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Germans in America Escape Prussianism?


GlencoraPalliser
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Hi,

It seems like I read somewhere, but after looking through about five books I have on WWI and US, I cannot find where I read it (this is very frustrating when this happens!) that many Germans who came to the US c. 1880s onward came to America to escape "Prussian dominance" -- so many of the fears the Americans had that they were pro-Wilhelm II were probably not that true. (Not that weren't pro-Germans too, with the Senate bombing and the Black Tom island possibly being related to pro-German activities too and the mysterious briefcase...). But does anyone know of a source or two where this is suggested?

Thanks in advance. Everyone here is so knowledgeable and willing to share; I wish I had more time to read all the posts. I'd learn a lot, I know.

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I cannot give you any sources that you would have access to but a great many men born in the U.S. from German parents went back to Germany to fight in the war. They generally ended up in regiments formed in the area of their village, town or city.

Ralph

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German reservists in NY 1914 marching to the German Consulate to sign up. However there were also many Germans who remained in the US and joined the US forces when the time came. I suspect in part this may have been dependent on which part of Germany they originally came from.

post-9885-1235843583.jpg

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I'm not an expert in US law - far from it. However I understand that there was an act in force forbidding US citizens serving in the forces of another country (if they were of dual nationality they forfeited their US citizenship) However like many laws it was almost impossible to enforce. Indeed in the case of US citizens joining the Canadian forces all sorts of legal fictions appear to have been applied to avoid having to try to enforce it. Certainly a number of US citizens had been serving with foreign forces even before WW1 broke out (Bert Hall who joined the Lafayette Escadrille for example having flown as a mercenary pilot in the Balkan Wars and there were other American pilots on both sides in the Mexican Civil War). There were certainly Americans who joined the British Army before the US was in the war, one such, a Corporal R Derby Holmes, fought at the Somme, was wounded and invalided out and published a book on his experience (A Yankee in the Trenches) in the US whilst America was still neutral and suffered no legal consequences. Again trying to enforce the law would have resulted in having to prosecute the men of Lafayette Escadrille itself which would have been deeply embarrassing.

So in answer to the question 'What was the position if they were naturalised U.S. citizens?' I think the answer would be technically a serious breech of the law and prosecution and possible loss of citizenship - in practice nothing very much if anything

I'm not sure however where they stood if still serving in the German Army when the US entered the war

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Thank you.

Interesting to find out how many were not naturalised, and so were free to join up.

Kath.

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  • 1 year later...

Scarcity of land was a significant fact, not politics or "Prussianism". By the 1880s left-wing politics was flourishing in supposedly authoritarian Germany. Keep in mind that some "Germans" who emigrated to the US (and Canada) were ethnic Germans born outside of the Reich, subject to religious and racial persecution.

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