German Settlers of South Bend

Arcadia , 2003

ISBN: 0-7385-2340-2

German Settlers of South Bend concentrates on the tidal wave of Germans who arrived in the South Bend, Indiana, area between the 1830’s and the 1880’s and began their lives just at the moment that South Bend began its own.

 

The book narrates why they left their homeland and what they found in the new world; it tells personal stories of how they fared, both in the city and in the country. The German immigrants played a crucial role in helping to build South Bend from an isolated trading post into a thriving industrial city, and they were instrumental in transforming the surrounding wilderness into rich and fertile farm land.

There are chapters on the special situation of German Jewish immigrants and the Forty-Eighters who left after the failed revolution of 1848.  Another chapter is dedicated to “Silent Partners,” the women immigrants. One large section concerns the politics of identity, assimilation, and the “Problematic Hyphen” of being German-American.  This became fateful when the United States entered World War I and many descendants of German immigrants felt torn or renounced their past by anglicizing their names.

I collected material from a large number of sources on both sides of the Atlantic, uncovered more than 200 letters as well as the records for German societies such as the Turners of South Bend, and those of local German churches.  My research resulted in the foundation of a sister city relationship between South Bend and Arzberg in Bavaria, the source of a chain migration of entire families. The resulting sense of a shared history is a welcome 21st century development  in the troubled chapter of German-Americans in the 20th century.

As a companion piece I have edited Life in Letters. A Nineteenth Century Correspondence between Bavaria and South Bend, Indiana, (Max Kade German American Center 2006).

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