History of the Region

The following information was extracted from “The History of German Settlements in Southern Hungary” by Susan Clarkson, Ph.D. The full text can be found at the FEEFHS web site.

The Habsburg monarchy came into power in Hungary in 1527 after King Louis II of Hungary was killed at the Battle of Mohacs in 1526 defending Hungarian territory agains the Turks. War with the Turks continued until Prince Eugene of Savoy finally drove them out. The peace settlement at Karlowitz in 1699 gave the Habsburg Emporer Leopold I control of all of Hungary except for the Banat. Prince Eugene later captured the Banat, which was ceded to the Habsburg Emporer Charles VI after the Treaty of Passarovitz. The Banat was a crown territory of the Holy Roman Empire from 1718 to 1778 and administered from Vienna.

After the expulsion of the Turks the Habsburgs formed an organized campaign to entice German settlers into the region. Their three goals were to fortify the area against invasion, develop farm land, and further the Roman Catholic religion in Eastern Europe. Catholics of southwest German states were offered enticements such as free land, homesites, construction materials, livestock, and tax exemptions to settle in the Banat region. Settlers came from Baden, Wuerttemberg, Alsace, Lorraine, the Rhinelands, Westphalia, Bavaria, and Swabia. The Hungarians refered to them as “Swabians”, which came to be used to refer to all Germans who settled in the Danube valley. Most settlers were poor peasants.

Colonization went on for many years, and occurred in three phases:




  • Karolinische Ansiedlung – 1718-1737



    Government-sponsored colonization was discontinued after 1789. Settlers continued to arrive until 1829, after which only those with 500 Guilders were allowed in.

    Many of the settlers from the first colonization (approximately 15,000) were killed in Turkish raids or died from bubonic plague. The second wave of 75,000 settlers rebuilt many of the settlements. The third wave of 60,000 settlers were able to increase the economic prosperity of the farm land. The Banat region later became know as the “Breadbasket of Europe”.





    The Swabian influence in Hungary was far and wide. German replaced Latin as the official language. Swabians held positions in government offices. German peasants were better farmers. Many of the craftsmen and artisans in the cities were German.

    After the death of Emperor Joseph II, who had attempted to improve life for the Swabian peasants, the Magyars began to reassert their authority. In 1844 the Hungarian government passed the Language Act, which made Magyar the official language for government, education, and religion. In 1867 Emperor Franz Joseph granted the Magyars greater independence from Austrian rule and created the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary.

    The Magyarization campaign continued. The 1868 Nationality Bill assured all citizens equal rights, but at the same time reaffirmed Magyar as the official language. The Educational Act of 1879 made Magyar the compulsory language of instruction. In some cities, Swabians became assimilated to the point of changing their family names to Magyarized versions. Access to higher education and the priviledges of higher social status were withheld from all but those to accepted the Magyar way of life.

    As the population continued to grow land became scarce, leading to wide-scale emigration to the United States and Canada, and to other countries. 197,000 Germans left Hungary between 1899 and 1911. Other contributing factors included the rapid expansion in America, compulsory military service, and heavy taxation.

    World War I spelled an end to the Habsburg Empire. In 1918 the Yugoslav National Council declared independence from the Dual Monarchy, the Czechoslovak Republic was declared, the Hungarian Republic was formed, and the Romanian National Assembly declared unity with the Banat and Transylvania regions.

    By 1920 the final boundaries were formed at the Treaty of Trianon. Land in Transylvania and most of the Banat went to Romania. Yugoslavia gained land in southern Hungary, including a western strip of the western Banat. Czechoslovakia became a new country formed out of the former Hungarian territory.

    In World War II Romania and Hungary initially sided with Germany. Yugoslavia joined the allies. Swabians in Hungary could enlist in the Hungarian or German armies. Many chose the German army to avoid the prejudice they were sure to receive in the Hungarian army. The German army recruited Hungarian Germans. Swabians in Romania could elist in the German army and retain Romanian citizenship – 10% of the German population did.

    After Germany overran Yugoslavia in 1941, those of German descent were forced into the German army. Many resisted.

    The German military leaders began evacuating ethnic Germans as defeat neared, but many in Hungary refused to leave. About 50,000 were evacuated before the Soviet communists took control of the country. Many of the remaining adults in Swabian villages were deported to forced labor camps in the Soviet Union.

    In Hungary after the war the government seized German-owned land. Non-Magyarized Germans were expelled as traitors (those who had listed German as their mother tongue on the latest census, changed their Magyarized name back to German, or were members of a cultural association of the Waffen SS). In 1946 220,000 Germans were expelled from Hungary; 170,000 to the American Zone of West Germany and 50,000 to the Soviet Zone in East Germany.

    In Yugoslavia 60% of the Swabians left the country as the Soviet army invaded. In 1944, in retaliation for executions by the German army, the Soviets stripped Swabians of their citizenship and property. 27,000-37,000 were deported to the Soviet Union. Others were placed in concentration camps which had been made from Swabian villages, such as Molidrof. The camps were finally closed in 1948, and the Red Cross resettled the survivors in Germany between 1952 and 1955. Only 10% of the German population remained in Yugoslavia.

    History of the Town of Kudritz

    (translated by Bill Milleker from Die Kudritzer Familienbuch by Jacob Rosenberger)

    Kudritz was founded in a swampy area in the Banat Region of southern Hungary wrested from Turkish rule by Prince Eugene. The first settlers in Kudritz came from the Mosel river area and the Alsace-Lorraine between 1719 and 1728.

    Mr. Rosenberger’s account of the history of Kudritz from his book, Die Kudritzer Familienbuch, appears below, translated by Bill Milleker. This was a volatile area, as described in Sue Clarkson’s work in the previous pages. Life was hard and frequently interrupted by political upheaval. Ultimately our German immigrant ancestors lost everything they had worked so hard to create.

    Black and white photo from an old postcard. Courtesy of Mrs. Rose Navone, a descendant of the founder of the town, Johann Tetz.
    1719 Johann Tetz and his extensive family and relatives, coming from Alsace settled down at the place later called Klein-Kudritz. He planted vines on a hillside and was successful. Up to the last days this hillside was called “Tetzesberg”. Sweet grapes for the wine-making were harvested. Johann Tetz lived to the biblical age of 106 and died in 1787.
    This was called the “Karolinische” colonization, organized by the government to repopulate the empty, swampy areas, recaptured from the Turks. It was during this time that Kudritz and many other communities were colonized by Mercy. In 1728 the Imperial court settled several Germans in Kudritz. The new inhabitants brought also culture to this area.
    1721 The construction of a small chapel was completed.

    The community blossomed and received its own teacher who also was the organist and assistant to the priest.

    Our small community, however, could not develop in a peaceful manner. In 1737 the Monarchy became involved in a war with Turkey which ended with a defeat of the Monarchy. In 1738 the Turks invaded the territory and destroyed everything. They were supported by the surrounding Romanians who were unhappy with the new rulers. The approaching danger alarmed the peace?loving Germans. To complete the misfortune, pestilence broke out. In 1738 there were already many refugees from Kudritz in Werschetz who soon moved on towards the North. Soon thereafter, the Romanians attacked the colony and, after chasing off the last inhabitants, burned down the houses and chapel. The blooming community was transformed into a smoking heap of rubble.

    The homeless Kudritz settlers roamed for an entire year before they were able to return. What they found was not very encouraging. However, they were industrious people and soon Kudritz was rebuilt The returnees selected an area somewhat lower and closer to their best acres. It was also the location where the road from Temesvar and Morawitza led to Orawitza. The mail station was also supposed to have been located there.

    45°10′ northern latitude and 39°6′ eastern longitude. Elevation: 123 m. This location remained up to 1945.

    1741 A priest was transferred to Kudritz.

    The first church registry entries were made in the newly installed church (May 7,1742). Prior entries are to be found in the Werschetz church registry.

    Kudritz recovered not only from the previous disasters but developed into an even more attractive community than before. In 1751 it already had 150 houses with entirely German settlers. The total number of inhabitants at that time was about 750, counting each family having five members.

    The size of the population grew continually. New arrivals continued to come. In 1763 five houses were built for five families, financed by the government.

    The first settlers at Kudritz came from the western part of Germany (communities between the rivers Rhein and Mosel), from Alsace-Lorraine, the Palatinate, and the dioceses Trier and Mainz. However, some came also from other parts of the country, from the Austrian alps and Sudetenland, as documented in the church registers which were kept starting 1742.

    1763 Empress Maria Theresia issued her colonization proclamation. Industrious German farmers were needed to develop the swampy land.
    1783 A large fire that broke out caused distress for several families.

    A new church was built with solid material and dedicated December 27, 1787. The old one was made of wood. It is still standing today.

    Emperor Josef II declared war on the Turks. The Turks again invaded the Banat. The imperial troops had to retreat and in September 1788 the Kudritz settlers had to flee. At the end of September the deserted community was pillaged by the surrounding Romanian villagers and the few remaining settlers were chased out or murdered. The new church, after the altars, organ, windows, doors and benches were destroyed, was completely ransacked. Luckily, the Romanians did not burn the village down, although much hay was burned outside the village. The Kudritz settlers returned after Major General Count Harrach visited Werschetz on October 18 with his 2,000 soldiers.



    The continual growth of the community over a period of 100 years due to the German settlers was also noted by the higher authorities and the results were soon to follow. In 1821 Emperor and King Franz I. issued a decree which stated: “Due to the petition by the Hungarian Royal Court administration, as well as for the usefulness and convenience and the community Kudritz as such as well as for the neighboring communities, in the Royal Power vested in Him, He declares that the named community from this day forward and permanently shall be designated as “Marktflecken” and that annually on the dates of May 1 and October 16 shall be annual market days for goods and livestock as well as weekly every Tuesday with all rights and privileges which are enjoyed by the other royal free towns and market centers.”


    The “Kammer” (a governmental administrative office) sold the village in 1828 to Valentin Berger and Ignatz Heiser. They were knighted and were called “de Kudritz”. They Hungarianized their names to “Kudritzy”. They were presented their “free property” on December 1837. The village had 164 house numbers.


    A census counted 1235 souls: all Roman Catholic.

    The school was designated as a “Trivialschule” and attended by children age 6-12. There were 200 school-age children; 186 attended school.



    Hungarian Fight for Freedom. Kudritz did not suffer much during this fight. Serbs occupied Werschetz on January 19, 1849. Karolyi occupied Werschetz in May.


    The village count was 1,538 souls.


    Kudritz counted among the “Grossgmeinden” (Large Communities).


    The community acquired, by compensation, part of the aristocratic property, thus reducing the same considerably.


    A telegraph office opened June 5th.


    Robert Baehr purchased the aristocrats’ real estate, buildings and inventory.

    Phyloxera (Reblaus) was discovered which caused the demise of the viniculture.


    A terrible hail storm destroyed the anticipated harvest of the entire village area.


    The Hungarian school laws required the mandatory learning of the Hungarian language for all school children (including the German) within the kingdom.


    The newly constructed school was opened.


    Begin of World War I. The young men were drafted. The area was spared from the ravages of the war.

    WWI Memorial

    Dismantling of the Danube Monarchy. The Danube Swabians were distributed among Hungary, Romania and the State of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (SHS). They now were only minorities with little political power. Joint activities of the Danube Swabians failed due to different directions within the communities of the Danube Swabians.


    At the treaty of Trianon, June 4, the western part of the Banat was given to SHS. On July 20 the “Schwaebisch-Deutsche Kulturbund” was founded at Neusatz (Novi Sad), but dissolved shortly thereafter; its property confiscated in 1924. The confiscation was rescinded and in 1927 the organization again allowed to operate.


    King Alexander reigned in Yugoslavia until 1934. German and Hungarian owners of large tracts of lands were expropriated and settled by Dobrowoljici. Landless Germans did not receive anything.


    “Agraria”, a cooperative for farmers was founded at Neusatz. It also had a branch at Kudritz.


    The world economic crisis also hit the vine growers very hard. They had to sell their products below cost.


    Hitler assumes power in Germany. The Danube Swabians began to become ideologically active.


    King Alexander assassinated at Marseille, France.


    The annexation of Austria by Germany formed a direct border between Germany and Yugoslavia.


    Yugoslavia was pressured to join the Three-Power Pact, which was foiled by a coup. On April 5 Germany declared war on Yugoslavia. German Stukas bombarded Belgrade. April 11, German troops, coming from Romania, occupied Werschetz. A small commando was sent to Kudritz. It was enthusiastically received by the population.


    The framework for the administration of the Banat by the ethnic Germans was drafted on May 5.

    July 8: The Banat is given a special status and put under the administrative jurisdiction of the German military commander at Belgrade. The Serbian Neditsch government recognized the ethnic Germans in the Banat and Serbia as a legal entity.

    Oct, 3: The ethnic German group was recognized as having the legal status as an independent education/school organization in the Banat. Its activities were carried out by the school foundation of the ethnic Germans in the Banat and Serbia.


    In Spring the SS-Mountain Division “Prinz Eugen” was organized. It was put into action in the Balkans.


    At Jaje, Tito laid the foundation for the Socialist Peoples Republic of Yugoslavia and a provisional government.


    Kudritz occupied by Russian troops on October 1. Able-to-work Germans were forcibly shipped to Russia as slave laborers. The elderly and children were transferred to the starvation camps and the rest expropriated and interned. Starvation, lack of hygienic facilities, diseases and killings decimated the inhabitants. The survivors saved themselves by escaping at night across the Romanian border.


    Apart from a few mixed marriages, no German?speaking inhabitants were left at Kudritz. The empty houses were occupied by Slovenes, Serbs, Macedonians etc.

    • Maria Theresianische Ansiedlung – 1744-1772
    • Josephinische Ansiedlung – 1782-1787
    • Die Erste hat den Tod,
      Der Zweite hat die Not,
      Der Dritte erst hat Brot “The first encounters death,
      The second, need,
      Only the third has bread.”

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