German Americans

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The first Germans arrived 1608 at James Fort

German Americans (German: Deutschamerikaner) are citizens of the United States of ethnic German ancestry and form the largest ethnic group of whites in the United States, accounting for 17 % of the U.S. population.[1] Rarely the term is also used for US-Americans living or working in Germany, if they also have German citizenship.


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The first Germans arrived 1608 for the "Virginia Company of London" at James Fort (Fort Jakob), which would later become Jamestown (German: Jakobsstadt). In 1620, the next Germans arrived. The first significant numbers arrived in the 1680s in New York and Pennsylvania. The Germans founded Germantown (German: Deitscheschteddel), Pennsylvania in 1683.

Some eight million German immigrants entered the United States since then. Immigration continued in substantial numbers during the 19th century; the largest number of arrivals came 1840–1900. By 1914 some 5.5 million German immigrants had entered the United States. Between 1920 and 1932 nearly 430,000 more Germans (some may have actually been Jews) came to America many of them veterans of the First World War.[2]

Germans form the largest group of immigrants coming to the U.S., outnumbering the Irish and English.[3] Some arrived seeking religious or political freedom, others for economic opportunities greater than those in Europe, and others simply for the chance to start afresh in the New World. California and Pennsylvania have the largest populations of German origin, with over six million German Americans residing in the two states alone.[4] Over 50 million people in the United States identify German as their ancestry. In the 1990 U.S. census, 58 million Americans claimed to be solely or partially of German descent.[5] In Pennsylvania, English and German were co-official languages until around the time of World War I.[6]

German American Day

Main article: German-American Day

German-American Day is a holiday in the United States, observed annually on 6 October. The holiday, which celebrates German American heritage, commemorates the date in 1683 when 13 German families from Krefeld near the Rhine landed in Philadelphia. These families subsequently founded Germantown, Pennsylvania, the first German settlement in the original thirteen American colonies.[7] Originally celebrated in the nineteenth century, German-American Day died out in World War I as a result of the anti-German sentiment that prevailed at the time. The holiday was revived in 1983.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed 6 October as German-American Day to celebrate and honor the 300th anniversary of German American immigration and culture to the United States.[8] On 6 August 1987, Congress approved S.J. Resolution 108, designating 6 October 1987, as German-American Day. It became Public Law 100-104 when President Reagan signed it on 18 August. A proclamation (#5719) to this effect was issued 2 October 1987 by President Reagan in a formal ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, at which time the President called on Americans to observe the Day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

See also

Further reading

  • Carl Frederick Wittke (1892–1971): Der Terror gegen die Deutschen in den Vereinigten Staaten, 1917-1918, in "German-Americans and the World War, with special emphasis of Ohio's German-language press", Columbus, Ohio 1936, pp. 143-196
  • Michael F. Connors The Development of Germanophobia
  • Karl J. R. Arndt[9] / May E. Olson: The German Language Press of the Americas, 1732-1968 – History and Bibliography, Vol. I: United States of America (Munich: Verlag Dokumentation, 1976)
  • Watson, Peter, German Genius - Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century,, Simon & Schuster, London, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-74328-553-7
  • Charles Thomas Johnson: The National German-American Alliance, 1901-1918 – Cultural Politics and Ethnicity in Peace and War, Western Michigan University, 1997
  • Christoph Strupp / Birgit Zischke / Kai Dreisbach: GERMAN AMERICANA, 1800–1955, 2005

External links



  1. Academy for Cultural Diplomacy; The 2000 census gives 15.2 % or 42.8 million. The 1990 census had 23.3 % or 57.9 million.
  2. Waking to Danger: Americans and National Socialist Germany, 1933-1941, By Robert A. Rosenbaum, page 70
  3. Adams, J.Q.; Pearlie Strother-Adams (2001). Dealing with Diversity. Chicago, IL: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company. 0-7872-8145-X. 
  4. German Immigrants in the United States
  5. Chronology : The Germans in America (European Reading Room, Library of Congress)
  6. German or English? "Some states mandated English as the exclusive language of instruction in the public schools, while Pennsylvania and Ohio in 1839 were first in allowing German as an official alternative, even requiring it on parental demand."
  7. German-American Day: A Short History (archive)
  8. Tricentennial Anniversary Year of German Settlement in America (1983-01-20).
  9. Karl John Richard Arndt was a Professor of German at Clark University from 1950 to 1991. He served as Chief of the Religious Affairs Division of the U.S. Military Government for Germany in Stuttgart from 1945 to 1949. During this time he collected his "War, Political, Historical and Exile Literature Library" of some 490 books and pamphlets. The collection provides an insight into how the Germans saw their time politically and historically during the years preceding Hitler, during the Third Reich and during the occupation years.