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Lehmann, Heinz.

Translated, edited and introduced by Gerhard P. Bassler. St. John's, Jesperson Press, 1986. 541pp, cloth, $48.00, ISBN 0-920502-76-8. CIP

Grades 9 and up
Reviewed by Cornelia Fuykschot

Volume 15 Number 6
1987 November

Who were the German Canadians, when did they arrive, whence did they come, why did they leave their homelands, where did they settle in Canada, how did they fare, what was their religion, and how much sense of their ethnicity have they retained? These are the main questions answered in this very meticulous study, written as a doctoral dissertation at the university of Berlin just before the outbreak of World War II. Nearly obliterated by bombardments, the work was salvaged and later translated with the aid of a Canada Council grant.

By German the author means: "anyone speaking a German dialect," which includes for his purposes Friesian and some Dutch. Thus a large proportion of the immigrants treated in this book are Mennonites and members of similar religious groups, such as Hutterites, Moravians, and Amish. They hailed from Poland, the Bukovina, Galicia, Switzerland, Austria, the Volga, and Hungary, as well as from the USA. Many were "second degree" emigrants, whose common heritage was religion rather than ethnicity, language or culture, and least of all nationality. In Canada's West no more than 12 percent of the German immigrants hailed straight from Germany.

In reading the book one reviews the settling of Canada from its earliest beginnings, combined with a visitation of all the historical landmarks: the Acadian expulsion in 1755, which left the Germans as the only immigrants; the Hessian regiments of the American Revolution; the Loyalists; Governor Simcoe, who gave Markham to the Germans who cut the road that is now Yonge Street; Lord Selkirk; Sifton and his men in sheepskins; railway companies as immigration agents; World War I with its rising animosity towards Germans; and finally, the depression. It is ironic to read that many decided to migrate to Canada in order to avoid Magyarization (in Hungary) or suppression of German schools (in Poland) only to find similar strictures applied to them in the new land.

While the book provides a clear insight into the development of German immigration in Canada, the perspective is that of the late thirties, and the author's hopes are for the retention of what little sense of German ethnicity his subjects had. The present-day reader, especially those under fifty, may not have the same aspirations.

About one fifth of the book is taken up by forewords, footnotes, tables, maps, bibliography, and a very extensive index. The author has mentioned many names and details that may be of great interest to a later generation of German descendants, but are of no significance to the reader in search of general data on immigration. Since the book ends before the Second World War, a very interesting chapter on the fate of the German immigrants in Canada still remains to be written. However, for anyone needing to know about German immigration to Canada between 1750 and 1937, this is the book, old though it is. The excellent translation into English has made it accessible to the general public. This handsome volume should certainly be found in school libraries with a significant German readership.

Cornelia Fuykschot, Gananoque S.S., Gananoque, Ont.
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