Nathalie Gumpertz was but one of the thousands of German immigrants who flooded into New York during the mid-19th Century. Like many new arrivals from her country, Nathalie eventually made her home in Kleindeutschland, the German neighborhood on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
Though Kleindeutschland ("Little Germany") was America's first sizeable foreign-language enclave, it was also a complex community. The area was a patchwork of ethnic groups and religious affiliations as diverse and independent as the German states themselves.
Residents of the neighborhood worked to maintain their unique identities: they settled next to and mingled with people from their native state and formed regionally-based lodges and societies. Unsurprisingly, tensions borne of regional, religious and burgeoning class differences permeated the neighborhood.
In spite of, or perhaps even because of these differences, the residents of Kleindeutschland managed to forge a wider community. Tied to a strong, if broad, notion of a national German identity, this sense of community buoyed the neighborhood during its heyday in the 1860s.
Despite this unity, and the continued influx of German immigrants into the area, the 1870s witnessed the decline of Kleindeutschland. More affluent denizens began a steady procession out of the neighborhood, opting instead to live in upper Manhattan. As the decade wore on, the boundaries of the German community shrank to ever smaller sizes. By the 1880s, recent arrivals and longer-term residents either settled or moved in increasing numbers to the newer and seemingly sounder tenements clustered around Third Avenue and 80th Street.
The social and cultural institutions that had once united Kleindeutschland gradually moved or faded away. By 1910 the transformation was complete: the area around 3rd and 86th Street, more commonly known as Yorkville, had become New York's primary Germany community. The old Kleindeutchland, which once buzzed with countless German dialects, had become a home for eastern and southern European immigrants.