When America Wiped Out Its German Heritage

Paul Hair

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As the American ruling class giddily wipes out all of American history right now, it’s a good time to look back at how the ruling class did the same thing to German heritage in America in the early 20th century.

From the U.S. Library of Congress:

For German Americans, the 20th century was a time of growth and consolidation; their numbers increased, their finances became more stable, and Americans of German heritage rose to positions of great power and distinction. For German American culture, however, the new century was a time of severe setbacks--and a devastating blow from which it has never fully recovered.

The coming of World War I brought with it a backlash against German culture in the United States. When the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917, anti-German sentiment rose across the nation, and German American institutions came under attack. Some discrimination was hateful, but cosmetic: The names of schools, foods, streets, and towns, were often changed, and music written by Wagner and Mendelssohn was removed from concert programs and even weddings. Physical attacks, though rare, were more violent: German American businesses and homes were vandalized, and German Americans accused of being “pro-German” were tarred and feathered, and, in at least once instance, lynched.

The most pervasive damage was done, however, to German language and education. German-language newspapers were either run out of business or chose to quietly close their doors. German-language books were burned, and Americans who spoke German were threatened with violence or boycotts. German-language classes, until then a common part of the public-school curriculum, were discontinued and, in many areas, outlawed entirely. None of these institutions ever fully recovered, and the centuries-old tradition of German language and literature in the United States was pushed to the margins of national life, and in many places effectively ended.

Click over to the Library of Congress to read the entire thing.

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Comments (4)
No. 1-2

The Lutheran Hymnal (church service and songs) changed from German to English in 1941. English was becoming a predominant language among the churched, but the timing certainly had something to do with WWII.


Definitely something my family experienced first hand. My paternal grandparents changed their name upon immigrating to the United States. The funny thing was it was actually a Dutch surname, but the anti-German sentiment was so high it was changed to the more American sounding Field from Veldhuisen.