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German Heritage

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Henry Sternberg, News Editor

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Now that the Oktoberfest is here, German heritage and celebration are put on display to the world. Charlie Sternberg feels that the celebrations stand as a time of “spreading cultural awareness, sharing pride in a heritage, and having fun.”

Germans were the first non-English speaking immigrant group to come to the United States. In recent times, though, German immigration rates have dropped to almost record lows. World War and World War II both led to a spike in animosity towards Germans. German language was banned in many schools. It was only during the Cold War that Americans looked past differences in their own subcultures.

The German language has reemerged in schools today. Still, it is at a growth rate significantly less than other more popular languages. This is due to a number of factors. Mandarin, for example, is a language supported by Obama’s push to encourage students to study the language.

German immigration spiked shortly during the Cold War, but has plunged since. With a declining German immigrant population, what it means to be German is becoming cloudier in America.

As time progresses, different ethnic groups tend to assimilate. It leads to both a change of identity and a change in environment. For instance Kleindeutschland in New York City, also known as “Little Germany”, has vanished with time because of the declining number of German immigrants.

German dance halls have also closed across the country. Few people in modern times can ever say they have seen one open. Christine Sternberg said, “Growing up in the Bronx, I went to German Dance Halls.”

While the ethnic German population shrinks, the Von Steuben Day parade and Oktoberfest continues to thrive. The Von Steuben Day parade commemorates both Baron Friedrich Von Steuben’s life (the life of a German military General who volunteered his services to the Continental Army) and marks the beginning of Oktoberfest, the largest beer festival in the world. The Von Steuben Day parade in New York City encompasses what it means to be German.

Festivities also attract people who just love the atmosphere. David Sternberg says, “I come for the festivities and the food.”The parade is also proof of the culture that millions of American immigrants once held. It also stands as a day in which German-Americans return to the atmosphere they left behind. The parade is soon destined to change and reflect the shrinking German ethnic population, but only time will tell.

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German Heritage