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Subtle Loyalty: German and German-Americans in Wisconsin During the First World War

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Zenda, Benjamin
Oberly, James Warren, 1954-
May 20, 2010
World War, 1914-1918--Wisconsin--Social aspects; Propaganda, Anti-German--Wisconsin--History--20th century; World War, 1914-1918--German Americans; German Americans--Social conditions--Wisconsin--20th century
This paper discusses the social climate in Wisconsin during the First World War. Many of Wisconsin's residents had been born in Germany, but then were naturalized as United States citizens. Most of these German-Americans were quick to assimilate to American standards. However, after the war in Europe began, considerable suspicion brewed over any of the residents with German ethnicity found throughout the state. Examples of anti-German sentiment in Wisconsin presented in this paper include German language book burnings, removal of the German language from school curriculum, and intimidation through governmental agencies and the media. The personal papers of Alexander Rudolf Hohlfeld, a professor in the German Department at the University of Wisconsin, attest to the scrutiny that German-Americans in Wisconsin faced during the war. The overarching theme of this paper is that the incidents aimed at quashing German culture in Wisconsin during the First World War were erratic and unfounded because no serious threat existed of any serious uprising or revolt in support of die Vaterland.
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