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Historical Accounts

Danube Swabian Artist

SEBASTIAN LEICHT (1908-2002)

By John M. Michels

Sebastian Leicht was born in Backi Brestovac. He was the well known ‘Beta Vukanovic School of Art’ best graduating artists, as well as ‘die Akademie fuer Bildende Kuenste’ in Munich. His book of paintings, Weg der Donauschwaben, is specifically close to our hearts.

During WWII Leicht was serving with the Military towards the end of the war in some capacity similar to a war correspondent on the Western Front.  His output was paintings and drawings rather than reportorial text. 

He would thus seem not to have been in a position to flee his ancestry home, as such.  His wife and daughter did escape somehow though.  After the war they were all living in Passau in Germany for many years before he died in 2002.

Sebastian Leicht did accompany the transport of a refugee group of 661 persons under the leadership of Pual Deutchle of his village. Leicht made contact with them in Ebenfurth, Austria in October of 1944.  The group had orders from the refugee Command of the Volkesdeutsche Mittelstelle, signed by Christian Brücker as leader of the Flüchtlingskommando.  (Brücker later became leader of the Donauschwaben organization in Sindelfingen.)  The orders were a movement authorization for the 661 people with 95 wagons and 185 horses to move from Ebenfurth to Budweiss, in Czechoslovakia.  Leicht told Deutschle to take the orders back to Brücker and have them changed from Budweiss to Linz, in Austria, which he did.

Leicht did a fairly large number of drawings on the western war front and whereabouts of these are not known.  There is supposedly a warehouse of painting confiscated by the US during the war and it would seem an interesting project, perhaps a thesis of some kind, to locate the pictures and identify them.  Also, there were a large number of Leicht's works from the 1930's that disappeared after a major exhibit in Germany. The crook was later found, as well as most of the paintings.

In his later years, Leicht visited his home in Batschka, which was occupied by Serbs.  They had some of his paintings on display but they would not return any of them to Leicht! Until recently his works were displayed as well as sold under his teachers’ name: Beta Vukanovic. The first show of Leicht’s paintings in Serbia under his own name was in 2005!

The latest of Leicht's works would include two portraits of Bishop Pacha for display at the re-opening of the bishop's palace in Temesvár in about 1994 or so.  The painting portrayed Pacha as a young person and as in his later years.

Leicht did only one sculpture in his career -- for a centennial celebration of the village of Filipowa some time in the 1930's.  There is also an interesting story that goes along with that venture!

 

The Sculpture by Sebastian Leicht honoring the ancestors who settled Filipowa

From: Weekly, “Die Donau”, April 1939

We have affirmed:  The ancestral monument in Filipovo will not be consecrated by the Church because it presents no religious theme.
The festive unveiling of the Ancestral Memorial carved from white marble by the artist Sebastian Leicht was the highpoint of the homeland festival .  Embedded into the base of the monument is a copy of the dedication text read by the Village Richter, Martin Pertschy.  The monument depicts the Filipowa settler family and seeks to portray how the colonists, through their industry and assiduous tenacity, made the land arable as a homeland for themselves and their descendents.  The speakers congratulated the citizens of Filipowa for their community spirit.  The Filipowa people donated considerably more than 50,000 Dinars for the erection of the monument.

Unveiling of the monument, 10:00 AM, July 30, 1938

The portrayal of the Donauschwaben as people was as follows:  Man is a being whose foundation is justice and whose culmination is love.  The third mark that characterizes us is our view of the world. We have no distinguishing view of the world.  The view that the Donauschwaben do have of the world is the view of the family, that is, the view of the world in microcosm.  It is the Family out of which he comes, his mother, his brothers and sisters among whom he grew up.  Beyond the family there were uncles and aunts, the neighbors, and friends.  The Danube Swabian carries within him the picture of his home village, with the families that live there. -- the Church year with its feast days and celebrations, and the farmer’s year with its festivals.  The Donauschwabe is a happy person, one who could and would celebrate.  We are proud of our sense of family, of the imprint on our character by the family. 

Speech by Praelate Haltmeyer, May 3, 1987

 

The Death of the Predsjednik (Chairman)

Towards the end of June or the beginning of July, the exact time can no longer be determined, the rumor went through the Filipowa concentration camp like wild fire: The Community chairman (Predsjednik) Josef Held, was seriously injured on his return from an inspection trip as he passed through the village with his makeshift automobile.  During the war years, when there was a scarcity of technical products, a Filipowa mechanic modified a flat, broad, rubber-tired wagon to serve for the transport of hemp, using a diesel engine, a steering mechanism, but no side rails; in short, he converted a horse-drawn wagon into an improvised truck.

After the revolution in the Autumn of 1944 this vehicle was soon confiscated by the village council and was used for their members for travel, even though there was an ordnance for a nice wagon and good horses to be standing ready to drive the new authorities on inspections or to other nearby places.  Josef Held was a very heavy man.  As he drove off on a hot summer day in 1944 with this auto, he sat on a leather-upholstered bench, as the farmers liked to do when visiting a neighboring village on a nice wagon.  The vehicle was not particularly fast but still, as it turned coming out of the Kapellengasse towards the Community building on the Kirchengasse, the Community Chairman, along with the heavy bench, slid off the wagon where the Ancestral Monument once stood.  Some believe that the wagon’s left front wheel had driven into one of the wooden posts that had been built earlier in order to prevent the farmers from coming too close to the base of the monument with their wagons.  Josef Held was thrown so hard that he suffered severe internal injuries from which he succumbed a day later.  Because of the great heat he needed to be buried immediately.  Thus ended the eight months of his administration, which remains controversial to this day.  The suddenness of his departure shocked everyone.

Bd. Filipowa, Vol. VI

Epilog by John M. Michels

On a Hartmann tour to Budapest on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the expulsion of the Donauschwaben, Michels met a former resident of  Filipowa named Keller.  Keller remembered well the Leicht monument.  He further added that the case of the Predsjednik Josef Held being killed at the monument was not an accident!  Keller said he knew this because his cousin was the driver of the motorized wagon.

The Sculpture by Sebastian Leicht honoring the ancestors who settled Filipowa

Leicht had a large block of Wenschatzer white marble brought to his new studio, sent for helpers from a Filipowa stonecutter, and after having some instruction in the elements of stone cutting explained to him, set himself assiduously to work.  Wenschatz marble is very coarse-grained and does not lend itself to a fine-chiseling of the shapes.  From this there emerged , according to experts judging from available photographs, a marble work that was impressive, bulky as proper to the material, and in today’s sense, a modern appearance.  The man in the older costume, stands holding a shovel.  Leicht purposely gave him a tool in his hand as he felt that everyone in the Pannonian plain – which incidentally also applies --  must in is lifetime work with the shovel;  only the farmer worked with the plow, and the farmers made up but a third of the population of a Donauschwaben village. Next to the standing man, sits a women, somewhat bowed over.  With her large hands she folds in prayer the hands of a child sitting on her lap. Between the two adults, on a diagonal to the front, a five year-old boy seems to be looking into the distance.  A strong boldness and sedateness, a sense of family and a religious steadfastness of the people of Filipowa, indeed the Donauschwaben in general, impresses  itself on the observer of the work.