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Thread: Transylvanian Saxons: the Ethnic Germans of Transylvania

  1. #111
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    Transylvanian Saxons

    This Post is in reply to Kussmaul's kind comment to my introduction in the Introduction & Greetings Thread. Kussmaul wrote: "I've read about the Transylvanian Saxons. Very interesting. They turned their part of Transylvania into prosperous areas to be envied. My understanding ist that much of them have abandoned the region. And that many of their communities have been occupied by other ethnicities, with predictable results. Are you native to Canada, or did you immigrate their from Transylvania?"

    My response:
    It is with great pleasure to write to you today. Please forgive my late response, but due to time constrains I can – as mentioned – only periodically attend to this side. I am astonished of how you as a non-Transylvanian were able to grasp the spirit of the Transylvanian Saxons in the depths you did and even more, express everything in just a few sentences. Your compatriot Ross Perot once said that “there are but two things worth living for: to do what is worthy of being written; and to write what is worthy of being read.” To do what is worthy of being written is a personal issue. But how can I now write what is worthy of being read? Especially by you. I am trying:

    The Transylvanian Saxons are basically the immediate descendants of a heartland Frankish tribe who through historical occurrences ended up in the center of the Carpathian Mountains. Fate through this made them for centuries to the de facto defenders of what history later was to call The West, on its most eastern borders. Besides the Greeks, no other people had in history such a tremendous influence on The West, as had the Franks. And in no place on this earth their original spirit was preserved longer and more purely than through and by the Transylvanian Saxons. The quintessence of this spirit is one single word: Freedom. Freedom in the purest and most undistorted form of its meaning. In the meaning attached to it by Herodotus when he reports a Greek saying to a Persian: “You do not know what freedom is. If you did you would fight for it with bare hands if you had no weapons.”

    Freedom, in its unfortunately today watered down meaning, is by far not what the ancient Greeks, nor the Transylvanian Saxons of centuries ago understood by it. The West today puts a lot of emphasis on the Magna Carta. This without a doubt has its merits. But one major fact in my opinion is –like so many facts in history - conveniently overlooked: The Magna Carta was neither the first nor “The Document of Freedom” of the world. This was the Diploma Andreanum, issued by Andrew II of Hungary in 1224 to the Transylvanian Saxons. For two reasons. Firstly, the Magna Carta, even if initially issued in 1215, became law only in 1225, i.e. one year after the Diploma Andreanum. And secondly and most important, the Magna Carta gave freedom not to all, whereas the Diploma Andreanum guarantied the freedom of all Saxons; no differences of classes or others were made. One Saxon was equal to the other. Something like this, history has never seen before.

    Regarding the influence of the Transylvanian Saxons on the peoples surrounding them, I want to defer to an opinion of somebody who hardly can be called subjective. The Englishman Charles Boner wrote about 150 years ago in his extraordinary book Transylvania the following about the Saxons: “And as they tilled the ground, and made a waste fruitful, so on the very confines of civilized Europe they planted free institutions, and reared them till they grew strong. To them the people, among whom their lot was cast, owe more than they can repay; for it was they who introduced, and made known, and continued to maintain, those just notions of liberty the advantages of which all participate in today. Yet side by side with freedom they always upheld lawful authority, and bowed to its commands.”

    Regarding your question referring to my own personal history, a detailed answer – as I am sure you can understand – will exceed the scope of this public forum. In short: I am not a native to Canada. But appreciate the country immensely and am only saddened by the fact of how fast it also becomes part of what the TIME front page of August 22, 2011 called “The Decline and Fall of Europe (And Maybe the West)”. In my early twenties my family made the conscious decision to leave Transylvania with the sole objective to help the Transylvanian Saxons from outside of the borders to the best of our abilities. From inside we realized it was not possible anymore. Reflecting back, I hope we succeeded, at least in as much as our humble means allowed.

    Allow me to end with expressing again my admiration about how you managed to describe the Transylvanian Saxons in just three sentences. Thank you for your interest in this issue. And thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my introductory message.

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    Rudolf Steiner about The Transylvanian Saxons

    "Such experiences as this journey [to Transylvania] were brought me by destiny." - Rudolf Steiner

    What a magnificent formulation!

    And this is the whole article. The Story of My Life, Chapter 13, Rudolf Steiner:

    http://www.southerncrossreview.org/5...ner-life13.htm

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    The forgotten Saxon world that is part of Europe's modern heritage

    Simon Jenkins

    Between the collapse of the Ceausescu regime in December 1989 and the spring of 1990, half a million indigenous so-called "Saxons" fled Romania for West Germany. It was the most astonishing, and little reported, ethnic migration in modern Europe. In the seven towns and 250 villages of Saxon Land in southern Transylvania, no less than 90% of the German-speaking population packed its bags and committed eight centuries of history to memory. They drove west to a country few of them knew, enticed by the notorious "return to the fatherland" speech of the German politician, Hans-Dietrich Genscher.

    The exodus left behind a deserted landscape the size of Wales, hundreds of square miles of rolling beech woods, bears, lush pastures and wild flowers, once home to the Dracula legend. Across it are dotted medieval grid-planned villages, with Lutheran churches, schools, dignified houses, barns and smallholdings, their customs and exclusivity reminiscent of the Pennsylvania Dutch. For 800 years since being invited by the Magyar kings to form a bulwark against the infidel, the Transylvania Saxons guarded their Germanic tradition. They spoke a High German said to be similar to ancient Luxembourgish. They embraced the Reformation and resisted Ceausescu's concrete communism. All this ended abruptly in 1990.

    While the people have almost all gone, the villages remain, colonised mostly by Romania's booming Gypsies. It is estimated that as many as a million may now occupy this part of Transylvania, possibly rendering it one day the only majority-Gypsy province. The result is the most exciting and daunting cultural challenge in Europe.

    The village of Archita is lost in a Carpathian valley near the 17th-century town of Sighisoara, whose medieval walls and nine towers lie at the heart of Dracula country. The village's fortified church stands like a castle in its midst, encircled by not one but two high walls, with musket holes and archers' galleries intact. It was built to protect the citizens against Tartar raids and still has its ham loft with hooks numbered for each house, an insurance against sudden siege. The interior displays its galleries, Protestant pulpit and baroque canopy. The churchyard is overgrown with unpicked plum and apple trees. From the rickety church tower the geometrical village plan reaches out into the surrounding woods. Wide streets and lime-washed, two-storeyed houses reflect the equal plots allotted to each Saxon family in the middle ages. Records show continuous family tenure from the 13th century to 1990. Just three Saxons remain.

    The 18th-century town hall and school of Archita have fallen into dereliction. Since the families employed few servants there are no poor houses or suburbs. There is no water or sewerage and no tarmac roads. The village well and a few desultory horses and carts are attended by attractive Gypsy youths.

    To the new inhabitants of these villages, the vanished Saxons represent an alien culture. But their ghosts flit round buildings that in most cases are unaltered since being converted from wood to stone in the 17th century. They are like the hill-station residences of British India, holding its genius loci in absentia.Ghosts linger too in the countryside round about, ironically preserved by Ceausescu's order forbidding development beyond the confines of existing settlement. This yielded one of the most effective green policies in Europe, protecting miles of meadow and forest, now vulnerable to exploitation. The roads are already littered with loggers carting away loads of walnut, beech and oak.

    Unesco has designated some of the Saxon churches as world heritage sites, as has the Romanian government, but not the villages. With no money for repairs and no enforcement, such designation carries little weight. There is thus a race to save the most endangered pre-industrial landscape in Europe from poverty-stricken newcomers understandably eager for modernity. One day these villages will be as treasured as those of the Cotswolds, Provence or Umbria, but until then they must pass through the valley of the shadow of possible death.

    The response of the outside world to Saxon Land's plight is uncertain. Money is seeping back. Some departed families have returned, some unhappy in exile, some as so-called "summer Saxons", holidaying in their former homeland and hoping to capitalise on rising property prices.

    I encountered one dedicated young German, Sebastian Bethge, in the dramatic hill village of Apold, labouring alone to restore the church interior with money raised in Berlin and elsewhere. A visiting pastor had just held a Lutheran service for a congregation of nine – four Romanians, three Hungarians and two Germans.

    The EU is bringing infrastructure to some villages, even as it devastates their markets for milk and hops. Unesco has its designations. The Transylvania Trust has restored the castle home of the novelist, Miklos Banffy, whose Transylvanian Trilogy is so evocative of this region's other, Hungarian, past. Britain's Prince of Wales has bought and restored two Saxon village houses. But most international effort goes on hands-clean "awareness-raising", on drawing up lists, holding conferences and restoring an occasional showcase palace. The most impressive venture is the London-based Mihai Eminescu Trust (Met), chiefly supported by the American Packard foundation. Its "whole village" concept is tailored to Saxon Land, yielding more than 600 projects in the past decade. A leading citizen is engaged in each village to glean what locals – now mostly Romanians and Gypsies – would like restored if money and expertise were available.

    This is exemplary conservation practice. Work is carried out by local contractors, with some 130 craftsmen trained to restore Lutheran and Orthodox churches, schools, houses and barns. Nothing is too small, from patched barn roofs and re-plastered street facades to empty properties converted to guesthouses. Plastic bus shelters and concrete bridges have been replaced in wood.

    A truly minimalist venture had a Gypsy in the village of Floresti asking for, and getting, a tiled roof over an appalling hovel shared with his wife, two horses and a mountain of manure. Virtually next door is a restored Evangelical church, its sun-bathed interior one of the most serene of any church I know.

    In the 13th-century village of Viscri, the Met has undertaken 160 restorations led by its local leader, Caroline Fernolend, winning it the EU's premier conservation award. Sewers were installed and a new kiln built to supply handmade tiles, operated by a local craftsman. The trust is even reinstating apple orchards and relaying a local narrow-gauge railway.

    No such conservation can work against the grain of local consent or in the absence of local skills. Imported from outside, it will stir resentment and obstruction. The root cause of the Saxons' exodus was starvation of the modern benefits of civilisation. These cannot be denied their successors.

    Yet the conservation of town and village cultures across the sweep of Europe proves that ancient and modern can co-exist to the advantage of both. Such is the disregard of the past by other world continents that these survivors will one day be respected, valued and celebrated.

    The Transylvanian Saxons ranked with the Mennonite Amish, the Patagonia Welsh and the Volga Germans among the dislocated tribes of Europe. They lasted a phenomenal eight centuries, leaving intact monuments of a culture distinct and yet integral to European history. If modern European union cannot guard such relics of its diversity it is not worth the name.

    Source

  4. #114
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    Some questions arise over time about the Transylvanian Saxon dialect. I found a source which explains it in English: The Transylvanian Saxon dialect

    Some key points:

    In Transylvanian Saxon, the dialect is known as Siwweberjesch Såksesch (often simplified as Såksesch), whereas in standard German it is known as Siebenbürgersächsisch or as Die Siebenbürgisch-Sächsische Sprache (literary, the Transylvanian Saxon language).

    It pertains to the Mosselle Franconian group of dialects (which in German is known as Moselfränkisch) comprising, aside from the Transylvanian Saxon dialect itself, three more dialects, namely Luxembourgish (Lëtzebuergesch), Lorraine Franconian and Riograndenser Hunsrückisch (Hunsrik). The Mossele Franconian group of dialects is part of the greater West Central German dialectal family. All these four dialects of the German language originated in Rhineland, Lorraine and Saarland. Because of its isolation from the rest of the German dialects, the Transylvanian Saxon dialect is one of the most archaic dialects of the German language, with a long standing history at the crossroads of Central and Eastern Europe.

    A close analysis on the dialect’s lexis could reveal its composition as follows:
    • German-based words that are either different in form or sense from their counterparts in Hochdeutsch (i.e. literary German)
    • Specific Saxon words
    • German-based words that have disappeared in the meantime from both standard German and all its dialects
    • Borrowed words from both Romanian and Hungarian (stemming from the interethnic contacts in the same geographic space)


    Examples:



    “Foater auser dier dau best em Hemmel, geheleget verde deing numen, zaukomm aus deing rech, deing vell geschey aff ierden, als vey em hemmel, auser däglich briut gaff aus heigd, ond fergaff aus auser schuld, vey mir fergien auser en schuldigeren. Feir aus nèt en fersechung, saunderen erlüs aus von üvvell. Denn deing ess dat rech, dei krafft, ond dei herrleget, von ieveget zau ieveges, Amen.”

    (Lord's Prayer)


    Sample of a Transylvanian Saxon folk ballad

    In Transylvanian Saxon:

    Hië ritt berjuëf, hië ritt berjåff,
    bäs e se un em Brånnen tråf.

    Geaden Dåch, geaden Dåch, ir läf Härrn,
    nea wäll ich met ech riëde gärn!

    Wat huët ech menj Fra uch Känjd gedon,
    dåt ir mer se huët nedergeschlon?

    Wat huët ech dä jang Easchuld gedon,
    dåt sä nea stiindiut äm Iëren lån?

    Den enen stauch hië vum Ruëß eruëf
    diëm åndren schleach e det Hiift em uëf.

    Dien drätten spålt e wä en Fäsch,
    der viert lef än den gränen Bäsch.

    Net ener wul do bläiwe stohn,
    net ener wul an Åntwert son.

    Hië ritt dohänne mät fräschem Meat,
    esi bezuëlt em de Fånden geat.

    Source: Michael Markel (Hrsg.): Es sang ein klein Waldvögelein. Siebenbürgische Volkslieder, sächsisch und deutsch. Dacia Verlag, Klausenburg, 1973


    In standard German:


    Er ritt bergab, er ritt bergauf,
    bis er sie an einem Brunnen traf.

    Guten Tag, guten Tag, ihr lieben Herrn,
    nun will ich mit euch reden gern!

    Was hat euch mein’ Frau und Kind getan,
    dass ihr sie mir habt niedergeschlagen?

    Was hat euch die junge Unschuld getan,
    dass sie nun steintod am Boden lahn?

    Den einen stach er vom Ross herab,
    dem andern schlug er das Haupte ab.

    Den dritten spaltete er wie einen Fisch,
    der vierte lief in den grünen Busch.

    Kein einziger wollt’ dort bleiben stehn,
    Kein einziger wollte Antwort geben.

    Er ritt dahin mit frischem Mut,
    so bezahlt man seine Feinde gut.

    De Råch (in standard German “Die Rache”) – ‘The Revenge’, a Transylvanian Saxon ballad

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    And here what I could find on genetic origins:

    A study on Y-STR haplotypes in the Saxon population from Transylvania (Siebenbürger Sachsen): is there an evidence for a German origin?

    Ligia Barbarii et al.

    ABSTRACT: A study on Y-STR haplotypes in the Saxon population from Transylvania
    (Siebenbürger Sachsen): is there an evidence for a German origin? Y chromosome markers are increasingly used to investigate human population histories, being considered to be sensitive systems for detecting the population movements. In this study we present Y-STR data for a male population of Transylvanian Saxons in comparison with Y-haplotypes from Romanians and other European populations. The Transylvanian Saxons, called like that since medieval times, are representing a western population with unknown origin, settled in the Arch of Romanian Carpathian Mountains in the earliest of the 12th century. Historical and dialectal studies strongly suggest that they do not originate from Saxony, but more probably from the Mosel riversides (Rhine affluent) and also from the Eifel Mountains Valley (present territory of Luxembourg). Living protected by fortified cities in compact communities, they still represent a quite distinct population in Transylvania. For this study, 59 male samples were collected from the Siebenburgen area, subjects being selected by their Saxon surnames and paternal grandfather birthplace. A set of nine STR polymorphic systems mapping on the male-specific region of the human Y chromosome (DYS19, DYS385, DYS389 I/II, DYS390, DYS391, DYS392, DYS393) were typed by means of one or two two multiplex PCR reactions and capillary electrophoresis. The typing results reflect high Saxon population haplotype diversity. Furthermore, we present data on the haplotype sharing of the Saxon population with other European populations, especially with Germans as well as with the Romanians and the Transylvanian Szekely.

    http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2008/07...an-saxons.html

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