The Sons of Hermann in San Antonio

I had somehow never heard of the Sons of Hermann (as in Herman the German, i.e., Arminius), a fraternal organization of Americans of German heritage:

The Order of the Sons of Hermann, also known as Hermann Sons and by its German name as Der Orden der Hermanns-Soehne or Hermannssöhne, is a mutual aid society for German immigrants that was formed in New York City on July 20, 1840,[1][2] and remains active in the states of California, Ohio, and Texas today. Open to members of any heritage today, the order provides low-cost insurance and mutual aid and has historically promoted the preservation of German language and traditions….

The Sons of Hermann was formed by Dr. Philip Merkel, George Heiner, John Blatz, A. Auer, R. Schwendel, W. Kohler, and Philipp Germann on the Lower East Side,[2][4]in response to anti-German sentiment during a period of heavy German immigration to the United States.

The order has some rites, but they don’t seem very complex. It was mainly a mutual-support cooperative, the sort of thing which many Northern European immigrant groups brought from the old country to the USA.

Hundreds of lodges were organized during the nineteenth century; by 1895 there were about 30,000 members,[2] and in 1896 there were Grand Lodges in CaliforniaConnecticutColoradoIllinoisKansasMassachusettsMichiganMinnesotaMissouriNew JerseyOhioPennsylvaniaTexas and Washington in addition to New York, as well as scattered members in 15 other states with a total membership of 90,000…. However, like all things German, the order declined sharply in popularity with the outbreak of World War I.[8]

The order’s symbolic colors are black, red and gold, representing German unity: black for ignorance, prejudice and indifference; red for the light and enlightenment spread by German culture and the German spirit; and gold for true freedom, which man arrives at through knowledge and labor….

German Jews participated fully in the Sons of Hermann; the order’s insurance fund was led by Jacob Brandeis and Rabbi Emanuel Gerechter, the former also directing the order’s choral group in Milwaukee.

A friend of mine, Robert Blackburn, recently took some photos of the handsome Art Deco “Hermann Sons Lodge” in San Antonio, Texas:

Image may contain: cloud, sky and outdoor

Image may contain: outdoor

And it still seems to be going strong:

Image may contain: sky, cloud and outdoor

Cajun dancing, brought to you by liberal (in the 19th-century sense) Germans. I know the first place I’m going to visit if I ever return to San Antonio.

Hessian Soldiers in Maryland

The US branch of the Goethe Institut has a report (g) on the history of the Hessian soldiers who fought for the British during the American revolutionary war:

It is estimated that 30,000 Hessian soldiers fought for the British during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783)….

The Hessian soldiers who fought for the British are often referred to as German mercenaries – but their background is a bit more complex: George III, the king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at the time, was a Hanoverian king with a family background from Hesse, Germany (as in “Hessian”). And these Hessian soldiers who fought during the Revolutionary War were actually paid by Germany, not by England, to come over and fight the war. So they were not pure mercenaries, it was also like a family affair: they were fighting for the British Crown because it was German.

After losing to the US Army, the surviving Hessian soldiers were brought to Frederick, Maryland as a curious kind of prisoners of war; they could go anywhere they wanted – downtown, shopping or working on farms. As Frederick was a town of German immigrants, there was no language barrier and as the Hessian soldiers were continuingly paid by the German army, even as prisoners, they supported the local economy during their detention. Follow our producer Rob Sachs to Maryland as he finds out more for this episode of The Big Pond.

Many of the Hessians stayed in the USA, often marrying into local families. More about them here.

There’s a bit of Hammel family lore which holds that we are descended from one of these mercenaries, although we have no proof as yet.

 

‘Bei’ und ‘Noch’ in Eastern Wisconsin

DeutscheHauser-annot-2

Source: Milwaukee's German Newspapers [http://milwaukeesgermannewspapers.blogspot.de/]

In my free time I've been dipping into the Netflix documentary 'Making a Murderer', which is about the trial of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin junkyard owner, for the murder of a young woman. It's pretty damned interesting, if you have a weakness for American courtroom drama.

One of the things that struck me is how German the American Midwest still is. Americans of German descent, like me, still form the largest ethnic group in America, with some 46 million people. Huge numbers of them settled in the Midwest of the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and in fact German was spoken as a native language by millions of people in places like Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois until well into the 20th century.

These days, German-Americans get no attention. German-Americans integrated completely into American society, keeping only their last names and perhaps a few scattered bits of tradition. And in fact, many changed those names to try to appear more Anglo-Saxon. Not only because some of the names were long and hard to pronounce, but also because fighting Germany in two world wars didn't do much for German ethnic pride. As I was growing up, the fact that my family was of German ancestry played almost no role at all, and the same was true for most everyone of German extraction I knew. After World War II, the notion of expressing much interest in your German heritage was seen as suspect in cosmopolitan circles.

So I was interested to see just how German the state of Wisconsin (largest city: Milwaukee) still remains.

Banner-ArbeiterZeitung(2)

The prosecutors and cops in the Steven Avery documentary have names like Gahn, Kratz, Wiegert and even Fassbender (!). The victim's name was Teresa Halbach. Avery's defense lawyers are named Strang and Buting. But what was even more interesting is the recordings and testimony of various witnesses. These were mostly country folk without much education, using nonstandard grammar: he ain't gonna win, don't none of this matter, etc.

But one thing both the educated and uneducated people had in common was using the English word 'by' just like the German word bei. Bei, in German, is like chez in French: it's an all-purpose proximity adverb meaning at someone's house, next to someone or something, near someone or something, the company you work at (I work bei Siemens), etc. English uses different phrases for all of these things: I'm going to John's house, I'm standing next to John, I work at Exxon.

But the people being interviewed for this documentary — and not just the ones with German names — used by in the German sense! I was by him (meaning at his house) the whole afternoon, I went up and sat on the stairs by (next to) Brendan, etc. They also used 'yet' in the German sense: instead of saying "she was still alive", they'd say "she was alive yet", just the way a German would use the word noch. This has nothing at all to do with accent, all of these people spoke perfectly normal Midwestern, with its slightly nasal vowels.

Scholars are pretty familiar with these aspects of Midwestern dialect, but I wonder how many of the Weicherts in Wisconsin and Monheims in Minnesota realize that their German heritage pops up in the way they speak every day?

They Wended Their Way to Texas

Fffff

Reading an interesting blog post about Danish genetic structure (they're very homogeneous), I came across mention of the Wends. Ignorant clown that I am, I had no idea what they were. It turns out the Wends really got around, as befits Slavic nomads. In fact, there's a Wendish Heritage Museum in rural Lee County, in South Central Texas:

The Museum is a complex of buildings which are connected by porches. In the center is a new facility with a display interpreting the history of the Wends. It also houses the Offices, Gift Shop, Library, and Archives. To the right and left are the old St. Paul school buildings. Exhibits include relics from the old country and Texas. Folk dress of Lusatia, the traditional Texas wedding dresses, and the beautiful Wendish Easter eggs are a few of the colorful exhibits.

Outdoor exhibits include two log buildings and farming equipment.The 1856 log room, built by the Kurio family, originally part of a dog trot home, is furnished as a bed room. A section of the earlier 1855 room is also preserved on the Museum grounds. The Mertink family log room is used to exhibit carpenter’s and farming tools.

The Lillie Moerbe Caldwell Memorial Library specializes in the history and genealogy of the Wendish people. It welcomes donations of family histories and genealogies.The Archives includes rare books in Wendish and German, manuscripts, personal papers, and a photographic collection.

The Texas Wendish Heritage Museum preserves the history of the Texas Wends, Slavic immigrants from Lusatia, an area in eastern Germany. Today the Wends of Lusatia are called Sorbs.

Wendish families began arriving in Texas in 1849, followed by a group of 35 in 1853. In 1854, a congregation of over 500 Wends immigrated on a chartered sailing ship, the Ben Nevis. This group founded a new homeland on 4,254 acres in Bastrop County (now Lee County) and named their new town Serbin. Other Wendish towns and congregations were soon organized.Many more Wends immigrated during the second half of the 19th Century.

The Museum is located in historic Serbin, near the St. Paul Lutheran Church, school and cemetery. The present Church building, built in 1871, is one of the painted churches of South Central Texas.

It's heartening to see how active the site is: the Wendish fest is coming up on September 25. Some highlights of last year's fest:

Wendish-Fest-2015-8-image-montage

And here's a recipe for Wendish noodles from 'The Noodle Lady':

[The] following is the recipe for homemade Wendish noodles that Hattie Mitschke Schautschick learned to make as a child cooking alongside her grandma – Anna Matthijetz Mitschke – and her mama – Louise Mertink Mitschke. Hattie, as I’m sure you well know, is known around here as the Noodle Lady and the one in charge of producing the noodles we sell in our gift shop.

Two things to know upfront about making noodles: (1) If you use yard eggs, you can usually eliminate the water; and (2) try to avoid making noodles when it’s damp outside – the weather affects how fast they’ll dry.

  • 3 eggs
  • Water to fill half-eggshell 3 times (about 6 tablespoons)
  • 3 cups flour plus additional for rolling out dough
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Chopped parsley (optional)

Break the eggs into a large bowl, saving the most intact half-eggshell. Beat eggs and water together. Add 3 cups flour and the salt to form stiff dough. Roll out dough into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick on a well-floured cutting board or countertop. Allow dough to dry about 10 minutes, turning occasionally.

When dough is dry but still pliable, cut into long sections about 3 inches wide. Take 3-inch sections and cut into thin strips about 1/8-inch wide. Cut strips into preferred length for cooking. Place cut noodles on a dish towel and fluff noodles so air can circulate around them. Allow cut noodles to dry thoroughly, at least overnight or longer if necessary. If noodles won’t be cooked right away, store them in a sealed plastic bag in either the pantry or the freezer for up to six months.

When ready to cook noodles, bring chicken broth to a boil in a large pot. Stir in butter, parsley and dried noodles. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until tender. Be careful not to overcook. Remove pot from heat, leaving lid on, and let sit another 10 to 15 minutes. Do not drain. Makes 1 pound of noodles or 20 servings.

I love tiny museums, and I plan to visit this one next time I'm in the Lone Star State.

The Minnesota Umlaut Wär

In which soulless bureaucrats try to strip 'Little Sweden' of its proud Nordic heritage:

[T]here is a city in Minnesota that had been known as Lindström — or, if you saw the signs greeting you on the way in or out of town in recent years, Lindstrom.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation replaced the signs welcoming people a few years back. These signs are generally replaced every decade or so after the U.S. Census takes place, and after the last such survey, new signs were brought to Lindström.

The state transportation authority relies on federal guidelines that outline what it can put on signs, and these rules say signs must use only “standard English characters,” said Kevin Gutknecht, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“So when we replaced the sign, we didn’t put the umlaut in,” Gutknecht said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

And that was that for a few years, with little notice since the signs were first put into place in 2012, he says. However, a few days ago, the Star Tribune noted that some people in Lindström were — politely — wondering where the umlauts went.

“It’s a big deal to us,” John Olinger, the city administrator, told the newspaper. (Olinger did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.)

On Wednesday, the state’s governor put his foot down: The dots were coming back.

Gov. Mark Dayton (D) announced that he would be signing an executive order demanding that state transportation officials put the umlauts back on the roadway signs.

“Nonsensical rules like this are exactly why people get frustrated with government,” Dayton, who grew up in Long Lake, about an hour southwest of Lindström, said in a statement. “Even if I have to drive to Lindström, and paint the umlauts on the city limit signs myself, I’ll do it.

That probably won’t be necessary, according to the Department of Transportation.

“We will certainly add umlauts to the signs in Lindström,” Gutknecht said Wednesday. “We’ll probably get that done within the next few days. It’ll be a fairly simple process.”

Lindström calls itself “America’s Little Sweden” on the city’s official site and states that the city was founded in the mid-19th century by a Swedish immigrant. Its sister city is Tingsryd, an area in southern Sweden.

…“The Swedish heritage in the Lindström area and the rest of our state should be celebrated,” state Rep. Laurie Halverson, who grew up in the city, said in a statement. She added that Lindström is a tourist hub for international visitors.

I confess to tearing up just a little but when I read what Governor Dayton's promise.

 

The Economist on German-Americans

20150207_wom911

The Economist gives us German-Americans some respect:

German-Americans are America’s largest single ethnic group (if you divide Hispanics into Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, etc). In 2013, according to the Census bureau, 46m Americans claimed German ancestry: more than the number who traced their roots to Ireland (33m) or England (25m). In whole swathes of the northern United States, German-Americans outnumber any other group (see map). Some 41% of the people in Wisconsin are of Teutonic stock.

Yet despite their numbers, they are barely visible. Everyone knows that Michael Dukakis is Greek-American, the Kennedy clan hail from Ireland and Mario Cuomo was an Italian-American. Fewer notice that John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Rand Paul, a senator from Kentucky with presidential ambitions, are of German origin.

German immigrants have flavoured American culture like cinnamon in an Apfelkuchen. They imported Christmas trees and Easter bunnies and gave America a taste for pretzels, hot dogs, bratwursts and sauerkraut. They built big Lutheran churches wherever they went. Germans in Wisconsin launched America’s first kindergarten and set up Turnvereine, or gymnastics clubs, in Milwaukee, Cincinnati and other cities.

After a failed revolution in Germany in 1848, disillusioned revolutionaries decamped to America and spread progressive ideas. “Germanism, socialism and beer makes Milwaukee different,” says John Gurda, a historian. Milwaukee is the only big American city that had Socialist mayors for several decades, of whom two, Emil Seidel and Frank Zeidler, were of German stock. As in so many other countries where Germans have settled, they have dominated the brewing trade. Beer barons such as Jacob Best, Joseph Schlitz, Frederick Pabst and Frederick Miller made Milwaukee the kind of city that more or less had to call its baseball team the Brewers.

Today German-Americans are quietly successful. Their median household income, at $61,500, is 18% above the national norm. They are more likely to have college degrees than other Americans, and less likely to be unemployed. A whopping 97% of them speak only English at home.

They have assimilated and prospered without any political help specially tailored for their ethnic group. “The Greeks and the Irish have a far stronger support network and lobby groups than we do,” says Peter Wittig, Germany’s ambassador in America. There was no German-American congressional caucus until 2010, though there were caucuses for potatoes, bicycles and Albanian affairs. The German caucus has quickly grown to about 100 members, who lobby for trade and investment as well as the preservation of their common cultural heritage.

Freude, Zucht, Glaube in the USA

As a proud owner of a copy of the official National Socialist guide to summer camping (Freude, Zucht, Glaube — Joy, Discipline, Faith), I was intrigued by this film, recently restored by the National Archives of the USA:

The curator notes

I have one great party trick. Anytime someone asks me if I’ve ever come across something really cool while working in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab, I tell them about the time we had what looked like footage of a Boy Scout camp and then the Boy Scouts raised a Nazi flag along with the red, white, and blue. Without fail, I get the attention of anyone in within earshot. Then, I tell the assembled crowd that in the late 1930s the East Coast was home to many summer camps for the junior Nazis of America and the National Archives holds the film evidence. They might have been hoping that I would tell them about footage of the Roswell aliens, but the reaction to “American Nazi summer camps” is just about the same.

Volks-Deutsche Jungen in U.S.A. (German Youth in the U.S.A) you’ll see what first appears to be an unremarkable story of a boys’ summer camp. The film starts with the camp under construction and excited children piling onto chartered buses to make the journey from New York City to Windham, New York in the summer of 1937. The boys pitch tents, unload crates of baked beans, and perform physical fitness drills. If you pay close attention, you might notice that some of the boys are wearing shorts bearing the single lightning bolt insignia that marked the younger contingent of the Hitler Youth, but it’s not until the “Flaggenappell” (flag roll call) at 13:47 that the affiliation becomes clear.

Less well-known is that the DAB also operated as somewhat of a cultural indoctrination organization for German-American children, with activities that are depicted in several of the films we hold. The summer camps, complete with the official uniforms and banners of the Hitler Youth, might be the most visual and chilling example of the DAB’s attempts to instill Nazi sympathies in German-American children. Another film, intended to encourage boys to attend the camp, includes a perhaps unintentionally ominous intertitle that translates to “German boy you also belong to us.”

The Story of Germanic Ashkenazi Names

I occasionally encounter Germans who seem a bit shocked when I, or some other American, confidently assume that an American named 'Goldstein' or 'Feldman' or 'Rosenthal' is Jewish. (Generally, these are Germans who haven't spent much time in the USA). To them, these just seem like unusual German names, meaning the people who carry them could just as easily be Protestant or Catholic. I then explain that  – all stereotyping aside, not that it matters, etc. etc. — the chance that an American with one of these names isn't Jewish is vanishingly small.

That's because these are names were imposed on Ashkenazi Jewish communities by German-speaking bureaucrats in the 18th and 19th centuries. Over at Slate, Bennett Muraskin has an article on the eubject:

Some German-speaking Jews took last names as early as the 17th century, but the overwhelming majority of Jews lived in Eastern Europe and did not take last names until compelled to do so. The process began in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1787 and ended in Czarist Russia in 1844.

In attempting to build modern nation-states, the authorities insisted that Jews take last names so that they could be taxed, drafted, and educated (in that order of importance).

These Jews then emigrated to the United States, carrying their names with them. For obvious reasons, very few Jews with these names are left in Germany. Muraskin provides a fairly exhaustive list of the names, many of which are instantly recognizable to any German-speaker. One of them many life-changing benefits of learning German is the ability to impress your Jewish — and even Gentile! — friends by telling them what their names mean. Muraskin provides a list, allowing you non-speakers to play yourself:

Ackerman — plowman; Baker/Boker — baker; Blecher — tinsmith; Fleisher/Fleishman/Katzoff/Metger — butcher; Cooperman — coppersmith; Drucker — printer; Einstein — mason; Farber — painter/dyer; Feinstein — jeweler; Fisher — fisherman; Forman — driver/teamster; Garber/Gerber — tanner; Glazer/Glass/Sklar — glazier; Goldstein — goldsmith; Graber — engraver; Kastner — cabinetmaker; Kunstler — artist; Kramer — storekeeper; Miller — miller; Nagler — nailmaker; Plotnick — carpenter; Sandler/Shuster — shoemaker; Schmidt/Kovalsky — blacksmith; Shnitzer — carver; Silverstein — jeweler; Spielman — player (musician?); Stein/Steiner/Stone — jeweler; Wasserman — water carrier.

Merchants

Garfinkel/Garfunkel — diamond dealer; Holzman/Holtz/Waldman — timber dealer; Kaufman — merchant; Rokeach — spice merchant; Salzman — salt merchant; Seid/Seidman—silk merchant; Tabachnik — snuff seller; Tuchman — cloth merchant; Wachsman — wax dealer; Wechsler/Halphan — money changer; Wollman — wool merchant; Zucker/Zuckerman — sugar merchant.

Related to tailoring

Kravitz/Portnoy/Schneider/Snyder — tailor; Nadelman/Nudelman — also tailor, but from "needle"; Sher/Sherman — also tailor, but from "scissors" or "shears"; Presser/Pressman — clothing presser; Futterman/Kirshner/Kushner/Peltz — furrier; Weber — weaver.

Alter/Alterman — old; Dreyfus—three legged, perhaps referring to someone who walked with a cane; Erlich — honest; Frum — devout ; Gottleib — God lover, perhaps referring to someone very devout; Geller/Gelber — yellow, perhaps referring to someone with blond hair; Gross/Grossman — big; Gruber — coarse or vulgar; Feifer/Pfeifer — whistler; Fried/Friedman—happy; Hoch/Hochman/Langer/Langerman — tall; Klein/Kleinman — small; Koenig — king, perhaps someone who was chosen as a “Purim King,” in reality a poor wretch; Krauss — curly, as in curly hair; Kurtz/Kurtzman — short; Reich/Reichman — rich; Reisser — giant; Roth/Rothman — red head; Roth/Rothbard — red beard; Shein/Schoen/Schoenman — pretty, handsome; Schwartz/Shwartzman/Charney — black hair or dark complexion; Scharf/Scharfman — sharp, i.e  intelligent; Stark — strong, from the Yiddish shtark ; Springer — lively person, from the Yiddish springen for jump.

When Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were required to assume last names, some chose the nicest ones they could think of and may have been charged a registration fee by the authorities. According to the YIVO Encyclopedia, "The resulting names often are associated with nature and beauty. It is very plausible that the choices were influenced by the general romantic tendencies of German culture at that time." These names include: Applebaum — apple tree; Birnbaum — pear tree; Buchsbaum — box tree; Kestenbaum — chestnut tree; Kirschenbaum — cherry tree; Mandelbaum — almond tree; Nussbaum — nut tree; Tannenbaum — fir tree; Teitelbaum — palm tree.

Other names, chosen or purchased, were combinations with these roots:Blumen (flower), Fein (fine), Gold, Green, Lowen (lion), Rosen (rose), Schoen/Schein (pretty) — combined with berg (hill or mountain), thal (valley), bloom (flower), zweig (wreath), blatt (leaf), vald or wald (woods), feld (field).

Miscellaneous other names included Diamond; Glick/Gluck — luck; Hoffman — hopeful; Fried/Friedman — happiness; Lieber/Lieberman — lover.

Gerhart Hauptmann Haus, the Other Ostalgie, and the Origins of Becherovka

I recently gave a seminar in the Gerhart Hauptmann House in Düsseldorf (on a subject totally unrelated to him). The whole place seemed to be a kind of shrine to the former German populations in Eastern Europe, who were unceremoniously yet understandably kicked out of Poland, the Czech Republic, and other nations in the wake of World War II. This was the fate the befell Hauptmann (g), a German writer who won the Nobel Prize in 1912, himself. In fact the Hauptmann Haus in Düsseldorf is also the headquarters of the Bund der Vertriebenen for Northern Rhine – Westphalia (g). For those of you who don't know, this 'League of the Expelled' represents the interests of those millions of ethnic Germans who were expelled from historical areas of German settlement (as well as areas conquered and brutally occupied by the Nazis) east of the Oder/Neisse river, which was roughly the Eastern border of East Germany.

Somewhere between 12 and 16 million Germans were expelled from the East immediately after the war:

Vertreibung

The expulsion was often brutal, accompanied by abuse and massacres, and most of the expellees were forced to leave their land and possessions behind. The human suffering was enormous, but, to put it bluntly, nobody cared much about German suffering in the immediate aftermath of World War II. After the collapse of Communism, the idea of compensation for the expropriated property was bruited in some German circles, but was met with incredulousness verging on hostility by Eastern European governments.

The survivors of the expellees are still well-organized today, and are a moderately powerful lobby in Germany. They're considered pretty right-wing, and their actions are often a thorn in the side of the German government. To say the issue of compensation for expelled ethnic Germans is a sensitive issue in Eastern capitals is quite the understatement.

Here are a few photographs from the dusty displays in the Haus, featuring typical toys, pastries, and even bitters from the German Sudetenland:

DSC_0006

I had no idea that Becherovka was originally created by Germans. 

DSC_0005

Finally, a charming nativity scene. Well, except for the giant, flaccid penises pointing directly at the Christ Child. Oh wait, those are candles. Yet another embarrassing situation that could have been prevented by air-conditioning.

DSC_0013

Germans Are the Biggest, And Quietest, Ethnic Group in the U.S.

German Heritage in US

Bloomberg reports that people of German ancestry are still the dominant ethnic group in the United States:

The U.S., first populated by Native Americans, rediscovered by Europeans and colonized under the flags of the Spanish, English and French, is now filled with Germans.

More than half of the nation’s 3,143 counties contain a plurality of people who describe themselves as German-American, according to a Bloomberg compilation of data from the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey. The number of German- Americans rose by 6 million during the last decade to 49.8 million, almost as much as the nation’s 50.5 million Hispanics. (Click here to explore an interactive county-by-county map of U.S. ethnic groups.)

Germans have been immigrating in significant numbers to the U.S. since the 1680s, when they settled in New York and Pennsylvania. The bulk of German immigrants arrived in the mid- 19th century; they’ve been the nation’s predominant ethnic group since at least the 1980 census.

The increased identification with German culture contrasts with earlier eras in U.S. history — during both world wars — when many kept those ties quiet. The passage of time has replaced that impulse with a search for enduring traditions, said J. Gregory Redding, a professor of modern languages and literature at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

The 49.8 million German-Americans are more than triple the 14.7 million Asians counted in the 2010 census. Bloomberg’s county-by-county analysis broke down the Hispanic and Asian populations into subgroups by national origin, with Mexican- Americans and Chinese-Americans making up the largest share of their respective groups.

Americans of German descent top the list of U.S. ethnic groups, followed by Irish, 35.8 million; Mexican, 31.8 million; English, 27.4 million; and Italian, 17.6 million, the census shows.

Yes, there are millions of us. But you've never heard of us. Why? Because we stay in the background. We learned that from two world wars. We German-Americans are doing those well-paid but kind of boring jobs that form the backbone of American industry. We're managing your hardware stores, mixing your new industrial sealants, and overseeing your supply and distribution chains. Unlike more flamboyant ethnicities — you know, the ones with lots of vowels in their names and/or dark, curly hair — we don't call attention to our cute customs. That would be totally un-Lutheran.

Perhaps that should change. We German-Americans should begin flexing our cultural muscles. You want to invite me to drink green beer for St. Patrick's Day or eat matzohs at your seder or roast suckling pig at your Vietnamese wedding? Fine, I'll go! But then you have to come eat Käsespätzle and drink Weizenbier at my house. And then we're going to schunkeln. And you're going to like it!