HS – Beware Thy Neighbor? German Americans in Connecticut during WWI


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
World War I
Theme
Cultural Diversity and an American National Identity
Town
Middletown, Statewide
Related Search Terms
World War One, WWI, Great War, First World War, Flag, How Lives Changed, Immigrants, Enemy Aliens, Home Front, German Americans, Foreigners, Internment
Social Studies Frameworks
High School – United States History

Historical Background
In his April 6, 1917, proclamation declaring war on Germany, President Woodrow Wilson laid out regulations pertaining to non-naturalized men (over age 14) of German origin in the United States. These regulations were later expanded to include Austro-Hungarians and women. They were summarized in publications such as the one from the Connecticut State Council of Defense included in this activity. German citizens living in the United States were required to register at their local post office, carry registration cards, and inform authorities if they intended to change residences or employers. During the course of the war, around 2,300 German-born civilians were interned as “dangerous enemy aliens” at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and Fort Douglas, Utah. It was not only non-naturalized Germans who faced suspicion and mistreatment, however, as evidenced by the case of Carl Herrmann and the anti-German riot in Middletown, Connecticut, in the summer of 1918.

D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

Has America always been a “Land of Opportunity” for immigrants?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What makes someplace a “Land of Opportunity”?
  • In what ways did World War I affect attitudes towards foreign-born immigrants in Connecticut?
  • To what extent were the public messages about treatment of immigrants—both “official” and unofficial—consistent?
  • In what ways were the rights of Connecticut residents restricted during World War I?
  • Why has immigration been such a controversial issue throughout American history?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Part 1

Detail of the pamphlet American Ideals
Detail of the pamphlet American Ideals, “For Native-born American Women: What you can do for Americanism, ” produced by the Connecticut State Council of Defense, ca. 1917-18. Click on the image above or HERE to download the entire PDF – Connecticut State Library Digital Collections

 

Detail of the bulletin Suggestions and Requirements for Enemy Aliens Contained in the President's Proclamation of War, April, 1917
Detail of the bulletin “Suggestions and Requirements for Enemy Aliens Contained in the President’s Proclamation of War, April, 1917,” produced by the Connecticut State Council of Defense, ca. 1918. Click on the image above or HERE to download the entire PDF – Connecticut State Library Digital Collections

Part 2

page Germans Forced to Kiss Flag by Mob.Middletown Evening Press. August 3, 1918. 8:1-2.
page  “Millane is Freed; Three Others Held.”  Middletown Evening Press. August 5, 1918. 8:1-2.
page  “Local Rioters are Scored by Court.”  Middletown Evening Press. August 6, 1918. 8:2
page  “Public to Pay Rioters’ Fines.”  Middletown Evening Press. August 7, 1918. 8:1
page  “Law or Mob Law?”  Middletown Evening Press. August 8, 1918. 8:2
page Casper Schmidt is Loyal to America.”  Middletown Evening Press. August 7, 1918. 8:2
D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY
  1. As a class, discuss the compelling and supporting questions that will guide the inquiry.
  2. In group discussion or individually, have students examine the two sources in Part 1 of the activity toolkit:
    • “For Native-born American Women: What you can do for Americanism.” Connecticut State Council of Defense. 1917-18.
    • “Suggestions and Requirements for Enemy Aliens Contained in the President’s Proclamation of War, April, 1917.” Connecticut State Council of Defense.
  3. For each of the two sources, ask students to apply the SOAPStone analysis technique, being sure to identify the author/issuing body; intended audience; occasion/reason for the document; and main points being communicated. What does each document say explicitly OR imply about the “official” position towards immigrants at the time? Revisit the supporting questions and add new student-generated questions that arise from the examination to the list.
  4. For Part 2 of the inquiry, students will examine (individually or in small groups) a series of articles published in the Middletown Evening Press about an incident that occurred in August 1918. Keeping the supporting questions in mind, students should make notes about the facts recorded in the newspaper, opinions/attitudes (stated or implied), and questions that they have about—or inspired by—what they have read.
  5. Students will share what they found most interesting about the incident and the newspaper coverage, as well as their new questions.
  6. As a class, revisit the supporting and compelling questions and discuss additional avenues for inquiry, if students wish to learn more.
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS
  • Imagining themselves as Middletown residents in the summer of 1918, students will write two letters to the editor of the Middletown Evening Press. The first will explain why she or he intends to contribute to the public collection taken up to pay the rioters’ fines. The second will explain why she or he intends not to contribute.
  • Students will use contemporary newspapers and additional sources to investigate immigration issues today and will create a graphic organizer illustrating similarities and differences between issues today and those during WWI. These may include the cultural/racial/religious background of the immigrants in question, the language/words used in the public discourse, proposed actions or “solutions,” etc.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Articles & Books to READ

This TeachITCT.org activity is sponsored in part by the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Eastern Region Program, coordinated by Waynesburg University.