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Donauschwaben & the Baragan-Steppe

Published at DVHH.org 2003 to 2006 by Jody McKim Pharr

"Und über uns der blaue endlose Himmel"
"And Over Us The Endless Blue Sky"

by Wilhelm Weber
Photos by Jakob Thöres

The following excerpts and images are taken from the book
"Und über uns der blaue endlose Himmel"
© copyright 1998, published by Hans Kock Buch und Offsetdruck GmH, Bielefeld, Munich for Landsmannschaft der Banater Schwaben.
e-published at the DVHH with their kind permission.
Extracts & captions translated and contributed
Alex Leeb, 2003

Donauschwaben & the Baragan-Steppe
by Alex Leeb

     The twentieth century will also become known as a century of forced evictions. The Banater Swabian where twice victimized of Deportation, in January 1945 to the Soviet Union and in June 1951 in the Baragan-Steppe. These were events which shook the communities and their foundation, which brought inexpressible sorrow over many families.

     Before their deportation in 1951, the Banater Swabians were ignorant about about the eastern part of the Romanian lowland, known as the Baragan, except for geography books and the reports of military men who served in cities bordering it. 

      No tree grows on the surface of this land. A water well is so far away, one could die of thirst half way walking to it. The inhabitants of the Baragan always kept hoping that someone would come along and teach them how to make a better life in the Baragan where there is no water and nothing grows but thistles.  In less than a week the thistles cover the whole land.

     Once winter comes, the herdsman leaves this God-forsaken place and goes home. The land is then covered with white fur and goes to sleep for six months. Nobody lives there for six months. This is the Baragan. 

     The deportation started in January 1945 and some 75,000 Germans from Romania were forced to work in the labor camps of the Soviet Union.  The steps taken included arrest, internment, ill treatment and indiscriminate murder of the Germans.  About 11,000 died in the labor camps of the Ukraine and the neighboring Urals, as a result of  horrible working conditions, diseases and food shortage.  German women between the ages of 18-32 and German men between the ages of 17 and 45, were supposed to be included, but many younger or older ones were often deported.  In many cases small children were left behind without fathers or mothers.  Those children taken in by relatives or friends, or receiving help from religious groups, were the lucky ones.

      All who stayed behind had to endure a difficult times.  Land, houses, cattle and all agricultural machines were taken away without compensation.  Romanians from other regions took over the homes of the Germans, and now played the role of landlord and employer for the previous owners.  


     Romania implemented a 25 km (16 miles) security zone along the Yugoslavian border.  On the eve of June 17, 1951, (Pentecost Sunday) soldiers and other government officials marched into dozens of  Banat villages. The plan was to deport all inhabitants who were landowners or had  been involved in politics.  One policeman and four assistants went from house to house at two o'clock in the morning, knocking on the doors of the people who were on the deportation list.  A document issued by the Romanian Government was to be read, stating the orders to be followed.

     The order began: "By ten o'clock in the morning you must be ready to leave."  They were not told where they were going.  Since the youngest person  to be deported was six weeks old and the oldest was 92, they knew it would not be Russia again.  Each family was allowed to bring with them two horses, one cow, two hogs, five chickens, feed for the livestock and one cart.

     The fully armed soldiers escorted them to the railroad station, where their belongings were loaded into a boxcar  that could be attached to a freight train.  In some cases, there were two or three families in one boxcar. Once they and their belongings were loaded onto the boxcar, they could never leave the boxcar to return to their homes or visit relatives.  The boxcars were surrounded by soldiers with machine guns.  After being locked up with their livestock for a day and a half in the heat, the train finally began to roll out of the train stations.  Heading eastward, the train passed through Temeswar, then through Transylvania, toward an unknown destination.  It was very hot in the boxcars and the livestock was getting restless from thirst.  After the train left Bucharest heading toward the Danube, the relief showed on their faces, as they were now certain that their destination was not Russia. The train traveled a few more days and nights before it came to a stop.  There, they had to unload everything from the freight train. They discovered that their new home, without any signs of civilization and without water, was the Baragan steppe


Wilhelm, WEBER.  Und über uns der blaue endlose Himmel.  Munich: Hans Kock Buch und Offsetdruck GmH, Bielefeld, 1998.

The Baragan-Steppe on a map

Baragan Images

The New House Plans

House plans for their new house in Baragan. 

Banater-Schwaben-in the process of building their home in the Baragan-Steppe.
Here we see making bricks from sod. In he background is their hut built from straw.
Photo taken by: E. Klein

Banater-Schwaben building a house. Even in the Banat, whenever a big project was scheduled, the Schwaben always worked as a team. Here we see a sod house being built by tamping the sod. Women also assisted, wearing dresses.  Photo taken by: E Blassmann


On a hot summer in June, 1951, this Schwaben group from Banat are in the process building one the relative's house. Forms are build from wood, then dirt carried from close by. Straw is mixed with dirt then tamped by hand.
Photo taken by: J. Thöress

Water is essential for survival but also was needed for building sod houses. After a well was dug, a tri-pot was built over the well, in order to pull the water up. In the back ground, a house built by Schwaben.
Photo taken by: E. Blassmann

Here we see bricks built with sod. Wooden rectangles built, the filled with sod. Sod is made from dirt, straw and water. The forms filled sod for a few days, then taken out of forms laid in the sun for another few days to dry.
Photo taken by: A. Kupi

Banaters-spending their first night under the Baragan-Steppe. No water, no civilization in sight. Their first house in Baragan-Steppe, a hut built for the baby.
Photo taken by: Ing. J. Pierre

All in one - bedroom, kitchen & dining room under the Baragan blue sky.
Photo taken by: W. Kastori


A mother watching her little infant sleeping in a crib under the Baragan-Steppe sky.
Photo taken by: Ing. J. Pierre

This gentleman from Billed is taking a rest after building his hut from furniture blankets and straw. He was hoping no wind will come and destroy his hut. He claims, this is different than sitting in front of your own house in Billed.
Photo taken by: Ing. J. Pierre


Lady from Neubeschenowa, planting a garden beside their hut in Baragan.
Photo taken by: V. Wagner

This Lenauheim group worked together to built their houses. Even little children assisted.
Photo taken by:
E. Klein

Furniture was placed in a rectangle position, then covered with plackets and other larger material to build their huts. Photo taken by: Ing. J. Pierre

Schwabians had no problem adapting to the new style of living.
Everything was done in the open, cooking & washed clothes were laid on the grass to dry.
Photo taken by:
Ing. J. Pierre

House built from sod bricks, is just about ready to move in.
Photo taken by: H. Dietrich

The Schwaben knew they had to have their house built before winter set in.
Photo taken by: A. Tendler


Last Updated: 04 Feb 2020

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