German Immigration: Push and Pull Factors

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I walk a Pittsburgh street studded with plaques commemorating the German immigrants who first settled here, finally arriving at the historic Priory hotel, formerly a home for Benedictine priests and Brothers (“Priory Hotel History”).

The German immigrants who worshipped here arrived in their greatest numbers in the 1880s. In this decade, almost 1.5 million emigrated to the United States, seeking better lives and new opportunities (“The Germans in America”). Catholic immigrants, especially priests like those in the Priory, fled Bismark’s Kulturkampf, in which the Catholic Church and the Prussian State fought for influence and control. The German 1878 -1890 Anti-Socialist law forced many Democratic and Socialist activists to emigrate to American cities, hoping to campaign in an environment more conducive to free speech. Finally, many German minority immigrants fled to America to escape the horrors of the Holocaust in the 1935- 1945 era (Adams, Willi Paul).

The many German immigrants who are commemorated with the plaques along Pittsburgh’s Lockhart Street left their homes for a multitude of reasons, propelled by the desire for a better life. They sought to gain religious and intellectual freedom, finding a dearth of such liberties under the regimes of Bismarck and Hitler (Addams, Willi Paul). Another motivational factor in this great migration was economic prosperity, as America’s industries surpassed those of Germany and offered a chance at greater riches (“Waves of German Immigrants”)

As I walk through the ornate hallways of the Priory Hotel, I appreciate the beautiful architecture and array of historic artifacts lining the walls. The building itself, repurposed as a hotel in 1888, still maintains strong ties with its rich history (“Priory Hotel History.”). Framed maps, blueprints, and photographs provide physical testimony to the changes wrought in Pittsburgh society by arriving immigrants. Building this edifice was, for many, a fulfillment of the American Dream.

1- “Priory Hotel History.” The Historic Priory Hotel in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. The Priory Hotel, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.

2- “The Germans in America.” Chronology : (European Reading Room, Library of Congress). The Library of Congress, 21 Sept. 2010. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

3- Adams, Willi Paul, Lavern J. Rippley, and Eberhard Reichmann. “The German-Americans-Chapter Two.” The German-Americans: An Ethnic Experience. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.

4- “Waves of German Immigrants.” Immigration Library. The Advocates for Human Rights, 2011. Web. 04 Apr. 2014.

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