Alabama’s Cultural Diversity: German Influence

Our last look at the richness of the cultural diversity in Alabama focuses on The Alabama-Germany Partnership.  As many Alabamians know, Mercedes began production in 1997 at Alabama’s first automotive manufacturing facility near Tuscaloosa. Since then, we have continued to build relationships with our German friends throughAlabamaGermanyPartnershp[1] organizations like the Alabama-Germany Partnership. It was founded to develop and support relationships and friendships between organizations and individuals in Alabama and Germany.

They work to stimulate and pursue educational opportunities through language, cultural and exchange programs, and to serve as an information network for existing and new organizations and relationships in Alabama and Germany. They also encourage regular communications with the public and its members through meetings and appropriate media and they support business development by encouraging such areas as direct investment, trade and tourism.

Alabama’s German roots stretch back much further than the arrival of Mercedes in the late 1990’s. John Gottfried Cullmann was the founder of Cullman, AL. He was born in Frankweiler, Germany, a small wine village, on July 2, 1823. Early in 1871, Cullmann made the journey to Alabama and began searching for the perfect place for a new colony. Finally, after meeting with Lewis Fink, the land agent for the great North-South Railroad (later the L&N Railroad), Cullmann purchased an option as land agent for much of the land on each side of the railroad in what was to become Cullman County. During his tour of the land, Cullmann found the area to be perfect for the establishment of his dream colony.

The land extended from Decatur to Montgomery, fifteen miles on each side of the railroad. He then boarded a train for the North and started advertising for immigrants. The City of Cullman was incorporated in 1874 and by 1877 the settlement had enough population to become a county. Cullmann was quoted as saying, “After traveling around the country and arriving in North Alabama the impression was made upon my mind that if this country was filled up with good farmers it would be the garden spot of America. I found here all that I had been looking for, all that I regarded as necessary to make good homes: there was here combined these things to an extent not equaled by any other place I had seen.”

These days, FDSK (Freunde der Deutsche Sprache und Kultur) in Cullman works with Alabama-Germany Partnership on an annual Oktoberfest. This year’s event will take place on September 12-14 at Das Haus on 2nd Avenue N. in Birmingham and features traditional German food, an Oompah band, a Dachshund Parade and, of course, a Biergarten. Das Haus also organizes a Christmas market, teaches German language lessons, and is Alabama’s “Wurst” source. Anyone interested in learning about the differences in bratwurst, knackwurst, and all the others can learn about it on their website.  Visit www.dashausbham.com for more information.

Architecture and photography lovers can visit Auburn, AL to see the exhibit Bauhaus twenty-21: An Ongoing Legacy
Photographs by Gordon Watkinson
from January 25–May 4, 2013.  Evolving out of the Arts and Crafts movement, the Bauhaus school was founded in 1919 by German architect Walter Gropius, developing principles that shaped the foundation of modern architecture and design. Bauhaus instructors emphasized the creation of classical forms without extraneous ornamentation. The name Bauhaus is German for “house for building” and is well known internationally.

Alabamians have so much to gain with so much available from this and so many other cultures represented here.  With these wonderful cultures so strongly represented here, the opportunity for us to learn, grow, and teach others is always present and we would be remiss if we didn’t take advantage of these terrific circumstances.