Culture at Twilight: The National German-American Alliance, 1901-1918

By Charles Thomas Johnson | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

Culture or Kultur? The NGAA and American Neutrality, 1914—1917

The outbreak of the World War One touched off a period of over two and one-half years during which the United States found itself a nation in the middle. Legally neutral and non-belligerent, rich and powerful, the nation affected—and was affected by—the war in many important ways. During this period of neutrality the German-American Alliance confronted as never before the dichotomy of being American and German. In a shift of focus to war-related issues, the Alliance invariably found itself taking the side of Germany to combat British propaganda that por trayed Germany as a threat to the civilized world. It also involved itself in the neutrality debate, including efforts to prevent arms shipments and loans to the Britain and France, and ultimately in keeping the United States out of the conflict (if only because it probably would be a war with Germany). The more the Alliance spoke on behalf of the fatherland or at tacked tactics of its enemies, the more it fostered an accusation of being German and not American, especially from a populace—if not a government—that sympathized with the British and French. Involvement in the presidential election of 1916—on the losing side, as it turned out—worsened a rapidly deteriorating situation. The difficult period of American neutrality ended with the Alliance facing the worst case scenario: war between the United States and Germany.

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie were assassinated in the streets of Sarajevo, Bosnia, by a Serbian nationalist. For the next four weeks the world held its breath as the European powers drifted toward war. On August 1 Germany declared war on Russia after that nation refused to stop mobilization of its armies. In less than one week the major European powers were

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