Carpathian Germans

Around the 12th century, several Germans settled in the area of what is now Slovakia, requested to do so by a local Magyar leader. Muennichwies was the village that was entirely inhabited by Roman Catholic Germans who had their own culture and spoke German.

The town was established in 1113 and in modern-day Slovakia the name is Vricko and in Hungarian, it’s called Turoczremete. Other ways the name was spelled are Mönch Wies und Mönchwiese (Mönch means monk, and Wiese is meadow).

Collectively, these Germans are called Karpatendeutsche (Carpathian Germans), as they were living in the northern portions of the Carpathian mountains (the northern great Carpathian arc). Don’t confuse these people with the Transylvanian Saxons, another group of settlers who lived in the southern portions of the great Carpathian arc around the same time. These people are sometimes also (mistakenly) referred to as Carpathian Germans.

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Germans in America – A Chronological Overview

The American Census Bureau estimates that more than 55 million Americans claim partial or sole German descent. Most German Americans, though, are highly assimilated causing the use of the German language to have declined drastically in the United States. Here is a (limited) chronological overview of important dates and periods when it comes to Germans in America.

1608 – The first German settlers arrived in Jamestown.

1626 – Peter Minuit (Minuit meaning “Midnight”), also named Peter Minnewit was from the German town of Wesel (North Rhine-Westphalia). He became the governor of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam and later, he became the governor of the Delaware Swedish colony.

1683 – Franz Pastorius, led a group of 13 families from Krefeld (Westphalia) to Pennsylvania in pursuit of religious freedom. They established Germantown.

1700s – More and more German-speaking freedom seeking religious groups settled in the British colonies. These groups included Baptist Dunkers, Swiss Mennonites, Schwenkfelders, Amish, Moravians, and Waldensians and the majority of the German immigrants were part of the Lutheran and Reformed church. Most immigrants settled in Pennsylvania as redemptioners, meaning they got passage across the Atlantic Ocean if they agreed to work in the New Land for a four to seven year period of time. Most German settlers were skilled agricultural workers and craftsmen and the also were responsible got building the Conestoga wagon (famed for the American Frontier).

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So Many Germans in America…

Every year, on October 6, the United States is celebrating German-American Day to commemorate the establishment of Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1683. The day is mostly celebrated by the largest ancestry group in America with almost 50 million US citizens claiming full or part German heritage.

Former President Barack Obama said some years ago on German-American Day that the US citizens of German descent are excelling in practically all disciplines and that they have their minds open to expanding human development and possibilities. We are reminded of German achievements when we’re driving across suspension bridges, when we’re listening to a Steinway piano, or when we’re sending our children to kindergarten. In all these circumstances, we’re surrounded by their unique customs and traditions.

So how come there so many people of German descent in the United States? Well, it all started in the 1680s when a steady stream of German immigrants came to settle in the U.S. and the number of Germans made up almost ten percent of the total American population at the end of the 18th century. It all began on October 6th, 1683, when thirteen German Quaker families from the Krefeld region arrived in Philadelphia, and the place where they settled, on the northern portions of the city, became known as Germantown.

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Carpathian Germans in America 2

History of Carpathian Germans in America 2

The Interwar Years

Thanks to, among others, obituaries in the monthly editions of the Karpatenpost, and a phenomenal article by Kurt Sauter (“Gustav Adolf Weiss & der Zipser Bund von Amerika“) in the 1986 Karpatenjahrbuch (pages 110-115), we now know more about that period. After World War I ended, and mail services started to function again, Carpathian German-Americans learned about dislocation and the atrocities and incredible hunger in their home region.

Relief was not an easy thing to organize. Like other German-Americans, the Carpathian Germans had been vilified and attacked as “hyphenate Huns”, and many of them were surely intimidated so they wouldn’t express their concern publicly with fellow groups of individuals who were German as well. David Kennedy describes that hate-filled atmosphere very well in his work Over Here: The First World War and American Society  (1980), and also Joan Jensen in The Prince of Vigilance (1968) sets a clear picture. Many Carpathian Germans were discreetly and directly helping their families in a great way.

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Carpathian Germans in America 1

History of Carpathian Germans in America 1

The 1860s – World War I (1914-1918)

It could well be that Anton Schmidt, a Pressburg tinsmith, was the first Germany-based immigrant from the area that today is Slovakia in Central-eastern Europe. Already in the mid-1750s, Schmidt married into the Pennsylvania community of the Moravian Brothers. Anton Schmidt was born in Pressburg in 1725 and died in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 1793. Most probably, some more individuals immigrated to America as well in that period of time.

Later, between the 1860s and the start of World War I in 1914, tens of thousands of Carpathian Germans left Europe and emigrated to the New World. After 1900, many families immigrated to the area around Charleroi, Pennsylvania, especially people from the town of Muennichwies. Around 1940, Thomas Kendrick, a Muennichwies descendant, estimated the number at families in that area around three hundred.

More Carpathian Germans came to America, and families from the village of Metzenseifen settled in Cleveland, Ohio, to work at the factory of Theodor Kundtz (1852-1937). Kundtz was also from Metzenseifen who had gotten wealthy in the late 1800s manufacturing wooden cases for the sewing machines produced by White, at least that’s the story on a website of one of these immigrants’ granddaughter. Quite a few descendants of these Carpathian German families, with names like Eiben, Kundtz, and Mueller, still live in the Cleveland area.

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Carpathian Germans’ Emigration to the US

map1555The Period 1860 – World War I

In the years between the 1860’s and World War I, thousands of Carpathian Germans were emigrating to the United States. Several families settled in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, particularly from Muennichwies after 1900.

Thomas Kendrick, a direct descendant, estimated their number at some 300 families around the end of the 1930’s. Another Carpathian Germans group, from Metzenseifen, settled in the Cleveland, Ohio, to work for Theodor Kundtz, a Metzenseifener immigrant who by the end of the 19th century had become wealthy by building the wooden cases for White sewing machines.

Quite a descendants of these Carpathian German families (for example the Eiben, Kundtz, and Mueller families) are still living there.

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Immigration From Muennichwies To Charleroi, PA

Immigration List 1900 – 1921 from Muennichwies to Charleroi and the Mon Valley Area

1910 Census List (not in database) for Charleroi.

Immigration List Contributed by Thomas Tast, Germany

What follows is a list of those who emigrated from Muennichwies to the US, most to Charleroi and the Mon Valley area. Note that not all arrived through New York (Ellis Island). Others arrived in ports such as Baltimore. Unfortunately, records for ports other than NY are not yet available online. When known, the ship name is given followed by arrival port. The date is given in European style – date.month.year.

To complete and verify the information search for your ancestor at Ellis Island. Note that during this time Muennichwies was part of Hungary and in the last few years, part of Czechoslovakia. Its name in other languages is Vricko or Turocremete. You should also be aware that there were many misspellings. Be sure to look at a page before or after on the ship’s manifest as they typically took two pages. Here are the 1900 – 1921 listings:

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The First German Immigrants

The first immigrants from Germany went to America because of the German ‘Thirty Years War’. This war broke out 1618 due to religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants.

Between 60 thousand and one hundred thousand German speaking immigrants are estimated to have fled their home lands to set out for America during that colonial era. The first and earliest German settlement was one that was named Germantown, located in Pennsylvania.

The history of Germantown started in October 1683, when thirteen German-speaking families came to Pennsylvania on their ship named Concord.

The families originated from the Krefeld region in the German state of Rhineland. Francis Daniel Pastorius was the leader of these early German immigrants who were predominantly Mennonites, and he had obtained a piece of land from Pennsylvania’s founder, William Penn.

The first Germantown settlers were craftsmen and farmers. Initially, they survived in the settlements by selling their crafted tools and farm produce on the streets and markets in Philadelphia, and it wasn’t long before they established a linen-weaving and production business at their location. By 1870, the Germantown population had already increased to over 3,000.

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Museum of Carpathian German Culture – Bratislava

c_karpatske_nem_1Museum of Carpathian German Culture (SNM – Múzeum kultúry karpatských Nemcov)
Žižkova Street 14 / Vajanského nábrežie 2, PO Box 13, 810 06 Bratislava 16, Slovakia
Phone: +421 2 544 15 570 / +421 2 204 91 225-8
Fax: +421 2 59207241 / E-mail: mkkn@snm.sk
Opening hours: Daily except Mondays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admission: 4:30 p.m.)

The museum is part of SNM (Slovak National Museum) and opened its doors on January 1, 1997 as a specialized museum on the life of Carpathian Germans through the ages. The Department of History & Culture of Carpathian Germans, an organization that was founded in 1994 (on August 1) had proceeded the museum as part of the Historical Museum Section of SNM.

The Museum of Carpathian German Culture (MCGC) is collecting, preserving, protecting, processing, and showcasing materials, articles, and artifacts that demonstrate the life and culture in all its varieties through the ages of Carpathian Germans and it is the museum’s mission to treat their culture and history objectively.

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German Contributions to America

The contributions and achievements of German-Americans have through the centuries had a deep and lasting effect on how the United States has become the country that it is today. German immigrants, known for their hard work, thrift, practical skills, interest in the arts, crafts, and enjoyment of the good life, have definitely left their mark on American life and culture. Here we will highlight a few of the many German-Americans that played a prominent role in creating the United States as we know it today.

Many German immigrants contributed to transmitting and winning the freedoms that Americans are enjoying today. In 1735, the first key victory to gain freedom of the American press happened when John Peter Zenger, a journalist and printer with German-American roots, was granted the right by a jury to criticize the colonial government, and a Philadelphia-based German newspaper published the American Declaration of Independence first.

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