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

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

Our History in Transition

 by Franz Gaubatz
(Das Donautal-Magazin Nr. 146, 2007.09.01, pp. 4-5.)
Translated by Nick Tullius
Published at by Jody McKim Pharr

          Our world view is subject to continuous change: rivers and streams are regulated, mountains are broken through, and roads are being built. Old buildings are replaced by new, spacious and large-scale constructions. What was still valid yesterday is clearly outdated today. Continuous change affects not only the world of science, but the arts and humanities as well. 

          For us Danube Swabians it is all about history. My study of history is connected with the year 1942, when no real textbook had yet been published. Everything was being re-interpreted and formulated, but especially important were the years, the battles and the names. After our relocation, I went back to school. But history, that teacher of humanity, had become a history of ideas. At the forefront were no longer powerful personalities and their achievements, especially on the battlefields; instead, the emergence of stirring ideas, their rise to glory, and their fading away, captivate our interest. 

          A few years ago, the English historian Toynbee gave a talk at a German University on the topic of "Can we learn anything from history?" According to him, we live in the 21st Cultural Epoch of humanity. He shared his thoughts about the future of our culture and recognized war as a monster escaping from our grasp. This monster must be brought back under human control, because the consequences of using today’s weapons are beyond imagination. 

          His conclusions: "Abolish war! I believe that the virtues that we must most urgently exercise in our world of today are first restraint, and second tolerance. Under restraint, I understand that we must get along with neighbours whose behaviour we sharply disapprove of or reject." 
The future must be consciously prepared and built together. The English scholar warns against carelessness. If mankind does not want to learn from history, then it is blinded and unable to learn, and will be suffering the consequences on its own body. 

          But what does all this have to do with us? We Danube Swabians do not have a state of our own. Can we still learn something from history? The optimists say: Yes! The people are good and willing. If they are enlightened, they will do the right thing. The pessimists believe that wars have been around at all times and they will never disappear; that power will always prevail against law! 

          The history of the Danube Swabians is rooted in a time when we wrote the history of states and the religious age had receded into the background. We were a piece of the Holy Roman Empire, then of Austria-Hungary. But the historiography of the time knew only a Hungarian and later a Greater German position. Today we are scattered all over the world and are contributors to our new home countries. 

          As an organization of the United Nations for Education, Science and Culture, UNESCO is seeking the cooperation of all 76 member states to eliminate hatred, discrimination and disparaging of foreign nations. In concrete terms, that means cumbersome, painstaking work for writers. Books will be assessed according to these guidelines and rewritten. History books are an especially sensitive chapter. A re-evaluation requires science-based work and negotiations with neighbouring peoples and so on. The same applies to geography books. 

          What should we be striving for in the future? Our reassessment of the literature and history is an educational task; it must be resolved in the broader context of world literature and world events. It hurts us when bad things are written about us, especially in foreign languages, and in writings that we hardly ever get to see. But our neighbouring peoples have an equal right to feel adversely affected by what we write about them. This is something that the authors of our local monographs (Ortsmonografien) and other historic literature must consider in future. 

          No human is infallible, and neither is any nation, not our host nations, nor we ourselves. The understanding between peoples and nations is a major undertaking, to which we can all contribute in the spirit of a united Europe. (...) Our view of history should be that of religious and moral realists, not that of aggressors or people rooted in phantasy. 

          History does not know sudden jumps. The crises do not mark sudden changes, but they abruptly reveal what has changed in the depth, below a seemingly stable surface. The crowd becomes petrified before the grotesque face of a changed reality. Now all that matters is that the spiritual leadership does not lose continuity with the past and does not lead their nations into an abyss. 

          Current and future generations are facing the highest demands. Old ties are dissolving, seemingly indestructible commandments no longer apply, existing values are tested, naive belief in progress becomes dangerous, and all conservative wishes must be rigorously examined as to their authenticity and freedom from special interests. On the other hand, a tendentious science is never more dangerous than in times when trends, passion and propaganda threaten to invade all fields of knowledge. All spiritual life is squeezed into a narrow path between the questions of what is left, and how much of the new is viable and truly more than just a symptom of crisis? 



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