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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher April 4, 2019

Despite what Donald Trump keeps saying, his father was born in New York, not Germany

In 1885, Friedrich Trump — the father of the late Fred Trump and the grandfather of President Donald Trump — immigrated from Germany to New York.

Then 16, Friedrich left before he could legally have been conscripted into the German military service, according to journalist Gwenda Blair, author of The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a President.

Some years later, Friedrich and his homesick wife, Elizabeth, tried to return to Germany, but their stay was short and they were eventually deported back to the United States. Not only had Friedrich, now too old to be drafted, not done his military service, but he had become a U.S. citizen, Blair explained to PolitiFact.

Why the history lesson?

Well, on April 2, 2019, (which happens to be International Fact-Checking Day), in making remarks to reporters about Germany, referred to his father, Fred, and said:

"My father is German, right? Was German, and born in a very wonderful place in Germany."

A flurry of news reports quickly declared that the president had uttered a falsehood about his father’s birthplace  — again. The stories pointed out that, as has been reported many times, Fred Trump was born in New York. Just as his New York Times obituary says he was.

(Interestingly, as the New York Times obit notes, Fred Trump at one stage of his life took to telling people he was of Swedish origin. Blair told us that was likely due to his business dealings with many Jewish people in New York and to anti-German sentiment in the United States during and after World War II.)

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As for the president’s claim about his father, when PolitiFact inquired to the White House, a spokesman did not respond.

Blair, speaking to PolitiFact from New York’s Central Park, said there’s no doubt that Elizabeth Trump was pregnant with Fred while she and Friedrich were still in Germany.

But there is also no question, Blair attested, that the couple had returned to New York by the time Fred was born.

"As we know, that does not make him born in Germany," Blair said. "Conceived in Germany? OK. But, born in Germany, no."

Newsweek and The Independent reported that Trump has made the erroneous claim about his father at least four times since taking office.

Each time, according to Newsweek, he has been either criticizing Germany's contribution to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the European Union's trade relationship with the U.S.

Our ruling

Donald Trump said his father was born in Germany  — even though, as has been reported many times -- Fred Trump was born in New York.

It’s unclear why the president keeps repeating it, but it’s wrong.

Pants on Fire.

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Pants on Fire
Says his father, Fred Trump, was "born in a very wonderful place in Germany."
In remarks to reporters
Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Our Sources

YouTube, Washington Post video of President Donald Trump remarks, April 2, 2019

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Would Trump bill have kept his grandfather and Melania from immigrating to U.S.? (And you, too?)" Jan. 19, 2018

The New Yorker, "An Immigrant Named Trump," Oct. 1, 2016

Interview, Gwenda Blair, author of The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a President, April 2, 2019

Washington Post, "The story of Donald Trump’s grandfather, who came to the U.S. as an unaccompanied minor," July 12, 2018

New York Times, "Fred C. Trump, Postwar Master Builder of Housing for Middle Class, Dies at 93," June 26, 1999

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Despite what Donald Trump keeps saying, his father was born in New York, not Germany

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