My ancestors—Hans Gruber, Wilhelm Belsnickel, John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, et al.—immigrated to the U.S. in the 1870s. They were part of a major wave of German immigrants who settled in Wisconsin and surrounding states, ensuring that my bloodstream would absorb more alcohol before my 40th birthday than the Milwaukee Summerfest grounds.

It’s a good thing they left the country when they did, because being raised by former Hitler Youth members would have been even worse than adopting my entire Weltanschauung from Hogan’s Heroes. But at some point Germany became a far more civilized and compassionate country than the United States—and we’ve been trying to catch up ever since. 

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