When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Enjoy unlimited access to quality journalism.

Limited time offer

Get your 30-day free trial!
eyes on the U.S.

History Lessons For Trump: When America Feared German Immigrants

Donald Trump's ancestors left Germany for the U.S. with dreams of a better life. They faced longstanding fears about the "Germanization" of America.

Protests outside the Trump Tower in New York
Protests outside the Trump Tower in New York
Hannelore Crolly

BERLIN — By now, it has become general knowledge that Donald Trump is the product of serious Palatine-German immigrant ambitions. Camera teams from as far away as Tokyo and New York have traveled to Kallstadt, situated along the German Wine Route, to discover Granpma and Grandpa Trump's hometown. There isn't much to see, with just a boring house (only the outside of which can be filmed) and a few distant relatives of the man with the yellow hair (who make themselves scarce when spotted by the press.)

But there is also a grave with the inscription "Trump." Despite comedian John Oliver's insistence that Trump's family name was changed from Drumpf generations back so as to not sound too German — or like a grape splattering against a window — it can now be proven that it actually always was Trump.

Trump's Granddad Friedrich was an exemplary economic refugee, arriving in 1885. Wealth and a good life were the only things that the Palatine migrant desired, despite the fact that he was too slight for hard work, could not speak English and sailed across the sea to the U.S. without any money. The Americans let him in nonetheless. His son became a millionaire, and we all know how many times that was multiplied by his grandson. But what can we learn from history?

Well, then too, America has always been a little reluctant to welcome refugees and migrants. When the first wave of Palatine refugees arrived in the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin, of all people — one of the nation's most enlightened Founding Fathers — ranted that: "they will soon so outnumber us, that all the advantages we have will not in My Opinion be able to preserve our language." Sound familiar?

How about this little gem of Franklin's: "Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their own Nation."

Or this one: "Even our Government will become precarious" due to the influx.

The early German immigrants, it should be noted, stubbornly preferred to keep to themselves in tightly knit groups, even refusing to learn English so their children would not grow up "English." Franklin protested, predicting that the foreigners "will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them."

The Germanization of the New World, an American horror story? It all sounds more than a little ironic these days. There was of course a happy end to the story, and the Germans integrated perfectly well in the U.S.

Today, after all, there are more U.S. citizens with a German background than with an English one, and each and every one of them feels like a true American. A history lesson more relevant than ever.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Economy

Post-Pandemic Reflections On The Accumulation Of State Power

The public sector has seen a revival in response to COVID-19. This can be a good thing, but must be checked carefully because history tells us of the risks of too much control in the government's hands.

photo of 2 nurses in india walking past graffiti that says "democracy'

Medical students protesting at Calcutta Medical Collage and Hospital.

Sudipta Das/Pacific Press via ZUMA
Vibhav Mariwala

-Analysis-

NEW DELHI — The COVID-19 pandemic marked the beginning of a period of heightened global tensions, social and economic upheaval and of a sustained increase in state intervention in the economy. Consequently, the state has acquired significant powers in managing people’s personal lives, starting from lockdowns and quarantine measures, to providing stimulus and furlough schemes, and now, the regulation of energy consumption.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest