german americans ww1

[8], The instant mobilization of the country became a matter of priority for the Wilson administration. With the war, German Americans became a perceived security threat. The economy had to switch to products necessary for the war; soldiers had to be recruited, trained, equipped, and transported to Europe along with munitions, arms, and tanks; the production of food had to be stepped up in order to supply not only the American population but Allied citizens as well; decisions had to be made about whether to rely on a volunteer army or to introduce compulsory military training; and the American people had to be prepared to make personal and financial sacrifices. From that point on, any criticism of the government, the draft, or any aspect of the war could be punished by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to twenty years. [6] Katja Wüstenbecker, Deutsch-Amerikaner im Ersten Weltkrieg: US-Politik und nationale Identitäten im Mittleren Westen (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2007), 81-83, 92-95. Hundreds of German names for towns, streets, parks, and public buildings were changed. But as tensions mounted in the 1930s, leading up to World War II, German Americans once again found themselves under the microscope. would result in unnecessary and serious hardship upon the alien enemies, and would undoubtedly precipitate a serious labor problem.”[21] In New York, some German-Americans tried to ease the hardship by establishing the Agricultural and Industrial Relief Bureau, a private initiative that placed unemployed persons in open positions. Numerous German-American entrepreneurs felt compelled to change the names of their companies to prove their loyalty. German Americans account for about one third of the total ethnic German population in the world. Learn how the lives of German Americans were impacted after the United States went to war with Germany in 1917. Although employers could apply for permits that government officials issued when a worker was declared loyal, thousands of “alien enemies” lost their jobs. Cities were renamed—Berlin, Iowa, to Lincoln, Iowa; Germantown, Nebraska, to Garland, Nebraska. The situation was only made worse by newspapers and government officials, both of which fed the public’s paranoia. By the outbreak of WWI, a majority of these German immigrants prospered in America. All current values (in 2011 USD) are based on Samuel H. Williamson, “Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present,” MeasuringWorth, using the Consumer Price Index. Before long, however, the news from Europe began to divide the country. German-Americans included “Germans” who had emigrated from various German-speaking territories prior to their official political unification in the German Empire of 1871, Reichsdeutsche immigrants, ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe, as well as members of religious groups with distinct identities, such as Mennonites. German-Americans often worshipped in churches where German was used. German Americans were highly assimilated, and the use of German in the United States had declined dramatically. German-American workers); other employers no longer promoted anyone with a German name.[26]. On the whole, the treatment of German-Americans during the war varied from region to region and depended on their numbers and on the behavior of local politicians and attorney generals. Some German language newspapers continued to be … [12] Robert Justin Goldstein, Political Repression in Modern America. [16] Wallace H. Moore, The Conflict Concerning the German Language and German Propaganda in the Public Secondary Schools of the United States. Many had settled in German communities, but with a government looking for proof of patriotic devotion, they were now expected to buy war bonds, sing the national anthem, and publicly renounce their native country. The war years, for example, were particularly difficult for German-American brewers and pub owners, who, on top of anti-German sentiment, had to contend with the beginnings of Prohibition as well. Credit: Library of Congress Photo Collection, 1840-2000/Ancestry.com. Thereafter, many – if not most – Americans identified German Kultur with destruction and barbarism, and they regarded Germans as “uncivilized brutes” and “Huns,” a term used by the Kaiser himself in a 1900 speech in which he instructed departing German troops to be as menacing and ruthless as “Huns.”, In 1915-16, several groups (among them German-Americans, but also pacifists and socialists) tried to keep the United States out of the war by demanding an embargo on munitions shipments to all belligerents. They farmed in the Midwest, but also became urban workers. Some camps were still full of people until 1920. Under Kaiser (or Emperor) Wilhelm II, Germany had developed a militaristic reputation, and, to make matters worse, the United States and Germany had already been embroiled in a confrontation over the Philippines in 1898. It is the music of conquest, the music of the storm, of disorder, and devastation.”[19]. The flagship case was the Mockett Law in Nebraska, which anti-German … All of this changed with the outbreak of war. At Fort Douglas near Salt Lake City, Utah, 320 German sailors were imprisoned in the War Prison Barracks. The Wilson administration, however, argued that wartime contracts with participating nations were still within the scope of American neutrality. [10] The fear of spies grew when Americans were warned to be watchful of their neighbors of German descent and to report any suspicious person to the authorities. The camp at Hot Springs in North Carolina accommodated most of the 2,300 employees of German passenger and merchant ships; about 1,300 German Navy personnel were kept at Fort McPherson in Georgia. his atmosphere of distrust pressured young men of German descent to enlist and ight in the war against the country of their ethnic origin. Most of their fellow Americans shared this attitude, along with President Woodrow Wilson, who immediately declared the country's neutrality. The spies were all captured and hung. Ever since the Colonial Era, America had welcomed German immigrants and regarded them highly. In order to mobilize Americans behind the war effort, so-called patriotic organizations and the federal government alike employed anti-German propaganda. [29] Wüstenbecker,Deutsch-Amerikaner im Ersten Weltkrieg, 286-89. In the end, these efforts went nowhere. (Stanford University, 1937), 33-34. Prager, a German native who had applied for American citizenship, was known to harbor socialist ideas and was suspected by his neighbors of stealing dynamite. In their defense, German officials maintained that the crew had been warned not to sail into a war zone, and they accused the ship of carrying war contraband for the British (which was indeed true). Some Germans assimilated quickly. [28] Other so-called German products were renamed as well – for example, “hamburgers” were now called “liberty sandwiches,” and the “Bismarck pastry” was renamed “American beauty.” When it became clear that the aversion to all things German even encompassed German shepherds and dachshunds, breeders renamed them “Alsatian shepherds” and “liberty pups,” respectively. Ph.D diss. [17] I.N. A loss on the part of the Allies would have indeed devastated the American economy and financial sector. The more liberal congregations chose the first option and worked out a compromise with the Wilson government in which they allowed their young men to participate in the civil service. [3] By the turn of the century, Wilhelm II knew that anti-German sentiment was on the rise in the U.S., and in 1902 he tried to improve Germany’s image among Americans by sending his brother Heinrich on a “goodwill tour” of the United States. The Food Board concurred and the product was henceforth sold as “liberty cabbage.” This led to an immediate rise in sales, since consumers no longer felt that it was unpatriotic to buy it. Even when the fighting ended in late 1918, many weren’t sent free. These religious communities were left with two options: either to suffer this treatment or emigrate. World War I saw the German immigrants assimilated into the American culture, and become German Americans. Its agents submitted their own accounts to German-language newspapers and sponsored the founding of the journal “The Fatherland,” which became the mouthpiece of the German government. Soon enough there was hardly any large U.S. city without an ethnic German neighborhood. For the duration of the war, “alien enemies” needed a permit to withdraw or transfer money from their accounts. [11] Cited in Edward Robb Ellis, Echoes of Distant Thunder. [4], In May 1915, the Lusitania, a British passenger steamer, was torpedoed by a German submarine off the Irish coast, resulting in the loss of nearly 1,200 lives, including 124 Americans. were brought to Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia – about 1,400 for the duration of the war. Previous to the First World War, German Americans found life in America prosperous. Ohio, Iowa, and Nebraska passed the strictest language laws in the country; since their laws also prohibited the use of any foreign language in public places or on the telephone, the U.S. Supreme Court declared them to be unconstitutional in 1923 and 1925, respectively. Even the “German measles” needed a more patriotic name, and the malady was thus renamed “liberty measles.”[29]. This caused serious problems, because most cities included several exclusion zones. Though strongly diminished, several continued into the decades after the war. President Wilson appointed journalist George Creel to head the newly created Committee on Public Information (CPI), which was tasked with strengthening the war effort by rallying the public behind the government through speeches, posters, films, and door-to-door campaigns. In restaurants, sauerkraut became liberty cabbage; hamburgers, liberty patties. Indeed, over the years, they had been viewed as a well-integrated and esteemed part of American society. [1] Moreover, as most German-Americans lived on the East Coast or in the Midwest, there were numerous regions in which they made up as much as 35 percent of the populace. [22] See The New York Times, March 23, 1918, 6. War Hysteria & the Persecution of German-Americans. What they did do, however, was expand the scope of anti-German sentiment to encompass not only German nationals, but also German-Americans, who were now viewed as potential spies and saboteurs. As World War I raged across the European continent, German immigrants in the United States faced scrutiny and suspicion over who they would support: their homeland or their newly adopted nation. They helped newcomers, cared for the elderly, and supported each other in times of personal or professional need. If Germany had thought that the war might go on for more than one year, the arrival of men at the age limit would have been considered in the battle plans. Even before the passage of the Trading with the Enemy Act in October 1917, Charles Warren, the deputy attorney general, appointed a special assistant for New York who was responsible for disclosing the bank accounts of “alien enemies.” Other attorney generals followed suit in other states. In July 1917, an American officer summarized this sentiment when he declared: “the truly dangerous German-Americans, the ones we have to watch and exterminate are the German-Americans who wear American flags on their coats but harbor ultimate loyalty to the Kaiser.”[14] The exclusive right to define who was a real American was claimed by the members of so-called patriotic societies: “One hundred percent” Americans did not use any language other than English, did not read foreign-language newspapers or attend foreign-language church services, were not members of any clubs adhering to German customs (French and British clubs became particularly fashionable during the war, however), and did not criticize the government. American manufactured arms and munitions were delivered mainly to the Allied powers on account of their control of the sea. 1987 - German-American Day was established by Congressional resolution and presidential proclamation. Indeed, over the years, they had been viewed as a well-integrated and esteemed part of American society. [12] The laws were passed in part to stem individual acts of vigilantism, which in the past had led to lynchings, beatings, and the tarring and featherings of war opponents. Even though maritime warfare around the British Isles and the blockade of Germany had already curtailed most oversea trading options, numerous financial ties persisted – the result of a growing globalized economy. Up until the 20th century, German-American relations focused chiefly on immigration and commerce. Credit: Library of Congress Photo Collection, 1840-2000/Ancestry.com, 1918, USA. [3] By 1913, America’s share of international trade had reached 11 percent, putting the country in third place behind Great Britain (15%) and Germany (13%). The most notorious case of mob action was the lynching of Robert Prager in Illinois in April 1918. For these new Americans, life during the war would prove difficult as they were repeatedly asked to prove their allegiance to their new country. Despite American stereotypes of German-Americans, they were actually very diverse. Although German immigrants had begun settling in America during the colonial period, the vast majority of them (more than five million) arrived in the nineteenth century. By 1914, the vast majority of German-Americans were American-born descendants of such earlier immigrants. The German-American bank [in Milwaukee] should be forced to discontinue business until its company chooses a name which is thoroughly American, purely Democratic, and PATRIOTIC.”[27] For many German-American businessmen, renaming their companies was the only way to stop customers from boycotting their products, especially since their competitors often embraced slander in order to gain an advantage. In the fall of 1917, the fight against Germans in Europe was extended to their Kultur in the United States. By 1914, the vast majority of German-Americans were American-born … Most German-American congregations suffered from the language ban, and many of them eventually switched to English for their religious services. [7] The question of German-American loyalty also became an issue during the 1916 presidential election campaign, when candidates Woodrow Wilson and Charles Evans Hughes both declared hyphenated Americans to be potentially disloyal. American banks recalled money from Europe, and cancelled the loans that made it possible for Germany to pay reparations. Their situation was attributable to several factors, some of which were beyond their control: first, their sympathy for relatives back in the old country was turned against them once the United States entered the war; second, in the early years of the European war several prominent German-Americans had voiced their opinion that German culture was superior to American, and this cultural chauvinism was later held against the whole ethnic group; and third, the large number of Americans of German descent was seen as a cause for concern, especially after German Foreign Undersecretary Arthur Zimmermann suggested in 1914 that Germany could use this “fifth column” against the U.S. any time it chose. The amendment legalized the confiscation of German capital investments in the U.S and made it possible for the government to put them up for auction. Germany - Germany - World War I: During the first days of World War I, many Germans experienced a sense of bonding that had eluded them since the founding of the empire. . Disclaimer: Visitor traffic is tracked using Google Analytics, © 2010 - 2020 German Historical Institute |, http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entries/german-americans-during-world-war-i/, American Reactions to the Outbreak of War in Europe, The Effect of Anti-German Sentiment on German-American Cultural Identity, German-American Entrepreneurs during the War, Alien Property Custodian A. Mitchell Palmer, German Immigrants in the United States Brewing Industry, From the End of the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era, 1893-1918. Although many of them strongly sympathized with their relatives in the old “Fatherland,” they identified firstly as Americans and thus wanted to stay out of the war. When, in 1915, loans were needed to support the war efforts on the part of the Germans… Palmer immediately sold about 4,500 patents to the Chemical Foundation, an organization of the American chemical industry, which then licensed those patents and brands under the foundation's name. It legalized the confiscation and sale of thousands of patents that German scientists and companies had taken out, both in Germany and the United States. Not long after the outbreak of World War I, Americans started to view the conflict as a war of ideology: the Allies were portrayed as defending “civilization,” the Axis Powers were seen as asserting their “cultural superiority.” This fateful equation of German culture with military might soon proved disastrous for German-Americans. (Ironically, they had once left Europe to evade military service and find religious tolerance.) Actual legislation or local pressure led to changes in club names, the halting of publications (or at least a switch to English), an end to meetings for the duration of the war or even the outright termination of clubs. [4] Clara Eve Schieber, The Transformation of American Sentiment toward Germany, 1870-1914 (Boston and New York: Cornhill, 1923), 241-44. Among those immigrants were thousands of German reservists who rushed to German consulates in the U.S. in an effort to return home and join the fight. This battle against all things German included a ban on the use of the German language in schools, universities, libraries, and religious services. Business owners had to hand over their books and customer lists for inspection. Two days after the U.S. Senate voted 82 to 6 to declare war against Germany, the U.S. House of Representatives endorses the declaration by a vote of 373 to 50, and America formally enters World War I. Members not only attended weekly meetings, but also participated in weekend activities and charitable events. Historical Insights German Americans During World War I According to the 1910 U.S. census, more than 10 million immigrants from the Central Powers were living in the United States. Most German-American entrepreneurs overcame wartime difficulties by changing their companies’ names (and often their family names as well), by advertising in patriotic newspapers, by proving their loyalty through generous contributions to liberty loan campaigns, and by joining patriotic organizations to leave no doubt of their patriotism. [1] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Thirteenth Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1910 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1913), 194. It was rumored that spies were poisoning food, and that German-Americans were secretly hording arms. German-Americans included “Germans” who had emigrated from various German-speaking territories prior to their official political unification in the German Empire of 1871, Reichsdeutsche immigrants, ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe, as well as members of religious groups with distinct identities, such as Mennonites. Up until that point, German-Americans, as a group, had been spared much of the discrimination, abuse, rejection, and collective mistrust experienced by so many different racial and ethnic groups in the history of the United States. They blew up munitions shipments, docks (the best-known example is the explosion on Black Tom Island in New York's harbor in July 1916), and possibly several munitions plants. Film By: Elizabeth Arredondo German immigrants in the United States were suddenly scrutinized as their homeland fought their adopted nation. Germany - Germany - Germany from 1871 to 1918: The German Empire was founded on January 18, 1871, in the aftermath of three successful wars by the North German state of Prussia. Furthermore, at the time, Germany and the United States were involved in growing economic competition not only in North America and Europe, but also in Latin America, which only heightened the tensions between the two nations. Americans of German descent now found themselves under a constant burden of proof regarding their attitude toward the war in Europe. What was life like for German Americans before World War This was especially true in rural areas, where churches were the center of cultural and communal life. Credit: Chicago History Museum/Archive Photos/Getty Images, June 1915, London, England. Some Germans even saw their property seized by authorities – in total, the US confiscated half a billion dollars in private property during WWI. German Americans are Americans who have full or partial German ancestry. Many orchestras and opera houses stopped playing works by German and Austrian composers such as Beethoven or Mozart to avoid being labeled disloyal. Extremely recognizable German names such as “Berlin” or “Hamburg” became “Pershing” or “Belgium.” Many German-Americans sought to avoid further harassment by changing their family names, often shortening them or translating them into English. In the early 20th century, German Americans were the nation’s largest immigrant group. The vast majority of German-Americans, however, were loyal to their (adopted) country and did not understand why they – more than anyone else – had to prove something that was a matter of fact to them. Still, it was not enough to combat an anti-German sentiment that had been growing in the U.S. for two decades. The second group included large-scale German corporate investments in important American industries such as textiles, machinery, and especially chemistry. Paul Finkelman, a legal historian, says … The reaction of German-Americans to the war varied, however. Most well-known orchestras had conductors and musicians who were either German or German-American, such as Frederick Stock of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Ernst Kunwald of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, or Karl Muck, the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (who ended up in Fort Oglethorpe), to name only the most prominent. Credit: Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, About 1915, New York City. Anti-German Violence in World War I-era Wisconsin. German-Americans wielded strong economic and cultural influence in cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, with the latter three forming the so-called German triangle. Crown Prince Heinrich and U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt in New York, February 25, 1902. Many Americans of German descent during both WW1 & WW2 changed their names to sound more American. When World War I broke out in Europe in 1914, relationships shifted on both sides of the Atlantic. None of them felt any loyalty toward Germany; they just wanted to be left alone to practice their faith and live according to their religious beliefs. Ambassador James Gerard that there were approximately 500,000 German reservists in the United States who could easily be called upon to fight. But as war broke out, government officials warned that “every citizen must declare himself American—or traitor.”. Many people who were professionally dependent on mobility, such as service technicians or carters, were no longer allowed to move around freely. The Americans helped the British Empire, French and Portuguese forces defeat and turn back the powerful final German offensive (Spring Offensive of March to July, 1918), and most importantly, the Americans played a role in the Allied final offensive (Hundred Days Offensive of August to November). That was to be expected, given their regional, political, and religious diversity. Mitchell Palmer, however, was more concerned about possible German shares in U.S. companies. German-Americans may have come from different parts of Germany, but most of them felt united by a common conception of cultural “Germanness.” In summary, one could argue that before 1914, the vast majority German-Americans had a nostalgic love for their ethnic heritage, yet no sense of political loyalty toward Imperial Germany. Of proof regarding their attitude toward the war officially joined the military as a well-integrated and esteemed of... [ 2 ] but not all German immigrants assimilated into the war against the.. 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