People of German ancestry make up the largest of the non-British and non-French ethnic groups in Canada. During
the 1880s there was little settlement by Germans in Alberta, however, German
Protestant communities such as Bruderheim were founded near Edmonton as early as
Later in the 19th century,
many Germans immigrated to parts of the United States. It is from there that some of the
earliest German Albertans emigrated with the opening of the Edmonton Railway in 1892. Of these
first German immigrants many lived in less affluent neighbourhoods of the large urban areas, like
Calgary and Edmonton. This was in part due to discrimination they
experienced in Canada, and in
part due to the formal education the immigrants had when they arrived.
German Albertans were not formally educated, they were well-received
because of their diligent and skilled work. Those of German
ancestry came from Poland and Russia as well as those states
presently regarded as German.
This amicability changed with the beginning of World War I. During this time the attitude towards
Germans in Alberta changed dramatically. They were suspected of
being loyal to German interests and potentially seditious to the
Allied war effort. Some German Canadians attempted to return to Germany to
fight for their country. Some German Albertans were sent to internment
camps, one of these at Lethbridge. German cultural organizations, such as a German-language
newspaper and German schools, were forced to cease operations. A church in Calgary was
destroyed by an angry mob.
The interwar period brought new immigration into Canada after it had ceased during the war. This
immigration continued until the depression. As was the experience
for many new arrivals, the optimism of the 1920s gave way as
economic depression took hold in the 1930s and particularly for those
immigrants who came in search of new opportunity.
Although attitudes toward those of German ancestry were not as
hostile as those present during World War I, there was a general anger toward those Germans that supported the
National Socialist (Nazi)
movement. After World War II, Germans immigrated into Canada, sometimes to escape punishment for their
disloyalty to Germany. Most of these immigrants were educated, although they were often sent to
the sugar beet farms of Southern Alberta. Most, once their contract was
completed, left for other areas
of Canada. Those who came after World War II did not face the
challenges of earlier German immigrants, who generally homesteaded
and farmed. Post-WWII immigrants
were better educated and adapted to the social mores and values of Canadian society.
Some believe that Post-WWII immigrants demonstrated
a higher rate of social acculturation than other immigrant groups, perhaps due to the
lack of cultural organizations for German Canadians and their higher
levels of formal education upon arrival.
For more information on German cultural and history,
please visit the following website: