Family research / history & places / Chicago



Integration of immigrants under the aspect of nation building has always been widely discussed. When at the beginning of the 20th century European emigration changed from middle and northern Europe to eastern Europe and the Mediterranean countries, integration of Polish and Italians seemed to be difficult, whereas the German one did not seem to be problematic, even was remembered as easy.

Reality was different. In the 2nd half of the 19th century the American public, but especially the Nativist movement, wondered about the strange peculiarity of Germans and not seldom fought  their activities and ideas. What about this peculiarity?

  • Germans had a peculiar propensity in establishing Vereine and clubs as quickly as  they arrived. Here they took part in the community, expressed their ideas, helped and assisted their compatriots.
    This was their way of political participation, whereas they mostly left general politics to others.

  • Germans were active fighters for better labour conditions.  They founded and  supported trade unions.

  • Having worked hard during the week Germans loved to spend their weekends drinking beer in the public (beer garden/Biergarten), organised picnics and assisted to theatre and dancing events. They fought for these rights when puritanically influenced politics tried  to abolish their customs. What remained from these habits, today is accepted and often circumscribed as German Gemütlichkeit.

©Peter Teuthorn, 2003-08-15

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