Director of TRACES and Spuren e.V. (Germany)

For the Spuren e.V. website, please click on the red link above, as it contains information about our German counterpart (i.e. its associates, volunteers, Board of Director members)

Michael Luick-Thrams
A child of the wide, open prairies, I grew up on a farm in MichaelLuickThramsIowa where the Thramses, then the Luicks lived and worked for 105 years. My family has been in North America since 1630. We came from the British Isles, the Netherlands, several Germanic regions and Denmark. Over those 400 years, we’ve been part of the classic American experience—the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the Californian Gold Rush and Westward Migration. We participated in both World Wars, the Civil Rights “movement” before it was one, and the cultural revolution of the 1960s and ’70s. We also, however, were touched by national tragedies such as the Ku Klux Klan revival of the 1920s, the head-in-the-sand McCarthy era of the 1950s and the U.S.’s criminal war in Iraq. (Ironically, it was my country’s constant readiness to wage war—specifically, Jimmy Carter’s reinstating draft registration in 1980—that led me to become first a pacifist, then, at age 17, a Quaker.) Such a colorful heritage, however, not only enriches a family, but calls it to bear responsibility to build a better future. This rare legacy, in part, motivates my working as well as private life—every day, day after day.

Current Assistants

Demetre Chinchaladze
A native of the Republic of Georgia (not the Peachtree State), I became involved with Spuren through meeting Michael, who encouraged me to get involved with what he promised to be an exciting non-profit educational project. While my tasks here mainly have been along the lines of website and flyer/PowerPoint presentation design, I’ve become increasingly confident in the overall project’s use of history as a way to facilitate encounters between groups of people: different ethnicities, nationalities, religions, ages, generations, etc. I love our work together and am proud that thousands of people will gain greater awareness of history and their place in it through my designs. Isn’t that a great thing?

Current Workaway and Other Volunteers

Gabriela Herrera
My Name is Gabriela and I am 30 years old. I am from Chile, a very large country in South America, which has different climates and landscapes. I grew up on an Island in the south of my country called Chiloé, near Patagonia, surrounded by green hills, large fields and beautiful forests.

At university I studied Nursing, and then I worked for 5 years in a public hospital, where the conditions were not the best but I love my career and helping people, especially grandparents.

However, my biggest dream was to travel the world, get to know other countries and their cultures, see new landscapes and sunsets, meet new people and their history. So with my twin sister started our trip last year and since we started traveling, we have lived very beautiful adventures. We lived for a few months in Ireland, working in a workaway and as a caregiver for elderly people. We had a mother-daughters trip through Europe for a while and now we are here, eager for the new experiences and beautiful moments that our little trip has in store for us.

Roberta Herrera
I am a 30 years old Chilean who is travelling with her twin sister. I grew up on a small island in the south of my country and during my entire school period I was part of a scout group where I learned important values and enjoyed a lot of experiences such as being a volunteer in social activities and meeting new people with their different ways of life.

I am an Industrial Engineer with 5 years of experience in a German Company as a Human Resources Analyst but my dream has always been to travel the world while getting to know other cultures and their stories. I started traveling last year and I spent 8 months working in Ireland (in a Workaway and in an Hotel), then I spent 3 months traveling through different cities in Europe and finally I arrived here, excited to learn new things and trying to help in this beautiful project.

Grace Knapp
My name is Grace and I am 21 years old! I grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina and now I live in Boone, North Carolina in the U.S. Boone is a little mountain town in the Blue Ridge mountains. I go to university at Appalachian State University and my major is Global Studies and I have a double minor in Spanish and Political Science. While not studying I volunteer with organizations like the Sunrise Movement, International Appalachian, and Farm Cafe in Boone. I enjoy engaging with people and gaining a deeper understanding of human rights issues and politics worldwide. Additionally, I studied in Madrid, Spain last year for eight months developed a deeper proficiency in the Spanish language, and embraced the Spanish culture! I enjoy yoga, creating art, and outdoor activities such as hiking, snowboarding, and rock climbing. I also work at a local restaurant and sell some of my art at local markets.

Emma Lesburgueres
I grew up in Nice, France, but moved out of the sun-kissed city to study computer science as well as the history of technology in northern France. Through this program mixing engineering and humanities, I gained better insights into the inter­ac­tions and impacts of tech­no­lo­gy on society. At the same time, I was volunteering as an usherette in a theater and got to attend a lot of shows, an opportunity that fueled my interest in Performing Arts. After three years of bachelor’s study, I took a gap year and lived in Hamburg, Germany, and Thessaloniki, Greece, for six months each. These experiences aroused my curiosity for other lands and cultures and allowed me to discover the field of non-formal and popular education.
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I then returned to France to study Digital Mediation of Cultural Heritage. After finishing my master’s degree, I moved to Berlin and had the chance to work in an office specializing in Theater and Dance for one year. I am currently taking time-off from the capital and traveling around Germany, doing Workaway projects, to experience different sides of the country and try to figure out how to link my interests in Technology, Culture, and Arts. I am looking forward to volunteering at TRACES as its missions and values speak to me, and I’m interested in seeing how history as a  reflective practice can be used to make community and encourage interpersonal and intercultural exchanges.

Nicholas Riendeau
I am a 20 year old college student from New York, USA who studies at the University of Delaware. At the time of writing this I am a Political Science major with a minor in German. I wish someday to work in the government/diplomatic field someday and Haus der Spuren has been a great opportunity to show me what it’s like meeting people from all over the world while also giving me the opportunity to practice my German. I loved working here and meeting locals from Bad Langensalza as well as people from countries such as Japan, Belgium, Greece, and Ukraine. During my time here I helped contact schools and organizations from Portugal to Germany to host our History Mobile. Joerg, Michael, and the other Workawayers I have stayed with have been wonderful and have given me a pleasant experience.

Recent Workaway Volunteers

Debora Bahr
I’m 25 years old and currently living in Erfurt but originally, I’m from lower Bavaria. I’ve already completed an apprenticeship as a travel agent in Munich and now I’m studying public policy and history. I’ve always had a thing for history and wanted to study it since school, especially the time between the first world war and the time after the second world war. So, as I was already pretty interested in the topic, I couldn’t say no to an internship which Michael generously offered to me. What excites me the most are the individual stories from the witnesses and their personal histories and experiences. I think to learn from the past, it is very important to constantly deal with all the history from it and to spread it. Especially in countries where those stories aren’t that common and known. The German and American history/relationship is almost the most interesting thing in the project for me. I see the time we’ll going to spend in the US working on the project from Traces and Haus der Spuren as an amazing opportunity to spread different histories and to develop some personal experiences as well.

Niccolò Bonseri
I am an Italian university student with a passion for history in all its facets that has brought me first to focus my studies on ancient languages, my bachelor degree being in Classics. During my years at University I discovered how the historical perspective in all fields of knowledge has the potential to unveil much of the details of a wide range of phenomena. The main reason why I decided to join this project is because I admire its attempt at bringing to the surface pieces of knowledge regarding the lives of people that would normally remain unseen, concealed by the narrative of the great historical events that cover up the very lives of those who lived them. I’ve always had a curiosity for biography and for anthropology as well, which is why I found it really enticing to be given the possibility of researching how the American people has become what it is thanks to the waves of immigration it has witnessed. Additionally, I believe that uncovering how social issues such as racism and xenophobia are rooted into the individual lives of people helps to get a better understanding of how these issues affect political events that end up having a historical relevance. Lastly, I am enthusiastic to have the possibility to put my desire to work as a researcher to the service of a noble goal such as that of promoting peace, which Haus Der Spuren has made its mission by welcoming refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Edison Miguel Capulong
I was born in Naic, Cavite, Philippines – a small yet robust “village” in the Philippines with 160,000 inhabitants. I graduated with a degree in B.S. Business Management and I then worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 4 years. As I was en route to “success” – as how our current society defines it – I realized I was chasing the wrong things and that given the brevity of life; one should spend it to something meaningful, or at the very least, to put oneself in the pursuit of it.

What brought me to Europe is my passion for learning. Being born in a homogeneous village in a relatively homogenous country, Europe is a whole different world. Every day is an opportunity to learn and I am so fortunate to be given such an opportunity. What particularly captivates me about Germany are the people. My German friends are living – or at least trying to live – carefully examined lives, motivated by their convictions, and making deliberate decisions on how they want their lives to be lived. In contrast to back home, due to undesirable economic conditions, most spend the majority of their days making ends meet which leaves little to no time for introspection and self-actualization.
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Cécile Delaune
Born in Rennes, Brittany, France, I recently graduated with a degree in film studies in Lyon. My studies allowed me to better understand the world of cinema, especially production and direction. I wish to use my knowledge to help associations and defend causes that are important to me.

With my internship, I have the chance to meet passionate people. I’m happy to be able to help advance the mission of the TRACES/Spuren project. I will help the association to explain its work in the form of short vidéos. I also help with many other things such as setting up the exhibition, publicity and the organization of the museum bus in the United States. My stay in Bad Langensalza is also an opportunity for me to learn more about German culture.

I am convinced that the TRACES/Spuren project’s work is essential to learn from the past in order to better build the present and also, to avoid many stories being forgotten.

Bruno Ronny Fischer
I grew up in Bad Langensalza and was very interested in the history of the city. That’s why I completed an apprenticeship as a tour guide in 2020. I later came into contact with Michael through this institution. I think it is important to record life paths or even small historical events for future generations, because they can serve as a model or memorial. That is why the work of Spuren e. V. is so important, as even more unknown personalities are given space to reveal their history and not to be lost in the rush of time. I’m glad to be a part of that work now.



Alix Gerbing
I’m 22 years old and am currently living in Erfurt, where I study public policy and history. Born and raised in southern Germany, I moved to Thuringia in winter 2020 and immediately dedicated myself to my history studies. Since my childhood, I have been very involved by history itself. It all started with reading historical novels, which initially lead me to a great interest in the Middle Ages. Through my studies at the university I also discovered a great interest in Modern Times. Especially against the background of the current political problems with right/wing extremist forces in Central and Eastern Germany, I became really aware of the importance and relevance of this part of German history today. Since I am already really interested in this part of history, I couldn’t help but accept Michael’s generous offer for an internship and participate in the project of TRACES and Haus der Spuren. What interests me most about this project is that it seems very important to me to be aware of the time in which the ideology of National Socialism operated. It must be kept present in order to be able to learn from the mistakes of our ancestors, so that we have the chance to do better. Especially the intercultural exchange between German and American points of views is something I am looking forward to.

Larry Goldman
My name is Larry and I am originally from Berkeley, California in the United States, near San Francisco. As a child, I was lucky enough to live for 2 years in Basel, Switzerland thanks to my father’s work. Being able to live and travel in Europe at a young age kickstarted my passion for geography and history. In my free time, I would love to scour atlases and learn about all the interesting places around the world that were so different from what I knew. I then went on to compete in the US Geography Olympiad in Washington, DC, and help found the Quiz Bowl club at my high school. I later attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the American Midwest, where I played water polo, joined a fraternity, and received my Bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a focus in computer science. I was also fortunate enough to be able to study abroad in Sydney, Australia for a short time in early 2020, where I took a liking to the more relaxed environment of beaches, beer, and surfing.more...

After graduating in May 2021, I spent a few months working as a software developer for a large tech company in Wisconsin, and left after realizing that it wasn’t for me. I then started a job at a winery in order to explore some new interests. I have always wanted to contribute to the type [of] work being done at Haus der Spuren, and live in such a beautiful setting as Bad Langensalza, so I am very grateful for the opportunity to get to help out!
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Melissa Grosche
I am 19 years old and come from beautiful rural North Hesse in Germany. The history of our past and my hometown has fascinated me and my family for a long time. The opportunity to delve deeper into the German-American history of the Second World War was then offered by a voluntary internship at Spuren e. V.—where I also worked on TRACES Center for History and Culture projects. Originally, however, I was about to start a year abroad in Canada after graduation. The “Work & Travel” trip was meant to broaden my horizon and let me get to know the nature and people of Canada. However, the Covid-19 pandemic forced me to change my plans. I am all the more thankful that, despite the lockdown in Germany, I could help Spuren e. V., whereby I learned a lot during my seven weeks stay.more ...

This includes e. g. transcribing an interview with an eyewitness, helping to create new exhibit panels, but also dealing with the press, ranging from television and radio to newspapers and websites. Most interesting, however, were the new and almost unknown chapters of German-American history and the stories of Thuringia at the end of the war in 1945.

As a youth from former West Germany, my time in Thuringia was very impressive and rich in experience and I learned to understand better the culture of the former East Germans better.

My internship with Spuren also helped me in that it has strengthened my goal of studying history, because I have noticed that I am passionate about researching the past and talking to people about their own.

Anna Hermouet
Born in France, in the Parisian region, I felt in love with the South-West region three years ago. Luckily, since I am now studying at Sciences Po Bordeaux and the University of Bordeaux, where I follow a double degree in Political Sciences and Modern Literature.

My interest in contemporary history was born in high school through my participation to the National Competition on the Resistance and Deportation – a historical project on World War II –, as well as an option which allowed me to follow courses about German war memories and German post-war politics. I then decided to study at Sciences Po Bordeaux, where I wrote my third-year thesis on the memories of Auschwitz and Hiroshima and their impact on German and Japanese post-war literature. I am interested in the past legacy on contemporary societies and believe in the significance of works and stories through which one can put faces and names to history.
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Last year, I got the chance to exchange in Tokyo, Japan for a year. This raised my desire to travel and enjoy new experiences abroad. Thus, Traces/Spuren e.v. social-history project stands as an opportunity to immerse myself into German culture and language, while learning about German and US history more in depth and discovering the beautiful region of Bad Langensalza.

Alison Jackson
I grew up in the suburbs of Gaithersburg, Maryland which is a 40-minute drive from Washington D.C. So close to a major city, I got to enjoy the perks the city life offered while also enjoying the stillness and comfort of the suburbs. For example, I frequently visited the remarkable Smithsonian museums in D.C. As someone that is proud to have grown up in Maryland, I decided to also attend college here and recently graduated with a BS in Psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park. While in undergraduate, I became very invested in cultural exchange, research, and history. I was able to study abroad in Alicante, Spain briefly. Living in Spain taught me how impactful it is to build relationships with other communities and embrace the similarities and differences of our cultures. Due to the pandemic, my program was cancelled but I desire to immerse myself in a new culture once again. I am very grateful for the opportunity to stay in Bad Langensalza and experience German culture firsthand.more ...

I have a goal in the foreseeable future to pursue a career in health care. Before furthering my education to become a health care provider, I’ve noticed by examining my mentors that the best health care providers are skilled at communicating with people of various backgrounds and cultures. As I prepare for this next chapter of my life, I want to dedicate time to working with a multicultural team to improve my interpersonal skills to prepare myself for interacting with patients of all walks of life.

My overall goal in life is to leave a positive impact on the world which is what motivated me to work for TRACES. I am proud to work for TRACES as the organization works hard to ensure a brighter future by exploring dramatic history events and ensuring no voice is left unheard.

Vered Keasar
I am from Jerusalem, Israel. I have a BA in Arabic language and literature, and I am studying for an MA in public health. I am passionate about the struggle against the occupation of Palestine, and against the violence and separation politics that go with it. I believe that to achieve a better future we have to acknowledge history and its effect on individual people’s lives. This is what interests me in the Spuren project – I want to learn about strategies for dealing with the past, as part of the search for ways to live together justly and respectfully.

My family’s not-so-distant roots are in Germany, Romania and Poland, and our story is tied to the events of the Holocaust, WW2, and the arrival of communism. This makes Spuren’s work especially interesting to me.

Laurie Kemp
I was born in south-west England, but unlike many of my compatriots I am actually interested in lands other than my own. I’ve lived and worked in Spain, Italy, France and Russia, studying the language, culture and history of each place I visit.

I’m passionate about discovering and embodying through my travels a shared human heritage which transcends constructed national borders. This journey of inner-and-outer exploration is fueled by my practice of Nichiren Buddhism: making effort every day to elevate my consciousness, transform my life-condition and re-ground my life in the bodhisattva vow for universal human flourishing.

I was therefore really excited to be volunteering at the Haus Der Spuren. It was not only the perfect place to gain deep insight into German culture and history and practise my German skills; the peace-making and trauma-healing mission of the project resonates with my own intentions.

Sonja König

Together with my siblings, our parents raised us in a small city in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Since my parents originally came from Bonn and Bremen, I don’t only feel connected/rooted to Swabia but also to other cities like Bonn, Bremen, Hamburg and Munich: In this way, I was able to discover and get to know many parts of Germany. When I came to Bad Langensalza in May 2021, however, I realized that I’ve never been here before. I immediately fell in love with the beautiful city and the wonderful team headed by Michael and Joerg.

I have always been interested in history. I loved to listen to my grandparents when they talked about the past—especially the experiences from the Second World War and the post-war period really thrilled me. History lessons in school and museum visits with my family also educated me about different chapters of our past.
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Even though I only stayed ten days in Haus der Spuren, I learned a lot about the post-war period, in particular about POWs in the USA and Germany. I am very grateful for this enriching experience and hope every intern will enjoy the work as much as I did.

Konstantinos Kotsiras
My name is Konstantinos, but you can call me Dino!! During COVID times I found myself in Germany, travelling. It is not something new! The past 10 years I have been wandering around and volunteering in multiple causes, both at home and abroad. Oh yes! I come from Athens, Greece!

I have studied Chemical Engineering and Ecology (yes I know, how is this related to History??), but I am mostly interested in the organisation of society, how humans condact themselves and how we can create more resilient, open and inclusive communities.

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In Bad Langensalza, I joined a very promising project, exploring the personal lives of people who witnessed great and terrible historical acts. In their attempts to come to terms with uncontrollable events, I hope to find answers on how society copes with periods of extreme stress, pain and death. Their testimonies are a valuable educational tool and, since the modern world is not a kinder place, the past might provide, if not answers then, inspiration.

Mikhail Kuznetsov
I was born and spent most of my life in Moscow. I am interested in game design and scriptwriting and so, I am deepening my knowledge in the philosophical and psychological aspects of games as a form of human activity. In addition to that I explore literature, mostly classical Russian and European but also literature on economics Since my childhood I traveled in Europe a lot with my parents and with my school, that gave me the opportunity to get in touch with different cultures and I loved the ability to stay connected with people from lots of different countries and to travel freely. That is why I decided to go abroad after graduation from my school, so I went to Prague to study there in the University of Economics and Business. After finishing my first year I wanted to travel in small towns and rural areas of Europe, because before I was mostly in big cities. However, I also wanted to do something that is interesting and meaningful for me. And so, after some research I found Traces. When I came to Haus der Spuren in Bad Langensalza I was shocked because I met a lot of fascinating and passionate people, especially Michael who is really into this project. History was not in the area of my interests before, but all those wonderful people made me really thrilled about it. I am looking forward to continuing working here because so far it was great.

Susanne Lambert

I am originally from Leicestershire in the UK, and was based in Bristol in the South West until December 2020, when I moved to Germany. Before I left the UK, I worked for the last 10 years for a national UK charity (; I wanted to use some of my skills in a new context as I started a new life in Germany, so I looked for a volunteer opportunity and came upon this social-history project. I am very interested in human life experiences and personal stories, so both the approach and the detailed work of this project really spoke to me. I have been learning a great deal about the experiences of Germans and Americans linked to this area through WW2, and how these experiences impacted individuals, their families and communities, and later generations, their ideas, outlook and politics. It has given me a sense of place by being able to understand a little more about this complicated history, and what this can teach us as individuals and as a society today.

Taline Lê
I grew up in France in a town called Montmorency, near Paris. With my Belgian mother and my Vietnamese father, I’ve always had the opportunity to look beyond the borders of my country. I have a strong love for languages and I enjoy learning them. I have studied English and German and I am starting to learn Portuguese, Vietnamese and Japanese. I also like to listen and play music; I have tried my hand at many instruments over the years. I am currently in my second year studying Mechanical Engineering at the UTC in Compiègne. In the future, I intend to study abroad, because I find discovering new cultures and people to be thrilling, and also very formative. When I was in high school, I had the chance to spend a few months in Germany, and getting to know what I found to be a fascinating country. I’m excited to go back to Germany to take part in the Traces-Spuren project, and to learn about the rich and complex German-American history.

Rory McDonald
My name is Rory and I am from Seattle, USA. I hold a bachelor’s degree in economics and environmental studies. I’m passionate about sustainability, living well and spending time in nature. Learning about how societies interact with the world’s ecological systems and how we conceptualize our relationship with nature fascinates me. I’ve been in Germany for two months now (I love it here) and I hope to continue my studies here in sustainable development and management. I’m particularly interested in examining how suburban American housing complexes impact their ecological surroundings and fit into economic systems. While I’m at the Haus der Spuren it’s my hope to expand my understanding of the interrelation between people and places across space and time. The actions of those from the past have shaped the world today, and to learn about this is to see the larger picture of the world and humanity.

In my free time I like to read, write, be outdoors, and teach myself how to play guitar. It is my dream to travel the world, make a living through writing, and help to guide society towards greater ecological and social sustainability.

Eliza Mitchem
I am a university student from Atlanta, Georgia, with family roots in Ukraine and Russia. I major in International Relations, with a focused concentration in Public Health. My passion lies in understanding the motives and horrific consequences of war as well as the history that connects our past and present. This is why Haus der Spuren’s anti-war initiative resonated with me. During my time here I partnered with Iryna to work on a handbook for newcomers at the refugee house “Jüedengasse.” I edited documents and compiled resources to provide information for integration in the house and community of Langensalza. I also worked on various historical projects, such as the “Denkmale” monument project and various museum panels in which I documented Jewish history in the “Jüedengasse” and highlighted the impact of the scattergood hostel model on the current refugee house. Additionally, I edited Michael Luick-Thrams’ book “Marjorie and Kramer Rohfleisch In The Eagle’s Shadow: U.S. Americans Inside Nazi Germany.”

In my free time, I love curling up with a good book or going to national parks. In the future I hope to work in a field where I can make a difference- either in diplomacy or non-profit aid

Phil Noble
I was born in São Luís, Maranhão, Brazil and I grew up in a multi-cultural family in rural Suffolk, England. My upbringing gave me an open mind to the world and an eagerness to learn about other people. Currently, I am studying geography at the University of Manchester. With Workaway, I had the opportunity to help at the TRACES/Spuren project. My work has consisted of helping with getting the new museum in Bad Langensalza started. Working here has made clear to me the complex series of events that have shaped not only Thüringen but the whole of Germany into the country that we see today. Working in the project “9 Months, 3 Systems, Millions of Fates” has been a pleasure. It emphasises on social history and the human story. To me, the project showcases the consequences that our individual thoughts and reactions have on people around us and that we are all responsible for the security of our future. Through this project I have met a diverse, friendly and passionate group of people who have an important story to share and preserve.

Bruce Patrick
I was born in the heartland of the United States, in Kansas, of mid-western parents whose families had lived in Kansas for generations. My first ten years my family settled in Missouri, and I grew up out in the countryside among the working farms. While my family did not farm, I was exposed to many farm families and saw the hard work they put in. We later moved to Texas, near Dallas, where I spent my teenage years. I studied political science and history at the University of Texas and later attended law school there. Most of my career I worked as an international tax attorney for the large petroleum company ExxonMobil. I traveled all over the world negotiating important Production Sharing Contracts with foreign governments and state oil companies, permitting Exxon to explore for and produce oil and gas both on land and offshore. In the process I came to know people of many nationalities and learned both how we were different in our cultures and histories and what values and culture we shared.
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Later in my career I worked as a Managing Director with the major accounting firm, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, also focusing on International tax. After retiring in 2012, I spent several years helping non-profit organizations with their accounting and reporting issues. When I met Michael and first became acquainted with Traces organization, I found the historical work fascinating. I’ve always found European history and the history of the two great wars fascinating. Traces focus on the individual stories of those swept up in the war really brings an important narrative thread that makes the broad strokes of war history more real and human. I was amazed to hear the histories of interred Americans and German POW’s who resided in camps in the United States. Most Americans have not been exposed to these stories and Traces plays an important role in spreading the word. I am very pleased to be able to offer my volunteer services to help with the accounting and tax filings of the Traces organization.

Dániel Pintér
I’m an 18 years old upcoming university student from the beautiful country of Hungary. Even though my homeland has numerous historical and cultural sites, the town where I was born (Tatabánya) could rather be considered a typical socialistic city with little pre-20th-century history to offer. How come I applied to this exciting position as a Workawayer? I’ve always been fascinated by history, in which the Germans have influenced my country and its people a lot! To begin with, already my surname is of German origin, as Pintér means cooper (Binder in German). Tatabánya also has roots with the Ungarndeutsche people, as two of its districts (Alsógalla, Felsőgalla – auf Deutsch: Untergalla, Obergalla) were almost completely inhabited by them until the tragical post-WW2 event of Vertreibung, when the vast majority was expelled, or even worse, killed, tortured to death. That being said, I feel that my country and Deutschland are undisputedly connected to each other, and therefore I’m more than excited to deepen my knowledge of the history of this fascinating country. However, this is not all by any means. I’m also enthusiastic to get to know people from other cultures and to have as much fun as possible with them! All things considered, I’m passionate about history and other ethnic groups, and am eager to explore both at the highest possible level!

Artur Ramos

I was born in Setubal, a port city in Lisbon region. Even though Lisbon is a great place to be born, when I was in high school, I realised that I want to explore more and further. I studied English and French to be able to go abroad and communicate with people from other countries. I participated in a school project that allowed me to go to Strasbourg (France), to represent my country in the European Parliament. After my high school graduation, when I was 18, I spent one and half month in Kokkola (Finland) as a European volunteer. After that amazing experience, I took a gap year and I did a European service in Mulhouse, France. During my gap year, I applied to many universities in several countries. However, I fell in love with France and I decided to study at Science Po Strasbourg, the Institute of Political Studies of the University of Strasbourg. I’m about to finish the first year of my degree in May 2021.
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I had a great experience studying History during my high school years and I’ve been studying German since October 2020. So when I found Traces-Spuren, I was thrilled to do an internship in the association and experience German culture in Bad Langensalza.

Claudia Raphaela
I was born and raised in Greece to Albanian parents. You can know me as an excited and passionate person, loving (all) life and seeking the beauty, the “AMAZING”ness into everything. Within days I could definitely say that I had found the amazingness of/in this project / into Michael’s project(s) for sure. I was looking for a place in Germany, where I could contribute to meaningful activities, that improve our lives in a great way, and I was lucky enough to find this unique project. I met people from all corners of our world. Together, we connected our powers to uplift and  empower the “hidden or forbidden” still alive and important parts of (our common) history. It is interesting to mention, that I was not really attracted to history before, which I considered as “dead”. And from my very first day here, with Michael’s passion and valuable insights into this absolutely special location, the historical city of Bad Langensalza, my perspective already started changing. This project is enriching every human, through the lessons that we can get from the past. We met old and young people, who could generously introduce us to their story, their family’s story, and give as a brief and powerful sense of all the historical happenings, known and unknown, from a humain/human point of view. more ...

Having had the priviladge of all these life(changing) experiences, I understood one thing; History is alive, it is happening right now. I had the great opportunity of meeting and making friends with(in) an international group of people with different backgrounds and cultures. Young or old. The experiences in this project has been multidimensionaly enriching and life-changing, from the first moment to the last, and every single one in between. I am very grateful to you Micheal, and every single individual who was a part of that great project, that has touched and it will, the lives of so many.

Kamilla Szőcs
I live in a small town in Hungary called Nagykovácsi, but I attend high school in the capital city: Budapest. History became my passion at an early age, thanks to my father. He has a huge knowledge, especially on Hungarian history and he loves to share it with us at all times. He always made sure that we experience many different cultures and learn about them in dept. That is where my passion for traveling comes from.

In high school, I became more interested in the history of the 20th century and started to research two parts of my family (both very different from each other). In the process, I was able to preserve thoughts and pictures that would have been otherwise forgotten in a few years.

Next year I want to study social sciences at university (mostly history, intercultural relations, or law) either in Germany or in the States. Before that, I wanted to experience learning and working with others in an international environment; that is how I came across Haus der Spuren in Bad Langensalza. I find the work that they do truly important and inspiring, and I feel honored that I can be a part of it.

Gyöngyi Vig
I was born in the northwestern part of Hungary, in a town called Tatabánya. I’m 18 years old and I am going to start my university studies in September as an architectural engineering student. I am interested in History (I am a big museum-visitor) and discovering new places, so I can meet people from around the world and get to know other cultures. That’s why I applied for Workaway where I found  Haus der Spuren. Bad Langensalza looked like a town from fairy tales with its time-honored buildings and parks and the work in the museum offers many opportunities to learn about history.  As for my hobbies, in my free time, I love reading, cycling, and hiking in the mountains.

Nicolas Ville

I was born in France, in a region near the border with Germany. I grew up in a mix of French and German culture. It was common to go across the Rhein to go to the swimming pool or to go shopping at Lidl. Now in my first year of university, I was looking for an internship abroad. Fond of sociology, Spuren’s unorthodox approach of History seduced me. After hearing of the association by a workaway announcement, I decided to come and help. For me, it is the occasion to finally work and explore more of the country that sat right next to me throughout my childhood.


Marissa Volkmann
Growing up on Long Island, I was—and still am—fascinated by any structure that is aged yet preserved; I feel privileged when I enter the ones that are open to the public. Standing in the same place where people stood hundreds of years before me drives me towards deeper historical investigation as a way to come closer to understanding what these people may have been experiencing as normal life. I have come to seek out travel and language opportunities for the same reasons: being presented with a place and with people who are living at the same time as me—yet in what sometimes appears to be a completely different way—fuels my passion for linguistic and cultural study as an attempt to illuminate perceptions of life that vary from my own.
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Thus, after graduating from Colgate University with a B.A. in May 2021, I knew I wanted to find an opportunity that would land me outside of America. That summer, I earned a TEFL certification and began teaching English online so that I could work from anywhere in the world. I then joined Workaway, a work exchange website, and found Haus Der Spuren. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of this project, as the combination of historical and non-profit work was unlike any other exchange I had found on the site. My interest in linguistics is very much an interest in people, so I was all the more drawn to Spuren for its dealings with social history, and its intention to bring international contemporaries together.
During my month-long stay in Bad Langensalza, I had the chance to do some history work, prepare a house for refugees, and help with PR and other administrative tasks. But what has been most impactful about my experience is the connections I have made with the people that have passed through this very special Haus.

Drew Winkelmaier
I was born and raised in Reno, Nevada where I spent my time playing baseball, going to school and playing outside with friends. The majority of my young life was spent on a baseball field. Eventually, I was offered an opportunity to play college baseball in Idaho. As much as I wanted to become a professional baseball player, life had other plans. I found myself back in Reno, where I went to University and earned a degree in Journalism. I specialize in multimedia journalism. I can create podcasts, shoot photography and produce videos. I do enjoy politics and usual things a journalist would write about, but I am more drawn to stories about people, how they view the world and struggles they have faced to make them the way they are. Really, I am fascinated by the human condition and the trail it leaves behind each of us that ultimately makes us who we are.

Today, I find myself enjoying the simple things: Family, friends and the food that brings us all together. I love to travel and immerse myself into new cultures. I am obsessed with trying new foods that I could have never thought of. I am always excited to travel to the next place and cannot wait to see what Germany has to offer.

Former Partners

Salomea Genin
Salomea Genin was born in 1932 in Berlin to Polish-Jewish parents and fled the Nazis with her family to Australia in 1939. In 1944 she joined the Eureka Youth (Young Communist) League and in 1949—the beginning of the Cold War—the Australian Communist Party just as the government was planning to ban it. In 1951, as a delegate to the “3rd World Youth Festival” in East Berlin, she wanted to help build an anti-fascist state in the newly-founded German Democratic Republic (East Germany). In 1963, after a nine-year struggle to get in, she finally settled there. Twenty years later, she realized that she was living in a police state, one in which she had willingly participated. By 1985, psychotherapy and writing a book about her family enabled her to find the strength to go into political opposition and build a new life, even before the Berlin Wall and East Germany itself were dismantled in 1989. more ...

Salomea currently is working on English-language versions of her books and accepts invitations to speak about her experiences. She tells a Jewish story of exile followed by the anguish and joy of her multi-faceted homecoming; she also sings the Yiddish, German and English-language songs that are part of that story. Her program is titled “I Followed False Gods”.

Adam Górniak
Hello! Adam here, born and raised in mid-west Poland. I got a bachelor’s degree in artistic education in musical arts. What in the world some rando from Poland is doing here, you may ask. Well, meeting Michael, my new Boss, may be described as an accident, but as life goes, everything happens for a reason. So, I came to Germany for one week to gain some inspiration, meet inspiring people. I wasn’t very keen on World History, but I am now, thanks to Michael. The passion, that spark in his eyes, saying things as they are, no other way around… That is how anything should be done in life. And he’s committed wholeheartedly in here. I am inspired so much that I decided to commit and help as well, using many of my skills. Anything I’ve learned throughout my life might be needed here: I collected data, sent thousands of emails and was able to do things I didn’t think I was capable of. Excited and thankful!

Veronica Guyader
I hail from Wright County, Iowa, though a first-generation-born American (USA). My parents immigrated from France and Chile: Through our travels, and my parents’ interests in history, the arts and cultures, I was influenced in my early years to learn from others and the places we visited.  Both of my parents lived through extreme changes in their home countries, and they related their experiences and histories of their ancestors to my sister and I as we were growing up. We both dove into history, culture and languages in high school and college. I was a Student Ambassador for the UK and Ireland, have lived in Spain, and did an education study in Chile. My expertise ranges from Hispanic Cultures and Civilizations, Asian History, European History, Midwestern frontier life and Native American histories; I also have a background in Classical Voice, Instrumental Music, Cultural Anthropology, Rural Sociology and Community Development. I have volunteered and worked at various museums and historical exhibits including: more ...

Woolstock’s (Iowa) 125th City Anniversary; Swedish Heritage Museum–The Swedish Foundation of Iowa’s Swede Bend Settlement, Stratford, IA; the Heartland Museum, Clarion, IA; Wilson Brewer Park- Historic Park and Museums, Webster City, IA; and the Fort Dodge Historical Foundation’s Fort Museum and Frontier Village, Fort Dodge, IA; various years as an assistant to the curator, board member, and most recently as Executive Director; and former member of the Iowa Museum Association. Currently, I am on the advisory board for the Historical Committee of the Webster City; museum consultant and cultural event specialist for the Swedish Heritage Museum in Stratford, IA; and Executive Director of the George Reeves Memorial in Woolstock. I work from home as a book editor, historical researcher, historical presenter and estate manager.

I became involved with TRACES when Dr. Michael Luick-Thrams ambushed me at the Fort Museum and Frontier Village while I was wrapping up a member event. That ambush led Michael and I to joint efforts in historical education in autumn 2016; and, I assisted him with social media outreach during his 2016 US-Senate campaign. Since then, I have assisted him with numerous writing projects and now am running social media outreach, and curation acquisitions for the TRACES’ BUS-eum project.

In my free time I enjoy genealogy, traveling, hiking, restoring my family’s prairie and woodland savanna, digging for items from the first settlers to Wright County and Native Americans from the area, and painting.

Irving Kellman
I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 20 December Irving_Kellman1946 at St. Mary’s Hospital, the only hospital in the city that would allow Jewish doctors to do the work they had trained for. My parents were both born in Russia at the turn of the century and came to the United States as young children—my mother to Chicago, my father to Minneapolis, where they met in 1937 and married in 1938.
I graduated from high school in 1964 and began traveling the country soon after—New York City in fall 1964, and Washington DC in spring 1965 for the first anti-Viet Nam War rally held in the nation’s capital. In the summer of 1965 I braved my way to Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama to do civil rights work, and then to New York, DC, Chicago and San Francisco in late ‘65 and early ’66, doing anti-war organizing and protests. I stayed in San Francisco for the hippie era and “Summer of Love” in ‘66-‘67. In 1968 I moved to Los Angeles and got a job managing the Cinemateque 16 in Hollywood, the foremost “underground film” theater in the country, showing avant-garde and experimental films by Robert Downey Sr., Stan Brachage, and the early works of Andy Warhol, among others.more ...

I returned to Minnesota in 1970 and attended the U of M for two years, studying humanities and philosophy. I left for Canada and the Queen Charlotte Islands off the coast of British Columbia in ’73, came back in ’74 and got a job as a deckhand and first mate on tow boats, pushing barges on the inland rivers of the mid-continent. For the next eight years I lived nowhere and everywhere, working and living on the tow boats eight months of the year, traveling all over the rest of the U.S. the other four.
In 1982 I married an artist who painted in the sumi-e style of Japan, and opened an art and handmade crafts gallery in Wayzata, Minnesota. The marriage and the gallery both went belly up in 1991, and I again began drifting around the U.S., visiting old friends, making new ones, and working a myriad of odd jobs. In 1995 I began delivering pizzas for a pizzeria in an upscale suburb of Minneapolis and enjoyed life for 11 years before growing bored—when I once again began a quest for something new and different to do with my life. Along came Michael Luick-Thrams, a TRACES ad for a “BUS driver” on Craigs List, and a new adventure in traveling the backroads of the American Heartland.
Driving the BUS was one of the most challenging and gratifying jobs I have ever had. I drove the two BUS-eums for several years, across 25 U.S. states, to hundreds of showings for tens of thousands of people. I found it challenging, keeping a 40-foot-long bus going straight and being on time while navigating the winding and narrow paths of the back roads that comprise the heart of Mid-America; gratifying in meeting the wonderful and colorful people who populate those back roads. After half a decade’s respite, I look forward to again accompanying the BUS-eum around the American Heartland.

Greg Mock
bio pictureI was born and raised in the Philadelphia area in the American Northeast. Being involved in many church organizations and sports helped me to stay out of trouble and to be focused. My athletic skills earned me a track and field scholarship at Lock Haven University, where I later received my bachelor degree in International Studies. During my college career, I got in contact with many foreign exchange students from around the globe and from that moment on, my world view expanded. Becoming friends with the international students offered me connections to travel and I was able to work in Germany and in France, where I met my German wife, Johanna. Working for a Christian youth-and-family-services organization in Dresden was a big challenge. I came there not knowing the language; I was of another skin color and from another culture. I had many good but also traumatic experiences in Dresden, and in the hard times I had to put my faith in Christ. In my free time, I like to read my bible, learn other languages, dance, work out, and offer help to those in need. I look forward to working with Spuren e.V. because the members try to bring people together and attempt to establish peace through learning about one another.

Kristine Zylstra-Tabke
I grew up on a family farm near Sibley, Iowa. My family roots are Friesen/German, English, Irish and Pennsylvania Dutch. In August of 2015, I got married and moved to Marcus, Iowa, where my husband is a veterinarian. We live on an acreage outside of Marcus, and have 2 dogs, 4 horses, and 11 chickens. I taught 5-8 & K-6 vocal music in Cherokee, Iowa, for 14 years. In 2017, I “retired” from teaching. A couple months ago, I happened to meet Michael at a Winter Solstice party in Decorah, Iowa. I learned about TRACES and their mission, and was immediately hooked! Fortunately, he was looking for someone to help with the BUS-eum tour, so we exchanged contact info… and here I am. I love to learn, and have learned so much already. The educational/ cultural/ historical impact I can see TRACES having on people will be a great fit for me.more ...

In my free time, I enjoy traveling to visit my daughter in Wisconsin, or various friends/family around the region or country. I’ve done some international travel—mainly to Mexico, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Belgium, but have a long list of places I still want to visit. I also enjoy playing with my dog Millie, cooking and baking, gardening, crafting, riding motorcycle, playing games with friends/family—and so much more.

Former Interns

Haneen Al Nabar
“Longing for the day” seems pretty intense when, in fact, it is merely my first name when translated from Arabic into English. What made me so interested in studying translation is simply this: How something as simple as a name in one language can mean so much in another—and that is what has drawn me to TRACESpuren.
I have always wanted to work with people who are interested in how this world began—with people who are not afraid to speak of how the world turned into the one we are in today. Michael is one of the most influential people I have met, because he is dedicated to his work; he leads his life so simply that it feels effortless to live around him. I hope that I can implement what I have taken from more ...

this team into my community and talk about everything that has made us Arabs to become this welcoming, over-spoken nation, which is divided by borders but united by language.
I was born in the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, to a family which is dedicated to its land and religion. I was never against what they believed, I just wanted to know more. So, I was the kid who was looking at ants and wondering what they were thinking. My father was able to study in Arkansas, in the US, so he knew how much we need to be introduced to several cultures in order to be thankful for what we have. I am thankful to my parents, my religion, this internship opportunity, and everything that has lead me to where I am now, today.

Christina Bergmann
Having grown up in the former East Germany and now as a student of history, I have a special interest in Michael’s project and his approach to looking at the past. The idea of living and working through our own history authentically means a lot to me in the context of my participation in TRACES in that I have a personal connection to the time of National Socialism. Even as a child, my grandparents told me about their experiences and impressions of the 1940s. As I grew older, I began to process all of these stories – the sad and traumatic experiences of my grandmother, who had to flee into shelters due to the bombing by the Americans, and the hopeless accounts of my grandfathers, both of whom served in World War II and one of whom was himself a Soviet prisoner. more ...

Influenced by the suffering and lives of these people who are very important to me, it is a very personal concern of mine not to offer a space to the official and publicly relevant people, but to the “little” people who actually write history – their suffering should not be forgotten. My vision for the future is to give people a reformed awareness of the past during my academic career, which has the goal of museum work, and to give them new ways of thinking, because not everything is black and white.

Michael Geusen
I was born and raised in Aachen, the westernmost city in Germany. Within 10 minutes on my bike, I could be in both Belgium and the Netherlands. In general, I was confronted with interculturality ever since, as the streets of Aachen are teeming with people of all kinds of origins. This is because of the RWTH University of Aachen and the proximity to the Ruhrgebiet, a region famous for waves of mass immigration from southern and eastern Europe during the 1960s and 1970s due to the coal boom in the area.

After I finished school, I decided to go to Namibia as a volunteer. This experience had such a great impact on my life that I would never be the same afterwards. Ever since, I have been to different countries in Africa and am closely working with the non-profit organization Milandila e.V., which implements projects to improve accessibility of education for marginalized communities in Uganda.more ...

Currently, I am studying primary school education and American studies at the University of Erfurt. On the long term, I want to dive more into life coaching and adult education. I have dedicated my life to helping others and love to inspire people to become their best selves.

Kamul “Sohan” Hasan
I am from South Asia, born in the densely-populated country of Bangladesh. From my childhood, I wanted to be a journalist, so later earned bachelor and master degrees in Mass Communication & Journalism at the University of Dhaka. After graduation, I joined as a staff reporter at Desh Television Limited, then worked as a news editor at But, I was not satisfied in my work because of enormous and vigorous political pressure, restrictions, mismanagement and corruption in the mass-media sector, as well as in other fields. So, I have come to Germany to have an international degree. Currently, I am studying for a master’s in Media and Communication Science at Technical University Ilmenau, because I want to work in human rights, with high qualifications. I am very glad to be with TRACES, where I’m researching grants in the United States that might help fund the resumption of the Coronavirus-suspended BUS-eum tour. By volunteering with this organization, I can visualize my ancestors and realize the ardent relevance of human history.

Suhaib Khalaf
10494611_10203380227376921_8270505131368094187_nI was born on 25 March 1994 in Amman, the capital of Jordan. I started the elementary school in Jordan, but I finished high school in Saudi Arabia. In 2012, I started my bachelor degree in International Accounting at German Jordanian University. As a part of my studying program, I have to spend one year in Germany to study and to undergo an internship. After finishing the first semester at Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts (FH Dortmund) in the west of Germany, I started searching for an internship. Upon the recommendations of friends, I found TRACESpuren as a good choice for me. Here, I can gain experience not only in accounting but also in management and in participating with other people in another activities. In addition to getting the chance to see  another part of Germany (the east of Germany). I’m pretty sure that after finishing my internship at TRACESpuren I can go back to Jordan with new ideas and excellent experience in my major and another important thing how to deal with new cultures.

Hussam Khoury
I was born on 15 March 1993 to a Christian-Arab family in huss 22Amman, the capital of Jordan. I studied accounting at the German Jordanian University, and went abroad for a year in Dresden, where I studied international business in the HTW (Hochschule fuer Technik für Wirtschaft) Dresden and did my internship with TRACESpuren, where I met people from different cultures who are volunteers for the greater cause, and their goal is to stop racism and xenophobia. I learned a lot from their enthusiasm to deliver to thousands of others the message of this two-country, non-profit educational organization.more ...

I also took part in the international conference for Economics, Business and Financial Challenges in MENA & GCC Countries*. Moreover, I got certificates in the “Financial Statements and Balance Sheet Components” as well as in “Forecasting & Budgeting”. I will not stop there: I’m planning to earn more certificates in the field of accounting in order to get a master’s degree.
Other than my studies, I am a big fan of sports. I used to play soccer, basketball, field athletics and ended with boxing, which I dedicated part of my life to practice.
I look forward to the day when racism will end and peace will come to the world, where I will try my best to help in any way that I’m capable of, to erase racist ideas from the people who are around me.

*(Note: refers to the MENA – Middle East & North Africa countries; “GCC” refers to the Gulf Cooperation Council, to which belong Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Katar, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates [UAE])

Carolin Kirchner
I was born in Erfurt in the last days of the carolinGDR dictatorship, where I spent the first 18 years of my life. After I completed my M.A. in film studies, history, and comparative literature at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz I moved to San Francisco. Due to a Fulbright fellowship I was able to complete a second master’s degree in cinema studies at San Francisco State University. For the last five years I have lived and studied in Los Angeles. In June 2018 I will finish my PhD degree in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). A dissertation stipend of UCLA allowed me to return to Germany and I am currently living in Erfurt with my American husband A.J. more ...

My parents, grandparents, and my brother were all born and have lived in Erfurt their whole lives. My great-grandparents were Erfurters as well –if I had researched my family tree I would be able to pinpoint how many of my ancestors have resided in Thuringia. Thusly, I am the only member of my family so far that has left Erfurt—even though I cannot determine if I will not be back for good this time.

Anja Sofie Kleemann
My name is Anja and since the 1st of September I’m doing an FSJ Kultur (voluntary social year – culture) in „Haus der Spuren“. I was born and grew up in the beautiful Black Forest in southern Germany, close to the Swiss border. I loved hiking there and being able to experience the unique nature up close. Regularly, my home inspired me to write poetry and prose or to take pictures of everything. In a local music Society I played the tuba and music became a true passion. There is nothing I love more than sitting outside with a good book in my hand, a symphony (or a true-crime-podcast) in my ear. But why am I here in Thuringia now? That is an interesting Story, because I wanted to stay in Baden-Württemberg and was searching for an FSJ job there. When I forgot to activate the filter that was supposed to filter for my region, I saw the job at Spuren e.V. and I knew: I wanted to go there. I am fascinated by history, it’s impact on humanity and society and vice versa. The prospect of working together with lots of young people from all around the world was fantastic as well. And I wasn’t let down. Shortly after my arrival, I was already part of the first ever tour through northern Thuringia with the History Mobile and gained a lot of experience and I hope to gain even more the following year.

Umit Kuzhan
I was born to Turkish immigrants who moved to the DSC02895 1 United States to build a better life.  This led me to be heavily involved with the Turkish community in Levittown, Pennsylvania. My hometown was very diverse, which led me to meet people from many different cultures and religions.  This upbringing opened my eyes to the rest of the world and to international issues.  I attended Temple University and graduated in 2017, with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. During my time at Temple, I worked with refugees from many different countries, and the experience made me passionate to help those in need around the world.  I moved to Erfurt, Germany, in June of 2017 to get my Masters in International Social Work, in order to give me the resources and expertise needed to work with disadvantaged populations around the world.  I am currently interning at TRACESpuren to gain knowledge and experience pursuant to my own goal of starting a non-profit organization that will help serve disadvantaged populations around the globe.

Seyedmahmoud Monemian
I was born on the 7th of February 1984 in Tehran, Iran.I 15398937_10207211830564606_957961417_odid my pre- university studies in Tehran and startedmy Bachelor studies at the Faculty of Forestry and Forest Economics at the University of Tehran, Iran.In 2012, I was adnitted to the Georg- August UniversitätGöttingen to pursue my graduate studies in Tropical and International Forestry. At the moment, I am working with Spuren to get to know the people and a variety of cultures, customs and ideas from all icer the world as well as introducing my culture and country to the people with the aim of integration .


Anna Overla
I was born in Kansas, on May 19th 1998, but IMG-20180529-WA0000 moved to the old family farm in Dallas Center, Iowa, where I’ve lived ever since. I grew up in the Midwest countryside, watching our cornfields grow—and going to school in town. My parents both have a deep appreciation for history, art and culture, which they wanted to pass on to me. Because it’s difficult to get those things in the middle of a cornfield, we went on trips to various museums, national parks and cultural centers throughout my childhood.

Currently, I am a student at Central College in Pella, Iowa, working towards a double major in Political Science and French. I found out about TRACES andmore ...

“Spuren e.V.” when Michael presented at the college in spring 2018; as I started learning more about the organization and what goes into making the different programs, I found that the subject matters and underlying messages aligned with my passions and beliefs. So, when Michael offered an internship over the summer, I was ready to work for such a unique project.

Leonie Vanessa Sachse
My name is Leonie and I come from the infamous industrial garden town Leuna in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. I like things bold and colorful. In my spare time I go around doing hobby photography, I’m passionate about experimenting with my makeup skills and I love to spend time being with friends, relatives or playing tennis. I also admire the art of acting and enjoy diving into the world of motion pictures from time to time.

After I graduated from school in the summer of 2021, I still didn’t know what route to take career-wise. I was, however, certain that my interests lie in culture and language specifically history which was one of my favorite subjects during my high school years. It fascinates me to look into bygone events of crisis, the affected’s reactions as well as resulting momentums.
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To gain more assuredness regarding my desired career path I decided to apply for a Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr Kultur (cultural voluntary social year) first. The Spuren association seemed to be the ideal work place for me as it allows me to experience history up close, meet people of different age groups as well as cultures and simultaneously improve my English skills.

Having been here for only a little over one and a half months now, I have made wonderful friends, met inspiring individuals and have gained some very important knowledge to use in my personal and my work life. For that I thank Michael and the rest of the Spuren team and I can’t wait to see what kind of exciting adventures my voluntary year has in store for me going forward!

Belinda Sidabutar
Born to an Indonesian diplomatic family offered me a rich 10982870_10205728083618167_8411528338623582352_o (2)experience with people and cultures, seeing that life is pretty much the same everywhere on Earth, with differences on how humans live their lives, in accordance to the environment and tradition passed on to them. Having been born in Berlin, Germany and grown up in Indonesia, North Korea, the Philippines, Greece, Vietnam and Canada helped me see that despite the geographical boundaries and what is seen as cultural differences, it boils down to one reality: We are all humans, who need to be treated, understood and valued as humans. As a Christian I want to honor God with my background. TRACES is the perfect place to do that.more ...

Having pursued music, teaching and linguistics as well as architecture out of interest for each respective field, as well as being given wide opportunities, I am currently continuing my master’s degree in architecture at the Technische Universität Dresden, with an eye on carrying out projects between Indonesia and Germany in the future. I am taught to live up to my name which stands for Berlin and Indonesia, giving me a great desire to bring both countries closer together in the future.

Board of Directors

Current Board Members

Tanya Demmel
I have a diverse background of experiences and interests. I earned my Bachelor of Science in Natural Science—with an emphasis in chemistry—at Missouri Western State College (now Missouri Western State University) of Saint Joseph. I earned a Master of Arts in Adult Education and Training from the University of Phoenix (online campus) and a Master of Science in Instructional Design for Online Learning from the Capella University’s online campus. I have worked in nursing homes, hospitality and in big-box retail starting as a cashier and moving gradually to assistant manager. more ...

Needing a change, I became a team manager at a wireless-mobile-phone customer-service center, where I fully discovered my passion of helping people learn, when I became a training manager. Most recently, I have served as the Museum Coordinator of the Cedar County Historical Society (in Tipton, Iowa), learning much about Cedar County’s history and developing a specific interest in the “Cow Wars.” In my spare time, I enjoy reading and working on cross-stitch. I also love to spend time with my pets, which often include a foster or two from a deployed-military family.

Steve Feller
I have taught at Coe College for more than 40.  Since 2016, I have been Coe’s first Research with Students Professor. My research in physics centers on the atomic structure and physical properties of glass. In this area, I have worked with about 350 students. With these student colleagues I have published more than 160 papers in the refereed literature of the field. Also, I have edited a number of books on glass science, digital circuits and holography. My students and I have given over 300 presentations, at well over 150 national and international conferences.  Also, I have a research-level interest in numismatics, the study of the history of money: In this area I have published over 140 articles, parts of several books, and in 2007 I coauthored (with my daughter Ray) Silent Witnesses: Civilian Camp Money of World War II, now the standard in the field. I serve on the board of TRACES and frequently give presentations on its behalf.   I have given numismatic presentations at Seton Hall University, Coe College, Wartburg College, Simpson College, the University of Innsbruck, Oxford University, various synagogues and churches, numerous, numismatic conventions and societies, libraries, many local clubs such as the Optimists, and several other organizations. more ...

I have been married nearly 50 years to my wife Barbara. We have two daughters, Ray Feller and Heidi Berger, and grandsons Max, Leo, Isaac, and granddaughter Ramona.

I have been honored in a number of ways, including:  Conference Honoree, IX International Conference on Borate Glasses, Crystals, and Melts, Oxford University, 2017; Sigma Pi Sigma (national honor society in physics) Outstanding Service Awardee at Phys Con, 2016; named Centenary Fellow of the Society of Glass Technology, 2016; elected Chair, Glass and Optical Materials Division of the American Ceramic Society, 2014-2015; elected Fellow of the American Ceramic Society (2003) and the British Society of Glass Technology (2003); Physics Club Chapter Advisor of the Year by the national Society of Physics Students (2000); Distinguished Iowa Scientist by the Iowa Academy of Sciences (1999); and Iowa Professor of the Year (1995) by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  Also, I was given the 1993 American Physical Society Prize to a Faculty Member for Research in an Undergraduate Institution. During spring and summer 1996, I served as a Fulbright Scholar to the United Kingdom, where I did neutron scattering studies of glasses and crystals.  I have visited many universities, labs and institutes, including Visiting Scientist (2016); Rutherford-Appleton Lab (Harwell, UK); Visiting Scientist (2016); University of Innsbruck (Austria) Visiting Scientist (2016); National Hellenic Research Foundation (Athens, Greece); Visiting Fellow (2011); Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick (UK); and Visiting Scholar (2009) Ben Gurion University of the Desert (Israel). In 2001 and 2006, I was visiting professor of physics at Sojo University (Japan) and the University of Warwick (England).  From 1996-2002, I served on the national board of the Society of Physics Students.  In 2002, I was elected the president of Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor society, a position to which I was reelected to in 2004.  I was the chair of the organizing committee of the 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2019 of Sigma Pi Sigma Quadrennial Congresses (the only national meeting for undergraduates in physics).  I felt especially gratified to have been awarded the C.J. Lynch Prize as Teacher of the Year by the 1993 senior class of Coe College.  In 1987, I was named B.D. Silliman Professor of Physics at Coe College.

Kim Hermsen
Growing up in a small Iowa town, I early on developed a love of reading that allowed me to visit faraway places and times. As an adult I have had the privilege to visit some of those places in person– Asia, Africa and Europe. One of my favorite trips was to Berlin, where I developed a deeper friendship with Michael Luick-Thrams.  I have traveled alone, with friends and, later, with my husband. Diverse cultures, with their art, culture, and history fascinate and thrill me. I love to explore exotic foods, and relish recreating them for friends and family.  At the same time, I also adore being home in our 1920s bungalow with our two children and pampered pets, who keep us running with music lessons, riding horses, and yearly travels to help our children also fall in love with creation. Then, of course, there’s my lifelong love of books—which, as a children’s librarian, is a helpful proclivity to have. I have worked in libraries for over 30 years, trying to engender a love of reading, learning, and exploring in the youth of my community. My interests in the world of ideas is also a motivation for my being a board member of the TRACES Center for History and Culture, since in that small way I can help others and have a bigger impact culturally.

Former Board Members

Lynne Carey
The Director of the Ames Public Library (APL), I began 408008_web_11-28-Government-Page-Lynne-Carey-mugmy tenure at APL as a temporary hourly worker while attending ISU, fell in love with its mission and never left. In previous years, I also was heavily involved in politics, serving as campaign manager for several candidates and working as an administrative assistant in the Iowa Legislature. I received a BS from ISU in psychology and women’s studies. I’m also one of the rare Story County natives who stayed put. My Iranian-born spouse, Navid Emami, and I love traveling, but appreciate the small town living that Iowa offers. I possess extensive experience with program planning for all ages at APL, and am a successful grant writer and fundraiser, currently working with the Ames Public Library Foundation.

Sandy Harmel
A devoted grandmother, friend of felines IMG_8561everywhere and a staunch fan of history, I’ve worked with Michael Luick-Thrams and TRACES since 2008. As director of Cedar County Historical Society in Tipton, Iowa, I oversee the stewardship of the world’s only permanent exhibit about the Scattergood Hostel for European refugees, which existed in the far southwest corner of Tipton County. For more information about its mission and work, visit the CCHS’s website.

Paul Juhl
After graduating high school in Webster PaulJuhlCity, Iowa, I attended the University of Iowa, Iowa City, for an undergraduate degree in history and education.  A few years later, I attended the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, for a Master’s Degree in College Student Personnel Work.  I also have additional graduate work at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
 My career choice was being an educator in secondary education and I worked at various schools, both public and private.  Most of these years I served as a high school guidance counselor.  The most unique experience was, perhaps, the years spent working at Institut Montana, a private boarding school in Zugerberg, Switzerland.  This is the same school attended by John Kerry, our present Secretary of State, when he was an adolescent.
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 Always maintaining an interest in Iowa history, for the past thirty years I have been an active collector of early Iowa photography.  This has centered on carte de visites, cabinet cards, and stereographs created in the 1870s and 1880s.  The collection numbers well over 3,000 images.  These are all shared with the State Historical Society of Iowa for the use of researchers.
I have also written for a number of historical magazines and have published ten spiral bound books that deal with some portion of Iowa’s fascinating history.  Some of these topics have included the Abraham Lincoln grandchildren, the Pulitzer Prize novelist MacKinlay Kantor, the artist Grant Wood, and the legend of the early years of the actress, Sarah Bernhardt.
My home since 1985 has been in Iowa City, a place where there are several libraries that specialize in Iowa history topics.  In retirement, I have also enjoyed being a frequent speaker on a variety of topics of a historical nature. 

John Schmacker
A Des Moines native and contemporary of Bill JohnBryson, I’m now a retired accountant and restaurateur who’s still active in Democratic Party and other progressive politics. I enjoy collecting art (especially paintings), throwing parties and scouring the newspaper every morning.

Thomas Weber
I discovered my calling as a volunteer when 70 SAMSUNGchildren of Southeast Asian and Ethiopian refugees showed up one evening for open gym in Seattle. As the son of newly arrived immigrants as well, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated with a degree in History from Reed College in Portland. I lived in New Mexico for fifteen years, teaching history, geography and civics to grades 6-12, as well as coaching basketball and Model United Nations. During that time, I earned a second Bachelor’s in Education and an MBA at the University of New Mexico. I served as a middle school director and as head of school for two different schools from 2001 to 2012 before joining Scattergood as its Assistant Head of School in 2013.
I have presented at a number of regional and national conferences about curriculum design and have collaborated actively with other schools on initiatives designed to deepen understanding of students and educators about diversity issues.
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I’m married to textile artist Amy King Weber, who, along with her own work, has been active in building arts organizations in three different communities. Cooking, music, and hiking top the list of my’ many interests, and there’s always time for good conversation, staying in touch with our two grown daughters, and playing or watching a game of basketball.
For a glimpse at what I’m thinking and reading about education, take a look at my Twitter feed.

“Out beyond all notions of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. “~ Rumi (1207 – 1273), 13th-century Persian Muslim poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic
 “What I’ve come to learn is that the world is never saved in grand messianic gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion, everyday acts of compassion. In South Africa they have a phrase called ubuntu. Ubuntu comes out of a philosophy that says, the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me. ” ~Chris Abani (1966), Nigerian author
Former Volunteers

Jeremy Bird
I was born and raised in Southwesternjeremy bird Ontario, Canada.My maternal grandparents were part of a German community in what is now Hungary.  Just after the Second World War, they were relocated to Germany; then emigrated to Canada: I, therefore, have German and English roots. During and just after university, I worked for several years with young people in residential settings.  I helped them to develop social skills and essential life skills, such as time and money management, hygiene, self-care, nutrition, etc.
I have a long history of volunteering: I was the music director for the university radio station more ...

and took part in various environmental initiatives aimed at environmental protection, reforestation programme.  I was a founder member of a cycling advocacy group, which promoted safe cycling infrastructure projects and developed safe cycling routes throughout the city.  My whole life I worked and studied with people from every continent.  We celebrated each other’s festivals, ate each other’s food and enjoyed each other’s cultures. In 2006-7, I spent a year in Germany as an exchange student to get know my German heritage.   As I endeavoured to improve my German language skills after I returned to Canada, I met a woman who’s now my wife: We decided to move to Germany together.  I am working intensively to fully integrate in Germany, so I look forward to passing on some of my experience of doing so to other newcomers to this society—and I feel confident that I’m in a good position to do so.  I am also able to use my experience of Canadian integration models in this context.

Sally Campbell
I’m a Quaker singer-songwriter, a personal organizer Sally_Campbell(a “Friendly de-cluttering consultant”) and an activist for peace, nuclear disarmament, disability rights and the environment. I live on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with my husband, Chuck, who works at the Drama Bookshop on Times Square in Midtown, and our fat and lazy tiger cat, Duncan.
In 1996 I retired from the New York Public Library after 35 years as a children’s librarian at the Library for the Blind and for two years as president of the New York Public Library union.
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After retiring, I spent the last years of my mother’s life with her in my hometown of Guilford, Connecticut, a bittersweet time I would not have missed for the world.
Currently, as well as doing my de-cluttering work, I am an active member of the Morningside Quaker Meeting, which meets Sundays in the Neo-Gothic tower of Riverside Church, and I am on the steering committees of the Peoples Voice Cafe and the Peoples Music Network.  In 2013, at my 70th birthday party/concert I recorded a CD called Giftsongs and Blessings which is available for free by writing me at
I’ve come to believe that we each will be given whatever help we need from the Friendly Spirit if we will just slow down and listen. It is surprising what one may hear—such as the songs I have been given.

Ceceile Hartleib
I am a professional artist living and working in St. Ceile-HartleibPaul, Minnesota. I studied art at Atelier LeSueur, which was located in the posh, lakeside suburb of Excelsior. My paintings include portraits, landscapes and still-lifes in oil and watercolor. Garrison Keillor owns my landscape, Cathedral of St. Paul, and my portrait of Nikita Khrushchev hangs in Moscow, Russia, in the collection of Nikita’s son, Sergei Khrushchev. I teach painting in my studio in a converted, studio-filled warehouse in St. Paul, and at a local atelier.
I’m married to Quaker Terrence Kayser, a former TRACES board member, videographer and community volunteer. I’m active in Groveland Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, having served two years as president, as well as in several arts organizations, including those involved with St. Paul’s frequent “Art Crawls”. My volunteering with TRACES has included working in the museum, which was located in St. Paul’s Landmark Center for several years. more ...

I sold tickets, gave tours and wrote book synopses—even cleaned out the BUS-eum on occasion. I am now serving as chair of TRACES’ board of directors.
A mother of two, with three granddaughters living in Los Angeles, I was born in Sandusky, Ohio, to German-American parents—my father having been born in Germany before immigrating to the Midwest as a young boy. In April 1912 his older siblings and parents literally heard screams from the sinking Titanic as the ship his family was aboard—the George Washington—was on the ocean a few hours east of the Titanic; the following day they passed the site of the sunken “unsinkable” steamship and saw debris from the disappeared ship, bobbing atop the waves.

Alontae Johns
I am a 17-year-old gal who grew up in a small town near Ames, Iowa, working around horses. I moved to a farm outside of Marcus, Iowa, to live with my cousin, Kristine Zylstra-Tabke, in the fall of 2018, to complete my education. I am currently home-schooled around the level of 11th grade: I was given the opportunity by my cousin and her husband to compete on a higher level with horses as well as finish my education. I am involved in the local 4-H club in my county, where I compete with my horses. With Kristine starting her employment with Michael, she talked to me about what she was working on, which peaked my interest. Once Michael came to visit to get the ball rolling for the opening weekend of the BUS-eum tour, I figured out it would be neat to be a part of this project. I have learned so much from just doing small tasks on the surface of the history included in the tour. I look forward to seeing the BUS-eum when it is complete and the variety of history offered.

Sandro Kakhetelidze
I was born in Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia. Since I was a child, I always wanted to become an actor and here we are. I’m a student at Ilia State University’s faculty of drama acting. Actors must be multifunctional people; they do a lot of stuff that we see around in our life. We see them on TV, in theatres, movies, on billboards and we can hear their voices on radios, in video games and animations. The last part of the list is my job at the moment. I’m a voice actor and voice director. At first, it was just a hobby, but after a while it has become a profession. My dream is to get a scholarship, continue studying in London, England, and become a professional actor. In the meantime, I am happy to support TRACESpuren by helping to record Michael’s narration of his Power Point presentations, which Demetre then animates in such exquisite detail. It has been a fun, exciting and interesting process to watch. It pleases me, that thousands will see–and hear–our work. In this way, our efforts really do “Bring History to Life!”

Alex Nelson
I graduated from the University of Alex-in-RomeWisconsin-River Falls in spring 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in History and a minor in Anthropology. After spending three months on a study-abroad tour of Europe, I resolved to become an archeologist specializing in Classical-Mediterranean civilizations. I have continued my education and currently…