A new wave of Hoosiers made their way into Indiana in the 1850s and, according to the German American Klub of Indianapolis, they became known as the “forty-niners.” These Germans made a home for themselves and their families right in the Midwest region. Through the years, Indiana has held events dedicated to German heritage, like the Oktoberfest and Christkindl Market.
In the upper eastside of Indianapolis, Jurgen Jungbauer is one of the many who has brought his German culture with him by opening up his own bakery called the Heidelberg Haus Cafe and Bakery. Jungbauer said that his customers encouraged him to spread more of his culture and was inspired to sell German records in the 1960s, then went on to sell cassettes and video tapes. Director of Programming for the University of Indianapolis public radio station WICR-FM/HD Henri Pensis said the establishment of Jungbauer’s bakery in Indianapolis is a major reason why German music production was a big deal.
“A lot of the settlers, early settlers through here, have that background. It’s one of the reasons why the Heidelberg house, I think, has a connection . . . ,” Pensis said. “That’s why I think the Heidelberg Haus was such a big deal and why we actually had German music. There were at least two German music shows, if not three, at one point going on roughly at the same time . . . .”
Pensis said a radio friend of his named Scott Wheeler knew Jungbauer from his time at the Heidelberg Haus and Wheeler advised Jungbauer to head towards the path of radio and to host UIndy German Music Hour.
“We had a German music show and we no longer had somebody supplying new programs to us,” Pensis said. “To make it actually continue as a piece of cultural entertainment, we needed to find somebody who could do that. And that’s when we were talking and I was talking with Scott Wheeler and Scott was talking with him and he said, ‘I might be able to get this going with the Jurgen.’”
Jungbauer hosts on Sundays on WICR 88.7 for the German Music Hour and the songs range from Bach to Beethoven to polka music. This past December, he was recognized with the Federal Republic of Germany German-American Friendship, according to the City of Lawrence. The award was presented to him by Governor Eric Holcomb for promoting German culture.
“Well, actually that is one of the biggest award[s] I ever got. I have been honored by the governor. I got the highest award from the state of Indiana . . . almost from the presidents, Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert Kennedy . . . . I cooked in the center in the White House and the military sent me all over,” Jungbauer said. “I was a member of the culinary Olympic team. When Dave [an employee for the City of Lawrence] finally came to me and said that is the highest award the German government gives to American citizens. They only give it once a year for two people. And here, the little store here in Indianapolis has been honored with it. I didn’t know that it was two years in the making, our local consulate here in town, we have an honorary council . . . , came one time. And he said that the general council in Washington [D.C.] wants to have a biography of me, and he said, ‘They want [to] nominate you for German American award.’”
Jungbauer said he did not hear back from the council in Washington D.C. about his nomination for two years. He was later asked for more paperwork and then realized that he was chosen as the recipient of the award. Jungbauer has pondered on why he was chosen for the award and realized it was the atmosphere he displayed to anyone that stepped foot in the bakery.
“I think for just being a nice person and [I] never got in trouble and doing nice things for everybody and being right here, in the Midwest, promoting German culture and German friendship to everybody who comes in, anybody who comes in, when they leave here we are friends,” Jungbauer said.
Jungbauer says even with the success he has received running his German bakery and hosting German music for WICR 88.7, he recognizes that the award is meant to represent more than just himself.
“The award was given to me for promoting German culture and friendship [it] does not belong to me. It belongs to my employees and to my wife and my family. . . ,” Jungbauer said.
Jungbauer said he wants to be a nice German person instead of being the stereotype of a greedy German, which is how some people view them. The first time that he came here, he did not know what to expect, since Germany was at fault for the outbreak of World War II.
“When I came to America, I always was worried, right after the war [WWII], about all the bad things the Germans did to the Jews during the war and they killed them and started the World War and that people would have been really mean to me,” Jungbauer said. “But no, even the Jewish people and the Bengalis helped me when I started, when I came over with $30 in my pocket. I didn’t inherit anything.”
Jungbauer said his hard work, smarts and having served in the military helped him obtain everything he has. He said he only wanted to be in the United States for one to two years and then go back to his home country. Fast forward and he is still in Indiana promoting his German culture through baking and hosting German music at WICR 88.7.