View Full Version : "German-Brazilianness": The Ethnic German Community in Brazil

Friday, December 30th, 2005, 06:29 PM
Germans started to come to Brazil in 1824. This immigrations happened because in that time, Brazil's Empress was Austrian (Austria was a part of Germanic Confederations). She was called Maria Leopoldine and she was Francisco I the Emperror of Austria's daughter. She had the ideia to bring Germans to Brazil because a part of they were living in bad conditions due to Napoleon wars and due to industrialization thatwas taking place in Europe. So, from 1824 on the Germans started to arrive in Brazil. The Brazilian government approved it because it wanted to populate empty territories to defend them. Germans arrived in Brazil and found "nothing" there. They only got the lands. Although they were able to construct great cities here and they also kept up all their culture here. In the city where I live for example, all the population spoke German still in 1970. My grandmother for example only spoke German. Unfortunately, things are changing today. The cities started to grow a lot and a lot of people started to come to those former German colonies. The cities are not as safe, clean and organizated as they were in the past, even though, we still try to keep up the Germanic culture here.

P.S: Before and during the Second World War, Hitler sent SS organizations to Southern Brazil to create Nazi organizations here since it was the place where there were the most number of Germans after Germany. The Nazi organizations lasted for a time and ended because of Brasil's government prohibitions.

Friday, December 30th, 2005, 07:18 PM
My great-great-great uncle had a coffee concern in Brazil, my distant cousins were born there and eventually sold their holdings to return to Germany. I should say that I've had the pleasure of meeting many Latin-American Germans and almost all of them have kept their culture to some extent. I remember when I was a boy we met an Argentine doctor who was second generation and spoke German with a flawless accent (even my parents had to admit this)- really a laudable achievement. I would be very proud to be a German from South America. These people are certainly models for the rest of us in the New World.

Sunday, February 19th, 2006, 03:51 AM
Around 50 million people emigrated from Europe since the beginnings of the XIX century until the end of WWII. Of this total, Brazil received almost 5 million, 5% of which (250,000) were germans. The first group of germans to settle in Brazil came to Bahia, in 1818.

But it was only in 1824 that the first real german colony in Brazil was established, in São Leopoldo, Rio Grande do Sul. In 1827 german colonists arrived in São Paulo to work at the coffee plantations. In 1829 Santa Catarina received its first wave of immigrants, along with Paraná.

Rio Grande do Sul was by far the main destiny of the german immigration to Brazil, followed by Santa Catarina. Around 20% of the total population of these states descended from germans by 1930. Paraná, São Paulo and Espírito Santo also had significant germanic populations, although less numerous. Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro received smaller numbers, but germans were present in cities like Juiz de Fora and Petrópolis.

Between 1850 and 1871 the immigration intensified, but the annual influx of immigrants achieved its apex in the 1920’s. The data collected by the Brazilian Insitute of Geografy and Statistics (IBGE) shows the following numbers:

1884-1893: 22.778
1894-1903: 6.698
1904-1913: 33.859
1914-1923: 29.339
1924-1933: 61.723
1945-1949: 5.188
1950-1954: 12.204
1955-1959: 4.633

As shown above, most german immigrants came to Brazil between 1920 and 1930, escaping from the chaos of the Weimar Republic. From 1918 to 1933, when Adolf Hitler rose to power, around 80,000 germans arrived in Brazil. Also in the 1920’s, the spread of communism over eastern Europe send to Brazil a large number of russians, poles and rumanians of german origin, which established themselves mostly in Paraná.

During the 1930’s, several german businesses started operating in Brazil, dragging with them lots of german employees. Around 100,000 german citizens lived in Brazil by that time.

With the outbreak of the war Vargas restricted the influx of immigrants, which ceased completely when Brazil prohibited the entrance of Axis citizens, germans, italians and japanese alike.

After the german defeat the immigration current restarted, with several former german NS officers seeking refuge in Brazil. Josef Mengele, Gustav Wagner, Franz Stangl, Herbert Cockurs and Eduard Roschmann are the most famous. From the above mentioned, only Stangl, commander of Treblinka and Sobibor, was extradited to Germany.

NOTE: The information above was extracted from the article As diferentes fases da imigração alemã no Brasil, by Neuza Solis, available at the Deutsche Welle site (portuguese only).

Sunday, June 18th, 2006, 02:51 AM
The majority of social scientists who have studied german immigration to Brazil deny German-Brazilians the status of an ethnic group, their works being primarily directed towards immigrant assimilation and acculturation. Recognition of ethnical identities in Brazil is usually only given to native and African comunities, since these groups have long been marginalized by the mainstream culture (Portuguese-Brazilian).

But later revisions on the notion of “collective identity” largely changed the definition of “ethnicity”. Since then, an objective definition of ethnical group must take into consideration at least two aspects: identity and origin, which are permeated and held together by a feeling of community (Weber’s Gemeinsamkeitgefühl). Also, although the identification criteria may not be the same for members and aliens, the group identity presupposes the establishment and maintenance of ethnical boundaries. Ethnicity is, therefore, a complex of social identifications which relate individuals to specific groups by means of inclusive and exclusive criteria which are, on their turn, mutable.

In this way, if the ethnic German descendants are assimilated today, being perfectly integrated into the nation, this does not imply the absence of a German-Brazilian ethnicity, moreover if we consider the amount of distinctive elements which link the individuals of German descent in Brazilian soil to one another (although the borders of this colective entity are not clear). In short, the persistency and importancy of this ethnic identity are deeply rooted in the historical fact of German immigration and the following development of a unique German-Brazilian culture, even though the colective consciousness of this group has somewhat diluted itself during the process of assimilation.

European immigration was considered by the majority of the imperial and republican elites as a valuable tool in their struggle for civilizing the newborn country and essential to consolidate a Western (White) nation in the tropics. But there was much debate over the issue of the “ideal immigrant”. Portuguese, Spaniards and Italians were considered good colonists in the context of assimilation, since they were white, latins and catholics.

In this sense, although Germans were seen as diligent and productive farmers, the number of German immigrants who entered Brazil represents only 1/6 of the total Italian input, standing behind Portuguese, Spanish and Japanese immigration also. But, despite being relatively small in numbers, German immigration caused much commotion among the old aristocracy. The rather naturally difficult assimilation of a Germanic population into a Latin country was complicated even more by the allocation of the German colonies, which occupied, mostly, the vacant lands of southern Brazil.

Such concentration of an alien population in a region far away from the main political centers was often a cause of suspicion among the Brazilian elites, who feared secession. Nonetheless, the Empire and the Republic always preferred European immigrants to “native” workers (caboclos and mulatos), usually considered inferior people. Anyway, the isolation of the German colonies was relative, since those same areas also received immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. And once new routes of communication were opened, their geographical isolation was definitively put to an end.

Finally, the German colonists also had internal cleavages, mostly religious in nature (catholics x luterans), which undermined the cohesion of the colonies and made them vulnerable to external influences.

When the “German colonies” broke down their isolation from the Portuguese-Brazilian society, still in the XIX century, engaging in a more systematic contact with the rest of the country, a true German-Brazilian identity came into being. After the emancipation of the older colonies, a new ethnic discourse was elaborated which asserted the right of the German descendants to a unique culture, but without denying their allegiance to the wider Brazilian society.

Since then, a German-Brazilian identity was developed by the explicit recognition of fundamental differences which separated the German descendants from the Portuguese-Brazilians. But such differences were tied to the colonization process itself, rather then to a distant fatherland. In this context, the isolation experienced by the first colonies not only reinforced their feeling of community, but also consolidated their independence from the central power.

Since those times, the Brazilian government is seen as inept and corrupt, while the colonists are pictured as self-suficient hardworking men. Settling the wilderness without any help from the central government was the task of true pioneers, who built their own roads, churches, schools and clubs, and thus had the right to remain free from “alien” interferences.

The communal organization of the colonies, which involved private German schools, autonomous churches and small familial estates, became central to the German-Brazilian identity, although other ethnical groups, such as Italians, Dutch, Polish and Ukranians, also shared similar institutions. In fact, a new class of farmers evolved in those regions, completly different from the traditional Brazilian peasantry. Therefore, the recognition of cultural peculiarities went hand in hand with the assertion of a special social organization.

This German-Brazilian ethnical community was defined by very inclusive criteria: the use of german speech; the cultivation of traditional customs; and the above mentioned pioneer ethos. But more than everything, there was a feeling of community firmly mantained by a complex ensemble of cultural associations and sports clubs (Turnvereine and Schützenverein), German schools, german media, and, of course, the German family.

In addition, the continuous influx of new German immigrants also reinforced their cultural bonds with Germany. There was a reappropriation of the nationalistic ideology which preceded the German unification, developed by Fichte and Arndt, postulating a cultural concept of Germanness. Such ideas were very present in the German-Brazilian media, which highlighted the ethnical caracter of the German-Brazilian identity, although detaching it from any political agenda.

But this newly created German-Brazilian category not only differentiated the German colonists from the “other Brazilians”, but also from the Germans themselves: by leaving Germany and settling in Brazilian soil, the colonists broke their ties with the old Heimat, too. Thus, the original postulate of Germanness (Deutschtum) was transformed into the specific concept of German-Brazilianness (Deutschbrasilianertum). In this sense, the concept of Deutschbrazilianertum carried with it a proposal of cultural pluralism, according to which every ethnical group in Brazil should have the right to cultivate its own traditions and language.

Also central to the ethnical discourse was the community of origin. The concept of blood communion added an explicit racial component to the notion of ethnicity, althouhg not necessarily a phenotypical one. But resistance to assimiliation by means of endogamy and racial prejudice only increased the speculations around the “German danger”, specially after the arrival of pangermanism and, later, of national-socialism.

The activities of the Pan-Germanic League (Alldeutsche Verband) and the ethnical caracter of many German-Brazilian institutions led the Brazilian government to actually fear a secession of the southern states. The creation of an independent country comprising Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina, or the transformation of those states into colonies of the German Empire was, for many, a real menace. The introduction of the category of Auslanddeutsche by some pangermanist activists only aggravated the situation.

But despite the intensity of pan-germanist propaganda during the pre-war years and some inevitable conflicts, the Auslanddeutsch concept was refused by the majority of German descendants, who still preferred the old German-Brazilian identity. In the thirties, the NSDAP resumed the propaganda campaign, but with an even stronger emphasis on the racial elements of Germanness. The national-socialists also introduced a new indentity category, that of Volksgenosse, clearly associating German ascendancy and political allegiance to the Reich. But, yet again, the dualist concept of German-Brazilianness prevailed among the colonists.

Nevertheless, a great crisis took place in 1939 when the Vargas regime imposed a forced nationalization upon all immigrant associations. After Brazil’s entrance into the war, the assimilation programme was especially hard upon the German and Japanese communities. Throughout those years, every German descendant was considered an alien who needed to be “brazilianized”, diluted into the greater nation.

On the long run, the German media was closed, German cultural associations and sports clubs changed their names and statutes, teaching in German language was prohibited and every other form of ethnical manifestation was persecuted. After the disastrous Nazi adventure in Europe, the German community in Brazil was virtually dead.

But the German-Brazilian ethnicity soon updated itself, managing to revitalize some cultural identifications and creating others. Today there is a new interest in studying German among the younger generations, whose parents never learned the ancestral speech. German language is seen as a sign of ethnical identity, associated with heritage and origin.

Origin itself has great importance now, carrying a rather symbolical meaning and being straightly conected to the pioneer past and its unique ethos. In short, German-Brazilianness is associated to a common German origin and a common German-Brazilian culture, developed during the process of acculturation. Contradictory as it may seem, this German-Brazilian ethnicity is perpetually updated and recreated, having in the colonist past its unifying factor.

Important to say, these elements – origin, language and pioneer ethos – are also used by other immigrant descendants, like Italian-Brazilians, for instance. Such ethnical identities are elaborated in opposition to the mainstream Brazilian culture and its adherents, usually considered ethnically and racially ambiguous. Thus, the categories which identify and legitimize the inclusion of an individual into the German-Brazilian ethnical group which, on its turn, symbolically reunites all German descendants on Brazilian soil, are defined by a complex of correlations to the many groups that make up Brazilian society.

First of all, there are the Brazilians in general, here considered a mass of people without any ethnical affiliation at all, but who consider themselves the true bearers of brazilianness.

Secondly, there is the Native Brazilian ethnical group, composed of the so called “indians” and their descendants.

In third place, there is the ever-increasing group of African-Brazilians, who affiliate themselves to the African cultural matrix.

There’s a fourth group, that of the Asian-Brazilians, descendants of Japanese and Korean immigrants and conscious tributaries of the great oriental traditions.

There’s also the Levantine-Brazilian group, here included Lebanese, Turks and Jews as well, adepts of Mid-Eastern values. Then, there’s the European-Brazilian group, which cultivate Western traditions, subdivided into national, supra-national and sub-national identities (not to be confused with the group of “nostalgic castaways”, individuals who refuse any attachment to Brazil and its many cultures, and yearn for the acceptance of their suposed peers across the ocean).

In this intricate net of ethnicities, German-Brazilianness strives for survival, reinventing itself generation after generation, but whithout loosing its most distinctive trait: its duality, being Germanness and Brazilianness at the same time.

Adapted from: SEYFERTH, G. Etnicidade e cultura: a constituição da identidade teuto-brasileira (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.iacd .oas.org%2FInteramer%2FInteramerhtml%2FZ arur45html%2FZar45_Seyf.htm). In: Zarur, George de Cerqueira Leite. (Org.). Etnia e Nação na América Latina. Washington: Secretaria Geral da OEA - Organização dos Estados Americanos, 1996, v. II, p. 17-36.

Thursday, January 4th, 2007, 07:51 PM
Some pictures of the German communities in Brazil:

Little boy from Pomerode, SC

Queen and princess contest on the Pomeran Fest in Pomerode, SC

Blumenau, SC

Oktoberfest in Blumenau, SC

Brusque, SC

Gramado's entrance in the winter, RS

Castelinho Caracol in Canela, RS

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007, 01:06 PM
German immigration to Brazil started in 1824 -- just after Brazil won independence from Portugal -- as a result of Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro I's (1798-1834) need to populate uninhabited regions of the huge country. Such regions were being disputed with neighbouring countries such as Argentina and Paraguay. Uruguay was just becoming independent. Those countries were by then former Spanish colonies, as all of South America was becoming independent, and all of them were interested in receiving European knowledge, expertise and labor.

Some Brazilian states received higher inflows of Germans than others. Such was the case in Rio Grande do Sul, where the first "wave" of immigrants was settled in the 1820s. In 1827, a group of Germans migrated to Brazil from the region of Trier. (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gene alogienetz.de%2Fgene%2Freg%2Fgerhist.htm %23trier) This was the first official German migration to Brazil. Part of this group (mainly Catholic married men) came to the farm called "Fazenda Guarei," which is today a small town in the state of São Paulo called Guarei. These Germans are considered the founders of Guarei.
A second "wave" went to Santa Catarina in the 1850s, but also to Rio de Janeiro, in smaller number, mainly to a city called Petropolis, where the Emperor Dom Pedro II's summer house (nowadays the Imperial Museum) was located. Other German immigration waves occurred in the 1890s, as well as after the First and Second World War. The latter emigres were not necessarily only refugees, but also people who were tired of the war. They had different destinations: to the states of Sao Paulo, to Paraná, and to the other Brazilian states.

In the mid-to-late-19th century, many German-Russians (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gene alogienetz.de%2Fgene%2Freg%2FESE%2Frussi a.html) migrated to the state of Paraná, more specifically, to near Ponta Grossa city, in Campos Gerais region (a savannah). After a failure in wheat cultivation, many re-emigrated to Argentina (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gene alogienetz.de%2Fgene%2Freg%2FWELT%2Farge ntina.html) or the USA. (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gene alogienetz.de%2Fgene%2Freg%2FWELT%2Fusa. html)

On August 12, 1950, five hundred Donauschwaben (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gene alogienetz.de%2Fgene%2Freg%2FESE%2Fdschw aben.html) families were invited to immigrate to the region of Entre Rios (Portuguese for between the rivers) in the highlands (1200 meters altitude) of the state of Paraná. The first settlers arrived at the port of Santos, Brazil in June of 1951, settling in Entre Rios with the intent of growing wheat. The area was not prepared for cultivation, there were no buildings at all, nor were settlers exactly welcomed. Rattlesnakes roamed the country. Every couple was assigned 15 hectares of land, with an additional 8 for each son or 4 for each daughter, and a house of either 72 or 42 square meters depending on family size. House and land were assigned on a loan basis; repayment to occur in about ten years time.

The first church was erected in 1957-8. The chief town is Vitoria, others in order of their founding are Jordaozinho, Cochoeire, Socorro and Samambaia. The towns were named for the previous owners of the land, which the settlers were helped to purchase by the Swiss charitable organization Europahilfe.

During the 1960's, many of the settlers returned to Germany or Austria. Forty-two families left in 1963 alone. As of 1992, only about 5% of the original houses still remained, the rest having been replaced by more permanent structures. About 2,000 of the settlers and their descendants still make their homes here, continuing to speak the donauschwäbische dialect.

Paraná and Sao Paulo have also seen a large number of German immigrants. Through the years, the descendants of these immigrants have spread out to other Brazilian regions, yet the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Paraná are known for their concentrations of German descendants, while in other states there are rather "pockets" of them in cities such as Sao Paulo (capital of Sao Paulo state) and Petrópolis (Rio de Janeiro state).
Source (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gene alogienetz.de%2Freg%2FWELT%2Fbrasil.html )

Some links about the Germans in Brazil:
Blumenau - a German city in Brazil (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.v-brazil.com%2Ftourism%2Fforeigner%2Fblume nau.html)
The German Element in Brazil by Benjamin Franklin Schappelle (http://forums.skadi.net/redirector.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gute nberg.org%2Fetext%2F17361) (e-book)

Thursday, October 9th, 2008, 01:22 PM
German Migration to Brazil After Major World Wars & Assimilation


Not all Germans who settled in Brazil became farmers. In the early 20th century most of the Germans immigrated to Brazil settled in big towns.

Some of them settled in the old rural German colonies as well. The German immigration (http://www.pr-inside.com/german-migration-to-brazil-after-major-r815431.htm#) to Brazil had its largest numbers during the 1920s, after World War I. These Germans were mostly middle-class laborers from the urban areas of Germany.

Source: Rajkumar Kanagasingam, author of "German Memories in Asia"

books.google.com/books?id=MrBi0ghiZN0C&dq=german+memories+asia (http://books.google.com/books?id=MrBi0ghiZN0C&dq=german+memories+asia)

Not all Germans who settled in Brazil became farmers. In the early 20th century most of the Germans immigrated to Brazil settled in big towns. Some of them settled in the old rural German colonies as well. The German immigration to Brazil had its largest numbers during the 1920s,

after World War I. These Germans were mostly middle-class laborers from the urban areas of Germany.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Brazil also attracted a significant number of German Jews, who settled mostly in Sao Paulo. During the Nazi period and thereafter until the ban on emigration came into effect in 1941, some 100,000 Jews from Central Europe, the majority of them were German speaking moved to South America. Most of them nearly ninety percent moved towards Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile.

Many immigrant (http://www.pr-inside.com/german-migration-to-brazil-after-major-r815431.htm#) Germans were not counted in the early censuses. Often the spouses of immigrants were not listed as having entered into the country.

During the Second World War Brazilian ships were attacked by Germans and influenced by the US government, Brazil declared war against Germany. Brazil feared whether the German community in Brazil could rebel against the government.

President Getulio Vargas initiated a strict program of forced cultural assimilation - Nacionalismo- that worked quite efficiently. He forbade any manifestation of the German culture in Brazil. German schools were closed, houses with German architecture were destroyed and the use of the German language in Brazil was also forbidden with the publication of German newspapers (together with Italian and Japanese).

Since then, the southern Brazilian German regional language and culture was in decline. Some decried it as a tragic loss for the country while others felt that this meant national progress, saying assimilation will ultimately lead to a feeling of "getting together".

Many Germans also adopted voluntarily from German to the national languages mainly for their safety. Germans in other parts of Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe adopted this pattern of language change to avoid the anger of the Governments which were against or fought against Germany.

With this change in situation the members of the German minorities, previously communities of status and prestige, were turned into undesirable minorities though there were widespread elements of sympathy for Germans in many of the South American countries.

When Germanic immigrants first arrived in Brazil starting at the beginning of the 1800's they did not identify themselves as a unified German - Brazilian group. However, as time went on this common regional identity emerged for many different geo-socio-political reasons and was the major cause for their victimization as well.

After natural and forcible assimilation, Germans in Brazil currently speak a variety of German dialects in the south of the country. These German dialects originated from a variety of German dialects which were spoken by the German immigrants from Germany, Switzerland and Austria with the foreign borrowings from other immigrant languages especially Italian, Spanish, Japanese and the Brazil's national language, Portuguese.

The most dominant spoken Brazilian German dialect is Riograndenser Hunsruckisch, a Brazilian variation of the Hunsruckisch dialect of German. But other dialects are also spoken as well, like the Austrian dialect spoken in Dreizehnlinden, Pomeranian (Pommersch or Plautdietsch) dialect spoken by ethnic German Mennonites from the former Soviet Union and Danube Swabian (Donauschwabisch) dialect.

Although Riograndenser Hunsruckisch has long been the most widely spoken German dialect in southern Brazil, it is currently experiencing a very strong decline. A strong stigma has been forming around the public use of this language. Today it is spoken mostly in private, in family circles and by the elder members of the community and in the rural areas. It is very common for people not to admit that they know it. They speak it in their most private environs, although there are cities where you can hear German on streets or parks.

Source: Rajkumar Kanagasingam, author of "German Memories in Asia"

books.google.com/books?id=MrBi0ghiZN0C&dq=german+memories+asia (http://books.google.com/books?id=MrBi0ghiZN0C&dq=german+memories+asia)

The source:

Sandro Schmitt
Wednesday, June 1st, 2011, 05:03 AM
Enter the Napoleonics Wars in Europe and the ediffiction of the Second Reich, one great people wave emmigrate to new Nations in America (the Continent).
Canada, US and Brazil receives an variaty from humans groups and the South of Brazilian Territory get prefered (by nature in land, clima) in South America to colonization.
The numbers aren't exacts in proporsion. But this process iniciate in 1824 (July 25) with the occupation of Sinos Valley, in the Rio Grande do Sul province! After 1940, People from Old Prussia, Macklemburg, Westfall, Hamburg and Hannover with your descendents expand more than 1.000.000 only in Rio Grande do Sul, without to calculate the another colonies in Santa Catarina, Paraná and São Paulo provinces !
This colonization in 1824 was an form adopted for the antique Brazilian Empire to take the deffense of Meridional Brazil from the Argentine expansionism and to amplify the white presence in Region!
Today 25% of Rio Grande do sul population, around 50% of Santa Catarina population is composed by germany descendents - more than 5.000.000 in these regions! But the old german language is lesson in only some primary schooles! And the space and radio or TV is nule!

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011, 09:56 PM
Welcome, there are some other Germans from South America on this forum as well. :)