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

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

Chapter 3

The fruitful land between the Danube & the Theiß

By Josef Schramm
Translation by Brad Schwebler

     The region in the middle of the Danube came under Hapsburg ownership at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries.  At the time wide stretches of the land were swampy and almost devoid of people.  The emperor in Vienna wanted to see this stretch of land in the neighborhood of the Turkish border settled and called on people of different nations under the dominion of the crown.  Families and clans came from the present day lands of France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and besides that accepted refugees from Turkey: Croatia and Serbia.  The people must first create their new homeland through hard work.  The consciousness of these achievements connected the south Pannonian people, completely the same as the language or religion they belonged to.  The Hungarian speaking people called their new homeland “Délvidék” and considered themselves as a new branch of Hungarians.  The Slovakian speaking people called the land “Vojvodina” and themselves “Vojvodjani”.  The German speaking people formed the new branch of Germans called the Donauschwaben.  These three groups determined the economical, cultural, and political life of the south Pannonians.  The political leadership lay at times with one, at times with the others.  Like in the other Donauschwaben settlement regions, people also lived in the Batschka until World War II peacefully next to each other.  Then began the days in which all people between the Danube and the Theiß have suffered and the Donauschwaben were the actual victims of the national hate. 

The Land
Position and shape of the upper surface 

   Under the description Batschka one understands that flat land which lies between the Danube and the Theiß, west of the Banat and north of Syrmia.  The geographical latitude of the Batschka is somewhat south of South Tirol, it’s geographical longitude corresponds to that of the Danzig (Gdansk) Bay.  The name Batschka come from the place name Batsch an der Moostung, and this goes back either to an Avarish personal name Bech, Betsch, or to the middle age family of Bach, Baach.  How is it also that neither “Bachland” nor “Batser Ländl” caught on, so that in the German language the not completely simple pronunciation “Batschka” was customary.

   With a surface area of 10,781 square kilometers the Batschka is about as large as upper Austria or rather the governing district of North Württemberg and Lower Bavaria.  The population in the Batschka also corresponds fairly closely with those of upper Austria and Lower Bavaria.  Also the population density is similar in these three lands with about 80 – 90 people per square kilometer.

   The level countryside may appear very monotonous to strangers.  But the expert can also notice some differences in the shape of the upper surface.  Along the Danube and the Theiß one finds a narrow strip of young alluvial Aulands.

   In the natural condition we have at this riverside bushes (willows) or low woods, Schilf (reeds), Rohr (reeds), and swamp.  Where the Auland is cultivated one sees oil seeds, hemp, and vegetables.  The Auland lies about 80 meters above sea level.

   Some meters above the Auland lies the Batschka Unterterrasse (under terrace).  Here is the work of the river, especially at the times of great flooding, the formerly existing yellow silt and also in places the white drifting sand washed out and in its place fine, humus rich water particles were deposited.  This low terrace was formerly flooded in wide stretches, only a few silt tips jutting out were free of water and had a tree stand (oak, hornbeam), while in the amp areas bushes, undergrowth (blackberries), Shilf reeds, Rohr reeds, and tuft grass grow.  The drier stretches of land, where the flooding was only for short a duration, had a wooden steppe vegetation.  Here the people of the land have extensively reshaped it so one has the impression by a view above the low terrace as they were one individual giant agricultural surface with wheat, corn, and some specialized crops.

   With a pronounced, 10-15 meter high steep edge a gentle rolling Lößplatte  (silt plateau) raised itself above the low terrace.  This fine grainy yellow earth which was deposited by the wind, by the lake, by the seas, and rivers was deposited, consisting of several meters of enormous yellow silt layers and then a few enormous layers of humus, clay, or yellow silt clay.  The natural vegetation on the yellow silt plateau was dominated by steppe meadows.  In places where the ground water was favorable there were also bushes and bunches of trees.  Also this landscape was completely changed by the people, above all in places a cultivated wheat steppe entered the steppe meadows.

   In the north of the Batschka one finds how spread out on the yellow silt plateau, the Sandgebiet (sand region) consists essentially of sand dunes.  These dune combs run from northwest to southeast, corresponding to the wind direction of the post ice age.  The difference between mountain and valley is more pronounced than in the Löß, and so we find in these dunes the highest elevations in the Batschka, which is called the proud Bleiberg (Olomhegy) and reaches a whole a whole 174 meters above sea level.  In its natural state drifting sand vegetation is found here which were then transformed by people into vineyards and fruit gardens.

   Already the fleeting characterization of the Batschka’s great landscape: Auland, low terrace, Löß plateau, and sand region were perhaps enough to show that this land by nature was not very richly equipped.  Man searched here in vain for gold and silver, for ore and gems.  First man made one of the poorest lands into a rich land by his draining and clearing, by his plow and his seeding.  In this way it would be altered from its original appearance much more than in other lands.  There is hardly a spot where one can see the puszta of his dreams, and nevertheless the land has its charm, just because one can notice how man has reshaped the land. 

[Published at 19 Sep 2005 by Jody McKim Pharr]

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The fruitful land between the Danube & the Theiß