Henry Fischer

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


Villages Helping Hands
Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

Györköny:  A Short History

By Henry Fischer
Published at DVHH.org, Nov 11, 2006 by Jody McKim Pharr

     The future Györköny was an uninhabited puszta (prairie) following the expulsion of the Turks in the latter part of the 17th century by the Hapsburg armies who drove them further south and liberated all of former Hungary from their one hundred and fifty year occupation.  To all intents and purposes the region had reverted to wilderness, had been de-populated and provided shelter for brigands and wandering herdsmen.  The noble families that had lived on their estates in the area, had abandoned them fleeing the advancing Turks or if they had remained, were massacred by them.  Many of these exiled noble families had not survived the long Turkish occupation or their descendants were unable to prove their land claims.  As a result the land was sold and the proceeds were added to the coffers of the Hapsburg Emperor, or he offered the land and estates in payment to his military officers for their services during the War of Liberation. 

   Early in the 18th century, Johann Meszlenyi, a nobleman from Western Hungary   purchased this uninhabited puszta as well as the surrounding area.  He held prominent positions in the County Administration in both Györ and Veszprem Counties and was known for his progressive ideas and economic endeavors, of which the future Györköny would be one.   He was also a descendant of one of the lesser Hungarian noble families who had remained Lutheran throughout the Counter Reformation and this fact would play a role in the settlement of the village. 

     In 1718 Meszlenyi reported to the County Administration of Tolna that new settlers from other counties had established themselves on his newly acquired estates.  But there is strong evidence to suggest that they had come as early as 1710, but they had come on the sly, if not illegally, having left the estates of the nobles to whom they were subject, which was against the new Imperial law imposed by Charles VI.  In a sense they were fugitives because they did not indicate where they had come from, and probably Meszlenyi did not bother to ask.  We do know that the original colonists were Magyars from Györ and Veszprem Counties and from the vicinity of the city of Sopron, as well as four German families from the Heideboden, the so-called Heidebauern.  From later land conscription lists we can identify the heads of these four families: 

Benedict Pamer
Matthias Millstetter
Johann Stelzer
Paul Hackstock 

     A Lutheran congregation was formed in the community as early as 1719 when Georg Barany arrived to be the pastor, serving the mixed Hungarian and German congregation.  The relationships between the two nationalities were very close as they had been in the Heideboden and the church records indicate many Heidebauern Godparents of Hungarian children and vice versa, although they did not intermarry.  Meanwhile other families were arriving from the Heideboden, many of them from Kaltenstein and Leiden and the areas surrounding those two villages.  They are now known as Level and Lebeny in contemporary Hungary.  But in 1722 a new stream of settlers began to arrive, they were Hessians who spoke the Main Franken dialect that gives some hints as to their origins in Germany.  They were part of the Schwabenzug.  The Great Swabian Migration of the 18th century initiated by the Hapsburg monarchs during that century.  With this large influx of German-speaking people, Georg Barany established a Hungarian-speaking parish in Szarszentlorincz nearby, taking with him eight of the Magyar families and the congregation in Györköny called a new pastor to serve them. 

     The two German-speaking groups lived side by side, worshipped in the same church building, but with each group having their own pews, and in a sense leading separate lives well into the 19th century when intermarriage between the two groups began to take place.  They each spoke a distinctive dialect, had their own traditions and customs as well as dress and attire and unlike other communities they did not develop a blended version of their own, that was unique to themselves.  Part of the reason for that was that the largest portion of the Heidebauern re-settled in the neighboring smaller community of Bikacs made up entirely of Heidebauern.  Those who remained behind gradually then assimilated with the Hessians. 

     The names most common to the Heidebauern in Györköny can be found in the land conscription lists of Moson County and the Church Records of the parish churches, such as Nickelsdorf, Strasssommerein, Zurndorf, Kaltenstein, Leiden and Gols.  While their Hessian counterparts came from various communities in Hesse:  Egelsbach, Gross Gerau, Kaltersbach, Langen, Appesrod and Maulbach to name a few. 

     The whole colonization effort in Hungary was focused on its economic development, which expressed itself in agricultural production.  The criterion that was used by the nobles in securing settlers was their agricultural skill and know-how.  The crops they raised consisted of wheat, maize, beets, corn, oats, vegetables and the Hessians, on their part, brought the potato with them and introduced it to Hungary.  The village itself was located in a gully.  The western side consists of sandy soil, while the other side covers limestone.  The settlers saw the implications of this and planted vineyards on the western side and dug wine cellars in the hilly limestone side.  Cattle herding and livestock rearing were carried out in various degrees, and the owning of livestock was a measure of wealth and prosperity.  Surrounded by forests, lumbering was a wintertime activity for the men, while the entire family was involved and engaged in farming.  Even the tradesmen, the innkeeper and local officials were also involved in forms of agriculture.  All of these factors would determine the life and development of Györköny and its people along with their church life, that was much at the center of both family and community life. 

     Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Györköny shared in the fate of all of the Danube Swabian communities in the former Hapsburg Empire as the Red Army moved relentlessly northward and westward, with refugee treks out of Romania and Yugoslavia scrambling to keep ahead of them.  These Swabians followed in the footsteps of their ancestors who had joined the first Schwabenzug in the 18th century.  There were only a few families in Györköny who joined them.  The rest would wait it out.  Hungary was their home.  They had been loyal citizens.  Their men had served in the Hungarian Army. 

     The Russian troops entered the village in December of 1944.  Under the pretext of ordering all able bodied men and women to report for labor in the district, they were placed in marching columns and led away to slave labor in the Soviet Union to the coal mines in the Donets Basin at Stalino.  There were some fifty villagers, mostly women, who were taken.  Many of them came back sick to death, while others had died in the camps. 

     In the summer of 1945 the Big Three met at Potsdam to decide the fate of the people of Györköny and all of the Danube Swabians of Hungary.  On the basis of the charge of collective guilt, every man, woman and child of German descent in Hungary was part of a fifth column and had betrayed Hungary and was to be expelled as part of the “humane transfer of German populations in Eastern Europe”, and to provide accommodation for the Hungarians being expelled from Slovakia and Yugoslavia.  This would involve fifteen million people all across Eastern Europe and in the process two million of them would lose their lives.  As a result, 1,400 of Györköny’s population were ordered to be expelled as enemies of the Magyar nation as the Hungarian government in Budapest put it.  But some 600 would be allowed to remain.  But in the process, some 200 would go into hiding or managed to escape from the transports and returned home. 

     There were to be three separate shipments of “Swabians” from Györköny.  The first took place on Tuesday, September 2, 1947.  Early in the morning a column of rattling army trucks entered the village and under their captain’s orders policemen went from house to house and took the people on their lists into custody giving them two hours to pack their necessities.  They were taken by truck to Dorog and the train station there.  Here every person was subjected to a body search.  They took all the money they found as well as jewelry, even tearing earrings from the women’s ears.  The expellees were packed into cattle cars and the transport left at 3:00 a.m. on September 4th, 1947.  One of those in the cattle cars later wrote:  “We were all afraid we were heading for Russia and we pleaded with our Heavenly Father that He spare His people from that.” 

     As the train was leaving the “new colonists” came to replace them in Györköny and the next chapter of the history of the village began.


DVHH.org ©2003 Donauschwaben Villages Helping Hands, a Nonprofit Corporation.
Webmaster: Jody McKim Pharr
Keeping the Danube Swabian legacy alive!
Last Updated: 18 Oct 2020