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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)



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.


BJ-1914-06&08-Thieves in Queen Victoria Park
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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.

BJ-1914-06-10-Upcoming provincial elections









(“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)


Assassination (28 June 1914)  

On Sunday 28 June, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenberg, were assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The couple was in Sarajevo for their annual trip to the annexed provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Two assassination attempts were made. After surviving a bomb attempt, the couple was shot by Gavro Prinzip, an 18-year-old Bosnian-Serb student, as they travelled by car. The couple died later that day. Immediately, there was international concern that the assassination would further strain the relationship between Austria and Servia. Newspapers in the Waterloo Region, including the Berlin Daily Telegraph, the Ayr News and the Elmira Signet, covered this story. The region, along with other communities around the world waited to see what would result from this assassination.

(“Assassinated by Student,” Ayr News, 2 July 1914; “Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his Wife Assassinated by Student” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 29 June 1914; “Heir to Austria Throne and Wife Assassinated,” Elmira Signet, 2 July 1914; Photo Origin: London Free Press, 3 July 1914.)

Assassination (28 June 1914)



Provincial Elections (29 June 1914)

On 29 June, local newspapers informed Waterloo Region citizens that Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife had been assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia the day before. Although the newspaper reported on this tragedy, newspapers in the region were primarily preoccupied with the provincial election being held on 29 June. The newspapers focused heavily on the election and who was elected as representatives of the region to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. C.H. Mills was elected in Waterloo North and Z. A. Hall in Waterloo South, as Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs). The Ontario Conservative Party won its fourth consecutive term in government under the leadership of James P. Whitney. Although, the region was aware of international news, it is evident that in late June and early July 1914 local and provincial news still dominated the news.


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.

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