Barossa German Language Association host guest speak Robert Pfitzner

Photo: File
Photo: File

German was spoken commonly throughout the Barossa Valley and surrounding regions until the outbreak of World War I.

At the recent meeting of Kaffee und Kuchen, a social gathering of members of the Barossa German Language Association which is trying to revive the language, the guest speaker was Robert Pfitzner.

Mr Pfitzner's ancestors were among the first German immigrants in South Australia, and they settled in Robertstown, flourishing despite the often dry conditions.

They communicated at home and in local business transactions in German, the hybrid mixture of German and English which became known as Barossa Deutsch.

The children were taught by teachers of German descent in English and in German.

The climate of acceptance which German Australians had enjoyed for three-quarters of a century changed rapidly, especially after the Gallipoli disaster.

The South Australian Parliament passed Acts, first limiting the teaching of German and then closing the German schools.

In Robertstown the children were told on a Friday to hand in their German books, and on the following Monday they received new English books and were confronted by a new English schoolmistress.

In their homes anti-British sentiments had been simmering for some time because of the British treatment of Boer women and children during the Boer War fifteen years earlier, and some of the children reacted quite aggressively to the changes.

But education exclusively in English continued with the inevitable result that the use of the German language declined and eventually died out.

The next Kaffee und Kuchen meeting will be held at the Langmeil Centre, 7 Maria Street, Tanunda on Monday, October 28, starting at 1pm.

New members are always welcome.