Rudolfsgnad - chronicle of a Danube-Swabian municipality 1866-1944

   The municipality Rudolfsgnad, named after Crown Prince Rudolf of Habsburg (1858 - 1889) was founded in 1866). The founding of the new Community was celebrated with a field fair in the marsh situated between the rivers Danube and Theiss, on Easter Monday of 1866; it counted 1902 souls.   After the first construction years Rudolfsgnad was hard hit by severe Floods in 1867, 1876, 1895 and 1907. Despite these strokes of fate a flourishing municipality developed from the daring settlement.

     The words of a poet "Out of a desert grew a flowering Eden ; out of the swamps arose a new   world" apply to Rudolfsgnad. 

The fight of the Rudolfsgnaders against the forces of nature and the adverse legal relations were described by the poet Adam Mueller-Gutenbrunn in his novel "Bells of the Homeland" (Glocken der Heimat).  

  The leaders of the Rudolfsgnad settlers were the brothers Heinrich and Josef Kirchner as well as the priest Ferdinand Loeschardt.  

  The town council of Rudolfsgnad consisted in the first years of thefollowing members: Heinrich Kirchner (executive committee), Josef Scheurich, Andreas Tissje, Ignaz Renaz, Johann Wacker, Wendl Lung, Michael Dornstauder, Josef Bleess, Anton Brenner, Johann Harle, Josef Unhold and Michael Glaser. 

  The first priest of the parish, which belonged to the Csanad diocese, was Ferdinand Loeschardt, the first teachers were Josef Kirchner and Johann Schummer.  

  The municipality initially built a school appropriate for its needs, which was also used as the house of worship, then a parsonage and the church, built in the new-gothic style, could already be inaugurated on November 1st 1877.  

  The development of the population shows the following number of inhabitants:  

1866

1902    Inhabitants

1891

2971    Inhabitants

1911

3419    Inhabitants

1921

2967    Inhabitants

1931

3069    Inhabitants

1941

2891    Inhabitants

 The boundary of the municipality Rudolfsgnad comprised 9,042 acres in addition came property of altogether 3,310 acres on neighbouring districts, so that together with the long leased fields the Rudolfsgnad farmers worked about 5,850 hectares (14,455 acres). 

  On October 13, 1944 the church tower of the municipality was destroyed by detonation. The priest Rudolf Schummer, who just happened to be on his way to the parsonage, was killed by falling debris. This event lead to the destruction of the municipality. 

  Rudolfsgnad became in the years 1945-1948 a feared and cruel extermination camp, in which thousands of Danube-Swabians met with death - thereby Rudolfsgnad became a symbol of the destruction of the Danube-Swabian homeland.  

  Through the events of the Second World War the Rudolfsgnaders were scattered into the four corners of the world, yet family- and neighbourly bonds were preserved. Therefore on July 16 and 17, 1966 the community of Rudolfsgnad could celebrate the hundred year anniversary of the founding of the community in the sister municipality of Leutenbach/Rems Murr-County, Germany. The sponsorship of the Danube-Swabian community Rudolfsgnad was taken over by the municipality Leutenbach, on suggestion of local council Josef Harle, a Rudolfsgnader, by local council resolution on November 18th, 1955.

  As a community bound by fate, the Rudolfsgnaders feel obligated to maintain the cultural heritage of the Danube-Swabians. With the donation of a model of the former municipality Rudolfsgnad, which is displayed in the house of the Danube-Swabians in Sindelfingen, Germany, a contribution to this cause is being made. 

Rudolfsgnad 1866-1944 and after

       1. Where do the settlers come from in 1866?

       2. Where do the Rudolfsgnaders go after October 1944?

     3. Outlook - the future of the Rudolfsgnad community             

       1. Where do the settlers come from in 1866?

  The village community Rudolfsgnad originates from a new settlement on the Perlaser marsh in the German-Banat border-government. Permission ensued on December the 8th 1865 through emperor Franz-Josef I. under condition that the border municipality might assume the name Rudolfsgnad. On Easter Monday, the 2nd of April 1866, the origin of the village community is being celebrated with a field fair. The village develops approximately 5 kilometers north of where the Theiss River feeds into the Danube River - at the eastern shore of the Theiss - approximately 50 kilometers north of Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Rudolfsgnad counts 1902 souls at its founding.

   A treatise in 1891 describes the first 25 years of the community. To this treatise is also attached a list of the Rudolfsgnaders of the year 1891. This recording contains, besides family and first name, also family status, year of birth, place of birth and notes regarding the occupation of the listed persons. The directory is arranged according to house numbers. Rudolfsgnad counts 2,971 inhabitants in the year 1891.

The information of this list was obtained by questioning the inhabitants - thus not by an analysis of the church books. The directory is - despite some errors e.g. in the specification of the birth years - a valuable contribution to the history and research of origin of the Rudolfsgnaders.

   An evaluation gives the following places of origin (or places of birth respectively):           

Etschka

519

Elemir

23

Betsche

   7

Sigmundfeld

188

St. Georgen

21

Heufeld

   7

Lasarfeld

 90

Malnitzdorf

20

Lukasdorf

   7

Klek

 75

Groß-Gaj

18

Nakodorf

   6

Ernsthausen

 73

Titel

17

St. Hubert

   6

Sartscha

 48

Stefansfeld

15

Hatzfeld

   6

Setschan

 36

Klein-Torak

12

Deutsch-Zerne

   6

Groß-Betschkerek 

 31

Neudorf

  9

Jankahid

   6

Perlas

 28

Dolatz

  9

Slankamen

   5

Tschestereg

 23

Tschawosch

 9  

other towns

176

    The events from 1891 to 1944 and further until 1966, are continued to be described in a chronicle by Dr. Anton Lehmann. The village community Rudolfsgnad is shaped by the administrative and political adversities of the founding period and the time thereafter, as well as by the inundations in the years 1867 - 1876 - 1895 - 1907.

  The successful reconstruction in each case after the inundations and the following economic success gives the Rudolfsgnaders a solid and self-confident nature. They call themselves with pride the "Riedwoelfe") "Marshwolves".

  The village community ended on October 3rd 1944, when a refugee wagon train set in motion at 9 AM, over the Theiss Bridge to leave the homeland forever. Even if some turned back - it was not a return to a village community - fate took its turn.

   2. Where did the Rudolfsgnaders go after October 1944?

   Escape, concentration camp or deportation to Russia. Rudolfsgnad still had 3,054 inhabitants in October 1944 (80 men, as soldiers were already killed in action). Rudolfsgnaders in military service: 716 persons; fleeing or already outside of Yugoslavia: 1,587 persons; civilians who remained in Yugoslavia and were, starting in October 1944, at the mercy of the Tito regime (of which 126 died, or were put to death): 751 persons.

   The fate of those who remained in Rudolfsgnad

   The fall of the village is symbolized by the detonation of the church tower by German troops. On October 13th the priest Rudolf Schummer is so severely wounded by debris, that he succumbs on the same day to his injury. On the same day the Bridge over the Theiss River was blown up.

    25 Rudolfsgnad men were so badly abused by Tito partisans during the night of October 15 to 16, 1944, that seven did not survive - four of the dead were hanged from trees in front of the town hall, to serve as "deterrence". The remaining eighteen abused were brought to Gross-Betschkereck and some did not survive the ongoing violations.

   On April 15/16, 1945 began the internment of the remaining inhabitants of Rudolfsgnad.

   In the period of April until October 1945 a concentration camp began to develop in Rudolfsgnad and existed until March 1948. 

  About 33,000 Germans passed through this concentration camp, in which periodically more than 20,000 humans were imprisoned. 9,503 persons did not survive the martyrdom, they lie buried in the mass graves of Rudolfsgnad in the Teletschka (fields south of the town).

 The escape  

  On October 3rd 1944 a wagon train set in motion across the Theiss bridge to leave the homeland forever. 1,566 Rudolfsgnaders fled across Hungary. Where did they go?

 According to the records in the chronicle of 1966, 1,566 persons lived:

700 families in Germany, 140 families in Upper Austria, 20 families in Lower Austria, further 60 families lived in the USA and Canada, 20 families in France, as well as several families in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and England.

 3. Origin of the hometown community  

   View - future of the Rudolfsgnader community, sponsorship, historical archive, homepage.

   With the escape and expulsion from the village of Rudolfsgnad, the hometown community Rudolfsgnad developed - a community of the former inhabitants as well as their descendants. It is a matter of over 900 families. The hometown community Rudolfsgnad is a member of the regional organization of Danube-Swabians in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany, as well as in the Federal association of the Danube-Swabian homeland Association in Germany. Close bonds and contacts were fostered and maintained through 14 large international reunions and regional meetings, which today still foster relationships, friendship- and neighborhood. 

  The assumption (transfer) of sponsorship for Rudolfsgnad by the municipality Leutenbach, near Stuttgart, Germany, on November 18, 1955, created a "crystallization point" for the registration, preservation and processing of facts and data pertaining to Rudolfsgnad. The creation of a "Danube-Swabian Homeroom" in exemplary co-operation with the historical society of Leutenbach in the local homeland museum and the start of the construction of a historical archive in co-operation with this association and the local administration, led by mayor Horst Gebhard, are building blocks for the listing of the historical and personal data and facts regarding the Rudolfsgnaders. Documents are collected and edited and are made available. For this reason this "homepage" - a generally accessible modern source of information via the "Internet" - has been created.

 Richard Harle 

Chairperson (president) of the homeland community Rudolfsgnad