Between the years 1820 and 1870, 50,000 to 60,000 German immigrants settled in Upper Canada and the Ottawa Valley. Many of the immigrants came from southwest Germany, where the practice of dividing inheritances and the influx of products from industrial England had created economic upheaval, resulting in the emigration of 1.7 million German people. Upper Canada became a home for many immigrants originally en route to the United States, or displaced from their homeland for economic reasons. These people settled in places such as Berlin and Strasberg in Waterloo County in Upper Canada.
Among the many German-language newspapers established in Upper Canada was Das Berliner Journal, a weekly newspaper founded by German immigrants Friedrich Rittinger and John Motz in Berlin, Ontario in 1859. After its merger with the Ontario Glocke (Ontario Bell) in 1904, the Berliner took over three more newspapers in the following five years, resulting in a peak circulation of 5,000 in 1909. In 1916, it was the sole remaining German-language newspaper in Ontario.
In order to foster a sense of community and encourage immigrants to retain their German language and culture, the Berliner promoted German newspapers, schools, associations, and churches; printed stories pertaining to events in Europe and Germany; and advertised local German cultural events. The paper also helped new immigrants to adapt to life as Canadians through its coverage of local events and its reports on Canadian laws, customs, politics and the workings of government. In later years the focus changed increasingly to local events.
In 1916, the city of Berlin’s name was changed to Kitchener as a result of anti-German sentiment caused by the First World War. Although the Berliner opposed this name change, it eventually changed its own name to the Ontario Journal in 1917. On October 2, 1918, the Canadian government issued an Order-in-Council banning the publication of German-language newspapers, resulting in the cessation of the journal’s publication in German. At that time, circulation of the journal had fallen to 3,198. It was resurrected as an English-language weekly until 1924, and then published daily until 1971. Issues of the Berliner Journal in German dating from 1880 to 1916 have been digitized and are made available here.
Contributed by Multicultural History Society of Ontario.