When the United States went to war against Germany in 1917, German Americans faced vicious and unfair attacks on their loyalty. Many anti-German incidents were not recorded, but they lived on powerfully in people’s memories. In this 1976 interview, Lola Gamble Clyde, the daughter of an Irish-born Presbyterian minister and a teenager during World War I, described the “hysteria” that faced German Americans in rural Latah County, Idaho.Listen to Audio:
Lola Gamble Clyde: There were some boys that got draft deferments for this and other reason, and they rode 'em on a rail and they took off their clothes and tarred and feathered some of them. Some of them as old men dying still resented and remembered those violent episodes. I remember when they smashed out store windows at Uniontown that said Kraut on it. And Kraut on the window. Nobody would eat Kraut. Throw the Kraut out, they were Germans. You know. And all that was pretty vile, you know. I remember even the great Williamson store, he went in and gathered up everything that was made in Germany, and had a big bonfire out in the middle of the street, you know. Although he had many good German friends all over the county that had helped make him rich. And there was all that went on, you know. And some people changed their name. And if it was a German name—we’ll just change our name. We don’t want anything to do with it. And there was lots of that kind of hysteria going on.
Interviewer: This deferment business ? this was German boys who didn’t have to go into the army?
Clyde: That’s right. Some of them said that their fathers were sick and dying, and their father had so much land they had to stay home and farm it for them and they got what they called then farm deferments. And a lot of those men felt badly later, because they didn’t share in the great adventure that the other boys had had. And there was a great resentment against them. A lot of them stayed home and married the belle of the town, you know, and didn’t have to go to war and all the other kids resented that and held it against them, you know even after they all got to be old men they still remembered, you hadn’t gone and you chickened out.
Source: Oral history courtesy of Latah County Historical Society
See Also:"Get the Rope!" Anti-German Violence in World War I-era Wisconsin
"We Had to Be So Careful"A German Farmer's Recollections of Anti-German Sentiment in World War I