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 and 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.
The Carpathian Germans were living predominantly in three regions. These are the Hauerland (Central Slovakia), the Zips (the Zipzer Germans in Upper Hungary, now Slovak territory), and around Pressburg (modern-day Bratislava). There were more small pockets of German settlers, for example in the Karpatho-Ukraine region, in Austria in the Cisleithanian crown lands of Bukovina and Galicia, and in the Hungarian portions of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy.
Since World War I, when we speak Carpathian Germans, we are only referring to the groups of Germans in Slovakia (the Slovak Germans or Slowakeideutsche, which includes the Zipser Germans) and the Germans of Carpathian Ruthenia (Karpatho-Ukraine).
Just before World War II, in 1938, there were more than 140,000 Carpathian Germans in the area of Slovakia, and around 18,000 in Carpathian Ruthenia (the Karpatho-Ukraine region). When the war was over, the Carpathian Germans were deported which cost many lives because of the genocide. Most survivors fled the area, and many emigrated to America.
At the last Czechoslovak Census of 1991, Slovakia counted almost 6,000 Carpathian Germans, though it is generally thought that that number must be higher, some say more than 10,000), and the number of Carpathian Germans living in the Karpatho-Ukraine region (now a portion of the Republic of Ukraine) is estimated at around 3,000. Check this post for an overview of Carpathian Germans’ Emigration to the US.
When we look at old books, documents, or family memories, please bear in mind that ‘Hungarian’ is referring to a specific citizenship, not to an ethnicity. All Hungarian Monarchy subjects were named Hungarians (and usually pretty patriotic about that), yet only a minority (in 1845 some 42 percent) were actually Magyars, ethnic Hungarians. For a chronological overview of German immigration in America, go to this post.
Main German settlement areas and main cities
Hauerland (in German: Proben, in Slovak: Nemecke Pravno, in Hungarian: Nemetprona)
Zips (in German: Käsmark, in Slovak: Kez^marok, in Hungarian: Késmárk)
Preßburger Land and the Island of Schuett (in German: Schüttinsel)
Preßburg (in Slovak: Bratislava, in Hungarian: Pozsony)
Karpatho-Ukraine (East of Slovakia)
Four Komitats (the main city was Munkatsch, in Hungarian: Munkacs)
When World War II had come to an end, Slovakia (in the 1938 boundaries) became part of Czecho-Slovakia again, whereas the Karpatho-Ukraine region became annexed by the Soviet Union, to become part of the Republic of Ukraine in 1991. To earn more about some lesser-known contributions of Germans in America, read this post.
The Czecho-Slovakia Republic dissolved again in early 1993 into the Republic of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Though the Germans from the Karpatho-Ukraine region are actually Carpathian Germans, they are, due to the present political borders issues, quite uncertain about their future. See also this post on the Museum of Carpathian-German Culture in Bratislava.
This post was originally published on December 12, 2016. This is a revised version.