The Genocide of the Indigenous Ethnic Germans of Yugoslavia (1944-1948) and the Deliberate Media Cover-up
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The untold story of the peaceful settlement of German Pioneers on the crown lands of Habsburg Hungary from 1683 to 1790, their incalculable contribution to the development of the region, the partition of their settlements among three countries, their brutal expulsion from their ancestral homeland, and their genocide in Yugoslavia in the aftermath of World War II with the full knowledge and collusion of the Allied Powers.
A timely revelation---by Frank Schmidt
We live in a region of the world where the majority of people are unilingual English-speaking, who depend solely on one source of information, a media that manages the news to reflect favorable on some groups, while denigrating or discrediting others. Truth and balance don't seem to matter, and disinformation, omission and the double standard are the accepted norm. Since very few are exposed to other points of view, and critical analysis is frowned upon, people tend to believe what they read in the papers, hear over the radio, or see on television. They find it hard to believe anything they have not read in the papers, such as the expulsion and extermination of the Danube Swabians in southeastern Europe (1944-1948), an atrocity of major proportions which has been covered up for over half a century by the very media the majority assume to be free and reliable. In light of the above, it is high time to counterbalance the one-sidedness of news managers with some hitherto unpublished facts.
Not only in North America has there been a conspiracy of silence on this subject, but also in Germany, where every third person is a refugee from Communist oppression. Children are taught about the "Holocaust" in school, but nothing of even greater atrocities committed against their own people, both during and after World War II.
Who were the Danube Swabians (Donauschwaben)?
Not having a country to call their own, Danube Swabians have an identity problem. So, for the uninformed masses: Danube Swabians are descendants of German pioneers who settled in Habsburg Hungary (now also Romania and Yugoslavia) after the territory was recovered from 150 years of Turkish rule in the 17th and 18th centuries by German troops commanded by the legendary Prince Eugene of Savoy, a Frenchman in the service of the Habsburg dual monarchy (Austria-Hungary). This took place decades before the USA became an independent republic and the English took Canada from the French, and some 200 years before Romania and Yugoslavia even existed.
The fact that 1.6 million decent Danube Swabian people could be uprooted from their native soil, to be deported or massacred--not because of any guilt or wrongdoing--but solely because of their German ancestry is, in the parlance of today, a crime against humanity. The cruelty and enormity of this crime, which greatly altered the demographic make-up of Europe, and the fact that it was never reported by the mainstream media, is the reason enough to uncover this cover-up.
Danube Swabians are sometimes referred to as the newest German ethnic group. That's probably because they did not exist as an identifiable ethno cultural community before the latter half of the 17th century--just as there were no Canadians before that time. Only about a third of Danube Swabians can trace their ancestry to Swabia (Baden--Wüttemberg). But, because the earliest German settlers in Hungary were indeed Swabians, this term was applied to all Germans who settled in that country after the Turkish occupation.
The peaceful settlement of the Danube Swabians on the crown lands of Hapsburg Hungary.
The primal event that led to the formation of the distinct Danube Swabian ethno cultural community was an epic battle that took place at the gates of Vienna on September 12th, 1683, when the combined forces of the Holy Roman Empire (Germany/Austria), Polish troops und King Jan Sobieski, as well as small Hungarian and Croatian contingents defeated the armies of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. This put an end to the gradual encroachment of Islam into Christian Europe. In the subsequent four decades, German forces under the leadership of Prince Eugene of Savoy drove the Turks out of Hungary.
Turkish misrule had turned much of Hungary into a depopulated wasteland, inhabited by nomadic herdsmen who lived in dugouts on the plain. There were no roads or permanent bridges. Unbelievable as it may seem, this part of Europe was then as undeveloped as many regions of North America were before settlement by Europeans.
After the last peace treaty was signed in 1722, at the behest of Prince Eugene, Austro-German Emperor Charles VI, who was also king of Hungary, promulgated an "impopulation" edict to entice German farmers and tradesmen to settle the depopulated crown lands of Hungary. Imperial heralds were sent to the southwestern German-speaking areas of Europe, to the Palatinate, Lorraine, Alsace, Luxembourg, Wüttemberg, as well as Bavaria and Austria with promises of personal freedom in perpetuity, land grants, establishment credits, and ten year tax exemptions. At a time when people had suffered through repeated French invasions, crop failures and the ever greater demands placed on the peasantry by greedy landlords, this offer by the respected house of Habsburg seemed too good to be true.
The emperor's offer fell on receptive ears and thousands pulled up stakes to start a new life in Hungary. They headed for embarkation points along the Danube in Germany, Ulm, Donauwörth, and Regensburg where they boarded crude specially--built barges that took them to their destination along the Middle Danube, with a stop in Vienna to be assigned to their settlement area and to receive their travel and land grant documents. The entire trip took about two weeks. Since the motive power was the current of the river--and it flowed only way--there was no turning back! Besides, the barges were dismantled upon arrival because the timbers from the forests of Germany provided valuable building material on the treeless plain. Like British people that migrated to the Dominions and remained subjects of the British Crown, the Germans migrated within the Habsburg Empire and remained subjects of that dynasty.
Left to themselves, and communications not being what they are today, the settlers soon lost contact with their places of origin and adapted to the new surroundings. In their long sojourn on the Danubian Plain, far from the contiguous German-speaking areas of Europe, the Danube Swabians became a recognizable ethno cultural entity with its own unique customs, culture, traditions and distinctive speech, an amalgamation of southwestern German dialects, akin to Pennsylvania Dutch. That is not incongruous as it may seem, since both groups stem from the same German-speaking area of Europe.
The settlers founded 1000 unique agricultural villages, all designed and laid out in Vienna. These houses, built in a style called "settlers' baroque", were in reality farmsteads with the requisite barns, and sheds that were also located on the property. The holdings were situated along wide village streets and the fields and pastures were laid out on the perimeter of the village, sometimes a few kilometers away. This 18th century concept was considered progressive in that age and has withstood the test of time. Since none of the crown land the Germans received had ever belonged to anyone, no one was displaced. This was probably the most peaceful colonization to take place in any age or place.
Donauschwaben contributions to the region.
With the Turks out of Hungary, the Hungarian magnates were quick to take back their properties, as well as some other land they felt entitled to, the best arable soil, of course. The Germans invariably received the worst land, more often than not swampy areas endemic to malaria. More than half of the original settlers perished from this disease in the early years. In Germany, Hungary became known as the graveyard of the Germans. There is an old adage which rhymes in German that aptly describes the hardships the first three generations of German colonists in the Danubian Basin had to endure:
The first (generation), death (Tod)
the second, want (Not)
only the third had bread (Brot)
The survivors were a tough lot and prevailed over the elements. They built levies along the great rivers to prevent them from overflowing, drained the marshes, introduced the steel plow to the fertile soil of Hungary, planted orchards and vineyards, and mulberry trees along village streets to sustain a thriving silk industry. Hemp was grown in the remaining marshlands to produce linen and rope. They also introduced crop rotation and selective livestock breeding to the region. Largely due to the German (i.e. Danube Swabian) element. the Danubian Basin became one of the great breadbaskets of the world.
About 150 years ago, a Danube Swabian priest named Stefan Augsburger paid tribute to his countrymen's peaceful colonization with this verse. In loose translation, it affirms: "Not with the sword, with the plowshare they conquered, the children of peace and heroes of toil". This oft-quoted verse was inscribed on a plaque over the portal of a Catholic church in a Danube Swabian community when it was consecrated over a century ago. Before the Communists destroyed the church, one of the townsfolk removed the plaque and spirited it away to Germany where it is now in a museum.
Not only in agriculture did the Germans in Hungary excel, but they also helped develop the cities which, until the middle of the 19th century, were more German than Hungarian. In 1880, more than 36% of Budapest's population were Danube Swabians. Budapest is greatly indebted to its Germans for it was their engineers and architects with names like Haussmann, Emmerich, Steindl, Ybl (Eibl), Lechner and Hild, who laid out the city's main streets and squares, and created such classic edifices as the Parliament Buildings, the National Theater, the Opera, The Bourse, the Millennium Monument and the beautiful bridges that spanned the Danube. Royal Hungary's pre-eminence in mathematics, education and the sciences was largely due to the German element in the population. Franz List, the composer and Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, "the Saviour of Mothers" were both German Hungarians who achieved lasting international renown. There were many others in every imaginable field of endeavor whose achievements brought great honor to Hungary.
Partition of Donauschwaben lands.
Up to 1918, the story of the Danube Swabians was entwined with the history of Hungary. However, Hungary was on the losing side in World War I and consequently lost 2/3 of its territory which was awarded by the victors to the newly created successor states, Romania and a royal dictatorship called Yugoslavia after 1929. The partitioning of Hungary dealt a severe blow to the Danube Swabians, for it split their settlements into three parts and delivered them to three chauvinistic, mutually antagonistic states. Only 700,000 Danube Swabians remained in Hungary, 350,000 became "Romanian" and the remaining 550,000 became the German national minority in Yugoslavia. This caused enormous social as well as economic problems. Farmers found that their fields were across an arbitrary border drawn by the victorious Allies in a Paris suburb. In some towns, the frontier ran through the middle of the main street and people could no longer attend their parish church or send their children to school because these were now in another, invariably unfriendly country. This made a mockery of the principle of self-determination publicly espoused by President Wilson to placate his own people, but as we know, there was never the slightest intention to put it into practice. However, Danube Swabians are an adaptable lot and in time, people adjusted to the new conditions, albeit with some reluctance, and life went on much as before.
Despite the fact that Danube Swabians had practically no contact with Germany over the centuries, after World War II, they became the scapegoats who bore the brunt of the hatred against all things German caused by the behaviour of the Reich Germans in occupied countries and especially the animosity Allied propaganda engendered in those who had lost the capacity to think for themselves.
Expulsion from ancestral lands
and the consequences
The biggest blow to the existence of the Danube Swabians came in the latter part of, and in the aftermath of World War II. In the summer of 1945, the leading statesman of the victorious powers of World War II met at Potsdam to divide Europe between them and to mete out collective punishment to the German people for their alleged transgressions. In utter disregard of their avowed principles embodied in the Atlantic Charter, they sanctioned the cruel expropriation and expulsion of the entire German ethnic group of Hungary, with the sanctimonious proviso that it be "orderly and humane". The expulsion was anything but humane, Innocent people were driven from their hereditary homeland at gunpoint with but a few minutes notice and had to leave everything behind that was dear to them--forever! No Hungarian government has ever accused the Danube Swabians of any guilt or wrongdoing. So why was the expulsion approved in Potsdam? The sad fact is that it was based solely on racial extraction and those who were responsible for it were--in today's terminology---racists. It is also a well-known fact that for centuries, German-Hungarians had been exemplary citizens of the country and had contributed immeasurably to its prosperity. As we have learned, the double standard is alive and well, and the perpetrators of this "ethnic cleansing" will go unpunished.
During World War II, Hungary sided with Germany to recover its lost territories and in the fight against Communism. Without consulting the Danube Swabians, the governments of Royal Hungary, a kingdom without a king, and the German Reich signed an agreement whereby Hungary's Germans had the option of being drafted into the Hungarian army or joining the German battle groups. Since both countries were fighting the same enemy, it was not a hard choice to make. Most opted for the Germans, because ethnically, culturally and linguistically, they had more in common with the Germans.
After the war they would be classed as "traitors" by the Communists and were not allowed to return home. Had they returned home, they would have been deported in any case, just like their friends who had joined the Hungarian Army. In Hungary and other eastern European countries, "nationality" has the same meaning as "ethnic group" does here. Though they were Hungarian citizens, the 700,000 Danube Swabians in the country were classed as Germans, not Magyars. So, when a census was taken before the war, they classed themselves as "German", as their ancestors had done before them. This was to be their undoing. The Communist puppet regime used the census as a basis for their expropriation and deportation from Hungary. When two thirds of the Danube Swabians had been deported to refugee camps in war-torn Germany, where everything was in short supply, the Americans would not accept any more. When the deportation stopped, only about 250,000 Danube Swabians remained in Hungary. For them, the uncertainty did not end until 1949 when they were granted some civil rights, just enough to allow them to keep quiet and work hard for the benefit of the Communist regime.
It must not be forgotten that in those terrible post-war years, the Danube Swabians who remained in Hungary, as well as the majority of the Hungarian people, helped the Danube Swabians who escaped from Tito's death camps in Yugoslavia by providing food and a safe route to Austria and Germany. During the 1956 Hungarian uprising, when the West looked on while the Russian tanks massacred Hungarian freedom fighters, the Danube Swabians in Austria and Germany were the first to help the escapees with food and shelter. To the credit of Hungary, even the hated Communist regime did not resort to mass killing, as was the case in Yugoslavia.
Since the overthrow of the Communists in Hungary and the consequent liberalization, there has been a complete about-face in the country's treatment of its German minority. Danube Swabians may now buy back their expropriated property. Their children, of whom only about 15% still speak German, may learn German as a second language in school. The German language is again the lingua franca of Eastern Europe, a role it has played for a thousand years in peaceful trade and the spread of Western culture and values. Knowledge of German is considered a great asset in dealing with the West. Today, after so many years of fear and repression, people are proud to speak their heritage language again. A German cultural center has been established in Pécs (Fünfkirchen) with the aid of former countrymen who had emigrated to Germany and it has become a meca of indigenous Danube Swabian culture.
The wounds are healing and some Danube Swabian towns have even erected monuments honouring their war dead, no matter what uniform they wore, or wore no uniform, like the men and women who perished in Russian slave labour camps. Hungarian priests have blessed these monuments, because everyone knows that those who are honored were decent people, beloved members of local families, who were caught up in a war that was not of their doing. They are regarded as victims of man's inhumanity to man, and therefore worthy of remembrance.
In pre-war Yugoslavia, the Danube Swabians were the largest non-Slavic national minority in the country. They made up only 4% of the total population in the country, but the regions where they formed a large part of the population produced 67% of the country's total agricultural exports. Hemp, an important foreign exchange producing commodity in pre-war Yugoslavia was 94% in Danube Swabian hands, as was a disproportionate share of the locally manufactured goods, such as articles for the home, wagons and farm implements.
In the spring of 1941 German and Hungarian forces broke into Yugoslavia and the Royal Yugoslav army disintegrated in a matter of days. Yugoslavia was, and is an artificial country. It was created by the Western allies after the First World War to reward a Serbian king for his part in starting World War One. The majority of its diverse people had no wish to be included in a country where they had no say. Between the wars, the government did nothing to earn their loyalty. Still, when the country mobilized for war just prior to the German/Hungarian invasion, 85% of the Danube Swabians answered the call to arms. Only 35% of the Serbs in the same region showed up at recruiting centers. The main reason for their low turnout was due to the Hitler/Stalin pact. Tito, who was hiding in Zagreb under an assumed name, urged his Communist followers not to fight against the Germans since they were "allies" of Moscow. After the war, the same man had the gall to call the Danube Swabians enemies of the state for not resisting the aggressor!
The Hungarians reincorporated Baranya and Batschka (Backa: The land between the Danube & Tisa Rivers) into Hungary. Banat remained in Serbia but was under German occupation. Syrmia and Slavonia became part of a newly created state, called Croatia. From 1941 to 1944-45, the Yugoslav State did not exist and Danube Swabians were a minority in four states, instead of three.
The ethnic cleansing of the
After Hitler's invasion of Russia, the Communists, now on the side of the Soviet Union, entered the war they had rejected just a couple of months before. There were no less than six major resistance groups in the unoccupied mountains of Bosnia who made sorties against German supply lines to Greece--but mostly they fought each other. The Partisans, due to Churchill's support, soon gained the upper hand. They attacked isolated bases and when the outnumbered Germans surrendered, they were killed on the spot. To satisfy the bloodlust of Tito's primitive fighters, their bodies were mutilated in a manner which is utterly revolting to civilized people. The Germans retaliated by burning the villages that harbored Partisans and shooting 10 hostages for every German that was killed. Violence begets violence, and this practice only intensified the struggle. There were so many forces fighting in the mountains, the Germans didn't know who was who. It was a battle fought with the utmost cruelty by all sides. This struggle took place far from Danube Swabian settlements, and they were not involved in the conflict.
In the fall of 1944, Tito's Anti-Fascist Council gathered at Jajce in Bosnia and passed a resolution which consisted of three main points. When the Yugoslav state was re-established, those of "German" nationality, 650,000 people, the largest non-Slavic ethnic group in pre-war Yugoslavia, were to be dispossessed and deprived of all human rights, including the right to life. Their property was to be distributed among Tito's rough, unlettered fighters who were his main support. This was to be achieved through: 1) Mass liquidations. 2) Mass deportation 3) Extermination through starvation and forced labour in concentration camps. The Partisans would acquire the best homes in the country, as well as farms and livestock of the dispossessed. Tito, the great benefactor, was indeed a good man who gave his minions and peasant fighters something worth fighting for. They didn't have to work for it, all they had to do was to kill, kill, kill.
When the Red Army drove through the neat Danube Swabian villages and towns in what was then the Hungarian Batschka and Baranya, Serbian Banat and Croatian Syrmia and Slavonia, Partisan bands followed in its wake and took possession of their promised land. But first they had to liquidate the Swabians. The methods varied from place to place, but the result was the same, death via unspeakable torture. It happened so often, that it was the rule rather than the exception. Their first victims were usually the mayor, the town council, priests, teachers, merchants, or anyone some Partisan took an exception to. The victims' hands were tied with wire and they were taken into a building where they were slaughtered by bloodthirsty Partisans who had long ago lost their humanity. With the victims lying helpless in the center, thoroughly inebriated butchers danced the "kola" in a circle and sang Partisan songs. From time to time, they would break off and in a frenzy of bloodletting, took turns stabbing their prisoners to death, while relishing their screams and moans. Hefty Partisankas (female Partisans) took particular delight in cutting of the genitals of the victims while they still showed signs of life. The killing usually ended in the wee hours of the morning when the prisoners had been beaten to an unrecognizable pulp, and their tormentors slumped onto the blood-soaked floor in a drunken stupor.
When all the men in a community had been rounded up, and those who appeared to be better off than the others, the hated "capitalists" had been selected, they were marched out of town where they first had to dig their graves, and were then shot and buried. The others were deported to slave labour camps in Yugoslavia and Russia, where they were worked to death. Young women between the ages of 16 and 40 were rounded up and sent to Russia in cattle cars where they slaved away at hard labour in ancient coal mines and building sites. When they were released after five years, one in four was never to see her home or family again. The broken and ailing women could not return to their homes, but were transported to Germany. Some found family members and resumed normal lives. Practically all of these women bear physical scars from which they will suffer for the rest of their lives.
The rest, the handicapped, women with young children, and the aged were forced out of their homes by course, well-armed Partisans. One can imagine the tears and wailing of utterly defenseless women with small children whose husbands were away, who were probably also caring for parents or grandparents, when they were given but a few minutes to leave their home forever. House, furniture, photo albums, garden, pets, domestic animals, and a thousand memories had to be left behind. They were marched along dusty roads in columns of four, accompanied by an armed escort. It must have been a sad sight, women carrying small bundles of a few necessities--all the possessions the Partisans allowed them to take--and their small children clutching their mothers' skirts, crying uncontrollably, while guards threatened them with guns and yelled at them to get moving. Old men who could not keep up were shot on the spot in front of families and grandchildren. Their bodies were thrown into a ditch. Old women fared no better, if they could not keep a steady pace, they were severely beaten by the guards.
A dozen Danube Swabian towns like Gakowa and Rudolfsgnad had been designated as concentration camps by Tito's most despicable henchman and closest advisor Moise Pijade. He is said to be primarily responsible for the planned extermination of the Danube Swabians. The available houses in these towns had all been stripped of furniture and the "internees", as they were officially called, had to sleep on a straw covered floor, 30 to a room. Others slept in barns or stables. There was no fuel to provide heat and no cleaning materials were available. Since the intention was to starve them to death, the only food they obtained in camp was swill. Many were able to sustain life by stealing out of camp at night at the risk of their lives and begging for food from the local Serbs or Hungarians, former neighbors who were mostly sympathetic and compassionate people. Had that not been so, no one would have survived in the camps.
Because there were so few survivors, the Tito regime closed the camps in the spring of 1948. Those who perished from maltreatment, starvation and disease are buried in nearby mass graves, where no marker may be put to remind passers-by of the atrocities committed there. The emaciated few who remained alive, escaped into nearby Hungary and made their way to the West.
As soon as the Partisans had taken over a town they selected young Danube Swabian women, preferably blondes, who were torn from families and taken to a compound at Pancevo, across the river from Belgrade. There, they were kept like caged animals to satisfy the sexual lusts of Tito's elite troops, foul-smelling Partisan brutes. The girls who were from decent homes were physically and sexually abused by the most loathsome of creatures. If they resisted, they were shot. Theirs was a hopeless life and there was no one to help them out of their misery. Their lives were mercifully short. The inevitable happened, they all became infected with syphilis. To prevent it from spreading, the local army commander ordered the remaining 150 women to be taken to a remote pasture where they first had to strip, and were then summarily shot to death. The reason they had to take their clothes off was that the Partisans intended to sell them on the black market. In Yugosalvia at that time, used clothing was at a premium, but would not be saleable if riddled with bullet holes.
About 40,000 orphaned Danube Swabian children were left behind in the camps after their mothers, grandparents and good neighbors had died of starvation or typhoid, and there was no one left to care for them. They were taken to Communist children's homes in other parts of Yugoslavia and were given Slavic names, consequently they soon lost their language and German identity. As the Turks had done in past centuries with their enemies' children, they were raised as Janissaries, fighters for Tito. However, some 5,000 of the older children, ages 8 to 12, who would remember their German ancestry were sent to deportation centers such Derventa Doboj-Usora. Everyone of the 5,000 was put to death in the local sugar refinery. A Croatian prisoner, Ivan Baras, who now lives in Germany, was an eyewitness to this atrocity. He, along with other prisoners, had to take the children from railway cars to the killing site and had a chance to speak to the confused and crying children. He memorized some of their names and places they came from. All were from Danube Swabian communities in the Batschka, Banat, Syrmia, Baranya and Slavonia. After the war, 5,000 of the orphaned children were located and with the aid of the German Red Cross, they were eventually reunited with relatives in the West. What happened to the other 30,000??? No one seems to know. If they survived, two things are certain: they were raised as janissaries and know nothing of their German background. From those who were released to the West, we know that they were led to believe that it was the Germans who had killed their parents. It's a cruel world!
With its best workers gone, Yugoslavia soon became a beggar nation and received massive foreign aid from the USA to keep it going. When Willy Brandt, the Sozi (Social Democrat), a man of undetermined origin and a "Quisling", was Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Tito received millions in reparations from Germany. Not much of this money, if any, benefited the people, for it was squandered by Tito on high living. The Danube Swabians were robbed of billions in property, but Brandt and Tito never discussed that. They were after all, birds of the same colour---red!
Ironically, many Yugoslavs have had to migrate to Germany to earn a living, including some who were involved in atrocities. They swagger around and even boast of their exploits. They can't be brought to trial because only Germans can be tried for war crimes. The morally bankrupt Bonn government has even cooperated with the Yugoslav Secret Police to hunt down enemies of the regime, mostly Croats, on German soil. The "German" puppet government also subsidized (Communist) Yugoslav radio programs and Serbo-Croatian language schools in which, during Tito's lifetime, children were taught to sing such heroic songs as "Over German corpses we shall march to victory". Armes Deutschland! (poor Germany)
With glasnost sweeping the East, both Croatia and Slovenia have held free elections in which the people opted overwhelmingly to secede from Serbian-controlled Yugoslavia. Will the Yugoslav federation which, other than among the Serbs, has so few friends within its borders, last another year. Who knows? However, before it breaks up entirely, it should come to grips with its horrible past and do the honorable thing by confessing its crimes. Even if it does not compensate the Danube Swabians for their material losses--one can't expect too much from a bankrupt country--it should at least allow those who grieve for their kin to visit burial sites and allow monuments to be erected over mass graves. It should admit that within its borders some of the worst crimes in European history were committed in our lifetime. Such crimes cannot be forgiven. Since the perpetrators have reaped great benefits from their cri9mes, and have gone unpunished, it is a travesty for those in the know to remain silent.
After the First World War, in the Treaty of Trianon Romania, a backwater of Europe, received a large chunk of Hungarian territory, including northern Banat, the showcase of 18th century German colonization. Temeschburg (Rom. Timisioara, Hung. Temesvar) was largely inhabited by Danube Swabians and Hungarians. Because of its cultural amenities, it was known as `The Vienna of the East`. Under its German Mayors, it was the first city in Europe to install electric street lighting. The German Theatre, the high school, the offices of the agricultural cooperative, as well as the most important German newspapers were located there.
Today, Timisioara, the scene of the recent (1990) unfinished revolution, is a crumbling city. Under the Communists, the beautiful Danube Swabian towns and villages have slowly deteriorated to the point where they have become ghost towns. Under dictator Ciausescu, farms were collectivized and villages were leveled to make way for agro-complexes. which turned out to be total failures. The Commies even confiscated vegetables housewives grew in home gardens. No one was allowed to benefit from their labour, so even the inborn work ethic of the Danube Swabians disappeared.
There seemed to be no future and people didn't have children. For years there was a pervasive feeling of dread and hopelessness among the people. The borders were sealed and practically no one was allowed to leave the country. Some years ago, Ciaucescu hit upon a brilliant idea. His Germans could be a foreign exchange-earning commodity. Germany needed workers to feed its booming economy. So what was wrong with selling his Germans, who wanted to leave anyway, to Germany? The German government was in agreement with his proposal and signed a pact with the devil to take 10,000 annually for an undetermined time, at 8,000 Marks a head, or 14,000 Marks for professional people. In actual practice, another 2,000 or so had to be paid under the table to local Commy henchmen to release their `Romanian Citizens.` For Ciaucescu, it was an excellent deal, he got hard currency, got rid of an unwanted minority, and got their property to boot. As I see it, it proved yet again that the present German leaders have no moral backbone. Instead of paying money to a tyrant, they should have done the honorable thing and lodged a complaint with the United Nations about the human rights abuses in Romania. Even if this had done no good, and it probably wouldn't have, the dire need of Romania's Germans would at least have come to the attention of the world community. Instead they helped keep a dictator in power, and thus became his accomplices.
The slave trading stopped when Ciaucescu was overthrown and killed. Of the 350,000 Danube Swaabians in Romania, only about 30,000, mostly the aged and the ill remain. In a few years, even they will be gone, and the once flourishing Banat, the agricultural jewel of Austria-Hungary will have died a slow death. The houses and churches are crumbling and the once lush fields lie fallow and overgrown with weeds. What Danube Swabians toiled for centuries to create, has been destroyed in a few years.
A recent book about Danube-Swabians is entitled `Strangers in the Fatherland`. That's exactly what they have become in former homelands. The gentle, orderly, industrious, tolerant, peaceful, religious, albeit naively apolical people, are all gone. Since the bees (Danube Swabian workers) have left, the Danubian Basin is no longer a land of milk and honey. In Hungary, the land granted them by a former king, was taken away by the Communist regime. In Romania, their beautiful villages were bulldozed, the farms collectivized, and they were treated as virtual slaves. In Yugoslavia it was even worse. Although Danube Swabians had settled in the region at least two hundred years before there was a Yugoslavia, they were branded as German nationals and exterminated. Although they were by far the biggest producers of foodstuffs, the Partisans took a particular delight in seeing utterly defenseless rural people starving to death in what had been a land of plenty. A whole civilization has died out and the world is none the wiser.
The property they left behind has been awarded to people who lack the work ethic and sense of order of the Danube Swabians. Consequently, Romania without its Germans is now a social and economic basket case. Yugoslavia, which exterminated its most provident ethnic minority in the country, first became a beggar nation, and eventually disintegrated from within. Only in Hungary, since the fall of the communist regime, is there hope for a decent life for the Danube Swabians in their ancient homeland.
Emigration to north America
The first Danube Swabians, then known as German-Hungarians, settled in Canada and the USA over 100 years ago. They were among the earliest European colonists in the North-West Territories, (i.e. the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta), as well as North Dakota and Mid-Western States. The majority however settled in big cities such as Chicago, New York, etc. The descendants of those early immigrants have been thoroughly assimilated, have lost their German language, and the younger generation knows practically nothing of their heritage.
The second `wave of Danube Swabians came in the 1920`s after the partition of their homeland, partly to escape military service in foreign armies, but mostly for economic betterment. They, too had to first settle in the western provinces, but many migrated to Ontario and Quebec during the depression to find work. Those who were allowed into the USA settled in major cities from New York to Milwaukee as well as California. They stayed, and eventually prospered.
The third and by far the largest group came in the early 1950`s. These were expellees from their homeland and survivors of Tito`s death camps. Although stateless and penniless on arrival, they too have been absorbed into established North American society without causing a ripple of resentment. Perhaps this is because they have been so undemanding and their social values are similar to those of the majority of the population. Counting the descendants of the original Danube immigrants, all of whom are native-born Americans or Canadians, as well as post-World War II immigrants, the Danube Swabian community numbers somewhat over 500,000 honest souls in both countries. Since their homeland no longer exists, it has not been a source of immigration for half a century. Consequently, the vast majority of Danube Swabians in North America are native-born, but it is the older generation that still keeps the language and customs alive.
In former homelands, Danube Swabians were not free to promote their culture and are thankful that they can do so in Canada and the USA without hindrance from governments. They count this as one of the blessings of living in a free society. To keep old traditions alive, they have established clubs in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, California and other states, as well as in Southern Ontario that try to keep old customs alive. But it is a losing battle and it would be a shame if Danube Swabians would do unto themselves what their former overlords tried to do to them without total success, i.e. wipe them from the face of the earth.
Danube Swabians have been assimilated so well that they have hardly been noticed, so well in fact that there is some danger that their language and culture will die out. Sadly, the day is bound to come early in the 21st century when one of their descendants will ask ``Just who were the Danube Swabians and there won't be anyone around who is informed enough to answer that question!
The "state people" in former home countries should be reminded that if it had not been for the German ancestors of the Danube Swabians who liberated the region from the Turkish domination, there might still be an Ottoman Turkish Empire in Europe, but no Hungary, Romanians or Yugoslavs today. That they exist, is the legacy the Danube Swabians bestowed on those who would not share the earth with them.
Danube Swabians are now scattered over four continents and have become good citizens of at least a dozen countries. They have had to adjust their lives and have learned a lot, but no one had to teach them anything about human decency, tolerance, multiculturalism and peaceful coexistence. Despite their ordeal, they have never lost their humanity or virtues. It is not within them to seek revenge, nor do they bear grudges or hatred--even against their tormentors. Although they lost all their material possessions in Europe and were the victims of genocide, they do not dwell unduly on past wrongs, but look to the future with hope and abiding faith in their own abilities. No one has yet been able to deprive them of their humanity, their ingrained work ethic, their sense of justice and order. They had lived in peace for centuries among some of the most volatile people in Europe and need no lessons in tolerance. Having suffered so much because of their German heritage, their only desire is to live in peace and harmony and wish that others would do the same.
Perhaps someday media controls will ease in this part of the world, as they have to some degree even in eastern Europe. What is needed is balance and an unfettered dedication to truth and justice. Have the media on this side of the world something to hide? No? Then why the silence about one of the greatest per capita genocide committed in Europe in our time?
Those who have nothing to hide need not fear the truth!
about the author
This article previously appeared in the Danube Swabian monthly Heimatbote (Feb. 1991) and The Barnes Review, Washington, DC (June 1996). as well as other periodicals.
Frank Schmidt, the author of this article is a Danube Swabian by birth. He was raised and educated in Toronto. Is the former editor of the Danube Swabian paper `Heimatbote`, a monthly that styles itself as : ``The Voice of the Danube Swabians in North America"` and has also translated a number of books into English, such as Father Wendelin Gruber`s "Ìn the Claws of the Red Dragon", an eyewitness account of conditions in several Yugoslav death camps. During World War I I, he served five years in the Canadian Army, including a one year stint in occupied Germany. Having visited the sites of Yugoslav death camps, he is well-acquainted with the subject matter.
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