Victims of the Home Front: Enemy Aliens in the United States During the First World War

TitleVictims of the Home Front: Enemy Aliens in the United States During the First World War
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1993
AuthorsNagler, Jörg
EditorPanayi, Panikos
Book TitleMinorities in Wartime: National and Racial Groupings in Europe, North America, and Australia During the Two World Wars
CityOxford, UK

In times of war, loyalty becomes the primary psychological touchstone for national cohesiveness. It aims at transcending opposition and social discontent by streamlining diversity of opinion into a monolithic bloc. Ethnic and/or national heritage or even a 'hyphen-mentality' challenge national allegiance and thus pose a threat to national consensus. In the case of American society, the sudden demands of warfare resulted in a hectic preparation of the American mind, and in a crusade for 100 per cent Americanism to meet national objectives. John Higham has rightly argued that this struggle 'called forth the most strenuous nationalism and the most pervasive nativism that the United States had ever known'. In American history the fear of the alien, and thus nativism, has always been an expression of social disorder, with inherent fears of American society to find a coherent answer to the challenges of its political, economic, and ideological future. This article argues that, on the eve of the First World War, aliens and radicals embodied these fears by challenging the traditional and basically conservative 'American way of life'.

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