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DONAUSCHWABEN IN THE BANAT, INCLUDING THE ARADER LAND

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Contents:


Geography of the Region

The Banat (Hungarian Bánát) is now divided between western Romania, northern Yugoslavia (the eastern part of Vojvodina, which is part of Serbia), and eastern Hungary with boundaries as follows:

[This section still under construction.]


History of the Region

As the Greek historian Herodotus observed (Book IV), the area that was later to become the Banat was toward the end of the sixth century BC inhabited by the Agathyrsi, probably an Illyrian or Thracian tribal people. Around 400 BC the Celts moved east into the region and by the first century BC, the Romans. By 107 AD they had incorporated the region into the empire as the province of Dacia. The Emperor Trajan created in 106 the town of Tibiscum as a Roman stronghold which became the present-day Temeschburg. Dacia was lost to Rome 270-75 during the reign of Marcus Aurelius and was overrun by various tribes of Iazyges, Vandals, Heruli, Gepids und Ostrogoths.

Toward the end of the fourth century, the region was again overrun, this time by the Huns. After their defeat by combined Roman and German forces, the Gepids inhabited the area until the seventh and eighth centuries which saw the arrival of the Avars and Slavs. When the power of the Avars was broken by Charlemagne, the region passed under the control of the Bulgars. Before the end of the ninth century, the Magyars or Hungarians arrived out of the east to conquer the region and hold it until the Turkish conquest in 1552.

Prior to 1526, when the Ottoman Empire defeated Hungary at the battle of Mohacs, there were several Banats (Hungarian Bánát). These were districts ruled by an official known as a Ban (a term that has its origin in a Persian word meaning lord or master which was introduced into Europe by the Avars; "Banat" came to mean a frontier province or a district under military governorship) The most common use of the term, though, is The Banat of Temesvar, which, oddly enough, was never administered by a Ban. Ruled by the Ottomans from 1552 until 1716, it was then conquered by the Habsburg armies led by Prince Eugene of Savoy, and officially transferred to Austria by the Treaty of Passarowitz/Pozarevac in 1718.

During the years of Ottoman rule, the area was largely depopulated and had a large proportion of marshland. Count Mercy was appointed governor in 1720 and started the process of turning the Banat into a settled agricultural region. In 1779 the Banat was transferred to Hungarian rule. From 1848 to 1860 the Banat and the Batschka were ruled directly by the crown. From 1860 until 1919 the Banat was formally a part of Hungary.

Between 1722 and 1787, many skilled settlers were recruited from Habsburg domains in the Holy Roman Empire to populate the newly-gained lands. The first settlers came primarily from Swabia, hence the term Donauschwaben.

Immigration occurred sporadically after that time and was known as the "Schwabenzug" or "Swabian Migration". The original Swabian Migration also included French-, Italian-, and Spanish-speaking immigrants. The first two migrations were restricted to Roman Catholics, but the third was also open to Protestants. Emperor Josef II had granted freedom of religion in the Habsburg Empire by that time.

The early immigrants were recruited and given travel stipends and loans for seeds, implements, and tools, and were apportioned houses in master-planned villages. Fields were allotted in farmlands surrounding the villages. Freedom from serfdom, initial exemption from taxes, uncrowded land, startup help, and association with the Habsburgs were the lures for immigration to a frontier region which was beset by border wars, marshland, and illness. To put things in perspective, the Banat was still a frontier region in Europe at the time of the American Revolution.

The immigration of the "Swabians", along with the settlement of the Military Frontier by Serbs recruited for settlement and military service, populated a border region recently won from a perennial foe.

Jacob Steigerwald has written a review of 11 identifiable German ethnic groups in Romania in his book Tracking Romania's Heterogeneous German Minority from its Origins to the Diaspora (publication info).

  1. The "Swabians" who hailed from various areas in Germany after the Banat became an Austrian colony in 1718.
  2. Descendants of peasant and weaver families from the Bohemian Woods who settled near Mount Semenik in the villages of Wolfsberg, Weidenthal, Lindenfeld and Weidenheim.
  3. In the southeastern Banat around Resita (Reschitz) there are descendants of Styrian miners and craftsmen who began settlement in 1725.
  4. Many Germans in Timisoara are descendants of Austrian military and civilian territorial administrators and office workers; there has been much intermarriage with Swabians from the rural areas.
  5. In the Satu Mare (Sathmar) district north of the Banat, there are descendants of Germans from Baden-Württemberg who settled between 1712 and 1815.
  6. The Saxons of Transylvania came originally from Rhenish Franconia between 1141 and 1181 in response to the invitation of the Hungarian King Geze II. Others came from Luxembourg, Lorraine, Thuringia and Bavaria. The Saxon cities were Sibiu (Hermannstadt), Brasov (Kronstadt), Sighisoara (Schäßburg), Medias (Mediasch), Bistrita (Bistritz) and others.
  7. Also in Transylvania, the Landler from the towns of Turnisor (Neppendorf), Cristian (Großau) and Apoldul de Sus (Großpold) came between 1734 and 1762 from Carinthia, Styria and the Upper Austrian area around Bad Ischl.
  8. The Durlacher Germans of Transylvania came from Durlach in Baden in 1743.
  9. The descendants of Bacska-Swabians live in the Transylvanian towns of Aurel Vlaicu (Benzens) and Batiz. Their ancestors came between 1894 and 1898 from an area near Czervenka in the Batschka.
  10. The Nösner Zipser in Transylvania have the same origin as the Zipser Saxons living in northern Romania. The ancestors of both groups were descendants of Saxons who settled at Spis (Zips) in Slovakia at the foot of the Tatra mountains in the 12th and 13th centuries.
  11. The Bukovina Germans settled in the latter part of the 18th century from Württemberg and German-speaking areas of Bohemia and Slovakia (Zips).
During the period 1866-1869 the Kriegsministerium in Vienna started a large resettlement program with the founding of "Grenzkolonien" in the Banat Military Frontier of the southern Banat (for background see; Roth, Die planmässig angelegten Siedlungen im Deutsch-Banater Militärgrenzbezirk 1765-1821). As part of this program, eight new "Marsh Settlements", among them Giselahain, Elisenheim, Rudolfsgnad, Albrechtdorf, Marienfeld and Königsdorf, were established. Königsdorf was settled in October of 1868, by 200 German families from Stefansfeld. A massive dyke construction program was undertaken to prevent flooding. In addition to the locals, over 2000 workers, mainly from Hungary and Bavaria, were employed in this project in 1869. In spite of all this effort, these communities were repeatedly flooded. Because of disastrous flooding, Königsdorf on the Temes was abandoned in 1880 and the inhabitants returned to their place of origin, Stefansfeld. (Those tracking Stefanfelders, who are faced with gaps in the data, must consider the possibility that their people were in Königsdorf during this period. Others of these Marsh villages were paired similarly with other more established communities; tracking people in the Banat can be eased by considering these internal migration patterns.)

After the Treaty of Trianon in 1919, the Banat was split into three parts. The largest part went to Romania, the western part to Yugoslavia and a very small part in the north to Hungary. At the outbreak of the Second World War, there were in the eastern Banat 300,000 Germans, in the western Banat 130,000 Germans and in the northern Banat, 10,000 Germans. During the capitulation of Yugoslavia, 1941-5, the western Banat belonged to the Military Command of Serbia, but returned to Yugoslavia after the war. Death, flight and expulsion led to the disappearance of the Donauschwaben from the western Banat in contrast to eastern and northern Banat where at least some have remained.

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Associations and Societies

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Colonies List

The Donauschwaben colonies in the Banat were founded during the years 1748-1835. For more information, consult the Donauschwaben Village List.

Some Banat placenames are also included in the Listing of Transylvanian Hungarian Placenames and their Romanian Replacements

Historical maps may be viewed at Srbi u Banatu do kraja osamnaestog veka / Serbs in Banat until XVIII century.

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Bibliography

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Archives and Libraries

Archives

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Microfilm List

A number of the parish and census records for the villages in the Banat have been microfilmed and acquired by the Family History Library of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. For more information, consult the Donauschwaben Village List.

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Other Internet Resources

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Last update: 10-may-00 (mf)
Norbert Bambach, Dave Dreyer, Monika (Kleer) Ferrier, Helmut Flacker, Robert Goetz, Aleksandra Grubin, Robert Sonnleitner, Michael Stamm (authored history), and Henry Trapp have contributed to this web page.
Created by: Rick Heli
Please forward any comments and additions to this WWW-page (include the name of this web page as we support many) to Monika (Kleer) Ferrier, email: mferrier@fhs.csu.McMaster.CA or to: WebMaster