German Native and Pennsylvania-German Expert visits Oley Valley Dutch Club

Dr. Michael Werner, publisher of the country’s only Pennsylvania Dutch newspaper, speaks with members of the Oley Valley Dutch Club at their Feb. 12 meeting.

A specialist in German linguistics and the publisher of the only existing Pennsylvania Dutch newspaper spoke at a recent meeting of the Oley Valley Dutch Club.

Dr. Michael Werner, publisher of “Hiwwe wie Driwwe,” visited the club on Feb. 12 to talk about the shared connections between the Palatinate region of Germany and Berks County.

About 25 people heard Werner, of Ober-Olm in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, talk about the paper he founded in 1993 and his interest in the Pennsylvania-German culture. Along with his duties as publisher of “Hiwwe wie Driwwe,” Werner is also the founder of a private archive for Pennsylvania-German literature which is held at the University of Manheim in Germany. He additionally serves as past president of the German-Pennsylvania Association, of which he is a founder.

In 2013, Werner entered into a cooperative agreement with Kutztown University for the publication of “Hiwwe wie Driwwe,” which is currently published twice annually. Subscription to the paper is $12 for two years, or $3 per issue. Information about subscribing can be found at <https://hiwwewiedriwwe.wordpress.com>.

Werner will celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Hiwwe wie Driwwe” in 2016 by touring with his Pennsylvania German band, “New Paltz.” The band, which along with Werner includes three other members of the Palatine community, will tell the story in song of Palatine emigrants who ended up in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The band intends to perform for two weeks in October of 2016 and can be booked by contacting Werner at <michael-werner@t-online.de>.

While lamenting the slow demise of the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect in the United States, Werner said approximately 400,000 people still speak the language this side of the Atlantic. Werner said that while Berks County is widely viewed as the “home” of the Pennsylvania Dutch culture, 80 percent of Pennsylvania Dutch speakers are within the Amish and Mennonite sects, with 60 to 70 percent living outside of Pennsylvania in such states as Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky.

“I recently went to a supper at the home of a Mennonite bishop, old order, All spoke Pennsylvania German. I think the dialect will survive but will change, with the older order Mennonites keeping the dialogue best,” Werner said.

Werner said approximately one million people in Germany speak a form of Pennsylvania Dutch, otherwise known as the Palatinate dialect.

The author of several children’s books, Werner makes every effort to keep interest in Pennsylvania and German culture alive. “It’s our history too,” Werner says. “We have lost so much through two world wars, and when I come to Pennsylvania, it’s like coming to a museum. I meet so many people with like interests, whether it be music or journalism. I learn so much about my own culture and history through coming to Pennsylvania.”

“There are many active ways we are keeping the Pennsylvania Dutch culture alive,” Werner said. “It isn’t something that’s dead.”

The meeting, moderated by club president Jeff Shearer, began with the traditional “singing for your supper.” Songs included “Oh, Du Grunsau,” sung to the tune of “Oh Susanna,” and “Deitsch Schwetze un Singe,” sung to the tune of “When It’s Springtime in the Rockies.”

After the meeting, traditional Pennsylvania Dutch desserts, prepared by Shearer in honor of Werner’s visit, were served. Information about the Oley Valley Dutch Club can be found by contacting Jeff Shearer at <jshear1@verizon.net>.

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