“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.
In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead



Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors
     
 

Underway on the "global village street"

By Nick Tullius
Published in Banater Post, April 5, 2015

Of course people die, but as a tribe, the Danube Swabians are surviving. After the Second World War they were persecuted, expelled and disenfranchised, but they worked their way up from deprivation and homelessness to become, once again, respected citizens, both in the old country in South-Eastern Europe, as well as throughout Europe, North and South America, and everywhere where fate had taken them.  

The people of the 21st century have changed, they have new values and a new conception of life. But all Banat Swabians and all Danube Swabians and their descendants around the world, have their common roots in South Eastern Europe, their common traditions, values and ideas that were bestowed on them by the ancestors. Moreover, in the past decades the world has become smaller and smaller, and the virtual space of the Internet produced countless "global villages". Instead of the street bench outside the gate of house in the Banat village, today we have the mobile phone, fax, e-mail and social networks. 

A new generation of the globally dispersed Danube Swabians is in the process of using the new media to facilitate the connection to each other. As early as 1996, there existed an Internet mailing list for Danube-Swabians interested in genealogical research, with an emphasis on Banat and Batschka. The discussions reached from the Kirchweih festival to Grandma's "Hinglspaprikasch". Three members of that list, one each from Canada, the United States and Germany, put together a list of localities in the Banat and Batschka that once had German population, a list that has since been expanded. Franz Quint, the list member from Germany, published in the Banater Post of Dec. 10, 1996, an article entitled "The Internet and the Banat Swabians". 

Almost every Banat Swabian person has relatives, neighbours, or friends who migrated to America in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some returned to the Banat with their savings, others stayed on and became Americans. After the Second World War numerous Danube-Swabian families migrated to Canada, Australia and other countries, where English is either the official language or is understood by large groups of the population. 

As a result of the two world wars, German lessons disappeared from many American schools, and for a long time it was not advisable for Americans to identify themselves as being Germans or of German descent. This is an important reason that today many descendants of Danube Swabians speak only English. This can make the connection with their Danube Swabians compatriots in Germany or Austria difficult or even impossible. There are actual cases where the contact between families or distant family members was lost in the turbulent post-war years. 

Today there are many associations and Danube-Swabian clubs in North America. Some of them are also known in Germany and Austria. They contribute to the preservation of the common Danube Swabian culture and to the maintenance and preservation of the intellectual and cultural heritage of the Danube Swabians. Sometimes their youth culture groups travel to Europe and meet up with compatriots in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, and Croatia.

Decades after the end of the Second World War, many Danube Swabians and their descendants began reflecting on their origin and engaged in family research. The Internet and especially the electronic mail called e-mail turned out to be very helpful in their efforts. Thus, in North America the discussion forum (DVHH mail list) at donauschwaben-villages@rootsweb.com  was born. The acronym DVHH stands for "Donauschwaben of Villages Helping Hands", meaning "helping hands from Danube Swabian villages", because it is intended to assist family researchers and all those interested in the topic of Danube Swabians. The forum facilitated the global communication across countries and oceans, and thus contributes to family research and even to the recovery of long-forgotten family members, neighbours, friends and acquaintances. Often it leads to the resumption of the exchange of letters, to mutual visits and even joint visits to the old country. 

Today, Internet pages can establish for the first time a global connection between the far-flung Danube Swabians and their descendants, by making wide use of the English language. A consequence of English language usage is the limited knowledge about the DVHH sites in Europe. Fortunately, DVHH has found many volunteers in Germany, Austria, the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil and Argentina. Many of them do not speak both German and English. But there are also multilingual volunteers, who are able to translate texts into English or from English. 

   Over and above the personal connection and assistance in family research, these Internet sites have set themselves the long-term goal of contributing to the preservation of the Danube Swabian culture on the English-language Internet. Extensive portals on the World Wide Web were created for the purpose of maintaining a permanent reservoir of Danube Swabian life forms and of the history and literature of our ancestors. As an example, I mention the portal www.dvhh.org  where I am an occasional contributor. The motto of these Web pages is "Keeping the Danube-Swabian legacy alive". The portal uses mostly, but not exclusively, the English language, but also strives to be accessible to our compatriots in Germany and all over the world. The content ranges from genealogy, history and culture, to Danube Swabian personalities, to cooking and baking. Special attention is devoted to the painful history of the Danube Swabians, as it is hardly ever mentioned in the English-language history books, or even in those appearing in Germany. 

The following information about the content of the website www.dvhh.org  is intended to illustrate the abundance of the topics covered.

First shown are the individual pages of the six main Danube Swabian settlement areas: Banat, Batschka, Syrmia-Slavonia, Hungarian Highlands, Swabian Turkey, Sathmar area. The Banat currently occupies the largest section, but the pages of the other Danube Swabian settlement areas are continuously evolving. Then there are the so-called DVHH main sites: Community, Heritage, History Atrocities, Genealogy, Search DVHH. Using the third category, Connect/Contact, users can access the pages intended to serve the maintenance of contacts and communication. 

The Banat section provides access to the following subsections: Introduction/News, Village Index, History, Research, Literature, Lifestyle, Biographies. In addition, some localities maintain their own Internet sites within the context of DVHH. As an example, I am looking after the content of the side  http://www.dvhh.org/alexanderhausen  which includes the following sections: News, History, Memories, Family Research, Photos, and Links. 

Despite the language barrier, a close cooperation of the German-language Internet sites with their English-language counterparts would be desirable and would benefit our compatriots all over the world. As an example, the cooperation of the above-mentioned page www.dvhh.org/alexanderhausen with the Internet side of the HOG Alexanderhausen www.alexanderhausen.de can be mentioned. The two sites are linked with each other, facilitating easy access to the Internet site of one language from the Internet side of the other language. It would be gratifying and rewarding, if many other localities would find their way to a similar partnership. 

Since 2007 DVHH is registered as a non-profit association, while continuing to rely exclusively on volunteers. Its board of directors is elected every year by the members. There is an editorial team, a consultant team and a team of translators. Although all volunteers are doing excellent work, at least Jody McKim Pharr, editor and webmaster of DVHH, must be mentioned here. Her ancestors came from Mercydorf and the Mehala. Jody McKim Pharr's efforts in serving the DVHH are unique. She made several journeys to the Banat, collected a lot of material, and acquired the skills required for the creation and management of Web sites. She recruited many volunteers and motivated them to write or translate contributions. She dedicated many years to this work, without expecting recognition or material rewards, just simply to honour our Danube-Swabian ancestors. The result of this effort is visible to all on the Internet, and it will hopefully remain there for many years to come. 

Jody’s fellow countryman and colleague, Henry Fischer, rightly put it this way: "DVHH is my window to the world of the Danube Swabians and their descendants around the world.  It offers us all a personal forum for the exchange of information and resources, it helps us to research related topics in the area of culture, language, heritage, faith and traditions. The expertise of others is made available to us, and our own special interests, skills, and research findings are made accessible to others. (...) DVHH contributes to the preservation of a culture that once flourished in the countries along the Danube and that has left traces in each of us. Thus, we honour the long rows of our ancestors and family members, that gave our life form and content and thus determined who we are and who we will be, wherever in the world we may live." 

Even if the Danube Swabians rate only a footnote in many history books, and are completely missing from others, there is justifiable hope that they and their history will survive on the "global village street" for many centuries to come. That is the reward of our work. 

Keeping the Danube Swabian legacy alive

 Last Updated: 30 Dec 2016

[Published at DVHH.org 14 Sep 2015 by Jody McKim Pharr]

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