When war broke out in Europe in 1914, anti-German sentiment was almost non-existent, particularly in the state of Nebraska. Over the next year, anti-German sentiment began to rise due to increased hostility by German U-boats towards American vessels, and was cemented into place by the sinking of the RMS Lusitania on May 7th, 1915. By the time America entered the war on April 6th, 1917, domestic hostility towards Germans and German culture had reached a fever pitch. Within a month of America entering the war in Europe, the Nebraska Legislature passed a bill which created the Nebraska State Council of Defense. (Manley)
The Nebraska State Council of Defense was created to ensure that the state would be the most effective at serving the nations objective of victory in Europe. The primary objective that the council stressed to enforce was a state loyalty to the national agenda. The Nebraska Council of Defense targeted various organizations, including churches and schools, to eliminate the use of the German language. (Manley) While these acts are now seen as inexcusable abuse of power, the Nebraska Council of Defense would be known for the infamous loyalty trials that it demanded at the University of Nebraska.