Permanent Exhibition

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The Danube Swabians are the descendents of German settlers who, as from the late 17th century, made a new life for themselves in what was then Hungary. After Ottoman rule came to an end, the Habsburgs and private landlords settled German farmers and craftsmen here. Most of the emigrants came to Hungary by ship, sailing down the river Danube.

“How happy is a German, who can speak Hungarian amongst Hungarians.”

This observation from a teacher’s book from 1805 surely struck a chord with many German emigrants. However, despite all the language barriers, the co-existence of Germans, Hungarians, Romanians, Serbs, Croats and other ethnic groups was a success story. That is until the emergence of nationalism in the late 19th century led to discord.

The museum takes visitors on a voyage of discovery through the areas settled by Danube Swabians in South-Eastern Europe. 26 different sections in an exhibition space measuring 1500m2 show the chequered lives of these settlers from the 17th century up to the present day. Original exhibits, historical documents and hundreds of photographs document the culture and everyday lives of Germans in these multi-ethnic areas of settlement.

The museum tells the visitor about life in villages and towns, agricultural and industrial work, domestic culture and clothing, education and matters of religion. Each and every aspect of the permanent exhibition reflects the cultural diversity of Southeast Europe.    

In the 20th century, excessive forms of nationalism drove a wedge between neighbours who had previously lived together in harmony. After the First World War, the national status of many Danube Swabians changed due to the emergence of new nation states. National Socialism and Germany’s aggression in the Second World War also affected the lives of Germans in Southeast Europe. At the end of the war, many Danube Swabians suffered due to internment, deportation, expulsion, or having to escape. Those who survived had to build a new life for themselves in Germany and other Western countries. Those who stayed behind had to adapt to life under communist dictatorship. A walk through the museum ends with a contemporary look at the German minority in Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Croatia.