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The Germans among the colonists settled along the middle course of the Danube in the 18th and 19th centuries were generally called Swabians (Schwaben in German, svabok in Hungarian, şvabi in Romanian; Švaba in Serbo-Croatian) by their neighbours, even though the majority of them did not come from the region of Swabia in Germany. Around 1922, following the dismemberment of Hungary and the tripartide division of its Germans, a consequence of  WWI,  the common designation Donauschwaben was coined. The designation Donauschwaben (Danube Swabians in English; a Dunamenti Svábok in Hungarian; Şvabii Dunăreni in Romanian; Švaba podunavski in Serbian) became generally accepted in literature and by the affected ethnic Germans themselves.


Settlements with either entirely or substantial German population
developed mainly in the following six areas
[1 p.82]:

  1. The Hungarian Highlands East of Raab/Györ, from the northern shore of Lake Balaton to the Danube bend, with the cities Ofen and Pest/Budapest (Bakony forest, Vértes/Schildgebirge mountains);

  2. The region of Swabian Turkey between Lake Balaton, Drau/Drava and Danube with the city of Fünfkirchen/Pécs (Branau/Baranya), Kaposvár/Ruppertsburg (Schomodei/Somogy), Bonyhád (Tolnau/Tolna);

  3. The Batschka, a fertile plain between the rivers Danube and Theiß with the cities Abthausen/Apatin, Neusatz/Novi Sad and Ulmenau/Bački Brestovac;

  4. The Banat, a fertile plain between the rivers Marosch, Theiß and Danube, to the ore-rich foothills of the southern Carpathian Mountains, with the city of Temeswar/Timişoara;

  5. The Sathmar region in the Northeast, on the river Krasna, around the cities of Sathmar/Satu Mare and Großkarol/Carei;

  6. Slavonia, a hilly area, and Syrmia, a swampy area, both bordering on Bosnia; with the city of Esseg/Osijek.

Danube-Swabian Settlement Areas

Background in History 

The title of Roman Emperor was first restored to Charlemagne by the Pope in 800. As the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (German: Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation, Latin: Imperium Romanum Sacrum Nationis Germanicć) it was an often-changing assembly of lands that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.

The Empire was formally dissolved on 6 August 1806 when the last Holy Roman Emperor Francis II abdicated, following a military defeat by the French under Napoleon. Even before his abdication, Francis became Emperor Francis I of Austria (1804). The Habsburgs ruled the Austrian Empire from 1804 to 1867, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867 to 1918.

The Habsburgs were the emperors of the German Empire when the Danube-Swabian settlements were established, but their family also acquired other land possessions that constituted the basis for establishing the Austrian Empire.

The Swabian settlement

In the battle of Mohács (August 29, 1526) the Hungarian army under King Louis II was defeated by the forces of the Ottoman Empire under Suleiman I.  The Ottoman Turks occupied Ofen (today Buda, part of Budapest) in 1541. The territory was divided into three parts [1 p.35]:

  1. The Kingdom of Hungary with Croatia and a narrow strip of the Western and Upper Hungary, ruled by the Habsburg emperor;

  2. The pashalik[i] Pest in the Great Hungarian plain, including Slavonia, which later spread to the North and West;

  3. The Principality of Transylvania under Turkish suzerainty, stretching out to the West and North of Transylvania proper.

Map of the Ottoman Empire

            More battles between the Emperor and the Turks took place throughout the 16th century. The Turks failed in their siege of Vienna and their defeat of the battle of Kahlenberg in 1683 proved to be a historical turning point in the history of South-Eastern Europe. [7]

The Treaty of Karlowitz (1699) allocated Transylvania, the Batschka, Slowenia and all of Hungary except the Banat to Austria, which became a great power. After more victories by Prince Eugene of Savoy, the Austrian general in the service of the Holy Roman Empire, the Treaty of Passarowitz (1718) gave possession of the Banat, Northern Serbia and other territories to Austria, making it the leading power in the Balkans. After a later encounter, Austria lost parts of these territories, but held on to the Banat. The borders established by the Treaty of Belgrade (1739) remained in effect until 1918.

After nearly a century and a half of Turkish occupation, many of the liberated territories acquired by the Habsburgs (Hungary, Transylvania, Banat and regions up to the Danube-Save region) were devastated and depopulated. The Imperial Court in Vienna was determined to develop these regions to reach their economic potential, through the recruitment of German settlers [3 p.14].

The first German settlers arrived during the final years of the 17th century, following direct invitations by private landowners. They settled primarily in the Hungarian Highlands, later in Swabian Turkey [3 p.15].

The following localities were settled:

Laskafalu (Lashkafeld) (1720), Himesháza (Nimmersch) (1722) in Baranya (Braunau); Závod (Saawet) (1720), Varsád (Waschad) (1716), Kismanyók (Klein Manyok) (1717) in Tolna (Tolnau); Kӧtcse (Kӧtsching) (1723) Felsӧ Mocsolád (Obermetschelad) (1725) in Somogy (Schomodei); and in the Hungarian Highlands (Schildgebirge) there were Tӧrӧkbálint (Grossturwall) (1700), Piliscsaba (Tschawa) (1725) in Pest (Pesth) and Vértesacsa (Atschau) (1720) in Fejer County.

The settlement of the Sathmar region was undertaken by Alexander Károly in 1712, when he recruited 1400 Swabians. Because of the unsatisfactory conditions, around 1000 of them returned to their homelands. More settlers arrived in the following years, so that eight settlements were created. Between 1712 and 1838 about 2075 Swabian families arrived in Sathmar. Although not very numerous, by the end of the 19th century, they were a prosperous and secure ethnic group [1 p.93].

In the Batschka, tradesmen and merchants first settled in Neusatz (1694). Settlers came to Baja (around 1715), Tschatalja (1729), Bukin (1749), Apatin (1750), Hodschag (1756), Kollut (1756). The settlement continued to a total of 13 settlements with either entirely or substantial German population, until 1771. Under Joseph II, 7 villages were added and German families settled in Hungarian villages, such as Bácsalmás, Gara, and Csávoly [1 p.88].

At the insistence of Prince Eugene, the Banat became an Imperial Province and remained under the military administration of count Claudius Florimund Mercy until 1751. It came under Hungarian administration in 1778. The Military Frontier District (Militärgrenze) created in 1765 only became part of Hungary in 1873 [1 p.89].

At the end of the Turkish occupation, the population of the Banat had shrunk to about 90,000 inhabitants, mostly Romanians and Serbs. The Magyar population had retreated deeper into Hungary [2 p.31]. Purely strategic and economic considerations prompted Count Mercy to settle German farmers, officials, craftsmen, and merchants, in addition to other nationalities. Tendencies towards Germanisation were unknown at that time [2 p.33]. The Imperial administration in Vienna organized three large settlement actions, the so-called Swabian Migrations (Schwabenzüge). Target areas were mainly the Banat and the Batschka.

The Swabian Migrations came to be known as
 "Der Grosse Schwabenzug" or "The Great Swabian Trek."

1.  The first Swabian Migration (1722 – 1726) under Karl VI

     Among the settlements established in the Banat were Perjamosch, Deutschsanktpeter, Neuarad, Guttenbrunn, Lippa around the fortress of Arad; fortress-style settlements Pantschowa, Kubin, Neupalanka, Neu-Orschowa (Ada Kaleh) and Mehadia; the towns of Werschetz and Weißkirchen; the villages of Ploschitz, Saalhausen, Langenfeld, Jasenowa, Rebenberg, Lagerdorf, Kudritz, Freudenthal, Suchenthal; the mining town of Neu-Moldowa and Mühlenbach near Orschowa [2 p.33].

     Around the fortress Temeswar, Jahrmarkt, Bruckenau, Freidorf, Ulmbach, Yschakowa, Wojtek, Detta and Denta; the cities Groß-Betschkerek and Lugosch; the villages Rekasch, Fatschet, Karansebesch; the mining town of Deutsch-Bokschan, Orawitza, Dognatschka, Galina and Häuerdorf.

     The total number of settlers was between 15,000 and 20,000 [2 p.35]

     A new war against the Turks (1787 – 1791) destroyed the settlements in the district of Neu-Palanka and lead to the loss of the North-Serbian district around Belgrade.

     Among the settlements that were established in Hungary were Nagyszékely (Gross Säckel), Kistormás (Klein Tormasch), Kurd (Kurt), Gyӧrkӧny (Jerking), Bikács (Wikatsch), Izmény (Isming), Májos (Majesch), Bonyhád (Bonnhad), Murga, Kalaznó (Gallas), Kéty (Ketsch), Szárázd (Scharasd), Keszӧhidegkút (Hidegkut), Gyӧnk (Jink), Morágy (Moragy), Hidás (Hidasch), Tófü (Toffu), Batáapáti (Abstdorf), Hӧgyész (Mercystetten), Páks, Tevél, Mucsi (Mutsching), Lengyél (Lengel), Tolna and Udvári in Tolna County; Bár, Kislippó (Lipewar), Máriakéménd (Keemend), Mekényes (Mekenyesch), Szalatnak, Újpetre (Raazpetr), Mecseknádasd (Naadasch), Lováshetény (Lovasch), Siklós (Schiklosch), Somberek (Scomberg), and Szajk (Seik) in Baranya County.  Kӧtcse (Kӧtsching), Felsӧ Mocsolád (Obermetschelad), Somogydӧrӧcske (Dӧrӧschke) in Somogy County.  Elék and Meszӧberény in Békes County.  Budaӧrs (Wudersch), Érd (Hanselbeck), Torbagy (Klein Turwall), Soroksar (Schorokschar), Solymasr (Schaumar) and  Ujpest (Neu Pesth) in the Budapest environs.  Dӧbrӧnte (Dewrenter), Németbánya (Deutsch Schütten) and Bakonyjako (Jaka) in Veszprem north of Lake Balaton. 

2.   The second Swabian Migration (1763 – 1773) under Maria Theresia

     New settlers moved into existing German villages. New villages were established: Billed, Hatzfeld, Sackelhausen, Schöndorf, Engelsbrunn; Tschatad, Großjetscha, Glogowatz, Grabatz, Bogarosch. In 1770: Albrechtsflor, Heufeld, St. Hubert, Kleinjetscha, Marienfeld, Mastort, Blumenthal, Segenthau, Reschitza. In 1771: Charleville, Soltour, Wiesenhaid, Altringen, Charlottenburg, Buchberg, Greifenthal, Königshof, Lichtenwald, Neuhof. In 1772: Gottlob, Ostern, Triebswetter. In 1773: Steierdorf and Anina. The total number of settlers was around 50,000 persons.  

3.    The third Swabian Migration (1782 – 1787) under Joseph II

     Many evangelical and reformed immigrants were settled on the state-owned estates of the Banat, Batschka and Slavonia. At the same time, the mining localities in the Banat, as well as the glass hut locations in the Bakony Forest, in the Mecsek Mountains, in Slovakia and in the Sathmar region. [3 p. 17]

     In 1778 the administration of the Banat was given to Hungary. The state-owned land was divided and sold to private individuals. The privileges of the settlers were taken away and they reverted to the status of serfs. Forty Swabian villages were sold and their inhabitants became serfs of the buyers. They had to perform free manual labour (Robot), provide carriage services, and deliver the ninth of their harvest in kind. After 1782 another 3000 German families were settled in six new villages. New settlers arrived under Emperor Franz II, establishing the villages of Karlsdorf (1803), Großscham (1809) and Franzfeld (1790 and 1802) [1 p.91]. The total number of settlers was around 45,000 persons. 

Total number of settlers



Settled by government

Privately Settled


Hungarian Highlands




Swabian Turkey




Syrmia and Slavonia




















Other sources give the numbers of settlers as 115,000 by government, and 35,000 privately settled [3 p.17].

When Croatia and Slavonia became part of Austria, Slavonia had about 140,000 inhabitants and Syrmia was practically depopulated. The first German settlers came to Peterwardein and Esseg. Because the country was still largely covered by bush and swamp, the rural settlement of the land occurred in a less planned fashion than in the Batschka. Between 1785 and 1787 the state settled Josefsfeld-Kula and Josefsdorf-Porec. A new part of Esseg (1792) and new German settlement took place in Neu-Passua, Karlowitz, Ruma and Bukowitz. During the 19th century, the new villages were settled and existing villages were reinforced by Danube-Swabians from the territories North of Drau and Danube (Swabian Turkey and the Batschka [1 p.92].

Development until the end of WWI

After their arrival in the Banat, many of the settlers were bitterly disappointed. They found an unusual climate, with hot summers and cold winters, with malaria and seasonal floods in the lowlands. After overcoming the initial difficulties of the colonization, the majority of the Danube Swabian settlements developed successfully. The principle by which only the first-born inherits the property, prevented the subdivision of their farms into smaller plots, as was common with other ethnic groups. The modern methods of intensive farming and animal husbandry introduced by the Danube Swabians proved very productive. Later on, many farmers increased their land holdings in their own villages mainly inhabited by Danube Swabians, as well as by land purchases in communities that were inhabited mainly by other ethnic groups. Eventually, the majority of Danube-Swabian farmers achieved a level of prosperity well above their neighbouring ethnic groups [5 p.4].

For the ancestors of the Danube Swabians, an important reason for emigrating was their life of hereditary serfdom with its ever increasing demands by their noble landlords. Those settled by the government (in the Banat and Batschka, for example) were “free farmers, with obligations only to their Emperor” [3 p.66]. When the Banat was placed under Hungarian administration (1778), there were attempts to reintroduce hereditary serfdom, as happened in 40 communities sold by the government to private landlords.

 In 1785 Joseph II attempted to modernize his Empire, by eliminating hereditary serfdom and making German the official language throughout the Empire. The latter started a never ending dispute over languages used in administration and promoted in sections of the Empire. For the various ethnic groups, the struggle for their own language became a symbol of the struggle for their independence. Under pressure from the Hungarian nobility, Joseph II had to retract those reforms shortly before his death in 1790.

The revolution of 1848 with Hungary declaring its independence from Austria, presented the Swabians a dilemma: they supported the abolition of hereditary serfdom, but they felt threatened by Magyar nationalism. In the Petition of Bogarosch (1849) the representatives of some 40 Banat villages professed their allegiance to the Emperor and asked for protection of their language and identity, similat to that accorded other nationalities. The administration in Vienna never acknowledged the petition.

The Compromise (“Ausgleich”) of 1867 converted the Austrian Empire into the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungarian. From that date until 1918, the resident Germans, Slavs, and other non-Hungarian nationalization were subjected to intensive efforts to assimilate them into Magyars (Magyarization) [5 p.4]

The villages of the Danube Swabians were mostly chessboard-shaped, with parallel streets intersecting at right angles with parallel cross streets. The fields were mostly small plots, often of 1 Joch (1.422 acres) size, scattered around the various terrains surrounding the village. This ensured that each settler received fields with different soil quality, and reduced the risk of total loss by hail, drought or flood for the individual farmer.

Early houses consisted of living room, barn and storage room, all under one roof. The walls were pounded clay. The ceiling was made of stringers and boards covered with clay. Because there was little wood, but reed and cane in abundance, the roofs were made of reeds and had a lateral overhang to protect the clay walls from rain. Around the mid-19th century, burnt brick replaced the clay walls and the roofs made of reeds. The houses became larger, with more rooms. The gables were decorated, and the name of the owner was integrated into the facade. Across the front yard, there was often a summer kitchen, sometimes with adjacent room for older family members. The hambar, an airy shed for drying and storing corn, could be located on top of a storage room for the wagon, or it could be free-standing.

 The village streets were very wide, up to 40 meters (130 feet), to prevent the spread of fire. All houses were aligned on a straight line along the street, the gaps between them being fenced in. An open corridor supported by pillars stretched along the courtyard. Behind the house were the utility buildings, such as barns, and behind them, the garden with vegetables, fruit trees and flowers.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the increasing scarcity of land and the resulting poverty in parts of the rural population, led to increased emigration. Between 1899 and 1913 about 200,000 Germans emigrated from Hungary, mostly to the USA. These included more than 90,000 Banat Swabians and 25,000 from the Batschka. [7]

 At the same time, there were also return moves by emigrants who had done well in America. The Danube Swabians from Batschka and Banat were overrepresented, a fact that contributed to further economic strengthening of those parts of the Danube Swabian community [5 p.5].

 In 1910, the undivided Banat had 390,000 Germans living in 130 communities (representing 23 percent of the population); the Batschka had 190,000 in 44 communities (24.5 percent); the Swabian Turkey had 150,000 (35 percent); Syrmia and Slavonia had 126,000 11 percent); Budapest had 80,000 (9 percent). [7] 

Between WWI and WWII

Before the start of WWI the Danube River basin already saw tendencies toward the formation of sovereign nation states. The assassination of Austrian Archduke and heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo, triggered WWI, which eventually led to the demise of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.

On November 1, 1918, in Temeswar, Otto Roth proclaimed the Banat Republic, as an attempt to prevent the division of the Banat. The short life of the Banat Republic was ended on November 15, 1918, when Serbian troops entered the city. 

On December 1, 1918 the National Assembly of Romanians of Transylvania and Hungary convened in Alba Iulia/Karlsburg and decreed the unification of those Romanians and of all the territories inhabited by them, with Romania. They voted a resolution on the "fundamental principles for the foundation of the new Romanian State": Full national freedom for all the co-inhabiting nationalities, each having the right to education, administration and judicial recourse in its own language, by individual elected from its own population. Unfortunately, the government of Greater Romania later on largely ignored those principles. However, elementary schools in the Banat villages and higher schools in the cities were allowed to use German as the language of instruction.

In December 1918 a Swabian National Council had been formed and sent its own delegation to the peace negotiations in Paris. On behalf of the 315,000 Banat Swabians, it asked for the preservation of a united Banat, but its request was ignored. In secret agreements, the Allies had pledged the Banat to both Romania and Serbia. At the insistence of France, they now agreed to divide the Banat.

The multi-ethnic axis countries were dismantled and separate territories were allocated to the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe, which however did not always coincide with the settlements inhabited by their people. The peace treaty of Trianon (1920) divided the regions with Danube-Swabian settlement and allocated them as follows:

  • The Banat to Romania (18,945 km˛ or 7315 square miles), partly to Serbia (9,307 km˛ or 3593 square miles), hence the naming of Romanian or Serbian Banat, a small part (217 or 84 square miles km˛) remained in Hungary;

  • Batschka, to Yugoslavia (now Serbia), a part remained in Hungary;

  • Syrmia and Slavonia to Yugoslavia (now Serbia  and Croatia);

  • Sathmar to Romania;

  • The Hungarian Highlands and the Swabian Turkey to Hungary.

About 1.5 million Danube Swabians were divided up between the successor states. Their subsequent development followed the different development of the three countries, which must now be considered separately. 


According to the Census of 1920, over 551,000 German lived in Hungary. Their first spokesman was Jakob Bleyer. As member of the Hungarian Parliament, he called for the establishment of a German school system and maintenance of the German language in the areas of German settlement.

            In 1930 the number of Germans in Hungary 480,000 according to official figures, but 650,000 according to the national group. [7]

The hesitant attitude of the Hungarian Government led to the Renewal Movement under the leadership of Franz Anton Basch. In 1938 Basch launched the Volksbund der Deutschen in Ungarn (VDU), which was recognized by the Hungarian government in April 1939. The program of this organization was strongly oriented towards the example of Nazi Germany, and exerted growing pressure on the Germans of Hungary to join the German armed forces.[1 p.26] 


By a later adjustment of the border (Belgrade, November 24, 1923) Modosch and Kudritz fell to Yugoslavia, Hatzfeld and Großscham to Romania. In 1920, as a member of the Romanian Parliament, Kaspar Muth issued a declaration of loyalty to the "new fatherland". The conservative Catholic-oriented "Deutsch-Schwäbische Volksgemeinschaft" was launched as a non-partisan association to represent all Germans in the Eastern Banat and Sathmar. Under Bishop Augustin Pacha, the Catholic Church played an important role in the cultural life of the Banat Germans. German-language schools developed, with the teaching staff primarily educated at the teachers' college Banatia in Temeswar.

When the Sathmar region joined Romania, there were 47,000 Sathmar Germans. Only 31,000 persons identified themselves as Germans, of whom only 22,000 were German-speaking.

Between 1921 and 1930, about 42,000 Swabians emigrated overseas, leaving 275,000 in the Romanian Banat. [7]  


In the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (also called Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes), in the former Southern Hungary, comprising the Western Banat, the Batschka, the Southern Baranya, Eastern Slavonia and Syrmia, lived around 450,000 Danube Swabians [5 p.9]. Because of different regional origin, social affiliation and cultural roots, the German population in Yugoslavia was not a homogeneous group. The lack of a single settlement area contributed to the lack of a coordinated policy among the various ethnic German groups.

In 1920 the Schwäbisch Deutscher Kulturbund (Swabian German Cultural Association ) was founded in Neusatz, and remained as a free and independent association until 1939. In October 1922 Agraria, the first Danube-Swabian cooperative was set up in Neusatz. Agraria expanded in the following years to become one of the most important institutions of the German movement in the Vojvodina. Under the leadership of Stefan Kraft and Ludwig Kremling, the Party of Germans in Yugoslavia (Partei der Deutschen in Jugoslawien) fought for the promotion of German educational institutions and for the official use of the German language.

Educational and cultural impulses also came from the Evangelical Church of Yugoslavia, constituted in 1930 under Bishop Philipp Popp. The Renewal Movement created a program that differed considerably from the principles of the old, mainly Catholic leadership in the Kulturbund. The center of the renewal movement shifted to the Croatian Slavonia, where it possessed its own newspaper Slawonischer Volksbote (Slavonian People’s Messenger). In 1939 Sepp Janko took over the agenda of the Kulturbund and proceeded to restructure the cultural and political institutions of the German minority in the direction of the Nazi ideology. [5 p.10]   

Number of Localities with German Majority of Inhabitants [1 p.147/8]  





Hungarian Highlands




Swabian Turkey-Hungarian Part




Swabian Turkey-Yugoslavian Part




Batschka-Hungarian Part




Batschka-Yugoslavian Part




Banat-Romanian Part




Banat-Yugoslavian Part




Banat-Hungarian Part




During WWII


After the Yugoslavian defeat in 1941 the Batschka and the Lower Baranya were returned to Hungary, which had joined the axis tripartite pact in 1940 under Miklós Horthy. His regime claimed all the prerogatives of a sovereign state and conscripted German men for military service into the Hungarian army. The conscripted Danube Swabians confronted an alternative: To become "volunteers" of the German armed forces, or to join the national army of their native country. Starting in 1941 and under threat of major reprisals, around 120,000 Germans from Hungary were recruited into the Waffen-SS . [1 p.26]

            About 32,000 Hungary-Germans died as soldiers in the German or Hungarian armed forces. About 50,000 were evacuated before the Soviets invaded, while 60,000 to 65,000 were deported to forced labour in the Soviet Union. 


In November 20, 1940, the Romanian Government under general Ion Antonescu passed a law that granted the status of a legal person to the "Deutsche Volkgruppe in Rumänien", to which all Germans in Romania automatically belonged as members. In May 1943, Germany signed an agreement with Romania, according to which all able-bodied Germans could be recruited into the German armed forces.  The Danube Swabians men could either become "volunteers" of the German armed forces, or join the national army of their native country. Due to the ideological convergence between Romania and the German Reich, the Banat Swabians found themselves in the wake of the Nazi policy on ethnic groups.

About 50,000 Banat Swabians died as soldiers in the German or Romanian armed forces. About 70,000 were evacuated to Austria and Germany in the fall of 1944. In January 1945, 40,000 to 50,000 were deported to forced labour in the Soviet Union, of whom little more than half returned, some to Romania and others to East Germany. [7]

Of the Sathmar Swabians, about 3,000 were evacuated before the Soviets invaded, while 6,000 were deported to forced labour in the Soviet Union. 


Before the German attack on Yugoslavia, many able-bodied Yugoslav Danube Swabians served in the Yugoslav army, fighting against the German troops. Many chose escape to Styria, Hungary or Romania, or went into hiding until the arrival of German troops. The Banat Germans either became citizens in the Wehrmacht-occupied Serbia, or came directly under German military administration. Syrmia became part of the independent State of Croatia.

In the period between 1941 and 1944, during the occupation of the Batschka, , the resident Germans, Slavs, and other non-Hungarian ethnic groups were subjected to intensive efforts of Magyarization. [5 p.4]

The 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division "Prinz Eugen" was a division of the Waffen-SS, which was established in 1942 primarily in the northern Serbian Banat, from the ranks of the able-bodied German men of the German Military Administration Area Serbia (Vojvodina East of the Theiss River). Although the initially introduced term "Volunteer Division" was maintained later on, the first recruiting calls already indicated that the recruitment of "volunteers" would soon be extended to the ethnic Germans of Croatia, Romania and the Hungarian part of the Vojvodina.

In 1944, before the Red Army invaded and the partisans took control, just over half of the 510,000 Danube Swabians living in Yugoslavia at the beginning of the war were able to escape to the West. Included are 90 percent from Syrmia and Slavonia, about half from the Batschka and the Baranja triangle, and only about 15 percent from the western Banat. [7]

 After WWII


The Potsdam Agreement between the Allies provided for the expulsion of the Danube Swabians from Hungary to Germany or Austria. As a result, between 1945 and 1948 approximately 250,000 Hungary-Germans were expropriated and expelled. About 6,000 of them died during transportation [7]. The remaining Germans only received identity cards in1950. The Association of Hungary-Germans was founded in 1955.

The Danube Swabians in Hungary were once again subject to a strong Magyarization. There were hardly any German schools, so that a "silent generation" grew up, which did not master the German language, but just understood the dialect. From the mid-1980s, German was introduced in several schools, and research in the field of folklore and dialects was made possible. After the end of communism, more German associations were formed. In November 1995, 164 German self-administrations were formed. Like other minorities, the Danube Swabians remaining in Hungary are, both linguistically and culturally, largely integrated. Of the 650,000 Danube Swabians present in 1940, in 1990 only 220,000 still lived in Hungary. [1 p.27] 


Through the Romanian agricultural reform of March 23, 1945 (Decree No. 187) the German population was collectively dispossessed (expropriated). More than 90 percent of the total agricultural holdings of the Banat Swabians became property of the state. The electoral law of July 14, 1946, excluded the Germans from the right to vote, even though all Romanian citizens without distinction of race, nationality, language and religion had been assured of the equal rights. In1948, the Romanian Workers Party adopted a program addressing the concerns of the German minority in the sense of Communist social theory.

The constitution of September 24, 1952, guaranteed to the national minorities the use of their mother tongue in public life and as a language of instruction, the publication of literature in their mother tongue, and the development of their own art and theatre. Nevertheless, in 1951, about 10,000 of them were deported, together with other nationals, to the Baragan steppe in South-Eastern Romania. They were allowed to return five years later.

 After 1954 the post-war provisions against the Germans were gradually lifted. In 1956 the Romanian State returned the bulk of the houses expropriated in 1945 to their former German owners. The Communist State secured itself the effective supervision over the Germans still living in Romania in1966, by fully taking over the German-language press in 1968-69. Apart from the Communist cultural work, the German ethnic group had the opportunity, within state-prescribed limits, to maintain their customs, festivals and traditions.

In 1978, the Federal Republic of Germany signed a joint declaration with the Romanian regime, containing concessions in bilateral travel and family reunification. The emigration of Germans from Romania was promoted by Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu until 1989, as a source for the acquisition of foreign currency. Only some members of the older generation often decided to remain in Romania.

During the following decades, tens of thousands were resettled in Germany. After the revolution of 1989 led to the execution of Ceauşescu and the fall of his regime, Germans were free to leave. More than 160,000 Germans left Romania, about half of them Banat Swabians. [7]

The emigration of the Sathmar Swabians was less pronounced than that of the Banat Swabians, so that today they remained relatively better represented in their settlement area. [1 p.25]  

Added since publication: The Fate of the Germans in the Banat After the Coup of August 23, 1944, and until their deportation in the Bărăgan-steppe in June 1951 by Wilhelm Weber, 2001. Translated and Edited by Nick Tullius 21 Apr 2014


In 1944/1945, about 195,000 Swabian civilians remained under the regime of Communist dictator Tito. More than 7,000 civilians were murdered in 1944. About 12,000 Danube Swabians, including 8,000 women, were deported to forced labour in the Soviet Union. By 1949 an estimated 2,000 of them had died. Almost all of the remaining 170,000 suffered expropriation and were detained in work camps and starvation camps. Some 50,000 of them died within three years as a result of hunger, sickness and shootings. Thousands of children were taken from the camps and placed into children’s homes, becoming subjects to assimilation. Before the camps were broken up in 1948, about 35,000 were able to escape to Hungary and Romania.[7]

Of the 425,000 who had survived in the West, 190,000 found a new homeland in Germany, 80,000 in Austria, and 35,000 overseas.[7] 


Of the 1.4 million (other sources say 1.5 million) Danube Swabians alive in the year 1940, about 1,235,000 survived the war, expulsion and internment. Of these, about 40 percent, or 490.000 survive in the year 2000. Between 1970 and1990, the vast majority of those that survived after 1945, about 810,000 people, have found a new homeland in the German-speaking countries, about 660,000 in Germany and about 150,000 in Austria. For the resettlement overseas (since 1920) the following numbers appear reasonable: 70,000 in the USA,  40,000 in Canada, 10,000 in Brazil, 6,000 in Argentina, and 5,000 in Australia. More than 10,000 Danube Swabians have resettled in other countries worldwide. [6 p.34]

According to the 2011 census, the population of Romania was as follows:



















[1] Innenministerium Baden-Württemberg (1987): Die Donauschwaben, Deutsche Siedlung in Südosteuropa, Sigmaringen

[2] Valentin, Anton (1959): Die Banater Schwaben, München

[3] Senz, Ingomar (2005): Die Donauschwaben, München

[4] Dama, Hans (Publisher) (2007): Österreich und die Banater Schwaben, Wien

[5] Donauschwaben (2013)  http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donauschwaben

[6] Gehl, Hans (2003): Donauschwäbische Lebensformen an der mittleren Donau

[7] Zentrum gegen Vertreibungen (2013) http://www.z-g-v.de/index1.html

[8] Karl Beel (2001) Tscherwenkaer Heimat-Zeitung, Folge 37, Jahrgang 15

[9] Henry Fischer – Summarized from local monographs

[i] Pashaluk or Pashalik (Turkish: paşalık) is a term for one type of the Subdivisions of the Ottoman Empire.


Last Updated: 25 Feb 2021

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