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Thieves in Queen Victoria Park (June/August 1914)

In June 1914, on the night before Victoria Day, someone stole the German flag hanging in Berlin near Queen Victoria’s statue. Since a flag represents the pride of the inhabitants and reminds them of their home country, the journalists at the Berliner Journal were upset by this crime and emphasized their hopes that the police would catch the thief. This type of anti-German vandalism was becoming a trend in the area and was followed up by another incident on August 26 when the bust of Kaiser Wilhelm on display in Victoria Park was demolished and thrown into the park’s lake. The German press again reported the shock felt by both the German-Canadian and much of the English population over the actions of these vandals.


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(„Zur Schandthat im Victoria Park“, Berliner Journal, 3 June 1914; „Wiederum ein Bubenstück“, Berliner Journal, 26 August 1914)


Upcoming provincial elections (10 June 1914)

This appeal, published in the Berliner Journal in mid-June, was intended to encourage the German citizens in the Waterloo Region to vote for the upcoming provincial elections. The authors emphasized that the German population would be big enough to influence the elections if everyone exercised their right to vote. The paper begged the people to think carefully and seriously about the candidates and the future of the region and to choose wisely the candidate they thought might be the best for all. The authors were discouraged over the general political apathy among German-Canadians, and argued that they must overcome their lack of attention to political issues. The author self-identified as a Canadian and was proud of being a citizen in this country. Every man who will not fight for his freedom, the author continued, and who would let the politicians restrict his liberty is not worthy of being a citizen in this “beautiful rich country.” The article concluded that it is an “act of self-defense” to vote the right man into the government.

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(“Die kommende Provinzial-Wahl”, Berliner Journal, 10 June 1914)


German armament (17 June 1914)

In June of 1914, the journalist Hans von Kaltenborn was sent to Berlin for four weeks where he reported on Germany’s guns, munitions, and overall readiness for war. He told his readers that there would be continuous armament and that even the smallest details of waging war were being considered, and by doing so, he reinforced the popular belief that no country in the world had ever armed itself so strongly and energetically for a war. But von Kaltenborn also emphasized that in contradiction to that visible war preparation, Kaiser Wilhelm would be the man most determined to keep peace between the nations.

It is estimated that, at the outbreak of war in 1914, the German standing army consisted of 880,000 men, and for generations, “Prussia’s best and brightest” had been entering the military. This trend had continued after the unification of Germany. “Well-trained and led, especially at the junior officer level, the German Army was ready to the smallest detail. It had more artillery per corps than any other army and was the best supplied army in technical equipment […] Germany also had the world’s second largest navy, the result of the Kaiser’s decision to build a powerful battle fleet.” (Tucker, Spencer C. The Great War 1914-18. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1998. Print. P. 17)

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(„Deutschland ein Feldlager in Waffen“, Berliner Journal, 17 June 1914; Tucker, Spencer C. The Great War 1914-18. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1998. Print. P. 17)


Prohibition (24 June 1914)

When the discussion over prohibition was being revisited in Ontario in mid-1914, the Berliner Journal tried to give an objective view, but clearly the paper was against it. The Catholic Church in general was against it, because  the Bible did not ban it, but rather gave the advice of moderation. Furthermore, the liturgy required “wine with alcohol”. The article stated that German Protestants and Lutherans were also against prohibition. They too argued that moderation was a virtue, whereas abstinence was just self-sacrifice.

These articles then mentioned a report prepared about prohibition in Canada, which showed that it had not been a successful policy. The money spent on alcohol had actually increased and instead of beer, people tended to drink homemade whiskey instead. In Great Britain, there was less consumption of alcohol without prohibition. A Canadian bishop said that it would be a restriction of the personal liberty to force him into this situation. A human being could not become a better person because of restrictions.

Even in Germany the issue received press coverage. In a speech from Kaiser Wilhelm to soldiers of the marine, he asked them to be abstinent because then they would be stronger and win battles. He thought that encouraging an ideal was more useful than legislation to get rid of alcohol. Drinking was a hereditary defect of the Germans according to the emperor, and not worth trying to stamp out.



(“Prohibition, der Feind von Temperenz”, Berliner Journal, 24 June 1914; „Prohibition in Canada“, Berliner Journal, 24 June 1914; „Der Deutsche Kaiser über Trinken“, Berliner Journal, 24 June 1914)


“Germany and the German socialist abroad” (5 August 1914)

In the years leading up to the war, Canadian immigration was at an all-time high. Many of these immigrants came directly from Germany and arrived with different political and nationalistic ideals. This article was written by a German immigrant and addressed other recent German immigrants who held socialist views and were opponents of the German emperor. The writer admitted that socialist ideas could be useful, but argued that it did not mean that one cannot love his homeland and worship Kaiser Wilhelm. He claimed that Germany was the best ruled country in the world under the emperor’s constitutional monarchy. The author dismissed the complaint of the socialists that Germany was wasting money on a massive army and navy. Peace in the world was a nice ideal, the article continued, but was not possible at this time. The writer claimed that Kaiser Wilhelm had led Germany to its leading position in the civilized world and that the disarmament of the German army would lead to unemployment.

This strong defence of German militarism is interesting coming just after the declaration of war. In the future, the Berliner Journal would be forced to choose the words it spoke about Germany and the Kaiser much more carefully.

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(„Deutschland und der deutsche Sozialist im Ausland“, Berliner Journal, 5 August 1914)


Canadian Recruitment (5 August 1914)

When the outbreak of the war became public in Canada, volunteers to support Great Britain were searched for immediately. The Parliament held a special session to discuss what to do about the war and to prepare the Canadian military.

On August 12, 1914 it was reported that the Canadian government had asked for 21,000 volunteers to send to Great Britain, but that more than 60,000 men had rushed to enlist. Therefore, there would be a medical examination included at the enlistment facilities in order to find the healthiest and strongest men. Also, recruits would be divided into three groups: 1) single men; 2) married men; and 3) fathers with children. New recruits would be chosen from those who enlisted in that order.

The paper also reported that Canada had bought two submarines, which they would provide to the British navy. Canadian soldiers would leave for training in about two weeks, at which point they would meet at Quebec and then travel to England. The first Canadian troops landing in Great Britain were announced in the issue of October 14, 1914. The British government was pleased with the troops, but asked Canada to send more money to purchase military equipment as well. By October 21, thirty young people from Berlin had volunteered for the second Canadian contingent, and Berlin had raised $896,726 for the Patriotic Fund.


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(“Die kanadische Regierung…”, Berliner Journal, 5 August 1914; „Kurze Lokalnotizen“, Berliner Journal, 21 October 1914; „Die Freiwilligen für das dritte Kontingent…“, Berliner Journal, 3 February 1915)


The outbreak of the war (5 August 1914)

On August 5, 1914, the headline story of the Berliner Journal dealt with the outbreak of the war in Europe and tried to interpret the events that were happening. The story stated that Russia, in cooperation with France, started the war with Germany and Austria-Hungary, and that the German emperor should have tried to keep peace with the British until the last minute. In addition, Italy, which had an alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, betrayed them by not helping the two countries militarily, as they were supposed to do. Great Britain was not sure about what to do now, but would likely remain loyal to France in whatever it decided.

A speech from Kaiser Wilhelm was printed as well. It said that envious people forced Germany into this war to defend itself. All German ships, which lay in Canadian harbors, should leave this country and sail to the USA. At the end of the article, the publishers of the Berliner Journal acknowledged that they had received lots of information in the last few days, but that they doubted some of its authenticity; at this point, most information was probably no more than rumors.

This rendition of events provided by the Berliner Journal contrasts sharply with those reported in the local English papers. Interestingly, no mention was made of Germany’s betrayal of Belgian neutrality, nor of the celebratory attitude felt by many of the English residents of Waterloo County. With this declaration of war, many German-Canadians officially found themselves caught between their own nationalistic sympathies, and those of the country within which they resided.

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(“Kriegsfackel in Europa entzündet”, Berliner Journal, 5 August 1914)


“Appeal to the Germans in Ontario” (12 August 1914)

One week after Canada’s declaration of war, the Berliner Journal published this appeal, giving advice to German residents about how to behave in wartime to minimize tension between themselves and Anglo-Canadians. The writers suggested keeping calm and avoiding confrontations or arguments with people of other national identities. The article urged German-Canadians to hide their opinions about the European conflict, and to remain grateful to be integrated citizens in Canada, able to work and enjoy freedom.

BJ-1914-08-12-Appeal to the Germans in Ontario

(“Aufruf an die Deutschen in Ontario”, Berliner Journal, 12 August 1914)


German spies (12 August 1914)

Almost immediately following the outbreak of war, rumours began to surface about two supposed German spies operating in Canada. Already, but August 12, 1914, several German reservists living in Canada were arrested and interrogated about their plans during the war. If they wouldn’t tell the authorities anything, they would be imprisoned.

This was just the beginning of a trend in Canada in which men were accused of being supposed German spies, and the numbers of wrongly arrested Germans grew throughout the war. Later on, the Berliner Journal reported on separate attacks on a railroad bridge between Maine and New Brunswick and a dynamite explosion in Walkerville in 1915. Germans were immediately suspected in both cases.

When the war began, immigration from Germany ceased abruptly and before the war’s end some 8,500 German-Canadians and Austro-Hungarians would be interned at prison camps and work camps in Canada. (McLaughlin, K.M. The Germans in Canada. Ottawa: Keystone Printing & Lithographing Ltd., 1985. Print. P. 12)

An article from December, 2nd 1914 in German and English told the readers how to behave with supposed spies and gave rules about what to do, when someone seemed to be a spy.


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(“Deutsche Spione in Petawawa verhaftet”, Berliner Journal, 12 August 1914; McLaughlin, K.M. The Germans in Canada. Ottawa: Keystone Printing & Lithographing Ltd., 1985. Print. P. 12; „Die Canada Gazette“, Berliner Journal, 2 December 1914; „Am vorigen Dienstag…“, Berliner Journal, 10 February 1915; „Dynamit-Explosion in Walkerville“, Berliner Journal, 23 June 1915)


No more trade with Germany and Austria-Hungary (12 August 1914)

Beginning on August 8 1914, an embargo was placed on Canada’s new enemies, so that no Canadian was allowed to trade goods or conduct business with Germany or Austria-Hungary. These activities were forbidden with the threat of imprisonment for those who broke the law.

The telegraph cables between the USA and Germany were cut so that there was no more connection between the two countries.

Articles in the Journal also revealed that at the beginning of the war there had been warnings of rising prices for groceries and that the war would not help the Canadian economy, but harm it. On August 19 1914, it was said that the prices for bread had significantly increased.

On August 26 1914 the Berliner Journal announced that they were no longer able to send issues of their newspaper to subscribers in Germany or Austria-Hungary, because the mail traffic had been severed.

BJ-1914-08-12-No more trade with Germany and Austria-Hungary

(“Kein Geschäft mit Deutschland und Österreich“, Berliner Journal, 12 August 1914; „Als eine Folge des Krieges…“, Berliner Journal, 19 August 1914; „Nach Deutschland und Österreich…“, Berliner Journal, 26 August 1914)