Anglo patriotism lashes South Australia's Germanic settlers after start of World War I

The German school in Wakefield Street, Adelaide.
Image courtesy State Library of South Australia

The closing of 49 Lutheran schools and changing many town names was part of the fierce backlash against South Australian Germans during World War I and especially after Gallipoli and sinking of the Lusitania.

But “German” was a misleading identity for the 7% (28,000) of the population, and South Australia’s largest non-British group, in the early 20th Century. South Australian Germans were divided and disunited by culture, class and country of origin. But they spoke German and clung to aspects of traditional lifestyle.

In early 20th Century Adelaide, German speakers could go through a day without needing English when they shopped, went to the doctor or dentist; read the Australische Zeitung in a konditorei (coffee shop) or dined in the city’s German hotels: the King of Hanover or the Hamburg in Rundle Street.

German influence remained ingrained in the state’s culture. Only South Australians knew and liked Carl Linger’s “The Song of Australia”. Only South Australians liked Menz Yo-Yo biscuits – or fritz.
The German wine legacy was entrenched through figures such as Joseph Seppelt. In music, Herman Heinicke (assaulted by students in the anti-German wave of 1914) and Immanuel Reimann were central to Adelaide College of Music and Elder Conservatorium.

German schools were closed, with the teachers union’s strong support, in 1917 after the initial moves to ban German language lessons and church services. German clubs and newspapers were shut and Lutheran churches in Edithburg and Netherby were burnt down.

German settlement history was wiped from the map when 67 place names were changed. These included Klemzig (changed to Gaza), Hahndorf (Ambleside), Petersburg (Peterborough), Bethanien (Bethany) and Blumberg (Birdwood).





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