Transcript: Why German-Canadians Made Waterloo Home | Oct 05, 2021

Steve Paikin sits behind a glass desk in the TVO studio. A softly lit blue background and the red, lower-case ‘a’ Agenda logo are behind him.
Steve wears a navy-blue suit with a matching tie and a white dress shirt. He is clean-shaven and has short brown hair.

Text reads, Why German-Canadians Have Made Waterloo Home.
@spaikin @theagenda

Steve says, MORE THAN 3 MILLION
CANADIANS TRACE SOME OF THEIR
FAMILY TREE BACK TO GERMANY.
AND IT SHOWS, PARTICULARLY IN
PLACES SUCH AS THE
KITCHENER-WATERLOO AREA OF
ONTARIO.
WITH US FOR MORE:
IN WATERLOO, ONTARIO,
HARRY DRUNG, HE IS PRESIDENT OF
THE GERMAN-CANADIAN PROFESSIONAL
AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATION THERE
AND MEMBER OF THE EXECUTIVE FOR
THE CO-OPERATIVE COUNCIL OF
GERMAN-CANADIAN CLUBS OF
WATERLOO REGION.
HARRY IT’S NICE TO MEET YOU, HOW ARE YOU DOING
TONIGHT?

Harry sits in front of a wall covered in red wallpaper with gold-coloured roses on it.
He has brown hair parted to the side and wears rectangular dark-rimmed glasses and a brown jacket over a black and white shirt.

Harry says, THANK YOU.
NICE TO BE WITH YOU.

Text reads, Waves of Immigration.

Steve says, WELL TELL ME THIS.
OBVIOUSLY, LOTS OF PEOPLE HAVE
KNOWN THAT THERE HAS BEEN A STRONG
GERMAN COMMUNITY PROBABLY GOING
BACK 200 YEARS IN SOUTHERN
ONTARIO AND IN WATERLOO IN
PARTICULAR.
HOW COME?

Text reads, Harry Drung, Canadian-German Professional and Business Association of Waterloo Region.

Harry says, BASICALLY IT HAPPENED BECAUSE
THE FIRST SETTLERS HERE CAME
FROM PENNSYLVANIA.
THEY WERE PENNSYLVANIA GERMANS.
ONCE THEY GOT ESTABLISHED HERE,
THEY LEFT THEIR BRETHREN KNOW
BACK WHERE THEY CAME FROM HOW
THINGS WERE HERE AND BASICALLY
FROM THERE BASICALLY, THE WORD SPREAD OUT
TO GERMANY AND EUROPE WHERE
THERE ARE ALSO BIG COLONIES OF
GERMAN SETTLERS IN THERE AS WELL
TOO.

Steve says, AND WHAT WERE THEY
TRYING TO LEAVE BEHIND IN
PENNSYLVANIA OR IN OTHER PLACES?

Harry says, WELL, I THINK PENNSYLVANIA
WAS JUST A MATTER THAT THINGS
GOT A BIT TIGHTER SO THEY WANTED
TO MOVE WHERE THERE WAS MORE AND
MORE LAND.
BUT IN EUROPE ITSELF, IT WAS A
CONSTANT STATE OF WAR, ECONOMIC
OR SOCIAL UPHEAVAL, TURMOIL, AND
THEY WERE LOOKING FOR PEACE AND
QUIET AND BASICALLY BEING ABLE
TO PRACTICE THEIR TRADES AND,
YOU KNOW, MAKE A LIVING WITHOUT
FEAR AND DISRUPTION OF THINGS
THEY WORKED FOR.

Steve says, I GUESS WHEN A
COMMUNITY GETS ESTABLISHED, IT
SERVES AS KIND OF A MAGNET FOR FUTURE
GERMANS TO COME WHO WANT TO BE
WITH PEOPLE LIKE THEM?

Harry says, YEAH, I THINK THE EXPRESSION,
BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK
TOGETHER.
SO, YOU CAN FIND THAT IN OTHER
COMMUNITIES ELSEWHERE TOO, BUT
THE GERMANS ARE NO DIFFERENT
THan THAT, AND BASICALLY YOU
WANT TO COME AND BE AMONG THEIR
OWN BECAUSE IT'S A MATTER OF
BEING IN A COMFORT ZONE AND
BEING ABLE TO SPEAK YOUR
LANGUAGE INITIALLY AND HAVING
THE SAME VALUES.

Text reads, Putting Down Roots.

Steve says, GOTCHA.
I WANT TO READ YOU AN EXCERPT
NOW.
THIS IS FROM A PIECE IN MACLEANS
MAGAZINE ON GERMANS SETTLING IN
ONTARIO AND THIS WAS WRITTEN IN
1908.
IT SAYS: "WHEREVER HE IS FOUND,
HE IS INDUSTRIOUS, THRIFTY,
ENTERPRISING AND ECONOMICAL,
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MEN WHO HAVE WON DISTINCTION
IN VARIOUS LINES OF ENDEAVOUR.”
SO, THIS NOTION OF GERMAN
INDUSTRIOUSNESS, THIS REALLY
DOES GO BACK A LONG TIME,
DOESN'T IT?

Harry says, I THINK IT'S A GENETIC TRAIT
THAT GERMANS HAVE AND CAN'T SEEM
TO GET RID OF.
IT'S JUST IN THEIR DNA.

Steve asks, CAN YOU GIVE US
MAYBE A COUPLE OF EXAMPLES OF
GERMAN COMPANIES THAT HAVE
SETTLED IN THE WATERLOO AREA
THAT WE WOULD KNOW?

Harry says, BIG ONES WOULD BE LIKE
SCHNEIDERS, THERE ARE ALL KINDS
OF OTHER SMALLER COMPANIES.
I THINK YOUR TWO RECENTLY LIKE
PELLER’S SAUSAGE AND DELICATESSEN,
WHICH IS A HUGE COMPANY. THERE ARE YOU KNOW,
ALSO, BUDD AUTOMOTIVE, FUSSEN OUT OF GERMANY, AND
THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF
MEDIUM AND SMALL-SIZED
BUSINESSES AND YOU CAN IDENTIFY
THEM BY THE FACT THEY STILL HAVE
THEIR GERMAN NAMES WHICH HAVEN'T
CHANGED OVER THE YEARS.

Steve says, OKAY, LET'S TALK ABOUT
GERMAN CULTURAL CLUBS WHICH HAVE
HELPED I GUESS NEW IMMIGRANTS
WHO HAVE COME TO CANADA AND
SOUTHERN ONTARIO IN PARTICULAR.
GERMAN IMMIGRATION IS TODAY
NOTHING LIKE WHAT IT WOULD HAVE
BEEN IN YEARS PAST.
AND I WONDER HOW THESE CULTURAL
ORGANIZATIONS, WHICH HAVE BEEN
ESTABLISHED IN THE WATERLOO AREA
FOR SO MANY YEARS, HOW DO YOU
THINK THEY'RE GOING TO SURVIVE
WITH LESS AND LESS IMMIGRATION
COMING?

Text reads, The Cultural Community Today.

Harry says, OH, I THINK THE FIRST THING
IS WE DO HAVE CRITICAL MASS IN
THAT THERE'S ENOUGH CANADIANS OF
GERMAN BACKGROUND IN THE AREA
HERE.
SO, WE HAVE FOUR MAJOR CLUBS THAT
BASICALLY, PROMOTE THE GERMAN
CULTURE, LANGUAGE, THE BEST THAT
THEY CAN AND ALL THEIR OTHER
TRADITIONS.
BUT AS THEY GO FORWARD, YOU
KNOW, THE SECOND AND THIRD
GENERATIONS MAY NOT SPEAK AS MUCH
GERMAN OR MAYBE NO GERMAN AT ALL
BUT THEY STILL HAVE THE CULTURAL
BACKGROUND AND THE FACT IS THAT
IN THE HOMES THAT THEY GREW UP
WITH, THERE ARE THOSE GERMAN
HABITS AND TRAITS AND, YOU KNOW,
THINGS ALL GERMAN THAT THEY DO
AND THIS KIND OF -- IT'LL HELP
JUST TO CARRY ON THE TRADITIONS.
I KNOW THAT THERE ARE LOTS OF
OTHER CLUBS AND ORGANIZATIONS,
GERMAN ONES, AROUND ONTARIO THAT
BASICALLY, HAVE FOLDED OVER THE
YEARS SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T
HAVE THE CRITICAL MASS.
IT'S INTERESTING IF YOU LOOK AT
THE GTA AREA, THERE'S PROBABLY
MORE GERMAN-CANADIANS THERE THAN
THERE ARE IN WATERLOO COUNTY.
BUT THE FACT IS THAT THEY'RE ALL
CONCENTRATED WITHIN, YOU KNOW,
LET'S SAY 10 OR 20 MINUTES
DRIVING DISTANCE OF ONE ANOTHER.

Steve says, NOW I KNOW, FOR EXAMPLE,
DURING THE OLYMPICS OR DURING
THE WORLD CUP, THESE PLACES
WOULD BE HIGHLY POPULAR PLACES FOR
PEOPLE TO COME AND GATHER AND WATCH, WHAT
WE CALL SOCCER, IN GERMANY THEY
CALL FOOTBALL, BUT BEYOND THAT,
WHAT TYPES OF ACTIVITIES TAKE
PLACE AT THESE CLUBS?

Harry says, THEY HAVE -- WELL, NUMBER
ONE, A LOT OF THEM HAVE REGULAR
DANCES THAT GO ON A COUPLE OF
TIMES A YEAR WHERE THEY'LL BE
SERVING ETHNIC FOODS.
THERE WILL BE A BAND THAT PLAYS
PREDOMINANTLY GERMAN MUSIC, SO
THAT'S KIND OF IT.
NOW, THEY ALSO HAVE OTHER, YOU
KNOW, ACTIVITIES.
THEY MAY HAVE LIKE A BOWLING
CLUB, AN ARCHERY, YOU KNOW,
CLUB.
MANY DIFFERENT THINGS THAT ARE
GERMAN.
HORSESHOE-PITCHING.
WHATEVER THE SPECIALTY OF THE
CLUB IS.

Steve says, GOTCHA.
HARRY, I DON'T KNOW.
DO YOU HAVE A FAMILY?

Harry says, YES.

Steve asks, DO YOU TALK TO YOUR
KIDS IN GERMAN?

Harry says, YES, WE ACTUALLY -- WE WERE
LUCKY THAT OUR OMA LIVED WITH US
FOR MANY YEARS, SO THERE WAS ALWAYS THAT ELEMENT OF HAVING
TO SPEAK GERMAN, BUT THEN
LIKE MANY PEOPLE IN WATERLOO
COUNTY WILL RECOUNT THE FACT
THAT WHILE THEIR FRIENDS WERE
WATCHING CARTOONS ON SATURDAY
MORNING, ALL OF US WERE HERDED
OFF TO GO TO GERMAN SCHOOL TO
LEARN GERMAN.
OUR KIDS HAD NO PROBLEM WITH
THAT, AND TO THIS DAY, I MEAN,
THEY'RE GOOD CANADIANS BUT
THEY'VE GOT THOSE GERMAN ROOTS
AND THEY LIKE TO TRAVEL AND THEY
LIKE THINGS THAT ARE GERMAN
WITHIN THE CANADIAN CONTEXT.

Steve says, AND HOW MUCH DO YOU
THINK OF THAT IS STILL GOING ON
IN OTHER GERMAN FAMILIES?
IN OTHER WORDS, HOW IMPORTANT IS
IT TO KEEP THE LANGUAGE AND THE
CULTURE AND THE CUSTOMS GOING?
Text reads, Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Harry says, IT BECOMES MORE AND MORE
DIFFICULT.
I MEAN, MY WIFE IS OF GERMAN
BACKGROUND, SO THAT MAKES IT
EASY.
AS SOON AS ONE PARTNER IS NOT OF
A GERMAN BACKGROUND, IT BECOMES
MORE DIFFICULT.
IT'S EASIER WHEN THE MOTHER IS A
GERMAN SPEAKER BECAUSE WE TALK
ABOUT THE MOTHER TONGUE BECAUSE
YOU TEND TO SPEND MORE TIME WITH
YOUR MOTHER SO YOU PICK UP THE
LANGUAGE AT THE SIDE OF THE
CRIB, YOU KNOW, OR AT THE TABLE.
YEAH, IT BECOMES MORE DIFFICULT
WITH EACH SUCCESSIVE GENERATION.
BUT SUBTLEY UNDERNEATH THERE
ARE STILL THOSE ROOTS AND TRAITS
AND CHARACTERISTICS THAT THEY KIND OF
CAN'T REALLY GET RID OF.
IT'S PART OF THEIR DNA.

Steve says, NOW HARRY, THIS IS A BIT
AWKWARD TO BRING UP, BUT IT'S JUST A REALITY,
IT’S PART OF HISTORY.
GERMANY AND CANADA FOUGHT TWO
WORLD WARS AGAINST ON ANOTHER
AND OF COURSE, IT WAS MORE THAN 100 YEARS
AGO THAT KITCHENER USED TO BE
CALLED BERLIN AND HAD ITS NAME
CHANGED BECAUSE OF COURSE, THERE WAS A LOT
OF ANTI-GERMAN SENTIMENT IN
CANADA AND IN PARTICULAR THAT
PART OF ONTARIO AT THE TIME.
MAYBE YOU COULD TELL US A BIT
ABOUT WHAT KINDS OF PRESSURES
GERMANS FELT, GERMAN-CANADIANS
FELT, LIVING IN CANADA DURING
WARTIME.

Text reads, Don’t Mention the War(s)

Harry says, I MEAN, IF I LOOK AT WATERLOO
COUNTY, WE WERE PART OF BRITISH
NORTH AMERICA, BUT THE GERMANS
WERE ACTUALLY, A MAJORITY IN
THIS AREA HERE, BUT THE RULING
PEOPLE OR THE GOVERNMENT PEOPLE
TENDED TO BE MORE BRITISH
ORIENTED.
SO BASICALLY, WHAT HAPPENED WAS
THAT IN MOST CASES THE GERMANS
KIND OF TOOK A LOW PROFILE AND
DIDN'T TRY TO RAISE ANYTHING.
SO THAT WAS THE FIRST WHEN THE
SENTIMENT WAS BIGGER.
WHEN THE SECOND WORLD WAR CAME
AROUND, THE GOVERNMENT BASICALLY TOLD OR
ASKED GERMAN CLUBS AND
ORGANIZATIONS, CHURCHES THAT
HELD SERVICES IN GERMAN, TO
BASICALLY, SHUT WHAT THEY WERE
DOING AND WAIT FOR SOME OTHER
TIME.
AND THEY BASICALLY DID THAT.
THEY BASICALLY TOOK A VERY LOW
PROFILE.
I CAN RELATE TO THAT -- MY
SISTER-IN-LAW, WHO IS OLDER THAN
ME, WHO WAS BORN IN THE SECOND
WORLD WAR AND SHE WASN'T GIVEN A
GERMAN NAME, SHE WAS GIVEN AN
ENGLISH NAME AND THEY DARED NOT
SPEAK GERMAN OUTSIDE OF THE
HOUSE JUST SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY
WANTED TO KEEP A LOW PROFILE.
BUT THE OTHER THING YOU'VE GOT
TO REMEMBER HERE TOO IS SO MANY
OF THE GERMANS THAT CAME TO THIS
AREA WERE NOT JUST FROM GERMAN
BUT THEY WERE FROM EASTERN
EUROPE, CENTRAL EUROPE, AND THEY
WERE BEING KIND OF LUMPED
TOGETHER WITH WHAT WAS HAPPENING
IN THE THIRD REICH WHICH THEY
THEMSELVES HAD PROBABLY NEVER
LIVED IN BUT THEY WERE TARRED
WITH THE SAME BRUSH.
SO, BEST TO KEEP KIND OF A LOW PROFILE.
ONCE THE WAR WAS OVER, BY THE LATE
'40S, THINGS STARTED TO PICK UP AGAIN AND
THE IMMIGRATION CAME AND --
REACTIVATING OF GERMAN
ACTIVITIES, THE GERMAN CLUBS,
ET CETERA.

Steve says, HARRY, I'M GOING TO
ASK YOU ONE LAST QUESTION AND
AGAIN IT MIGHT BE A BIT OF AN
ODD QUESTION, BUT BERLIN GOT ITS
NAME CHANGED TO KITCHENER IN THE
FIRST PLACE BECAUSE OF THIS
ANTI-GERMAN SENTIMENT.
BUT AS TIME HAS GONE ON, WE’VE
LEARNED A FEW THINGS ABOUT THE EARL OF
KITCHENER THAT DON’T REALLY STAND THE
TEST OF TIME EITHER.
SO I WONDER WHETHER YOU THINK
THERE IS ANY KIND OF A MOVE
AFOOT TO HAVE KITCHENER RENAMED
BERLIN AS IT ONCE WAS?

Text reads, tvo.org/theagenda AgendaConnect@tvo.org

Harry says, WELL, THERE WAS ACTUALLY FROM
OUR ASSOCIATIONS A WHILE
AGO, WE TOYED WITH THE IDEA
BECAUSE, FOR EXAMPLE, THE UNITED
STATES, I THINK THERE'S
SOMETHING LIKE 18 BERLINS THAT
THEY NEVER CHANGED THE NAME,
THEY JUST SIMPLY CHANGED THE
PRONUNCIATION FROM ber-LIN TO
BER-lin, AND THINGS WERE OKAY.
I KNOW THERE RECENTLY WAS A PETITION GOING
AROUND BY A FELLOW IN OUR
COMMUNITY, SAYING LET'S CHANGE IT BACK
TO BERLIN BECAUSE OF THE
NEGATIVE CONNOTATIONS THAT
KITCHENER HAD.
BUT I THINK PEOPLE HAVE GOT SO
USED TO IT AND THE COST OF
CHANGING THINGS WOULD BE QUITE
HORRENDOUS.
KITCHENER WAS THE HERO AT THE TIME
AND, YOU KNOW, IT SEEMED AN
APPROPRIATE NAME TO CHOOSE TO
REPLACE BERLIN.

Steve says, GOTCHA.
HARRY DRUNG, IT'S AWFULLY GOOD OF
YOU TO SPEND SO MUCH TIME WITH
US HERE ON TVO TONIGHT.
THANKS SO MUCH, AUF WIEDERSEHEN.

Harry says, AUF WIEDERSEHEN, AND THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE
TIME.

Text reads, Produced by Harrison Lowman @harrisonlowman

Watch: Why German-Canadians Made Waterloo Home