The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Ethnic German

Ethnic Germans (usually simply called Germans, in German Volksdeutsche) are those who are considered, by themselves or others, to be ethnically German rather than anything else but who do not live within the Federal Republic of Germany nor hold its citizenship. The concept of ethnic belonging is always problematic; it can relate to

  • Having a cultural connection with German culture
  • speaking the German language
  • having ancestors who were born in Germany or an area that is or was otherwise considered German, without having German citizenship

The concept of who is an ethnic German has repeatedly changed in history. For example, in contrast to the Swiss and the Dutch who had already split off and shaped separate national identities, the German speaking Austrians (in contrast to the majority of Austrians who spoke other languages until 1918) used to consider themselves as ethnic Germans up to the 20th century. The first attempts to create a consciousness of the "Austrian nation" took place during the Napoleonic wars (including non-German speaking Austrians) and in the early 1930s, but without major effects. After WWII Austrians increasingly see themselves as a nation distinct from the German one, and today no more than 10 percent of German-speaking Austrians consider themselves to be Germans. The Swiss German (4.7 million), however, retained their cultural identity as Germans, although a specific kind of Germans.

Ethnic Germans are an important minority group in the following countries:

  • United States of America. Over 60 million Americans are of German ancestry. Of these, 23 million are of German ancestry alone ("single ancestry"), and another 40 million are of partial German ancestry. Of those who claim partial German ancestry, 22 million identify "German" as their primary ancestry ("first ancestry"). 30% of American whites are at least of partial German ancestry (about 12% of US whites are only of German ancestry). (sources: 1, 2)
  • Canada (2.7 million, 9% of the population)
  • Southern Brazil (2 million, 1% of the national population; this number is only with regard to single-ancestry people)
  • Australia (750,000, 4% of the population)
  • Hungary (300,000, 3% of the population)
  • Namibia (150,000, 6% of the population)
  • Poland (150,000)
  • Romania (100,000)
  • the Commonwealth of Independent States (1 million)
  • An indeterminate number of ethnic Germans live in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, and several other Latin American countries. There is also a sizable population in Kazakhstan.

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Last updated: 08-31-2005 15:02:37