Germans of Hungary

Last updated
Germans of Hungary
Total population
131,951 [1]
Regions with significant populations
FLAG-Pest-megye.svg  Pest County 24,994 [2]
FLAG-Baranya-megye.svg  Baranya County 22,150 [3]
Flag of Budapest (2011-).svg  Budapest 18,278 [4]
FLAG-Tolna-megye.svg  Tolna County 10,195 [5]
FLAG-Bacs-Kiskun-megye.svg  Bács-Kiskun County 9,528 [6]
FLAG-Komarom-Esztergom-megye.svg  Komárom-Esztergom County 9,168 [7]
FLAG-Veszprem-megye.svg  Veszprém County 8,473 [8]
FLAG-Fejer-megye.svg  Fejér County 5,419 [9]
FLAG-Gyor-Moson-Sopron-megye.svg  Győr-Moson-Sopron County 5,145 [10]
FLAG-Somogy-megye.svg  Somogy County 3,039 [11]
Hungarian, German
Roman Catholic majority, Protestant minority
Related ethnic groups
Danube Swabians, Germans, Swabians

German Hungarians (German : Ungarndeutsche, Hungarian : magyarországi németek) are the German-speaking minority of Hungary sometimes called the Danube Swabians (German: Donauschwaben), (Hungarian: Dunai svábok) in Germany, many of whom call themselves "Shwoveh". There are 131,951 Germanic speakers in Hungary (according to the 2011 census). Danube Swabian is a collective term for a number of German ethnic groups who lived in the former Kingdom of Hungary (today's Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and several former Yugoslav republics). Hungarian Germans refers to the descendants of Germans who immigrated to the Carpathian Basin and surrounding regions, and who are now minorities in those areas. Many Hungarian Germans were expelled from the region between 1946 and 1948, and many now live in Germany or Austria, but also in Australia, Brazil, the United States and Canada. However, many are still dispersed within the country of Hungary.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Hungarian language language spoken in and around Hungary

Hungarian is a Uralic language spoken in Hungary and parts of several neighbouring countries. It is the official language of Hungary and one of the 24 official languages of the European Union. Outside Hungary it is also spoken by communities of Hungarians in the countries that today make up Slovakia, western Ukraine (Subcarpathia), central and western Romania (Transylvania), northern Serbia (Vojvodina), northern Croatia and northern Slovenia.

Hungary Country in Central Europe

Hungary is a country in Central Europe. Spanning 93,030 square kilometres (35,920 sq mi) in the Carpathian Basin, it borders Slovakia to the north, Ukraine to the northeast, Austria to the northwest, Romania to the east, Serbia to the south, Croatia to the southwest, and Slovenia to the west. With about 10 million inhabitants, Hungary is a medium-sized member state of the European Union. The official language is Hungarian, which is the most widely spoken Uralic language in the world, and among the few non-Indo-European languages to be widely spoken in Europe. Hungary's capital and largest city is Budapest; other major urban areas include Debrecen, Szeged, Miskolc, Pécs and Győr.



The immigration of Germanic-speaking peoples into Hungary began in approximately 1000, when knights came in the company of Giselle of Bavaria, the German-born wife of, Stephen I, the first king of Hungary, entered the country. Three waves of Germanic migration can be distinguished in Hungary before the 20th century. The first two waves of settlers arrived in the Kingdom of Hungary in the Middle Ages (11th and 13th centuries) and formed the core of the citizens of the few towns in Upper Hungary and in Southern Transylvania (Transylvanian Saxons, "Siebenbürger Sachsen"). [12]

Stephen I of Hungary 11th-century king of Hungary and saint

Stephen I, also known as King Saint Stephen, was the last Grand Prince of the Hungarians between 997 and 1000 or 1001, and the first King of Hungary from 1000 or 1001 until his death in 1038. The year of his birth is uncertain, but many details of his life suggest that he was born in or after 975 in Esztergom. At his birth, he was given the pagan name Vajk. The date of his baptism is unknown. He was the only son of Grand Prince Géza and his wife, Sarolt, who was descended from the prominent family of the gyulas. Although both of his parents were baptized, Stephen was the first member of his family to become a devout Christian. He married Gisela of Bavaria, a scion of the imperial Ottonian dynasty.

King of Hungary

The King of Hungary was the ruling head of state of the Kingdom of Hungary from 1000 to 1918. The style of title "Apostolic King of Hungary" was endorsed by Pope Clement XIII in 1758 and used afterwards by all Monarchs of Hungary.

Kingdom of Hungary former Central European monarchy (1000–1946)

The Kingdom of Hungary was a monarchy in Central Europe that existed from the Middle Ages into the 20th century. The Principality of Hungary emerged as a Christian kingdom upon the coronation of the first king Stephen I at Esztergom around the year 1000; his family led the monarchy for 300 years. By the 12th century, the kingdom became a European middle power within the Western world.

The third, largest wave of Germanic-speaking immigrants into Hungary arrived as the focus of a deliberate settlement policy of the Habsburg government after the expulsion of the Ottoman Empire from Hungarian territory. Between 1711 and 1780, German-speaking settlers from Southern Germany, Austria, and Saxony immigrated to the regions of Southwest Hungary, Buda, Banat and Szatmár County. This influx of immigrants helped to bring economic recovery and cultural distinction to these regions. At the end of the 18th century, the Kingdom of Hungary contained over one million German-speaking residents. During this time, a flourishing German-speaking culture could be found in the kingdom, with German-language literary works, newspapers, and magazines being produced. A German-language theater also operated in the kingdom's capital, Budapest.

Habsburg Monarchy former Central European empire (1526–1804)

The Habsburg Monarchy, also called the Austrian Monarchy or Danubian Monarchy, is an unofficial umbrella term among historians for the kingdoms and countries in personal union with the Habsburg Archduchy of Austria between 1526 and 1804, when it was succeeded by the Austrian Empire. The Monarchy was a composite state of territories within and outside the Holy Roman Empire, and was united only in the person of the monarch. The dynastic capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague. From 1804 to 1867 the Habsburg Monarchy was formally unified as the Austrian Empire, and from 1867 to 1918 as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known to its inhabitants and the Eastern world as Rome (Rûm), and historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. Although initially the dynasty was of Turkic origin, it was thoroughly Persianised in terms of language, culture, literature and habits. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Southern Germany as a region has no exact boundary but is generally taken to include the areas in which Upper German dialects are spoken. That corresponds roughly to the historical stem duchies of Bavaria and Swabia or, in a modern context, to Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg within the Federal Republic of Germany, to the exclusion of the areas of the modern states of Austria and Switzerland. The Saarland and the southern parts of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate are sometimes included as well and correspond to the historical Franconia.

Throughout the 19th century, a strong German industrial community developed, with glass-blowing, foundries, and masonry being particularly important. In response to this, the second half of the century saw the rise of a strong Hungarian nationalist political movement, whose purpose was to assimilate German-speaking citizens and their economic power into Hungarian culture. This was driven by a number of policies, including the forced replacement of the German language in ethnic German schools with the Hungarian language.

By 1918, at the end of World War I, almost two million Danube Swabians and other German-speaking peoples lived in what is now Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Slovakia and the former Yugoslav republics. Between 1918 and 1945 several factors greatly reduced the number of German-speaking residents in the kingdom so much that only thirty percent of the original German-speaking population was left after World War II. The number of Germans in the Hungarian kingdom was more than halved by the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, as the kingdom was forced to make large cessions of its territory to neighboring countries.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as, "the war to end all wars," it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Treaty of Trianon the peace agreement of 1920 that formally ended World War I between most of the Allies of World War and the Kingdom of Hungary

The Treaty of Trianon was the peace agreement of 1920 that formally ended World War I between most of the Allies of World War I and the Kingdom of Hungary, the latter being one of the successor states to Austria-Hungary. The treaty regulated the status of an independent Hungarian state and defined its borders. It left Hungary as a landlocked state that covered 93,073 square kilometres (35,936 sq mi), only 28% of the 325,411 square kilometres (125,642 sq mi) that had constituted the pre-war Kingdom of Hungary. Its population was 7.6 million, only 36% of the pre-war kingdom's population of 20.9 million. The areas that were allocated to neighbouring countries in total had a majority of non-Hungarians but 31% of Hungarians were left outside of post-Trianon Hungary. Five of the pre-war kingdom's ten largest cities were drawn into other countries. The treaty limited Hungary's army to 35,000 officers and men, and the Austro-Hungarian Navy ceased to exist.

In 1938, a national socialist German organization was formed, the Volksbund der Deutschen in Ungarn under the leadership of Franz Anton Basch and it became the most influential political organization among the Hungarian Germans. In 1940, it became the official representative of the Hungarian Germans and it was directly controlled from Germany. The Volksbund had representatives in the Hungarian parliament until 1945. [13] Through both limited volunteer enlistment and widespread conscription, as well as wholesale transfer of entities of the domestic armed services, many ethnic Germans ended up serving in military units raised or controlled by the Third Reich and fighting on behalf of the German war effort in World War II. This included several units of the Waffen SS and spanned combat in the region of Hungary and its possessions and beyond.

Toward the end that conflict, the German-speaking community in Hungary was seen as a scapegoat by Communists, and a process of ethnic cleansing begun. Citing "security reasons", the advancing Red Army deported about 600,000 civilians and prisoners of war from Hungary, of whom 40,000–65,000 were Germans. [12] On top of this, a great number of Germans, mostly members of Nazi organisations, who felt threatened by the prospect of being deported to Siberia, fled from Hungary as well. [12] Many Germans were sent to Germany, first to the American occupation zone, and later to the Soviet occupation zone. Overall, approximately 220,000 Germans were expelled from Hungary.


With World War II still raging in 1945 various factions competing for current and postwar Hungarian political power sought to decide how to treat ethnic Germans. Opinions were divided, with the Hungarian Communist Party and its ally, the National Peasant Party, calling for the expulsion of all Germans, whereas the major democratic party, the Smallholder Party, favored only deporting former Volksbund and Waffen SS members. In May 1945, the Government announced that there was no Swabian question but only a question of German fascists. They then resolved to deport former Waffen SS soldiers and confiscate the lands of the members of the Volksbund. Shortly thereafter, however, they did ask authorization from Moscow to deport 200,000 to 250,000 ethnic Germans to the Soviet occupation zone of Germany. As this figure clearly was much greater than the number of Volksbund adherents, the issue really became one of eliminating an unwanted ethnic group rather than one of eliminating only German fascists. The German population in Hungary, however, was never subject to the same brutal persecution and excesses as in Poland, Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia.[ citation needed ]

The initiative for including the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Hungary in the Potsdam "Big Three" conference, in August 1945, came from the Soviet Union. They together with the Hungarian Communist Party wanted to use the argument of the collective guilt of the Swabians to cover their real purpose for a radical land reform. In the Spring of 1945, Marshall Voroshilov demanded from the Hungarian government the complete expulsion of the Germans from Hungary. All those ethnic Germans who declared German as their native language were considered eligible for transfer. The Hungarian government estimated the number to be removed from Hungary to be from 200,000 to 250,000.

Certain categories of Hungarian Germans were exempted from deportation, most importantly those who had been active members of democratic parties or labor unions or had been persecuted by the Nazis for claiming Hungarian nationality. At a later date, in 1947, industrial workers in critical industries, miners, indispensable craftsmen or agricultural workers were also exempted, unless they had been members of the Volksbund or Waffen SS. Exemption Committees were established by the Government, but in reality they were under the control of the Communist Party. Thus it occurred, on occasion, that wealthy Swabians who had not been members of the Volksbund were expelled whereas working class Germans, now members of the Hungarian Communist Party, were exempted, even though they were previously members of the Volksbund.

Voices were raised in Hungary against these arbitrary expulsions. The liberal parties, particularly the Smallholder Party and the surviving democratic press, criticized the sweeping nature of classifying every ethnic German as a traitor. Cardinal József Mindszenty (he was of Swabian origin), as head of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary and a fierce anti-communist, repeatedly protested the property confiscation and expulsion of all ethnic Germans. He addressed world public opinion, strongly condemning what was happening in Hungary. These protests had no effect, and with the increasing communist domination of the Hungarian Government, the opposition was gradually eliminated. (In 1949 Mindszenty was tried for treason by the Communist Government and given a life sentence. In the 1956 Hungarian revolution, he was given asylum in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, from whence he was finally allowed to go into exile in 1971.

The expulsions occurred in two phases: The first phase lasted from January to June 1946. After a short interruption in the summer of 1946, they continued until December 1946. The refugees were sent to the American Zone of occupation in Germany. The transfer of ethnic Germans began again in August 1947. Because the U.S. Government refused to take any more refugees into its zone, they were sent to the Soviet Zone of occupation. About 50,000 Swabian Germans were transferred to camps in Saxony from which they were later dispersed to other areas in the Soviet Zone. But by this time the majority of the ethnic Germans that remained in Hungary were anxious to leave, as living conditions for them had become unbearable. Ironically, in this last expulsion, the most skilled and industrious German workers were driven out of Hungary. This had a long-term detrimental effect on the Hungarian economy. The expulsions were completely discontinued in the autumn of 1948.

In total, 239,000 Swabian Germans were forced to leave Hungary. About 170,000 went to the US Zone in Germany, 54,000 to the Soviet Zone and 15,000 to Austria. It is estimated that in these expulsions about 11,000 ethnic Germans civilians lost their lives.

Those ethnic Germans who opted for Hungarian nationality in the 1941 census, who stated their native language as Hungarian and were completely integrated into Hungarian society, generally were able to avoid deportation. By 1948, with the communists dominating the Hungarian Government, the issue of nationalism was replaced by class warfare. Communist Party leader Rákosi stated that the remaining Swabians, mostly skilled workers, should be reintegrated into the Hungarian State. In October 1949 a general amnesty of all Germans was announced. Six months later, in May 1950, the expulsions were officially stopped, and all Germans who remained were given Hungarian citizenship. This created its own crisis among the residual German community in Hungary, for now they could not leave because they were Hungarian citizens. [14]

Treatment in Post-World War II Hungary

Things began to improve for minority groups, including the Hungarian Germans, under a program of economic liberalization called Goulash Communism. This movement, led by the then- General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party, János Kádár, guaranteed certain economic rights to minority groups, as well as rights to practice their own cultures. In 1955, a new organization, the Association of Hungarian Germans (German : Verband der Ungarndeutschen), was founded. A major focus of the group was the teaching of the German language in Hungarian schools. Because of the government's position on German culture in the recent past, very little German was taught in schools at the time, and the group's organizer feared that "a mute generation" had been raised by the Hungarian school system. The group's organizers felt that the Hungarian German youth had a very poor command of the German language, including limited speech comprehension, which they found disturbing. The group met with success in the 1980s, when German gained status as a minority language, thus gaining legal standing in the Hungarian school system. The number of bilingual schools has continued to rise. In 2001, 62,105 people declared to be German, [15] and 88,209 people had affinity with cultural values and traditions of the German nationality. [16]

In the 2018 Hungarian parliamentary election, a representative of Hungary's German minority – Imre Ritter of the National Self-Government of Germans in Hungary – was elected for the first time since 1933. [17] [18] [19]

County Districts by ethnic
German population
(2001 census) [20]
%Districts by ethnic
German population
(2011 census)
Baranya County 14,2043.49%22,1506.07%
Tolna County 6,6582.67%10,1954.74%
Komárom-Esztergom County 5,1121.61%9,1683.38%
Veszprém County 3,0320.81%8,4732.69%
Pest County 10,3190.95%24,9942.29%
Bács-Kiskun County 4,4740.82%9,5282.01%
Fejér County 2,1470.49%5,4191.45%
Győr-Moson-Sopron County 1,8030.41%5,1451.30%
Somogy County 9650.29%3,0391.06%
Budapest 7,0140.39%18,2781.00%
Vas 1,0230.38%
Nógrád 7440.34%
Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén 1,1560.16%
Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg 7270.12%
Zala 4520.15%
Csongrád 5570.13%
Heves 2190.07%
Hajdú-Bihar 3180.06%
Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok 2170.05%

See also

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