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German immigrant poets in the United States wrote and published many poems in 1914-1915 that conveyed patriotism for their country of birth and support for the German war effort. They expressed their German sympathies in part by drawing on nineteenth-century German patriotic poetry, borrowing or refashioning elements of one poem in particular, Max Schneckenberger’s “The Watch on the Rhine” (“Die Wacht am Rhein”). Originally published in 1840, this poem served as an anthem of sorts for German Americans during the early months of the Great War and is a key text for understanding German-American poetry and culture. This chapter discusses several examples of poems that reference Schneckenberger’s text The poems help us recognize how German-American poets, and German Americans more generally, defined and projected their national identity early in the war, when they could maintain dual loyalties to Germany and the United States. The poetry also suggests that rampant anti-German sentiment would soon motivate the immigrant poets to suppress manifestations of their allegiance and cultural ties to the European homeland.
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