Donauschwaben in den USA

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The Germans of Hungary

by Dr. Anton Schreiner

Introduction by Hans Kopp


Dr. Anton Schreiner - Author

Ph.D. Professor (Emeritus)




By Hans Kopp

In his “New concise review; Documented International Causes of WWI” Anton Schreiner, a Ph.D. Professor (Emeritus), at the North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, cites 4 root causes which were anti German by design. As first root cause he sees; “The secret agreement between France and Spain in 1904 signed in London with approval by England to conquer and divide the mineral-rich country Morocco . This was a major provocation of Germany , since Germany had major commercial trade agreements with Morocco . As second root cause he cites the secret meeting of French and English military talks in 1906. As a third cause he sees joint secret military talks in 1906 between Belgian and British although Belgium was suppose to be legally neutral. As fourth reason he mentioned falsified highly inflated German armament numbers presented to the British cabinet and Parliament by Mr. Mulliner. In brief these factors counted heavily in initiating the move toward WWI.

            Anton Schreiner also notes; “a full military mobilization by a nation was viewed as its final act and signal of its imminent declaration of war.” The chronological order of mobilization took place in the following order;” Serbia , Russia , Austria-Hungary , France and Germany . At the 1919 Versailles treaty the allied side was bullied by France ’s Clemenceau, stating that the Central Powers Germany and Austria-Hungary sole prolocutors of t he war, although studies after 1919 revealed that WWI was caused equally by both sides. Anton Schreiner used public documentations as resources for his research.

After the devastating defeat of World War I and the humiliating terms the German and Austria-Hungary Empires had to except at the peace treaty at Versailles , Germany ’s intellectuals responded to the crisis in the following way. They tried to make sense of what had happened and questioned what had gone wrong both internally and externally.


The German identity

During the 1920’s the German identity gained momentum. The concept that Germans are one people no matter where they live became more and more aware now and was central to many newly formed organizations. The slow moving often-encouraged self-awareness of a joint German identity among all Germans seemed to be the result of the unfair treaties handed to the Germans in Versailles which affected the Germans in all three countries. Some of them did live fife or more generation removed from Germany , many of them now living abroad like Poland , Czechoslovakia and Russia , after the truncation of both empires which placed millions of Germans under foreign governments. Although according to the treaty; equal treatment was to be guaranteed to their minorities by these nations or new nations, it was a mere myth. The populations born to German parents were by no means treated equally by the countries they were now subjects off.

Many institutions in Germany raised public awareness regarding Germans now living or were born abroad. Although, they had to think of these Germans as foreign subjects but they also saw them as fellow citizens who, because of their unfair treatments and sacrifices, were entitled to special privileges from Germany . This line of reasoning was the hope that maybe the borders of Germany could be expanded eastward again, which would make up for the land lost by the treaties. For example; during an election to determine if Silesia should stay with Germany . Despite 60% of the population voted in favor staying with Germany , the allied nations nullified the election and annexed Silesia to Poland .

In the volatile political climate of the Weimar Republic, Germans tried to evaluate their standing in Europe, deal with the humiliation of Versailles, and regain some of Germany's former power and the power of German nationality groups such as the Donauschwaben in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, who voted for an autonomy of the Batschka and Western Banat, today’s Vojvodina which was also denied.

From the Austrian half of the late Austrian Empire, Yugoslavia inherited Slovenia and Dalmatia . From the Hungarian half Yugoslavia inherited the former subkingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, the explicitly Hungarian districts of the Batschka and Western Banat and from the joint Austro-Hungarian administration, the province of Bosnia-Herzegovina . Macedonia and the Sanjak of Novibazar had been part of the Ottoman Imperial Territories until the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913.



The Ungarländischen Deutschen

 What effect did this have on the Ungarländischen Deutschen (German-Hungarians) we refer to now as Donauschwaben, whose settlement regions were now divided among Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia? For our discussion we concentrate ourselves primarily on the historic evolution of the Donauschwaben in Yugoslavia although affected were all Germans in the former Hungary .

 Ethnic conflicts became widespread in the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia , but by the eve of World War II ethnic differences still remained unrecognized. The German minority in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia is important for our discussion, because of the Donauschwaben who were expelled during the postwar years of World War II. Today there are less than 5,000 Donauschwaben of the former citizens of the Kingdom of Yugoslavian living in what is now called Vojvodina , Serbia which amounts to less than 1% of the 550,000.

With 1/3 of their population, the Donauschwaben had the highest civilian casualty rate of any German Volksgroup and as such are seen as victims, who bore the brunt of the Serbian hatred and their unjust retaliation against their innocent citizens, the helpless Donauschwaben of whom can be said, were to the largest percentage loyal to the Kingdom and not involved in the war. Their involvement was not as volunteers, as Tito claims, but by force as history has clearly proven after the war by historians. Therefore Tito’s history writers have written a distorted history which is now is questioned by many scholars and young Serbian historians and is seen in total “different” by them now.

War crimes do happen during the war, however the retaliatory crimes against the Donauschwaben during the post war time of 1944-1948 (Note; the war had ended in Yugoslavia in November of 1944 when the Russians entered Yugoslavia) and should be seen as such. This makes these crimes punishable under the law, as crimes committed during peace time and should make the Yugoslavia government under Tito liable for damages on these innocent citizens within that country.

 We also need to note that some thirty million Europeans were forcibly resettled which included the German population in the German regions East of the Oder-Neisse Line annexed to Poland and the Polish population which lost the eastern part of Poland to Russia and was resettled on German soil east of the Oder-Neisse Line.

 The demise of the Donauschwaben on the events surrounding the war itself has been the focal point for several ethnic German studies. The way in which scholars studied the ethnic German population in southeastern Europe, did not necessarily reflect how the German minorities viewed themselves in their homes, their ancestors settled centuries ago while the territories were part of Hungary .

In the case of Donauschwaben it was more than 250 years ago, for the Gottscheer’s it was 600 years ago, the Transylvanian Saxons 800 years ago and in the case of Lower Styrians even longer. The Donauschwaben coexisted among Hungarians, Romanians, Croats, Slovenians and Serbs and other minorities in the former country of Austria-Hungary and after WWI in Hungary , Romania and newly formed Kingdom of Yugoslavia as friends and neighbors. Many Germans actually took pride in the fact that they were able to coexist as an integral part with other cultures like they did for centuries, but still maintained their own language, cultural and social mores as the other nationalities did who lived among them.

In the case of the Donauschwaben, but according to the Communist Government of Yugoslavia, they committed terrible crimes; one being the formation of the Schwäbisch-Deutsche Kulturbund, a non political union, which was founded in 1920 for the purpose to assist the Donauschwaben economically, as well as, for their costumes, social mores and cultural unity. The Kulturbund was active for four years and had 55,000 members in 128 villages in the Western Banat , Batschka and Syrmia prior to being declared illegal in 1924.

Although their Motto was; “Staatstreu und Volkstreu” which means; “Faithful to their Country and Faithful to their People” in which they faithfully stood firm, it did not seem to matter to the King’s government. Again the Ethnic Germans were without representation and could no longer assist their people. The other reason was; that the same year in 1924 Dr. Ludwig Kremling and Dr. Stefan Kraft founded the Deutsche Partei (German Party) which became illegal in 1929. In addition to these struggles for their minority rights, the region experienced an economic crisis in the early 1930’s. Thus the quality of life deteriorated for many Donauschwaben to the brink of poverty.

However, it would now be the Donauschwaben who entered an agreement with the Weimar Republic , which provided the Donauschwaben with the latest state of the art in agricultural tilling, harvesting equipment and machinery. They also were instructed in “Kunstdünger” fertilizing techniques for them to produce more and better crops. While the Donauschwaben in return exported grain, hemp among other farm products to Germany , with which they not only paid for their depths but came out of the depression first in Europe . With their high productions of farm product the Donauschwaben minority of 4% in Yugoslavia , fed the Yugoslavian Nation and spurred the Nations export. In addition the Apatin shipbuilding companies produced 20% of the gross tonnage of Yugoslavia ’s shipbuilding.

The Germans in Yugoslavia had provided for the education of their children with their own capital, which was generally common among a German Volksgroup, but in 1922 all schools were nationalized and the Donauschwaben thus lost control over the education of their children. This resulted in a huge educational problem for the Germans, as most of them could not study for higher educations in Serbian schools, because of the language differences, thus forcing young German students to go to Germany and Austria to study, where they now would be exposed to the National Socialistic Movement of the time.

After the German Reich and the Yugoslav Kingdom had improved their relations in the mid 1930s, political conditions improved for the German minority in Yugoslavia . In 1931 a compromise was reached regarding German education and the government allowed schools which had at least 30 German speaking students to teach German in school. However, it was too late to quiet the discontent among the younger generation and those who did not have 30 German students in their classes.


The “Erneuerer” (Renewers)

By the mid 1930’s the German Volksgroup experienced an internal crisis, the younger generation, which came to be known as the; “Erneuerer” (Renewers), were looking for allegiance with the Reich. The older generations had been raised under the Austro-Hungarian Empire and saw a political allegiance with Germany as dangerous. By 1938 this split made unified political thinking impossible. The two factions attempted reconciliation but the rift widened instead and their leader faced the impossible task to serve their people, their country and the German Reich.

 The churches resisted the National Socialistic Movement and could not be reconciled with their theology. Pastors held sermons in which they denounced race hatred as anti-Christian. Catholics were frequently the target and consequently some of them were particularly outspoken. Adam Berenz, a Catholic clergyman, published the newspaper; “Die Donau” (the Danube ) in Apatin from 1934 until its publication was halted by the Hungarian government in 1944. This was extremely courageous and perhaps had a lot to do why so many of our people followed Berenz and opposed the war, or refused to serve in the military. This is one of the main reasons why many Donauschwaben did not flee with the German Army in front of the Red Army, as they were convinced having done nothing wrong to justify leaving their homes, their livelihood their ancestor had provided them with, during the past 250 to 300 years.


“Camps with Special Status”

 The Donauschwaben now met the full brunt of the Russian advances and especially the Partisans hatred. Our men and women in their prime were deported to Russia and other able bodies into forced labor camps in Communist Yugoslavia. In addition the very young and the very old were incarcerated into camps Tito so called; “Camps with Special Status”, where people were taken to be starved to death. More then 80,000 of the 240,000 Donauschwaben exposed to the Tito Partisans, perished a cruel death due to starvation followed by malnutrition, which in turn causing severe illness and disease such as typhoid, malaria and many others. Physical abuses, murder or pleasure butchering in the most inhuman way were committed by the Serbs, often for their amusement. Many of our people were tortured; women were raped, people were burring alive when collapsing from excessive loads of work, limps were severed or bellies opened while still alive, before death would relieve them from their pain.

 During this decade, Berenz wrote over eighty articles against race-ideological propaganda and the activities of the “Erneurer” (Renewers) who were aligned with the National Socialistic Movement. The literature of resistance is thus part of the historiography and proves that the majority of the Donauschwaben did not favor the war, nor were they affiliated with National Socialists, but instead were forced into it. In other words they had no say on their own behave justifying Yugoslavia ’s claim that they betrayed their own country.

 Now it was quite clear, that the unfair treatment of the Donauschwaben by the Serbs after WWI, closing their schools and force their children who wanted a higher education to attend schools in Germany and Austria, expropriating their lands which they had purchased legally prior to the agrarian reform of Alexander, not permitting to enjoy their minority rights as granted by the treaty of Trianon, all of these facts should be just cause of objection by the Donauschwaben toward the Kingdom of Yugoslavian they were subjects off since 1918.

These facts can not be stressed enough and give us the satisfaction of being able to say to our children we had no part in WWII nor did we have any voice politically to determine the fate of our future. So, why was the “Volksgroup” of the Donauschwaben collectively accused of war crimes by Tito, by the Allied Nations? The suffering placed upon the Donauschwaben must be condemned and therefore be considered as heinous crimes against innocent human beings, the Donauschwaben, who had to bear the brunt of the Serbian hatred while the rest of the world celebrated peace, during the post war years of WWII.


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