German Canadians, 1750-1937: Immigration, Settlement, and Culture
Book review by Edna Boardman, Bismarck, North Dakota
Lehmann, Heinz. The German Canadians, 1750-1937: Immigration, Settlement and Culture. Edited by Gerhard P. Bassler. St. John’s, Newfoundlan: Jesperson Press, 1986.
The story of the Germans who settled in Canada from its beginnings
skillfully drawn in this book. Heinz Lehmann, who was a German born
educated scholar, collected the material for the book between 1928
1930 and published it in two books plus three articles in 1931 and
Bassler put Lehmann's work all together in English, sorting out
duplications of material. Lehmann lived long enough to review and
this translation, which appeared just before his death.
It is fascinating to follow the earliest history of Germans who
Canada. About one third (11,853) of the Hessian soldiers who served
England's side in the American Revolutionary War did not return
Germany. Almost 5000 of them died but about 7,000 survived, and
welcome settlers in both the fledgling United States and Canada.
doesn't mention this, but it appears that most of these soldiers
the same areas as many of those who went to Russia, suggesting an
intriguing blood link.) Little by little, Germans directly from
others came from other European countries, and German-speakers who
first come to the United States settled the farmland of Canada.
carefully traces where they came from, where they took up land,
their circumstances were in the settlement process. He takes care
the religious faith of each group--primarily Lutheran, Catholic,
Mennonite--and who it was who came to serve them in their churches.
does not appear to have prejudices against any group. He notes that
Mennonites and the culturally related Hutterites were often the
capable farmers and were repeatedly the first to move into the most
hostile areas to make their homes. He mentions schools and the
controversies that surrounded them as the German settlers struggled
maintain their faith and culture (including language) and the Canadian
government asserted its policy of assimilation. Lehmann's general
is that being culturally German is a good thing, but he is not
anti-Canadian; he recognizes the tremendous benefit that Canada
in opening its doors to the ethnic Germans.
The fact that the material for this book was collected and written
time when the fascists were consolidating their power and Germany
especially interested in Germans who lived elsewhere in the world
disturbing to some readers. But there is nothing propagandistic
this reviewer could see no evidence that it is anything but a
straightforward scholarly effort to trace the times and places of
German-speaking peoples' settlement in Canada. Researching and writing
book of this kind was especially important, the introductions say,
some histories of the settlement of Canada do not mention Germans
A nuisance item that recurs in the book is the use of "now"
and the reader is never quite sure if the text refers to the time
Lehmann's writing or of Bassler's translating, but this is not a
reject the book. Germans from Russia who have family who migrated
through Canada at any time will be interested in reading this book.
reviewer found several pages that illuminated a period during which
father wandered Canada in search of work. Others may find a fit
own family stories. It is a good companion to the book Russian-German
Settlements in the United States by Richard Sallet, Translated by
J. Rippley and Armand Bauer (North Dakota Institute for Regional
Fargo, ND. 1974.) Libraries would do well to shelve them side by
because both perform the same service, one taking over at the border
the other leaves off.