The Ottawa Citizen

June 11, 1998

Dief disliked labelling that goes with hyphenation

Letters to the Editor

While I agree with the sentiments expressed in Desmond Morton's article ("Hyphenated Histories," June 8), I must call this illustrious historian, whom I very much admire, to task on his research in one particular area.

John Diefenbaker, born in Neustadt, Ont., was of Scottish (not Scotch) background on his mother's side and of German (not Norwegian) origin on his father's side.

Being of German background hasn't been very popular in Canada since the First World War, and even less so since the Second World War. But to keep the historical record straight, let us acknowledge and recognize that Canadians of German origin have made many valuable contributions to this country. For example, at least two Fathers of Confederation were of German descent. Indeed, people of German background form Canada's largest and oldest "ethnic group."

"Dief the Chief'' did not hide his German background. He -- like Desmond Morton -- just disliked the labelling that goes with hyphenation. Although he had served in the First World War with the Canadian Expeditionary Force against Germany, he later corresponded with distant German relatives, trying to locate some of his ancestral roots. He told me so in about 1974, when I was a bookseller and spent an entire afternoon with him in the Chateau Laurier, while he autographed many hundreds of copies of his best-selling autobiography.

Peter Hessel,
Arnprior

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