Our Destroyed Heritage Continued: Goodbye Sauerkraut

In 1900, as part of the “German Triangle,” one out of every four Chicagoans had either been born in Germany or had a parent born there. Thousands upon thousands more had German ancestry. The established German community was economically successful, owning many businesses and much of the housing. There were also large numbers of recent Polish and Bohemian immigrants, and tensions arose with nationalistic, lower income Poles and Czechs who tended to view Germany as the only obstacle left to the nationhoods of their homelands.

The CPI instigated this situation further, and once hysteria gained momentum, a Polish Alderman presented a bill to rename German-named streets. 1,000 Polish-Americans attended the secret, unannounced meeting and signed the petition. They were successful. Coblentz Street became McLean, Lubeck became Dickens, Frankfort became Charleston and Hamburg became Shakespeare. All east-west streets in one neighborhood had German names in 1880 and none did after the change.

The Bismarck Hotel became Hotel Randolph, German Hospital was renamed Grant Hospital and the Hotel Kaiserhof was changed to the Hotel Atlantic. The Bismarck Beer Gardens was rechristened as Marigold Gardens, the Germania Club became the Lincoln Club, the Kaiser Friedrich Mutual Aid Society became George Washington Benevolent Aid Society, and the Chicago Athletic Club fired its German-born employees. A Chicago women’s organization called the “Use Nothing German” club burned and broke various “products of Hun-land” in a display of patriotism. When all alien German employees in the city of Chicago were fired or told to step down.

The number of people claiming German ancestry dropped steeply after the War, far more than could be accounted for by emigration or mortality. The number of people who admitted German heritage in Illinois, for example, declined from 191,000 in 1914 to 112,000 in 1920.

The Chicago statue of Goethe in Lincoln Park was vandalized and painted yellow in 1918 after the city did not remove it by mob demand. In Pennsylvania, the unveiling of the monument by Albert Jaegers to the 1683 founding of Germantown by Francis Daniel Pastorius was postponed because of anti-German sentiment during the War and it was boxed up by the War Department until 1920.

In 1913 Bloomington, Illinois there were German-language schools, a German-language weekly newspaper and two major German churches. German Day celebrations included a re-creation of Berlin’s “Unter den Linden,” with buildings draped with German and American flags. The festivities opened with a grand concert at the Coliseum which opened with “ Die Wacht am Rhine ” which brought the enthusiastic, cheering crowd to its feet.

The Central Illinois Saengerbund followed with another popular performance. Schools closed so that children could watch the parade whose floats included both Columbia, representing America, and Germania, with 25 young women on horseback carrying German flags. The local newspapers said that the German immigrant exemplified the “humble virtues” of citizenship and that the “Teuton” had “solid and sturdy worth, manhood, good humor, good nature and good sense.” Four years later, this goodwill was entirely forgotten and German language newspapers, church services and schools came to a crashing halt.

By 1880, 46 percent of St. Louis, Missouri public school kids were German and 20,000 youngsters still received lessons in German every day. Dozens of German breweries and newspapers were operating in the city. In 1915, St. Louis German Americans were raising money for their German brethren in the homeland who were suffering immensely from the British hunger blockade. But within two years, the city’s biggest newspaper pledged to “absolutely eliminate once and for all, any and every single trace of anything German” in its fair city. Shortly after, Berlin Avenue was renamed Pershing, Bismark Street became 4th Street and Kaiser Street was changed to Gresham. A ways distant, Luxembourg, Missouri became Lemay.

Michigan was well stocked with Germans as well. German immigration to Detroit began before 1820 and increased following the failed 1848 German revolutions. As early as 1875, there were eight separate German singing groups in Detroit. The Harmonie Society in Detroit offered singing, food, bowling and social life for many years and ranked with other cultural societies such as the Carpathia Club, Saenger Halle and the Schwaben Unterstitzungs Verein and Schwaebische Maennerchor. There were workers’ halls (Arbeiter Halle), Turnvereins, and scores of clubs and publications for each and every separate ethnic German group within the city, with schools and churches catering to these Germans.

There were once numerous German grocers, butchers, breweries and factories. In 1914, when war broke out in Europe, the Carpathia Club singers rallied to the cause of providing relief for widows and orphans of German and Austro-Hungarian soldiers. The Society sponsored several benefit concerts and the first concert netted $898.50. The money was channeled to the needy in Europe through the Red Cross. The Society continued these benefit activities until 1917, when the United States entered the war, when it was prohibited from holding any more benefit concerts.

Even now, Germans are still the largest white ancestral group in Michigan, representing over 2.6 million descendants, or 22% of the state’s population. But there is no trace of “German town” in today’s blighted city of Detroit and little mention of its once proud German culture.. which vanished.

A typical assault on any German studies in the US university system is the one which took place on the University of Michigan, a college which was actually modeled on the typical German university and had a long, renowned and respected Germanic educational and cultural tradition. Before the war, over a quarter of the students were enrolled in classes in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literature. After the bullying “National Security League” was founded to exterminate “un-American” values, German-purging replaced the historically peaceful campus.

When they requested that an official inquiry be made into the loyalty of all University of Michigan faculty, the regents at first ignored the request. However, in October of 1917, Professor Carl E. Eggert of the German Department was dismissed for allegations that he was “pro-German,” and also in 1917, Professor Ewald Boucke, a German national, was forced into requesting a leave of absence for the duration of the war, a request that was granted “indefinitely.” When he asked for reinstatement at the end of the war, he was denied. The University was cleansed of all faculty suspected of “pacifism or subversive” thoughts, and a violent end came to the Germanic studies programs, where enrollment in German courses at the University plummeted from 1,300 to 150. Even the local German newspaper, the Washtenaw Post, was barred from the U.S. Post Office.

Way down yonder, the earliest recorded German immigrants to Louisiana arrived in 1722. Between 1848 to 1900, Germans were the largest foreign-language speaking group in Louisiana. By 1850, fully one-fifth of Louisiana’s population was German-speaking, and there were more than 50 German newspapers and journals published in the state. Despite a large, historic German settlement in bayou country, during World War I, the Louisiana state legislature passed Act 114 which made all expressions of German culture and heritage, especially the printed or spoken use of the German language, illegal. New Orleans tossed out German books and changed street names. Berlin Street became Pershing Street.

Also on the Gulf, Galveston was a point of entry for German immigrants into the state of Texas in the 19th century. Galveston’s Garten Verein Pavilion is all that remains as testament to the social life of the city’s large German minority. Formed in 1876 on a city block, it included a clubhouse, dancing pavilion, bowling alleys, tennis courts, croquet grounds within the gardens, and swings, benches, drinking fountains, flower-bordered paths, and at night, orchestras for dancing. At one time, the club had over 600 members. Another victim of the demise of German American culture during World War One, it was given to the City of Galveston for a public playground in 1923. The assault on Texas German culture had not ended with armistice. In 1919, Governor William Hobby of Texas vetoed appropriations for the German department at The University of Texas at Austin.

In the area around Ebenezer, Georgia where German-speaking Salzburgers were the first settlers in the early 18th century, businesses with German-sounding names took on new ones: German Mutual Fire Insurance Company became the Atlanta Mutual Fire Insurance Company and the German-American club was renamed the Lexington Society.

All over America, on a social level and in all levels of education both public and private, the destruction spread like cancer. In North Dakota, a German and French teacher at Grand Forks High School was forced to resign in 1917 because of suspicion she was a “German sympathizer.” Meanwhile, in South Dakota, 75 students broke into a Yankton high school and threw all of the German books in the Missouri River. In Colorado, a German book burning rally drew hundreds. In Kansas, a German parochial school was burned down, and in May, 1918, the Knoxville Tennessee school board voted unanimously to remove the study of German language from their public schools.

In May of 1918, a large bonfire of German textbooks marked the beginning of the “War Chest” campaign in Butte, Montana. The use of German in public and private schools was banned by the Montana State Council of Defense. When the Fergus, Montana school board was tardy in complying and continued its German language classes, a mob stormed the school and presented an ultimatum to the principal to deliver the books. 500 people encircled the school while a group went in to retrieve the books. The principal was then forced to kiss the American flag and proclaim his loyalty. While the books were burned the crowd sang the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ The use of German in Montana churches was also banned, a law that was enforced even after the armistice.

Teachers and professors of German birth or heritage were either fired or harassed all over the nation from Ivy league schools to small midwestern colleges. Rudolph Blome was named president of Northern Arizona Normal School in 1909. Immediately recognized as gifted and enthusiastic, he enthusiastically lent his heart and professionalism to the campus. Under his successful leadership, class size grew from 68 to 300. He developed scores of activities, including inter-scholastic sports, and he expanded the facilities. One of the school’s finest presidents, he was forced to leave because of his German birth and education For months, the school and the students rallied against his removal but he was nevertheless dismissed in the spring of 1918. He never recovered and died broken hearted three years later in California.

Oklahoma banned the speaking and teaching of the German language and German-language newspapers were violently forced to cease publication. Even in 1919, after Armistice, the Oklahoma Legislature passed the English-Language Law, requiring that only English be taught through the eighth grade in schools.

German immigrants played significant roles in Utah’s history since the days of the fur trade in the early 1800s. German immigration peaked in Utah around the turn of the 20th century and German organizations flourished. The Salt Lake Beobachter, begun in 1890, was a German newspaper which provided news of the homeland and maintained a network for German-born immigrants living in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. By 1917, although some returned to their birthland to join the German army, Utah’s German-Americans had been pressured into “patriotism” by buying war bonds, holding fund-raising drives, registering for the draft and joining the army. Still, their loyalty was suspect and German clubs, including the LDS German organization, were forced to suspend activities. Official action was taken to end the teaching of German in Utah schools. However, the German language “Salt Lake Beobachter” was allowed to continue to be published but only under the required masthead: “American in everything but language.”

Farther out west, Santa Clara, California’s substantial German population had its own neighborhood and made up 20 percent of the town’s total population. German businesses included a famous brewery, a beer-bottling plant, saloons, bakeries, a paint shop, pharmacies, and other essential businesses. There were several saloons as well as a social club, the Santa Clara Verein with a large frescoed and tasteful decorated hall with a large stage at one end. The Club was divided into a turn-verein for gymnastic exercises, as well as a venue for dramatic and musical affairs. The building also served many other functions and hosted social gatherings. Santa Clara’s Germans had their own German-language newspaper. Then came World War One and anti-German sentiment. Pride in German heritage became dangerous, and within a few years Santa Clara’s German neighborhood faded into oblivion with America’s others. Over time, most of the neighborhood’s old buildings were torn down. Today, some of the privies on the site are being excavated and examined by archaeologists. It seems “Germanicus-Americanus Rex” has gone the way of the dinosaur.

The cartoon second from left reads, “Those who spread Kultur.” Next to it, a Utah internment camp.

The Band did not Play on: The Assault on German Music

The Liederkranz Societies were under constant fire, and since Germans were so predominant in American music culture, many were victims of hate and violence. All German and Austrian sheet music was removed and burned in many libraries. When Omaha orchestra leader Otto Scharf was staying in a Nebraska Hotel on April 22, 1918, it was smeared with yellow paint by the “Council of Defense.” When the hotel proprietor tried to stop them, he was painted as well. Scharf was then arrested for disturbing the peace!

Beethoven was banned in Pittsburgh. The German repertoire of the New York Metropolitan Opera Company was replaced with Italian and French works. Shortly after Frederick A. Stock, the German conductor of the Chicago Symphony, was fired, Dr. Karl Muck, the German-born conductor of the Boston Symphony, began to be harassed by onlookers at his concerts. Having been cleared of any wrong doing or ‘suspicious activity’ in two grueling Federal investigations, Muck was suddenly arrested again on March 25, 1918, and placed in the prison/internment camp at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia as a “dangerous enemy alien.” Muck, whose crime was that, despite warnings, he still included German music in some repertoires, would soon have company.

Vienna born Dr. Ernst Kunwald was the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 1912 to 1917. In November of 1917, the Daughters of the American Revolution pressured the Pittsburgh public safety director to forbid “a German” (Kunwald) from conducting his orchestra which was on tour in that city. US Marshals Service dutifully arrested Kunwald and his wife on December 8, 1917 and released him from jail the next day after he agreed to resign as conductor.

All the same, on January 12, 1918, he was rearrested and interned under the Alien Enemies Act and imprisoned with fellow conductor Muck. The evidence which led to Kunwald’s internment was not “divulged,” but in a memo dated December 19, 1917 from J. Edgar Hoover to the US Attorney General, it was stated that Kunwald had once conducted the Star-Spangled Banner before a concert in which he told the largely German-American audience in response to a question that he “also felt sympathy for his homeland.” He was deported to Königsberg where he continued to conduct until he moved to Berlin in 1928. Photo above: Muck. Bottom: Kunwalt and his wife being hauled to prison, but not for passing bad notes or worthless instruments.

The Daughters of the American Revolution also denounced famed violinist Fritz Kreisler when he tried to take the stage in Pittsburgh. After Baltimore, Washington and Cleveland also canceled his performances, Kreisler retired for the duration of the war.

It is interesting to note that although Germany, historically a land of great music, produced so many musical geniuses through the ages, German musicians of the World War One era have been almost completely ignored by the media. Most talented German composers of the early twentieth century, such as Max Reger, Hans Pfitzner and Franz Schmidt, have received very little if any recognition.




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