While most Pennsylvania Dutch are aware that their ancestors emigrated from German-speaking Central Europe, and not the Netherlands, they prefer to view themselves as old-stock Americans, rather than German Americans. Contacts between Pennsylvania Dutch and European Germans have typically been infrequent, though with the rise of tourism in the twentieth century, incidental contacts have increased. This Mennonite Pennsylvania Dutch recounts his family’s friendship with an elderly visitor from Germany at some point after World War II.
Dialect: PA Mennonite, Pennsylvania Dutch
Location: Lancaster, Pennsylvania
So, I might tell you about the German lady that … I should say it in Dutch? She was a German woman who came from Canada, [I mean] from Germany, from Coblentz, and she wanted to visit us because her relatives in the city of Philadelphia were “English” [= non-German-speaking]. So one day I brought her home. And it was night and there were three of us men in a truck and she came along and she was afraid, [thinking that] perhaps in a foreign country, perhaps these strange men might get her in trouble. And she made me promise that everything would be all right.
And so she was here and adjusted herself well to our family, we had about four or five children, and I remember we had a Fresh Air boy here, a black boy from the city of Reading, and she also taught him German, and he was a bit slow to learn German. But he learned how to say “Good morning,” and, what was the other thing? Anyway, she enjoyed it here and she helped with the chores. She was 82 years old, and she always had a little bouquet on the table, mornings, afternoons, or evenings. She was always on the job. She worked in the garden, she liked working in the garden with the vegetables.
And on Sundays she always wanted to got to church, she was a Christian. And I would always tell here where the text was in her German book, her German Bible, she said oh, she knew it. And anyway, I took her to a German church, to some Amish people, and I wondered if she would understand everything, and sure enough, when it was over, I said, “Mutter, wie waar des?” (Mother, how was that?) and she said “Ken Watt verschtanne!” (I didn’t understand a word!) , and I said “Was ist los?” (What’s up?) and she said “Sie hen en Grummer im Hals” (They have a frog in their throat), an accent, and I said “Des verschtehn ich” (I understand that).
Really, the main reason that she came over [to the U.S.], her husband and one son in Germany had been in Hitler’s army. And she had another son in America and she said that she knew it would have been wrong if they would have shot at one another. And she said that she had often prayed that that wouldn’t happen. And she hoped that if she would come to America she would see her son Paul again, then she could go back and be satisfied. And that’s just what happened. Anyway, I told her that if she were a Christian, she wouldn’t have had to be afraid about that because Christians wouldn’t shoot at one another. And she liked knowing this, and she said she wanted to go back to Coblentz and she would thank God and be happy knowing that her husband and sons had not shot at one another, and that was the case.
Anyway, she was here for four weeks, and then she went home to Philadelphia to her son for a week, and then she came back [here] again, and then she stayed possibly another two weeks, right? Three. Three weeks. And so I told her, well, she’d better go back to Philadelphia since she had a “season ticket” such that she could only stay so long and she should go back to her sister in Philadelphia and her son, not because we didn’t want her here. She enjoyed herself here and she got along well here. I remember, my dad and Ada’s dad liked visiting with her, they were about the same age, and they had German conversations with her. One enjoyed talking with her.