Diaspora Swabian-Lutherans in Baranya

Diaspora Swabian Lutherans in Baranya

by Henry A. Fischer

The information on the following villages in the Baranya finds it source in Zwischen Donau, Drava und Plattensee by Franz Teufel and Heinrich Friedrich.

  Csikostöttös, Ág, Gerényes, Tarró, Tékes and Szabadi.

  These communities located north of Pécs were settled and inhabited by Swabians and Magyars.  The Swabians were Lutheran and the Hungarians were Roman Catholic.  The Mother Churches were both in Csikostöttös where the clergy resided.  Szabadi, which lies north of Dombovár, was included in this “circle”.

During the Middle Ages all of the villages belonged to Tolna County except for Szabadi which was in Somogy County.  That is the current situation once more.

The Origins of the Villages

Csikostöttös was earlier known as “Töttös”.  The name comes from the numerous dams built in the swamp of “Töttös”.  There were many fish in the swamps including a special variety of carp known as “Csikok” which was added to the name.  The first historical    reference to the site was in 1289.  Serbs settled in the vicinity during the Turkish occupation.

One of the early nobles who owned these estates was the Bodo family who resided at Anjavár in Tolna County in the vicinity of Simontornya.  The Hungarian population in the area was liquidated or expelled during the Turkish occupation.  Southern Slavs, both Croats and Serbs lived here in the 17th century.  During the Kuruz Rebellion that lasted from 1703 to 1711 the Slavic population abandoned the region.  In 1696 there were still six Slavic households in the village, all of whom left before 1700.  Their influence is still present in terms of the names of places throughout the area.

Ág or Nagy Ág was part of the estates of the Farkas Bodo in 1542 and known as “Naaghag”.  During the Turkish period of occupation there were Hungarians living in the village.  The name means:  stronger and more powerful branch.  It refers to the remnants of a large oak tree at the centre of the village that was struck by lightning.

Gerényes has no previous history prior to the coming of the Turks.  It was simply part of the Bodo family estates.  After the expulsion of the Turks there were a handful of people living at the site.

Tarrós was part of the Henyei family estates before the Turks occupied the area.  In 1542 Janos Pöröczy was the owner.  After 1559 it became part of the landholdings of the Dombo family.

Tékes was part of the land grants given Ferencz Bodo in 1510 and 1518.  In 1542 it was owned by Bodo Farkas and called “Thelkes”.  The name is a corruption of the Hungarian word “Kürbis” which means melon or pumpkin.  This heavily forested valley surrounded a garden heavily planted with melons.  The melons were used to feed swine.  In order to guard and nurture the garden workers and houses were needed.  During the time of the Turks the local Magyar population fled and hid in the forest and lived in the area around the former garden patch.

Szabadi is a very old Magyar village.  Nobles were said to have lived here who paid no taxes.  The estate owner was called Dénes.  An earlier owner was Count Kasimir Battyányi.  In 1740 a wooden chapel with a straw roof stood at the centre of the village.  It had a separate bell tower and clock and was named after St. James.

  Baranya County and the Swabian Settlement

During the one hundred and fifty year occupation of the area by the Turks there was an effective administration in place.  With the liberation of Hungary by the united armies of the Habsburgs Baranya County belonged to the Emperor by right of arms.  A new administration and economic system had to be established by the Imperial Royal Chamber.  Beginning in June to the July 5, 1687 the “liberated areas” were surveyed and identified by the Prefect of the Royal Chamber, Christian Vincens and the administrator Laszlo György Nagy and reported on the populated and uninhabited settlements.  In place of receiving their salary for military services families could opt for the return of their estates and lands if they could prove ownership prior to 1526.  This was the date of the Battle of Mohács when the Turks defeated the Hungarian army under Louis II.

In 1692 Baron Paul Esterházy purchased the estates of Dombovár.  Included in this purchase were the villages of Csikostöttös, Gerényes, Nagy Ág, Tarrós and Tékes.  In a document dated 09.06.1692 the villages are described in this way:  “The villages are not divided into feudal sessions.  How many Joch of ploughed land and meadows a farmer has is not known.  Each person ploughs and reaps as much as he wants and needs because there is enough land to go around.”  It further notes that Csikosöttös and Gerényes possess good oak forests.  At the end of the 17th century all of the Dombovár Domain belonged administratively to Tolna County.

In 1695 the contest for administrative changes for the area between Tolna and Baranya County began and lasted for the next two decades.  In 1701 practically all of the Dombovár Domain was ceded to Baranya County as part of the Pécs District which was administrated from there.  The head of the administration was the military city commander:  General and Count Karl Thüngen and later Gabriel Vechi.  The official head of the County was the High Sheriff.

On the basis of the tax lists for 1715 and 1720 for the villages indicated all were populated by Hungarians with the exception of Szabadi.  It was still uninhabited in 1715.  In 1720 some Slavic families were listed as living in Csikostöttös.  All of the peasants were serfs bound to the estate owner.

The re-settlement of Tolna and Baranya Counties began after the Kuruz Rebellion was put down in 1711.  The colonists were mostly from Hessen Darmstadt, the Bishopric of Fulda, Württemburg and the upper Rhine.  In 1721-1723 over three hundred persons from Hessen Darmstadt left for Hungary and settled in the Lutheran villages of Tolna and Baranya Counties.  The leading figure in this Lutheran settlement was Count von Mercy.  Very few of these Hessian settlers came to the Dombovár Domains of the Esterházys where Magyar and Roman Catholic Germans were settling in the western Tolna and northwest Baranya.

The settlement of the five villages had their origins in Rackozár.  The first Lutheran settlers arrived there in 1752.  Among them was Johann Heinrich Birkenstock from Felsö Nána.  He was born in 1709 in Upper Hesse at Hopfgarten in the vicinity of Alsfeld.  He later became known as “Farmer King” because of the important role he played in the Swabian settlement of the area.  Through his friend Stephen Nagy who played a key role in the administration and affairs of Count Esterházy, Birkenstock became familiar with the Count.  He was to become his chief adviser in terms of issues around the settlement of his estates.  The Count followed his advice to settle Hessian Lutherans on his estates to broaden the scope of settlement by having various nationalities and gain immeasurably by having industrious Germans working for him.

His recruitment of settlers was successful due to his promise of three years of freedom from paying taxes or providing Robot (free labour) to the new settlers coming from the Tolna villages.  Because of that Birkenstock grew in influence as well as in his holdings.

But in 1786 Birkenstock’s star began to fade.  It was discovered that he charged a commission and other fees to the new settlers without the Count’s knowledge.  The Count levelled legal charges against him and he went on trial in Pécs and was declared guilty.  He died abandoned and impoverished in 1792.

Birkenstock was responsible for the Hessian Lutherans settling in the five villages as documents in Pécs attest.  From a letter of complaint from ten villages written by the schoolmaster Friedrich Meyer of Csikostöttös in 1786 it appears that the major portion of Hessian settlers arrived in 1778.

This document indicates that the following were the founding settlers in the five villages:

Gerényes:  Jakob Appel, Conrad Frank, Georg Haffner, Adam Hartung, Heinrich Jost, Justinius Kobl, Conrad Koch, Jakob Koch, Leonhard Kretzner, Friedrich Pauer, Matthias Pauer, Johannes Petter, Georg Remler, Nicolaus Remler, Conrad Schubert, Philip Schubert and Adam Stohum.

Nagy Ág:  Cardus Czeh, Conrad Erbmann, Johannes Friedenperger, Peter Geib, Georg Götz, Conrad Kellermann,  Heinrich König, Georg Krinwald, Heinrich Kuhwath, Jakob Lein, Heinrich Lein, Christian Leinnperger, Reinhard Lohfing, Ludwig Marth, Timotheus Marth, Michael Meinhard, Johannes Müller, Georg Müller, Nicolaus Nedling, Michael Niclas, Friedrich Nifel, Nicolaus Peter, Adam Pless, Michael Pruszt, Adam Pucher,  Georg Schwarzenbach, Adam Spatz, Adam Spatz, Johannes Strack, Johannes Taubert, Wendel Vacker, Adam Valder, Conrad Valder and Valentin Volfart.

Tarrós:  Johannes Allrutz, Nicolaus Eisenah, Heinrich Frudinger, Christoph Manngolt, Christoph Manngolt, Johannes Meiszinger, Andreas Pfeifer, Jakob Piserte, Michael Schwertzl, Johannes Vinner, Baltasar Volgemuth and Adam Volff.

Tékes:  Ernst Beming, Jakob Dilk, Johannes Folmer, Eberhard Frank, Johannes Haag, Justinius Heesz, Andreas Heltzel, Carl Hesser, Johannes Hetrich, Johannes Keller, Zacharias Leffer, Adam Letz, Adam Mertz, Daniel Muhr, Nicolaus Pheil, Johannes Raffang, Georg Reiter, Johannes Ribert, Conrad Szam, Valentin Szeid, Adam Tebald, Conrad Tevald, Adam Tevald, Adam Tevald, Josef Till and Andreas Volff.

Csikostöttös:  Leonhard Bob, Georg Ernst, Johannes Fauht, Johannes Fogel, Michael Frank, Conrad Friz, Christoph Gutknecht, Heinrich Hartmann, Johannes Kohlmann, Baltasar Kraling, Heinrich Krist, Nicolaus Lehr, Johann Letz, Martin Rab, Jakob Reitung, Georg Paul Scheffer, Jakob Szak, Vendel Szak, Andreas Visneher and Georg Visneher.

Church and School

In 1752 Lutheran congregations were founded in Csikostöttös, Gerényes, Nagy Ág, Tarrós and Tékes.  Because of the Carolinian Regulations of the Emperor in 1731 they were restricted from giving full expression to their church life.  They were placed under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic clergy in the area.  They had the right to examine any Lutheran clergy or teachers in terms of their doctrine and practices and either approve or disapprove of them.  The Roman Catholic parish of Vasszar was the Mother Church for Nagy Ág and Tékes.  Vasarosdombó was the Mother Church for Csikostóttós, Gerényes and Tarrós up to 1834.

The newly established Lutheran congregations were soon under attack.  At the head of the persecution was the Bishop of Pécs, Ferenz Nesselrode II.  Out of justified fear the Lutherans in the five villages held services secretly in their homes.  Baptisms were performed by the local Roman Catholic priest as they had been ordered to do.  Most of them went to the Lutheran Church in Kismanyok to receive Holy Communion.

Due to ongoing emigration from the Tolna and Württemberg, Hesse and Bavaria the Lutherans began to become the majority in most of the villages.  This was especially true in Rackozár.  Birkenstock had made every effort in both Pest and Vieena to obtain permission to make Rackozár an Artikular Church (one of two legally permitted Lutheran Mother Churches in every County) and be allowed to elect a pastor and build a church.  That would only become possible later during the reign of Joseph II following the Edict of Toleration in 1781.  Despite that the congregation was already raising funds to build in 1766.  At that time in petitioning the Empress Maria Theresia the congregation indicated that the would serve as the Mother Church for a growing Lutheran population in the area:

Rackozár 642, Tofü 326, Nagy Ág 164, Mekényes 602, Gerényes 81, Tékes 85, Tarrós 83, Csikostöttös 157 and Kaposseckcsö 88.  In total there were 2,228 Lutherans living in the area.

In 1778 another petition was submitted which indicated the following numbers of Lutherans:

Rackozár 643, Mekényes 608, Tofü 216, Nagy Ág 43, Gerényes 70, Csikostöttös 151, Tékes 47 and Kaposszeckcsö 115.  There were a total of 1,893.

On September 20, 1783 Joseph II permitted religious freedom in Rackozár and its filial congregations in Tofü, Bikal, Nagy Ág, Gerényes, Tékes, Csikosöttös, Tarrós, Kaposszeckcsö.   Szabadi only became a filial in 1834.

Csikostöttös’ Lutheran congregation was founded in 1752 as more and more Lutheran settlers arrived.  Others continued to arrive and they were able to build a Bethaus.  The Levite Lehrer was Karl Nathen and served here secretly.  In 1794 a school was built and the first teacher was David Klein.  A massive fire burned down most of the village as well as the school and prayer house.  In 1847 they were both rebuilt.  A church was built with financial assistance from the Gustav Adolph Society.  In 1878 the congregation became a Mother Church with filials in Gerényes, Nagy Ág, Tarrós. Tékes and Szabadi.  The first pastor was Karl Wolland who had been the assistant in Rackozár.

Gerényes was founded in 1780 through the efforts of Birkenstock.  In 1793 thirteen married couples settled here.  Five families:  Müller, Schar Zahrt, Vogel and Reil built a prayer house at their own personal expense.  The land had been a gift of the County.  A church was built in the village in 1909.

Nagy Ág began to expand in 1776 as a result of the migration from Tolna County.  Philip Nitschinger paid for the first Bethaus and a house for the Levite Lehrer.  In 1780 a bell was secured but the ringing of the bell bothered the Roman Catholics in the village.  In 1806 the original bell was traded for two others.  A new prayer house was built in 1819.  A church was built in 1892.

Tarrós’ Lutherans bought a house to use as a school in 1772.  Through the efforts of the Levite Lehrer Peter Lobl and the Church Fathers:  Gottfried Buchert and Conrad Helfenbein a prayer house was built in 1823.  In 1831 both the school and prayer house were destroyed by fire.  They were rebuilt in 1846.

Tékes saw the organization of the Lutheran congregation in 1752.  But until 1806 they held their services secretly in homes.  In 1807 they received permission build a prayer house.  Count Esterházy donated the land and the building was completed in 1808.  But the Count’s underlings closed down the prayer house and took the keys.  It took the personal efforts of the Dean of the Church District to secure the return of the keys and proceeded to dedicate the prayer house.  There were 246 communicants at the first service.  More Lutherans moved into the village and a school was built in 1875 followed by a new church in 1907.

Szabadi’s Lutheran congregation was founded in 1793 under the protection of Count Batthyáni.  A schoolmaster was called and elected in 1820.  A church with a small tower was built in 1850.  In 1868 the pastor Johann Guggenberger provided information on the life of the congregation.  Worship was in German and all of the festivals were observed.  In villages with large Roman Catholic majorities the Lutherans also observed their festivals.  The schoolmasters led worship in the filial congregations but he pastor of the Mother Church provided pastoral services at least once a year for the celebration of Holy Communion.  All of the congregations had two lay Church Fathers to provide congregational leadership.

The growth of the congregations can be measured by these figures from the inception of the congregations until 1933:

Csikostöttös grew from 154 to 907; Gerényes grew from 81 to 369; Nagy Ág grew from 164 to 410; Tarrós declined from 83 to 68; Tékes grew from 85 to 405; and Szabadi grew from 126 to 232.

The Final Years

A Commission was established in February 1941 to act as observers of the Census in Csikostöttös, Nagy Ág, Tékes, Gerényes and Szabadi.  The report indicated:

“Our journey began on February 1st and ended on February 8th.   Dr. Hirt, the chief magistrate of the District indicated that the Magyars in Baranya were not very industrious.  As a result the industrious Swabians have expanded themselves and their land holdings.  Even in completely Hungarian villages the land is often owned by Swabians.  The Swabian is thrifty and more industrious than the Magyar and they do not get themselves into debt needlessly.”

“On the whole the Magyars are poor.  There are very few well-to-do among them who can keep up with the Swabians.  Much of the land in the district is owned by Swabians.  The two groups do not mix socially or inter-marry.  The divisions between the two groups are becoming more difficult and are hard to neutralize.”

“In Gerényes the local German economy is healthy.  The situation of the Magyars is very bad.  The ‘one child” system is a new thing among the Magyars but it is practiced among the Swabians.”

“With regard to Szabadi, the inhabitants are half Magyar and Swabian.  They respect one another and have good relationships with each other.  The assimilation of the Swabians into Hungarians is making great strides.”

They then provide the following village-by-village analysis:

Csikostöttös:  This village was once completely Hungarian but since 1880 the majority of the population are Swabian.  The Swabians are Lutheran and their school instruction is in German.  894 of the inhabitants claim German as their mother tongue and 886 have registered themselves as Germans by nationality.  The number of Hungarians has declined from 820 in 1930 to 638 in 1940.

Gerényes:  In the distant past this was a Magyar community.  Through migration the Swabians became the majority by 1890.  The Lutheran school uses both languages.  331 of the inhabitants claim German as their mother tongue and 328 also claim German as their nationality.

Nagy Ág: In 1773 this was entirely Magyar village.  In 1840 there was a Magyar majority but since 1863 the Swabians have gained the majority.  The Swabians are Lutheran the Magyars are Roman Catholic.  The Magyar population is in decline.  In the Lutheran school the language of instruction is German.  364 claim German as their mother tongue and 338 indicate they are of German nationality.

Tarrós:  The village was formerly entirely Hungarian.  A small group of Swabian Lutherans continue to hang on to their identity.  The Lutheran church operates a school.  for their eight children.

Tékes:  By 1880 the Swabians in the village formed a majority of the population.  In 1941 there were 398 Swabians and 193 Magyars inhabitants in the village.  In the Lutheran school, Hungarian is the language of instruction even though the older residents want German instruction for the children.  398 inhabitants claim that German is their mother tongue and 328 registered to be of German nationality.

There were volunteers who joined the German Wehrmacht as early as 1942 when the recruitment into the Waffen-SS also took place.  Like all of the communities there were divisions within the Swabian villages in the Baranya over the activities of the Bund and its Nazi orientation.  It was only in the Spring and Fall of 1944 that they began to question what was happening and the possible consequences for the Swabians of Hungary as the Red Army approached the Hungarian border after the capitulation of Romania in August.

The forced recruitment of all Swabian men from the ages of 17 to 50 years throughout Hungary into the Waffen-SS was quickly underway and the Baranya was not spared.  Those men who attempted to join the Hungarian Honvéd instead to demonstrate their loyalty to the state were turned away by the Hungarian officials, even Swabians serving in the Honvéd were transferred to the Waffen-SS with the compliments of the Regent of Hungary, Admiral Nicolas Horthy.

There were 163 men from Csikostöttös who served in such German units but the number of casualties has not been determined.  The smaller community of Gerényes saw 73 of its men leave for the front, twenty-five of whom were killed in action and numerous others are missing to this day.  Others were prisoners of war in the Soviet Union where some of them perished while others only returned years later.  Nagy Ág sent off 21 men to face the advancing Red Army and 13 of them have been missing in action ever since, including two of the 17 year olds were taken.  Tékes provided 20 men of whom 13 were killed in action and three are missing.  Only four men survived and were prisoners of war in Russia and later two of them were prisoners in Tiszalök until 1953.  The small Swabian community in Szabadi saw 55 of its men taken into the Waffen-SS of whom only two were killed and eight are missing.  Numerous others were in the Russian prisoner of war camp system before returning home in 1949.

In the Fall of 1944 units of the Russian Army entered Hungary.  The Hungarian generals capitulated and a coalition government was formed and later installed in Debrecén on December 22, 1944.  In the first days of December Russian troops entered the Swabian villages in northwest Baranya.  Lists of Swabians were compiled whether they were members of the Bund or not who would provide slave labour in Russia as Hungary’s war reparations to rebuild the Soviet Union.

On Christmas Day 1944 the official announcement was made in all of the villages that all Swabian men between the ages of 16 ½ and 45 and women 17 ½ to 35 were to report to labour units.  Some of the age groups differed from village to village.  They were all sent to Sasd and then on to Pécs and were kept in the Lakics Barracks.  They spent a few days there in the horse stables before being entrained on cattle cars and taken to Russia.

Nagy Ág:  There were twenty persons taken to slave labour in Russia:  twelve women and eight men.  Five of the men were seventeen year olds.  Four of the deportees died in Russia, two men and two women.  Both of the women were eighteen years old.

Tékes:  There were thirty-five deportees taken to the Soviet Union:  seventeen women and eighteen men.  Eight of them died there:  four men and four women.

Szabadi:  In this village there were thirteen taken to Russia all of them young women.  Four of them perished there.

Csikostöttös:  There were thirty-three women and twenty-four men who were taken to the Soviet Union, fifty-seven persons in all.  Five of the men and two women died there.

Gerényes:  Twenty-two persons were deported to Russia.  There were fourteen women and eight men.  Five of the men died in Russia.

Tarrós:  There were nine persons who were taken of whom three were women and six men.

A total of 156 persons from the parish were deported to slave labour in Russia and 28 of them would never return.  Some remained in the labour camps into the 1950s.  Only a portion of them returned to Hungary.  The others were sent to the Russian Zone of Germany.  When their trains arrived in Frankfurt-an-Oder all of the church bells in the city would peel making both a sad and joyous sound for those who were released and for those who would never come home.

In addition to the villages listed these are the statistics for other Lutheran Swabian villages in the Baranya with regard to the deportation to Russia:

From Nagyhajmas there were 73; Bikal 51, Rackozár 77, Tofü14 and Mekényes 53 for a total of 268 persons.

The Expulsion ordered at Potsdam was carried out in Baranya beginning February 1st of 1947.  The 395 deportees from Csikostöttös were sent to Germany in two groups.  The first group left in September of 1947 followed by another in April of 1948.  The second group of deportees were taken to the Russian Zone of Germany.  From among the deportees there were 85 who left voluntarily to be with their families.  Only 139 of the villagers were allowed to remain.

In Gerényes the expulsion took place on April 30, 1948 and involved 133 deportees.  The first deportations that took place in Nagy Ág took place on March 26, 1947 when 143 persons were expelled to the Russian Zone of Germany.  The second group of 43 persons that followed left on August 20, 1948 to the same destination and were from among the last of the deportees from Hungary.  In Tarrós the expulsion took place in May of 1948 and involved 49 deportees that were sent to the Russian Zone of Germany.  The deportees from Szabadi numbered 110 persons along with 23 others from the neighbourhood who belonged to the Lutheran congregation.  There are no statistics available on the number of deportees from Tékes.

On the basis of the statistics we have there were 873 deportees from the five villages excluding Tékes, but considering its population we can estimate at least 1,000 deportees from among the Baranya Diaspora of the Swabian Lutherans.

Mar. 2018