This Society, which now looks back upon a history of 125 years, has every reason to be proud. Formerly Omaha Plattdeutscher Verein, it has helped make local history and has taken part in the growth of our city and lived through its periods of prosperity and depression.
In the fall of 1883, a number of individuals from Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) and Schleswig-Holstein joined together to form a German society in Omaha. The original group consisted of Gustav Boehnke, Henry Andreesen, William Niesmann, Henry Voss, Theodor Siewer, Henry Jasper and Henry Lorenzen. Officially founded on January 6, 1884 the Omaha Plattdeutscher Verein adopted the slogans “Jungs Holt Fast” and “Einigkeit Makt Stark.” These mottos translate roughly to, “Men Hold Fast” and “In Oneness There is Strength.”
The Omaha Plattdeutscher Verein soon moved to the Germania Hall at 18th and Harney Streets. In 1901, the Verein moved to the Washington Halle at 408, 410, 412 South 18th Street. At this time the society had a membership of over 300 and was accumulating funds to purchase land to build a permanent clubhouse.
In 1906, the Society purchased the Brennan Farm at 4206 South 13th Street and soon began construction of the new clubhouse. The new building was completed in June 1908. On the cornerstone of the building was inscribed “Von den Deutschen, für die Deutschen” which means “From the Germans, for the Germans” and is also present on the new building today.
The home was very well known at that time to all Omahans and to many in the Midwest, and the annual German Day brought thousands of people together each year in the park just behind the clubhouse.
World War I, the prohibition years, the great depression years and World War II were very difficult times for the Society. Wise leadership however kept the Society going through these trying times, which was an accomplishment in itself. Fearing vandalism, the Society housed Father Edward Flanagan and his boys from 1918 to 1921. After more than 1,200 boys lived at the German Home, the Club was returned to the Omaha Plattdeutscher Verein in 1922.
After World War II a large number of Germans came to Omaha and joined the Society who were not from Northern Germany. So in 1950 the Society decided to change its name from the Omaha Plattdeutscher Verein to the German-American Society because so many of its members were no longer representatives of the Northern German people.