American Classics

Relationship: Im/migrant

When I was born during WWII, my mother had already been widowed; we were refugees. After the war, settling in Hanover, Germany, we lived very modestly. My strongest memories of childhood include playing “Cowboys and Indians” and talking about America, the myth and the opportunity. We’d go to “Amerika Haus” to watch cartoons and films about American culture, which included lots of propaganda. These experiences inspired me to read as much as I could about America, which seemed like heaven to me. Two examples are “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “The Leatherstocking Tales.” In 1957, I brought these books with me when my mother and I moved to the US, where we found a house, a car, a dog, a full refrigerator with cold milk—all things I never had before. The culture shock moved like a pendulum, swinging between the things and ideas I’d heard about but never had, and those that I didn’t anticipate. New to me was the focus on what I regarded as enforced show of patriotism that was expected and the fact that I was treated as different, coming from Germany, 12 years after the war’s end. I still don’t know where I fit in in the American landscape. I went back to Germany as an adult for work and quickly found that there I’m not seen as German nor American. Indeed, I’m not sure exactly where I belong all these years later.

Year: 1957

– Klaus Winter

Relationship:  Im/migrant Im/migrant