Transylvania Online



by Dr. Konrad Gündisch, Oldenburg, Germany


1. The Region: Land and People

1.1. Geography

1.2. Population and Ancient History

1.2.1. Prehistoric Era

1.2.2. Dacians and Romans

1.2.3. Period of Mass Folk Migrations

1.2.4 Integration into the Medieval Hungarian kingdom

2. The Migration and Settlement of the Transylvanian Saxons

2.1. The Hungarian Crown of King Stephen as "Host"

2.2. Origin of the Transylvanian Saxons

2.3. Progression of the Settlements

2.3.1. Beginning

2.3.2. Stages of Colonization The Teutonic Knights in the Burzenland (Tara Bârsei)

2.3.3. Privileges

3. Political History and Economic Development

During the Middle Ages

4. Early Recent History:

Autonomous Principality Transylvania

5. Province of the Hapsburg Empire

6. Part of the Kingdom of Greater Romania

7. Under Communist Rule

Centuries of History Fading



"Siebenbürgen und die Siebenbürger Sachsen" was written in German by Dr. Konrad Gündisch, Oldenburg, Germany. The English translation

"Transylvania and the Transylvanian Saxons" was written by Georg Schuller, Edmonton, Canada.


1. The Region: Land and People

1.1. Geography

Atlantean and satellite maps of eastern Europe show the topography of Transylvania as a clearly definable geographic region. It is comparable with a natural fortress, a mountainous region almost completely barrier-like enclosed by the East and South Carpathians and the Transylvanian West Mountains, sheltering the Transylvanian Depression in the centre. This Transylvanian Basin or Plateau is partitioned by three rivers, the Mures, Olsul and Somesu (Mieresch, Alt/Olt, Somesch), all tributaries of the Danube.

The arched Carpathian Mountain Range is an extension of the Alps of Central Europe through the West Carpathians with the Beskid Mts. and the Tatras. It is also the transition to the Balkan Mountains of South Eastern Europe through the "Porta Orientalis" (Temesch-Cerna-Fault). The region is separated from the Black Sea plains and the Eurasian steppe by the East Carpathians, from the Romanian lower land by the South Carpathians (Transylvanian Alps) and from the great Hungarian Plains by the Transylvanian West Mountains (Muntii Apuseni). The Carpathians therefore, not only separate distinct geographical regions but also link the regions commonly known as Eastern, Central and Southeastern Europe, regions which differed greatly in their diverse cultural development throughout history.

The East Carpathians, with Pietrosul Rodnei as the highest peak at 2303 metres, are divided into three parallel mountain ranges: a westerly range of volcanic origin (the Oas Mtn., Gutâi Mtn., Tiblesului Mtn., Câlimani/Kelemen Mtn., Gurghiului/Görgény Mtn., Haghitei/Hargitta Mtn.), the main range of crystalline structure (Marmarosch Mtn., Rodna Mtn., Borgo Mtn.) and an easterly and southeasterly range (from Ciucului/Csík-Mountains to the Hohenstein and Postávarul/Schuler). Saddle-like depressions and gorges, expanding to river valleys, allow relatively easy crossing of mountain passes like Tihuta (Borgo), Oituz (Oitoz) and Predeal-Prahova. They all became important traffic routes. The East-Carpathians also separate the climatic zones of the Atlantic, the Continental and the Baltic provinces.

The South Carpathians with Moldoveanul as the highest peak at 2544 metres, form a rather uniform crystalline mountain range. It is sectioned by the Bran (Törzburger) Pass, the Red Tower Pass (Pasul Turnu Rosu / Roter-Turm Pass) and by the Meri-Lainici Pass in the massive Bucegi Mtn. (Butschetsch) with Piatra Craiului (Königstein), Transylvanian Mts. or Fâgârasului (Fogarascher) Mts. with Cozia Mtn., Parângului (Paring) Mtn. with Cibinului (Zibins) Mts. and Sebesului (Mühlbacher) Mts. and Godeanu Mtn. with Retezatului (Retezat) Mountain. High peaks and the traces of glaciers (moraines, lakes) of the "Fogarascher" and the "Retezat" justify the description as "Transylvanian Alps".

The Transylvanian Westmountains (West Carpathian Mts.), also called Apuseni Mts. stretch from the Mures (Mieresch) to the Somesu (Somesch, Hun. Szamos) and separate Transylvania from the Hungarian Lowlands. Its central section peaks with the Curcubáta (1849 m) consisting of crystallite shale and granite. Of great economic importance for centuries has been the southeasterly section, the Metaliferi Mts. (Siebenbürgisches Erzgebirge/Transylvanian Ore Mts.) which is of volcanic origin and rich in precious metals. It is the so called golden square, located between Baia de Aries (Offenburg), Zlatna (Kleinschlatten), Sâcârâmb and Caraci. The Westmountains, very rugged but mostly below 1000 metres in height, are today a popular and much visited destination by tourists because of the scenic formations with steep peaks, canyons and caves.

Dense forests cover the Carpathians. Regardless from which direction a visitor enters Transylvania, the land is surrounded by forests, it lies beyond the forests (Latin: trans silva; hence Transylvania). The forests enclosing mountains are the origin of the Latin, Hungarian and Romanian names Transsilvania, Erdély, Ardeal. Surely the creator of the name was the royal Hungarian chancellery.

The transition between the Carpathians and the Transylvanian Highlands is a wreath of peripheral depressions, among them the Depresiuena Odorhei (Oderhellener Senke), the Fâgârs (Fogarascher), the Cibinului (Zibins), also called Depresiuena Subiului (Hermannstädter Senke) and the Apoldu de Sus (Großpold). Large salt deposits are found in some of these depressions and in the Somesu High Country. For thousands of years these deposits have been mined near "Salzdorf", "Salzmarkt", Turda (Thorenburg), Ocna Sibiului (Salzburg) and Praid. Since salt deposits were not found in the Hungarian Lowlands and in the Balkan Peninsula the Transylvanian finds were already in high demand in prehistoric times.

The Transylvanian Highlands are in the centre of the country, with hills and mountains ranging in height between 300 metres and 800 metres.

G. D. Teutsch wrote the following in History of the Transylvanian Saxons, 1st edition, Kronstadt 1858, p. 3-4 ("Hervorhebungen von Teutsch"):

" Nestled in the east section of the Austrian Empire, friendly Highlands rise from the Hungarian Plains. Small in size but rich in beauty and nature’s treasures. In size not much more than 1100 "quartered miles" (approx.61,000 sqkm). Meeting Hungary’s northern mountainous wall it is surrounded by mighty mountain chains, the Carpathians. Far across the land one can see mountain peaks and pinnacles covered with blinding snow reaching high into the blue sky. Only a few passes are opening towards the noon sun to the lands of the lower Danube and towards the morning sun to the wide Slavic flatlands of Russia. As if God himself placed the land at the border of occidental culture, as a strong fortress ... Originating at the high alpine borders, rows of mountain ranges mostly majestically crowned with forests, cross the land in all directions. The land hides salt and precious metals of all kind in surprising abundance. From the iron which shields life to the gold that corrupts it. Innumerable thermal and mineral springs flow from earth’s bosom, creeks and rivers beautify and water the land everywhere. On sunny slopes the grape glows and the sumptuous fruit tree blooms. Wheat fields wave in the valleys, wild animals roam the forests, domesticated animals are in abundance. This is the land of Transylvania and should the people lack something, it’s mostly their own fault...."

The topography of Transylvania has been shaped and is characterized by its streams. The rivers are all tributaries of the Danube. The Danube, originating in the Black Forest and flowing to the Black Sea connects the peoples like a "highway, ... as sine qua non Europas. Code of cultural diversity. Artery of the continent. Historic River. River of time. River of Culture. Chain, which connects peoples.." as the Hungarian author Péter Esterházy wrote. (Footnote1)

Transylvania's longest river, the Mures (Mieresch, 776 km), originates in the East Carpathians, flows through Central Transylvania from east to west, accepts the Aries (Ariesch, Gold River) south of Turda (Thorenburg) which flows from the Munti Codru-Moma (Weistgebirgen), and is joined by the Tirnava (Kokel) north of Alba-Iulia (Karlsburg, Hung. Gyulafehérvár). At Blaj (Blasendorf) the Tirnava (Kokel) branches into its main tributaries, the Tirnava Micà and Tirnave Mare ("Große-" and "Kleine Kokel"). The Mures leaves Transylvania at a gorge between the South Carpathians and the Transylvanian West Mountains (West Carpathiam Mts.) and joins the Tisza river (Theiß) in Szeged west of Makó (Hungary) which flows south joining the Danube.

The Mures (Mieresch/Muresul) divides Transylvania into a northern region with the "Somesu Highlands", the "Nösnerland", the Transylvanian Moor (Siebenbürgische Heide) and the Zona Reghinului (Reener Ländchen), and into a southern region with the Tirnava (Kokel) -, Harbach-, Hamlescher and Zekesch- High Country, which mostly carry the names of rivers and are divided by high ridges. The Podisul (high lands) Târnavelor region (Zwischenkokelgebiet) is especially suited for wine. Its western section is, therefore, also known as Wine Country (Weinland). Natural gas in this region is of great economic importance today. In the Transylvanian Highlands one must distinguish between the "Unterwald" (near Sebes Alba/Mühlbach), the Tara Hategului (Hatzeger Land), the "Old Land" ("Alte Land" near Hermannstadt/Sibiu), the Tara Fâgârasului region (Fogarascher Land/ Senke) and the Haferland (near Rupea/Reps) as geographic units. Also to mention are the Great Innercarpathian Depressions, the Tara Bârsei (Burzenland north of Kronstadt/Brasov - Covasna, in the Carpathian Bend) and the Trei Scaune (Three Chairs/Drei Stühle near St. Georgen), the Csík and Gyergyó at the base of the East Carpathians.

The source of the Olt (Alt, 699 km) also lies in the Eastern Carpathian Mountains. It flows through Southern Transylvania, the "Kronstädter Becken" (Covasna Depression) and the Tara Fâgârasului (Fogarascher Senke, Altland, Brasov). It is filled by numerous clear mountain creeks from the South Carpathian Mts. Main feeding rivers are the Hârtibacui (Harbach) and the Zibin. The Olt cuts through the Transylvanian Alps, leaves Transylvania at the Red Tower Pass (Pasu Turnu Rosu/Roten-Turm-Paß) and flows near Turnu Magurele in Wallachia into the Danube.

The Somesu (Somesch/Samosch, 345 km) collects the waters of Northern Transylvania for the Tisza river (Theiß). The Somesu Mare (Große Somesch, 119 km) has the Pârâul Sieu (Schogener Bach) as main feeder originating in the East Carpathians with the Bistrita (Bistritz) river. The Somesu Mare (Große Somesch) unites near Dej (Deesch, Dés) with the Somesu Mic (Kleinen Somesch, 166km). It originates in the Transylvanian West Mountains and flows through the Podisul Transilvaniei (Siebenbürger Heide).

Transylvania can be described as an independent geographic unit within the Carpathian-Danube region. Through the Carpathians it is equally bonded with the Occident and the Orient. It is like a fortress created by nature. With the gate-like passages created by the Mures (Mieresch) and Somesu (Somesch) rivers and the low ridges of the western mountains it is by nature more accessible and open to the west to where the most important traffic routes run.

The climate is moderate continental: cold winters, mild spring, a warm summer and the beautiful Transylvanian autumn. Approximately 2500 species of plants assigned to the central European category flourish here of which 68 grow only in Transylvania (Königsteinnelke, Siebenbürgischer Steinbrech etc.). Roughly 40% of the region is covered with forests. Rich resources of fish and game characterize the fauna. Agriculture is at home in the river valleys and the high country. Livestock is raised in the mountainous regions.

1.2. Population and Ancient History

Fertile arable lands and pastures, rich natural resources (salt, precious metals and "red metals") and a favourable geographic location at the junction of west-east and north-south trading routes offer commendable conditions for economic development.

Geographic location and natural riches entice a turbulent political history. Repeatedly peoples of different cultures moved through the mountain passes, the gates of the Carpathian barrier and through the valleys of the rivers Somesu, Mures and Olt, searching for new lands to settle in. Transylvania didn’t experience one period where one single culture or ethnic identity dominated.

1.2.1. Prehistoric Era

Transylvania had been populated during the prehistoric time. Although no written evidence has been found of this period, archaeological finds like rough stone tools and bones in the caves of the Orâstiei Mts. (Brooser Berge) and at the Pazul Buzâu (Bodsau-Pass) bear evidence of humans during the early stone age. Their main source of food came from hunting and fishing. People slowly moved into the Transylvanian Highlands after glaciers receded during the middle stone age. They settled mainly at river terraces and lakes, developed agriculture and stock-herding but maintained hunting and fishing. This Proto-Mediterranean population created a relatively homogeneous Starcevo-Cris (Kreisch) culture.

During the late stone age, accompanied by climatic warming, new tribes with refined tools entered Transylvania. People of various cultures moved to the region: The representatives of the Vin_a-Turda_ culture (Ritz ceramics, later painted ceramics) traveled from the Balkan peninsula through the Banat along the Mures river, From Moldavia through the east Carpathians came the people of the Cucuteni culture (the "line-ribbon-ceramics" who developed the painting of ceramics to its peak). From the Romanian Low-Lands via Brasov (Burzenland) came the creators of the Glina culture to South Transylvania. Their traces are identified as "Schneckenbergkultur". These people lived at higher elevations in settlements secured by terraces. In addition to agriculture, the spelt (Speltz/ Dinkel), an ancient type of wheat, was widely spread. Animal stock and hunting supplied the required foundation for survival. There is archaeological evidence of mining salt and gold.

The Indo-Europeanizing began during the copper era. The Wietenberg culture of the bronze period was predominantly influenced by the greater Thracians. They had advanced to the Balkan peninsula at the beginning of 2000 B.C. The new Indo-Germanic Wietenberg population was actively mining gold and copper. They also produced bronze and as crafts and trades people, obtained foodstuff mainly through trade. Close trade relations, most likely based on the Transylvanian gold and salt resources, existed with the Mycenaean cultures also dated at the 17th to 13th century B.C.

At the end of the 14th century B.C., the burial mounds (Hügelgräber) spread from the south and west. Evidence of their culture was found in the areas of Hermannstadt (Sibiu) and in the Transylvanian Moorland (Siebenbürger Heide). The Wietenberg people retreated to the mountains and to the north, to the Somesu (Somesch) river, to the Marmarosch and the Northern Carpathians. Both groups became victims of a pastoral nomadic tribe entering the region from the steppe of the east. They most likely spoke Old-Iranian and were the founders of the Transylvanian Noua culture.

With the Gáva culture new conquerors arrived around 1000 B.C. and merged with the locals. The Gáva people lived in fortified settlements and agriculture was of little importance. They were more involved with hunting and bronze crafts. Characteristic was their ceramic craft, inside red, on the outside black shining bulging ceramic (Buckelkeramik). They were closely related with the Dacians and Getae people which belonged to the Indo-Germanic family of the Thracians.

During the iron age, approximately at the beginning of 1000 B.C. the Indo-Germanic people began to separate ethnically and geographically in this region. For the first time the name of a people living in Transylvania has been historically recorded. The Greek historian Herodotus reported of the Agathyrsen who lived at the Mures. They joined the Persian king Dareios in his battle against the Skythians in 513 B.C. Herodotus emphasized their gold ornaments and mentions women communes or group relationships with women having several husbands. He also mentioned Spargapeithes, a king who most probably lived during the middle of the 5th century B.C. The Agathyrsen supplied neighbouring regions with metal works (mirrors, quiver and more). Aristoteles last mentioned these people in the 4th century B.C. with praise for their strict laws. During the 3rd century B.C. in addition to the Agathyrsae the name of Dacian "Kotiner" surfaced. Tacitus, a Roman historian (A.D. 100) reported on their iron ore mining.

1.2.2. Dacians and Romans

In the late Iron Age (La Téne-Period), 4th and 3rd centuries B.C., especially Greek sources mentioned the Getae. Herodotus described them as the "bravest and most righteous" among the Thracians. They evolved and became powerful under the emperor Dromichaites in what is today’s Walachia. He allied with the Skythians about 290 B.C. and defeated a Greek-Macedonian army. Mention of the North-Thracians living in Transylvania was made by the Romans. They were called Dacians in Roman history sources.

The Dacians developed fortresses with embankments and stone walls in the 3rd to 1st centuries B.C. as defense against the Celts. Under king Burebista, 1st century B.C., who reigned for almost four decades, the Dacians had developed the defense system and warfare to such a high degree, that it became a challenge to the neighbouring Roman Empire which had advanced to the Danube. Burebista was able to unite the Dacians north of the Danube, creating an empire stretching from the Northern Carpathians to the Black Sea.

The ruler was flanked by a high priest who had almost royal powers, an indication of one dominant religion throughout the Dacian empire. The central sanctuary (holy relic) was located in the Broosner Mts., which most probably was also the seat of the emperor. It was defended by a number of advanced fortresses. Mining, crafts and trade were carried on in addition to agriculture and animal stock. Society was divided in socially structured layers.

Caesar’s plan to eliminate the threat of the Dacians was not realized until after his murder. In the same year (44 B.C.) Burebista was also murdered and his empire fell apart. However, the successors were able to hold Transylvania. Under Decebal (87-106 A.D.), the Dacian empire became more powerful again. He defeated a Roman legion shortly after he began to govern, but was defeated shortly thereafter near Tapae (88 A.D.). Decebal used the period of peace to expand the system of fortresses and to reorganize the army. He expanded his empire to the rivers Tisza/Tinza (Theiß) and Dnjestr without endangering the peace with the Romans.

Emperor Trajan recognized the potential danger created by this politically, economically and militarily strengthened neighbour. The gold riches were a further incentive for conquering. Although the Dacians were defeated during the first enormous attempt (101-102), they refused to be suppressed. The country was only systematically conquered (105-106) and the capital Sarmizegetusa captured after the building of a bridge across the Danube near Drobeta (Turnu Severin). The bridge was a creation of the Greco-Roman builder Appollodorus of Damascus. Decebal thrust himself unto his sword to avoid the humiliating capture.

The victory and the Dacian submission to Roman authority was celebrated effusively. The most important events of the war were captured on a victory pillar. It is a reminder of Trajan’s success until today. Dacia had become a Roman province.

Enormous efforts were required to secure and integrate the conquered territory militarily and economically. Legions and auxiliary troops were stationed in the territory. Military camps (castra) were built and the limes erected. To secure supplies, the Romans built an excellent road network. Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa became the capital of the province, Apulum the military centre. Other cities, among them the municipalities Napoca und Potaissa were founded as economic and administrative centres. Attracted were veterans, trades people, miners, and merchants who became "ex toto orbe Romano". Most settlers, often attracted with incentives, came from the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor. Miners were in high demand and received binding contracts. Latin became the official and colloquial everyday language. An unparalleled boom developed for the economy especially in gold production in the West Carpathian Mts. (Transylvanian Erzgebirge, predominantly in the Ampelum and Alburnus Maior). The new roads and waterways allowed trade relations with other provinces of the empire.

Transylvania became part of a political, economic and cultural community for nearly two centuries, covering great parts of Europe and remained in part active till today. Many of its citizens could state with pride :"civis Romanus sum".

Dacia, however, was from the beginning a Roman outpost, lying beyond the natural borders of the empire, often limited by large rivers to the north. Already several decades after the annex the empire had to fend off barbarian attacks. The empire was able to fight off invasions of. Quadi, Markomanni, Vandals and Sarmati in the second half of the 2nd century. The fight against the Goths, who repeatedly devastated the province invading from the north since 235, placed additional strain on the already weakened empire. Emperor Aurelius acted accordingly in 271. He renunciated Dacia, withdrew from the strategically exposed province and entrenched along the Danube.

Historians differ greatly on the evacuation of Dacia. Under the influence of political considerations in Romania, proof of a historic right for Transylvania was favoured. Therefore, resettling of all inhabitants is questioned. Some historians are convinced no romanized population remained after 271 in Transylvania. Others maintain the thesis of a Dacia-Roman continuity.

After the 3rd century, a gap exists in the documented history of Transylvania, spanning several centuries. Archaeological evidence is also scarce. Therefore, there is little evidence to resolve this controversy. One can only assume that the cities and larger garrisons were evacuated and therefore the Roman urban life came to an end in Transylvania. However, it appears proven that part of the "vulgar-Latin" speaking population and mostly christianized Dacia-Roman population continued to flourish in smaller remote communities. Some finds dating from the 4th to 7th centuries (evidence of early Christianity, Roman coins, sections of Latin inscriptions like the "Donarium of Birthälm", and others) provide sufficient evidence. This population was, however, decimated through the centuries. Their wooden tools and buildings rotted and became untraceable by archaeologists.

Too often have historic facts been misinterpreted to suit a political purpose. One can only hope the discussions about the continuity or discontinuity of the population in Transylvania during the post Roman era are elevated to a scientific factual plane in the future, especially in the context of the futile historic arguments for territorial claims

1.2.3. Period of Mass Folk Migrations (Barbarian Migrations)

Rome left the provinces of Dacia to their fate. Over a period of seven centuries Germanic, Asian and Slavic tribes entered Transylvania in succession during their migration from east to west and from north to south. Attracted also by the salt deposits necessary for animal stock, they remained for some time in Transylvania.

Prior to their withdrawal, the Romans had negotiated an agreement with the Goths, whereby Dacia remained Roman territory. A few Roman outposts remained north of the Danube. Visigoths (western Goths) settled in the southern part of Translvania, also called Tervingi (people of the forests) contrary to the Ostrogoths (eastern Goths) or Goths of the flatlands living in the Pontic steppe.

A period of political instability began lasting more than seven centuries. The Goths were able to defend their territory for approximately one century against the Gepidae, Vandals and Sarmats but could not fend off the invading Huns in 376. Pannonia became the centre during the peak of the reign under Attila (called Etzel by the Germans and Ethele by the Hungarians) (435-453). After the victory of king Ardarich over the Huns (455), German Gepidae settled for two centuries in Transylvania. The empire of the Gepidae was destroyed in 567 by the Awars and Langobards. Transylvania was now part of the Awar empire until it was destroyed by Charlemagne at the end of the 8th century.

Other people, the Petchenegs and Bulgars entered the region during the 9th and 10th centuries. Under leaders like Menoumorut, Glad or Gelou they governed in smaller and larger political units (Principalities / Knesaten and Wojwodaten).

The transit and settlement of such different and diverse peoples have formed the ethnic and cultural multiplicity in the early history of Transylvania. Their remnants, however, are sparse except for a few relics in the language and the finds in graves, or the unearthed treasures and coins which had been buried in periods of danger. It also is evidence of continued mining of precious metals and panning of gold in this region. Among the most valuable finds are the burial sites of Germanic Princes of Apahida (5th century), the treasure of Cluj-Someseni (Klausenburg-Someseni) (5th century), the Firtoscher Coins Treasure (4th -6th centuries).

The population of Transylvania during this period was surprisingly low with only 100,000 inhabitants (Footnote 2).

More durable than the reign by the Germanic and Asian horsemen was the peaceful settlement of Slavs mostly without force during the second half of the 7th century. They were not fast advancing, conquering riding nomads, but pastoral tribes which traveled slowly and settled in the land. After the disappearance of the Germanic Goths and Gepidae they almost entirely slavicized the population of Transylvania within two centuries. The toponymy of naming towns and regions reveals this.

Because of the already described sources and the political-territorial influenced argumentation regarding the "historic right" on Transylvania, the origin of Romanians in Transylvania´s historiography remains disputed.

Historian and archaeologist Kurt Horedt, who by background is not involved with the political aspects of the scientific arguments, offers a mostly non-prejudiced and sensible compromise: Withdrawing from Dacia, the Roman empire did not remove the entire population. The remaining Romans were slavicized during the 7th century. These slavicized Romans mixed with the romanized Thracians, a people of migrating shepherds in the 9th century, originating from the Balkan peninsula. The presence of these Romanians may date to the 10th century. A later migration during the 13th century is not probable. (Footnote 3).

1.2.4 Integration into the medieval Hungarian Kingdom

A fundamental shift of power and influence in the Danube-Carpathian region occurred at the end of the 9th century. Beginning in 895 the Finno-Hungarian Magyars took control of the Pannonian plains, migrating from the northern region of the Black Sea. To secure their new home land they conducted expeditions to the west which soon became out of hand raids and left Carolingian Western Europe in terror for half a century. The Magyars entered northern Italy as early as 898 and defeated the Bavarians under Luitpold; Duke of Bavaria in 907. In the following period they reached Otranto in the south, Spain in the southwest, Bremen in the northwest, laying waste to the lands by scorching and looting.

Otto I permanently broke the power of the Magyars at the Battle of the Lechfeld in 955, and ended the invasions of the Hungarians. This victory earned him the name "Otto I, the Great" (Holy Roman Emperor Otto I). His contemporaries, including the Magyars, valued the event as a victory for Christianity. As a result of the battle, Duke Géza of the Árpád dynasty was converted to Christianity and began to organize a state. Instead of confrontation they sought cooperation with the West. Christianity and Western culture began to penetrate Hungary, paganism was suppressed, and royal authority was centralized using the administrative structure of western countries as an example.

Géza’s son, Vajk, who at baptism received the name Stephen I, became duke in 997, was the founder of the Árpád dynasty and received formal recognition as king of Hungary in 1001. He continued the policy of his father. His wife, Giesela, a sister of the emperor Henry II, together with the advisors of Bavarian origin she brought to the country, was an important ally. Catholic Christianity could succeed against paganism and resistance supported by the eastern church of Byzantium (subsequently renamed Constantinople). The deeply religious king founded several dioceses and cloisters. For this he was canonized in 1083. The judiciary, the organization and administration, the monetary system, and the Latin documentation of the state were patterned after the Holy Roman Empire.

These efforts were honoured by Emperor Otto III and Pope Sylvester II and were expressed with the crowning of Stephen on January 1, 1001. The occidental Christian kingdom, Hungary, became a member of the Christian nations, in spirit a member of the Holy Roman Empire, though in fact independent.

Located between the German and the Byzantine Empire, both claiming to be the successor of the Roman Empire, Hungary became an important factor of the east-central and southeastern European political scene. Its desire to expand in the southwest was driven to gain access to the Adriatic sea, and in the East to obtain Transylvania for its natural resources, especially for the salt needed for stock herding and for its function as a natural barrier, a bulwark against attacks from the east and southeast of the continent.

The advancement of the Magyars through Transylvania during the 10th to 12th centuries had a lasting effect on the historic development of the region, which was described from the Pannonian perspective as the "Land beyond the Forests". Taking the land of Transylvania occurred in several steps and was influenced by developing feudalism in Transylvania and by the relations with the Byzantine Empire and with the Bulgaro-Vlach Tsardom.

Initially they settled in Western Transylvania where salt deposits were or salt shipments had to be secured. This was the region at the Somesu (Kleinen Somesch), following the victory of the Hungarian general commander Tuhutum over the local duke Gelou, and the region at the central Mures under the leadership of a Gyula (prince of a clan), who selected Weißenburg for his residence. After dethroning the headstrong Gyula in 1003, St. Stephen tied this territory, defined as "very large and rich land", closer to the Hungarian monarchy. A victory over the Pechenegs (1068 near Kyrieleis) ended their short lived reign and expanded the Hungarian state to the east. King Ladislaus the Saint (1077-1095) shifted the border to the upper Mures. In the 12th century the Hungarians moved to the Olsul (Alt) but the East and South Carpathians were reached only at the beginning of the 13th century. Now all of Transylvania was part of the medieval Hungarian Kingdom.

Traces of the 10- to 40-km wide protective barriers built by the Magyars bear evidence of advances in stages. These desolate strips (Lat. indagines, Hung. Gyepü) had earth fortresses and border guard settlements at passable locations (Hung. kapuk). Many names of villages and marsh (like Kapus/Kopisch) remind even today of the border barriers. Guardians, organized armed farmers and peasants were settled at the gates to defend the borders. As a reward they received personal freedom in groups.

Among the most important border guards were the Szeklers. They were originally most likely a Turk-Clan who associated early with the Magyars. There is proof of Szekler villages on the west and east border of Hungary and in Transylvania along the protective barriers, which advanced several times during the conquest. The Szeklers reached the present settlements during the middle of the 12th century in the valleys of the East Carpathians. They have been relocated for example from the "terra Syculorum terrae Sebus" near Sebes Alba (Mühlbach) to the later Szekler centre Sepsi in the East Carpathians.

After every advancement of the border, the desolate corridor of the old abatis border remained free and became crown land. The colonization of this crown land was very important, for strategic and economic reasons. It appeared necessary to have strife and war tested settlers in this newly established forefield of the abatis border, capable to clear and cultivate the land and enter into farming, handicrafts and commerce, but also to satisfy the requirements for salt and precious metals, and develop mineral resources.

One of the first Hungarian documents which mentioned Transylvania stresses the economic importance of these settlers. King Geysa I in 1075 endowed the Benedictine cloister in Gran which he founded with the reference to "ultra silvam" the salina near Thorenburg and with half of the royal income "in loco, qui dicitur hungarice Aranas, latine autem Aureus". (Footnote 4).

2. The Migration and Settlement of the Transylvanian Saxons

2.1. The Hungarian Crown of King Stephen as "Host"

The immense task to defend and develop the new territories was beyond the capabilities of the Magyars with their relatively small population. Qualified border settlers were not available in sufficient numbers. Often they were displaced groups from the steppe of Southern Russia. A shortage of skilled trades people, especially for mining, became apparent. The Magyars realized, as the founder of the nation St. Stephen reminded his son Emmerich in a "Libellus de institutione morum", "immigrating guests of various languages and customs bring different teachings and weapons. They decorate and uplift all regions and the royal court...because an empire with only one language and one law is weak and transient".. (Footnote 5).

Such guests ("hospites") had to be recruited with winning promises. Owning land was especially attractive in medieval times. The crown land (fundus regius) of the former desolate corridor of the old abatis border was made available. Privileges were also sought. These included rights which the guests were used to and "brought in their bones". However, it had to include rights beyond that to entice people to take the risk and settle in a region a thousand kilometres from their home land. Personal freedom, freedom of movement, permissiveness were magical words which gave promise of higher personal rank, security and better advancement. The Hungarian government made these promises and the promises were honored over centuries. Included in the constitution of the medieval Hungarian Kingdom of King Andrew II (he issued the Golden Bull, sometimes called the Hungarian Magna Charta in 1222) was the guarantee to guests of all nationalities (Footnote 6).

Especially King Geysa II (1141-1162) was successful in attracting German and Flemish farmers, trades people and lower nobility. They settled in Zips, today’s Slovakia, and in Transylvania.

Their colonization was part of an extensive European movement to develop land. It originated in economically developed regions where the population had increased rapidly. The movement entered history as settlements of Germans in the East. People who were disadvantaged by law of succession had the chance to secure land in underpopulated forested areas which could be developed through clearing. The increasing suppression of the rural population by feudal landowners encouraged others to follow the call of a far away land. Attractive were not only the prospects of owning land and personal freedom, but also independent judicature and choice of priests, tax freedom for many years, and the absence of homage.

The medieval German Southeast Colonization occurred in Hungary peacefully and not through conquering land. The king himself invited the colonists to his land.

2.2. Origin of the Transylvanian Saxons

Transylvanian-Saxon historians, over a long period, diligently tried to establish the origin of the settlers who had followed the invitation of King Geysa II to come to Transylvania. The result is disappointing and is proof only of an incorrect starting point. Historians are in agreement on one thing: emigration did not originate from a clearly definable region nor did it occur in substantially large numbers at only one time.

This is why the migration was not really noticed. Documents describing the event are not available. Only three reports mention persons moving during this period from the Lower Rhine region (Niederrhein and from the Wetterau region) to Hungary: Anselm of Braz in the Lütticher Land, Burgvogt von Logne (1103), Hezelo near Merkstein, (Footnote 7) in 1148; during the reign of King Geysa II, and a few residents from Oppoldishusen, mentioned as fleeing to Hungary not before 1313. It is questionable if they did in factt emigrate to Transylvania. Also questionable is the relationship of the "first Transylvanian Saxons" in conjunction with the names of the towns in their home region: Broos, Hetzeldorf, Groß- and Kleinpold or Trappold. However, it was not entirely unusual to name settlements in Transylvania after their founders (knights distributing colonial land, similar to "Lokatoren" in Silesia), for example, Hermannstadt. Its namesake could have been a "maior hospitum" similar to the Hermann mentioned in the southwest Hungarian Fünfkirchen (Pécs) in 1181.

Documents written not before the last decade of the 12th century by the Hungarian Court, the Transylvanian Wojwode (royal governor, or voivode), the papal chancellery and the Transylvanian Bishopric, very seldom mention the new settlers, and their place of origin only vaguely. "The King's guest settlers beyond the forests" are mentioned in very general terms. The "ecclesia Theutonicorum Ultrasilvanorum" was spoken of in 1191, and the "priores Flandrenses" during 1192-1196. The name "Saxones" surfaced in 1206. After this time it was commonly used in the documents of the chancellery and defines the Germanic Transylvanians (Siebenbürger) to this day.

However, all individuals possessing privileges that were negotiated by Saxon miners were called Saxons during Medieval Hungary, regardless in which region they lived: Bosnia, Zips (Slovakia) or Transylvania. These tradesmen were in short supply and were desperately needed to mine the natural resources. The Miners Rights, guaranteed to attract these workers and as an enticement to remain, contain an entire catalog of privileges which all colonists of Medieval Hungary could demand: personal freedom, entitlement to inherit land, self administration and judiciary, religious autonomy with free selection of priests, controlled and, therefore, predictable taxes, and other obligations. "Saxon" was, therefore, a synonym for a legal status, a status with privileges, and not, if at all, a name of origin.

Research of the specific dialect spoken by the Transylvanian Saxons could not establish any correlation with an emigration from Saxony. Similarities with the "Letzelburger Platt", a Mosel-Franconian dialect encouraged researchers to identify this as the place of origin. However, Bavarian, North and Middle German influences have also been proven. Additional confusion arises with a thesis of a parallel but independent development of two isolated languages in the west and southwest of Europe, one in Luxembourg, the other in Transylvania.

Newer historical studies of liturgies based on medieval Transylvanian liturgy books show parallels with the Church province Cologne, but also with the Magdeburg area. This could confirm the assumption that the migrants had a temporary stay at the Elbe and Saale or they were disappointed participants of the Second Crusade in 1147.

Archaeologists assumed, based on finds of the so called gray ceramic, that a larger number of settlers emigrated from Middle Germany to Northern Transylvania. A cult vessel found near Schellenberg shows similarities with a jug from Riethnordhausen in Thuringia and has been connected with crafts of a Hildesheimer workshop. The Franconian architecture of Transylvanian Saxon houses and the architecture of South German churches point to a different place of origin, just like the similarities of a motive of a picture on a headstone found in Heltau near Hermannstadt and one found in Faha near Trier.

Without a doubt, among the settlers were not only Germans, be they Teutonici from Southern Germany or Saxons from Middle and Northern Germany but also Romanic people from the western regions of the then German Empire. One of the earliest documents on Transylvanian Saxons points at Flandrenses who had at least two independent settler groups.

These came from an economically highly developed region of the empire, where during the 11th and 12th centuries shortage of land was overcome through intensive planning and building of dike systems. Cities were developed through the textile industry and trade. Many knights of the first crusade came from here. It is undisputed that Flandrenses played an important role in the German East-Migration.

Latins, settlers of Romanic-Walloon origin, were also represented. For example, Johannes Latinus, who arrived as knight but also as one of the first Transylvanian merchants, Gräf Gyan from Salzburg who frightened the bishop of Weißenburg, or Magister Gocelinus, who presented Michelsberg to the Cistercian abbey Kerz. Also to be mentioned is the name of the town Walldorf (villa Latina, "Wallonendorf", town of Walloons) and villa Barbant or Barbantina, a name which brings to mind Brabant in Belgium.

Based on the described and often contradictory research results, answers to the question of the origin of Transylvanian Saxons cannot be considered as final. An incontestable clarification cannot be expected since it is probable that the colonists of different religions and ethnic background came in small groups from all regions of the then empire and grew, once in Transylvania, into a group with its own distinct identity, with German language and culture. In any event, their number was negligibly small and has been estimated at 520 families, approximately 2600 persons.

2.3. Progression of the Settlement

2.3.1. Beginning

During the period of the first two crusades (1096-1099 and 1147-1149), moving by land through Pannonia across the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor to the holy land, people of the West became aware of Hungary as an enticing land. Praised by the timely German Chronicler and Bishop Otto von Freising as "God's Paradise", one can only speculate about an immediate effect of the crusades on the emigration from the Empire to Medieval Hungary. And, without a doubt, the crusaders did not travel through Transylvania.

During the second crusade in the year 1147, King Conrad III came with his army through Hungary. King Geysa (Géza) II (1141-1162), who governed during this period and in 1224 issued the document of privileges "Guarantee of Freedom" (Freibrief) for the Transylvanian Saxons, deserves the credit for inviting "German guests". In 1911, 850 years after his reign began, a memorial was held at the Frankfurt Paulskirche to commemorate among other things, the settlement of Transylvanian Saxons. The organizers were aware of the fact that this celebration at this time is not an accurate but merely a symbolic, although probable, date. (Footnote 8)

At his coronation, Geysa was only eleven years old. His mother Ilona as his guardian and her Serbian brother Belos were governing the country. In 1141 the relations with the Empire were good. The engagement of Geysa's younger sister, Sophie, with the four year old crown prince, Heinrich, was to strengthen the bond between the Staufern and the Árpád dynasties and as a result, during that time German settlers were welcome in Hungary.

This engagement was annulled some years later by the Germans. It was an affront which led to an armed conflict in 1146 between the Empire and Hungary and made a settler program impossible.

Shortly after Geysa II took over the reign, probably in July of 1147, he met with the crusader Conrad III who traveled through Hungary at the time. An agreement concerning the settler program to Transylvania may have been reached at this opportunity. The chronicles of this meeting mention not only the hospitality of the Hungarians but also the disputes with the at times violent Germans. One year later, in 1148, Hezelo von Merkstein made arrangements to sell his house because he was emigrating to Hungary. It is not known if he made it all the way to Transylvania.

After 1148 German-Hungarian relations worsened. After the death of Conrad II a war almost started. It was not a good time to attract colonists from the Empire. A closer Hungarian-German cooperation began in 1158 when a Hungarian delegation offered to assist Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in his planned war campaign with Italy. Maybe the issue of settlers was also agreed upon. After the end of 1159, German-Hungarian relations turned frosty again, since Geysa strengthened his contacts with Pope Alexander III and the French King Ludwig VII. Both were avowed enemies of Barbarossa. The Hungarian king died in 1162, only 31 years of age. The colonizing of the Transylvanian Saxons is, among his achievements, of historic magnitude. But the emigration required the cooperation and approval of the ruler of their homeland. Therefore, only relatively brief periods were favourable and could be considered for the migration.

2.3.2. Stages

It probably will never be fully clarified if the colonization was initiated during the years 1141, 1147 or as late as 1158. Certain is only that it occurred during the reign of Geysa II, began at the middle of the 12th century and with interruptions lasted for more than one century. Various colonization stages are apparent when analyzing the traces of the advancing abatis border (Verhausäume). They were erected by the Hungarian crown after parts of Transylvania were occupied and advanced to the east to the point where the Carpathian Mountains were reached. The traditional abatis to protect the borders were then replaced by guarded settlements (Wehrsiedlungen) on Crown Land (Königsboden). The then available desolate land (Ödlandstreifen), in records also called "terra deserta", was distributed to the invited guests.

During the first stage of colonizing (until the end of the 12th century), several mining towns were established in Northern Transylvania. They were located near Kolosch, Desch and Seck. Near Alba Iulia (Weißenburg) half way down the Mures river were the "primi hospites" Krakau, Krapundorf, Rumes and Barbant. At the Zibin and Alt, it was the towns in the Hermannstadt province (Altland) of Leschkirch und Großschenk. The exempt Hermannstadt Provost, which was divided into wards and belonged to the far distant archdiocese of Gran, was founded during 1188 - 1191 for these settlers.

Towards the end of the 12th century annexation of land in Transylvania by Hungary was mostly completed. The Carpathian Mountains were now the border. After this first phase, the second phase of establishing settlements began in the following two first decades of the 13th century Starting in the Hermannstadt region (Altland) these secondary settlements were built in the Harbachtal (Harbach-Valley) and at the foot of the Cibinului (Zibins) and Muntii Sebesului (Mühlbacher Mountains). Most likely additional colonists also arrived from the Occident. At that time the abatis in the Sebes Alba (Mühlbach) region were given up and the Szeklers were moved from the border settlements to their present location in the east of the country. The regions with German settlers in Southern Transylvania reached the west-east limits from Broos to Draas as mentioned in King Andrew II's "Guarantee of Freedom", a document of privileges for the Transylvanian Saxons, dated 1224. The Teutonic Knights in the Burzenland (Brasov)

At this time King Andrew II also invited the Order of Teutonic Knights (Deutscher Orden) to the Burzenland, what is now Tara Bârsei, the greater Brasov region. Embedded in the arch of the Carpathian Mountains where many mountain passes lead from the east and the south, the region was strategically very important but especially vulnerable to attacks. It was planned to develop the regions beyond the Carpathian Mts. for Christianity, primarily for the Hungarian Crown. After the Transylvanian Saxons were assigned to protect the southern and northeast border and the Szeklers the east borders, a qualified group who was equally capable to defend, expand and conduct missionary work, was sought for the southeast section. The Teutonic Knights were chosen with its grand master Hermann von Salza from Thuringia. The Hungarian dynasty established family ties with Thuringia in 1211. Probably with the influence of Queen Gertrude from the Bavarian dynasty of Andechs-Meranien, Princess Elizabeth of Hungary was to become engaged to the future Count Ludwig of Thuringia (1217-1227). (She was canonized in 1235). It is unlikely a coincidence that the Teutonic Knights were invited at the same time.

The monks, experienced in warfare, received the area of the Burzenland (Brasov) depression with the permission to build castles and cities out of wood only, pay no taxes, have duty free markets, keep half of the mined gold and silver and deny hospitality to the Wojwode. They were directly accountable to the king’s judicature, and in religious matters under the Roman Curia. In return they should protect the border against invading Cumans, convert them and other people beyond the Carpathians to Catholicism, and expand if possible the Hungarian empire in this area.

The knights established numerous towns and built the first Marienburg ("Mary’s Castle") at the Alt as their seat. German settlers were called to these establishments, mainly from the Hermannstadt province. Most recent archaeological finds, not yet fully evaluated, point also to an earlier presence of Occidental colonists in this area.

The stay of the Teutonic Knights remained an interlude. Fourteen years later in 1225 they were ordered to leave the country.

2.3.3. Privileges

Geysa II offered the advantageous conditions of the "Hungarian right of hospitality" to all those he invited to his empire. His successor Andrew II put it in writing, issuing the document of privileges, the "Guarantee of Freedom" (Goldenen Freibrief) in 1224. It contained the most refined and extensive privileges any settlers from the West had received in Eastern Europe.

Document 1:

Document of Privileges of the Transylvanian Saxons (1224)

In the name of the holy Trinity and indivisible Unity. Andrew by the grace of God King of Hungary, Dalmatia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Galicia and Lodomeria for always.

As it behooves the royal dignity, to suppress the supercilious refractoriness, it is proper for the royal kindness, to alleviate the humble affliction mercifully. To protect the service of the loyal and show and provide to all what is deserved with grace.

Here are our loyal guest settlers, the Germans beyond the forests (Transylvania), having approached in unity our majesty, presented to us humbly their complaints and pleas that they risk to lose entirely their freedom provided by our grandfather, the all merciful King Geysa, unless our royal majesty continues as in the past to keep a merciful eye on them. Therefore, out of poverty and despair they could not provide service to the royal majesty.

In listening mercifully as usual to their just complaints we wish to announce for the present and the future to follow the trail of our predecessors, and emotionally touched, grant the freedoms they previously had. And as to:

1.All peoples from Waras to Boralt including the Szekler region of Sebus shall create a political union (unus populus) responsible to one judge. Simultaneously all counties (comitatus) excluding Hermannstadt shall suspend (their activity).

2.Who, however, becomes count of Hermannstadt may appoint (as judges/administrators) only permanent residents in the mentioned counties, and the political units (populi) shall always elect such (judges/administrators) which are assumed especially capable in their authority. Nobody of the county of Hermannstadt shall make an attempt to buy an administrator.

3.They shall contribute every year 500 Silvermarks to the benefit of our court. We want to make certain not to exclude any landlord or anybody else who resides in the area of these contributions unless he has a special privilege. We also allow to pay the moneys owing in no other weight but Silvermarks, as defined by our Father Bela in pious memory, namely 4 ½ Vierdung (= 1 Mark und 2 Lot) Hermannstadt weight, like the Cologne penny (Kölner Pfennig) to avoid any discrepancy when weighing. They shall not refuse to pay three Lot for every day to the royal messenger appointed to collect the moneys, to cover his expenses while staying in their region.

4.They shall provide 500 armed personnel (milites) to serve the king during a campaign in the empire. They shall provide 100 armed personnel for a campaign outside the empire, provided the king is participating personally. Whenever he sends a nobleman (iobagionem) across the borders of the empire only 50 armed personnel are to be provided. The king may not demand more armed men nor must they send them.

5.They shall elect their priests (sacerdotes) freely and introduce the elected (to the bishop). They shall pay every Tenth to them and shall be conventionally accountable to them in all church laws.

6.We wish to rule lawfully, nobody may prosecute except us or the Count of Hermannstadt, whom we will appoint for a location and a time. Should one stand before any judge, the court proceedings must comply with the common law (of the settlers). Also, nobody may order them to our court unless the case cannot be decided by their own judge.

7.Beyond the aforementioned, we provide the regions Vlachen- and Bissenenwald and the respective waters for common use with the mentioned Vlachs and Petchenegs without having to provide services for the mentioned freedom.

8.In addition we have permitted their own seal which is to be publicly accepted by us and our great (magnates).

9.Should any of them be before the courts for money matters, only residents of the region may be called as witnesses. We release them of any other (foreign) jurisdiction.

10.In compliance with the old freedom, we allow them all for a period of eight days free collection of Salt for personal use on or about every holiday of St. Georg (April 23rd), St. Stephen (September 2nd) and St. Martin (November 11th). In addition, no customs duty collector may obstruct their journey during departure nor when returning.

11.The forest, and all its contents and use of the waters with the course of the rivers, which only the king may distribute, we provide to them all for their free use, to the poor and the rich.

12.We rule with royal authority, none of our nobles (iobagiones) may dare to request from the royal majesty a town or land. Should one request (a town or land), they shall object, based on the freedom provided by us.

13.We specify that the mentioned loyal provide only three meals to us when we must travel to them during a campaign. But when a Wojwode in matters of the king is sent to or through their region, they shall grant hospitality twice, when entering and departing.

14.We add to the freedoms of the aforementioned, their trades people may travel freely everywhere in our kingdom, where they may enforce their right by referring to the royal highness.

15.We order their markets to be free of taxes.

16.To ensure the above mentioned freedoms remain in force and unshakeable, we apply to this sheet our two seals for enforcement.

Provided in the 1224th year after the incarnation, in the 21st year of our Kingdom.

Source: Ernst Wagner (ed.): Quellen zur Geschichte der Siebenbürger Sachsen. 21981, Nr. 5, pgs. 16-19.

At the beginning, beneficiaries of these rights, German colonists originating from different regions, were called "hospites Theutonici" or "Flandrenses". Later the collective description "Saxones" as used by the Hungarian administration (Chancellery) became predominant. German settlers of the Zips region (Slovakia), German miners in the Balkan (Bosnia and Croatia belonging to Hungary), in Serbia and in the Osmanian Empire were also called "Saxones" apparently referring to the owners of privileges as defined in the "jus Theutonicum".

At the time when representatives of the settlers (comparable with the localite -Lokators of Silesia) mediated between the king and the settlers, negotiated the privileges and developed towns, the so called Gräfen (Count) most likely appeared, who also became the Saxons' first elite and who probably originated from the German ministries.

3. Political History and Economic Development during the Middle Ages

These "Transylvanian Saxons" developed their assigned areas commercially over a short period. They not only made the soil arable, improved agricultural methods but also made accessible and exploited the areas containing precious metals in the West and East Carpathians (Ostkarpaten, Siebenbürgisches Erzgebirge, Rodenauer Berge) and the Transylvanian high country salt deposits, and advanced handicrafts and trade. Already in 1186, the Hungarian king was able to collect 15000 Silvermarks contributed by the "hospites regis de Ultrasylvas" .

The aspiring Transylvanian Saxons were like all people burdened by the Mongol invasion in 1241. The Tatar horsemen invaded almost simultaneously through several passes of the Carpathians, overcame the old border defense system almost effortlessly, defeated the Hungarian army of horsemen near Mohi and put entire regions to waste. Apparently the only successful resistance came from the Transylvanian Saxons. In the mountain city Rodenau "six hundred selected armed Germans" led by the city judge Arscaldus, opposed the Mongols, as was reported by a contemporary. The city was eventually conquered with a trick. When the enemy pretended to retreat the Germans celebrated with a victorious drunkenness "as the German passion demands" and lost the battle.

The Mongol invasion resulted in a new orientation of the Hungarian defense and economic policies. Cities were increasingly fortified and became catalysts of the economic development. New settlers were recruited for this purpose. Strategically and economically important towns were promoted and advanced through privileges and tax concessions. In addition to the then existing mountain cities Rodenau, Offenburg, Thorenburg and Großschlatten, a chain of German commerce and trade centres were developed along the Carpathian Arc, like Bistritz (Bistrita) , Kronstadt (Brasov), Hermannstadt (Sibiu), Mühlbach (Sebes) and Klausenburg (Cluj).

The development of the cities, consistently supported by the Hungarian Kings Carl I Robert of Anjou (1308-1342), his son Ludwig I the Great (1342-1382), and Sigismund of Luxembourg (1387-1437), resulted in the transition from a resource to a commerce economy, and attached the grain and stock production to the European trade of goods. The first obtainable rules of a guild dated 1376 points to an advanced differentiation of the craftsmanship at a level similar to west European cities. 25 trades were organized in 19 guilds. The cities became economic and cultural centres of the country. Constitutional and legal standards of German cities were adapted, in part the city laws of Magdeburg and Iglau. New laws were developed as early as 1271, the law of "Bergrecht von der Rodenau" for example.

From the end of the 14th century on, the fortified cities were the best protection for the increasing threat by the Osman Turks. The cities withstood longer lasting sieges and hampered the advancement of larger forces. Fortified churches in villages offered protection from smaller raids. With this unique system of fortified churches and cities the Transylvanian Saxons became part of the much heralded "Antemurale Christianitatis", the advanced fortress of Christianity, protecting southeast European people from advancing Turks. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the mayor of Hermannstadt could write with pride that his city is "not alone a shield for the Hungarian empire but for all of Christianity".

A looming danger to undermine the privileged position came not only through the Osman threat but also from the Hungarian aristocracy. The initiative was taken mainly through the privileged patrician class consisting of Counts (Gräfen) and later by merchants and rich tradesmen and owners of mines, to politically unite the settler communities which lived within the four territorially unconnected regions: the so called Seven Chairs of the Hermannstadt province, the two chairs of the Kokel region, the Nösner and the Burzenländer districts. With reference to the document of privileges of Andrew II (Andreanischen Freibrief, "unus sit populus", einig sei die Gemeinschaft, unity within the community) they grew into an "Entirety of Saxons", the intact unity of Transylvanian Saxons, the "Sächsische Nationsuniversität" (-Universitas Saxonum, -Gesamtheit der Sachsen). It became the superior political, administrative and judicial representation of the free Germans in Transylvania, an institution similar to the alliance of cities in western Europe. This lengthy process was completed in 1486.

It created a self governing strong commonwealth whose population grew to a people with a German language, with an unique relic dialect, similar to the one in Luxembourg; a people with a special legal status within a medieval Hungarian state, with its own values of self-consciousness, experience spheres and judgmental values, and with a special sense for togetherness. The "Sächsische Nationsuniversität" (Intact Unity of Transylvanian Saxons) represented a class of free, privileged townspeople and farmers and was their representative in the Transylvanian assembly which included Hungarian aristocracy and the free Szekler defense farmers.

The word "nation" was used in reference to class at that time. The Nationsuniversität did not however, represent the Germans living on the land belonging to aristocrats just as it did not represent the people under Hungarian or Romanian bondage (who were already then the majority), just like the congregation of nobility did not represent commoners.

Therefore, the implied nationality within the word "Nationsuniversität" was primarily not an expression of nationality but of social status and discrete values, a byproduct of historic constitutional events and the result of a conscious desire to unite and defend the rights of a privileged group. There is also no relation with Council of Nations or medieval Universities. The Transylvanian Saxon students had no inhibitions to join the "natio Hungarica" according to territorial principles. The "Nationsuniversität" was therefore successful during the early recent history and stood the test of time.

4. Early recent history: Autonomous Principality Transylvania

Early recent history began in the medieval Hungarian kingdom with a catastrophe in 1526. Sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent, defeated Hungary near Mohács. King Ludwig II died in the battle. Based on contracts concerning inheritance law and marriage settlements, the crown of Hungary was claimed by the Hapsburg dominion. These demands could be met in only West and Northeast Hungary. Central Hungary was occupied by the Osman dynasty and converted in 1514 into a Pashalyk, a Turkish province. Transylvania had developed into an autonomous principality recognizing the superiority of the Ottoman empire.

Three privileged groups, Hungarian nobility, free Szkelers and the Saxons played a decisive role. They had the right to veto (Kuriatvotum) in the assembly and were able to block laws which were contradictory to their own particular interests. They elected a Hungarian aristocrat as prince and appointed his advisors. Neither the prince nor the two other groups were allowed to interfere with the affairs of one group. It is obvious why this period was considered the period of blossom of the self rule for the Transylvanian Saxons.

The political and economic situation developed less favourably. Transylvania was drawn into the secular struggle between the Hapsburgs and the Ottoman empire. The Austrian dynasty did not relinquish its claim for the strategically important Transylvania, although lacking the power for enforcement. The Hungarian aristocracy opposed these claims and the Transylvanian Saxons supported it out of loyalty to a German dynasty and with the hope for support from the West against the Turks. Mayor Petrus Haller of Hermannstadt wrote in 1551:"May God give us peace under our German king". This statement points to an emotional component in the consciousness of self which the Transylvanian Saxons developed in the period of humanism and reformation. In addition to the self stereotypes of a free and privileged class and the protective shield of Christianity, the one of being a member of the German people was added.

This was connected to the spiritual renewal of the Transylvanian Saxons during the 1540s. Johannes Honterus, a Kronstadt senator who had studied in Vienna and was active as a printer and humanist in Cracow and Basel, practiced spiritual renewal in the spirit of Martin Luther and published a reformation booklet. Hermannstadt's mayor, Peter Haller, partially rewrote the book, as "Order of the Church of all Transylvanian Saxons" (Kirchenordnung aller Deutschen in Sybembürgen) and introduced it into the worldly political scene. The "Nationsuniversität" decided in 1550 to impose these rules in all cities and communities of Transylvania. The Transylvanian Saxons created a so-called spiritual university, a people's church for themselves. Over time this evangelistic inspired cooperative "ecclesia Dei nationis Saxonica" assumed important worldly functions.

In compliance with the "order of the church", the school system was restructured in urban and rural regions including the care of the poor and sick. Graduates of the secondary schools (gymnasium) were sent to Protestant universities in Germany. With this the contact nourished with the "motherland" over centuries in trade, commerce and education became, so to speak, institutionalized in the area of higher education.

German was now spoken in church and school. The Augsburg confession was accepted. Hungarians and Szeklers were Reformed or Catholics, and the Romanians remained Greek Orthodox. Confession and nationality became synonyms. However, religious tolerance was brought into existence in 1557 on initiative of the Saxon "Nationsuniversität", a first in Europe. That is, "everybody may keep his desired confession, and allow at their discretion new and old rituals in church service including in matters of confession of faith, allow to happen what they prefer, however without insulting anybody’s confession". In tolerating other confessions, the Evangelical-Lutheran confession became a further important component of Transylvanian Saxon selfhood.

In 1583, the "Nationsuniversität" brought together the existing ancestral common laws which were complemented with clauses of the Roman law and had these revised laws approved by the ruler prince Stephan Báthory, who was also the king of Poland : "The Statutes of the Saxons in Transylvania or their own Common Law" (Der Sachsen in Siebenbürgen Statuta oder eygen Landrecht). The law guaranteed all members of the "Nationsuniversität" personal freedom, proprietary right and equality before the law, and remained in effect until 1853. However, reality did not always reflect equality as expressed in the law. Social differences were present in Transylvania’s Saxon society and conflicts between the patrician population and the lower classes became especially virulent in the 17th century.

Within the group the belief of a society developed "where nobody is master and nobody is servant", of a centuries old democracy based on the election of political and clerical representatives. Their historians had an influential part in this development. This component of the Transylvanian Saxon selfhood ignored not only the social structures but also the fact that only landlords, people owning property, could be elected. Transylvanian Saxon commoners had no part in this democracy nor did Romanian subordinates who had settled on crown land.

The new self consciousness developed during the period of Humanism and Reformation in a participating Transylvanian principality was reflected in a speech of the Saxon count Albert Huet in 1591 to the Transylvanian prince, "the basic sermon of the Saxon’s origin, life, actions and change".

It was a speech designed to defend Saxon privileges. The Hungarian aristocracy was questioning these privileges with reference to the foreign origin and the lowly class of the German farmers and tradesmen. Huet countered they had been "invited and asked" and had "long fought for their land so long until the swords and spears could become plowshares". As farmers, tradesmen and merchants, they "honestly earned their bread … and when in need gave to the king and his people a good, fat and pleasant interest" which was by far larger than the one of any of the other "nations". In addition "the Saxons are the third part of the land and use a free vote to elect the prince and all common activity". "That is why" Huet mentioned with confidence "are we strangers no more but citizens and locals of the country".

5. Province of the Hapsburg Empire

At the end of the 17th century a new Occidental Empire, the Hapsburg Danube Monarchy, emerged from the disputes between the Hapsburg and Osman dynasties. Warding off the Turkish siege of Vienna (1683) and the victories after years of war led by generals like Prince Carl of Lorraine, Margrave Louis von Baden (called "Türkenlouis") and Prince Eugen of Savoy ("the noble knight"), were the decisive factors.

The acquisition of Transylvania was of great strategic and political importance for the Hapsburgs. As a testimonial of the imperial General Caraffa pointed out : "The principality is created by nature as a citadel from which every place that lies between Danube, Moravia, the Silesian and Polish mountains can be dominated and controlled". As an essential driving force and grace of Transylvania ("nervus ac decus Transilvaniae") he mentions its German people, "these upright and well intentioned people" whereas this country otherwise "was always rebellious towards the house of Austria". The Saxons also approached the Hapsburgs with a certain amount of skepticism. They feared the rough and uncontrolled soldiers (Soldateska), new taxes and the emperor’s enthusiasm in Counter Reformation. They didn’t want to put at risk their status and the right built over a period of one-and-one-half centuries as one of three groups determining the destiny of the country. This anti-Hapsburg mood was the cause of the so called Schuster-Rebellion in Kronstadt (1688) .

The leading politician of the Transylvanian Saxons, Komes Valentin Frank later ennobled as "von Frankenstein", Notary General of the province (Provinzialnotar) Johannes Zabanius, later "Sachs von Harteneck", however, acted for the German empire and negotiated, together with representatives of the two other groups, the so called Leopold Diploma of 1691. It is the applicable provincial constitution which confirmed the privileges and the religious freedom of the three ethnic "nations". This diploma remained, in a way, the basic (constitutional) law of Transylvania until 1848. The treaty of Karlowitz had secured Transylvania for the Hapsburgs in 1699, and liberated Transylvania from the Turkish-Balkan influence, making it once again a part of Western Europe.

The gradual integration into the complex of the Hapsburg countries occurred with the resolve of the monarchy’s absolutism demanding uniformity. The centralism of the Vienna Court was imposed against the pluralism of the ethnic groups which guarded jealously and tried to maintain their privileges.

The Transylvanian Saxons had to fight several battles at the same time:

The Transylvanian German identity had to walk the difficult path from an independent group ("class nation"), determining its own destiny, to a "national" (ethnic) minority. On the other hand it was strengthened since it was able to enter into a closer relationship with the empire. The integration into a well organized political system was a guarantee for stable and orderly conditions, permitting the economy to stabilize.

During this transitional period, Johannes Zabanius Sachs von Harteneck (1664-1703) developed into a brilliant political personality for the Transylvanian Saxons. Although as a child he suffered under the Hapsburg Counter Reformation, living in Slovak Preschau (his father had to flee to Hermannstadt where he became the city Pastor), Zabanius placed his bet unequivocally on the Imperial card. He expected Transylvania to rejoin the Occident and improve the federal political recognition of the Saxons under the umbrella of a hereditary dynasty, which he saw as a natural ally against the arrogance, demands and privileges of the Hungarian nobility. He considered their demand made in the 16th century, to permit house and land purchase in Saxon cities, a threat to the rights and possessions of his fellow citizens. This demand by the nobles was combined with the refusal to contribute to the city coffers since they do not pay taxes. With arguments similar to Albert Huet’s, he rejected their presumptuous attitude but demanded in a tax reform proposal the just distribution of contributions among all citizens of the country, nobility not excluded. He demanded tax equality. With this he was way ahead of his time and had to pay the highest price. He became victim of intrigues and was executed in 1703.

"Fidem genusque servabo", "I serve my conviction and my people", was the slogan of the Transylvanian Saxon who advanced the highest within the hierarchy of the Austrian state, Samuel von Brukenthal. Without self-denial he rose to become governor of Transylvania (1774-1787), while serving the "most catholic majesty", Maria Theresia (1740-1780), during a period of catholic proselytizing, of changing religion for career reasons. He combined, self-confident and flexibly, loyal service for the court with representing the interest of his fellow citizens. He protected its Lutheran state church, fended off attacks on their privileged rights and tried to prevent foreign infiltration.



Europe after the Vienna Congress


1 Austria - Hungary

2 Prussia

3 Russia

4 France

5 Great Britain

16 Ottoman Empire

Thick line:

German Confederation

Other Countries:

6 Kingdom Hannover

7 Kingdom Württemberg

8 Kingdom Bavaria

9 Denmark

10 United Kingdom of Netherlands

(till 1830)

11 Kingdom Sardine - Piemont

12 Associates of Austria in Italy

13 Kingdom Norway

14 Kingdom Sweden

15 Poland (associated with Russia)

17 Church State

18 Kingdom of both Sicily

19 Switzerland

20 Kingdom Spain

21 Kingdom Portugal



Brukenthal praises "equality before the law" and common conscientiousness of the members of the Saxon "Nationsuniversität" in his arguments against permitting Hungarian nobles or Romanian subordinates to obtain land and ownership on Saxon soil, and combined the components of the then self-evidence of the Transylvanian Saxons in the sentences: "No magnate or nobleman is free in the Saxon "nation", all pay according to their possessions of property and land and all they own. They carry the common burden collectively, provide their part of the troops. Not one may adjudicate, only elected community representatives (Communitäten)". To the empress he points out the German heritage of her subjects, who "since they were called from their homeland, the German provinces never intermixed". Brukenthal also describes the evident danger : "Instead of being a lone individual he would become a mixture of many and without the virtue of the people of which he descended, he would carry the flaws and infirmities of all with whom he would mix". (Although this may sound racist today it must be viewed with the reasoning from the period of the 18th century).

Emperor Joseph II (1780-1790) wanted to create a modern federation with reforms to unify citizens with equal rights into a "natio austriaca". This turned out to be disastrous for the multinational state. He addressed "my nations" and intended to create one nation. These, however, did not submit to a common ideology of one state but developed their own national identity. Nationalism became the dominant subject of the centuries that followed.

Joseph’s measures, intended to eliminate the pluralism of the ethnic groups in Transylvania, hit especially the Transylvanian Saxons hard. Convinced that the "difficulties between the nations will not stop unless all become Transylvanians" proved him right to this day. He revoked the Leopold Diploma of 1691, abolished the "Nationsuniversität" and with the "decree for equality for all citizens" (Konzivilitätsreskript) opened the flood gates for Hungarians and Romanians to settle on Saxon lands with "equality in all rights". Guarantees for the continuance of a minority, representing only 10% of the population, were not granted. Although Joseph II rescinded his "revolution from the top", its effect could not be simply reversed. It defined the future for the Transylvanian Saxons: existence as an ethnic minority under siege by a foreign nationalism - the Hungarian in the 19th century and the Romanian in the 20th century. The Saxons were not any longer one of three pillars of a constitution defined by ethnic diversity. Privileges were not maintainable over time. Their right to exist was more and more derived from the economic power and a growing German self-confidence, and most of all from the cultural accomplishments.

So called "calm years" followed the period of Brukenthal and Joseph II. Nourished by the Metternich system a "Saxon habitual aristocracy" developed which prevented a spiritual and economic renewal. Not before the so called Vormärz period (1815-1848, relating to the period prior to the revolution in Germany which failed in March 1848) did the crusted structures soften. Savings banks were opened which eased the shortage of moneys in the trades and commerce. Cooperatives for farmers and tradesmen enabled the introduction of new technologies. The Society of Transylvanian History (Verein für Siebenbürgische Landeskunde) founded in 1840 established the framework for intensive scientific research. Members of all nations and classes were admitted, this was a first. Just as the Saxon anthem "Transylvania Blessed Land", composed and written at that time praises "to place the ribbon of unity around their sons", did the Saxons try to mediate during this nationalistically oriented time in the now beginning Hungarian-Romanian conflict.

Such voices demanding reconciliation were brushed aside during the revolution of 1848/1849. The most outstanding spokesman for conciliation, pastor Stephan Ludwig Roth, was executed by the Hungarian revolutionaries. He was instrumental in the decision of the Saxon "Nationsuniversität" on April 3, 1848 to fully accept equal rights for Romanians living in their territory.

After Hungary had seceded from the Hapsburg monarchy, the unification of Transylvania with Hungary was now the main objective of Lajos Kossuth, the leader of the revolution. The Transylvanian Saxons and Romanians resisted. Both concentrated now on a state which would lie outside the Hungarian and Austrian borders. The Romanians were thinking to unite Transylvania with Moldavia and Walachia to create a Romanian state. The Saxons, however, especially the youth, were enthusiastic about the Frankfurt National Assembly (Frankfurter Nationalversammlung, the first German national assembly). To this assembly they wrote: "The world is filled with German children. We too are descendants of these roots. Geographically separated and on the surface without visible bonds to the motherland, still, we live through the press, through the universities, through the travels of our tradesmen, through memories of the past and the hopes of the future with and through Germany … We are strong if Germany is strong … We want to be and remain what we have always been, an honest German people and also honest and loyal citizens of the country we belong to.

This devotion to the German heritage combined with the declaration of allegiance to the country where they live dominated the next hundred years of the Transylvanian Saxon history. It helps to bear the consequences of the Austrian-Hungarian compromise (Ausgleich 1867) : the integration of Transylvania with the Hungarian part of the now Dual Monarchy, the almost entire loss of political participation and sudden reality to be a minority having lost the representation of the "Nationsuniversität" which was abolished in 1876, the increasing pressure to "Magyarize", the disappointment of the Hapsburg Court. The Bismarck-Empire of 1871 captivates the Saxons and is now their glorified ideal.

The Saxon’s Lutheran church replaced the abolished "Nationsuniversität" as a refuge for their identity. Their "Saxonbishop" had ascended to an integrating figure and was recognized as a spiritual and secular authority. Church leaders like Bishop Teutsch (1817-1893) and his son Friedrich (1852-1933) created niches within the church where the "Magyarization" could be resisted. The Evangelical Lutheran church became "The Church of the Germans in Transilvania". Here sermons were still held in German, the system of confessional schools, almost entirely removed from government authority was further developed, German could remain the teaching language in schools. As substitute for the lost political status the two Teutsch (Daniel and Friedrich) offered with their four volume "History of the Transylvanian Saxons for the Saxon People" a partially idealized reminiscence of the glorious past and strengthened the self confidence of their fellow Saxons. The pronounced awareness of history which was characteristic for Transylvanian Saxons till today is based on their past conduct. Contrary to other ethnic groups in Transylvania whose elite was absorbed into Hungarian politics and culture, Transylvanian Saxons resist the "Magyarization".

6. Part of the Kingdom Greater Romania

The Austrian-Hungarian Dual Monarchy disintegrated into several independent nations as result of World War I. Transylvania was annexed by the Old-Romania. It was not difficult for the Transylvanian Saxons to approve this development since on December 1, 1918 in Alba-Iulia (Karlsburg), Romania had guaranteed to all groups of its population "full ethnic freedom for the fellow citizens". This guarantee was confirmed in the treaty of Trianon in 1920, which sanctioned the unification of Transylvania with Romania. Protection of all minorities (equal rights, religious and cultural autonomy, political representation, inherent language and independent school system) was confirmed by contract.

In effect these assurances were never annulled, but also seldom followed. They were hardly acknowledged in the new constitution of 1923. Saxon collectives were hit especially hard by the agricultural reform. The Church lost approximately 55% of its lands, the towns over 50%. The foundation "Sächsische Nationsuniversität", which managed all commonly owned property after abolishment of the institution with the same name in 1876, financing mainly the Saxon school system with the proceeds, lost a substantial part of its holdings. Education laws threatened the independent education system, petty harassment was practiced by the authorities. The new ruling class mainly recruited from the Old-Romania (Altreich) regions had no sympathy for the domestic claims of minorities since their basic philosophy was centralistic, similar to the French state.

The politicians of the approximately 250,000 Transylvanian Saxons therefore worked towards an arrangement with the other German groups in the country (Banat Swabians, Bukovina and Bessarabia Germans and others, together almost 800,000 citizens), to form the alliance of Germans in Romania. At the same time, they were active in the international movement of minorities. Significant improvements, however, were not achieved and the depression in the thirties increased the general dissatisfaction.

As a result, radical nationalistic oriented groups were able to establish themselves among the traditionally liberal-conservative Transylvanian Saxons. After 1933, they were increasingly attracted to Hitler’s so called "peoples national socialism policy". This had horrendous results. The apparent nationalistic euphoric success of the times was to ring in the end of a historically grown self identity. The Transylvanian Saxons were pulled into the sphere of a global strategy which was used by the "Group of German People in Romania" (Deutsche Volksgruppe in Rumänien) to leverage Germany’s influence and dominance. "Saxon selfhood" received the stamp of "German messenger" which either disenfranchised or synchronized the traditional political forces or replaced them with persons controlled by Germany’s political system. Schools were removed from the umbrella of the church and church leaders were replaced. Under dominant participation by the German government, the so called second Vienna peace resolution divided Transylvania. It tore apart for the first time in their history the political-territorial integrity of Transylvanians Saxons. North Transylvania was assigned to Hungary, South Transylvania remained with Romania. The German government intervened more and more openly in matters of the Saxons, up to a bilateral agreement with Romania where Romanian citizens of Germanic heritage were to be delegated to serve in the German military forces, especially, the Waffen-SS (1943). A situation was now created where Transylvanian Saxons served in three armies during the second World War: The older Saxons of South Transylvania in the Romanian army, the younger ones in the German forces. The older Saxons of North Transylvania in the Hungarian army and the younger ones in the German forces. In all three armies they became victim and unfortunately often also perpetrator in a senseless and criminal war.

The outcome of this war is known: Romania signed a truce on August 23, 1944 in view of the advancing Soviet army and declared war shortly after on its previous allies. German general Artur Phleps, a Transylvanian Saxon, realized how desperate and dangerous the situation was for his countrymen in North Transylvania. He ordered the evacuation of the Saxons in the Nösnerland. They trekked to Austria from where many moved to Northrhine-Westphalia, where they still live. A similar evacuation plan could not be executed in South Transylvania. Soviet troops occupied Hermannstadt at the beginning of September 1944.

7. Under Communist Rule

Centuries of History Fading

Transfer of power to the communists in Romania occurred gradually with pressure by the soviet troops. A communist government took over in March of 1945. King Michael of Hohenzollern had to leave the country in December 1947. Red terror covered the lands. Public politicians and intellectuals were interned, political parties prohibited. The economy was placed under state control. Private and religious schools were dissolved. First steps were taken to socialize agriculture.

All citizens of Germanic descent were apprehended as a group, although they could hardly be made responsible for the events of the war. In January of 1945, the first deportation of men and women to rebuild the Soviet Union took place. Among them were approximately 30,000 Transylvanian Saxons. Hunger, cold and diseases decimated their numbers. Approximately one third perished dreadfully. Many of the survivors slaved until 1952 in the coal mines of Russia. A good number were not returned to their home land but to the Soviet occupied Germany and were separated from their families for years and decades.

In Transylvania the Saxons remained for years without political rights and as "Hitlerists" were subjected to the free will of bureaucrats. Approximately 60,000 Saxon farmers were disowned during the agricultural reform. They had to leave their farms and received them back totally dilapidated as late as 1956. In cities, not only industries and banks were placed under state control but also the tradesmen and merchants were disowned. Their homes changed ownership. They were specifically excluded from the promised rights for minorities in 1945 and were not allowed to vote. Of all atrocities, the Transylvanian Saxons were only spared the acts of banishment and revenge which occurred in other east European countries at the hands of the people of the country where they had peacefully coexisted with other groups for centuries.

The Lutheran church was allowed to persevere. Under communist dictatorship, during the years of hardship, it remained the sole, and just barely, intact institution of the Transylvanian Saxons, their last refuge. After 1949 the measures aimed against the Germans were slowly softened. Government schools with German curriculum, a German newspaper and a theater were permitted. The status of minorities was granted in 1956. Farmhouses and the original living quarters were returned to them.

Regardless, a radical change occurred in the socio-economical demographics. Up to 1945, 85% of the Romanian-Germans were independent, of which 70% were farmers. After less than a decade, the first demographic assessment of the communist Romania showed only 22% of the Germans were employed in farming, working in the new uneconomic collective farms (LPG’s). Many Germans became workers in the industries. Their number among college and university graduates is disproportionately high. Many parents, now without personal belongings, made great sacrifices to enable their children to study. Although this was the only patrimony they could provide, it would turn against them since the communist regime targeted especially intellectuals for prosecution. The trials of writers and playwrights or the indictment of German students in the mid fifties are evidence of this.

Disowning and industrialization have undermined the ties to the native soil and fundamentally upset the relationship with the Romanian state, not, however, with the Romanian people who mostly remained tolerant and compassionate throughout the years. Attempts by the communist state to reestablish confidence proved fruitless. Nicolae Ceausescu admitted openly errors of the past during his "reform phase" in the sixties and had a Council of Workers of German Nationality established, who were to represent the minority. The mistrust in these attempts was justified based on the dictator’s later policies for minorities. He soon spoke openly of creating a uniform Romanian socialist nation. German names of cities were prohibited and the historic accomplishments not mentioned. A law for the protection of the national culture proclaimed the overlying state ownership of all possessions including private books and furniture. The dictatorship became less and less bearable with its beadle and informer apparatus and raised the yearning for freedom. The aspiration for economic realization was legitimate.

All these factors explain the desire of most Transylvanian Saxons to leave their homeland. Initially the concern was to unite families torn apart during the war and the post war era. Soldiers not able to return after the war, deportees in the Soviet Union, who were released in Frankfurt an der Oder searched for their relatives. Not considering the unique and exemplary action of the Red Cross in 1951 through which approximately 1000 Romanian-Germans were able to reach Germany, it was not until 1958 that the communist regime allowed emigration of a substantial number of Transylvanian Saxons and Banat Swabians. They in turn enabled relatives to follow. When Romania and West Germany established formal diplomatic relations, visits to relatives were possible. This literally created a trail for others to follow.

A controlled procedure developed for uniting relatives, in which materialistic interest of the Romanian state cannot be dismissed. Emigration accelerated after the agreement regarding expanded family unification of 1978 between the German Chancellor and the Dictator was signed and approximately 11,000 persons were allowed to leave. This agreement notwithstanding, emigrants were subjected to a variety of chicanery. Continuously more applications were issued, regardless of the degrading fee collected by the Romanian state to compensate for education cost. Some called the procedure "head-money" and "slave trade".

Prior to the December 1989 revolution in Romania a total of 242,326 Germans came from Romania to Germany, of which approximately half are Transylvanian Saxons. The ones left behind are in solitude. Relatives, friends, neighbors are gone. Kindergartens and schools had to be closed for lack of pupils. Only 96,000 Transylvanian Saxons lived in Romania when the Dictator was deposed. After the borders opened there was no holding back. Within a short period only 25,000 Saxons remained in the homeland. They are spread over 266 towns and cities. Among them are 67 with 20 to 50, and 64 with less than 20 members in the Lutheran congregation. The Church and the 1989 founded Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania provides affinity. The Forum is represented in the new Romanian parliament and supported by the German government. It had introduced economic and cultural measures especially in schools to stabilize the German population. However, the majority of the youth has left the country. Cultural activities are among the 55 to 70 year olds in Transylvania..

A "Finis Saxoniae" is foreseeable.

In Germany the emigrants are striving for integration. They express the desire to live as Germans among Germans. The relatively good comprehension of the German language and good education allow a smooth transition. Questions of identity mentioned above are marginal. Within a short period they become German citizens and are quite often very successful. In yearning for the old security and a familiar and understandable community the mostly older Transylvanian Saxons turn to respective cultural and heritage clubs. The younger ones adjust quickly to the everyday life and are not distinguishable from local countrymen. In the best of circumstances, the link to the homeland of their ancestors is the interest in their heritage and history and the search for their roots. However, the integration is linked to the identification with the past. This is apparent in the continued interest in history and culture of the homeland. Respective history books and preferred essays with the subject Transylvanian in school or university are also evidence of this association. Will this ensure the continuation of the Transylvanian Saxon’s history? It will probably remain a chapter in the extended German history book with key words like "Church Fortress", "Mediator between East and West", "Desire for Freedom" or "small in number, never a Nation, and still preserves identity for nearly nine centuries under changing rulers and governments".







From the town where I was born,

Has driven me destiny,

The town which I have lost,

My glance is greeting in my dreams.



from the original:

Vom Dorf, drin ich geboren,

Trieb weit mich das Geschick,

Das Dorf, das ich verloren,

Grüßt jetzt im Traum mein Blick.

Michael Albert, 1856



Péter Eszterházy: Donau abwärts. Roman. Aus dem Ungarischen von Hans Skirecki. Salzburg, Wien 1993, S. 71-72. (Danube Downstream, Original Hungarian)

Footnote 2

Kurt Horedt: Das frühmittelalterliche Siebenbürgen. Ein Überblick, . Thaur/Innsbruck 1988, S. 15.

Kurt Horedt, (The early medieval Transylvania. An Overview, German)

Footnote 3

Horedt: a. a. O., S. 83-85, Zitat S. 84. (Quote, page 84, German)

Footnote 4

Diplomata Hungariae Antiquissima, vol. I. Budapest 1992, Nr. 73, S. 217f.

Footnote 5

De institutione morum ad Emericum ducem, (edited by) ediert von Györffy György: Wirtschaft?? und Gesellschaft der Ungarn um die Jahrtausendwende(translated into German: Centennial Hungarian Economy and Society). Wien, Köln, Graz 1983, Zitat S. 259. Deutsche Übersetzung aus: Die Donauschwaben. Deutsche Siedlung in Südosteuropa. (The Donauschwaben. German Settlement in Southeastern Europe) Ausstellungskatalog, bearbeitet von Immo Eberl u. a. Sigmaringen 1989, S. 66.

Footnote 6

"Hospites cuiuscumque nacionis secundum libertatem ab inicio eis concessam teneantur." Facsimile und Edition von ÉRSZEGI Géza: Az aranybulla, (Budapest 1990), Zitat S. 31.

Footnote 7

Er wurde in der Literatur bisher als (in the past literature known as) Hezelo von Merkstein bezeichnet, vgl. Karl Kurt KLEIN: Anselm von Braz und Hezelo von Merkstein: die ersten Siebenbürger Sachsen (the first Transylvanian Saxons). In: Südostdeutsche Vierteljahresblätter 14 (1965), S. 161-168 (Nachdruck in (re-print in) K. K. KLEIN: Saxonica Septemcastrensia, Marburg 1971, S. 160-167). Walter SCHULLER: ... ein gewisser Hezelo - Miszelle eines Außenstehenden zu einer kleinen Namenskorrektur. In: Zeitschrift für Siebenbürgische Landeskunde 17 (1994), S. 67, hat kürzlich darauf hingewiesen, daß aufgrund der "Annales Rodenses" nur die Herkunftsbezeichnung "von Angelsdorf" zulässig ist. Jüngst hat Harald ZIMMERMANN: Die deutsche Südostsiedlung im Mittelalter. In: Günther SCHÖDL (Hg.): Land an der Donau [Reihe: deutsche Geschichte im Osten Europas]. Berlin 1995, S. 32, den Namen Hetzelo von Ritzerfeld bei Merkstein in Umlauf gebracht.

Footnote 8

Harald ZIMMERMANN: 850 Jahre Siebenbürger Sachsen. In: Zeitschrift für Siebenbürgische Landeskunde 15 (1992), S. 1-10. ( 850 Years Transylvanian Saxons, German)

Footnote 9

Kurt HOREDT: Siebenbürgen im Frühmittelalter (The early medieval Transylvania) , S. 159, registriert insgesamt fünf Etappen der Inbesitznahme Siebenbürgens durch Ungarn: (noted five phases when Hungary took posession of Transylvania) "um 900 Linie des Kleinen Somesch, um 1000 Miereschlinie, um 1100 Linie der Großen Kokel, um 1150 Altlinie und schließlich um 1200 Erreichung der Karpatengrenze." Die Ansiedlung der Siebenbürger Sachsen erfolgte demnach beginnend mit der dritten, vor allem aber in den beiden letzten Etappen (settlements of Transylvanian Saxons began with the third but especially with the two last phases)..


Reference to PEOPLES:

Agathyrsen, part of which were the Illyrer and the Thraker with the sub-clan Daker.

Árpád, Hungary of Árpád dynasty.

Aurelius, Marcus Aelius Aurelius Antoninus (121-80),: successful warfare against the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Iazyges … and Stoic philosopher.

Austria: Kelten, Quaden, Markomannen, Goten (Goths), Hunnen, Rugier, Heruler, Langobarden, Awaren (Avars), Slawen und Baiern - sie alle haben im ersten nachchristlichen Jahrtausend in Niederösterreich gelebt und ihre Spuren im Boden hinterlassen ….they all lived in Lower Austria during the 1st century and left traces.

Avars, an Asian people. With the decline of Avar power during the 8th century, the Moravians, a Slavic tribe, seized the northern and eastern portions of the region and, between 791 and 797

Bulgars made their homes in Pannonia (Pontic people) and in the plains around the Carpathianat Pannonia. During a pause in a grueling military campaign conducted against the barbarians, "on the land of the Quadi.

Byzantines captured 8800 warriors, among them 3000 Avars, 3000 Gepids, 800 Slavs, and 2000 barbarians, in all likelihood Bulgaria states that on the entire territory of historic Hungary, including Transylvania, the continuity of peoples had been broken…..…..among the subjects of the Avar empire were various Ogur-Turkish and Bulgarian tribes ...the Bulgarians (also known as Nandorok)……..large numbers of Cinikumans in the Danube valley……..peoples who arrived in this region only later, such as the Petschenegs, Cumans, and Vlachs……Bulgarians and Moravians, while Pannonia fell……Cuman or Pecheneg names…..From the 3rd to the 12th century wave after wave of barbarian invaders from the east passed over the undefended country—first the Germanic Goths and Gepidae, then Slavs, followed by the Avars, and in the second half of the 7th century by the Bulgars. The Bulgarian domination, lasting for two centuries, allowed a rudimentary civic life to take shape, and it was the Bulgars who, after conversion of their tsar Boris in 864, brought Christianity in its eastern form to the ancestors of the Romanians, building on earlier Latin foundations".

Carolingian also called Carlovingian, adj [F carolingien, fr. ML Karolingi Carolingians, fr. Karolus Charlemagne + -ingi (as in Merovingi Merovingians)] (1881) : of or relating to second Frankish dynasty dating from about A.D. 613 and including among its members the rulers of France from 751 to 987, of Germany from 752 to 911, and of Italy from 774 to 961.

Charlemagne, king of the Franks, added the remainder of the Hungarian region to his domains

Cumans were a nomad people from central Asia, Kuns/Cumans/Comans Cumania

Cuman 1262-1290. King (1272-90). Son and successor of Stephen V; his mother a princess of the Cumans (a Turkic people that had settled in Hungary);

Dacian (Getic) kingdom of eastern Europe, Dacians (Dakern) and Getae (Geten) people which belonged to the Indo-Germanic family of the Thracians (Thraker).

Gepidae (Gepids/ Gepiden), …….Lombards (c.565-572). Son and successor of King Audoin; in alliance with the Avars destroyed the Gepidae (c.566); killed Cunimund, king of the Gepidae, and married his daughter Rosamund.

Goths, ancient Teutonic people, who in the 3rd to the 6th centuries A.D. were an important power in the Roman world. According to the Gothic historian Jordanes (fl. 530-52), the Goths came from Sweden across the Baltic Sea to the basin of the Vistula River. … Goths, Alamanni, and Franks penetrated German borders. 3rd century A.D.….eastern region and whose king was Ostrogotha, were called Ostrogoths, that is, eastern Goths either from his name or from the place. (Ostrogoths: When the Huns swept into Europe about A.D. 370, many of the Ostrogoths were conquered and compelled to aid their conquerors). The rest were called Visigoths, that is, the Goths of the western country (in 376 the Visigoths, threatened by the Huns, sought the protection of the Roman emperor Valens).

Hungarians, Khanty and Mansi. The closest linguistic relatives of Udmurts are Komi (as close as Russian and Polish languages), the most distant are Hungarians, Khanty and Mansi. Approximately 500 words originally used in the Finno-Ugric community have been preserved in the Udmurt language such as "fire", "snow", "tree", "blood", "son", "butter" etc.

They were contemporaries and ethnocultural partners of the Scythes and Sarmats, the peoples of Central Asia and the Caucasus.

Huns, nomadic Asian people, probably of Turkish, Tataric, or Ugrian origins, who spread from the Caspian steppes (the areas north of the Caspian Sea) to make repeated incursions into the Roman Empire during the 4th and 5th centuries A.D.

Iazyges non-Germanic Iazyges

Quadi (Quaden), Markomanni Germanic people ca. 2nd century A.D. and Vandals (Wandalen), Sarmati (Sarmaten)……. The emperor Marcus Aurelius waged successful warfare against the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Iazyges.

Marcomanni Germanic People, see Suevi, ……15 B.C. Romans defeated German tribes from Gaul: Frisii, Chauci, Chatti, Suevi, Marcomanni, and others.

Minoan, which flourished in Crete and reached its height in the Middle Bronze period, notably at Knossos and Phaestos; and the Mycenaean, which developed in the Late Bronze period at Mycenae and other centers, including Tiryns and Pylos… sites of Mycenae…discoveries Heinrich Schliemann.

Moravians, a Slavic tribe replaced the Avars.

Pannonia (Pontic people) .. ancient country of Illyria that was bounded on the north and east by the Danube River, on the south by Dalmatia, and on the west by Noricum and parts of upper Italy, including parts of contemporary Austria, Hungary, and Slovenia. It received its name from the Pannonians, a people probably of Illyrian race who lived there in ancient times. Avars advanced into their place from the east, a people warlike and of Turkish blood. …..From these we know that the Roman colonists of Dacia were mainly of Semitic origin, i.e. Syrians, Palmyrans, Bythinians, Commageneites and Galatians. There also were Celts, Greeks and, as miners Pyrusteans from South-Dalmatia. Northern Dacia. The inhabitants included Galatians from Tavia (C.I.L. 860), Dolicheans (Ephemerides 373), Carians (C.I.L. 859), and other Asiatics. A name-list of the latter is extant (C.I.L. 870). In 235 they had a collegium, headed by a "Spirarcha".

Quadi Germanic People

Suevi, collective name for a number of German tribes including the Marcomanni and Lombards, mentioned in the 1st century B.C. by Julius Caesar as dwelling east of the Rhine River.

Szeklers, Szekler village, Székely people live in their very nice Székely-land (Hung. Székelyföld) (Southeast Transylvania, northeast of Brasov), the Székelys are believed to be the descendants of Attila the Hun??? Not Turkic Tribe??, The Székelys live in Székely-land which they organized into 5 administrative jurisdictions, referred to as Széks;

Thracian-Phrygian family of peoples which lived on the eastern half of the Balkan Peninsula and maintained a connection through Transylvania with the Sarmatians of South Russia and the Jaziges who occupied the area between the Danube and the Theiss. Further members of this family of nations included the Alans of the Trans-Crimea, the Ossetes (Irones) who lived in the Caucasus, the Armenians, Phrygians, Lydians and Bythinians (of Asia Minor). These peoples were all related to the Iranian stock and thus differed from the Illyrians who occupied the Peninsula's western half prior to the Iranian Thracian-Dacian-Scythian group, in the era of the Aryan influx.

Udmurts By their language belong to the Finno-Ugric community of nations like Komi, Mari, Mordvanians, Estonians, Finns, Karelians, Saami,

Uralaltaic, Vlachs (Walachia) as Borderguards,

Vandals: ancient Germanic tribe of Jutland (now in Denmark), who migrated to the valley of the Oder River about the 5th century B.C. During the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. they settled along the Danube River. They entered Gaul (now France) in 406, invaded Spain in 409, and fought in the latter country against both the Visigoths (another Germanic tribe) and the Romans. By their strong right arm the Vandals were often laid low, the

Wallachians/Romanians Vlachs or Walachians or, in Slavonic, Vlachs

Transylvanian Origin : mainly Low German, Flemish (and Walloon) and Dutch settlers, in whose homelands there are hilly regions called "Zevenbergen" (in southern Holland) and "Sevenbergen" (east of the town of Hameln on the river Weser, Germany).

Walloons are chiefly descended from the Romanized Celts of a French dialect of the Walloons _ Walloon adj a member of a people of southern and southeastern Belgium and adjacent parts of France. Since the early Middle Ages the Walloons (Wallonian speaking)

Flemings have been characterized by social and economic differences, and the division was intensified during the 19th century. The Walloon region is a center of mining and heavy industry, while the northern Flemings are chiefly engaged in agriculture and the manufacture of textiles.

Suevi, Cherusci, and others… emperor Marcus Aurelius waged successful warfare against the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Iazyges…. During the 3rd century A.D. more migrations caused a crisis within the empire, as Goths, Alamanni, and Franks penetrated German borders.

Germanic People:… About 2300 B.C. new waves of migrating peoples arrived, probably from southern Russia. These battle-ax-wielding Indo-Europeans were the ancestors of the Germanic tribes that settled in northern and central Germany, the Baltic and Slavic peoples in the east, and the Celtic peoples in the south and west. The central and southern groups mixed with the so-called Bell-Beaker people, who moved east from Spain and Portugal about 2000 B.C. The Bell-Beaker folk, probably Indo-Europeans, were skilled metalworkers. They developed a thriving Bronze Age culture in Germany and traded amber from the Baltic coast for bronze, pottery, and beads from the Mediterranean. From 1800 to 400 B.C., Celtic peoples in southern Germany and Austria developed a sequence of advanced metalworking cultures Urnfield, Hallstatt, and La Tène each of which spread throughout Europe. They introduced the use of iron for tools and weapons. The La Tène Celts did fine metalwork and used ox-drawn plows and wheeled vehicles. The Germanic tribes absorbed much Celtic culture and eventually displaced the Celts.

The first clash between Romans and Germanic peoples was in the 2nd century B.C., when the Cimbri and Teutons invaded Gaul and were defeated in present-day Provence. By this period, however, much of Germany was occupied by such Germanic tribes as the Suevi, Cherusci, and others. When the Romans in turn attempted to conquer the area east of the Rhine early in the first century A.D., they were defeated by the Cherusci chief Hermann (Arminius). By the mid-2nd century A.D. Germanic pressures on the Roman frontiers intensified. The emperor Marcus Aurelius waged successful warfare against the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Iazyges. By this period, German mercenaries were beginning to be used by the Roman armies. During the 3rd century A.D. more migrations caused a crisis within the empire, as Goths, Alamanni, and Franks penetrated German borders. Charlemagne, ruler of the Franks, consolidated Saxon, Bavarian, Rhenish, Frankish, and other lands. In the 5th century the Germans occupied the whole Western Roman Empire; over the next few hundred years, they adopted Christianity and laid the foundations of medieval Europe.

German language:…. The Langobardic dialect is of great historical interest because it is the earliest (mid-7th cent. A.D.) recorded German dialect, whereas the majority of German dialects can be traced back only to the 8th, 9th, or 10th centuries. Middle German consists of (1) Rhine Franconian, spoken in most of the Palatinate and Hesse, which contain the cities of Mainz, Heidelberg, Frankfurt am Main, and Marburg; (2) Mosel-Franconian (also see Siebenbürger Sächsisch) , used on both sides of the Mosel River and centering in the city of Trier; (3) Ripuarian, used between Aachen and Cologne; (4) Thuringian, heard in the environs of Weimar, Jena, and Erfurt; (5) Upper Saxon, spoken in Saxony, including the cities of Dresden and Leipzig; and (6) Silesian, used in Lower and Upper Silesia, northwest and southeast of Wrocaw (formerly called Breslau, now in Poland).

Germanic languages are still spoken today in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, and the English-speaking countries.


HISTORY: Reference to main periods.

Vienna Congress, European conference held in Vienna from September 1814 to June 1815. It was called to reestablish the territorial divisions of Europe at the end of the Napoleonic Wars after the downfall of Napoleon.

Second Crusade (1147-50) / Wendenkreuzzug

Copper Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age describes an evolution of European civilization:

The Bronze Age also brought to the settlement hills agricultural tell-dwellers, who further increased the height of the abandoned, long uninhabited neolithic mounds, although they set up new ones as well. The Copper, Bronze, and Iron Ages were crammed with armed clashes…Neolithic (=New Stone Age) to the Bronze Age, which commenced about 3000 B.C. and of which three phases were recognized: Early, Middle, and Late.

Early Bronze Age. About 3000 B.C. new people apparently arrived in the Aegean, perhaps from Asia Minor.

Middle Bronze Age. About 2200-1800 B.C. another wave of newcomers arrived in the Cyclades and on the mainland.

Late Bronze Age. The destruction of the Cretan palaces about 1450 B.C. (that of Knossos took place shortly after 1400 B.C.) was followed by the decline of the Minoans and the rise of the Mycenaeans……when they took over the Minoan trading empire.

Neolithic (or New Stone Age), ….People learned to grow food, rather than forage for it. This was the beginning of the Neolithic age, which, although ending in western Europe some 4500 years ago, continued elsewhere in the world until modern times.

General Note:

Nationsuniversität (Intact Unity of Transylvanian Saxons), please note and interpret accordingly: The word "nation" was used in reference to "class" or ethnic group at that time and not as a sovereign country. Three "standing-nations"= three national groups = drei ständische Nat.

Suggested References:





Note: Special characters with diacritic marks (breve for A and cedilla for S and T etc.) can’t be processed by my word processor. In recourse we used the closest available marks or just the plain letter.


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