Uncovering the Enemy Within: British Columbians and the German Menace

  • Peter Nicholas Moogk University of British Columbia
Keywords: war, civil rights, discrimination, military history, immigration, Germans, ethnicity


At the outbreak of the 1914-18 war the German kaiser and his military high command were blamed for the conflict.  The civil rights of immigrants from enemy countries who were naturalized British subjects were to be respected.  Reported atrocities by Germans fed a conviction that they were a criminal race, collectively guilty for the war and for its conduct.  Add to this a belief that there was a network of German, spies and saboteurs in B.C.  Paranoia and hostility produced denunciations to the provincial police about the disloyalty and supposed crimes of people who were or thought to be German. Private disputes were given a veneer of patriotism. The distinction between naturalized subjects and enemy nationals dissolved.  Those of German ancestry responded with name changes to avoid discrimination.  The article also explains why residents from the Austro-Hungarian Empire were pursued with less passion.

Author Biography

Peter Nicholas Moogk, University of British Columbia

Department of History

Professor Emeritus