We decided to take a day trip to Bremerhaven to check out the Deutsches Auswandererhaus (German Emigration Center) to see if we could find out anything about our family roots. We took the train from Hamburg to Bremen and then from Bremen to Bremerhaven, about a three-hour trip. Bremerhaven appeared to be a popular summer destination due to its location on the coast. This location is also what made it a popular destination for immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe. An estimated 7.2 million immigrants departed Bremerhaven for new homes around the world, including the US, Canada, Australia, and England.
The museum is located right on the New Harbour, the departure point for at least 1.2 million immigrants before 1890. It is fairly new, having opened in 2005. The museum consists of two main parts: one showcasing the experiences of immigrants leaving Germany and one showcasing the experiences of emigrants coming into Germany.
Upon entering the museum (13E admission), you are given a plastic card with an assigned personality. It also serves another purpose: indicating your language of choice for the various audio tour points. The museum takes you through the immigrant experience from saying goodbye at the dock to your family to arriving in your new country. Along the way, you follow along with the experience of your assigned personality. Mine was a Jewish woman who left Germany shortly before the beginning of WWII and made it to New York.
The emigrant experience side of the museum is less developed, having only been added to the museum in 2012. I found the exhibit on the impact of emigrants to Germany on German cuisine. The best-known example is the Turkish kebab, which has been adapted by Germans and is one of the must-try dishes when in Germany. At times we had trouble finding a restaurant specializing in “traditional” German cuisine, but there was no shortage of Greek, Italian, and even American food.
One of the reasons we made this trip was for the opportunity to do some research. However, the “family research room” is just a computer lab with computers with Ancestry.com access. After a bit of searching, we found a few interesting things, but nothing really new or revelatory. You can print copies of what you find, 5E for up to five copies. They also charge to take photos inside the museum, thus the lack of interior photos in this post.
Overall, the museum was very well done and very interesting. It was an immersive experience, and would be especially great for kids. I would recommend visiting if you are already in the area, but for most people is not worth the trip from Hamburg. Bremmerhaven seemed like a nice town, with a lot of interesting things to do and see.