Germans of Romania
Map depicting the distribution of ethnic Germans in Romania (according to the 2002 census)
|Regions with significant populations|
|Mainly Transylvania, Banat, and Bukovina|
|Mainly German (Hochdeutsch)|
|Majority: Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism|
Minority: Orthodox Christianity
|Related ethnic groups|
The Germans of Romania or Rumäniendeutsche represent one of the most important ethnic minorities of Romania. During the interwar period, the total number of ethnic Germans in this country amounted to as much as c. 800,000 (according to some sources and estimates dating to 1939, just on the verge of World War II), a figure which has subsequently fallen to c. 36,000 (according to the 2011 census).
Overview and classification of Romanian-Germans
The Germans of Romania (or Romanian-Germans) are not a single, unitary, homogeneous group, but rather a series of various regional sub-groups, each with their afferent culture, traditions, dialects, and history.
This claim stems from the fact that various German-speaking populations had previously arrived in the territory of present-day Romania in different waves or stages of settlement, initially starting with the High Middle Ages, firstly to southern and northeastern Transylvania, Kingdom of Hungary (some of them even crossing the outer Carpathians to neighbouring Moldavia and Wallachia), then subsequently during the Modern Age in other Habsburg-ruled lands (such as Bukovina, at the time part of Cisleithania, or the Banat). Subsequently, the Romanian Old Kingdom was also colonized by Germans, firstly in Dobruja and then gradually in Moldavia and Wallachia.
Therefore, given their rather complex geographic background, besides major border changes took place in the region throughout history (after World War I, Romania expanded its territory from the pre-war 137,000 km2 (53,000 sq mi) to 295,049 km2 (113,919 sq mi). In order to understand their language, culture, customs, and history, the Germans of Romania must be regarded as the following independent sub-groups:
- Transylvanian Saxons – the largest and eldest German community in the territory of modern-day Romania (often simply equated with all Romanian-Germans);
- Transylvanian Landlers – expelled Protestants (Evangelical Lutherans) from the region of Salzkammergut, contemporary Austria to southern Transylvania during the 18th century;
- Most Banat Swabians as well as the entirety of the Sathmar Swabians – both representing sub-groups of the Danube Swabians (German: Donau Schwaben) in Romania;
- Bukovina Germans – once with a sizable or overwhelming demographic presence in all urban centres from the historical region of Bukovina (more specifically Suceava, Gura Humorului, Siret, Rădăuți, Vatra Dornei, and Câmpulung Moldovenesc) or some rural areas of the nowadays Suceava County in northeastern Romania; equally indigenous to Cernăuți and contemporary Chernivtsi province in western Ukraine between the years c. 1780–1940. Moreover, even to this date, Suceava County is one of the Romanian counties with some of the most significant amount of ethnic Germans in the country;
- Zipser Germans, mostly from Maramureş (including Borșa and Vişeu), but also with a smaller presence in southern Bukovina beginning in the 18th century;
- Regat Germans (including the Dobrujan Germans);
- Bessarabia Germans, Romanian citizens for the period 1918–1940, indigenous to Budjak in southern Bessarabia;
- Alsatians as well as small groups of Walsers vintners who also settled in Banat from Alsace, Lorraine, and Switzerland at the invitation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 19th century (though they were not only Alemannic-speaking Swiss but also French and Italian); Subsequently, these settlers came to be known as 'Français du Banat' (i.e. 'Banat French').
Contributions to Romanian culture
The German community in Romania has been actively and consistently contributing to the culture of the country. Notable examples include:
- Romanian architecture (e.g. the picturesque Transylvanian villages with fortified churches, known in German as kirchenburgen), or some of the most renowned castles as well as several medieval town centers with local markets, all of them highly popular touristic attractions);
- Romanian language (where approximately 3% of the words in the Romanian lexis are of German origin, mainly stemming from the influence of the Transylvanian Saxons and, later on, that of Austrians);
- Romanian literature (the first letter written in Romanian was addressed to the former early 16th century mayor of Kronstadt, Johannes Benkner, and the first Romanian language book was printed in Hermannstadt).
The collections of Ottoman rugs kept in Transylvania and known as Transylvanian rugs are associated to German Protestants.
Royal House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen in Romania
In the time of Romania's transition from a middle-sized principality to a larger kingdom, members of the German House of Hohenzollern (hailing from the Swabian Principality of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, part contemporary Baden-Württemberg) reigned initially over the Danubian United Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia and then, eventually, also over the unified Kingdom of Romania both during the 19th and 20th centuries. Consequently, the ruling Romanian monarchs who were part of this dynastic branch were the following ones:
|Reign start||Reign end||Duration|
|15 March 1881||10 October 1914||33 years, 209 days||Ruled beforehand as Domnitor (i.e. 'Prince') (1866–1881)|
|10 October 1914||20 July 1927||12 years, 283 days||Nephew of Carol I|
|20 July 1927||8 June 1930
|2 years, 323 days||Grandson of Ferdinand I|
|20 July 1927||8 June 1930
|2 years, 323 days||Son of Ferdinand I|
|8 June 1930||6 September 1940
|10 years, 90 days||Son of Ferdinand I|
|6 September 1940||30 December 1947
|7 years, 115 days||Son of Carol II|
Pretenders to the throne of Romania (after 1947, when King Michael I was forced to abdicate):
|Nº||Portrait||Pretender||Pretending from||Pretending until|
|1||Michael I||30 December 1947||1 March 2016|
|2||Crown Princess Margareta||1 March 2016||present|
Recent history (20th century onwards)
Between the two World Wars, namely in 1925, c. 20,000 Swabians from Timiș County were relocated to neighbouring Arad County in order to create an ethnic balance in the latter administrative unit. Subsequently, huge numbers of both Transylvanian Saxons and Banat Swabians (ranging between c. 67,000 to 89,000 in total) were deported to the Soviet Union for forced labour after World War II, as a war compensation to the Soviets, despite the diplomatic efforts of Transylvanian Saxon politician Hans Otto Roth. Later during the 1950s, the Bărăgan deportations forcibly relocated many from near the Yugoslav border to the Bărăgan Plain. Survivors of both groups generally returned, but had often lost their properties in the process.
In addition, the once influential Bukovina German community also drastically dwindled in numbers, primarily as of the cause of the Heim ins Reich population transfer, leaving only several thousands ethnic Germans in southern Bukovina (or Suceava County) after the end of World War II. As Communism paved its way in Romania, most of the remaining Bukovina Germans decided to gradually leave the country for West Germany up until 1989 and even beyond.
Furthermore, during the 1970s and 1980s, tens of thousands of other Romanian-Germans were 'bought back' by the West German government under a program to reunite families - and following the collapse of Nicolae Ceaușescu's regime in December 1989, around 200,000 Germans left their homes in Romania. During Communist times, there have been several German-speaking opposition groups to the Romanian Communist state, among which most notably there was Aktionsgruppe Banat, a literary society constituted in Banat by intellectual representatives of the local Swabian community.
Recent developments (21st century onwards)
Eventually, although the German minority in Romania has dwindled in numbers to a considerable extent since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the few but well organised Romanian-Germans who decided to remain in the country after the 1989 revolution are respected and regarded by many of their fellow ethnic Romanian countrymen as a hard-working, thorough, and practical community which contributed tremendously to the local culture and history of, most notably, Transylvania, Banat, and Bukovina, where the largest German-speaking groups once lived alongside the Romanian ethnic majority.
Furthermore, the bilateral political and cultural relationships between post–1989 Romania and the unified Federal Republic of Germany have seen a continuous positive evolution since the signing of a friendship treaty between the two countries in 1992. Additionally, on the occasion of the election of Frank-Walter Steinmeier as President of Germany in 2017, current Romanian president Klaus Johannis stated, among others, that: "[...] Last but not least, there is a profound friendship bounding the Romanians and the Germans, thanks mainly to the centuries-long cohabitation between the Romanians, Saxons, and Swabians in Transylvania, Banat, and Bukovina."
|Starting with the 1930 figures, the reference is to all German-speaking groups in Romania.|
Current population by settlement
The data displayed in the table below highlights notable settlements (of at least 1%) of the German minority in Romania according to the 2011 Romanian census. Note that some particular figures might represent a rough estimate.
|Romanian name||German name||Percent||County|
|Vișeu de Sus||Oberwischau||4.0||Maramureș|
|Satu Mare||Sathmar||1.0||Satu Mare|
|Mănăstirea Humorului||Humora Kloster||1.0||Suceava|
Current population by county
Below is represented the notable German minority population (of at least 1%) for some counties, according to the 2011 census.
Administration, official representation, and politics
In the wake of World War I, the German minority in unified Romania had been represented by a number of political parties which gradually gained parliamentary presence during the early to mid-early 20th century, more specifically the Swabian Group, the Group of Transylvanian Saxons, the German Party (which briefly formed an alliance known as the Hungarian German Bloc with the Magyar Party), and the German People's Party (the latter two having a national socialist political orientation after 1930). In stark contrast to the political mutation of both aforementioned parties, the Anti-Fascist Committee of German Workers in Romania was formed shortly thereafter as a democratic counterpart. After the end of World War II, all of the political parties representing the German minority in Romania were either disbanded or ceased to exist.
Subsequently, just after the Romanian Revolution, the entire German-speaking community in post-1989 Romania has been represented at official level by the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (German: Demokratisches Forum der Deutschen in Rumänien, Romanian: Forumul Democrat al Germanilor din România). The forum is therefore a political platform which has a centrist ideology aiming to support the rights of the German minority in Romania.
Since 1989, the DFDR/FDGR has competed both in local and legislative elections, cooperating in the process with two historical parties of the Romanian politics, namely the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Christian Democratic National Peasants' Party (PNȚCD), most notably at local administrative level, in cities such as Sibiu (German: Hermannstadt), Timișoara (German: Temeschburg), or Baia Mare (German: Frauenbach or Neustadt). The DFDR/FDGR also adheres to a pro-monarchic stance regarding the matter of monarchy restoration in Romania.
Until 1 January 2007 (i.e. the date of accession of Romania to the European Union), the DFDR/FDGR was also an observing member of the European Parliament, briefly affiliated with the European People's Party (German: Europäische Volkspartei), between January and November of the same year.
Culture and education
In 1922, all political representatives of the German community in Romania founded the Cultural League of Germans in Sibiu which was initially led by Richard Csaki. The league was in charge of organizing post-university summer courses, sending books, and providing teaching material through various lecturers in the settlements inhabited by ethnic Germans.
Nowadays, there are two German-language schools in Bucharest, namely Deutsche Schule Bukarest and Deutsches Goethe-Kolleg Bukarest. The Deutsche Schule Bukarest serves Kinderkrippe, Kindergarten, Grundschule, and Gymnasium (high school).
In Timișoara, the Nikolaus Lenau High School was founded during the late 19th century. It was named this way in reference to Nikolaus Lenau, a Banat Swabian Romanticist poet. Nowadays, the Nikolaus Lenau High School is considered the most important of its kind from Banat.
In Sibiu, the Samuel von Brukenthal National College is the oldest German-language school from Romania (recorded as early as the 14th century), being also classified as a historical monument. It was subsequently renamed this way in reference to baron Samuel von Brukenthal, a Transylvanian Saxon aristocrat. Additionally, there is one Goethe Institut cultural centre based in Bucharest as well as five Deutsche Kultzertrum based in Iași, Brașov, Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara, Sibiu.
The Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung für Rumänien (ADZ) is the daily German-language newspaper in contemporary Romania. To this day, it is the only German-language newspaper published in Eastern Europe. Regional German-language publications also include the Neue Banater Zeitung in Banat and the Hermannstädter Zeitung for the city of Sibiu (German: Hermannstadt). Previously, in the passing of time, other historical German-language newspapers included: Arbeiter-Zeitung and Banater Arbeiter-Presse in Banat, Vorwärts in Bukovina, and Neuer Weg in Bucharest.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tarutino
A group of Banat Swabians in 1940, celebrating 'Kirchweih' (or 'Kerwei' in their local dialect)
Transylvanian Saxon couple from Bistrița (German: Bistritz/Nösen) area
Transylvanian Saxon couple from Sibiu (German: Hermannstadt)
Traditional Saxon woman costume from Brașov (German: Kronstadt)
- Germany–Romania relations
- Germany–Moldova relations
- List of ambassadors of Germany to Romania
- Romanians in Germany
- Transylvanian Saxon dialect
- Villages with fortified churches in Transylvania
- List of fortified churches in Transylvania
- List of Transylvanian Saxon localities
- Group of Transylvanian Saxons
- List of Transylvanian Saxons
- Sibiu Lutheran Cathedral
- Transylvanian Museum (in Gundelsheim, Baden-Württemberg, south-western Germany)
- Association of Transylvanian Saxons in Germany
- German culture
- Geographical distribution of German speakers
- Germanii din România: între nazism și stalinism by William Totok on Observatorul Cultural (in Romanian)
- Official Romanian census from 2011
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- Denotes percent (%) of total population
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- Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (in German)
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