in Banat, founded in 1734 & remained a German Banat village until 1988


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The Last of the German Village Mercydorf

by Anton Zollner
Translated by Brad Schwebler

     The heath village of Mercydorf (today known as Carani; Mercyfalza or Karán in Hungarian), lies about 25 km north of Temeschburg (Timisoara) and was crossed by the district road Sankt-Andres-Perjamosch. The traffic in this village is very favorable and the above-mentioned through street which is about 4 km long connects to the Europa highway E-671 (DN 69) and both are asphalt roads.  In addition this essentially German village has a train connection which lies on the Temeschburg-Arad stretch.  The train station for Carani has been known around for some years as “Baile Calacea”, a health spa near Mercydorf.  Administratively Mercydorf is a village which belongs to the community of Sankt-Andre.  Until the administrative territory restructuring of the country by Ceausescus in 1968, Mercydorf was the community seat.  The village was named after the first president of the Banat country administration, Count Florimund Mercy.

   Mercydorf was established about 1733-1734 and so was one of the first colonial villages of the Banat (after Neu-Arad, Freidorf, Guttenbrunn, and Neu-Beschenowa).  The first settlers were Italians, who settled here to introduce silkworm breeding in the Banat.  They came with their priest Clemens Rossi who was not only the first pastor who established the parish in 1734, but also instructed the children in the settlement in the Italian language, mainly in religion, which was usual at the time.  According to Dr. Erich Lammert the French also settled in Mercydorf in 1752 and 1770, which led to language difficulties in the village and in the church.  After 1763 the village expanded with soldiers separated from service and Germans from Lorraine, so one would have to preach in three languages in church where the difficulties also existed for the pastors.  In time the German element was retained in the language of the mixed population and the Italian-French settlement transformed into a Swabian village.  This happened mainly around the turn of the century (18th-19th) as the first German schoolmaster with educational qualifications was signed on in the village school.

   According to Margot Limmer the population of Mercydorf consisted of 137 people in 1734.  In 1769 the number climbed to 869, and a year later it even reached the level of 1,288 people, and about 1771 it again sank to 812.  According to Dr. Lammert there were 191 homes here in 1778 and 114 school children, and in 1880 of the 2,064 inhabitants, 320 were students.  In 1910 there were 1,304 Germans living in the Swabian village, of which, it is interesting to note, 87 percent of the population registered were German people.  Up until the census of 1977 the percentage of Germans sank to about 35 percent; of the 1.991 inhabitants of the village only 690 people were still German.  By the census of 1992 not only did the number of Germans sink again, but also the total population.  Of the 1,695 known inhabitants 134 people were of German descent, the rest consisted of 1,425 Romanians, 68 Hungarians, and 68 others.  According to the Mercydorf H.O.G. in February 1996 there were still only 52 Germans remaining in the village.

   In the last two years “Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung für Rumänien (General German Newspaper for Romania) (ADZ) as well as two Romanian papers, “Realitatea banateana” (Banat Reality) and “Renasterea banateana” (Banat Born Again). The ADZ reported about some of the Germans who remained in the homeland village. One of them was the vice-mayor of the community of Sankt-Andres, Josef Hassil.

 The Mercydorf baker ran on the list of the Romanian Ecological Movement, and most of his fellow Romanian citizens gave him their trust.  In this office he tried to archive the best for his homeland village.  Above all he worked on connecting Mercydorf to the natural gas network, and after that renovated the cultural home and provided it with a director’s position.  The vice-mayor was satisfied with the number of work positions in the village.  Some were secured at the state mixed feed factory, at the mineral oil production firm, and at the bakery and others in the private work sector.  This included the milk collection station, a garage, a new mill, a hair salon, several gas stations and boutiques.  At the village edge there was a pond which the vice-mayor cleaned himself and made into a fish pond, and this assured for him his regular income.

   One other time the ADZ reported about the still sprightly Josef Minich, who cultivated his farmyard with his wife when he was 63 years old at the end of 1996.  His backyard at the time was full of poultry and his stables were full of cattle.  Every year he harvested a rich yield of vegetables, sugar beets, and corn.  Up to his retirement he worked for 38 years as an auto mechanic for the Temeschburg railway management.  His two sons also lived in Mercydorf: Andreas is a mathematics and physics teacher and Josef is the proprietor of a grocery store.  The question is, would he also like to leave his country to go to Germany?  He countered with another question: Should we get up and leave everything to search for a new beginning in a foreign land?  But life in Mercydorf can no longer be like that, as was the case some years ago, proven already by the fact that not once were the most sacred places affected by burglars or robbers which were considered too holy.  Yet in February 1997 the Catholic church which was richly decorated was robbed.

   The Romanian newspapers mentioned reported mainly about the new citizens of present day “Carani” in the last two years. In one of the report days it was reported how Lidia Vadim fled in the direction of Mercydorf in 1945 from Bessarabia before the Russians because she had heard that homes here were left standing empty after Germans were deported to Siberia.  At the time she moved into the house number 422 and lived in it for 50 years after that.

   Other new citizens had less luck, as for example the family Muraru who some years ago came here from Moldavia and earned his bread at the State Agricultural Firm (SLB = IAS).  The people from Moldavia arbitrarily occupied an apartment in house number 290 that belonged to the SLB, until one day after they returned from a visit in Moldavia they found all of their possessions in front of the apartment door.  Since then the family with two children ages 3 and 9 have lived in a corner of the entrance hall of the house, but at the same time they had a lease for an apartment in the bag, which was wantonly occupied by other new citizens.

   But for other citizens things went very well in this former Swabian village.  They are in house number 126 belonging to “employer” Petre Zabaria who also resides there.  Beginning in 1996 he lived according to the daily newspapers published announcements from predictions and from the work agencies in Austria and Germany.  But there was no work contract signed by him and he only had to pay 500 DM for an invitation to Austria or Germany.  The applicant then had to drive with a firm’s address in his pocket at some expense in the direction of “El Dorado” where they could get a moonlighting job at a building site after a certain probationary period or not. For the women he could only find work in Germany, but exclusively for a “certain trade”.  It seemed that the Romanian authorities had nothing to fear of the Mercydorf “enterprise” because its announcements were decoded the instructions for its complete address were published.

   Finally in 1996 the handicapped children of the community of Knees were reported in the “Realitatea banateana” as well as the ADZ.  In 1993 Sister Georgis from the “Poor Service Maids” from Dernbach (North Rhine-Westfalen) the building of the Catholic parish was furnished and called “St. Mary’s” house, which should serve as the daily place for the handicapped children from the whole community of Knees.  The eight children, of which five were severely handicapped, were entrusted by the administrator and governess Margareta Sabau, the religious teacher Simona Cristian, Corduta Buzdugan, and Mircea Sabau.  The most recent who served here had a variety of functions: he was a bookkeeper, cook, driver, woodcutter, and building cleaner.  He was also the same one who brought the children from their place of residence in the whole community each morning in the car to St. Mary’s house, where the handicapped were cared for and entrusted.  The food and lodging consisted of only two mealtimes which several lacked the money for.  Because of financial difficulties the house, which was established as a foundation, had to be taken over by the Caritas Association of the Roman Catholic diocese in 1995.  The Romanian government contributed absolutely nothing towards the upkeep of this place of care for the Romanian children, but St. Mary’s house did and does receive money exclusively from Germany, although this is always meager and seldom.  From the Romanian side only the orthodox pastor Sorin Ghilezan provided his contribution in which he was entrusted to the handicapped children to provide their pastoral needs.

October 1998 Anton Zollner

See: The End of the German Villages of the Banat Series


Mercydorf has a castle

Related links:

"The End of the German Villages of the Banat"
Series by Anton Zollner


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