Germany has a complex history and a problematic identity. Located in the geographically shifting and politically contested centre of Europe, the country lacks clear natural frontiers. Throughout most of its 1,100-year-old history, its boundaries extended beyond what they are today. The German lands have traditionally been characterized by political decentralization and by regionally distinct and entrenched cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity. Linguistic variations are particularly marked. Regional dialects such as Bavarian, Swabian, Palatine, and Saxon are spoken with pronunciations and a vocabularies deviating from today’s literary standard known as High German (Hochdeutsch). For instance, the Low German language (Plattdeutsch) spoken along the North sea coast is virtually incomprehensible to a Württemberger or Bavarian from the south.
German cultural and linguistic diversity has been reinforced over the centuries by political decentralization. For most of its history, Germany did not exist as a single state but rather as a loose confederation of lands governed by secular or ecclesiastical rulers nominally subject to an elected emperor. These lands were known collectively as the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. By the second half of the seventeenth century, when the first German settlers began to arrive in what is today Canada, the Holy Roman Empire consisted of 310 nearly sovereign territories, 50 imperial free cities, and 1,500 imperial knighthoods. Aside from what is today the state of Germany, the Holy Roman Empire included territories within present-day France (Alsace, Lorraine), Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Slovenia, Italy (South Tyrol, Trentino), the Czech Republic (Bohemia, Moravia), and Poland (Pomerania, Silesia). Excluded from the “German Empire” were Prussia’s territories east of Pomerania (East Prussia) and the Habsburg-ruled lands of Hungary, although since the fifteenth century the Austrian Habsburgs were themselves the hereditary emperors of the Holy Roman Empire.
Because of the highly decentralized nature of the Holy Roman Empire, Germany was often referred to as a mere geographical expression. This was in stark contrast to the growing centralized nation-states of Britain and France. During the Napoleonic era, most of the German states of the Holy Roman Empire came under the rule of France except for Austria and Brandenburg-Prussia, each of which had risen to a position of great power in Europe. In 1806 Napoleon abolished the Holy Roman Empire and reorganized the German territories under his control into 16 states forming the Confederation of the Rhine. But in 1815 the Congress of Vienna replaced that with another loose confederation of German states within the borders of the former Holy Roman Empire.
This so-called German Confederation (Deutscher Bund) consisted of 39 states and lasted until 1866 when Prussia, under the dynamic leadership of its prime minister Otto von Bismarck, challenged the dominance of Austria in the Bund. At the time, German nationalism was becoming an influential movement whose goal was to absorb Prussia, the smaller German states, and – in the plans of most nationalists – Austria into a liberal democratic German nation-state. To harness this nationalist movement for the benefit of Prussia, Bismarck engineered victorious wars against Austria and France and in 1871 created the “Second” German Empire. This Prussian-dominated, pseudo-democratic federal state included almost all the lands of the Deutscher Bund except for Habsburg Austria.
The German Empire created by Bismarck left beyond its borders numerous German communities that have traditionally felt themselves to be part of a larger German world defined primarily by the German language and culture they have preserved. Thus, there have always been two concepts of German identity and nationality: one defined by residence in a German state (Staatsnation), another by adherence to German language and culture regardless of place of residence (Kulturnation). This dichotomy became an issue after World War I, when several borderland territories were annexed by neighbours: Alsace and Lorraine to France; North Schleswig to Denmark; West Prussia, Posnania, and Upper Silesia to Poland; and Klaipeda/Memel to Lithuania. The breakup of the Habsburg Empire also left large German-speaking communities outside Germany and Austria. During the 1920s nationalists demanded that the Reichsdeutsche, that is, those living within the borders of Germany, defend the interests of the Auslandsdeutsche, meaning Germans beyond Germany. Nazi ideologists were particularly interested in the fate of the ethnic Germans living in eastern and southeastern Europe who became known as the Volksdeutsche.
When World War I began in 1914, Germany joined Austria-Hungary as part of the alliance known as the Central Powers. As a result of its military defeat and revolution, the Second German Empire collapsed in November 1918. It was succeeded by a democratic republic launched by a national assembly that met in the town of Weimar. In this so-called Weimar Republic, anti-democratic sentiment grew rapidly in the face of the peace terms imposed by the Allies, grave economic problems, social unrest, and internal political instability fuelled by Communists, monarchists, and Nazis. In 1933 the Nazi Party was able to take advantage of widespread unemployment caused by the Depression, have its leader, Adolf Hitler, appointed chancellor, and proclaim the advent of the Third German Empire or Third Reich.
In his quest to transform German society, Hitler established a totalitarian dictatorship that eliminated all political opposition and “racially undesirable” elements of the population (especially Jews and Sinti-Roma/Gypsies). Claiming to regain territories lost in war or denied self-determination by the 1919 peace settlement, Hitler set out to restore Germany to the status of a great power. In 1938 Germany annexed Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia (the Sudetenland). The British and French realization in March 1939 that Hitler’s real aim was not simply the union of German-speaking communities in central Europe but Nazi domination over non-German-speaking countries led to the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. For nearly five years, the Third Reich controlled and exploited most of the European continent either directly or through client states.
Nazi Germany’s defeat and unconditional surrender in May 1945 left the country’s cities and industries largely destroyed and over 31 million people (half of whom were German) uprooted. What remained of Germany was radically reduced in size and divided into four zones of military occupation (American, British, French, and Soviet). In 1949 the three western zones united to become the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) and the Soviet zone became the German Democratic Republic (DDR). The Federal Republic/West Germany adopted a liberal democratic constitution, while in the Democratic Republic/East Germany the Soviet Union installed a Communist dictatorship. Divided Germany and its divided former capital Berlin (in 1961 the East German government erected a wall to seal off Berlin’s eastern sector) became a symbol of the division of Europe between East and West during the Cold War period. One year after the collapse of the Communist regime in East Germany in October 1989, East and West Germany were reunited.
Since a significant number of German migrants to North America came from territories that were not part of a German nation-state, it is essential to know something about the various German homelands beyond Germany, in particular in eastern and southeastern Europe.
The movement of Germans eastward, also known as the “colonization of the East” (Ostkolonisation), is a long process that lasted from the early medieval period through the nineteenth century. Some of the earliest large-scale eastern settlements of Germans date back to the twelfth through fourteenth centuries, such as those in Prussia (modern-day Poland and Russia), the Baltic coastal region (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), the Sudeten and other mountainous regions of Bohemia and Moravia (the Czech Republic), and in three distinct regions of the former kingdom of Hungary: Spiš/Zips (Slovakia), Satu Mare/Sathmar (Romania), and Transylvania/Siebenbürgen. These and neighbouring regions continued to receive more German colonists in the wake of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48), when much of central Europe was ravaged by war, religious persecution, and disease.
During the eighteenth century, the Austrian and Russian Empires were expanding their boundaries at the expense of two states: the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which ceased to exist following three partitions between 1772 and 1795; and the Ottoman Empire, which was driven out of the Hungarian Kingdom by Habsburg Austria (1683–1718) and out of lands north of the Black Sea by the Russian Empire (1783–91). Consequently, both Austria and Russia found themselves in possession of huge territories that were only sparsely settled. To resolve this problem, Germans were among the colonists invited to Austria’s newly-acquired northeastern provinces of Galicia (1772) and Bukovina (1774). At the opposite end of the Austrian Empire, on the plains of southern Hungary, Germans from Swabia and the Palatinate were throughout the course of the eighteenth century settled in the Báranya, Bačka, and Banat regions near the Danube River (much of today’s Vojvodina in Yugoslavia).
Farther east, Empress Catherine of Russia issued a decree in 1763 to initiate a program of colonization by Germans that was to last for nearly a century. The first settlers were brought to the lower Volga River valley, and then others were located in the broad steppes of Ukraine and the Black Sea costal areas, including Bessarabia and the Crimea which had only recently been acquired from the Ottoman Empire. Among the settlers in the Ukrainian steppe were German-speaking Mennonites, Lutherans, Baptists, and Roman Catholics who settled separately and developed distinct denominational communities. Finally, the Russian Empire’s province of Volhynia (in present-day northwestern Ukraine) became the destination at the outset of the nineteenth century for Germans from Pomerania and Posnania/Poznaó .
Throughout eastern and southeastern Europe, the Germans frequently referred to themselves and were referred to by others with regional names, some of which they only acquired after World War I. Among these were the Sudeten, Galician, and Bukovinian Germans in the Austrian half of the former Habsburg Empire; the Zipser Germans, Sathmar Germans, Transylvanian Saxons, and Danube Swabians in the former Hungarian Kingdom; and the Dobruja Germans in Romania. Regional names also prevailed in the vast Russian Empire, although the Baltic, Polish, Volhynian, Volga, Crimean, Black Sea, and Bessarabian Germans were sometimes lumped together under the general designation, Germans from Russia (Russlanddeutsche).
The motivations that brought Germans eastward varied greatly depending on the time of their departure and their destination. Some went as missionaries, some as conquerors, some as hired military conscripts, and some as refugees from religious persecution. The vast majority, however, were recruited by the rulers of Austria, Bohemia, Hungary, Poland, and Russia or by their respective nobilities, who knew the reputation Germans had as developers of virgin or war-ravaged lands, as industrialists and artisans, as promoters of trade and commerce, and as builders of towns and model settlements. German colonists were instrumental in developing cities like Riga, Tallinn, Prague, and Budapest, and as late as the first decades of the twentieth century, most cities in east-central Europe still had an economically and socially influential number of Germans. Germans were also renowned for their agricultural prowess and technical innovation, qualities they were encouraged to develop by eastern European states which provided them with abundant land, religious freedom, and at least initially a variety of privileges such as cultural autonomy, self-government, and exemption from taxes and military service.
The favourable status of Germans beyond Germany slowly began to change in the Russian Empire during the last decades of the nineteenth century, when some of their privileges (including exemption from military service) were abolished. World War I and the civil war in Russia also had a negative impact on numerous German colonies, especially those located along the long eastern front between the German and Russian armies. But it was the policies of Hitler’s Third Reich that were to result in the ultimate destruction of most German settlements in eastern and southeastern Europe.
Hitler’s fixation on the acquisition of Lebensraum (living space) for Germany accounted for his particular interest in the Volksdeutsche, that is, the ethnic Germans living in eastern and southeastern Europe. His goal was to bring the Volksdeutsche into the Third Reich, either by expanding its borders or by population transfer. Consequently, the Volksdeutsche became pawns in Nazi German foreign policy, with some welcoming the expansion of the Third Reich and others remaining loyal to the states in which they lived. During the brief period when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were allies (1939– 41), the Baltic, Bessarabian, Volhynian, and Galician Germans were resettled for most part in territories in western and north central Poland that the Third Reich had annexed when it destroyed Poland in 1939. Then, on the eve of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin’s government deported the Germans in the Volga region and Ukraine to Central Asia. Those not deported in 1941 as well as those who had not fled westward were at the close of World War II either exiled to Central Asia, interned as Nazi collaborators, or sent as forced labourers to Soviet prison camps.
The post-war fate of Germans in other countries of east-central Europe was not any better. In most cases, they were blamed for having collaborated with Nazi Germany on the eve of and during the war, and whether or not this was true they became liable to mass expulsion from their centuries-old homes. Over 3 million Germans were expelled from the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia; over 7 million from Germany’s pre-1937 territories of Pomerania, East Prussia, and Silesia, which became part of Poland; and 250,000 mostly Danube Swabians from Hungary. Aside from these state-sponsored expulsions, over half a million Danube Swabians and Transylvanian Saxons fled from post-war Yugoslavia and Romania. Most of these refugees were resettled in what became either West or East Germany; some eventually made their way to Canada.
The migration of Germans to the New World has a long history. Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, an estimated 125,000 went to territories that were to become the United States. Of the almost 6 million Germans who left between 1820 and 1914, 89 percent reported moving to the United States, 2 percent to Brazil, 1.3 percent to Canada, and 1.3 percent to Australia. For the period 1919–33, Germany accounted for 605,000 emigrants. Of these, 71 percent chose the United States, 10.2 percent Brazil, and 5 percent Canada. Nearly 1.2 million Germans emigrated to North America and Australia between 1950 and 1969; 775,000 headed for the United States and 300,000 for Canada.
In the nineteenth century, German migration to North America had assumed the proportions of a mass exodus. Its chief push factor was the country’s transition from an agrarian to an industrial state and the concomitant urbanization and rising expectations. During the century 1816–1915, the population of Germany tripled to 68 million. In the southwest, the source of most of the migrants, population growth, the tradition of dividing inheritances, and occupational restructuring produced acute overpopulation and pauperization. Improvements in communications and increased promotion on the part of shipping agents facilitated the exodus, while the growth of the American economy held out the hope of rapid upward mobility in the New World. Networks of transatlantic contacts, chain migration, and prepaid tickets lowered the threshold for the individual’s decision to emigrate.
Although German industry was able to absorb the labour surplus from the 1880s on, waves of emigration continued at intervals until the 1950s. The exodus of the 1920s was triggered by the dislocations after World War I. At that time, about 1.4 million refugees from eastern Europe and from the 13 percent of Germany’s pre-war territory lost by the Treaty of Versailles poured into the country. This influx increased population density at the very moment when revolutionary unrest, civil war, unemployment, inflation, and the devaluation of the German currency caused its citizens to lose faith in the future of their country. Social and economic insecurity was pervasive even during the period of stabilization between 1924 and 1929. In the 1930s the anti-Semitic policies of the Third Reich turned half of Germany’s “non-Aryan” population into refugees.
Among the influx of German-speaking peoples to Canada between 1776 and 1933, natives from Germany have been a minority. From 1871 to 1914, for example, the ratio of Germans from eastern Europe and the United States to those from Germany was eight to one, and between 1919 and 1939 it was four to one. German-speaking immigrants came to Canada from virtually every central and east European country. Although it was not unusual for these individuals or their ancestors to have migrated more than once since leaving their original homelands, most had retained German language, culture, and identity.
Adverse conditions in eastern Europe in the post– World War I years provided new reasons for the emigration of ethnic Germans. Some of their homelands, such as Volhynia, had been theatres of war. Privileged minorities in the Habsburg and Russian empires before the war, ethnic Germans suffered political discrimination in the post-war succession states. Without regard for traditional ethnocultural and economic infrastructures, some of the new national boundaries cut through centuries-old areas of German settlement, especially along the Danube. Large German-speaking regions were deprived of former markets and the right to self-determination. Persecution of religion and wealth under the Communist regime dealt a fatal blow to the many once-prosperous German farming communities in the Soviet Union. Poland and the new Baltic states, too, looked upon their German minorities with disfavour.
Among areas of east European origin for German Canadians, the former Soviet Union is the largest and most diversified. From that country came almost half of western Canada’s pre–World War I and one-third of the country’s post-war German-speaking immigrants. Since the publication of Catherine the Great’s first manifesto in 1763 promising generous privileges to prospective settlers, German colonists had migrated to such regions as the Volga, Ukraine, the Caucasus, St Petersburg, Siberia, Altai, and central Asia. There they had developed distinct regional, religious, and linguistic subcultures. On the eve of World War I, ethnic Germans constituted 1 percent of Russia’s population (that is, 1,800,000), three-quarters of whom lived in three thousand more or less homogeneous Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Mennonite, and Hutterite settlements. Germans from Volhynia, which was also part of the Russian Empire before World War I, arrived in western Canada in substantial numbers from 1888 on. They were predominantly Lutheran, but included a minority of Mennonites, Baptists, and Moravians. (See also AMISH;  HUTTERITES;  MENNONITES. )
Next to the Russian Empire, the Austrian province of Galicia provided the largest exodus of ethnic Germans headed for Canada before 1914. Although the German presence in Galicia dates back to the Middle Ages, the only settlements of relevance to Canada are those founded in the wake of Galicia’s annexation by Austria in 1772. For over a century the Galician-German villages thrived, and by 1890 their population had increased to more than 75,000. Then a coincidence of economic and ethno-political causes halted further growth. The consequences of autonomy granted to Galicia in 1867 aggravated the region’s overpopulation and economic backwardness. Polish school laws, polonization of the parishes, restrictions on the purchase of land, and replacement of German officials by Poles turned the Germans, most of whom were Lutherans, into a discriminated minority in their own villages and drove them to emigrate.
Latvia and Estonia were the homelands of the post– World War II Canadian immigrants known as Baltic Germans. The core of this group, unlike ethnic German colonists from the Soviet Union, descended from the so-called Baltic barons – owners of large estates, prominent government servants, and highly educated officials – whose roots in the two countries can be traced to the twelfth century. Since annexation of their lands by the Russian Empire, they had served successive tsarist governments with distinction and until 1914 formed the ruling class in the region. After World War I, the newly sovereign Baltic states nationalized their large landholdings. In 1939–40 this nobility, together with the remaining urban Baltic-German population of artisans, teachers, business people, and professionals, were collectively resettled to the Third Reich by agreement between Hitler and Stalin – 59,000 from Latvia and 17,000 from Estonia.
In the 1880s land hunger and Hungarian nationalism had initiated an exodus of Danube Swabian farmers to Canada, while unemployment drew labour migrants from the area to the United States. By 1911 up to 20 percent of Danube Swabians had left for North America. Known as Hungarian Germans before 1914, they received their present name in 1922 after the partition of their homeland among five succession states to the Habsburg empire: Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, and Austria. The worst fate awaited Yugoslavia’s 550,000 Danube Swabians at the end of World War II, when the regime of Marshal Tito began violent ethnic cleansing. Around 350,000 fled to the West. Those who were left behind were either massacred or tortured and starved in one of Tito’s death camps or deported to the Soviet Union.
The newly enlarged Romania after World War I included, in addition to Danube Swabians from the Banat (245,000), the German colonies established in the former Austro-Hungarian territories of Transylvania (237,000), Bukovina (80,000), and Sathmar (31,000); in Dobruja (13,000); and in the former Russian province of Bessarabia (80,000). Most of these colonies developed networks of chain migration to Canada. In Transylvania, the so-called Saxons had developed a diversified economy and stratified society while revitalizing their culture by the tradition among leaders, students, and journeymen of visiting Germany. From the 1880s to 1914 some 20,000 small landholders and impoverished tradesmen migrated to the United States. Land reforms and economic changes in Romania after World War I brought labour migrants to Canada as well. In Bessarabia by 1885 entire German villages had begun to relocate to western Canada, either directly or by way of the United States.
Sudeten Germans arrived in Canada in two separate groups: in 1939 as anti-Nazi, social-democratic refugees, and after 1945 as part of the three million German residents expelled from Czechoslovakia for alleged pro-Nazi sympathies. German settlers had been present in Bohemia and Moravia from the thirteenth century. But the Habsburg rulers’ policy of imposing Catholic and German social, political, and cultural institutions on the Protestant Czechs, Czechoslovakia’s reluctance to grant ethnocultural rights to its large German minority after World War I, and Hitler’s annexation of the country laid the ground for their expulsion in 1945. A small group of socialist-oriented Sudeten Germans, opposed to Hitler’s destruction of Czechoslovakia in 1938–39, had managed to find refuge in Canada in 1939. Well organized, they maintained their own identity vis-à-vis the post-war exiles.
Many German-speaking migrants to Canada originated not in Europe but in the United States. Indeed, had it not been for the enormous and continuing appeal of the United States for European immigrants since the seventeenth century, Canada would have received fewer Germans. The proximity of that country was significant in several ways. First, it made Canada a haven for American refugees. Secondly, it enabled residents in the United States to recognize and seize opportunities in Canada unknown in Europe. Furthermore, Canada appeared to be an extension of the United States to prospective European emigrants or an alternative when American entry was blocked by war or restrictive immigration policies. Finally, Canadian ports and routes provided cheap and fast access to the American frontier and caused some United States–bound migrants to stay in Canada. German group migration to Pennsylvania had begun in 1683, and by the nineteenth century the United States was the preferred destination of those from German-speaking Europe. German Americans were attracted to Canada by the availability of cheap and abundant land as early as the 1760s, but particularly after American land became scarce around 1900. Between 1871 and 1939, some 18 percent of western Canada’s German-speaking settlers were second- to fourth-generation German Americans.
In the 1991 Canadian census, 911,560 individuals described themselves as being of exclusively German origin while 1,882,220 cited German as one of their ethnic origins, for a total of 2,793,780.
Settlement in Canada by German-speaking immigrants may be divided into six phases: arrivals prior to the American Revolution, the streams generated by that upheaval, exodus from Germany between the 1830s and the 1880s, chain migration to western Canada in the period 1874–1914, immigration between the world wars, and the post–World War II influx. German speakers settled in various parts of New France before the conquest of 1760. Most appear to have been serving in the French military forces, especially in connection with Louis XIV’s invasions of Germany and the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine in the 1660s and 1670s. On the Atlantic coast, Swiss troops, whose numbers may have comprised up to two-thirds German recruits, were part of the first French expedition to launch a colony on Isle Sainte-Croix in 1604. Among the first documented natives of Germany were Hans Bernhard from Erfurt (1664), Jean Daigre from Speyer (1668), Hans Daigle from Vienna “in Lower Germany” (1674), Andre Wolf of Danzig (1687), and Joseph Brissac from Breisach (1694). By 1700 New France counted about thirty to forty settlers of German origin, mainly artisans, doctors, seamen, and soldiers.
In their struggle for control of North America, both the British and the French enlisted the services of Germans. Because the decommissioned French troops, including officers and physicians, were encouraged to retire in New France, an estimated two hundred German families had settled along the St Lawrence River by the end of French rule in 1763. Many Germans who would rise to prominence in Lower Canada (Quebec) came with British militias recruited in New England. Among this group were businessmen, doctors, surveyors, engineers, silversmiths, and furriers.
The first documented German in Newfoundland was a Saxon miner and ore expert named Daniel, a member of the expedition in 1583 led by Sir Humphrey Gilbert. Like Daniel, Germans usually arrived in the colony via England and as servants of the British crown. In 1710–11 English merchants engaging in the Newfoundland fisheries offered to employ some five hundred German emigrants waiting in London for passage to the American colonies. German names such as Koch, Mayer, Rhine, Spawn, and Minchinner appear among Newfoundland planters and fishermen from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. In the later 1700s Germans were active in St John’s as physicians, commercial agents, and teachers.
Moravians from Germany visited Newfoundland regularly after 1752. They established eight missions to the Inuit in northern Labrador, where for more than a century they constituted the only European settlement. Until 1914 the missionaries serving in these stations
|New France and Nova Scotia to 1776 and Loyalists
|Pennsylvania Germans, 1800–35
|From Germany to southwestern Upper Canada, 1820s–60s
|From Germany to the Ottawa valley, 1857–91
| Western Canada, 1874–1911
|German and Austrian origin, 1911–14
|German ethnic origin, 1919–35
| German and Austrian origin, 1935–39
| Sudeten refugees, 1939–40
|Jewish refugee internees, 1944
| German-speaking immigrants, 1945–50
Sources: 1. Fenske, International Migration; 2. Wilhelmy, Les mercenaires allemands; 3. C. Harry Smith, The Story of the Mennonites; 4. Lehmann, The German Canadian; 5. Hessel, Destination Ottawa Valley; 6. Citizenship and Immigration Canada; 7. Wieden, Sudeten Canadians; 8 Bassler, Sanctuary Denied; 9. Bassler, German Canadian Mosaic
were selected and supervised from Herrnhut in Germany, and German-speaking missionaries and their families continued to serve in the area until the 1950s. In the absence of public services, they acted as educators, employers, traders, judges, doctors, music teachers, and lexicographers of the Inuit language.
The largest German-speaking community in British North America before the American Revolution grew out of some 2,400 individuals who arrived in Nova Scotia in the years 1750–53. The settlement of these so-called Foreign Protestants was part of a scheme to strengthen Britain’s position vis-à-vis the Roman Catholic Acadians. Germans had been readily available as colonists since 1709–10, when 13,000 had fled to London from the war-torn and famine-stricken region of Germany known as the Palatinate. Lumped together under various labels such as Palatines, Dutch, and Swiss, they had proven themselves as pioneers in colonial America by the 1740s.
Obtaining desirable settlers for Nova Scotia seemed simply a matter of deflecting part of the constant stream of Germans bound for the American colonies. The British government commissioned a recruiting agent in Rotterdam, whose subagents in Germany distributed deceptively favourable descriptions of the province together with offers of free passage and land. The result was a family migration composed of 40 percent men, 25 percent women, and the rest children. Half the immigrants were farmers, one-quarter rural tradesmen, and 8 percent soldiers. In Halifax these immigrants were forced to pay off their passage by working on the city’s fortifications until, in 1753, some 1,400 demanded and were given land on a site that the governor named Lunenburg. This settlement was threatened by Britain’s ongoing war with France, attacked by hostile natives, and raided during the American Revolution.
After 1753, except for a few Americans, no more Germans migrated to Nova Scotia, except in the Annapolis valley, where nearly 1,000 individuals from New England and Germany settled in the 1760s. They came in response to land grants offered to prospective settlers by prominent Pennsylvania planters. The German community in Halifax, which had numbered 900 after the departure of the Lunenburg settlers, declined to 264 by 1766, but it expanded to well over 1,000 with the influx of Loyalist refugees and disbanded Hessian soldiers in the 1770s and 1780s in the wake of the American Revolution. Increased cultural activity manifested itself in the publication of British North America’s first German-language paper, the establishment of the first secular association, and the opening of a German school. By the 1830s, however, the German-speaking population of Halifax had been largely assimilated or dispersed, leaving only such names as the Old Dutch Church, Dutch Village Road, Brunswick Street, Bauer Street, and Dresden Row as reminders of a once-significant German presence.
The American Revolution had triggered the migration of new waves of German speakers to the British colonies: Loyalists, the auxiliary troops known as Hessians, Mennonites from Pennsylvania, and other German Americans. In Upper Canada (Ontario), as the territory west of the Ottawa River became known in 1791, they paved the way for a large influx from Germany, first to the area around Berlin (Kitchener) and Waterloo and then in the 1850s and 1860s to the Ottawa valley. The Loyalists represented a broad spectrum of ethnic, religious, and racial groups. The exact proportions are difficult to determine. However, at an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the total influx and as high as 40 percent in Upper Canada, Germans were the most numerous element of non-British descent.
Between 1776 and the mid-1780s the Loyalists employed three routes: across the Niagara River to Fort Niagara; up the Hudson River, across Lake Champlain, and down the Rivière Richelieu to Sorel; and by sea from New York to Halifax. The largest influx came by way of Sorel, where those of British descent were in the minority, while in the Halifax group they were the majority. The first German-American refugees to Quebec were a party of five women and thirty-four children. They had fled in 1776 from New York State to the east bank of the Niagara River, which served as a base for the Loyalist Butler’s Rangers and became the site of the settlement of Queenston. At the time that the regiment was disbanded in 1784, one-quarter of the 620 eligible to receive land had German names. One observer noted that half those who came to the Niagara area spoke High or Low German or Dutch.
At the eastern end of Lake Ontario, in the townships of Ernestown, Fredricksburgh, Adolphustown, and Marysburgh, an even larger number of German Loyalists in 1783 helped to form the first communities of European settlers in the area. These townships had been allotted to the second battalion of Sir John Johnson’s King’s Royal Regiment of New York, which consisted predominantly of German- and Dutch-American volunteers. In the four townships at least half the original settlers were New York Palatines. After the war, more friends and neighbours from New York joined them, so that by 1811 Ernestown was the most populous township in the province.
The majority of Upper Canada’s German Loyalist settlers were called Palatines because they were the descendants of Lutheran and Reformed Church members who had emigrated to New York from the Palatinate and adjoining southwest German regions. The heaviest concentration of German Loyalists was found in the so-called royal townships along the St Lawrence, especially Matilda, Williamsburgh, Osnabruck, and Cornwall. Their founders consisted of troops from the first battalion of John Johnson’s regiment, which was composed almost entirely of Palatine farmers and artisans from small German-speaking communities in the Mohawk and Schoharie valleys. It has been estimated that more than 1,000 German Loyalists moved with their families to what was to become Upper Canada. By giving the territory’s newly organized districts such names such as Nassau, Hesse, Lunenburg, and Mecklenburg, Governor Lord Dorchester intended to honour the British royal family’s German connections and also recognize the large German element among the Loyalists.
They were not the only Germans who arrived in British North America during the American Revolution. Of the 30,000 German troops contracted to serve the British, some 12,000 were stationed in the loyal colonies between 1776 and 1783. These troops faced different challenges from those confronting the Loyalists. Frequently labelled Hessians because the Hessian states had supplied more than half their numbers, they were stigmatized as foreign mercenaries willing to fight for causes that they neither understood nor cared about. In reality, these draftees fought with valour and had a lower rate of desertion than the British and American troops. At a time when the British force of 8,500 was dangerously outnumbered by American rebels, their presence probably saved the loyal colonies for the British Crown.
An estimated 2,400 Hessians stayed in British North America after the war. In Nova Scotia they were treated as Loyalists, while in Quebec they were denied the land grants and supplies of provisions awarded to such immigrants. In Marysburgh, where forty-four Hessians settled with German Loyalists from New York, they suffered nearly unsurmountable difficulties in eking out a living in the wilderness. Generally unsuited and unsuccessful as pioneers, some became servants to German Loyalist farmers or moved to urban areas. In Lower Canada, the post-1791 name for the old province of Quebec, the large number of Hessian males had a significant demographic and cultural impact. Billeted in Montreal, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, and Chambly, many married local women and reportedly had large families. Since Halifax was a major British military base, some Hessians settled in that city and the surrounding area. They have also been traced in Prince Edward Island.
On the heels of the Loyalists and Hessians, a third group of German speakers started migrating to Upper Canada via Niagara, Detroit, and Dundas. Sometimes referred to as late Loyalists, they were dissenters identified by their pacifist, separatist, and Anabaptist creeds and included Mennonites, Tunkers (a revivalistic group of partly Mennonite origin later known as Brethren in Christ), and Dunkards (German Baptists). These “plain people” hailed primarily from Pennsylvania, where German-speaking refugees from the upper Rhine had found a haven since the seventeenth century.
Pennsylvania’s 110,000 settlers of German origin constituted one-third of the population in 1776 and nearly half the total German population in the American colonies. Among these settlers was the largest cohesive German-speaking community on the continent, whose distinctive dialect and culture are known as Pennsylvania Dutch. The American Revolution was the catalyst but not the sole impetus for their migration. Population pressure, a shortage of good land, and relatively easy access to Upper Canada were also factors. German cultural considerations were also strong. The free land granted to thousands of Germans Loyalists and Hessians who had defended the Crown suggested that their culture could be better maintained in the British colonies than in the post-Revolutionary United States.
Noteworthy, too, was a small group of immigrants from Germany who moved to Upper Canada after the American Revolution because of business failure in the United States. It was led by William Berczy, who was variously an artist, teacher, and land speculator. After being cheated out of his partnership in a huge settlement project in the Genesee valley of New York, he received a grant of 25,900 hectares west of the Grand River, subsequently exchanged for a larger grant in Markham Township north of York (Toronto), for a colonization scheme on a grand scale. In 1794 he brought to Markham a group of 190 settlers, whom he had recruited in Germany for his New York project. These settlers cut a road (Toronto’s Yonge Street) through the virgin forest from Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe, cleared one-quarter of the land, cultivated fields, erected a church and a school, and built a model settlement whose “German mills” became known throughout the province. But in 1803 the Executive Council of Upper Canada, unwilling to support an alien upstart and distrusting the motives of his “German Company,” declared the land forfeited, and the enterprise had to disband in bankruptcy. A year later the Markham settlement counted 462 Germans among a population of 580. Today Berczy is remembered not only as a leading portrait painter of the time but also as the co-founder of Toronto and the architect of some of its first public buildings, which he designed while appealing the cancellation of his grant.
Another abortive colonization venture involving German-speaking settlers was Lord Selkirk’s Red River colony, intended for displaced and impoverished Scottish tenants in virgin bush at the site of present-day Winnipeg. In 1817 he engaged a hundred German and Swiss-German mercenaries from the disbanded de Meuron and de Watteville regiments, originally enlisted to fight in the War of 1812, to protect the settlers. In order to persuade the soldiers to stay, Selkirk in 1821 recruited 180 German-speaking settlers, including brides for the soldiers, from Switzerland, southwest Germany, and Alsace. They reached the colony by way of Hudson Bay only to realize they had been deceived. Instead of the conditions for successful farming that they had been promised, they found themselves without adequate supplies, roads, markets, or protection from floods, grasshoppers, and the severe climate. The first of these colonists left the following year, and the remaining German-speaking families and soldiers followed by 1826.
In the half century before Confederation, some 50,000 to 60,000 newcomers from Germany settled in southern and western Upper Canada and, after 1857, the Ottawa valley. The migration began in the 1820s with Amish from Bavaria and reached tidal proportions in the 1830s just as the influx of German Americans petered out. This mass migration was in reality an offshoot of the great English-German-Scandinavian trek to the American frontier. Most of the Germans who settled in the province between the 1820s and 1870s had intended to homestead in the United States. The two main overland routes to the American midwest – from Quebec City along the St Lawrence River and from New York to Detroit by way of the Hudson River and Lake Ontario – intersected in Upper Canada. They were equally long and difficult for immigrants but differed significantly in terms of the ocean passage leading to them.
The Quebec route was patronized largely by impoverished emigrants because the small ships sailing to that port could offer lower rates by avoiding New York regulations on overcrowding. Of the more than 40,000 Germans who landed at Quebec from Hamburg and Bremen in the years 1850–57, three-quarters continued on to the American west. Those 10,000 to 12,000 who remained in the British colonies did so partly because they lacked the financial resources to complete the journey and partly because the province of Canada had appointed a German-speaking agent in Quebec to guide the newcomers to Canadian destinations. The majority of German emigrants bound for the United States preferred the more frequent, faster, and more comfortable passage to an American seaport, especially New York.
Germans travelling through Upper Canada to Detroit found many reasons and opportunities for staying. Some were surprised to meet Mennonite farmers speaking their own German dialect and offering work to non-Mennonite Germans. The farmers found a place for them in their waggons and took them across the river and as far into Upper Canada as they cared to go. From these farmers the Germans learned the rudiments of New World agriculture. As one settler in Waterloo wrote in 1831, they discovered that they could “make money easily, as you can make hay, if only you want to work for it.”
Most of the newcomers came from southwestern Germany. There, where small-scale agriculture and wine growing provided the economic mainstay, the division of inheritances had led to poverty, and mass-produced English goods had ruined traditional industries, crafts, and trades, thus hastening economic and social changes that made North America attractive. Characterized by families headed by small, independent farmers and craftsmen, the mass exodus assumed epidemic-like proportions by 1851 and totalled 1.7 million individuals between 1820 and 1869.
Because of the disastrous effects of pauperization, governments in Germany began subsidizing the emigration of needy and socially undesirable individuals. Between 1847 and 1855, Baden, Hesse, and Württemberg dissolved entire communities and shipped their inhabitants at state expense to Quebec and Saint John, causing the British government to protest this dumping of the “refuse of foreign pauperism.” In Saint John these immigrants became public charges, but in Quebec, according to the German-speaking agent stationed there, they found work with farmers and on construction projects or were sent to Waterloo County in Upper Canada.
By 1853 German-speaking settlers predominated in four of five townships in the county. Such places as Berlin, Strasburg, Freiburg, Heidelberg, Baden, Mannheim, and Bamberg in present-day Ontario point to the German origin of these newcomers. The neighbouring Niagara District also attracted a sizable number of settlers from Germany; an estimated 2,500 arrived between 1830 and 1860. Their centres included Rainham, Stonybridge, New Germany (Black Creek), and Jordan, while Clinton, Louth, St Catharines, and Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake) had large German populations. Until the 1860s, successive groups of immigrants from Germany continued to move into townships with large German communities. The 1871 census shows that one-quarter of the Niagara peninsula’s population of 80,000 were of German origin.
Immigrants from Germany also played a prominent part in the opening of the Huron Tract, a huge unsettled area north and west of Waterloo County. On the road cut by the Canada Company through the forest to Lake Huron in 1828, Swiss German Sebastian Freyvogel erected an inn that became the nucleus of the German settlement of Sebastopol. In the 1830s and 1840s virtually all of South Easthope Township was developed by Germans, who organized the first school in the area in 1824. In Ellice Township, Bavarian Andreas Seebach was the first settler. Not far from his homestead near Sebringville, pioneers from Germany settled in places that they named Rostock, Wartburg, Kuhryville, and Brunner. The southern townships of Bruce and Grey counties, too, were colonized predominantly by Germans.
Settlement in the Ottawa valley resulted from the first systematic attempt by a Canadian government to recruit immigrants in Germany. As many as six agents worked in the German states between 1857 and 1866, three in Prussia alone. To attract a permanent population for the strategic area between the Ottawa River and Georgian Bay, the government offered free land grants along three roads built between 1851 and 1856 through the wilderness. The American Civil War helped to achieve this objective by diverting United States–bound immigrants to Quebec and Ottawa. German-speaking agents in those cities directed them to the isolated and agriculturally marginal lands of the upper Ottawa valley. These pioneers initiated a chain migration that by 1891 had brought some 12,000 permanent German settlers to the area. Prussia now became the source area for emigrants from Germany; the newcomers were mostly working-class and agricultural labourers of German, Polish, and Wendish origin. From the 1850s, agents also directed land-hungry German settlers from Waterloo County, where cheap land had become scarce, to the Ottawa district.
Apart from the influx to the Ottawa area, Canada was unaffected by an exodus from Germany of 1.8 million individuals in the years 1880–92. Manitoba in 1872 had set aside a block of one and a half townships exclusively for German immigrants. They were to be recruited with the help of the German Society of Montreal. However, virtually the entire migration from Germany proper went to the United States. Of western Canada’s 152,000 German settlers between 1874 and 1911, a mere 12 percent originated in Germany, despite the extensive network of Canadian agents there and their promotional efforts under such slogans as “Canada, the new America.” Instead, more than 50 percent came from ethnic German enclaves in the Russian Empire, espe-
|Ethnic origin||Mother tongue||Birthplace|
|1991||911,560 (s)||424,645 (s)||180,525|
|1,882,220 (m)||51,065 (m)|
Note: The letters (s) and (m) refer to single and multiple responses in the 1981 and 1991 censuses.
cially the Black Sea coast, the Volga, and Volhynia; 18 percent from the Habsburg Empire; 6 percent from the Romanian Dobruja; 18 percent from the United States; and 2 percent from Ontario, Switzerland, Chile, Brazil, and other places.
The migration of these Germans to western Canada was triggered, generally speaking, by a coincidence of east European push and Canadian pull factors. This country offered attractive inducements for resettlement at the very moment when reforms in Russia ended such privileges as exemption from taxation and military service for the Mennonites and others. Eastern Europe’s German colonies were also experiencing an explosion in population, shortage of land, and restrictions on acquiring land. Canada, on the other hand, not only provided abundant free or cheap land, but as Frank Oliver, editor of the Edmonton Bulletin and soon to be minister of the interior, expressed it in 1901, it also valued any German as “a man of dominant race, of untiring energy, of great foresight ... of sterling honesty and reliability, whether he comes from Germany, from Galicia, or anywhere else.”
The Mennonites who had settled in Manitoba in the 1870s had demonstrated that farmers from the eastern European steppes were particularly suited to prairie farming and that ethnically and denominationally homogeneous block settlements were a viable strategy for colonizing the west. By employing German Protestant and Catholic immigrants from Russia as farmhands, they encouraged more Germans to move westward or settle nearby. The Canadian government in its immigration literature pointed to these settlements as models for potential newcomers. German Lutheran colonies developed east of Winnipeg, west of Lake Manitoba, and along what is now the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border near Langenburg. A typical settlement developed in 1896 near Beauséjour, Brokenhead, and Whitemouth when immigrants from Volhynia were joined by coreligionists from Galicia, Russia, and eastern Germany. The same year Waldersee, founded in 1891 by Germans from Galicia, received a large influx of Lutheran Germans from East Prussia, Posen, Volhynia, and Crimea. In 1900 Germans from Minnesota, southern Russia, Volhynia, Germany, and Romania settled near Inglis and Grandview.
Since the 1880s, the modern-day province of Saskatchewan has had the highest proportion of residents of German origin of any part of Canada; the ratio reached 15 percent by 1911. Among its first European immigrants were natives of Germany who in 1884 and 1885 took up homesteads around places that they named Neu Elsass (Strasbourg) and Hohenlohe (Langenburg). Edenwold, the second oldest German settlement in Saskatchewan, was started by immigrants from Bukovina. Between 1889 and 1904 the area northeast of Regina and around Melville attracted Germans of the Lutheran and Reformed faiths from such different parts of eastern Europe as Ukraine, the Volga region, Poland, Galicia, Volhynia, Kurland (now in Latvia), and Bessarabia. Josephstal, founded near Balgonie in 1886 by Germans from Odessa, is the oldest German Catholic colony. A continuing influx from southern Russia (Ukraine) made Balgonie known in the 1890s as the centre of German colonization in the northwest, Germans from Romania, Hungary, Germany, Ontario, and North Dakota founded Catholic colonies in the 1890s and early 1900s near Langenburg, Grayson, Steelman, Estevan, Claybank, Allan, Quinton, and Raymore.
Once the pioneers had successfully established themselves, settlement continued in family units. Edenwold, Langenburg, Lemberg, and Neudorf became way stations for chain migrations from various regions of eastern Europe and occasionally also from Germany. Typically, the newcomers worked for a while on farms in the well-established German colonies until they acquired the means to start their own. Thus scattered colonies of German Protestants appeared after 1900 in central, northern, and southwestern Saskatchewan, often next to German Mennonite and Catholic block settlements.
Near Rosthern and Swift Current in Saskatchewan, the Canadian government had reserved two areas for Mennonite block settlement. By 1911 the community around Rosthern had expanded to forty-two adjoining townships. Of its 8,000 German-speaking inhabitants, 800 were German Lutherans from Russia. The largest German block settlements, the Catholic colonies of St Peter’s and St Joseph’s in Saskatchewan, were the last to be started. St Peter’s covered an area of fifty townships around Humboldt and Munster and was founded in 1902 with the assistance of Benedictine monks from Minnesota and Illinois. The aim was to funnel the growing stream of Catholic German Americans heading for the Canadian prairies into a closed community where their faith would be preserved despite the Protestant environment around them. By 1911 the colony had 6,000 German settlers, most of them first- or second-generation immigrants from Germany and Russia to Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, and Kansas. About 10 percent had come directly from Germany and a few from southern Russia and the Banat.
The spectacular success of St Peter’s encouraged its founders to organize St Joseph’s, a block of seventy-seven townships under the spiritual care of the Oblate order in Germany. Located on the treeless prairie in order to achieve maximum wheat production, it was advertised among Germans in Russia and the United States who were accustomed to farming on similar terrain. Most of its settlers were from southern Russia (Ukraine) and the Volga, with a large minority from Germany and Austria-Hungary. Leipzig, the oldest district in the colony, was settled by equal numbers of German Catholics from Germany, Russia, and Hungary. Between 1911 and 1931 the population of St Peter’s grew from 6,000 to 9,000 and that of St Joseph’s from 5,300 to 10,000.
In present-day Alberta, as in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, German-speaking settlers were among the earliest farmers. In 1882 two immigrants from Germany had settled in Pincher Creek, where they were soon joined by more German Lutherans. Seven years later a party of 630 immigrants from Galicia started a string of colonies south of Medicine Hat, laying the foundation for a large settlement of Germans. Forced to relocate near Edmonton in 1891 because of drought conditions, German Lutherans from Galicia founded Hoffnungsau and Rosenthal near Stony Plain, members of the Reformed faith from the same region started Josephsberg near Fort Saskatchewan, and German Lutherans from Russia established Heimthal and Lutherort (Ellerslie) in Rabbit Hills.
Beginning in 1893 German Americans settling in Red Deer, Wetaskiwin, and Leduc initiated large-scale American migrations to western Canada. Baptists from Volhynia established themselves in the Leduc district that year, and in 1894 Moravians from Volhynia started Bruderheim and Bruderfeld near Edmonton. As a result of migrations prior to 1896, the Edmonton-Wetaskiwin-Camrose triangle was first settled by German-speaking people. Continued German movement into the area along the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) line between Wetaskiwin and Edmonton gave Germans the predominance in eleven adjoining townships around Leduc by 1911, despite a heavy Scandinavian, British, and Ukrainian influx. It thus became the largest area of German settlement in Alberta.
In British Columbia the German presence had begun much earlier than in the rest of western Canada. It dated from 1850, when the Hudson’s Bay Company physician John Sebastian Helmcken arrived with a group of colonists. Born in London of German parents and fluent in English and German, he was appointed magistrate of Fort Rupert, elected to the first colonial legislature, and led the delegation that negotiated confederation with Canada in 1870. Large numbers of Germans were among the prospectors who arrived from California in the wake of the Cariboo gold strike of 1858 and in subsequent waves of miners to the Fraser River valley. The 1881 census records 585 settlers of German origin in British Columbia in a non-native population of 24,000, making them the fourth-largest ethnic group. Consisting predominantly of immigrants from Germany and their descendants, the province’s pre–World War I population was concentrated in the cities of Victoria and Vancouver. After the war, Russländer (Russian) Mennonite and Sudeten German refugees, as well as other east European Germans fleeing the drought and depression in Alberta and Saskatchewan, found a haven in the Fraser valley and in the north of the province.
World War I disrupted the flow of German-speaking immigrants from Europe. In 1919 Canada shut its doors to all nationals of former enemy countries, an order that held until April 1923. Arrivals from post-war Germany were, like east Europeans, subsequently classed in the “non-preferred” category, from which only agricultural and domestic workers were admitted. But in January 1927 German nationals were promoted to the preferred class. The Canadian government organized the immigration and settlement of agriculturalists through the railways, which were eager to settle their landholdings. It established the Canada Colonization Association, which eventually became a CPR subsidiary, with German American T.O.F. Herzer as manager. In cooperation with Mennonite, Baptist, Lutheran, and Catholic immigration groups, the association coordinated the recruitment of settlers, assigned them a district, and found them employment. Through steamship agencies commissioned by the railways, church organizations in the emigrants’ home parishes arranged for passage, housing, and jobs at their destinations.
The significance of this service by the Canadian railways and the churches is reflected in the occupational and demographic structure of the migration. Between 1927 and 1930, 65 percent of the 20,000 immigrants from Germany were farm labourers, mostly from the agrarian regions of the northeast, 10 percent domestic servants, and only 3.4 percent skilled workers. The proportion of German farm labourers emigrating to Canada was three times higher than in the total emigration to all countries during that period, while among skilled workers the percentage was ten times lower. Half the German immigrants to Canada in 1922–31 were men, and women and children constituted a quarter each. Nearly three-quarters of Germans migrating to Canada in these years were between twenty and forty years of age.
For ethnic Germans, the support network that facilitated their immigration to Canada was provided by friends and relatives who had arrived before the war, as well as by churches and relief organizations. Many from eastern Europe had come to this country by way of and with the help of Germany, including 20,000 Russländer Mennonites from the Soviet Union. American quotas, introduced in 1921, redirected to Canada a continuation of the pre–World War I labour migration of Danube Swabians and Transylvanian Saxons. Many entered this country in the 1920s in the hope of gaining access to the United States. They settled in southern Ontario cities with employment opportunities, such as Windsor, Kitchener, and Hamilton, and are scattered through the immigration statistics under such diverse origins as German, Austrian, Hungarian, or Romanian. The adjusted figures for German immigration from eastern European countries are 30,000 from the Soviet Union, 14,000 from Romania and Yugoslavia, 8,000 from Poland, 3,000 from Czechoslovakia, and 2,000 from Hungary.
Between 1923 and 1930 some 100,000 Germans are estimated to have entered Canada, one-quarter from Germany, almost half from eastern Europe, 18 percent from the United States, 6.2 percent from Austria, 1 percent from Switzerland, and 2.4 percent from Latin America and other origins. However, more than one-third of the immigrants from Germany and an unknown proportion of the ethnic Germans continued on to the United States, which reduced Germany’s annual quota from 51,000 in 1924 to 26,000 five years later and granted only a minimal quota to eastern Europeans. Until the onset of the Depression, Canada thus functioned as both the gateway to and a substitute for its southern neighbour.
Although Canada opposed the admission of most refugees fleeing persecution in Europe under the Third Reich, a small group of Sudeten Germans rescued by the British government were allowed in. As a party to the Munich Agreement of 1938, Britain arranged a £10 million loan for the resettlement of 20,000 Czech and 10,000 Sudeten German refugees from temporary camps near Prague. In response to British pressure and the offer of a $1,500 grant per family, Canada agreed to place up to 1,200 healthy German-speaking families from this group on railway-owned land. Opposition from all four western premiers prevented the evacuation of most of the designated families until the Germans occupied Prague in March 1939. Of the 1,043 Sudeten Germans who did manage to reach the safety of Britain, 525 individuals (constituting 148 families) were sent to abandoned farms on Canadian National Railways lands near St Walburg in northeastern Saskatchewan, and 518 (152 families) were settled in the wilderness of Tupper Creek (Tomslake) in northeastern British Columbia.
The only other group of German-speaking refugees from the Third Reich to reach Canada were the so-called accidental immigrants deported to this country in 1940. They consisted of 2,300 males from among the 65,000 mostly Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria residing in Britain. They had been interned in that country during a scare about supposed fifth columnists following the German occupation of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands that year. A German invasion of the British Isles appeared imminent, and Britain decided to ship the internees to the dominions. Canada agreed to a temporary transfer of 4,000 enemy aliens and 3,000 prisoners of war, but had not expected refugees. The British, however, held only 4,500 men in the agreed categories and made up the difference with refugees. As a result, males in all three categories were sent to Canada in three prison ships. A German submarine sunk one of them, resulting in heavy loss of life.
The refugees were at first received as dangerous enemy aliens and detained in internment camps together with pro-Nazi prisoners and internees. Months elapsed before the authorities transferred them to special camps in Quebec and New Brunswick. The first ones were released in February 1941, but some inexplicably continued to be interned until August 1943. Of these refugees, 972 stayed in Canada. Predominantly composed of German-Jewish teenagers and young men from all strata of society, the group included businessmen, academics, artists, musicians, scientists, and writers. The potential of intellectual and creative energy that this group represented was in inverse proportion to its numbers.
When Canada reopened its gates to German immigrants in 1947, only those classified as volksdeutsch were admitted. German nationals remained “prohibited enemy aliens” until September 1950. The government reacted in part to pressure from citizens of German ethnic origin when in 1947 it allowed the Canadian Lutheran, Catholic, Mennonite, and Baptist churches and a representative of the Sudeten community to create the Canadian Christian Council for the Resettlement of Refugees (CCCRR), an official agency for the selection and settlement of refugees. Operating in both Canada and Germany, the CCCRR concentrated on the large class of refugees of German ethnic origin whom the United Nations had excluded from the mandate of the International Refugee Organization. The CCCRR processed healthy, employable ethnic Germans who had not assumed German citizenship voluntarily, German war brides of Canadian servicemen, and a clearly defined class of close relatives of Canadians. By late 1950 it had arranged the immigration of 15,000 German-speaking individuals.
Removal of the prohibition against German nationals, except for Nazi war criminals and those identified as Communists, in September 1950 opened the floodgates to more than a quarter of a million German-speaking newcomers in the following decade. This wave represented 18 percent of Canada’s total immigration during those years and a greater German influx than the country had ever received over such a period. The number of German immigrants jumped from 5,800 in 1950 to 32,400 a year later, when they constituted the largest ethnic category, exceeding those of British origin. The influx peaked at 39,000 in 1953 and had dropped to 12,000 by 1960. Through the next decade the annual figure for immigrants of German ethnic origin fluctuated between 4,400 and 8,200, and in the 1970s and 1980s it averaged between 1,500 and 3,400. Canadian immigration statistics counted well over half a million German-speaking arrivals between 1945 and 1994, about 5 percent of whom declared Austrian and 5 percent Swiss origin.
Mass German migration to Canada in the 1950s resulted from a combination of powerful push and pull factors. Pressure to emigrate came from the unsettled economic, social, and political conditions in central Europe in the early years of the decade and from despair about their future on the part of millions uprooted by the war. Also, a growing number of Germans, who had been deprived of the opportunity to travel for more than a decade, wanted to see the world, work abroad for a while, learn English, and decide later whether they would stay or return home. Canada appeared a prosperous, safe, neutral country, untouched by war and assured of a great future. Opportunities awaited almost every German skill in the expanding Canadian economy. German Canadians were willing to sponsor relatives from Europe, and from 1950 on, the country’s assisted-passage scheme offered interest-free loans for immigrants whose skills were needed. In 1955 their families also became eligible for loans repayable within twenty-five months after arrival. Then the picture changed; increasing unemployment in Canada beginning in the late 1950s coincided with a new shortage of workers in Germany. This development translated into a drop in immigration to 5,000 in 1962 (from 11,000 two years earlier) and a return migration of 3,300.
Almost 60 percent of German-speaking migrants in the 1950s, the highest of any nationality, considered their movement to Canada to be conditional. Only one-third intended to remain permanently, and more than 20 percent gave adventure as their reason for coming to this country. During the 1950s and 1960s, according to German statistics, one-third to one-half of German newcomers returned to the homeland, while others moved on to the United States. Since the 1960s, apart from scattered ethnic German arrivals from Russia and Romania, the typical immigrants have been highly trained specialists in secure positions and the nouveaux riches of Europe’s affluent society. Decisive for their emigration were less the actual socio-economic conditions at home and in Canada than a belief in the potential for liberty, opportunity, and wealth in the blessed land of the future.
Canadian immigration statistics do not differentiate between displaced ethnic Germans, natives of Germany expelled from its former territory east of the Oder-Neisse line, and refugees from the former German Democratic Republic. Estimates of the numbers of displaced ethnic Germans range from 61,000 to 88,000, or 24 to 37 percent of total German arrivals between 1951 and 1960. The calculations depend on whether immigration data in the 1951 and 1961 censuses by German ethnic origin and birthplace in Germany or by mother tongue and birthplace serve as the basis. Attempts to obtain more exact figures are problematic.
Some ex-refugees entered as natives and citizens of Germany, while an unknown number declared their origins as Dutch, Czechoslovak, Hungarian, Romanian, or Yugoslavian. In the late 1940s German-speaking Mennonite refugees from Russia are known to have been labelled as of Dutch origin, Sudeten Germans as Czechoslovaks, and Baltic Germans as Latvians or Estonians; other ethnic Germans used passports from their native country to enter as non-Germans. As displaced persons, German Mennonites from Russia had entered Canada as early as 1947, and Baltic and Sudeten Germans and Danube Swabians in 1948, but Transylvanian Germans did not arrive until 1955.
Arrivals from Russia, an amalgam of regional, denominational, and linguistic groups, constitute the largest category of post–World War II ethnic German refugees. According to one estimate, Canada had received 25,000 by the mid-1950s. Sponsored by North American networks of co-religionists, compatriots, or relatives, some settled in eastern Canada, but most went to the west. Today the German community from the former Russian Empire living in North America numbers about one million, one-third of whom are in Canada. Similarly, Volhynian Germans in Canada and their churches sponsored refugees from the camps in Germany, Austria, and Poland as early as 1947. The newcomers, however, did not settle on the land but moved to the major cities of western Canada.
The Baltic-German group had few precursors in Canada. But in Graf Robert Wendelin Keyserlingk, who had arrived in 1925 and organized a Baltic Relief Society in Montreal in 1945 with the help of prominent Canadians, and Baron Cecil Hahn, it had two representatives able to influence government policy through personal connections with the governor general, Lord Alexander. He had been the Allied commander of the Baltic-German regiment, Baltische Landeswehr, which in 1920 had helped to expel the Bolsheviks from Latvia and Estonia. Relatives of Hahn and Keyserlingk had served as officers under Alexander. As Lutherans, Baltic Germans also availed themselves of the assistance of Canadian Lutheran World Relief, which was directed by T.O.F. Herzer. Through his efforts, ten so-called Musterknaben (model boys) were admitted in 1948. They were to sponsor their families, who in turn would back others. By 1952, 800 Baltic Germans had arrived in Canada. The total post-war immigration is estimated at 2,000.
|Province or||Ethnic origin||Mother tongue||Birthplace|
|Prince Edward Island||5,890||215||165|
Danube Swabian refugees settled in a broad corridor from Windsor to Montreal. They joined friends and relatives who had migrated before World War II. Their historian, Frank Schmidt, counted 65,000 (including prewar immigrants) by the end of the 1950s. Among Transylvanian Saxons, too, the arrivals between 1928 and 1930 served as links and sponsors for post-war migrants. Although in their homelands they had experienced Nazi rule, enforced collaboration, and deportation to the Soviet Union, only a small number fled to the West at the end of the war. Official emigration from Romania was not permitted until 1955. Within two years an estimated 5,000 had come to Canada.
In the case of the Sudeten Germans, members of the CCCRR who had arrived as refugees before the war helped to prepare the ground in Canada for an influx between 1947 and 1965 of several thousand of the three million ethnic German residents of Czechoslovakia expelled by the government in 1945–46. The pre-war Sudeten German refugees, however, strove to maintain their own identity vis-à-vis the expellees, who had tolerated or collaborated with the Nazi regime.
Until World War II, Canada’s rural and staple-based economy had, with significant exceptions, attracted predominantly agriculturalists. Educated, skilled, and urbanized natives of Germany, as well as ethnic German labour migrants, preferred the United States, from where, in turn, a high proportion of the German-Canadian business, professional, academic, and artistic elites eventually came.
Although mostly from rural backgrounds, Germans have been found among all social strata, occupations, and sectors of the economy. From the outset they adapted to the challenge of the new land as missionaries, soldiers, fishermen, boatbuilders, farmers, artisans, engineers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, professionals, or artists. Settlers in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, for instance, who came from landlocked areas of Europe, added fishing, boat-building, sailing, and trading to their farming skills. Forty years after their arrival, they
|Census||Ethnic origin||Mother tongue|
began to enter the fishing business, acquire a reputation as daring seamen, and move to the forefront of technological development in fishing and boat-building. From the late eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries the Zwicker Company was one of the largest Canadian traders with the West Indies. Descendants of the immigrants turned Lunenburg into the hub of the east coast deep-sea fishery. As late as the 1920s, the famous schooner Bluenose won every sailing competition in the North Atlantic.
In Waterloo County in Upper Canada Mennonites reproduced the exemplary farms that their ancestors had carved out of the wilderness along the Conestoga and Pequea rivers in Pennsylvania. The prosperous Mennonite farmers promoted the settlement of German artisans and labourers in the region and stimulated them to supply the needs of local and more distant markets. The metamorphosis of Ebytown from a hamlet consisting of a few log buildings in 1830 to a flourishing market centre named Berlin three years later and to the county seat and “German capital” of the Canadas in 1852 demonstrates their success. Between that year and 1870 immigrants from Germany established twenty-seven industrial firms in Berlin employing seven hundred newcomers. By 1890 the city was rapidly becoming Ontario’s foremost industrial centre and a pioneer in the regulation of municipal water and gas supplies and public transportation. Initiatives by such entrepreneurs as E.W.B. Snider, D.B. Detweiler, and Adam Beck to harness the hydroelectric potential of Niagara Falls through combined community effort led in 1906 to the creation of the publicly owned Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario (now Ontario Hydro), which Beck directed until his death.
Although logging was a major industry in the Ottawa valley, the German settlers concentrated on farming, the purpose for their immigration. Promotional literature had painted the area in the rosiest colours, ignoring the fact that the land was of marginal value. Between the 1860s and the 1880s a number of disappointed newcomers moved on to greener pastures in the west. But most of the settlers were not deterred by the harvest of stones that awaited them. Removing tree stumps and large rocks with ingenious contraptions, they acquired a reputation for adaptability where other immigrants had failed to make a living.
In cities such as Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, and Medicine Hat, ethnic Germans formed a sizable portion of the early labour force. Most worked in packing houses, machine shops, mills, railway yards, construction sites, and coal mines only until they had earned sufficient money to purchase a homestead. Some were employed in the enterprises of such successful German industrialists as Alfred Freiherr von Hammerstein and Martin Nordegg. Arriving in 1897, Hammerstein rose from a penniless Athabasca river boy to founder of the Alberta Herald and the Athabasca Oil and Asphalt Company and pioneer developer of the Alberta tar sands. Nordegg came to develop Alberta’s coal deposits in 1906.
Many Germans in British Columbia soon abandoned prospecting to become suppliers, ranchers, and businessmen in and near Victoria, the supply centre for the Fraser gold rush of the 1850s. Others took up logging, lumbering, grain milling, and farming. Germans were prominent as early settlers and community leaders and in such occupations as brewing, baking, furniture manufacture, metal founding, cigar making, and wholesaling. They participated in the speculation that fuelled the province’s burgeoning economic growth. In the rapidly expanding financial and commercial capital of Vancouver, pioneer German businessmen did much to promote development.
One of the city’s most colourful figures and a focal point of community life in the pre–World War I era was Gustav Constantin Alvo von Alvensleben, the son of a prominent Prussian nobleman. Having left Germany in 1904 with a few dollars in his pocket, in four years he became a successful investment speculator and entrepreneur. He is reputed to have invested $7 million, including capital from such prominent persons as Kaiser William II and German chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, in the British Columbia economy. An avid supporter of the arts and many public causes in the period 1910–14, Alvensleben became a celebrity. The Deutsche Klub that he organized was patronized by virtually every German in Vancouver. However, because he was excluded as an “enemy of the Dominion” between 1914 and 1929 and his assets confiscated, he died poor and forgotten in Seattle.
Germans contributed to the urban life of other Canadian cities. Niagara Falls owes its rapid development after 1848 to Samuel Zimmerman’s initiatives. Born of German immigrant parents who had settled in Pennsylvania, he became one of Canada’s most successful businessmen, railway promoters, and urban developers. In Hamilton, a major thoroughfare for immigrants from Quebec, Montreal, and New York, thousands of Germans were reported looking for work in the 1850s, while such enterprises as Richard Mott Wanzer’s sewing-machine factory and the gun-manufacturing shop of Heinrich Kretschman and Julius Winckler were prospering.
In Montreal, Germans representing the trades of merchant, butcher, innkeeper, and artisan founded the German Society in 1835. Montreal merchant Wilhelm Christian Munderloh, who was to serve as the society’s president from 1873 to 1893, prompted the Hansa Line (Hamburg-America Packet Company) to initiate in the 1860s the first steamship connection between Canada and Europe for his growing export business. When the line was incorporated into the HAPAG, his firm became its agents. By 1912 Montreal prided itself on such major firms operated by German immigrants as Dörksen Brothers, Koenig and Stuffmann, L. Gnaedinger Sons, the Montreal Quilting Company, F. Schnaufer, Hupfeld Luedecking, the Linde British Refrigerating Company, and Herman Zinsstag.
Toronto’s burgeoning growth attracted a German community of nearly a thousand, mostly craftsmen and businessmen, by 1871. Memmelsdorf natives Abraham and Samuel Nordheimer, who came to Toronto via New York and Kingston, opened a music business in 1844, and Berlin-born Theodor August Heintzman established what would become Canada’s leading piano manufacturer. The Heintzman company absorbed the Nordheimers’ business in 1928.
Between the world wars, farming remained a viable sector of the Canadian economy. Many German newcomers accepted this way of life, which was increasingly being abandoned by native-born Canadians. Immigrants from eastern Europe not only replaced Canadian farmers and farmhands who moved to urban areas, but they also took up the challenges of the northern wilderness, the bush country of Saskatchewan, and the dry land of Alberta. In the Peace River district, Hermann Trelle, known as the “wheat king,” demonstrated the profitability of growing that crop. His success attracted a stream of settlers to the far north of Alberta after 1926. German newcomers also engaged successfully in dairying, truck gardening, and mixed farming. Their agricultural ability was proven during the difficult years of the 1930s, when wheat producers in the prairies escaped economic ruin by switching to mixed farming.
Unlike earlier German immigrants, those who arrived after World War II were not drawn primarily to rural settlements in central and western Canada or to existing German neighbourhoods in the cities. Better educated, more urbanized, and hence more upwardly mobile than previous arrivals, they were the first Germans to enter all sectors of the Canadian economy. The majority arrived as skilled workers in a country in the midst of accelerated industrial development and requiring expertise of all kinds. These newcomers had significantly below-average unemployment rates and quickly attained income levels matching or surpassing those of Canadians of British or French origin.
In the early 1950s the wives and children of immigrants, as well as farmers and agricultural workers, predominated over skilled workers, technicians, clerks, service personnel, and a small percentage of professionals. Thereafter, the percentage of educated migrants increased, while farmers and labourers virtually disappeared. From 1953 to 1963, over 19 percent of skilled newcomers to Canada were of German origin, although Germans constituted only 13 percent of total immigration. Between 1954 and 1970, 45 percent of German arrivals intended to work in secondary industries, and 80 percent of those were skilled craftsmen. Every second individual hoped for a job in manufacturing, construction, or processing.
It can be assumed that these people were motivated by either relatively high economic expectations or noneconomic reasons, considering the great demand for their qualifications in Germany. Indeed, as noted earlier, in 1961 more than 20 percent of post-war German immigrants gave adventure as their reason for coming to Canada, and 53 percent, the highest of any nationality, did not intend to remain permanently. German migrants were part of a growing transient labour force with internationally marketable skills and the financial means to visit what they regarded as the land of opportunity.
The occupational specializations of the immigrants also allowed them to seize opportunities for self-employment, so that between 1950 and 1966 Germans, who formed 13 percent of arrivals during that period, launched some 19 percent of all new businesses started by immigrants. German-Canadian business benefited from the needs and preferences of the expanding German community in Canada and the revival of trade with German-speaking Europe. By the late 1950s a network of retailers, wholesalers, importers, service agents, and producers were supplying their clientele with everything from German-style foods and duvets to Kachelofen (ceramic-tile stoves). Immigrant-generated business thus enabled German-Canadian entrepreneurs to penetrate the Canadian market. Individuals of various backgrounds have built large industrial enterprises in post– World War II Canada. Prominent among them is Munich-born Carlo von Maffei in Alberta. The business success of brothers Helmut and Hugo Eppich, who immigrated as mechanics in 1953, is legendary. By the 1990s their small auto parts and tool shop had developed into the multinational corporation EBCO.
The occupational breakdown of the Canadian population of German origin in 1981 was 20 percent clerical, 15 percent processing, 10 percent service, 9 percent each in sales, managerial, administrative, farming, and construction, and 20 percent in teaching, scientific, engineering, health, and other professions. Whether their income is measured in terms of the individual, the group average, or the household, studies have shown that post-war German immigrants earn as much or more than Canadians of British origin and have a significantly lower unemployment rate than other Canadian groups. The relatively high level of prosperity that these newcomers have enjoyed soon after their arrival in Canada parallels the spectacular economic resurgence of West Germany after the war. Their economic well-being is, in the final analysis, the fruit of their determination to counter war-related stigmatization and other negative experiences from the past with hard work.
From the first appearance of settlers from Lucerne, Erfurt, Speyer, Vienna, Danzig, and Breisach in New France, the population of German-speaking descent has constituted a mosaic within the wider multicultural mix of Canada. In addition to natives from every region of Germany, it comprises Austrians, Swiss, Alsatians, Luxemburgers, German Americans, immigrants from Latin America, and ethnic Germans from all over eastern Europe. In the formation and maintenance of community, national origin has rarely been the rallying point. Until World War I, German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Austria had a weaker allegiance to their country than to the region of origin and preferred to identify themselves as Bavarian, Saxon, or Prussian, for example. Acknowledgement of German origin meant ethnocultural, not national, identity.
The absence of nationalism as an issue enabled immigrants of diverse German-speaking backgrounds to assume a common “German Canadian” identity in the process of adjustment and integration. The German consulate in Montreal in 1905 observed that “here in Canada, German Americans are considered as Germans, and mostly they also identify themselves as such, just as is the case with German Russians and German Austrians.” Similarly, the editor of Der Nordwesten (The Northwest; Winnipeg, 1889–1969), for decades the leading German-language paper in Canada, remarked in 1912 that, although only a minority of German-speaking farmers in the west hailed from Germany, they all “nevertheless call themselves Germans ... It is with them more a matter of sentiment than of geographical boundaries.”
Nor did social class divide German communities in Canada as much as it did in the United States. Migrants of different geographical, but similar rural, origins were motivated by common elements in their cultural orientation to form communities. This phenomenon has manifested itself in patterns of rural settlement and urban neighbourhoods; in such shared institutions as local and national associations, churches, language schools, and the German-language press; and in the joint celebration of such events as Christmas Eve, Belsnicking, Oktoberfest, German Day, and Karneval or Fasching.
In Lunenburg the so-called Foreign Protestants from southwestern Germany, Switzerland, and eastern France fused into a flourishing community with German churches, schools, and industries. In Waterloo County, Mennonites attracted waves of south German Catholics and north German Protestants, Amish, Swiss, and Russländer Mennonites as co-settlers to form around Berlin the largest and most viable German-Canadian community. In the west, German-speaking communities with such mixed origins as the United States, Austria, Germany, Alsace, Hungary, Galicia, and Russia were the predominant pattern of settlement, and membership in churches and voluntary ethnic associations was equally mixed. German ethnicity, in alliance with religious creed, was the main generator of the community.
In the case of Berlin, Mennonites were the founders of the German community; they shared their German-language schools, meeting houses, burial grounds, and resources with German-speaking settlers of all denominations. Mennonite bishop Benjamin Eby played a crucial role in this development by selling land to German immigrants, giving Ebytown the new name of Berlin in 1833, and in 1835 helping to launch Ontario’s first German-language paper (Canada Museum). Furthermore, the absence of a British socio-economic elite facilitated an equality of opportunity. The increasing number of prosperous German businessmen were role models for the newcomers, who shared a common social background and kept them in positions of power. Adhering to the proverbial German work ethic and strict social mores, the community was spared the class and racial strife, crime, and sectarianism that characterized much urban growth elsewhere. The endurance of a strong sense of community was noted by numerous outside observers. Prior to 1914 other Canadians recognized Germans as the charter group in Berlin and paid homage to the community’s exemplary character and values.
Since the eighteenth century a variety of voluntary organizations have attested to the diverse needs, interests, and aspirations of the German-Canadian community. Operating on local, regional, and national levels, they range in function from the religious, mutual aid, and charitable to the social, cultural, and political. The organizational network includes embassies, consulates, and cultural attachés, departments of German in Canadian universities, branches of the Germany-based Goethe Institut, and the German-language media. Voluntary organizations numbered about two hundred in 1957, five hundred in 1974, and over six hundred twenty years later.
Secular clubs have existed in only some areas of Canada, but churches and religious organizations have played a key role almost everywhere in helping German immigrants adjust to the new life. Between 1750 and 1861, for example, the Lutheran Church was the focus of community life in the settlement of Lunenburg, the Loyalist towns of Upper Canada, the Niagara peninsula, and the Ottawa valley. Ministers organized cultural and social activities, including German schools, and maintained German-language services as long as the demand existed. For rural Germans from eastern Europe, the church continued its role as a social and cultural centre in the pioneer environment of western Canada.
German secular associations in Canada were dissolved during and immediately after both world wars, but Lutheran, Mennonite, Catholic, and Baptist churches retained extensive service structures at local, regional, and national levels. After 1945 they provided comprehensive support for German-speaking immigrants that ranged from arranging overseas passage to tending to their educational, health, and welfare needs after their arrival. In the metropolitan areas, a few Lutheran, Catholic, and Baptist churches continue to provide services and fellowship in German, but the shrinking demand for these and the secularization of Canadian society have reduced the churches’ role to the spiritual care of their members.
While Germans from rural eastern Europe tended to organize community life around their church, immigrants from urbanized Germany established secular social clubs. The earliest of such organizations was the short-lived Hochdeutsche Gesellschaft (High German Society) in Halifax between 1786 and 1791. The oldest surviving secular association in Canada, the German Society of Montreal (founded in 1835), has functioned primarily as a benevolent and immigrant-aid organization. Its founders, reflecting the heterogeneous nature of the city’s early German community, represented four generations of immigrants originating in Switzerland, Germany, France, England, and the United States. In 1853 members of the society organized St John’s Lutheran Church and four years later the singing clubs Germania and Eintracht (Harmony). In Hamilton a German Benevolent Society, a singing club also called Eintracht, and a German theatre were founded between 1859 and 1863. The oldest German organization in existence today in Kitchener is the Concordia Club, established in 1873 as a choral society.
A growing number of local clubs providing fellowship, the pursuit of hobbies, and a German cultural environment have sprung up in the traditional areas of German settlement – Kitchener-Waterloo, Windsor, Hamilton, Toronto, and Ottawa – since the 1860s and in the urban centres in the west since the 1890s. In Victoria a Germania Sing Verein existed from 1861 to 1914. A German Society appeared in Winnipeg as early as 1871, when the city counted only 240 inhabitants. By 1914 Germans constituted nearly 10 percent of the urban population and had fifteen churches (nine of them Lutheran), four national-origin associations, numerous special-interest clubs, and several German-language newspapers. Associations such as the Reichsdeutscher Verein (Imperial German Society, 1905–08) or the Deutsch-Oesterreich-Ungarischer Verein (German-Austro-Hungarian Society, 1906–15) functioned as local social clubs with a heterogeneous German membership.
The driving force behind the revival of German-Canadian associational life in the 1920s was a strong consciousness among the post-war newcomers of having suffered as Germans. Manifestations of heightened ethnocultural aspirations ranged from celebrations of German Days (festive reunions of pre- and post-war immigrants), starting in 1923, to the first endeavours to record the group’s history. With few exceptions, notably the Winnipeg-based Volksverein deutsch-kanadischer Katholiken (People’s Association of German-Canadian Catholics), founded in 1909, pre-war organizations were not revived.
The associations and clubs of the 1920s and 1930s mirrored the origins, lifestyles, and aspirations of the post-war immigrants. Large urban centres now had more German organizations than ever before, and many of them were run for the first time by and for ethnic Germans from eastern Europe. Transylvanian Saxons founded clubs in Kitchener (1927), Windsor (1929), Aylmer, Ontario (1929), Winnipeg (1931), and Hamilton (1935); Danube Swabians in Montreal (1929), Kingsville, Ontario (1930), Niagara Falls (1934), Kitchener (1934), and Windsor (1935). Usually started as sick-benefit, burial, and glee societies, they also recruited Germans from other backgrounds.
In the 1930s the first German-Canadian labour and socialist organizations appeared in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Regina, Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto. Their earliest umbrella organization was the short-lived Zentralverband deutschsprechender Arbeiter (Central Association of German-Speaking Workers), followed by the pro-Communist Deutscher Arbeiter- und Farmerverband (German Workers and Farmers Association) and its anti-Nazi successor, the Deutsch-Kanadischer Volksbund (German-Canadian League).
Other local clubs affiliated with such regional umbrella groups as the Deutsch-Kanadisches Zentralkomitee (German-Canadian Central Committee), Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft (German Coordinating Committee), Deutsch-Kanadischer Bund von Manitoba (German-Canadian Union of Manitoba), and Deutsch-Kanadischer Verband von Saskatchewan (German-Canadian Association of Saskatchewan). The pro-Nazi Deutscher Bund Canada (also known as the Canadian Society for German Culture), founded in 1934, spawned local groups with German-language schools, cultural facilities, and recreational clubs. Attempts to organize German Canadians in the service of the Nazi cause failed, however. The party recruited only 170 members in Canada, and its affiliated German Labour Front an estimated 500. The Bund attracted 2,000 members, in part because it claimed to pursue cultural, not political, goals.
Today many German-Canadian clubs endeavour to provide for the entire family in ways ranging from educational programs and material support to restaurant services, Fasching (pre-Lenten) celebrations, and folk festivals. The most common aim is the preservation of customs and traditions practised in the immigrants’ place of origin. Relief and mutual assistance are provided by the Edelweiss Credit Union of Vancouver. Offering credit on trust and only to German Canadians, it grew from fourteen members in 1943 to over four thousand by 1970. Care of the elderly is the raison d’être of the German-Canadian Benevolent Society, which is active in several Canadian cities. As well, some twenty-one homes for German seniors are operated across the country.
Urban clubs with traditional European roots often carry names such as Bayern, Berliner, Sudeten, Burgenländer, Gottschee, and Donauschwaben. Most manifest an allegiance based on local place of origin. Germans from Russia operated a short-lived German-Russian Society in Winnipeg (1908–11), but today they have no organizational centre in Canada. Some are members of either the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Germans from Russia Heritage Society based in Bismarck, North Dakota, or the Landsmannschaft der Russlanddeutschen (Alliance of Germans from Russia) in Germany. Volhynian Canadians, too, lack organizational infrastructure apart from their churches. Their only national mouthpiece is the genealogically oriented magazine Wandering Volhynians (Vancouver, 1987–), published by Ewald Wuschke.
The national organizations of Canadian Baltic Germans are the Canadian Baltic Immigrant Aid Society, launched in 1948 by Robert Keyserlingk, and the Canadian Baltic Aid Fund, founded four years later. Their objective was to facilitate Baltic-German immigration and to provide financial assistance to newcomers and students. With seven branches across Canada and a membership of four hundred in the 1960s, the CBIAS continues to raise funds for needy compatriots, as well as providing a network of personal contacts, social events, and cultural activities.
The Sudeten clubs in Hamilton (1941), Toronto (1947), Montreal (1952), Tomslake, British Columbia (1959), and Edmonton (1960) were founded by the refugees of 1939. They and the post–World War II expellees agreed in 1957 to form a joint umbrella organization, the Central Alliance of Sudeten German Organizations in Canada (Zentralverband sudetendeutscher Organisationen in Kanada). It maintained ties with both the Seliger-Gemeinde, an international union of Sudeten German social democratic exiles, and the more nationalist Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft in Germany.
After World War II, Danube Swabian club life was launched in Montreal in 1947 by pre-war immigrants from Hungary eager to revive the Swabian-German Association, which had prospered from 1929 to 1940. It had had 400 members in 1936; the membership reached to 350 by 1980. In Ontario, Danube Swabians created a religious centre of their own, St Michael’s Windsor, in 1949; an annual festival, Danube Swabian Day, in 1959; a cultural centre, St Michaelswerk Toronto, the following year; a recreational site, Danube Swabian Park “Waldheim,” in 1961; the pilgrimage Shrine of Our Lady at Marylake near Toronto three years later; the retirement home “Heimathof” Windsor in 1984; and their own apartment complex in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, called Blue Danube House, in 1994. Today eleven social clubs are affiliated in the Alliance of the Danube Swabians of Canada (Verband der Donauschwaben in Kanada), which publishes a monthly paper called the Heimatbote (Messenger from Home; Toronto, 1959–). Most also have German members without Danube Swabian roots. By providing a wide range of youth, women’s, social, educational, cultural, religious, music, sports, and charitable activities, they have reconstructed an identity consisting of Danube Swabian and other German cultural elements.
Transylvanian Saxon clubs in Kitchener, Windsor, and Aylmer are organized along lines similar to the Danube Swabian associations. Like them, they celebrate annual Heimattage (homecoming reunions), as well as organizing youth camps and cultural exchanges with American clubs. The origin of their umbrella organization, the Central Verband der Siebenbürger Sachsen of the U.S.A. (Alliance of Transylvanian Saxons of the U.S.A.), dates to 1902, when the United States was their favoured destination. The Landsmannschaft der Siebenbürger Sachsen in Kanada (Association of Transylvanian Saxons of Canada) was founded by post–World War II immigrants in 1960. With 8,000 members in 1993, it publishes a monthly newsletter also called Heimatbote (Home Hearld; Toronto, 1960–) and is affiliated with similar organizations in the United States, Germany, and Austria.
The chief promotional agency of business interests is the German-Canadian Business and Professional Association. Founded in 1953, it expanded from 70 members in the late 1950s to 350 in 1993. The association has organized tours of its members’ businesses, invited politicians and economists as guest speakers at its functions, and promoted networking among members, the German-Canadian community, and Canadian society. Similarly, the Canadian German Chamber of Industry and Commerce was founded in 1968 to promote trade and economic relations between Germany and Canada through market research, mutual investment, and economic and industrial cooperation. Major beneficiaries of this trade have been German-Canadian firms because of their knowledge of both the Canadian and the European market. In 1995 the chamber counted nearly nine hundred Canadian and three hundred German, mostly corporate, members.
Following the model of the Deutschamerikanische Nationalbund (National German-American Alliance) of 1901, various German umbrella organizations were founded in Canada: the Deutsch-Kanadischer Nationalbund (National German-Canadian Alliance), established in Winnipeg in 1913, and the Deutscher Bund Canada in Kitchener in 1934. Active from 1952 to the late 1970s, the Trans-Canada Alliance of German-Canadians (TCA) was the first nationally recognized umbrella organization of German clubs and churches. It originated in Kitchener in 1946 as the Canadian Society for German Relief, whose goals were to aid refugees and lobby for the admission of Germans to Canada. Declaring the cultivation of German traditions as its first objective, it supported and coordinated German-language instruction for children through a network of voluntary schools, or Sonnabendschulen (Saturday schools). In 1972 TCA membership peaked at ninety-four organizations with 20,000 active and 40,000 social members. The number dropped to twenty-three in 1977, when the TCA was rocked by a leadership crisis. Today, it exists in name only.
Its successor is the German-Canadian Congress (GCC). Founded in 1984 as the national umbrella organization for Canadians of ethnic German descent, it has assumed an advocacy role for the entire community in the context of official multiculturalism. In 1994 the GCC had branches in Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia, in addition to some 550 member organizations across Canada. Among these are 130 churches, 100 German-language schools, 20 senior citizens’ homes, and art associations, museums, theatres, and credit unions, as well as several smaller umbrella organizations. These last include provincial alliances in Saskatchewan and Alberta; Transylvanian Saxon, Danube Swabian, Baltic, and Sudeten German groups; the German-Canadian Choir Association (Deutschkanadischer Sängerbund) with branches in Kitchener, London, Hamilton, Stratford, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, and Windsor; and the Canadian Association of German Language Schools. Reflecting the diversity of the community’s denominations and origins, GCC membership includes Mennonites and Hutterites, Austrians and Swiss, as well as anglophone and francophone Canadians of German-speaking background. In 1994 its president was a Canadian whose family came from Germany and its vice-president was Austrian-born. Until 1993 a Canadian-born Mennonite was its treasurer.
The population of West Germany in the post–World War II era, like that of the German states prior to 1871, was almost equally divided between Roman Catholics and Protestants. From 1871 to 1938, however, and in the reunited Germany since 1990, it has been predominantly Protestant. The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 had officially recognized only the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed (Calvinist) creeds as state churches. Nonetheless, until the nineteenth century, there were significant refugee movements in and out of Germany of such religious dissenters as Anabaptists, Schwenkfelders, Huguenots, Pietists, and Moravians. Frequently, such groups sought refuge from persecution first in other German states (for example, Austrian Protestants in Prussia, Swiss Mennonites in the Palatinate, and Moravians in Saxony), then in Hungary and Russia, and finally in North America. Until 1781 the Habsburg rulers selected only Roman Catholic Swabians as settlers along the Hungarian Danube, while Russia from the outset solicited all religious dissenters and encouraged homogeneous Mennonite, Hutterite, Baptist, Lutheran, and Catholic colonies.
Since Canada has received immigrants from all areas of German-speaking settlement, these incomers have transplanted a variety of religious creeds, many of which had survived only in the east European diaspora. From colonial America, Germans brought new variants of Anabaptism and Lutheranism to Canada. In the process of opening new districts in Alberta, German settlers imported ten new German-American religious denominations. The most popular denomination among Germans in Canada has been Lutheranism, to which, in 1991, 111,000 Canadians whose mother tongue was German professed adherence. The other faiths represented were Roman Catholics (102,000), Mennonites (91,000), United Church (17,000), Baptists (15,000), Pentecostals (9,000), Anglicans (6,000), Jehovah’s Witnesses and Presbyterians (3,000 each), eastern Orthodox (1,000), and Jews (915).
Since the Lutheran churches in Europe were not ministering to German adherents overseas, three synods rooted in the United States claimed Canada as a missionary field. The largest and oldest is the Lutheran Church in America. It served Germans in Nova Scotia as early as 1749 and now has two-thirds of its members in Ontario. The second largest, the conservative Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), dates to 1854 and is concentrated in central and western Canada. The third group is the American Lutheran Church and its western-based offspring, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada. In 1934 the United Lutheran Church counted 53,000 members in Canada, the American Lutheran Church 26,000, and the Missouri Synod 38,000.
The church – the focus of community life in the rural homelands of the immigrants – has remained the strongest influence on community formation and maintenance in Canada. In the eighteenth-century Lunenburg and Upper Canada congregations, Germans stubbornly clung to their Lutheran and Reformed faiths in the face of pressures from the Church of England to claim the newcomers. Lutheran ministers acted as a focal point for social cohesion and the preservation of the language and cultural heritage. Roman Catholic clergy ministered in the German language to Germans and Swiss at the Red River colony in 1820. They named the settlement Saint-Boniface in honour of the patron saint of Germans.
In the denominationally homogeneous block settlements that were the typical pattern for German-speaking Roman Catholics in western Canada, lay organizations and clergy cooperated in selecting the land, negotiating with government, and filling the colonies with settlers. In pre–World War I Winnipeg, clergy of the Oblate order purchased a large piece of suburban land and sold it piecemeal as building lots to German Catholic immigrants to create a homogeneous residential neighbourhood around St Joseph’s Church. Lutherans, Baptists, and Moravians also formed denominationally homogeneous settlements through chain migrations, transplanting entire congregations from Hungary and Russia to Canada, where the churches facilitated adaptation to the new environment. The Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum), founded in 1727 in Herrnhut, Saxony, provided the missionaries who worked among the Inuit of northern Labrador from the late eighteenth century, and Moravian congregations were also established near Edmonton by settlers from Volhynia.
German-speaking congregations and religious communities have traditionally functioned as the chief agents in the retention of the mother tongue past the immigrant generation. According to a 1985 survey, church services in the German language were being offered in 532 Canadian congregations by the following denominations: Lutheran (92), Roman Catholic (12), Mennonite (115), Amish (29), Hutterite (225), Moravian (1), Methodist (2), United Church (2), Baptist (21), Church of God (16), and Pentecostal (17). Not all of these churches had weekly German services, and some were bilingual. The congregations were predominantly in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and Manitoba. Representing an estimated 86,530 parishioners, they included natives of Canada, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Analysts have noted that adherence to ethnic German denominations is declining and that German-language services are fast disappearing, even among the Mennonites, who have traditionally been the most tenacious retainers of the German language and culture.
The culture of the German-Canadian mosaic is reflected in its rich legacy of folk customs, art, and artefacts, its pioneers in medicine, music, and the fine arts, its literature, and its press. Relics of eighteenth-century German culture are still noticeable in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and elsewhere in Canada. Although the language of the original settlers vanished nearly a century ago, the so-called Lunenburg Dutch dialect, characterized by a distinct accent and unusual phrasing, is detectable in local English, and elements of German folklore and folk beliefs are also evident in that community. Apart from the artefacts and distinctive designs decorating old furniture, utensils, and fabrics, aspects of the surviving German heritage include such cherished foods as homemade sausages and sauerkraut.
Among the vestiges of folk culture brought to southern Ontario from Pennsylvania is the so-called Pennsylvania German bank barn, a large structure distinguished by its size, earth ramp to the upper floor, mow overhang, and hex signs. German farmers from that area also transplanted their typical log cabin, characterized by a centrally located chimney with fireplace openings to the living and sleeping quarters. The farm layout common in southwestern Ontario – detached residence, barn, and grain elevator – can also be traced to the Pennsylvania German pioneers. It contrasts with the house-barn combination brought to Manitoba by Mennonites from Russia in the 1870s.
The mere fact that “Hessian” soldiers represented 3 to 4 percent of the male population in British North American in 1783 accounts for their significant impact on the society of the day. Among the group were highly skilled professionals, intellectuals, artists, and musicians who as teachers, composers, and performers introduced professional standards of classical music. The thirty or so surgeons who stayed in Lower Canada after 1783, together with the descendants of German physicians who had arrived before 1776, laid the foundation for the province’s medical profession and a medical school that later became part of McGill University.
The tides of pre-Confederation German immigration bequeathed to Canada a rich heritage of folk and decorative art, artistic calligraphy (Fraktur), furniture, and textiles primarily of Pennsylvania Dutch and southwest German origin. Generally acknowledged is the influence of such German artists as William Berczy, Cornelius Krieghoff, William Raphael, Otto Reinhold Jacobi, and Adolph Vogt on Canadian portrait, genre, and landscape painting of the period 1800–70. Similarly, the impact of such musicians as Frederick Glackemeyer, Jean-Chrysostome Brauneis, and Théodore-Frédéric Molt has caused historians to refer to the first half of the nineteenth century as the German period in Canadian musical history.
In the decades preceding World War I, most Canadian cities had their German musicians and choirs. In Toronto, Canadian-born Augustus Stephen Vogt founded the Mendelssohn Choir, the country’s first internationally renowned vocal group. Joseph Hecker started the Winnipeg Philharmonic Society in 1880, the first symphony orchestra in the west. Oscar Telgmann, the founder of the Kingston Symphony Orchestra, also became known as a composer of operettas.
In the post-war era, Carl F. Schaefer’s bold landscape paintings distinguished him as one of the most gifted students of the Group of Seven. Noted for the high quality of their abstract art are Fritz Brandtner, Karl May, and Herbert Siebner, as are Emanuel Otto Hahn, Harry Wohlfarth, and Almuth Luetkenhaus for their sculpture. Silesian-born Eberhard Zeidler, designer of Ontario Place and the Eaton Centre in Toronto and Canada Place in Vancouver, is an internationally acclaimed architect. Opera director Hermann Geiger-Torel established the Canadian Opera Company, the first such organization in this country.
In the realm of literary culture, a significant body of poetry and fiction depicting Canadian and immigrant experience is of fairly recent origin. The history of German-Canadian literature can be traced through Der Neuschottländische Calender (The Nova Scotia Calendar; Halifax, 1788–1801) and nineteenth-century almanacs, travel reports, sermons, church chronicles, clergymen’s tales, and poems with moralistic and didactic overtones. These literary products were generally of low intellectual content and were aimed at local and denominational interests. The prerequisites for literature – an educated, middle-class reading public and an intelligentsia not drawn to the burgeoning German-American urban communities – were long lacking in Canada. Absorption in the daily chores of pioneer farming or community development left little time for creative writing.
The pioneers of twentieth-century German-Canadian literature were Russländer Mennonites who between the world wars wrote about the turmoil of their uprooting in revolutionary Russia, their German heritage, and their migration and settlement in Canada. A strong commitment to German culture and values permeates their writings. The only major non-Mennonite writer before World War II was Felix Paul Berthold Friedrich Greve. Born in Germany, where he published poetry and a novel before immigrating to Canada in 1909, he became a Canadian celebrity claiming Scottish-Swedish descent under the alias Frederick Philip Grove. Between 1922 and 1947 he wrote seven popular novels in English, one volume of essays, and another of short stories, in addition to a fictionalized autobiography, In Search of Myself (1946), for which he received the Governor General’s Literary Award. Credited with introducing realism into Canadian fiction and applying international standards and perspectives to prairie themes, Grove is often considered the founder of modern Canadian literature. Successfully camouflaging his literary and personal background until his death – his true identity was not uncovered until 1972 – he is also credited with pioneering multiculturalism. His novels criticize conformity with British ideals and the rampant prejudice directed against immigrants of non-British background between the wars.
A sudden flowering of remarkably varied and professional German-Canadian literature in the 1950s originated from the post-war influx into Canada of an educated middle class, some of whom had enjoyed well-established reputations as writers before they emigrated. It also reflected a radical break with the past, which World War II represented for Germans everywhere. The experience of chaos and discontinuity gave new meaning to such standard Canadian themes as isolation, alienation, the search for identity, and the challenge of nature. It inspired German-Canadian writers to view their immigrant experience from a deeper, more universal perspective. In her diary, poetry, and short prose, Else Seel immortalized the struggles of a woman, steeped in the metropolitan culture of Berlin, to adapt to pioneer life in the British Columbia wilderness. Central for Walter Bauer was the tension between the grandeur of Canadian nature and what he termed the burden of his European baggage, figuratively bursting with contents from the two world wars. Hermann Boeschenstein, a University of Toronto professor of German, literary critic, and leading figure in the German-Canadian community for almost half a century, wrote novels, short stories, and plays. A theme that fascinated him was the dialectic of emigration and return to one’s homeland.
Unique and intellectually fertile was the group of German-Jewish refugee internees deported to Canada from Britain in 1940. They included the Austrian-born Carl Weiselberger, Henry Kreisel, Charles Wassermann, and Cologne-born Eric Koch. Weiselberger and Wassermann wrote in German and English, while Kreisel and Koch switched entirely to English. Weiselberger’s and Kreisel’s work deals with the trauma of the refugee experience. Wassermann’s eleven books in German and hundreds of television plays and radio broadcasts in English brought Canada to German-speaking Europe and vice versa. Koch produced countless films, television programs, and books, including two futuristic novels and autobiographical accounts of the Nazi period.
Some noteworthy German-Canadian writers are not interested in themes and subjects derived from their own community. Henry Beissel emigrated to Canada in 1951 intending to become a writer and to forget his homeland. Apart from preparing sensitive translations of Walter Bauer’s novels, he became known for his defence of the native peoples. The work of Ulrich Schaffer, who came to Canada in 1953, when he was eleven, transcended the immigrant experience. He wrote more than a dozen books exclusively for audiences in Germany. Inspired by Canadian nature and modern German culture, he experimented with new poetic forms in a search for meaning in today’s world.
The beginnings of the German-language press date to the Neuschoffländer Calender (Halifax, 1788-1801). The first German-language newspaper in Upper Canada, Canada Museum und allgemeine Zeitung (Canada Museum and General Newspaper; Berlin, Ont., 1835–40), was produced with a printing press brought from Pennsylvania. It and Der Deutsche Canadier (The German Canadian; Berlin, 1841–65), as well as the Berliner Journal (Berlin Journal; Berlin, Kitchener, Ont., 1859–1917), published in German and Pennsylvania German, helped to establish the city’s claim as the German capital of Canada. Between 1835 and 1867, eighteen German-language papers were issued in Upper Canada. The proliferation of the local German-language press in Ontario after 1867 and in western Canada after 1900 attests to the vitality of German-Canadian cultural life before World War I.
The majority of German-language papers catered to religious and farmers’ interests. The first labour and socialist-oriented publication was the Deutsche Arbeiter Zeitung (German Worker’s News; Winnipeg, 1930–37), mouthpiece first of the short-lived Central Association of German-Speaking Workers and then of the pro-Communist German Workers and Farmers Association. The organ of the German-Canadian League was briefly called Deutsch-kanadische Volkszeitung (German-Canadian People’s News; Toronto, 1930?–37?) and then Deutsches Volksecho (German People’s Echo; New York). Its post-war successor was Volksstimme (People’s Voice; Toronto, 1944–49). At the other end of the political spectrum appeared the pro-Nazi Deutsche Zeitung für Canada (German Newspaper for Canada; Winnipeg, 1935–39).
Der Nordwestern and Der Courier (The Courier; Regina, 1907–69) became the chief non-denominational papers with a national circulation. They appeared as weeklies, despite wartime interruption, until they merged in 1970 under the name Kanada Kurier (Canada Courier; Winnipeg, 1970– ). With some 24,000 subscribers in the 1970s, the Kurier established itself as Canada’s foremost non-partisan German-language paper. It appears in six regional editions, each with two sections, one containing the same general-interest information and the other specific to the region and focusing on local social and cultural items.
Of the German-language papers that appeared in Canada in the 1950s and 1960s, most were issued monthly and some were directed at specific denominational or regional groups. Among those still being published are the Pazifische Rundschau (Pacific Review; Vancouver, 1969– ) and Echo Germanica (Toronto, 1990– ). In addition, the TCA, the GCC, the consulates general of German-speaking countries, and various clubs and associations publish news bulletins at regular intervals. With the post-war immigrants and special-interest readers as their main targets, many new ventures later suffered from dwindling circulation and in some cases closed. Among those with previously large circulation that have ceased publication include the Torontoer Zeitung (Toronto News; Toronto, 1953– ), with 12,600 readers at its peak, the Montrealer Nachrichten (Montreal News; Montreal, 1961–75) with 16,000, the Montrealer Zeitung (Montreal Newspaper; Winnipeg/Toronto, 1954–?) with 12,000, Kontakt (Toronto, 1968–?), Canada Herald (Ottawa, 1980–?), and the homemakers’ magazine Ihre Brigitte (Your Brigitte; Saint-Jean, Quebec, 1965–71 ).
Radio broadcasts in German have been available since the 1950s and television shows two decades later in the centres of German settlement. The radio broadcasts are of two kinds; some are directed at specific groups, such as the Mennonites in Manitoba, and the others at urban audiences. Sponsored by German-Canadian businesses, they target the post-war newcomers. In 1973 programs totalling up to six hours or, in the case of Oshawa, thirteen hours a week were carried in every province of central and western Canada except Saskatchewan. Television programs have been less frequent, except in areas such as Toronto. In the early 1990s a six-hour show aired on Sundays that consisted largely of advertising and pop music. A combination of factors – lack of reliable financial support, unsatisfactory quality, and dwindling audiences – has left these broadcasts in an uncertain state.
One of the most enduring endeavours to maintain the community’s cultural identity has been the voluntary German-language schools held on Saturdays. As early as the 1760s the Lutherans in Lunenburg organized a school in German. The sizable German presence in early Victoria led to schools for boys and girls that taught the language, together with Spanish, French, Greek, and Latin. By 1851 parochial schools were so widespread in Upper Canada that until 1912 the province recognized German as the language of instruction in districts where the majority of the taxpayers spoke it. Saturday schools opened where churches could not support a parochial school and public schools did not offer German-language instruction. In pre-war Winnipeg, parochial schools were short-lived. The day school maintained by Volga German members of Christ Lutheran Church from 1906 to 1939 was an exception.
After World War I, Saturday schools filled the vacuum when German was abolished as a subject or language of instruction in Canadian public schools. Their purpose was to help school-age children of immigrants attain literacy in their mother tongue. Initiated and funded by churches, clubs, and parents, the schools operated for two and a half to three hours on Saturday mornings with volunteer teachers. Numerous such schools were introduced in the 1930s by immigrants who had arrived in the previous decade, but only the Mennonite and Hutterite schools survived the war.
In the early 1950s the first post-war Saturday schools were launched in German clubs, church basements, and private homes to fill what a leading organizer called “the language hole” in the Canadian educational system. At that time, only a few Ontario high schools still offered German. Latent hostility continued to exist towards things German, and government assistance for what today is called heritage language instruction was not yet available. In 1958–59, 920 students were enrolled in sixteen Saturday schools, all in Ontario. By the early 1970s, the TCA coordinated a network of 106 schools with 10,240 students across the country. Although the number of schools later declined, enrolment levels have remained at 10,000 for almost two decades. Half the schools, primarily in Ontario, were maintained by clubs and the rest, primarily in western Canada, by churches. The TCA directly supported seven Saturday schools in Quebec. Ontario began offering public school facilities and funding to German schools in 1973. Then Manitoba, followed by Alberta, again permitted German instruction in public schools from the primary level on, if requested by at least twenty-three students. Since 1970 the Federal Republic of Germany has donated teaching materials, and between 1977 and 1990 the Canadian government provided some funding under its multicultural program.
Although initially set up to teach immigrant children who were more or less fluent in German, after 1965 the Saturday schools adapted to instruction in German as a second language. Whereas in 1970 the schools registered 80 percent or more native German speakers, a decade later some 80 percent of their students across Canada were non-German-speaking beginners. The changes in teaching approaches, curricula, and teacher qualifications that these developments required generated conflict between the clubs and the TCA. The latter preferred a focus on the mother tongue. The difference of opinion led in 1978 to the creation of a separate Canadian Association of German Language Schools (Verband Deutsch-Kanadischer Sprachschulen). Recognized as the national professional association by virtually all German Saturday schools in Canada, it arranges for regular teachers’ conferences, professional upgrading, and curricular changes.
The number of Canadians reporting German as the mother tongue has fluctuated between 362,000 in 1931, 563,700 in 1961, and 475,700 in 1991. Proportionately, however, it has declined in Canada from 4 percent of the population in 1931 to 3 percent in 1961 and 1.7 percent in 1991. Not all those who reported German as their mother tongue in 1991 were of German ethnic origin: 2,630 Canadians who declared Judaism as their religion indicated German as their first language but not German ethnic origin. Nor was the language acknowledged by more than 39 percent of post-war Canadians of German origin, according to 1961 figures. Ten years later this proportion had declined to 36 percent, and only 14 percent used German as the primary language in the home. In 1981 slightly less than two-thirds of those of German origin claimed English as their mother tongue and 1 percent French; 85 percent indicated English as the language spoken in the home. A decade later English was the home language of 72 percent and French of 0.6 percent of Canadians with German as their mother tongue.
The 1981 census found those of German ethnic origin twice as likely as the Canadian population overall to have less than a grade nine education and one-half as likely to have university or other post-secondary training. That is, the educational level of 40 percent of Germans fifteen years of age and older indicated less than grade nine, another 40 percent grades nine to thirteen, and less than one-fifth university.
The adaptations made by German-speaking immigrants to New France, Nova Scotia, and Labrador in the eighteenth century exemplify the accommodation that newcomers would reach with the larger society in the new homeland. In New France they tended to intermarry with francophones and assimilate rapidly. The pressure to do so was enormous, as indicated by the attention given to foreign origins. “Dit l’allemand” in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century church records identified not only German-speaking immigrants of all backgrounds – the first one was Hans Daigle from Vienna in 1674 – but even their assimilated grandchildren.
In Nova Scotia the Foreign Protestants recruited by the British in the 1750s were the charter group in Lunenburg County. Characterized by Nova Scotia chronicler Thomas Chandler Haliburton in 1829 as “the most industrious and useful settlers amongst us,” they maintained German-language church services until the end of the century and experienced little pressure to assimilate from the larger society. Such challenges of the sea as fishing, boat-building, and maritime trade, as well as contacts ranging from Newfoundland fishermen and Moravian missionaries in Labrador to American boatbuilders and traders in the West Indies, encouraged gradual acculturation.
In northern Labrador a relatively small number of Moravian missionaries had a decisive impact on the survival of the Inuit after 1771. Their concerns ranged from providing medical services to protecting the native peoples and their culture from the spiritually and socially corrosive influence of traders and fishermen penetrating Labrador from the south. Literacy was a high priority for the Moravians. By creating a written language, grammar, and dictionary for the Inuit, the Moravians helped to preserve their cultural identity. For spiritual concepts and items of everyday life lacking in Inuktitut, the Moravians provided a large body of new vocabulary, including German loanwords that became part of the language. They established Labrador’s first school in 1791, and by 1843 most of the Inuit whom they taught were literate in their native language. The missionaries also introduced European customs and traditions, such as brass bands, that are still found in Inuit culture. The missionary work in Labrador was not the only Moravian contact with native peoples in Canada. At the Bay of Quinte, a New York-born German Moravian named Bininger arrived in 1784 to teach the Loyalist Mohawk. In 1791 David Zeisberger, known as the “apostle to the Indians,” guided a party of persecuted Delaware from Ohio to southwestern Upper Canada, where they founded Moraviantown, later renamed Schoenfeldt (Fairfield).
Throughout the nineteenth century, German Canadians interacted with numerous other immigrant groups. For example, at Lord Selkirk’s Red River settlement they formed a short-lived community with Scots. Four Loyalist townships on Lake Ontario were assigned to a mixed group of Dutch and German Loyalists, where they lived in harmonious coexistence. According to the area’s historian, these settlers made Adolphustown “the centre of civilization in Upper Canada at the time.” In the upper Ottawa valley between the 1860s and the 1890s, German immigrants from northeastern Prussia arrived at the same time as newcomers of Polish, Kashub, and Wendish origin, who settled in the same areas but formed separate parishes from the Protestant Germans. In Alberta, contacts between German settlers from Galicia and former Ukrainian neighbours led to migrations from Ukraine in 1892. The first Ukrainian immigrants found employment on Mennonite farms and established homesteads adjacent to a German-speaking colony near Fort Saskatchewan.
Pre–World War I English-speaking Canadians had few reservations about accommodating Germans, and the latter, in turn, faced no problems over dual identity or divided loyalty. Their confidence in the harmony of their customs and traditions (including the annual celebration of the kaiser’s birthday) with Canadian life was unquestioned, and anglophone Canadian officials and intellectuals confirmed the affinity of German traits, customs, and values on numerous occasions. They considered Germans to be culturally compatible and racially akin. As “white people like ourselves,” they were easily assimilated, social activist J.S. Woodsworth declared in 1909, and he even suggested that “in the long run it would seem as if it is often the others who are Germanized.”
World War I abruptly changed the attitude of British Canadians. Overnight, Germans were transformed into the country’s most undesirable immigrants. Among the national and ethnic minorities identified as enemy aliens, they were perhaps the most vilified during the war. Hostility towards them, unlike that towards Ruthenians/Ukrainians, was not tempered by efforts to win them over to the British cause. Affected were farmers and labourers as well as the wealthy and prominent. University professors, senior municipal administrators, and managers of public utilities lost their jobs. Such prominent entrepreneurs as Alvo von Alvensleben and Martin Nordegg were removed from their enterprises and excluded from Canada. Adam Beck, Canadian-born and knighted in 1914, and British Columbia lieutenant governor Frank Stillman Barnard, whose wife was of German descent, had to endure great indignities during the war. Athletes of German origin were barred from sports competitions. Canadians of even the remotest German background suffered devastating consequences, including social ostracism and closure of their businesses, from the relentless witch-hunt.
In 1916 Germanophobia escalated into acts of violence and the destruction of property. The courts charged enemy aliens with treason and sedition, although no accusation was ever proven. Unruly mobs, usually led by soldiers, were allowed to attack Germans and ransack German-owned hotels, restaurants, bakeries, beer halls, breweries, print shops, and club rooms in many cities across the country. In February prominent Canadians in Toronto launched an Anti-German League aimed at the dismissal of all Canadians of German or Austrian origin from the public service and a permanent ban on German products, immigrants, and influence in Canada. The often deliberately provocative renaming of places with German names has left reminders of this climate of hate. For example, Coblenz was changed to Cavell, Kaiser to Peebles, Prussia to Leader, Waldorf to Béthune, Carlstadt to Alderson, Wittenberg to Leedale, Little Dusseldorf to Freedom, and Berlin to Kitchener. The renaming of Berlin, Ontario, was accomplished through two ballots conducted in an atmosphere in which opposition to the proposed change was equated with disloyalty and silenced by intimidation.
By 1917 most German ethnic associations were dissolved, German schools closed, and German-language instruction removed from the curricula of schools and universities. What remained of the German-language press was heavily censured and, six weeks before the end of the war, totally suppressed. As well, the Wartime Elections Act of September 1917 disenfranchised all conscientious objectors and citizens naturalized after March 1902 if their birthplace or mother tongue was of an enemy country, legislation that was in place until 1920. Coupled with the three-year (raised to five in 1917) residency requirement for naturalization, this act in effect removed the right to vote from German-speaking immigrants who had arrived as long ago as 1899. Further, the government in 1919 extended the waiting period for naturalization of immigrants from enemy countries from five to ten years. Resentment among disenfranchised Canadians, although little in evidence in 1917, would influence German-Canadian voting patterns in western Canada until the 1930s.
They, however, had more pressing worries than loss of their franchise. German-speaking Canadians feared that they might be drafted to fight against Germany and Austria or have their homesteads taken away. Faced with propaganda demanding that they hate Germans for crimes that they believed their own kind were incapable of committing, they were unsure and divided over how to prove their Canadian loyalty. Little help and guidance came from their churches and ethnic press since these institutions concentrated on serving immediate needs. Until they were prohibited, the German-language papers attempted to act in a conciliatory fashion and advised compliance with Canadian laws.
The legal basis for the escalating deprivation of civil rights was the War Measures Act of 1914. It authorized censorship, compulsory registration, denunciation of alleged disloyalty, arrest for suspicious behaviour, detention, internment, and exclusion. Providing justification for the denial of access to the courts by enemy aliens, the act sanctioned personal attacks, destruction of property, and economic discrimination. German nationals and German Canadians of various backgrounds suffered a devastating loss of citizenship because the enemy-alien category, originally confined to non-naturalized immigrants, was extended to Canadians of second-generation or later German descent. Across Canada “Germans” were denied employment, customers, and fellowship in local communities. The result was often unemployment, reliance on local relief, or internment.
Confinement in one of twenty-four Canadian camps became the fate of 8,579 of the 88,000 registered enemy aliens. These internees included 2,009 citizens of Germany and 5,954 Ukrainians, Germans, Croats, Slovaks, Slovenes, and Czechs of Austro-Hungarian nationality. While a labour shortage in 1916 allowed internees of non-German origin to be released, some 2,000 Germans were kept interned until 1919–20, well after the armistice. Confinement in the camps was imposed for reasons ranging from unemployment to denunciations by overzealous patriots. Mining communities in British Columbia and northern Ontario demanded the dismissal and mass internment of German and Austrian employees. Hundreds of sailors and merchant seamen arrested in Canadian ports or transferred to Canada from the West Indies and Newfoundland were automatically confined. Maltreatment and unsanitary conditions in the camps led to the death of thirty-two German and sixty-nine Austrian internees.
Newfoundland arrested all of its thirty-five nationals of enemy-alien origin, including twenty-two Germans, in July 1915 and shipped them to Canadian internment camps. In Labrador twenty-two mostly German-born Moravian missionaries were placed under police guard, and one of them suspected of disloyalty was deported with his wife and three children to a British camp and then repatriated to Germany in 1918. The witch-hunt for suspects even resulted in the expulsion of foreign visitors associated in any way with German identity or culture. The war left few traces of the pre-war community in Newfoundland, but the legend of Germans acting as spies and saboteurs survives to this day.
In Canada anti-German sentiment peaked in early 1919, when enemy aliens were accused of being traitors who fomented labour unrest. In February the Canadian government decreed that any complaint “evidencing a feeling of public apprehension entertained by the community” was sufficient cause for the internment of an individual as an enemy alien. Suspects were entitled neither to legal counsel nor even to the right to be informed of the proceedings against them. At the time, the government gave serious consideration to acting upon petitions demanding the internment and mass expulsion of all registered aliens. “It is not necessary to wait for palatial ships,” clamoured Conservative member of Parliament H.S. Clements; “cattle ships are good enough for them.” However, fear of international repercussions and a shortage of transportation reduced the number of those actually repatriated to Germany to 1,644 and Austria to 302, including 60 women and children.
The trauma of World War I not only taught German Canadians the expediency of camouflaging their ethnic identity but also reinforced their tendency to assimilate rapidly. As a rule, those from Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia responded to the conflict of loyalties owed to their native and adopted homelands by suppressing or hiding their German background. Some even assumed Dutch, Scandinavian, or Russian identities. Endeavours to define a German-Canadian identity remained stifled until 1923, when Canada reopened its gates to immigration from Germany. Long after the war, attribution of negative characteristics based on wartime propaganda continued.
The fervently pro-British and anti-foreign sentiments stirred up by the propaganda remained a strong force through the 1920s. These attitudes were fuelled by nativists, veterans’ organizations, and labour leaders, who pointed to the revelation in the 1921 census that 41 percent of the population of the prairie provinces claimed non-British origin. Rapid assimilation of the “foreigner” under the label of Canadianization became a priority. Non-British immigrants were under strong pressure to renounce their ancestral culture and conform to British-Canadian values. For example, children were required to attend English-language public schools, and bilingual or German-language schools continued to be prohibited.
During World War II German ethnicity was singled out as suspect for the second time within the lifespan of some members of the community, and German Canadians were once again a helpless minority within a hostile society. Although the government spared them the severe maltreatment to which individuals had been subjected during World War I, it nonetheless arrested and interned 837 German-Canadian farmers, workers, and club members denounced or deemed to be disloyal. Some 66,000 German and Austrian nationals and immigrants naturalized after 1922 were ordered to report regularly to the police.
Newfoundland rounded up 29 merchant seamen and residents for detention in a hastily improvised “concentration camp,” as it was locally known, and in 1941 deported them to Canadian camps, where three of them died. The remaining 31 residents of German background identified by the constabulary were stigmatized as enemy agents, restricted in their movements, and socially ostracized. In the closed rural society of 320,000 Newfoundlanders, almost all of British origin, this treatment was equivalent to internment.
Because of the fear of provoking resentment and reprisals, German-Canadian cultural activities ceased almost completely during World War II. They fell victim to endeavours by the community to demonstrate unambiguous loyalty to the war effort. After 1945 the recovery of ethnic confidence seemed problematic enough without the post-war discoveries of the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. These revelations perpetuated the stigmatization of Germans everywhere regardless of their individual involvement or lack of it in Nazi war crimes. They also delayed restoration of respect for German identity until the 1980s.
The experience of the two world wars unified, as well as divided, the various German-Canadian groups. On the one hand, the commonality of fate imposed by the Third Reich – the experience of being persecuted as Germans and stigmatized as Nazis – reinforced the internal and external boundaries of German-Canadian identity. On the other hand, German survivors of Nazi genocidal policies found themselves unable to associate with those who had either contributed to or tolerated these crimes. Prior to 1933 German Jews had visibly and proudly participated in the life of urban German-Canadian communities. After 1945 most immigrants of Jewish origin preferred to associate with the Jewish community in Canada. (See also JEWS. )
Among Sudeten Germans, the pre-war social-democratic refugees maintained their separate identity vis-à-vis the post-war expellees, who had tolerated or collaborated with the Nazi regime. They published their own paper, the Vorwärts (Forward; Toronto, 1948–55), and began to refer to themselves as Sudeten Canadians. Staunch supporters of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and its successor, the New Democratic Party, they initially formed their own German-speaking clubs within riding associations. After 1965 more conservative Sudeten Germans began to rally behind the Sudeten-Botev (Sudeten Messenger; Pouce-Coupe, B.C., 1965– ), published by the Westkanadische Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Sudetendeutschen (Western Canadian Partnership of Sudeten Germans).
Pre–World War II Danube Swabians had cultivated such cherished customs as Schlachtfest (livestock-butchering festival), Trachtenfest (costume festival), and especially Kirchweih (church dedication), a purely secular festival devoted to fun, games, dancing, and reunions. The post-war refugees continued these customs, but their expulsion and ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Marshall Tito regime in Yugoslavia became the overriding unifying symbol. They commemorate their identity in the annual Danube Swabian Day and pilgrimage to the shrine at Marylake, an event that draws thousands. The pilgrimage was initiated by Father Wendelin Gruber, who recorded his ten-year ordeal in Yugoslavian death camps. Arguments in the 1950s with natives of Germany over responsibility for World War II and reichsdeutsche pretension to superiority caused conflicts in Toronto and Montreal.
Among Germans from Russia, too, the post-war refugees who had been forcibly uprooted added a new dimension to existing divisions within the largely rural community, and between it and urbanized Germans from Germany. Those from Russia had not established secular clubs, nor had they participated actively in political and public life. Their culture had revolved around the church. The Volga German world-view idealized pietism and hard work as ends in themselves. Settlement patterns in Russia had perpetuated certain in-group allegiances, such as the household, kindred, village, and religious community, in an environment where as Germans they were privileged colonists.
In Medicine Hat, for example, where Germans of Russian and other ethnic German origin outnumbered those from Germany four to one, they labelled themselves “die Deutschen” (the Germans) and those from Germany the “Deutschländer” as late as the 1970s. In the larger pre-war North American environment, however, they stood near the bottom of the socio-economic ladder and their ethnocentric culture was difficult to maintain. Although they viewed themselves as Germans, to an urbanized outsider their culture and lifestyle made them appear more like Russian peasants.
In some areas, especially the United States, other Germans sometimes looked down upon those from Russia and, as one Canadian historian put it, “showed contempt for the ‘ignorant Russians,’ who did not speak ‘good German,’ and generally had but little education.” Postwar German refugees from Russia and Volhynia (which includes much of what today is Ukraine), in turn, resent reichsdeutsche arrogance. They have made significant contributions to the maintenance and study of the German-Canadian cultural heritage by, for example, establishing a German Canadian Studies Foundation and a chair in German-Canadian studies at the University of Winnipeg.
Statistics on ethnic origin from the censuses suggest not only that German Canadians have been the third-largest ethnic group of European origin since 1871 but that their share of the population has increased from 7 percent in 1871 to 10 percent in 1991. These inferences are correct only if the group’s internal boundaries are defined as congruent with those census respondents able or willing to acknowledge German descent, regardless of their actual commitment to German culture and the German-Canadian community. That means, for example, the inclusion until 1971 of Canadians acknowledging one German-speaking ancestor among a possibly diverse ancestry in the male line of descent. (After 1981, indication of more than one ethnic ancestry was permitted.) It also implies the inclusion of an unascertainable proportion of Austrians, Swiss, and Mennonites, even when separate categories for such origins are available. Further, it means the exclusion of those of matrilineal descent until 1981, as well as those confused about their German origin or refusing to acknowledge it. (See also AUSTRIANS;  MENNONITES;  SWISS .)
The extent of ethnic commitment and the maintenance of culture becomes evident in sociological inquiries. These have revealed that only Scandinavian and Dutch immigrants equal Germans in the proportion and speed with which they abandon their mother tongue and ethnic identity. A 1976 survey of ten ethnic groups in five urban centres found that 35 percent of first-generation German immigrants identified themselves as Canadian, 49 percent as German Canadian or Canadian of German origin, and only 10 percent as German. In the second generation, the percentages were 68, 15, and 12, and in the third generation 80, 16, and 0.
In a study in 1974, 32 percent of German-speaking immigrants (compared with 13 percent of Italians) were observed speaking English at home six months after their arrival. Of these, 52 percent indicated “good” or “perfect” knowledge of the language. At the same time, it was noted that the use of German as the language of the home among first-generation German Canadians in Edmonton, Toronto, and Montreal dropped to between 31 and 43 percent. Recent census data confirm that German Canadians have been abandoning their mother tongue at a rate (62 percent in 1971) surpassed only by Scandinavian, Dutch, Flemish, and Gaelic-speaking immigrants. (See Tables 2, 3, and 4.)
What seems striking about these findings is not so much the immigrants’ ease of integration and acquisition of English as the rapid loss of their cultural and linguistic identity. The tendency since the seventeenth century of German-speaking settlers in Canada to integrate relatively easily into the host society is a well-established fact. In 1912 the editor of Der Nordwestern asserted that “no other nationality learns English as rapidly as the Germans,” yet he also agreed with J.S. Woodsworth that the German Canadian “maintains allegiance to his language and to the traditions of his forefathers.” Interestingly, German communities that preserved their mother tongue, values, and traditions for generations in the east European diaspora have failed to do so in Canada. Frequently the product of recent secondary migrations, their members arrived in Canada with divided allegiances to their lands and cultures of origin and hence a weak, if any, national consciousness. Their process of linguistic assimilation has been accelerated by the so-called double loss of prestige. That is, they suffered not only from the low prestige of German in comparison with Canada’s official languages but also from having a dialect as their mother tongue and hence an inferiority complex about their difficulties communicating in High German. Except for the Mennonites and Hutterites, they often assimilated more rapidly than natives of Germany.
The speedy acculturation of the post-war immigrants may be attributed to the coincidence of stigmatization about the Third Reich with the increased urbanization of both the source and receiving societies. Negative stereotyping has been a major community concern since 1951. Although sociological surveys suggested that in Canada the Germans’ traditionally positive image quickly reasserted itself over war-related resentment, to many Canadians the word “German” had become synonymous with Naziism, militarism, racism, anti-Semitism, and genocide. The desire to be invisible was noted in 1964 by Maclean’s Magazine, which under the title “the untroublesome Canadians” portrayed the country’s “third great racial strain” as being “almost painfully unassertive.”
The deconstruction of German ethnicity is in part also a function of the increased urbanization conditioning the post-war immigrants’ socio-economic profile and hence their adaptive behaviour. This observation is verifiable in patterns of settlement, upward mobility, standard of living, career aspirations, and language change. Unlike the earlier German arrivals, the post–World War II immigrants entered all levels of the Canadian economy. No longer drawn to the rural settlements in central and western Canada or to existing urban neighbourhoods, they moved to the expanding suburbs, where they exhibited the lowest degree of residential clustering among major immigrant groups. Better educated, industrially skilled, and eager to succeed economically, they were also more upwardly mobile.
Their employment levels and high average income have not, however, translated into social prestige. National ratings by anglophone Canadians of the social standing of thirteen and thirty-two ethnic groups in 1978 and 1987 respectively ranked Germans in the middle of the scale. Surveys have also shown that retention of the mother tongue, the preservation of ethnic traditions, and the tendency to marry within the group decreased with greater education, higher income, and socio-economic status.
The continued use of German in the home is primarily based on parental attitudes, of which endogamy is perhaps the most crucial variable. According to the 1931 census, four-fifths of German males in the prairie provinces were married to German females, while in British Columbia this characteristic was true of only half the population. The difference may be attributable to the existence of larger, more homogeneous ethnic and religious communities in the prairies. As a result, the rate of retention of the mother tongue was high (76 percent) among western Canadians of German origin. In the 1941 census a 53 percent rate of retention may be correlated to a 58 percent endogamy rate. Between 1951 and 1971, about half of German-origin males and females were reported to have married partners of a non-German, mostly British, origin. But for Canadian-born family heads of German origin, marriage outside the community was as high as 62 percent in 1971.
There seem to be exceptions to this trend as a result of concentrations of recent immigrants and the nature of the sample: in Ontario and Toronto, endogamy rates of 81 and 76 percent respectively were measured in 1981 among German immigrants. In Edmonton a 1985 survey found endogamy rates among ethnic German female immigrants as high as 96.2 percent, while for those from Germany the proportion was 61.4 percent. Surveys ascertained that virtually none of the parents in ethnically mixed marriages spoke German at home. The children of these marriages, although they learned German in a heritage language school, never spoke the language at home.
For German post-war immigrants, English was the language of social and economic advance. Several postwar inquiries into the reasons for Saturday school attendance found that most parents who considered retention of German desirable were motivated to send their children to such schools primarily by the prospect of socio-economic benefits and only 13 percent by the desire to maintain customs and traditions. Women, in particular, even when they no longer spoke German at home, supported Saturday school and insisted that their children attend.
Although two out of three German Canadians surveyed favoured retention of the ancestral language, this belief has not translated into practice. A 1975 survey found that the percentage of fluency among Canadians of German origin declined from 78 in the first generation to 4.6 in the second and to 0.0 by the third. However, two-thirds claimed to have retained some knowledge in the second generation and 27 percent in the third. Between 1971 to 1991 the census recorded an overall decline of 32 percent in German as the language spoken at home. Denominationally structured, segregated, and institutionally complete rural enclaves have traditionally provided the most supportive contexts for language maintenance. In 1972, for example, actual use varied from Hutterites with 100 percent to Mennonites with 69 percent and Catholics with 29 percent. A 1985 inquiry, however, revealed that even Canadian Mennonites were abandoning the use of German in church services.
Language is only one, and not always the most important, constituent of ethnic identity, and its loss is not necessarily an indicator of assimilation. Which, if any, external or internal characteristics of German-Canadian ethnic identity endure or are revived in the third generation? A 1979 survey of three generations of nine ethnic groups in Toronto inquired into this issue. In all respects but one, Germans were found to have the lowest overall ethnic retention by the third generation. They were least exclusive in their friendships, had the lowest rate of participation in ethnic functions, and showed the least interest in ethnic media from the second generation on. Theirs was the only group whose third generation seldom ate ethnic food and that exhibited a sharp decline in the practice of traditional customs from the second to the third generation. By that time they had the least degree of ethnic identity: only 0.7 percent had attended German school. The importance of ethnicity in the socialization process dropped sharply from the second to the third generation, and members of the group did not care about parental approval of dating from the first generation. Ethnic rediscovery in the third generation happened only when the respondent agreed that it was important to have a job benefiting both the third-generation Canadian of German origin and the German-Canadian group.
Commentators in the German media have reacted with alarm at the undue haste with which the post-war immigrants jettisoned their mother tongue and identity. Why were these immigrants incapable of constituting an ethno-political lobby commensurate with their large numbers? Why could they not form communities in regions where they had settled in such concentrations that the development of a distinctive German-Canadian culture required only their interest? Was not this development ironic in a nation that rejected the ideal of the melting pot in favour of the cultural mosaic?
Reputed to be a disappearing minority, German Canadians have became the most invisible citizens of non-British descent, often distinguishable from others only by their names. But successful external adaptation has not necessarily affected their private sphere, some surveys have discovered. Outwardly, German Canadians displayed a “remarkable ability to merge with Canadian society as a whole,” according to Maclean’s Magazine in 1964.
Two decades later German-Swiss linguist Beatrice Stadler concluded that “German-speaking immigrants, equipped with skill, education, and motivation to succeed, have ‘played the game’ according to Canadian ‘rules’ and ‘won.’”
A useful issue- and problem-oriented introduction to German history is Dietrich Orlow, A History of Modern Germany (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1987; 3rd ed. 1995), which should be consulted in combination with Geoffrey Barraclough, The Origins of Modern Germany (Oxford, U.K., 1946; repr. 1988). For the context on overseas emigration with references to Canada see Hans Fenske, “International Migration: Germany in the Eighteenth Century,” Central European History, vol.13, no.4 (1980), 332–47; Andreas Brinck, Die deutsche Auswanderungswelle in die britischen Kolonien Nordamerikas um die Mitte des 18. Jahrhunderts (The German Emigration Wave to the British Colonies of North America around the Mid-eighteenth Century; Stuttgart, Germany, 1993); Peter Marschalck, Deutsche Überseewanderung im 19. Jahrhundert (German Overseas Migration in the Nineteenth Century; Stuttgart, 1973); and Hartmut Bickelmann, Die deutsche Überseeauswanderung in der Weimarer Zeit (The German Emigration Overseas during the Weimar Republic; Wiesbaden, Germany, 1980). An excellent survey of migrations into and out of Germany is Klaus J. Bade, ed., Deutsche im Ausland–Fremde in Deutschland: Migration in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Germans Abroad – Foreigners in Germany: Migration Past and Present; Munich, 1992).
The standard reference works on the history of German Canadians are Heinz Lehmann’s two monographs on Germans in eastern and western Canada, originally published in German in 1931 and 1939. They have been re-edited and translated in one volume, and introduced with a review of recent research by Gerhard P. Bassler, under the title The German Canadians, 1750–1937: Immigration, Settlement and Culture (St John’s, Nfld., 1986). Other concise treatments are Rudolf A. Helling, A Socio-Economic History of German-Canadians: They, Too, Founded Canada (Wiesbaden, 1984); Gerhard P. Bassler, The German Canadian Mosaic Today and Yesterday: Identities, Roots, and Heritage (Ottawa, 1991); and Hartmut Froeschle, “The German-Canadians: A Concise Survey,” German-Canadian Yearbook, vol.12 (1992), 1–78. Froeschle has also published “German Canadiana: A Bibliography,” German-Canadian Yearbook, vol.11 (1990).
Important monographs on select episodes of pre-World War I immigration, settlement, and culture are H.W. Debor, 1664–1964: Die Deutschen in der Provinz Quebec (1664–1964: The Germans in the Province of Quebec; Montreal, 1963); Winthrop P. Bell, The ‘Foreign Protestants’ and the Settlement of Nova Scotia: The History of a Piece of Arrested British Colonial Policy in the Eighteenth Century (Toronto, 1961); Jean Pierre Wilhelmy, Les mercenaires allemands au Québec du XVIIIe siècle et leur apport a la population (Beloeil, Que., 1984); Susan Burke and Matthew H. Hill, eds., From Pennsylvania to Waterloo: Pennsylvania-German Folk Culture in Transition (Kitchener, Ont., 1991); Werner Bausenhart, German Immigration and Assimilation in Ontario, 1783–1918 (New York, 1989); Herbert Karl Kalbfleisch, The History of the Pioneer German Language Press of Ontario, 1835–1918 (Toronto, 1968); Gottlieb Leibbrandt, Little Paradise: The Saga of the German Canadians of Waterloo County, Ontario, 1800–1975 (Kitchener, Ont., 1980); John English and Kenneth McLaughlin, Kitchener: An Illustrated History (Waterloo, Ont., 1983); Peter Hessel, Destination Ottawa Valley (Ottawa, 1984); Brenda Lee-Whiting, Harvest of Stones: The German Settlement in Renfrew County (Toronto, 1985); and Arthur Grenke, The German Community in Winnipeg, 1872 to 1919 (New York, 1991).
There are no books comprehensively treating the world war and interwar periods of the twentieth century. Barbara M. Wilson, Ontario and the First World War, 1914–1918 (Toronto, 1977), is insightful. Patricia O. McKegney, The Kaiser’s Bust: A Study of Wartime Propaganda in Berlin, Ontario, 1914–1918 (Wellesley, Ont., 1991), and W.R. Chadwick, The Battle for Berlin, Ontario: An Historical Drama (Waterloo, Ont., 1992), examine the renaming of Berlin, Ontario. A scholarly investigation of the Nazi influence among German Canadians is Jonathan Wagner, Brothers Beyond the Sea: National Socialism in Canada (Waterloo, 1981). The context of arrest and internment in World War II is analysed by Robert H. Keyserlingk, “Agents within the Gates: The Search for Nazi Subversives in Canada During World War II,” Canadian Historical Review, vol.66, no.2 (1985), 211–39. The fate of the Third Reich refugees deported to Canada in 1940 is explored in Eric Koch, Deemed Suspect: A Wartime Blunder (Toronto, 1980), and Ted Jones, Both Sides of the Wire: The Fredericton Internment Camp (Fredericton, 1988).
Notable scholarly monographs on aspects of post– World War II immigration are Fritz Wieden, The Trans-Canada Alliance of German Canadians: A Study in Culture (Windsor, Ont., 1985); and the insightful collection of essays on major literary figures by Walter E. Riedel, ed., The Old World and the New: Literary Perspectives of German-Canadians (Toronto, 1984). Acculturation and language maintenance have been analysed by Andrea Koch-Kraft, Deutsche in Kanada: Einwanderung und Adaption (Germans in Canada: Immigration and Adaptation; Bochum, Germany, 1990); Leopold Auburger, et al., Deutsch als Muttersprache in Kanada (Wiesbaden, 1977); Beatrice Stadler, Language Maintenance and Assimilation: The Case of Selected German-Speaking Immigrants in Vancouver (Vancouver, 1983); Manfred Prokop, The German Language in Alberta: Maintenance and Teaching (Edmonton, 1990); Karin Hardt-Dhatt, Étude sociolinguistique sur l’intégration de l’immigrant allemand au milieu québécois (Quebec City, 1976); and Leo Driedger and Peter Hengstenberg, “Non-Official Multilingualism: Factors Affecting German Language Competence, Use and Maintenance in Canada,” Canadian Ethnic Studies, vol.18, no.3 (1986), 91–109.
The record of German-Canadian traditional art and music are explored in Magnus Einarsson and Helga Benndorf Taylor, eds., Just for Nice: German-Canadian Folk Art (Hull, Que., 1993); Susan M. Burke and Matthew H. Hill, eds., From Pennsylvania to Waterloo: Pennsylvania-German Folk Culture in Transition (Kitchener, 1991); Michael Bird and Terry Kobayashi, A Splendid Harvest: Germanic Folk and Decorative Art in Canada (Toronto, 1981); and Helmut Kallmann, A History of Music in Canada 1534–1914 (Toronto, 1960).
On the experience of Germans in Newfoundland and Labrador, apart from Chapters 27 and 30 in Bassler’s The German Canadian Mosaic Today and Yesterday, see Bassler, Sanctuary Denied: Refugees from the Third Reich and Newfoundland Immigration Policy, 1906–1949 (St John’s, Nfld., 1992), and his articles “The German Experience in Newfoundland to 1914: Migrations, Connections, Images,” in P. Liddell and W. Riedel, eds., Begegnungen – Connections: Proceedings of Symposium VII on German-Canadian Studies (Victoria, 1991), 1–13; “The Enemy Alien Experience in Newfoundland 1914-1918,” Canadian Ethnic Studies, vol.20, no.3 (1988), 42–62; “Central Europeans in Post-Confederation St John’s, Newfoundland: Immigration and Adjustment,” ibid., vol.18, no.3 (1986), 37–46; and “‘Develop or Perish’: Joseph R. Smallwood and Newfoundland’s Quest for German Industry, 1950– 1953,” Acadiensis, vol.15, no.2 (1986), 93–119.
Many important findings on political, social, economic, and linguistic developments are available only in such unpublished dissertations as J.A. Boudreau, “The Enemy Alien Problem in Canada, 1914–1921” (Ph.D. thesis, University of California, 1965); John Joseph Kelly, “The Prisoner of War Camps in Canada, 1939–1947” (M.A. thesis, University of Windsor, 1976); Ruth Gumpp, “Ethnicity and Assimilation: German Postwar Immigrants in Vancouver, 1945–1970” (M.A. thesis, University of British Columbia, 1989); Robert Rutherdale, “The Home Front: Social Transformation in Lethbridge, Guelph, and Trois Rivières during the Great War” (Ph.D. thesis, York University, 1992); Alan Anderson, “Assimilation in the Bloc Settlements of North-Central Saskatchewan: A Comparative Study of Identity Change among Seven Ethno-Religious Groups in a Canadian Prairie Region” (Ph.D. thesis, University of Saskatchewan, 1972); and Gisela Forchner, “Growing Up Canadian: Twelve Case Studies of German Immigrant Families in Alberta,” (Ph.D. thesis, University of Alberta, 1983).
The bulk of the primary sources relating to the origins of German-speaking people and their migrations to Canada still await exploration. These sources can be found in repositories of pertinent government records and private collections held in European archives from Potsdam, Bonn, Koblenz, Vienna, and Basel to Riga, Budapest, and Moscow, as well as in the National Archives in Ottawa and other North American public archives. Arthur Grenke of the National Archives of Canada published a guide to the Archival Sources for the Study of German Language Groups in Canada (Ottawa, 1989).