Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Who are the Donauschwaben?

The Donauschwaben, or Danube Swabians, is an ethnic group of Germans who lived in Hungary. You may be curious to learn how they got their name, why they left Germany for Hungary over 200 years ago and why there are few Germans still living in Hungary today.

In the late 1700’s, there was a large migration of pioneer families from Germany to settle the land in southeastern Hungary know as the Banat. These pioneers went by barges down the Danube River to reach their new homes. The Austrian empire had just chased the Turks of the Ottoman Empire from these lands, and wanted to populate the land with Catholic German families. They offered families free land and exemption from taxes if they settled this wild land

Eventually, over 800 towns were founded in Hungary by the German pioneers. The Hungarians called these pioneers Danube Swabian (Donauschwaben in German) because they arrived by the Danube River from the area of Germany known as Swabia. The first German pioneers had many skirmishes with the Turks as the Turks tried to reclaim the land. The pioneers and their descendants kept their German language and customs for the 200 years they lived in Hungary, but also learned the language of their new country.

By 1900, over two million Germans were living in Southeastern Hungary. Between 1899 and 1911, almost 200,000 Germans left Hungary for the United States and other countries in search for a better life.

After World War I, these Hungarian lands were divided among Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia, and many Danauschwaben found themselves living in a new country without having moved. After World War II, as the Soviet communists took control of the Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia, many of the adult German men and women who had not already escaped and were still living in the German villages 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, all German-owned land had been seized by the government without compensation. Today there are very few Germans left in these towns.

Many descendants of the Donauschwaben can be found today in many towns in Germany; Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago, South Dakota, and St. Louis in the United States; Canada, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. For more information about this little known ethnic group including :
Passenger Lists
Village List
Researcher List
and much more, go to
Donauschwaben Resources

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