Gadács and Szil: The Two Sisters

The following are excerpts from Gott Ist Getreu, by Henry A. Fischer in a limited edition
and self published work in June of 1988.

     The village of Döröschke's foundations were firmly rooted in the clay soil, to maintain a foothold on the descending hills upon which it was perched somewhat precariously.  The hills themselves emanated from the steep slopes of the picturesque and imposing Josephsberg Mountain.  Its three hundred meter height towered over the rest of Somogy County.  This deeply forested mass was a natural barrier to any penetration and expansion to the south.  Simply because the Josephsberg was there, it was also an open invitation and challenge to the wandering and land hungry Swabians to take a look at the other side of the mountain.

     This inevitability occurred at the beginning of the 19th century and two sister Lutheran Swabian communities came to birth: Gadács and Somogyszil.

There was a close family resemblance between them, but yet, they were as unalike, as most sisters usually are.  They were only a kilometre apart but their life style and character were vastly different.  Gadács was the older sister, very much tied to mother's apron strings, heritage and traditions.  She was soon to be surpassed in size, status and style by Somogyszil, the younger sister, better known in the family simply as Szil.  What follows is our Tale of Two Sisters.

     Gadács has always been a very small and compact community, somewhat narrow in its outlook and rather insular.  It is, and was, a meandering country lane with houses on both sides.  Nostalgic writers would compare it with a string of pearls.  Which does more than justice to the reality.  The street appears to be a winding lane, through the puszta, that lost its way looking for Somogyszil.  The lowlands of Mount Josephsberg seem to roll right past, and make a detour around the rows of squat little houses that shimmer in a haze of dust, and turn into hues of golden yellows, smoky greys and earth browns.

     It lies just east of Igal and Somogyszil, and close to the border of Tolna County.  The area, we discover, was once the domain of the diocese of Estergom, the first Episcopal see of Hungary.  After the conquest and devastation of the area by the Turks it reverted back to a sparsely settled wilderness.  The Turkish tax lists of 1542 indicate that a local population still existed here up to 1580.  In 1563, the Turks listed the existence of nine households.  In the following years of 1573, 1578 and 1580, there were ten.  At that time it was listed as being part of the estates of the Bakacs family.  Then it simply sank into oblivion, as most of the area we call Swabian Turkey did after 1580.

     Gadács re-emerges in the Conscription Lists of 1701 and 1703, and is listed as simply a puszta (open prairie) belonging to the Komaromy family.  It came into the possession of Johann Fekete later in 1726. Some time after 1733, it was purchased by the Hunjady family like most of the land holdings in the area.
 
     How and when the settlement of Oreg Gadats took place is chronicled in the church records of Döröschke, by the pastor, Joseph Horvath.  He writes:

"This ancient possession, Alt Gadatsch, was settled in the Spring of 1816 by landless homeowners from Döröschke, who subscribed to the Augsburg Confession.  As a result the Gadatsch Evangelicals united as a filial congregation with the mother church in Döröschke. This took place during the twenty-eighth year of the ministry of Joseph Horvath, the Evangelical pastor at Döröschke.

These Evangelicals in Gadatsch were served by Gabriel Linder who acted as school teacher and also performed the role of worship leader.

Our gracious and worthy landlord Count Joseph Hunjady provided a site for the school and prayer assembly area.  Within two years the schoolhouse was built, and it also served as the prayer house.

This Evangelical Lutheran Church thrives under the protection of the local noble landlord.

May God grant that the congregation continue to grow and serve here for many years to come."

     This entry in the parish records most likely describes an organized settlement of Gadács during the period from 1816-1820 under the leadership and direction of Count Hunjady.  There is evidence to indicate that a sporadic settlement had already taken place a few years earlier, possibly in 1799-1800. It is interesting to note that the pastor refers to "Alt" or "old" Gadács in his church chronicle.  That terminology suggests that there had been a "Neu" or "new" Gadács as well.  This very likely would have been the original attempt at settlement on the puszta, obviously by other Swabians from Döröschke. This tradition seems to be supported by the records of the Seniorat (Church District) of Tolna, Baranya and Somogy, which lists the founding of Gadács in 1800.

     The village life that emerged was again centered around church, school and Wirtshaus . . . the local pub.  It maintained the traditions of the settlers from Döröschke, and contact with the extended families of which they were a part.  Intermarriage continued between the new settlement and "mother" Döröschke.  By 1851 there were two hundred and thirty-five Lutheran Swabians living here, which constituted the entire population of the village.  By 1888 it had expanded to sixty-six houses and almost four hundred inhabitants.

     In 1900 they dedicated their simple cream colored church with its narrow miniature tower, and the new school was finished in 1910.  The rest of Gadács was a long winding street, with look-a-like houses and busy and active yards.  By 1910 there were sixty-seven houses, which expanded to ninety houses by 1930, and then reached one hundred and three in 1940, when it was at its height both in population and prosperity.  But it never lost its rustic and unsophisticated character.

     At its inception, Gadács had attracted the landless Swabians.  Their hunger for land soon resulted in carving up all that was available, into a crazy patchwork quilt of small family plots and holdings.  Swabian families with large land holdings simply did not exist in Gadács.  There was no additional land on the puszta to buy or "marry into".  "Marrying into land" was one of the favorite economic devises for advancing the family fortunes of the more wealthy families among the Swabians.

     And to speak of wealth among them, was a relative term.  Modest, perhaps better covers the Swabian conception of Reichtum.  It simply meant you worked longer and harder for the sake of the inheritance you would leave to your children.  The children would be expected to make marriages to enhance the families' holdings, status and position in the community, all of which was tied to the ownership of land.  The Swabian's love of the soil was inseparable from his love of family.  In order to satisfy their need for more land, they began to buy up the land holdings of the Hungarians in Szil.  Because of that, Gadács was able to grow and sustain its population, with a degree of prosperity.

     Gadács was off the beaten track.  Isolated.  A ghetto.  To a great degree it was out of touch with the currents of history and the forces that were shaping the nation in which they lived.  Both the Lutheran and Swabian character of the village were never threatened or appeared to be in danger.  They had a sense of security living in the shadow of Döröschke, the mother, the Swabian capital of Somogy.  Their traditions, customs, faith and identity as Swabians had built-in safeguards.  All of those would be essential to withstand the encroachments and pressures of the oncoming efforts of Magyar nationalists to solve Hungary's minority problem after the First World War.  The Swabians were the only minority left in what remained of Hungary.  They proposed a final solution.  It was assimilation.  Whether that would be voluntary, or otherwise was never indicated.  Other suggestions were also being made:  expulsion and deportation for example.

         But then, there was Szil, or more correctly, Somogyszil.  She was the youngest sister of the Swabian Lutherans in Somogy County.  In her own eyes, she was the most progressive.  Szil would not be hampered by fears of the loss of her identity that plagued the other Swabians around them, among whom this new group of Swabians came to live.  The Swabians of Szil were much more at home in Hungary, and much more adaptable.  Much more open.  They dared to cross the gulf of separation that divided most Magyars and Swabians.  But in reality, it was only by degrees.  What follows is the Szil experiment.

     This large and sprawling community of three thousand inhabitants in this northeast corner of Somogy County was a colourful mosaic.  It was more like a town, than a village.  But a village mindset and ethos were at work and in place.  The whole character of the village was an expression of the diversity and inter-relatedness of its people.  The majority of the villagers were Magyars and Roman Catholic.  The minority, on the other side of town, consisting of 40% of the population, were Swabians, all of whom were Lutheran.  These dynamics were the basic ingredients for the experiment.

     Szil is mentioned for the first time in 1138, when King Bela II granted the land to the diocese of Gran (Estergom).  Ecclesiastical reports for the years 1332 to 1337 note that a parish had been established here in the neighborhood, engaged in cultivation and cattle herding.  During the Turkish occupation, only ten households were still listed in 1563.  By 1580 this number had increased to seventeen households.  This increase declined around 1600, during the fierce battles of the "Fifteen year War" between the Turks and the Imperial Austrian Army throughout the entire area.  After 1600, a community no longer existed here.

     In 1660 the whole area is simply designated as a puszta belonging to Nikolaus Zanko.  In other words, it was an uninhabited wasteland.  County records in 1703, identify the puszta as the possession of Nikolaus and Baltasar Zanko.  In the fifth official government summary, identifying the local conditions after the expulsion of the Turks, it was noted that the area had been uninhabited for some time.  Resettlement began to be undertaken only after 1712 or 1713 and some thirty-nine new households had been established.  It is obvious that these new settlers were Magyars.

     Szil, belonged in equal part to Count Harrach and Count Johann Esterhazy who were the absentee landlords from 1726-1733.  The Hunjady family purchased the estates after 1733, and carried out a planned settlement by bringing in Magyar colonists from Neutra County.  When these settlers arrived they faced a veritable wilderness.  Clearing land, draining swamps, fighting disease and robber bands was a way of life for the first generation.  And yet, a Roman Catholic Church was built as early as 1726, as community life was established, and villages and communities grew up all around it.  Among those communities would be several Swabian villages, both Lutheran and Roman Catholic.  The Swabians would come to Szil much later.

     This was the last of the incoming Schwabenzug into Somogy County that took place in 1830.  It all began with the arrival of two families from nearby Döröschke who were followed by another settler from the Tolna in 1833 who laid the foundation for the Swabian community in Szil.  Adam Taubert came from Bonyhad in Tolna County and settled here.  The Taubert family had come to Hungary in 1721 and had resided in Felsönana and Izmeny, originally coming from Kreis Nidda in Upper Hesse.  (The family name indicates their ancestors lived in proximity to the Tauber River.)  Numerous other families from Tolna and Baranya Counties would join the others over the following years. And here in Szil, they met the footloose, extended, Hessian families from Kötcse that were on the move again.

     It is not clear whether the Lutheran settlers who came, did so, in terms of a contract or an invitation issued by Count Hunjady, or if they simply came on their own, and made their personal arrangements with him upon their arrival.  The vast majority of these original settlers were farmers.  They came from various linguistic and regional backgrounds but were overwhelmingly from Tolna County.

     Szil would become a melting pot of several distinct Swabian dialects, traditions and customs.  Settlers came from Bikács in Tolna County, and from Lajos Komaron in Veszprem.  Their ancestral origins were not Hessian.  In fact they were not even part of the Schwabenzug into Hungary.  We again meet the Heidebaurn.  They had settled in the area around the Neusiedler See in Western Hungary during the tenth and eleventh century.  Their origins had been in Upper Bavaria and Franconia, and they retained their own traditions and dialect intact.

     With the introduction of the Reformation in the 16th century, the Heidebaurn, along with their Hungarian and Slovak neighbours turned en masse to Lutheranism.  In spite of centuries of intense persecution, large numbers of them still clung tenaciously to their hard won Lutheran faith.  Baron Jeszenak, a Lutheran, invited some of them who lived in Ragendorf and Nickelsdorf to come and settle on his lands at Bikács in Tolna County in 1725.  Here they would be free to practice their Lutheran faith.  Some of the families who responded were the Pentallers, while others included the Grünwalds and the Oppermanns.

     There were also families in Szil from Bonyhad, whose origins had been in Württemberg.  And to all of this we add the Hessians of Somogy County itself.  The result was that the Swabians of Szil were a colourful blend and mix of all of these.  They spoke variations of a common language.  Their common Lutheran faith led to the establishment of a congregation of the Augsburg Confession early in 1833.

     After a few years, Count Hunjady made one of his smaller manor houses available to the Lutherans as a place of worship.  This manor house stood on the site of the present day Lutheran church.  The manor house was soon too small for the congregation for use as a Bethaus.  The congregation had to commit itself to the building of a church.  It was built from 1834-1839 and dedicated in 1839.  Three bells were hung in the tower; rows of benches and an organ harmonium were installed in the simple house of worship.  Penny offerings provided all of the furnishings.  They did not live in a money economy.  Money was always in short supply in farming communities whose method of exchange was often the barter system.  The penny offerings were a personal sacrifice on the part of the hardworking and frugal Swabians.  Fortunately, the construction material for the church was a gift from Count Hunjady.

     We cannot determine the date of the church's dedication.  But because we know that the Lutherans celebrated Kirchweih (Kerp) on the same day as the Hungarian Roman Catholics on the 20th of August, it is the probable date.  This was also the national holiday in honor of St. Stephen of Hungary.  This joint festival by both groups is an example of the good will between them, which gradually emerged over the years that they shared together in this thriving community.

     The Swabians had originally come in search of land.  But the next generation would turn to trades, businesses, shops, and household industries.  Within a generation, the vast majority of the Swabians were no longer working on the land, but were involved in the village economy.  They were adjusting to a somewhat urban life.  Szil was gradually becoming a trade centre, a forerunner of the modern shopping centre.  Fairs were held four times a year, and they were renowned for their cattle auctions.  Two markets were held every week, attracting sellers and buyers from Kazsok, Büssü, Golle, Nak, Varong, Lapafö, Gadács, Acsa and Döröschke.

     When marketing was done, shoppers visited the many shops, stores and workshops.  They saw the harness maker, dropped in on the watchmaker, or the hat maker, put in an order at the weavers.  Most of these artisans and craftsmen were Swabians.  But they were Swabians who were conversant with the Magyar language, their tastes and preferences.  All carried out through the media of clever and sharp bargaining practices, that had special rules all of their own. 

    The village itself consisted of many long, straight, tree-lined streets.  They were broad, and most had boulevards.  And there were numerous side streets.  All the streets of course had Hungarian names.  But among themselves, the Swabians had names of their own.  The Nemet Utca was the Deutsche Gasse the street where the Svabok lived, as well as the Igal Strasse the road leading up to Igal, and down to their sister village of Gadács just off the road a kilometer away.  The Taubert Wirtshaus stood on the corner of the Deutsche Gasse and the Igal Strasse.  It was at the centre of Schwabendom, the Swabian Kingdom in Szil.

     Szil always gave the impression of being rather cosmopolitan.  There was constant interaction between the Hungarian and Swabian populations in all areas of life ... except two.  The Church and the Pub.  They did not worship or prayer together, and they did not drink together.

     The Lutheran Church on Nemet Utca kept vigilance over her Swabian brood, and symbolized the barrier that still existed.  And to all intents and purposes, the Taubert's Wirtshaus was off-limits to non-Swabians.  It was a little piece of "home" for the Swabian.  Home.  Home was always that special and yet elusive place, close to the heart of the Swabians.  They somehow sought it in both places.  It was a place where you felt you belonged; a place where you could simply be yourself, to talk, to laugh, to joke, to sing, and yes, to cry.  To freely express your identify, your hopes, your struggles and your dreams.  The Wirtshaus was very much the domain of the man, just as the Church to a great degree, became the domain of the Swabian woman.

     The Wirt, or Vat as the Hessians called him, who ran the Wirtshaus had to be a gracious host.  Hospitality had to be his gift.  But, above all he had to be lustig and jolly.  If he were a musician, that too would be an asset.  They made the best kind.

     Across the street from the Wirtshaus were the numerous workshops of the various Swabian tradesmen.  These tradesmen and artisans began to develop an ethos and lifestyle of their own, no longer based on the ownership and accumulation of land.  This placed them more firmly in the world of their Hungarian neighbors.  By and large, they became fluent in speaking Magyar, without a hint or trace of an accent.  With no distinctive garb and attire they no longer looked Swabian.  They were anxious that their children should succeed in the world and be totally at home in Hungary.  Education would enable them to prepare their children for that world, and to take their place in the life of the nation at every level, as fellow citizens with the Hungarians.

     But education would eventually lead to Magyarization.  There was no higher education available within Hungary in any other language than Hungarian.  Study outside the country was beyond their means.  Besides, Hungarian would not hurt them a bit.  It was only a language issue, not a question of their identity as Swabians.  So the young Swabian boys went off to school with the blessings and encouragement of their parents.  The Schäfer boy left Szil, and he came home as Sandorfy.  The educational process swamped and overwhelmed the young Swabians.  They were made to feel ashamed and embarrassed about their Swabian origins.  They could "pass" as Magyars simply by changing their names.  Magyar indoctrination was successful as an instrument for assimilation.  And the Swabians themselves had freely paid the price.

     But by now, it was almost too late.  Anxious for their children to succeed, the Swabians in Szil had pushed for the use of the Magyar language, as the language of instruction in the Lutheran school.  By 1930 there was no longer any German language instruction at all.  The Lutheran teachers themselves were thoroughly Magyarized.  Once a month now, Hungarian services were held at the Lutheran Church.  These services were not for Hungarian Lutherans, but for the young Swabians who had no grasp of the German language any longer, especially as it was used in public worship.

     A Hungarian-speaking Swabian intelligentsia was in the process of formation, but it was out of touch with their people and did not address the issues that confronted the Swabian's desire to retain their own cultural and ethnic identity.  The "educated" Swabian was the major vehicle the Hungarian State would use in the process of assimilation.

     The Swabian farmer, living in his isolated village society, was seen as crude, backward, ignorant and almost illiterate.  He was out of place in contemporary society, and out of touch with the realities and issues the nation faced.  Those who continued to be educated in the German language, in effect, were condemned to live life at a grade six level.  Unprepared for higher education in another language, they had nowhere to go.  They were effectively verdummt ... kept ignorant.  The Magyar State would not allow higher education in any language other than Hungarian.  Only non-Swabians could study the German language at the University level.

     Swabian students were taught the Great Magyar Myth.  The myth that the Swabians who came to Hungary were the riff-raff of Europe, beggars and ne'er do wells, who had forced themselves on the Magyar nation.  Because the Swabians did not know their own history, they in effect had no history.  The young Swabians simply accepted what they were taught.  The official line was that the Swabians had been given the best and the most fertile land by the generous Hungarians, to their own detriment.  That accounted for the prosperity of the Swabians.  It had nothing to do with hard work at all.  It had all been handed to them on a silver platter.  With no conscious history of their own who was to refute the Magyar Myth?

     His name was Jacob Bleyer, and he began the struggle to bring about a factual history of the Schwabenzug into Hungary.  He carried out research to give substance to the real nature of the place and identity of the Swabian people in Hungary.  He gathered young Swabian historians around himself and began the work that resulted in the discovery of their history and identity.  His cultural and educational societies were established locally among the Swabians for them to discover and celebrate their identity.

     Dr. Bleyer became one of the most hated men in Hungarian history.  Vilified in the press.  Ridiculed in parliament.  Constantly threatened by the Magyar nationalists, who in fact were simply racists.  But with so much publicity, the Swabians finally awoke to the nature of the struggle they were all in and not just Jacob Bleyer.  That happened in Szil, as in other places, in the early 1920's.  The focus of the movement was on the young ... the school issue.  But in Szil, all they could ever accomplish was the introduction of two hours of instruction in German each week in the Lutheran school.  Things had just gone too far.  There was no way to turn back the clock.

     Although the vast majority of the Swabians in Szil were no longer engaged in working the land, those who were, owned a very large portion of the cultivated acres.  This was out of proportion to their size.  Gadács too was encroaching on the Hungarian land holdings.  In the 1930's, while Magyar nationalist pressure and resentment mounted against the Swabians, the Hunjady family found it necessary to sell off a lot of small parcels of land, which were mostly purchased by the local Swabians.

     This was above and beyond "their fair share", as far as the nationalist agitators were concerned.  The Hungarians critics resented the fact that the major portion of the economy was in the hands of the industrious Swabians, and their admiring and somewhat envious Hungarian neighbours would also have grudgingly admitted it.  The seeds of discontent and envy were effectively sown, as more fuel for the Great Magyar Myth.

     The only way the Swabians could express their loyalty to the Hungarian state was to Magyarize their names.  The Gross' became the Nagys.  The Schneiders became the Szabos.  The Schmidts became Kovacs.  If they were not prepared to do that, they at least used the Hungarian form of the first names of their children, or began using Hungarian names for them:  Tibor, Ilanka.

     Meanwhile, their children were totally unable to speak their mother tongue.  They were discouraged to do so in school and above all in public.  Slowly, but surely they were being alienated from their heritage and traditions, their culture as well as their language.  This frightened the Swabian community.  That would be the open door, through which the Volksbund would make its entry ... but they brought along the excess baggage of National Socialism with them.

     They issued a call for a new loyalty ... not to their Swabian identity, their heritage or traditions but to a Fatherland.  A concept that would have been totally foreign to their forefathers and one they had never known themselves.  Adolph Hitler could prattle on about his personal invention:  the Volksdeutsche...the so-called Folk Germans...ethnic Germans. They simply did not exist in Hungary.  They were Schwove.  But the Volksbund was organized in Szil on February 9, 1941.  The last chapter in the Szil experiment had begun.

     But life would go on. The Swabians would salvage what they could but they saw that they were losing their children.  Was the Volksbund an alternative?

     It was for some, as it was everywhere.  Gadács in many ways provided a strong following for the movement.  The Volksbund knew only too well, that the lower the level of the people's education the more likely they could be led to respond to the "ideals" of Nazism.  Pastor Wölfel, who served the mother church in Döröschke, and its filials was diametrically opposed to the Bund, as it was commonly called.  While the school teacher in Döröschke was an enthusiastic disciple of Nazism.  The stress and constant strife caused in the village and congregation led to the early death of the pastor in 1943.  Throughout the coming times of trial, there would be no resident pastor of the sprawling parish.  They were simply left on their own without the leadership they needed to head off the disaster the Volksbund set in motion for them and all the Swabians in Hungary.

     In September 1944 as the Red Army advanced towards Hungary, the able-bodied men among the Swabians in the Two Sisters were forcibly recruited into the Waffen SS, as all Swabians in Hungary were compelled to do.  They had no other option.  There was no choice in the matter.  The Regent of Hungary, Admiral Nicolas Horthy had made a deal with Adolph Hitler and sold out his "beloved" Swabians.

     As the refugee treks from the Banat, the Batschka and eastern Hungary began to pass through Szil, the Bund leaders saw the handwriting on the wall.  A planned evacuation was underway, and the leading Bund families realizing that Szil was on a main highway, were not prepared to await the arrival of the Russian Army.  They were evacuated.  But they were just a mere handful among the eight hundred Swabian inhabitants.  That was also true in Gadacs.

     Women were prepared to wait for their husbands to come home from the war.  Old people were not prepared to leave.  And how can you possibly consider leaving home?  "Our Hungarian neighbors have always been our friends.  They will protect us.  We have done nothing wrong. We were not members of the Volksbund."  What they failed to remember, or did not know, was what Magyar nationalists had been saying for years, "The German menace must be rooted out once and for all!"

     It was before Christmas in 1944, when the victory-drunk rampaging Red Army passed through Szil.  The village cowered in fear.  In Gadács the women sought refuge on the Josefsberg in the bitter cold and drifting snow.  For days, there was only terror and plundering everywhere.  Women of all ages and young girls were raped in front of their families.  Men were beaten and humiliated and some were killed.  The Hungarians did not protect their Swabian neighbors.  They could not even protect themselves.  No one asked if you were Hungarian or Germansky now.  The two people were finally equal in someone's eyes.  They were both the enemy who had devastated Mother Russia.  And now they would pay!

     The Swabians, alone, however, got the bill.  The Russians settled their accounts in January of 1945.  The young people and young women of Gadács were the price tag.  Szil would have to offer far more, both men and young women.  Now a new word became part of the vocabulary of all of the Children of the Danube: Verschlept.  Which meant to be dragged away against your will and be enslaved.  Their destination was the Soviet Union.  The Donets Basin, and its vast network of slave labour camps.  Here they would work and starve and die, or somehow manage to survive and come home.  But who would protest?  Who cared?  And in the camps the most fearful and haunting question of all, was also on the lips and in the hearts of the despairing Swabians: "Has God forgotten us?  Doesn't God care?"  There was no answer.  Each person would have to struggle with the silence of His answer.

     Countless men were in prisoner of war camps in the Soviet Union.  Others were in what was called the "western" zones of conquered Germany. And many were simply missing.  Not heard from.  Long, painful years would separate them from their waiting families . . .

     The Two Sisters now shared an uncertain future together.  Their future was being decided for them that summer of 1945.  The Two Sisters and all the Swabians in Hungary would now find themselves on the centre stage of world history.  They were on the world's agenda.

     Berlin was a dead and shattered city in the summer of 1945.  Devastated.  In shambles.  Its population burrowed below the earth in the ruins, seeking shelter, seeking community.  Blackened freestanding walls riddled with pockmarks from artillery shells, looked like massive grave markers.  Roofless and gutted churches, broken statuary, the trunks of dead linden trees ... all of these were the final offering of the nation to the megalomania of a demented leadership that had almost brought all of Western Civilization to the utter brink of destruction.

     Just down the road, Berlin had a sister community.  It too bore all of the marks of battle and street fighting.  Now the slow moving process of cleaning up the rubble began.

     The town was much smaller.  Historians, however, tell us, that it was probably much older than Berlin itself.  This sister community along the Spree, had a distinctive character very much all her own, even though she lived in the shadow of the capital.  She maintained her individuality and her stern but regal character.

     The Prussian Kings established their military garrison here.  Ever since it has been an "army town".  But it was here, that the aristocracy and the royal family built their palaces, residences and summerhouses.  Sans Souci (Without a Care), Frederick the Great's architectural masterpiece, overlooks much of Potsdam down below.  With its vast gardens and fountains, Sans Souci forms the centrepiece of life, as it was lived by the Prussian aristocracy at another time, in another day.

      Among so many ornate buildings, it is easy to overlook Potsdam's most unique royal residence.  Surprisingly, it is built in the style of an English manor house, with the accompanying surrounding spacious English garden in all its greenery.  One of the daughters of Queen Victoria lived here, and it is named after her, Cecilienhof.

     Three men came to Cecilienhof, in the summer of 1945, to gather around a table in the spacious paneled library overlooking the gardens to decide the fate of the Two Sisters.  History knows them as The Big Three.  Joseph Stalin, Harry S. Truman and Winston Churchill.  They were the three men who came to Potsdam to redraw the map of Europe.

     The Big Three set out to establish borders that would forever prevent the re-emergence of Germany as a political and military power.  But Stalin had his own agenda.  The countries on his borders, that he had absorbed, should be separated from Germany and its influence for all time.  The way he manoevered to accomplish his objective, was in fact, simply a land grab on his part.  The central issue was Poland.

     Stalin refused to give up eastern Poland that he had annexed with the assistance of Adolph Hitler.  The Poles, as allies of the victorious powers, therefore needed to be compensated for their losses.  The answer, Stalin pointed out, was to go west.  Poland would absorb the German provinces of Pommerania, Silesia, and whatever else lay between what was left of Poland and the Oder River.  But Stalin was gracious enough to take East Prussia off of Poland's hands.

     Redrawing boundaries in the Cecilienhof palace was easy.  The problem was the need to transfer Polish populations living under Soviet occupation in the east to the "new lands" awarded to the new Polish State.  It was not a transportation problem.  The native German populations who lived in Pommerania and Silesia simply stood in the way because they were there.  Where they always had been for centuries.  This had always been Germany.

     That was Act One of the Potsdam scenario.  The focus of Act Two would be on Czechoslovakia.  The Czechs presented a two-pronged thrust.  As former allies they too wanted a piece of the pie.  All the Sudeuten Germans who betrayed the Czech nation were to be expelled for their connivance in the rape of Czechoslovakia.  It was the price for their treason.  This would apply to every man, woman and child.  It was a matter of collective guilt of which no German was innocent.

     The Czechs had another grievance.  It was against the defeated Hungarians who had taken advantage of them.  The Magyars had joined the Axis alliance and taken territory from Slovakia.  All Magyars living in Czechoslovakia were to be repatriated and sent "home".  But the Hungarians responded by saying, "But where on earth shall we put them."

     The Czechs and Stalin assured the Hungarians there was an answer to their question.

     And this is where the Two Sisters and all of the Danube Swabians of Hungary put in their first official appearance on the stage of world history.  For their role as a "fifth column" and their betrayal of the Magyar nation they were to be expelled.  Somewhere, someone seems to have lost sight of the fact that Hungary had been one of the enemy powers.  Hungary, and not the Swabian population of Hungary had joined the Axis powers.  The Russians demanded the expulsion of 500,000 Swabians in Hungary to "punish" them, and to provide living space for the Hungarians being expelled by Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

     All of this resulted in Protocol XIII of the Potsdam Declaration on August 2, 1945.  Protocol XIII is subtitled, "Orderly Transfer of German Populations" and states:

The three governments, having considered the question in all its aspects, recognize that the transfer to Germany of German populations, or elements thereof remaining in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary will have to be undertaken.  They agree that any transfer that takes place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner ... "

     Potsdam unleashed a population transfer that involved between twelve to fifteen million people.  This "orderly" and "humane" transfer of German populations cost the lives of some two million of them in the process.  The Western allies really had no idea of the chaos they were setting in motion.  If they had any concern about the numbers involved, it was in terms of having to look after them upon their arrival in their zones.  They gave a mantle of legality to what occurred.  It was really beyond their control, and they were totally misinformed.  That of course is the official explanation.

     Even as they were meeting in Potsdam, the expulsions were already underway.  But that not only took place in Poland and Czechoslovakia, but also in Yugoslavia.  Tito and his Partisans were already applying their "final solution" to Yugoslavia's "Danube Swabian problem".  Extermination camps were already in operation in Gakowa and Jarek in the Batschka.  Soon the starvation camp in Rudolfsgnad in the Banat would be receiving its first victims ... the aged, the children, the women ... but only the women not taken as forced labour to the Soviet Union.  Yugoslavia did not wait for approval or ask for approval at Potsdam.  Thousands upon thousands of Swabians were already perishing in the new holocaust.  They paid the unpaid bills of the Nazi regime.

     The question of course is, why did the Western Allies betray the ideals of the Atlantic Charter, and complied with the concept of the "collective guilt" of civilian populations on the basis of their ethnic origins.  In the Parliamentary debates in the House of Commons on December 15, 1944 Sir Winston Churchill had already stated,

" ... expulsion is the method which so far as we have been able to see, will be the most satisfactory and lasting.  There will be no mixture of populations to cause endless troubles.  A clean sweep will be made.  I am not alarmed by these large transfers which are more possible in modern conditions then they ever were before."

     The Western Powers believed that lasting peace could only be secured in Europe by eliminating the problem of German minorities.  And in their naivety they actually believed that the transfers would be carried out in a "humane" and "orderly" manner.  While Sir Winston Churchill spoke, he was well aware of the effectiveness of modern population transfers.  Both Hitler and Stalin had demonstrated that.  And Stalin was a master at transferring German populations in particular.  The Volga Germans, the Black Sea Germans, were even now lost in the vast network of his labour camps, since their deportations in 1941.  And they were the first cousins of the Danube Swabians.  They would share a common fate.

     But Hungary played its own role, in the expulsion of its Swabian population.  Latter day apologists for Hungary are quick to point out that the expulsion was at the personal insistence of Joseph Stalin.  Hungary itself opposed it.  Upon receipt of the order to expel the Swabians from the Soviet military officials, Hungarian participants claim that they asked only for the removal of those Germans who had been disloyal to Hungary.  Clothing themselves in the garb of defenders of the innocent, they claim that Hungary alone took a stand against "collective guilt."  But as a defeated nation, Hungary found it impossible to maintain its position.  Pressure from the Hungarian Communist Party, the military power of the occupying Red Army, and the Potsdam Agreement itself prevented any freedom of action on Hungary's part.

     Joseph Stalin's solution to the Swabian problem in Hungary was not new.  He merely echoed the strident invective of Magyar nationalists, who for over a century had called for the destruction of all minorities in Hungary.  Immediately following the end of the war, the Hungarian press, representing every political party, and not just the infant Communist Party, demanded the immediate deportation and expulsion of the Swabian population and the confiscation of all of their property for their betrayal of the Magyar nation.

     As early as the 1920's, and more so in the 1930's, Magyar nationalists and extremists began to call for an expulsion and the destruction of the Swabian enclaves, especially those surrounding Budapest, which were a "deadly ring around the capital", as one put it.  While in Transdanubia, the region we have referred to as Swabian Turkey, the invective became especially vitriolic about the dangers of the "German menace", there.  Kovacs one of the leading Magyar racists, wrote an expulsion article in 1945, entitled, "Just with a Knapsack".  This was an allusion to the original Swabian immigrants being poor and penniless carpetbaggers, who stole the best and most of the land from the Magyars.

     There had also been the hate literature of Istvan Denes, who published an article in 1936, entitled, "Will We Save Transdanubia?"  "Hungary is for the Hungarians . . . the others should get out."  Szabo, another nationalist propagandist wrote, "Whoever has not assimilated, has no reason to be or remain in Hungary.  Every citizen must identify with the nation and adopt its Hungarian language, our Magyar culture and the goal and destiny of the Magyar people.  Only for such citizens shall there be bread and work, and the possibility of making a living under the protection of Hungary.  Those who do not participate in this unity of the Magyars, are an alien nation and place themselves under the leadership of an alien nation, and for such there is no land, no economic possibilities, and no bread in Hungary."  He wrote all of this on April 17, 1938.

     On May 10, 1938 the official Hungarian High School Youth organization adopted a policy, which included:  "... after the solution of the Jewish problem, the Swabians are next in line."

     As late as January in 1944, the Hungarian press was informed by government officials, "... we will re-settle the Swabians if the Germans lose the war, and also if they should win it."

     For Szabo the leader of the Magyar nationalists before the war, all Swabians "by being German were the enemy of the Magyar nation."

     This was the "climate" in Hungary, when the Potsdam Agreement was announced, and Stalin demanded the expulsion of half a million Swabians from Hungary.  The Hungarian government simply informed the Generalissimo that there were not that many Swabians to go around, but they would do their best.

     In documents released for review by contemporary historians, the reason given for American and British co-operation and compliance in the expulsion of the Swabians in Hungary was based on intelligence reports.  If the Western powers did not agree to include the Swabians in Hungary in the population transfer agreement, they would be deported to the Soviet Union.  Interestingly enough, that was also the fear of the Swabians in Hungary themselves and we cannot simply dismiss that possibility.

     The deportations in Hungary began in 1946 in the Western regions, the homeland of the Heidebauern who had been in Hungary as long as the Magyars or even perhaps before.  There did not seem to be any rhyme or reason for who was expelled and who was allowed to remain.  Families were divided.  Often the most active Bund members were allowed to remain.  Landowners in particular always seemed to make it on the deportation lists.  The first 180,000 deportees from Hungary were received in the American Zone in Germany.  When the American officials became aware of how the expulsion was being carried out, they protested through their military mission in Budapest.

     Getting no response from the Hungarian officials, they refused to accept any more deportees from Hungary and closed their borders to them.  As a result, the next 50,000 deportees out of Swabian Turkey ended up in the Russian zone of Germany.  This would be the destination of the Swabians from Somogy County, including the vast majority of the residents of the Two Sisters.

     By then, the Hungarian expellees from the neighboring states had been accommodated in the Swabian communities.  Some 200,000 Swabians still remained in Hungary.  They were not wanted in the Russian Zone of Germany, they had enough problems of their own.  They now no longer were a threat at home.  The major Swabian settlements had been depopulated.  It was only a matter of time and the remaining Swabians would be assimilated.

     And that is what it began to look like in the Two Sisters, Gadacs and Szil.  One hundred and eighty of Szil's Swabians remained, while Gadács only had about one hunred.  On April 6, 1948 the Gadacs Swabians left the railway depot in Bonnya crammed in cattle cars.  Those from Szil, some seven hundred and fifty persons were taken on April 13th.  They all ended up in a transit camp at Pirna, on the border of the Russian Zone of Germany and Czechoslovakia.  From there they were distributed throughout Saxony in the area surrounding Grossenhain.

     They had been brought "home".  And here they were called "Paprika Pioneers", or the most horrendous word in the German language when addressed to them:  Flichtling.  Refugee.  In their mouths it sounded like a swear word.  They were aliens.  They dressed outlandishly.  They spoke a crude dialect.  They were the cause of the war, these Volksdeutsche.  They came to eat their bread when they themselves did not have enough.  Welcome home Swabians!  But they were not at home.  They longed for the Heimat.  Their Heimat was no more ...not anywhere.  They were homeless, and stateless, without citizenship, and no nation had any claim over them, or wanted them.

     Who in the world cared?  Who raised their voice in protest?  Just, the weeping grandmothers holding infants in their arms.  The desolate fathers helpless to save their families.  The friends and neighbours who were back home and had been forced to watch in silence.  And none heard the cries of the frightened, hungry and thirsty children in the cattle cars streaming out of Hungary.

     Only two men in Hungary dared to speak out.  Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty, the primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary, and Bishop Lajos Ordas of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, as the Lutheran Church is known in Hungary.  But most of their priests and pastors turned a deaf ear to their pleas.  After all, both of them were Swabians themselves.  And it was pointed out that they were among the fortunate who could remain behind in beloved Hungary.  Both men would shortly be in prison, and the world would be silent about that too.

     Was there really no one in the world who knew?  Who cared?

     There was one man.  He was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.  In his speech, when receiving his prize at Oslo on November 4, 1954 this Alsatian Lutheran pastor, known to the world as Dr. Albert Schweitzer spoke on, "The Problem of Peace in To-day's World".  Albert Schweitzer, a first-cousin of the Danube Swabians startled the world when he said,

"The most grievous violation of the right, based on historical evolution of any human right in general, is to deprive populations of the right to occupy the country where they live, by compelling them to live elsewhere.  The fact that the victorious Powers decided, at the end of the Second World War to impose this fate on hundreds of thousands of human beings and in a most cruel manner, shows how little they were aware of the challenge facing them, namely, to re-establish prosperity and as far as possible, the rule of law in our world."

[Published 14 Jun 2008]



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