A History of Our People by Werner Fricker Jr.

by Werner Fricker Jr.

The United German Hungarians were founded in Philadelphia in 1910. The Club originally founded as the Banater Männerchor by Germans from the Banat Region grew swiftly and many smaller clubs began to form associations of families from individual towns and villages in Banat. Associations from the Batschka, Srem, and the Carpathian German- Hungarians also found a home at the club. In an effort to UNITE all GERMAN-HUNGARIAN organizations as one, the name was officially changed in 1939 to The United German Hungarians.

The German Hungarians are a group of ethnic Germans referred to also as The Danube Swabians (Donauschwaben); These Germans  lived in the former Kingdom of Hungary, especially in the Danube  River valley. They include the Banat Swabians (Banater Schwaben), Satu Mare Swabians, the, Bačka Germans (Batschka) and other Germans from Serbia’s Vojvodina  and Croatia‘s Slavonia. Many present day members of the United German Hungarians are immigrants from these regions and many members can trace their roots to this region.

In the 12th century, Germans began to settle in the Kingdom of Hungary, Carpathian Germans in the Spiš mountains and Transylvanian Saxons in Transylvania. During the 17th-18th centuries, warfare between the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Empire devastated and depopulated much of the lands of the valley, referred to as the Pannonian plain.  The Habsburgs ruling Austria and Hungary at the time resettled the land with people of various ethnicities including Magyars, Slovaks, Croats, Serbs, Romanians, Ukrainians, and Germans. The Germans came at this time from Swabia, Hesse, Franconia, Bavaria, Austria, and Alsace-Lorraine. However, despite their origin, they were all referred to as Swabians.

The first wave of resettlement came as the Ottoman Turks were gradually being forced back after their defeat at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. The resettlement was accomplished through private and state initiatives. After Maria Theresa of Austria assumed the throne as Queen of Hungary in 1740, she encouraged vigorous colonization on crown lands, especially between Timişoara and the Tisza River. The land steadily rejuvenated: marshes near the Danube and the Tisza were drained, farms were built, and roads and canals were constructed. Many Swabians served on Austria’s Military Frontier (Militärgrenze) as soldier farmers against the Ottomans. Between 1740 and 1790 more than 100,000 Germans immigrated to the Kingdom of Hungary.

After the creation of Austria-Hungary in 1867, Hungary established a policy of Magyarization whereby minorities, including the Germans, were induced by political and economic means to adopt the Magyar language and culture. Following World War I, the Banat was divided between Romania, Yugoslavia, and Hungary; Bačka was divided between Yugoslavia and Hungary; and Satu Mare went to Romania. It is believed there may have been approximately one million Germans in the region before World War II.

At the start of World War II, many Danube Swabian Germans served in the militaries of Romania, Hungary, and the Independent State of Croatia, which had been created within Axis-occupied Yugoslavia.  In addition, a separate autonomous area of Banat was established within German-occupied Serbia/Yugoslavia. Only a small minority volunteered to join the German and Axis military organizations even after occupation; ultimately conscription was imposed by officials.

In 1944, the Soviet Red Army, assisting Partisan forces, liberated northern areas of German-occupied Yugoslavia which were home to the German minority. After the war, their homes, lands and possessions were confiscated. From 1944 through 1948 many were held in camps made out of their former towns, and left to starve, many were beaten, mistreated and killed. Those who were able to flee and those who survived went on to resettle as displaced persons in Austria and Germany. Eventually many immigrated to the United States.

The Danube Swabian culture is a melting pot of southern German regional customs, with a large degree of Balkan and mostly Hungarian influence. The Danube Swabian language does not sound Swabian (Schwäbisch in German). In reality, it contains elements or many dialects of the original German settlers, mainly Swabian, Franconian, Bavarian, Rhinelandic/Pfälzisch, Alsatian, and Alemannic, as well as Austro-Hungarian. Loanwords from Hungarian are especially common regarding cuisine and agriculture, but also regarding dress, politics, placenames, and sports. Other cultures of influence include Serbian and CroatianRomanian, Turkish, English, and general Balkan and South Slavic loanwords. The Swabian dialect sounds like what it is: a mix of southwestern German dialects from the 1700s.

The German Hungarian/Danube Swabian people relied heavily on their creator. They were hard working, intelligent, loyal citizens.

The Kitchen was also influenced by many cultures. As in their customs and traditions the cooking and eating habits are first influenced by the original German homeland. There is also influence from the Viennese. As in their language, all of their food was heavily influenced by Hungarian, Serbian, Romanian, and many other Balkan peoples. While many were skilled in trades, the villages were mainly agricultural communities producing industrial grain, feed crops, fruits, and vegetables. Animals, horses and livestock were also tended to with great care. Activities were centered on their work and their religion.  The daily meals reflected this same way of life. The region was very well suited for wine growing and the wine cellars were attended to with as much care as the vineyards. Wine and schnapps were produced for personal consumption as well as for trade.

Today the United German Hungarians are an organization with members and friends in the general community from many ethnic backgrounds. Much like our ancestors we find ourselves in a melting pot of cultures here in America. All of these cultures have a distinct and special influence on our present day lives and activities. The United German Hungarians today are active and dedicated to serving the members of the organization and the general community through Culture, Social Recreation, and Soccer. Our Dance Groups and Soccer Teams reach for high achievements, while enjoying the spirit of the performance or game. We share the same traits as our ancestors, and our people enjoy being together.

We are dedicated to success in the future while we live by the principles of our past.

The United German Hungarians are…..CONTINUING A PROUD TRADITION

2 thoughts on “A History of Our People by Werner Fricker Jr.

  1. Dear Werner

    I have read your article with interest. I am 72 yrs old, a retired schoolteacher living in Cornwall, United Kingdom and have been trying to find my relatives, who are German-Hungarians. My mother was Austrian and said my biological father was a Jan ‘Hansi’ Lengyel who was a displaced person in the British zone in Graz and emigrated to the USA around 1950 – 1956 where he may have died. I can find no trace of him and may have been given wrong information by my mother in order to protect him. I have done an autosomal DNA test on Ancestry.com and a Y DNA test and the closest relatives are Bernardt, Fuchs, Busch, Stec/ Stash. Most of them are linked to Backa Palanka area and Budapest.
    Is there any way I can trace my close relatives? Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

    Many Thanks in advance.

    Yours sincerely
    Mario Lengyel Chadwick

    1. Mario, thanks for your comment. Glad you enjoyed the article. More information that will help you is available at this site here : https://www.dvhh.org/batschka/

      Dennis Bauer is a good friend of our club and is based in NJ and is a member of the DVHH and is the coordinated for the Batschka sections of the organization. You can contact him through their site.

      I hope this helps.

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