Carpathian Germans (German: Karpatendeutsche, Hungarian: Felvidéki németek, Slovak: Karpatskí Nemci) are a group of ethnic Germans living on the territory of present-day Slovakia (also called Slovak Germans (Slowakeideutsche) or Zips Germans) and in the adjacent Eastern Carpathians, i.e. Carpathian Ruthenia in Ukraine.
The term was coined by the historian Raimund Friedrich Kaindl (1866-1930), then generally referring to the German-speaking population in the Cisleithanian (Austrian) crown lands of Galicia and Bukovina, as well as in the Hungarian half of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the northwest Maramureș region of Romania.
Kingdom of Hungary
Germans settled in the northern territory of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary (then called Upper Hungary, present-day Slovakia) from the 12th to 15th centuries (see Ostsiedlung), mostly after the Mongol invasion of Europe in 1241. There were probably some isolated settlers in the area of Pressburg (Bratislava) earlier. The Germans were usually attracted by kings seeking specialists in various trades, such as craftsmen and miners. They usually settled in older Slavic market and mining settlements. Until approximately the 15th century, the ruling classes of most cities in present-day Slovakia consisted almost exclusively of Germans.
The main settlement areas were in the vicinity of Pressburg and some language islands in the Spiš (Hungarian: Szepesség; German: Zips; Latin: Scepusium) and the Hauerland regions. The settlers in the Spiš region were known as Zipser Sachsen ("Scepusian Saxons"). Within Carpathian Ruthenia, they settled around Teresva (Theresiental) and Mukachevo (Munkatsch).
The Carpathian Germans, like the Slovaks, were subjected to Magyarization policies in the latter half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. However, many Carpathian Germans voluntarily magyarized their names to climb the social and economic ladder.
On 28 October 1918, the National Council of Carpathian Germans in Kežmarok declared their loyalty to the Kingdom of Hungary, but a Slovak group declared Slovakia part of Czechoslovakia two days later. Slovakia was occupied by Czech troops in December 1918, despite a Hungarian counter-offensive in Summer 1919.
First Czechoslovak Republic
During the First Czechoslovak Republic (1918–1938), Carpathian Germans had a specific political party, the Zipser German Party (1920–1938) of Andor Nitsch, who was elected from 1925 to 1935 on a common Hungarian-German list for parliamentary elections. In 1929, another party, more nationalist-oriented, was formed in Bratislava, the Karpathendeutschen Partei, which made a common list at the 1935 parliamentary elections with the Sudeten German Party, whose leader Konrad Henlein became its head in 1937 with Franz Karmasin as deputy. In 1935, both parties obtained a seat in both parliamentary assemblies. In 1939, the KdP was renamed Deutsche Partei with Franz Karmasin as führer, who had become in October 1938 state secretary for German Affairs in the Tiso government.
The status of Slovak Republic as a client state of Nazi Germany during World War II made life difficult for Carpathian Germans at the war's end. Nearly all remaining Germans fled or were evacuated by the German authorities before the end of the war. Most Germans from Spiš evacuated to Germany or the Sudetenland before the arrival of the Red Army. This evacuation was mostly due to the initiative of Adalbert Wanhoff and the preparations of the diocese of the German Evangelical Church, between mid-November 1944 and 21 January 1945. The Germans from Bratislava were evacuated in January and February 1945 after long delays, and those of the Hauerland fled at the end of March 1945. The Red Army reached Bratislava on 4 April 1945.
After the end of the war, one third of the evacuated or fugitive Germans returned home to Slovakia. However, on 2 August 1945, they lost the rights of citizenship, by Beneš decree no. 33, and they were interned in camps such as in Bratislava-Petržalka, Nováky, and in Krickerhau Handlová. In 1946 and 1947, about 33,000 people were expelled from Slovakia under the Potsdam Agreement, while around 20,000 persons were allowed/forced to remain in Slovakia because they were able, on petition, to use the "Slovakisation" process, which meant that they declared themselves as Slovaks and changed their names into their Slovak equivalent or simply Slovakized them., while others were simply forced to do so because their skills were needed. Out of approximately 128,000 Germans in Slovakia in 1938, by 1947 only some 20,000 (15.6% of the pre-war total) remained. The citizenship consequences of the Benes decrees were revoked in 1948, but not the expropriation. There were many massacres in 1944-45, such as that of 270 civilians from the Uppser Zips and Dobšiná, Carpathian Germans who had fled to Bohemia as refugees and intended to return home after the war. Czechoslovakian soldiers under Karol Pazura forced them off the train at the train station of Přerov in Moravia and ordered them to dig their own graves before butchering all of them including small children. When Communists took power in 1948 they made research of the site and investigation of the massacre impossible.[clarification needed]
According to national censuses, there were 6,108 (0.11%) Germans in Slovakia in 2007, 5,405 in 2001, 5,414 in 1991 and 2,918 in 1980. A Carpathian German Homeland Association has been created to maintain traditions, and since 2005 there is also a museum of the culture of Carpathian Germans in Bratislava. There are two German-language media financially helped by the Slovak government, Karpatenblatt (monthly) and IKEJA news (Internet), plus minority broadcasting in German on the Slovak radio. After the war, their countrymen, now living in Germany and Austria, founded cultural associations as well. There is also a Carpathian German Landsmannschaft of North America.
Amongst prominent member ethnic Germans in post WWII Slovakia is Rudolf Schuster, the second President of Slovakia (1999–2004).
The Carpathian and other German-speaking groups in Romania are currently represented by the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (DFDR).
- "Karpatskí Nemci ("Carpathian Germans")" (in Slovak). Museum of Carpathian German Culture (Múzeum kultúry karpatských Nemcov). no date. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
- Herta Brydon, Limbach - Geschichte und Brauchtum eines deutschsprachigen Dorfes in der Slowakei bis 1945, 1991
- Dr. Thomas Reimer, Carpathian Germans history
- Ondrej Pöss, Geschichte und Kultur der Karpatendeutschen, Slowakisches Nationalmuseum — Museum der Kultur der Karpatendeutschen, Bratislava, Bratislava/Pressburg, 2005
- Sudeten Germans in the border regions of Czechia and the Hungarians in the south of Slovakia also lost their citizenship
- Karpatendeutscher Verein
- Museum of Carpathian German Culture
- "Second report on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in the Slovak Republic". Bratislava. 2005. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
- "Third report on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in the Slovak Republic". Bratislava. May 2009. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
- Karpatendeutsche Landsmannschaft