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English and German are cognate languages. This means that they are related. Both came from the same parent language. Compare the two sentences below.


Meine Mutter und ich pflantzten sechs grüne Büsche in den Garten.

My      mother and   I   planted      six    green  bushes in the  garden.


Both sentences mean the same thing. Although the words are not identical, you can see how they are similar. German and English have many words that are similar.  


Nevertheless, during both the First and the Second World War, anyone using the German language in Canada fell under immediate suspicion. People connected speaking German with supporting Germany. The reason was simple. Germany was Canada's primary enemy in both wars. Canadians suspected that German-speakers might still be loyal to Germany, even if they had lived in Canada for a number of years.


During the First World War, the government ordered German language instruction and publishing to cease. Something similar happened during the Second World War.


In 2003, Die Mennonitische Rundschau celebrated its 125th anniversary. This Mennonite Brethren newspaper has published in German since 1878. Roughly translated, its name in English means “The Mennonite Perspective”. Its goal was and is to print Mennonite news and religious instruction. Even so, outside suspicion and pressure forced it to take an extraordinary step.


For a number of months in 1940, the Rundschau published its front page in English. The rest of the newspaper remained German.


At the beginning of the war, the Rundschau published in German with no problems. The only concession was in the 6 September 1939 issue, when the Rundschau published two pages in English. This, of course, was a few days after England had declared war on Germany. The Rundschau, like most other papers in Canada, printed the text of speeches by English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, King George VI, and Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King.


After that, things were relatively quiet for the first few months of the war. In fact, the period from September 1939 to April 1940 is known as the “Phony War.” Germany had conquered Poland in the east, but it was not until 4 April 1940 that it attacked western Europe. This led to a dramatic rise in anti-German feeling in Canada. On 5 June 1940, Die Mennonitische Rundschau became The Mennonite Review. It published in English – but only on the front page. This step indicates the lengths to which this Mennonite publication would go to show that it was not an enemy newspaper. More changed than just the language. The content on the front page changed as well.


Let's look at the front page for 29 May 1940, the last German front page. On the top is a Bible verse: "Lasset uns fleissig sein zu halten die Einigkeit im Geist.” In English, this means “Let us diligently uphold our unity in the Spirit.” On the top left hand corner is a poem called “Ich wäre so gerne wie Jesus,” or, in English, “Oh, how much I'd like to be like Jesus.” The main article on the page was on “Die Liebe,” or “Love.” Compare this religious tone to the front page news the next week in the English version. Suddenly, they don't mention anything religious at all. Instead, they talk about “Trade and Commerce,” “Administration,” and the “Canadian Honey Crop.” If it weren't for the title, you could never have guessed that it was a Mennonite newspaper. The second page was in German as usual. Here the Rundschau began its regular religious material.


Why do you think that this newspaper changed not only the language, but also the content?


Four months later, some of the tension had subsided. The Mennonite Review changed its name and the front page back to German and continued to be published as Die Mennonitische Rundschau.

Read more about the debate on the German language.

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