Peaceful villages and towns, 2-3 miles apart from each other, spread across the low plains of the Austrian Empire, and later Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia, were the home of Swabian pioneers, who came and built an agricultural paradise.
The Swabians' social lives were constructed around village activities, such as music, singing, and dancing. Since most people were Roman Catholics, the church played a prominent role. Christmas, New Year's, Easter, Kirchweih, and the Harvest were celebrated in grand fashion. German schools assured that all children would receive an education worthy of the times.
Life, however, was not easy. Hard work was the only thing which assured this peaceful coexistence. No one ever thought this peaceful existence would come to an end. The roots were deep, the soil was giving endless wealth, and there was no reason to suspect a disaster. But adversity struck again. World War II demanded not only many lives, but also cost our Swabians their homeland. Those deep-imbedded roots planted by emigrants from Germany and Alsace-Lorainne around 1750 were torn out of the black soil which gave life to our Swabian people for so many years.
Fleeing the oncoming Russian Army and the cruel hands of communism, many of our people headed west toward Austria and Germany by horsedrawn wagons, trains, trucks, or on foot. They arrived in a country torn by air raids, hunger, and lack of shelter. However, the Swabians who remained at home suffered a much worse fate, as many were killed or displaced from their homes. As World War II came to an end, most of the Swabian families were torn apart. They were without sufficient food, clothing, and housing. But most of all, they were homeless.
A large portion of our people, seeking a home in the U.S.A., settled in industrial areas. Cincinnati was one such industrial center which was well-suited for our people. And so it came that many of our people set out to plant their roots once again in hope of establishing a peaceful existence. Tied together by pride, tradition, and the need to be socially close to one another, the Swabians started to meet in various parts of Cincinnati. The young Swabian men formed a soccer team and kept socially close. Dances put on by other clubs were almost always attended by our people.
However, the complete sense of satisfaction and unity was not there. Many of our people belonging to different clubs did not feel at home. Differences between the old and new immigrants did nothing to make our people feel welcome; in fact, many felt no sense of belonging. From these feelings (and sometimes frustrations) began the talk of forming our own club to get young and old (mostly recent) immigrants together; to unite, through the creation of a club, our people socially; and, to practice our culture and traditions in order to pass them on to future geneartions. And so it was that a new society called the "Verein der Donauschwaben von Cincinnati" (Donauschwaben Society of Cincinnati) was founded.
On January 8, 1954, an election took place in the Banater Hall and Nikolaus Schwechty was elected the first President of the Society. The Banater Hall became the new clubhouse for the newly established organiziation and a youth group became organized under the leadership of Anton Blassmann. The first Donauschwaben Day was held in Steuben Park on July 4, 1955.
In order to gain more club participation from young people, a soccer team was formed in 1958. Peter Krier became manager. The club was very interested in offering German lessons to the children. So, in 1958, Dr. Anna Grünbauer was engaged to take over this very important task. Sixty children signed up and the German school was on its way. In the same year, it also decided to start a library. Josef Ludwig was appointed librarian and worked closely with Dr. Grünbauer.
The years 1965 and 1966 were transition years. The members which represented and actively participated in club activitites for the last 12 years were getting tired of carrying the load year after year. It became obvious that younger blood was required to lead our society. Young members of the club were called to a meeting in the Banater Hall. The purpose was to select volunteers to run in the elections for 1966. This goal was reached and a completely new board of directors was elected, with Peter Lind as President.
The Banater Hall, a long-time meeting place of our club, had to be vacated in 1967. The meetings were moved to the Westwood Town Hall; the next year, the members decided to leave the Westwood Town Hall and move their meetings to the Cheviot Fieldhouse. At this point, our members talked about building a permanent home for our society. A committee was formed to look into puchasing land, investigate building codes, and do preliminary planning.
To broaden our cultural activities and strengthen our society, the club decided to undertake new projects in 1971. It was proposed to form a ladies' group within our organization. The ladies would have their own meetings and select officers to lead the group. Anna Pfeiffer was elected the first president of the group. It was also proposed to start a children's group, which was enthusiastically accepted by the members. Marianne Helmchen took over the leadership of the group. The children met in Harvest Home Hall and learned traditional folk dances, as well as German poems and songs.
In 1972, the building committee located a suitable piece of land for the purpose of building the future home of our club. A piece of land on Dry Ridge Road was purchased and, with this accomplishment, a new era began for the Cincinnati Donauschwaben Society.
President Peter Lind and his directors decided to make the 20th anniversary of the club in 1974 a memorable one by having a flag dedication. Mrs. Anna Reichrath donated the beautiful Donauschwaben Flag to our society. She in turn was honored by the club and appointed "Godmother of the Flag," a very traditional and honorable position. The responsibility to organize this very important event was given to Michael Konrad and Michael Wolfram. The ceremony took place in Old St. Mary's Church, with our own brass band playing the mass. The Children's and Youth Group and members of the club, all dressed in traditional costumes, participated. Later, the ceremony was continued at the Cheviot Fieldhouse. Heading up the guest list were Dachverband President Theodor Junker and many dignitaries of our city.
In that same year, some of the older Youth Group members started a Schuhplattler Group and made their first appearance on Donauschwaben Day.
In 1976, the City of Cincinnati started an Oktoberfest. Our club took part with a food stand.
On February 25, 1977, President Peter Lind welcomed all members to the first membership meeting at our new clubhouse. Donauschwaben Day 1978 was the grand opening of our new home. The ceremonies started off with a field mass. Among the many prominent guests were Theo Junker, Sepp Holzer, and Frank Anwender from the Dachverband.
Other activities were also moving ahead at a fast pace. A singing group was created in 1979, with John Waldeck as the leader. Many of our older members found themselves coming out to our clubhouse during the week to play cards or do some work around the house. So, in 1980, they founded a senior citizens' club and elected Peter Krier as their leader. In 1982, Russ Hartel suggested the club should form a Trachten group. The suggestion was enthusiastically accepted by the members and he was appointed the leader.
When President Ronald Reagan visited Cincinnati on August 20, 1984, our Schuhplattlers danced at his rally on Fountain Square. On this occasion, their spokesman, David Bitter, awarded the president our club's golden pin of honor. The next year, a delegation from our sister city, Munich, presented the club with a 175-year Oktoberfest commemorative plate, dedicated to the club for the maintenance of the German language as well as the preservation and promotion of our legacy in Cincinnati.
In 1986, Mrs. Anna Reichrath donated the books 20 and 30 Years of Donauschwaben in Cincinnati to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. In the year 1987, our Schuhplattlers received a "Certificate of Recognition" from Governor Richard Celeste for their performance at Heritage Day at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus.
On the 37th Donauschwaben Day (August 16, 1992), a new Donauschwaben memorial was dedicated in front of the clubhouse. On the first weekend in October, 1993, the first Donauschwaben Oktoberfest was held on the grounds of the club.
In order to get our smaller children more interested in our culture, a little children's group was founded in 1996.
1998 was a high point in our club's history, for in this year, the Youth Group had the luck of traveling to Germany.
The Donauschwaben House is certainly the home of the Donauschwaben Society of Cincinnati. But, at this time, the Bavarian Society of Cincinnati, as well as the German-American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati, meet monthly in our clubhouse.
Because of the cooperation and hard work of our members, the future of the Cincinnati Donauschwaben Society looks very bright. May our club and traditions prosper for many years to come.