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German Genealogy: Karpatho-Ukraine

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General Information

Administrative history.
The area of today's Karpatho-Ukraine, located between the river Theiss/Tisza and the Southern slopes of the main chain of the Carpathian Mountains, was part of the Kingdom of Hungary from the 10th century to 1919. The entire area was part of the four counties (comitatus in Latin-- the legal language of administration until 1844--Komitat or Gespannschaft in German, Megye in Magyar), of: The area did not form a special administrative unit during Hungarian rule. In 1919, the larger part, with an area of 12,600 km2 or 5,400 sq. miles, was annexed by the newly created Czechoslovak Republic, or CSR, a smaller part of Marmaros Komitat by Romania. Both countries gave cities and villages new official names.

The parts taken by the CSR were organized into the province of Podkarpatska Rus, divided into four Z"upan, or counties, Uz^horod, Mukac^evo, Berehovo, Maramaros^, whose boundaries followed roughly the old Komitat boundaries.The county capitals were Uz^horod, (Ungvar), Berehova, (Beregszasz), Mukac"evo (Munkatz, German Munkatsch), while the new capital of Czech Maramaros was Chust (Huszt), since Marmaros-Szighet was now the capital of Rumanian Maramaros under the name of Sighetul Marmariei. In 1919, the Czech government had promised autonomy for the area. But the province was kept on a tight leash from Prague and became autonomous only in October 1938 in the wake of the Munich agreement. However, the Southern strip, populated mainly by Magyars (ethnic Hungarians), was returned to Hungary on November 2, 1938. Hungary annexed the remainder of the area in March 1939, after suppressing the local autonomist militia.

The Karpatho-Ukraine was occupied in Spring 1945 by the Red Army and annexed in June 1945 by the Soviet Union. Since 1991, it is part of the independent Republic Ukraine. For genealogists, the boundary changes, especially when dividing of a village from its county capital, where many local records were collected, presents great challenges. The area annexed by the Soviet Union in 1945 is currently called the district (oblast) of Zakarpatska Ukrajina, Republic of Ukraine. The district capital is Uz^horod, the former Ungvar. The former four komitats are split into the following subdivisions (rayons), from West to East:

In 1989, the census counted 1,252,300 people, of which 74% were Ukrainians and 12.5% Magyars. Only 0.3% were Germans.

  • Religious Divisions (administrative or diocesan). Under Hungarian rule, the entire area belonged to the Roman Catholic diocese of Szathmar. In 1919, a vicariate was created to satisfy Czech demands that the local clergy not be directly under Magyar rule. This vicariate was based in Ungvar/Uzhorod, which also had a priest seminary.

    There were very few German Lutherans. It was a so-called "diaspora" area.

    History and Ethnoraphy
    The area had a complex history. The remote and relatively infertile mountains, whose main importance was due to the four passes allowing passage from the Russian steppes to the Hungarian plain, was settled only by transitory small groups until the ancestors of the Ruthenes arrived from the Dniepr River in the 8th and 9th centuries, followed closely by Magyar horsemen, who became their lords. In the 14th century, Rumanians and Jews came, in the 17th the sheep-raising semi-nomadic Hutsuls. Frequent wars devastated the country and decimated its population. Especially murderous were the invasions by the Mongols in 1241, the Crimean Tatars in the 15th and 16th centuries, and the Turks in the 16th, whose occupation of neighboring Bukowina (German Buchenland) also brought constant border warfare. The Turks were expelled between 1683 and 1699.Then followed civil war between pro- and anti-Habsburg Magyar noblemen until the 1720s. As in the rest of the Hungarian kingdom, most of the land in the future Karpatho-Ukraine was owned by a small group of nobles and the state. To make their lands productive again,these often invited any willing able-bodied settlers. The result was a ethno-linguistic salad that worked quite tolerably until after 1867, when the Magyar elite began to forcibly assimilate the non-Magyars. When looking at old documents, books and family memories, it is important to remember that Hungarian refers to a citizenship, not an ethnicity. All subjects of the Hungarian kingdom were Hungarians, and often patriotic at that--but only a minority were Magyars, (ethnic Hungarians), in 1844 42.5% of the population of the Kingdom.

    History and Ethnoraphy: German Settlements
    The first German settlers came in the 12th century, invited by the Hungarian King Geza II, and founded notably Lamprechtshausen (Beregszasz) in 1141, and Huszt. They introduced wine-making along the Tisa, where all villages whose Magyar names end with Szasz (Ruthenian -Sas), for Sachse, that is Saxon, the nickname given to all Germans, are of German origin. These German villages were destroyed by the Mongol invasion of 1243, as was the area in general. The Hungarian kings called in new settlers, Germans, Slavs and Romanians. The Germans founded notably Visk (Vys"kovo), Teutschau (Tjac"evo, ung. Tecso"), Krumpach (Krempa), Schoenbrunn (Sambron). But the area remained a poor, isolated backwater that suffered terribly from warfare. When the endemic fighting ceased in the early 18th century, the area was a wasteland. For instance, in 1726, count Schöborn owned 1,340 km2 in Bereg Komitat and the surrounding area, with their headquarters in the castle of Palanok near Munkacs, including 5 small cities and 180 villages--but 80 of these had not one inhabitant left. Over the centuries, the few Germans had been killed, or assimilated into the Slavic or Magyar population, leaving traces only in local family names (the Germans of Visk became Magyars, though keeping surnames such as Weiss, Schwartz, Gruenberg), and the local dialect, such as in fris^tikowaty, to take breakfast, from German fruehstuecken. But in the 18th century, two centers with a small German population came into being. In 1939, the mainly Catholic German population, consisted of about 18,000 people. About 12,000 lived in the area of Munkatsch and 4,000 in the Theresienthal .

    The Munkacz Area:

    Munkatsch itself is situated on the Eastern side of the Latoroza river. In the 1690s, the ruler of the area, Ilona Zriny, in open rebellion against the Habsburg king of Hungary, hired several hundred German craftsmen and 500 German soldiers to imprive the castle defenses at Palanok near Munkatsch. The castle surrundered in 1703. But many Germans stayed, founding Plankendorf (Palanka) in Munkatsch. In 1726, the estate was transferred to count Schönborn, from Franconia in Bavaria. The Schönborns recruited new settlers, mostly from their native Franconia, but also from the German-speaking Eastern Lorraine/Lothringen (Dory family, notably), and settled them around Munkacz. Some settlers came from the Zips (hard-rock miners founding Friedrichsdorf) and from the Prachatitz area in Bohemia (charcoal-makers and iron-smiths). The settlers founded many villages, listed below. These are mostly along the Latoroza River, which flows into the Tisza (Theiss), and located in the Megye of Bereg. The Schönborns recruited new settlers until 1880. Other Germans came as individuals or in small, private groups. Most Germans lived on the East side of the Latoroza river. In the 19th century many of these villages also received settlers from German villages in Galicia and the Bukowina.

    The Theresiental:

    The Tereschwa river (in German Theresiental, a name coined in the 19th century) consists of two branches, the Mokranka and the Brusturanka. Both unite at Koenigsfeld. During Hungarian rule, the area belonged to the large Megye of Maramaros. But while most of the Tereschwa-Valley settlements belonged to the district of Tecsö, but the upper Tereschwa-Valley above the Brusturanka branch and the Mokranka-Valley to the district of Taracköz (Tereschwa).
    Most of the area was owned by the crown, which after the end of the last anti-Habsburg uprising planned to extract revenue by using efficiently the salt mines of Maramaros-Szighet. Indeed, from the 1750s onward the salt industry had grown very much. But the lack of skilled foresters had led to the devastation of the local forests. In 1755, a forestry office was created in Dombo. The Hungarian government recruited 100 skilled lumberjacks (who knew how to build sleds, rafts and small canals for the transportation of the timber, and about reforesting and charcoal-making) from the Trauntal (esp. the villages of Langbath, Ischl, and Goisern) in the Salzkammergut region in Upper Austria. In 1776, led by the waldmeister (master-forester) Johann Georg Imeldis, (who became head of the forest district office, or Waldamt, in Dombo, and who died in 1777 there), the 100 families (220 people, mainly young couples without children or single men), travelled for 2 months by ship and on foot until they reached the area where they founded Deutsch-Mokra. The local climate was healthy, work for the state forests steady, and so the settlers tended to marry young and have large families. They soon created new settlements.

    Deutsch-Mokra (District of Tjac^ovo) ung. Nemetmokra, slavic Nemecka/Nimezka Mokra, today Komsomolsk
    Founded in 1776 by the German woodsmen from the Salzkammergut in Upper Austria. A bit North of Russisch-Mokra, on the Mokranka branch of the Tereschwa. In 1930 it had 1,025 people (814 Germans, 142 Ruthenians, 6 Magyars, 53 Czechs, 10 foreigners). In 1989 a few Germans still lived there.

    Dombo (Dubove) (District of Tjac^ovo)
    About the middle of the course of the Tereschwa/Taracska river. In 1930 with 4,416 inhabitants (3,468 Ukrainians, 706 Jews, 139 Germans, 56 Magyars, 36 Czechs, 11 foreigners). The forest administration (Waldamt) was founded there in 1755, the first Germans lived there on their way to Deutsch-Mokra. A permanent German settlement was built next to the Ruthenian hamlet in 1780 for those Germans who created and operated iron-works to make tools for the forest administration.

    Königsfeld (District of Tjac^ovo), ung. Kiralymezö, ukr. Ust-Tschorna
    Where the Brusturanka branch of the Tereschwa united with the Mokranka branch. Founded in 1815 by Germans from Deutsch-Mokra. In 1930 it had 1,222 people (999 Germans, 103 Jews, 65 Czechs, 24 Ruthenians, 23 Magyars, 8 foreigners). In 1989 a few Germans still lived there.

    Russisch-Mokra (District of Tjac^ovo)
    A bit South of Deutsch-Mokra, and like that village East of the Tereschwa between its Mokranka and Brusturanka branches. In 1930 it had 1,270 people, (666 Ruthenians, 447 Germans, 137 Jewish, 18 Czechs, 1 Magyar, 1 foreigner).

    The original settlers had been state workers, so to speak, in the Salzkammergut, working for the crown forests according to a charter listing rights and duties. They demanded the same security for moving. And so they received a charter (the "Konvention") from the Hungarian government specifying their wages in exchange for their hereditary service for the crown timber administration. Their pay was the right to use a small farm with enough meadow land for 3 cows, a weekly wage of 3 to 4 Gulden per Rottmeister (foreman) and 1.5 to 2 Gulden per skilled worker (Holzknecht), an annual amount of 12 pounds of salt per head, of wood, and the Hofkorn of 40 kg (100 Ib) barley and wheat per family (grains did not grow in the mountains). The state would pay for a German midwife and a teacher/priest, and provide a small subsistence pension for disabled workers and the families of those who died. The cash wages and the amount in wood were raised in 1900. Their children founded in 1815 Königsfeld and also settled in Russisch-Mokra, and other places. The settlers owned their houses, which they built themselves, but only had a hereditary right to the land it stood on. In the late 19th century, the timber administration, which wanted to turn the workers into wage laborers, as a form of harassment refused to allow the construction of more homesteads. As a result, the settlers, by the late 19th century, often lived 2-3 families per home. In 1919, the Czechoslovak government, which had succeeded the Hungarian administration, closed the charter to those who became adults after 1919, who would be paid as day laborers. Protests against this brutal undermining of their economic security was cut short with the threat to confiscate the farmsteads after the death of the old charter members instead of offering them for sale to their children. Because of their isolation, the Germans of the Theresiental kept their Upper Austrian dialect and customs in a very pure form. Around 1900, a larger number of Tereschwataler Germans who had tried to find a living in the small cities of the area, emigrated to the United States (notably from Trnovo and Gross-Tarna). Anton Zauner counted the names of 318 Tereschwataler who emigrated from 1900 to 1970 overseas, mainly the US and Canada, but also Argentina and Australia

    Since the early 19th century, there also were German areas in the cities of Beregszasz, Munkatsch, Friedrichsthal, Schwalbach, (Svaljava), Ungvar, Hust, Visk, Rachov and Perecyn. There, many Germans were not farmers, but engineers and skilled workers in the local mining and chemical industries. While the overwhelming majority of Germans in the Karpato-Ukraine were Catholics, in the cities there were a few Lutherans.

    The Numbers:
    Until the mid-19th century, it is difficult to know how many they were, owing to the abysmal state of bureaucracy in old Hungary. Then, censusses became accurate. However, they counted ethnicity only the language used at home, making it difficult to gauge the number of ethnic Germans and Magyars because of a large Jewish population. The Census only recognized a Jewish faith, but not an ethnicity. Local Jews,who spoke Jiddish, a German dialect, registered first as German-speakers, and increasingly as Magyar-speakers. Czechoslovakia, an artificial conglomerate of disparate ethnic groups created after World War I and which did not survive the 20th century, counted both language and ethnicity separatly. And so, after 1919, these Jews, who, save for small groups of liberals and neologs (conservatives), never really had identified with the ethnic group imputed from their linguistic usage, registered as "Czechoslovaks" to impress the new Czech masters of the country--while at heart remaining Orthodox Jews. The number of Germans was always much smaller than the number counted in Hungarian censusses.

    With all these caveats, the number of "Germans" was in 1910, on the area of the future Karpatho-Ukraine, 62,187 of 572,000 people, right after 319,361 Ruthenians and 169,434 Magyars. But in 1921, the number of Germans fell to 10,348 or 1.7% of 604,670 people, (Magyars also fell to 103,791). The distribution was uneven. In the Z^upan of Uz^horod, lived 722 Germans, or 0.7% of the district's population, in Mukacevo lived 5,716 or 3.2%, in Berehovo 1,233 or 0.5%, and 3,050 in Maramaros or 2.8%. In 1930, ethnic Germans were 13,249 of 725,367 people, by 1940 around 18,000. They lived in 84 cities and villages, of which 12 villages had a German majority. In the cities, they were rarely more than 2-4% in 1930, though the number of German-speakers remained much higher, as many Jews continued to speak German. This was important for the survival of non-religious cultural institutions, bookstores etc.

    After 1867, the local Germans, like the other minorities, were subjected to "Magyarization," the planned assimilation by the Magyar elite which tried to make multi-national Hungary into a nation-state. After the 1880s, the schools, even Kindergartens, must use Magyar only. So do the churches. As a result, a whole generation learned to read and write their native German and the state-ordered Magyar only badly. During World War I, German and Austrian troops fighting the Russians came in touch with the isolated two German enclaves. After the war, the German Lutheran church in Slovakia began to help the local Lutherans, while Sudeten German cultural groups began to support schools and libraries. Considering the backwardness and poverty of the area, a little support could go a long way. Especially the Deutscher Kulturverband in Prague helped. But after March 1939, the Hungarian government expelled the Sudeten German and Carpathian German teachers and priests.

    In 1945, the local Germans, a small and inoffensive, totally powerless ethnic group, suffered genocide. Many fled the Red Army, many were killed in death camps such as Svaljava, or taken as slave labor in Siberia. (700 from the Theresiental alone, the last ones freed in 1969!). A few thousand were able to remain, owing to individual circumstances, and more came after being released from Siberia. By the late 1940s, overt violence against German civilians ended, but was followed by a long period of discrimination, which resulted in the near-assimilation of the remaining Germans. In the 1970 Census, 5,902 declared their ethnicity as German, but in 1989, only 3,478 did so, despite the growth of population.The end of the Soviet Union lifted legal restrictions on German cultural activities, and also made social abuse less acceptable. Like the surviving Germans in Slovakia, the local Germans are helped by their countrymen gathered in the Karpatendeutsche Landsmannschaft. But it seems that it is too late for the survivors. Over 2000 have already resettled in Germany. The numbers needed to support a community structure are not there anylonger.

    Many Germans from the Karpatho-Ukraine belong to the Karpatendeutsche Landsmannschaft branches in Germany, Austria and the United States. Within the KDL there are several regional/city focus groups. For the Karpatho-Ukraine, there is the Theresientaler Heimatbund, founded in 1964 by Anton Zauner from Deutsch-Mokra. There is no particular group for the Munkatsch Germans. Consider joining or supporting these cultural associations to help preserve the story of your ancestors.

    For the Carpathian German site, see Slovakia

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