[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Manitoba Germans

Helen Gillespie gilleh23 at gmail.com
Sun Oct 25 06:45:13 PDT 2015

For those who have Manitoba history, this is not a recent article, but an
Interesting piece on their history ...
Winnipeg Free Press   Oct 27, 2012
German-Manitoba history had origins with Hudson Bay Co.

By: Alexander Freund
Posted: *10/27/2012 1:00 AM* |

German immigrants, we believe, were born in Germany and speak the same
language. But that belief is more myth than reality. Most German-Manitobans
were born outside of Germany. They also speak a diversity of dialects that
make communications at times difficult if not impossible.

German-Manitoban history began in 1670, when Prince Rupert of the Rhine
became the first Hudson's Bay Co. governor. Then, 150 years later, Lord
Selkirk's settlers included 100 German mercenaries who tilled the land
along "German Creek" (today known as the Seine River). Two hundred more
settlers arrived from the French-German borderlands of Alsace as well as
from multilingual Switzerland, including the artist Peter Rindisbacher,
whose drawings and paintings can be viewed in the Manitoba Archives.
[image: The Evangelical Lutheran (German) church on the southwest corner of
College and McKenzie lost its cupola and steeple in a windstorm in 1919.
Germans have a long and considerable architectural footprint in Manitoba.]


The Evangelical Lutheran (German) church on the southwest corner of College
and McKenzie lost its cupola and steeple in a windstorm in 1919. Germans
have a long and considerable architectural footprint in Manitoba.

Although St. Boniface was named after Winfried Bonifatius, the German
patron saint, most settlers had moved away from the Red River Colony by
1826 and settled in Eastern Canada or the United States. They found the
conditions for farming here to be poor.

The 7,000 German-speaking Mennonites who arrived in the late 1870s were
more persistent. Over the next half-century, they were followed by a great
diversity of settlers who had German roots: German-Russians,
Austro-Hungarians, so-called ethnic Germans from Rumania and other parts of
Eastern Europe, citizens of Germany, German-Americans and German-Canadians
from Ontario and other parts of Canada. In 1916, 59 per cent of Germans in
Manitoba had been born in Canada, 10 per cent in Germany, six per cent in
the United States, and 25 per cent elsewhere, mostly in Eastern Europe.

German-Manitobans included a great diversity of religious groups, from
Lutherans, Baptists, Hutterites, Mennonites and other Protestants to
Catholics and Jews. Next to High German, they spoke a great diversity of
dialects and various forms of Low German. These dialects were so different,
Germans could not always understand one another.

Considering the great diversity among Germans, it is often difficult to
figure out who actually was German. German immigrants themselves were at
times unsure or changed identities. Not all German-speaking Mennonites, for
example, identified as German, while third-generation German-Americans, who
no longer spoke German, did identify as German. The anti-German hostility
of the First World War led many to hide their identity. They stopped
speaking German in public and when the government asked about their ethnic
origin, the reported Dutch or Swiss rather than German. This explains why
the number of Germans recorded in the Canada census plummeted from 35,000
Germans in Manitoba in 1911 to only 20,000 in 1921.

What did German-Manitobans do? The majority worked on farms, but one-fifth
lived in Winnipeg -- many in the North End -- and worked in manufacturing,
services, or as entrepreneurs. They founded churches and cultural clubs in
order to maintain their ethno-religious heritage.

The German Society of Winnipeg was founded as a mutual aid society and
social club in 1892. Its clubhouse, on the corner of Charles Street and
Flora Avenue, is still active and hosts a German-themed Folklorama pavilion
each year. German-language newspapers such as Der Nordwesten/Kanada Kurier
(1889-2004) connected German-speakers in Manitoba with German migrants

With the rise of the German empire's imperialist ambitions in the 1890s,
Anglo-Manitobans became increasingly suspicious of German-speakers in their
province. During and after the First World War, German-language school
instruction and German-language newspapers were forbidden. Some Germans
were interned.

After being restricted from entering the country in the wake of the First
World War, between 1924 and the onset of the Great Depression in 1930,
Germans once again immigrated to Canada. They included 21,000 Mennonite
refugees from Russia as well as a small group of 100 Catholics from
Southwestern Germany who settled in Little Britain, 30 kilometres north of
Winnipeg. Germans once again became respected Manitobans. In 1936, Canadian
census-takers recorded 50,000 Germans in Manitoba.

The Great Depression and the rise of Nazism in Germany troubled Manitobans,
including German-Manitobans. Some joined the Nazi party, the Deutscher
Bund, or even returned to the "New Germany," but most rejected Nazi
ideology. During that time period, Canada all but barred Jewish refugees --
including many from Germany -- from entering the country.

Canada's economic boom encouraged German immigration shortly after the
Second World War. Among the first were ethnic German refugees, who started
coming in 1947. They were sponsored by a coalition of Protestant and
Catholic churches. From 1950 on, the Canadian government, employers and
churches actively recruited German nationals to work as farmhands, miners,
loggers, domestic servants and nurses' aides.

Altogether, a quarter of a million Germans entered the country during the
postwar years. By 1971, 123,000 Germans lived in Manitoba. The vast
majority integrated quickly, adopting the English language and Canadian
citizenship. Several became successful entrepreneurs and professionals.

>From the 1960s to the 1980s, the postwar wave declined to a trickle of
immigrants from Germany.

Since the 1990s, however, some 20,000 Germans have settled once again in
Manitoba. Most were ethnic Germans who were born in Kazakhstan and other
parts of the former Soviet Union. They immigrated to Germany during the
1990s but found Germany to be too secular. They followed relatives and
friends to Winkler, Altona, Steinbach and Winnipeg. By 2006, there were
216,755 Germans in the province, 67,290 of whom identified German as
"single origin."

*Alexander Freund is chairman in German-Canadian studies at the University
of Winnipeg.*

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 27, 2012 J11

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