Los Angeles Donau Schwabian Dancegroup

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The Danube Swabians 


18th Century

Danube-Swabians are ethnic Germans, originally from many areas in Germany (primarily Würtemberg and the Palatinate), who settled in an area known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 18th century during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa. Settlements were established east and west of the Danube river in territories now known as Hungary, Rumania, Croatia and Serbia.

Under frequently difficult conditions, they cultivated the land with hard work and perseverance. Having come from generations of strong industrious peasants, their villages included scholars, educators, tradesmen, craftsmen and artists as well. They valued their culture's rich traditions and customs; faith in God and the Church were central to their community. Loyalty and pride in their heritage were strong qualities of this unique ethnic group that would sustain them regardless where destiny and fate would eventually take them.

In 1944 and following World War II, the Danube Swabians were driven from their homeland. They were exiled, suffered persecution and sustained great personal and economic losses. Many perished. The survivors of the death camps where many had been interred, attest to their ultimate sacrifice.

For those who are interested in a more detailed history of the Danube Swabians as well as starting your own family tree, we encourage you to visit:

"German Genealogy : Donauschwaben"
"History of the Donauschwaben Migrants and Their Descendants"
"Katherine Flotz and Her Experience"
History of German Settlements in Southern Hungary by Sue Clarkson - See story below.
Man from Banat - See story below.

 Los Angeles - 1944 - 1958

lani.jpg (207393 bytes)During the late 1940's and early 1950's, Father Mathias Lani, a Roman Catholic Priest and great humanitarian, succeeded in bringing many Danube Swabians from the refugee camps in Austria and Germany to Southern California. St Stephen's Church in Los Angeles, where he ministered, became a haven of shelter, security and fellowship. In his wisdom and understanding of these people, he served not only as a leader of a strong parish, but he became a beacon of light for a diverse community with mutual interests and common bonds. He welcomed all with open arms.

Tragically, Father Lani died suddenly in 1955. To continue his work and fulfill his dream of a bright future for the Danube Swabians in Los Angeles, a visionary group of men and women founded the Donauschwaben Association of Southern California in 1958. The purpose of the Association was to unite the existing groups with their shared interests and background. They believed that there was "strength in unity", and that anything less would cause isolation and loss of a precious cultural identity. The Association's primary goal and purpose was, is, and always will be " loyalty to heritage and tradition, preservation of the German language, and faith in God."


Our common bonds are our origin, our history, and our faith. We cannot forget the hardships and tribulations endured by our forefathers, although we now share a new homeland, embrace new generations, and welcome new ideas. Our goal is to encourage future generations to honor and treasure the heritage of their ancestors. This heritage comes from a people who faced hardship, suffering and loss with individual and collective strength.

Today's generations of Danube Swabians can learn to maintain their cultural heritage and ethnic identity, while adopting the customs of their new homeland. America, the "melting pot", has manifested itself even in the new Danube Swabian community. The Danube Swabian heritage is a heritage to be proud of!

rittig.jpg (26786 bytes)St. Stephen's Catholic Church, now under the spiritual leadership of Father Hermann - Joseph K. Rettig, remains literally and emotionally the central gathering place of Danube Swabians in Southern California. Within its walls sprang the new aspirations of a proud people far from home. It's rare to find anyone in the Danube-Swabian community who hasn't worshipped within its walls, or been baptized or married there.

Today the Danube Swabian life can be found in numerous organizations under the banner of the Danube-Swabian Association of Southern California, Inc. These groups include: The Sport Association "Danubia", The Donauschwäbische Tanzgruppe, The German-American Bowling League, & St. Emmerich Benefit Society.

We are also happy to say that similar group of Danube Swabians have joined together in many other cities in The United States and Canada. Among them are: Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Chicago, New York, Milwaukee, Windsor, Akron,Trenton and Toronto.

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History of German Settlements in Southern Hungary
by Sue Clarkson

At the end of the nineteenth century, there were more than two million Germans living in Hungary. During the eighteenth century, the Habsburg monarchy of Austria, which ruled Hungary at that time, had enticed Germans to emigrate to the unsettled lands of Southern Hungary, which had been devastated by over 150 years of Turkish occupation. From 1711 to 1750, approximately 800 villages were founded in Hungary by German settlers. The Banat Province was one of the primary areas of settlement.

The Habsburgs had become the ruling monarchy in Hungary in 1527, following the death of King Louis II of Hungary. King Louis was killed defending Hungarian territory against the Turks (Ottoman Empire) at the Battle of Mohacs in 1526. After Mohacs, the Turks dominated two-thirds of Hungary, including the Banat. The remaining portion was ruled by the Habsburgs. War with the Turks continued throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The Austrian Imperial Army commanded by Prince Eugene of Savoy was finally successful in driving them out. A peace settlement at Karlowitz in 1699 brought Hungary, except for the Banat, under control of the Habsburg Emperor Leopold I. Later, Prince Eugene captured the Banat, and the province was ceded to the Habsburg Emperor Charles VI after the Treaty of Passarovitz. The Banat was considered a crown territory of the Holy Roman Empire from 1718 to 1778 and was administered from Vienna during that period.

Although there had been German emigration to Hungary prior to this time, the expulsion of the Turks resulted in an organized settlement program sponsored by the Habsburgs. The Habsburgs had three aims: to fortify the land against invasion, to develop farm land, and to further the Roman Catholic Religion in Eastern Europe. Thus they offered Catholics of the southwest German states inducements such as free agricultural land, home sites, construction materials, livestock and exemption from taxes for several years. The colonization of the Banat was entrusted to Claudius Florimund, Count of Mercy, general under Prince Eugene of Savoy. Mercy sent agents to the Habsburg territories in the region which is now western Germany. Settlers came from the regions known as Baden, Wuerttemberg, Alsace, Lorraine, the Rhinelands, Westphalia, Bavaria and Swabia as well as from other areas. Although they came from various regions and spoke various dialects, the Hungarians called them Swabians, and the name came to be used in reference to all of the Germans who settled in the Danube valley. Most were poor peasants who had farmed the land of feudal lords, and who had been subjected to heavy taxation and military conscription. The city
of Ulm, in the Swabian region of the German states, was a common point of departure. From Ulm, settlers boarded boats called "Ulmer Schachtel" and sailed the Danube to Vienna, where they registered for their land. Covered wagons, which also followed the Danube, were also used for transportation. The route of the Danube took them through Budapest  and into the Banat."

The colonization came to be known as "der Grosse Schwabenzug" or the "Great Swabian Trek." The majority of the migration took place in three phases which were named after their Habsburg sponsors:
1. The "Karolinische Ansiedlung," or Caroline colonization, which occurred from 1718 to 1737;
2. The "Maria Theresianische Ansiedlung," or Maria Theresian colonization, which occurred from 1744-1772; and
3. The "Josephinische Ansiedlung," or Josephine colonization, which took place under Joseph II from 1782 to 1787.

After 1789, the government-sponsored colonization was discontinued, but some settlers continued to arrive in Hungary until 1829, after whichonly those with 500 Guilders cash were allowed to migrate.

During the colonization period, people of other nationalities also settled in the plains of the Banat. Among them were Serbs, Croatians, Bulgarians and Romanians, and to a lesser extent, Slovaks, Ruthenians, Czechs and a few French and Italians.

Many of approximately 15,000 German settlers from the first colonization were killed in Turkish raids, or died from bubonic
plague. Thus, the second wave of approximately 75,000 German colonists had to rebuild many of the settlements. They were successful in re-establishing the towns, but their life was filled with hard work. The third wave consisted of approximately 60,000 new German settlers who were able to increase the economic prosperity of the Hungarian farm land. The Banat region later came to be known as the "breadbasket of Europe." The hardships endured by the three groups of colonists is summarized in this verse:

Der Erste hat den Tod,
Der Zweite hat die Not,
Der Dritte erst hat Brot.

which is translated as, "The first encounters death, the second need, only the third has bread."

Despite the hardships, more than 1,000 German villages were established in Southern Hungary. Plans for the villages were laid out in Vienna. The towns were generally built in a square checkerboard pattern, with the Catholic church and its surrounding square in the center of the town. The style of the buildings was a modified Baroque, and came to be called "settler's Baroque." Each village, however, had slightly different designs for the decorative finishes on the buildings, and the differences are still visible today.

The houses were built perpendicularly to the street, and consisted of a series of adjoining rooms, with the parlor on the end which faced the street, and sheds for domestic animals on the opposite end. Long covered porch ways extended the full length of the house. The Swabians were known for keeping their houses and gardens clean and carefully maintained. Each house plot was surrounded by a fence, and the courtyard within the fence contained grape vines, fruit trees and the household garden.

The streets in the villages were wide, and were used as pathways for community activities, such as baptism, wedding and funeral processions. Cattle were also led down the street to the common pasture in the surrounding area of the village. The streets, too, were always kept clean.

Crops were grown in the fields surrounding the village. The specialty crops grown in this area were sugar beets and hemp. Other crops were wheat, corn and alfalfa. The farmers also kept horses, cattle, pigs, chickens and geese. The home gardens included grapes for eating and for wine production, vegetables, and fruits such as peaches, apricots, melons and tomatoes. In the villages, schools were built in close proximity to the church. As the settlers were allowed to bring clergy and teachers, the first school master usually came with the settlers. Teaching was done in German. Whether or not the people were pious, the
social customs of the village centered around church activities. Sunday dress for the women consisted of the "tract", or village
costume, which included a distinctive dress plus decorative shawls, scarves and aprons. Each village had its own type of dress and hair style. Baptisms and weddings were festive events for family and neighbors, and included a street procession and special dinner. The major feast of the year was called "Kirchweih," the church consecration days, and was held on a Sunday in Autumn. The young men wore special hats which had been created by the young women of the village, and all took part in a procession led by a selected young couple. The day included a special mass, a festival dinner, and dancing in the street.

In the larger cities, where people were craftsmen and shopkeepers, a German middle-class and cultural life developed. Here, schools in German areas of the cities also had instruction in German. There were also German-language newspapers and magazines. Concerts, plays and balls were held, and Temeschburg was known for its fine German theater events and other cultural activities.

The Habsburg rule in Hungary, which began in 1527, lasted for nearly four hundred years, until the dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy in 1918. The German immigrants, invited by Habsburg agents at the request of the Hungarian Parliament, often lived peacefully side-by-side in the cities and villages with other ethnic groups. There were many Hungarian authorities of Magyar descent, however, who resented having to accept non-Magyar rule, and the "Germination" effect of the Habsburgs. The loyalty of the Swabians went to the Habsburgs, who were primarily responsible for freeing the land from the Ottoman Empire, and for organizing the resettlement program.

Under the Habsburgs, German replaced Latin as the official language of Hungary, and German influence became very strong in the cities. In 1740, even Budapest was a predominantly German city. In the country, German peasants were the better farmers; and in the cities, many of the master craftsmen among millers, tailors, shoemakers, masons and other artisans were German. Throughout Hungary, Swabians held many positions in government offices.

The Hungarian nobility wished to counteract the Swabian influence by making Magyar (Hungarian) the official language of the country, and supported scholars in the development of Magyar literature. Religion, too, was a source of conflict, since the Habsburgs wanted to advance the Roman Catholic religion in a country which had been predominantly Protestant (Lutheran, Calvinist and Unitarian.)

The Habsburg Emperor Joseph II, who also ruled as King of Hungary from 1780 to 1790, attempted to reduce friction between Catholics and Protestants by passing the "Patent of Toleration" in 1781. He also introduced other reforms with the intent of improving life for the peasantry by removing them from the jurisdiction of feudal nobility, and by taxing the nobles to increase Hungary's share in supporting the cost of government. After Joseph's death, many of his reforms were reversed and Magyars began to assert greater authority. In 1844, Hungary passed the Language Act, which made Magyar the official language for government, education and religion. This was the beginning of the "Magyarization program," which was directed primarily against the German-speaking people of Hungary. The Magyars wanted greater independence from Austrian rule. In 1867, a compromise was reached with the Emperor Franz Joseph which resulted in the formation of the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. In 1868, the Nationality Bill assured that all citizens of Hungary enjoyed equal rights, but also affirmed Magyar as the official language. The Educational Act of 1879 made Magyar the compulsory language of instruction, which furthered the assimilation of ethnic minorities. The Swabians were the largest minority group in Hungary, and some, particularly in the cities, became assimilated to the point of changing their family names to Magyarized versions. Access to education beyond the village schools and to the privileges of higher social status required such assimilation, and those minorities who accepted the Magyar way of life were not subjected to discrimination. The rural Swabian villages were less affected by
the Magyarization program due to their isolation, and the agrarian lifestyle there remained relatively stable for two hundred years after the settlements were established."

Danube Swabians in the Twentieth Century
At the turn of the century, Hungary was a large, ethnically-diverse nation occupying over 109,000 square miles in Central and Eastern Europe. The population of more than eighteen million was 49% Hungarian (Magyar), 17% Romanian, 13% German, 13% Slovak, 4% SerboªCroatian and 4% from other ethnic groups. Since the formation of the Dual Monarchy of Austria©Hungary in 1867 under the Habsburg ruler, Franz Joseph, the Swabian peasants of the Banat had enjoyed a period of economic prosperity due to the thriving agricultural economy of the region. At this time, most Swabians were not politically aware or nationality-conscious, and they were proud of their children who had moved to urban areas and found success via Magyarization.

Land ownership was necessary for making a good living in agriculture, and the Swabian Germans practiced the inheritance custom known as "Anerberecht," in which land holdings were inherited by the first-born son, keeping farm sizes large and intact. Other sons were forced to earn a livelihood as landless farm workers, or in other professions. This custom differed from the Magyar practice of dividing farm lands among their sons, which resulted in increasingly small parcels with each subsequent generation. Large tracts of land in Hungary were still held in possession by the upper class and the Roman Catholic Church,
leaving very little farm land for sale, and at very high prices. As the population continued to grow, lack of available land eventually led to wide-scale emigration, primarily to the United States and Canada, but also to other countries. Between 1899 and 1911, over 197,000 Germans left Hungary. For many, the goal was to earn enough money to return to Hungary and buy land, and some did return, but most stayed in their new countries.

Other factors contributed to emigration from Hungary. In America, industry was expanding rapidly, and steamship lines and manufacturers sent agents to the villages to recruit factory workers. Compulsory military service caused some young men to leave. Under Parliamentary law, military service began when a man reached the age of 21. After three years of active service, men were transferred to the "Reserve," where they could be recalled until reaching 43 years of age. Others were tired of the heavy taxation which resulted in poverty and inequality for the peasant class. Emigration continued in the years immediately following World War I.

World War I was a turning point for Austro-Hungarian and its ethnic groups. Even before the war was over, nationalities within Austria- Hungary were eager for independence. In October 1918, the Czechoslovak Republic was declared and the Yugoslav National Council proclaimed independence from the Dual Monarchy. The Hungarian Republic was formed in November and in December, the Romanian National Assembly declared unity with the geographical regions known as the Banat and
Transylvania. When the war ended, the Habsburgs were no longer in power, and Austria-Hungary had been dissolved. Revised final boundaries for Hungary were formed at the Treaty of Triton in June, 1920, and this resulted in the loss of two-thirds of her former territory. Land in Transylvania and most of the Banat was awarded to Romania. Yugoslavia gained land in Southern Hungary, including a strip of the western Banat. Czechoslovakia became a new country fashioned out of former Hungarian territory. The Swabian villagers whose families had lived in Hungary for almost 200 years now found themselves in three different countries.

In post-Triton Hungary, the Germans, by default, became the largest minority group, because the people from the other minority groups were now citizens of other countries. Although the post-war treaties contained clauses which protected the rights of ethnic minorities, Magyarization continued to put pressure on Germans. In part as a counter-reaction, and also stemming from contact with Germany as a result of the war, cultural awareness began to develop among young, educated Swabians in urban areas. German cultural societies such as the "Ungarischer Deutsche Volksbildungsverein" (UDV, Educational Association of the German Peoples in Hungary) were founded. A later group, the "Volksbund der Deutsche in Engrain," (VDU, Union of Germans in Hungary), which was more political than cultural, became subsidized by the German Nazis, who were eager to promote their concept of "Herrenvolk," or "Great German Folk." The VDU was favorably received by the majority of youth under 35, but was rejected by most of the elder "Swabians".

Romania inherited large numbers of ethnic German citizens as a result of World War I. Here, freedom was granted to the Germans to conduct school lessons and church services in their own language. A cultural association called the "Veranda der Deutsche in Rumanian" (Union of Germans in Romania) was founded in 1921. In Yugoslavia, Germans set up schools where teaching was done in the German language, and formed the "Schwaebisch-Deutsche Kulturbund" (Swabian-German Cultural Union). The Nazi party was also able to gain influence in these countries, as they had done in Hungary.

In the period between the wars, the lifestyle of Germans in rural villages in all three of the countries remained much the same, and the isolated villagers were much less affected by the political concerns which arose in the cities. However, the rise of Hitler in Germany and the outbreak of World War II forced even rural Swabians to become conscious of their status as ethnic Germans. Hungary and Romania were initially aligned with Germany, although they both changed alignment later, while Yugoslavia sided with the Allies.

In Hungary, with the full sanction of the Hungarian government, Swabians could enlist either in the Hungarian army or the German army. The Nazis recruited Hungarian Germans by bringing them into Germany for youth camps, summer schools and sports programs, where they were indoctrinated with propaganda. Many youths volunteered freely for the German army to avoid the discrimination they were sure to receive in the Hungarian army. The German army encouraged those who had Magyarized their names to change them back. Many were recruited to the Wafer Sachets Stifle (Wafer SS, the military militia). In Romania, Swabians could also enlist in the Germany army and remain Romanian citizens, and more than ten per-cent of the German population did so. Yugoslavian Germans also enlisted in the Wafer SS, many of them into the all- Swabian Prince Eugene Division, named after the Austrian military hero who had freed Hungary from the Turks. After Germany overran Yugoslavia and occupied the country in 1941, Yugoslavians of German descent were forced into the German army. Feelings among Swabians, however, were not unanimously in favor of the Nazi party, and there were as many who resisted the movement as there were who supported it.

As German defeat became imminent, German military leaders initiated plans to evacuate ethnic Germans from the many Eastern European countries in which they lived. In Hungary, many refused to leave the only homeland they had ever known, but some 50,000, primarily those most closely associated with Nazi Germany, did leave in convoys of horse- drawn peasant wagons. The Soviet communists took control of the country, and in some Swabian villages, most of the adult German men and women who remained were deported to forced labor camps in the Soviet Union. Those who did not die in the harsh conditions in the camps were returned to Hungary in 1946, but found that they were no longer welcome. In 1945, German-owned land had been seized by the government without compensation, and non-Magyarized Germans had been expelled as traitors. Germans were considered non-Magyarized if they had listed German as their nationality or as their mother tongue on the latest census, if they had changed Magyarized names back to German, or if they were members of a cultural association of the Wafer SS. The
expulsions took place in 1946, and resulted in 170,000 Germans being transported to the American Zone of West Germany, and 50,000 to the Soviet Zone in East Germany.

The Russians liberated Romania from the Germans in 1945. About 100,000 Swabians had left Romania when the Soviet troops began to arrive. There were no reprisals or expulsions in Romania, but property of German-speaking citizens was confiscated without compensation. Under Soviet authority, 75,000 adult German men and women were deported to labor camps in the Russian Ukraine. The 85% who survived the difficult conditions in the camps were released from 1945-1951. About half of
those released did not return to Romania, but went instead to West Germany, East Germany or Austria.

In Yugoslavia, 60% of the Swabians left the country in horse-drawn carts with the retreating German army as Soviet troops invaded. Those who remained were declared traitors, and were subjected to cruel and harsh treatment due to their association with the German soldiers who had occupied their country during the war. Since 1941, the German occupation had created high levels of resentment among the predominantly Serb-Croatian population. The German Army had executed thousands of Yugoslavian hostages in retribution for the killing and wounding of German soldiers during the occupation. The result was that
in 1944, Germans were stripped of citizenship, and their property was confiscated. Approximately 27,000 to 37,000 were deported to the Soviet Union, and others were placed into concentration camps which had been made from Swabian villages, resulting in 35,000 to 45,000 children being separated from their parents. Thousands died in the camps from starvation, malnutrition and disease, but other thousands escaped an Prior to World War II, approximately 1.5 million Danube Swabians lived in Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia. The result of war deaths, expulsions, deaths in labor and concentration camps, and emigration was a reduction of two©thirds of that number. In 1983, only 550,000 Swabians were estimated to remain (270,000 in Hungary, 250,000 in Romania, and 30,000 in Yugoslavia). Of the approximately one million refugees who went to Germany and Austria, about 250,000 later emigrated to other countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, France and the South American countries of Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. Emigration still continues particularly from Romania, even though it is difficult to get permission from the government to leave.

The events which forced the Swabians from their homeland triggered a heightened awareness of their unique ethnic identity. In Austria, there now exists the Danube Swabianmuseum, the Danube Swabian archives, and the "Has der Donauschwaben" at Salzburg. In Germany, many cities have active Danube Swabian organizations, and Danube Swabian newspapers and other special publications exist. In Sindelfingen, the Has der Donauschwaben has cultural exhibits and a research archive. There is also a genealogical association which is totally dedicated to genealogical research on Danube Swabian families.

Ethnic clubs also exist in Australia, South America, the United States and Canada. Many of the clubs sponsor special events commemorating their cultural history. In the U.S., the national Danube Swabian Association of the USA, Inc., was founded in 1956, and has its base in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The eventual result of the emigration of the Danube Swabians from Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia is the disappearance of their cultural influence in the region. Those Germans who remained in Yugoslavia are already "invisible" even though the past is still evident in the architectural appearance of the villages. The remaining German populations in Hungary and Romania are too small to make a cultural impact. Since so many members of younger generations have left, the number of German children being born continues to diminish. Although the emigrants continue to preserve memories of their cultural heritage, first-hand knowledge of the traditions will disappear. Change is inevitable in all societies, and it is fortunate that so many associations have been founded in so many countries to preserve the history of the Danube Swabians.

Clark, Charles Upon. "United Romania." New York: Arena Press & the New York Times, 1971.

Engelmann, Nicholas. "The Banat Germans." Translated by John Micelles. Bismarck, ND: Univ. of Mary Press, 1987.

Free, Katherine Stinger. "The Danube Swabians: A People with Portable Roots." Belleville, Ont., Canada: Mika Pub. Co., 1982.

Grammar, Sultan. "From the Danube to the Hudson: US Ministerial Dispatches on Immigration From the Habsburg Monarchy: 1850-1900." Foreword by Steven Bell Vary. Program in the East European and Slavic Studies Publication Number 9.
Atlanta: Hungarian Cultural Foundation, 1978.

Koehler, Eve Accrete. "Seven Susannah: Daughters of the Danube." Milwaukee:Danube Swabian Societies of the US and Canada, 1976.

Macartney, C.A. "Hungary: A Short History" Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1962.

Marcela, Henry. "Hungary in the Eighteenth Century." Introductory essay by Harold W. V. Temporally. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1910; reprinted., New York: Arena Press and the New York Times, 1971.

Packrat, Geezer C. "The Danube Swabians." The Hague: Martinis Nijhoff, 1967.(Note: the most thorough and well-documented work on the Danube Swabians.)

Setoff-Watson, Robert William. "Treaty Revision and the Hungarian Frontiers."London: Eire and Spottiswood Ltd., 1934.

Spira, Thomas. "German-Hungarian Relations and the Swabian Problem." Eastern European Quarterly. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1977.

Springenschmid, Karl. "Our Lost Children: Janissaries?" Translated, with additional notes, by John Adam Kohler and Eve Eckert Koehler. Milwaukee: Danube Swabian Assoc. of the USA, 1981. Originally published under thetitle, "Janitscharen? Die Kinder Tragoedie im Banat", Vienna: Eckartschriften.

Steigerwald, Jacob. "Donauschwaebische Gedankenskizzen aus USA - Reflections of Danube Swabians in America." Winona, MN: Translation and Interpretation Service, 1983.

Steigerwald, Jacob. "Tracing Romania's Heterogeneous German Minority from its Origins to the Diaspora." Winona, MN: Translation and Interpretation Service, 1985.

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Man from Banat

Chapter One The history of Mathias Bohr


Mathias Bohr Immigrant from Banat

During the government furlough, I started a project that I had wanted to begin for a long time. I have always known that my grandfather, Mathias Bohr, came from some place in central Europe, called Banat. I have also known that my grandfather was a German. But I did not know how the Germans got to Banat. Why did they leave Germany? The paragraphs that follow contain the information that I have compiled so far. If you find mistakes or facts that are different then you remember please let me know. If you have additional information, I would also like to hear about it. Please ask questions ! A newspaper interview with my grandfather quoted him as saying that the Germans had moved there about 200 years earlier after the Turks were forced out of Europe about 1760 - 1770. That would mean that the Germans had been in Banat for about 124 years when my grandfather was born in 1889 or about 6 or 7 generations. My mother remembers that he had told her that his ancestors had moved there from Ulm and that they had moved because of religious persecution. Mathias Bohr’s father was also named Mathias and his mother’s name was Anna Retzler. Mathias had a sister who was also named Anna. Great grandfather Bohr worked as a farm manager for a baron. In his later years he worked as a guard in a bank. He also was in the Army and fought against the Turks. Sister Anna came to America after Mathias, she settled in New York City. In the late 1920’s after her husband died she returned to Banat. Mathias Bohr came to America in 1908 when he was 18 years old. He went to school until he was 14 years old, then he apprenticed with a wagon maker to learn the trade of carriage painting. His father became convinced that the future of Banat was so uncertain that he encouraged both his children to immigrate to America. This turned out to be a very wise advice, the junior Mathias was always grateful his father had helped him to decide to immigrate, but he never got to see him again after he left. He could not find the money to travel to Banat. When he came to Cleveland he found a job painting carriages and later worked painting automobiles and trucks. Eventually he became a foreman of the painting department of American Coach and Body Company. He worked in this business until he retired at age 65. Mathias met his wife in Cleveland. They went to school and learned to read, write and speak English. At this time when a man became a citizen his wife automatically also became a citizen. Mathias was very active in the community. He was one of the founders and first president of the Banater Club. He was a sports enthusiast and played and managed the soccer team sponsored by the German Club. He was also very active in the formation of the automobile union and was blackballed at various auto companies because of his union activities. Banat is a region in southeastern Europe. It extends over an area that is present day western Romania, northeastern Serbia and southern Hungary. It is approximately 100 miles by 100 miles square. The name Banat is derived from the word ban, the local name for a provincial governor. Banat was an Ottoman province from 1552 to 1718, when it became part of Hapsburg Austria. It remained in the Austria-Hungarian Empire until the end of World War I (1914-1918). The Treaty of Trianon (1920) broke Banat up into parts of Romania, Yugoslavia and Hungary. Banat is bounded by the Danube river on the South, the Marosch River on the North, the Thiesse river on the West and by the Carpathian foothills on the East. From the swampy confluence of rivers in the south-west to the rolling hills in the north and east, Banat is part of the Hungarian Plain. Banat is relatively flat grassland. Roads stretch off to the horizon unadorned by trees or shrubs. Banat has a fairly uniform distribution of small villages with a few strategically located cities that were the site of ancient forts. In the summer a glimmering heat hovers over the land a natural greenhouse. The ground is deep layers of fine soil that forms into clouds of dust when disturbed. When it rains the dust is transformed into a dark pasty mud. In the Southwest the roads are on dikes which allows travel between cities and into the heartland fields of corn and wheat. The beauty of the land is in these fields of growing and ripening crops that from a bird's eye view appear to be a limitless vista of checkerboard patterns. The trill of larks and the croaking of frogs add natural songs to the pastoral pageantry. The villages themselves almost all have a very orderly core that is derived from central planning in Vienna. These were new towns two hundred years ago. The developments of daily life have disturbed the symmetry, but the order is in the people also. There is a spaciousness to the villages with a very regular array of streets and houses. They have large central plazas dominated by the church. The villages serve as marketplaces and as cultural centers. Many are modified baroque forms reflecting the styles of the Holy Roman empire of the 18th century. They have the idealistic nature of new towns or colonies that are created from a utopian view of a transplanted and perfected way of life. The order imprints the people with a spirit and philosophy of life that protects them from the darkside of history past and future. When some of the people leave the land of Banat they carry the village with them to new lands. They recreate the village in only slightly modified forms and they pass it on in their genes to future generations. Because it is a plain and because it is bordered by the primary river of central Europe, Banat has had the misfortune to be the easiest route of transfer and as a result it has been historically a cultural crossroads. It is accessible from the North through the Carpathian mountain passes and the Marosch valley. In the southeast corner the Danube passes through the Carpathian Mountains in a very tortuous pass that is known as the “Iron Gate”, a term more derived from hope than reality. From the earliest times before it was known as Banat this plain was known as the locale of long vanished people. Its key location between east and west has defined its destiny. Chaos flows around the mountains and overflows the rivers disrupting the pastoral life of the plain. The peace is temporal, chaos is eternal. The history of Banat is characterized by periods of peace from decades to centuries long sandwiched between very short eras of cataclysmic disruption. The history is very complex and what is described in the following paragraphs is a superficial summary that seeks to capture a sense of history but leaves out many details. The earliest unrecorded history is imagined to be a series of waves of nomadic tribes first settling and then being pushed off the plain by other nomadic tribes that were either greater in number or fearsome in battle. The Romans used Banat as a staging area to launch attacks against the Dacian Empire. They established a number of city-forts such as Temesvar in central Banat. The Romans were later forced to leave by an influx of Germanic tribes, who themselves were never able to establish permanent residence. In 100 AD the Hungarian king St. Stephen established dominion over Banat making it part of the Hungarian monarchy. However, after approximately two hundred years of relative peace Banat was overrun by Ghengis Kahn and towns and villages were turned into rubble and ashes. The region barely had time to recover before it came under the threat of the expanding Ottoman Empire. The rest of Europe thought of Banat as the defensive wall of Christianity against the Turks. However in 1526 it fell to the Turks in the battle of Mohacs and remained under Turkish control until freed by the campaigns of Prince Eugene of Savoy in 1718. The rebuilding of the land was entrusted to the Imperial General Count Claudius Foorimund Mercy. Mercy was the executor of a plan developed by Prince Eugene to transport German Catholics into the invasion corridors and establish Banat as a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Mercy oversaw the building of a set of fortresses at key points in Banat and between 1722 and 1726, 15,000 settlers were transplanted into 46 German villages. People choose to immigrate because of the predatory wars with the French and because of the extreme taxes required to support the frivolities an extravagances of their own nobility. In addition very powerful advertisements exaggerated the benefits of the move, but most certainly the strongest incentive was the promise of a free homestead, free passage and three years free of all taxes and assessments. In the next decade the Germans settlers established a thriving civilization. Unfortunately in 1738 the Turks returned setting off another siege of terror. The non-German population join in the pillaging the German towns along the Danube. Also at this same time there was an episode of the plague that reaped its own terrible devastation. It took another decade to reestablish security and initiate a second migration. In a colonization decree Maria Theresa invited commissioned and non-commissioned soldiers to settle in Banat. It is in this period between 1763 and 1770 that is the most likely time for the Bohrs to have immigrated to Banat. Verbal history recounts that they came from Ulm boarding barges called “Ulmer Schachtels” and that they floated down the Danube. The Thesesian settlement was successful in establishing a life style for the next hundred and twenty-five years. Although the Germans drained the swamps and built villages they were afflicted with sever epidemics of swamp fever and cholera. And in 1788 the Turks returned and destroyed over 100 villages. In 1777 the total population was 320,000 of which 181,000 were Romanians, 78,000 were Serbians and 43,000 were Germans -- an ethnic mixture. It was the Austria-Hungarian Empire that held things together, but in the next several decades the Empire turned more responsibility over to local kingdoms. In the case of Banat this meant an increasing influence and friction with the Hungarian kingdom. There was a Magyarization which tried to replace German city and region names with Hungarian names. The kingdom also tried to surpress the German language and replace it with Hungarian. The Germans struggled against Magyarization actually petitioning the empire to have their own German Count assigned and to be under the direct protection of the empire rather that the Hungarians. This was extreme behavior for the Germans because their natural tendency was not to be involved in politics but to focus on the day to day business of farming and the daily life of their village communities. The best characterization of the prevailing influence of the empire is captured in the story Nervous Splendor, which interestingly takes place in Vienna the year before the birth of Mathias Bohr which also was the birth place and time of Adolph Hitler. Mathias Bohr wisely left Europe before Adolph Hitler caused it to be torn apart. Back in Banat imagine what happened during and following two world wars. Imagine how the Germans were treated by the indigenous people and by the Russians.