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A NUMISMATIC TREK: DER SCHWABENZUG

Francis J. Gerner, PhD, Topeka, Kansas, NI #1085, Copyright © 1996

Sources: The Numismatic International Bulletin (Oct.1996)

The following is a numismatic journey of sorts. It is an attempt to follow the story of a group of people, Swabian Germans, from their homeland, Swabia, to a new "homeland", and then their ultimate return to their original lands. In their travels they must have needed and used diverse monies. I have attempted to depict the era as well as the most likely coins that passed through their hands. This story begins at the turn of the century, the 14th century!

When the Ottoman Turks began their movement into Europe, in the 14th century most of western Europe was alarmed but was not successful in preventing this progression of Eastern power. In 1521 Suliman I, the Law Giver, the Magnificent, captured Belgrade. By 1541, a Pasha was installed in Buda, Hungary after the failure to take Vienna in 1529, beginning a general period of "stability" with the West. It was not a peaceful stability but it held until 1684 when Austria took the offensive and began a drive that ultimately led to another period of "peace" after 1718. At this point we begin the story of the "settlers".

Among the many phases of the drive to the southeast was the implementation of a new policy, and this was to impact people from the region of Swabia for the next 250 years. New and yet not new. A policy of moving settlers into "new" lands, a policy that most nations have used since nations were born. In this instance it was entitled: "Einrichtungwerk" (lit.: establishment work).

The region of Swabia is in the modern German states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, parts of Switzerland, Austria and the Alsace. It does not have a hard territorial boundary. It is a culture and a language (a high German dialect). (Map 1). To these territories a call went out for settlers in 1720 and continued until 1780. The plan was to reduce the dense population of the region and to resettle areas depopulated during the Turkish domination of eastern Hungary and Transylvania (1541-1718). This "new" land had fallen to waste between 1658-1718 while Süleyman II, the Sot/Drunkard, ruled. At one time it was laid to waste (according to some) by the Turks as a buffer-zone during a lull between active warfare against Austria (the actual military power of the region, Hungary was not a threatening force itself). Generally, the new lands were in the territory called the Bánát, a part of a territory called the Patrium. (Map 2).

This area, the Bánát of Temesvár (Timisora) or Bánság, laid between the Tisza (Theiss), the Maros (Mures, Mieresch, Marosch) and Danube Rivers. It was obtained by Austria through the defeat of the Ottoman Turks by Prince Eugene of Savoy and the resulting Treaty of Passarowitz (1718). During the war against the Turks, Prince Eugene (Fig. 1) captured Temesvár in 1716 and then Peterwardein and Belgrade in 1717.

Emperor Charles VI (1685-1740) (Fig. 2) of Austria (Holy Roman Emperor, 1711- 1740) (Fig. 3), developed a resettlement plan for the reclaimed territories of the east. His daughter and successor, Empress Maria Theresa (1717-80) (Fig. 4), and her son, Joseph II (1741-90) (Fig. 5), both followed the same policies to resettle this area with "New" Germans, colonists from Hapsburg lands in the western territories of the Rhineland-Palatinate (Fig. 6), Lorraine (Fig. 7), Trier, Luxembourg (Fig. 8), and a small part of Württemburg (Fig. 9) A smaller number were from Bavaria (Fig. 10) and Austria.

As compared to the "Old" Germans, who were referred to as "Saxons" and "Zipsers" or Cipsers - from the Hungarian region of Szepesseg - the former were originally from the Rhineland but more specifically from the Niederrhein, Flandria and the Mosel (Moselle) River area, i.e. Mosel-Franks. The "Old" Germans entered the kingdom as early as the 13th century.

Empress Maria Theresa succeeded her father Charles VI in 1740 and ruled with her consort husband, Franz-Stephan (1708-65, Francis Stephen elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1745), until his death in 1765. (The Holy Roman Empire had its beginning in 962 AD and ceased with Francis II's abdication and declaring it ended in 1806.) (Fig. 11).

Francis 1, as Duke of Lorraine (1729-35), brought his title but not the territories of Lorraine into the Hapsburg realm with his marriage (2/12/1736) to Maria Theresa; thus establishing the Hapsburg-Lorraine house. France feared being surrounded by the Hapsburgs and thus opposed this union. France joined Sardinia and Spain in a war against Austria in order to prevent the territorial union of Austria and Lorraine. The Treaty of Vienna (Oct. 3, 1735, and finally concluded in 1738) led to an agreement that gave the Lorraine to Stanislaw Leszczytiski (Stanislaw 1), the claimant to the Polish crown.

Joseph II and his mother, Maria Theresa, ruled jointly from 1765 until her death in 1780. She was Queen of Hungary and Bohemia (1740-80) as well as Empress of Austria. The Empress was the more dynamic and a power on the throne. Joseph's role was the lesser, but the size and complexity of the realm allowed him to also be a real ruler in many matters. Maria Theresa promised free land, cattle, building materials and 10 years tax exempt privileges to the settlers of the eastern lands. The migrations increased after 1748. Between 1763-70 it was known generally as the "treks of the Swabians" (Der grosse Schwabenzug).

This migration policy was divided into three phases:

  1. Karolinische Ansiedlung (Carloine colonization) 1718-1737, under Emperor Charles VI.
  2. Maria Theresianische Ansiedlung (Maria Theresian colonization) 1744-1772.
  3. Josephinische Ansiedlung (Josephine colonization) 1782-1787.

The primary Germans that settled in the Hungarian lands prior to this period were the "Saxons", Germans from the western parts of Germany (Palatinate or Rhineland region and were actually ethnic Franks, not French). Any Germans from the Southwestern areas were generic "Swabians". Their areas of origin included: Schwaben, Hessen, Wiirzburg and Mainz, also Alsace-Lorraine, the Rhinelands, Silesia (Fig. 12), Westphalia, Braunschweig and Württemburg; one-fifth were Lorrainers. The term may also have referred to their speech/dialect rather than a specific locale. These people moved from their homelands in the west through the Danube River valley, and were to be primarily engaged in agriculture in the new territories. They have been called in the later years, after World War 1, the "Donauschwabe".

In 1768 the Colonial Commission was established with Count Larnberg as first president, an Austrian of German origin. The commissars working in the field recruited from Ulm, Frankfurt-am-Main and Schweinfurt. (Fig. 13). They promised "settler passports" which entitled the bearer to buy cattle and farm tools on a long term, low interest installment plan. They were also eligible for cash loans on the same basis and were to settle on allotted lands. The Bánát, settled largely by these German colonists and organized under enlightened governors, was an outpost of progress in comparison of other outlying areas of the empire. However, prosperity was not endless. In 1816 the harvest failed over a great part of the empire and as a result of the famine 18,000 persons perished of starvation in Arad alone.

Early Geopolitics

Total population of Hungary (Fig. 14) in 1715 was only 1,700,000 and that of Transylvania (Fig. 15) was 800,000. The wars between Austria/Hungary and the Turldsh Empire (Fig. 16) devastated the territories, depopulating towns and villages. The land then relapsed into swamp or prairie. In 1715, Arad on the Maros (Germ: Marosch) River had a population of only 5,000. Magyars (Hungarians) had moved out of these territories seeking safety behind Hapsburg lines, reducing their proportion from 90% to 40% of those remaining. When the territory was reclaimed by the Hapsburgs, rich land owners and Crown agencies began to recruit Germans from Austria and southern Germany to fill the void and develop the lands.

Governor (Count) Claudius Florimond Mercy, administrator in the Bánát (1720-34), with the Hofkommer tried to bring artisans into the area from the west to introduce industry and growth. Also, he opposed the settling of Grenzer (frontiersmen, military in nature, see: Military Frontiers, below) from the Theiss-Marosch Frontier in the Bánát and devoted most of his energy to attracting peasants from Germany, Spain and Lorraine to the province. The Swabians formed almost one-third of the population in the County of Timis-Torontal. Meanwhile, the military authorities of the Bánát and the Military Frontier to the south, invited Serbs into the area as well. The economic administrative control of the Bánát was to be handled by the "Banco" (Ministrialbancohofdeputation), the government department which controlled the "Wiener Stadtbank" (City Bank of Vienna).

Rumanians began (c. 1720-30's) (Fig. 17) to move west into Transylvania and ultimately into the Partium and the Bánát, where they had been unknown a century before. The Partiurn (Hungarian term) were regions, which, while not belonging to the recognized historic Transylvania and the southern, southeastern parts of Hungary, had been ruled by local princes in the Turkish era. Half of these had been restored to the Kingdom of Hungary by Charles III in 1738. The other half (the Counties of Közép-Szolnok, Krszna and Zárand and the District of Kövár) were still with Transylvania in 1780.

The military authorities distrusted the Magyars politically and militarily. Therefore they strengthened the area with other populations more reliable, viz. the Germans and Serbs. Magyars were deliberately excluded from the Bánát. The Bánát at one time had included 17 different nationalities, with Germans the greatest number! The population was as diverse as Serbs, Germans, French, Catalans (Spanish), and Cossacks. In 1720 the total population was under 45,000. By 1770, it was 700,000.

Following a disastrous war with the Turks, the Austrian Crown lost in the Treaty of Belgrade in 1739 much of what it had gained by the Treaty of Passarowitz, with the exception of the Bánát.

The Bánát was to be settled with Roman Catholic free peasants, while in the Military Frontier (see below) the peasants were obligated to military duty. Between 1768-1771 4,878 families (16,989 individuals) arrived and settled in Bácska (Backa: Serb-inhabited area west of the Theiss River) and the Bánát. Settlers decreased in numbers between 1771 and 1782, followed then again by an increase. In 1779, Maria Theresa ordered the reannexation of the Bánság (Bánát) of Temes to the Kingdom of Hungary (Fig. 18). It was then organized into the counties of Torontal, Temes, and Krasso (Carasor Krasso-Szereny). In 1780, on the north side of the Marosch, the village of Glogowatz was established. A year later, in 1781, Emperor Joseph II countered his mother's directive by the restoration of the authority of the central Viennese agencies. Joseph II spent 4 million gulden (Fig. 19), through the colonizing agents, to encourage migration into Hungarian lands. By March, 1849 the population of the crownlands (including: Bacska County, the Bánát, and two districts of the Serbian "zupanija") consisted of 390,000 Rumanians, 335,000 Germans, 321,000 Serbs, and 221,000 Magyars.

With various engineering efforts, the Bánát was transformed into a productive agrarian and trade region. In the 1740's a Dutch expert directed canal construction in southern Bánát, and the drainage of the swamps brought expanded crop production. The cultivation of potatoes was introduced by the German colonists. Craft production also expanded. In the southern region of the Bánát (the Military Border), the amount of arable land tripled between 1786 and 1817.

Military Frontiers

The Austrian Military Border/Frontier (Militärgrenze) was an area a thousand miles long and from 20 to 60 miles wide. Prior to 1750, there existed two frontier regions bordering the Bánát, one to the west of the Theiss River and the other to the north of the Marosch River (the northern boundary of the Bánát) which included the city of Arad. (Map 3). These regions were established following the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 and were to have been dissolved by their inclusion into Hungary according to diet article 18 of 1743. The Theiss Frontier was dissolved and revised by inclusion of parts into adjacent frontiers in 1745. In 1746 the fortress at Arad was evacuated to comply with the dissolution of the Marosch Frontier.

In 1750 some Serb Grenzer from another military district were sent to the Bánát area when the Bánát Military District was formed. In 1755, the administration in the Bánát Military Border was placed under direct control of the Viennese "Hofkriegsrat", and for fiscal purposes in the "Hofkammer" (treasury), as directed by the "Deputation in Banaticis, Transylvanicis, et Illyricis". In 1763, a Deutsch-Banater Grenzer Regiment was recruited from the German settlers. A Walschisch-Illyrisches Grenzer Regiment was formed at this time from the Orthodox Serb and Vlach population. Thus, the Bánát was initially placed under a military Governor. Later, in 1777, Maria Theresa decided to liquidate it so that it then consisted of two parts, a purely civil region (established in 1778) and a military region to the south. In the latter, the foundation for the military force was primarily to be Germans recruited to this region for the purpose of being Grenzer (military frontiersmen). (Map 4).

The military borders were abolished in 1872-73. The German regimental area of the western Bánát was split between Torontal and Timis counties.

Before the end of World War I in 1918 (Figs. 20,21), the Rumanians and Southern Slavs were disputing the Bánát but the argument was mute. This region was promised by a secret treaty with the Entente Powers (England and France) in August 1916 under the condition that Rumania enter the war on the side of the Allies, thus the region was to become a part of Rumania without the knowledge of the occupants.

The French Balkan Army Commander, Franchet D'Esperey, signed an agreement with the Hungarian government of Michael Karolyi (Károlyi Mihály) in Belgrade on November 7, 1918 assuring the Bánát as Hungarian territory. But on the 10th of November, the Rumanian National Council in Arad announced its occupation and take-over of the region. The Rumanian troops advanced into the Transylvanian area and the Bucharest government annexed that area on 11 January 1919. In the south, the Serbs took the Bácska, Baranya, and western Bánát on 24 November 1918. By the time of the formal annexation of Transylvania and the eastern part of the Bánát to Rumania in 1920, there were 293,000 Swabians in the Bánát and another 30,000- 40,000 around Arad.

Between the wars, 1918-39 (Fig. 22), the Bánát grew and prospered as an agricultural center. The French occupation did not extract a great deal from the populace, leaving without impacting the area. Things were generally quiet until the political movements of the 1930's began to expand the ideals of National Socialism. After 1939, in the course of Hitler's strategy and agreements with Hungary in the Second Vienna Award (30 August 1940), much of what had been lost following World War I, by Hungary, was returned to Hungary at Rumania’s expense but primarily the Transylvania and the northeast regions. However, east Bánát remained "in" Rumania and west Bánát "in" Yugoslavia.

When the Nazi Army and control expanded into the regions of the "Old" and "New" German settlers of Eastern Europe, they encouraged and enticed 60,000 military-aged males to be members of the German Wehrmacht. A bonus and special rations was awarded to those who entered the Waffen-SS Army units (these were not the feared elite units often heard of in the war). This invitation was made at a time when the national economy was in ruin due to the war disruption and when the commercial trade and treaty agreements were demanded by Germany. Approximately 45,000 Saxons of Transylvania and Swabians of the Bánát joined the Rumanian Army as Rumania began to take part in the war against Russia.

Later Migrations

The German peoples of the Bánát and other regions in Rumania were to find themselves on the move again. In 1944, as the Soviet Armies moved across Rumania and World War II drew to a close, 100,000 Germans moved into Germany and Austria. King Michael took control of the government August 23-24, 1944 and declared war on Germany the next day (August 25th). In the Armistice Agreement of August 1944 reparations to the Soviets included forced laborers. On January 8, 1945, the selection of the laborers was begun. Men between the ages of 17 to 45 and women between 18 to 35 were lined up in the streets of cities and villages, such as Glogowatz (a farming community east of Arad), loaded on separate freight trains, and deported. The actual numbers are not known but estimates are from 75,000-90,000 Rumanian Germans were being deported by the Soviets to the war reparation labor camps in the Soviet Union. They worked in the mines in the Urals and the fields of "Mother Russia" (Fig. 23). Here many were to starve and be worked hard because they were German (Russians would taunt them about "their Hitler"). These laborers were to replace those lost to Russia through the war years. A large number were not able to return to their homes until several years (approximately 5 years) later, with 20% failing to return. (Map 5).



Meanwhile, between 1945 and 1950 Baden-Württemburg's population expanded by one quarter as a result of the fugitives from the east who fled the Soviet controlled territories (Fig. 24). Approximately 15,000 Rumanian Germans emigrated to the West between 1945 and 1949 (Fig. 25). Many were followed by their family members in later years. By 1950 the ethnic German population in Rumania was one-half of the pre-war level.

In the Bánát (not including Arad) the Swabian population had been 275,369 in 1930 and in 1948 it became 171,022 with the inclusion of Arad County (Fig. 26). Furthermore, 30,000 Swabians from the Bánát were resettled in the eastern Danubian Plain (the Baragan Steppes) as a result of their discontent over the collectivization of their prosperous farms during the early 1950's. In 1930 the census counted 6,130 Germans, and in 1948, 2,234 Germans in Arad (city). By 1956, it was 9,037! This sudden increase was probably due to the returning reparation/slave laborers, earlier deportees to eastern Rumania, and World War II prisoners-of-war.

The Rumanian government began a policy of Rumanianizing Hungarian and German place names in the mid-1970's. Publishing in minority languages was curtailed, and Hungarian and German television and broadcasting were suspended. A "systemized" program began to eliminate "nonviable" villages, which were ancient ethnic Hungarian and German settlements.

The assimilation program began the forced fleeing of these minorities, thus becoming "ethnically cleansed", i.e. "encouraged to return from whence they came": Hungary or Germany (Figs. 27 & 28). Such policies led to international objections (the United States, West Germany, and Israel) and West Germany’s "repatriation" program between 1978-88 (Fig. 29). Some 11,000 persons annually were to be provided exit visas upon the payment of several thousand United States dollars by the West German government for each visa. At the end of the 1970's there were 159,783 Bánát Germans, including those from Arad County. A Rumanian census in 1977 placed the total Swabian population in the nation as 4,358. (The Rumanian government census categories were adopted from the Soviet system and the German nationality was divided into three sub-groups: Germans, Saxons and Swabians! By 1987 there were approximately 1.7-2 million Hungarians and 340,000 Germans - Germans, Saxon and Swabian - remaining!)

The pressure on the minorities was so great that a rebellion broke out in Timisora, in December, 1989. This led to the eventual overthrow of President Nicolae Ceausescu's regime (Fig. 30), and the fall of the Communist dictatorship. However, the rebellion took on a force of its own and was not to benefit the minorities; it became a means to change leadership. Roumanianization remained an active policy for the political entities. In 1990 one-half of the German population immigrated to Germany (Figs. 31, 32). Many were to return to the south-westem region: from Frankfurt-am-Main to the south, from the Rhine on the west toward Augsburg on the east - the old region of Swabia.

By 1995 most of the Germans had been brought home to Germany (Fig. 33). In the small rural community of Glogowatz, fewer than 20 families remained, and by early 1996 less than five. But the story goes on for many. In Roumania they were "Germans", in Russia (1945-50) they were "Hider's Germans", and in Germany they are seen as "Roumanians"! Today (1996) they are also called or referred to as "ansiedlers" (settlers), and were fortunate in having saved their German speech. Many Russian-Germans (Volga-Deutsch) who are being "ethnically cleansed" out of Russia had been linguistically Russified under Stalin, and having been forced to other parts of the Soviet Union during World War II, lost this heritage. For these "ansiedlers" the return "home" to Germany has been particularly difficult. They had been moved about in Russia due to the anti-German sentiment and because of fear that they would "take sides with the enemy". As a result of these factors, many began to adopt "Russian ways" and are now easily identified as "foreigners" in their old homeland!

This historic trek and numismatic trail is but a small part of the complexity of ethnic identity and geographic location. The current conflict in the former Yugoslavia is based on this type of history of a people: a fixed culture and identity, a fixed geographic locale, a government or ruler which is changeable, a forced change (of government, boundaries, or migration), the intolerance of neighbors or government, and the use of history to justify abusive acts. These interacting factors are found the world over, it is only in today's focus that we utter the names of Croatia, Bosnia- Herzogovina, and Serbia. Tomorrow, it could be in another part of the world with other names. With each conflict comes new numismatic stories.


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