The Carpathian Germans were a small German people living in the territory of today's Slovakia from the 12th century to 1945, when they suffered genocide. This are the current doings, of the people I come from. This page is provided as a private volunteer public service, and does not represent the official opinions of the Carpathian German Landsmannschaft.

Dr. Thomas Reimer 08/20/2001
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CARPATHIAN GERMAN LIFE AND CULTURE

Celebs Folkways/Cooking Cities Dialects

CARPATHIAN GERMAN CELEBS

Most Germans in Slovakia were hardworking farmers and craftsmen. The elite was Magyar for a 1000 years. And so not many Carpathian Germans had access to higher education and the economic and political power needed to become noticable in the world. Yet from that little German group sprung some celebs, too, and even a real Saint, St Elisabeth of Thuringia. And each time you use your camera, for instance, you use a piece of equipment perfected by Max Petzval.

Saint Elisabeth of Thuringia

1207 Pressburg-1231 Marburg. She was the daughter of Andreas II, King of Hungary, and Gertrud of Andechs-Meranien. Her exact birthplace is somewhat unclear. Some documents indicate the castle of Saris (Saros Patak, Grossscharosch), with the baby brought for baptism to Pressburg. Her mother's family was intimately connected to the German settlement of the Zips, which is why I give here a larger description of her kith and kin. As a saint, she ought to appeal especially to teenagers who are feeling forlorn, for she suffered from loneliness and adversity for much of her short life, yet sublimated her pain into active service for the poor. This description of her life is based on Rudolf Hohmann, Sankt Elisabeth: Die Heilige aus Pressburg und Schutzfrau der Karpatendeutschen, Wien: Karpatendeutsche Landsmannschaft in Oesterreich 1981. The 50-page booklet is available from the KDL in Vienna.

The Andechs, led by Gertrud's brothers Count Berthold, with vast holdings in Tyrol, Bavaria, Carinthia, Istria and Dalmatia, and Ekbert, appointed bishop-prince of Bamberg, was a rising family in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Their sister Agnes even became the third wife of the French king Phillipe II, and Gertrud had married the king of Hungary. But Germany was torn by a terrible civil war between those who supported the decaying Hohenstaufen dynasty, and a variety of rival claimants. Unlike the kingdoms of France or England, the German Emperor was elected, and though usually an Emperor made certain his son was elected successor, when the Emperor was weak, that was not a foregone conclusion until the Habsburgs, who became Emperors in the 15th century, made the elections a formality from the late 16th century to the end of the Empire in 1806. The Andechs family took part in the high-stakes game about the future of the Empire on the side of the Hohenstaufen, and got badly burned. In 1208, bishop Ekbert hosted a truce parley at his castle in Bamberg, during which the leader of the other side, the Duke of Suebia, was found murdered. The good bishop and his brother Berthold were suspected of ordering the deed, and as punishment, the Imperial Diet ordered their home castle of Andechs at the Ammersee in Bavaria to be razed to the ground. Berthold and Ekbert fled immediatly to their sister in Hungary. Their brother-in-law at once made Berthold governor of Transsylvania (today in Romania) and Slavonia (today in Croatia--area of Vukovar), which irked the Magyar nobles who had coveted these positions. In 1213, when the king was absent, jealous nobles murdered Gertrud. By contrast, Ekbert wisely asked only for the nearly unpopulated Zips wilderness. An energetic man, he called the same year peasants from his holdings in South Tyrol, who founded Eisdorf in 1208 or 1209. The area of today's Slovakia was sparsely populated, and decent farmland available in the river valleys. Few locals wanted to eke out a living in the cold, wolf- and Tatar-infested, primeval forests of the high-plains of the Zips, where a few isolated shepherds, hunters, and border guards lived. Hence, few Magyar nobles begrudged Ekbert, and the German settlements survived the political troubles. Heartbroken by the murder of one sister, and the fate of his sister Agnes, who died in miserable poverty after her husband, the faithless King of France, deserted her, Berthold died. But the family as not finished yet. When the Hohenstaufen regained the upper hand through the election of Frederick II as German Emperor, Ekbert was rehabilitated, and died in 1237 in Vienna as a honored man. In 1248, the last male Count of Andechs died, and the family vanished from history.

Elisabeth's life fit the tragic mode of her family. In 1211, when she was four, her uncle Ekbert convinced her mother to betroth her to the 11 year old count Ludwig of Thueringia in Central Germany, (whose family also supported the Hohenstaufen, and whose allegiance to what seemed then a losing cause needed to be strengthened), and sent the next year to be raised with her in-laws. Far from home, the fate of her uncles, of her Aunt Agnes, the murder of her mother, and the suffering of her aunt Hedwig, another sister of Ekbert and Berthold, who had married the Duke of Silesia and who sought relief after his early death by helping the poor --becoming in the process Saint Hedwig, patron saint of Silesia--must have affected her. Elisabeth sought refuge in religion, despite the opposition of her in-laws, who felt that she was a bit too extreme. She married Ludwig in 1221, and had a happy marriage. Her husband, despite occasional irritations, notably about her refusal to eat or serve food gained by taxing the peasants--she only ate food harvested on her personnal estate--allowed her charities and even to build and run one of the very first hospices in Germany. After he died in 1227 during the 5th Crusade, she lived a life of poverty and active charity to the poor, and became a strong supporter of the new Franciscan order. The young widow courageously rebuffed her uncle Ekbert's plan to marry her off to the aging Emperor Friedrich II of Hohenstaufen, a widower who, excommunicated by the Pope, needed a wife with a saintly reputation, as well as her in-laws, who tried to have the young widow committed to a cloister. After her uncle Ekbert forced her in-laws to settle her widow's pension, she moved to Marburg in Hessen. She founded another hospice, served tirelessly the poor and sick while living in strict poverty and abnegation, and died after a few years of such a regimen. Strongly supported by the Franciscans, she was recognized as a Saint by the Pope in May 1235, a mere four years after her death. Her day is on November 19. The same year, the splendid Elisabeth-Cathedral in Marburg was begun.

This Pressburg child remained popular over the centuries as a patron of the downtrodden, especially sick children too poor to get medical care, who always were her favorites. In German lands, many churches were named for her. She also became popular among her fellow Germans in Hungary. When after the Mongol invasion of the 1240s, the church in Kezmark was rebuilt, it was named in St Elisabeth's honor. In Kaschau, the German burghers even put her into the city coat of arms. In Pressburg, there was the Elisabeth Cloister in the Spitalgasse (Hospice Alley), founded in the 18th century, and the Saint Elisabeth Memorial Church, nicknamed the "Blue Church," in the Raneysgasse, built in1907.

Maximilian Hell

1720 Schemnitz-1792 Vienna. A Jesuit, he was a famous mathematician and astronomer. His father, the mining engineer Matthias Hell , was a Sudeten German from Schlackenwerth in Moravia (today Czech Republic), and had several outstanding engineers among his twenty-three (no typo) children.

Johann Nepomuk Hummel

1778 Pressburg-1837 Vienna. Composer and conductor, succeded Haydn as composer for Esterhazy family in Eisenstadt, after 1819 conductor of the palace orchestra of Weimar. Wrote 125 works in the style of Mozart. There are cd-roms with his soothing chamber-music available from amazon.com

Maximilian Josef Petzval

1807 Zipser Bela-1891 Vienna. After studying in Kaschau and Pest, he taught math & physics at the University of Vienna, worked on optics and glass lenses, and invented the photo objective. After being made into a commercially useful form by F. Voigtlaender, his invention allowed the creation of the modern camera.

Philipp Lenard

1862 Pressburg-1947 Messelhausen near Heidelberg/Germany. Born into a family of wine-dealers, Lenard studied at German schools in Pressburg, and then physics in Budapest, Vienna, Berlin and Heidelberg. After receiving his PhD, he became a pioneer in studying X-rays, taught at various German universities, obtained the 1905 Nobel Prize in physics, and settled down as full professor at the University of Heidelberg in 1907, where he taught until his death. After the death of his stepmother in 1909, Lenard, who had no surviving close relatives, did not visit his native city again. Yet in 1942, the sole Nobel Prize winner from the territory of today's Slovakia (as of 1999), was honored by having his name given to the German High School (Gymnasium) of Pressburg. The name was dropped in 1945, though.

Birgitta Julia Maria Irrgang

1942 Krickerhau, 1954 Loitz. The sister of Rev. Peter Irrgang, she survived the Vertreibung and ended with his family in Loitz, Mecklemburg-Schwerin, in Communist-occupied central Germany. After an exemplary life, she is abducted by a sexual pervert on 29 September 1954, and murdered after fighting for her virtue. In November 1998, the Holy Father included her in the Martyrology of the Twentieth Century, as a role model following Saint Maria Goretti. See Karpatenpost 9/1999, p. 9-10.

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FOLKWAYS/COOKING

Folk Costume from the Zips.

There is an excellent English-language article on Zipser folk costume by Karin Gottier, "The Costume of Zipser Germans" in VILTIS: A Magazine of Folklore and Folk Dance, vo. 47 No. 4 (December 1988), 5-10, Christmas, p. 19, and dances, p.20.
If you need a copy, the address of the magazine was then P.O. Box 1226, Denver, CO 80201.

Familynames/Housenames. In many areas of medieval Southern Germany, large farms had names, usually one derived from the first family that lived there, but not always. Very often, since peasants did not have well-defined family names until the late middle ages, a new family moving in was called according to their house. After the middle-ages, the habit remained though legal surnames now existed. In most of the German area, as well as most of the Zips and Hauerland, housenames became akin to a semi-official nickname: Legal records would state that so-and-so (real name), known in the community as (alias the housename), etc. Even when locals used exclusively the housename in their dealings with each other, there was a legal surname as well. But in some places, like Muennichwies (today Vricko) in the Hauerland, an isolated mountain village founded in 1450 in the uppermost Neutra Valley, the medieval usage continued. Until the late 19th century the husband marrying into a farm (when taking it over) legally received the housename, and it was used exclusively in all church entries about him and his children.

(from Johann Lasslob, in Heimatblatt Mai/June 2000, p. 5-6)

Cooking. Joachim Geburtig has a home page (in German) with recipes from Oberstuben in the Hauerland at Recipes.


CARPATHIAN GERMAN PLACES

This part is in the planning stages. Webpages about individual cities are:

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CARPATHIAN GERMAN SPEECH

Carpathian Germans were divided by dialects that were not mutually intelligible, as these examples show. Pressburger German was close to Viennese. The other two were rather unique. These short pieces of Zipser, Hauerlaender and Pressburger dialect are spelled phonetically, using standard German phonemes.

A dancing song from the Zips
From Karpatenpost June 1968, p. j1.

Wu gejst hin, wu gejst hin, du schworzes Porailchen?
En die Mihl, en die Mihl, mein liebes Frailchen.
Wos sollst du en der Mihl, du schworzes Porailchen?
Mohln, mohln, mohln, mohln, mohln, mein liebes Frailchen.
Wos sollst med Mahl dank tun, du schworzes Porailchen?
Of mein Hochz, of mein Hochz, mein liebes Frailchen.
Wann wed dein schejn Hochz sein, du schworzes Porailchen?
Wanns Mihlchen pfeift, 's Korn a"uch reift, mein liebes Frailchen.

Mei Gellenztol
From the Hauerland, only first and last strophes. In Hauerlander, German "w" becomes "b," like Welt becomes Belt. From Karpatenpost September 1968, p, K1.

Bie ho mei Gellenztol ich gean
En liebsten off da Belt
met all sein Ta"len ond Gepia"gn
met all sein Bald ond Feld....
Es Volk es stark, es fromm ond gutt
ond liebt sein freien Stand
Bie ho mein Gellenztol ich gean
mei teua Votaland

Ein Hauerlied aus Pressburg A wintner's song from Pressburg, only first strophe. From Karpatenpost Sept. 1968, p. j1.

Kaum kraht da Hohn die Moargenstund, do steht da Haua auf,
geht lusti u"ba Beach und Tol, is munta und wohlauf.
Di Sunn is sei Begleiterin von fru"ah bis in di Nocht,
wonn sie aus Osten freindli strohlt, he Leit, des is a Procht!

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