Joining the club: German immigrants to South Australia after 1945

Ingrid Muenstermann

    Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


    Membership of The Club in 1950 was 170, by 1986 it had risen to 2000, but in 1995, membership had declined to 1000 and by 2003 it was 894. This tells us that the Germans are an acculturated migrant population, and that any club association is not needed anymore. However, some caution may need to be to applied: On the one hand, research from previous generations of Germans who arrived in Australia (Peter Muehlhaeusler and Ian Harmstorf) demonstrates that Germans have a well-developed sense of trying to fit into the host society; on the other hand, one could assume that the troubled past had something to do with the speedy acculturation of those who arrived after 1945. Summarizing, the acculturation rate of post-war German immigrants was extraordinarily high. It is a sign of that very success that among the crowds one might find at the German Club or the Schuetzenfest are many who have no need to cultivate some sense of German identity. The surviving trappings of 'symbolic identity' can be enjoyed by everybody in the community - a sign of shared comfort in multiculturalism.This chapter is a sociological perspective of the settlement of German-born migrants who came to Australia after the Second World War. Most of them arrived in Australia in the 1950s, with South Australia having its largest intake in 1952. Many Germans came with a chequered history, but they were admitted, despite strong criticisms by the Jewish Council to Combat Fascism and Anti-Semitism. Most men were tradespersons and most women were clerks. The structure of Australian society was unfamiliar and their knowledge of English often minimal, so German ethnic clubs were created. These were meeting places where people could speak their mother tongue and maintain aspects of their culture without being ridiculed, and where emotional support was available to assist them to come to germs with the new life. Ethnic clubs were a buffer, a so-called comfort zone, to soften the settlement process. Measured by official statistics on workforce participation, education and training, income and home ownership, the majority of German-born newcomers succeeded in their effort to take their place in an unfamiliar society. There were also high rates of out-marriages, high rates of language shift from German to English only as early as in the first generation, and high rates of naturalisation, all of which accelerated the transition into a new culture. The South Australian German Association (The Club) in Flinders Street, Adelaide, is the largest of the ten German ethnic associations established during the 1950s and 1960s.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationGermans
    Subtitle of host publicationTravellers, settlers and their descendants in South Australia
    EditorsPeter Monteath
    Place of Publication Kent Town, S. Aust
    PublisherWakefield Press
    Number of pages17
    ISBN (Electronic) 9781743050101
    ISBN (Print)9781862549111
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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