Most people today don't realize how dominate German-American culture was in America in the years prior to 1917. Chicago schools were bilingual in German and English. The Trib article tells us 40% of Montana's population in 1917 spoke German as their first language. We modeled our Universities after the Germans.
Check the link to today's story and you'll see it presented as a timely topic given all the talk about NSA spying and the Patriot Act.
But there is a bigger story underneath here about German Americanism and what became of it in the US.
When I was protesting the Vietnam War my Dad would half-jokingly tell me to remember when ...the dreaded Huns twice threatened Europe, both my Grandfathers, my Uncle and my Dad all served.
For one of my Grandfathers, service meant opposing one of his cousins who served in the German Army. Here's that cousins picture: Alfred Streccius; with his wife, in 1918. I bought it last year off the internet from an antiquarian.
He's a fascinating guy with service from Africa to military advisor to the Red Air Force in the 1920s, and the Nationalists Chinese in their war against Japan in the 1930s.
Two branches of my family: one leaves and comes to Chicago to avoid the draft in the 1880s, and the other stays in Germany and produces a line of Officers.
I wrote the Israeli Historian of the German Army, Omer Bartov telling him I thought I had the seeds for a story about the power of America. How the same families, grounded in the same religion and culture, could spiral off on such different trajectories. The difference was America and Chicago.
He wrote back encouraging me but it's one of those things on the back burner. This is the closest I've come to writing something. I've collected records but not enough to write anything.
Anyways, as a guy who can trace some roots back to Germany and knows a bit of history, I say don't pardon these countrymen and women in Montana. Montana's law was harsh. We wouldn't want to repeat it today, but these German-Americans supported, in word and heart, the wrong side.
The 20th century is a history of disasters wrought by Germans. Their convictions should stand and the we German Americans should be thankful our cousins did not win.