"Great atmosphere and delicious German food! It’s so wonderful that these German descendants get together and embrace their heritage and share it with others."
The German Family Society was founded in 1955 at St. Bernard’s Catholic church by Danubeswabian (Folk-German), German and Austrian immigrants. In the 1960’s, we moved to the German American Club in Akron, then in 1973 to our present location (Donau Park) in Brimfield Township.
We are a non-profit, private and social organization whose charter is to promote our culture and pass down our ethnic heritage and family values to future generations. We are proud of the fact that our entire facility is maintained by members who volunteer their time and energy. We have approximately 12-15 major functions each year, including indoor dances with themes such as: Vienna Night, a Wine and Grape Harvest Festival, Country Western Night, Hawaiian Night and more, varying by each year. Of course, our best-known events are the 2-day “Old European Days & Bierfest” held every year on the last weekend of June, and our 3-day “Oktoberfest”, called by local TV as the best, most original and traditional Oktoberfest in the State of Ohio. We have also won a top spot for Beacon's best Festival/Fair in 2019 for our Oktoberfest.
Our organization has many ways to become involved, such as our Ladies Auxiliary (aka the "Frauengruppe" that is still regarded as the “Heart of our Society”), which prepares the delicious homemade meals for all of our events and weddings, but still enjoys time together at many other outings. We also have our Kindergruppe, Jr. Jugendgroup, Jugendgruppe, adult Tanzgruppe (social and dance group), and the Golden Ring Seniors. For those more interested in sports we have numerous soccer teams.
Interested in becoming a member? Our membership is a family membership, which means if you have a spouse and/or children under 21, you will all be under one membership. If you are married or have children (under 21), you must sign up for a family membership. We have a single membership for those with no spouse and/or children under 21.
We have two types of membership; active or passive.
Our club is thriving and will continue to do so with all the interest from the younger adults. I am thrilled to be part of this movement and have more younger adults volunteer for our festivals and dances through the year. It is very important for all of us to continue step up to help when we can. We all have busy lives, but where can a family go anymore and know their children will be safe and have a great time with their friends while making new ones? Additionally, parents and grandparents, can enjoy a good conversation and forget about the outside world for a while. The club was started as a gathering place for families.
I’ve gone through some rough times and the club was a great place to go for friendship and support. I realized that no one judged me - they accepted my daughters and me. My daughters started in the children’s group and continued all the way to the youth group. I also met my wife, Alison at Oktoberfest. We are raising our granddaughter and she is very much involved in the junior youth group. The club has been wonderful to my family and me. GFS will continue to be awesome to all of you and your families.
I look forward to meeting each of you and your families! With your support, we will continue to have a great gathering place for our families. You can leave me a message with your thoughts or ideas at email@example.com.
Frank J. Ganz, President
German Family Society of Akron
Frank Ganz, President of the German Family Society since 2019
The 15th and 16th centuries witnessed the creation of the powerful Ottoman Empire. It conquered not only the Balkan States and most of Hungary, but even beleguered the city of Vienna in the next century.
Three fierce forces controlled Southeastern Europe for more than 150 years and during this time not only ravaged the land but also scattered the people. Some areas lost all traces of civilization.
When the Turks of the Ottoman Empire were finally defeated in this area with the help of the Austrian emperor's general Prince Eugen, it was the main concern of Prince Eugen to colonize the land again and to make it fruitful.
Emperor Charles VI, the Empress Maria Theresa, and Emperor Joseph II encouraged settlers, farmers and craftsmen for the most part from West German lands, Luxemburg, Alsace Lorraine, etc. to settle the now ravaged land.
Not with wagon trains westward, as did our own settlers of the time, but with barges, did these people travel eastward on the Danube River to reach their new home. They settled on the potentially fertile land along the Danube and some of its tributaries and hence, were later named the Danube Swabians.
Many of the settlers never saw the fruits of their labor because of famine and plague that swept through their ranks.
The pioneer spirit prevailed, however, and they not only re-established a civilization, but in the span of 200 years, made this area one of the most fruitful in Southeastern Europe. It was even referred to as the "Breadbasket of Europe."
They were extremely proud of their German language and cultural heritage and lived in close-knit settlements to maintain them.
The number of settlers increased to such an extent that land became scarce and the traces of pioneer spirit still remaining caused many to seek America at the end of the 19th century. At the conclusion of the First World War, when the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was dissolved and these areas were parcelled up between Hungary, Rumania, and Yugoslavia, many more came to America.
The result of the Second World War was the annihiliation of about 250,000 Danube Swabians in the concentration camps of Tito. Furthermore, 100,000 of our people from Rumania and Hungary were abducted to Russia for forced labor, and were forcefully displaced to the Baragan Steppes of Rumania, where many thousands perished.
The largest part of the surviving Danube Swabians were forced to flee or were expelled from their homeland as a result of the ever advancing communism. Most of them sought refuge in the already overcrowded countries of Germany and Austria, where some of them still remain. To many, the liberal immigration laws of the United States gave renewed hope and the opportunity to start anew as their forefathers had done again and again.
A large number settled in Ohio and sought as their home especially the areas of Cleveland, Akron, Mansfield, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Youngstown. Their diligence and honesty caused them to gain the respect of their neighbors. They adapted quickly to the ways of their new home and many of them play a substantial role not only economically, but also politically. Though they are faithful and conscientious citizens of the United States, they have never lost their pride in their heritage and have maintained it and are maintaining it to this day.
The Danube Swabians created organizations and associations such as German language schools, music bands, youth and sport groups, choirs, etc. to preserve their language, songs, dances, and customs. Their favorite sport, soccer, has also been furthered, as the creation of today's many soccer clubs shows. These organizations are welcomed at many public events to entertain with their music and dance. The members of the Danube Swabian groups are especially grateful that they have been welcomed and accepted by the public and praised by the various city, county, and state administrations.
Lederhosen and dirnds may be the costumes that first come to mind for a German organization. However, these outfits are traditionally worn by those living in the Alpine regions of Southern Germany and Austria. This is why you will typically associate the clothing with Oktoberfest, typically held in Munich, the capital of Bavaria. These Bavarian clothes can be bright and colorful and often a favorite for our dancers during our large outdoor festivals. Not to mention, the short length of the lederhosen is much better for the early September heat. We can't say too much about the leather while dancing though...
While dress for the Donauschwaben could vary by city, the costume generally consists of black shoes or boots, black pants and a black vest (or leiwl) for men and a large dress with multiple starched layers, a scarf over the shoulders, blouse, and vest for the ladies. For formal events, women generally wore black or dark clothing with a scarf or bonnet covering their hair. At the Akron GFS the traditional Donauschwaben outfit is worn during our formal events such as German-American day, Kirchweih, Sunday performances after mass, or during our Donauschwaben Landestreffen.
BLOUSE/SHIRT (BLUSE) –The ladies’ blouse or shirt is made of white cotton and has short, fancy sleeves and a round neckline.
VEST (LEIBCHEN)–Covering the blouse is a vest made of velvet, silk or linen and decorated with delicate seams, lace or ribbons with a low, curved neckline. Buttons or hooks & eyes tie the usually black colored vest together.
SCARF (HALSTUCH) –A large and colorfully patterned scarf made of silk, silk brocade, taffeta or linen give our Tracht a dramatic flair. Scarves come with fringes or are cut into a triangle with two complementary parts.
OUTER SKIRT (OBERROCK) –The skirt consists of four or five different sections of material and is made of silk, atlas, linen, batiste, or silk brocade. They are single or multi colored with a dazzling array of finely patterned flowers, polka dots, or stripes in gathered or pleated folds.
UNDER SKIRT (UNTERROCK) To give the outer skirt a high degree of puffiness, the under skirt is heavily starched, pleated and ironed. In addition, gathered or rolled materials may also be worn underneath. Made of linen or cotton, the under skirts are usually one color with a patterned, flowered, or checkered design. They might also be hand embroidered with a lace or serrated bottom hem.
APRON (SCHÜRZE) –This is often black and made of silk, taffeta or linen with either a lace border or lace insets. A ribbon tied in the front or back holds the apron in place.
HEAD COVERING (LÄNDER) Made in a variety of colors, the head coverings were silk, linen or lace with embroidered flowers or other decorative elements.
SHOES (SCHUHWERK) –At the bottom of our list and at the bottom of every Tracht are the shoes! Usually black, they are made of leather or velvet with a low heel and a buckle.
SHIRT (HEMD) – Contrasting the women’s beautifully complicated Tracht, is the far more conservative looking ethnic costume worn by our men. The shirt proves the point: straight forward in design, made of linen or cotton and appearing in any color you like as long as it is white!
VEST (LEIWL) Always black in color, the vests have a long row of decorative silver buttons.
PANTS (HOSE) –These are made of black colored linen, cotton or some other substantial material with straight and narrow pant legs.
HAT (HUT) – Sitting wide and low on the head with a fashionable dent in the middle, our men’s hats were mostly black and were worn with or without colorful trim.
SHOES (FUSSZEUG) Men wear boots or regular shoes that are (not surprisingly!) black in color."
(Published at DVHH.org 12 Nov 2007 by Jody McKim Pharr)
For more information on traditional Donauschwaben costume please CLICK HERE.
Two of our Jugendgruppe dancers, Nate and Alexa. Right image courtesy of http://www.dvhh.org/
"The colors of the Coat of Arms are modeled after the national colors of the homeland of the Danube Swabian people, black, red, gold; the colors for the German flag. The colors of the Danube Swabian people are also included; white, green and blue.
Heraldry: On the top half of the Coat of Arms, the German Eagle is portrayed with his wings widespread in a protective manner symbolizing the responsibility of the German Emperor to protect his people.
The fortress of Temeschburg is depicted on the lower half of the Coat of Arms. The fortress towers are located between the sun, symbolizing the rise of Christianity, and the crescent moon, symbolizing the setting of Islam.
The fortress walls are white and the tower rooftops are red. These towers represent the six primary settlements of the Danube Swabian people.
A wavy blue line symbolizing the Danube River separates the upper and lower segments of the coat of arms. In boats, called “Ulmer Schachteln” the Danube Swabian people traveled down river to settle in their new lands.
The green area below the fortress represents the fields they cultivated."
(Milwuakee Donauschwaben http://www.theschwabenhof.com/history-of-the-donauschwaben.html )