They emigrated in the 18th century to what was then the Austrian Empire's Banat of Temeswar province, later included in the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary, a province which had been left sparsely populated by the wars with Turkey. At the end of World War I in 1918, the Swabian minority worked to establish an independent multi-ethnic Banat Republic; however, the province was divided by the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, and the Treaty of Trianon of 1920. The greater part was annexed by Romania, a smaller part by former Yugoslavia, and a small region around Szeged remained part of Hungary.
Following World War II most Banat Swabians were expelled to the West by the Soviet Union and its subsidiaries, and after 1990 and the fall of the Soviet Union and its republics many of those remaining left for economic and emotional reasons.
The Banat colonists are often grouped with other German-speaking ethnic groups in the area under the name Danube Swabians. Besides the Banat, these groups lived in nearby western Bačka in Vojvodina, Serbia, in Swabian Turkey (present-day southern Hungary), in Slavonia, (present-day Croatia), and in Satu Mare, Romania. All of these areas were under Austrian rule, when the Crown recruited German immigrants, particularly farmers. It wanted to repopulate the lands newly recovered from Turkish occupation and to revive agriculture in an area that had been frequently overrun by war.
Immigrants were encouraged to settle in the Banat by the Austrian emperors in the 18th century to repopulate a frontier province bordering the Turkish empire, and to add an ethnic European Christians to the population of the newly occupied region. The Germans were offered free land and the privilege of keeping their language and religion. The Crown was seeking Roman Catholic immigrants, as were the Italian and the Spanish colonists who had come to the region. Most of the German settlers came from Alsace-Lorraine, Austria, Bavaria, Franconia, and the Palatinate. A small group can be traced to Middle Germany. However, comparatively few came from the Swabian regions of what was then known as Further Austria. It is unclear how the group came to be called the Banat Swabians, but it is probably because the majority registered and embarked from the Swabian city of Ulm. They were transported on the Ulmer Schachteln (barges) down the Danube to Budapest or Belgrade, whence they set off on foot for their new homes.
The colonists were generally the younger sons of poor farming families, who saw little chance of success at home. Under Maria Theresa, they received financial support and long-term tax relief. Many of the earliest immigrants never married, since few German women traveled among them. Craftsmen were financially encouraged, as were teachers, doctors, and other professionals. Over the decades and more, the German spoken by these colonists became separate from that developing in Germany, particularly after its unification. It became known as Donau-Swabian, an archaic form of the language.
Those who came from French-speaking or linguistically mixed communes in Lorraine maintained the French language (labelled Banat French or Français du Banat), as well as a separate ethnic identity for several generations.
Beginning with 1893, because of the Magyarisation policies of the nationalistic Hungarian State, some Banat Swabians began to move to Bulgaria, where they settled in the village of Bardarski Geran, Vratsa Province, founded earlier by Banat Bulgarians. Their number eventually exceeded 90 families. In 1929 they built a separate Roman Catholic church after disagreements with Bulgarian Catholics. Some of these German-speaking families later moved to Tsarev Brod, Shumen Province along with a handful of Banat Bulgarian families who went to another Banat Bulgarian village, Gostilya, Pleven Province.
Between 1941 and 1943, 2,150 ethnic German Bulgarian citizens were relocated to Germany as part of Hitler's Heim ins Reich policy. These included 164 Banat Swabians from Bardarski Geran and 33 from Gostilya.
The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian rule and its replacement by Romanian rule over the Banat after World War I had some benefits. In the late 19th century, Hungary had undergone a period of rapid Magyarization, during which it attempted to assimilate all of its minorities. Schools were required to teach only in the Hungarian language.
Under Romanian rule, Banat Swabians could have German-language schools again for the first time since 1868. Banat Swabian culture flourished. A German-language theatre operated in Timişoara, and across Banat, German-language newspapers were established. In 1921 a cultural association called the "Verband der Deutschen in Rumaenien" (Union of Germans in Romania) was founded.
Economically, however, things did not go well. The Crash of the Stock Market on Black Friday and the subsequent financial crises of the Great Depression in the 1930s hit the Banat hard. Many Swabians left to work in Argentina, Brazil, and the United States, never to return.
After 1933, the Nazi Party gained some influence among the ethnic Germans of Eastern Europe, including the Banat Swabians. During the Second World War, many ethnic Germans were conscripted into the Romanian Army and served on the Eastern Front. After 1943, a German-Romanian treaty allowed them to serve instead in the Wehrmacht, without having to give up their Romanian citizenship. Initially, some were virtually forced to serve in the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen, fearing there would be sanctions against their families if they refused. After August 1941 Nazi German instituted involuntary conscription of Banat Swabians into the SS. Towards the end of the war, some Banat Swabians openly opposed the Nazis, who in retaliation publicly executed a group of them in Jimbolia (Hatzfeld).
Banat Swabians who served in the Prinz Eugen Division gained notoriety because of the division's war crimes against Jews and Serbs during the Banat (1941–1944) period. They became alienated and were distrusted by their non-Banat Swabian neighbors.
The Kingdom of Romania, formerly Nazi Germany's ally, joined the Allies on 23 August 1944. Overnight, all Banat Swabians in Romania became regarded as potential enemies of the state. The approach of the Red Army caused a flood of refugees to flee to the safety of Hitler's Germany.
By January 1945, Romania was completely under Soviet control. Early in 1945, under Stalin's orders, many Banat Swabians were expelled or deported to forced labor camps in the Soviet Union, where thousands of them died. Those who remained had their land confiscated and lost ownership of their homes (partially returned during the 1950s), while those who fled also lost their citizenship. In 1951 more than a thousand Banat Swabians were displaced to the Bărăgan Steppe of southeast Romania, where they founded new villages. Almost all were finally allowed to return home in 1956, but some were kept interned by force until 1963.
Some Swabian families from both Romanian and Yugoslavian Banat managed to flee to Germany in the immediate postwar years. Others were helped by French Prime Minister Robert Schuman to settle in France as Français du Banat.
In the 1960s, however, the political atmosphere relaxed. The policy of disfranchising and dispossessing alleged Nazi collaborators within the German-speaking minority ended. Banat Swabians were extended the full rights of Romanian citizenship. Nevertheless, many Banat Swabians chose to use the looser conditions to emigrate to Germany, since they no longer trusted Romania's communist government's promises. The Transylvanian Saxons, who had lived in the region since the Middle Ages, made a similar decision. Even though the Swabian families of the Danube and Banat Swabians had lived there for ten generations or more, and their cultures had developed quite differently from Germany's, they no longer felt safe.
In 1965, Nicolae Ceauşescu came to power in Romania. At first he opened the country to the West, but by the end of the 1970s, he had become ultra-nationalistic and an opponent of all ethnic minorities. Under his rule, any Banat Swabian who chose to emigrate had to pay a bounty of more than a thousand marks (depending on age and education) for a permanent emigration visa. Still, thousands of Banat Swabians left each year into the 1980s. An economic crisis of the communist state, as well as a rumor concerning a village destruction project, caused some 200,000 to flee Romania.
After Ceaușescu's fall in 1989 and German Reunification in 1990, almost all the remaining Banat Germans in Romania left for Germany. As a consequence, the ethnic German population in Romania is greatly reduced. Some are returning, generally entrepreneurs with economic ambitions supported by the German non-returnable grants for development projects outside Germany. Some former Banat Swabians now have a renewed desire to return to their long-time home, but most had to sell their property when they left and have no home to return to.
Of the 750,000 ethnic Germans who once lived in Romania, less than one-tenth of that number remain today. Only in cities with large populations is there still a functioning German cultural life, usually aided by uninterrupted Romanian State subsidies and help from ethnic Romanians. Still, the Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung is a thriving weekly paper, and the German State Theater in Timişoara (Deutsches Staatstheater Temeswar), subsidized by the Romanian government, produces permanent theatre shows. In Timişoara and Arad, there are German-language primary and secondary schools, attended mostly by Romanian students. The remaining ethnic Germans (including Banat Swabians) in Romania are represented in politics by the DFDR or Demokratisches Forum der Deutschen in Rumänien (Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania).
While the Swabians from other areas of Yugoslavia escaped or were expelled, the destiny of Banat and Bačka Swabians was much less fortunate. Due to the high level of military conscription, mostly women, children and elderly people remained in the villages, and they were unwilling or unable to flee. Near the end of the war, all Swabians who were suspected of having been involved with the Nazi military administration were placed in provisional internment camps. Many were tortured, and at least 5,800 were killed. Others were used as forced labor. After Christmas in 1944, about 30,000 younger people, mostly women, were transferred to labor camps in the Soviet Union by train, escorted by communist partisans.
In the framework of agricultural reform, partisan families - mainly migrants from war-torn Bosnia, Lika and Montenegro— took over the confiscated Swabian farms and houses. In March 1945, the surviving Swabians were ghettoized in "village camps", later described as "extermination camps" by the survivors, where the death rate ranged as high as 50%.
The most notorious camp was at Knićanin (formerly Rudolfsgnad), where an estimated 11,000 to 12,500 Swabians died. The situation improved in 1947, when foreign humanitarian aid reached the camps, and their work routines were loosened. The camp system was closed in March 1948, with the surviving inmates being conscripted for forced labor in the army or industry. Their flight also was usually tolerated. By the end of the 1950s, about 300,000 Yugoslav Swabians had managed to emigrate to Western countries, including the United States.
According to a study conducted in 1961 by the German historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler, later supported by German emigrant organizations, at least 7,200 Swabians were executed by the Partisans, about 2,000 deported to the Soviet Union, and roughly 48,000 died in labor camps. About 16.8% of the Swabians in Yugoslavia died during and after the war.
The Serbian census from 2002 records only 3,901 Germans in Serbia, 3,154 of whom were in the province of Vojvodina. In December 2007 the remaining Swabians formed their own minority council in Novi Sad, having gained the required 3,000 voter signatures. The president, Andreas Biegermeier, stated the council would focus on property restitution, as well as marking mass graves and camp sites. He estimated the total number of remaining Danube Swabians in Serbia and their descendants as between 5,000 and 8,000.
In Hungary fewer than 62,000 Danube Swabians remain, but they do have political representation. One city and several villages have German-speaking mayors. Expulsion of the Swabian minority from Hungary by the communist government, dictated by Soviet Union, took place between 1945 and 1948. As a result, many have assimilated and changed their ethnicity to become Magyars as well in Hungary as former Yugoslavia and Romania.
The Banat Swabians who emigrated to Germany are generally well integrated into the society in which they live. They keep contact through cultural organisations (Landsmannschaften). In Vienna and in southern Germany, where most Banat Swabians now live, some maintain their customs and dialect, and offer support to those who remain in Romania.
Banat Swabians in the United States, whose ancestors emigrated beginning in the 1950s, have also formed community associations, including one in the New York metropolitan area, one in the Detroit area, and one in the Cincinnati area.
Alfred Nalepa (19 December 1856, Werschetz – 11 December 1929, Baden bei Wien) was an Austrian zoologist specializing in the field of acarology.
He studied natural sciences at the University of Vienna, and from 1886 was associated with the Lehrerbildungsanstalt in Linz. In 1892 he returned to Vienna, where he was appointed professor of natural history at the Elisabethgymnasium.He described many species in the field of acarology, and was the taxonomic authority of the gall mite family, Eriophyidae.Anthony N. Michel
Anthony N. Michel, a life fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, is an American engineering educator. His expertise is in qualitative analysis of dynamical systems with emphasis on stability theory and applications.Anton Eberst
Anton Eberst (April 27, 1920, in Vršac, Serbia, then Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes – February 19, 2005 in Novi Sad, Serbia) was Serbian clarinetist, professor of clarinet at the Isidor Bajić School of Music in Novi Sad and author of numerous textbooks and articles about the wind instruments.Ferenc Herczeg
Ferenc Herczeg (born Franz Herzog, 22 September 1863 in Versec, Kingdom of Hungary, Austrian Empire – 24 February 1954 in Budapest, Hungary) was a Hungarian playwright and author who promoted conservative nationalist opinion in his country.
He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature three times.Franz Künstler
Franz Künstler (Hungarian: Künstler Ferenc, 24 July 1900 – 27 May 2008) was, at age 107, the last known surviving veteran of the First World War who fought for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Following the death of 110-year-old Ottoman veteran Yakup Satar on 2 April 2008, he was also the last Central Powers veteran of any nationality. He was born in Sósd, in the Kingdom of Hungary, now Măureni, Romania.
A Banat Swabian, Künstler enlisted the Austro-Hungarian Army at Szeged in February 1918 in a field artillery regiment (HFKR 5. k.u. Feldkanonen-Regiment/ - 5. honvéd tábori ágyúsezred). He saw combat on the Italian Front on the Piave River. Following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he fought against the communists in Hungary, and was a soldier until 1921. During the Second World War, he served six months in 1942 as a mobile courier in Ukraine.
Following World War II, Künstler lived in Niederstetten, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, and worked as a guide in a museum. He had been expelled from Hungary by the communist government, as had many other ethnic Germans.Asked about his nationality, Künstler said he always felt connected to the German nation and saw himself as a German. He was a Hungarian citizen until 1946, when he obtained German citizenship. In an interview given at the age of 107 to an Austrian magazine, Künstler was asked about "the most important thing in life". He answered: "I was a handsome man and had many women. But more important is to have a good wife, with whom one can share one's life."With the February 2008 death of 107-year-old Georg Thalhofer, who had been physically unfit for World War I service, Franz Künstler became the oldest living man in Germany. He died of complications from intestinal surgery in Bad Mergentheim after having fallen while visiting his native Hungary.Germans of Serbia
The Germans of Serbia (Serbian: Nemci u Srbiji/Немци у Србији, German: Serbiendeutsche) are an ethnic minority of Serbia which numbers 4,064 people according to last population census from 2011. The Germans of Serbia usually refer to themselves as Swabian (Schwaben, Švabe), and they are grouped into the Danube Swabians or Banat Swabians in the Vojvodina region, where the majority of the population resides. Germans settled parts of Serbia in the late 17th century during Habsburg administration. The German population of Vojvodina was more numerous in the past (about 350,000 before World War II). More than 250,000 left during the withdrawal of Nazi forces. As a consequence of the World War II events in Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav Communist government took a reprisals on ethnic citizens of German origin in Yugoslavia (including Vojvodina): they had their citizenship revoked and their belongings and houses were nationalized and taken from them. Between 1944 and 1946, a prison camp system was established for Yugoslav citizens of German origin, usually in settlements where they lived. After prison camps were abolished, ethnic Germans of Yugoslavia regained their rights and citizenship and most of them emigrated to Germany or Austria in the following years because of economic reasons.Gostilya
Gostilya (Bulgarian: Гостиля; also transliterated Gostilja) is a village in central northern Bulgaria, located in Dolna Mitropoliya municipality, Pleven Province. It was founded in 1890 by 133 families of Roman Catholic Banat Bulgarians from Stár Bišnov (Dudeștii Vechi) and Ivanovo in what was then Austria-Hungary. It was later also settled by Banat Swabians (see Germans in Bulgaria), Eastern Orthodox Bulgarians and Aromanians from Macedonia, as well as Banat Bulgarians from other villages. A school was built in 1893, the Roman Catholic church was opened in 1904 and the local community centre (chitalishte) was founded in 1926. Gostilya was once the poorest of the Banat Bulgarian villages in Bulgaria because it had a limited common. In 1939, the local Roman Catholic community numbered 1,091. 33 Banat Swabians left Gostilya in 1943 due to Nazi Germany's Heim ins Reich policy.
As of 2008, Gostilya has a population of 289 and the mayor is Mariana Romanova. The village lies at 43°34′N 24°14′E, 51 metres above mean sea level.Hans Moser (handballer)
Hans Moser (in Romania known sometimes as Ioan Moser; born 24 January 1937 in Timișoara, Romania) is a former Romanian-born German handball player and coach. He won two world championships as a player for the Romanian national team.
During his active player career, Moser, who is 1.92m tall, played as a center fielder.
In 2000, the official bulletin of the International Handball Federation, World Handball Magazine, chose Moser as a member of the "Team of the Century", together with team mates Cornel Penu and Gheorghe Gruia.Before beginning to play handball competitionally, he used to play water polo and volleyball (in the latter, he was even called up for the Romanian national team's training camp).
Moser studied at a vocational high school between 1952 and 1956. In Timișoara he played for Constructorul and Știința Timișoara (winning the field handball national championship in 1956).After studying agronomy for three years in his hometown, he studied physical education at the Sports Institute in Bucharest (1960–1965). In Bucharest he played for Dinamo Bucharest.
He participated in four Men's World Championships: 1958, 1961, 1964, 1967.
In 1961, in West Germany, he became world champion with the Romania's national team. In 1964, in Czechoslovakia, besides becoming again world champion with the Romanian team, he was one of the three leading top scorers of the tournament. In the same year he was named "Best Handball Player in the World”.In 1964–1965, he won the EHF Champions League with Dinamo Bucharest.In 1970, during the World Championship held in France, the French National Postal Service issued a stamp featuring Moser.He played 224 games for the national team of Romania. He won eleven national championships (including three in field handball) with Dinamo Bucharest.In 1968 he was allowed by the Romanian authorities to go to West Germany for six months as a playing coach for TV Milbertshofen. After the contract expired, he decided to defect. His wife and son, Richard, were visiting him at the time, so the decided to defect, too.After he retired as an active player, he managed teams in Germany and Switzerland.In 1996 he set up a series of businesses in Romania.In 2004 he was investigated for forgery, use of forgery, and fraud. In 2008 he was sentenced by a court of law in Sighetu Marmației to one year and six months imprisonment, suspended for three and a half years.He has been married four times, his last wife being Cuban. He has at least three children.Herta Müller
Herta Müller (born 17 August 1953) is a Romanian-born German novelist, poet, essayist and recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in Nițchidorf, Timiș County in Romania, her native language is German. Since the early 1990s she has been internationally established, and her works have been translated into more than twenty languages.Müller is noted for her works depicting the effects of violence, cruelty and terror, usually in the setting of the Socialist Republic of Romania under the repressive Nicolae Ceaușescu regime which she has experienced herself. Many of her works are told from the viewpoint of the German minority in Romania and are also a depiction of the modern history of the Germans in the Banat and Transylvania. Her much acclaimed 2009 novel The Hunger Angel (Atemschaukel) portrays the deportation of Romania's German minority to Soviet Gulags during the Soviet occupation of Romania for use as German forced labor.
Müller has received more than twenty awards to date, including the Kleist Prize (1994), the Aristeion Prize (1995), the International Dublin Literary Award (1998) and the Franz Werfel Human Rights Award (2009). On 8 October 2009, the Swedish Academy announced that she had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, describing her as a woman "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed".Josef Jakob
Josef Jakob (sometimes spelled Iosif Iacob; born 11 September 1939, Carani, Romania) is a Romanian-born former handball player and coach, who as a player won the World Championship and the EHF Champions League.
With Steaua Bucharest he won the national championship six times. In the 1960s he was considered to be the best right wing player in the world.His speciality were fast breaks and goal area passes to the pivot or the left winger. In 45 national team games he scored 121 goals.Josef Lapp
Josef "Sepp" Lapp was the German administrator of occupied Banat during World War II. He was an ethnic Banat German, and was a leader of the minority before the war, and worked closely with Sepp Janko. His fate after the war is unknown, and it is likely he escaped the communist authorities.Josef Wüst
Josef Wüst (March 11, 1925 – February 19, 2003) was an Austrian journalist, editor-in-chief and publisher.Lovrin
Lovrin (German: Lowrin; Hungarian: Lovrin) is a commune in Timiș County, Romania. It is composed of a single village, Lovrin. It also included three other villages—Gottlob, Tomnatic and Vizejdia—until 2004, when they were split off to form Gottlob and Tomnatic Communes.
Lovrin has a population of 3,752. The commune itself is a significant railway junction served by local railway lines radiating in five directions. It is an agro-industrial and urban centre for the surrounding region. Until 1990-1991 the majority of inhabitants were of German descent but emigration has significantly reduced the numbers of Banat Swabians.Michael Redl
Michael (sometimes spelled Mihai) Redl (23 April 1936, Lugoj – 20 August 2013, Schongau, Germany) was a Romanian-born German handball player and coach. He played as a goalkeeper, and won two world championships.
With Dinamo București he won nine national handball championships and one field handball championship. and the EHF Champions League (1965).At the Handball World Championships in 1959 and 1961 he was named „Best Goalkeeper”.
In the 11 years that he played for the Romanian national team he played in 129 games.
After he retired from active play, he was a coach for Dinamo's youth team (for eight years) and assistant coach for the first team (for three years).
Redl, who was nicknamed "The Black Cat", was also a graduate of the Police Academy (1958), and retired as a lieutenant colonel.
In 1987, five years after one of his sons- also called Michael, a national team handball goalkeeper- defected to Holland (during a game Dinamo played in Arnhem), Michael Redl was allowed to emigrate to West Germany. There he coached among other teams, MTSV Schwabing in Munich, where both his sons, Michael and Hans, were goalkeepers.Robert Hammerstiel
Robert Hammerstiel (born 18 February 1933 in Vršac, Kingdom of Yugoslavia) is an Austrian painter and engraver. Hammerstiel is internationally recognized through numerous awards. He is also an honorary member of the Vojvodinian Academy of Sciences and Art. He is the author of "Von Ikonen und Ratten: Eine Banater Kindheit 1939 - 1949. With 32 woodcuts. Brandstaetter: Vienna, 1999; und illustrater of several books including "Des Bischofs Kleid" by Luisa Owens (2013).Roman Catholic Diocese of Timișoara
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Timișoara (Hungarian: Temesvári Római Katolikus Püspökség) is a diocese in Romania established on 5 June 1930 by Pope Pius XI. The Diocese of Cenad, corresponding to approximately the same region, had been created in 1030 by Stephen I of Hungary.
The diocese covers the Romanian Banat—the counties of Timiş, Caraş-Severin, Arad and part of Mehedinţi, of which 11.1% are Roman Catholic, with compact concentrations in the Krashovani areas near Reşiţa and Sânnicolau Mare. A plurality of its adherents are Hungarian, followed by Banat Swabians, Romanians, Banat Bulgarians, Croats, Slovaks and Czechs. It is subordinate to the Bucharest Archdiocese. Since 2018, its bishop is József-Csaba Pál.Sabine Klimek
Sabine Karina Klimek (born 13 March 1991 in Timișoara) is a Romanian handballer.Sepp Janko
Josef "Sepp" Janko (9 November 1905 — 25 September 2001) was a Volksgruppenführer ("Group Leader") of the Danube Swabian German Cultural Association (Schwäbisch-Deutschen Kulturbundes) in Yugoslavia in 1939, and later was appointed SS Obersturmführer during World War II.Stefan Fröhlich (German general)
Stefan Fröhlich (7 October 1889 – 2 October 1978) was an Austrian general during World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross of Nazi Germany.