While the centrally German culture of this town has since waned considerably, other areas of Ohio continue to preserve much German culture. Communities of Germans can still be seen in Columbiana, Hamilton, Stark, Portage, Jefferson, Auglaize, Perry, Fairfield, and Mercer counties. More specifically, the greater Cincinnati and Cleveland areas are filled with German cultural tributes.
Cincinnati Germans live most densely in an area known as Over-the-Rhine. During the community’s founding in the mid 1800’s, it was a cultural mecca of German culture. The neighborhood had its own churches, clubs, and German-language newspapers. OTR has had its ups and down throughout the last few centuries, but today the area has a prosperous and popular art scene. Not unexpectedly, it is one of the most German-populated parts of the city.
Immigrants to Cleveland made the area the second largest German populated area in Ohio during the same time frame. Many of these people settled in Newburgh, Independence, and Parma to become successful public servants, merchants, bankers, businessmen, and craftsmen. Clevelander’s even produced their own German language magazine, Germania, in 1846. Additionally, German architects also designed buildings that speckled the towns, many of which can still be found today.
While it is likely that the German heritage that is promulgated in these areas has deviated from its origins because of assimilation into American culture, that does not stop people from identifying strongly with the culture. With this in mind, it is no surprise that there are a vast number of German-American organizations throughout the state.
Today, Cincinnati is home to over 30 German-American associations. German-American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati (or Deutsch-Amerikanische Bürger-Liga von Gross-Cincinnati) is the largest organization in the area, serving as an umbrella organization for its 32 individual group members. The organization serves as a resource for all its members and strives to promote a bond of German-American heritage and culture. The association also plays a role in maintaining the German Heritage Museum in Cincinnati.
As I said, Cleveland is the second most densely German populated area of Ohio. The 2000 U.S. Census in the area indicated that approximately 10% of the population is German-American, making them one of the biggest ethnic groups in Greater Cleveland. With such a population, there are many G-A associations in the area. The Federation of German American Societies is a non-profit organization that serves as a forum for 16 German-speaking groups. One of the major purposes of this group is to put on a German-American Festival, which features authentic German music, dancers, food, and beverages for everyone to enjoy, as well as activities for the kids.
Because so many Germans live in these areas, it is almost natural that groups would put on these types of cultural celebrations. But arguably the largest G-A festival in the state of Ohio can be found in Toledo. This August, the city will hold the 47th annual German-American Festival. The sponsors expect over 35,000 attendees to experience great German food, beer and entertainment this year.
Ohio has a huge population of Germans, something reflected in our state’s history, organizations and festivals. Ohio, though, isn’t alone; German heritage is celebrated nationwide. The question is, though, with the integration of American culture into traditional German culture, how "accurately" are people celebrating it? Do these celebrations identify more with classic or modern Germany? Do those that participate in these organizations and festivals have a strong connection to their heritage or is it more of a "my great-grandparents were from Germany so I think I should go to this festival" type deal? Do any of these variables make the celebration of German culture less authentic or valuable?
The answers to these questions are likely to vary from individual to individual. But personally, I believe that celebrating a culture is worthwhile in the majority of cases. German heritage's historical preservation, organizations and festivals in Ohio are definitely one of these. The people sponsoring organizations and festivals intend to keep the culture alive from what they remember and believe to be authentically German. So what if every nuance of an organization or festival deviates from modern Germany? They are celebrating what they know to be true, something I believe is immensely valuable.