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About the Newspaper Berliner Journal

The Berliner Journal was a German newspaper published in Berlin, Ontario between 1859 and 1918. As there was at that time, and still is, a large community of German speaking immigrants in the Waterloo region, investigating the German perspective is an essential step towards gaining a full understanding of the regional perception of the War. 70% of the population of Kitchener in 1911 was of German origin. Therefore, the German culture and heritage played a vital role in the overall social, political and economic structure of the region. The role of the German newspapers was to preserve the region’s cultural heritage and language as well as to help immigrants adapt to their new lives in Canada.

The Berliner Journal was the biggest German newspaper in the Waterloo region and was founded by the German immigrants Friedrich Rittinger and John Motz in 1859.

The outbreak of the First World War posed as a serious challenge for the Berliner Journal due to the growing anti-German sentiments it inspired. Rittinger and Motz approached the situation as mediators. By encouraging the German-Canadians to stay neutral and by including various perspectives in their reports, they hoped to protect the German community from unnecessary persecution. Nevertheless, the paper’s circulation decreased during the war due to the difficult circumstances. In October 1918, the federal government finally banned all German newspapers in Canada, and as a result, the editors of the Berliner Journal decided to end production.

(Löchte, Anne. Das Berliner Journal 1859-1918. Eine deutschsprachige Zeitung in Kanada. Göttingen: V&R unipress 2007. Print. pp. 167-200; English, John and Kenneth McLaughlin. Kitchener: An Illustrated History. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press 1996. Print. p. 233)



Deportation of German-Canadians? (8 July 1914)

A short notice without further explanation in the Berliner Journal stated, before the war had even started: “The Canadian government wanted to deport all immigrants who were a burden to the public.” Later that year, the government published a proclamation which explained that only German immigrants who were involved in espionage or any other suspicious behavior would have to face consequences.

(“Die canadische Regierung” Berliner Journal, 8 July 1914)



Deutscher Schulverein – German School Association (8 July 1914)

On July 8, the Berliner Journal reported that the meeting of the Deutscher Schulverein (“German School Association“) was poorly attended. The association wanted to uphold the German heritage and language as well as promote teaching German in local schools. Therefore, the Berliner Journal invited its readership to become members. The other German clubs of Berlin, “Concordia” and “Deutsche Eiche” had about 400 members altogether.

BJ-1914-07-08-Deutscher Schulverein

(“Deutscher Schulverein” Berliner Journal, 8 July 1914)


Kaiser Wilhelm worried about Situation in Europe (8 July 1914)

After the assassination of Austria’s heir to the throne and his wife, the Berliner Journal described the events and stated that the news “shocked the senile Kaiser Franz Joseph terribly”. Furthermore it was reported that Kaiser Wilhelm was sad about the death of his “friend”, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and “deeply worried” about the tragedy and the ensuing situation. Therefore he had talked to the Austro-Hungarian ambassador about the possible consequences of anti-Servian outbursts.

BJ-1914-07-08-Kaiser Wilhelm worried

(“Österreichs Thronfolger ermordet” Berliner Journal, 1 July 1914, “Kaiser Wilhelm besorgt über die Lage in Oesterreich” Berliner Journal, 8 July 1914)


Threat of a World War (29 July 1914)

On July 29, the Berliner Journal reported that Servia had refused to fulfill the demands of Austria-Hungary and instead started mobilizing for war. The newspaper stated that non-Slavic countries in the Dual Monarchy were glad that the “day of reckoning” with Servia had “finally arrived”. Furthermore it reported that people in Berlin and Vienna were enthusiastic about the upcoming war.

BJ-1914-07-29-Threat of a World War

(“Ein Weltkrieg droht” Berliner Journal, 29 July 1914)


German-Canadians in Europe (September 1914)

Several Waterloo region citizens of German origin had been in Europe when they were surprised by the outbreak of the war. In September 1914, the Berliner Journal reported on their problems trying to get back to Canada. Most of them had to stay in Europe longer than expected as the ships did not sail. Nevertheless, they sent letters home to inform the community of their whereabouts. Later that year, a Canadian citizen of German origin who was travelling through Europe when the war broke out returned to Waterloo and reported that he had been arrested in Germany due to his Canadian citizenship. After several weeks he was allowed to return home but had to follow a specific route, otherwise he would have been arrested again.

BJ-1914-09-02-German-Canadians in Europe

(“Von den Berlinern” Berliner Journal, 02 September 1914; “Wieder daheim” Berliner Journal, 23 September 1914; “Die Erlebnisse” Berliner Journal, 06 January 1915)


Proclamation of the Government (2 September 1914)

In September, the Berliner Journal printed a proclamation from the Canadian government, stating that “all persons in Canada of German or Austro-Hungarian nationality quietly pursuing their ordinary vocations would be allowed to continue to enjoy the protection of the law,” whereas soldiers, officers, people trying to leave the country, and those who “engage in espionage”, or any other suspicious behavior, would be arrested.

The German population therefore was worried about their safety, “freedom to hold property or to carry on business”, and possible resentment they faced. Two weeks later the government released a public notice, stating that “so long as [persons in Canada of German or Austro-Hungarian nationality] respect the law” they were protected by the law and had “nothing to fear”.

Furthermore, the editors of the Berliner Journal calmed their readership down. They clarified that only property of immigrants who were not naturalized, i.e. did not have the Canadian citizenship, would be confiscated. They justified the proclamation by explaining the difficult situation due to the war. However, they recommended to their readers that they become naturalized in order to prevent further problems.

BJ-1914-08-12-German spies

(“Proklamation” Berliner Journal, 2 September 1914; “Oeffentliche Bekanntmachung” Berliner Journal, 16 September 1914; “Unser Artikel“ Berliner Journal, 30 September 1914)


The War and German Immigrants (9 September 1914)

On September 2, the Berliner Journal published an article about the difficult situation of German-Canadians. The editors encouraged their readership to stay calm and not provoke their fellow citizens. By emphasizing that their new homeland provided very good living conditions and that they were treated well by their Canadian neighbours, the editors made it clear that being loyal towards the country they lived in was important as loyalty and honesty were well-known German attributes. They stated that most of the German-Canadians were born in Canada and therefore did not have a strong connection to their German origins. Other immigrants who had just migrated to Canada should acknowledge the fact that they were treated well and therefore should be loyal too. The editors tried to be mediators: By encouraging the German-Canadians to stay neutral and explaining the situation they wanted to protect the German community.

BJ-1914-09-09-The War and German Immigrants

(“Der Krieg und die eingewanderten Deutschen” Berliner Journal, 09 September 1914)


Tobacco and Cigars for German Army (16 September 1914)

On September 16, the Berliner Journal printed a short notice from Berlin, Germany. German Crown Prince Wilhelm had sent a telegram to Waterloo, asking the German newspaper to print it. He wanted the German population to collect “large amounts of tobacco and cigars” for his army and have them sent to Germany.

BJ-1914-09-16-Tobacco and Cigars

(“Kronprinz Wilhelm” Berliner Journal, 16 September 1914)