Lesson Plan - Get It!
You are a newly-arrived American immigrant from Germany, immensely thankful for the opportunities that await you. Although you left your homeland to build a new life for yourself in America, much of your family still resides in Germany. You miss them deeply, yet this move has provided — and will continue to provide — the resources needed for you to become an enterprising member of society and free your family from poverty. You begin to settle into your American surroundings, securing housing, employment, and education. Suddenly, the press begins to report on atrocities committed by the German military throughout Belgium. American citizens are starting to question your loyalty, and you are afraid to speak German in public. What are you going to do?
Discuss your reaction with your parent or teacher.
Now, think about the fact that from the years 1914-1917, before the United States officially joined WWI, this was a problem faced by many German-Americans.
When World War I began, President Woodrow Wilson urged neutrality. Look at the map below to see how the countries were aligned:
As the war carried on, three different opinions formed in the United States:
- One group, isolationists, believed that our nation should isolate itself from conflict. Isolationists were often times German-Americans, and many others who were driven by religious convictions.
- Another group, interventionists, believed that the war put our interests at risk, and we should therefore intervene and assist the Allies. Interventionists were sometimes businessmen. They had investments abroad. Interventionists were also more likely to be people who had immigrated from an Allied country.
- The third group, internationalists, thought it was America's duty to be active in world affairs and work towards a just peace while staying out of the war.
Discuss with your teacher what stance you would take and why.
There may be many motives for taking one of those stances, including — but not limited to — propaganda, historical events, and family ties.
Continue on to the Got It? section to further examine the mindsets of Americans during this time.