"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.
Dear GFS Members and Friends,
This past year has been a challenge for us all. The pandemic has impacted almost every aspect of our daily lives. The financial impact and loss of lives here and around the world has really been unbelievable. It has impacted the GFS too by shutting us down in March and eventually for the rest of the year.
This coming year we have hope, and I know it will be better. We have two vaccines approved, so far, for use, and they are being distributed throughout the United States and Ohio. The vaccinations are in progress and should allow us to get back to normal, but at this point we do not know when that might be, or what normal might look like. I am certain things will be different than before, not necessarily bad, but different. We will be looking at ways to allow everyone to get back together, safely. Stay tuned to our social media news reports and our website as we announce our up-coming events in 2021.
I would like to ask you and your family to continue to make the German Family Society a priority in your lives and your children's lives. The camaraderie, friendships, and teaching we provide cannot be found anywhere else and last a lifetime; just look around our club to see the examples. The dances we teach, the songs we sing, the traditions we share and the enjoyment we provide really make the GFS special. Our organization cannot survive without your help. Keeping our children active will only help to strengthen us for the long term.
We do have our calendar set for this year, the bands have been selected, and we are anxious to see you all again. Our board is eager to get things moving and we cannot wait to see you all in person.
We will be working hard to get organized, coordinated and procedures/policies in place to allow us to open and keep our people and guests safe! We will be trying new things this year to allow us to bring in some funds in addition to our festivals and usual functions.
The board and I would like to wish you a Happy New Year (Frohes neues Jahr)! We hope 2021 is filled with joy, health and prosperity. I look forward to seeing you all at our up-coming events.
Awald Langenfeld, GFS President 2021, and his wife Carolyn, Jr. Jugendgruppe Co-Leader
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 )