GERMANS were among the first Europeans to arrive in BC, beginning with Heinrich Zimmerman, a coxswain serving on James COOK's ship Resolution in 1778. Among the most prominent colonists of the FUR TRADE era was John S. HELMCKEN, a member of the first provincial LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY and one of the delegates who negotiated BC's entry into CONFEDERATION. Several German naturalists made visits to BC during the 19th century: the writings of Berthold Seemann, A.E. Johann and Aurel Klaus heightened Europeans' interest in BC. The Cariboo GOLD RUSH attracted many German immigrants, some to prospect for GOLD, others to work as packers, merchants and ranchers. It was German-born Frank Laumeister who imported the CAMELS that were used briefly as pack animals on the CARIBOO WAGON ROAD. At the height of the gold rush, dancing girls were brought from Berlin to work in the saloons that opened in the CARIBOO. The main centre for the German population at this time was VICTORIA, where German JEWS established a cemetery and synagogue in the 1860s. In the years leading up to WWI, one of the most prominent investors in the province was Alvo von ALVENSLEBEN. Germans were the object of suspicion during the war. German Canadians naturalized since 1902 lost the right to vote and many German-language associations and publications were suppressed and people of German origin interned. When the British passenger liner Lusitania was sunk in May 1915, Victoria was the scene of 2 days of anti-German rioting, including threats against Lt Gov Francis BARNARD, whose wife was German (see LUSITANIA RIOTS). During WWII a small number of German Canadians were again interned. In general, though, Germans integrated easily into Canadian society during peacetime. Four distinctly German settlements were established in BC. One was Edelweiss, a small community of Swiss-German mountaineers built near GOLDEN by the CPR in 1912 (see SWISS GUIDES). CHILLIWACK and VANDERHOOF were settled by German MENNONITES who came to BC from the prairies in 1925. Chilliwack continues to have a high concentration of German Canadians, but the German population of Vanderhoof has largely dispersed. Another group of immigrants, the Sudeten Germans, arrived at the beginning of WWII as they fled Nazi rule over their former region of Czechoslovakia; in BC they founded the community of TOMSLAKE. Following the war, restrictions on German immigration were lifted; between 1947 and 1967 about 300,000 Germans arrived in BC, making them the second-largest group of Europeans in the province after the British. It was during this period that several German businesses opened in the West End of VANCOUVER and Robson St, with its German restaurants, delicatessens and shops, became known as "Robsonstrasse." BC is home to many German associations (Vancouver's Alpen Club and the Goethe Institute, which closed in 2000, have been 2 of the most prominent), German radio and television programs and 2 German-language newspapers. In 2001 there were 84,605 people living in BC who claimed German as their mother tongue. The community has always been very diverse, including Germans from several different countries and having several different religious affiliations.
by Dianne Mackay