful lowing or a low roar as the trains approach the crossing about a mile away.  I read in the paper that the unfortunates whose houses are closer have been complaining that they can no longer sleep or have guests over because of the increased train noise.  I feel lucky that I’m not that close, at least at night.  I try not to calculate what an exploding oil car would do to me as I work just across the parking lot.  But then I think about what the constant traffic means.  

My memory tells me that even before the oil companies discovered fracking, we had more than enough fossil fuel reserves left to nudge earth’s climate into killing us off.  I used to think that we needed to curb global warming to “save the earth.”  It wasn’t until recently that I realized the earth will outlive us.  We are such a temporary blip that if you start taking the long view, you realize that the destruction the earth will unleash on us if we don’t change our ways will be a self-correction, a shaking off of the foolish mammals who didn’t appreciate the delicate conditions that allowed them to flourish.  I picture the earth shaking us off like a dog shaking off fleas.  And just like the last few times there were mass extinctions, some other form of life will hang on and flourish as conditions shift to a new normal.  We - like the dinosaurs before us - won’t be around to see it.  Unless we get smart and leave most of that oil in the ground.

It's easy to get paralyzed in the face of this overwhelming insanity.  If, like me, you want to find your way out of despair, I recommend   reading Joanna Macy's book "Active Hope."  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Editing Memoir

When my writers' group read the first draft of my memoir, one of them said: “There are so many places in here where you describe feeling tense and anxious, but nothing really bad ever happens.” She looked confused.  I think that was the first time I realized that I am more anxious than normal people.  I had spent years trying to understand why my toes curled to grip the floor while I was brushing my teeth before work in the morning.  I knew it was odd.  My first response to that observation was the obvious one: Every time I noticed it, I forced my toes to unfold.  Whenever I noticed my neck stiffen and my trapezius muscles quivering, I took deep breaths and  yelled at myself to relax.  I chastised myself for shaking with nerves before confronting my boss about an unjust performance appraisal; I tried not to admit that I had to write scripts so I could force myself to call strangers on the phone.  At least I was no longer afraid to pump my own gas at unfamiliar filling stations.  

After my writing group meeting, I pored over the manuscript and tried to guess which of my anxiety episodes would seem warranted to others, and which I needed to edit out.  The border crossing fear seemed reasonable - I left that.  I left a touch of my old phone anxiety, though I cut back to just one episode.  Even relatively normal people got nervous about driving through New York City, so I allowed my jaw to clench.  But most of my hyped up ways of interacting with the world fell to my red pen.  Anxiety was not the subject of this memoir.  I shoved it into the background, so it wouldn’t take over the narrative.

Over the years, I’ve grown less anxious.  Not accidentally.  I’ve had to work hard at it.  The first and most effective antidote I stumbled onto while I was in graduate school.  Hatha Yoga. The seventies kind - slow, carried out in a dim room, with a generous dose of corpse pose at the end.  I hadn’t known that my body was capable of letting go.  It never really had before. Well, maybe after sex, or after a long run, but never for long.  I loved that feeling of melting into the floor.  Loved it so much, that I didn’t have to force myself to practice most days.  I no longer practice in that form, but since my late twenties, I’ve always had a daily practice. Some combination of meditation and movement.  For the last five years, it’s been daily Qi Gong and mindfulness meditation, with a dash of gyrokinesis or yoga thrown in.  

None of this means that I no longer tense up.  I never know when I’ll find myself carried off by an irrational bout.  Sometimes it hits when I travel, though that’s not a predictable trigger.  Whenever it does, I see my mother, pacing alongside the track at the Krefeld railroad station, lips pressed tight, clutching tickets.  And my daughter, fingers curled tight around the steering wheel, seat pulled up as far as it will go.  I wish I could edit the anxiety out of their lives as well.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


When I first published my memoir I’m not sure what I expected - I mostly felt a strong need to get my manuscript out into the world. I had done some research about potential market in writing my book proposal, so I suspected that the book would interest German-Americans, possibly other European immigrants.  What I didn’t expect was that the book itself would form a connection that I had mostly avoided during my time here.  It would connect with me with other people like myself - Germans who had migrated to the US since World War II.  Years ago, writing to an author involved digging out the publisher’s address and sending off a note in care of someone else - I always found that daunting to the point of impossibility.  Communication has become so much easier, and much more of a two-way street.

I love the emails I’ve gotten from readers all over the US who tell me their own immigration stories.  There are parallels and differences, but most of all I have become aware that I am not in any way alone.  I’ve received links to recipes for German hard rolls, the best online source for German deli items, and, most gratifying of all, deeply felt thanks for expressing shared feelings.

I’ve also been referred to several books I had missed.  I just finished a memoir by J. Elke Ertle titled Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom.  The thread of the story couldn’t be more different from mine, but I was impressed with the writing and the author’s ability to convey the atmosphere of living in West Berlin during the Cold War.  I also admired her successful use of geo-politics as a metaphor for her own family dynamics. Right now, I’m reading a book given to me by a friend after she finished mine.  It’s called On Hitler’s Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood by Irmgard Hunt.  

As I’ve been talking to other German immigrants and reading these memoirs, I’ve been struck once again by the horrendous legacy of fear and insecurity Germans of the post-war generation inherited.  Not only the tremendous weight of processing the burden of the holocaust.  That’s the obvious issue.  What has come into focus for me is how difficult our grandparents’ lived were.  They grew up during World War I, with all the deprivations that implies, then suffered through the economically difficult times in the twenties.  And just when they finally began to prosper, Hitler dragged the country into another war. And then, for those stuck in East Germany, the struggle continued.   My Grandfather, Opa Gustav, was a perfect example.  His father was drafted at the beginning of World War I.  Gustav had to leave school at 14 to support the family in his father’s absence.  He became an apprentice to a fur merchant in Leipzig.  After the War, he and his father began to build a business manufacturing jewelry displays.  By 1933, the business was at last functioning well enough that Gustav could afford to take his family on their first vacation.  He struggled to keep his business alive during the Second World War and just managed to avoid the draft by converting to manufacturing weapons cases - this made his job necessary to the war effort.  He spent the rest of his life trying to keep the business going in the hostile environment of East Germany.  When I consider that legacy, I have two main reactions.  Is it any wonder that a part of me cannot trust in peace and prosperity?  And:  I am incredibly lucky to have made it to the age of 60 in peace time.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Eating "German" in America

One dilemma I have every time I drive from St. Paul to Madison is lunch.  I am a picky eater.   I want my food home made from actual ingredients and I avoid cheese and wheat.  In St. Paul and Madison, I have a choice of locally owned restaurants that cook from scratch.  It’s the wilds of Wisconsin that appear to be a wasteland of national chains where everything contains unpronounceable hidden ingredients and is smothered in cheese.  I realize that eating industrial food once in a while isn’t going to kill me - that takes repeated daily exposure - but I keep trying to find a stopping point that provides some local charm.  We’ve tried Norske Nook, the Red Moose Grill in Black River Falls,  and a Coffee House in Menomonie. Last time we decided to stop at Germanhaus in Camp Douglas.  There are copious remnants of Wisconsin’s German past scattered about the countryside, and I’ve checked out their menus via smartphone.  Hamburgers and Beer Cheese Soup crowd onto the pages along with Bratwurst and the occasional Schnitzel. 

Germanhaus advertises its heritage in old German script and looks like an Alpine chalet mated with a cinderblock diner.  As I step inside, the mix shifts to 50’s German restaurant melded with rural supper club.  Red vinyl upholstered chairs surround formica tables,  elaborate wood and wrought-iron lamps hanging from acoustic ceiling tile illuminate Bavarian castles and villages lovingly rendered on sheetrock.  Painted scrolled woodwork completes the look.   It’s a bicultural mid 20th century fairy tale.  I order a bratwurst with red cabbage.  The wurst itself is first class.  Some local butcher is faithfully following his great-grandfather’s recipe. The waitress tells us it’s served with horseradish sauce instead of mustard, because the restaurant owner is from Frankfurt.   It comes with a toasted hot dog bun, and a tiny dish of canned red cabbage.  My husband orders the BLT.  I may come back, but next time I’ll skip the cabbage.  Maybe they make their own potato salad.

When I go to my favorite Japanese Restaurant in the Twin Cities, the place is half full of Japanese students.  At dim sum at the Yang-tze, I can barely hear myself talk, because there’s nothing quite so lively as a room full of Chinese chatting with friends.  I used to wonder whether the food at these restaurants seems as limited and out of date as what I find at German restaurants.  I suppose it’s because the big wave of German immigration occurred in the late 1800’s and most of them came from southern Germany, but the food is relentlessly old-fashioned and Bavarian.  The Black Forest in Minneapolis has updated their menu to include some fifties favorites ( Hawaii Toast!), but other than that it’s traditional.  Glockenspiel, Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit, and Gasthof Bavarian Hunter - with the exception of a signature dish or two, they could trade menus.  

During the eighties, the owners of the Black Forest opened a daring contemporary German restaurant called Lorelei.  It fizzled after only a few months.  I ate there only once during it’s brief existence.   I clearly remember the white walls, the selection of wines, and the tasty trout.  I don’t know whether the restaurant failed because Minnesota wasn’t ready for the concept. Perhaps there were business reasons.  

I still haven’t quite identified the source of my discomfort with German heritage as it’s celebrated in the US.  I cringe when it’s primarily about beer and lederhosen, dirndls and pretzels distorted through 100 years of assimilation.  When I first moved to the US, people would tell me “I’m German.”  How exciting.  I was so starved for a chat in my own language.  But I quickly learned that “I’m German” meant one of their grandparents had come from Germany, and that their German vocabulary consisted of “Auf Wiedersehen” and “Wienerschnitzel”, usually memorized from The Sound of Music.  When I stray into a German restaurant, I have the same sense of “too bad, I thought I was close.”