“Once a German, Always a German”: Ethnically based British Policies towards the German minority during World War I
Ava Goepfert, Fall 2013
At the height of the Great War, as the Allied forces battled on the ground and in the sea against the Central Powers, Great Britain fought an internal struggle at home. Throughout the early twentieth century and during the war, fear of espionage and spies dominated talks within Parliament. The day after declaring war on Germany, the British government passed the Aliens Restriction Act on August 5, 1914, granting the government the power to detain and intern people deemed “enemy aliens.”House of Commons Parliamentary Debates, June 29, 1916, in World War I and European Society: A Sourcebook, ed. Marilyn Shevin-Coetzee and Frans Coetzee (Lexington: D.C. Heath and Company, 1995), 137. For the next two years, the populace and numerous prominent voices within Parliament called for this measure to be enforced in order to detain the small, yet thriving, German populace within London. In June 1916, Lord William Joynson-Hicks spoke on the floor of the House of Commons against German aliens and their presence within London arguing forcefully, “I only say that we do not want the existence of Germans in the shops where our soldiers are brought in. We ought to be protected from it. There is only one remedy- sweep the whole lot of them away and then it will not exist.” This insistent attitude spoken publicly within Parliament by Joynson-Hicks reflects the popular and political attitude towards the German minority within Britain directly preceding and throughout the War: they were an invasion certainly not welcome.
While traditionally seen as open and inclusive of immigrants, policy shifts in the early twentieth century and the onset of World War I made Britain much more exclusive towards immigrants and minorities. When defining the nation, being ethnically British and not associated with the “enemy” determined whether one was perceived loyal to and a part of the nation-state. Specifically, Britain shifted their view of the German minority during World War I from vague disinterest to suspicion, simply based on their German ethnic origin. There was no distinction between those living in Britain for generations, recent immigrants, and naturalized citizens. Government policies simply focused on their ethnic heritage as a basis for restriction of liberties and segregation. These policies, considerably influenced by public Germanophobia and based purely on ethnic origins, show how a civic minded nation incorporates ethnic elements. The intolerance of the German minority in Britain during World War I illustrates the dynamic nature of Britain’s vision of belonging and inclusion in the nation.
Civic and Ethnic Nationalism: Scholarly Debates
The word “nationalism” invokes seemingly endless scholastic debate and conversation. However, while scholars and students will forever ruminate over meanings of nationalism, nation, and nationality, these debates should not overshadow the importance of how each nation expresses nationalism. Nationalism in this sense is the expression of who belongs and is included as a part of the nation, a group of people brought together by common goals and aspirations. Understanding these various expressions contextualizes the difference between nations and how they change over time based on external pressures, morphing state authority, economic situations, or attitudes towards minorities. Specifically, the ideas of civic and ethnic nationalisms indicate the evolving nature of nations’ expressions of nationalism and what minorities or groups of people can belong.
For decades, nationalism scholars have used distinctions between civic nationalism, grounded in loyalty towards common values and rights regardless of ancestral background, and ethnic nationalism, based on blood ties and common ancestry. In 1945, Hans Kohn described nationalism as “a group seeking expression in what it regards as the highest form of organized activity.”Hans Kohn “Western and Eastern Nationalism,” in Nationalism, ed. John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 162. This group, presumably a nation, distinguishes what it finds most important for their identification as a united entity. Kohn believes there are two forms of expression found in Europe: a western civic minded nationalism and an eastern ethnic minded nationalism. He argues that the five western nations of England, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States built themselves on political sentiments without “too much sentimental regard for the past.”Kohn, 164. In contrast, Kohn claims that eastern countries link themselves with the past, overemphasizing their ethnographic dreams of the “ideal fatherland,” rather than be concerned with the present or political future.Ibid. He addresses the countries of Russia and Germany as ethnic nations subscribing to the idea of “folk” and kinship, rather than western ideas of “citizens” or rational and legal societal concepts.Ibid., 165. This distinction means that civic minded nations allow for a more open inclusive citizenship for those wanting to become a part of the nation, while ethnic minded nations subscribe to a jus sanguinis type of inclusion; only those whose blood ties bind them to the nation are and can ever be truly a part of the nation.
Other scholars tend to associate in some way with Kohn’s original division between civic and ethnic nationalism, including Liah Greenfeld, Peter Sugar, and Rogers Brubaker. Greenfeld comments that England became the first “modern” nation in the world during the sixteenth century because of the development of an “individualistic civic nationalism” that defined Britain’s civic ideals.Liah Greenfeld, “Types of European Nationalism,” in Nationalism, ed. John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 165. She distinguishes this civic individualism from “particularistic” nationalism, associated with ethnic nationalism and reflects the same ideas of collectivism and a people based nationalism.Greenfeld, 168. Sugar also utilizes the division between eastern and western nationalism, maintaining that while Eastern nations at times resembled Western nationalism, they are firmly placed “in the eastern European family of nationalism” related to historic tradition and the past.Peter Sugar, “Nationalism in Eastern Europe,” in Nationalism, ed. John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 173. Furthermore, Brubaker uses similar ideas linked to ethnic and civic dimensions of nationalism when describing France and Germany. In his book Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany he strives to demonstrate the differences between France’s “expansive definition of citizenship, one that automatically transforms second generation immigrants into citizens, assimilating them legally to other French men and women” and Germany’s definition of citizenship that is “remarkably open to ethnic German immigrants from Eastern-Europe and the Soviet Union, but remarkably closed to non-German immigrants.”Rogers Brubaker, Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), 3.
Despite the wide usage of the two distinctions, many scholars challenge this dichotomy between civic and ethnic nations, believing that the reality is much more complicated and nuanced. Brubaker even acknowledges Kohn’s “detached comparative formulation”Ibid., 2. and complicates the nationalism picture of both countries throughout his book. Taras Kuzio believes that “pure civic or ethnic states only exist in theory” and that every nation has and expresses both types.Taras Kuzio, “The Myth of the Civic State: A Critical Survey of Hans Kohn’s Framework for Understanding Nationalism,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 25, no. 1 (2002): 20. Kuzio expresses an alternative theory that tracks the history of Western states from ethnic to civic nations, arguing that civic nations did not exist until the 1960s because of demonstrated ethnic tensions.Ibid., 29. Kuzio asserts that nationalism is “a process of change that incorporates tension between civic universalism and ethnic particularism.”Kuzio, 21. Stephen Shulman’s critiques follow a similar description, but also points out that scholars still use the two dichotomies even when they admit that most nations have both civic and ethnic elements.Stephen Shulman, “Challenging the Civic/Ethnic and West/East Dichotomies in the Study of Nationalism,” Comparative Political Studies 35, no. 5 (2002): 558. Shulman also notes that in some cases, there are countries in Central and Eastern Europe that are “more civic and less ethnic than Western countries.”Shulman, 555. Yasemin Nuhoglu Soysal agrees with these sentiments, adding that national citizenship within European nations embraced both civic and ethnic components. Soysal maintains that, “the process of nation-building brought together the principle of nationality and the principle of rights in the very body of citizenship.”Yasemin Nuhoglu Soysal, “Changing Citizenship in Europe: Remarks on Postnational Membership in the National State,” in Citizenship, Nationality and Migration in Europe, ed. David Cesarani and … Continue reading
Finally, Aviel Roshwald articulates that the more important way to use the two ideas is to understand them as “conceptions that both vie with one another and interact synergistically in the shaping and evolution of national identities.”Aviel Roshwald, The Endurance of Nationalism: Ancient Roots and Modern Dilemmas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 256. Nations lying on the spectrum between civic, grounded in loyalty towards common values and rights regardless of ancestral background, and ethnic, based on blood ties and common ancestry, do not remain static. Instead, Roshwald argues that the interactions between civic and ethnic tendencies within a nation make nationalism itself an ever-evolving concept.Ibid., 258. The ways a nation expresses its national identity in a given moment is contingent in part by the interactions between civic and ethnic nationalism. These distinctions are important to keep in mind, but also important to view together, rather than as separate entities.
Civic and Ethnic Tensions with Great Britain
Civic and ethnic dimensions of nationalism are not static or concrete. Britain provides an excellent example of the tension between being labeled a “civic” nation with a much more complex and unclear historical reality. While some scholars claim Britain is a hallmark of civic nations, British identity in the early twentieth century was a fragile concept, complicated by the four nations (England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland) that made up the United Kingdom. Yet, despite having no clear understanding of what it meant to be British, this uncertain identity strengthened during times of crisis and instability.John K. Walton, “Britishness,” in A Companion to Early Twentieth-Century Britain, ed. Christ Wrigley (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), 518. This strength came from comparisons to immigrants and defining what was not British.
Hints of what “British” meant for immigrants emerged at the end of the nineteenth century. The 1870 Naturalization Act gave naturalized citizens access to full political rights afforded to natural born British citizens.Naturalization Act 1870, http://www.movinghere.org.uk/deliveryfiles/pro/Naturalisation_Act_1870/0/4.pdf, (accessed December 1, 2013). The wording of the act was imprecise, which allowed many immigrants access to citizenship without too much difficulty.J. C. Bird, Control of Enemy Alien Civilians in Great Britain 1914-1918 (New York: Garland Publishing, 1986), 238. But, as Ann Dummett and Andrew Nicol point out, their procedure was a “classic, but not a notably successful, example of British ‘muddling through.’” with no plan or concrete definition of what kind of nation Britain was.Ann Dummett and Andrew Nicol, Subjects, Citizens, Aliens and Others: Nationality and Immigration Law (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1990), 86. Defining “Britishness” received “no great interest” as the British maintained the historical notion of jus soli.Ibid., 90. However, as David Cesarani adds, an influx of immigrants would expose this question of who truly deserved citizenship within Britain.David Cesarani, “The Changing Character of Citizenship and Nationality in Britain,” in Citizenship, Nationality and Migration in Europe, ed. David Cesarani and Mary Fulbrook (London: Routledge, … Continue reading
While people often perceive Britain, describes Anne Kershen, as, “monocultural…the image of the Englishman (never the Englishwoman) being either that of a cricket-playing, liberal, white Christian, honorable gentleman or a plain-speaking, brave, warm-beer-drinking, God-fearing, working man,”Anne J. Kershen, “Immigration, Sojourners and Refugees: Minority Groups in Britain, 1900-1939,” in A Companion to Early Twentieth-Century Britain, ed. Christ Wrigley (Oxford: Blackwell … Continue reading the multiculturalism of Britain complicates this picture. Britain welcomed immigrants from around the world, taking pride in their image as “the workshop of the world.” Their sense of confidence meant they did not need to define what “Britishness” was, despite their jumbled mess of British naturalization law.Cesarani, 61.
Yet, the country started to define what was not British during the 1880’s based on their sense of superiority and racial dimensions. Britain began to feel imperial pressure and the economic impact of recession, creating hostility towards immigrants and incoming imperial British subjects.Dummett and Nicol, 95, Cesarani, 62, and Kershen, 140. As well, the scientifically based ideas of racial superiority of the Anglo-Saxon began to develop.Dummett and Nicol, 97. In particular, German immigrants became the “image of the brutal Hun, the thick-necked Prussian, with stubbly hair and hoggish manners.”Ibid., 98.
Despite downplaying ethnic origin for centuries, the immigration policies passed at the start of the twentieth century changed the liberal civic landscape of British immigration law. The Aliens Act of 1905 became the first official immigration policy within Britain, creating greater restrictions for immigrants coming into the country and giving the state the right to deport any “undesirable aliens,” defined as immigrants unable to support themselves, mentally ill, criminals, or dangers to the public.Aliens Act 1905, http://www.movinghere.org.uk/deliveryfiles/pro/Aliens_Act_1905/0/3.pdf, (accessed December 1, 2013). This act influenced the wartime legislation in 1914 that not only laid out how to deal with immigrants, but “enemy aliens” perceived as disloyal, dangerous, and placed on the outside of British society.
Germans in Britain: From Tolerated to the “Enemy”
The beginning of the twentieth century was a critical time period for immigrants in Great Britain.Martin A. Schain, The Politics of Immigration in France, Britain, and the United States: A Comparative Study (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 127. Despite the generally tolerant view of the German minority prior to the twentieth century, the growing tension between Germany and Britain created more animosity towards the German minority, which reflected in their everyday lives during World War I. In order to understand the German minority’s situation during World War I as the ethnic “enemy,” it is important to understand why they migrated to Britain, the kinds of Germans that settled, and the history of the Anglo-German antagonism that caused anti-German feelings leading up to and during the Great War.
Germans have lived on the British Isles for centuries. As early as the eleventh century small pockets of Hansa merchants moved to Britain for trade purposes.Hermann Kellenbenz, “German Immigrants in England,” in Immigrants and Minorities in British Society, ed. Colin Holmes (London: Allen & Unwin, 1978), 63. More early settlers, of Protestant Germans, printers, soldiers, and craftsmen, created a foundation for the larger influx of German immigrants during the nineteenth century to settle and to establish a community.Panikos Panayi, German Immigrants in Britain During the Nineteenth Century, 1815-1914, (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 1995), 1. While historians cannot determine exact numbers, they estimate that between 30,000 to 60,000 Germans immigrated to Britain from 1861 to 1914, making Germans the second largest European minority group in Britain.Panayi, German Immigrants, 35. German overpopulation, a problem for most continental European countries, combined with little industrial opportunities and lack of property ownership caused many Germans to flee seeking better futures elsewhere.Panayi, German Immigrants, 37. Joining the large influx of immigrants, Germans took advantage of the Britain’s economic prosperity in industrialization, investment, and trading.Paul Kennedy, The Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism 1860-1914, (London: Allen & Unwin, 1980), 5. Many Germans narratives described Great Britain as “rich England, where money lies on the street.” Some Germans believed Britain was a key to prosperity, and if they failed here, they would move on to the US.Panayi, German Immigrants, 68. Most German settlers stayed near ports or large urban areas, with London containing the largest German population.Kellenbenz, 74. In London, Germans established German institutions, restaurants, newspapers, and churches to retain their culture. These cultural expressions became so distinct that the German community in the East End of London became known as “Little Germany.”Panayi, German Immigrants, 94.
Germans within Great Britain before World War I were very diverse in terms of class and economic standings. The lower class suffered from exploitation and poverty as evidenced by the large amount of German charities in existence.Ibid., 132. In contrast, the very richest businessmen enjoyed respect and acceptance within English society.Panayi, German Immigrants, 138. As well, German immigrants held diverse occupations in almost every industry, mostly in the “humble” physical labor or service industries.Panikos Panayi, The Enemy in our Midst: Germans in Britain During the First World War (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 1991), 25. A few Germans made a major economic impact in Britain, mostly bankers and merchants. However, in the late nineteenth century, there were high levels of Germans immigrants in poverty.Panayi, German Immigrants, 114.
Before anti-German paranoia in the early 1900’s British society tolerated Germans. The British public directed most of their anti-alien hostility towards the Polish and Russian Jewish communities, with the German minority given very little attention.Panayi, German Immigrants, 221. For example, many immigrants anglicized their last names to become more accepted in British society. However, most Germans kept their German surnames, and often these names became “so familiarly accepted that their foreign origins [were] forgotten.”Dummett and Nicol, 51. Furthermore, roughly 7,000 people of German descent were naturalized British citizens.Bird, 235. Germans were able to move through British society with ease, only feeling the potential brunt of poverty, rather than being ethnically targeted.
Despite centuries of relatively easy movement within British society, the Anglo-German conflict building at the tail end of the nineteenth century greatly affected the German minority within Britain. Through British eyes, the minority represented Germany and the enemy. While Britain was a thriving nation with a large empire that welcomed immigrants in, Germany differed substantially during the nineteenth century. In industrialization, Britain triumphed, while Germany lagged behind.Kennedy, 5. However, at the end of the nineteenth century, Germany’s government strived to catch up in industrialization, build a colonial empire, and develop an advanced naval fleet. After the end of the 1896 depression, Germany’s ambitions started to be realized. While both Britain and Germany enjoyed revived productivity levels, Germany harnessed advanced technological mechanisms and grew at a much faster rate.Kennedy, 292-3. As Germany continued to advance economically, the two countries biggest rivalry was on the sea.Ibid., 415. Naval supremacy concerned the British. A threat to ruling the seas, in their view, held great economic and national consequences. Germany, at the same time, felt entitled to the same protection around the globe.Kennedy, 416. While Germany claimed their naval building interests were purely defensive, they truly wanted to challenge Britain “for world mastery.”Spencer Tucker, The Great War, 1914-1918 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), 3.
The splintering Anglo-German political and economic relations inevitably affected the German minority. While hostility towards all aliens developed before the 1905 Alien Act because many English workers felt minorities took jobs from them, it was not until right before the war that the German minority felt the stigma of being associated with Germany.Panayi, Enemy, 27. Anti-German literature encouraged the growth of Germanophobic associations that feared German espionage.Bird, 32. As well, historian Panikos Panayi argues that, “the bulk of the hatred towards Germans within Britain originated from a fear of the German nation rather than any economic threat which they appear to pose.”Panayi, Enemy, 41. From 1900 to 1914, Britain had deep fears of foreign invasion and spies within that created tensions for the German minority.Dummett and Nicol, 105. However, there were no major political or public actions against the German minority until the outbreak of war.Panayi, Enemy, 41. When Britain declared war, they faced their greatest troubles based on their ethnicity.
The German minorities experience during World War I serves as an example of discrimination from British society based not on political and civic rights, but on ethnic and historical origins. The British press and propaganda during World War I demonstrates a highly ethnic reflection of German people, showcased primarily in their portrayal of the “Hun” as a barbaric figure representing all German people.Nicoletta F. Gullace, “Barbaric Anti-Modernism: Representatios of the ‘Hun’ in Britain, North America, Australia, and Beyond,” in Picture This: World War I Posters and Visual Culture, ed. … Continue reading Less explicitly, government restrictions towards both legal aliens and naturalized citizens of German descent expose a deeper ethnic awareness in policies. Influenced by the public hysteria so prominent within British society, and the harsher immigration policies already effect in early twentieth century Britain, the British government used civic means to place the German minority under an ethnic umbrella. This ethnic labeling means that the minority lost the civic ability to escape internment, repatriation, or the loss of civil liberties.
The 1914 Aliens Restriction Act (ARA) gave the British government permission to restrict those they deemed “enemy aliens” during the war. This and the Defense of the Realm Act (DORA), which curtailed liberties for all people within Britain, granted the government a “formidable armory of legal weapons to restrict or remove the liberty of aliens.”Bird, 15. The ARA severely restricted movement of all aliens around the entire country, within districts and specific areas in cities.Dummett and Nicol, 107. Most importantly, the ARA, as scholar Vaughan Bevan notes, “gave the Secretary of State a free hand to regulate aliens as he saw fit.”Panayi, Enemy, 47. This Act also dictated major restrictions on enemy aliens, including internments, repatriation, and several everyday liberties.
Before August 1914, no plans existed for interning enemy aliens. However, towards the end of the war, the public Germanophobia and spy-mania influenced the government to continue to take action, and intern more and more people deemed suspicious based simply on their nationality.Ibid., 70. While the government hesitated to act on their ill-defined and loosely enforced internment policy, demands from politicians and propagandists increased.Bird, 46. As J. C. Bird explains:
“The ill-defined and ad hoc internment question served only to exacerbate well entrenched anti-alien attitudes in the country. The main focus of public prejudice and abuse was inevitably German subjects. They provided an easily accessible target for the antagonism of a nation towards what it regarded as the principle enemy and for the passions readily enflamed by a stream of hate propaganda which characterized the Germans as evil, ruthless, militaristic and singularly responsible for plunging Europe into war.”Ibid.
As this intense public influence overcame the government, slowly the government started interning German reservists, those who had undergone military training and whose jobs were not vital to the war effort. However, the government quickly ran out of resources and accommodations to intern more enemy aliens.Ibid., 61-2. They stopped for the time being interning any more enemy aliens. But, once again the frenzied public instigated the government to act in October 1914 to start full-scale internment.Panayi, Enemy, 72. Needing popular support to continue with wartime efforts, Reginald McKenna, the Home Secretary, pushed to increase internment and move forward with extreme anti-German policies.Bird, 86 and Panayi, “Enemy,” 7. Because public Germanophobia moved the government to action against the German minority, instead of political or legal motivations influencing policies, the government’s actions and expression of who is British was much more ethnic. Rather than a rational understanding of who was truly a threat to the British, the public and the government resorted to defining an entire ethnicity as dangerous.
By October 1914, the British government had detained 20,000 prisoners of war, 16,000 of whom were civilians.Bird, 65. This internment only included German men in the beginning, with numerous ethically based exceptions. These exceptions included “friendly” alien ethnic groups hostile to either Germany or Austria, invalids, and those who were needed to work for the war effort.Bird, 68. Notably, these exceptions demonstrate the ethnic implications of the internment policy. Several groups were listed safe from internment, including Poles, Czechs, and Romanians. Even Austrian Hungarian men were not interned until later that year.Ibid., 65. However, ethnic Germans were always pinpointed as the enemy through these policies and actions, specifically because of their German descent. This shifted policy from a rational evaluation of who needed to be confined, to one based solely on origin.
While the government interned men of military age, they sometimes sent women, children, and the elderly back to Germany. Between 1915 and 1916, around 10,000 people were repatriated, mostly voluntarily, to Germany. The only people automatically repatriated were single women who had been in Britain for less than five years.Panayi, Enemy, 82. At the same time, Britain attempted to negotiate with Germany for a man-for-man exchange of repatriated citizens, which proved difficult.Ibid., 85-7. In the end, Britain sent overwhelmingly more Germans to Germany.Bird, 175. One would think that since Germans were being sent away, this policy would be celebrated. However, since several exemptions existed for Germans to stay in Britain and government failed to get more ethnic British back on British land, critics continued to critique the government’s policies as too lenient and not in the nation’s interest.Ibid., 176. The government continued to hear ethnically based arguments regarding who belonged on British soil, and who needed to leave.
During the war, two critical events shaped the government’s internment of mostly German enemy aliens and caused the highest intensity of Germanophobia. First, Germany’s sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915 caused riots and attacks on German businesses still in operation within Britain.Bird, 89. As a result, the Prime Minister “bowed to public opinion” and interned, segregated, and repatriated German men and women “for their own safety.”Ibid., 90. Again, in 1918, intense Germanophobia roared back as the nation, exhausted and strained from four long years of war and the threat of Germany advancing on the Western front, sought retribution against their wartime enemy by lashing out again at the German minority. Because of these factors, the German minority provided an easy and accessible target for growing frustration and anger. Despite the fact that only 12,000 enemy aliens at liberty remained, most of them “friendly races” or invalids, the public protested and demanded even harsher restrictions.Ibid., 123. Their demands demonstrate the change from an inclusive British nation that largely ignored the German minority, to an ethnically concerned one focused on past origins and blood ties, rather than citizenship and legal rights.
This time, instead of resisting public ethnic sentiment, the government largely embraced blaming the German minority for German atrocities during the war, using their ethnic origin as a convenient propaganda against Germany. The Prime Minister latched onto this concept in July 1918, describing publicly how he receives anonymous letters from Germans who admit their nationality and gloat over British setbacks and German victories, with British postmarks.Ibid., 124. Whether true or not, the Prime Minister’s comments indicate how government officials used Germanophobia to harness support for the war against Germany. This illustrates the shift from a civic, legal minded government and nation, that actively included and allowed the German community to flourish, to an exclusive nation that segregated and removed a minority based on a perceived threat. Using the modified ARA throughout the war simply masked the ethnic motivation being their legal, civic policies.
General Regulations & Restrictions
Further legislative impacted enemy aliens and naturalized citizens of enemy origin everyday liberties. The restrictions of registration, prohibited areas and possessions, marriages, name changes, and cultural expressions are examples of indirect and direct ethnic intent within British policies during World War I. In addition, it is important to note that enemy aliens of “friendlier” races encountered less restrictions than those of German origin.Bird, 200. Clearly, Germans immigrants were the primary ethnicity targeted by British policy, further emphasizing how they factored differently because of their race within British World War I legislation.
One of the most important changes for aliens within Britain was registering. Notably, Germans in particular had to make their way to government offices to fill out the paperwork that told the government exactly where they would be during the war. For example, all Germans staying in Britain had until August 17, 1914 to register. In comparison, Austrian or Hungarian citizens had until the August 24. Those who went to register waited for hours because of language barriers, some struggling with English and understanding what was being asked of them. The government made no accommodations based on language barriers, which ethically isolated the German minority further. Many who failed to register faced fines and prison time, often because they did not know they had to register. Despite attempts to have everyone register and accounted for, radical right politicians were upset that the government was not doing even more to contain and detain German enemy aliens.Panayi, “Enemy,” 48-9. Regardless, registration for the next several decades became a fixture of Britain immigration and alien control policy and a stain on Britain’s history of civic minded nationalism.Bird, 210.
Enemy aliens who registered and lived in prohibited areas were forced to move out unless they received special permission.Ibid., 202. Prohibited areas were docks, naval or military bases, coasts noted as potential places for invasion, and anywhere else perceived as dangerous.Ibid., 211. Aliens living in these districts had four days to relocate. The government made individual exceptions for various reasons. However, after this strong push of forceful relocations, by June 1916, despite the fact that only 866 enemy aliens still resided in prohibited areas, the government endured intense public pressure to bring this number to zero.Bird, 214. While the government ended up being unable to find a compelling reason to move them, the system became stricter towards the end of the war in response to these demands and great concern for ethnically suspicious aliens at liberty.Ibid., 224.
Other restrictions affected enemy aliens’ everyday lives. Enemy aliens were prohibited from carrying specific “strategic” possessions, including firearms explosives, signaling devices, pigeons, cameras, and even telephones. The Home Office informed police headquarters that reasons for permits for any of these items “must be exceptional, and, to justify a grant, there must be a great deal more than a mere whim or convenience of the alien, while his personal comfort and pleasure are negligible factors.”Ibid., 229.
The government also regulated marriages, both to prevent enemy alien women from staying and British born women from marrying those of enemy alien heritage. If a woman of enemy alien designation attempted to marry a British born subject to escape repatriation, the government prevented the marriage from happening. The only exception to this was if the alien woman was of a friendly race.Bird, 231. Additionally, the government prevented British born women marrying German men. Mentioned in a parliamentary debate, “it would be a stain upon our British stock. We do not want German blood any more in this country.” This illustrates policies established specifically with ethnic intent. As historians Dummett and Nicol explain, “This was neither war fever nor simply nationalism, but anti-alien racism on the pattern established in the 1880s and after.”Dummett and Nicol, 108. This emphasis on the dislike of German blood, rather than German action, means that the understanding of what is accepted in British society is based on an ethnic view of the nation.
As early as October 1914, the government made provisions to prohibit enemy aliens from changing their names. As well, any enemy alien who had adopted a new name since the war had to change their name back.Panayi, “Enemy,” 54. By May 1916, the Home Office made only 12 exemptions, most for British born women who had separated or were widowed from the German husbands.Bird, 231. One such women, whose married name was “Kretschmar,” claimed that no one would come to her shop because of her German name. The Home Office allowed her to change back to her maiden name, Price.Panayi, “Enemy,” 54. Importantly, in 1918 this wartime provision became permanent. Any person not a natural born British subject could not change their name without special permission. This was a change to the common law that previously was open to name changes for any British subject.Bird, 232. By forcing those labeled as enemy aliens to keep their names, it was easier for the government to identify their ethnic non-British origin.
Perhaps the most obvious example of a government restriction with ethnic intent was the limiting and often complete closure of clubs, organizations, and newspapers representing German culture. The government prohibited German cultural organizations expressing German language, “the language of the enemy.” However, they could apply for special permission to remain open.Ibid., 234. For instance, the majority of German language newspapers shutdown, but the Londoner General Anzeiger managed to receive special permission. However, after a blistering Germanophobic fueled campaign against the newspaper’s continuation in the Daily Mail, the paper closed in September 1914. Overall, the thriving rich German cultural life that existed before World War I ended with their closures and the rest of these regulations.Panayi, Enemy, 53.
Naturalized citizens of German origin faced most of the same hardships as their unnaturalized counterparts. When the Great War started, only about 7,000 people of German ethnic origin were naturalized citizens.Bird, 235. However, naturalization often was not an indication of loyalty to Britain. In fact, the British government often personified them as more of a threat because of their citizenship.Ibid., 236. The public, once again guiding government policy, feared the “hidden hand” of ethnic German British citizens influencing Great Britain policies and war practices in favor of a German victory.Panayi, Enemy, 61. This was the most obvious demonstration of the British concern for suspicious people based on ethnicity, rather than legally or through civic ideas.
The Defense of the Realm Act (DORA) gave the government legal power to restrict all British citizens, regardless if they were British born or naturalized. DORA had provisions to detain British subjects, who could if they chose, to appeal internment orders and demand a hearing. Many naturalized German citizens were interned. Few were released, and if they were, it was under “stringent conditions.”Bird, 249. Naturalized citizens faced many of the same restrictions regarding prohibited areas, possessions, and name changes. In addition, legislation throughout the war and after gave the Home Office the power of revoking naturalization from citizens. If the Home Office deemed a naturalized citizen not conductive for the public good, had communicated with the enemy or with a subject of the enemy, not of good character, or had been for a period of time outside of the British Empire, than these were all grounds for a revocation of a certificate of nationality.Bird, 259. Only a handful of citizens were denaturalized, and even then the state retained some obligation to hold that individual if no other state will take them.Ibid., 261. While the number of such cases may have been relatively low, the existence of such ethnic based regulations and punishments sought to keep down the German minority and its identity.
Some naturalized German citizens attempted to assert their British patriotism through public letters and societies. Letters in newspapers expressed views of loyalty to the nation saying, “…We feel found not only by gratitude, family ties, and our solemn oath of allegiance, but also by deep sympathy born of common work and intimate knowledge of the nation’s life and character.”Bird, 246. Naturalized subjects also formed the Committee of Naturalized British Subjects of German and Austrians in order to publicly campaign their patriotism and loyalty. However, a “witch hunt” against naturalized subjects formed both in public and political life, causing German-born subjects to be vilified in the same way enemy aliens were.Ibid., 247. Within Parliament, many politicians advocated for stricter measures against naturalized German subjects. Even those with more liberal sentiments wanted to be assured that they should “not be shackled by having to produce legal proof before taking action against suspicious people.”Ibid., 250. Lord Charles Beresford of the House of Commons proclaimed, “Once a German always a German,” setting the tone for the glut of ethnically based policy and restrictions pushed through Parliament.Ibid., 251. Politicians sent letters to the Home Office declaring naturalization was too easy, demanding Germans not be allowed to become naturalized British subjects.Panayi, Enemy, 63. This issue dominated many debates within Parliament, and caused revisions to all of their naturalization bills. Most importantly for the German minority, no enemy alien could be naturalized until at least ten years after the war.Ibid., 66.
Measures against all enemy aliens prove that the government focused on Germans not because of their action against the country, but simply because of their nationality by birth. The example of the treatment of German naturalized subjects demonstrates further the ethnic tensions within Britain’s inclusion of who is in the nation, and who is not. Clearly, despite civically becoming part of the nation, these naturalized German subjects would never truly be included and continued to be restricted throughout and after the war. These legislative measures against them, as Panayi argues, means that, “Foreign, particularly enemy, birth automatically meant suspicion. More importantly, aliens had become legally, as well as in appearance, distinct from the native population.”Panayi, Enemy, 69.
The Alien Restriction Act and the treatment of minorities during World War I became a “great turning point in the history of British immigration control.”Dummett and Nicol, 112. While leaders within the British government most likely intended to return to more liberal open policies regarding immigration and aliens after the world war, the reality was that these policies were not discarded, but rather strengthened following the war.Bird, 44. By 1919, the government created a general system to control alien residents, did away with a concept of an “alien friend,” and created an assumption that “all aliens should be regarded with suspicion as potential subversive.”Dummet and Nicol, 112. These strengthened policies demonstrate a shift from an inclusive alien civic mentality of nation, to an exclusive ethnically minded idea of who belonged and who could participate in British society. As David Cesarani notes, wartime sentiment plays a larger part in national identity for a nation, as military service accentuates “the sense of difference between subjects/citizens and immigrants/aliens.”Cesarani, 68. With these differences emphasized in policies, it is no wonder the German minority, labeled as enemy aliens, would be left out, excluded, and restricted.
Britain continued these policies after the war and made policies towards aliens and naturalized subjects even stricter through the post-war revision of the Alien Restriction Act. Historians continue to question whether Britain went from a tolerant nation to an intolerant nation because of these new restrictions throughout the beginning of the twentieth century. While there are no clear answers, what is clear is the effect of these policies on the German minority within Britain. These policies ruined the thriving German community within London and other major cities, ending “Little Germany” and other cultural expressions.Panayi, Enemy, 283. Ending the cultural expressions of the German minority demonstrates that Britain’s tolerance of ethnic diversity within their nation was limited by fear of the enemy. While Britain today continues to fluctuate on the civic and ethnic spectrum, their treatment of the German minority during World War I reveals a time when these tensions were apparent front and center within their policies and everyday life. Through civic policies, they incorporated ethnic ideas of who could be British, and who belongs.
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Brubaker, Rogers. Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.
Bird, J. C. Control of Enemy Alien Civilians in Great Britain 1914-1918. New York: Garland Publishing, 1986.
Cesarani, David. “The Changing Character of Citizenship and Nationality in Britain.” In Citizenship, Nationality and Migration in Europe, edited by David Cesarani and Mary Fulbrook, 57-73. London: Routledge, 1996.
Dummett, Ann and Andrew Nicol. Subjects, Citizens, Aliens and Others: Nationality and Immigration Law. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1990.
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|↑01||House of Commons Parliamentary Debates, June 29, 1916, in World War I and European Society: A Sourcebook, ed. Marilyn Shevin-Coetzee and Frans Coetzee (Lexington: D.C. Heath and Company, 1995), 137.|
|↑02||Hans Kohn “Western and Eastern Nationalism,” in Nationalism, ed. John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 162.|
|↑06||Liah Greenfeld, “Types of European Nationalism,” in Nationalism, ed. John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 165.|
|↑08||Peter Sugar, “Nationalism in Eastern Europe,” in Nationalism, ed. John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 173.|
|↑09||Rogers Brubaker, Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), 3.|
|↑11||Taras Kuzio, “The Myth of the Civic State: A Critical Survey of Hans Kohn’s Framework for Understanding Nationalism,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 25, no. 1 (2002): 20.|
|↑14||Stephen Shulman, “Challenging the Civic/Ethnic and West/East Dichotomies in the Study of Nationalism,” Comparative Political Studies 35, no. 5 (2002): 558.|
|↑16||Yasemin Nuhoglu Soysal, “Changing Citizenship in Europe: Remarks on Postnational Membership in the National State,” in Citizenship, Nationality and Migration in Europe, ed. David Cesarani and Mary Fulbrook (London: Routledge, 1996), 17.|
|↑17||Aviel Roshwald, The Endurance of Nationalism: Ancient Roots and Modern Dilemmas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 256.|
|↑19||John K. Walton, “Britishness,” in A Companion to Early Twentieth-Century Britain, ed. Christ Wrigley (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), 518.|
|↑20||Naturalization Act 1870, http://www.movinghere.org.uk/deliveryfiles/pro/Naturalisation_Act_1870/0/4.pdf, (accessed December 1, 2013).|
|↑21||J. C. Bird, Control of Enemy Alien Civilians in Great Britain 1914-1918 (New York: Garland Publishing, 1986), 238.|
|↑22||Ann Dummett and Andrew Nicol, Subjects, Citizens, Aliens and Others: Nationality and Immigration Law (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1990), 86.|
|↑24||David Cesarani, “The Changing Character of Citizenship and Nationality in Britain,” in Citizenship, Nationality and Migration in Europe, ed. David Cesarani and Mary Fulbrook (London: Routledge, 1996), 59.|
|↑25||Anne J. Kershen, “Immigration, Sojourners and Refugees: Minority Groups in Britain, 1900-1939,” in A Companion to Early Twentieth-Century Britain, ed. Christ Wrigley (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), 137.|
|↑27||Dummett and Nicol, 95, Cesarani, 62, and Kershen, 140.|
|↑28||Dummett and Nicol, 97.|
|↑30||Aliens Act 1905, http://www.movinghere.org.uk/deliveryfiles/pro/Aliens_Act_1905/0/3.pdf, (accessed December 1, 2013).|
|↑31||Martin A. Schain, The Politics of Immigration in France, Britain, and the United States: A Comparative Study (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 127.|
|↑32||Hermann Kellenbenz, “German Immigrants in England,” in Immigrants and Minorities in British Society, ed. Colin Holmes (London: Allen & Unwin, 1978), 63.|
|↑33||Panikos Panayi, German Immigrants in Britain During the Nineteenth Century, 1815-1914, (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 1995), 1.|
|↑34||Panayi, German Immigrants, 35.|
|↑35||Panayi, German Immigrants, 37.|
|↑36||Paul Kennedy, The Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism 1860-1914, (London: Allen & Unwin, 1980), 5.|
|↑37||Panayi, German Immigrants, 68.|
|↑39||Panayi, German Immigrants, 94.|
|↑41||Panayi, German Immigrants, 138.|
|↑42||Panikos Panayi, The Enemy in our Midst: Germans in Britain During the First World War (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 1991), 25.|
|↑43||Panayi, German Immigrants, 114.|
|↑44||Panayi, German Immigrants, 221.|
|↑45||Dummett and Nicol, 51.|
|↑51||Spencer Tucker, The Great War, 1914-1918 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), 3.|
|↑52||Panayi, Enemy, 27.|
|↑54||Panayi, Enemy, 41.|
|↑55||Dummett and Nicol, 105.|
|↑56||Panayi, Enemy, 41.|
|↑57||Nicoletta F. Gullace, “Barbaric Anti-Modernism: Representatios of the ‘Hun’ in Britain, North America, Australia, and Beyond,” in Picture This: World War I Posters and Visual Culture, ed. Pearl James (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009), 62.|
|↑59||Dummett and Nicol, 107.|
|↑60||Panayi, Enemy, 47.|
|↑65||Panayi, Enemy, 72.|
|↑66||Bird, 86 and Panayi, “Enemy,” 7.|
|↑70||Panayi, Enemy, 82.|
|↑79||Panayi, “Enemy,” 48-9.|
|↑87||Dummett and Nicol, 108.|
|↑88||Panayi, “Enemy,” 54.|
|↑90||Panayi, “Enemy,” 54.|
|↑93||Panayi, Enemy, 53.|
|↑96||Panayi, Enemy, 61.|
|↑104||Panayi, Enemy, 63.|
|↑106||Panayi, Enemy, 69.|
|↑107||Dummett and Nicol, 112.|
|↑109||Dummet and Nicol, 112.|
|↑111||Panayi, Enemy, 283.|