The Grand Refugee Hotel: The Sequel to My Grandfather’s Germany

On a visit to one of Germany’s most radical refugee integration experiments, I went in search of my family history.

The Grand Hotel Cosmopolis is located in Augsburg, an ancient German city on Bavaria’s tourist-trod Romantic Road. Courtesy of the Grand Hotel Facebook page
My maternal grandfather, Ernst Nathan, as a young boy.

A Welcoming Nation

When I arrived in Munich, the Bavarian capital, I borrowed a friend’s bike and pedaled down to the vast main train station. In 2015, in what was known as the Welcoming Summer, more than 1 million asylum seekers came to Germany and the station was full of arriving migrants. There was such an outpouring of public support for them that they had to close the station to donations.

An artist’s view of the outside of the Grand Hotel Cosmopolis. (Courtesy of the Grand Hotel Facebook page)
Uniquely designed rooms at the Grand Hotel Cosmopolis. (Courtesy of the Grand Hotel Facebook page)

The Shadow of the Past

It was not the first time that I had traveled to Germany and discovered echoes of my family’s past in my present, as I grapple with issues of migration, persecution and intolerance today as a journalist and academic.

The Gerson family in 1948.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

In the year since my visit to the synagogue, I have covered U.S. authorities tearing apart asylum-seeking families as part of a larger, often vicious, crackdown. While I wish I could at least point to Germany today as a model of how to do things differently, the picture is unfortunately not so black and white.

Ass’t Prof @CSUNJournalism and Co-creator #MigratoryNotes. Subscribe for free: https://bit.ly/2tkethJ @dhgerson

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