A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

The Village Group of the Swabian-German Cultural Association

by Dr. Viktor Pratscher
Translated by Brad Schwebler

     The foundation of the land's association on the 20th of June 1920 in Novi Sad is the most important marking stone in the new history of the Germans in Yugoslavia.  The association sets itself goals to unite all Germans with our fatherland and encourage our German folk-ways and our mother tongue.

     Then in September 1923 the Germans of Feketitsch established their local group when they were already almost the last in the Batschka to join the cultural association.  The public awareness - of which one believed it must be kept hidden - without infringing on the sensitivity of fellow citizens - it grew anew.  Dr. Georg Graßl was appointed association secretary for the foundation.  He was received with a triumphant bow and a music band and enthusiasm broke out during his speech with elementary force.  The union of our Germans of Feketitsch was seldom so great as on this day.  It seemed like the poet's words: "We will be a united people of brothers" comes true.  Gutwein's large stage hall could not hold all of the comrades.  In the evening members of Old and New Werbaß (Vrbas) and Sekitsch performed to an overfilled house.

     The local group numbered over 300 members.  A youth division, glee club, and library could be established.  The foreman, Martin Göttel, and the active secretary and choir leader J. Dietrich (B.) were to be thanked for the founding and opening.  In the winter months two lectures and theater evenings could be organized.  The books of the library were always out of print.  With the dissolution of the land's association on the 11th of April, 1924 the activity had to be stopped by us.

     On the 26th of February 1928 the association's foreman, Johann Keks, could first carry out the reorganization of the local group and after that the confiscated fortunes were taken into possession intact.  The local group numbered 236 members.  The foremen were: 1. Dr. Viktor Pratscher, 2. Johann Röhrig, 3. Heinrich Brückner.  Secretary: Nikolaus Gutwein.  Treasurer: Jakob Kloß. - The activity is feverish.  In the home: Schmidt's large hall in which talks took place on a high level each Sunday and were extremely well attended.  Lectures held: Johann Keks, association foreman from Novi Sad; Johann Steinmetz from the Agraria, Novi Sad; Dr. Viktor Pratscher; teacher J. Dietrich; deputy S. Schumacher.  Theme: "The Ways in Which to Guide to the Goals".  Senior Jakob Kahn. Theme: "The Possibility of World Peace".  Rev. H. Berger of Feketitsch; Rev. H. Lebherz of Sekitsch; deputy Dr. Georg Graßl.  Besides that four events took place on stage.  Guest performances took place here of the "Liederkranz" (song circle) "Cheerfulness" from Novi Sad; the "Mood Singer" from Bavaria with lute and guitar; the "Liederhain" (song grove) from Sekitsch and the Migratory Birds from Wohlbach (Germany). - At the school graduation celebration the best students were presented with books and an investment book with 100 Dinar.  For 40 traveling German season workers from Germany the pass could be obtained for about 40 to 50 Dinar less, as in the neighboring places.  It made it possible for two students to attend the German grammar school in Novi Vrbas.  For this purpose the association's leaders placed 2,500 Dinar at their disposal.  The comrades from Werbaß gave free meals (midday and evening meal) so that both students could finish elementary school.  Christian Brauchler continued his studies with the help of school donations and was to emerge in a year as a young teacher.

     In the fall H. Dietz from Novivrbas and Dr. A. Maurus from Novisad held lectures.  At Christmas time 8 children could be presented with clothes.

     It was a bustling activity that could hardly be seen in any other local group.  On the 6th of January 1929 all the unions of the land were dissolved and our local group was affected by it.  

New Establishment of the Local Group of the Swabian-German Cultural Association.  

~ drafted by Jakob Wolf

     Almost in all surrounding villages the cultural association already existed for some time, thanks again to the erection of a local group which emerged.  Starting in November 1933 the founding assembly took place. 

     One likes to search for the reason for the delayed establishment where one wants and they generally lose interest, or even care to write so they still stand as one, that the church singing group supposedly fulfilled all jointly formed and German cultural problems so that where a uniform public organization existed no more problems appeared to remain. 

     On the 26th of November 1933 the first proper main assembly convened at which the following leadership was elected: foreman Filipp Bensinger, deputy foreman Johann Röhrig, secretary Filipp Seibert, treasurer Jakob Kloß, and "Bücherwart" (librarian) Andreas Ries. 

     As the only possible activity for the time being came from the present leadership for the preparation of the lecture evenings and the loan for the library.  In this report year there were four lectures with the following themes: 1. "Luther's No" by Rev. Peter Scherer; 2. "Luther and the German Bible" by Rev. Wilhelm Müller; "Something from Our Homeland History" by Dr. Viktor Pratscher; 4. "A Travel Experience" by Friedrich Weber.  In this year the youth did not come to a performance because they were not approached.  The Reformed singing group performed a traditional costume festival which did not exactly happen in honor of the ancestors.  Already in just the same way the cultural association had neglected its problem here.

     Still in the same year, towards winter, a youth division was founded.  The youthful Fritz Weber, Filipp Peter, and Jakob Wolf were suggested.  The first leaders consisted of the following people: youth leader Fritz Weber, deputy-youth leader Filipp Peter, "Schriftwart" (secretary) Jakob Wolf, "Säckelwart" (treasurer) Wilhelm Bellmann, "Bücherwart" (librarians): Filipp Zuschlag and Johann Fiege.

     The youth began now at the same time with the preparation of the celebration of Union Day (1 December) and performed this celebration on the advise of the committee with both church choirs together.  Just as the youth had to give up on their work on it the youth home was closed because it still was not approved.  It was established once again on the 9th of December 1934.  The same leaders were elected again with the exception that youth leader Fritz Weber and secretary Jakob Wolf exchanged places.  Although already from all the beginnings over 50 members were admitted into the youth group and with them the membership climbed to over 80 members, which was still a disappointment because they thought of the group as something sociable and therefore they did not take the efforts of the group's leadership seriously.  It was also no wonder that fewer and fewer appeared, what a very lax group it was.

     First folksongs should be cared for and stage pieces should be performed.  From it one could hear musical film hits everywhere instead of folksongs and even in the cultural association they could only be sung a little.  Two performances were now performed again with both church choirs where the standard German folksong was still always missing and were replaced with quadraphonic songs.

     All in all three lectures were held in the years 1934-1935. 1. "Friedrich Schiller" by Rev. Wilhelm Müller, 2. "Upbringing and Work for the Youth" by Jakob Wolf, 3. "A Walk through the German History" by Rev. Wilhelm Müller.

     With the plight of the local Germans especially doubtful, the collective action "Brothers in Need" was carried out, through which the need was at least to some extent, relieved.

     At the main assembly of 1935 the following leaders were elected: foreman Filipp Bensinger, deputy foreman Jakob Juhn, secretary Friedrich Weber, treasurer Filipp Gutwein, and librarian Filipp Zuschlag.  The youth group leadership remained the same.  Here the members could be represented who will strive for something new, but still did not come to completely the same conclusion as the platform of the association.

     The first upswing in the youth group was first carried out in February 1935, as the well-schooled youth group from Torscha carried out a training course.  Through the comaraderie this group stimulated, they concluded to collect a small elite for a strong camaraderie.  A girls' group of 25 members could be sought through the preparations of the establishment.  The first female youth leader was Elise Wagner.  From this training the folk songs could be cared for much more and the right mind could be found for it sooner.  Also the old-fashioned folk dances are being introduced again in place of the exotic modern dances.  Besides that various games were introduced for the purpose of physical fitness.  The main working area of the cultural association now happened to be with the youth.

     At a meeting the idea could be supported that the youth group could now present an independent event which can be viewed as a first attempt of a union of folk problems by unified influences.  It formed a group which gradually understood that one has to place an organization that is no longer seasonal, like all the other associations, blossomed and again died out, but it applied to erect an association which oversees everything and is simply only German.

     In the report year 1935-36 there were six lectures: 1. "A People at their Work" by Vicar Heinrich Weitmann (Schidski Banovci), 2. "A Piece on Homeland History" by Dr. Viktor Pratscher; 3. and 4. "Technical Information about Animal Illnesses" by Matthias Jochum, veterinarian; 5. "Historical Development of the Architecture" by Kristian Schwindt; and 6. "Josef the German" by Rev. Ludwig Poth. 

     At performances two are listed which are both concerned about their definite and accurate tendencies.  Already the attitude of the youth appears, it is realized, in a new era of public interests.  The time of powerfulness and the heroic understanding of life has begun. 

     The folksong, just as the overall songs of fighters' attitudes and the companionship of belonging together are again heard much more often than earlier.  That is proof that the folksong, no matter how pleasing the round is,  it rises up again, lives, and follows in folks' footsteps. 

     Winter aid work was not done in this year in both congregations.  Each in their realm have carried out a collective work.

     When one notices the small achievements besides that, that in this time a fight raged about world view and attitude.  So it is the position of the people so far to conclude that it has been only a one-sided battle with the cultural association with its broad class of people among its members, almost without missing a statement.

     Also an inside renovation and adjustment to the future of a large people's community failed to materialize.

     Through the acquisition of a new library far more clarification could be achieved than through the previous lectures, which touched on most anyone's field, but the least in the service of the people's community and its advertising. 

     Through the active youth leader Karl Häußer another area of work was introduced for the youth: gymnastic exercises which also applied to physical exercises and gymnastics.  It was finally eliminated by the one-sided football game and through the useful fitness for the most part replaced young craftsmen.  

Close camaraderie of the youth in the Cultural Association

(From left to right:) Jakob Fetzer, Karl Ries, Filipp Bohr, Filipp Wagner, Johann Röhrig, Karl Schwebler, Georg Roß, Adam Moser, Georg Krebs, Michael Bohr, Karl Spangus, Johann Baschawerk, Adam Lehr, Jakob Kern, Filipp Fetzer, Hans Häußer, Jakob Wolf, Hans Weißmann, Hans Wagner, Jakob Kloß, Karl Häußer, Nikolaus Morell, Nikolaus Schmidt, Josef Karbiner, Margarethe Morell, Rosina Schübler, Margarethe Leibesberger, Katharina Ortag, foreman Filipp Wagner, Susanna Karbiner, Maria Schwebler, Margaretha Becker, Johann Ries, Georg Gutwein, Filipp Krebs, Leonhardt Krebs.

     At the main assembly of 1936 a completely new leadership was elected: foreman Filipp Wagner, deputy-foreman Kristian Welker, secretary Kristian Schwindt, treasurer Filipp Gutwein.

     The youth work now dwindled since being unified without an elected leadership anymore.  The foundation of the youth work is already laid.  Now it still asks itself if a way of reflecting is achieved or not through education and enlightenment.  From this whole development emerged that a correct inside renovation needed to be done and that it was preached not only by some and used to set an example, but that the constant call to all was also heard and must have been understood.  If there are still no ways of reflecting in the smallest villages, it all weighs together on the conscience, if it is to last long until they realize the will for self-preservation, and the true folk community will assert itself.  One only needs to go through the history of our ancestors so one will see that at first we showed very little fulfillment towards such an obligation. 

Source: The Germans of the Community of Feketitsch by Dr. Viktor Pratscher. Herausgegeben vom Festausschusz der Gedenkfeier.

[Published at 2004 by Jody McKim Pharr]