Illinois at War, 1941-1945
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 17COMMUNICATION FROM REV. J. MUELLER CONCERNING LUTHERAN SERVICES IN THE GERMAN LANGUAGE
September 26, 1942
It was not uncommon during World War I for Americans to turn on those of their neighbors who were born in Germany or who were of German heritage. Open hostility ranged from verbal slurs to actual lynchings. By the time of the Second World War these attitudes largely had changed. The Justice Department rounded up thousands of German aliens immediately after Pearl Harbor but most were released after their backgrounds had been investigated. Several German-American Bund leaders were arrested and tried for sedition. But by and large most Americans considered these German nationalists to be isolated exceptions to the vast majority of loyal and patriotic Americans of German ancestry. In fact a new generation of Americans was feeling somewhat sheepish about their parents' treatment of German-Americans during the First World War at the same time that the extant German-American population was being careful not to provoke any ill feelings.
General Frank Parker, executive director of the Illinois State Council of Defense, was asked to reply to this inquiry. He responded in part as follows.
If a certain fraction of your Congregation understands German better than
English, there is no reason why you should not gratify their desire to have some
services in German. The man who trained our Revolutionary troops was a
German who could not speak English, and many a man and woman who have
greatly contributed to the building and defense of this Country were more at home
in German than in English, and none the less patriotic American citizens for that
reason. I, therefore, advise that you use English or German as best suits the
spiritual needs of your flock.
Points to Consider
Locate Steeleville on a map.
What are the basic tenets of Lutherans?
Why had the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Steeleville dropped its German-language services?
Why was the Rev. J. Mueller requesting a statement from Governor Green?