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October / November 2008

German-American Journal

Germany Welcomes Barack Obama By: Darlene Fuchs

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as climate and energy issues at Germany’s chancellery Thursday, July, 24th. The highlight of his day visit was Obama’s speech in the at the Victory Column in Berlin’s Tiergarten Park, near the Brandenburg Gate. An estimated 200,000 packed into downtown Berlin to hear Barack Obama give his muchanticipated European address. He had originally hoped to speak in front of the iconic Brandenburg Gate, where U.S. President John F. Kennedy was photographed during a visit in 1963 shortly after the Berlin Wall had been built. But use of the landmark was apparently vetoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who a spokesman Wednesday said, disapproved of plans to co-opt it as a “campaign backdrop.” Senator Barack

Obama’s words were broadcast live in Germany, where he is has become a popular figure. He began by paying tribute to the Berliners who held out against Soviet pressure during the blockade in 1948. Appealing for a renewed partnership with Europe, he identified terrorism, nuclear proliferation, trade barriers and climate change as global challenges. Many Germans in attendance had serious questions about his policies. While all of Europe keeps a close eye on U.S. elections, Germans learned to pay particularly close attention because of the influence that America had as both occupier and protector after World War II.

What will keep us going? By: AnneMarie Fuhrig

Among groups of Americans from German speaking countries or regions there must be leaders that worry, more or less openly, about declining membership. So, let’s grab the bull by its horns and look for solutions instead of lamenting facts like women’s employment, television and the ripples of decades of public maligning! Three perspectives may help. First, history puts us with the Germans from Krefeld who founded Germantown in Philadelphia in 1783 and continues with the many that followed, mostly in the second half of the 19th century when, between 1850 and 1885, about 3.3 million arrived from German speaking countries. When they populated the greater Mid-West, then opening up for settlement, they brought much knowledge and their own culture. The descendants of these, and many who followed, grew into the close to 60 Million ethnic Germans identified in the 1990 Census. The clubs that these new Americans started became centers for their extensive “German” social life. In the cities, there were the Turners, so named for their German style athletic endeavors; many built large multi-purpose buildings for athletic and social events; Indianapolis, for example, had three or more. But history also brings change and such predictable patterns as Americanization. For example, in German churches on the east coast, like in one Boston Evangelical Lutheran church, conflict hit as early as the 1780s. Fighting over the language of worship led to a split and a hefty portion of English language advocates founded a separate church. Alas, 20 years later, the church which they had left changed to English also. This decline happens to most groups when time moves the next generations into place. Second, when the Germans were frugal, efficient and successful they made enemies among earlier immigrants who began to feel threatened. The most farreaching effect came from the discriminatory decrees against everything German after America’s entry into World War I in 1917 which accelerated a natural decline and dealt most clubs, newspapers, and schools a deathblow. Some groups were revived and in 1919, the Steu-

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Where are the Germans? By: Bert Lachner

Central Europeans seem to be born with a high sense of conscientiousness, which provides them with a solid base for their lifestyles. These are the people of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Sweden and Switzerland. From early childhood they strive to be good. This is supported by a peaceful home and a loving but strict family life and better than average schooling. They excel in college and vocational development, such as apprenticeship, internship and graduating with a degree or master of their trade, or becoming expert managers. The whole workforce has a high level of integrity, industriousness, loyalty and drive. These good traits are sometimes compromised by rule and protection of unions, by over confidence in their own abilities, and hence no need for faith and religion. These people were native to their homeland, until wars, open borders and foreign job opportunities made them move to create a better lifestyle for themselves. Many emigrated to Canada and the United States, and they built the base for the North American population. Here was more land, less confinement and certainly room for creativity and expansion. And so they, the Central Europeans, prospered and grew in im-

ben Society was founded which is today centered in New York and Pennsylvania. You can find in its goals the thoughts used by many groups to reinvent themselves; no more support for a greater Germany not even for German operettas in the theaters. German language in the public schools gradually reappeared but hardly any “German Schools.” Left were polka bands, beer and bratwurst, well not entirely, but the trend was set. What may have appeared to some as a repetition during World War II didn’t help at all. Ever since, German-Americans tend to restrain themselves too much in public, forgetting that they have so much to be proud of beyond the food: German culture, thoroughness, and ingenuity are today independent of the language and continue to determine the public sentiment in the Mid-West, contributing to American progress in countless, often unnoticed ways. This cultural history, e.g. of the many successful family enterprises, just to name one aspect, still needs to be remembered better and written into a larger story of the German contribution to America’s success. Thirdly, America’s opportunities attract new Germans and their families who contribute to the growth of this country. They too seem to remain under the radar screen of group leaders. For example, has anyone in Newport Beach, CA, approached Juergen Klinsmann of 2006 German World Soccer Championship fame? He lives with his American wife and children in sunny Southern California and stands for the new breed of German residents in this country that know English so well that they often don’t want to be seen as identified with the older immigrants and their perceived baggage. To the US Census Bureau Klinsmann, if his household got the long form, would have identified how many members aged 5 to 17 speak German and how many 18 and over, regardless of whether they hold a work visa or are permanent residents with a green card. I could imagine that Juergen has some role in his children’s soccer activities but probably also looks for “German” holiday celebrations, the Feierabend activities that are still practiced in the few remaining German club houses, so how can we get them in? If club leaders search the US census they can find that in 2000, California had an amazing 141,671 speakers of German over age 5 (11,661 aged 5-17 and 130,010 18 and above), of which 98,160 were Ger-

portance. It became known, that this land of opportunity offered great chances for advancement, good income and a more pleasant lifestyle. Other countries joined the stream of immigrants, and the USA became a melting pot of nations. This diversity is still our challenge and opportunity, to make this country strong and healthy. The German-speaking immigrants have done well in this land of the free. They have kept their traditions and customs, their language and culinary arts. They excelled in their jobs, are punctual, loyal and self motivated. Their growth and stability come more from technical know-how than from sales activities and marketing. They are often experts in their field, but stay humbly out of the limelight. They love their kids and family life, they enjoy a good time with their friends in their social clubs and neighborhoods and take pride in their homes, which they usually own. To answer the age-old question: Where are the German? Well, they are not good politicians, are mediocre moviemakers, and usually not exciting in front of people. They are plain and simple as they point quietly to “Made in Germany” quality, their work and achievements, their great authors and composers, their customs and culture, and now and then smile a little.

man born. The biggest concentration is in and around Los Angeles, as assumed from the US Census map of German ethnics by county, in itself a pretty surprising finding. Other such amazing concentrations are in the southeastern states, as gathered from the location of the new private German language schools for the grade school aged population. In most other areas, it is even harder to identify the “new Germans” as a group distinct from the earlier, mostly naturalized immigrants. There are interesting remaining questions, for example, to what extent the decline that the US Census recorded for German ethnics between 1990 and 2000 should be seen exclusively as deaths of our post WW II stalwarts or as factors, such as economic upswings in Germany that made these new Germans wander back. This research is still needed. Meanwhile, let’s see, if census numbers from a few other states might help in finding members. Illinois registered 6,372 speakers of German aged 5-17 and 56,994 aged 18 and over, among which 32,764 of them were German born. The Chicago area has “German Schools.” Illinoisans who proclaimed their German heritage totaled 2,440,516 and, except for 10 inner city counties, were distributed pretty evenly. The same was true for Ohio which had 12,752 speakers of German between age 5 and 17 and 59,895 aged 18 and above and of course, as in Illinois, the Ohio German born population was only 21,262. May we assume that the rest of the 2,266,565 ethnics are already club members? To focus on the remainder as potential club members, leaders have to seek them out and assess their needs. When there are children, the first need may very well be a school. For socializing, a clubhouse may want to expand its attraction by paying for German television and advertising its soccer broadcasts. Beyond that, they could follow the example of one Illinois club that operates successfully on the 100-yearold model in its newly-built club house in a park, a center for singing, youth sports and other special interests. There all unite for a delicious Friday night German dinner. Special events occasionally highlight the many German contributions (see above) giving traditional and newly arrived members pride. So, the solution is probably a good variety of events through the seasonal occasions that engage multiple subgroups under a shared tent.

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German-American Journal | October/November 2008  

Volume 56, Issue 5