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The Expulsion and Deportation of the German-Hungarians of
Gyönk in Swabian Turkey
Translated by Henry A. Fischer
The submission that follows is based on the translation of portions of ‘Zur Vertreibung und Verschleppung der Ungarndeutschen aus der Schwäbischen Türkei unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Ortes Gyönk/Jink by Josef Kiss published in München 1995 by the Donauschwäbisches Archiv’.
Swabian Turkey is a large German speaking linguistic island in contemporary Hungary. It consists of the German settlement area in the southern portion of the Danube-Drava-Platte region and includes the Counties of Tolna, Baranya and Somogy. During the 18th century it was part of the bishopric of Pécs. The use of the designation Swabian Turkey for the area is a result of its occupation by the Turks in the 16th and 17th centuries and the subsequent Swabian colonization that followed. The term was first coined in 1840 and can be attributed to Hungarian research sources and initially referred to only the area that would become known as the Lower Baranya. It was only after the First World War that the Germans themselves used the designation to describe the whole region with its 200,000 to 250,000 German-speaking inhabitants in the 37,000 square kilometre area.
The almost total devastation and destruction of Hungary was the result of the 150-year occupation by the Ottoman Turks. In Tolna County there were only 45 inhabited villages in 1715 of the former 560 communities that flourished there in the Middle Ages and half of them had been resettled after 1690. The former cultivated countryside had become a desolate wilderness. Thick forests, thickets and brush covered the entire Highlands. In order to redevelop the region the Emperor turned the task over to the nobles and former military officers that had served him in the re-conquest of the territory for the purpose of repopulating and cultivating it.
Recruiting agents were enlisted and sent to find would-be-settlers and immigrants in order to carry out this private colonization effort and the economic redevelopment of the liberated territories. They especially targeted south-western Germany. The people who responded were from among the landless, small landowners, tradesmen and artisans that left due to poor harvests, hunger and famine, the heavy demands for free labour imposed upon them by the nobles, high taxes and the constant threats of wars and the ravages of war that they had recently endured all of which were incentives enough to take the risk and seek their living and better fortunes in Hungary. The economic concepts of Mercantilism held sway at the time and the German nobles and landlords looked with disfavour at the prospect of losing their subjects and the valuable labour they provided and required the payment of an emigration fee of those who sought to leave for Hungary. But they were unable to prevent a large number of their people leaving.
From as early as May of 1712 large numbers of land seeking Swabians came on board the so-called Ulmer-Schachteln taking ship at Ulm and heading down the Danube. This Great Swabian Migration, as it would later be identified, was carried out in three major phases and known as the Schwabenzug. Alongside of the private colonization programme carried out by the nobles and estate owners there was also a planned settlement programme carried out by the State on the newly won Crown Lands. It was only in 1712 when the nobles began to aggressively recruit and enlist German settlers. Ladislaus Döry de Jóbaháza, the owner of the Tevel Domain, was the first to appoint an agent to recruit colonists directly in Germany. Even though other nobles in Swabian Turkey attempted to secure German settlers following Döry’s example, it was only in 1722 that a large-scale settlement began following the positive action by the Hungarian Landtag (parliament) in response to the Emperor’s call for German farmers and tradesmen to repopulate Hungary. This action had the Emperor’s enthusiastic support. As a result every Hungarian landowner had the freedom to openly recruit colonists under the Emperor’s protection in any region of the Holy Roman Empire.
The most important estate owner who was involved in the resettlement of Swabian Turkey was General, Count Claudius Florimundus von Mercy, the colonizer of the Banat who was headquartered in Temésvár. Shortly after, in 1722 he purchased extensive domains in Tolna County and sent his adjutant to Vienna who was given the task of convincing groups of colonists on their way to the distant Banat to change their minds and settle on the Domains of Count von Mercy. He was able to quickly establish flourishing new villages because of his very favourable contract provisions with his settlers as well as his policy of establishing separate villages for different nationalities and religious confessions and seemed to show a preference for Protestants. His policies and settlement provisions would have a great impact upon the German Lutherans in Swabian Turkey.
After 1722 estate owners sent their recruiters to the river ports on the Danube and using the powers of persuasion or bribes, coaxed the settlers off of the boats and had them settle on their master’s estates. This was also the case in Gyönk as Germans moved in and established one village after another. From these beginnings over two hundred village settlements emerged and Swabian Turkey became the largest German speaking linguist island in Hungary with Pécs at its centre and would become known as Fünfkirchen by them. Other major centres were Sexard (Szekszárd) and Bonnhard (Bonyhád). It was in this swamp infested and forested region that fertile farms and cultivated fields of corn and cereal grain crops came into existence through the hard work of several generations. The narrow deep long valleys became fruitful vineyards and orchards. The beech and acacia forests provided shade during the hot summer. The row of settlements was like a string of pearls with their rectangular houses, freshly whitewashed with their gable facing the street. The local inhabitants wore the colourful traditional costumes and spoke the dialect they had brought with them from their Motherland as well as the culture that they cherished and expressed in their life together.
As a result of the First World War the southern portion of Swabian Turkey was no longer part of Austro-Hungary and the peaceful countryside was about to face an onrushing destructive storm in the final year of the Second World War and the aftermath, which followed.
The History of the Settlement of Gyönk
The town of Gyönk is located in southern Hungary in the valleys of the Tolna Highlands, halfway between Simontornya and Szekszárd. In ancient times migrating tribes had visited these valleys some of which settled there. Some of the archaeological finds from Gyönk are in the National Museum in Budapest and indicate that these valleys and hills had been inhabited in the Bronze Age. During the time of the massive population migrations in the 6th and 9th centuries Avars established a large colony in the area. In the Middle Ages there was a parish, church and resident priest. During the Turkish occupation all three disappeared. According to the Turkish Tax List we discover that the Turks established a larger village of their own. In 1560 there were sixty resident families but by 1590 there were only thirty-three households. Following the expulsion of the Turks in 1686 Gyönk became the property of the Magyari-Kossa family. The more recent history of Gyönk begins with this family and was intertwined with them for a long time.
The Magyari-Kossas owned a large estate with cleared acreage, forests and meadows. But there was no one around to work the land. The family were members of the Reformed (Calvinist) Church. For that reason it is easily understood why the estate owner sought to settle his domain with Hungarian Calvinist colonists. In 1704-1705 the first of them arrived. Later in 1713 eight Hungarian Lutheran families from Veszprem County settled among them. The few families were unable to adequately develop the vacant land. His need for more settlers led the estate owner to seek help from the Emperor, as did many landowners and nobles in the area. This led to Emperor Charles VI writing to the German princes like Count Ludwig Ernst of Hesse in his own handwriting asking for settlers to come to Hungary.
The major Lutheran emigration from Hesse took place from 1721-1730. Following that it consisted of individual families or small groups. A small group from Hesse arrived in Gyönk in 1722. Because the estate owner did not live up to his contracted promises some of them moved on and settled in Mekényes. In the following year a larger group from Hesse arrived and settled in Gyönk. They were all Lutherans. These settlers came from Upper Hesse (Ober Hessen) from Schlitz, Sandlos, Queck and Oberwegfurt. The contemporary dialect spoken by the descendants of these early settlers and the Tracht (folk costume) they wore were a clear demonstration of their origins. From information that appears in the Lutheran Church records other German Lutherans came from: Mittel and Obersinn which are now located in Bavaria.
An immigrant group that adhered to the Reformed Confession settled in Kismányok around 1720. Their actual number is unknown but it was not large. Misunderstandings developed between the Lutheran and Reformed settlers over the calling of a pastor and as a result community life became intolerable. The quarrels that emerged poisoned relationships leading to a decision on the part of the Reformed to leave and settle elsewhere. They accepted the offer of Count Styrum-Limberg and moved to Gross Säckel (Nagyszékely). According to the church chronicle in Gyönk this resettlement occurred in 1722. Because of a lack of available parcels of land and building lots for their houses their Roman Catholic landlord reneged on his promises. For that reason the frustrated settlers were once again ready to move on. The Reformed bishop, Peter Magyari-Kossa, became aware of the situation and invited his co-religionists a contract to settle alongside the Hungarian Reformed families in Gyönk. The Hessian Lutherans arrived from Germany at the same time as the Reformed left Gross Säckel for Gyönk and the two groups both found a permanent home.
In the archives of the Reformed Church their church chronicle included a speech from the occasion of a special celebration in 1877 commemorating the 100th anniversary of the building of their church. According to this documented speech the place of origin of the first Reformed settlers from Germany were to be found in Hesse-Kassel. But the chronicle indicates more precise information and locations of their origins in the area around the city of Hanau, the villages of Steinau an der Strasse, Ostheim, Isenberg and Lansenbold. There were four Protestant congregations and churches in Gyönk. Two were German speaking and two were Hungarian, one of each Confession.
In the year 1752 there were 215 families living in the community. The German farmers were exempt from paying taxes for six years and had the freedom to migrate. Every year new settler families arrived. Many could not deal with the climate, the heavy work and the privations they had to suffer in the early years. This is dramatized in the church records with the large numbers that died during the 1740s on the basis of the Lutheran Church records alone. The Hungarians lived in the northern part of the community while the Germans lived in the southern half. The houses of the Lutheran inhabitants were all located on the Lutherische Gasse. The residents who lived on the Neu Gasse most probably arrived in the year 1784.
The settlers had to clear the land. The soil they discovered was not very fertile. For the most part they planted beans and peas and engaged in cultivating vineyards. Hills and valleys surrounded the area. The wine and field crops that they produced were for their own use. The oak forests provided the building material for their homes and for heating. They made their own tools and implements. All of their clothing was self-produced and self-made. Each family raised sheep for this purpose as well as flax.
The life of the Germans like that of the Hungarians was not without its troubles. The rent collector and the steward of the estate owner were determined to pressure as much as they could get out of the farmers. They demanded various kinds of free labour that went beyond their ability to give and still work their own land. The complaints of the peasants and farmers increased everywhere. In response, on December 29, 1766 the Empress Maria Theresia ordered that all estate owners and their peasant subjects to regulate the duties and rights of the peasantry in Vas, Zala, Sopron, Somogy, Tolna and Baranya Counties with a right of appeal granted to the peasants negotiate an Urbarium Agreement. The landholdings for which a farmer in Gyönk had to provide free labour to the estate owners consisted of 34 Joch of land of which 22 Joch was cultivated fields and 12 Joch of meadows. Each of these landholders had to provide one day a week of free labour using his team of four to six horses or oxen or two days week of manual or physical labour as required. Those who had less land also provided less free labour.
The legal rights of the German settlers were included in the Emperor’s Colonization Patent and its accompanying articles and were upheld in their so-called Urbarium Contract. The German settlers who settled on the private estates of the nobles and landlords could not be dealt with as if they were serfs or made to stay on the estate against their will. In the laws of the land the German settlers were identified as being indigenous and not foreigners since they remained under the jurisdiction of the Habsburg Emperor as they had always been. They were able to establish and develop their religious life despite being harassed by the Roman Catholic authorities. In their own parishes, the church and school had a major impact on the life and character of the community that the ethnic German settlers insisted upon establishing early upon their arrival in Hungary.
The cornerstone of the present day Reformed Church was laid in 1775 and was dedicated in 1777. The new tower was erected in 1835 because up until then Protestants were not allowed to add towers to their churches. The Lutheran congregation currently worships in their third church building that was erected in 1896. It is the largest Lutheran church building in southern Hungary. With his Edict of Toleration in 1781, Emperor Joseph II lessened the restrictions imposed on the Protestants. In the spirit of the Enlightenment the Edict of Toleration allowed Protestants the right to practice their religion publicly. It also allowed for the unprecedented numbers of churches and schools that were built throughout the country in the final decade of the 18th century.
All things considered it can be said the ethnic German settlers brought an element of stability to the region following its liberation from the Turks. On the other hand, their extensive cultivation of the cleared land resulting in the economic and commercial growth in the villages and towns was primarily due to their industriousness. Living closely together the ethnic German and Hungarian populations existed in harmony even though at times there were elements of friction but it never led to serious hostility between the two nationalities. That change first came with the developments during the Second World War and its aftermath, which led to the tragic and fateful years that brought about the dissolution of the community.
Measures Taken Against the ethnic Germans of Hungary
The social and political situation and the various other influences that affected the Germans of Hungary in the 1920s led to a sense of insecurity among them. The social problems inherent with the policy of Magyarization, the institution of the government land reform legislation and the maintaining of racial identity became the major themes of political parties and newspaper editors in addressing the proper place of the ethnic German population. Hostile voices were raised against the ethnic German population because of their ability and elasticity in being able to conform and surmount the demands made of them, which led to economic difficulties from the perspective of contemporary Hungarian authorities because of their large numbers of children and their excessive landholdings. Enmity towards all things German and Germany itself was extended to the ethnic Germans of Hungary. The political and cultural leaders of the ethnic German population fought more and more against these tendencies and received support from Germany in order to do so. The traditional amicable co-existence between the Magyars and the ethnic Germans experienced a deep rupture in the 1940s.
This rupture in their relationship led to the deepening of some basic existential questions and led to personal animosity, compulsory enlistment into the SS, forced deportation to the Soviet Union, expropriation and confiscation of property, the loss of political and civil rights, evacuation and eventually expulsion and resettlement. The dynamics of European politics drew Hungary into the war in 1941. Some of the revisionist goals of Hungary were achieved with the assistance of the German Reich and its policies beginning in 1938. The reason and cause for Hungary’s entry into the Second World War was the hope of regaining more of the former lost territories of Greater Hungary in the past and the fear of the loss of territory to Germany’s other allies if they did not join the invasion of the Soviet Union. The fact that it appeared that it would lead to a speedy victory also led to Hungary’s joining the Axis Powers on June 27, 1941. Following the German occupation of Hungary on March 19, 1944 new and more stringent measures were directed against the ethnic German population. Military service in the German armed forces, which in the past had been of a voluntary nature, was replaced by a compulsory enlistment of ethnic German male population in 1944 and allowed for no exceptions regardless of the political preferences of those involved.
The breach was now out in the open. Since the beginning of the war the Hungarian government had left the organizing of the ethnic Germans of Hungary in the hands of the Third Reich and withdrew from playing an active role in these activities. This passivity on the part of the Hungarian government in effect abandoned that portion of the ethnic German population that felt a sense of loyalty to Hungary. For that reason the Hungarian government can be faulted for the divisions that emerged among the German-Hungarian population. With the founding of the Volksbund in 1938 a deep chasm divided the ethnic German population into two opposing camps between the members of the Volksbund that adopted many of the ideology of the Third Reich and those who identified themselves in terms of their Hungarian citizenship.
These divisions became more pronounced when the political ambitions of Nazi Germany were added to the mix. The so-called Loyalty Movement came to birth among those who distanced themselves from the Volksbund and its objectives. In allowing for the compulsory recruitment of the ethnic Germans of Hungary for the Waffen-SS demonstrates the Hungarian government’s willingness to offer up those who sought to be loyal citizens of Hungary even though their mother tongue was German and were of ethnic German origin. There are many well-known instances in which the Hungarian police appeared to assist in carrying out this enlistment. As the front lines approached the borders of Hungary in the fall of 1944 the ethnic German civilian population was ordered to evacuate and leave their homes and communities. The VOMI in Berlin along with the Volksbund carried out an evacuation to the West. The fear of the onrushing Red Army led to spontaneous flight on the part of their members. They left on trains, went by car or like most left in wagon treks and flooded the roads and highways in the direction of Germany. Many of the ethnic Germans of Hungary left their homes and possessions behind in order to save their lives but they were a small minority of the population.
The Deportation to the Soviet Union
There were no internationally agreed upon principles at work in what would follow that sealed the fate of the ethnic Germans of Hungary in the areas occupied by the Russian military and all of what they were about to suffer. The Soviet Military authorities neither for strategic reasons nor for the purpose of war reparations ordered the deportation of ethnic German civilians. The Assistant Governor of Bekés County and not the Soviets informed the Hungarian government of the mobilization of all able-bodied ethnic German men and women for labour service. He had been instructed to do so by the Supreme Court Justices in the Counties that were to be affected and also informed all local authorities. During the first days of 1945 the Hungarian government got in contact with the Commander of the Soviet military in Debrecen with the goal of attempting to secure the exemption of some of the deportees. The reasons given for those affected were rather vague or have varied from person to person.
The local community officials were responsible for the transporting of the deportees to an assembly camp. The mobilization order called for labour service within the country. The military officials and often the Hungarian civilian authorities informed the deportees they were being sent to the Batschka to help bring in the corn crop. They also included men who had served in the Hungarian military back as far as 1939. The perplexity of the Soviet military officials was obvious as they undertook their task when they began to carry out the mobilization in the villages around Pécs, Bonyhád, Szekszárd, Baja and other communities. The assembly camps were located mostly in the County capitals and took in the ethnic Germans from a radius of forty kilometres. The Soviet officials awaited further orders from Moscow and for that reason the deportees remained in the assembly camps longer than expected. The final order came from the Ministry of the Interior of Hungary who in a decree of January 5, 1945 instructed the Assistant Governors of the Counties as a matter of record that the Russian military authorities had demanded that all of the apprehended ethnic German civilians were to be handed over for labour service. They were further informed that they (the Hungarian officials) had the freedom of using their influence to allow for exemptions. They could exempt anyone if it could be proven that despite their German name the person was Hungarian. They were, however, unable to arrange for the exemption of any because by that time the lists of names had already been received and the trains had already carried them off to the Soviet Union. The transporting of the deportees to Russia only began after the signing of the armistice between Hungary and the Soviet Union on January 20, 1945 in Moscow but that was not true everywhere, in some Counties it began a week later.
If the Minister of the Interior had known the destination of the deportees thousands of them could have been saved. His accountability lies in the fact that the people would have been better prepared for what lay ahead of them had they known as was the case in Békés County where the Soviets had told the deportees the truth about their destination. From the documents it is evident that this was a one sided affair and the Hungarian government and local officials were kept in the dark. The agreement Hungary signed was for war reparations in general and nothing specific. That the reparations meant slave labour in the Soviet Union is never mentioned. (Translator’s Note: Documentation now available indicates that this is false. At Yalta Churchill and Roosevelt agreed to these terms and the Minister of the Interior was well aware of the fate of the deportees. The writer consistently puts the best face possible on the actions of the Hungarian government throughout his presentation.) The major assembly point for the deportation of the ethnic Germans from Swabian Turkey was a forest on the banks of the Danube in the vicinity of Baja. It was the best location because it was next to the only bridge across the Danube that had not been destroyed during the retreat. Most of the deportees were taken to the Caucasus, the coal mines in Ukraine or the Ural Mountains.
The later investigations carried out by the families of the deportees were able to verify this information. Their official investigations had no political value except that the number of deportees although only approximate could be established. The official results of the research suggest 60,000 to 65,000 civilians were involved. The number of survivors and those who perished is much less accurate. On the basis of the statistics from the communities and archives of the Commission for the Repatriation of Prisoners of War in Debrecen we can estimate 50% of those who were deported. The figures provided in the study entitled: Die Verschleppung Ungarnländsichen Deutschen indicate that there were 11,455 deportees from Tolna, Baranya and Somogy County. (Translator’s Note: This figure grossly underestimates the number as newer studies indicate, one of which appears of this website.) Many of those released from the Soviet Union were sent to East Germany and for that reason we cannot identify the exact number of those who survived. Fortunately, the entry of the Red Army into Western Hungary came later. This region was only occupied later in the spring and escaped the deportations.
The difficult and hard work in the coalmines in the Donets Basin and the scarcity of food and poor nutrition led to countless deaths in the first years. The first trainload of returnees began to arrive in Hungary early in the summer and fall of 1945. They were all too sick to work any longer. This would be true of all of the others who would be returning home. Most of them were released in 1947 after the signing of the peace treaty. Beginning in 1948 those who were not sick were also released. These transports of returnees often had Frankfurt-an-Oder as their destination where a great many of their families had been resettled. (Translator’s Note: His use of this word to describe the results of the expulsion that he calls an evacuation of populations is an indication of his obvious bias.) The last transports of survivors left Russia in 1949.
The majority of the ethnic German civilian deportees originated in southwestern Hungary including Swabian Turkey. In this entire region to have a German sounding name was all it took to lead to deportation to slave labour in the Soviet Union, the first station on the way of the cross for the ethnic Germans of Hungary. It was their punishment for the collective guilt of the ethnic Germans of Hungary.
The Expulsion and Resettlement of the ethnic Germans of Hungary
The expulsion is a tragic and dramatic chapter in the 300 years in which the Magyars and Germans shared a common life together. (Translator’s Note: The author seems to be unaware of the 1,000-year history of the Heidebauern in Western Hungary who were also included in the expulsion.) This chapter in this history finds its basis in Article XIII of the Potsdam Declaration of August 2, 1945 when the transfer of ethnic German populations in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary or a portion of them to Germany was formulated. Hungary was designated as a special case because it had been an ally of the Third Reich in contrast to Poland and Czechoslovakia but despite that it was included in this expulsion order.
It is both right and proper for us to raise the question about how far one should go in holding the Hungarian government accountable for both the decision and the expulsion that was reached and carried out and what influence the various political parties and Hungarian society had on the outcome. There are two lines of thought in this regard on the basis of contemporary research. Firstly, the initiating role of the Hungarian government is emphasized or secondly that the Russians ordered the expulsion.
The internal political situation in Hungary naturally played a role in the issue of the expulsion in terms of the diplomatic role that Hungary played but it is rather uncertain because the nation’s sovereignty was limited at the time. This limited sovereignty of Hungary as an occupied and defeated country was vastly different from the various situations in Poland and Czechoslovakia and the Hungarian government had to deal with various sanctions the others did not before it could proceed with the expulsion. The sources we have remain ambiguous about this point. There are various theories about what attitude Hungary portrayed and what stance it took with regard to the expulsion order of the Potsdam Declaration or which side in the debate initiated the inclusion of Hungary in the first place. The attitude of the newly formed government of Hungary towards the ethnic German population was influenced by four factors.
First, the war crimes committed by Germany in which the Hungarian government actually participated after March 1944 during the Szalasi regime. Secondly, it was the attitude of the victorious allies towards their defeated enemies. Thirdly, the domestic and foreign goals of the Hungarian coalition parties and their government they had formed. Fourthly, the national minority polices of Hungary’s neighbours towards them.
The question of the expulsion was first openly raised and discussed at an assembly of the Small Landholders Party in Pécs a few days following the entry of the Russian troops into Hungary (December 1944). In a long article that appeared in their Party’s daily newspaper, Kis Ujság on April 18, 1945 under the headline: The Swabians in Hungary Must Be Resettled (Outside of Hungary is inferred.) It reported:
“In the first days following the liberation of Pécs, Ferenc Nagy, the General Secretary of the Small Landowners Party in his welcoming address to the delegates of the Party brought the burning issue with regard to the Swabians to the fore. The general public is now discussing this question. In our own interests to secure our future we are doing all we can. But in this matter it is quite simple: The guilty will be brought before the Courts and those of the ethnic German minority who were disloyal to our Fatherland will be resettled elsewhere. We have one word to offer: the ethnic German poison will be uprooted. The ethnic German ulcer that has become a running sore will be cut out of the body of the nation.”
On the same day, Szabad Nép, the central organ of the Communist Party published an excessively hostile article entitled: “Swabian Traitors of the Fatherland,” and called for their expulsion.
The National Farmers Party newspaper wrote: Our Party speaks from out of the depths of the soul of the Hungarian people as we proclaim: “Get out of the country you Swabian betrayers of the nation.”
On April 24, 1945 a further article appeared in Kis Ujsá that issued the call for the idea of an expulsion of the Swabian population.
“The government is preparing a major resettlement plan. The resettlement will take place and will first be geared towards the private property of members of the Volksbund and we are prepared to resettle entire villages with Hungarians to replace the Swabians.”
During a conference of the coalition parties held on May 14, 1945 the various leaders were asked to declare their own attitude towards the ethnic German population as the question of their nationality. The following principle triumphed: “There is no Swabian question in Hungary it is just the question of the German Fascists.” The conference immediately declared itself in favour of the evacuation of the members of the Volksbund. The year 1945 would see numerous discussions and struggles over the matter with the Soviet authorities. It constantly centred on the scope and extent of the proposed expulsion. In a letter of May 16, 1945 the Foreign Minister Gyöngyösi informed Puschkin his Soviet counterpart that Ferenc Erdri the Minister of the Interior estimated the number of members of the Volksbund to be expelled numbered about 300,000. But in another note of May 26, 1945 the government spoke of the possibility of expelling only 200,000 to 250,000 persons. In all of the ethnic German communities a three-person commission was established to ascertain the nature of the political loyalties of the ethnic German population in the past. From July to November 1945 they were only able to verify that about 38% of them were members or leaders of the Volksbund.
On June 5, 1945 all men who had served in the Waffen-SS and their family members began to be interned. It was of no consequence whether the man served voluntarily or was forced to join the German military units in the agreement between the Third Reich and the Hungarian government. The only men to receive special consideration were those who deserted from the SS organization and later became involved in anti-Fascist activity. The castle of Count Apponyi in Lengyel was set up as an internment camp for Tolna County and was known as the Ghetto. The close relationship between domestic and foreign policy development at the time required a very active role on the part of the Hungarian government leading to the expulsion. The domestic political situation in Czechoslovakia was also a major motive behind the dispossession and resettlement of the ethnic Germans of Hungary.
Eduard Benes, the president of Czechoslovakia had already received consent and approval from the Allied Powers while his government was in exile in London for the removal of all ethnic German populations throughout Eastern Europe. His government in exile saw a connection and correlation between the expulsion of the ethnic Germans in Hungary and that of the Hungarian population living in Czechoslovakia. Since the end of 1942, Benes, had been making efforts to get the approval and consent of the Allied Powers for the expulsion of the Magyars living in Slovakia. He sought to build a homogenous state through the expulsion of the Sudeten- and Carpathian-Germans along with the Hungarians in Slovakia. The Allied Powers gave their approval if an agreement could be reached between Prague and Budapest, which was finalized on February 27, 1946. The Czechoslovakian regime made the situation of the Hungarians in Slovakia more and more difficult and repressive. The government in Prague counted on the expulsion of the ethnic Germans of Hungary ordered in the Potsdam Accord to open the possibility of resettling the Hungarians of Slovakia in the former settlements of the ethnic Germans.
The Potsdam Accord
The leaders of the victorious Allied Powers met in Potsdam beginning on August 5, 1945. Matthias Annabring writes the following in commenting on Article XIII of the Accord in connection with Hungary:
“It is now considered to be an historical fact that we have the Czech Benes to thank for the expulsion of the ethnic German populations from their homelands throughout Eastern Europe and that Soviet Russia made it their own goal to support him. But from the recently diary of American President Harry S. Truman in March 1952 leaves no doubt that the Western Allies were placed in a difficult situation by the Russians who would not enter the war against Japan unless they agreed to the expulsions. This reflects the arguments that the Hungarian government put in place following the war that they were solely behind the expulsion of the ethnic Germans of Hungary.”
Stephen Kertész makes a similar argument an official in the Foreign Ministry. With high probability it was the Soviet Union that initiated the expulsions.
“In early spring 1945 Marshall Wordsilov who served as Allied Control Commissioner for Hungary requested that the Hungarian government begin to plan for a massive expulsion of the ethnic German population of Hungary.
The attitudes of the National Farmers Party and the Communist Party were propagated in a press campaign that began August 23, 1945. Probably the visit of the Communist leaders in Prague on August 2, 1945 set the campaign in motion. The campaign stressed: “The Fascist Threat” to the young Hungarian democracy posed by the members of the Volksbund called for the quick carrying out of the Potsdam Accord. The newspaper Szabad Nép in an article reported that the Communists knew without a shadow of a doubt that 90% of the Swabian population were secretly traitors to their Fatherland. Through their party connections with both Moscow and Prague they were certainly well informed and the proposed expulsion of Hungarians in Slovakia had an impact on their thinking. It is difficult even now to determine just how closely the Hungarian government worked with the Soviets and the Hungarian Communists to bring about the expulsion.
On October 13, 1945 the representatives of the Allied Control Commission considered a report with regard to the number of ethnic Germans to be expelled. The answer from Ferenc Nagy was 303,419 persons. November 11, 1945 was the next politically charged day for Hungary. Marshall Wordsilov reported on the decisions of the Allied Control Commission on November 20, 1945. It called for the resettlement of half a million ethnic Germans of Hungary in the American Zone of Occupation in Germany. On December 1, the foreign minister Gyöngyösi appeared before the representatives of the Allied Powers in Budapest. According to him the number of expellees would not reach 200,000 even if those who had supported the Volksbund in some way were added.
Not only must the Hungarian government be held accountable and responsible for the decree ordering the expulsion on December 22, 1945 but also for suggesting that the expulsion was the punishment for the collective guilt of the entire ethnic German population of Hungary…every man, woman and child. We cannot allow the matter to be forgotten that representatives of the Hungarian government in the summer of 1945 appeared before the Allied Control Commission on two occasions with the request to be allowed to expel 300,000 and then later 200,000 to 250,000 ethnic Germans from Hungary because they had “all been traitors to Hungary.” The government presented their arguments on the basis of the principles of collective guilt and Article XIII and the order of the Allied Control Commission to “prepare and plan for the evacuation of 450,000 ethnic Germans from Hungary.
The Hungarian historian, Gyula Júhasz writes:
“This whole theme and matter ended up on the table at the Potsdam Conference. In the summer of 1945 the Hungarian government had raised the issue of the expulsions of half of the ethnic German population residing in Hungary with the Allies thereby giving up the idea of individual guilt. On December 1, 1945 the Foreign Minister protested against raising the number of ethnic Germans to be expelled. While he protested the Ministry of the Interior decreed the expulsion order on December 2, 1945.
The Preparation and Implementation of the Expulsion
Both the first and second decrees ordering and carrying out the expulsions to Germany were Nr. 12330/1945 and 12200/1947 were formulated on the basis of the collective guilt of all of those involved. The actual methods to be followed in carrying out the expulsion were addressed in a decree of January 4, 1946. It ordained that an exact list of names be prepared with an indication of the grounds for their expulsion. The preparatory instructions in the expulsion decree indicates that the Ministry charged with carrying it out would do so in terms of the decisions made by the Allied Control Commission on November 20, 1945. This is a clear indication that the Hungarian government did not look upon the terms of the Potsdam Accord as an order directed to them.
Marshall Wordsilov asked the Hungarian government to carry out the decree of December 22, 1945 on the basis of the decree made by the Allied Control Commission. The Ministry of the Interior was given unlimited power to carry out the expulsion.
The first step was the finalization of the documentation that was to be filled out by the local community commissions. The People’s Security Division was given the authority to carry out the actual expulsion. A commission established in each community was given the task of working on this with the appropriate authorities. In the lists of names that they developed they would indicate which decrees or laws affected the individual. The lists would be posted in public and those affected had five days to lodge a protest against their inclusion. Following the five-day period an Exemptions Commission would give their verdict. From the list of names certificates were issued to be used at the time that the expellees were to be entrained.
The Minister of the Interior appointed a Government Commission for Tolna County to regulate the activities related to the expulsion and resettlement of the ethnic Germans from the County. The government Commissioner and his staff were given unlimited power to organize and carry out their responsibilities. The cadre of officials charged with carrying out the expulsion were to a great degree younger people who had a limited understanding of the work they were called upon to do. The actions of many of these officials demonstrated just how inhumane the carrying out of the expulsion was and the kind of panic that it created. The major newspaper in Tolna County reported on the beginnings of the expulsion on January 19, 1946 in the following way:
“The expulsion of the Swabians has begun. The first shipment of Swabians was entrained at Budadörs…the resettlement of the Swabians from the entire County must be completed by August.”
In terms of the exemptions, some were granted if appropriate medical records were provided or if there was verifiable proof of loyalty to the Hungarian state. In the regulations that were adopted on January 4, 1946 there were rules about what the
deportees were allowed to take with them, what would happen to their property and how the actual expulsion would take place in terms of transportation. The official papers of the deportees would be certified and dated on the day of their leaving Hungary. The reason given for their leaving Hungary in their papers would indicate they were returning to their homeland and were not being punished by the Hungarian government. (Translator’s Note: On my recent trip to Hungary in July 2009 in speaking with a young Hungarian intellectual he indicated that the Swabians had returned to their homeland. Their homeland I asked after 300 years? He responded that one’s homeland is one’s homeland. I asked when the Hungarians planned to return to theirs?) The ordered deportation was on the basis of the points raised in the expulsion order and affected practically all of the members of the Volksbund, although later some exceptions were made for those who claimed Hungarian as their nationality in the census of 1941. An official statement from the Director of Social Services, Géza Szepessy provides some information about the carrying out of the deportations:
“The following is the sequence of the resettlement: First of all the Swabians living in the environs of Budapest were deported; following that the Swabians in Western Hungary in the Counties of Raab (Györ) and Wieselberg (Moson); then from the southern regions and finally from the other areas. One cannot estimate how much longer the expulsion will take because it hinges on the availability of boxcars and trains. Every wagon used and needed to deport the Swabians creates food shortages in Budapest and for that reason the current tempo of deportation needs to slow down…”
The newspaper, Szabad Szo reported about the situation of the ethnic German villages around Budapest in an article published May 4, 1946 indicating that several villages in the Buda Highlands now look like a war zone since the expulsion of their inhabitants. Most of the trains were filled with deportees from Western Hungary and the vicinity of Budapest but the ethnic Germans were being deported all around the country. In the County of Baranya there had already been 7,066 deportees while in Tolna County they numbered 15,882. The expulsion and transporting of expellees came to an abrupt halt once the harvest began in late summer. The local businessmen complained that it was damaging to the economy to expel the ethnic Germans because of the lack of manpower would soon make itself felt in the labour market.
(Translator’s Note: This was obviously not a humanitarian concern being expressed but in actual fact the men in the deportation were primarily elderly and the vast number of expellees were women and children because the men had not returned after the war from the prison camps if they had survived, while others were in labour camps in the USSR.)
The physical condition of the expellees in the first train transports was hardly reflective of “a humane transfer of ethnic German populations,” as expressed in the Potsdam Declaration. For that reason the American authorities in Germany sent several trainloads back to Hungary. The expellees from Püspök Nádasd in the Baranya and Tevel in the Tolna were sent to Hajós in the Batschka from where they slowly made their way back home. The expellees were often plundered of their valuables and robbed by the Hungarian police who accompanied them on their trains and the expellees arrived without their belongings and baggage, hungry and poorly dressed and frozen in the camps where they were housed on arriving in Germany. This situation began to improve when the Americans became more aware and included themselves in the actual entraining of the deportees inside of Hungary.
A resumption of the expulsion was planned for late autumn but it was not carried out in many areas. The willingness of the American authorities to accept the deportees in their Zone of occupation gradually deteriorated and in 1947 was completely halted. The acceptance and absorption of the ethnic Hungarian expellees from Czechoslovakia put the Hungarian government in an embarrassing position. Their investigations indicated that the land reforms that had been undertaken were not sufficient by far to support and meet their economic needs. Nor did the abandoned properties of the Slovaks living in Hungary who had voluntarily returned to their homeland provide enough compensation for the newly arriving Hungarian deportees from Slovakia. The Hungarian government appealed to the Soviet government to allow for a continuation of the expulsions to the Soviet Zone of occupation in Germany. To further ensure the resettlement of the ethnic Hungarians arriving from Slovakia the government issued a further decree in 1947 to carry out the renewed expulsion of the Swabians in tandem with the arriving ethnic Hungarians.
In August, September and October of 1947 transportation arrangements for another expulsion were underway to free up homes and properties for the ethnic Hungarian expellees from Slovakia. The freeing up the property of the members of the Volksbund and the families of the men who had served in the Waffen-SS were not sufficient to meet the demand. Most of them were small landowners or without land entirely while the more propertied majority who had supported the Loyalty Movement were now simply included simply because of their property and land holdings. The project was put into operation in February 1948 and was completed by the end of September. The expulsions in 1948 were the largest in terms of the numbers involved. The large numbers that went into hiding in order to escape the expulsion indicates that the ethnic German population had not given up hope of remaining in their old homeland. In the last two years of the expulsions 100,000 persons were deported. The three counties that constitute Swabian Turkey were affected as follows:
- In 1946 there were 15,992 expellees
- In 1947 there were 8,853 expellees
- In 1948 there were 13,431 expellees
- Total: 38,276
- In 1946 there were 7,066 expellees
- In 1947 there were 4,189 expellees
- In 1948 there were 9,264 expellees
- Total: 20,519 expellees
- In 1948 there were 4,999 expellees
- Therefore the yearly totals were:
- In 1946 there were 23,058 expellees
- In 1947 there were 13,042 expellees
- In 1948 there were 27,694 expellees
- Total: 63,794 expellees
These statistics indicate the variance of the tempo of the expulsions with only 36% of those involved in the first phase in 1946. The reason for the later increase was due to the fact that a major portion of the ethnic Hungarian deportees from Slovakia was resettled in the region. Social divisions naturally emerged as a result of this new settlement. The ethnic German population did all it could to avoid being part of the expulsion. They made contacts with officials, sent petitions and requests and even escaped from the moving trains when all else failed. Many of them attempted to return to Hungary after arriving in Germany. Only a few sought to leave voluntarily but there were instances when they were successful in doing so.
The total scope of the expulsion was only about half of the number that had been set by the Allied Control Commission. But the figures reflect the Hungarian government’s original estimate. Even though the exact number of expellees is impossible to validate it is at least half of the ethnic German population that lived in Hungary at that time. As a result of the expulsion two Magyar folk groups found a new home in Hungary: the Seklers from Transylvania and the Batschka and the ethnic Hungarians from Slovakia. This end result occurred as a result of the charge of collective guilt of the entire German heritage population and remains totally unacceptable. It is perfectly clear that it is an injustice to punish someone by robbing them of their home and property and driving them out of their homeland as stateless persons.
Continuation: Population Exchange in the Swabian Turkey