Berlin to Kitchener: 1916 to 2016

Several WWI soldiers in barracks getting dressed.

The year 2016 is a special anniversary for the City of Kitchener. One hundred years ago, residents of the City of Berlin adopted the name of Lord Kitchener, a British lord and Secretary of State for War during World War I. The name change was wrought with conflict brought on by the social and political environment of the First World War.

To help commemorate this anniversary, The Waterloo Centre for German Studies has assisted The Waterloo Region Museum with its exhibition on the city’s name change, City on Edge. The Centre has contributed research from predominantly original German sources of the time.

Four Centre members have collectively spent 500 hours between September 2015 and April 2016 digging through these archives and other sources. What did they do? Here are a few things:

  • Searched scanned copies of the Berliner Journal for cultural events and activities that took place in the German community
  • Translated relevant articles about the name change into English
  • Read through letters to the editor by a certain Joe Klotzkopp, who was actually Berliner Journal editor John Adam Rittinger
  • Combed through Breithaupt Family, Concordia Club, and Motz Family archives and records for mention of the name change
  • Reviewed German and Austrian newspapers from the day to see if there may have been international interest in the event
  • Researched the music of the time

The Centre’s Berlin 2016 committee comprised Mat Schulze (Germanic & Slavic Studies), Geoffrey Hayes (History), Gary Bruce (History), and Susan Roy (History). Research assistants were Caterina Katzer, Sara Werthmueller, Sonja Schaeffer, and Stephanie Cooper.

The exhibition will run June 24 – December 31, 2016.