German Chileans

German Chileans
Deutsch-Chilenen · Germanochilenos
Total population
(est. 500,000 [1] (3% of the Chilean population))
Regions with significant populations
Valdivia, Valparaíso, Santiago de Chile, Temuco, Talca, Concepción, Viña del Mar, Osorno, Puerto Varas, Villarrica.
Chilean Spanish, German, Lagunen-deutsch
Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic and Lutheran).
Related ethnic groups
Germans, German Americans, German-Argentinians, German-Brazilian, German Canadians, German Mexican, German-Paraguayan, German-Peruvians, German Uruguayans, German Venezuelans

German Chileans (Spanish germanochilenos, German Deutsch-Chilenen) are Chilean citizens who derive their German ancestry from one or both parents. They are chiefly descendants of about 30,000 immigrants who arrived between 1846–1914, most following the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states.[2][3][4] In the 1907 census, Germans were the fifth-largest immigrant group in Chile, after Bolivians, Peruvians, Spaniards and Italians.[5]

From the middle of the 19th century to the present, they have played a significant role in the economic, political and cultural development of the Chilean nation. The 19th-century immigrants settled chiefly in Chile’s Araucanía, Los Ríos and Los Lagos regions in the so-called Zona Sur of Chile, including the Chilean lake district.


Germans in the Spanish colony

Incursions and settlements of the Conquistadores

The first German to feature in the history of what is now Chile is Bartolomé Blumenthal (Spanish alias Bartolomé Flores) during the 16th century who accompanied Pedro de Valdivia. The latter conquistador ousted the indigenous population and founded the city of Santiago. Valdivia also arrested and took hostage the Cacique (tribal leaders and chiefs) to weaken the society of the local Mapuche people. Blumenthal took part in the defence of the Spanish settlement of Santiago when the Mapuche launched a counter-offensive on 11 September 1541 in attempt to free their caciques held hostage by the conquistadores.

Later Blumenthal took part in the consolidation of the Spanish settlement that would become the Talagante Province; he was the first engineer in the remote colony. Blumenthal’s son-in-law, Pedro Lisperguer (born Peter Lisperger in Worms, Germany), was appointed as mayor of Santiago in 1572.

Johann von Bohon (known in Spanish as Juan Bohón) was also part of Valdivia's expedition and was ordered to establish the city of La Serena in 1544.

Hamburg and Valparaíso

Valparaíso, Chile, in 1830

In 1818 Chile became independent from Spain and began to engage in trading with more nations. The port city of Valparaíso became a major center for trade with Hamburg, with commercial travellers and merchants from Germany staying for lengthy periods of time to work in Valparaíso. Some settled there permanently.

On 9 May 1838 Club Alemán de Valparaíso, the first German cultural organization was established in the city. German residents and visitors held cultural functions here. The club began to organize literary, musical and theatre productions, contributing to the cultural life of the city. Aquinas Ried, a physician, became widely known in the city for composing operas, and for writing poetry and plays. The club had its own orchestras and academic choir (singakademie) which would perform works composed by local musicians.[6]

Colonization of Southern Chile

The Chilean government encouraged German immigration in 1848, a time of revolution in Germany. Before that Bernhard Eunom Philippi recruited nine working families to emigrate from Hesse to Chile.

The origin of the German immigrants in Chile began with the Law of Selective Immigration of 1845. The objective of this law was to bring people of a medium social/high cultural level to colonize the southern regions of Chile; these were between Valdivia and Puerto Montt. The process was administered by Vicente Pérez Rosales by mandate of the then-president Manuel Montt. The German immigrants revived the domestic economy, and they changed the southern zones. The leader of the first colonists, Karl Anwandter, proclaimed their goals:

We shall be honest and laborious Chileans as the best of them, we shall defend our adopted country joining in the ranks of our new countrymen, against any foreign oppression and with the decision and firmness of the man that defends his country, his family and his interests. Never will have the country that adopts us as its children, reason to repent of such illustrated, human and generous proceeding,...

The expansion and economic development of Valdivia were limited in the early 19th century. To stimulate economic development, the Chilean government initiated a highly focused immigration program under Vicente Pérez Rosales as government representative. Through this program, thousands of Germans settled in the area, incorporating then-modern technology and know-how to develop agriculture and industry. Some of the new immigrants stayed in Valdivia but others were given forested land, which they cleared for farms.[7]

Valdivia, situated at some distance from the coast, on the Calle-calle river, is a German town. Everywhere you meet German faces, German signboards and placards alongside the Spanish. There is a large German school, a church and various Vereine, large shoe-factories, and, of course, breweries...

For ten years after the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, numerous liberal immigrants came from Germany, exiles of the revolutions. They settled primarily in the Llanquihue in the towns of Frutillar, Puerto Octay, Puerto Varas, Osorno and Puerto Montt. Around 1900 Valdivia prospered with industries, including the Hoffmann Gristmill and the Rudloff shoe factory.

20th century

By the mid-1930s, most of the farming land around the towns of Valdivia and Osorno had been claimed. Some German immigrants moved further south to places such as Puyuhuapi in the Aysén region. With the help of workers from the Chiloé, they colonized a large part of Chilean and Argentine Patagonia.[8]

German settlers in Aysén Region in the 1930s.

Subsequently, a new wave of German immigrants arrived in Chile, with many settling in Temuco, and Santiago. Many founded businesses; for example, Horst Paulmann's small store in the capital of the Araucanía Region grew into Cencosud, one of the largest businesses in the region.

German settlers in Aysén Region in 1951.
See also: Nazism in Chile

Even before the Nazi takeover of Germany in 1933, a German Chilean youth organization was established with strong Nazi influence. Nazi Germany pursued a policy of Nazification of the German Chilean community.[9] These communities and their organizations were considered a cornerstone to extend the Nazi ideology across the world by Nazi Germany. Most German Chileans were passive supporters of Nazi Germany. Nazism was widespread among the German Lutheran Church hierarchy in Chile. A local chapter of the Nazi Party was started in Chile.[9]

During World War II, many German Jews fled to Chile before and during the Holocaust. For example, the families of Mario Kreutzberger and Tomás Hirsch came to Chile during this time.

Shortly after World War II, former members of Nazi Germany tried to take refuge in South America, including Chile, fleeing trials against them in Europe and elsewhere. Among these was SS Standartenführer and war criminal Walter Rauff. Paul Schäfer, a former army medic, founded Colonia Dignidad, a German enclave in the Maule Region, in which abuses against human rights were allegedly carried out. The precise number of Nazi refugees hidden in Chile after WWII remains unknown.

German Chileans today

Raw beef crudos are considered a typical German-Chilean dish similar to the German mett. The one in picture are from Café Hausmann in Valdivia.
Entrance to the Kunstmann Brewery and restaurant in Valdivia, Chile
German Lutheran church in Frutillar, Chile

The exact number German-Chileans is unknown, because many of the early arrivals' descendants have intermarried and assimilated over the past 150 years. According to the last census, there were 5,906 German-citizens living in Chile.

An independent estimate calculates that about 500,000 Chileans could be descendants of German immigrants.[1]

An estimated 20,000 Chileans speak the German language.[10] There are also German schools[11] and German-language newspapers and periodicals in Chile (e.g., Cóndor – a weekly German-language newspaper).


German schools:[12]

Historic German schools:[13]

Notable German Chileans

Religious affiliations

Many Germans who migrated to Chile practice Roman Catholicism. Others have Protestant affiliations. Germans introduced the first Evangelical Protestant and Lutheran churches to Chile.

See also

External links


  1. 1 2 "Alemanes en Chile: entre el pasado colono y el presente empresarial" (in Spanish). Deutsche Welle. 31 March 2011. Retrieved 22 December 2012. Hoy, el perfil de los alemanes residentes aquí es distinto y ya no tienen el peso numérico que alguna vez alcanzaron. En los años 40 y 50 eran en Chile el segundo mayor grupo de extranjeros, representando el 13% (13.000 alemanes). Según el último censo de 2002, en cambio, están en el octavo lugar: son sólo 5.500 personas, lo que equivale al 3% de los foráneos. Sin embargo, la colonia formada por familias de origen alemán es activa y numerosa. Según explica Karla Berndt, gerente de comunicaciones de la Cámara Chileno-Alemana de Comercio (Camchal), los descendientes suman 500.000. Concentrados en el sur y centro del país, donde encuentran un clima más afín, su red de instituciones es amplia. “Hay clínicas, clubes, una Liga Chileno-Alemana, compañías de bomberos y un periódico semanal en alemán llamado Cóndor. Chile es el lugar en el que se concentra el mayor número de colegios alemanes, 24, lo que es mucho para un país tan chico de sólo 16 millones de habitantes”, relata Berndt. / (Translation) Today, the profile of the Germans living here is different and no longer have the numerical weight they once reached. In the 1940s and 1950s they were in Chile's second largest foreign group, accounting for 13% (13,000 Germans). According to the last census in 2002, however, they are in eighth place: they are only 5,500 people, equivalent to 3% of foreigners. However, the colony of families of German origin is active and numerous. According to Karla Berndt, communications manager for the German-Chilean Chamber of Commerce (Camchal), descendants totaled 500,000. Concentrated in the south and center of the country, where they find a more congenial climate, its network of institutions is wide. "There are clinics, clubs, a Chilean-German League, fire companies and a German weekly newspaper called Condor. Chile is the place in which the largest number of German schools, 24 which is a lot for such a small country of only 16 million people", says Berndt. line feed character in |quote= at position 1370 (help)
  2. Los colonos
  3. Alemanes en Chile.
  4. Colonización Alemana en Llanquihue
  5. Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas
  6. Orígenes del Club Alemán y Primer Centro Cultural del Antiguo Valparaíso
  7. Luis Otero, La Huella del Fuego: Historia de los bosques y cambios en el paisaje del sur de Chile (Valdivia, Editorial Pehuen)
  8. Germans and Chilotes in Patagonia, Atlas vivo, English version here retrieved November 27, 2013
  9. 1 2 Nocera, Raffaele (2005), "Ruptura con el Eje y el alineamiento con Estados Unidos. Chile durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial", Historia (in Spanish), 38 (2): 397–444
  10. Peter Rosenberg. "Deutsche Minderheiten in Lateinamerika (German)" (PDF). Europa-Universität Frankfurt/Oder. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  11. "Deutsche Schulen in Chile (German)" (PDF). The German Embassy in Santiago. November 25, 2011. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  13. "Deutscher Bundestag 4. Wahlperiode Drucksache IV/3672" (Archive). Bundestag (West Germany). 23 June 1965. Retrieved on 12 March 2016. p. 20-24/51.
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