Scattergood-style hostel launches in Germany for Ukranian refugees

Michael Luick-Thrams (center) and local volunteers Julianne Döbel (left) and Marianne Fritsch (right) welcomed the first Ukrainian family by observing the Slavic tradition of greeting guests with bread. Photos courtesy of the Haus der Spuren.

When Ukrainian war refugees began to appear in central Germany in February, Bad Langensalza resident Michael Luick-Thrams had a plan.

The Iowa-born historian and Quaker wrote a book 25 years ago titled Out of Hitler’s Reach: The Scattergood Hostel for European Refugees 1939–43 (previously published as an article in FJ Dec. 1995), which told the story of how the Scattergood Friends boarding school near West Branch, Iowa, was transformed into a hostel for almost 200 refugees fleeing Hitler’s Germany during World War II. Local Quaker farmers and college students provided the Scattergood hostel guests with a safe haven plus opportunities to learn English and job skills.

Today Luick-Thrams is replicating the Scattergood refugee hostel model but in Germany and this time it’s for refugees fleeing Ukraine.

“I told many about the Scattergood hostel in Iowa, this American Quaker project,” said Luick-Thrams. “I just said to people, ‘Hey, can you come and help?’ And people did and then they’d call their friends. It doesn’t usually work like that here and so I think they’re sort of inspired.”

Right: A coffee and cake reception for some of the Ukrainians then staying at the Scattergood Center (from left: Olga, Anna, Iryna #1, Iryna #2, Kirylo, Igor, Oksana, Maria, Dr. Michael Luick-Thrams & volunteer Christian Maemecke). Left: Some of the Ukrainians currently at the Center engage in online education for their up-rooted children with WiFi provided at Haus der Spuren, like those here (from the left: Anna, Igor, Oksana and Kirylo).

Local volunteers renovated and furnished the new “Scattergood Center, in the Phyllis-Thrams-Luick-Haus” in just one week to prepare it for Ukranians fleeing the war. As of May, the house hosts 23 guests. There is an ongoing need for donations for food, clothing, toiletries, building repairs, and guests’ medical and education expenses. There is also a need for volunteers to help the guests learn German and find jobs.

Left: Before (inset) and after photos of the downstairs dorm. Right: The upper-level kitchen equipped with a donated refrigerator, along with donated cooking and cleaning supplies.

Luick-Thrams is the director of two sister organizations—TRACES Center for History and Culture, based in Iowa, and Spuren e.V. in Bad Langensalza, Germany—that explore and present connections between Germany and the United States in 1914–48. But the money for the purchase of the house came from his personal funds, in part from the sale of a family farm in Iowa. The farm was the home of Michael and his mother, Phyllis (née Thrams) Luick.

Luick-Thrams explains that his mother’s mother’s family had come to Iowa from central Germany in the 1850s. “Now,” he notes, “part of the sale of the Iowa land is back here in Germany to buy a house for refugees.”

FJ News Editors

Erik Hanson and Windy Cooler are the news editors for Friends Journal. They contributed to the reporting of this story. Do you know about any Quaker news stories we should be covering? Send us tips at

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