GERMANS IN ROMANIA BETWEEN THE 1930s AND THE 2002s

Abstract. In Romania, German ethnics arrived fromCentral Europe in several waves – during the XIIthXIIIthand XVIIth-XIXth centuries – and settled mostlyin the historical regions of central and Western Romania(Transilvania, Banat and Crişana) – that time underHungarian domination or integrated in the HabsburgEmpire. During the second part of the XXth century –beginning of the XXIst century, the number of theseethnics decreased – from 745.421 persons in 1930 to60.088 in 2002 – as a consequence of Romanian’s andGerman’s government disloyalty from the SecondWorld War (1940-1945), the lack of material andjuridical base for the after-war generation during thecommunist governance, the fear, the isolation thatcontinued after 1989 and the discredit towards theminorities’ rights, proclaimed after the Revolution ofDecember, 1989.

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The German minority is one of therepresentative minorities in Romania, whichinfluenced the history and culture of their livingenvironment. The German population in ourcountry is very heterogeneous from the point ofview of the provenience and period when theirsettlement took place (12th-13th and 17th -19thcenturies). Saxons, or Germans of Transylvania,also known in historic documents as Flandreuses,Teutons or Saxons, were colonized by Hungariansduring the 12th-13th centuries, from the regionssituated West of the Rhine, with the specificpurpose of creating centers of urban life they couldafterwards exploit through taxes. They were grouped in the South andNorth of the province, in Sibiu, Braşov, Târnaveand Bistriţa regions, where they were organized inchairs and Saxon districts. Favoured by theHungarian Royal Administration, they stood apartamong the nationalities in the province by theconstruction of numerous towns (Braşov, Sibiu,Mediaş, Sighişoara, Sebeş, Bistriţa) and fortifiedchurches (at Biertan, Moşna, Valea Viilor, ŞeicaMare, Şeica Mică etc.). Still in Transylvania,landlers, also known as transmigrants were broughtover in Sibiu’s neighbourhood during the 18thcentury.During the 17th -19th centuries, roaches fromBanat and Satu Mare were colonized by theAustrians, being brought as agriculturers fromWürtenberg region; also, tipters from Maramureş(as wood carpenters) and Germans from Bucovina.The Germans of Southern Basarabia (Tarutino andTatar Bunar) and Dobrudjea were brought byRussians. The Germans in Banat, originary fromBohemia, reached the province during three majorsettlement phases - Caroline, Terezian andJosephine – and founded numerous settlements inthe center, North-West and forest or mining regions; beginning with1775 and until 1848, twenty seven Germancolonies were founded, as recommended by theemperor Josef, 2nd (1780-1790).
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According to the census of 1930, 745,421persons of the Romanian inhabitans had Germanicorigins during the inter-wars period, representing4.1 percent of the country’s population. Judging bythis percent, the German ethnic group occupied thethird place in the national structure of our country,after Romanians (71.9 percent) and Hungarians(7.9 percent); they were numerous in Transylvania(253,426 persons), Banat (223,167), Basarabia(81,089), Bucovina (75,533) and CrişanaMaramureş(67,259). Their percent within thesehistorical provinces only outnumbered the averagenational percent in Banat (23.7 percent), Bucovina(8.9 percent) and Transylvania (7.9 percent).
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Between 1930 and 1956, the number of theGerman population in Romania reduced almost byhalf, reaching 384,708 persons (Fig. 1) whichmeant 2.1 percent of the national population. Thisdrastical diminution was generated both by a lowpopulation growth, but also by the historicalpoliticalevents of that time. The most influencialwere: a) the territorial losses suffered by Romania;b) the second world war; c) deportation. Thus,before Romania’s active participation in the war,after Ribbentrop-Molotov pact (August, 23th,1939), North Bucovina and Basarabia were takenover by U.S.S.R., meaning a population of 30,000German people.In 1943, during the war, Germany took over most German ethnics in its army, according to theRomanian government. Due to this new situationmade that, after Romania passed on the side of theSoviet front, soldiers and officers taken by theGerman army remained faithful untill the end ofthe conflict.

The fear induced by the entrance of the Sovietarmy in Transylvania generated the retreat of mostSaxons of Transylvania from Bistriţa and Reghinregions. Most of them arrived in Austria andSouthern Germany, where they settledpermanently. Although the king of Romania andpremier of Romania, General Rădescu protested,part of the Germans capable of work, that hadremained on the territory of Romania, weredeported in the Soviet Union. During this period,the British prime minister, Winston Churchillappreciated that using Germans from EsternEurope to reunite the USSR was a legal right of theRussians.

According to statistics, over 30,000Transylvanian Saxons were deported in the SovietUnion, which, according to the census of 1941would represented about 15 percent of the Germanpopulation of Transylvania. Nine out of ten peoplearrived on the territory of Ukraine, inDnepropetrovsk, Stalino and Voroşilovgradregions and the rest in Ural Mountains’ region.From the Saxons of Transylvania deported in the85 existent camps, one third were working inmines, one fourth in construction and the rest inindustry, agriculture and camp administration.Very few of them accomplished types of work thatcorresponded to their studies. The first Germansunfit for work were repatriated in Transylvania atthe end of the 1945’s. Between 1946-1947, about5,100 Saxons of Transylvania were brought aboutin Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany, using specialtransport for sick people. About 12% died (3,076persons), the percent being of 3 dead men to 1dead woman and after their release fromdeportation, one fourth of them were sent away toGermany (from them, only 7 came back inTransylvania). The year of liberation for persons fit to work was 1948 (an overall of 49 percent) and inOctober 1949 the camps were abolished. The lastthird of deported persons came back toTransylvania. About 50% of the persons deportedin the Soviet ocupation area of Germany wereallowed to come back home. Most of the otherspassed in West Germany, few remaining in theDemocrat Republic of Gemany. Only 202 personswere allowed to come back home in the periodcomprised between 1950 and 1952, while 7deported persons decided to stay in the USSR.

The consequence of the already presentedevents affecting the German population is verywell reflected by the numerical evolution of theSaxons of Transylvania, which lowered fromaproximately 250,000 persons in 1941 to about157,000 in 1948. Also, a negative impact on thespiritual status of the German population inRomania had:
a) the nationalization of agricultural areas(March, 1945), factories, workshops, banks etc.(June 1948);
b) the deportation of 10,000 German peopleto Bărăgan in 1951;
c) the trials during the 60’s, which resultedin sentencing some German intellectuals in Clujand Braşov.

But Romania also offered some rights to theGerman minority, such as: a) the existence ofGerman schools or schools with German teachingprofiles; b) the editing of magazines, newspapersand books in their mother tongue; c) the existenceof a German section within the National Theatrein Sibiu (founded, according to the decree no.56771, at Novermber, 1st, 1956 as a section withinthe National Theatre and approved by theExecutive Commitee of the People’s Council ofStalin/Braşov region) and even a National GermanTheatre at Timişoara (also from 1956).

It is important to outline the fact that duringthose dramatic moments for the German minority,the Evanghelical Church of Augustan Confessionwas an unifying factor and moral support for theSaxons of Transylvania, with its headquarters inSibiu and the Romano-Catholic Church in the caseof the Swabian people in Banat.As a result, the period comprised between 1956and 1977 was characterized by a continuousnumerical decrease of the German ethnics becauseof their emigration: from about 382,600 persons in1966 to 359,109 persons in 1977. For theones wishing to leave Romania, their relatives inWest Germany or other Western countries werecompelled to pay consistent amounts of money toofficials or Romanian diplomats, reaching tens of thousands of Deutsche Marks per person.

As compared to the previous period (1930-1956), from 1956 to 1977 the decreasing rate of theGerman population decreased. Moreover, in sometowns founded by Saxons in Transylvania, theirnumber registered a slight increase. Thus, thenumber of Saxons came to reach 8,064 persons in1956 and 13,080 in 1977 in Mediaş; 5,096 to 5,881in Sighişoara; and 1,385 to 2,877 in Sebeş etc.

In 1977, most Germans were found, as well asduring the inter-wars period, in Transylvania(165,117 persons; 45.9% of the entire Germaanpopulation), Banat (113,886; 31.7%) and CrişanaMaramureş(44,474; 12.3%), and the recordregarding life environment situation was thefollowing: 53.5% living in the rural areas and46.5% in the urban ones. Within the historicalprovinces, the German population established inthe urban areas was dominant in Muntenia(98.1%), Oltenia (89.5%), Dobrogea (82.3%) andMoldova (63.1%).

After 1977, Germans’ emigration processtowards the origins’ areas progressivelyintensified. The fundamental causes of theirleaving were not the political or ethnicalpersecutions, but had rather a psychological nature– by their desire of ethnical preservation – or aneconomic one, as the difference of the livingconditions in West Germany and Romania werewell known. Emigration was encouraged and evensupported by the Romanian government and theforeign Saxon or Swabian associations. Thus, theunwritten agreement of 1978 between WestGermany’s chancellor, Helmut Schmidt and theRomanian president, Nicolae Ceauşescu,represented the starting point in raising the numberof German emigrants, in exchange for certain sumsof money. The phenomenon, unique in our history,was intensified by the fear of those who wished toleave Romania in order to avoid becoming tooexpensive. About 11,000 Germans were estimatedto emigrate per year, but in 1989 their numberraised to 14,598 persons per year. Onlybetween 1985–1989, the number of Germansleaving Romania raised to 60,818 persons (37.6%of our country’s emigration). Because of the highrate of emigration, at the end of the 1989’s, theGerman population in Romania only counted about265,000 persons. The houses of the Germans that already emigratedwere taken over by the state, and, in most cases,rented to homeless Hungarian, Gypsy or Romanian families. As a consequence, the old settlements orresidential neighbourhoods, with homogenousGerman population were transformed intoneighbourhoods with heterogeneous population,most constructions being deteriorated out ofnegligence.

The Germans’ exodus from Romania, startingwith the second world war, could not be stoppedafter 1989, being maintained both because of fear,isolation fright, which did not disappear, by thegregarious spirit and the distrust regarding theminorities’ rights in Romania, proclaimed after therevolution of December, 1989, but also by notknowing the real situation of the emigrants inGermany. Asa consequence, only during 1990, 60,000 Germansemigrated from Romania. This flow continueduntil the summer of 1991, when Germany hardenedreceiving conditions. If in 1990, the monthly averageemigration rate was of 5,006 persons, it lowered to1,297 in 1991, 738 in 1992 and 495 in 1993.

According to W. Schreiber, in1990, the monthly average rate was of 9,265 personsand gradually lowered to 680 in 1991, 1,345 in 1992and under 500 in 1993.In 1992, according to the data registered at thecensus of January, 7th, the German population onlycounted 119,462 persons (aproximatively 0.5% ofRomania’s population) and occupied the fourth placein the ethnical structure of the country, followingRomanians (89.5 percent), Hungarians (7,1 percent)and Gipsies (1.8 percent). As well as the precedingyears, most of them lived in Transylvania (43,532persons; 36.4 percent of the total), Banat (38,709persons; 32.4 percent) and in Crişana-Maramureş(28,722 persons; 12.2 percent). But, this timea great change regarding the habitation environmentoccurred: 32.8 percent lived in villages and 67.2percent in towns. The largest concentrations ofpopulation in urban environment were found in largertowns. Thus, over 10,000 of this ethnical group’srepresentatives lived in Timişoara, about 5,500 werepresent in Sibiu and Reşiţa, and between 2,000 and5,000 were established in Bucureşti, Arad, Braşov,Satu Mare, Mediaş and Lugoj.

Still following the statistics of 1992’s, we canobserve that 59.4% of the Germans in Romania had aRomano-Catholic confession, 22.8% Evangelicalreligion of Augustan confession, 6.8% Orthodox,2.4% Evangelical Sinodo-Presbiterian, 2.3%Reformated (Calvinist) etc. The Germanshaving a Romano-Catholic religion predominantlylived in Banat, Crişana, Maramureş and in Bucureştimunicipality, while the Augustan confession oneslived in Transylvania. The Orthodox and Greco-CatholicGermans come from the mixed marriages withRomanians and extremely rare, with Gipsies, while theReformed ones, from the marriages with Hungarians.

The numerical lowering of the German peoplecontinued during the last decade of the 20thcentury, so that at the last official census, in 2002,Germans in Romania only reached 59,764 persons,which represented only 0.27 percent of thecountry’s population. By this percent, the Germanethnics descended on the 5th place in the nationalstructure after: Romanians (89.47 percent),Hungarians (6.60 percent), Gipsies (2.46) andUkrainians (0.28 percent). Most of them lived inTimiş county (14,174 persons), Sibiu (6,554), SatuMare (6,417), Caraş-Severin (6,149), Arad (4,852),Braşov (4,418), Mureş (2,045) and Maramureş(2,012). Within these administrative-territorialunits, in the ethnical structure of Germans,percentages comprised between 1.5 percent and 2percent were found in Sibiu (1.5 percent), SatuMare (1.7 percent) and Caraş-Severin (1.8 percent)and over 2 percent only in Timiş (2.1 percent).

Regarding the repartition on settlements, in2002, the highest percetages of Germans werefound in the following towns: Timişoara (7,157persons), Reşiţa (2,696), Sibiu (2,508) Bucureşti(2,358), Arad (2,247), Braşov (1,717), Satu Mare(1,607), Lugoj (1,319) and Mediaş (1,137).

Resuming the most important aspects whichconstituted the target of this scientifical approach,we can state the following:a) the higher percentage of German ethnics inthe historical provinces from the center and theWest of Romania (Transilvania, Banat, Crişanaand Maramureş), that have been under Hungariandomination or integrated within the HabsburgicEmpire;b) the predominantly descendant evolution ofthis nationality along the entire period we havestudied, as a consequence of losing material andjuridical basis, necessary for the generationfollowing the second world war, the disappearanceof double loyalty during this worldwide war, thefear, isolation and distrust feelings which did notdisappear after December, 1989.

Find the whole scientific article here (contains graphics too).

Source: Forum Geografic
According to the census of 2002, in Romania there were 60 088 Germans, which means 0,3% of the total population of Romania.
On the following map we can see the geographical distribution of German ethnics in Romania, according to the 2002 census.

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So, in the Western part of Romania there is Banat region, with the greatest number of German ethnics (the most Western county on the map is Timiş, with Timişoara as the biggest municipality). In North-West there are Crişana and Maramureş regions, in the center of Romania there is Transylvania, with its Transylvanian Saxons. Also in the North, but to the East, we can see there still are many ethnic Germans in Bucovina (Bukowina), in the county of Suceava.
As we see on the map, Germans can be found in all parts of Romania, but to a smaller degree. Every county of Romania has some ethnic Germans, or at least it had according to 2002 census.

According to the census of 2011, only 27 019 persons claimed German language to be their mother tongue.

Source of the map and of the information (in Romanian language).