German Americans

German Americans
Deutschamerikaner
German ancestry in the USA and Canada.png
German Americans and German Canadians, % of population by state or province
Total population
44,754,050[1]
14.4% of the U.S. population (2016)
Regions with significant populations
United States Nationwide, though less common in New England, California and the Deep South.[2]
Plurality in Pennsylvania,[3] Colorado and the Midwest.[4]
Languages
English (American English dialects, Pennsylvania Dutch English)


German (American German dialects, Standard German, Bavarian German, Swabian German, Colognian German, Alsatian German, Bernese German, Hutterite German, Pennsylvania German, Plautdietsch, Texas German)
Religion
Related ethnic groups

German Americans (German: Deutschamerikaner) are Americans who have full or partial German ancestry. With an estimated size of approximately 44 million in 2016, German Americans are the largest of the ancestry groups reported by the US Census Bureau in its American Community Survey.[1] The group accounts for about one third of the total ethnic German population in the world.[6][7][8]

None of the German states had American colonies. In the 1670s, the first significant groups of German immigrants arrived in the British colonies, settling primarily in Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia. Immigration continued in very large numbers during the 19th century, with eight million arrivals from Germany. Between 1820 and 1870 over seven and a half million German immigrants came to the United States. By 2010, their population grew to 49.8 million immigrants, reflecting a jump of 6 million people since 2000.

There is a "German belt" that extends all the way across the United States, from eastern Pennsylvania to the Oregon coast. Pennsylvania has the largest population of German-Americans in the U.S. and is home to one of the group's original settlements, Germantown (Philadelphia), founded in 1683 and the birthplace of the American antislavery movement in 1688, as well as the revolutionary Battle of Germantown. The state of Pennsylvania has 3.5 million people of German ancestry.

They were pulled by the attractions of land and religious freedom, and pushed out of Germany by shortages of land and religious or political oppression.[9] Many arrived seeking religious or political freedom, others for economic opportunities greater than those in Europe, and others for the chance to start fresh in the New World. The arrivals before 1850 were mostly farmers who sought out the most productive land, where their intensive farming techniques would pay off. After 1840, many came to cities, where "Germania"—German-speaking districts—soon emerged.[10][11][12]

German Americans established the first kindergartens in the United States,[13] introduced the Christmas tree tradition,[14][15] and introduced popular foods such as hot dogs and hamburgers to America.[16]

The great majority of people with some German ancestry have become Americanized and hardly can be distinguished; fewer than 5% speak German. German-American societies abound, as do celebrations that are held throughout the country to celebrate German heritage of which the German-American Steuben Parade in New York City is one of the most well-known and is held every third Saturday in September. Traditional Oktoberfest celebrations and the German-American Day are popular festivities. There are major annual events in cities with German heritage including Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, and St. Louis.

History

The Germans included many quite distinct subgroups with differing religious and cultural values.[17] Lutherans and Catholics typically opposed Yankee moralizing programs such as the prohibition of beer, and favored paternalistic families with the husband deciding the family position on public affairs.[18][19] They generally opposed women's suffrage but this was used as argument in favor of suffrage when German Americans became pariahs during World War I.[20] On the other hand, there were Protestant groups that emerged from European pietism such as the German Methodist and United Brethren; they more closely resembled the Yankee Methodists in their moralism.[21]

Colonial era

The first English settlers arrived at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, and were accompanied by the first German American, Dr. Johannes Fleischer. He was followed in 1608 by five glassmakers and three carpenters or house builders.[22] The first permanent German settlement in what became the United States was Germantown, Pennsylvania, founded near Philadelphia on October 6, 1683.[23]

John Jacob Astor, in an oil painting by Gilbert Stuart, 1794, was the first of the Astor family dynasty and the first millionaire in the United States, making his fortune in the fur trade and New York City real estate.

Large numbers of Germans migrated from the 1680s to 1760s, with Pennsylvania the favored destination. They migrated to America for a variety of reasons.[23] Push factors involved worsening opportunities for farm ownership in central Europe, persecution of some religious groups, and military conscription; pull factors were better economic conditions, especially the opportunity to own land, and religious freedom. Often immigrants paid for their passage by selling their labor for a period of years as indentured servants.[24]

Large sections of Pennsylvania, Upstate New York, and the Shenandoah valley of Virginia attracted Germans. Most were Lutheran or German Reformed; many belonged to small religious sects such as the Moravians and Mennonites. German Catholics did not arrive in number until after the War of 1812.[25]

Palatines

In 1709, Protestant Germans from the Pfalz or Palatine region of Germany escaped conditions of poverty, traveling first to Rotterdam and then to London. Anne, Queen of Great Britain, helped them get to her colonies in America. The trip was long and difficult to survive because of the poor quality of food and water aboard ships and the infectious disease typhus. Many immigrants, particularly children, died before reaching America in June 1710.[26]

The Palatine immigration of about 2100 people who survived was the largest single immigration to America in the colonial period. Most were first settled along the Hudson River in work camps, to pay off their passage. By 1711, seven villages had been established in New York on the Robert Livingston manor. In 1723 Germans became the first Europeans allowed to buy land in the Mohawk Valley west of Little Falls. One hundred homesteads were allocated in the Burnetsfield Patent. By 1750, the Germans occupied a strip some 12 miles (19 km) long along both sides of the Mohawk River. The soil was excellent; some 500 houses were built, mostly of stone, and the region prospered in spite of Indian raids. Herkimer was the best-known of the German settlements in a region long known as the "German Flats".[26]

They kept to themselves, married their own, spoke German, attended Lutheran churches, and retained their own customs and foods. They emphasized farm ownership. Some mastered English to become conversant with local legal and business opportunities. They tolerated slavery (although few were rich enough to own a slave).[27]

The most famous of the early German Palatine immigrants was editor John Peter Zenger, who led the fight in colonial New York City for freedom of the press in America. A later immigrant, John Jacob Astor, who came from Baden after the Revolutionary War, became the richest man in America from his fur trading empire and real estate investments in New York.[28]

Louisiana

John Law organized the first colonization of Louisiana with German immigrants. Of the over 5,000 Germans initially immigrating primarily from the Alsace Region as few as 500 made up the first wave of immigrants to leave France en route to the Americas. Less than 150 of those first indentured German farmers made it to Louisiana and settled along what became known as the German Coast. With tenacity, determination and the leadership of D'arensburg these Germans felled trees, cleared land, and cultivated the soil with simple hand tools as draft animals were not available. The German coast settlers supplied the budding City of New Orleans with corn, rice, eggs. and meat for many years following.

The Mississippi Company settled thousands of German pioneers in French Louisiana during 1721. It encouraged Germans, particularly Germans of the Alsatian region who had recently fallen under French rule, and the Swiss to immigrate. Alsace was sold to France within the greater context of the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648).

The Jesuit Charlevoix traveled New France (Canada and Louisiana) in the early 1700s. His letter said "these 9,000 Germans, who were raised in the Palatinate (Alsace part of France) were in Arkansas. The Germans left Arkansas en masse. They went to New Orleans and demanded passage to Europe. The Mississippi Company gave the Germans rich lands on the right bank of the Mississippi River about 25 miles (40 km) above New Orleans. The area is now known as 'the German Coast'."

A thriving population of Germans lived upriver from New Orleans, Louisiana, known as the German Coast. They were attracted to the area through pamphlets such as J. Hanno Deiler's "Louisiana: A Home for German Settlers".[29]

Carl Schurz was the first German born US Senator (Missouri, 1868) and later US Secretary of the Interior

Southeast

Two waves of German colonists in 1714 and 1717 founded a large colony in Virginia called Germanna,[30] located near modern-day Culpeper, Virginia. Virginia Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood, taking advantage of the headright system, had bought land in present-day Spotsylvania and encouraged German immigration by advertising in Germany for miners to move to Virginia and establish a mining industry in the colony. The name "Germanna", selected by Governor Alexander Spotswood, reflected both the German immigrants who sailed across the Atlantic to Virginia and the British Queen, Anne, who was in power at the time of the first settlement at Germanna.

In North Carolina, German Moravians living around Bethlehem, Pennsylvania purchased nearly 100,000 acres (400 km2) from Lord Granville (one of the British Lords Proprietor) in the Piedmont of North Carolina in 1753. They established German settlements on that tract, especially in the area around what is now Winston-Salem.[31] They also founded the transitional settlement of Bethabara, North Carolina, translated as House of Passage, the first planned Moravian community in North Carolina, in 1759. Soon after, the German Moravians founded the town of Salem in 1766 (now a historical section in the center of Winston-Salem) and Salem College (an early female college) in 1772.

In the Georgia Colony, Germans mainly from the Swabia region settled in Savannah, St. Simon's Island and Fort Frederica in the 1730s and 1740s. They were actively recruited by James Oglethorpe and quickly distinguished themselves through improved farming, advanced tabby (cement)-construction, and leading joint Lutheran-Anglican-Reformed religious services for the colonists.

German immigrants also settled in other areas of the American South, including around the Dutch (Deutsch) Fork area of South Carolina,[25] and Texas, especially in the Austin area.

New England

Between 1742 and 1753, roughly 1,000 Germans settled in Broad Bay, Massachusetts (now Waldoboro, Maine). Many of the colonists fled to Boston, Maine, Nova Scotia, and North Carolina after their houses were burned and their neighbors killed or carried into captivity by Native Americans. The Germans who remained found it difficult to survive on farming, and eventually turned to the shipping and fishing industries.[32]

Pennsylvania

The tide of German immigration to Pennsylvania swelled between 1725 and 1775, with immigrants arriving as redemptioners or indentured servants. By 1775, Germans constituted about one-third of the population of the state. German farmers were renowned for their highly productive animal husbandry and agricultural practices. Politically, they were generally inactive until 1740, when they joined a Quaker-led coalition that took control of the legislature, which later supported the American Revolution. Despite this, many of the German settlers were loyalists during the Revolution, possibly because they feared their royal land grants would be taken away by a new republican government, or because of loyalty to a British German monarchy who had provided the opportunity to live in a liberal society.[33] The Germans, comprising Lutherans, Reformed, Mennonites, Amish, and other sects, developed a rich religious life with a strong musical culture. Collectively, they came to be known as the Pennsylvania Dutch (from Deutsch).[34][35]

Etymologically, the word Dutch originates from the Old High German word "diutisc" (from "diot" "people"), referring to the Germanic "language of the people" as opposed to Latin, the language of the learned (see also theodiscus). Only later did the word come to refer to the people who spoke a Germanic language, and only in the last 1-2 centuries to refer only to the people of the Netherlands. Other Germanic language variants for "deutsch/deitsch/dutch" are: Dutch "Duits" and "Diets", Yiddish " daytsh", Danish/Norwegian "tysk", or Swedish "tyska." The Japanese "doitzu" also derives from the aforementioned "Dutch" variations. There were few German Catholics in Pennsylvania before the 1810s.[36]

The Studebaker brothers, forefathers of the wagon and automobile makers, arrived in Pennsylvania in 1736 from the famous blade town of Solingen. With their skills, they made wagons that carried the frontiersmen westward; their cannons provided the Union Army with artillery in the American Civil War, and their automobile company became one of the largest in America, although never eclipsing the "Big Three", and was a factor in the war effort and in the industrial foundations of the Army.[37]

From names in the 1790 U.S. census, historians estimate Germans constituted nearly 9% of the white population in the United States.[38]

American Revolution

The King of Great Britain, whose King George III was also the Elector of Hanover in Germany, hired 18,000 Hessians (career soldiers from small German states) to support British forces. Many were captured; they remained as prisoners during the war but some stayed and became U.S. citizens.[39] German Americans served on both sides of the American Revolution. The religious minorities were neutral. The Lutherans were split. In New York, many were neutral or supported the Loyalist cause. In Pennsylvania most were on the patriot side.[40] The Muhlenberg family, led by Rev. Henry Muhlenberg was especially influential on the Patriot side.[41] His son Peter Muhlenberg, a Lutheran clergyman in Virginia became a major general and later a Congressman.[42][43]

The brief Fries's Rebellion was an anti-tax movement among Germans in Pennsylvania in 1799-1800.[44]

19th century

German population density in the United States, 1872
German Immigration to United States (1820–2004)[45]
Immigration
period
Number of
Immigrants
Immigration
period
Number of
Immigrants
1820–1840 160,335 1921–1930 412,202
1841–1850 434,626 1931–1940 114,058
1851–1860 951,667 1941–1950 226,578
1861–1870 787,468 1951–1960 477,765
1871–1880 718,182 1961–1970 190,796
1881–1890 1,452,970 1971–1980 74,414
1891–1900 505,152 1981–1990 91,961
1901–1910 341,498 1991–2000 92,606
1911–1920 143,945 2001–2004 61,253
Total : 7,237,594

The largest flow of German immigration to America occurred between 1820 and World War I, during which time nearly six million Germans immigrated to the United States. From 1840 to 1880, they were the largest group of immigrants. Following the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, a wave of political refugees fled to America, who became known as Forty-Eighters. They included professionals, journalists, and politicians. Prominent Forty-Eighters included Carl Schurz and Henry Villard.[46]

"From the Old to the New World" shows German emigrants boarding a steamer in Hamburg, to New York. Harper's Weekly, (New York) November 7, 1874

"Latin farmer" or Latin Settlement is the designation of several settlements founded by some of the Dreissiger and other refugees from Europe after rebellions like the Frankfurter Wachensturm beginning in the 1830s—predominantly in Texas and Missouri, but also in other US states—in which German intellectuals (freethinkers, German: Freidenker, and Latinists) met together to devote themselves to the German literature, philosophy, science, classical music, and the Latin language. A prominent representative of this generation of immigrants was Gustav Koerner who lived most of the time in Belleville, Illinois until his death.

Jews

A few German Jews came in the colonial era. The largest numbers arrived after 1820, especially in the mid-19th century.[47] They spread across the North and South (and California, where Levi Strauss arrived in 1853). They formed small German-Jewish communities in cities and towns. They typically were local and regional merchants selling clothing; others were livestock dealers, agricultural commodity traders, bankers, and operators of local businesses. Henry Lehman, who founded Lehman Brothers in Alabama, was a particularly prominent example of such a German-Jewish immigrant. They formed Reform synagogues[48] and sponsored numerous local and national philanthropic organizations, such as B'nai B'rith.[49] This German-speaking group is quite distinct from the Yiddish-speaking East-European Jews who arrived in much larger numbers starting in the late 19th century and concentrated in New York.

Northeastern cities

The port cities of New York, and Baltimore had large populations. As did Hoboken, New Jersey.

Cities of the Midwest

Cities along the Great Lakes, the Ohio River, and the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers attracted a large German element. The Midwestern cities of Milwaukee, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Chicago were favored destinations of German immigrants. Also, the Northern Kentucky and Louisville area along the Ohio River was a favored destination. By 1900, the populations of the cities of Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati were all more than 40% German American. Dubuque and Davenport, Iowa had even larger proportions, as did Omaha, Nebraska, where the proportion of German Americans was 57% in 1910. In many other cities of the Midwest, such as Fort Wayne, Indiana, German Americans were at least 30% of the population.[32][50] By 1850 there were 5,000 Germans, mostly Schwabians living in, and around, Ann Arbor, Michigan.[51]

Many concentrations acquired distinctive names suggesting their heritage, such as the "Over-the-Rhine" district in Cincinnati and "German Village" in Columbus, Ohio.[52]

A favorite destination was Milwaukee, known as "the German Athens". Radical Germans trained in politics in the old country dominated the city's Socialists. Skilled workers dominated many crafts, while entrepreneurs created the brewing industry; the most famous brands included Pabst, Schlitz, Miller, and Blatz.[53]

Whereas half of German immigrants settled in cities, the other half established farms in the Midwest. From Ohio to the Plains states, a heavy presence persists in rural areas into the 21st century.[25][54]

Deep South

Few German immigrants settled in the Deep South, apart from New Orleans, the German Coast, and Texas.[55]

Texas

The Wahrenberger House in Austin served as a German-American school.[56]

Texas attracted many Germans who entered through Galveston and Indianola, both those who came to farm, and later immigrants who more rapidly took industrial jobs in cities such as Houston. As in Milwaukee, Germans in Houston built the brewing industry. By the 1920s, the first generation of college-educated German Americans were moving into the chemical and oil industries.[25]

Texas had about 20,000 German Americans in the 1850s. They did not form a uniform bloc, but were highly diverse and drew from geographic areas and all sectors of European society, except that very few aristocrats or upper middle class businessmen arrived. In this regard, Texas Germania was a microcosm of the Germania nationwide.

The Germans who settled Texas were diverse in many ways. They included peasant farmers and intellectuals; Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and atheists; Prussians, Saxons, and Hessians; abolitionists and slave owners; farmers and townsfolk; frugal, honest folk and ax murderers. They differed in dialect, customs, and physical features. A majority had been farmers in Germany, and most arrived seeking economic opportunities. A few dissident intellectuals fleeing the 1848 revolutions sought political freedom, but few, save perhaps the Wends, went for religious freedom. The German settlements in Texas reflected their diversity. Even in the confined area of the Hill Country, each valley offered a different kind of German. The Llano valley had stern, teetotaling German Methodists, who renounced dancing and fraternal organizations; the Pedernales valley had fun-loving, hardworking Lutherans and Catholics who enjoyed drinking and dancing; and the Guadalupe valley had freethinking Germans descended from intellectual political refugees. The scattered German ethnic islands were also diverse. These small enclaves included Lindsay in Cooke County, largely Westphalian Catholic; Waka in Ochiltree County, Midwestern Mennonite; Hurnville in Clay County, Russian German Baptist; and Lockett in Wilbarger County, Wendish Lutheran.[57]

Germans from Russia

Temporary quarters for Volga Germans in central Kansas, 1875

Germans from Russia were the most traditional of German-speaking arrivals.[citation needed] They were Germans who had lived for generations throughout the Russian Empire, but especially along the Volga River in Russia and near the Crimea. Their ancestors had come from all over the German-speaking world, invited by Catherine the Great in 1762 and 1763 to settle and introduce more advanced German agriculture methods to rural Russia. They had been promised by the manifesto of their settlement the ability to practice their respective Christian denominations, retain their culture and language, and retain immunity from conscription for them and their descendants. As time passed, the Russian monarchy gradually eroded the ethnic German population's relative autonomy. Conscription eventually was reinstated; this was especially harmful to the Mennonites, who practice pacifism. Throughout the 19th century, pressure increased from the Russian government to culturally assimilate. Many Germans from Russia found it necessary to emigrate to avoid conscription and preserve their culture. About 100,000 immigrated by 1900, settling primarily in the Dakotas, Kansas and Nebraska. The southern central part of North Dakota was known as "the German-Russian triangle". A smaller number moved farther west, finding employment as ranchers and cowboys.

Negatively influenced by the violation of their rights and cultural persecution by the Tsar, the Germans from Russia who settled in the northern Midwest saw themselves a downtrodden ethnic group separate from Russian Americans and having an entirely different experience from the German Americans who had emigrated from German lands; they settled in tight-knit communities that retained their German language and culture. They raised large families, built German-style churches, buried their dead in distinctive cemeteries using cast iron grave markers, and created choir groups that sang German church hymns. Many farmers specialized in sugar beets—still a major crop in the upper Great Plains. During World War I, their identity was challenged by anti-German sentiment. By the end of World War II, the German language, which had always been used with English for public and official matters, was in serious decline. Today, German is preserved mainly through singing groups and recipes, with the Germans from Russia in the northern Great Plains states speaking predominantly English. German remains the second most spoken language in North and South Dakota, and Germans from Russia often use loanwords, such as Kuchen for cake. Despite the loss of their language, the ethnic group remains distinct, and has left a lasting impression on the American West.[58]

Civil War

Sentiment among German Americans was largely anti-slavery, especially among Forty-Eighters.[46] Notable Forty-Eighter Hermann Raster wrote passionately against slavery and was very pro-Lincoln. Raster published anti-slavery pamphlets and was the editor of the most influential German language newspaper in America at the time.[59] He helped secure the votes of German-Americans across the United States for Abraham Lincoln. When Raster died the Chicago Tribune published an article regarding his service as a correspondent for America to the German states saying, "His writings during and after the Civil War did more to create understanding and appreciation of the American situation in Germany and to float U.S. bonds in Europe than the combined efforts of all the U.S. ministers and consuls."[60] Hundreds of thousands of German Americans volunteered to fight for the Union in the American Civil War (1861–1865).[61] The Germans were the largest immigrant group to participate in the Civil War; over 176,000 U.S. soldiers were born in Germany.[62] A popular Union commander among Germans, Major General Franz Sigel was the highest-ranking German officer in the Union Army, with many German immigrants claiming to enlist to "fight mit Sigel".[63]

The German vote in 1900 was in doubt; they opposed the "repudiation" policy of Bryan (right poster), but also disliked the overseas expansion McKinley had delivered (left poster)

Although only one in four Germans fought in all-German regiments, they created the public image of the German soldier. Pennsylvania fielded five German regiments, New York eleven, and Ohio six.[61]

Farmers

Western railroads, with large land grants available to attract farmers, set up agencies in Hamburg and other German cities, promising cheap transportation, and sales of farmland on easy terms. For example, the Santa Fe railroad hired its own commissioner for immigration, and sold over 300,000 acres (1,200 km2) to German-speaking farmers.[64]

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the German Americans showed a high interest in becoming farmers, and keeping their children and grandchildren on the land. While they needed profits to stay in operation, they used profits as a tool "to maintain continuity of the family."[65] They used risk averse strategies, and carefully planned their inheritances to keep the land in the family. Their communities showed smaller average farm size, greater equality, less absentee ownership and greater geographic persistence. As one farmer explained, "To protect your family has turned out to be the same thing as protecting your land."[66]

Germany was a large country with many diverse subregions which contributed immigrants. Dubuque was the base of the Ostfriesische Nachrichten ("East Fresian News") from 1881 to 1971. It connected the 20,000 immigrants from East Friesland (Ostfriesland), Germany, to each other across the Midwest, and to their old homeland. In Germany East Friesland was often a topic of ridicule regarding backward rustics, but editor Leupke Hündling shrewdly combined stories of proud memories of Ostfriesland. The editor enlisted a network of local correspondents. By mixing local American and local German news, letters, poetry, fiction, and dialogue, the German-language newspaper allowed immigrants to honor their origins and celebrate their new life as highly prosperous farmers with much larger farms than were possible back in impoverished Ostfriesland. During the world wars, when Germania came under heavy attack, the paper stressed its humanitarian role, mobilizing readers to help the people of East Friesland with relief funds. Younger generations could usually speak German but not read it, so the subscription based dwindled away as the target audience Americanized itself.[67]

Politics

Relatively few German Americans held office, but the men voted once they became citizens. In general during the Third party System (1850s–1890s), the Protestants and Jews leaned toward the Republican party and the Catholics were strongly Democratic. When prohibition was on the ballot, the Germans voted solidly against it. They strongly distrusted moralistic crusaders, whom they called "Puritans", including the temperance reformers and many Populists. The German community strongly opposed Free Silver, and voted heavily against crusader William Jennings Bryan in 1896. In 1900, however, many German Democrats returned to their party and voted for Bryan, perhaps because of President William McKinley's foreign policy.[68]

At the local level, historians have explored the changing voting behavior of the German-American community and one of its major strongholds, St. Louis, Missouri. The German Americans had voted 80 percent for Lincoln in 1860, and strongly supported the war effort. They were a bastion of the Republican Party in St. Louis and nearby immigrant strongholds in Missouri and southern Illinois. The German Americans were angered by a proposed Missouri state constitution that discriminated against Catholics and freethinkers. The requirement of a special loyalty oath for priests and ministers was troublesome. Despite their strong opposition the constitution was ratified in 1865. Racial tensions with the blacks began to emerge, especially in terms of competition for unskilled labor jobs. Germania was nervous about black suffrage in 1868, fearing that blacks would support puritanical laws, especially regarding the prohibition of beer gardens on Sundays. The tensions split off a large German element in 1872, led by Carl Schurz. They supported the Liberal Republican party led by Benjamin Gratz Brown for governor in 1870 and Horace Greeley for president in 1872.[69]

Many Germans in late 19th century cities were communists; Germans played a significant role in the labor union movement.[70][71] A few were anarchists.[72] Eight of the forty-two anarchist defendants in the Haymarket Affair of 1886 in Chicago were German.

World Wars

Intellectuals

Hugo Münsterberg, Harvard professor of psychology

Hugo Münsterberg (1863–1916), a German psychologist, moved to Harvard in the 1890s and became a leader in the new profession. He was president of the American Psychological Association in 1898, and the American Philosophical Association in 1908, and played a major role in many other American and international organizations.[73]

Arthur Preuss (1871–1934) was a leading journalist, and theologian. A layman in St Louis. His Fortnightly Review (in English) was a major conservative voice read closely by church leaders and intellectuals from 1894 until 1934. He was intensely loyal to the Vatican. Preuss upheld the German Catholic community, denounced the "Americanism" heresy, promoted the Catholic University of America, and anguished over the anti-German America hysteria during World War I. He provided lengthy commentary regarding the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the anti-Catholic factor in the presidential campaign of 1928, the hardships of the Great Depression, and the liberalism of the New Deal.[74][75]

World War I anti-German sentiment

During World War I (1914–18, American involvement 1917-18), German Americans were often accused of being too sympathetic to Imperial Germany. Former president Theodore Roosevelt denounced "hyphenated Americanism", insisting that dual loyalties were impossible in wartime. A small minority came out for Germany, or ridiculed the British (as did H. L. Mencken). Similarly, Harvard psychology professor Hugo Münsterberg dropped his efforts to mediate between America and Germany, and threw his efforts behind the German cause.[76][77]

The Justice Department prepared a list of all German aliens, counting approximately 480,000 of them, more than 4,000 of whom were imprisoned in 1917–18. The allegations included spying for Germany, or endorsing the German war effort.[78] Thousands were forced to buy war bonds to show their loyalty.[79] The Red Cross barred individuals with German last names from joining in fear of sabotage. One person was killed by a mob; in Collinsville, Illinois, German-born Robert Prager was dragged from jail as a suspected spy and lynched.[80] A Minnesota minister was tarred and feathered when he was overheard praying in German with a dying woman.[81]

In Chicago, Frederick Stock temporarily stepped down as conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra until he finalized his naturalization papers. Orchestras replaced music by German composer Wagner with French composer Berlioz. In Cincinnati, the public library was asked to withdraw all German books from its shelves.[82] German-named streets were renamed. The town, Berlin, Michigan, was changed to Marne, Michigan (honoring those who fought in the Battle of Marne). In Iowa, in the 1918 Babel Proclamation, the governor prohibited all foreign languages in schools and public places. Nebraska banned instruction in any language except English, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the ban illegal in 1923 (Meyer v. Nebraska).[83] The response of German Americans to these tactics was often to "Americanize" names (e.g., Schmidt to Smith, Müller to Miller) and limit the use of the German language in public places, especially churches.[84]

World War II

Marlene Dietrich signing a soldier's cast (Belgium, 1944).

Between 1931 and 1940, 114,000 Germans moved to the United States, many of whom—including Nobel prize winner Albert Einstein and author Erich Maria Remarque—were Jewish Germans or anti-Nazis fleeing government oppression.[85] About 25,000 people became paying members of the pro-Nazi German American Bund during the years before the war.[86] German aliens were the subject of suspicion and discrimination during the war, although prejudice and sheer numbers meant they suffered as a group generally less than Japanese Americans. The Alien Registration Act of 1940 required 300,000 German-born resident aliens who had German citizenship to register with the Federal government and restricted their travel and property ownership rights.[87][88] Under the still active Alien Enemy Act of 1798, the United States government interned nearly 11,000 German citizens between 1940 and 1948. Civil rights violations occurred.[89] An unknown number of "voluntary internees" joined their spouses and parents in the camps and were not permitted to leave.[90][91][92]

President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought out Americans of German ancestry for top war jobs, including General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, and USAAF General Carl Andrew Spaatz. He appointed Republican Wendell Willkie (who ironically ran against Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election) as a personal representative. German Americans who had fluent German language skills were an important asset to wartime intelligence, and they served as translators and as spies for the United States.[93] The war evoked strong pro-American patriotic sentiments among German Americans, few of whom by then had contacts with distant relatives in the old country.[25][94]

Number of German Americans
Year Number
1980[95]
49,224,146
1990[96]
57,947,374
2000[97]
42,885,162
2010[98]
47,911,129

Contemporary period

Parking meter checker stands by his police vehicle which is imprinted with the German word for police (Polizei). It is part of the town's highlighting its German ethnic origins. New Ulm, Minnesota, July 1974.

In the aftermath of World War II, millions of ethnic Germans were forcibly expelled from their homes within the redrawn borders of Central and Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia. Most resettled in Germany, but others came as refugees to the United States in the late 1940s, and established cultural centers in their new homes. Some Danube Swabians, for instance, ethnic Germans who had maintained language and customs after settlement along the Danube in Hungary, later Yugoslavia (now Serbia), immigrated to the U.S. after the war.

After 1970, anti-German sentiment aroused by World War II faded away.[99] Today, German Americans who immigrated after World War II share the same characteristics as any other Western European immigrant group in the U.S. They are mostly professionals and academics who have come for professional reasons. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and reunification, Germany has become a preferred destination for immigrants rather than a source of migrating peoples.[100]

US Ancestries by County, Germany in light blue, as of 2000 census

In the 1990 U.S. Census, 58 million Americans claimed to be solely or partially of German descent.[101] According to the 2005 American Community Survey, 50 million Americans have German ancestry. German Americans represent 17% of the total U.S. population and 26% of the non-Hispanic white population.[102]

The Economist magazine in 2015 interviewed Petra Schürmann, the director of the German-American Heritage Museum in Washington for a major article on German-Americans. She notes that all over the United States celebrations such as German fests and Oktoberfests have been appearing.

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