Did You Know?
Erasing Culture: From Berlin to Kitchener
Berlin, a moderate sized town in southwestern Ontario, was home to a large population of German Canadians and many Mennonites, a peace church that opposed military service. It became a focus of public unrest because of its name and the assumed disloyalty of many of its German or pacifist residents. Zealous patriots removed from its pedestal a bust of Kaiser Wilhelm II located in the city's Victoria Park and threw it into adjacent Victoria Lake. Soldiers of the local 118th Battalion ransacked and vandalized German businesses.
In early 1916, the local Board of Trade recommended that the city change its name as a symbol of patriotic commitment and in the hope that another name would be better for business. A municipal committee listed dozens of possibilities, including 'Amity', 'Imperial City', and 'Hydropolis', but overseas events provided another option. Great Britain's minister of war, Lord Kitchener, was killed in early June en route to Russia when his warship struck a German mine. Only a few hundred local residents voted in the ensuing referendum, but those who did chose Kitchener. Berlin, which was not on the ballot, disappeared from the map on 1 September 1916. Periodic attempts during and after the war to revise the original name failed. See more