What's all this then?

My name is Victoria Stiles and I'm an Early Career Historian currently doing whatever odd research / consulting / outreach / tutoring jobs come my way. I blog here about some of the interesting texts I've found.
My research focusses on books about Britain and the British Empire which were in circulation in Nazi Germany but you'll also find a smattering of school textbooks, witchcraft beliefs, bog drainage, bemused travellers and weird illustrations that caught my eye.
Translations from German are my own. Comments are currently unmoderated and are mostly spam for leather jackets anyway.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Kurt G. Sell on "the great melting-pot"

More thoughts from the Nazi-era cultural commentator. For an explanation of who Kurt G. Sell was and why I'm reading his book, see this post. My two other posts on this book are here and here.

According to our guide, New York represents everything bad about "the great melting pot". Sell repeats his earlier assertion that it's the less worthy / capable / hard-working immigrants who stay in the East Coast cities, and then presents us with some statistics:

Total population of New York: 7 million

Negro population: 440 000

Jewish population: 2 million

The Jews are by far the most numerous: at 2 million they make up 27% of the population of New York, while the figure for the whole of the USA is only 3.6% (4.6 million). With the Jews, then, the disparity [of New York?] with the rest of America is far more drastic and one would be completely justified in calling the largest city in America "jewified". More Jews and Negroes live in New York than in any other city in the world. (p.85)

,,Die Juden sind bei weitem am zahlreichsten: mit 2 Millionen bilden sie 27% der New Yorker Bevölkerung, während für die gesamten USA. nur 3,6% (4,7 Millionen) gezählt wurden. Bei den Juden ist also das Mißverhältnis zu dem übrigen Amerika noch viel drastischer und es ist durchaus berechtigt, wenn man die größte Stadt der USA. als ,,verjüdet" bezeichnet. In New York leben mehr Juden und meahr Neger als in irgeneiner anderen Stadt der Welt."

1st or 2nd generation immigrants: 73% of the NY population

Without these immigrants (whom, Sell is keen to point out, the inhabitants of more provincial states would not consider to be Americans at all), New York would have a similar population to Detroit. Sell doesn't name a source for his numbers, but based on the Detroit / New York comparison, I'd say there's a good chance that he's using census results from 1930 (presuming he had access to these at that time). The population given here for New York was 6,930,446 and for Detroit 1,568,662. If he was also excluding the black population from the "American" inhabitants of New York, then the figures would roughly match up. On the other hand, the 1931 census report (full, huge, beautiful pdf here) gives the black population of the whole state as only 412,814. This is the point where I admit that statistics aren't really my bag.

Immigrant population by nationality (in the order Sell lists them):
Italians: 1 070 000
Russians: 945 000
Germans (incl. Austrians): 888 000
Poles: 458 000
Englishmen: 178 000
Hungarians: 11 500
Romanians: 93 000
Czechs: 72 000
Immigrants "from 40 other countries of the world": 800 000

It seems utterly bizarre to me that immigrants of Irish descent haven't been given their own category. Surely the census form can't have ignored such an important (and emotionally charged) distinction? I've a suspicion that Sell has casually swept them under the "Englishmen" heading, as he no doubt did with the Scots and Welsh. What is this German aversion to the words "Britain" and "British"?

Moving on, what, according to Sell, has this genetic gumbo done to parts of New York? Nothing positive:

Of the 38 million immigrants between 1820 and 1930, nine tenths landed in New York, and almost one sixth of them stayed in New York. New York is, by American standards, a very old city but she has failed to take care of either her welfare service or her many inhabitants. These have to then bunk down with their countrymen. So it was that the terrible slums came into being, and these have still not been cleaned up, despite the fact that the better class of New Yorker and the loudmouthed New York press constantly gab about the cultural peaks that America has reached, far above the "poor Europeans". The Lower East Side of the island of Manhattan, which stretches from south to north and accommodates the most important part of the city remains the worst slum in the western world. Here dwell Jews, Chinese, Armenians, Greeks, Slavs, Czechs, obviously no Germans. A stroll on a hot summer's evening through Orchard or Rivington Street or through any part of Lower East Side is like a visit to a run-down goat shed.

,,In New York landeten zwischen 1820 und 1930 neun Zehntel der 38 Millionen Einwanderer, und fast ein Sechstel davon blieb in New York. New York ist nach amerikanischen Begriffen eine sehr alte Stadt, aber weder um soziale Einrichtungen noch um die vielen Einwohner hat sie sich gekümmert. Diese suchten daher bei ihren Landesleuten Unterschlupf. So entstanden die furchtbaren Elendsviertel, die heute noch nicht gesäubert sind, obwohl der bessere New Yorker und die großmäulige New Yorker Presse andauernd von den kulturellen Gipfel schwatzt, den Amerika erreicht habe, weit über den ,,armen Europäern". Der untere Osten der Insel Manhattan, die sich von Süden nach Norden erstreckt und den wichtigsten Teil der Stadt beherbergt, ist immer noch der übelste Slum der westlichen Welt. Dort hausen Juden, Chinesen, Armenier, Griechen, Slawen, Tschechen, selbstverständlich keine Deutschen. Ein Spaziergang an einem heißen Sommerabend durch Orchard oder Rivington Street oder durch das Lower East Side-Viertel überhaupt ist wie ein Besuch in einem verwahrlosten Ziegenstall."

You know what's the coolest thing ever? Thanks to the wonders of technology, I can show you exactly what the corner of those two streets looks like today:

View Larger Map

Complete lack of goats but still, I love the internet.

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