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German Settlers and Nazism in the Americas Photograph Collection

 Collection
Identifier: MSS 0381

Scope and Content

The photographs are arranged into two series: those that were taken or purchased (by DAI) before the establishment of the Nazi regime in 1933 and those from the period after 1933. In each series, the pictures are listed under the country of origin, where they were taken or, in the case of postcards, what they depict. In the case of a few photographs, the date and place of origin could not be determined. The majority of the photographs capture German communal life in the Americas. Some photographs show buildings and natural phenomena that probably caught the attention of a German traveler. There are pictures of buildings that belonged to an important German immigrant or contain an event thought to be significant for Germans in the Americas. In addition, there are photographs of American and Mexican soldiers in training that apparently interested the unknown creator of this collection. About a third of the photographs in the collection belong to the period prior to 1933.

The Nazi takeover influenced German communities as well as gained non-German followers in the Americas. The pictures show that German communities' sympathy for National Socialism manifested itself in their communal celebrations, such as the day of the colonist in Brazil celebrated on July 25. May 1, which was also celebrated as the Day of German Work, and the celebration of Hitler's birthday. Participants carried Nazi flags and other symbols embellished the props and displays used at the festivities. There are group portraits of young men sporting Nazi uniforms. Pictures capturing more prosaic moments, such as the portrait of a man in Nazi uniform or the commentary to a picture of a local German leader also testify to the attraction of Nazism. Two small photo albums depict the interior of the "House of Germandom" in Dan José de la Mariquina, Chile. On a photograph of a building on the cover of one of the albums, a Nazi German flag can be seen on the mast in front of the building attesting to the ideological sympathy. The interior of the house, however, does not exhibit any ideological identity, which illustrates the cultural and ideological diversity of the German experience in the Americas.

Dates

  • 1920-1938

Language of Materials

Includes materials written in German and Spanish.

Access

The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

German immigration to the Americas intensified from the beginning of the 19th century. Immigrants, often viewing themselves as settlers and colonizers, worked in agriculture, founded industrial enterprises, and, while contributing to their respective new country's economies and actively partaking in local development, they also established strong communal institutions and preserved German consciousness throughout generations. Such institutions were the so-called Haus des Deutschen in Chile, or the yearly celebration of the day of the colonist (Dia do colono) in Brazil. They founded German newspapers and established schools and churches. Germans in the Americas were also nature enthusiasts and keen observers of American life and institutions: some of the pictures in this collection provide a glimpse of what phenomena in both urban and rural American settings impressed German observers from the mid-19th century.

In 1917, an organization for the documentation of German presence outside of Germany and cultivation of German-ness in Germany and abroad was established in Stuttgart. The Deutsche Ausland-Institut (DAI), was a cultural institution and until the Nazi rise to power in 1933, it did not carry any political mission. The Nazi leadership, Adolf Hitler personally, recognized this institute as an important piece of the Nazi nationalist political machinery. Katia Geschke explains (on a webpage commemorating the centennial anniversary of the institute's founding), "The official goal, as described in the brochure 'New Tasks of the German Foreign Institute' issued in 1934, was the 'education of ethnic Germans living abroad in the spirit of a unified German world-view, into, as it were, soldiers of the Third Reich'." The verso of many of the photographs in the album carry the stamp of the DAI suggesting that the pictures were once included in the archives of the institute, which was reorganized in 1951 under the new name Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA), Institute for Foreign Relations. In 2017, IFA celebrated its centennial anniversary and created a webpage, which provides not only a historical overview of the past hundred years of its operations, but also points out that only long after the reorganization of DAI was its contribution to spreading Nazi ideology among German communities outside of Germany fully understood. One of the photographs in the collection is mounted on cardboard that displays DAI's Nazi logo: a sailing ship with a swastika on its sail. Other photographs in this album attest that several of the German communities in the Americas embraced Nazism.

The identity of the person(s) who assembled this album and the circumstances in which these photographs were collected remain unknown. The photographs were originally housed in a binder with plastic sleeves. Next to some of the photographs there was numbering in red, but the photographs were not numbered in consecutive order. The original arrangement of the photographs, enclosed in the collection, appears to be arbitrary.

Extent

1 Volume (99 Items)

Abstract

This collection of photographs offers a snippet view into the life of German immigrants and settlers in the Americas. It also illustrates the spread of Nazi ideology on the American continent.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in chronological order and alphabetically, according to countries of origin.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

The collection was purchased in 2017.

Title
A Guide to the German Settlers and Nazism in the Americas Photograph Collection
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid created by Katalin Franciska Rac
Date
October 2017
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

Contact:
George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America
352-273-2755