Pheebe’s Reaction to the Kapitel 1 Kultur

The article How German is American? introduces the history of the German-American identities and how the lifestyles of the German-speaking immigrants affected and been affected by the American groups.

Talking about the beginning of building communities in America, the author mentions that the Turner Movement had a great impact on the development of American gymnastics, as a sport and a formalized program at public schools. With the introduction of gymnastics, the Turner societies had created athletic, cultural, and social organizations throughout the country. This was the first step for Germans to bring in their own traditions and ideas into the American societies. Within the Turners, there were some Freethinkers, who promoted the idea of liberalism and supported lots of revolutionary thoughts such as improving working conditions and voting rights for women. It is obvious that the Turners have played an important role in creating and representing interesting, vibrant, and political culture in the United States, especially in Milwaukee which was once known as the city of “German Athens of America.” From the history of the Turners, I think it is interesting to understand how the immigrants started to bring out their own culture to the American society and how some of their liberal ideas had influenced the United States as a whole, not just their own “German communities.”

Regarding the language aspect, the author introduces an American language known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. At first, I, like the author has pointed out, thought the word “Dutch” was a mistranslation of what we call “Deutsch.” However, it was indicated that the word was used to describe people who had both German and Netherlandic origins. In addition, the speakers of Pennsylvania Dutch were actually either Lutheran or German Reformed instead of the Amish, which people usually incorrectly assumed.

I think overall it is very interesting to understand the background of German immigrants and how they have settled down in the United States. The article has provided new insights into the ideas of “Germanness” and “Americanness” that I never thought of before. The last thing I want to mention is that even though the German immigrants have moved to the United States, they do not totally submerge in the American culture. Instead, they influence the American society in a special but positive way, yet accept and combine both cultures into their own identities.

Allie’s Reactions to the Kapitel 1 Kultur-Texte

How German is American? was a great introduction to what it was to be a German-American in the beginnings of America, and also a good reference as to what German-American life is like today.

One part of the article I found particularly interesting is how much religion affected the unity and recognition of the German population as a whole. For example, many Germans embraced the new American ideas about religion, meaning that they did not adhere to a specific branch of Christianity depending on their origins. This lack of unity in religion also happened to relate to a lack of unity in German-American culture, so that America did not recognize the German-American culture as much as other groups, such as Irish- and Italian-Americans. One interesting example of this is that St. Patrick’s Day and Columbus Day are widely celebrated in the United States today, but hardly anyone celebrates, much less could tell you the date of, Steuben Day or German-American day, which are both German cultural holidays in America.

Another interesting part of How German is American? was the summary of Pennsylvania Dutch culture, which I had a completely different idea about than what the article described. I, like many others (according to the article itself), had the idea that Pennsylvania Dutch was synonymous with Amish, which I found was not true. Pennsylvania Dutch culture was primarily Lutheran or German Reformed, although a small portion of the population was Old Order Amish, which came to be known about America as the main part of Pennsylvania Dutch culture. I also had assumed, due to the name “Pennsylvania Dutch”, that the Pennsylvania Dutch population spoke Dutch, not a variation of German. However, the article clearly explained that the English word “Dutch” was “used in earlier times to describe people of both German and Netherlandic origins”. It also clarified that Dutch was not a misinterpretation of the word Deutsch, which I would have guessed could be the cause of the name of the Pennsylvania Dutch subset of German-American culture.

Overall, I found that this article accurately depicted the melting pot that was, is, and probably always will be, America. Many cultural groups today are also concerned about how to keep their cultural roots alive, despite some pressure to assimilate into mainstream American culture. The first wave of German immigrants to America tried to preserve their culture by establishing German churches, bars, and clubs. Today, we can see centers of culture preservation popping up pretty frequently around us. These include museums, restaurants, and places of worship that are designed to help people from a culture preserve their traditions, as well as to spread them to their children and make other people aware of what their culture entails. Although much of German-American tradition has been mixed in with typical American culture, there is evidence of German culture in everyday American life (Oktoberfest, German beer, brats, etc.). It is hard to say what will happen to today’s attempts to preserve different cultures in America, especially with new mounting pressures to assimilate into mainstream “American” culture. However, these cultures will most likely leave a lasting impact on American culture, just as German culture has.

Owen’s Reaktion to the Kapitel 1 Kultur Reading

I found How German is American? very interesting. The first part of the text tells a history of German immigration to the US. I personally found this part fascinating, not just from my love of history, but because I also have German ancestors on my dads side. The different pamphlets used to attract German immigrants to the American frontier were especially cool. My dad’s parents immigrated from Austria and Germany after WWII, so were not part of the mass German immigration of the period highlighted in the text. However, they did move to a very German part of Grand Rapids, which certainly was populated by the German immigrants from the text.

One thing that the next part of the reading, on German communities in the US, made me think about is the many modern parallels that exist today. In the present, there continues to be a large amount of angst over newly arrived immigrants. One of the main fears regarding these new immigrants is that they will refuse to assimilate into American culture. However, the reality highlighted by the reading is that this fear has always been a part of the American psyche. The text specifically mentioned how the “Yankees” of America feared that the waves of German immigrants coming to the country had no desire to assimilate, and in part, they were right. Many German Americans founded communities in the US that continued to speak German for many generations. However, eventually German-Americans did assimilate, just as all American immigrants eventually do (with the exception of certain German communities, like the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Amish). The fears held today are just as needless as the ones held in the 19th and early 20th century.

The later part of the text, on German cultural influences in the US, was also very interesting. I’ve grown up knowing the Oscar Mayer wiener song (I guess my dad saw this commercial as a kid?, and I had a toy Wienermobile car as a kid. In addition, The Sound of Music was my grandmother’s favorite movie. She identified strongly with the plot, as her father was a colonel in the Austrian army who was forced to fight (and unfortunately, die) for the Nazis following the Anschluss of Austria in 1938.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed reading the text, and look forward to learning more about German Kultur for subsequent blog posts.