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German communities affected in wars

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

When my parents went to school in NB, they were taught all subjects in German, including the German script. It had been that way for three generations. Suddenly, as a result of possible war with Germany in 1916, it was against Texas law to teach children in German. Overnight, they switched to English. The result of this propaganda against Germans was that most of my generation was not taught German. Wie schade! (What a shame). German wasn’t even offered as a foreign language until years after WWII.

America wanted to remain neutral from the war raging in Europe. Neutrality was strained when Germany offered Mexico a deal to join in an alliance against the US in exchange for territories in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. When German submarines sank several American merchant ships, public opinion shifted in favor of war, consequently, Congress voted to go to war on April 6, 1917.

This was a very difficult time for German-Americans. Many still had family ties in the “old country” and discrimination against Germans was at its peak. German measles became “liberty measles” and sauerkraut became “liberty cabbage”. Americans were charged with the responsibility of spying on their neighbors (the postmaster had the greatest responsibility).

Communities were asked to show their allegiance with so called “loyalty parades”. In May of 1917, a parade in NB had thousands of flag waving participants with hundreds of school children, several bands, and federal soldiers in parade dress. In addition, Gus Reininger read a proclamation of loyalty to be sent to Pres. Woodrow Wilson.

Gen. John J. Pershing who was stationed in San Antonio was the honored dignitary of the day. As a former Pancho Villa fighter, Pershing soon became the organizer of the US Expeditionary Forces.

All men between 21 and 30 were required to sign up for the draft (increased later to men between 18 and 45). Registration began June 5, 1917. Texas Gov. James E. Ferguson (Ma’s husband) contacted Sheriff Bill Adams to be prepared for the registration.

Comal Countians went overboard to show their patriotism. They exceeded their required sale of Liberty Bonds, planted Victory Gardens, and practiced government food saving practices of wheatless, meatless, porkless days and the fat and sugar saving days. Sounds like one of those modern diets.

Besides discrimination, other disturbing things were happening locally. According to New Braunfels, Comal County, Texas (the Sophienburg’s book by Gregory, Goff, and Nuhn), the state purchased land in the county for a leper colony in 1918.There was greatalarm locally at this action, for fear of further discrimination to the town. It never happened.

Prohibition was another issue that was locally disturbing. The Germans loved their beer. In 1918, Texas voted in favor of Prohibition. Comal County voted 100 percent against it, but old timers say that the beer merely went under the table rather than on top of it.

It wasn’t all bad times, however. About this time a group of US Army soldiers stationed in San Antonio set up an encampment on the Landa Ranch overlooking NB, and there was camaraderie between them and the locals. These soldiers were mostly from Wisconsin and NBHS chose its fight song “On New Braunfels” from the song that they heard those soldiers sing. “On Wisconsin, on Wisconsin, fight right through that line”.

When Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, thirty- one men from Comal County had died (some from the deadly flu). Records show that an impromptu parade took place on that day and that even then groups from neighboring counties drove cars through the business district, recklessly firing guns at random. Another group hung Kaiser Wilhelm in effigy, firing guns the whole time. After the parade, speeches, and a dinner at Seekatz Opera House, dancing took place at Landa Park.

And so ended the “War to end all wars”.

Bruno Borgfeld, WWI