|The following pages are an unpleasant journey into hate. They do not pretend to present a detailed
history of World War One, nor are they intended as a political statement. They serve only as an
attempt to illustrate the ravages of propaganda as applied to Germany and to German people world
wide and the lasting, irreversible effects of the biggest, concerted ethnic assault in human history.
Immediately before World War One, Germans made up the largest single nationality among the
foreign-born in the United States, yet today comparatively few signs remain of the once formidable
German American political or social power. Even today, although more Americans can claim German
descent than any other nationality, one would never guess that they were ever any more than a small
contingent from a third world country. There is no nationally recognized German ethnic holiday to
compare with an Irish St. Patrick's Day or an Italian Columbus Day. There are no sizable "German
towns" left in our cities or our nation. We do not hear small groups in the mall speaking German.
There are no German fast food joints hawking five minute Zwiebelkuchen...in fact, most German
eateries today struggle to survive while small Greek or Thai restaurants draw eager crowds. Indeed,
today the impact German Americans once made is scarcely discerned.
It is true that some German ethnic institutions had already begun a slow decline beginning in the
1890s for reasons other than the rabid anti-Germanism of World War One. For one thing, the violent
nature of radical nativism of the 19th century had already frightened many German Americans into
quickly shedding their ethnicity for their own safety and success. Then, the later, poorer German
immigrants adopted a common "white" racial identity in place of their ethnic identity as they mixed
and mingled with other ethnic groups in crowded tenements in the bigger cities. At the same time, the
long-established German immigrants viewed the poorer German new-comers as socially inferior.
These "older" Germans preferred being thought of as something akin to "Mayflower Germans" and
many merged with their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, class being more of a factor than ethnicity.
The church played a role in the decline of German ethnic identity as well, especially the Catholic
church in working-class neighborhoods whose parishioners eventually included Irish, Slavic and
Italian Catholics. By the 1920s, these groups tended to affiliate more and more with one another
as religion took precedence over ethnicity. Again, they saw themselves more as sharing a common
white, Catholic, European identity rather than a German identity and intermarriage between the
various ethnic groups became more common. Then there were other factors. By now, even the
historic German consumption of alcohol, which had came under attack by non-German Americans
for decades as a distinctly "German" habit, was shared with the Irish, Italians and others and became
instead a common American custom uniting the various ethnic groups in social pastimes. After "one
too many" they started to look pretty good to each other and off came the dirndls, kilts and fedoras.
In time, some Germans were also ethnically re-defined. Even in a state such as Pennsylvania with
its large rural German population, Germans became the "Pennsylvania Dutch" rather than the less
glamorous "Pennsylvania Germans". After World War One, Germans from the old ethnic German
areas taken away from Germany and the Habsburg Empire by the dictates of Versailles became
known not as the Germans they were, but as "Czech-born", "Polish-born" and "Bohemian-born",
blurring their ethnic identity even more. This was not only acceptable but preferable to most German
Americans, who at this point in time wanted nothing to do with their German heritage.
Other white European ethnic identities also waned in the early twentieth century, but none in such a
violent manner that compelled people to change their names and pretend to have sprung from some
other ethnic group! It would be nice to look for less obvious reasons for the homicidal demise of
German cultural identity in America rather than face the cold, hard fact that it was poisoned in a
hideously calculated manner.
Sociologists now and then try to set forth new theories pointing in some other more palatable
direction, but the sad truth remains that the grueling standard set by the propagandists for proving
national loyalty demanded that all German Americans be "100 percent American" and this
anti-German assault not only made the public expression of German ethnicity virtually impossible
during the war, but continued afterward with public German-ness becoming more and more
repugnant until it trickled into nothingness.
The one critical element in maintaining a mutual German cultural identity among the wide variety
of Germans: Germans in the homeland, ethnic Germans and American Germans, was the German
language, and once that binding tie had been lethally severed by the intentional and relentless attacks
on the German language in the war years, there was no hope of a cultural resurrection. There were
no longer local German newspapers filled with chatty gossip. The German reading section at the local
library was gone. German language services in churches were no longer available. German language
classes were no longer offered in schools. Thousands of German books had been destroyed.
Everything else German was gone as well. The good German deli on the corner was torn down. The
beergardens, Turnvereins, Liederkranz clubs, Schützenvereins...all vanished in the blink of an eye.
German American cultural icons which had for decades been near and dear to the hearts of a people
were dead along with the family bible, the generations-old lullabies, the folktales handed down from
grandparents and sometimes even the family names.
What happens to a culture once the language is no longer spoken, the oral histories and legends are
forgotten, the food is no longer consumed, the native dress is changed, the traditional music is
silenced, the folk dances are lost and the family lore thrown out? What happens when that heritage is
so thoroughly erased that there are no reminders of a past, no knowledge of the long history, when
nothing familiar in an environment is distinctly part of that heritage? Even worse, what happens when
the only reference to that culture is negative, degrading, insulting or obscene?
No other large immigrant group in the twentieth century witnessed its heritage be as thoroughly
vilified, and none suffered such sustained pressure to shed its entire ethnic identity for an "American"
one. Nor did any other ethnic group reject, hide or disparage its ethnic identity to so great an extent
as the Germans did. However, this denigration of a "hyphenated" ethnic allegiance, while initially
aimed solely at Germans, resulted in the abolition of not only German-Americanism , indeed, all of
our various European-American cultures, until it recently became popular to embrace "multi-
culturalism" as it applies to new immigrants and minorities. By then it was far too late for any
distinctly European-American culture to return, and even if rediscovering a European identity did
become acceptable or chic for other ethnic groups, it would still be looked at as taboo for Germans.
There will probably never again be such a thing as a socially acceptable proud German.
Even today, our media concentrates what scant attention it bestows on anything German almost
completely from a negative perspective until the point where the very word "German" is synonymous
with "bad". German historical figures of greatness are rarely mentioned or their contributions are
ignored, "misappropriated" or minimized. We are subjected to hundreds of dated British serials and
sit-coms on public television which obsess about evil "Germans".
The media relentlessly perpetuates negative German stereotypes which in any other case would be
considered highly improper, whether it be mocking the German accent to advertisements showing
silly, fat Germans yodeling for cheese. An acceptance of Germans being "fair game" permeates our
schools and other institutions even now. Hundreds of the visitors speaking to school children across
the world daily to relate atrocities committed over seventy years ago by National Socialists refer to
the villains not as "nazis" but rather as (collectively) "Germans", thereby poisoning another
generation. This must end, and this the story of how it began.....