Banat | Village Coordinator: Nick Tullius


A History of Alexanderhausen
by Franz Kühn
Translated by by Diana Lambing, Reference [1]

1.       Geographical Situation

The village of Alexanderhausen lies in the eastern part of the Banat Swabian heath. At the time of the settlement the land belonged to the Agramer diocese and the pasture and grass land was the property of Pakatz. Alexanderhausen is an interior settlement, i.e. the settlers came from the surrounding villages and not directly as emigrants from the German empire. When the whole neighbouring area of Pakatz was colonised by Germans during the second great wave of immigration and there did not seem to be enough room for them, and at the same time other settlers were also asking nearby landowners whether they could settle on their pastureland, the administrative council requested colonization of the Pakatz property, too. And so, on January 1st 1833 a settlement contract between the manorial estate and the future settlers was signed and ratified by Bishop Alexander von Algovich in Pressburg. The village was named Alexandria, or Sandorhasza, after the founder, the Agramer Bishop Alexander  von Algovich. After part of the Banat was assigned to Romania, the village was given the name Sandra. In the Alexanderhausen dialect it is called Schanderhaas. Immediately after signing the contract, and as soon as the seasons allowed, construction work began. First of all the designated area was measured and then right in the center of the future village a cross was erected (where ‘the eternal light’ today hangs) and it was from here that all future measurements were taken. On May 3rd 1833 the foundations of the village were visible. May 3rd has since always been a day of great celebration for Alexanderhausen.

In accordance with the lease contract, 146 houses were set out in a strict square and symmetrical plan, each house with a side length of 540 Klafters (fathoms) - see settlement plan of the village. The two cemeteries with their chapels, and the crosses on the roads outside the village, are also laid exactly symmetrical to the village centre, as also were the two village mills in the early years of the village. Of the 146 allocated house plots there were 101 farmhouses built, two houses for the Bishop’s administration, 38 cottages without fields, one presbytery, one school, one pub and two mills. In 1833, 140 families were settled (approx. 700 people). They came from Bogarosch, Sellesch, Lenauheim, Grabatz, Triebswetter, Nero, Billed, Wiseschdia, Nitzkydorf, Gross Jetscha, Skt. Andres, Tschanad, Ostern, Gottlob, Lovrin, Klein Jetscha, Gross Skt. Nikolaus, Merzydorf and Warjasch. In 1842 there were already 1,231 Germans and 16 Serbs and Romanians.

2.       The Settlement

The colonization by German farmers and craftsmen had brought large yields to the diocese. It was therefore decided to enlarge the village, which resulted in the post-settlement in 1852 of 59 cottagers from the surrounding villages. These families received no fields. Although the village had been increased, the basic plan of the original community remained unchanged. Only houses were added - in 1945 there were 464 houses.

By signing the settlement contract the colonists had to keep to the basic rules of the lease. They received 30 acres of field each and a house held in usufruct for life. For the left-over fields and house plots, the settlers had to offer the landowner a large quantity of returns. After many years effort by the German settlers, they were eventually released from the heavy obligations of the settlement contract on July 17th 1868. This was the contract of release signed by Bishop Georg Haulik. And so the community of Alexanderhausen was now free, albeit only through heavy financial compensation.

3.       The Landmark

The landmark of Alexanderhausen is the twin-towered church in the roundel , in which ‘the eternal light’ represents the center of the roundel and thus the village. The church, as it still stands today, was built in 1836 at the expense of the manorial system. The settlers had to do the donkey work and use their horses and carts. Up until 1836 they made do with a prayer house.

Some special church events are worth mentioning: in 1883 the smallest bell was replaced by a larger one weighing 184 kg. In the same year the organ was converted. In September of the same year, too, there was a violent storm which damaged the church roof and destroyed the cross on the road to Billed. In 1884 a cross was erected on the road to Lovrin and another on the road to Neusiedel/Uihei. In 1889 the painting of the stained glass windows was carried out. In 1891 the chapel was built in the South cemetery and in 1903 one was built in the North cemetery. In 1893, after 54 years, the large bell cracked and was replaced by one weighing 492.5 kg. In 1902 the ‘Marienaltar’ was built. In 1910 the church was painted. On November 3rd 1916 the parish was given two small bells weighing 218 kg and 175 kg respectively, as well as two cemetery bells, each weighing 40.5 kg, from the State. In 1931 the third and fourth bells were inaugurated. The last bell was donated by Alexanderhauseners living in America.

4.       The Railway

Another event worth mentioning is the inauguration of the railway line between Temeschburg and Tschanad on September 25th 1894. During 1856/57, the Viennese state road, which played a large role during the settlement periods, was graveled over. For the stretch of railway which fell into their area, the Alexanderhausen inhabitants committed themselves to helping supply many cubic yards of gravel taken from the River Marosch.

In 1890 the first ‘Association of Steam Threshers’ was created on a co-operative basis. This was followed by the Bogar- and Vogel threshers and finally by the Association of Social Threshers in 1910.

On April 17th 1894 a violent storm raged over the district, causing much damage. Fire broke out in several places. Without the help of neighbouring communities the whole village would have been burnt to cinders.

5.       The School

A school and a prayer house was set up in Alexanderhausen when the village was founded. The school was a municipal school whose upkeep was the responsibility of the municipality. In 1845, six-year compulsory schooling was introduced by law. In order to meet the increased requirements, the school was converted in 1903. Alexanderhausen ranked already at that time among the schools in Banat with the highest attendance (100% between 1835 and 1938). In 1924 the school became a State school. When all the German schools were dissolved in 1944, one was allowed from 1946 onwards to have some lessons in the German mother tongue. After the school reform of 1948 Alexanderhausen got a German primary school. As the large school building was no longer big enough for the large number of school children, the old teacher’s house and the kindergarten building were transformed into classrooms.

The local council administration, to which the village judge and vice-judge belonged, were elected every four years at the same time as Parliament. The notary and vice-notary were civil servants. On June 1st 1968, Alexanderhausen was integrated with Billed.

6.       The Second World War

With the retreat of the German army, Alexanderhausen was the scene of fighting during the Second World War. One of the most terrible consequences of this war, apart from the 61 out of 200 soldiers who fell (62 out of 170 fell in the First World War), the 17 civilians and the damage to the church and 27 houses in the village, was the deportation of the German population to labor camps in Russia. The bitterly cold weather, malnutrition, hard working conditions, bad hygienic conditions, shortage of supplies, homesickness and despair were only some of the causes which led to the early death of many people. Out of the 170 deported from Alexanderhausen, 29 died in Russia.

Another consequence of the war was the deportation of many inhabitants from the Yugoslavian border area, to which Alexanderhausen belonged, to the Baragan Steppes. The deportation took place during the night of 17th/18th June 1951. The number of deportees was largely dependent on the local authorities. Seventeen families were deported from Alexanderhausen. During the second half of 1955 some families were allowed to leave their enforced imprisonment and return home but the physical and mental damage done to these people can never be made good again by the Romanian State.

7.       The Inhabitants

The number of inhabitants of Alexanderhausen in 1834 numbered 700; in 1900 there were 1,929; in 1930 there were 1,854 of which 1,722 were German; in 1977 there were 2,190 of which 710 were German; in 1992 there were 2,232 of which 84 were German and in 1997 there were only 29 Germans left.

The most important building, of which we are all very proud, is the singular landmark of the community - the church. It should be mentioned that three elements flow into one here: the slender twin towers, the spreading main street and the central situation of the church in the roundel, in the exact center of the village. The houses in the roundel are laid out in a circle. In each quarter there is a small chapel which would be particularly beautifully decorated for the Feast of Corpus Christi. A war memorial was erected in the roundel in memory of the 62 who died in World War I. The planting around the memorial is in the shape of a quarter circle. The war memorial was unveiled on June 4th 1933, the hundredth anniversary of the founding of Alexanderhausen. The other three quarters of the circle are planted with trees. In the quarter opposite the school there once stood the Freedom Monument, erected by the Freedom Party. A ten-foot high marble column, topped by an eagle with outspread wings, stood on a mound of earth. The monument was built not only in memory of the Revolution of 1848, but also in memory of the slave labor and the high returns which had to be handed over to the manorial system by the inhabitants of Alexanderhausen. Unfortunately, this monument was taken down in 1944 by order of the Communist regime.

An important event in the history of the village was the introduction of electricity. The first current was supplied in 1955. First of all, street lighting was set up and this was followed by the national grid and finally connection to the private houses. The current was produced by a generator which was installed in Georg Burian and Magdalena Graf’s corn mill. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the village was connected to the high voltage transmission system.

8.       Oil and Water

In 1968 in the Alexanderhausen area the first drilling rigs and deep pumps began to change the traditional landscape of the Banat heath. The Banat soil was about to disclose its treasure and provide the economic development with one of the most precious forms of energy: oil. Here in Alexanderhausen hundreds of thousands of tons of crude oil would be extracted annually.

Up until 1974 the supply of drinking water was by deep wells which could be found in every street of the village. In the Spring of 1974 the first drinking water through water pipes was made available.

9.       Agriculture

According to a list of inhabitants from the year 1933 there was a total of 475 households of which 10 were uninhabited, 315 (67.7%) were farmers, 100 (21.5%) were of various professions (including inexperienced trade representatives) and the remaining 50 householders had other occupations.

Out of the community area (7,000 acres), 6,600 acres were used by Alexanderhausen farmers as arable land and 400 acres were meadows and gardens. In 1945 Alexanderhausen had 464 houses. If one subtracts the public buildings we are left with 457 houses where work of an agricultural nature was carried out. From this we get an average of 14.4 acres per family. To answer the question how much area was used for each crop we have to look back to the 1930 census. Two agricultural concerns gave the following results of how the land was used: wheat 36.6%, maize (corn) 32.1%, potatoes 6.9%, forage cereals 9.9% (oats 4.6%, barley 5.3%), forage plants 7.6% (lucerne 4.5%, mohair 3.1%), other plants 6.9%.

Small farmers used a larger percentage for wheat production for reasons of self-sufficiency. If we compare the averages between 1930 and 1936-1944, we can establish the following: the area of wheat has shrunk in favor of increased maize production for pig food.

The cultivation of potatoes was a specialty of Alexanderhausen. The Alexanderhausen potatoes were famed far and wide for being particularly tasty.

All the fields in the Alexanderhausen area were farmed by the village farmers themselves, from their farmyards. There were, however, large areas of arable land beyond the Alexanderhausen boundaries which were worked on directly from there. These were called Pustas. There was the Pakatzer-, the Pesaker-, the Grosse-, Schiel-, Hackbeil- und the Schmatt-Pusta.

The following machines and tools were available to our farmers in 1941: 37 tractors, 382 harrows, 673 ploughs, 103 sowing machines, 80 sheaf-binders, 143 rakes, 19 grass mowers, 30 draggers, 78 rollers, 5 threshing machines and 350 horse-drawn carriages.

High averages were attained with the main crops, e.g. wheat yielded 1,000 - 1,400 kg per acre and maize 3,000 kg per acre. As we know, after 1945 GOSTAT and the LPG (co-operatives) were founded and the soil was all worked together.

The number of livestock in 1930 can be ascertained by taking two average Alexanderhausen farms with a total of 131 acres of arable land. This gave: 12 horses, (7%), 20 cattle (11%), 130 pigs (71%), 20 sheep (11%) - a total of 182 livestock. On the surrounding communal fields there were 641 horses, 1,070 cattle, 6,945 pigs and 1,070 sheep. Alexanderhausen had a predominance of pigs and only half the county average of horses and sheep. If we add around another 10% to the 6,945 pigs on the basis of imported ones to be fattened up, we get 7,700. Out of these, over 1,000 were for our own use and the remaining 6,500 or so were exported. Week after week wagons were loaded for export with pigs weighing on average 150 kg.

10.     Politics

A characteristic of the active community life are the many clubs and societies. Some of these were: The Farmers’ Association, founded in 1898; the Free German Community of 1931, which originated from the Social Democratic Party; the Voluntary Fire Brigade, which had already existed between 1899 and 1906 but was re-founded in 1929; the Youth Club (founded well before World War I and newly organized in 1921); the Agricultural Users Co-operative founded in 1931; the Funeral Society (1891); the Men’s Choral Society (already in 1874 but dissolved in 1886 and renewed in 1920); the Mixed Choir, founded in 1938; the Freedom Party (1898, but dissolved after the war); the National Zaranist Party of 1929 (when the Free German Community was formed in 1931, Alexanderhausen immediately formed a branch); the Village Community of German-Swabian People, founded in 1922; the Rosary Club; the Protection Association (founded 1859); the Social Democratic Party (founded in 1907 and dissolved in 1928).

11.     Culture

Everyone always loved performing on stage in Alexanderhausen. The men’s choir was very successful and well loved with all its old folk songs like ‘Ich schenke diese Blumen Dir’ (I give you these flowers), ‘Die Waldandacht’ (The woodlands prayer), ‘In einem kühlen Grunde’ (In the cool earth), ‘Am Brunnen vor der Tore’ (At the fountain by the gate) etc. Plays like ‘William Tell’ and operettas such as ‘Wie die Alten singen, so zwitschern die Jungen’, and ‘Winzerliesl’ were performed with great success. The teachers of Alexanderhausen didn’t restrict their duties to the classrooms, but rather actively developed all cultural activities.

There was a music tradition in Alexanderhausen. Already prior to the First World War there was a brass band of ten men under the baton of Nikolaus Hummel. He was followed by band leader Jakob Henzl. After 1944/45, bandleader Josef Lammert carried on the tradition and later led a boys’ band, too. Apart from the brass band Alexanderhausen also had a string orchestra following in the footsteps of the Klein family. Adam Lefort, one of Klein’s pupils, led a school band with great success.

In 1950, a new orchestra named ‘Streichmusik’ (string music) was founded and played under the leadership of Josef Ihm, who also played in the brass band. Conducting of the brass band was taken over by Ewald Stefan, then Norbert Pinczes, Horst Lesch and finally Werner Simone.

Since 1997 we also practice regularly in Germany, under Norbert Pinczes, and so we were able to play at our first Kirchweihfest, prepared by Hildegard and Horst Laubert, at our reunion.

Through the cultural activities of our German teachers we founded amateur dramatic societies, a choir and a folk dance troupe. The folk dance troupe, led by teacher Margarete Grawisch, even won a Banat folk dancing competition. In 1965 our new Arts Center was built.

12.     Sport

Sport was always popular in Alexanderhausen. In the early days, billiards, and sometimes chess, were played in the pubs. During the summer months football was played, as well as Völkerball (a game for two teams where the object is to hit an opponent with a ball and thus put him out of the game). Once a year, the cup finals took place. In 1936 a handball team was founded. We already had a football team in 1933 and from 1950 onwards we even played in league matches. In the same year the handball team took part in the championship games in Temesch district.

13.     The Expulsion

Much has already been said about the consequences of the Second World War. The reasons for the departure of Alexanderhauseners are no different from those of the expulsion of virtually all ethnic Germans from their homeland Banat. Therefore, here are just a few statistics:

We begin with a population of 1,819. In 1944, after the Romanian border changed on August 23rd, 223 people from Alexanderhausen fled the country. Since 1958, 1,409 people have moved to Germany (77.5%), 106 to Austria (6%), 84 to Canada (5%), 57 to the USA (3%) and the rest have settled in 12 different countries like France, Argentina etc.  Our large family of fellow countrymen, who all used to live, work, celebrate and feel happy in their homes, have now been separated. In order to keep ties made in our old home village, and to nurture and develop them further, the Alexanderhausen HOG was set up in 1976 and Johann Henzel was elected chairman. On May 5th 1979 we were invited by him to our first reunion in Ulm. Around 70 fellow countrymen came to this first reunion. On October 22nd 1983 a large number of fellow countrymen came to Gersthofen near Augsburg to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Alexanderhausen. Since 1991 our reunions have been moved from Bavaria to Baden Württemburg. On September 28th 1991 the reunion was held in Bietigheim-Bissingen and we elected a new committee. Johann Schuch was voted chairman. Since 1993 our reunions have taken place in Ludwigsburg. Since then, the number of participants has risen to over 400.

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Last updated: 26 Aug 2020