Published On: Sub, sij 30th, 2021

“I am of German descent. Why do people usually think that we are bad?”

Here is a little known fact: The largest ethnic group in the United States are Germans.

This surprises most people because unlike other ethnic groups, there are no real German holidays, festivals, or other displays of German pride.

You can find lots of stuff for other European groups such as Italians or Irish, but almost nothing for Germans, even though they are more of us.

When Germans began migrating to the US, there wasn’t even a country called Germany. Most of them came from Prussia or Bavaria, parts of modern-day Germany, but they were separate countries at the time with just a shared language.

As you can tell by the map, Germans flocked towards rural areas. There were large Italian and Irish enclaves in cities like New York and Boston, but Germans, by and large, came to the US to become farmers.

People in rural areas don’t usually define or influence culture.

Many of the small German towns spoke German and had German-language newspapers and churches.

All of this changed in 1917 when the US entered WWI. Suddenly, Germans were the enemy and it became very unfashionable to be German.

During WWI, the US Government created a list of almost half a million German Americans and imprisoned over 4,000. There were mobs who attacked Germans during the war and for the years 1917–18, there were more Germans lynched in the US than African Americans.[1]

During this period, the use of the German language in the US ground to a halt. German newspapers either closed or changed to English. Speaking it in public could get you assaulted.

Orchestras stopped playing music by German composers.

Anti-German sentiment contributed to the passage of the 18th Amendment banning the sale and consumption of alcohol because Germans were the primary beer manufactures in the US. (Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz, Busch, Heileman, Hamm, Anheuser, Coors, are all German families which started breweries in the US)

Cities changed their name or pronunciation. New Berlin, Wisconsin changed the pronunciation of the town from saying like the city in Germany “ber-lyn” to “ber-lun”.

Many families changed their names to something more American.

After everything that happened in WWI and WWII didn’t help things.

While the brunt of domestic hostilities during WWII was focused on Japanese-Americans, there were over 11,000 Germans imprisoned in the US during this period.

Basically, the two wars with Germany eliminated any showing of ethnic pride or public expressions of ethnicity within the United States.

Attitudes towards Germans is almost 100% due to public attitudes from the two world wars.

As historian Melvin Holli noted:

“Public expression of German ethnicity is nowhere proportionate to the number of German Americans in the nation’s population. Almost nowhere are German Americans as a group as visible as many smaller groups. Two examples suffice to illustrate this point: when one surveys the popular television scene of the past decade, one hears Yiddish humor done by comedians; one sees Polish, Greek, and East European detective heroes; Italian-Americans in situation comedies; and blacks such as the Jeffersons and Huxtables. But one searches in vain for quintessentially German-American characters or melodramas patterned after German-American experiences. … A second example of the virtual invisibility is that, though German Americans have been one of the largest ethnic groups in the Chicago area (numbering near one-half million between 1900 and 1910), no museum or archive exists to memorialize that fact. On the other hand, many smaller groups such as Lithuanians, Poles, Swedes, Jews, and others have museums, archives, and exhibit halls dedicated to their immigrant forefathers”.

Footnotes

O autoru: 

I traveled around the world for 9 years non-stop. During my life I’ve been to over 200 countries and territories, 385 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and 200 National Park Service units in the US.


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