Lynching of German Americans

Scared by the Government

Mar 5, 2018
National Archives

In previous comments about Erik Kirschbaum's new book Burning Beethoven: The Eradication of German Culture in the United States during World War I, I considered how wartime Americans were taught to fear one another and how that fear short-circuited their powers of reason. I also spoke of the role the press played in fomenting that hatred.

This time, I want to take a look at the government's role. I have often thought that if a government can scare people enough, they will throw themselves at its feet. World War I provides compelling evidence for that conclusion.

Wikipedia

I’m Jonathan Baker, a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’ve been asked to talk a little about this month’s Radio Readers Book Club selection, Burning Beethoven by Erik Kirschbaum. The book is subtitled The Eradication of German Culture in the United States during World War I, and it contains a multitude of scary echoes for 21st century America.

I recall, back in 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, eating at a steak joint out on the Claude Highway near the Palo Duro Canyon. I ordered my New York Strip, but I hesitated about ordering fries. I simply couldn’t bring myself to say the words “freedom fries.”

Beware of Becoming What You Hate

Feb 19, 2018
Harry R Hopps / Wikipedia

I have often suspected that if people aren't careful, they become what they hate. How many times have you seen a hypocrite pontificate about hypocrisy? A bigot complain he or she is the object of someone else's bigotry? Or someone preaching tolerance harbor assumptions that aren't actually that tolerant?

It's hard for people to see themselves as others do -- there's a reason for that which I'll get to in a bit -- and because of that we sometimes wind up acting like the very people we most despise.

Bound to Repeat It

Feb 14, 2018
Wikicommons

I’m Galen Boehm from Kinsley, Kansas, for HPPR’s Radio Readers Spring Read commemorating the 100th year anniversary of WWI.  I’m covering Kirschbaum’s book Burning Beethoven, noting how fear rather than reason too frequently dictates how we respond to political and personal concerns.

Prior to WWI, German immigrants to the United States established settlements to provide a sense of social and cultural identity.  These immigrants came for religious, political and vocational reasons.  

Freedom. Something We Give?

Feb 12, 2018
Pintrest

Suppose you were plucked from wherever you are now and plopped into a foreign country where you were told you are perfectly free. You are allowed to say anything you want, worship any god you want, speak any language you want, and make your living in any way you can. The only catch is, your neighbors don't agree. In such a scenario, are you really free?

This hypothetical situation is not exactly what German-Americans faced during World War I, but it still may help us understand what their story tells us not only about their freedom but also our own.