Montag, 24. Oktober 2022

En Neii Deitschi Faahne

The design of the flag is included with this post, and quality versions are already available for download and for free use (with no revision or edition) on social media. The physical flags are available for purchase, and we are still sampling larger flag options. Rachel Yoder and I are holding onto the intellectual and physical rights to the flag for a period of three years, by which time the meaning and the purpose of the flag will hopefully be well enough known within our communities. After that time, we will allow the flag to go to the public domain. We have begun discussions of Pennsylvania Dutch history over on the Deitscherei Facebook group, and, since I don't want that group to compete with this one, I invite Kolby Howell to work with me on the development of Pennsylvania Dutch history awareness projects and products. Our history helps to explain why we are still a distinct ethnic group even after our culture's demise was predicted hundreds of years ago.
Thank you! Robert Lüsch-Schreiwer
This new Pennsylvania Dutch flag is the result of interactions with three focus groups, the largest being on Facebook. The Facebook focus group included a diverse cross-section of the Pennsylvania Dutch community. People of different religious identities, political affiliations, sexual orientations, and gender identities were included in this group. Additionally, it was important to include potentially dissenting perspectives, so this group, in particular, included interested parties who had expressed concern about the idea of the development of this flag. The purposes of the focus groups included the need for more inclusivity in our ethnic symbols and the desire to simplify the presentation of the symbolism on our ethnic banner. This was a grassroots effort triggered initially by an idea and creative concept expressed by Robert Lüsch-Schreiwer and put into digital artwork by Deitsch Folk Artist and designer, Rachel Yoder. Rachel did this work pro bono for the love of our Deitsch community. Of the six designs presented in Draft Round 1, the majority of all of the focus groups voted for Flag #1, which was amended based on member feedback, and the current flag (commonly referred to as the Rosette Flag) was the winner. The challenger (the Tulip Flag) is being held in reserve for future use in a different capacity.
We understand that the grassroots effort might not be recognized by everyone and that people feel an attachment to the first flag. This is understandable, and, since there is no Pennsylvania Dutch government to make binding decisions, there will be variations in the levels of acceptance of this new flag. We do, though, request that this flag be given due consideration, and we encourage those who have an allegiance to the first flag to consider keeping it present as a reminder of the labor that went into its development while accepting the new flag for the features that are described later in this statement.
Additionally, the development of this new flag has inspired ideas to advance awareness of our own history within our communities. We invite academic institutions to participate in this effort, though we also recognize that school curricula can be very rigid. Over time, many of those polled in our focus groups have recognized the need for advocacy groups that can work to create more opportunities for the advancement of our language and culture. Thanks go to all who participated in this effort. We hope that everyone will continue the efforts to reinvigorate our Pennsylvania Dutch heritage!

One of the things that can be simultaneously challenging and liberating about being a culture with no central authority is that there can be many streams of influence on cultural identity and production of cultural materials. This is the case with the Pennsylvania Dutch culture, and it might be one of the reasons that we are called a "persistent minority." Predictions of the demise of our culture and language have been proven invalid time and time again since the Early Republic era. There are more speakers of the Deitsch language today than there were in 1980, and interest in the cultural values and history has spurred many people in the current generations to explore and to embrace their heritage zealously, but events of the early 20th century led to purposeful efforts to weaken the Pennsylvania Dutch culture (see Notes at the bottom for more information about the ending date of the Great Migration and anti-German hysteria prior to World War I). Despite all of the predictions and the shifts and challenges that all Americans have experienced over the last 100 years, we are still here!
Our ancestors' early arrival during the Colonial Era put them on the frontier and resulted in engagement with the Susquehannock that was starkly different from the way the English interacted with them. The same applied to interactions with the Lenape after William Penn's death in 1718. The end result was essentially the establishment of a Pennsylvania Dutch homeland after the Susquehannock fled (due in large part to the Paxton Boys incident) and the Lenape were forced out of Pennsylvania as punishment for being on the losing side of the French and Indian War (which would not have happened had the colonial government not swindled them on multiple occasions). This homeland, or Heemet is a large, non-contiguous region even today, and many parts of it are shared with our fellow Americans of many ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
In 1989, the first Pennsylvania Dutch flag was developed by Peter V. Fritsch at the behest of the Groundhog Lodges. It was a momentous development. The flag featured some of the contributions of the Pennsylvania Dutch to wider American society and also featured things that are associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch culture. I do not want to disrespect that flag because time, creativity, and love went into that effort. However, times do change, and cultures do evolve. Some of the symbols set the context of the flag in one religious context, which is admittedly an important component of life for the majority of Pennsylvania Dutch people. However, it automatically excludes those who are of a different belief system. The white background led to the flag appearing dirty very quickly when being flown outdoors, and many people polled in our focus group found the inclusion of so many features to cause the flag to be too busy. Additionally, the general feeling was that the flag was for the Heemet, and opinions from the Diaspora indeed suggested that they did not feel that the flag represented them.
As a persistent minority, we Pennsylvania Dutch share many cultural markers regardless of religion or location (communities turn up in many states and provinces as well as in Mexico and in several countries in South America). The attempts to suppress the culture impacted those in Diaspora more easily than it did those in the Heemet. The Diaspora is often left out of the discussions of the future, yet the thirst for connection to the culture is just as strong in those areas. The term "Deitscherei" was coined (full disclosure: by me) in 1986 to distinguish Pennsylvania Dutch Country from Germany. Prior to the introduction of this new term, most people were using "Deitschland" for both or they were using English to talk about our region here. The word Deitscherei has taken root and is even being used increasingly in video games that involve fictional war and mapping scenarios. This term is important to the significance of the new flag and is featured directly on it.
“Mir Sinn die Deitscherei” (“We are [Pennsylvania] Dutch Country”). Where this flag is flown is Deitscherei because we carry it with us wherever we go. The Diaspora is as much of the Deitscherei as Lebanon County is, and we must recognize that our migrations and historical circumstances have led to diversity within us. There are people who are culturally Pennsylvania Dutch who might not have any ancestry from our original lands. Shared values and experiences are features of the evolution of our culture, and they have forged a bond among us. This flag is the flag of anyone who shares that bond.
I have purposely omitted an English translation from the design because I believe that Deitsch must be afforded space in which it stands on its own. Part of the flag’s purpose is to provide opportunities to teach the slogan and to explain other aspects of our cultural heritage and of our living, vibrant culture.
The double-headed Distelfink is still of one body, and the two heads can represent different things to different people. It is important to note that questions or concerns had arisen in the main focus group about whether it might have been rooted in the double-eagles of the Byzantines, Habsburgs, or Freemasons. The answer is no. This symbol was chosen because it can represent all of us; the meanings are open to interpretation by the viewer. Some examples of the interpretations of the meaning of the two heads are the following (this list is not exhaustive):
Plain and Fancy Heemet and Diaspora Christianity and Urglaawe Spiritual and Agnostic Urban and Rural Past and Future, with the Heart being the Present
This the symbol does turn up in Plain sectarian works such as quilts. Two proposed version of the flag had the symbol surrounded by a circle. This made it appear more like a hex sign, which might result in some discomfort among the Plain members of the community, thereby impacting the symbol's ability to represent all of us in some way. Many Plain sectarians do not take on an identity with a flag or symbol, but it was important to the focus group that we took their beliefs and values into consideration so that the flag is inclusive to any who might take interest in it.

The use of purple in Deitsch art often calls to the sacred, the mysteries of existence, and to the totality of the self or the soul. The totality is of particular importance, I think, because we are looking to represent the totality of the Deitsch nation, which includes people of all sorts of backgrounds, religious identities, ethnicities, etc. That which brings us together is sacred. That which brings us together also ties us to those great mysteries. Purple is not a color that appears on many flags that represent a people, and, speaking personally, that is another attraction to me. Plus, the contrast make the colors in the symbol really pop.
The development of this flag took a significant amount of time, and the end result is something that will build recognition over time. It is not limited just to display on cloth; there are several important formats in which we would like to set the flag for wider accessibility. We need protected time for some of these, and we also want to be sure that the meaning of the flag becomes known as the flag itself becomes accessible. As such, we need to contain the right of production for profit to a few outlets until we are able to create the flag in the formats desired. At the end of three years after the date of this statement, we will relinquish all copyrights and allow the flag to be developed freely as part of our national expression. As of now, the image may be shared -- but not altered -- on social media as long as there is no use of it for profit by unauthorized parties.
The next step is going to be having samples created by a few different outlets, including established flag-makers in or near the Deitscherei. We will post when the flags become available. Please note that the flag is oriented in a portrait, as opposed to a landscape setting. This was the result of the splitting of the slogan into two segments. It is serving as an assertion that we Deitsche follow our own ways, but we will also work toward creating a landscape version. Because the slogan being split was among the most-cited suggestions, we will need to do some investigation on balancing the size and quality of the symbol in a landscape setting. For now, the flag is oriented in portrait.
The ending date of the Great Migration is debatable. The onset of the Napoleonic Wars in 1803 disrupted (but did not halt) the migration flow from all of the German-speaking lands. The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was dissolved in 1806, leaving behind turmoil that likely spurred even more people to want to leave. The successor, the German Confederation, was not established until 1815. Although the German Confederation was a strong alliance, it became, perhaps, as much of a political mess as was the Holy Roman Empire due to the problems in its very structure. The German Confederation experienced revolutions and changes that attempted to bring about the creation of a nation-state but fell short of that goal. It is widely accepted that the establishment of a German nation-state did not happen until 1871. This means that the Pennsylvania Dutch left before there was a German nation-state. Many of our forebears came from other lands that have never been part of Germany (Switzerland being a prime example). By 1915, we had long been a distinct ethnic group, and loyalties were to home and community, which were primarily established in the United States and Canada. From the time of the sinking of the Lusitania (May 7, 1915), the United States had seen a rise in anti-German sentiment, and this spilled over onto the Pennsylvania Dutch. Most of our forebears had no connection to the German Empire, and the family lore of many -- if not most -- Pennsylvania Dutch clans paints a very unpleasant picture of life prior to the migration. Indeed, we were the first people to come en masse to the Colonies as refugees. Many were fleeing the decaying feudalism and religious persecutions that were hallmarks of the era. The ravages of the Thirty Years' War (which is still one of the most destructive conflicts in human history, resulting in a loss of 20% of the European population, with some areas seeing up to 60% loss). The destruction made life unbearable, so the forebears heeded William Penn's call to the make the dangerous journey to his Colony. In some cases, entire villages quit the land that they had lived on for centuries because there was no other hope left for them. Some had suffered as Redemptioners in order to find a better life. In other words, there was no basis for loyalty to the Kaiser, so (as is usually the case in these situations) the anti-German rhetoric was targeting innocent people.
The ramifications of this hysteria cannot be understated. It resulted in efforts to dismantle the culture. German could not be taught in schools (a great many educational institutions in Pennsylvania were founded by Pennsylvania Dutch people). Outright oppression often results in backlash, so the efforts undertaken were the use of the legal system and the news outlets to frame traditional practices in contexts that would be subject to Blue Laws. The messaging in schools was that the traditional ways were backward, thereby reinforcing the stereotype of the Dumb Dutchman. The generation born in the interwar period felt a pressure to abandon the language and to take on an "American" rather than a "Pennsylvania Dutch" identity (the two do not have to be mutually exclusive, but historical facts should never be allowed to interfere with a good fear campaign). Even when I was boy in the 1970's, we were told that the accent would be a hinderance to our success in life. This process began to reverse itself in the 1980's, and now the demand for Deitsch classes exceeds the number of classes available.
There are prices to pay for not learning the lessons of history. Colonial history is very poorly taught in the United States. The Pennsylvania Dutch played key roles in many events during that period and through the Civil War, and we always followed our own ways. Since our history is not given proper coverage in most schools, it is up to our communities to produce resources. If you have never heard of the Germantown Anti-Slavery Protest, Cresap's War (also called the Conojocular War), or Fries's Rebellion, you might find Pennsylvania Dutch history to be far more interesting than the stories of simply getting off of a boat and immediately farming land and living happily ever after!

Sonntag, 12. August 2018

Palatine Boors

In this current era in which we have forces trying to tear our country apart based on race, skin color, ethnicity, etc., let us learn some lessons from the past.
Our own ancestors were discriminated against and insulted by one of the most respected Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin.

The Palatines were not white enough for Franklin. 

The sad thing is that the same rhetoric that Franklin used to insult our ancestors is being used now in Alt-Right marches in DC and Charlottesville. The primary difference is that the Alt-Right has expanded the definition of "white" to include the Deitsch descendants of the Palatines as well as the Irish, the Italians, and the Slavs, all of whom have been the targets of discrimination at earlier points in our history.

I think my colleague and friend, Michelle Jones, said it best in this post on Facebook:

While there are legitimate conversations to be had about legal vs. illegal immigration and a variety of topics within the social sphere, bigotry and racism are not to be tolerated. Our ancestors were the first refugees to these shores from a non-colonial land. The Deitsch were the first to protest slavery in the Americas. The settlers lived in general peace with the Lenape, and there is lore within Braucherei of exchanges of information about plant medicine. 

The Palatines - and the present-day identity of the Deitsch - have always had their own way of viewing and doing things even within the context of being leaders in the pursuit of the ideals that are spelled out in our Constitution. Our cultural expressions and practices continue to this day despite  20th century efforts to undermine them and to suppress them.

Even while celebrating what makes us unique, let us embrace the wider diversity of this country with the recognition that we are all building toward those ideals.

In that spirit, we proudly adopt the hashtag of #PalatineBoor and its Deitsch equivalent, #PelsicherRauhbautz* as recognition that we are the descendants of the people whom Franklin eschewed. May we be more generous to later arrivals than he was to our ancestors.

* The Deitsch cognate of the English word "boor" is "Bauer" and is also cognate with the Dutch and Afrikaans word, "Boer." However, in regular Deitsch usage, the word "Bauer" has come to mean simply "farmer" without a semantic of class that would render it as "peasant." A "Rauhbautz" carries the semantic meaning of "boor" that reflects the unrefined aspect that people who would use a word like "boor" would intend. Quite literally, a "Rauhbautz" is an "unrefined (raw) bugaboo."

Montag, 15. Januar 2018

Hessian Soldiers, Serfdom, and Slavery

I'd recommend the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia to anyone. Walking away from the exhibit, one realizes just how more complex the events of that era actually were, and the Pennsylvania German community was right in the middle of the tumult with its own undercurrents and complicated factors.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the museum's presentations was related to the Hessian soldiers.  If we're lucky, schools still teach a bit about the role that the Hessian soldiers played on the side of the British in the Revolutionary War. Typically, they are described as "mercenaries," and that appears to have been the common perception of them during the Revolution. The British were fighting for their empire, but the Hessians would fight for anyone who would pay them. This perspective drew out vitriol toward them. 

From the Museum of the American Revolution
The mercenary angle, however, is only part of the story. While some of the Hessian soldiers were professional military, many of the others were simply serfs. Serfdom was still legal in Hesse-Kassel, so the actual mercenary was their Lord, Landgrave Frederick II, though other German princes also sent serfs to fight in the war. Thus, the Landgrave took in the money from the British and sent the serfs to fight a war in a foreign land. Although serfdom was outlawed in Britain, the military honor code still compelled the Hessian soldiers to fight once they reached the Colonies. The only way out was to desert or to be captured. 

From the Museum of the American Revolution
Many of these soldiers did not want to be involved in the war, but the nature of serfdom is a lack of choice for the individual and a deference to the Lord. Although in some areas the Colonies appear to have hated the Hessians more than the British, Hessian soldiers' diaries actually reflect some sympathy for the Colonists and a general abhorrence at the British treatment of them, particularly when harsh treatment or execution involved German colonists.

The Battle of Trenton (December 26, 1776, a result of Washington's Crossing of the Delaware River) was a disaster for the Hessians. Approximately 1,000 of them were captured and forced to through the streets of Philadelphia to the derision of the Colonists. Hessian prison camps were set up in various areas, including quite a few in Pennsylvania German areas, where they are said to have been treated well enough that they volunteered to do extra work. After the war ended, many of them opted to stay in the New Republic, and they assimilated with the Pennsylvania German population in the areas in which they had been interred.

Who can blame them? Serfdom was clearly a miserable existence that was only a step away from slavery. The major differences are that, in most areas, serfs could own land and could not be sold. However, in the case of the Hessian serfs, their services were clearly sold and they were impressed into the military, so their rights to individual sovereignty were very restricted. 

The ghost of serfdom was indelible on the early Deitsch settlers. It played a role in the first organized protest by against slavery in North America, and it brought moral conundrums to settlers in the Diaspora in the South when they saw the living conditions of slaves.

Many (perhaps most?) of the original settlers had to take an oath of loyalty to the British Crown at arrival, and the Revolution brought to them a dilemma. If they acted upon any sympathy with the Continental Army, they were breaking their oath. Some felt as though the oath was made under duress, since they were already standing in the arriving port and had no way to return home. Anecdotal evidence indicates that many of that arriving generation sat the war out while their children fought for the Continental Army. 

The memories of serfdom, though, stayed with those original settlers who came from lands where they were serfs, and the moral outrage at serfdom and slavery became a part of the Pennsylvania German culture through the Underground Railroad era and the Civil War.

Side note: There are many ghost stories throughout the Deitscherei related to Hessian soldiers. The area around Charming Forge (Berks County) is said to be haunted by the ghosts of many captured soldiers who were put to work there, and even the Headless Horseman of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a ghost of a Hessian soldier whose head was blown off by a cannonball.

Mittwoch, 22. November 2017

PARADE OF SPIRITS! (Krampuslauf Philadelphia)

This is the annual grassroots Parade of Spirits through the streets of Northern Liberties. Participants are highly encouraged to dress in appropriate "Dark Half of the Year" costumes.

This is a participatory event more than a spectator event. Interested folks are encouraged to come in costumes that reflect the Dark Half of the year, the scary characters of traditional lore of various cultures, or the shadow side of the self.

Gathering time starts at around 3:30 PM. Some folks put their costumes on in in the park; others arrive in costume. Parade kicks off at dusk.

The Heathen Contingent has a Facebook group:


Socks are one of the most requested items at homeless shelters, but they are also one of the least-donated items.

From December 9, 2017 (Parade of Spirits) through January 1, 2017, Distelfink Sippschaft will be collecting new, unworn socks for folks in need.

We need all sizes, from baby to adult male. Practical socks, fun socks, fuzzy socks, holiday socks, argyle socks are all needed!

Stock up stacks of socks and stockings and help to bring warmth to the feet of those in need this Yuletide!

Contact Robert L. Schreiwer ( for collection sites.

The first location will be at Parade of Spirits/Krampuslauf in Liberty Lands Park.

Donations will be directed to homeless shelters in the Delaware Valley.

Freitag, 22. September 2017

Halliches Erntfescht

(or Erntdankfescht!)

The autumn equinox and surrounding days served as the time of the original Deitsch (and German, for that matter) Thanksgiving. We Urglaawer observe the equinox and celebrate the harvest as a community as close to the equinox as possible. The Schwenkfelders observe the thanksgiving on September 24, other localities hold it on different days, also often based on the equinox.

In Heathen times, communities pitched in to help to finish harvests, to trade different crops, and to tend to kin and neighbor so that everyone had a variety of foods to store for the winter. This is the root of the Harvest Home tradition, which continues in many churches today.

The establishment of a national Thanksgiving holiday was actually met with some resistance in Deitsch communities because we already had a thanksgiving observance that was placed at the time of the completion of the harvest. The end of November seemed to be an odd time to many people. The traditional harvests were well over by then, it was typically very cold, and, prior to the rise of modern transportation and grocery, people would be more likely conserving their food stores, outside of game, to ensure a supply to carry them through if Spring came late.

The Harvest Home church traditions nowadays take place all throughout September, but they are a legacy of the thanksgiving festival. Urglaawe groups hold thanksgiving festivals as close to the equinox as possible. All of these observances focus on spreading the wealth of the harvest around, most typically in the form of canned food donations to food shelters.

Over time, the national holiday in November has meshed well with traditional Pennsylvania Dutch foods and has become part of our lives. However, it is good to keep our cultural traditions alive, too.

Most of us who were born after World War II are so accustomed to supermarkets having everything we could want all throughout the year that it is difficult to fathom the reliance on root cellars, springhouses, and cooperative efforts among neighbors. Jump back a few generations, when most food was grown locally, and it becomes easier to see why there would be a formal expression of gratitude for a successful harvest. We can capture a bit of the experience of our forebears by appreciating events like the end of the harvest.

Besides, it never hurts to have another day where we are a little more deliberate in our gratitude for the food that nourishes us. So, sometime this week, you may want to incorporate an extra expression of gratitude in the religious or philosophical context that resonates with you to the plants and the animals that feed us, to the farmers who produce the food, and to the transportation and outlets that make it available to us.

Let's make Erntfescht/Erntdankfescht a thing again in our communities!

Mittwoch, 15. März 2017

Heesses Wasser Uffschtand

Fries' Rebellion is the last significant Deitsch uprising. It is named after John Fries, who was a hero of the Whiskey Rebellion but who was also considered a traitor as a result of the rebellion that bears his name in English. The Deitsch name, Heesses Wasser Uffschtand (Hot Water Uprising), relates to the Deitsch women who chased away the tax collectors using boiling water as a weapon.

Had Fries' Rebellion been successful, life in the Deitscherei might be very different today. This was a watershed event in Deitsch history, and a presentation at Goschenhoppen tomorrow affords us with a great opportunity to learn about the causes of the rebellion.

Thursday, March 16, 2017
Red Men's Hall
216 Gravel Pike
Green Lane, PA