This branch of the Austrian Hesch family is descended from Johann Hesch and his wife Marya (Schlinz) Hesch, who came to America from Oberschlagles, Bohemia with three sons: Paul, Mathias, and Anton. +++Johann & Marya settled in Buffalo County, Wisconsin but moved to Pierz, Mn in about 1885. .+++Mathias settled in Waumandee, Wisconsin and moved to Pierz in 1911. +++Anton never married but farmed with his dad in Agram Township, where he died in 1911.+++And Paul, my great grandfather, settled five miles away, in Buckman, Minnesota. He died there in 1900.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

How come our parents didn't teach us German?

I've often wondered why we weren't encouraged to learn the language our parents were born with--we could've talked with them and grandma and grandpa so easily--but while it wasn't discouraged, we knew little beyond Verstehen and kleines Kind and the words to Silent Night.

Mom told us that in grade school in Buckman, they were punished for playing baseball in German, and mom and dad used it as their private language over our heads (Sollten wir die Kinder auf?), but those wouldn't be good enough reasons to discourage us, would they?

Larry and I stumbled on the answer when the name RAUSCH turned up in FBI files from 1918 that were recently put online. It's not a pretty story.
Patriotism, in 1918, was a necessity. America was at war with Germany, and buying war bonds was a 'patriotic duty'. At the same time, in Minnesota, many of the immigrants who'd fled Germany 30-50 years earlier were now successful farmers, providing food for the war effort. BUT, they spoke German. That alone was suspect, and if someone heard you wonder about family who still lived in the old county, you were probably a Hun Sympathiser. If you were less than enthusiastic about killing Germans, a simple letter to the FBI got you investigated, no matter how much you loved being here.

Sadly, Minnesota (home of so many German-born citizens) went one step further, by setting up a "Public Safety Commission" to root out seditious aliens. HERE is the form German people were required to fill out during that year, the Alien Registration and Declaration of Holdings. Thankfully, the commission was short-lived, but just think how you would feel answering those questions even today.

"Let the work you do.." from the Minnesota Historical Society document website.

If you're curious or incredulous about the temper of the times, check out THESE PAGES .

Our parents were born into that furor. To say that older German-born or
German-speaking people were scared is an understatement.
Grandma and grandpa were both born here, and yet, they spoke German.
"Es wäre besser, Englisch zu sprechen" they spoke German only among themselves, and didn't encourage us to learn it.

This poster is not of the Statue of Liberty, but of Germania, in flames. It's from 1917.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Added much later:
Larry found this letter in the Stillwater Mn newspaper from December 1917.  As I was re-typing it (to make it translatable) I realized how hard they were trying to make it sound reasonable and legal.


Mayor Kolliner is in reciept of the following letter from Attorney General Gregory, in regard to alien enemies of the Uniter States.  Mayor Kolliner has placed the matter in the hands of William E. McNaughton, chief of police, and will follow out the instructions of the Attorney General to the letter.
The communication in question reads as follows:

December 26, 1917
To His Honor the Mayor,
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that the President has issued a Proclamation dated November 16, 1917, containing, among other regulations in relation to German alien enemies, one requiring their registration, reading as follows:
"19.  All alien enemies are hereby required to register at such times and  places and in such manner as may be fixed by the Attorney General of the United States, and the Attorney General is hereby authorized and directed to provide, as speedily as may be practicable, for registration of all alien enemies and to make and declare such rules and regulations as he may deem necessary for effecting such registration; and all alien enemies and all other persons are hereby required to comply with such rules and regulations; and the Attorney General in carrying out such registration is hereby authorised to utilize such agents, agencies, officers and departments of the United States and of the several states, territories, dependencies and municipalities thereof and of the District of Columbia  as he may select for the purpose, and all such agents, agencies, offices and departments are hereby granted full authority for all acts done by them in the execution of this regulation when acting by the direction of the Attorney General.
After the date fixed by the Attorney General for such registration, an alien enemy shall not be found within the limits of the United States, its territories or posessions without having his registration card on his person."
I feel that the registration of such persons in your city as are required to be registered as German alien enemies can be most promptly and efficiently carried out by your police department.
The plan contemplated is to have the German alien enemies fill out the registration affidavits at the police station in your city, and there recieve registration cards.  This Department will furnish all necessary affidavits, cards and other forms and issue instructions for the work.
I trust to hear at your very early convenience that you have instructed your police department to administer the details of this registration under the general supervision and direction of the Department of Justice.  Meantime will you not have your Chief of Police immediately forward to the United States Marshal in your district as accurate estimate as possible of the number of German alien enemies in your community?
In view of the material assistance which this work will render to the success of the country in the war, I am relying on your whole-hearted co-operation in its performance.
Attorney General

1 comment:

  1. Deborah Hesch CarverAugust 28, 2010 at 11:34 PM

    Wow! Marlys, thank you so much for posting about anti-German American sentiment. I am fascinated. It gives me so much insight into our family. I am so thankful to have found this blog and am forever grateful to you and Larry for your work. It is so obviously a labor of love.