German Immigrant Discrimination
In The United States
By Heather S. Wenick
January 7, 2012
Dr. Doreen McAfee
The majority of German who immigrated to America started doing so in the eighteenth century. The first German colony was Germantown, Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1863. In addition to this community, Germans tended to migrate over much of the east coast and into the mid-west of the United States. Like most other immigrants, they tended to flock to their own neighborhoods and made mini communities within larger cities. Cities like Milwaukee, Cincinnati and St. Louis were actually known for their strong German cultures. (Hoobler,? 1998).
Upon their arrival to the United States of America, many Germans were extremely successful. They were able to rise quickly in businesses and newspapers, some venturing out to begin their own profitable companies. Some German-Americans were even able to go as far as hold spots in Political office. Quite a few Germans were able to climb to the top of social circles and branch out to form their own societies and clubs. Most German women tended to stay out of clerical and factory positions and were more typically found as nurses, salon keepers and tailors. (“Immigration: The Germans”,? nod).
The transformation of views on Germans did not begin to appear in the United States until around 1914, when World War 1 began. This is when opinions of German-Americans began to decline rapidly. While most immigrants worked in their own bakeries and butcher shops, these businesses were not as supported as they once were. Establishments owned by German immigrants closed and newspapers were forced to shut down because no one would recognize them as supportive of the Americans decision to enter the war in 1917. (“German Immigration”,? n.d.).
When people think about discrimination of German immigrants this is the most significant time for it. During this time towns and street names deriving from German names were actually changed. German-Americans decided that they too would make their names seem more Americanized so as not to reveal where they originated from. Businesses and homes of the German-Americans were being vandalized and immigrant outcasts were being beaten in the streets. (Hoobler,? 1998). Also throughout this time, symphony orchestras and radio stations were urged, and some banned, from playing music that was composed by Germans. The German language which had become a prominent part of the education and religious circuit was cut out completely in most areas. Most German immigrants chose not to speak their language in public for fear they would be criticized. While the German-Americans were not forced into segregated areas or told they were not allowed to hold certain positions, they were often looked over for certain positions in companies.
It wasn??™t until the end of the First World War that Germans again became able to flourish and become successful in The United States of America. They were once again recognized as contributing factors to society and were not chastised for their heritages. However, when the Second World War began and the US entered this war as well, immigrants again faced prejudice and persecution. Some immigrants were actually arrested and some faced internment in camps and prisons. Several were even deported back to their native land, innocent bystanders in the war of the world. The United States government seemed to take things to the next level and treat the German-American immigrants the same way that the Nazis were treating the Jewish people. They were having property ceased and destroyed. German-Americans were called ???enemy aliens??? or ???enemy ancestry.??? They were not allowed to serve in the military during this period of time and were forced to again seek freedom from a place they called home. The use of the ???prisoners??? was later used as an exchange tool for Americans that were detained during the war overseas. Those who were not used as bargaining chips during the aftermath of war were allowed to return to their homes under the scrutinizing eye of the others in the community. To this day, there is no law to make sure that this sort of thing does not happen again. In fact the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians refused to review any of the crimes that were enforced upon the immigrants during this time. (Ebel,? 2003).?
While the Germans had contributed so much to the American way of life, some do not realize how mainstream it has become. It was the Germans who introduced the Christmas tree and Santa Claus. They also were the ones who made chocolate so popular. (“German Immigrants”,? n.d.). While I feel like I may have been more inclined to embrace my American side than my German Heritage, I have learned that the things that I truly enjoy the most are actually derived from the German Culture.
Hoobler, D. a. T.? (1998).? German Roots in America.? Retrieved from http://www.jeffhoffman.net/roots.htm
German Immigration.? (n.d.).? Retrieved from http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAEgermany.htm
Immigration: The Germans.? (n.d).? Retrieved from http://library.thinkquest.org/20619/German.html
German Immigrants.? (n.d.).? Retrieved from http://portfolio.educ.kent.edu/mcclellandr/zackthezipper/german.htm
Ebel, K. E.? (2003).? WWII Violations of German American Civil Liberties by the US Government.? Retrieved from http://www.foitimes.com/gasummary.htm