Danube Swabian Community
“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

Villages Helping Hands

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors


 Mover & Shaker

Hans Martini

by Rose Mary Keller Hughes, DVHH Correspondent.
Published at DVHH.org 05 May 2008 by Jody McKim.


Many of you may not know Hans Martini who is on our DVHH Board of Directors since he is quietly in the background but doing good things for the Donauschwaben.  He is very important to us as well as to the Trenton, New Jersey Donauschwaben Organization known as Vereinigung der Donauschwaben, Ortsgruppe Trenton.  He serves as the secretary of this very active group.  You can see more about the organization at www.dvhh.org/membership/affiliate/trenton/index.htm.   

Hans was a new element to me and I looked forward to making his acquaintance since I had heard so many good things about him.  I was not disappointed . . . he is another fine example of the good qualities those of Donauschwaben descent possess. 

Here then is your new friend . . . Hans Martini

Hans, please tell us a little about yourself such as where you live, your education, and your family . . . 

My wife, JoAnn, and I are the parents of three wonderful young ladies, Anna, Luisa and Christina. We have what is known in German as a Dreimädelhaus!   We live in Hamilton, a suburb of historic Trenton, New Jersey.  My formal education culminated in a baccalaureate degree from Rutgers University where I majored in European history and I obtained a teacher’s certification in secondary education.  Despite this, I decided to follow my true passion. Like my father and grandfathers before me, I became a cabinet and furniture maker.  

Hans, wife JoAann, mother Eve


Hans, I just went to your site at www.martiniswoodwork.com and am so impressed with the quality and beauty of your work!   Along with this amazing talent, do you have any hobbies? 

History remains an interest of mine.   It is part of the reason why I am involved in the Trenton Donauschwaben.  In fact my entire family is active in every aspect of the organization.  I am pleased to serve the club as its secretary.   Beyond the usual secretarial duties, I’m involved in prayer services at the Donauschwaben Genocide Memorial, contributing to our newsletter, and on special events’ coordination.  It’s been a most rewarding and fulfilling experience.  I love it! 

What got you started in doing genealogical research? 

My Donauschwaben roots are about five miles from my house.  They are my parents, both native-born Donauschwaben who arrived in this country in the 1950s.  Theirs is a life story worth telling and that’s exactly what my father is doing these days. Please check out the DVHH website for some of his more interesting experiences (one can be found at www.dvhh.org/history/ds_camps/haigermoos.htm).

Adam was born in Bukin (in the Batschka), survived Tito’s death camps and eventually ended up in Austria.  My mom (Eva, yes that makes it “Adam and Eve” J) has a story that is very similar.   She was born in Palanka (also in the Batschka), survived the camps and ended up in Austria, too.  Both immigrated to the US before meeting each other here in Trenton.  

My mother’s parents lived here in Trenton until their passing in the 1990s.   Eva (nee Wagner from Palanka) and Markus Mayer (from nearby Obrowatz) gave me a great view of the lives of the Donauschwaben.  They lived here in Trenton very much the same way they did “back home” it seems.  They interacted with no one but other Donauschwaben and spoke very little English.  Indeed, I benefited from the fact that they never spoke English.  If I wasn’t speaking German, we weren’t speaking!   We would make sausages, wine and even slivovitz, in the same manner as they did in their native land.   They would talk about the old days, what they did, who they lived next to, what they liked and didn’t.  Looking back, our great relationship was very much a history lesson too!


Have you had an opportunity to visit the village of your ancestors? 


I did get to visit my ancestral home(s) as a ten-year-old back in 1973 with my parents, siblings & Martini grandmother. Palanka was already being transformed into a more modern town at that point, but Bukin was very much unchanged. We approached my father’s house in Bukin with disappointment, peering into the windows, but seeing nothing. The place was a mess, not having been maintained since the Martini’s left in haste back in 1944 it seemed. The experience was made all the more difficult because a few youths had gathered nearby, swearing and laughing while pointing our way. They knew who we were and just didn’t like it. 

Undaunted, my father pressed on.  We walked the streets of that village saying Dobra Don (good day I think) to everyone we met and many folks responded in kind.  It seemed he wanted to make some kind of connection with his hometown beyond the run-down house of his birth and the jeering youths.  Finally, such an encounter came to pass in the form of a Serbian watermelon merchant.  This grizzled and toothless soul rode around in a horse-drawn cart full of the tasty fruit, calling out to the townsfolk as he went.  Curious about us, he asked who we were.  It turned out, he knew my father’s father very well!   Out came the schlivovitz and a reunion celebration of sorts commenced right there in the middle of the unpaved streets of Bukin!   He even ignored repeated attempts by townspeople to buy his product, telling them to “go away, I’m busy.”   He cut up a number of his precious fruit for our little group and would not accept a single dinar in return.  Although just ten years old at time, it was an experience I still remember quite well. 

Who or what has been most helpful in your research? 

I have had two wonderfully talented friends help me with genealogical research.  The first was a native of Palanka named Peter Kiss.  Peter died back in the 1990s but not before doing an enormous amount of family research using a variety of non-computer- based methods.  Indeed, he became well known at the local Mormon Family History Center, viewing microfilm upon microfilm for this tid-bit or that.   In fact, when his ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) really took hold, the Mormon’s brought the microfilm reading machine to his house so he could continue his research.  I have to think he would have loved the Internet in general and the DVHH in particular.   


The other gentleman is well known to the DVHH world.  Dennis Bauer ran into Peter Kiss while doing his own family research, which is how I met him.  Dennis has been an immense help, plotting the various branches of my family like nobody’s business. He is a gifted and generous Donauschwab!  I confess that while I’m very interested in my family tree, the fact that I’ve had Peter and Dennis to lean on has made me quite lazy when it comes to genealogical research!  I’ve kept my focus on the “living history” side of things as my involvement in the Trenton Donauschwaben shows. 

I really couldn’t be happier with the DVHH.  It really is a Godsend for the promotion and perpetuation of our cultural heritage.  With so much talent and passion out there in the cyber world, it really does appear the Donauschwaben will continue to live on long after the last native Schwob is gone.  

As long as people such as you are around, Hans, we’re sure the “living history” will continue and the Donauschwaben will continue to be known and remembered. 

I think you will all agree that we are lucky to have Hans not only serving on our Board but also serving as a fine example of our ancestry.  I am pleased to have met him via this interview . . . I hope it has been the same experience for the rest of you. 

For those of you who live in New Jersey or close to Yardville, here is information that might be helpful: 

Hans Martini, Club Secretary
Vereinigung der Donauschwaben, Ortsgruppe Trenton
127 Route 156
Yardville, NJ 08620

Hans - & the DVHH ...

Hans has been among us for some time providing translations for his father's memoirs.  He joined the DVHH Board of Directors for 2008; as well as volunteers for the DVHH Translations Staff.  Hans is also one of the Trenton Archivist featured on the DVHH Destination: The Americas.

See Han's contributions

Thank you Hans for your contributions to the DS community and the DVHH Project!

Last Updated: 09 Feb 2020

Last Updated: 11 Feb 2020

DVHH.org ©2003 Donauschwaben Villages Helping Hands, a Nonprofit Corporation.
Webmaster: Jody McKim Pharr
Keeping the Danube Swabian legacy alive!