German American Day

By Darlene Fuchs on Email

German Day was celebrated in the 19th century and revived in 1987 as German-American Day. Most instrumental in establishing German-American Day at the time were President Elsbeth Seewald of the German American National Congress (DANK), Drs. Eberhard and Ruth Reichmann of the German Heritage Society of Indiana, Dr. Don Heinrich Tolzmann of the Society for German-American Studies and the many thousands of individuals who petitioned Congress.

In 1988 DANK, the United German American Committee of the U.S.A., Inc., (VDAK) and the Steuben Society of America, joined hands and founded the German American Joint Action Committee (GAJAC). GAJAC has subsequently petitioned Congress and Government leaders to issue resolutions and proclamations for the annual German American Day, enlisting nationwide support.  The goal was to have German American Day be a recurring holiday on October 6th each year.

German American Day honors German immigration to the USA, beginning with the arrival of the first 13 Mennonite immigrant families from Krefeld, seeking religious tolerance, on October 6, 1683, who subsequently founded Germantown, Pennsylvania. However, individual Germans had been in America since the start of European immigration. Germans were part of the Jamestown settlement in 1608. And Peter Minuit, a Rhinelander, was the famous director of the Dutch colony who bought Manhattan from Native Americans in 1626. October 6, 1683 marked the beginning of waves of German immigration that would ultimately be bringing more than 7 million people to our shores. Today, nearly a quarter of all Americans can trace their ancestry back to their Germanic roots.

On August 6, 1987, Congress approved S.J. Resolution 108, designating October 6, 1987 as German-American Day. It became Public Law 100-104 when President Reagan signed it on August 18 of that year. A proclamation (#5719) to this effect was issued October 5, 1987 by President Reagan in a formal ceremony in the White House Rose Garden at which time the President signed the proclamation and called on Americans to observe the Day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

In 1991, Chancellor Helmut Kohl sent cordial greetings from Bonn to the celebrants of German-American Day: “When President Reagan proclaimed German-American Day in 1987 for the first time, Europe was still divided by the Iron Curtain. We Germans did regain our unity and freedom in a peaceful way. The thanks for this deservedly is owed to the American people, who secured European peace over 40 years. America stood by our side in the most difficult times, and we will never forget the contributions of U.S. Presidents.” Kohl declared that the “friendship and partnership between Germans and Americans” is “a guarantee for a successful future.”

In 1998, President Clinton said,

Germans and German-Americans have profoundly influenced every facet of American life with their energy, creativity, and strong work ethic. They have enriched the economic and commercial life of the United States, and it is befitting that we set aside this special day to acknowledge their many contributions to our liberty, culture and democracy. All of us can take pride in the accomplishments of German-Americans; as soldiers and statesmen, scientists and musicians, artisans and educators. It is fitting that we set aside this special day to remember and celebrate how much German-Americans have done to preserve our ideals, enrich our culture, and strengthen our democracy.

President Clinton made equally incisive proclamations in 1999 and 2000.  In 2009, President Obama released a proclamation stating…

Comprising the Nation’s largest ancestry group, German Americans have contributed to our collective identity since the first settlements were founded in the 17th century. Essential to the growth of America, these farmers, soldiers, entrepreneurs, and patriots gave their strength, determination, and in some circumstances, their lives, so we all may experience a brighter tomorrow. It is in this spirit that German Americans continue to enrich our national character, sharing their proud heritage with new generations from every background. Today, we celebrate German Americans for their remarkable role in our Nation’s development.

America is a stronger Nation because of those families who have established longstanding roots in our country, as well as by those who have recently emigrated from abroad. German immigrants, inhabiting every major city, have given much of themselves throughout our history, selflessly expanding the reach of the American Dream. On this day, we celebrate and honor the past, present, and future contributions of German Americans to the rich and textured story of America.

 

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Darlene Fuchs