Imagined Homes

Soviet German Immigrants in Two Cities

Hans Werner (Author)

Imagined Homes: Soviet German Immigrants in Two Cities is a study of the social and cultural integration of two migrations of German speakers from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to Winnipeg, Canada in the late 1940s, and Bielefeld, Germany in the 1970s. Employing a cross-national comparative framework, Hans Werner reveals that the imagined trajectory of immigrant lives influenced the process of integration into a new urban environment. Winnipeg’s migrants chose a receiving society where they knew they would again be a minority group in a foreign country, while Bielefeld’s newcomers believed they were “going home” and were unprepared for the conflict between their imagined homeland and the realities of post-war Germany. Werner also shows that differences in the way the two receiving societies perceived immigrants, and the degree to which secularization and the sexual and media revolutions influenced these perceptions in the two cities, were crucially important in the immigrant experience.

Reviews

“Werner’s study marks a major step in understanding the nature of ethnic German migration.”

– Donal O’Sullivan, H-Net Online (Link)

“A nuanced discussion of how migrants to both Canada and Germany ‘put down roots’ in their host societies; how they built ethnic communities that revolved around family, church, language and culture; and how they became involved in – or opted to stay aloof from – the dominant society and culture. The author seamlessly interweaves excerpts from oral history interviews and other life-writings with his analysis of public discourses on migration and society.”

– Barbara Lorenzkowski, History, Concordia University

“Again Werner deserves note for placing Mennonites in the larger context of German population movements, of which they have so often been a part…His comparison yields insights from juxtaposing two distinct immigrant flows and host societies…Werner’s comparative framework highlights the complex interactions of even privileged immigrants and their host societies on a path to integration…Nonetheless, Werner has advanced a conversation well worth having.”

– M.J. Heisey, State University of New York at Potsdam, The Mennonite Quarterly Review

“The anecdotes and personal reflections gathered in his interviews, often quoted at length, are interesting and well chosen…The book’s comparative approach is both refreshing and suggestive for future studies.”

– Jonathan Wagner, Minot State University, Journal of Mennonite Studies

“… a fascinating story of ethnic German migration that enriches our understanding of integration and acculturation processes in German and Canadian urban environments. Imagined Homes is highly recommended reading.”

– Anke Ortlepp, German Historical Institute, Washington DC, Great Plains Quarterly, Summer 2009

“Imagined Homes offers a well-argued study of how separate migrant groups that emerge from a near identical historic experience can experience immigrant integration in such divergent ways, responding to and influenced by difference of time and place.”

– Canadian Historical Review, Dec. 2008

“A superbly crafted and deftly presented study, Imagined Homes is especially recommended reading for students of 20th Century Canadian History, 20th Century German History, and Immigration Studies, as well as a valued addition to academic library 20th Century Sociological Studies reference collections.”

– Midwest Book Review, 2008

About the Author

Hans Werner teaches Mennonite Studies and Canadian History at the University of Winnipeg. He is the author of Imagined Homes: Soviet German Immigrants in Two Cities. John Werner was his father.

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