Page 2 - GC-Sept-Oct-23
P. 2

        Perspectives . . .                                          German ethnicity and the U.S. Presidency

      We could learn a lot                                            by Martin Ederer                                              Theodore  Roosevelt  had  a
                                                                          ow  many  U.S.  presidents
                                                                                                                                 small  amount  of  German  ancestry
                                                                          could claim German ethnic-
      from each other                                              Hity? The picture is actually                                 alongside  seven  other  ethnicities,
                                                                   quite complicated. In the interest of                         primarily British Isles and Dutch.
         by Martin Ederer                                          not  encouraging  any  more  lies,                               Harry Truman had some Ger-
            here was a famous piece of graffiti on the Berlin Wall that sardoni-  damn lies, and statistics, let’s define        man  among  four  other  ethnicities,
            cally stated, “Wer mauert hat’s nötig” (Those who build walls need  some  terms  and  set  some  ground              but British Isles were primary.
      Tto). As we begin to enter yet another presidential political season the  rules.                                              Lyndon Johnson – some Ger-
      political rhetoric has already begun to rev up. There is the politics of the  First,  the  vast  majority  of  U.S.        man  roots  but  among  four  other
      left and the right, there’s the politics of race and ethnicity, politics of the  presidents have roots in the British      ethnicities, mostly British Isles.
      entitled  versus  those  who  would  like  to  be  entitled,  the  politics  of  big  Isles   (England-Scotland-Ireland-      Richard  Nixon  also  claimed
      business and money, the politics of greed and the politics of envy, the  Wales,  Scots-Irish),  some  100%                 some German heritage, but among
      politics of religious ideals versus secular ideals. Maybe we all need to call  English, but most a mix.                    three others: all British Isles.
      a timeout. What often seems to be missing is the politics of reason, of  Second, let’s leave out the fact                     George H.W. Bush and George
      reality, of humanity, of solidarity, of the common good and a sense that we  that “English” in all probability and         W.  Bush  claimed  some  German
      are (or should be) all in this together.                     in most cases included Anglo-Saxon  Dwight  Eisenhower.  No  sur-  ancestry among a whole list of other
         Maybe people of all ethnicities – different as they may well be from one                                                ethnicities – six of them. The most
                                                                   ethnicity,  which  presupposes  Ger- prise here. As Supreme Commander
      another – could all teach each other something. Maybe we could do some  manic  heritage…but  that’s  ancient of Allied Forces in Europe, the Brit-  meaningful ones would appear to be
      careful listening instead of building walls of noise and walls of one-sided                                                from the British Isles.
                                                                   history dating to the 500s AD. By ish sometimes wondered – thanks to
      talk: more curious and less furious.                         “German” we’ll stick to much more how his name sounded – whose side  Barack Obama possesses some
         Consider the stories of so many ethnic groups in America. We all have                                                   German and Swiss ethnicity among
                                                                   recent history, and define “German” he  was  on.  Still,  Americanization
      them, and they are far more complex than we often realize. Not all Anglo-  as having come from ethnically Ger- de-spelled  the  original  Eisenhauer  seven other ethnicities.
      WASPs made it big in America. Consider Appalachia. German-Ameri-                                                              There are perhaps a few interest-
                                                                   man  and/or  German-speaking  re- family name. Primarily of German
      cans, prosperous though some may have become, often felt compelled to  gions  of  Central  Europe,  not and Swiss ethnicity, Eisenhower al-  ing takeaways here. From the stand-
      bury their ethnicities, heritage, and names, thanks to being on the wrong                                                  point  of  “privilege,”  we  can  make
                                                                   necessarily Germany as we know it so claimed some English heritage.
      side of two world wars. Even Protestant Germans, who might have had  today.                                                the case that Germans in some form
      things  easier,  were  often  considered  somewhat-less-than  desirable  than  Third,  there  has  been  no  presi-        made  it  to  the  presidency  much
      more  Anglocentric  Protestant  denominations,  and  therefore  somewhat                                                   more than a good many ethnicities
                                                                   dent  of  100%  German  ethnicity.
      less-than-desirable Americans. Even within Lutheran denominations, real  There have been 11 presidents with                in America which have not made it
      difficulties existed between German-speaking communities and Scandina-                                                     to the White House at all. Two pres-
                                                                   varying amounts of German ethnic-
      vian Lutherans.                                              ity, but only three for whom it could                         idents made it to the White House
         Then there’s the rest of the list: the “No Irish need apply” signs which                                                with detuned German names and a
                                                                   be  defined  as  a  dominant  (but  not
      helped to keep Irish immigrants poor. Italian immigrants were considered  necessarily meaningful) part of their            lot  of  assimilation.  None  of  them
      only good for outdoor work, and often enough found themselves getting                                                      made much of their German roots.
                                                                   ethnic  makeup.  Those  three  were
      lynched for being “almost” African Americans. The Polish were all kinds  well-assimilated.                                    Still, in comparison to the Brit-
      of trouble, too Catholic, and quite possibly revolutionaries. Jews were also                                               ish Isles juggernaut, German ethnic-
                                                                      Here's the list…and there will be
      nothing  but  trouble  with  their  inscrutable  religious  traditions.  African  a few surprises. The three most Ger-     ity in the White House is still very
      Americans  were  often  enough  deemed  incapable  of  really  being  taken                                                much a minority. All of this should
      seriously  as  Americans  or  even  as  human  beings.  Asians  were  sneaky,                                              make us think – about assimilation,
      semi-humans trying to take us over long before Pearl Harbor, as fears of a                                                 ethnicity, about success and failure
      “Yellow  Peril”  heated  up.  Native  Americans  got  ground  up  thanks  to                                               in  America.  To  what  extent  does
      European disease, European policies, diplomacy gone bad, and the sheer                                                     any  political  rhetoric  about  privi-
      inundation of new arrivals.                                                                                                lege  and  empowerment  –  what  it
         The short form here is that (1) most Americans had their turns at being                     Donald  Trump.  A  lot  of  Ger-  means, and what it should mean –
                                                                                                  man  on  his  father’s  side,  but  his
      dumped on by someone, some facing much worse things than others, and                                                       align with the real world? Let’s end
      for longer times than others. But the commonality is that most of us faced                  second ethnicity – apparently equal-  with  that  open  question.  It  should
                                                                                                  ly strong – is Scottish. His name is
      something,  and  we  should  all  be  adult  enough  to  recognize  that  every                                            provoke some thought.
      national history has dirt that we’d all rather ignore. (2) Our stories are far              German. It is also the only presiden-
                                                                                                  tial  German-origin  family  name
      more complicated than political operatives on any side would like us to
      believe. (3) The other reality to balance all the bad stuff is that there has               president  to  have  survived  Ameri-
                                                                                                  canization intact.
      been  progress,  admittedly  more  for  some  groups  than  for  others,  and
      sooner for some than for others.                                                               For the remaining eight, there is
                                                                                                  German ethnicity, sometimes only in
         Maybe it’s time to peek over the walls of political rhetoric, to really get
      to know each other, and to listen more than we talk. We’ll all learn a lot                  minor  amounts.  For  the  most  part,
                                                                                                  the non-German ethnicities seem to
      and maybe also learn to shout less. It’s worth a shot.
                                                                                                  have been the more significant.
                                                                       Herbert  Hoover.  The  family  Grover  Cleveland  had  a  small
                                                                    name was originally Huber. Hoover
                                                                                                  amount of German Quaker ancestry,
                                                                    had German and Swiss heritage as  the  rest  being  English  and  Scots-
                                                                    well as English.
        � Friday, September 1 and Saturday, September 2 -
          Federation of German-American Societies hosts German Great timing
          Fest 2023 - Cheektowaga Town Park, Harlem Road. Live
                                                                       by Elaine Timm             ical info of the inscriptions? Yes, in
          music, German beer, European car show, Bavarian              his past Spring, an elderly Buf- fact he would like all the books!
          Dancers, Marktplatz, contests and more.                   Tfalo area woman came to our     After I got home I shipped them
                                     Das  Haus  Museum  to  donate  old off to Terry in northern California.
                                                                    German language religious books. I then sent a note to the Buffalo area
        � Saturday, September 9 - The Canal City Oktoberfest - 1    She  was  initially  turned  away,  as lady to describe what happened to
          - 8 p.m. - Canal Street Pavillion, 1 Main St., Tonawanda -  we have many such books already. her  books,  and  how  happy  Terry
                                                                    A Collections Committee member was to have them.
          music by Polka Boys & Frankfurters. Authentic food,
                                                                    happened to be coming in, and re-  She  replied  that  she  had  rela-
          beer and music.                                           viewed  the  books  and  decided  to tives that lived in northern Califor-  Advertise
                                                                    take them. They had inscriptions in nia. I Google mapped the city and
        �  Sunday, September 10 - Schlachtfest (Pig Roast)
                                                                    the  old  Kurrentschrift.    Upon  re- found they live about an hour away  your event
          (Featuring a specially brewed Octoberfest beer by         view,  we  deciphered  many  sur- from Terry!
          Hofbräuhaus Buffalo; Music 2 to 6 p.m. by The Polka       names,  and  dates.  The  primary  For genealogists, stories of great
          Boys; Park opens at noon; food available at 1 p.m.;       surname was Koberstein, but there timing  like  this  keeps  us  making  or business
                                                                    were also maiden names.       connections and pursuing our hob-
          Admission: $6 per person)
                                                                       About the same time, I was pre- by.                                 in the
        � Saturday, October 7 - Taste of Bier & Brats (Sample       paring to travel to an International
                                                                    German Genealogy Conference in
          some of the finest brews from participating WNY
                                                                    Indiana. A website preview of reg-
          Brewers and taste some delicious traditional Brats) See   istered attendees showed the name
          Spring Garden website for details. Tickets will be        of Terry Koberstein!
          available on                             At the conference I kept an eye
                                                                    out for a name tag with his name.   January - February                  Call
        �  Sunday, December 3 - Jährliche Weihnachtsmesse –         While a few of us were talking to a   March - April                  Michelle
          Annual German Christmas Concert Traditional Christmas     presenter before one of the sessions   May - June
                                                                    began, I saw the name tag right next                                 or Steve
          Carols by the German-American Musicians (10:30 a.m.),                                           July - August
                                                                    to me!  I explained the books we
          Mass (11 a.m.) and reception (noon) catered by Gerhardt                                      September - October            716-831-8013
                                                                    had, that had been initially turned
          Braun at St. Louis Church, 780 Main St.                   away.  Would he like the genealog-  November - December
   1   2   3   4   5   6   7