Friday, October 2, 2009

The Kaiser's Request: John Schlomer

I really don't know very much about the Heagy side of the family, so I'm looking forward to learning more about them. I talked to Grandpa for a while the other day and he told me a little bit about his Grandpa, John Schlomer.

John Schlomer was a brewer (of beer) in Germany who immigrated to the United States. I need to find out if we have his immigration info, but I see that his daughter Cleora was born in Pennsylvania in 1908, so it must have been before that. Anyway, when World War I broke out, John Schlomer got a surprising letter. It was an official request from the Kaiser that he return to Germany and serve his native country in the army. John would have been around 35 and had already been in the US for a number of years. At this point in the story Grandma asked, "Did he write them back?" Grandpa laughed and said, "No. He just said, 'Go to hell.'" Now that's a proud American!

I'm certainly glad he didn't go. Grandpa Harry Van De Riet was already fighting on the American side, but that's another story. As far as I know, none of my ancestors have fought each other in the modern wars.
The Kaiser recruits John

(Me-->Mom-->Grandpa Heagy-->Cleora Elizabeth Schlomer-->John Schlomer)

After I got off the phone, I was wondering about what it would have been like to be German American around that time. I know that there was some prejudice, but I need to ask Grandpa if he knows if John Schlomer took any Anti-German persecution. Even if he didn't, I'm sure he was aware of the worst cases around him. I did a little research, and found this article about being German in America during WWI, courtesy of Wikipedia.

"During World War I, German Americans, especially those born abroad, were sometimes accused of being too sympathetic to the German Empire. Teddy Roosevelt denounced "hyphenated Americanism" and insisted that dual loyalties were impossible in wartime. A small minority came out for Germany, including H. L. Mencken, who believed the German democratic system was superior to American democracy."
World War I war bond posters depicted Germans in ways similar to modern hate-group caricatures.
Several thousand vocal opponents of the war were imprisoned. Thousands were forced to buy war bonds to show their loyalty. The Red Cross barred individuals with German last names from joining in fear of sabotage. One man was hanged in Illinois, apparently for no other reason than that he was of German descent. The killers were found not guilty of the crime and the hanging was called an act of patriotism by a jury. A Minnesota minister was tarred and feathered when he was overheard praying in German with a dying woman.  Some Germans during this time "Americanized" their names (e.g. Schmidt to Smith, Müller to Miller) and limited their use of the German language in public places. Newspapers also printed blacklists of names of Germans, including their addresses, headlined as German Enemy Aliens.
In Chicago Frederick Stock temporarily stepped down as conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra until he finalized his naturalization papers. Orchestras replaced music by Wagner with Berlioz on programs. In Cincinnati,  reaction to anti-German sentiment during World War I caused the public library of Cincinnati to withdraw all German books from its shelves. German-named streets were renamed. For example, in Indianapolis,, Germania Avenue was renamed Pershing Avenue — for a World War I general of German descent. In Iowa, the 1918 Babel Proclamation made speaking foreign languages in public illegal. Nebraska banned instruction in any language except English, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the ban illegal in 1923 (Meyer vs. Nebraska)."

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