The Steuben Parade - from Kleindeutschland to New York City
Enlarge image Port Authority Police Steuben Association (© Bob Radske) New York City and Ellis Island have served as the gateway to the United States for millions of Germans. In New York, Germans lived in enclaves alongside Italians, French, Irish, Polish, and many other ethnic groups. Each year, the city’s annual Steuben Parade in September attracts thousands to Fifth Avenue in a celebration of German-American heritage.
General von Steuben in the American Revolution
Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand von Steuben (1730-1794), who was also referred to as the Baron von Steuben, was a Prussian-born military officer who served as inspector general and major general of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. As a German officer he has been hired by Benjamin Franklin during a meeting in Paris in 1777.
Enlarge image This monument to General von Steuben was erected in his native Magdeburg. (© picture-alliance/ ZB) Among other German regiments sent from the German-French border region, such as the regiment of Zweibrücken (lit.: two-bridges regiment), to support the Continental Army, Steuben became famous for supporting the Americans in their fight against the British. He is credited with being one of the fathers of the Continental Army by teaching the essentials of military drills, tactics, and disciplines. In the process, Steuben penned the Revolutionary War Drill Manual, the famous "blue book" that served as the standard United States drill manual until the War of 1812 and is still sometimes cited by US military experts, instructors and active duty members today.
German-American friendship week
The parade ushers in the city’s German-American friendship week, an event that highlights the strong ties between the United States and Germany.
Germans have always been a part of the social fabric of New York, but the German-American community there took its hardest hit on June 15, 1904, when 1,300 tourists, many of them woman and children from what was then called "Kleindeutschland" ("Little Germany") on the lower East Side of Manhattan, boarded the General Slocum steamboat for a daytrip along the East River. A fire broke out below deck just as the ship reached 90th Street and quickly spread to the upper decks. The ship sank, and more than 1,000 people drowned.
For the German-American community in "Little Germany" the effects were devastating. Because so many in the 800,000-strong community knew someone who was a victim of the tragedy, it was if a dark cloud had settled upon that part of Manhattan, which had been a haven for German immigrants since the 1840's. A mass exodus began that saw many of these immigrants relocate to Yorkville on the Upper East Side.
German flavor in NYC
Enlarge image "Zum Stammtisch" Restaurant (© Bob Radske) Although “Kleindeutschland” on the lower East Side has all but disappeared and Yorktown now has little particularly German flavor, New York City is still a bustling cultural center for all things German. These days, cold German draft beers stand alongside swanky Rieslings, hardcore rock bands beside oompah and schuhplattler. German film festivals and exhibitions, as well as traditional German food have again made the German-American community a vibrant and recognizable part of New York City life.