Donauschwaben in den USA

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The History of the Danube Swabians  

By Hans Kopp

from the book “The Last Generation Forgotten and Left to Die” The History of the Danube Swabians”.

All Rights reserved. ISBN No. 0-9701109-0-1  


Chapter 1

The Settlement of the Germans in Hungary  


Who are the Danube Swabians ?

          The Danube Swabians are those German colonists, who settled during the three “Great Swabian Migrations” in Hungary (see map before WW I). The colonization was done by explicit invitation of the Hungarian Landlords, during the reign of the Habsburgs as Kings of Hungary and Emperors of the “Holy Roman Empire of German Nation”; to repopulate the land after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire by a contingency of German-Austrian allied forces (1683-1718). They became first known as the “Ungarländische Deutschen” (German-Hungarians). After the dismantling of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire at the end of WW I by the allied Nations, the regions the Germans had settled in Hungary were divided among three nations, Hungary, Romania and the newly created Yugoslavia, thus making the collective name “Ungarländische Deutschen” for the Germans no longer valid.


           The name “Danube Swabians” was coined in 1920 Robert Sieger (Geographer from Graz) and by Dr. Hermann Rüdiger (Scientist from Stuttgart) and defined by the German Foreign Department in 1930, during the Weimar Republic, acknowledging the German origin of the Danube Swabians. The Germans realized that, left unassisted and divided among Romanians, Yugoslavs and Hungarians, the Danube Swabians would not be able to resist assimilation attempts and as an ethnic group would disappear and with them a culture and values worth preserving. This collective name would identify and better describe the Germans, whose ancestors settled in Hungary during the three “Great Swabian Migrations”.


          The name derived from the German province of Swabia (Schwaben), and the Danube (Duna/Donau) River. The name Danube derived from the Celtic word Danubius their name for the Danube. However, the name was not personally used by the “Danube Swabians”, the youngest of the German “Volksgruppen“ (folks groups), until after their expulsion by the Communist Governments of their respective countries. The Danube Swabians are also referred to as Donau-Deutsche” meaning Danube Germans.  



A Brief Pre-History of the Land and its People

          To understand the Danube Swabians history, their cultural background and the land they settled, one must go back in time. One must take a closer look at the historical development of the land they settled, the condition they found the land in at that time, and the many difficulties they had to overcome to survive all the adversities they had to face.


          Early history saw Germanic tribes moving from their locations of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to the south where they were competing for the fertile land of the Hungarian low land with Celtic, Illyrian, Slavic and Thracian tribes. Germanic tribes like the Teutonic (Teutonen) and Cimbri (Kimbern) people among others had been known to settle the regions of present day Hungary, decades before the birth of Christ. The legions of Julius Cesar, 29-9 BC conquered the regions of Illyricum and Pannonian extending into the Hungarian lowland laying west and south along the south bend of the Danube, where they established the provinces of Pannonia and Illyricum. The word Pannonia would become a household name for the Danube Swabians as name of the regions their ancestors settled in Hungary during Empire of German Nation, although it did never included all the regions they settled. Pannonia included the regions of today’s Hungarian provinces of Kis (Little) Alföld, which are the regions along the Raba (Raab) River extending to the Danube River in the north. It included Dunantúl centered south of Lake Balaton and the Baranja, while Illyricum included the regions Slavonia-Syrmia with the rivers Drava and Save and extending from there to the south. The Romans also built several cities on the Danube, which were Vindobona, becoming Vienna (Wien), Aquincum becoming Budapest (Ofenpest) and Singidunum becoming Belgrad (Griechisch Weißenburg). They also built Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica or Mitrowitz) near the Save River. The latter became the site of many historic events, such as an outpost for the Romans and a stronghold for the Turks. In 1944 the city became the site of one of the notorious death camps in Yugoslavia, for its citizens of German descent during the post war years of World War II.


          In 172-179 the Roman Emperor Mark Aurel surrendered the Province of Pannonia to the Germanic tribes of the Marcomanni (Markomanen) and Sueben (Suaven, Quadi). This returned the German tribes to the region of Pannonia. The gothic tribes of the Visigoths (Westgoten) and the Ostrogoths (Ostgoten) triggered the “First Germanic Tribe Migration”. These tribes migrated from their original homeland near the Wistaw (Weichsel) River, today’s Poland, to the Black Sea. This migration also brought the Vandals (Vandalen) and the Gepids (Gepiden) into the region (See “The Anchor Atlas of World History” by Hermann Kinder and Werner Hilgemann”). The movement of the Huns to the west triggered the “Second Germanic Tribe Migration”, and as a result pushed the Germanic tribes to the west, which brought the Ostrogoths into regions near lake Balaton. The area near Lake Balaton became the birthplace of the gothic script (350 AD). It was the gothic Bishop Wulfila (Ulfilas also known as Wölflein), who translated the bible from Greek (follower of Arius) into the gothic language. In order for him to accomplish this, he had to develop a new script, the “gothic script”.


          One year after the death of Attila, the King of the Huns, 453 AD, a Germanic tribal alliance defeated the Huns. The alliance under the leadership Arderic (Arderich), King of the Gepids, led the Gepids, Ostrogoths and Rugier to a victory in the battle on the Leitha River, (also known as Nedao or Ledao) in present day Austria. After this battle the Gepids returned to the regions of Sathmar, Transylvania also known as Siebenbürgen, the Banat and the Batschka, while the Ostrogoths established themselves in Pannonia, Illyricum and the regions to the west. The Lombards (Langobarden) had established their kingdom to the north of the Gepids and Ostrogoths of what are today’s central Hungary (Budapest) and the Slovakia. During the 4th and 5th Century the early Germanic states had their largest expansion including most of Western Europe of today.


          The Gepids managed to live there until their defeat by the Lombards 567 AD. Many of the Gepids integrated into the Lombards tribe and moved on with them to northern Italy, others were known to have lived in the regions of their former kingdom in smaller groups for many years after their defeat, until they were totally absorbed by other cultures. These areas are located in today’s southeastern Hungary, northwestern Romania and northern Serbia. By the end of the 6th Century Bavarian monks and settlers were found as far west as the Raab River and by the 8th Century German settlements could be found in the regions of Pecs (Fünfkirchen) southeast of Lake Balaton.


          The presence of the Germanic tribes mentioned above can be found in archeological finds as well as names of towns and provinces. During the 3rd Century the Ostrogoths found the Slavic tribe of the Spali and may have its origin from the word Spali (meaning sleeper) translated into the Gothic word Slavane with the same meaning. The province Slavonia has its origin from the Sueben who called their settlement regions Suavonia. While the Slavic word “Niemci” may have its origin from a Slavic word for the Gothic people (meaning the silent) and was later used for all Germans. The three towns of Sartscha, Setschan and Sakula are believed to be of Gepiden origin, who where also known as Cupi and Gipi by other nations.


          Interesting to note is the word “Deutsch” was first mentioned in a Latin script in 768 as “Theodiscus lingua”. The origin of the name Deutsch “theudisk” comes from the subject “thiot” meaning Volk (people) and when adding the adjective “isc” the meaning is changed to “Citizen of a culture” (Zum Volk gehörig). Several forms were in use. The general Frankish form “theudisk” and the altered form “theudiscus” and “diutisc”. The latter was lesser known. The word “Teutonic” (first only meaning “gallisch”) originating from the Germanic tribe of the Teutons and would later become the same meaning as “diutisc”. The word German may have its origin from “Ger” meaning spear in the old Germanic language and “Mann” meaning man.  It also could come from the Romans who called them Barbarians or “loud” during their fights against them or screaming in battle. The word “Bajuwar” which is a collective name for German tribes living in the regions south of the Danube in today’s Bavaria could have its origin from the Romans.


          The Seventh Century saw the Avars, an Asiatic tribe reinforced by remnants of the Huns, entering the region. They settled the regions east of the river Tisza (Theiß) and from there they conquered the Slavs informer province of Pannonian and the regions as far to the west as the eastern parts of today’s Austria. The historical presence of the Slavs in the region became verifiable in the Carolingian period of 805 by Karl dem Großen, King of the Franks (Franken), better known as, “Charlemagne” although knowing to have lived in those regions during the time of the Celtic or even the Illyrians. The Slavic clans, among them the Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnians and Slavenoi may have had settled the regions of the Balkan and Pannonia during several time periods. Although it is known that the Slavic clans had no written language, we know that the Celtics and later the Romans took them into slavery, hence the word slaves. The clans to the north included the Slovaks, Czechs, White Croats and the Poles. In 791-796, the Frankish Empire under their King Charlemagne defeated the Avars and several Slavic tribes and incorporated them into his Kingdom. On Christmas day in 800, Pope Leo III, crowned Charlemagne in Rome Emperor of the “Holy Roman Empire of German Nation”, thus a new era that would last 1,000 years, begins. (The title Caesar in German Kaiser is equivalent to Emperor and is the highest worldly title that can be bestowed upon a person).


          In the eastern part of the Empire, Charlemagne established several provinces called mark (march-meaning border or marker in the Old Germanic language now being given a new meaning, province). Among them are: the Carolingian March also known as the Avars or Pannonian March. The Styrian March (Steiermark), Carinthian March (Carentana, today’s Kärnten), Carniola March (Krain) and the Bavarian Eastern March (Bayrische Ostmark, becoming Ostarrichi and later Österreich) forming the foundation for today’s Austria, while the Bavarian western mark is today’s Bavaria. The Franks also entered the regions of Slavonia-Syrmia (Slawonien-Syrmien) and established several German settlements there, which existed through the 13th Century. Charlemagne was also interested in stabilizing the region. To accomplish this he summoned missionaries from the Church State of Salzburg and brought Christianity and schools to the newly established Ostmark. Karl der Große was the first Emperor to establish a school system among the German Nations.


          The continuously intruding Magyars (Hungarians) gained more and more dominance in the region. Toward the end of the 10th Century, their expansion reached to the west as far as Augsburg, Germany. The Magyars were defeated on August the 10th 955 by a united German army under King Otto I near Friedberg, to the north of Augsburg and retreated to Hungary again. As leader of the German Nations during the war, Otto I is given the title Emperor afterwards by his army.  During the reign of Geisa (970-997) the Magyars became permanent settlers in Hungary. In 996, after their King Waiks (Vajk) married Gisela, the sister of the Bavarian Duke, He was baptized as Stephan (Patron name of Pasau) in Aachen, Germany. In 1001 Pope Sylvester II crowned him as Stephan I of Hungary, marking the beginning of Christianity in the Hungarian Kingdom. Geisa and Stefan are descendants of Arpad, conqueror of the land of the Magyars. During 11th Century, Germans that became known as the Zips settled in the Tatra mountain regions. It is also interesting to note that the administration of the Diocese of Passau reached east as far as far as the Raab River in Hungary prior to the existence of Austria.


          In 1141-1162, after the continued raids by nomadic tribes from the east, the Hungarian King Geyza II prompted to hire German mercenary soldiers from Saxony. He settled them with their families along with Saxon farmers from the west of the Rhine in particular from the Mosel River Valley, areas around Aachen and Luxemburg. Some of these Germans settled in the Mountains of Transylvania the so-called Nösnerland. They settled in the regions of the Bistritz (Bistrita) and Sajo river valleys. Others settled between the Rivers Maros and Alt, the regions of the Kokel River, and into the Zibin, Harbach and Alt valleys with its center of Hermannstadt (Sibiu), named after their leader Hermann. These settlers became known as the Transylvanian Saxons. They recorded coming upon people with German dialects while traveling through Hungary. These regions are believed to be the area of today’s Sathmar. The Saxon settlements withstood several difficult times during their 800-year History, including the invasion of the Cumans, an Asiatic tribe occupying part of the area at the time of their settlement and the Turks during the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, until their expulsion by the communist regime of Romania in 1944.


          The Hungarian King Bela IV, also crowned King of Croatia, began to settle Germans in his Kingdom after the Tartar wars in 1244. The settlements included the regions of Slavonia-Syrmia. Notable towns settled were Vukovar and Osijek (Esseg).


          By 1243 small troops of Turks from Asia began to migrate into Asia-Minor. Their leader Osman established their first stronghold in Asia-Minor between the times of 1281-1326. His successor Urchan was the first to assume the title of Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Part of the strength of the Ottoman Empire came from their famous Boys Harvest. During their raids the Turks gathered young boys by force or through tribute that had to be paid to them by their subjects. These young men were isolated and educated in Islamic ways and trained to become the fierce fighting troops of the Turks, who became famous as the “Janizaries”.


          In 1330 Count Otto von Ortenburg settled Germans in the Carniola March (Krain) a region located on the southern tip of present day Slovenia near the Kulpa River and the Croatian border. This settlement became known as “Die Herrschaft Gottschee” (Settlement of the Gottscheer). The descendants of these Germans, predominantly from the regions of Austria survived many adversities during their existence in Slovenia. The people of Gottschee had to survive the destruction of their communities by the Turks numerous times, dating back to the year 1469 lasting through 1598 and perhaps even longer. During their raids the Turks burned down the towns of Gottschee a recorded seven times. In the year 1471 the Turks took 40,000 people into slavery and 20,000 more in 1475. During the same year the Turks burned 200 settlements or towns to the ground. In 1815 under Napoleon, the citizens of Gottschee became subjects of France and were burdened with exuberant war contributions. The people of Gottschee had yet to face another hardship before their expulsion. They were resettled by a decree of segregation in 1941 into the Ranner Triangle during the German occupation the region. This brought additional hardships upon them. Finally the people of Gottschee had to leave their homes in 1944-45 in flight of the Russians troops and the Yugoslavian Communist Partisans.


          The Turks, under the leadership of Murad I, defeated the Serbs on June 28 1389 near Kosovo Polje in the Balkan. The Serbs presented the strongest resistance in the region at that time. By 1459-1479 the Turks controlled the regions of today’s Romania. Following their victorious battle at Mohács on August 29 1526 under the leadership of Sultan Süleyman II, during which the Hungarian King Ludwig II (Louis II) lost his life, the Ottoman Empire now controlled the Danube regions and with it Hungary. The Turks establish their capital in Paschalik, near Buda and presented a serious and continued threat for the Christian civilization, especially for Austria and Poland. Since the Hungarian King Ludwig II had no heirs, the noblemen awarded the “Hungarian Crown” to his brother in law Ferdinand, Emperor of the “Empire of German Nation”. The population in the path of the Turkish troops fled west into what is today’s Austria to avoid being murdered or taken into slavery. Many Hungarians fled with their noblemen north across the Danube of what was left of Hungary and where they established their new capital at Pressburg (Bratislava). Many of them succumbed to the ravaging pestilence at the time. The majority of the populations fleeing to the west were Balkan Slavic people, who found sanctuary and protection from the army of the “Empire of German Nation”. The Empire had now become the protector of Christianity and the last defense against the Turks. The fleeing population from the east settled in the border regions of today’s Austria where they became a viable support of the army in the struggle for their own survival and freedom. The survivors left on the Hungarian plains, dug below ground burrows as housing, which they had to relocate frequently to be safe from the Turks. Other nationalities groups, among them the Transylvanian Saxons had to pay tribute to the Turks.


          Saving the Christian Civilization became the major concern and priority of several Western Civilizations. However, it was foremost the persuasion of Pope Innocent XII (1691-1700) and the persistence of Emperor Leopold I (1658-1705), that brought the powers together to successfully defend Christianity and defeat the Ottoman Empire. Following these efforts the Emperor Leopold I and King Jan Sobieski III of Poland, came to an agreement to send military aid of 30,000 troops in support of each other, should either Vienna or Krakow be attacked by the Turks. Other Christian Nations of the “Empire of German Nation” pledging military aid where Baden, Bavaria, Franken, Lorraine, Saxony, Swabia, and Venice.


          It was in 1683 that Sultan Mehmed IV recognized, what he thought was an opportunity to conquer the Christian civilization. At the time French troops had invaded the German regions of Lorraine and Alsace to the west of the Rhine and had taken Strasbourg in 1681, thus weakening the Emperors forces in the east.


          Sultan Mehmed IV concentrated his armies near Belgrade and Osijek. On March 31st he began to move his forces of nearly 200,000 troops of multi nationality and racial character, to the cities of Györ (Raab) and Komarom (Komorn) and sent the following declaration of war to Emperor Leopold I.


          Graced with the in heaven reigning God, we Mehmet, glorious and almighty Caesar of Babylon and Judea, from orient to occident. King of all earthly and heavenly kings, King of Arabia and Mauritania, born and glory crowned King of Jerusalem, master and ruler of the grave of the crucified God of the infidel. YOU, Caesar of Rome (meant is the Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation), and YOU King of Poland, OUR holy word we pledge. May it be known also to all of your followers, that we are about to overrun your little country and bring with us 13 Kings and 1,300,000 troops, on foot and on horseback. We will destroy your little country with our Army of which neither you nor your subjects had knowledge of and stamp out all of them with our hoofs and deliver them to the flames and swords without act of grace or merci. Above all WE order you, to wait for us in your city residence, so WE can behead you; you little kingdom of Poland do the same. We will exterminate you and all of your followers, as you are the lowest creatures of God, as all unbelievers are, and erase you from the face of the earth. WE will expose the big and little to gruesome pains first and than give them to a vicious death. Your little Empire, I will take from you and its entire population I will sweep of the earth. WE will let you and the King of Poland live long enough to witness and until you are convinced, that we have done all what we have pledged. This is done in recognition of the 40th Year of our live and in the 26th year of our almighty reign.


          This is the original contends of the war declaration of Mehmet IV. It is translated from the original German translation. The mentioned number of 1,3000,000 Troops is highly exaggerated, as it was usually the custom. In reality it was 400,000 troops of which 200,000 moved on to Vienna to make an attempt to conquer Christianity.


          On May 3rd Sultan Mehmed IV commissioned Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa with the high command of 150,000 Turkish troops and 300 cannons and marched on Vienna. These forces united with Hungarian opposition troops under Tököly whom Kara Mustafa had promised to make King of Vienna, if he joined him in his battle. Horrible news brought by fleeing citizens preceded the Turkish troops. One eyewitness reported; they poke the eyes out of the children and leave them lying in pools of their blood. They stab the women in the breasts and pierce the men ears so they would lose their hearing, tie them together and take them into slavery.” One can imagine the fears and concerns among the citizens of Vienna.


          Upon his arrival at the outskirts of Vienna on July 16th 1683, Kara Mustafa wasted no time. He took 10,000 men to ride around the city to inspect their defense walls personally. During his inspection tour, his men discovered several grain storages and livestock. When they returned they also brought 150 severed heads and 50 prisoners with them to please him and to receive bonuses and favors. By July 17th Vienna was surrounded with Turks from all sides. Deducting from these barbaric treatments of the civilian population in Hungary and Austria by the Turkish troops, one can be certain that the first German settlers were exposed to many of the same cruelties when the Turks raided their settlements years later.


           Rüdiger von Starhemberg heroically defended the city of Vienna with 10,000 men. The defensive walls around Vienna were extremely well built during previous centuries. The Turkish troops could not come in range to attack with their cannons, since the superior weapons of the defenders outdistanced them. They had to dig trenches and tunnels to get underneath the city walls to lay explosives and set them off to damage the walls. These efforts of the Turks caused the defenders many problems and for the attackers extremely high casualties. It also brought about many casualties among the slaves who were forced to dig the trenches. The maze of tunnels constructed by the Turks, were often paneled with wood and covered with blankets to protect against grenades and shrapnel. If it would not have been for the many decaying bodies of humans and horses and the human waist, they could have been considered quite comfortable. These circumstances coupled with the lengthy siege demoralized the attackers and caused great dissatisfaction among them. During their attacks they had often to climb over decaying corpses, which made it very difficult to be effective. Twice they succeeded in exploding portions of the walls creating openings in them for their attacks, however without success. The Turks missed their greatest opportunity to take Vienna, when they overlooked an unguarded gate left by the defender when countering an attack on a damaged portion of a wall. They could have easily marched inside and taken Vienna. Von Starhemberg also feared that the Turks would tunnel underneath the city, which indeed they did. A baker’s apprentice discovered a tunnel in progress early one morning, while baking bread. He heard strange voices coming from underneath the bakery, where the Turks were digging. This discovery proved to be vital for the defense of the city. The valiant defensive struggle around Vienna lasted 62 days, until the arrival of the allied “Entsatz” (rescue) troops.


          For those interested in statistics, the strength of the Armies as estimated by Austrian historians was as follows: The total Christian forces had 75,000 troops and 150 to 170 cannons. The Turks had 30,000 men in the trenches around Vienna and 107,000 troops and 300 cannons to oppose the Christian armies. The Christian forces included Duke Karl V of Lorraine (von Lothringen) with 8,000 men on foot, 12,000 men on horseback and 70 cannons. The Saxons under the command of Duke Johann George III brought 7,000 men on foot, 2,000 on horseback and 1,400 men with 16 cannons. The Bavarian Count Max Emanuel came with 7,500 men on foot, 3,000 on horseback and 26 cannons. The Franken and Swabian troops under Count Georg Friedrich contributed 7,000 men on foot 2,500 on horseback and 28 cannons and finally King Jan Sobieski III of Poland brought a force of 10,200 men on foot, 14,000 on horseback and 28 cannons.


           Duke Karl V of Lorraine laid out the plans of attack, while the overall command was given to Jan Sobieski III the King of Poland. He accepted the plans, which also reserved him the rights to capture the tent and loot of the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa, as prior agreed. The attack was planned to create three wings and approach the city from the northwest the “Vienna Woods” across Mount Kahlenberg and Leopoldberg outside of Vienna, from where the Turks did not expect any attacks and where the cavalry of the Turks would not be effective. At six o’clock in the morning on September 12th 1683, three “Wings” of the German/Austrian and Polish allied troops, began to move these troops across Mount Kahlenberg. Karl V led the left wing with Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden and the 19-year-old Prince Eugene of Savoy on his side. The center wing was lead by Max Emanuel of Bavaria, Johann Georg of Saxony, and George Friedrich of Waldeck. It was comprised of the Bavarian, Saxon, Franken and Swabian troops while the right wing included the polish troops under Johann Sobieski III and the Duke of Lauenburg. By two o’clock in the afternoon the Polish troops, who had the more difficult approach, had reached their positions and the battle commenced. The fierce battle was decided in less than two hours, according Austrian historians. The night before, the Turks killed hundreds of prisoners and slaves including women and children, that is everything in their site and their outcries could be heard all night long over great distances. On their flight through Lower Austria and Styria (Steiermark), the Turks took 6,000 men, 11,000 women, 14,000 girls and 50,000 children into slavery. Learning from these shocking statistics one can easily understand what it must have been to get in the way of the Turks.

Interesting to note is that Kara Mustafa (1635-1683) was executed by the order of the Sultan for his failures on Dec. 25th 1683 in Belgrade, by strangulation. (The sources of the information on the battle of Vienna can be found in “Die Chronik Österreichs” by Prof. Walter Kleindel and “Heimat Glocken” Mitteilungsblatt der Heimatortsgemeinschaft Batschsentiwan, Heft 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23.)


          Duke Karl V went on to gain victories at Gran (near the South Bend of the Danube) in 1685 and Ofen (Buda) in 1686. This returned the Germans to the cities of Ofen and Pest, which were settled under the Hungarian King Bela IV more than four hundred years earlier. These cities were under Turkish occupation for more then 150 years. The towns of Ofen and Pest were given the city rights from Magdeburg and South Germany respectively. Still today the “Schwabenberg” outside of Budapest, reminds us of the German settlements that existed until the end of World War II.


          It was not until the combined Austrian and German forces of the “Empire of German Nation”, under their leaders Karl V von Lothringen, Max Emanuel von Bayern and Ludwig Wilhelm I von Baden, defeated the Turks at Harsany (Harschan) near Mohács in 1686-1687, that the Islamic threat to the Christian Civilization came to a halt. These victories followed by the victories of General Dünewald and Count Leslie in the regions of Slavonia-Syrmia, secured the land west of the Danube. Max Emanuel of Bavaria took Belgrade on September 5th 1688 and the Imperial troops advanced deep into Serbia. During the Battle in Belgrad Rüdiger von Starhemberg and the young Prince Eugene of Savoy were wounded, the latter seriously. Unfortunately Max Emanuel of Bavaria was summoned to return to the Palatinate where Ludwig IVX of France made advances, forcing the Imperial troops to retreat. The battle of Slankamen in 1691 is labeled as the most decisive and also the bloodiest were 34,000 allied troops faced 60,000 Turkish troops. The losses of human life were great. The Turkish troops lost 20,000 men among them Mustafa Köpreli and several Pashas. The losses of the forces of the “Empire of German Nation”, although not as great, could no longer hold Belgrad. In 1697, prior to the battle of Zenta, Prince Eugene von Savoy was given the high command of the allied imperial troops. Following the battle, a 25-year piece treaty was signed in Karlowitz between the Republic of Venice, Emperor Leopold I and the Turks on January 26 1699 at 11:45PM, a time the Turks had selected because of the alignment of the stars. The peace treaty did not include the eastern part of Syrmia and the Banat.


          The Turks left behind a devastated, barren, and scarcely populated countryside of low swampland along the Danube River. A report from a local clerk of Budapest gives us a good description of the conditions of the towns and urban areas, during the reign of the Turks. In his report he writes… most of the houses are without roofs or totally destroyed. The windows of the houses left are boarded with bricks or straw. No churches are left standing, with the exception of two or three Mosques. Dead animals and even dead human remains are found in the streets. The countryside is devastated and overgrown with brush and weeds. The areas near the banks of the rivers are filled with sediments of debris and sand. There is nothing but jungle along the rivers. There is hardly a soul living there.


          The year 1687 saw the Turks leaving the Batschka. During their retreat they plundered and destroyed almost all the existing communities in the region and took the inhabitants into slavery. During a site inspection in 1698 it was found that no less than 153 sites of former communities were completely destroyed and deserted. To put in perspective, statistics show that the total destruction of the area by the Turks left only 2 to 3 persons per square Kilometers living in the region at that time.



The Settlement

          First, we must understand the origin of our ancestors. This is indeed a very difficult task to locate all the origins of the colonists. According to documents in the State archives (Staatsarchiv) in Vienna, many settlers are listed as originating from “Germanien” or “Germania” (Germany) or “aus dem Reich” (from the Empire), meaning the “Empire of German Nation”. The question however, is what was considered Germany or the Empire then and by whom? Bavaria, The Palatinate, Saxony, Saarland, Lorraine (Lothringen) Silesia as well as other German Bundesländer (provinces) are mentioned individually many times. It appears to be quite clear that Germanien did not apply to all of Germany in the same way, since it could mean any of the Bundesländer. It is however possible that Germany was only applied to Southwest Germany in particular the former regions of “Vorderösterreich“ which included the regions of Baden-Württemberg (Oberschwaben and Breisgau), but one is not sure.


          Should you want to study origin on your ancestors and their region is listed as aus dem Reich or Germanien, you must search for additional sources of information, like marriage registrations in the Church books of Ulm and other ports from which our ancestors departed. To give you an example, Mathäus Öffler married Apollonia Wagner in Ulm in 1778. Their origin is listed as coming from Vennigen, The Palatinate. Many times it also gives the origins of the bridesmaids and best men. Good sources are the books from the various Bundesländer, listing the emigrants who departed usually in the German language. The Church records, if available from your place of birth, or the place of birth of your parents or grandparents are other good sources. It is important for you to obtain exact information about the dates of birth, wedding dates, maiden names of the women, as well as the dates of death of your ancestors. Another problem you will find, although registration was done well, it only lists the head of household by name, and the number of family members without their names. The registration does list the origin of the head of the households most of the time, but the registrars did rely on the information given to them at the time by the head of the household. This information is very general at times rather than specific Your first stop should be at the “Haus der Donauschwaben” in Sindelfingen, Germany, where many volumes of books may give you a better idea as to where and how to start looking for your ancestors.


          There was no particular pattern that could let us believe that towns were settled as close communities from certain towns in Germany, although there are a few exceptions. However, it is known that small groups from the same communities have settled in the same town, which usually gave such a town a particular character.


          It was the Hungarian landlords who recognized the need to resettle the vast lying rural areas of their land. The reasoning was quite clear there was no one to plow and till the land. The Hungarian Kingdom, which existed only as a narrow strip along the Austrian border and Moravia (today’s Slovakia) during the occupation of the Turks and whose population was decimated by the Turkish occupation, needed farmers. The landlords urged the Emperor, Leopold I, to allow the settlement of German farmers and craftsmen to serve the farmers in Hungary. Therefore it must be understood that the settlement of the Germans in Hungary was not the result of an act of occupation by the “Empire of German Nation”, but by explicit invitation of the Hungarian landlords, in a peaceful way giving an extending hand to a neighbor in need. They also urged the Emperor to allow certain privileges and rights to the farmers to make settling in Hungary easier and attractive enough for them. Following these requests Cardinal Peter Kollonitsch was commissioned to oversee the details of the colonization plans. Upon his recommendations the first order to resettle the vast lands vacated by the Turks was released by the “Empire of German Nation” in 1689 with the Impopulationspatent. Despite this order it would take many years until the mass solicitation for settlers in many German regions was underway. A contributing factor was also the uprising of the Kuruzzen). In 1722-1723 at their congress in Pressburg, the Hungarian landlords set their position and demands, which they had requested, from the Emperor Karl VI, into law.


          Why did our forefathers leave their homes? History tells us that Germany was not unified then, as we know it today. It consisted of many independent provinces ruled by a variety of royal families under the “Empire of German Nation”, over which the Emperor had very little power after the peace treaties of Münster and Osnabrück in 1648. These circumstances created a multitude of political, social and economic difficulties under which our ancestors had to exist. Germany became the site of several wars, which left the land in turmoil and the people poor and hungry, especially in the Palatinate (Rheinpfalz). One must also understand that our ancestors were “Leibeigene”, subjects of the nobles who were the lords of the land. The farmers were “un-free” or “half free” subjects. Was their “freedom” from the landlords the most important promise made to our ancestors that motivated them to leave their homes? They were often burdened with additional taxes, to be paid in the form of crops and produce. They were also burdened with “Serfdom” or “Frondienste” one could call them “robot hours” which had to be performed without pay, which in many cases were extremely high and unreasonable.


          Scholars do not believe that these circumstances are the real reason that motivated our forefathers to leave their homes. They believe that it was the solicitors, called “Emissaries” and “Impopulation commissaries” that made the difference. They promised free land, to build cities and homes, free land to raise crops, produce and grow orchards, as well as, free pastures to raise cattle, hogs and other hoofed animals. However, they were not told that the land was completely destroyed and devastated. The swampland had to be drained and lay dry. The thicket and brush had to be cleared, before one could build homes or harvest any crops. They were also guarantied protection by the army, the right to uphold their German language, traditions, heritage and costumes. The promises, although many believed sincere at the time, could be termed a myth. The German settler who came to Hungary had to fight for these rights throughout their 250-275 year history in the land they settled.


          The first German colonists immediately followed the victories over the Turks. They were summoned primarily from the so-called Habsburg Erblanden (Land inherited by the Habsburg Crown). They came from Upper and Lower Austria, Bohemia (Böhmen), Moravia (Mähren), Bavaria (Bayern), Styria (Steiermark), Carinthia (Kärnten) and Silesia (Schlesien). The first came in 1686 and settled the regions of the mountains near Budapest. This settlement followed settlements in Dunantúl (Schwäbische Türkei) in 1687, in the regions of Slavonia (Slawonien) in 1690, Kis (Little) Alföld (Schildgebirge) in 1691, Buchenwald (Bakony) 1702, Sathmar 1712, Batschka 1715, Banat 1716 and in Syrmia and Croatia in 1718.


          Count Alexander Karolyi was among the first sending men to Württemberg in 1712 for the purpose of solicitation. The German region of Swabia, extending from Ulm on the Danube down to Lake Constance (Bodensee), was the region selected by Count Alexander Karolyi for soliciting farmers to settle in his county (Komitat), known as Sathmar. Sathmar was once a town settled by Germans dating back to the 11th Century, known then as Sothmar or Salzmarkt (Saltmarket). The name could also be of Romanian origin stemming from the words Satu Mare, meaning “Village Big”. The town played an important role during medieval times because of its salt trade.


          It was no coincidence that Count Alexander Karolyi targeted the Swabians for solicitation to become settlers in the region of Sathmar. The Swabians were known to be industrious farmers and were of the preferred Catholic Faith. The farm inheritance law at the time in Swabia prohibited a farm to be divided among the descendants. The oldest son had the right to inherit the farm undivided. This helped lure away the second born sons. Finally the war of 1701-1713 (Spanischer Erbfolgekrieg) left the population of Württemberg (Oberschwaben) overburdened with hardships and taxes.


          More than 14,000 Swabians began their journey down the Danube to Budapest, from where they had to travel on horse drawn wagons over land to Karol, located in the province of Sathmar. Count Karolyi had neglected to make adequate preparation for the trip overland. Disaster struck as the settlers traveled across the Hungarian Pusta (plains) during the hot summer months, a journey of four to six weeks. There were not only shortages of transportation, but also shortages of food and water. Starvation and dehydration decimated the settlers. The Germans had used up all of their food rations and had exhausted their finances before they could reach their destination. Many of them died on the way. The mortality among the children was extremely high. Upon arrival they did not fare any better. The food shortages and poor housing provided for them left their marks. Nearly seventy percent fled Sathmar to return to their home, especially the men with trades who could not find sufficient work opportunities and had to wander from town to town and work for their keep till they reached their homes. As they made their way back to Germany they became known as Wanderburschen (Wandering men). In 1720 Count Karolyi made new efforts to settle his land. This time better preparations were made for the German settlers to succeed.


          All the land the Germans would settle in Hungary was finally cleared by the Turks, when in 1715-1718, the combined Imperial forces under the command of Prince Eugene of Savoy, decisively defeated the three times outnumbering Turkish forces at Petrovaradin (Peter-Wardein), near Novi-Sad (Neusatz) and at Timisoara (Temeschburg). Following these victories a peace treaty was signed at Pozarevac (Passarowitz) in 1718. New borders were established along the Save and Danube rivers (to the north of the east flow) which included the Batschka, the Banat and the Slavonia-Syrmia provinces, as well as the regions of the Transylvanian Saxons and Gottschee. One of the clauses of the treaty became a pitfall. It stipulated that a contingency of 4,000 Turkish cavalry troops should not be considered a reason to go to war, thus opening the doors to raid the settlements established along the boarders (thus we say death to the first). This prompted the Imperial Army to extend the military border until it stretched from the Carpathian Mountains to the Adriatic Sea. To protect the border, companies of 100 soldiers and 50 cavalry men were formed, aided by watchtowers erected at certain intervals and staffed with men to signal enemy sightings.


          The Emperor of German Nation and King of Hungary Karl VI (1711-1740) supported the decision by the Hungarian landlords and invited men from his vast Empire to become pioneers of the barren lands left by the Turks and settle with their families there. This was done not only to resettle and cultivate the land and regain the population lost during the Turkish occupation, but also to establish military support for the Imperial Forces of German Nation stationed in Hungary with food supplies, materials as well as personnel. The Emperor believed strongly that the settlers should be a vital force in the defense of the land they settled and therefore every man had to serve as an army reservist.


          Printed posters and leaflets were distributed in “The Palatinate” (Rheinpfalz), a region relatively over-crowded. One of the more prominent Impopulation Commissioners was Josef Anton Vogel of Worms, in the Palatinate around 1730. The success of the publications was enormous, so that restriction had to be put in place to limit the numbers of the colonists.


          To historians the migration of the Germans to Hungary during the three time periods 1723-1726, 1763-1773 and 1782-1787, became known as the Great Swabian Migration. Ulm was the port where our forefathers boarded the barges called Schwabenplätten, to take them to their new homeland. The barges used for transportation were “Ulmer Schachteln” and “Kehlheimer Plätten”. The pioneers reached Ulm, as well as other ports along the Danube, on foot or by horse drawn wagons. There they would layover till the required documentations were completed. Since single men were not allowed to become colonists they had to find a bride among the many young maidens and be married before they could board the barges at Vienna again to travel down the Danube to their destination. When the first colonists left the homes of their ancestors in quest of a new and better life, they had to buy themselves free or be declared free before they were allowed to leave. Primarily able individuals with financial means of 200 gulden were sought after; this was a lot of money. To give you a comparison of the value of the money at that time, we found that the price of a horse was 18 gulden and one could purchase a house for 160 gulden. Some people simply deserted without permission or legal papers.


          Expenses for the trip to Vienna had to be born by the colonists themselves. At Vienna, their first major stop on their journey down the Danube, registrations took place and new passports were issued. Each family received 2 gulden per member and free food supplies for the rest of their journey. At their arrival in Budapest an additional gulden was paid to the colonists, and the destination of their settlement entered into the passport. At their arrival in the settlement center, another registration took place coupled with an examination. Then a document was issued with their rights and obligations, as well as, the amount of their monthly allowable provisions to be issued to them at their destination. Every person over ten years of age received one Kreutzer, a prescribed portion of flour, firewood, straw and other goods until the time they could provide for themselves. In order to balance the population between men and women, active recruiting was done among single women. The famous transports of single women traveling down the Danube became known as “Frauenzüge” (Women’s Migration Transports).


          The voyage of our forefathers was by no means a joy ride on the Danube. Several detailed letters of experiences from travelers immigrating to Russia exist. Reference “Ostwanderung der Württemberger 1816-1822” by Karl Stumpp) Deducting from these letters one can assume that our forefathers did not fare any better. In a letter from Johann Christian Bidlingmeier we learn that there were several stops along the river. They left Ulm on the 2nd of June and reached Vienna on the 9th of June. On the 17th they left Vienna and arrived in Budapest on the 19th of June and on the 26th of June they reached Neusatz (Novi-Sad) and on the 1st of July Palanka. In Vienna documentations were checked and then they were transferred on different barges. One of the bigger problems was simply piloting and handling the barges through the rapids and sandbanks. Piloting became especially difficult on the waters past Budapest, since that portion of the Danube was mostly unknown to the pilots the river in particular at Peterwardein near Neusatz.


          Vienna was not the only stop where the passes were checked; they were checked all along the river in Linz, in Budapest and other ports as well as at their destination. Friedrich Schwarz writes in his letter, he left his home on June 26th 1817 with his wife and nine children and arrived in Ulm on the 29th. On July the 3rd they left Ulm and were held up on the 4th by rain in Ingolstadt. On the 7th they reached Passau and had to stop because of rain. They reached Linz on the 11th and the passes were checked for the third time. The bad weather continued but they were finally greeted by clear skies as they reached Vienna on the 10th of July. On July 15 they were loaded on a larger barge with 309 people. On the 18th of July they were hit by a big storm and had great difficulty on the barge. On the 27th of July they reached Neusatz. These letters report not only on storms, pass checks, but also of the scenery, the abundance of food they purchased along the way, and illnesses as well as death and burial stops. The journey down the Danube was a one-way trip and barges were dismantled upon arrival and used to build their first homes.


          With thousands of people leaving east and west to Americas, Russia, Poland, Hungary and other eastern frontiers, the landlords of the German states did not necessarily approve of. They closed off the Rhine River only to see the emigrants leaving across France and board the ships at the ports there. On February 9th 1770 the Hessian government released a warning to the police to take a close look at the items that could be silver-plated. In their statement they say that the emigrants in doing so take the fortune out of the country. In a statement from December 11th 1784 it was pointed out that the emissaries, who promise greener pastures in foreign countries to the citizens of Hessia, should be retained.


          The Settlement Patent released during the reign of Empress Maria Theresia consisting of nine points gives us a good understanding of the contracts under which the Germans settled in Hungary. It contained the privileges of the settlers, as well as the expectations by the government from them. The land the Germans settled was appropriated to them at no cost and remained government property. This could be considered as a never-ending lease contract as long as a farmer and his family could work the land that was appropriated to them. A farmer had the right to all of the crops he could raise and was taxed with a percentage of the amount he harvested from the land. The land had to be passed on undivided to the heir, usually the oldest son. During the first years when plow animals were scarce only a few acres could be handled. As time passed and more plow animals and manpower became available, more land was appropriated to the farmers. These contracts were in force until 1848, at which time they could take possession of the land and were free to purchase or sell land.


          The beginning was extremely difficult for all the colonists. Often promises were not kept. In the province (Komitat) Békés, when additional tax burdens were placed upon the settlers, 360 families who had settled there left. The farmers were also required to work certain hours without compensation. The hours were often increased in certain cases doubled, like in Buda (Ofen) in 1729. Was this not the very same reason why our ancestors left their homes in Germany?


          To the south, in particular the Banat, the farmers promising beginning came to an abrupt and dramatic end when a Romanian rebellion erupted. The unfortunate Turkish war of 1737-1739, which ended the presence of the Imperial Army of German Nation in Serbia, coupled with these developments left the German colonies without the protection of the Imperial Army of German Nation along the borders. It gave the Turks opportunities to invade the settlements. They raided and burned many of the villages and killed the colonists. Those who survived the attacks where stricken with the bubonic plague the Turks had brought with them during their raids. The people that were not killed suffered a painful death caused by the high fever of the plague.


          The second group of colonists came between 1763 and 1773 during the reign of Empress Maria Theresia (1740-1780). Seventy five thousand men, women and children came during this period to settle the Hungarian low land on both sides of the Danube. Many of those colonists came from Southwest-Germany, Alsace and Lorraine (Elsass/Lothringen), which also included today’s Saarland. The main reason was the war conflict with France in 1766 during such time the German territories of Alsace and Lorraine were lost to the French. The French installed the exiled Polish King Stanislaus Leszcynski as governor, who, during his reign of 30 years, instituted the French language as the legal language and imposed strenuous taxes on the farmers, German people were forced to leave their homes because of this development in their home country. Most of those Germans came from the Saargmünd, Forbach and Saarburg regions also known as the “German Lorraine” (Deutsch Lothringen).


          To give you an understanding of the cultural background of a community, let us look at the statistics of Batschsentiwan located 7 Km to the east of Apatin. The town was settled in 1763-1768 with 320 families. The origin of the families was as follows; Lorraine 85, Bohemia 17, Baden-Württemberg 16, The Palatinate 14, Bavaria 13, Silesia 11, Moravia 6, the Saarland 4, from Saxony, Westphalia and Alsace 2, Hessen, Pommern, Franken and Tyrol one each. From Germany without any known origin came 78 families, and from Austria without any known origin came 4 families. Thirty-two veterans from the Seven-Year War (1756-1763 in Silesia) were also settled there with their families. From the Hungarian areas of the Swabian Turkey and Pest came 10 families. Rounding out the number, were 20 families with no known origin.


          During this settlement period in 1762, Empress Maria Theresia ran into opposition from the Hungarian administrators with her intention to settle Germans in the Batschka. The Hungarians had settled 2,910 Hungarian, Slavic and German families there earlier, claiming that there was no room left in the region for more Germans. It became apparent that the Hungarian administrators feared that the German presence in the region could become a national problem for them. Empress Maria Theresia vetoed their decision however and agreed to give the Hungarian opposition more right in the planning of the settlements by hiring the man of their choice as administrator. As a result Baron Anton von Cothmann, of German descent and member of the Hungarian parliament in Bratislava (Pressburg), was hired to direct the settlements in the Batschka. He moved to Apatin; from where he began to settle the Batschka. His knowledge, wisdom and understanding of the land and its people earned him the trust and admiration of all nationalities settled during that time in the Batschka. During this period 50,000 Slavic people fleeing from Turkish oppression in Serbia were also settled in the southern Hungarian regions mainly the Batschka and Banat (thus we say hardship to the second settlers).


          The Empress Maria Theresia’s war against Friedrich II, King of Prussia, created additional problems for the settlers. Most of the attention of Maria Theresia was directed to that war during that time which resulted in removing troops from the Danube regions, leaving the settlers in the Hungarian provinces without notable protection. Corruption among government officials placed in office by the Hungarians and profiteering flourished. Prices and taxes rose and brought additional hardships and suffering to their difficult everyday life.


          The third major movement of colonists came during the times 1782-1787 during the reign of Emperor Joseph II (1780-1790). He was also referred to as “The German”. Emperor Joseph II saw his major task in reforming the “Government of the Monarchy” in the spirit of more freedom for the people. Step by step he proceeded with the realization of his far-reaching dreams. One of his achievements was to ban the “Leibeigenschaft”, so that our ancestors were no longer subjects of the nobles. They became “free men”. He also announced free religion for every man in his multi racial Empire. In 1784 he instituted “German” as the official language for the administration and the military, replacing Latin as the official language.


          As a result of the free religion, non-Catholic were now allowed to immigrate for the first time. Because of the policy of the previous administrations, the population of the Danube Swabians is comprised of 85% Catholics and only 15% of Protestants and Reformed Christians with a small trace of other religions. However, segregation in general was very important during those times. Serbians, Croatians, Hungarians, Romanians and Germans were predominately settled in separate villages or towns. The Catholics, Protestants and Reformed Christians also were segregated and settled in separate villages.


          Emperor Joseph II also reduced the financial requirements from 200 to 100 gulden. Yet many families that could not meet those financial requirements came on their own and were left to fend for themselves. In 1886 three hundred thirty eight of them starved to death in front of the gates in Ruma when help was denied them by the city.


          In 1782 a new settlement patent (Ansiedlungspatent) was released which guaranteed the following: 1. Freedom of mind and religion for all citizens. 2. A house and a garden for every family. 3. For the Farmers; fields, and meadows, farm animals, field- and house tools. 4. For the skilled trades’ men; 50 gulden for the purchase of tools. 5. For the colonist family; a guarantee that their oldest son would not be required to serve in the military. 6. For each family; free transportation, starting from Vienna to the location of their settlement, at which time their travel expenses would be reimbursed and a guarantee that free provisions of food would continue until the time the families were settled and able to provide for themselves. 7. For the people that became ills during the trip, to build hospitals and provide free medical services. The free service would continue until the sick were completely recovered from their illnesses. 8. Finally, a ten-year long tax exemption was guaranteed.


          Most important was the construction of the colonist’s home. If the home was not completed at the time of the arrival, the family was placed temporarily into another home. In such cases, the family helped the construction workers with the building of their new home. The colonist house was built in a “uniform colonial style” (Kolonial Einheitsstil). The walls of the homes were constructed with soil that was bound with straw and ramped, since there were shortages of wood and bricks. Reed was used as roof material.


          At the time the family moved into their new home they received the following items: one cow or 18 gulden, one mattress (Strohsack), one carpet, one shovel, one pitchfork, one spinning wheel. The also received one flour sieve, six sacks, one baking trough, one ax, one hoe, one bread board, one water bucket, one flour bucket and one butter bucket. Farmers received in addition, four horses, a wagon and bridle, a plow and other tools like sickles and saws. The skilled tradesmen did not receive land but instead 50 gulden, as mentioned before, for the purchase of their trade tools. In general, the colonists of the later years had a great deal more help to succeed with their new beginning than those that had preceded them (thus we say bread for the third).


          Germans also settled in other parts of the World during that time period, like Pennsylvania, USA in 1683, Galizien, Slovakia, Dobrogea, (Dobrudscha), Romania, Bucovina, (Bukowina) Romania, Bessarabia (Bessarabien) Moldova, Poland and Russia. Records show that 150,000 Germans immigrated, settled, pioneered and built more than 1,000 towns and cities in the regions of Hungary, which became known to us as The Land of the Danube Swabians”.


          During my research of our “Heimatbuch Batschsentiwan”, I came across entries made in the tax books by the tax collectors of Batschsentiwan, from the early years of the settlement. Many of the first pioneers were unable to fulfill their obligation to the government. One of the entries read: Ludmilla Kornhammler, a widow with five children. She fights her way through a life which has very little to offer. A second entry read: Lorenz Kolb, despite his age he gives his last effort to raise his six children. A third entry read: Margarete Gunt, an old widow unable to work, a notation about Nikolaus Vandres stated: weakened by old age, he leads a poor live with his six children. A notation about Andreas Peck said: Because of continued illness and poverty he stands firmly providing for his six minor children. The situation of the widow Maria Burghardt was entered as; she lost everything by drinking.  It is not difficult to read between the lines of these entries made by the tax collectors, to understand how difficult the life of our ancestors, who settled the land of the Danube Swabians, must have been.


          While studying the genealogy of my German heritage and the Danube Swabian people, I also came to realize how difficult the lives of my own ancestors actually were. Men died young. Mathäus Öffler died at age 37 in 1779 only one year after his marriage to Apollonia Wagner in Ulm. I am a descendant of their only child Jakob. Apollonia remarried in 1780. She lost her second husband Matthias Wohlsberger in 1789 at age 40. She married a third time in 1799, only to lose her third husband Josef Kirchemayer at age 50 in 1801. Apollonia Wagner died on March 11, 1822 at age 74.


          The most common cause of women who died young was childbirth. Maria Fischer, wife of Karl Blechl, died after her 4th child, at age 33. Karl remarried and had thirteen additional children. From the thirteen children, nine died before the age of two. Other women died from being overburdened with childbearing like Barbara Weissbrod. She was the first wife of Jakob Ergh and died after her 11th child. Six of these children died before the age of one. One died at age six. I am a descendent of their first-born child Johann Peter. The high mortality rate, especially among the children, created a huge problem for the colonists. Adam Tettmann fathered twenty-two children, ten children from his first wife Katharina Herner and twelve from his second wife Katharina Fink. From the 22 children of Adam only nine lived to be married. I am an offspring of Franz, the 22nd his last child. On average it was not unusual for a family, to lose between six to eight children out of ten to twelve. Many couples had no surviving children at all.


          What our ancestors found in this new land was nothing but hard work, hardship and famine. It demanded great personal sacrifices. The land they settled bore indigenous diseases, and 75% of the first settlers succumbed to Swamp Fever. Swamp fever was not the only disease our ancestors had to overcome. There were at least seven known cholera epidemics between the years 1831 and 1893. Although some of the epidemics were less devastating then others, however each of them left visible scars on the population.


          Flooding continuously endangered the urban areas near the great rivers, Danube, Thisza, Maros and Drava. Supplying towns not connected to the rivers also presented a problem. For these and other reasons the land had to be drained inland. To accomplish this, elaborate canal systems were built, a monumental task indeed. Many sacrifices had to be made to accomplish this task and numerous lives were lost during the construction of the waterways. The most notable accomplishments of Prince Eugene of Savoy besides his military achievements, was his organizational talent in the area of urban development. One of the largest projects was draining of the “Vidovaje Ocean”, a lake that spread between the rivers Tisza and Maros, whose size was estimated perhaps almost as large as Lake Constance in Germany. General Claudius Florimund von Mercy of the Palatinate, who became the first Governor of the Banat, aided Prince Eugene’s effort. He was also referred to as the “Father of the Banat”. Governor Mercy, in his own right a great administrative genius brought economic and mining prosperity to the Banat. He settled 50 German towns. Although the Turks destroyed these towns in 1737/1738, the Germans returned to the Banat. He also settled Romanians, Serbs, Italian, French, as well as Spaniards in the Banat. One English geographer wrote the following about the region and its people; “One has to travel as far as the Nile Delta to find fertile land and industrious people, like here in the Banat, who created a flowering European cultural garden from this devastated and deserted part of Europe”.


          The year 1779 brought a major draught throughout the Batschka, which resulted in a shortage of food. To avoid possible starvation and famine, the provincial government (Komidatsbehörde) decided to purchase food from other regions and distribute it. The grain was distributed on the basis that it would be returned the following year. This however was not possible for everybody. Certain officials resorted to extremes by applying cruel methods to collect their taxes. When the officials in the town of Kula overstepped their bounds, the citizens of that community complained to the higher authorities. The following investigation proved the questionable methods of the officials and all of them were fired. Some of the cruelties our forefathers had to endure were that they had to undress and then be thrown into nettles or thorns; others were locked in a chimney or confined in a stone built bread-baking oven, while others had to climb on the roof and sit there for hours. In the winter, they had to stand for hours in the snow while cold water was poured over them and they became live icicles. The source of this information (Palanka an der Donau) also goes on, to give the names of the responsible officials.


          Again in 1788 war broke out between the Empire of German Nations and Turkey. As the Imperial Army retreated to the north, it left the southern parts of the Banat unprotected and caused the flight of 40,000 families to the north, mostly Germans. The invading Turks burned down 147 towns among them Weißkirchen and Pantschowa. In the city of Werschetz Johann Jakob Hennemann took on the defense of the city with 70 German and 5 Serbian farmers. The clever leader deceived the Turks by having these men continuously move about the city giving the impression of a large troop contingency present. This scheme worked despite the fact that the Turks had amassed more than 30,000 troops. Consequently, after the Imperial Army had regrouped and defeated the Turks the town was renamed “Hennenmannstadt” in the honor of its heroic defender and his men.


          The revolutionary freedom wars that swept through Europe in 1848-1849 brought additional hardships for many of the towns. Serbian opportunist gangs raided the town of Ernsthausen several times during that period. The damages were devastating especially during the last raid. Thirty-six houses were burned to the ground and the remaining houses burned out. The grain lofts were emptied and the cattle, horses and poultry driven off, and winter was setting in. Ernsthausen was not the only town that suffered from such raids. Gangs periodically raided other towns as well, especially along the borders. From the Heimatbuch of Schowe I learned, “one had to simply run for one’s life, when such gangs attacked the towns, it was our only chance to stay alive during such raids”.


         After the equalization treaty between Austria and Hungary in 1867, the Hungarians gained an inter-politically free hand. This political change brought new problems for the Germans. Now the Hungarians began a systematic assimilation politic. Every young Danube Swabian pursuing a higher education or a political carrier became a target of this assimilation politic. In the process these men and women volunteered to be hungarianized or magyarized and take on a Hungarian name and became Hungarian patriots, since the success of ones career would become dependant on that decision, like it or not.


          The ever growing economical as well as cultural dominance of the Germans, especially in the rural areas of Hungary, was cause of great concern for the Hungarian administration. The administration made repeated efforts to magyarized all of their citizens of German descent and expected them to relinquish their traditions, ignoring their inherited rights reserved at the time of their settlement by the Hungarian Landlords.


          Although the Germans had retained the right to speak German during this change, the Hungarians began to force the Germans to learn to speak Hungarian in the schools along with the German language. They did not always stop there. In some towns the Germans were forced to change their names while in other towns the Hungarians proceeded to give them Hungarian names without their consent. Even in the German churches the priests were often forced to speak Hungarian and encourage the Germans to take Hungarian names and speak Hungarian at home. Needless to say it became a continued struggle for our ancestors to maintain their German heritage and culture. Since they had no representation in the Hungarian parliament, they had to follow the Hungarian law, rules and regulations, which placed them at certain designed disadvantages. There where Germans living in the cities, who became hungarianized of their own free will, however one must say without reservation, the farmers stood determined to uphold their traditions handed to them by their forefathers.


          Despite of all these and other setbacks, our ancestors persevered. Their labor and their sweat converted this region into the most fertile and richest region of Europe by the end of the 19th Century. This monumental task was accomplished basically by three generations of Danube Swabians. The region became known as the granary of Europe, better known to us as the “Breadbasket of Europe”. Their lives were simple and without many of the comforts we know today. They built homes, churches, schools and towns for their children, grandchildren, and the generations to come. Very little did our ancestors foresee the fate that would await their descendants, at the end of World War II?



The Geographic Regions of the Danube Swabians

          The geographic regions, which were settled by the Germans, stretched across vast areas of Hungary. It must be understood that all the regions settled during the Great Swabian Migration were located in Hungary at the time of the colonization. The main concentrations, however were in the following provinces (Komitat):  

          Southwest Hungarian mountain regions, including Kis (Little) Alföld and Bakony (Buchenwald, Schildgebirge, Ofener Bergland) between the Raba (Raab) and the Danube (Donau) Rivers with Budapest as the center. It is part of Hungary since 1920.  

          Schwäbische Türkei, stretching through the Pannonian lowland of Dunantúl, south of Lake Balaton, between the Rivers Danube and Drava (Drau) /Schomodei, Baranja (Branau), and Tolnau with Pecs (Fünkirchen) as the center. It is part of Hungary since 1920.

          Slavonia-Syrmia (Slavonia-Szerém or Slawonien-Syrmien), is the regions between the rivers Danube, Save (Sau) and Drava (Drau) with Osijek (Esseg) as the center. It is part of Yugoslavia since 1920. Today Slavonia is part of Croatia while Syrmia is part of the Vojvodina, Serbia.  

          Sathmar is the regions to the east of the great Hungarian plains (Pusta), with Großkarol as the center. It is part of Romania since 1920.

          Batschka (Batschau or Batschgau), is the region to the north of the Danube (lower bend) between the rivers Danube and Tisza (Theiß) with Novi-Sad (Neusatz) as the center. It is part of Yugoslavia since 1920. Today it is part of the Vojvodina, Serbia.

          Banat is the regions to the north of the Danube (lower bend) between the Danube, Tisza, Maros (Mieresch) and the Transylvanian Alps with Timisoara (Temeschburg or Temeswar) as the center. The eastern part is of Romania while the western part is part of Yugoslavia since 1920. Today the eastern part is still part of Romania while the western part is part of the Vojvodina, Serbia.


Settlement Regions

Settled by the Government

Privately Settled

Southwest Hungarian Mountain Regions



Schwäbische Türkei


















Source: Karl Beel, Tscherwenkaer Heimat-Zeitung Folge 37, Sommer 2001, Jahrgang 15  

          The area our ancestors settled, according to researchers Senz, Schmidt and Tuffener, stretched over a region of 65,000 square kilometers. This is an area almost as large as Bavaria (70,238 square kilometers). At the end of World War II the Danube Swabians owned an estimated area of 15,000 square kilometers, an amount equal to 21.5% of the region were German settlements were located..  



The Economic Background

          The 150,000 pioneers that settled during the 150 year long period in Hungary had now reached 1,500,000. Until 1850 the German settlers were comprised of 85% to 90% farmers. By the beginning of the 20th Century the German population in Hungary had shifted and was now comprised of 50% to 60% farmers and farm workers, 20% to 25% craftsman and merchants, 20% laborers and 3% intellectuals and professionals. In the 1870’s they introduced the revolutionary wheeled plow, which not only ripped the ground open but also planed it the same time. They welcomed advancements in technology, which made their work not only easier but also more efficient. After six years of research by two German experts in 1907, who determined and stated, the wheat grown in the Batschka produces the best flour in the world, especial for Weißbrot (wheat bread) and strudel dough. Before WW I the German population in Hungary represented 5.5% of the total population in Hungary, which produced 18.5% of the wheat on 11.4% farmland in that country. They also produced pork, beef, wine, silk, tobacco, corn, oats and the “Gidran” a breed of horses suitable for work and pleasure riding.


          In 1920 after WWI, after Hungary was drastically reduced in size, there were approximately 551,000 Germans, we like to refer to them from here on as Danube Swabians, living in Hungary, which represented 6.9% of the Hungarian population. Of these 56.6% occupied themselves in farming, 27.9% in the industry, 3.7% in commerce and 2.7% in the educational and professional field. From the statistics we can clearly recognize the importance of the Danube Swabian farmers. The skilled trade industry employed Danube Swabians (mostly self-employed) and was comprised of 16,690 carpenters, 15,493 masons and bricklayers, 12,462 blacksmiths and 8,711 shoemakers. In 1942 Hungary produced 185,000,000-liter milk of which Danube Swabian farmers were responsible for 73,000,000 liter and 60% of the butter export from Hungary. In 1938, the Danube Swabians produced 65% of all agricultural products produced in Hungary. The production of linen and wool flourished in the Swabian Turkey. In the areas around Bácsalmás, Pecs and Tokaj, the Danube Swabian winegrowers enjoyed world famous reputations.


          No less than 226,597 souls made their home in the Romanian region of the Banat. Of these persons 25.2% were of German descent. Seventy-nine percent of the Danube Swabian population lived in rural areas and 20.7 % in the cities. They planted 52% of the farmland with grains (41.8% of the grain was wheat), 37.5% vegetable, 4.5% for feed and 6% other crops. In 1938 and 1939 the Danube Swabians owned 82% of the pork belly industry and 29% of the Romanian pork belly export. By 1940 the contributions by the Danube Swabian to the Romanian export reached a high of 51%. The mining in the mountains of the Banat contributed also greatly to the welfare of Romania.


          The Danube Swabian population in Yugoslavia prior to World War II consisted of more than 500,000 people. In the Yugoslavian Banat it amounted to 23.6% of the population. They owned 22% of the usable farmland producing 30% of the farm products. They represented 42% of the skilled trade’s people out of 58% in the Yugoslavian industry. The most profitable crop for the farmers in the Batschka was the hemp and it should be to no ones surprise that they planted 25% of their fields with the “White Gold of the Batschka”. In the Batschka, the Danube Swabians contributed the largest share of hemp to the Yugoslavian export. They owned and operated 73 hemp factories that produced 2,000 metric tons of hemp per month. They owned 95% of the combing factories. Only Russia and Italy rivaled the hemp they produced. However, in the qualities of tensile strength and water resistance the hemp from the Batschka was superior. The Batschka was also home of the “Hemp Trade Center of Europe” and was located in Odzaci (Hodschag) and Novi Sad (Neusatz). They were also involved in the fishing, the tobacco and the silk cocoon industry. The vegetable and fruit growing, as well as live stock raising were profitable for the Danube Swabians, even though most of it was produced for self-use.


          The town of Batschsentiwan best typifies the economic strength of the Danube Swabians, since it was a leader in hemp export. Batschsentiwan pursued a highly successful hemp growing industry that accounted for 20% of the Yugoslavian hemp exports alone. In his book, “Ein Volk Ausgelöscht,” Leopold Rohrbacher wrote: “Batschsentiwan is the richest town in the Batschka and probably in all of Yugoslavia. This German community, with a population of 6,300 souls, was known and famous throughout the world as Yugoslavia’s hemp export center. Their workers and farmers have created world famous export firms of hemp, the White Gold of the Batschka, in only a few decades.”

          During my research I came across statistics applying to the Danube Swabians in Yugoslavia after World War I, which stated; “although the Danube Swabian population in Yugoslavia amounted only to 4% between the two World Wars, they produced enough food to feed the Yugoslavian nation”. In addition, they contributed 67% to the Yugoslavian food export. Who could ever imagine that the Danube Swabians would be starved to death, by the nation they once fed.



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