From the building of the world’s longest street by early settlers to the masterful designs of city landmarks by individual architects, Toronto’s German-speaking residents have made their mark upon the city. Along Front Street, remnants of Old York mixed with modern developments chronicle Toronto’s growth from a town to a metropolis. Berczy Park on the boulevard of Front and Wellington streets is named for architect and artist William Moll Berczy who co-founded Toronto (York) with John Graves Simcoe in 1794. Not far from this downtown respite is Yonge Street, which was cleared and constructed by Berczy and other German settlers. German Mills Settlers Park (Leslie and John Streets in Markham) commemorates the 64 German families that Berczy brought to settle in Upper Canada.
The sleek black façade of the Toronto Dominion Centre bears the famous markings of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s international Bauhaus style, while architect Eberhart Zeidler’s designs of top tourist attractions, such as the Eaton Centre, Ontario Place, and Queen’s Quay Terminal, stand as silhouettes on Toronto’s skyline.
The first recorded German settler in Canada was Hans Bernard, who purchased land in Quebec in 1664. In the mid-18th century, 2,000 German newcomers landed at HaliFax. Early German-speaking immigrants to Canada came not only from the various states of Germany, but also from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and other European countries. After the American Revolution, German settlers from New York State, disbanded German auxiliary troops of the British crown, and Mennonites from Pennsylvania came in search of free land in Upper Canada.
By 1850, Toronto’s community began to organize as a group; German Lutherans formed the congregation of the First Lutheran Church of Toronto. German builders, architects, manufacturers, and craftsmen started their own businesses, including Theodore August Heintzman, who turned his kitchen trade into Heintzman and Company, a world-renowned manufacturer of pianos. Sir Adam Beck was knighted for establishing the Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario in 1903. German musicians gave Toronto’s early arts community a boost when Augustus Stephen Vogt formed the Mendelssohn Choir of Toronto in 1894, and Luigi Maria von Kunits revived the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1912.
Included in the 100,000 German-speaking immigrants who arrived in Canada following the First World War were farmers, artisans, shopkeepers, and labourers. In Toronto, a German neighbourhood formed around St. Patrick’s Church on McCaul Street. A Catholic Settlement House was added to the church and functioned as a social and cultural centre with a library and a hall for holding classes, theatre evenings, concerts, and dances. The parishioners also formed a credit union and a funeral society.
Toronto’s industries and economic opportunities attracted more German immigrants following the Second World War, when a number of professionals such as doctors, scientists, engineers, and academics settled in the city. This post-war community formed cultural organizations, including the German-Canadian Club, the Danube-Swabian Club, the Hansa Club, and the Historical Society of Mecklenburg Upper Canada (publisher of the German-Canadian Yearbook). The Kolping Society of Ontario served to help Catholic German tradesmen—stonemasons, welders, watchmakers, and toolmakers.
While a neighbourhood for Toronto’s 220,000 member German community in 2005, has gradually dispersed throughout the city, examples of German artistry, craftsmanship, and business acumen are manifested throughout the city.
CANADIAN-GERMAN FESTIVAL (ANNUAL EVENT), (Festival hotline: 416-376-7928, www.germanfestival.ca).
FASCHING KARNEVAL. Masquerade parties and carnivals mark Fasching Karneval (Mardi Gras) held in January and February. The main festivities end on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the beginning of Lent. As part of the festivities, a new prince and princess are chosen.
GERMANY’S LABOUR DAY on May 1st is remembered by German-Canadians, with special celebrations held by some of the clubs.
CONSTITUTION DAY on May 23 celebrates the day West Germany established its own constitution.
Canadian German Festival. These traditional costumes are from the Black Forest region.
PILGRIMAGE on the second Sunday in June, the annual pilgrimage of German Catholics to Mary Lake, King City, pays homage to Germans expelled from Eastern Europe.
KIRCHWEIHFEST, the largest feast of the German congregation at St. Patrick’s Church, is held on September 24, the annual church dedication day.
OKTOBERFEST, with its oompah bands, sausages, sauerkraut, and beer, carries on a Munich tradition. Large festivities in Kitchener-Waterloo and other Ontario communities attract people of all ethnocultural backgrounds.
REMEMBRANCE DAY, November 18, honours Germans who died in two World Wars. Today, most German-Canadians recognize November 11 as Remembrance Day and many pay their respects at the Woodland Cemetery in Kitchener on the Sunday nearest the date.
ST. NIKOLAUS DAY. On the eve of St. Nikolaus Day, December 6, German-Canadian children leave notes in their shoes in hopes that the Saint will bring them gifts.
CHRISTMAS. Lighted evergreen trees at Christmas, a tradition that originated in Germany in the 16th century, was introduced to Canada in 1781 by the Baroness Friederike von Riedesel.
CIAO (AM 530), (Tel. 905-206-1234, 5312 Dundas St W). Flottewell, 8:00 am to 1:00 pm with host Helmut Gschoesser.
DEUTSCHE PRESSE, (Tel. 416-595-9714, 87 Judge Rd). The largest German weekly in the country. Publisher: Rolf Meyer. Managing Editor: Rosemarie Meyer.
ECHO GERMANICA, (Tel. 416-652-1332, 118 Tyrrel Ave). A bi-weekly newspaper. Publisher: Sybille Forster-Rentmeister.
GERMAN HOUR, CHIN 1540 AM/91.9 FM, (Tel. 416-531-9991, www.chinradio.com, 622 College St). Saturday, 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Host: Ulrich Jeschke.
HEIMATBOTE, (Tel. 905-881-6350, 17 Doncrest Dr., Thornhill). Monthly newspaper of the Alliance of Danube Swabians in Canada and the United States. Editor: Anton Wekerle.
NEUE WELT, German language bi-weekly newspaper, (Tel. 416-237-0591, Fax 416-237-9590, www.neueweltonline.com, 2 Billingham Rd., Suite 203). Publisher & Editor-in-chief: Karsten Mertens
RADIO HERZ, (Tel. 905-842-3144, www.radioherz.com, 1177 Imvicta Dr. Suite 201, Oakville). Twenty-four hours German language radio program.
DEUTSCHKANADISCHER KONGRESS (GERMAN-CANADIAN CONGRESS), (Tel. (519) 746-9006 or 1-800-364-1309, Fax (519) 746-7006, www.dkk-ont.net, 455 Conestogo Rd., Waterloo). Represents German-Canadians and promotes German culture in Canada. President (Ontario Chapter): Ernst Friedel.
HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF MECKLENBURG UPPER CANADA, (Tel. 416-439-1546, www.german-canadian.ca, P.O. Box 1251, Station K). The most influential German-Canadian cultural organization in the Toronto area; offers lectures and films, publishes the German-Canadian Yearbook, and is co-founder of the German Heritage Museum. President: Chris Klein.
CANADIAN-GERMAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, INC., (Tel. 416-598-3355, 480 University Ave., Suite 1410). President: Thomas Beck.
DEUTSCHER AUTOMOBILE CLUB, (Tel. 416-282-9865, 66 Celeste Dr). Promotes racing in Canada. Contact: Claus Bartels.
DEUTSCH-KANADISCHES SENIORENHEIM VON GROSS-TORONTO (GERMAN-SPEAKING SENIOR’S RESIDENCE), (Tel. 416-497-3639, 1020 McNicoll Ave., 4th floor). Contact: Gabriele Goldschmitd.
DEUTSCHE SPRACHSCHULEN (METRO TORONTO) INC., (Tel. 905-773-5601, 27 Bond Cr., Richmond Hill). Administration: E. Oberparleiter.
G.K.G. HARMONIE, (Tel. 416-231-8496). Contact: Gaby Schick.
GERMAN-CANADIAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION, (Tel. (705) 445-1240, 80-56 Goodview Rd). Contact: Mark Grzeskowiak.
GERMAN-CANADIAN CLUB HANSA, (Tel. 905-564-0060, 6650 Hurontario St., Mississauga). Contact: Elbira Tordan.
GERMAN SOCIETY OF EASTERN HERITAGE, (P.O. Box 80533, 2300 Lawrence Ave. E). President: Mr. Siegfried Fischer.
SUDETEN KLUB VORWARTS TORONTO, (Tel. 416-483-8240). Publishes a periodical called Vorwarts. President: Mr. R. Lawrence.
GOETHE INSTITUTE, (Tel. 416-593-5257, 100 University Ave, suite 201). Director: Dr. Arpad Solter.
Painting by Moll Berczy “Clearing of Yonge Street in Muddy York” Historical Society of Mecklenburg Upper Canada.