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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.


BJ-1914-08-05-Canadian Recruitment

(“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.

BJ-1914-08-05-The outbreak of the war

(“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)


Orders for factories in Waterloo and Berlin (19 August 1914)

As a manufacturing town, Berlin’s economy was expanded because of the war. Immediately after the war began, factories in Waterloo and Berlin received contracts worth $150,000 to produce goods and clothes for the Canadian soldiers.

Canadian boot suppliers even hoped to gain a portion of the orders to manufacture boots for the Italian army, but the reporter believed that these types of foreign contracts would more likely be given to enterprises in the United States .

BJ-1914-08-12-Orders for factories in Waterloo and Berlin

(„150000$ in Kriegslieferungen für Berliner und Waterlooer Fabriken“, Berliner Journal, 19 August 1914; „Neue Kriegslieferungen in Canada“, Berliner Journal, 9 June 1915)


The opinion of the Berliner Journal (19 August 1914)

The publishers of the Berliner Journal wanted to make sure that their readers knew they were trying to remain neutral, and did not judge the decisions of world powers simply from a German perspective. Their goal as publishers was to create a neutral German-Canadian newspaper to support German culture in Canada, but not to follow a specific political platform. They also emphasized their understanding of the Anglo-Canadian desire to help Great Britain. The publishers at the Journal expected that the Canadian government would do everything to support the German population in Canada, but realized that would not protect Germans from the negative reactions of some of their neighbours, of course.

BJ-1914-08-19-The opinion of the Berliner Journal

(“Der englische, französische, russische Krieg gegen Deutschland und Österreich“, Berliner Journal, 19 August 1914)


“Opening of the Dominion Parliament” (26 August 1914)

In a speech given at the opening of the Dominion Parliament in late August, 1914, it was said that “Germans in Canada belong to the best citizens. Great Britain does not fight the war against the German nation itself. The Asquith government had tried very hard to avoid the war, but Germany and Austria-Hungary had insisted on it. Germany had intended to hurt Belgian neutrality.” The speech was made before a vote on the Canadian war budget, and again emphasized a belief that the German government, and not the German people, were to blame for the current state of affairs.

The difficult position of the German-Canadians (17 February 1915)

A speech given six months later by Sir Wilfrid Laurier noted that the position of the German-Canadians would continue to be difficult. Blood would be thicker than water and nobody remaining at home in Canada would require the same sacrifices as the Germans yet the things demanded from the German-Canadians, were being fulfilled whole-heartedly.

BJ-1914-08-26-“Opening of the Dominion Parliament”

(„Eröffnung des Dominion Parlaments“, Berliner Journal, 26 August 1914; „Sir Wilfrid Laurier…“, Berliner Journal, 17 February 1915)


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)