Hrastovac - Eichendorf

 

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Rosina T. Schmidt
 

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Rosina T. Schmidt,
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Tolna County

The Republic of Mucsi

(1946-1948) 

Translated by Henry A. Fischer

(This is my translation of an article that appeared in a publication entitled, Three Hundred Years of German Life in Hungary)

  Of the four hundred German Hungarian villages that came into being, Mucsi was located in the southern part of Tolna County and unlike many of them, Mucsi was one of those that lost almost its total Danube Swabian population through deportation after the Second World War.  It is almost unbelievable that a tragic-comedy took place there during the chaotic activities of the recent new settlement of the village.

   Like two dozen other villages in the county, Mucsi’s first German settlers came from the region of Fulda[1] adjoining Hesse following the expulsion of the Turks in the 18th century and that is the reason why they were called:  Stifoller.  This led to the widespread public association of this name was with the tasty “Stifoller salami” sausage, which was much beloved by the inhabitants throughout the area.  During the reconstruction of Tolna County various nationalities were involved including Hungarians, Serbs and Germans.  Many of the Hungarian peasant families settled in the western and northern sections of the county on the most productive soil in the region.  For instance, the land on both sides of the Kapos River which included the villages and towns of Dombovár, Dorkokez, Székely and also the area around Ozora, Tamasi and Iregszemcse.  In the uninhabited and hilly area on the Hegykat and Volgyseg rivers, which was the almost mountainous area around Gyönk, the majority of the ethnic German settlements in the county were to be found.

   In the midst of the steep hills and mini-mountains of Tolna County, Mucsi’s settlers found themselves eking out an existence from this rather step-motherly soil in terms of its natural endowments.  The backwardness of Hungary’s agricultural industry was compounded by the half-feudal nature of society and the authorities that controlled it that all had an effect on Mucsi.  Among the most prominent nobles who owned the estates in Tolna were the following families:  Batthyany, Dory, Montenuovo, Zichy and Eszterházy.

   Prince Paul Eszterházy alone owned 32, 137 Katastraljoch (45,000 acres) of land in Tolna County around Ujdombovar.  From among the oldest and most well known Hungarian noble families were the Apponyis who were the owners of Mutsching (as the inhabitants referred to Mucsi) and who also worked a large part of their own land holdings on their estates.

   The population of Mucsi consisted of small landowners, cottage owners (tradesmen), day labourers, servants and maids.  Most families owned about 5 Katastraljoch of land.  In the community, the Hungarians were exclusively from the upper class, and the ethnic Germans formed the middle class.  For the cottage owners, who had no land there was little chance of advancing themselves due to the lack of work possibilities.  Many of the servants (hired hands) earned their living in faraway villages.  Over half of the girls at the age of twelve hired themselves out to rich families in the towns.  The Mucsingers were known throughout the area as wooden shoemakers and cattle breeders.  The village with a population of 2,300 was famous by the end of the 19th century because of Mucsi’s local grown wines that won a gold medal at the World’s Fair in Vienna in 1902.  During a study of soil quality in 109 villages in Tolna County, Mucsi placed 91st.  Worse soil could only be found in other nearby Swabian villages:  Mórágy, Závod, Lengyel, Duzo, Szálka, and Bátaapáti (the lowest on the scale).  One of the common features among these villages was the loss of topsoil through constant erosion.  In this hilly area it was not possible to use machinery and fertilizers, and had to rely on backward agricultural methods instead.

   In the six years of elementary school, the pupils only developed rudimentary knowledge.  They learned neither the German or Hungarian language correctly.  Their ‘Type C’ school (a designation the Hungarian Department of Education gave it because they included several hours of German each week) did not actually provide the students with much outside of basic reading and writing skills.  Before the time of the Bund (the Nazi influenced local German Folk and Cultural Society) the local populace was not allowed to give expression to their ethnic German nationality or satisfy their need to maintain their Danube Swabian identity.  The people were raised in a strict Catholic conservative spirit.  The upper classes kept them in their place and in that way they were easier to control and they could rule over them.  In terms of politics and economics they only had meagre information to inform their discussions and thinking.  The traditional Hungarian nobles formed the upper class and were in control and were highly influenced by the spirit of Trianon, (The Peace Treaty after the war that dismembered Hungary forcing it to surrender vast territories to Romania and the new state of Yugoslavia and losing large portions of its Hungarian population) their feudal concepts and rights as the aristocracy and formed alliances with the emerging urban middle class and ruled politically and ideologically while the farmers and urban classes struggled against want.

   The common people were left to themselves, with no spiritual or political leaders in their own ranks.  The villagers of Mucsi thought “Hungary” and “Hungarian” even when they spoke German.

   The political scene and transitions that took place in Mucsi in the time between the two world wars was much like it was in most of the Danube Swabian communities.  The population had to live through the great wave of Magyar nationalism, the youth had to participate in the para-military Hungarian Levente movement.  In the village, a chapter of Bleyer’s UDV (Ungarn Deutsche Verein:  German Hungarian Association) was organized.  (Formerly it had been the Catholic Literary Society).  After its dissolution in the summer of 1940 the Bund replaced it and a large portion of the population was won to its cause because of its political, economic and cultural objectives and promises.  With regard to the ideology, or having an understanding of National Socialism (Nazism) the local members knew just about nothing about it.  A simple minded Bund membership was easy to deceive as Nazis themes and strains worked their way into the program of the local chapters.  The Hungarians and the other nationalities were just as susceptible to Nazi ideology as were the ethnic Germans, because false gods easily manipulate us when we begin to worship them.  Because there were so few people with an education or an understanding of their own history in Hungary there was no one to call the Bund to account or dare to question it.  At the beginning of 1943 things began to change, especially in terms of the community’s political attitudes.  It resulted from the reverses of the Nazis on the eastern front and as the death notices began to arrive in households and they suddenly realized that they had been taken in by the Bund and their promises.  In 1943 half of the members withdrew from the Bund organization in Mucsi.  This political landslide was associated with the organization of the True to Our Homeland Movement begun and organized by the German Hungarians in Bonyhad.  By the end of the war the overwhelming majority of the population of Mucsi had joined the new rival movement.  Mucsi was one of the bastions of the movement in Hungary.  One form that their opposition to the Bund took was the establishment of totally Hungarian schools in which the language of instruction was Hungarian in totally German speaking villages.

   Mucsi welcomed with the joy the ending of the war that had claimed the lives of 151 of the villagers.  They assumed that a democratic system of government would be put into effect and that social equality and guarantees to the various nationalities and their rights would be protected.  But these years following the war did not bring freedom for the people of Mucsi, instead it was deportation to forced labour in the Soviet Union, confiscation of the houses and land and internment for many.  As a result of the reparations Hungary was forced to make to the Soviet Union, many of the younger people of Mucsi were taken to Russia for forced labour, others were chosen to do slave labour in Hungary, and still others were interned in the camp at Lengyel in Tolna County for weeks and months on end.  But the greatest shock of all was the expulsion.

   Some forty families living in the village that had claimed that they were Hungarian by nationality in the census of 1941 were allowed to remain.  As for all of the rest of the local population, they were to be expelled from Hungary and that would be carried out in three phases.  The first transport left Mucsi on June 2nd, 1946.  Another on the 5th of June followed and the final phase on June 7th.   For that purpose lists were posted at the school and village community centre that contained the names of those to be expelled.  With the beating of drums the populace was assembled and they were handed their expulsion papers.  In spite of all of that life went on in Mucsi as the expulsion dates drew near.  Some simply continued to work in their fields to the last minute, watered he vineyards, feed their livestock for the last time, and left additional food for the next few days as if they were just going away for a day or two.  They had about a two-week warning of the expulsion.  Each person was allowed baggage of up to 80 kilos.  Their clothes, food, bedding and such were wrapped up in blankets or they made small wooden containers.

   On the day of the expulsion the whole village was in uproar and in deep mourning.  The wagons with the deportees on board along with their luggage formed a long column.  All of the bells in the church steeple began to toll.  Many people prayed the rosary.  Others wept.  Some ran into the church for one last quick prayer, others kissed the walls of the church, or they took a handful of earth from the cemetery at the graves of loved ones, as a reminder of “home”.  But over and over again there were scenes of painful and tearful goodbyes as relatives, neighbours and friends parted.  Horse and oxen drawn wagons brought the deportees to the train station in neighbouring Kurd.  There they were loaded in cattle cars and they began the journey into the unknown.  Were they going east or west?  In each cattle car there were thirty to forty persons and their baggage.  The bundles and boxes were used to sit on during the day and they slept on them at night.  A hole was drilled in the floor as something to use to meet bodily functioning needs or if you were fortunate you could find a bush to hide behind during a stop the train made.  There was no way you could wash.  Several women from one car would cook for the whole group when the train stopped for that purpose.  Usually it was soup: bean, potato, einbrenn.  Along with that there was sausage, bacon, and hams from home.  The trip took three weeks.

   When they arrived in Germany they were placed in a camp.  There was very little living space.  The biggest job for everyone was to find work and a place to live.  At that time all of Germany experienced hunger and homelessness.  These “foreigners”, whose costume, speech and habits were different, were not always well received by the local German population.  Some of the homeowners were forced to take in the “Hungarians” who the locals referred to as the Hungarian Gypsies.

   As a result of the three transports in June of 1946, Mucsi lost 90% of its Danube Swabian inhabitants.  The remaining ethnic German population believed that they would be able to remain at home.  But soon there had to be place made for the new settlers coming from Slovakia.  In August 1947, this led to a further expulsion.  For the powers that be at the time it was immaterial and irrelevant that these last deportees had given Hungarian as their nationality and German as their mother tongue in the census of 1941 and many of them were the most vocal leaders against the Bund.  They had established the True to Homeland Movement in the village and had been the founders of the Hungarian school.  The only issue that counted was the fact that they owned land or a house.  The expulsion was carried out quickly by common agreement that included the local press.  This final expulsion took the Swabians by complete surprise.  On August 23, 1947 police officers surrounded Mucsi in order to capture all of the remaining Danube Swabians.  It was a terrible sight to see.  People were driven like cattle, many of them elderly and were tossed up on the trucks waiting for them.  A few families still managed to escape and hid in the vineyards or meadows, neighbouring Hungarian villages or homes, where they remained for weeks and months, sleeping in haylofts.  Some went to Budapest to hide there.  All of the property and possessions of the expellees was confiscated.

   On January 28, 1948 some twenty-five to thirty families were taken by surprise at night, awakened and made to dress and were given half an hour to pack some necessities.  But no one could have more than 5 kilos.  As a result of this there were some terrible consequences.  In case of one family only the parents were taken and had to leave their 17-year-old son and 3 and half year old daughter behind.  In another family, three siblings including a 7-year-old boy (the author) were expelled, but the parents and grandparents were kept behind because the father was sick.

   On March 21, 1948 the last expulsion took place in Mucsi.  Of the five hundred families living in the 478 houses, only 24 families remained.  There is no other example quite like it anywhere else in Hungary.

   Even before the expulsion of the Danube Swabians of Mucsi, the re-settlement began.  A few Hungarian families arrived in the village having fled Yugoslavia as refugees.  The major arrival of new residents occurred after the ethnic Germans were expelled in June, 1946.  The Hungarian settlers had found out about the possibility of settling in Mucsi from the political parties or other nationalist organizations or read about it in the newspapers.

   Large numbers of the Hungarian families who settled in Mucsi were locksmiths, shoemakers and bakers; mostly tradesmen and craftsmen but unfortunately none of them were farmers.  Most of them came from the south-eastern county of Békés.  Land poor and just poor families from nearby villages also settled in the Mucsi.  One day later more than a dozen Hungarian families from the north eastern counties moved in, mostly from Heves County from the villages of Kal, Parad and Trarnalelesz.  At the same time colonists came from Bikar.  In Mucsi, settlers from 32 different areas were settled, who represented some 60 different occupations, but most of them had no background or knowledge of farm work or agriculture.  Many of them arrived by wagon with a team of horses or oxen, while others came by truck.  Some who were not content with what Mucsi had to offer left after spending ten minutes in the village.

   A newspaper in Tolna carried an article in its February 14, 1968 edition entitled:  “The Republic of Mucsi” and refers to happenings in Mucsi in 1946.

   “For a long time Mucsi was a state within a state, even though due to some rather clever politicking no ministerial titles were awarded.  Mucsi was a republic in which many naive, dramatic and cheerful conflicts summed up its life together.  As a consequence a legend has resulted and Mucsi is a byword for liberation.  Raising a white flag the new settlers announced that they had capitulated and gave up their sovereignty of Mucsi.  The native born at that time were the subjects and the new settlers who due to the fact that they were from every other section of the country had come here to find their destiny in trying their luck at being the rulers.

   Even though there is no official documentation covering the years 1946 to 1950 Mucsi has been resettled by some 42,000 persons and just as many people have forsaken the place.  This would make it equal to a major city in southern Transdanubia.

   This almost hidden community lures settlers like a California gold strike!  One would almost believe it was the land of Canaan:  large hams hang in the food lockers, there are barrels and barrels of wine in the cellars worth much gold, in the pig pens fat hogs root around and the houses beckon you with their well furnished rooms and all of this is yours just for the asking!  One would be led to believe that all you had to do was harvest the wheat and find yourself a real El Dorado.

   In June of 1946 to all intents and purposes the village was deserted.  Just the many valuables were left behind.  All you had to do is walk in and sit down and it was yours.  In the hope of striking it rich, hordes of settlers from all parts of the country arrived in Mucsi, even from Budapest and other cities, people from the underworld living a precarious existence, among them graphologists, extravagant city slickers from rich neighbourhoods in Budapest, sword and sabre rattlers, professional card players and gamblers, unemployed visionaries, exiled Seventh Day Adventist preachers, Arrow Cross fanatics, war criminals and all kinds of other people.  And from the southern Batschka there are heroes and hired hands that take over the houses, goods and properties of the Danube Swabians.

   Everyone tries to live according to his own rules.  In the tavern run by Stefan Binder and Joseph Kerterz the drinking sessions on workdays and Sundays begin early in the morning and last until late at night.  Most of the heads of wheat fall to the ground because the new settlers only harvested one hundred Klafters (a quarter acre) because they believed that should last them at least a year.  At the time of gathering in the grapes the sabre rattlers and the professional card players rode into the vineyards on horseback, accompanied by a Gypsy orchestra, also on horses.  This golden life attracted and lured some 42,000 people to Mucsi.

   The village lived like a Republic all on its own right in the middle of the County.  It even had its own little king.

   Often it had its own local unrest.  The people grabbed hoes and shovels and headed for the community centre.  They held the teacher and all of the local officials in custody and practically all of the other people who wanted to obey the law and kept the whole group in constant fear.

   In this kind of chaos and confusion it was not that difficult to get around the law.  The new settlers sold 250 of the houses and just as many outhouses were torn down at the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s.  The lumber was sold for ridiculous prices and delivered all across the countryside.

   During these times all of the decent law abiding families, whether old time residents or new settlers were the absolute minority.  They had no say in anything.

   At the beginning of the 1950s things became clearer.  The cleverest among them saw they needed to do something about the way things were going.  No one was coming to replace them anymore, because it was not to anyone’s advantage to do so.  The cellars and food lockers were now empty and bare.  The only way to survive now was to work…

   There are still some older people who remember how the police set the sheriff of the County free and the villagers raised the white flag and surrendered.  But the young people in Hungary today believe this is only a fairy-tale.

   Meanwhile advertisements are being run in newspapers in south western Germany inviting would be new settlers to come and meet the challenge of finding new opportunities in Hungary.  Apparently there have been a few inquires from Fulda.

 

[1] Fulda had a large and well-known monastery. The word ‘monastery’ translates in German language to ‘Stift’.