THE latest stage in a project that aims to challenge popular perceptions of immigration and emigration in Britain got under way in Edinburgh yesterday with the opening of an exhibition featuring Germans and their lives in Scotland.

The exhibition, which opened yesterday in General Register House, chronicles centuries of the untold story of the impact of Germans on British life.

Though it is designed to show the often friendly cooperation between the peoples of Germany and Britain, the exhibition does not shy away from the issue of the two World Wars of the last century.

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One of the exhibition panels focuses entirely on the First World War, while references to the Second World War are made throughout the panels.

The exhibition is part of the Migration Museum Project which aims to tell Britain’s migration story – of movement both into and out of the country – by creating a permanent national migration museum. In the meantime, by holding exhibitions and events across the country, and through an inspiring education programme, the Project is aiming to contribute positively to the public debate about migration, opening up conversations and discussion about Britishness, identity, and belonging.

A spokesman for National Records of Scotland said: “While the exhibition does of course acknowledge the significance of the two World Wars, the display materials encourage visitors to consider more broadly our shared history, and how sport, business, the monarchy, science, music and the creative arts in Britain and Scotland have been influenced by our German connections over a much longer period.

“This free exhibition, kindly loaned to us from the Migration Museum Project, highlights the immense contribution made by Germans to British life over a period of more than 400 years.

“National Records of Scotland is pleased to have the opportunity to enhance this touring exhibition by displaying specially selected records from Scotland’s national archive.”

Among the documents from the national archives chosen to tell the story of Germans in Scotland is a baptism register of 1598 showing how Martin Schoneir, the German doctor who attended Anne of Denmark, James VI’s wife, was well-integrated in Scottish society.

A census of Edinburgh in 1841 reveals German clockmakers and their families, including Markus Ferenbach, a clockmaker from Vöhrenbach in Baden. This illustrates how before 1914 British high streets were full of German bakers, butchers, clockmakers and photographers.

The huge musical influence from Germany, including major figures such as Handel, is illustrated by documents charting the work of music teacher Heinrich Conrad Laubach, the son of a farmer in Nassau, who settled in Edinburgh as a professional musician after 1854.

Laubach probably left his native Germany because of the political upheavals of the 1848 revolution in Baden. There were many musical Laubachs working in Scotland by 1900.

The pop-up exhibition looks at how German connections have shaped everything from sport, business, the monarchy, science, music and the creative arts.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said: “This exhibition celebrates the strong historic links between Germany and Britain and highlights bonds between the people of our two nations stemming back hundreds of years.”

Tim Ellis, Keeper of the Records of Scotland and Registrar General, said: “We’re delighted to be hosting this fascinating exploration of the long contacts between Britain and Germany, and to be able to complement it with gems from our own archives that record the presence of Germans in Scotland for more than 400 years. The exhibition has been made possible by our partnership with the German Consulate General in Scotland and the Migration Museum Project.”

Verena Gräfin von Roedern, German Consul General in Scotland, said: “A huge number of Germans have become an active part of British society. According to the 2011 census, more than 20,000 Germans are resident in Scotland. As Consul General it has been my pleasure to get to know Germans from all walks of life, who contribute amongst others to Scotland’s higher education institutes, national health services, cultural and even culinary landscape.”

Sophie Henderson, director of the Migration Museum Project, said: “It is very exciting for us at the Migration Museum Project to see German-Scottish histories drawn out and spotlighted in this way, using our exhibition as a backdrop. The long history of German migrants in Scotland, beautifully demonstrated with material from National Records of Scotland, goes to show that immigration is not just some awkward, new phenomenon, but a rich, old story.”

The exhibition at General Register House, 2 Princes Street, runs until August 7.