Henry Fischer

Swabian Turkey
Home of the Danube Swabian for over 200 years.


Villages Helping Hands
Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

Repopulating Hungary with Germans

(Focus on the manorial estate of Bóly of Baranya County in Schwäbische Turkei)

A review of Karl-Peter Krauss'
Deutsche Auswanderer in Ungarn: Ansiedlung in der Herrschaft Bóly im 18. Jahrhundert

by Samuel Goldberger
Published at dvhh.org 18 Oct 2020 by Jody McKim Pharr

Following the advice of St. Stephen, first Christian king of Hungary, to his son St. Imre to promote diversity to ensure the well-being of the realm, various rulers of Hungary over the following centuries invited non-Magyar groups to settle. In times of perceived need, various waves of German settlers were invited into Hungary from the West, to develop agriculture and crafts, to establish mining operations, and to promote urbanization. First, not surprisingly, they were settled in the agricultural areas along the western border. Subsequently, in the High and Later Middle Ages, they were settled in the mountainous area of Szepes County (Zips) in northern Hungary and in Transylvania (Siebenbürgen). Finally, during the eighteenth century, settlers referred to generically as Swabians or, since World War I in the successor states of Old Hungary, as Danube Swabians (Donauschwaben) came from western and southwestern regions of Germany to repopulate agricultural areas of Hungary devastated by the wars between the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Turks.[1] The settlers who left Germany for Hungary in the eighteenth century numbered originally about 150,000 individuals. By the end of World War II, when they were subjected to ethnic cleansing by the governments of Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia, the Donauschwaben numbered about 1.5 million and constituted the largest German cultural group in southeastern Europe. The migration of the Swabians from Germany and the character of their settlement in Hungary is the subject of the present study by Karl-Peter Krauss, written originally as a doctoral dissertation in the field of historical demography.

Within the principal areas of settlement of the Swabians, Krauss selected the area known as the schwäbische Turkei, the area bounded by Lake Balaton on the north, the Danube River on the east, and the Drava River on the south. The term was applied originally to a more limited southern area within these bounds--the lower part of Baranya County/Komitat Branau. Although Krauss's study examines primarily the original schwäbische Turkei, he generalizes always about the larger area, which he refers to more frequently as "southeast Transdanubia." More specifically, he focuses on the manorial estate of Bóly within the original schwäbische Turkei, for a number of reasons. Unlike many of the other Swabian settlements in this period, all the settlements made in the twenty-seven villages of the Bóly estate are still within the borders of the Republic of Hungary. The records for Bóly are relatively more complete than for many others, and Krauss was conveniently able to confine his research in Hungary to archives in two cities--Pécs and Budapest--besides consulting various archives on his home turf in southwest Germany and in Vienna. In his introductory chapter on aims and methods, Krauss states, furthermore, that he selected the manorial estate of Bóly because, with its mix of ethnic groups and confessions and the way it was set up and managed, it reflected well the complexity of southeast Transdanubia in the eighteenth century (p. 9).[2]

Karl-Peter Krauss does an excellent job of outlining the economic and social framework within which the manorial overlords of the Batthyány family (typical of Hungarian magnates of this period) carried out the settlement of Bóly. History textbooks dealing with the Swabian settlement in Hungary tend to focus on the areas of the Banat and Bacska, where colonization was largely state-directed, thus giving the false impression that all the repopulating work of the eighteenth century was a centralized activity of the Habsburgs. A most valuable aspect of this study is the way in which it highlights the entrepreneurial and market-oriented strategy which led private landowners, Hungarian aristocrats, to carry out their own settlement activity in the schwäbische Turkei. Although some other landlords initiated sporadic resettlement in this area with German colonists even earlier, Krauss confines his study to the years 1720-67, when members of the Batthyány family carried out the most intensive settlement of Germans on the Bóly manorial estate.

Many Hungarian aristocrats gained their wealth through loyalty to the Habsburg dynasty during Hungary's civil wars and wars of religion, and through military service in the Habsburg wars against the Ottoman Turks. Thus, Emperor Leopold I granted the Bóly estate to Count Adam Batthyány II (1662-1703) in 1700 for outstanding service in the recently concluded war ending in the Treaty of Karlowitz.[3]

In the first of a series of tables showing the number of tenants subject to taxation at different times, Krauss makes it clear that the communities of the Bóly manor were not unpopulated prior to colonization with German immigrants, another of the misconceptions about the subject of German immigration which his study corrects (p. 78). The communities of the estate already had as tenants small numbers of both Hungarian and Croatian peasants and Serbian livestock herders. Following the early death of Count Adam, the Bóly manor passed into the control of his widow Countess Eleanora Batthyány-Strattmann (1677-1741), who resided alternately in a city palace in Vienna and at a seventeenth-century Batthyány castle in Rechnitz/Rohonc (then in Hungary, now in the Austrian province of Burgenland). Under Countess Eleanora the first German colonists arrived, but Serbs also continued to arrive at the manor as they had earlier, and the different ethnic groups were settled in the same communities.

In 1738, Countess Eleanora Batthyány-Strattmann signed in Rechnitz a "provisional" contract for the settlement of German colonists in the town of Bóly. This agreement is one of two for the German settlements of the Bóly manorial estate that remain extant, and it appears to have become a template for all the others concluded subsequently, not only for the Bóly manor but also for other manors of southeast Transdanubia. Krauss refers to it often in his study.[4] Countess Eleanora was ambitious to increase the landholdings in her line of the family; before her death she acquired through successive royal grants or through purchase two other manorial estates adjacent to the Bóly estate--Siklós and Üszög. Until her death, whatever net income Bóly yielded was remitted to her accounting office in Rechnitz.[5] The lords and lady of the Bóly manor appointed a series of managers (Hofrichter), and regular visits by inspectors from the accounting office were made to the estates acquired by this line of the family.

Countess Eleanora's younger son, Count (later Prince) Karl Joseph Batthyány [Batthya'ny] (1698-1772), received the three contiguous manors upon his mother's death in 1741, and he moved the accounting office from Rechnitz to the town of Siklós, where he carried out a thorough reconstruction and renovation of the Renaissance castle fortress there which had been badly damaged in the wars with the Turks.

Krauss makes the important point that the onset of a long period of rising grain prices in Europe gave Hungarian aristocrats an incentive to promote agriculture; this had become clear by the final years of Countess Eleanora, but her son Count Karl Joseph was the first to act upon this in a systematic way, when in the mid-1740s one set of tenants considered less desirable--the Serbian pastoralists--began systematically to be moved out and to be replaced with Germans. With this new policy, the Bóly manor became vastly more productive and a major contributor to the income of its lord.[6]

This development coincided with the willingness of many persons in the southwestern and western regions of Germany to emigrate. Because of population increase and patterns of inheritance, it was becoming far more difficult and expensive in these areas to acquire farmland and to become successful peasant-farmers. Southeast Transdanubia constituted a frontier area where land was more available, and those who were landless or had insufficient land could achieve a social status and respectability becoming much more difficult to attain in Germany.

Krauss's tables, pie charts, and bar graphs reinforce his conclusions about private enterprise, on the part of both manorial lords and German immigrants, showing a great increase, both in the number of tax-paying tenants and in the number of tenants with German names, in the period under study (pp. 78, 93, 96-97, 100-101, 104, 106). Whereas in 1720 the entire manorial estate had only 263 tax-paying tenants, 67 percent of whom had Serbian or Croatian names and the remainder Hungarian names, Bóly manor in 1767 had 1,412 tax-paying tenants, of whom 56 percent had German names, 31 percent South Slavic names, and 13 percent Hungarian names. There was not only a proportional but also an absolute decline in the number of Serbian tenants. At the same time both the total revenue of the manorial estate of Bóly and the sources of that revenue changed greatly. A chart shows that, while in 1734 total revenue amounted to 3,227 Hungarian gulden, gained mostly from ground rent and the sale of wine to tenants, in 1758 total revenue came to around 30,000 gulden (ten times as much), most of which came from grain sales, with wine and ground rent also continuing to be significant (p. 122). Another chart illustrates that the "bottom line," i.e., the amounts of money remitted from the Bóly manor to the Batthyány accounting office, first in Rechnitz, later in Siklós, increased more than six times, with the highest remittance occurring during the War of the Austrian Succession, when grain prices were especially high (p. 124).

Chapter 6, about the lifestyle of the Swabian settlers, is the most poignant of Krauss's study. It is also highly valuable for readers who have not read previously about the Swabian settlement in Hungary from the perspective of the immigrants' struggles and experiences. In this chapter, as in others, Krauss has shown how historical demography can enrich the understanding of history.[7] Life was arduous, and survival fraught with peril, for many German settlers in the early decades. Undrained swamps were breeding places for disease, nor had the settlers anticipated the sometimes-violent conflicts with other groups already settled on the Bóly manorial estate. Even in a century when life expectancy was considerably lower than today in Germany (or Hungary for that matter), it was lower in the frontier area of southeast Transdanubia than in the immigrants' homeland. The records show many settlers remarrying very soon after the death of a spouse (how else to continue a household or to raise children?) and sometimes soon remarrying again. Very often, because of multiple deaths and remarriages, children in these blended families found themselves in the care of parents, neither of whom was a biological parent. Remarriages between spouses of highly disparate ages were also quite common.

In chapters 5 and 6, as well as others, Krauss shows how private enterprise worked out for the immigrants. Unlike other areas of Hungary where settlement was state-directed, many of the German settlers of the Bóly estate actually surveyed and laid out their own lots. Even though the latter, as opposed to those who were taking over a lot previously occupied by someone else, were usually granted the incentive of three years' exemption from taxes, not all the immigrants brought with them sufficient means to become successful peasant-tenants. Social mobility was much greater than in the land the settlers left, but there was also the possibility of social failure. A man who had been a tailor or herder of sheep or pigs could rise to become a proud peasant farmer, a Bauer, but when personal disasters struck movement also occurred in the other direction. Many of the settlers became cottagers, building and occupying a house but working for wages or exercising one of the many skilled trades in demand on the estate.

Finally, in chapter 8, Krauss traces the buildup of tension between the subjects of the Boly estate and their manorial lord, Prince Karl Joseph Batthyány, in the years leading up to 1767. As the estate prospered, the lord and his agents erected numerous manorial buildings of all sorts, both to better administer the estate and to produce more income; the greatest concentration of these buildings was in the Swabian town of Bóly (table, p. 220). Every opportunity was employed to compel the subjects of the estate to contribute their unpaid labor to construction work and teamster work. In general, also, as the population of the manor grew denser, opportunities for interference of the lord's agents in the lives of his subjects multiplied. Tension grew even more as it became known that Hungarian Queen Maria Theresa intended to regulate land-registers to standardize the obligations of subjects to lords. After a secret meeting of the German subjects of the Bóly estate in July 1766, peasants began to employ passive resistance and delaying tactics when demands were made by the lord's agents. By September 1, nine thousand tenants of estates in Baranya County, armed with sticks, were gathered in protest at the castle fortress in Siklós. Soldiers, who had been brought in, at first shot over their heads but ended up shooting into the crowd and killing twelve protesters before the rest dispersed. The "uprising" dissipated.

In a final statement, Karl-Peter Krauss points out that most of the activists involved in the incidents of July-October 1766, at least on the manorial estate of Bóly, were the better-off and more successful German settlers. After the royal regulation of land registers, the Urbarium of 1767, came to pass, neither lords nor peasants in southeast Transdanubia gained everything they wanted, but tensions eased considerably. With limitless demands for compulsory labor restrained by the new uniform standards, Prince Karl Joseph Batthyány and his agents turned to increasing the sale of alcoholic spirits on his estates as a way of keeping profits at the same level. For this study in historical demography, 1767 was a convenient terminal date.

This historian definitely recommends Krauss's study as valuable for specialists in manorial life under the Old Regime, the history of German migration, and the modern history of Hungary. Appropriately for a volume within the publications series of the Danube-Swabian Institute for History and Culture in Tübingen, the Institute's director, Dr. Horst Förster, stresses in his forward the relevance of Krauss's study to current debates in Germany over immigration. He reminds German readers that "immigration" is a new phenomenon for Germany, various regions of which, prior to the twentieth century, had a negative balance of migration, and he recommends the conclusions revealed by the present study as germane to this present-day debate. As an American whose special field is modern history of Hungary, I could not help reading Krauss's study from a somewhat different perspective--not so much of Germany's loss (both in terms of eighteenth-century emigrants and the cultural destruction and suffering caused by twentieth-century ethnic cleansing), but of the losses in diversity to present-day Hungary and Romania and the successor states or entities since 1993 of Yugoslavia.[8] It is interesting to reflect that the current foreign minister of Germany, christened Joseph Martin in 1948 by his parents recently expelled from Hungary, proudly calls himself Joschka Fischer.


[1]. Eighteenth-century emigrants from Germany to Hungary originated in many different areas. Krauss points out that in all the contemporary documents generated by the colonists they invariably referred to themselves as "Germans." The Hungarians and South Slavs whose neighbors they became pejoratively stereotyped them as "Swabians," and in the next century the descendants of the colonists finally adopted the term themselves.

[2]. Although a list of placenames in one of the appendices correctly gives Deutschbohl or Deutschboja as the German name of Bóly, Krauss never mentions that, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries until after World War II, Bóly was in fact called Németbóly, the Hungarian equivalent of the German name. There still exists a nearby town in the same county named Magyarbóly, i.e., Ungarischbohl.

[3]. Unlike the Esterházys, who kept all their entailed estates in one line of the family, the Batthyánys divided estates between different lines. Krauss concentrates on those members of the family in a subsidiary line who were the manorial lords (or lady) of the Bóly estate. From 1524, when Franz Batthyány received the manorial estate and fortified castle of Güssing/Németújvár (now in the Austrian province of Burgenland) from King Louis II of Hungary, until 1716 the administrative center and accounting office of the main line of the family was in Güssing. From 1716 until 1945 this administrative center was at a family mansion in Körmend.

[4]. Throughout the book Krauss is mindful of the ambitions, not only of the Batthyánys who owned the Bóly manor but also of the German colonists who immigrated there, and he shows very well the interplay between them, especially as reflected in this contract. Since the German colonists, unlike Hungarian serfs, enjoyed freedom of movement, they were anxious that the contract they entered into would protect this in the future, and the contract ultimately did so, even though the manorial lord tried to hedge this about with some restrictions. The immigrants wanted to owe a minimum of obligations to the feudal lord of the manor, and this appeared to be the case in a provision that limited the days of "ordinary" forced labor for the lord to three per year. Here, however, the immigrants' lack of ability to read "fine print" led to their overlooking a clause that provided for "extraordinary" forced labor without any limit, an opening for future abuse. Later on, in any case, manorial agents would point out that the contract of 1738 was "provisional" and had long since lapsed.

[5]. There is a photograph of the seventeenth-century Rechnitz castle in the book, but neither the text nor the caption mentions that the castle no longer exists; it was set on fire by retreating SS troops in 1945 and was subsequently demolished (p. 67).

[6]. Krauss shows well the friction between the Serbian pastoralists and the other groups owing to the fact that the Serbs were accustomed to graze their animals wherever they pleased, which tended to ruin land used for growing crops. Entrepreneurial manorial lords of southeast Transdanubia motivated to promote agriculture rather than livestock raising were also bound to lack patience with a Serbian population that appealed continually to the privileges granted them by the Habsburg rulers when they were refugees from the Turks and to ignore the requests of Hungarian manorial lords. As the influx of German immigrants began, the Serbs behaved defiantly, gaining for themselves accusations on the part of estate agents of being "lawless" or "thieving." Although the Habsburg rulers continued for political reasons to renew the privileges granted the Serbs by Emperor Leopold I in 1691, it became clear after a while that they were reluctant to enforce these privileges against the Hungarian aristocracy. When Empress Maria Theresa renewed the privileges in 1743 the wording of the document intimated that they had become anachronistic and needed modification to keep up with changing conditions. The Hungarian Chancellor who signed this document was none other than Count Ludwig Ernst Batthyány (1696-1765), the older brother of the manorial lord of Bóly. In the following years manorial lords of southeast Transdanubia used various methods to drive out no-longer-desirable Serbian tenants, and this process was augmented by land-hungry German settlers eager to buy out Serbian tenants. Most of the Serbs driven out or bought out migrated beyond the Danube into the Bacska or south of the Drava into Slavonia (pp. 201-205).

[7]. Besides correspondence found in various archives, Krauss made use of the church registers recording marriages, baptisms, and deaths of five all-German communities of the Bóly manorial estate deposited in the archives of the Arbeitskreis donauschwäbischer Familienforscher e.V. in Sindelfingen, German State of Baden-Württemberg. For purposes of comparison Krauss also examined the eighteenth-century church register of the town of Stetten am kalten Markt in the same German state, the town of origin of some of the Bóly settlers. Although he makes reference to a published work comparing the same sort of data in the same period for the Upper Rhine and German communities in Pennsylvania, Krauss did not look at primary sources for the latter (p. 164).

[8]. Prince Karl Joseph Batthyány's great-grandnephew Count Johann Baptist Batthyány (1784-1865) in 1807-08 built the neoclassical mansion that still stands in the town of Bóly and became the first of his family to reside there at least part of the year. After his death without a male heir the Batthyány clan lost the estate, which passed to a son-in-law of Count Johann Baptist, Count Wilhelm Albert von Montenuovo (1821-95), whose heirs maintained ownership until 1945.

One of Krauss's tables, showing the Hungarian census of 1920 for twenty-six of the twenty-seven communities of the Bóly manorial estate (one community being inadvertently omitted from the table), indicates a total population of 18,276, of whom 68.4 percent spoke German as their primary language. The town of Bóly had a population of 3,022, of whom 83.3 percent were German (p. 11). I could not find information as to how many of the two hundred thousand Swabians of southeast Transdanubia were forcibly expelled from Hungary in the years 1946-1948, but the tourist website for Baranya County, (www.baranyanet.hu/baranyakapuja/), indicates that at least 20 percent of the county is still German-speaking. An act of 1994 entitles all communities in Hungary with at least 20 percent of the population speaking a minority language to minority representation and to street signs in the minority language. Another website (http://archiv.meh.hu/nekh/Magyar/nemethelyseg.htm) lists the German communities so entitled. Among them is Bóly, the website of which (www.boly.hu/) indicates it was given municipal status in 1997 despite a population of only 3,800.

Karl-Peter Krauss. Deutsche Auswanderer in Ungarn: Ansiedlung in der Herrschaft Bóly im 18. Jahrhundert. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2003. 469 S. EUR 68.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-515-08221-1.
Reviewed by Samuel Goldberger (Department of Social Sciences (emeritus), Capital Community College)
Published on H-German (January, 2005)

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Citation: Samuel Goldberger. Review of Krauss, Karl-Peter, Deutsche Auswanderer in Ungarn: Ansiedlung in der Herrschaft Bóly im 18. Jahrhundert. H-German, H-Net Reviews. January, 2005.

Copyright © 2005 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at hbooks@mail.h-net.org.



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