International German Turnfest in Berlin:
LA Turners’ flag waved
at the Brandenburg Gate
80,000 participants and 825,000 visitors made the Turnfest a huge event in the capital – the LA Turners were in the middle of the action
BERLIN-LOS ANGELES. “Back to the roots” was the motto of the Los Angeles Turners when they headed to Berlin for the International German Turnfest. A trip that was supposed to have a rejuvenating effect for the nearly 150-year-old California organization. The exchange with other Turners from around the world at the cradle of the Turner movement in Berlin, was intended to facilitate the re-launch in sunny California. After several years of stagnation, the new board of directors, with President Alexander Hast, intends to move things forward in Los Angeles and focus on the German roots of the organization.
One of the first milestones for the reorientation in Los Angeles was the establishment of a micro-museum in the Alpine Village in Torrance, currently still under construction, which will also be online as a website.
With historical exhibits from 1871 to today, the museum will document the impact of the Turner movement on life in Los Angeles, but also the influence of Germans and German-Americans in Los Angeles and the United States of America.
The L.A. Turners museum was constructed by Klaus Schmitt, who donated hundreds of hours of his time, and is curated by board member Elisabeth Schmitt together with President Alexander Hast. It will be officially opened on October 8, 2017. On this date, the LA Turners, together with the Alpine Village, are also organizing the annual German American Day.
Beginning with an ecumenical church service at the Alpine Village Wedding Chapel at 10 am, the doors to the Tent will open at 11 am. From 11 am to 3 pm, the program will be held in the spacious Oktoberfest Tent, followed by the traditional Oktoberfest until 6:00 pm.
Also from 11 am to 6 pm the clubhouse is opening for exhibitions such as “500 years of Reformation”, and “History of Germans and German Americans in the US” as well a musical program with different bands to entertain visitors.
In order to lay a foundation for these activities, to cultivate and establish important contacts, a Turners delegation traveled to Berlin, where the International German Turnfest began with a parade through the Brandenburg gate.
Turnfest-Parade – With 15,000 participants through the Brandenburg Gate
The big parade kicked off the Turnfest, and the LA Turners, along with their friends from the American Turners, were at the forefront. As the international groups were leading the parade, the American Turners were among the first to march through the Brandenburg Gate. Past TV cameras, photographers and spectators, the flag of the Los Angeles Turners billowed in the Summer breeze next to the American flag. 14 Turners from Los Angeles increased the contingent of the American Turners to a total of 56 participants.
In the midst of the 15,000 participants at the Turnfest Parade, the Los Angeles Turner also felt right at home. An experience in which Los Angeles could literally “show their colors” in the true sense of the word.
The US Turners, whose contingent was organized and directed by Petra Croneigh, had a full program that was designed to bring the participants closer to Berlin.
The LA Turners had already set up a program that would not necessarily bring them closer to Germany – most of the participants came from there – but one that served the goals of the LA Turners. The main focus was therefore on Berlin, the partner city of Los Angeles for 50 years, and on the topic of German Turner history from 1811 to today.
Dr. Bernd Fischer and his predecessor Wolfgang Drautz, both former Consul Generals in L.A., both of whom now live in Berlin, came to visit the Turners. They warmly welcomed L.A. Turners’ President Alexander Hast, Treasurer Harald Niehenke and President Emeritus Dennis Fredricks shortly after their arrival in Berlin.
LA Turner’s exhibition at the “City Cube”
The exhibition began with 1683, when 13 families from the town of Krefeld in the Rhineland became the earliest German settlers in America, to the beginnings of the gymnastics movement in the USA, and on to today’s Los Angeles Turners, which was established in 1871. Everything was collected in “short hand” on six exhibit panels. Turner and German-World-publisher Petra Schürmann, who obtained permission to exhibit in the city cube, set up the e
xhibit there. The feedback from the public visiting the exhibit was very positive. President Hast commented: “The Los Angeles Turners are proud to share their history of almost 150 years with German Turners. Our German friends have the opportunity to see pictures and get information that is very likely new to them and is not easily obtainable here.”
Hasenheide – Back to the Roots
The year was 1811, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn gathered young men at the Berlin Hasenheide, a verdant park in the heart of Berlin, to motivate them and to prepare them for the next war. At that moment in time this was certainly a good idea, since one war followed the next, and Germany was occupied by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Jahn was a teacher at the High School “Gray Monastery” and had witnessed the battle of Jena-Auerstedt as a soldier. The humiliation of Germany by Napoleon, which he had experienced, prompted him to give new courage to the young people, and he conceived the gymnastic movement, which spread like wildfire.
Jahn invented the gymnastics bars, rings and stretchers, and his supporters brought gymnastics to many countries, among them America, where the American Turners were founded in 1848.
The Los Angeles Turners visited the Hasenheide and Turnvater Jahn’s monument, which is a perfect backdrop for photos. Also, a short gymnastics session was held on the meadow of Hasenheide, where in 1811 everything began with the first gymnastics session of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn. At the time, however, his group counted some 500 young gymnasts. The delegation from Los Angeles did not quite come to this figure, but compensated the numerical shortfall through its zeal.
Visiting the Bundestag
Turner Rita Reiff, who knows the present Bundestag Vice President Ulla Schmidt, had proposed a tour to the Bundestag. The entrance to the old Reichstag still exists, including the historical walls that made it through the history of the twentieth century – that have shouted, cried, and survived.
Modern technology was added to the inside, as well as a modern way of thinking.
The visit of the remaining Bundestag building was interesting. Solar, heat recycling and mirrors, which illuminate the plenary hall, show the direction of the German government when it comes to modern and renewable energies.
LA-Berlin meeting im Roten Rathaus
The city partnership between Berlin and Los Angeles, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, was put on a new foundation by Los Angeles’ Mayor Eric Garcetti. Turners President Alexander Hast and German-World publisher Petra Schürmann met in the Red Town Hall (Rotes Rathaus) with Esther Keller, the liaison officer for the sister-city partnership with L.A., at Berlin’s Senate Chancellery in order to discuss future cooperation opportunities.
Keller will also be part of the official delegation that will visit L.A. in October to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the sister cities. The main theme for the Turners was a participation within this city partnership. The German American Day, organized by the Los Angeles Turners with Alpine Village on October 8 in Torrance, was also a topic of the talks.
Meeting with Senator of the Interior Andreas Geisel
The stadium gala in the Olympic stadium of Berlin was on the agenda as the finale of the Berlin program of the Los Angeles Turners. After a number of discussions with the Landeskriminalamt Berlin, member of the board, Ellen Neu, President Alexander Hast, together with Turner Petra Schürmann, met with Andreas Geisel, the Berlin Senator responsible for domestic affairs and sports.
The short meeting included both an introduction of the Los Angeles Turners and their goals, as well as the declaration of both sides to gladly be available for further discussions, especially with regard to the 50th anniversary of the city partnership between Berlin and Los Angeles.
As the foundation of the partnership is currently in a state of flux, Turners President Alexander Hast declared that the Turners, as the oldest club in Los Angeles, will work on the redefinition of the relations. The subsequent Stadiongala, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended, was a memorable conclusion of the International German Turnfest for the Los Angeles Turners.
“For the Los Angeles Turners” stressed President Alexander Hast, “the visit of the Turnfest 2017 – especially with our additional program outside of the Turnfest itself, which has given important impulses for the future of the L.A. Turners – was a complete success. From the city partnership,” explains Hast, “to new insights and contacts, the Turners have brought new ideas, concepts and new motivation home, which we will actively implement in the coming weeks and months.”
German Turnfest and the Los Angeles Turners
43 Turnfests were held in the long history of the Turners. The first German Turnfest was held in 1860 in Coburg. In 1861 the second German Turnfest took place in Berlin. According to Turnvater Jahn, all gymnasts should always strive for the unity of Germany. In this sense, the German Turnfest was also a political event, but this aspect lost importance after reaching the goal through the foundation of the German Reich in 1871.
In the same year, 1871, the L.A. Turners were born as “Turnverein Germania” by the merger of already existing German clubs in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Turners are currently working on their Micro Museum in Torrance, which will also be online, and which documents the history of the movement in Los Angeles and the US.
LA’s connection to the Turnvater
The Los Angeles Turners have a special connection with their Turnvater Jahn. The grandson of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn was the gymnastics instructor and taught in Los Angeles from March 1894 to August 1896.
The Los Angeles Turners have their motto: “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body”. This includes fitness, but also the support of organizations that distribute food to the needy, and to publishing and cultivating German history in America, perpetuating German-American traditions and fostering German language instruction with organizations and schools in California.