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The Bukovina Germans were a German ethnic group who lived from about 1780 to 1940 in the historic Bukovina region, part of present-day western Ukraine and northeastern Romania. They were a minority group of approximately 21 percent of the multiethnic population according to a 1910 census (with more Jews than Christians), until the Holocaust and the resettlement of the Christian population into the German Reich after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in autumn 1940.
Ethnic Germans, mainly craftsmen and merchants, had scatteredly settled in the Principality of Moldavia in the course of the late medieval Ostsiedlung migration. Over the centuries they were assimilated by the local Csango population.
In 1774–75 the Habsburg Monarchy annexed northwestern Moldavia (predominantly inhabited by Romanians—85.33 percent—with smaller numbers of Hutzuls, Ruthenians, Armenians, Poles and Jews). Since then, the region has been known as Bukovina (German: Bukowina or Buchenland). From 1774 to 1786, settlement of German craftsmen and farmers in existing villages increased (see also: Josephine colonization). The settlers included Carpathian Germans from the Spiš (Zips) region in Upper Hungary, Banat Swabians, and ethnic Germans from Galicia (Protestants), but also immigrants from the Rhenish Palatinate, the Baden and Hesse principalities, and from impoverished regions of the Bohemian Forest. Population growth and a shortage of land led to the establishment of daughter settlements in Galicia, Bessarabia and the Dobruja.
For the most part, the immigrants settled in towns like Chernivtsi (Czernowitz), Rădăuți (Radautz), Suceava (Suczawa) or Gura Humorului (Gurahumora). During the 19th century, the developing German middle class comprised much of the intellectual and political elite of the region; the language of official business and education was predominantly German, particularly among the upper classes. After 1840, a shortage of land caused the decline into poverty of the German rural lower classes; in the late 19th century parts of the peasant population emigrated to the Americas, mainly to the United States.
Between 1849 and 1851, and from 1863 to 1918, the Duchy of Bukovina became an independent crown land within the Austrian Empire. However, in comparison to other Austrian crown lands, Bukovina remained an underdeveloped region on the periphery of the realm, primarily supplying raw materials.
The Franz-Josephs-Universität in Czernowitz was founded in 1875, then the easternmost German-speaking university; Romanianization began in 1919. In 1910–1911, the Bukovinan Reconciliation (a political agreement between the Bukovinan peoples and their political representatives in the Landtag assembly on the question of autonomous regional administration) took place between the representatives of the nationalities. During World War I the population of Bukovina largely remained loyal to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
From 1918 to 1919, following the end of World War I and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bukovina became part of Romania. As a result, Romanianization measures were implemented against "un-Romanian" societies, cultural institutions and schools; this suppressed German culture in Bukovina. A similar Romanianization drive, affecting other ethnic minorities in the new "Greater Romania", occurred in other regions (such as Bessarabia). From 1918 to 1940, conflicts between the different nationalities (especially among the intellectual classes) led to the emigration of Germans, Jews and members of the elite classes of other ethnic groups. The political representatives of the Germans sought financial and political assistance from Germany.
From 1933–1940, some German societies and organisations opposed the propaganda of the Third Reich and the National Socialist-aligned "Reformation Movement". Beginning in 1938, due to repression by the Romanian state, the poor economic situation and Nazi propaganda, a pro-Reich mentality developed among the German population. Because of this, many increased their preparedness for evacuation.
When Nazi Germany signed the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union in 1939 before the outbreak of World War II, the fate (unknown to those affected) of the Germans in Bukovina was sealed. In a secret supplementary protocol, it was agreed (among other things) that the northern part of Bukovina would be annexed by the USSR under a territorial reorganisation in Eastern Europe, with the German sub-populations undergoing compulsory resettlement. Under this accord, the Soviet Union occupied northern Romania in 1940. The Third Reich resettled nearly the entire German population of Bukovina (about 96,000 ethnic Germans) to (among other places) Poland, where the incoming evacuees were frequently compensated with expropriated farms. From 1941 to 1944, Bukovina was entirely Romanian. Most of the Jewish population (30% of the population as a whole) were murdered by the Third Reich and Romania during the Holocaust.
1944 flight and recommencement
In 1944–45, as the Russian front moved closer, the Bukovina Germans settled in Polish areas (like the remaining German population), fled westward or wherever they could manage. Some remained in East Germany; others went to Austria. In 1945, the 7,500 or so remaining Germans in Bukovina were evacuated to Germany, ending (except for a few individuals) the German presence in Bukovina after 1940. During the postwar era the Bukovina Germans, like other "homeland refugees", assimilated into the Federal Republic, Austria or the German Democratic Republic. Some emigrated overseas. The memory and cohesion of the lost homeland were kept alive through organizational meetings.
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- Stefan Hantel (born 1968)
- Alfred Eisenbeisser (1908-1991)
- Gregor von Rezzori (1914–1998)
- Aharon Appelfeld (born 1932)
The political representation of the Bukovina Germans and the other German-speaking groups in modern Romania is the DFDR (German: Demokratisches Forum der Deutschen in Rumänien, Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania). After the Second World War, the Bukovina Germans founded the Landsmannschaft der Buchenlanddeutschen (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) (Homeland Association of the Bukovina Germans in the Federal Republic of Germany).
- Bukovina Society of the Americas
- The German-Soviet treaty about the resettlement of the ethnic Germans from Bessarabia and northern Bukovina (German)[dead link]
- Appeal for resettlement of the ethnic Germans from Bessarabia and northern Bukovina (German)[dead link]