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John H. Steiger

Long years ago, when first the white man landed

In this great country where the Indian ruled,

The white men who were in the old world stranded

And thirsting for new treasures; strong and schooled,

Then Germans came, the German sons and daughters,

In endless file to help you work and fight;

They fought with you, not shirking bloody slaughters,

For what they thought was liberty and right;

They braved the deadly arrow from the bow,

But you forget.   ’Twas many years ago.

And where the Germans came, soon fields were blooming,

The forests vanished soon and vine and corn

Grew where the Red Man had so long been roaming,

For German plowmen conquered weed and thorn,

And German honesty and German culture,

And German music, German song and art,

Came like the eagle proud, not like the vulture,

And filled with hopes anew your aching heart;

We helped and fought — ’Twas not so long ago

Did you forget it all?   You ought to know!

You used the German thrift, the German muscles;

Took gladly what our brains created grand.

We shared your hardships always, all your tussles,

We never flinched, were always at your hand;

Just look about you.   What has been accomplished

Is witness proud of German brains and brawn,

Your country’s strength, your mighty nation’s being,

Grew out of German science.   Still you frown?

Are you too proud to see the truth so plain?

You know it well — denial is in vain!

You valued German soldiers and their manner,

They trained your armies and they cleared the way

To victory for your Star Spangled Banner

Those heroes in your country’s darkest day;

And deeds of German bravery and daring

Should be engraven on your memory;

Forever bright, like fiery letters glaring,

They live untarnished in your history;

Do you forget these men who died for you —

Died for the Stars and Stripes, Red, White, and Blue?

It seems so, for your eyes are slowly turning

To those who tricked and sold you long ago;

The German gave his heart’s blood, all his learning —

What did the others give?   You ought to know.

They flattered you to gain their own salvation,

They cheated meanly in your times of need;

They threatened your existence as a nation —

These people full of hatred and of greed.

You know full well they dealt you many a blow —

Have you forgotten that they were your foe?

You gave us nothing.   We brought knowledge, science,

And art and wisdom to your shores.   Our toil

And strength gave you your proud defiance,

With blood and sweat we fertilized your soil,

And what we gained, we gained through honest labor,

We gave our heart and soul with joy for you;

We owe no thanks to you, expect no favor,

We always thought that you were just and true;

Had we but known, we should have stayed at home —

Is it for this that we have crossed the foam?

We helped you build your country, yet you slander

And jeer at us, who always were your friend;

Your starry flag — we love it dear and tender,

You sneer because we love our Fatherland,

Because we love that land where our dear mothers

Told splendid tales of German history,

Because we love those people — our dear brothers

Who bear the flag, Black, White, and Red, to victory.

So shall it be!   Forgive we will endeavor!

Yet still we swear: Forget it we shall never!

John H. Steiger

Englische Uebertragung von Georg von Skal’s Dichtung:

Den Amerikanern

Steiger, John H. “To the Americans.” In Aus ruhmreicher Zeit: Deutsch-amerikanische Dichtungen aus dem ersten Jahre des Weltkrieges, compiled by Irving T. Sanders, 40-42. New York: F. C. Stechert, 1915.

Steiger, John H. “To the Americans.” In Aus ruhmreicher Zeit: Deutsch-amerikanische Dichtungen aus dem ersten Jahre des Weltkrieges, compiled by Irving T. Sanders, 40-42. New York: F. C. Stechert, 1915.


They trained your armies

Reference to Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730–94), a Prussian military officer who helped train the Continental Army at Valley Forge in 1778, during the American Revolution. He adapted European military drills to conditions in the colonies and is credited with professionalizing the Continental Army.

Thompson, J. Mark. "Steuben, Friedrich Wilhelm Von [Baron]." In The Oxford Companion to American Military History. Oxford University Press, 2000. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195071986.001.0001/acref-9780195071986-e-0879.


Star Spangled Banner

The flag of the United States, with "Stars and Stripes, Red, White, and Blue" at the end of the stanza.


Then Germans came

German-speaking Europeans helped establish Jamestown in 1608. In 1683, Dutch Mennonites, led by Franz Pastorious, a German pastor, sought religious freedom in Pennsylvania and founded Germantown, just a few miles outside Pennsylvania. Germantown would soon become the major point of entry for German-speaking immigrants.

For an overview of German-speaking migration to the United States, see the Library of Congress website, “The Germans in America.” https://www.loc.gov/rr/european/imde/germany.html.


Black, White, and Red

The black–white–red German national flag (1892–41).


Den Amerikanern

For the German version of this poem, see “Den Amerikanern” by Georg von Skal, also in Aus ruhmreicher Zeit.