History of the GAMC in Munich
70 YEARS GERMAN-AMERICAN MEN'S CLUB
Dokument aus dem Jahr 1950: Bürgermeister von Miller (2. von rechts) verabschiedet Chester S. (Jim) Wright (2. von links) zu einer Spendenaktion der Pfennigparade. Jim Wright, der amerikanische Munich Resident Officer war der Gründungsvater des Münchner DAHC
On April 30, 1945 units of the 7th US Army occupied Munich. On May 8, 1945 the German Army Supreme Command signed its unconditional surrender. The Big Three -Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin- decided the future destiny of our country. Germany was divided into four occupation zones, Munich being part of the American zone. As early as May 4, 1945 the US Military Command installed Dr. Karl Scharnagel as Mayor of the City of Munich. Aside from having to cope with the pressing task of supplying the population, the immediate reconstruction of Munich had to be tackled. By and by, the political, cultural and economic life went back to normal.
At the same time, after years of Nazi dictatorship, the US Military Government attached importance to impart to the
Germans the value of democracy. This could not be done without close contact to the German population. As one of the measures to this end, the German-American Men'sClub Munich (DAHC) was established on July 24, 1947, the first of its kind in the American occupation zone. The Munich Women’s Club was launched a year later.
As a registered society, the Club, then as well as today, had the purpose to foster mutual respect, understanding and friendship between the German and the American peoples. That is how it is stipulated in its charter. It is to achieve this by:
- stimulating interest in social and cultural activities,
- participation in civic and charitable non-partisan projects,
- promotion of student exchange and youth work programs of the Federation of German-American Clubs
- furtherance of understanding of the mutual traditions, customs and historical developments.
The Club is neutral in political and religious matters. It is selfless and therefore does not pursue any commercially viable interests.
The newly founded 250 member club was managed by two club presidents, one German and one American. The administrative load at the time was considerable, requiring the appointment of a full-time executive secretary. His duties consisted of organizing meetings at City Hall at least once a month, twice a month preparing evening lectures in the Ratskeller and editing of the monthly Club News.
The first American club president, Munich Resident Officer Chester Wright, and his German counterpart, Munich Mayor Thomas Wimmer, decided to entrust these tasks to the 20-year-old Gary Werner. Wimmer let the new executive secretary use his own conference room in the still partly bomb-damaged Munich City Hall for the Club office. This is an indication of the significance the Club had at the time. Inevitably, in these early years, the Club had more American than German members. Club life, though, was affected by the frequent change in the American body of members, when soldiers were transferred back to the United States. The makeup of the Club
Das Neue Rathaus Münchens nach seiner teilweisen Zerstörung
changed drastically when the last units of the US Army left Munich in 1992. Membership dropped at that time to somewhere near 120 persons. Simultaneously, the bi-national presidency was discontinued. Today, only about 10 percent of the members are American.
The Minister President of the Free State of Bavaria, the US Consul General in Munich, the Mayor of the City of Munich and the Commander-in-Chief of the State Command Bavaria of the German Armed Forces are Honorary Presidents ex officio. In recognition of their special merits on behalf of the Club, the former club presidents of many years, Samuel W. Magill and Dr. Peter Rückert, have been named honorary presidents of the Club.
From the first two years of the Club’s existence it is known that both, Mr. Chester Wright, Commander of Munich Headquarters, and Dr. Anton Fingerle, Head of the Munich School District, played a leading role in the initial organization and the Club’s early activities.
As part of a sponsorship for a program to enhance the catastrophic road safety in the growing traffic on the Munich streets that were then only partially cleared of the rubble, the DAHC sponsored the German-American film “Death is so permanent”. In addition, the dynamic Club President Wright initiated and established the “Pfennigparade”, a German equivalent to the American “March of Dimes” supporting the funding of the fight against polio which was a widespread condition in those days.
To raise funds for the Pfennigparade, the Club, in cooperation with the German-American Women’s Club Munich, took over the sponsorship for the first “Magnolienball“ (Ball of Magnolias) which was held at the Regina Palace Hotel on January 8, 1951 and which was attended by many personalities of the Bavarian State Government, the City of Munich, the Military Garrison, several Consulates and International Organizations. The Magnolienball was the first big social event of the 1951 carnival celebration. The Ball’s name is to honor the City of New Orleans, the only carnival celebrating city in the USA. In the year 1900, the magnolia became the State Flower of the State of Louisiana where New Orleans is located. Even today, the German-American Women’s Club organizes the ball with continuing considerable success.
Das Münchner Rathaus heute
One is reminded of the saying ‘many a mickle makes a muckle’, when the collection of many small coins, if enough of them are collected, add up to a large sum at the end. At all the Club events, candy glass jars with slotted metal screw tops were displayed as collecting boxes. With the donations, the Club bought a so-called iron lung to counter the threat of an imminent polio epidemic. It was set up and used at the Municipal Hospital Schwabing.
In the meantime, financial support is concentrating entirely on the student exchange program that allows 60 students annually to study in the partner country for one whole year. In addition the GAMC is sponsoring youth
program encompassing seminars for 14 to 18 year olds including the procurement of host families. The DAHC is contributing to the grants that come from the VDAC and which serve to foster the good relations between both peoples. The DAHC Munich is a founding member of the VDAC.
Soon after the inception of the Club, the weekly “luncheon” at the Ratskeller was started. This event, which is now called “Stammtisch”, has been held for 70 years for members, friends and guests. On each of these occasions, 25 to 30 members appear for a light meal and unconstrained talks. Every person can decide if he wants to attend or not. Signing in is not required. Years of experience have shown that many people who were interested in the Club have decided to join after these meetings.
Many friendships have developed amongst members. As a consequence, many of them also meet privately. By inclusion of their partners who are sometimes members of the Women’s Club, couples get to know each other. In particular for members who are retired, the social aspect is invaluable.
Highlights of present Club life are monthly excursions, visits to production sites, lectures about subjects of current relevance and participation in cultural events including the traditional annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Marriott Hotel in Munich. Social life, convivial communication and our weekly gatherings are the basis for social cohesion and the engagement of our members. The DAHC is therefore a society with life-defining values.
The present annual membership fee of € 70.00 includes also a membership in the VDAC and a subscription of the “Gazette”, the Federation’s official publication.
This year (2017) the DAHC looks back over 70 years of Club life. Like in real life, there were highs and lows. However, on all accounts, the anniversary celebration at the Westin Hotel on September 8, 2017 was an outstanding event.
Prof. Dr. Dieter Anselm