One of the stereotypes surrounding the home front during and immediately after World War I is that Germanophobia eradicated German-American culture as we know it. To be sure, owing to the “guilt by association” reaction to the U.S. entry into the conflict against the Kaiser, many communities substituted Anglo names for Germanic-sounding cuisine, streets, insurance companies, and so on. But, as Don Heinrich Tolzmann shows in the updated edition of his Cincinnati Germans After the Great War, inhabitants in that roughly 50% German-American community pulled together to preserve their heritage.
Mr. Tolzmann describes in great detail the many factors accounting for this phenomenon. Community leaders such as John Schwaab, A.K. Nippert, and H.H. Fick encouraged their co-ethnics to maintain a lower profile–for example, by renaming the German-American Alliance the American Citizens League, and by maintaining a stoic indifference to nativist attacks. Most German societies (literary organizations, mutual aid societies, marksmen clubs, etc.) survived the war, unless they were underfinanced. While German religious denominations adopted greater use of English in their services, German Catholics, at least, defined their parishes geographically, thereby preserving some ethnic autonomy. Of the city’s fifteen German language publications in 1918, all but five were still in business in 1932. German literature also began to flourish by the middle 1920s, although the teaching of German in public schools was scuttled by nativists. And Cincinatti’s German-Americanism gave generously to the relief program for refugees in Germany that followed the Armistice.
While The Cincinnati Germans after the Great War is, for the most part, a historical essay, genealogists can profit by consulting the name index to the revised edition, which may help them discover Cincinnati German-American ancestors who figure in its pages.
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