Germans From Eastern Europe

Germans of Waterloo

Two chapters cover the descendants of people who’d immigrated to territories in Eastern Europe several centuries ago. (Some of these German cultures can trace their first arrival as far back as a thousand years!) The original immigrants often came from the Holy Roman Empire, which included the many Germanic states and princedoms from that time. (Germany as a unified country did not exist until 1871.)

Germans in these European countries generally lived as friends among their neighbours. Over the centuries, these countries dealt with political upheavals, changing national borders, and periods of social unrest, and yet the citizens managed to co-exist peacefully with each other throughout much of it.

However, the major events of the 20th century changed all that, and the end of World War II marked a stark shift for these Germans. Many were shipped off to labour camps in Yugoslavia, Russia, and the Ukraine. Others managed to escape the ethnic cleansing and found their way to other countries, including Canada. This chapter covers a brief history of the area before delving in to what made these people “German” despite having lived outside of German territories for several centuries. Readers will learn about the Transylvanian Saxons, Sudeten Germans, Danube Swabians, and Gotscheer Germans, all of who lived in these areas and created their own unique German cultures.

Germans from Germany and Austria

Between 1946 and 1967, almost 300,000 immigrants arrived in Canada from Germany. For many at that time, they saw no future for themselves or their family: After World War II, Germany itself was divided, both Germanys lay in ruins, and evacuation, flight, and imprisonment scattered families everywhere.

However, emigration from Germany and Austria didn’t stop in 1967. Today, immigrants come for better job opportunities, to study, and even just for something new.

In this chapter, you’ll meet a plethora of German and Austrian immigrants, from two who were born shortly before Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933 to others who first set eyes on the world at the end of the 20th century. You’ll read about how those now in their 70s and 80s experienced the war as children and how the war affected families. You’ll also learn about differences between Canadian and German culture, life in former East Germany, and the risks some took just to make it to Canada.

The Mennonites

The Mennonites have lived in the Region of Waterloo since the area was first settled. However, those living here today are not necessarily only descendants from the original groups who arrived here from Pennsylvania in the 1800s. This chapter explains the core beliefs that separate Mennonites from other Christian groups, describes in general terms the different migrations to Waterloo Region, and provides some very fascinating stories about language and identity.