Being a German American in a Defense Plant

by Emil Bechler  b. 1944

I was born in 1944 so I don’t remember much about the war, but my father told me his story.

He came to the US in 1937 when things were getting bad in Germany.  We were not Jews, but life there for everybody was getting very stressful.  He got to Detroit and became a machinist in a Briggs plant that made parts for cars.  When the war came, Briggs went over to war production.   He became a citizen, but my father never lost his thick accent and while other workers used to poke fun at him once in a while, when the war started some of the comments became unfriendly and even threatening.

On top of that, there was a lot of union activity and some people thought he was involved.  He was not.  Fortunately for my father, he was very good at what he did.  When pressure was on for production, he could produce excellent work and high output.  Other workers became persuaded that he was a loyal American.

My father never complained about what happened, but I know it affected him.   Briggs closed the plant after the war and my father went to work in a small machine shop.



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