My German Ancestors

My German Ancestors

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Being German-American is a very personal thing. We want and we find external independence here, a free middle-class way of life, uninhibited progress in industrial development, in short, political freedom. To this extent we are completely American. We build our houses the way Americans do, but inside there is a German hearth that glows. We wear an American hat, but under its brim German eyes peer forth from a German face. We love our wives with German fidelity. . . We live according to what is customary in America, but we hold dear our German customs and traditions. We speak English, but we think and feel in German. Our reason speaks with the words of an Anglo-American, but our hearts understand only our mother tongue. While our eyes are fixed on an American horizon, in our souls the dear old German sky arches upward. Our entire emotional lives are, in a word, German, and anything that would satisfy our inner longing must appear in German attire [Cincinnati Volksfreund, Nov. 13, 1 848]. (Adams)
The conditions of which German immigrants faced were horrific and every person who has a trace of German ancestry, including myself, should be disgusted. German
immigration to the U.S. - was made difficult by the hardships they suffered in Germany and the persecution they experienced when they arrived in the U.S.
To begin with, hardships suffered in Germany made German immigrants? journey to the U.S. difficult. Throughout Germany, in the 1700?s, worsening conditions of farm ownership became a common push factor for German immigrants. The decline of land conditions made growing crops, of any type, nearly impossible and what little land there was to be had was already owned. (German American) Also, many immigrants fled to America because of the many revolutions in the 1860's and the poverty that almost always follows war. Following the revolutions in German states in 1848, a wave of political refugees fled to America, and became known as Forty-Eighters. In one twenty year span in the late 1800's, Germany went to war at least seven times taking on neighboring countries such as: Austria, France, Belgium and Russia. Much money was spent on the war effort in Germany. People were taxed heavily just to buy bullets for the army. (German Immigration) Following these costly wars came the onrush of millions of German immigrants, only to find that another war had been brewing in America.

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In the time between the 1930?s and 40?s, 115,000 Germans moved to the United States, many of whom, including Nobel prize winner Albert Einstein, were Jewish or anti-Nazis fleeing government oppression. Leading up to the war Russia?s leader, Joseph Stalin, killed hundreds of thousands of political rivals, anti-communists and German refugees. ?During Stalin?s purges, scores of refugees were slaughtered as Trotskyists or enemies of the state? (Heilbut). In the aftermath of WWII, tens of thousands of ethnic Germans were
expelled from nations in Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union, Poland and Yugoslavia. Many resettled in East Germany, but others came as refugees to the United
States in the late 1940s and established cultural centers in their new homes. Danouswabians, for instance, were ethnic Germans who had maintained language and customs after resettlement along the Danube in Hungary, later Yugoslavia (now Serbia). They were new immigrants to the US after the war (German American).
Furthermore the persecution from the U.S. increased the difficulty of immigration for Germans. Many Germans, who hoped to make a new life in America, did not even reach its shores. ?She was sent to Ellis Island, where many émigrés would wait weeks before being turned away and rerouted to Mexico? refugees from Hitler found themselves, waiting citizenship or a return to Europe, registered as ?enemy aliens?? (Heilbut). Germans were often ridiculed wherever people saw fit. Due to Germany?s near continuous wars, Germans were seen as warmongers and radicals. Several thousand vocal opponents of the war were imprisoned. Thousands were forced to buy war bonds to show their loyalty. ?The Red Cross barred individuals with German last names from joining in fear of sabotage. One man was hanged in Illinois, apparently for no other reason than that he appeared to be of German descent. The killers were found innocent of the crime and the hanging was called an act of patriotism by a jury. A Minnesota minister was tarred and feathered when he was overheard praying in German with a dying woman? (German American). "Well, I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I found out 3 things: first, the streets weren't paved with gold, second, they weren't paved at all, and third, I was expected to
pave them," says and old European story (Miller). Indeed the immigrants were made to work a lot of hard and unusual jobs for less than minimum wage. Many of the jobs were
dangerous and many people died in the mines. "The coal mines are the worst place to work. You say a prayer while your husband or son goes to work. You say another one when he comes home at night," said one wife (Miller). Thousands of German Americans volunteered to fight for the Union in the American Civil War (1861-1865). Many had settled in northern states and most likely adopted local attitudes. Having gone through their own revolution, many Germans had a strong repulsion towards slavery. The common idea of the Germans was that slavery was much like serfdom which their grandparents had personally suffered through. Some Germans even went as far as to thinking that if the Confederacy won that Germans would be put into slavery, due to the poor treatment they had undergone.
Not even a half century has lapsed since the days when matters were not much better for the German than for the Chinaman. Whereas the Chinese at least belonged to a large nation, the Germans were members of 30 to 40 spittoon-sized principalities in Europe. As if from a spittoon-based existence, they came across, packed in like herrings, only to be sold for a time as redemptioners into slavery. Not a single voice was ever raised against this practice! The German immigrants were nothing more than white Negroes. (Adams)


Many of the problems that the Germans had faced are the problems we face today. Mexican immigrants experience persecution of the same type. They are ridiculed and mocked, they are pushed around and moved around [deported] and they are accused of many things they have not done. Many people blame them for the crime in the U.S. or for joblessness, others just use them as a scapegoat for all their problems. It seems that whenever a new group of immigrants come to America they experience all these things, whether they be German, Irish, Mexican, or any other group of people.
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