Donauschwaben in den USA

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Our Life On Foreign Soil

By Hans Kopp


    Ever since our forefathers stepped off the barges in Hungary they assumed a life on foreign soil. Their ancestral home Baden-Württemberg and the regions to the west of the Rhine River, Elsass, Lorain, the Palatinate, Saarland, and other free cities whose regions during Roman times were Germania Superior, Zehntland and the northern region of the Celtic Kingdom of Raetia under Roman occupation.


    We often wonder who our ancestors actually really were. Since the Roman times many Germanic nations competed for the land the Romans occupied. Many were rejected in battles like the Chatten while others were tolerated and settled by the Romans like the Ubier. Among the others rejected were the Semnonen and Hermunduren who combined with other Germanic nations among them the Sweben and became known as the Alamannen meaning “All Men”.


    The Chatten situated in Germania Inferior also unite with other Germanic nations and become known as the Franken “Free Men” who were ruled by several Kings.


    The Franken, Alamannen, Markomannen, Gepiden, and the Gothic nations from northern Scandinavia and regions what are today’s Poland who migrated to Romania and the Black see regions of Ukraine, began their movement almost the same time into the territories of the Roman Empire which was on the decline.


    The Franken began to occupy the territories of today’s France under the Franken King, Clovis, from the house of the Merovingian (Chlodwig vom Haus der Merowinger) who set up his capital in Soisons and is baptized along with 1,000 of his royal followers marking the beginning of Christianity among German Nations.


    The Land in Hungary our forefathers ultimately settle is repeatedly occupied by the Gothic, Gepiden, Huns, Vandal, Lombard, Avars, Franken and Magyar nations during the years 250 to 1,000 when the Magyars established themselves a ruler of Hungary under King Stephan I, which also included the Batschka and Banat.


    In 475 the Ribuarier establish the independent State of “Francia Rhinensis”. The Roman city of Trier loses on status but maintains the status of a diocese under the Franken Catholic Arbogast.


    The former Roman provinces now dominated by Germanic nations make only relatively slow changes and when Clovis died in Paris he left a great Germanic-Roman Empire.


     After the division into several Franken states and several in fights, it was Hausmeier Karl Martel who united the Franken again which formed the bases for Charlemagne’s (Karl der Grosse) empire. Karl was crowned by Pope Leo III in Rome on Christmas Day of 800 as the first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation.


    The empire of Charlemagne would not only include the ancestral grounds of our forefather the Alamannen (Alsace and Baden-Württemberg) and Lorain in the west of Franconia today’s France but also Pannonia part of the territories of western Hungary which included the settlement regions of the Hungarian Central Mountains, the Schwäbische Türkei and Slawonien-Syrmien. The settlement regions of Sathmar, the Batschka and the Banat never were part of Pannonia under the Celtics, the Romans nor the Franken.


    During the reign of Charlemagne revolutionary important changes took place which led to the development of organized settlements, fenced in for protection called the Pfalz (not to confuse with fortresses), educational systems and intensive Christian missionary work throughout the empire. From these organized settlements Pfalz, we get the names for the Rhineland- and the Fränkische-Pfalz.


    After the death of Karl his son “Ludwig der Fromme”, became the Emperor and the empire was divided into three territories among Karl’s three grandsons Lothar, Pipin and Ludwig. Pipin receives the Westfranken Empire, today’s France, Lothar received the Kingdom of Italy which included Burgundy and Lothringen which included the later Switzerland and the Netherlands, while “Ludwig der Deutsche” received the Ostfranken Empire, today’s Germany.  After Lothar’s death his territories were disputed and divided. The Burgundy became part of France and Lothringen, Switzerland and the Netherlands part of Germany.


    Over the years Lothringen was drastically truncated after the declaration of independence of Switzerland and The Netherlands. The homeland, the Kingdom of the Alamannen, from where 2/3 or more of our forefather ultimately originate became a constant politically disputed region between France and Germany.


    It is very important for our history to keep a chronological order of the time in view. The first date of the political development in Hungary is 1521 when Süleyman II, of the Ottoman Empire, marches into Hungary. It is too late for Ludwig II, of Hungary to militarize an army to resist. As a result the Hungarian army is totally destroyed and Ludwig II dies accidentally without leaving a successor to the Hungarian throne.


    The Habsburger Ferdinand I, Arch Duke of Austria and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation is crowned legitimate King and protector of Hungary after being empowered by a Hungarian committee of landlords.


    The defeat is followed by a 150 year long occupation of Hungary by the Ottoman Empire. Hungary only exists as narrow strip of land stretching along the Styrian and Austrian border from the south to the north and from there to the northeast including today’s Slovakia. Pressburg today’s Bratislava becomes the capital Hungary.


    When in 1683 Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire, recognized, what he thought was an opportunity to conquer the Christian civilization, while in 1681 French troops had invaded the German regions of Loraine and Alsace to the west of the Rhine River and had taken Strasbourg; the imperial troops were unavailable to defend the eastern borders against the Turks.


    Sultan Mehmed IV began to move his forces of nearly 200,000 troops of a multi national and multi racial character, to the cities of Györ (Raab) and Komaron (Komorn) and sent a declaration of war to Emperor Leopold I and commissioned Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa with the high command of 150,000 Turkish troops and 300 cannons to march on Vienna.


    The valiant defensive struggle around Vienna lasted 62 days, until the arrival of the allied “Entsatz” (rescue) troops of the “Holy Roman Empire of German Nation” under Duke Karl V of Lothringen (Loraine) who laid out the battle plans for the attack, while the overall command was given to Jan Sobieski III, the King of Poland by pre-agreement and his rank as a king whose pay was the booty of the Turks. The tent of the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa can be seen in the museum in Krakow, Poland.


    The attack on the Turkish troops surrounding Vienna began at six o’clock in the morning on September 12th 1683; three “Wings” of the German and Polish troops began to move across Mount Kahlenberg. Karl V led the left wing with Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden and the 19-year-old Prince Eugene of Savoy, nephew of Max Emanuel of Bavaria, on his side. The center wing was led by Max Emanuel of Bavaria, Johann Georg of Saxony, and George Friedrich of Waldeck. The wing was comprised of the Bavarian, Saxon, Franks and Swabian troops while the right wing included the polish troops under Jan Sobieski III and the Duke of Lauenburg with his troops.


    1686-1687 combined imperial forces, under their commanders Karl V, Max Emanuel von Bayern and Ludwig Wilhelm I von Baden, defeated the Turks at Harsany (Harschan) near Mohács, thus ending the Islamic threat to the Christian Civilization. These advances were supported by General Dünewald and Duke Leslie who’s troops freed Essegg.


    In 1689 the first “Impopulationpatent” is released for the re-settlement of Hungary during the reign of Emperor Leopold I, as King of Hungary which took several decades to become fully implemented. This “Impopulationpatent” was followed by a demand of the Hungarian Lords to their king in a Hungarian “Parliamentary Session” during 1722-1723.


    The historical emigration of Germans during the time of 1686 to 1722 under Leopold I was primarily initiated by Hungarian Landlords on individual bases to provide labor forces for their land. From 1722 to 1789 the emigration to Hungary from the “Holy Roman Empire of German Nation” who’s Emperors/Empress Karl VI, Maria Theresia and Joseph II who also were the Kings/Queen of Hungary at the same time became known as the “Three Great Swabian Migration”. The migration of the single women became known as “Women Migration”.


    They came from;  Lorain (Lothringen)  24.6%, The Palatinate (Rheinpfalz) 11.4%, Alsace (Elsaß) 7.7%, Trier (Independent City) 6.7% Luxembourg (Luxemburg) 6.1%, Swabia (Schwaben) 4.3%, Mainz (Independent City) 3.9%, Bavaria (Bayern) 3.7%, Baden (province) 3.1%, Vorderösterreich a region including several southwestern German provinces (Württemberg, Baden, Schwaben ect.) 2.9%.  (Note: no strict records where kept at the time by the emigration. registrars who took the names of the places of origin given to them by the heads of the household, therefore we only tell you here where Vorderösterreich was located.)  Württemberg (province) 2.9%, Zweibrücken (Independent City) 2.1%, Nassau (province) 2.1%, Franken 1.7%, Empire of German Nation (remaining) 1.6%, Hessia (Hessen) 1.6%, Austria (Österreich) 1.6%, Würzburg (Independent Church State) 1.6%, Westphalia (Westfalen) 1.4%, Cologne (Köln Independent City) 0.9%, Others (individually  < 0,7 %).


    1686-1718 the first German colonists immediately followed the victories over the Turkish troops. They were summoned primarily from the so-called Habsburg Erblanden (lands of succession). 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 Southwest Hungarian Central Mountains and regions near Budapest. These settlement followed settlements to the south of Lake Balaton (Schwäbische Türkei) in 1687, in the regions of Slavonia (Slawonien) in 1690, Southwest Hungarian Central Mountains (Schildgebirge) in 1691, Buchenwald (Bakony) in 1702, Sathmar in 1712, Batschka in 1715, Banat in 1716 and in Syrmia and Croatia in 1718. We know among those others were Spaniards, Italians and French. Their religious orientations were Catholics, Protestant, Lutherans and Calvinists.


    After the arrival of the settlers in their new homeland they found nothing but hard work. Cultivating the land demanded great personal sacrifices while hardships and swamp fever took their toll. The majority of the newborn, men at an early age, and women during childbirth took 75% of them to an early grave.


    They were continually threatened by Turkish raids. The Turks, who crossed the borders along the Danube, brought the bubonic plaque (Black Death) with them as they selected men infested with the decease. It became known as a warfare with disease which decimated the first settlers from which we get the phrase; “death to the first”.


    We also know during the French occupation of German Alsace-Lorain and the regions to the west of the Rhine River, many of our forefathers left for Hungary which became the home of our recent forefathers of 250 years. Others from the region traveled to America, (Example; Pennsylvanian Dutch (Deutsch) among them also Amish who share in part our dialect base besides that of German Swiss).


    During the Prussian-Austrian war, Serbian gangs vandalized the villages of the settlers. They robbed their grain, live stock and burned many of their villages to the ground as the Heimatbuch Ernsthausen stated. “One had to run away if one wanted to stay alive” it is written in the Heimatbuch Schowe. From this time we get the phrase; “hardship for the second”.


    Part of their settlement agreements included their rights and privileges, as well as their obligations. Among the rights were the right to foster their German heritage, customs and social mores. But most important was the right to speak their German language and teach their children in German schools for which they provided.


    They received as much land as their family was able to cultivate for 10% of their crop. They did not own the land till after the civil war (Bürgerkrieg) in 1848 at which time they could purchase the land they cultivated.


    Further development of events among the German Nation at  the turn of the 19th Century and the threat made by Napoleon I, to cross the Rhine River border again, prompted Emperor Franz II to lay down the crown of the “Holy Roman Empire of German Nation”. He no longer saw that the empire was still functioning, since the Kingdom’s of Prussia and Bavaria among others, were in a continued struggle to preserve their own independence during the French wars, and signed individual treaties with France.


    On August 6th 1806 Franz II abdicated his throne and the declared that the “Holy Roman Empire of German Nation” no longer existed and assumed the reign as Franz I, Emperor of a new Empire the “Austrian Empire”.


    After the equalization treaty between Austria and Hungary in 1869 and the formation of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, our ancestors lost many of their inherited rights and the Hungarians began a systematic organized Hungarianization process among the Germans.


    Now under these constant pressures and the lack of equal opportunities of administrative positions in politics and government, as well as other professional fields, many of our people volunteered to be hungarianized embracing Hungary. Many of them in the USA today find out only now that they are not Hungarians but actually Ungarländische- Deutsche or Donauschwaben.


    Our ancestors in the rural areas with their high spirits resisted strongly to these pressures and were determined to preserve their heritage despite all odds and by the turn of the 19th Century succeeded and were tolerated. The reason, their highly advanced agricultural techniques through which they had achieved prosperity became the backbone of Hungarian economy and thus enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in Europe. From these time we get the phrase; “bread for the third”


    As we entered the 20th Century the Hungarians signed a contract with the Cunnard Lines in Britain and since 1903 we see Germans from Hungary immigrating to the USA. Many of them though came here to work hard, save their money and return home. How many came may only be vaguely recognized in the manifests of the ships, since they are mostly listed as originating from Hungary. How many did actually return can not be determined. We know however, that a lot of money left the USA, because the US Congress promulgated a law to curtail the return flight of the people and the loss of funds leaving the country by setting limitations.


    For us, 80 years later, it is confusing and difficult to evaluate these records. There are no US Immigration statistics breaking down the Hungarian immigrants into Hungarian, German, Slovak, Romanian, and Hebrew etc. Of the 193,460 Hungarian citizens who came to the U.S.A. in 1907, we do not know how many of them were “Ungarländische Deutsche”.


    In 1914 the shots which were heard around the world were fired from the gun of an assassin on June 28th in Sarajevo. It was Gavrilo Princip a member of the Serbian radical group “The Black Hand” who fired them.


    The victims were the Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his highly pregnant wife duchess Sophie von Hohenberg. The whole world mourns on their behalf in particular the people in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who welcomed the annexation to the Austrian Empire as protectorate after the decay of the Turkish Empire.


    This planed assassination by the Serbs, supported by the Russian which started WWI can not be understood quite completely by the Austrian. They protected many Serbians, who for several hundred years found sanctuary and protection along the borders of Styria and Austria by the empire during the occupation of the Ottoman Empire, now they had turned against them.


    After the peace treaties in Trianon, the territories of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy, with its population of 54 million people, were dismantled by the allied nations. The settlement regions of our ancestors with a population of 1,500,000 are now divided among three countries. Approximately 500,000 are now living in Hungary, 500,000 in Romania and 500,000 in newly crated independent state of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia which became known as Yugoslavia (South Slavia). They now lose all their inherited rights in these countries.


    Most German schools were closed and the rich farmers in Yugoslavia became victims of the agrarian reform of Alexander Karadjordjevic who proclaimed the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians and their land was expropriated. This affected the Donauschwaben, the Lower Styrian’s and the Gottscheer.


    In Romania the churches were forced to sell their property which supported the schools of the Transylvanian Saxons to the state for 1% of their market value. All properties purchased after 1920 were expropriated without due compensation. All these laws affected all the Germans in Sathmar, Banat, the Dobrudscha and Transylvania.


    In Hungary, although they respected the private properties the German schools were closed. The German settlers ones summoned to cultivate the land of the Hungarians now were no longer welcome. As a minority in all three countries lose their agricultural and economic strength they had established as “one people, as Hungarian Germans” prior to the war. It created many hardships and poverty among the Germans and as a result we experience a flight of Donauschwaben to foreign countries, among them the USA.


    During the great depression a trade agreement with Germany was reached by the countries were the Donauschwaben now resided. These agreements in which they traded their agricultural products for modern agricultural machinery brought prosperity not realized since the “two sheared plow” and since the threshing machines (1880) were introduced. They were primarily responsible for bringing the Donauschwaben out of the recession in Europe, first.


    However, this prosperity did not last very long. The Second World War loomed on the horizon and with it came the end of the lives of the Donauschwaben in the country their ancestors had settled on foreign soil of more than 250 years ago.


    More than 220,000 of our people would take the advice of the German Army and flee under their protection from the Red Army. The strong roots to their soil, the deep faith in God and the fact that they strongly believed having done nothing wrong to justify leaving, would influence many to stay behind.


    They were wrong and some 250,000 were subjected to the brunt of the hatred of the Communist Tito Partisans, despite the fact that the minority of 4% of the Donauschwaben produced enough food to feed the Yugoslavian nation.


    At the treaty of Potsdam, Stalin received the permission from the Allied Nations to obtain a labor force of 73,000 Donauschwaben, 30,000 from Hungary, 30,000 from Romania and 13,000 from Yugoslavia as slave laborers for a period of 5 years. At the Potsdam treaty the allied nations gave Hungary the permission to expel 220,000 German to Austria and Germany. However Yugoslavia and Romania did not and resorted to other measures.


    The Russian also requested a certain grain quota from Romania. This resulted in exiling most of the Banater Donauschwaben, about 40,000, to the desolate regions of the Baragan for 5 years in the early 60’s and resettled them afterward on inferior land, while Romanian were settled in the homes of the Banater.


    Under the reign of Tito who excused his action taken against the Germans, claiming the Prinz Eugen Division consisting of West Banater Donauschwaben from Yugoslavia, betrayed their country while it was actually the opposite. Tito betrayed his country as history has shown, when his tribunal decided on November 29th 1943, to secretly oust Peter, the reigning King of Yugoslavia living in self exile in London.


    The dramatic and tragic fate of the Donauschwaben was sealed on November 21st  1944 in Jajce, Bosnia when a tribunal of “Tito’s Communist Partisan Rebels” which by now calls itself „Antifasiticko Vece Narodnog Oslobodjenja Jugoslavije“ „Antifascist Tribunal for the Liberation of Yugoslavia“ in short AVNOJ, decided that all Germans in Yugoslavia must be eliminated. Their document stated; “All persons of German descent living in Yugoslavia will automatically lose their citizenship. They will lose all their rights and all their possessions and property will become property of the State. As a result of these laws the Donauschwaben in Yugoslavia lost all their property and 1/3 of their population. Today there is only 1% of the Donauschwaben left from the 500,000 Donauschwaben who made their home in Yugoslavia prior to WWII.


    In summarizing, our life on foreign soil by our ancestors became imbedded in these words, “Dem ersten den Tod, dem zweiten die Not, dem dritten das Brot”. Translated it means, “for the first settlers; death, for the second settlers a meager existence and only for the third settlers the bread and finally prosperity. We sadly have to add to this now; “expulsion from their homes and Genocide for the generation living at the end of World War II” which would end the lives of the Donauschwaben as they knew it since the time of the settlement of their ancestors.


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