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Prince Eugene and our Old Homeland

By Friedrich Lotz
Translated by Rose Vetter, 2013 DVHH Editorial 

280 years ago, Prince Eugene defeated the Turks near Zenta, and 260 years ago near Belgrade.  On New Year’s Day 1718,
the first German city administration of Temeschburg, a mayor and four councillors were formally sworn in. 


Translation of below document:
In consideration of his great achievements, Emperor Leopold I bestows upon Prince Franz Eugene of Savoy the individually listed villages and properties belonging to the Fiefdom of Siklos, valued at 80,000 Rhenish Gulden.  January 30, 1699. (Original document in the Vienna Imperial Archives)



Prince Eugene of Savoy by Jacob van Schuppen

It is important for us to remember these historic dates.  According to the poet Jean Paul, “Memory is the only paradise from which we cannot be banned.”  We should not only celebrate the feasts as they occur, but embellish our day-to-day life by occasionally bringing to mind the events in the history of our homeland. 

As Germans from southeastern Europe, we have every reason not to forget Prince Eugene of Savoy.  He liberated our homeland from the Turks through the victories near Zenta (1697), Peterwardein (1716), Temeschburg (1716) and Belgrade (1717).  Through his heroic deeds, this great field marshal freed the land for new settlement.  Invited by the emperors, our settlers arrived, bringing Western culture to the Southeast and fulfilling their historic mandate in the Banat, the Batschka, Baranya, Syrmia and Slavonia.  We have to remember this when we read about Prince Eugene. 

Eugene was not just a “noble knight” in the truest sense of the word, but also a victorious army commander, a superb statesman, counsellor to three emperors, as well as patron of artists and scientists.  During his lifetime, he was celebrated as a national hero; his contemporaries praised and idolized him; historians and poets glorified his heroic feats.  Literature about Prince Eugene is vast—Kausler, Hemnes, Hermayes, Arneth, Braubach, Bibi and many others wrote extensive biographies.  The Vienna Military Archives published “The Campaigns of The Prince of Savoy” in 21 volumes (1876-1892), which also contain his military correspondence. 

However, even the magnificence of the greatest figures of history is eroded by the ravages of time, and their fame fades gradually.  Many a monument or commemorative plaque with inscriptions reminding us of Eugene has gone missing.  Gone is the obelisk that stood on Prince Eugene Island near Zenta; it was destroyed after World War I.  Hopefully the bright memorial column, commemorating the victory of Peterwardein, still gleams on Wezirac Mountain in the Fruška-Gora.  The Pilgrims’ Chapel Maria-Schnee (Mary of the Snow) near Peterwardein with its commemorative plaque also recalls this heroic era.  

As president of the Imperial Military Council, Eugene commissioned the renovation of the important fortresses on the route from Belgrade to Ofen-Pest (Budapest), which included the strengthening of defense installations, such as in Arad on the Marosch, Temeschburg in the heart of the Banat, Peterwardein on the Danube, the water castle Essegg on the Drau, and Belgrade at the confluence of the Danube and Sawe.  These defense installations in the Danube-Theiß plain played a significant role in the struggle between Christendom and Islam.  The inscribed marble commemorative plaques on the walls of these fortresses evoked feelings of home and history, for they bore the name of “the invincible commander of the Imperial Army, Eugenius Prince of Savoy.”  I wonder whether the Peace Chapel with its vaulted ceiling still stands on the Schwabenberg (Swabian Mountain) in the former German district of Karlowitz (Sremski Karlovci)?  On January 26, 1699, this little church was the scene of the conclusion of the peace treaty between Emperor Leopold I, Sultan Mustafa II, Venice and Poland.  It is also worth noting that the Turkish bathhouse in Temeschburg, which was rebuilt as the German city hall in 1731, bore a commemorative plaque with an eight-line Latin inscription. 

All of this occurred 240-260 years ago—a long period of time separates us from that era—unfortunately many of these events have been forgotten.  The fortress walls are in ruins, and the gateways through which Prince Eugene and his army entered victoriously into the conquered cities, are long gone; the Latin and German inscriptions on the plaques are weathered, illegible, or have totally disappeared.  There is a Latin saying, “Sic transit gloria mundi”—Thus fades the magnificence of the world.  The bible cautions, “It is all very vain” (Salomon 1,2).  Transience is the mightiest law of nature. 

I mentioned the Peace of Karlowitz.  According to this treaty, the Ottoman government relinquished Hungary and Transylvania, while they retained the Banat, with Syrmia as security zone for the fortress city of Belgrade.  Undoubtedly the Turks had no intention of keeping a lasting peace; they merely wanted time to rearm in order to again attack Christendom from the rear.  The peace lasted 17 years and came at a favorable time for Eugene and his Imperial Army, for when the Spanish Succession War (1701-1714) broke out, they were able to effectively intervene and gain decisive victories in Italy and France. 

When our homeland was threatened anew by a powerful Turkish army in 1716, the situation caused grave concern.  However, Field Marshal Eugene boldly demonstrated his genius and masterful military prowess in the victorious battles near Peterwardein, Temeschburg and Belgrade.  During this heroic era, after the capture of Belgrade, the military encampment of Semlin resounded with the Prince Eugene song.  It became a popular folk song; its melody dates back to an old Bavarian sword dance.  The name of Eugene of Savoy entered into folklore.  On July 21, 1718, the Peace Treaty of Passarowitz (Požarevac) was signed.  Emperor Karl VI gained all of the Banat and Syrmia, as well as Belgrade, North Serbia and parts of Wallachia (Old Romania) between the Danube and southeast Carpathian Mountains.  Thus the Danube Monarchy attained its greatest territorial expansion. 

However, the wars were not the only significant events in the life of Prince Eugene.  After the expulsion of the Turks, our liberated homeland lay in a primitive, fallow, marshy and deserted state.  During the prolonged campaigns, many people had been killed, expelled or taken into Turkish captivity, to be sold in the slave markets of the Orient. 

A vast, devastated and unclaimed territory became the property of the state.  Upon Prince Eugene’s advice—he feared a new Turkish attack—the Banat became an Imperial Domain subject to the Court in Vienna.  The Batschka became “Kameral” property administered by the feudal authority in Ofen.  The emperor rewarded many bishoprics, monasteries and deserving officers with estates and land. 

Pursuant to a resolution at the session of the Imperial Council Chamber on July 19, 1698, Prince Eugene was presented with the estate of Bellye in the South Baranya, valued at 80,000 Gulden.  His holdings included twelve sparsely populated villages inhabited by Magyars and Slavs, as well as twenty-two extensive Puszta ranges.  The villages were: Baranyavár, Bellye, Daroz, Lasko, Kisfalud, Bán, Monostor, Löcs, Maizs, Lippa and Marok.  He expanded the existing villages with new settlers and established several new villages, such as Eugendorf an der Drau, which was renamed Jenöfalva (later Podravlye).  Besides the German colonists from Svabia, Franconia, Hessia, Bavaria and Austria, he also called upon Magyars and Slavs.  Not far from Bellye, he had a square-shaped hunting lodge built in the woods, with an arched gateway, a watchtower, and surrounded by a wide moat.  His coat of arms was attached to the outside of the gateway; the inner side displayed the large crest of the House of Savoy.  When I visited the hunting lodge in 1936, I found it in deplorable condition. 

Prince Eugene was the president of the Imperial Military Council and chairman of the New Acquisitions Commission.  In this leading dual position he was instrumental in the resettlement and redevelopment of our homeland.  All this presented for him a monumental sphere of action.  He appointed Count Mercy as Governor of the Banat and Count Wallis as Commander of Temeschburg.  An administration team made up of sixteen officials was dispatched from Vienna to Temeschburg.  The function of this administrative body was to expedite the repopulation of the land and to attract settlers.  Temeschburg became the capital city of the Banat; a city council, a mayor and four councilors were elected.  The first settlers were veteran soldiers and sutlers1 (suppliers of food and provisions to the army).  In the spring of 1718 many builders and tradesmen arrived, setting in motion a lively, thriving reconstruction of the city.  The Temeschburg citizens’ registry, which the city archivist permitted me to access during my visit in 1935, lists 55 names of the original German colonists who had obtained citizenship from 1717 to 1718.  The settlement of German Catholics began and intensified. 

As Hugo von Hoffmannsthal says in his speech about Prince Eugene, “He conquers, and wherever he conquers, he not only recaptures provinces with the sword, but truly wins them. Unexpectedly, out of his creative hands and military feats, the fruits of peace blossom forth.  His army is followed by the plough, and the axe of the colonists sounds in the forest.” 

Footnotes:

1: fiefdom (plural fiefdoms). The estate controlled by a feudal lord; a fief.

2: A sutler or victualer is a civilian merchant who sells provisions to an army in the field, in camp or in quarters.

Original German article from the 1978 DonauSchwaben Kalender, Published by Donauschwäbischer Heimatverlag (Donauschwaben Homeland Publisher) Aalen/Württemberg.

One of many DonauSchwaben Kalender books contributed to DVHH by member Barbara Hilderson in 2010.

 

 

[Published at DVHH.org 17 Jan 2013 by Jody McKim Pharr]

Related Reading:

Temeschburg in the Battle Against the Turkish Yoke by Anton Zollner Translated by Brad Schwebler, Published by Jody McKim, 2004.

Our Mail in the Changing World (until November 1983) by Anton Zollner. Translation by Brad Schwebler, Published by Jody McKim, 2004

The Military Administration of Alt-Pasua, Neu-Pasua and Woika, Source: Neu-Pasua, A Short Homeland Book By Mathias Huber. Translated by Henry Fischer, Edited by Rose Vetter, Published by Jody McKim, 2009. 


 

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