NAUMBURG (SAALE)- The days of the soccer team the FC Ostelbein Dornburg, located in the Jerichow District in the state of Saxony-Anhalt are numbered. The Regional Court of Apeals in Naumburg has rejected the appeal of the soccer team to reverse the decision made in September to ban the team from league plan in the Kreisliga, the district league that is part of the Soccer Federation of Saxony-Anhalt. The last straw remaining is the hearing scheduled in November in Magdeburg regarding the future of the soccer team. Teh reason behind the team’s ban from league play is the following: 15 out of 18 players are Neo-nazis with a criminal record, 59 out of 65 officials and many teams in the league have refused to play against the team due to history of violence and racist behavior. Already the team has lost its soccer field in Leitzkau, meaning they have no place to practice or even host games. If the decision in November is upheld, it is most likely that the team will be disbanded.
Yet this leads to a very important question to think and even discuss at the dinner table- let alone comment about:
Is banning a team from league play because of racial tensions an effective way to show solidarity to those wishing to live in a country, like Germany, which prides itself on multicultural issues?
What would be the basis for banning a team from a professional sports league? Are the actions of FC Ostelbein Dornburg justified for being banned from league play? Why or why not?
There are numerous arguments for and against such a measure that is being undertaken, but the question is, can your country imagine banning a team like this one because of right-wing tendencies. From an American’s point of view, sanctions and other financial penalties are imaginable, but banning a team from league play has not been attempted because of a different, but rather fixed structure where the leagues are owned locally and there are no elevator approaches where teams can promote itself to a higher tier. However attempts have been made to ban team mascot names on the basis of racial segregation, including California, which became the first team to ban mascots bearing Native American names, such as Redskins, and the University of North Dakota, which banned the Fighting Sioux name and is looking for a new mascot. Still, none of these measures have to do with the issue of real discrimmination, involving racial slurs and attacks on other teams, as Germany has witnessed in soccer, and in this case with the soccer team in Leitzkau. As presented in the Frage für das Forum, it is more unimaginable to take on a team with a history of racial slurs than to take on a team that carries a mascot that is considered racially motivated because of the behavior of the players towards one another. Yet despite this attempt to forcefully disband FC Ostelbein Dornburg, the question is whether other teams with a record of such violence will be next on the list, and if the team is reorganized and presented under a different name? If so, then it would be as ineffective as banning the NPD Nationalist Party in Germany, as attempts have been made over the years to do just that, despite having other smaller right-wing parties. In either case, we must find ways of showing these radicals that such slurs and violence are not to be tolerated in anyway, shape or form.
The question is, despite having such measures like this, what other alternatives do we have to draw the line? Think about it……
Here’s a question for all teachers in the German school system and social studies/ history teachers in the American schools: How much do you teach your pupils about the history of immigrants- in particular, German immigrants? How do you approach this topic in terms of teaching method, focusing on a time period in history as well as garnering interest in the topic? And lastly, how much information do/can you provide to your group?
As you recalled a couple articles ago, I presented you with some questions about this particular topic for you to answer, to challenge yourself and learn a couple new items that you have never heard about before. But this article is about German immigration in general and how important it is that this topic is integrated into the learning curriculum.
Many years ago, I visited Ellis Island, during my 1.5 week stay in New York City, to learn more about this topic and how Germans represented one of the majorities of the population that moved to the new world. Part of this had to do with the fact that my mother’s family is primarily German, originating from Schleswig-Holstein (and in particular, Stein near Kiel, according to genealogy research). Also important was the fact that prior to my trip, I had discovered, in my parents’ garage, a trunk and on it, the maiden name of my mom’s ancestors that had immigrated to the United States in 1898 and eventually settled down on a farm south of Ellsworth, at the Minnesota-Iowa border. This sparked my interest in knowing more about how Germans immigrated to the US, the reasons behind their strive towards something new and how they survived over there (and are still prospering today).
The immigration wave of the Germans started in the 1840s before the Great Revolution of 1848. At that time, much of Europe, which featured the Habsburgs (The Austro-Hungarian Empire), Prussia, Russia and France had their own set of oligarchs who favored the church and the powerful over the common people. With violent clashes over food and poverty, plus the strive to put an end to this type of rule in favor of democracy, many of the immigrants boarded ships bound for the States and after several stops along the way, settled down in regions in today’s Rust Belt (the former steel regions extending from Illinois to Pennsylvania), as well as parts of the Midwest, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota. Much of their traditions, including their food, such as the hamburger and sauerkraut, the German language and its usage in literature and books, and even the villages were named after those from Prussia and Habsburg. Over 400 villages and towns were created with German city names, like Frankfort, Hamburg, Hannover, Berlin, and the like. Even some of the smaller towns in Germany had their names incorporated in the US, such as Flensburg, Schleswig, Lubeck, Kiel, Weimar, Jena and Trier. There was even the city of Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota that was named after Otto von Bismarck, the founding father of Germany, which was established in 1871. German culture prospered until World War I when President Wilson declared war on Germany in 1917 after a telegram was intercepted promising Mexico portions of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California if it entered World War I against the US. For a period of three years, German culture was suppressed in a way that all traditions and even the usage of the language was prohibited. Literary works by Schiller and Goethe were banned. The hamburger was renamed Liberty Steak; the sauerkraut, Liberty Cabbage. The Germans were perceived as evil in the eyes of many other immigrants, including the Italians, Irishmen and Russians, and conflicts broke out as a result.
After the war was over and the Versailles Treaty was signed, immigration to the US was limited because of the Red Scare- the Communist movement that had plagued Europe and parts of the US since the Bolshevist Revolution of 1917. Germans tried to escape the misery their country was facing, first through the hyperinflation during the Weimar Republic and later with the rise of Adolph Hitler but were faced with limitations both internally as well as externally. It would not be until after the second World War when the gates were reopened wide and many who wanted to leave and had the resources did.
Today, traces of German culture can be found in the US through foreign languages in public schools, the foods which have become somewhat commercialized, like the beer and hamburger, and the communities that still bear the German names. Some festivals can still be found in those communities, like the Oktoberfest in New Ulm in Minnesota. Yet do we talk much about immigration in the schools? Sadly, I have to say no.
We seem to have drifted away from topics like this one because of the strive to streamline education at the expense of the most important ones, like history, culture and politics. Foreign languages have also taken a hit, as schools in the United States are focusing solely on Spanish while leaving the rest behind- something that is angering the neighbors to the north, Canada, where French is the official second language behind English. While business and technology are two important elements needed to get a well-paying job, other aspects, like the ones mentioned, are just as important for they provide students with an insight to other countries and their culture and history. Looking at it from a historian’s point of view, taking these humanity aspects seriously can enable the student to learn about him/herself and the surroundings and identify him/herself based on their own family history and how it contributed to the history of their countries.
Yet even when we discuss about humanities, like history and culture, in schools, we seem to have left out the meat of the topics for discussion. Reason for that are the limitations with regards to the subjects to be taught for certain grades- both in Germany, as well as in the USA. The time constraints regarding how and when to teach these subjects have forced many teachers to prioritize which subjects are important and which ones should be left out. Unfortunately, those that are left out are usually not taught unless in academia, if at all.
Immigration is one of those aspects that should be brought to the table at an early stage. There are many reasons for this argument, but I will mention only two, as they are the most important in my opinion. The first is immigration is like a bridge, connecting one’s old home with their new home. People who immigrated to other countries collected many impressions and stories to share with their relatives and friends back home. Many of these impressions and stories deal with comparisons between their new home and their old one, as well as suggestions as to how to improve their old region. While some of the immigrants returned to their old homelands, some remained in their new homelands forever, creating families of their own. In the case of German immigration, it is typical to find many German families settling in clusters in either a community or region. An example of which can be found in an article written in 2010 about New Trier in Minnesota, which you can click here.
The second argument behind teaching immigration in school is because it played a key role in the development of the countries the immigrants originated from and the countries where they eventually settled down. In the case of Germany, the emigration of Germans from Prussia and Habsburg resulted in the need to reform the countries respectively, unfortunately through the usage of violence, as was seen in the Revolution of 1848. Eventually the situation stabilized with the creation of a German state in 1871, which provided the solidarity and sound structure of a democratic state many people had envisioned two decades before but were realized by Bismarck. In the case of German immigrants in the US, their previous experiences before immigrating over, combined with their innovation and thinking has helped shape the US as it is today. It is not hard to find Germans in America, who had made a difference, whether it was Henry Kissinger’s role as Secretary of State under Nixon and how the US scaled back on its mission of containment and opened their doors to relations with Russia and China, or John Roebling and his design of the wire suspension bridge, a few examples of which still exist today. Kissinger originated from Fürth (north of Nuremberg) in Bavaria, while Roebling emigrated to Pennsylvania from Mühlhausen in Thuringia and established the town of Saxonburg.
How the topic should be taught in the classroom is fully up to the teacher, but some of the small aspects mentioned here will help students know about the importance of immigration, even more so when it is discussed in the classroom in schools in Europe, and in this case, Germany. This is where the article ends with a small anecdote: Ignore the smallest details and you will ignore the most relevant. Give them something small to think about and it will make a big difference as far as learning is concerned.
And now, some interesting Flensburg Files’ Fast Facts, which you will find in the next article…..