This article by Thomas Welskopp, a Professor of History at the University of Bielefeld, comprehensively examines the German-American experience of Prohibition in the U.S. from 1919-1933. The German-American experience is a unique one and adds a new perspective to an event which is only briefly learned about in American schools today. Welskopp starts the article with a thorough explanation of German beer culture and German-American’s resistance to prohibition. He touches on the major German producers in America and their strong ties to every-day life and culture. Along with that Welskopp explains the early success of German-led breweries and consequent abasement they had to deal with after the enactment of the 18th amendment. Beer production did slowly regain its footing after the shock of prohibition’s introduction. German-American’s were about to establish facilities and production methods that tested the limits of the law. German culture celebrated beer drinking and the saloon network/environment. So when the men who inhabited these bars/saloons became disturbed by hardened enforcement of prohibition laws many joined together to create German-American mobs and gangs. This created a web of new gangs and a hierarchy of German bar owners and gang members that all rallied behind beer production but inevitably got involved in other illegal sales. Beer production lived on despite the regulations and thrived after the law’s demise. Welskopp does explain that German culture and influence in America was forever changed and German-American’s were often ostracized as a result of prohibition.
I enjoyed reading Welskopp’s writing and explanation of the German-American experience during prohibition. Welskopp is himself a descendant of German-American’s and writes with a strong emphasis on his ancestor’s place, contribution, and involvement in history. The writing is academic with many footnotes and credible sources. This does not, however, make the publication hard to read. I found his writing engaging and extremely interesting due to fascinating examples and insight into German-American life. The writing uses the German-American experience as his lens, giving the reader a new narrative to read and a better understanding of a group very affected by prohibition.
Source: Thomas Welskopp, Prohibition in The United States: The German-American Experience, 1919-1933.https://www.ghi-dc.org/fileadmin /user_upload/GHI_Washington/ Publications/Bulletin53/bu53_031.pdf, Accessed 2 October 2017.
Word Count: 359