Tuesday, March 31, 2009

21. Forgotten World German Culture

What does Beethoven, Karl Marx, Bach, Einstein, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Mozart and Freud have in common?'
Great question. Another great question is what would most people answer as to the main language of culture from 1750 to 1900? I only get one answer: French. So what did happen to the Beethoven, Marx, Bach, and Einstein who were at the elite of world culture and music. They forgot to speak French and spoke German! Here is an excerpt from wikipedia to update people on some of the causes of a sudden international lapse of memory about the elite position of German in World Culture a short century ago:

Anti-German Sentiment
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There was a flow of German Canadians into the United States. Ironically a good number were Mennonites who immigrated to Canada under the condition that they would not be conscripted for miltary service, some who were refused entrance to the United States and nevertheless suffered prejudices following World War II. Some German
Amercans and others were jailed during the war. The mayor of Montreal (not-German) was jailed due to his opposition to conscription during World War II. Source: Canadian Encyclopedia.

In the United States between 1917-18, German-American schools and newspapers by the thousands were forced to permanently close. In cities and towns across the nation, libraries burned their German-language books in public burnings. The officials of German-named towns that had been founded by German-Americans were intimidated by county, state, and federal government officials into anglicizing their names, and into destroying all traces of their German heritage. In cities across the United States, German-sounding street names were banned. Many families with a German-sounding last name changed their surname.

Wiki and other biographical sources tell me that even a comedian's false accent that was formerly considered amusing became dangerous and self-incriminating:

For a time in vaudeville Groucho Marx and all the brothers performed using ethnic accents. Leonard Marx, the oldest Marx brother, developed the Italian accent he used as Chico to convince some roving bullies that he was Italian, not Jewish. Julius Marx's character from Fun In Hi Skule was an ethnic German, so Julius played him with a German accent. However, after the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915, public anti-German sentiment was widespread, and Marx's German character was booed, so he quickly dropped the accent and developed the fast-talking wise-guy character he would be.


For more info on the disappearance of German culture go to www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-German_sentiment

Few Americans would imagine the vast size of the German American community of today: German Americans (German: Deutschamerikaner) are citizens of the United States of German ancestry, with traditions and self-identity based on German language and culture. They currently form the largest self-reported ancestry group in the United States, accounting for 49 million people, or 17% of the U.S. population.[2] California and Texas have the largest populations of German origin, although upper Midwestern states, including North Dakota and Wisconsin, have the highest proportion of German-American population. (source: www.wikipedia.org/wiki/German-American

A wealthy German-Amercan, Oswald Ottendorfer, founded the first public library of New York City. Later, he returned to his childhood town in Europe to create a community center that has recently been converted partially into an Esperanto Museum and partially into a memorial for Oskar Schindler. Schindler, of Schindler's List fame, via the film, has become the best-know German individual to have saved Jewish lives during World War II.

Svitavy was best known as Zwittau' in German when Ottendorfer and Schindler were born there.
In 1930, 88.4 % of the population was
German. In the beginning of the 20th century the town saw tensions between Czech and German speaking people, resulting in the expulsion of Germans following World War II.
Here is the recent memorial to Oscar Schindler near his Svitavy homoj: 

To get to the website and pictures of the Ottendorfer Center/Esperanto Museum (of Svitavy Czech Republic) first press http://www.muzeum.esperanto.cz/ and then go to the photo gallery and exhibition (Fotogalerie and Expozicie). (Funding: Esperantic Studies Foundation-Source:Humphrey Tonkin)

Ipernity has a page and discussion in Esperanto about the Esperanto Museum:http://www.ipernity.com/blog/181031/302426
New York City Public Library Branch History
The Ottendorfer Branch of the New York Public Library opened in 1884 as New York City's first free public library. Designed by German-born architect William Schickel, this landmark building combines Queen Anne and neo-Italian Renaissance styles with an exterior ornamented by innovative terracotta putti. The Branch was a gift of Oswald Ottendorfer, owner of the New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung. At the time, the neighborhood was called Kleindeutschland (Little Germany) and had a population of over 150,000 people of German descent. Ottendorfer wished to provide this community with books to cultivate their minds and assist assimilation into American culture. Half of the 8,000 original books were in German with the other half in English. In the same tradition, the branch continues to reflect its community and remains a vital educational and cultural resource for the East Village today. The building, which is a designated New York City landmark, has been completely renovated through the Library's Adopt-A-Branch program, through which private donors join public funders to restore branch libraries. While the original Ottendorfer Branch was designed as a bilingual library to serve the German community, the restored library can now better serve its multilingual community and provide an increased level of accessibility to all people. Highlights include restored, repointed, and cleaned fa├žade, new elevator, new air-conditioning system, five new computer workstations, and new children's floor with story hour room.

One of the most powerful early Americans founded the first German-Language Newspaper:The German-language press in the United States has a long if somewhat faded history. It was none other than Benjamin Franklin who published the first German-language newspaper in North America, the Philadelphische Zeitung, in 1732. Although Franklin's German newspaper failed before the year was out, many others in the New World would be more successful. ( source:www.german.about.com/library/weekly/aa07/2299.htm )

Regarding Klein Deutchland--Lower East Side,  New York City, the following article indicates that German Jews were an important part of it and preceded the arrival of poorer Russian/Eastern European Jews (My grandmother and mother).

The General Slocum Boat Tragedy was linked to the deterioration of Little Germany-Lower East Side-East Village areas:

A German-American, John/Johann Jacob/Jakob Astor funded the main branch (with the lion statues) of the New York City Public Library.

John Jacob Astor (born Johann Jakob or Johann Jacob Astor) (July 17, 1763–March 29, 1848) was the first prominent member of the Astor family and the first multi-millionaire in the United States. He was the creator of the first trust in America, from which he made his fortune in fur trading, real estate, and opium
At the time of his death in 1848, Astor was the wealthiest person in the United States, leaving an estate estimated to be worth at least $20 million; according to the latest Forbes rankings, he would be worth $115 billion in 2007 U.S. dollars, making him the fourth wealthiest person in American history.

John Jacob Astor's ancestors were Waldensian refugees from Savoy. He was born in Walldorf, near Heidelberg in the old Palatinate which became part of Baden during the 19th century, Germany (currently in the Rhein-Neckar district). His father (Johann Jacob Astor) was a butcher. The son John Jacob Astor learned English in London while working for his brother, George Astor, manufacturing musical instruments.

In his will, Astor left $400,000 to build the Astor Library for the New York public (later consolidated with other libraries to form New York Public Library), as well as $50,000 for a poorhouse in his German hometown, Walldorf.

One provocative question: Could it be that the country whose language is most widely dispersed then thinks that its culture and leadership is in demand and therefore MUST lead or dominate the world. Is this what Hitler believed? Is this what the United States' leading class has believed for the past century?

Germany and Swahili
Having met the ambassador of Tanzania, Augustine Amhiga, and other speakers of Swahili in April 2009 I read about Swahili, the language and its history. I found it interesting that this commercial-business-seafaring cross between Arabic and Bantu languages was officialized by Germany in 1886 one year before Esperanto was publicly proposed for the world lingua franca. The full article in wikipedia indicates that numerous dialects of mutually unintelligible swahili exist although the ambassador suggested that 100 million people in Tanzania and neighboring countries effectively spoke the same swahili in Africa:
After Germany seized the region known as Tanganyika (present day mainland Tanzania) for a colony in 1886, it took notice of the wide (but shallow) dissemination of Swahili, and soon designated Swahili as a colony-wide official administrative language. The British did not do so in neighbouring Kenya, even though they made moves in that direction. The British and Germans both were keen to facilitate their rule over colonies with dozens of languages spoken by selecting a single local language that hopefully would be well accepted by the natives. Swahili was the only good candidate in these two colonies.
In the aftermath of Germany's defeat in World War I, it was dispossessed of all its overseas territories. Perhaps Germany made a good move with not choosing to spread German but Swahili as the Swahili speaking region (Tanzania and Kenya) seems relatively stable in Africa.
There was a relationship between German Canandians and German Americans with numerous German Canadian obtaining American citizenship and others who were denied entrance to the United States between the world wars.
German Canadian number around 3,200,000 today out of a total of 34,150,000 Canadians.
Ironically numerous German Canadians entered Canada with the written agreement that they would be exempt from military service (due to their beliefs as Mennonites). However since even the non-German mayor of Montreal was interred due to his opposition to conscription, many Mennonite Germans were interred to camps. Source below.

In a recent discussion on Globish (May, 2010) in the Economist, Britain's most dispersed weekly we found the following comment about language policy in Spain, regarding German:
enriquecost wrote: Jun 1st 2010 12:57 GMT .

It is evident Global English is just a consequence of Domination, Colonalism and War. Invading other nations, murdering millions of natives, enslaving millions of peoples, forcing Chinese to consume drugs, destroying Indian manufacturing (to replace it by British manufacturing)...all that led to Global English.

The English language is a "survivor" by itself as it could have disappeared after centuries of Plantagenet rule since William the Conqueror. For centuries the British elite used to speak in French and even the Royal Coat of Arms is French: "Dieu et mon droit". Still today English has two kind of words: Latin (Liberty) and Germanic (Freedom) But under the Francophone domination of Britain the Anglo-Saxon people kept their culture even if heavily influenced by the French, and that´s is why today English sounds so different from German or Dutch (while German and Dutch sound very similar to foreigners)...even we can add that Quebecois did the same on the reverse and even if dominated by an Anglo elite they kept their culture.

Before WWII in Spain German was the language of Philosophy, and as much used as English for Science and Technology. The defeat of Germany and its complete submission and obligaration by the U.S. and the U.K. led also to the end of the German language which now few people study.
More than German and English, in Spain French was the language of choice, and most people until the 70s used to study the French language, not just because it ws the language of Diplomacy and Arts but also because France was a more progressive and developed nation, the gate of Europe. Now, nobody studies French. Only English. (source: http://www.economist.com/node/16213950?story_id=16213950

Hitler's thoughts on German langauge purism and anti-semitism are expressed in this article:


I reiterate: when a language, as German, is revered as German was in the 1900's, delusional leaders of the native speakers receive delusions of grandeur....and racist ideology.
It is, of cause not the only source of the problems but of great significance..

Here is a 2013 link on the disappearance of German in Texas where it formally thrived for 5 generations: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22490560 

One of the Social Movements I have taken most note of is called Ethical Culture, in the United States. Precisely when Esperanto was being created in 1887 the founder of Ethical Culture, Felix Adler, returned to his birth-land, Germany, to receive a quality education in German. He studied  at Heidleberg University, a campus I passed through as a bicycled along the Tauber River, in my youth (late 1970's). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_Adler_%28Professor%29.

Germans founded various towns and neighborhood in Palestine/Israel. Most impressive is the preservation of the central street of Haifa, Israel's main port city where I visited during the All-Asia Esperanto Pre-Conference. A Nazi party for the Templer Society existed and the men were conscripted in the German army during WWII, leading to their expulsion.  Many arrived in Australia after time in Cyprus. Over 1000 ancesters are known in recent years.  http://www.templesociety.org.au/heritage.html

The USA Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem was build by a German missionary, Ferdinand Vester, adjacent to Zamenhof St, Jerusalem.

Beyond the numerous German classical musicians that dominated the field  for centuries I note that some of the biggest instrument producers in the United States were first established in Germany ex. Martin Guitars and Steinway Pianos:
Steinway Piano's is both based in NYC and Hamburg, Germany.

Scott Montgomery comments in this new book in 2013:
Q: What have been the key factors in the rise of English as the global language of science?
A: The history here is both complex and fascinating, but I’ll just summarize some of the major points. Both the Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, centered in England, were factors early on, though there was much translation and many scientists in Europe could read French, the true lingua franca at the time. By the late 1800s, English was one of several major languages in science, roughly equal with French but well below German. A shift began in the 1920s, as German scientists were blamed for some aspects of World War I (chemical weapons) and for support some of them showed of the conflict. World War II then reduced Europe to ashes, while U.S. science was undamaged, well-funded, and in high gear.
A massive rise in U.S. publications took place, starting in the late '40s. It took a full half-century before Europe could match America in this primary area. By the 1990s and early 2000s, new and forceful elements combined: the fall of communism; globalization; millions of science students migrating to Anglophone countries; and changes in the editorial policies of international journals to English only. At some point, too, the growing use of English became self-perpetuating and expanding. That is, scientists themselves saw what language the writing on the wall was in, and many began to adapt.
The rise of English, it should be emphasized, had nothing to do with the nature of English itself. Any major language — French, German, Russian, Spanish, Japanese — would have done as well. English benefited no small amount from the collapse of its competitors (French, German, Russian). But it also helps to recall what Bismarck said when asked what the pivotal fact of modern history was: "The fact that North America speaks English."

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/06/04/interview-author-new-book-english-lingua-franca-science#ixzz2z1B2igGH
Inside Higher Ed 

German, Bauhaus Architecture was considered superior, in no place else other than Tel Aviv, Israel, moments before the naming of Zamenhof Street in 1936 (Dizengoff Circle take in aerial photo), and a few years before the Holocaust: http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=16618

German actors (Marlene Dietrich) and producers (Josef von Sternberg), some German-Austrian/Jewish
traveled back and forth to Germany until World War II. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_von_Sternberg

Neighborhoods (called Colonies in an amiable sense) in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem were founded by German Templers:
They have been renovated and preserved:

The founder of the most famous music school (Julliard) and concert hall (Lincoln Center) was German American (with partial Jewish blood): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Damrosch

In 2017 some dozen countries have presidents or prime ministers who are either German-speakers, German or of German origen:  


1 comment:

longge said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


About Me

My photo
I have lived 16 years in other countries, notably, Israel and Brazil, among another 30 countries.