As the only major urban centre in Canada whose founding tradition is neither French nor English Kitchener, originally named Berlin, can reasonably claim to be the birthplace of allophone Canada.

As the Great War broke out between Germany and Britain there came the need to raise a battalion in Waterloo County to fight the Germans in Europe. Recruitment for 118 Battalion was slow in North Waterloo, partly because of the pacifism that is an essential part of the Mennonite faith. Suspicions of disloyalty led to mounting tensions: in 1915 the Kaiser's bust was dumped in the Victoria Park lake. When it was recovered the bust was stored at Concordia Club from where it then disappeared, creating a mystery that is still unsolved.
With the rise of jingoistic nationalism, the "Made in Berlin" trademark also became suspect and the local industrialists faced a loss in business. A movement to change the name of the city began in 1916 leading to what author William Chadwick calls a "campaign of intimidation, manipulation and misinformation". In the contest for a new name the winners were: Huronto, Bercana, Dunard, Hydro City, Agnoleo, Renoma; among those rejected: Verbena, Teck, Khaki, Brief, Amity, Arteaga, Cosmos, Uranus, Windigo. The winning names were publicly ridiculed and ultimately all rejected.
In June 1916 news reached Canada of the sinking of the armed cruiser HMS Hampshire after hitting a German mine off the west coast of the Orkneys and the drowning of Britain's Minister of War, Field Marshall Lord Kitchener. A Special Committee of Council selected a final list of possible new city names for a referendum: Brock, Corona, Adanac, Keowana, Benton, and Kitchener.
The turnout for the referendum was sparse: of the 892 ballots cast, Kitchener edged out Brock 346-335. There was widespread indignation: "an alien name had been foisted onto a city whose soul remains unchangedî. The name still had to be approved by Queen's Park and a petition of 2000 names asked to halt the process. Nevertheless the change became official on September 1, 1916: Berlin, Canada became Kitchener, Ontario.