DSFoundationUSA - OMA_ABT_2015
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The Danube Swabian Foundation of the U.S.A., Inc.
Die Donauschwaebische Stiftung der USA, Inc
Who are the Donauschwaben?
(when explaining to someone who doesn't
know about the Donauschwaben culture) ?
2nd year's (2015) essay topic was:
and the winners were:
Ali Toth
Karina Palffy
Adam Tullius
These are their essays:
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Ali Toth                 Chicago Donauschwaben                 Oma Abt Essay Contest 2015

When asked about my ethnicity, deciding how to answer can be rather tricky. Should I offer a basic answer,
or should I subject the person who asked to a history lesson? Normally, I just respond with “German,” since
it’s a simple answer and the one that the listener is going to most easily understand. However, this answer
feels inadequate. While my ancestors were from Germany at one point, that time has long since passed. A
simple answer of “German” does not effectively describe the rich cultural traditions that developed after
these individuals left Germany and settled elsewhere. On the other hand, if I describe my background with the
exact response of “ethnic German of Austro-Hungarian origins,” then the listener’s eyes will begin to glaze
over. Such an explanation can be rather complicated. How best can I describe the Donauschwaben culture
that I am so proud to call my own?
When explaining Donauschwaben culture to others, a discussion of origin is simply not enough to explain its
richness. Instead, the history of these people must be known, for it influences the unique traits that separate
this culture from others. Indeed, many of the original Donauschwaben came from Germany and settled in
various parts of Austria-Hungary. Contact with their neighbors in these areas eventually allowed for a great
blending of traditions that ultimately became the Donauschwaben culture. Though the Donauschwaben lived
in different areas of the Empire, they were a people connected by a shared language and these very traditions.
However, the biggest aspect of Donauschwaben culture is the strength of its people. Others must understand
that these were people who lost everything they had. They were dehumanized and suffered unimaginable
horrors, all in an attempt by others to destroy this rich culture. These tragic experiences would be enough to
shatter many people, but the survivors were able to rebuild their lives. Some made the difficult decision to
emigrate, but all were devoted to working hard and building the best life possible for themselves and their
families. While living in these new lands, the Donauschwaben maintained their culture. This culture has been
a source of pride – though others tried to make them suffer because of it, they were never able to take it away.
Ultimately, when explaining the Donauschwaben culture to others, it is important to not just explain what the
culture is, but also to tell the story of who the Donauschwaben are. They are a people of strength. They have
experienced some of the most extreme cruelty that humans can inflict on one another. These atrocities were an
attempt to erase this culture, but the Donauschwaben were able to survive. In spite of this immense suffering,
the Donauschwaben did not let their culture die. Instead, it has been passed down, and is now as strong and
thriving as ever. To conclude, when explaining my culture to others, it must be told that the Donauschwaben
are a people of courage and perseverance who have a keen awareness of, and pride for, who they are.
Adam Tullius        Cincinnatti Donauschwaben        Oma Abt Youth Heritage Award Essay 2015

When explaining the Donauschwaben to someone who has never heard the term before, I tend to begin my
explanation by stating it is as much as, who are they today, as it is a historical question.
Simplifying the historical component as best as possible, I begin by calling them settlers who’s culture was
developed through years of toil, hard work, and building something out of nothing.  They learned to make the
absolute most out of whatever they had as they tamed the land down the Danube River and retained their
culture over the years until WWII. It was at this next tragic historical event that the Donauschwaben began to
become who they are today. Placed in concentration camps, fleeing for their lives, these great people stayed
strong and proud to who they were, never being coerced into an evil regime, a choice for which many of them
would be starved, worked to death, killed, and leave everything they had built since they had settled the
lands. Some chose to stay, many fled for their lives, only keeping close their loved ones and friends, giving
up everything they had for a second chance to start over again. They fled to countries around the world with
nothing but what they could carry but for these strong people, it didn’t matter. They became who they are
today, proud laborers, innovators, and people that built communities and worked together to create the cities
we all live in today. These people, our people, are strong enough and close enough to build something from
nothing not once but twice, to shape the cities we live in, to hold proudly their culture over hundreds of years
always remembering who they are. Today we still celebrate our culture, still remember who we are, holding
our friends and fellow schwobs dear, devote our lives to the communities we live in, are leaders in our
schools where we work and our communities. Our great grandparents and in some cases still, our
grandparents, paved the way for us, gave us their ideals and the chance continue what they have paved for us,
being leaders in society, and working hard to shape our future, always striving for better opportunities.
Today it is now our job to continue what our ancestors have worked so hard to create for us. They are a
proud people that devoted their lives for the chance to better their friends, families, and communities. We are
now meant to continue their hard work and efforts and continue to build the grounds on which they have laid
respecting and remembering everything it has taken to get to where we are today.
The History and Traditions of the Donauschwaben
By Karina Palffy        American Aid Societies, Chicago        Oma Abt Youth Heritage Award Essay 2015

The Donauschwaben are people whose ancestors migrated from Germany to Austria-Hungary in the 17th
and 18th centuries. Austria-Hungary was a large empire southeast of Germany. There was great tension
between Austria-Hungary and its southeast neighbor, the Ottoman empire. Many battles occurred in
Swabian Turkey, a triangular region in Austria-Hungary bordered by Lake Balaton and the Drave and
Danube rivers. In 1687, the Austro-Hungarian army finally drove the Ottoman army out of the region, but
as a result, no one lived there anymore. To repopulate Swabian Turkey, the emperor motivated people to
move there by giving money and land to those who did. The Germans who settled in the region lived in tiny
villages. 80% of the settlers were farmers, while 20% were craftsmen.
There were three intervals in which great numbers of settlers migrated to Austria-Hungary at the same
time. Each interval was called a Schwabenzug. Most settlers sailed down the Danube river from Ulm,
Germany, to their new homes. They sailed in boats called Ulmer Schachteln, the wood from which they
would use to build a house.
Most Donauschwaben traditions are from the homeland of the Donauschwaben. Many festivals, such as
Schlachtfest and Kirchweihfest, are traditions. Donauschwaben love to sing and dance. Clothing and
language are also important components of Donauschwaben culture. For special occasions, women wear
trachts, which are formal dresses with big, long, layered skirts. Men wear leiwls, which are black vests
with silver buttons. The Donauschwaben don’t speak high German. They speak a dialect called Schwovisch,
which contains many words from the Hungarian, Romanian, Serbian, and Croatian languages.
During World War II, Yugoslavia, a country in what was previously eastern Austria-Hungary, was invaded
by Nazi Germany. Many Donauschwaben were drafted into the German army. In 1944, Yugoslavia was
liberated by the Yugoslavian and Soviet armies, and Tito, the dictator of Yugoslavia, declared anyone of
German nationality to be hostile. The Donauschwaben living in Yugoslavia had all of their property and
possessions confiscated. Donauschwaben of all ages were sent to concentration camps and labor camps in
Yugoslavia and Russia from 1945 to 1949. Upon release from the camps, the Donauschwaben, left with
nothing to their names, had to begin a new life. They immigrated to countries such as the United States,
Canada, Brazil, Germany, and Austria.
Today, the descendants of the Donauschwaben continue to honor their heritage. Many organizations have
been established to preserve the Donauschwaben culture. These include the groups from various American
and Canadian cities that form the Landesverband. Young and old alike keep alive the culture of their
ancestors through folk songs, dance, and traditional festivals. I am proud to celebrate my Donauschwaben
heritage as a member of the American Aid Society of German Descendants.
1st year's (2014) contest results
Die Geschichte und Traditionen der Donauschwaben
Von Karina Palffy    American Aid Societies Chicago      Oma Abt Essay Contest 2015

Die Donauschwaben sind Leute, deren Vorfahren in den 17. und 18. Jahrhunderten von Deutschland
nach Österreich-Ungarn eingewandert sind. Österreich-Ungarn war ein großes Reich südosten von
Deutschland. Es hat zwischen Österreich-Ungarn und dem Osmanisches Reich, das südosten von
Österreich-Ungarn war, viel Konflikt gegeben. Die Kämpfe waren in der Schwäbische Turkei, eine
dreieckige Region in Österreich-Ungarn. Der Platensee und die Flüsse Drau und Donau haben der
Schwäbische Turkei begrenzt. In 1687 hat Österreich-Ungarn endlich das Osmanisches Reich weg von
der Schwäbische Turkei ausgetrieben. Dann hat niemand in der Schwäbische Turkei gewohnt, so es
war notwendig die Region zu bevölkern. Der Kaiser hat Geld und Land zu Leute von Deutschland, die in
der Schwäbische Turkei wohnen würden, gegeben. Die Deutsche Ansiedler haben in kleinen Dörfern
gewohnt. 80% der Ansiedler waren Bauern und 20% waren Handwerker. Die Meisten sind entlang der
Fluss Donau von Ulm, Deutschland bis Österreich-Ungarn gefahren.
Dreimal sind viele Leute zu der Region auf einmal gekommen. Jedes Interval heißt ein Schwabenzug.
Man ist entlang der Fluss Donau in einem Boot, das ein “Ulmer Schachtel” geheißt hat, gefahren.
Dann war das Boot auseinander gerissen. Mit dem Holz hat man Häuser gebaut, aber zuerst müssten
die Leute zu Fuß zu ihrem Land gehen.
Donauschwäbische Traditionen kommen meistens aus der Heimat der Donauschwaben. Manche
Traditionen sind Festen, wie Schlachtfest und Kirchweihfest. Donauschwaben singen und tanzen auch
sehr gern. Andere Sitten sind Kleidung und Sprache. Für Festen haben Mädchen und Frauen Trachten
getragen. Trachten sind lange Kleiden mit große Röcke. Männer haben Leiwln getragen. Leiwln sind
Schwarze Weste mit silber Knöpfe. Donauschwaben haben normal Deutsch nicht gesprochen. Sie haben
ein andere Sprache, die Schwovisch heißt, gesprochen. Schwovish ist ein dialekt von Deutch, der ein
bisschen anders von Deutsch ist. Viele Wörter kommen aus Serbisch, Kroatisch, Ungarisch, und
Nach der zweite Weltkrieg war Tito der kommunistischen Diktator von Jugoslawien. Jugoslawien war
ein Land, das einst ein Teil von Österreich-Ungarn war. Jetzt liegen Kroatien, Serbien, Slowenien,
Bosnien, Montenegro, und Mazedonien in der Region. Tito hat gesagt, dass Deutsche leute gefärlich
waren. Alle Sachen der Donauschwaben waren genommen. Von 1945 bis 1949 müssten die
Donauschwaben in Konzentrationslager und Arbeitslager bleiben. Dann haben sie kein Heim, Geld,
oder Sachen gehabt. Sie müssten ein neues Leben anfangen. Viele Donauschwaben zogen nach den
USA, Kanada, Brasilien, Österreich, und Deutschland.
Heute ehren die Donauschwaben ihre Erbe weiter. Viele Organisationen waren gegründet, um die
Donauschwäbische Kultur fortzusetzen. Unter diesen sind die Gruppen, die die Landesverband machen.
In dieser Organisationen singt und tanzt man Donauschwäbische Volkslieder und Volkstanze. Man
feiert auch für traditionelle Donauschwäbische Festen. Ich möchte die Traditionen meine Vorfahren
fortsetzen. Deshalb bin ich ein stolzer Mitglieder der American Aid Society of German Descendants.
3rd year's (2016) contest results
These are their essays:
5th year's (2018) contest results
4th year's (2017) contest results
6th year's (2019) contest results
7th year's (2020) cotest results