18 November, 2014


Stand vom Montag

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An exciting German Unity Day celebration in Grand Rapids

Standing in front of a replica of the Berlin Wall: (v. l.) Marianne Krenzer,President GACC; Simone Pohl CEO of the GA Chamber, Fred Hoffman, Honorary Consul; Birgit Klohs,

CEO The Right Place; Herbert Quelle, Consul General of the FRG; Walter Maisel, President and CEO GACCM, MC, and Hank Meijer, Co-CEO of Meijer’s Inc.

Grand Rapids - Michigan’s German-American community gathered in Grand Rapids Wednesday, Oct. 8, to celebrate German Unity Day (Oct. 3), German American Friendship Day (Oct. 6) and the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall (Nov. 9). The event was held at the city’s public museum, site of one of the largest monoliths of the wall in this country.

“We wanted to do this in Grand Rapids because that’s where the two largest pieces of the wall are on display,” explained Honorary Consul Fred Hoffman, who organized the program. “Plus, we wanted to involve many of the folks from this part of the state who usually don’t get a chance to participate in Unity Day and other activities traditionally held in the Detroit area.”

Hoffman and his co-hosts, Marianne Krenzer, president of the German American Cultural Center, and Walter Maisel, president and CEO of the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest, Michigan Chapter, said the reception and program could not have been successful without the outstanding support of the Grand Rapids Public Museum and its CEO Dale Robertson, and The Right Place and its CEO Birgit Klohs.

“Dale and Birgit were in on the ground floor and helped at every step,” Hoffman said. “We could not have done this without them. During the program, Hoffman honored Ms. Klohs for her leadership in the German-American community by presenting her the coveted “Golden Angel Award.”

Among the attendees was Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a German-American like more than a million other state residents, who spoke at the reception about how he has learned from the German work-study program and adapted it here.

Other speakers included the official representative of the German government, Consul General Herbert Quelle, who came in from Chicago for the event; and Hank Meijer, co-CEO of Meijer’s Inc., who talked about his father’s interests in bringing the two large slabs of the wall from Berlin to Grand Rapids (one at the public museum and the other across the street at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum). Hoffman presented Meijer with a specially inscribed piece of Pewabic tile as a thank you to his family from the German-American family.

Museum volunteer Bernie Siehling gave a stirring presentation, in German and English, on growing up in Germany during the Second World War, and two local students capped off the event by offering their thoughts - James Manguse, Senior, Innovation Central High School, Grand Rapids Public Schools, and Abigail Kromminga, Senior, Grand Rapids Christian High School.

“I also want to thank coloratura soprano Diane Penning for offering the National Anthem, and the Edelweiss Choir for their opening and closing performances, Hoffman said. “Plus, we are grateful to the Deutsch Americanischer Schützenverein for handling the procession of colors.”

Finally, since this was all going on in Grand Rapids during ArtPrize, it was appropriate that Executive Director Christian Gaines was there to say a few words about the importance of international entries in the competition, highlighting several from Germany.

It was a great event, Hoffman concluded. “but then, we have a lot to celebrate!”



Last modified on:10/21/2014

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