Die Geschichte Deutscher Einwanderer in USA und New York

The history of German immigrants in the USA and New York

About 45 million Americans have German roots, but there isn't much to see outside of the brewery and Oktoberfest. Why? A short summary of how the Germans arrived in the USA - and how they left their mark.

1683 - Escape to the West: The "Original 13" wanted religious freedom

The three-masted concord had crossed the stormy Atlantic for over two months before arriving in Philadelphia harbor on October 6, 1683. There were 13 German families on board, Mennonites (Christian faith) from near Krefeld.

They came to the "New World" attracted by the suggestion of colonial founder William Penn. The Englishman had made land available to religious refugees for colonization.

In the German principalities and kingdoms of the 17th century, only the Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed churches were allowed. Other religious communities were persecuted.

In Penn's colony, the "Original 13," as the German families were called, founded "Deitschesteddel," the first German settlement in the United States.

A hundred years later, 200,000 people lived in Pennsylvania, a third of them with German roots. Their dated-sounding "Pennsylvania Dutch" - a reference to the term German or the dialect they used, Deitsch - is still spoken in some communities today, such as the Amish.

The former "Deitschesteddel" is now called "Germantown" and is part of Philadelphia.

The German influence was also pronounced in other parts of the Midwest, such as the states of Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin: most Americans of German descent live in this region and many important breweries were founded by Germans.

To commemorate the arrival of the first group of German settlers in 1683, German-American Day is celebrated every year on October 6th.

Independence and Civil War: The German military organized American troops

It was thanks to a Prussian that the American colonialists were able to win the War of Independence (1775 - 1783) against the British colonial power: Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben was his name. Born in 1730 into a family of soldiers, he served the Prussian King Frederick the Great before meeting Benjamin Franklin in Paris. Franklin recommended Steuben to the commander-in-chief of the overseas colonialists, George Washington.

In 1778, Steuben arrived at the Continental Army's winter camp. His task: to form an army from the irregular forces, which consisted of farmers, merchants and politicians, that could withstand the British professional soldiers.

With typical Prussian discipline and practice, Steuben organized the soldiers' training so thoroughly that they defeated the British.

Since 1957, the annual Steuben Parade in New York has celebrated one of the most important German Americans of the founding era.


Emanuel Leutze

The painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware" is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It depicts a pivotal moment in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), when the colonists under General Washington, who had previously been unsuccessful, launched a counterattack against the British. It was painted by Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868), who emigrated from Germany to the USA as a child.


America's first millionaire, John Jacob Astor

His descendants founded the world-famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which, however, was out of reach for the butcher's son Johann Jakob Astor from Walldorf near Heidelberg when he moved to the USA in 1784. He was the inspiration for literary legends Ebenezer Scrooge and Scrooge McDuck.


Levi Strauss

Löb Strauss, a young Jew from Buttenheim near Bamberg, emigrated in 1847 at the age of 18 with his mother and sisters. The gold rush drew him west, where he wanted to sell tarpaulins to prospectors - and saw that they needed sturdy trousers. This is how "jeans" were born - Levi Strauss, as he was called then, and his business partner Jacob Davis were rich.

1848 Women's rights activist Mathilde Franziska Anneke and the 'Forty-eights

Franz Sigel was also one of those in Europe who rebelled against the princes and kings in 1848. After the failure of the revolution, he fled to the USA.

Fritz Anneke from Westphalia (who later fought for the northern states in the Civil War) and his wife Mathilde Franziska Anneke also did the same.

Among other things, she had already worked as a journalist in Europe for a newspaper for which the poet Heinrich Heine had also written.

In the USA she was then allowed to do what was forbidden in the federal states: she gave lectures about educational opportunities and gender equality and spoke out against slavery.

She founded the German-language women's newspaper in 1852. In 1869 she became the first vice president of the National Woman Suffrage Association - and thus one of the most important activists in the American women's movement.

Other "Forty-Eighters," known as the people who emigrated from Europe after participating in the revolutions of 1848, also pursued careers in the United States: the revolutionary Friedrich Hecker became involved in the newly founded Republican Party, and Carl Schurz became Minister of the Interior and advisor to US President Abraham Lincoln.

Overall, only a few of the former German revolutionaries were emigrants. Most of the emigrants fled to the West because of hunger and poverty. And the numbers grew: in the middle of the 19th century, a million Germans emigrated to the USA. Only towards the end of the century did the number decline.

Why did the German immigrants lose influence, what exactly happened?

1917 - Sauerkraut becomes "Freedom Cabbage"

The First World War began in 1914. When the USA entered the war in 1917, the relationship with the Americans in the USA also changed. German-Americans Americanized their names, and authorities called for a boycott of German goods.

German expressions disappeared from everyday use. Even the popular “Sauerkraut” was renamed “Freedom Cabbage.”

In the state of Illinois, a mob attacked German-American Robert Prager and forced him to raise the American flag and sing the national anthem. He was eventually hanged.

Even between the world wars, much of what was typically German had disappeared from everyday American life.

And the people who fled to the USA after the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933 no longer wanted to have anything to do with the country that persecuted Jews and other unpopular minorities and murdered millions of people.

Many quickly became Americans - like Henry Kissinger, the future US Secretary of State, who fled Germany with his Jewish family as a teenager in 1938. In 1943 he became an American citizen and fought as a GI against his birth country.

Unlike the Italians or Chinese who later immigrated, the traces of the Germans are much more hidden - and yet so closely interwoven with American culture that the two can hardly be separated.

Interestingly, the USA even owes its title to a German: the cartographer Martin Waldseemüller. Waldseemüller gave the newly discovered country to the west a name on his 1507 world map: "America" ​​after the navigator Amerigo Vespucci. However, he was not German, but Italian.

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