[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Attitudes to German people in Canada
janhemmings at earthlink.net
Thu Jun 13 20:13:14 PDT 2013
Berlin to Kitchener name change
>From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The referendum ballot for the name change from Berlin
Through the latter half of the 19th century and into the first decade of the
20th, the City of Berlin, Ontario, Canada, was a bustling industrial centre
celebrating its German heritage (see Kitchener, Ontario). However, when
World War I started, that heritage became the focus of considerable enmity
from non-German residents within the city and throughout Waterloo County.
The fact that most of the original settlers of Berlin were not directly
German but were Mennonites from Pennsylvania did not help, as their refusal
to join the war effort (because of their pacifism) only increased tensions.
The slow pace of recruitment for the local 118 Battalion led to suspicions
of disloyalty. A bust of Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, set up in Victoria
Park long before the war, was thrown into Victoria Lake (the main lake in
the park), and then vanished forever, possibly melted down to produce guns.
In 1916, a movement began to change the name of the city. It did not have
the support of the wider community. A contest was held to choose a new name
and the results were ridiculed. When news hit that Britain's Minister of
War, Lord Kitchener, was killed in action off the Orkney Islands, his name
was put forward as a possible replacement, and the whole matter was put up
The referendum itself did not give Berlin residents the option of
maintaining the status quo, and anybody who spoke up against this process
was viewed with suspicion. According to an article from the National
Archives of Canada, "Those citizens who supported the status quo were
immediately perceived, by those who wanted change, as being unpatriotic and
sympathizers with the enemy. Violence, riots and intimidation, often
instigated by imperialistic members of the 118th Battalion, were not
uncommon in the months leading up to the May 1916 referendum on the issue."
Unable to oppose the change, the community stayed home. Only 892 people
bothered to vote (Berlin's population at the time was over 15,000) and of
those, just 346 were enough to change the name of the city to that of
Kitchener. Following the referendum, a petition of 2,000 names was sent to
the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to try to stop the process, but they
were turned down.
The name change of the City of Berlin to the City of Kitchener was mirrored
by similar anti-German name changes in Canada and the United States, from
liberty steaks to liberty cabbage, and was echoed by the anti-French
sentiment in the United States early in 2003, with "freedom fries".
Kitchener is one of the few names that stuck during that period of
anti-German sentiment, however. When the city was building its new city hall
early in the 1990s, there was a small movement to change the city's name
back to Berlin, but most felt that too much history had passed, and that it
was time to move on.
A similar trend existed in Australia, where dozens of "German sounding"
towns had their names changed. The town of Genevra, California, whose
original name was Berlin, got its present name under the same circumstances;
however, at other locations in the US, more than twenty towns called "
Berlin" or " New Berlin" retained their names through both World Wars.
1 See also
4 Further reading
Jan Hemmings Email: janhemmings at earthlink.net
4700 Lock Ridge Court Voice: 770/590-1560
Kennesaw, GA 30152 Fax: 586/314-4044
> From: Helen Gillespie <hgillespie at rogers.com>
> Reply-To: Helen Gillespie <hgillespie at rogers.com>
> Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2013 19:41:10 -0700 (PDT)
> To: "Ger-Poland-Volhynia at sggee.org" <Ger-Poland-Volhynia at sggee.org>
> Subject: [Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Attitudes to German society ca WWI
> I had the occasion to be searching in a local Ontario newspaper, the St.
> Thomas Times-Journal for July 16, 1919 and found this curious little item that
> I thought I would share. I extracted it and had to research the person after.
> (note that this is just after World War I - although I haven't figured out
> why it was in a small town Canadian newspaper, although this and other issues
> of the paper were full of post war politics and military matters in Europe and
> "Extracted from the St. Thomas Times-Journal, Wed. July 16, 1919, p. 6, col. 5
> Wants Ban on German Language in the United States
> Senator Myers wants to stamp out the German language in the United States. He
> believes that a long step in that direction can be done by prohibiting
> admission to the mails of any German printed matter. As a result, he has
> introduced a bill in the Senate making it unlawful to deliver by mail any book
> or other printed matter which is printed in the German language. He makes it
> the duty of the Postmaster General and all other officials and employees of
> the Post Office Department to enforce the provisions of this Bill. Any
> official or employed failing to do so shall be liable to a fine of not less
> than $100 or imprisonment for not less than one year or both. The same bill
> makes it unlawful for any person to mail any literature printed in German. A
> violation of one section calls for a punishment of not less than $500 or
> imprisonment for not less than 5 years or both."
> I guess the Bill didn't pass. This senator - according to Wikipedia and the
> U.S. Senate history - was a lawyer and a judge from Montana named Fred L.
> Myers who served as a Democrat in both the Montana Senate (1899-1903) and the
> U.S. Senate (1911-1923) then an assoc. judge of the Supreme Court of Montana.
> Another tidbit I found that it was only days before that President Woodrow
> Wilson presented the Treaty of Versailles (from the end of WWI) in the U.S.
> Senator Myers must have been a tough judge, based on this Bill, but then
> there were many such attitudes during both world wars. And so many a German
> immigrant family buried their past, their language in order to blend into the
> American melting pot.
> I know there were similar attitudes in Canada.
> The wise man must remember that while he is a descendant of the past, he is a
> parent of the future.
> --Herbert Spencer
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