Film project and interviews

with 20 Danube Swabian eyewitnesses

In autumn 2017, a film team interviewed 20 Danube Swabian contemporary witnesses in southern Germany and the Danube region. The generation experienced during World War II and the post-war years as well as their children and grandchildren had their say. The result was a comprehensive documentation of the life paths and perspectives of several generations. The four-part film series shows an excerpt from this documentation. The entire material serves as a contemporary witness archive for the future and is used for scientific evaluation. A part is in the exhibition “Donauschwaben. Departure and Encounter”.


Movies in full length and backgrounds can be found below

1. Loss – Childhood during war

2. In search – New beginnings after 1945

3. Leave or stay – Life under communism

4. Looking ahead – The young generation

Part 1

Loss - Childhood during War

Formative experiences

Five war children (born between 1930 and 1939) who grew up in what was then Yugoslavia (now Serbia and Croatia) have their say. They remember happy everyday moments in their families before the occupation of Yugoslavia by the German Empire and Hungary also plunged this part of Europe into war.

In autumn 1944, two of these children escaped westwards on their own horse-drawn cart or on a Danube ship. The other three did not escape in time. They survived the horror of the civil Yugoslav internment camps, which the Danube Swabians call “death camps” to this day. They mainly housed children and the elderly. Memories that stayed and shaped for a lifetime.

Today only one of the contemporary witnesses lives in Serbia. The others found a new home in Germany.

Settlement areas and places relevant in film 1

Part 2

In Search - New Beginnings after 1945

Tedious integration

The Second World War forcibly ended the 200-year coexistence of the Danube Swabians with Hungarians, Romanians, Serbs, Croats and other peoples of the middle Danube region. As Germans, they were considered complicit in the crimes of the Third Reich. Rushed flight to the West, deportation to forced labor in the Soviet Union, ruthless expulsion from Hungary and internment in Yugoslavian camps radically changed the lives of the contemporary witnesses.

Three women and two men who were born between 1926 and 1937 in Hungary and Yugoslavia talk about this. Four of them ended up in post-war Germany, where they found themselves at the bottom as foreign have-nots. The memory of bureaucratic hurdles and the compulsion to adapt is mixed today with the grief for lost future opportunities of the then refugee child. But even those who were able to stay in the old homeland had to assert themselves in a new, unexpected life – and first of all urgently learn Croatian.

For most of them, it is not possible to say clearly where their actual home is.

Settlement areas and relevant places in film 2

Part 3

Leave or Stay - Life under Communism

Constant arbitrariness

Three communist countries – three different conditions of existence for members of the German minority:

Romania did not hold the Germans accountable for the misdeeds of the German Reich. But under dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu (1965-89), pressure grew on anyone who did not conform or thought too freely. Two contemporary witnesses of the film eventually left the country. They describe the reasons and the unexpectedly difficult beginning as ethnic German immigrants in Germany. Those who stayed found themselves in a greatly changed Romanian-German environment after the great wave of emigration in 1989.

Only a few Danube Swabians remained in Yugoslavia after the dissolution of the internment camps. It was not advisable to speak German; the post-war generations can therefore often only be recognized today by their German names. Nevertheless, many people have an attachment to their German origins and culture. But this does not contradict their identity, which is also Serbian, Croatian or multi-ethnic.

In Hungary, the Germans came to terms with their situation after the wave of expulsions (1946-48) and the suppression of the 1956 uprising. Some of the expellees even returned secretly. The state allowed ethnic minorities to maintain their cultural identity as folklore. However, the “Swabian” (the German dialect) dwindled from generation to generation.

Settlement areas and relevant places in film 3

Part 4

Looking ahead - The Young Generation

Diverse present

How does the Danube Swabian past of parents and grandparents affect the next generation, which now lives in a globally networked world? The protagonists of the film describe what previous generations have passed on to them. Everyone feels connected to (at least) two countries and cultures.

Three of them have German roots in Romania, Hungary or Croatia. They speak German and thus improve their educational and professional opportunities, while at the same time feeling at home in their countries and seeing and shaping their future there.

The other two were born in Germany as descendants of Hungarian or Romanian German families. The otherness of their parents and grandparents encourages them to question or consciously cultivate their own preferences and characteristics.

Settlement areas and relevant places in film 4

Further projects