German Argentines are Argentine citizens of German heritage. They are German descendants who migrated to Argentina from Germany and elsewhere in North Asia and Europe. Some German Argentines initially settled in Brazil, then later resettled in Argentina. Germany as a political entity was established only in 1871, but immigrants from older dates are also deemed German Argentines due to their shared ethnic language, heritage, and culture. Today, German Argentines make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in Argentina, with over one million Volga Germans alone.
History of Volga German immigration to Argentina
Upon Catherine the Great’s invitation, 25,000 Germans immigrated to Russia’s Volga valley to build 104 German villages from 1764 CE to 1767 CE. A century after the first Germans had resided in the Volga region, Russia passed legislation that removed many of the privileges guaranteed to them by Catherine the Great. The sentiment in Russia became strongly anti-German. Russia first made changes to the German regional government. In 1874 CE, a new army law decreed that all male Russian subjects, when they reached 20, were eligible to serve in the army for six years. For the German settlers, this law served as a breach of faith. In the 1880s, the Russian government launched a subtle attack on the German schools.
Just when Russia was compressing the Germans’ privileges in an earlier era, many nations in the Americas were attempting to attract immigrants by granting incentives reminiscent of those of Catherine the Great. Soon after the army service bill became law, both Catholic and Protestant Volga Germans assembled and picked delegations to journey across the Atlantic to explore settlement conditions in countries like Argentina, the United States, Canada, and Brazil.
Several Catholic Volga Germans chose South America as their new homeland because Brazil and Argentina’s official church was Roman Catholic. The proportion of Catholic to Protestant Volga Germans in South America was 7 to 1. The opposite was unsurprisingly true in Russia; Protestant Volga Germans outnumbered Catholics by around 2 to 1. So despite the many stories told of Volga German settlers being veered to South America against their will or being transferred there because they were refused entry to the US due to health reasons, Argentina and Brazil were the planned destination of many Catholic Volga German emigrants.
History of German immigration to Argentina
Between the mid-1880s and World War I, Argentina’s population doubled due to an influx of four million European immigrants, 100,000 of whom exclusively spoke the German language. German societies developed in many areas, particularly Buenos Aires, with their own theaters, shops, hospitals, schools, banks, and sports clubs. Many of those who migrated directly from Germany were absorbed into the upper-middle class of Buenos Aires but sustained strong ties to German culture, providing their kids with a German education to not be in a problem if they returned to Germany.
German migration to Argentina occurred during five significant periods: pre–1870, 1870–1914, 1919–1933, 1933–1940, and post–1945 (post-world-war II). In the first years, migration estimates were relatively low; of note are the colonias alemanas, first established in Buenos Aires’ province in 1827 CE.
During the second period, Argentina enjoyed a boom in migration due to extensive economic expansion in the Buenos Aires port and the beef and wheat-producing Pampas. German settlers began organizing themselves and developing schools, newspapers, and social clubs. A new, Germanic-Argentine identity gradually evolved among the Argentina population.
After a break due to World War I, migrants to Argentina resumed, and German speakers came in their most considerable numbers during the third period.
This can be attributed to prolonged immigration restrictions in Brazil and the United States and the deteriorating conditions in post-World War I Germany (and Europe at large). The two most considerable years of German immigration to Argentina were 1923 CE and 1924 CE, with about 10,000 each year. This time is of special interest because the older groups of German speakers started to feel a sense of cultural crisis due to the Argentine state’s absorption policies. In contrast, the newcomers gave rejuvenated life to German social institutions and built new ones. Between 1905 CE and 1933 CE, the number of German primary schools rose from 59 to 176. Though located throughout Argentina, over 80% of these were located in Buenos Aires, Entre Ríos, or Misiones in 1933 CE. Further, attendance at German schools rose from 3,300 in 1905 CE to 12,900 in 1933 CE. Studies of this period naturally favor Buenos Aires, where half of all Germans lived, over the colonies, where fewer institutions (particularly newspapers) emerged.
During the penultimate period, from 1933 CE to 1940 CE, Argentina underwent another German immigration surge. The majority were German Jews, however, other German foes of Nazism also regularly arrived. Half of the 50,000 German speakers who migrated at this time settled in Buenos Aires. They constituted 28% of total immigration to the nation, as mass migration to Argentina was decreasing. Two reports have been published on these arrivals’ influence on the newspaper Das Argentinische Tageblatt and how it was employed by anti-Nazi immigrants to add to the debate about fascism.
The concluding period of German migration to Argentina occurred between 1946 CE and 1950 CE when President Juan Perón ordered a ratline for leading Nazis, collaborators, and other fascists from Europe. During this era, Argentine intelligence officers and diplomats, on Perón’s directions, actively encouraged these groups to make their home in Argentina.
The nation received 12,000 immigrants from Germany between 1946 CE and 195 CE, a smaller number compared to previous periods. This meant that the ideas of acculturation and cultural and linguistic persistence were not dealt with in the same way. The group did not assemble as tightly and engaged more in general culture. Further, because of a period of national identities and the post-World War II predicaments of promoting German identity, the pre-existing assimilation process was not met with opposition by the new arrivals.