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.
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.