Sauerkraut and Salt Water: The German-Tongan Diaspora Since 1932

Group identity Families Immigration Cultural awareness Tonga Germany
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This is a study of individuals of German-Tongan descent living around the world. Taking as its starting point the period where Germans in Tonga (2014) left off, it examines the family histories, self-conceptions of identity, and connectedness to Germany of twenty-seven individuals living in New Zealand, the United States, Europe, and Tonga, who all have German-Tongan ancestry. It seeks to illuminate the extent to which there is a German-Tongan diaspora, and to represent the overall impact German emigration to Tonga has had on the world, via the lives and contributions of German-Tongan descendants worldwide. There are many factors which contribute to either the strength or weakness of the German identity in descendants in foreign nations. The First and Second World Wars in the early and mid-twentieth century proved to be watershed influences on the identity of German and mixed-race German-descent individuals in the Pacific. Actual population sizes and demographics, too, were important factors in the strength or weakness of German identity development. Political circumstances, including the lack of opportunity for foreigners to purchase land in Tonga, proved to be catalysts for the widespread emigration of German-Tongans in the twentieth century. According to interviews conducted with them and their family members, in diaspora, German-Tongans identify widely as Tongan, yet these identities are augmented by additional ethnicities. This augmentation is due largely to the multi-racial and –national realities of most of these individuals’ lives. While almost none report a strong connection to their German heritage, this appears to be due to the historical circumstances which limited the cultural transference of German identity to them rather than a conscious decision to disconnect. Modern descendants do, however, share important, distinct phenotypic and name legacies which set them apart from their full Tongan counterparts, and their wider communities. Taken as a diaspora or simply as a subset of the wider mixed-race population, German-Tongans around the world today are a vibrant and important group of individuals and families. Their lives perfectly reflect the tremendous, long-reaching effects of the historical emigration of Germans to Tonga.

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