The News
Dedicated to Austrian-Hungarian Burgenland Family History


May 31, 2011, © 2011 by The Burgenland Bunch
All rights reserved. Permission to copy excerpts granted if credit is provided.

Our 15th Year, Interim Editor: Thomas Steichen

The Burgenland Bunch Newsletter is issued monthly online.
It was founded by Gerald Berghold (who retired in Summer 2008 and died in August 2008).

Current Status Of The BB:
* Members: 1940 * Surname Entries: 6657 * Query Board Entries: 4601 * Number of Staff Members: 17

This newsletter concerns:


(by Matt Boisen)

(by Albert Schuch; reprint)

(by Klaus Gerger)


6) A 103rd BIRTHDAY
(courtesy of Bob Strauch)




(courtesy of Bob Strauch & Margaret Kaiser)

(courtesy of Bob Strauch)

1) THE PRESIDENT'S CORNER (by Tom Steichen)

This month's newsletter theme is the 90th Anniversary of the formation of Burgenland.

The key article
(Article 2) explains the events leading up to the creation of Burgenland after WW-I. BB Contributing Writer, Matt Boisen, starts us out in the ruins of war then guides us through the many conflicting interests... until, in the end, a new Austrian state was born some 90 years ago.

To accompany Matt's article, we are reprinting an Albert Schuch 2001 BB newsletter article, written for the 80th Anniversary of Burgenland (see Article 3). Albert's article has less about the birthing pains of Burgenland and much more about the subsequent 80 years, so it complements Matt's article well.

A complementary but new article is one by VP Klaus Gerger about the most recent 10 years of Burgenland history, taking up where Albert left off. His report is Article 4.

In addition, we point out a photo exhibit (Article 5) concerning people born in the year Burgenland was created and we share an article celebrating an even older birthday (see Article 6).

Lastly, on this topic, I'll note Gerry Berghold's 10-year-old comments on a March-April 2001 Burgenländische Gemeinschaft newsletter article titled "A tribute to Burgenland's 80th birthday." BG Editor, Dr. Walter Dujmovits, noted then that "the last 40 years have seen much improvement in the life of the province" and he closed his article with the words: "Our Province now has enough bread (sustenance) for its children. It is no longer necessary for them to emigrate." Gerry then commented that this was "a historic, and for us Auswanderer descendants, a very nostalgic moment. The end of the Burgenland Migration; the end of our beginning."


The remaining articles consist of a response to a member query, a short write-up on a member research effort, and the standard Historical article(s), Ethnic Events, and Obituaries.


1919: Europe lay prostrate, millions were dead, famine stalked the survivors and disease spread worldwide. Three great European empires, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia, lay in ruins. In Paris, the Peace Conference of 1919 had become the seat of a virtual world government, as delegates from over 30 countries met and discussed the outcome of the Great War. One of the main points of the conference was to assign blame for the war. The Great Powers (the United States, Great Britain and France) formally affirmed, “the responsibility of Germany and her Allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies." (Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles)

To understand the formation of Burgenland, one has to consider the maelstrom of events that occurred between 1918 and 1921. Starting in 1917, newly crowned Austrian Emperor Karl I (also titled as Karl IV, Apostolic King of Hungary) made several peace overtures to the Allies but was rebuffed, especially by the Italians, who had much to gain from a complete defeat of Austria-Hungary. Even before the Armistice, Hungary had separated from Austria during the so-called “Aster Revolution” of October 1918. In November 1918, Emperor Karl I stepped down from the Hapsburg throne and went into exile in Switzerland but, technically, did not abdicate as King of Hungary.

At this time, ownership of the area known as German West Hungary was in dispute. As early as 1907, the Hungarian German People’s Party, led by Karl Wollinger, promoted rights for Germans in West Hungary, with an aim toward greater autonomy. After the Armistice, Sopron resident and Austrian nationalist Odo Rötig christened the area as “Vierburgenland” because the area consisted of the four counties known in German as Pressburg (Poszony), Wieselburg (Moson), Ödenburg (Sopron) and Eisenburg (Vas). In December 1918, less than a month after the Armistice, Wollinger brought together several villages in the lower Lafnitz and Raba valleys, which became known as the “Forty Gemeinden of Szent Gotthárd.” He demanded “for the Germans of West Hungary the rights of self-determination and ask the Austrian Government to intercede, with all its means, at the peace negotiations in Paris, to have German West Hungary separated from Hungary and joined to German Austria” (Borderland: A Historical and Geographical Study of Burgenland, Austria. Andrew Burghardt, University of Wisconsin Press, 1963, pp. 170-1).

However, the Czechs and Slovaks flexed their newfound political muscle and claimed Pressburg for Czechoslovakia. They also proposed to the Great Powers a plan for turning the remainder of the disputed land into a corridor uniting the Slavic populations of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The withdrawal of Pressburg rendered the term “Vierburgenland” obsolete, but the general idea was popular with Germans on both sides of the proposed border, so the shortened name, “Burgenland,” became a rallying point for Austrian nationalists. A joke went around that the Austrian Chancellor found the new Austria “a bit too small. So we will borrow some land from the Hungarians!” His suggestion for a name… “Ausburgenland” (ausborgen = borrow). (

In light of the planned territorial redistribution by the Great Powers, there was a scramble by the concerned parties. The Austrians and Hungarians, with the most to lose, were the most active in their attempts to hold onto as much land as they could, despite the fact that neither country was officially represented in Paris. They realized they were fighting an uphill battle against Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania. Nonetheless, the Austrians had several strong arguments for receiving Burgenland: without it, Vienna would be too close to a border with new, unfriendly countries and she would be without the traditional agricultural base that fed her population, since Hungary was now an independent state. In addition, the majority of inhabitants (74%) were German-speaking Catholics, much like Austria itself. In contrast, just 15% spoke Croatian and only 9% claimed Magyar as their native language (

The Hungarians maintained that the area had always been a part of Hungary; that the inhabitants had been successfully “Magyarized” and were comfortable with Hungarian rule; that the puszta-style farmhouses with their long-handled wells, the flocks of geese, the hanging bunches of corn, the strange dialects and the endless views to the east were typical of Hungary. Hungarian nobles also did not want to give up their profitable estates. Hungary stood to lose vast amounts of territory; and though Burgenland would be the smallest concession, it was symbolic.

In January 1919, the new Hungarian republic granted the Germans in West Hungary full autonomy under the auspices of a new province called Westungarn. This dream, however, would soon end given the events of March 1919.

In Paris, the Austrians worked quietly among the delegates, not creating disturbances and behaving themselves. The Hungarians, on the other hand, seemed to explode with a nationalistic fervor that, unfortunately, worked against them. As the delegates in Paris considered the matter, the first Hungarian democratic republic, under Mihály Károlyi, fell on March 21, 1919, to a Bolshevik-inspired coup that put Béla Kun in power. The Kun government then sent troops to disputed areas claimed by newly formed Czechoslovakia and Romania. In response, Romania invaded Hungary and occupied Budapest, forcing the Kun government out of power; the new “Kingdom of Hungary,” under the Regency of Admiral Miklós Horthy, was born. Horthy officially represented the exiled King, Karl IV, but since there was little interest in returning a Hapsburg to the throne, Horthy was King in all but name. (Horthy, as Regent, would rule Hungary until 1944, later becoming an ally with Nazi Germany, in part, to reclaim the territory “lost” in the Treaty of Trianon.)

Among the Great Powers, there was more sympathy for Austria than Hungary. The President of the Peace Conference, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, had vacationed in Austria and his sister-in-law was Austrian. Austria had no strong nationalism, having never been a country, and was at peace with its neighbors. There was a feeling that Austria had been a “junior partner” in the alliance with Germany and, in addition, the “well meaning but abortive attempts in 1917 by the new emperor to open peace negotiations left a favorable impression at least on the British and the Americans” (p. 247, Paris 1919, Margaret McMillan, Random House, 2001). British Prime Minister Lloyd George took a particular dislike to Hungary. “This very day, I had a conversation with someone who has visited Hungary and who knows it well; he tells me that this country has the worst system of landholding in Europe. The peasants there are as oppressed as they were in the Middle Ages, and manorial law exists there” (pp 257-8, McMillan).

According to Dr. Burghardt, it was “common knowledge throughout Europe that the Magyars had attempted to suppress the linguistic strivings of the non-Magyars within the kingdom.” Austria had tolerated a more polyglot Empire (Burghardt, p. 165). The Bolshevik takeover of Hungary along with the subsequent war with Romania was the tipping point for many delegates in favoring Austria over Hungary. This short-lived Soviet-style Republic flamed fears already haunting delegates in Paris, so the Great Powers turned a jaundiced eye toward future Hungarian demands.

The Treaty of Versailles of June 1919 officially ended the war between Germany and the Great Powers. Germany was allowed plebiscites in five disputed border areas. Austria, an ally of Germany, signed a separate Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye in September of 1919, which declared the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the recognition of the Republic of Austria, and assigned war guilt and reparations. The Great Powers created new states from the former Hapsburg Empire and redistributed land among them. They allowed a plebiscite in only one area of Austria, the Klagenfurt basin in southern Carinthia, despite Austrian pleas for more. However, one of the clauses also awarded the western portion of Hungary, known as “German West Hungary” (minus Pressburg, which became Bratislava, capital of the Slovaks), to Austria. This meant that Austria would be the only defeated country to gain territory after the war. Because this was the era of the concept of self-determination, it was preferred that the inhabitants of Burgenland choose how they would join Austria. It was not to be a simple annexation or absorption into the adjacent provinces of Lower Austria and Styria (Burghardt, p. 213).

Final Territorial Redistribution 1921 (from: Historical Atlas of East Central Europe. Paul Magocsi, University of Washington Press, 1993, p. 126).

But it never came to a vote. The vast majority of West Hungarians—German, Croat and Magyar alike—were not consulted on their wishes. After the events of 1919, the rather conservative majority of peasants, mostly German Catholic, did not like the situation in Budapest—but were not thrilled with joining socialist Austria either. The cultural and linguistic ties with Austria, and the recent Bolshevik takeover in Hungary, certainly were major factors favoring Austria. West Hungary had always had stronger economic ties to Vienna than Budapest. Therefore, the people in the disputed province appeared resigned to becoming Austrians. Certainly, most of the agitation against Austrian rule originated outside of the area (Burghardt, p. 177). In January of 1920, six months after the Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye, an Allied Military Commission composed of officers from Italy, France, Britain and, later, Austria and Hungary went to Burgenland to oversee the transfer. The Hungarians refused to leave until the South Slavs left southern Hungary. The Hungarians also insisted on a plebiscite, especially since the area around Sopron contained a large Magyar population. Nothing came of talks between Austria and Hungary on this matter, partly because of the political differences between the Social Democrats of Austria and the right-wing conservatives in Budapest (Swanson).

In June 1920, Hungary, as part of the former Empire, signed the Treaty of Trianon that affirmed war guilt and reparations. Large portions of the old Kingdom were awarded to her new neighbors, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Romania and, of course, Austria. As a result, Hungary lost more than 70% of her former territory, half of her most populous cities, as well as access to the sea. According to both Treaties, the final transfer of Burgenland to Austria would occur in August of 1921.

In October 1920, the deadlock over the transfer of the Burgenland appeared to resolve with the election of a more conservative government in Vienna. The Christian Socialists shared many ideological views with the Horthy government and made overtures to Budapest to resolve the matter, but the Hungarians were not prepared to negotiate. Neighboring countries became involved, as they recognized that compromise would maintain the peace in Central Europe. In December 1921, the Italian ambassador in Vienna approached the Austrian Chancellor and offered to mediate. The Austrians accepted. The Italians then turned to the Hungarians. The Hungarians appeared interested, but only if Austria gave up large territorial concessions. Hungary also asked that Germany mediate instead. Germany had its own problems and declined. On Feb 23, 1921, formal discussions began between Austria and Hungary—but they were reminded by the powers in Paris that no border revisions would be allowed.

In March 1921, to Hungary’s dismay, Karl IV suddenly appeared at Szombathely with his wife, Queen Zita, in a misguided move backed by loyalists to regain his throne. Despite international protest, they toured estates and churches, met with nobility and made a stately show as they traveled, from “friendly” territory in the West to Magyar-dominated Budapest, to meet with the Regent and his government. Horthy reportedly told the former Emperor that he must end this “mad adventure” and return to Switzerland at once. The surrounding countries of Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia signed mutual assistance pacts against Hungary, in what would be called the “Little Entente.” Czechoslovakia was threatening to invade. Karl returned to Szombathely and dug in, supposedly bedridden. The Swiss then refused to accept his return but British and French intervention allowed him to return to Switzerland in an ambulance. This ended what the Hungarians regarded as the “First Royal Putsch” and the Hungarian government was shaken up. The new Prime Minister, Istvan Bethlen, reestablished negotiations and asked for a plebiscite in Burgenland. The Hungarians believed that many Burgenländers “could see no justice in their being handed over to Austria” (“A Royal Putsch in Hungary, 1921." Contemporary Review, August 1, 1997, Patrick Thursfield).

The Treaty of Trianon went into effect in August 1921. The Austrians were allowed to move troops into the region and regular Hungarian troops moved out. However, Hungarian “irregulars” (others called them “snipers” and “bandits”) remained and attacked Austrian troops on August 28, forcing the Austrians to retreat. The insurgents even invaded Austria proper, with an attack on Kirchschlag in Lower Austria on September 5. The insurgents, under Pal Pronay, then proclaimed the independent state of “Lajtabánság” on October 4, 1921 (Swanson, p. 4).

The Austrians sent army units to protect the border and chase the invaders away, and appealed to the Little Entente for help. Czechoslovakia was prepared to intervene and Italy jumped at the chance to mediate the dispute. Of all the Allies, Italy had the greatest stake in a strong Hungary: Yugoslavia threatened her eastern border and the Italians saw Hungary as the only potential ally against the Slavs of the region. The area around Sopron continued to be an issue between the parties, and Italy approached the Austrians with the possibility of a plebiscite involving Sopron and eight surrounding villages. Austria agreed, and signed the Venice Protocol on October 15, 1921.

Then Karl reappeared on October 20, 1921, this time in Sopron. This “Second Royal Putsch” was more serious and nearly destroyed the fragile hopes of a peace. The timing could not have been a coincidence. Hungarian Prime Minister Bethlen had scheduled a speech outlining the Venice agreement, which included, as a compromise to the loyalists still in government, a clause stating that the matter “could not be resolved without involving the King.” The loyalists, or “Legitimists,” were suspected of blocking telephone and telegraph lines so that Bethlen, not knowing the King was in Sopron, would make the speech affirming the King’s involvement, tying Bethlen’s hands and preventing Hungary from taking any action against the King in the future. Ambassadors of the Great Powers, as well as the Little Entente, warned Bethlen that under no circumstances would Karl be allowed to rule in Hungary, and threatened armed intervention. By now, Karl was heading east toward Budapest with three trains, two of which were filled with Legitimist troops. Bethlen and Horthy organized troops in response and a battle was fought at Budaörs on the western edge of Budapest. Horthy’s troops were victorious and Karl was forced to leave on a British ship via the Danube. The Hungarian parliament formally dethroned the Hapsburgs later that year. Karl and Zita found refuge at Madeira, where Karl died of pneumonia the following year (Thursfield, “A Royal Putsch in Hungary, 1997). Interestingly, because of two miracles attributed to him, Pope John Paul II beatified Karl in 2004, in preparation for sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church.

In November 1921, the Hungarians dissolved the “operetta state” of Lajtabánság and the Sopron plebiscite went ahead as planned on December 14-16, 1921 (Swanson, p. 4). The plebiscite was divided into two parts, one for the city of Sopron and one for eight surrounding villages, Ágfalva, Fertõrákos, Sopronbánfalva, Kópháza, Fertõboz, Balf, Harka and Nagyczenk (Burghardt, p. 183).

Sopron city voted 73% for Hungary; the villages, 55% for Austria. The aggregate total revealed 65% approved union with Hungary. Accordingly, Hungary received both Sopron and the villages on January 1, 1922 (The Sopron Plebiscite of 1921: A Success Story, Swanson).

Charges were made that the Hungarians used armed intimidation to affect the results, but Vienna ratified the outcome. Many Austrians, and almost all Burgenländers outside of Sopron, maintained that the plebiscite had been a “swindle.” Despite evidence of a lack of safeguards at polling places, the majority of voters probably had been in favor of union with Hungary anyway. Sopron was a Magyar city and a center of Hungarian politics and culture. Even though many inhabitants spoke German, they did not always identify with Austria, having been disillusioned with the Hapsburgs in the past (pp. 182-4, Burghardt).

As a result, Burgenland became a disfigured province, losing its “natural capital” of Sopron (Burghardt, p. 216). Burgenländers were devastated. Years later, hopes still remained that Hungary would return the city as a gesture of friendship. There were some who thought that, without Sopron, the state would become such a “monstrosity that it would fall to Hungary of its own weight; it would be forced to unite itself with its lost capital city,” a position the Hungarians were pleased to consider (Burghardt, p. 188). Viability of the new province became the main concern in the ensuing years.

Because Burgenland was a brand-new political entity, there was no Landtag (state representative assembly) nor governor, like had existed in the other provinces during the Imperial era. Each original Hungarian county had looked toward their own central city and then to Vienna or Budapest, but rarely toward each other. With Sopron lost to Hungary, the largest “city” in the province was Eisenstadt, with a population of 5000, followed by Rust and Mattersburg. Major thoroughfares led to Sopron or Wiener Neustadt, both of which were outside of Burgenland. Rail connections were severed, as most railroads had run through the Sopron salient. There were no large schools, halls, apartment buildings or cultural centers. The area lacked leaders as well as most of the educated people had been Magyars, or had been Magyarized, and had left after the transfer to Austria (Burghardt, pp. 210-213).

Dr. Robert Davy became the provisional governor of Burgenland in January 1921, and was succeeded in 1922 by Dr. Alfred Rausnitz. In July of 1922, the first parliamentary elections were held and the name and heraldic arms of Burgenland were officially adopted. Four candidates for the capital city were considered: Eisenstadt, Mattersburg (pop. 3700), Sauerbrunn (pop. 1400) and Pinkafeld (pop. 2500). For a time, Wiener Neustadt, although situated in Lower Austria, was considered as the best location for a temporary capital due to its size and amenities. Burgenländers rallied with a newspaper blitz that heavily favored Eisenstadt. The consensus was that “only Eisenstadt could pretend to the title of ‘city’, that Mattersburg was but a large market village and Sauerbrunn a spa.” The powers that existed, located in the north of the province, never seriously considered Pinkafeld. In April of 1925, the Landtag decided that, despite having a reputation as a center for “Eszterházy-Magyar-sympathizers,” Eisenstadt would be the new seat of provincial government (Burghardt, p. 220). Significantly, it was not designated as the “capital” (Hauptstadt). Sopron remained the “true” Hauptstadt of Burgenland, which the Burgenland constitution of 1926 stressed (Burghardt, p. 222).

The census of 1923 revealed a higher proportion of ethnic Germans in Burgenland (80%), largely because many Hungarians emigrated following the union with Austria. Immigration to the US peaked the same year ( Many Magyars feared retaliatory action by ethnic Germans and felt “they would not be able to breathe in Austria.” “Magyaronen” was still a slur in the early 1960s, as it was a “widespread belief in Burgenland that the Magyaronen were traitors” (Burghardt, p. 155).

With the creation of the new province came the question of its eastern boundary. In 1922, a border commission of three men (one French, one English and one Japanese) was set up, accompanied by representatives from Austria and Hungary. They traveled from village to village with thirteen questions regarding food supplies, trade connections, local government, religion and other pertinent queries. Answers were usually not clear or honest, and the entourage often met villagers loudly demonstrating their loyalty for either Austria or Hungary, depending on the locale. Rumor had it that the commissioners were “charmed” (bribed?) by the Hungarian nobility at various stops, allowing territory to remain in Hungary.

The commission had four major concerns:
1. that the railroad from Bratislava to Csorna remain entirely within Hungary;
2. that the vaunted concept of self-determination by the locals be allowed as much as possible;
3. that the townships (Gemeinden) not be cut apart and divided, but have the boundary run along existing township limits; and
4. that local trade and communication routes be kept intact as much as possible.

Of course, the last concept was very difficult to maintain (Burghardt, p. 191-2). The result was a wandering boundary that cut through trade areas, did not follow topographic features and ignored strategic positions with “a consistency that is astounding” (Burghardt, p. 190). “Natural trade areas” were destroyed with the loss to Hungary of Sopron, Köszeg and Szent-Gotthárd. The opposite was true for several villages that should have gone to Hungary, but remained in Austria and subsequently withered economically (Burghardt, p. 205). In the end, the Hungarians won back many strong military positions in the area, which kept the Burgenländers in a state of anxiety for years. As a compromise, an agreement in 1926 allowed a duty-free zone fifteen kilometers wide for transport of goods by the peasants for their own use. Medical professionals could also practice on both sides of the border without penalty.

Many decades of difficulty would lay ahead for the new state, but Burgenland endured thanks, in part, to the resilient folk who lived there. They accepted the strange borders, the separation of family and friends, the Russian occupation after WW-II, the cut-off roads that led to minefields and the economic stagnation that left Burgenland as a backwater for years. In addition to Eisenstadt, other towns and cities took on the role of economic centers lost to Hungary, among them Oberpullendorf, Mattersburg, Oberwart and Güssing (Burghardt, p. 236-7).

The threat of Communism did not end with Bela Kun and, for years, Burgenland was a frontier of democracy facing the Soviet Bloc. The rural state became a gateway to freedom for political refugees from the east, particularly in 1956 after the brutal Soviet invasion of Hungary and, again, in 1989, with the symbolic “cutting of the Iron Curtain” by Austria and Hungary, allowing East Germans to seek asylum in the West. Ironically, 1989 was also the year that the last Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, Zita, died.

Today, on the eve of the 90th anniversary of the creation of Burgenland, there does not seem to be much fuss on the Austrian side. The federal and provincial websites, as of yet, do not mention any commemorative activities for 2011-12.

The Hungarians, however, have not forgotten. Various websites mention the “tragedy” of the Treaty of Trianon and a special sitting of the Hungarian parliament (on the 90th anniversary of the Treaty in 2010) officially declared it as such. The American Hungarian Federation’s website includes such terms as “the dismemberment of Hungary,” “so-called peacemaking” and comment how Hungarians were treated as “pawns and chattels” by the Treaty. To this day, the website prominently declares Sopron as “The Loyal City,” precisely because of the plebiscite that happened so many years ago.

The troubled birth and subsequent growing pains of Burgenland did not result in a “monstrosity” after all and, today, the state has rightfully taken its place as a “well-developed, flourishing, indispensable and welcomed part” of Austria and the other states of Europe as a whole. (US Federal News Service, Austrian President Heinz Fischer at the Landhaus in Eisenstadt, November 30, 2006).



Paris 1919. Margaret McMillan, Random House, 2001.

Borderland: A Historical and Geographical Study of Burgenland, Austria. Andrew Burghardt, University of Wisconsin Press, 1963.

The Sopron Plebiscite of 1921: A Success Story. East European Quarterly, March 22, 2000, John C. Swanson.

Historical Atlas of East Central Europe. Paul Magocsi, University of Washington Press, 1993.

A Royal Putsch in Hungary, 1921. Contemporary Review, August 1, 1997, Patrick Thursfield.

• US Federal News Service, Austrian President Heinz Fischer at the Landhaus in Eisenstadt, 11/30/2006. 

(Reprinted from BB Newsletter 100B, October 31, 2001)

Burgenland 1921-2001

When World War I came to an end in November 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Empire ceased to exist and, amongst other Succession States, the Republic of Austria (initially called German-Austria) came into being. The Peace Treaty of Saint Germain (September 1919) has been referred to as the "birth certificate" of Burgenland, because it added that area, then known as "German Western Hungary," to the new Republic.

The predominantly German parts of the Hungarian counties of Wieselburg / Moson, Ödenburg / Sopron and Eisenburg / Vas (which included substantial Croatian and Hungarian minorities) were to become a part of Austria because of their centuries-old cultural, economic and social ties to the neighboring provinces of Styria and Lower Austria. This sowed the seeds for a quarrel between Austria and Hungary.

Austria was not happy about the new province, an area of poor rural villages. In 1921, none of the 327 municipalities had more than 5000 inhabitants. There were only 31 companies with more than 20 employees, and most of them were soon to have financial troubles. It was a lucky coincidence that the Austrian Chancellor at that time, Dr. Karl Renner, had personal ties to the area: His wife Luise Stoisits, a Croatian from Güssing, had worked as a maid in Vienna, like many young women from Western Hungary.

Work was scarce, and Burgenländers went not only to Vienna but also emigrated to America by the thousands in the 1920s and 1930s. They had already done so in the decades before the war. They were used to migration, having worked as harvest laborers in the Great Hungarian Plain for centuries, or as craftsmen in Budapest and other Hungarian cities, and in Vienna, Styria or Lower Austria. In 1929, Dr. Ludwig Leser, a leading Social Democratic politician, observed: "There is no other province in Austria with a population that is so constantly on the move. Without exaggeration, we can say that one third of the Burgenland is always away from home."

The name "Burgenland" was soon established for this new and ninth Austrian province. Dr. Robert Davy, a senior civil servant, was appointed preliminary governor of Burgenland in January 1921, to be succeeded by Dr. Alfred Rausnitz. (Davy was born in Königsberg (East Prussia) in 1867 as Robert Henry Louis Davy, he was the son of a Scottish railway engineer. His son Robert Davy, a singer at the Vienna State Opera, was a leading member of the Viennese Society of Burgenländers in the 1920s and 1930s and an ardent collector of Burgenland folk music.)

According to the Peace Treaty of Trianon, Hungary had to turn over the Burgenland on August 1921. When Austrian forces entered the country, they faced unexpected casualties due to the fierce resistance put up by Magyar guerillas; outnumbered and outgunned, they retreated.

In October 1921 a new treaty was signed in Venice, wherein, Hungary promised to end its guerilla war in exchange for a plebiscite over Ödenburg, the capital-to-be of the new province, and its hinterland. In later years it has become obvious that this plebiscite was in fact a mere cover-up for a political deal, by which the Ödenburg area was de facto ceded to Hungary.

In November 1921, the Austrian military moved into Burgenland and it officially became a part of Austria. The Ödenburg plebiscite had resulted in a 65 percent majority for Hungary; the area was lost to Austria, and the new province was in need of a new capital city, initially, the spa of Sauerbrunn.

The first provincial elections in June 1922 ended with a surprise: In a predominantly agrarian country, the Social Democrats won 13 seats, leaving 10 for the Christian-Social (Conservative) Party, 6 for the Farmers' Party and 4 for the Pan-German Party. This can be explained by the average size of the Burgenland farms: Most of them were so small that their owners had to have a second job. Hence they were farmers as well as workers. (Many also crossed the Atlantic to try and make enough money in America to return and purchase more land.)

In 1925, Eisenstadt became the seat of the new capital, with Sauerbrunn and Pinkafeld as runners-up. It took four more years before the government actually moved to Eisenstadt.

1931 -

In Austria, the time between 1918 and 1938, generally referred to as the "First Republic", was a time of political instability and violence. A shootout in the village of Schattendorf (in the district of Mattersburg) between two rival paramilitary groups led to even bloodier riots in Vienna. The tension erupted into a full scale Civil War in February 1934 when the Conservative government ordered the military to suppress the Socialist militia in Vienna and other parts of Austria.

Later that year, the Nazis showed their growing strength by staging a coup. The Conservative Chancellor-Dictator Dr. Engelbert Dollfuss (who had closed the parliament and outlawed political parties) was murdered, but the coup failed, mainly because Nazi Germany did not dare to intervene. The Germans could not afford to alienate the Italian "Duce," Benito Mussolini, who was visibly backing the Austrian regime by concentrating his troops along the Tyrolean border. Four years later, in March 1938, the Nazis took over Austria and united it with Germany. Mussolini then needed the support of Germany for his campaigns in Africa and remained silent, as did the rest of the world. Only Mexico formally protested the annexation of Austria.

Whether the majority of the population really welcomed this is still in dispute. There can be no doubt that the Nazis had a large following in Austria at that time, and there were also many people who supported the annexation despite the fact that they distrusted the Nazis. Union with Germany had been the dream of many politicians of the "First Republic."

Many Jews were now forced to leave the country. Whoever was considered a political enemy by the Nazis, and did not manage to get out in time, faced a grim future - like the Conservative governor of Burgenland, Hans Sylvester, who died in the concentration camp of Dachau, Germany.

In October 1938, Burgenland was split into two parts: The South was annexed to Styria, the North became a part of Lower Austria. It would be interesting to know whether a majority of the population were pleased. It seems that there was little resistance because the North and the South were still pretty much separated from each other. There was (and still is) no direct railway linking the two parts, and the building of a motorway (the "Nord-Süd-Verbindung") connecting them was not started until 1948.

1941 -

Towards the end of WW-II, Eisenstadt and Güssing were bombed. The authorities ordered the building of a fortification along the Hungarian border, the "Südostwall." The local population had to take part in the construction, along with slave labor, mostly Hungarian Jews. Mass killings occurred in Balf/Wolfs (on the Hungarian side of the border), Deutsch Schützen and Rechnitz, carried out by Gestapo and SS guards, probably aided by the local population.

The "Südostwall" turned out to be of little military value. Russian troops easily crossed the border in January 1945 near Klostermarienberg. Many villages were shelled. They soon occupied Eisenstadt. As Helmut Stefan Milletich, one of Burgenland's best known writers, has put it in a recent article, "the classic vae victis! became reality" for many women during these weeks. Of course they were not the only victims of the Nazi years: Thousands of men had been drafted into the German army. Many of them were killed or reported missing in action, and a number of them died in Russian POW camps.

There were also those who had had no chance to fight for their lives: Jews from Burgenland who did not manage to find sanctuary, and Gypsies, who were equally persecuted by the Nazis.

Of the surviving Jewish emigrants, only a handful returned after 1945. Today just a few cemeteries remind us of several centuries of Jewish life and culture. A museum has been established in Eisenstadt and the Synagogue in Schlaining has been bought and renovated by the local Peace University. This academic institution was founded by Dr. Gerald Mader, a former member of the provincial government. Earlier this year a group of Jewish descendants from Stadtschlaining met and visited their old home town. It should be noted that this event was initiated by BB member Regina Espenshade.

As for the Gypsies, many died in concentration camps. Ironically, a lot of them died not far from their home, in the camp of Lackenbach (in the district of Oberpullendorf). The survivors returned to their villages or went to Vienna, were they often claimed they were Yugoslavians - to avoid discrimination. The man who perhaps deserves most of the credit for raising the official status of the Gypsies (today called Roma), Mr. Rudolf Sarközi, was born in the aforementioned Lackenbach camp, to which his mother, a native of Unterschützen, had been deported. Thanks to the work of Mr. Sarközi and his associates, Austria granted gypsies the full legal status of an ethnic minority in 1993. (To date [Ed: 2001] Austria is the only European country to do so.)

At the end of WW-II, the Austrian interim government was not too eager to re-establish the Burgenland as an independent province, but local politicians pressed for it. They had a powerful ally: The Russians wanted an independent Burgenland also. They did not want the British zone of Austria (i.e., Styria and Carinthia) to border Hungary. In October 1945, Burgenland once again became an independent province. Dr. Ludwig Leser, Social Democrat, was appointed governor. (Much to the surprise of the public, it was revealed just a few weeks ago [Ed: in 2001] that Dr. Leser, who died in October 1946, served as a spy for the Gestapo during the war.)

The first provincial elections, in November 1945, ended with a victory of the Conservative People's Party (17 seats). The Socialist Party won 14 seats; the Communist Party gained one. In 1949, the Conservatives won another seat from the Socialists, while the Communist seat was won by the right-wing "Party of the Independents," a predecessor of today's [Ed: 2001] much-disputed Freedom Party.

1951 -

The first Census after the war, in June 1951, counted 276,136 inhabitants in Burgenland. In 1955, the Allied forces left Austria, which once again became an independent state. In the wake of the Hungarian uprising of 1956, most of the 180,000 refugees crossed through Burgenland - 70,000 of them passing over the "Bridge at Andau" (which also became the title of a bestselling book by US author James A. Michener).

1961 -

In 1960, DDr. Stefan Laszlo was ordained as the first bishop of the newly created Burgenland diocese. The parishes had belonged to the Hungarian dioceses of Steinamanger / Szombathely and Raab / Györ before 1921 and had later been supervised by an Apostolic administrator. In 1961, the first "Picnic" - a meeting of emigrated Burgenländers - was organized by the "Burgenländische Gemeinschaft".

The elections of 1964 ended with a long-lasting turn of the political tide: The Socialist Party won 16 seats, the Conservatives 15. With the help of the Freedom Party (one seat), Hans Bögl was elected governor. He was succeeded in 1966 by Theodor Kery, who is widely credited for starting the process of modernization throughout the province. Amongst other things, the number of municipalities was decreased from 319 to 138 in 1971 but, since then, several of the "old" municipalities have again become independent.

1971 -

During the 1970s, so called "Cultural Centers" were built in each district, and the Burgenland, especially the South, attracted many Austrian artists. It became en vogue to buy a small farm house at the dead end of the Western World, next to the Iron Curtain. Plenty of those houses were available, and they still are today, but they are no longer as cheap.

The economic structure underwent rapid change in the 1960s and 1970s. In response to dwindling employment in the agricultural sector, the government lured foreign investors into the country to boost industrialization. One of the most prestigious projects was the "Saniped" plant in Großpetersdorf (owned by Dr. Scholl's/Schering Plough), which for years was the largest employer of Burgenland. But like most of the new industry, the plant used cheap, unskilled labor. Many of the skilled workers commuted to Vienna or Graz, as they had always done. Due to better means of transportation, weekly commuting was more often replaced by daily commuting.

1981 -

When average wages rose in the early 1980s, some of the plants were closed, moving to Eastern Europe or the Far East. Promising cheap land and tax breaks, the government again managed to bring new companies to Burgenland, like Packard Electric (Delphi), which replaced the "Saniped" factory in Großpetersdorf.

Additional material from Klaus Gerger: In 1983, a Burgenländer, Dr. Fred Sinowatz, was elected Federal Chancellor of Austria, following Bruno Kreisky. Hans Sipötz was governor of Burgenland from 1987 to 1991 and was succeeded from 1991 to 2000 by Karl Stix.

1991 -

The Iron Curtain fell in 1989 and Burgenland suddenly found itself in the center of a "new" Europe. In the referendum of 1994, a 75% majority of Burgenländers agreed to join the European Union. This approval, the highest of all Austrian provinces, can to some extent be explained by it having been promised "Objective 1" status: Mainly due to the poor economic development of the southern districts, Burgenland was granted this status, which allows large public subsidies for businesses who are willing to create new jobs (or who manage to prove that they need the subsidy to "save" existing jobs).

Despite a few spectacular investments in the south - like the Lyocell fiber plant in Heiligenkreuz (district of Jennersdorf) and the golf resort in Stegersbach (district of Güssing) - it has been argued that the north, and especially Eisenstadt, have profited most from "Objective 1" status. The preliminary results of the census of 2001 support this view, showing that the southern districts have lost population, while the northern ones have gained. The capital city of Eisenstadt grew by ten percent, from 10,349 inhabitants (in 1991) to 11,394, in 2001.

Additional material from Klaus Gerger: In Güssing, the “European center for renewable energy” was founded in 1996 with the ambitious objective to create a model region which could supply energy in the fields of heating, biodiesel and electricity from its own renewable resources. Güssing was recognized with several awards in this field. An unexpected outcome of the various projects was the increase of eco-energy tourism – visitors from all over the world interested in the local eco technology.

A two day festival commemorating the 80th "birthday" of Burgenland had been scheduled to take place in mid September. But the public festivities have been cancelled as a result of the terrorist attacks on the USA.

A special exhibition, June-October 2001 in the Provincial Museum, focused on 8 remarkable personal histories that were supposed to represent the 80 years of Burgenland. Though not mentioned explicitly, it turns out the Burgenland Bunch was well represented in this exhibition: Andreas Lehner, an artist living in Kitzladen (district of Oberwart), was one of the members of the organizing team. Though I have personally never communicated with him, our membership list tells me that he is also a member of the BB. One of the 8 personal histories was of our member Dr. Kurt Heinrich, whom I had the pleasure to meet (along with his charming wife) during his recent stay in Austria.


Burgenland 2001-1011

In July 2000, Austria’s first bilingual city limits sign was installed in Großwarasdorf. The sign shows also the Croatian name, Veliki Borištof.

The Census of 2001 shows a surprising fact. The traditional emigration land, Burgenland, is now also an immigration land. An increase in population of 2.8% can be credited mostly to immigrants. The north is especially a target of settlement for people who prefer a countryside lifestyle close to the big urban area of Vienna.

Starting January 1, 2002, Austria and 11 other European countries have a new currency. The EURO succeeds the Austrian Schilling.

The Hungarian aristocrat and physician, the so called "doctor of the poor," Ladislaus Fürst Batthyány-Strattmann was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 2003. His grave is located in the Franciscan church in Güssing.

On May 1st, 2004, the European Union was extended: 10 more countries, almost 80 million more people, have become part of Europe's most successful peace project. Among the new countries are Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia. Burgenland moved from a borderland to the centre of the European Union.

The Burgenländische Gemeinschaft celebrated its 50th anniversary during a festive week around the annual picnic with many guest from all over the world, including Austria’s President Heinz Fischer.

In the seasons of 2006 and 2007, as many as 3 Burgenland clubs played in the Austrian major league of basketball: the Oberwart Gunners, the Mattersburg 49ers and the Güssing Knights.

In the summer of 2008, one of the biggest and best-known sports events was held by Austria partnering with Switzerland: the UEFA EURO 2008™, the European Soccer Championships. Burgenland was an official sponsor of the Austrian Soccer Team and hosted, besides the Austrian team, also the team of Croatia. Unfortunately the Austrian players did not do as well as the organization team.

The Austrian governmental elections of 2008 brought a new composition of the cabinet, with 3 members from Burgenland: Norbert Darabos (SPÖ) from Kroatisch Minihof, Niki Berlakovich (ÖVP) from Nebersdorf and Josef Ostermayer (SPÖ) from Schattendorf.

In 2009, Austria celebrated the great composer Joseph Haydn, who died in 1809, exactly 200 years ago. Many memorial events and concerts took place, especially around Eisenstadt.

On September 25, 2010, Monsignore Dr. Ägidius Zsifkovics was consecrated the third bishop of the Diocese of Eisenstadt. He was preceded by Dr. Stefan Laszlo (1960-1993) from Trausdorf and Dr. Paul Iby (1993-2010) from Raiding.

In the last decade, Burgenland became known for summer festivals all over the country. Just to name some of the most famous: Seefestspiele Mörbisch, Opernfestspiele St. Margarethen, Schlossspiele Kobersdorf, Burgspiele Güssing, Güssinger Kultur Sommer, Lisztfestival, Jennersdorfer Kulturherbst, Haydnfestspiele, Nova Rock, Picture On, and many more.

The Burgenland snow board racer, Dujmovits Julia, is the sixth best snowboarder of the 2010/2011 World Cup.

In 2011, Burgenland is going to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Franz Liszt, the most famous music composer of Burgenland origin, with many events and concerts (


Ed Note: Ex-newsletter editor Hannes Graf passed along a notice concerning a photographic exhibit entitled "The First Burgenländers," an extensive collection of photographs of Burgenland residents born 90 years ago. The pictures are accompanied by short quotes from interviews with the subjects. Here is the notice:

Dear All!

We, 14 members of Fotokreis Eisenstadt, organized and performed a project on the occasion of 90th anniversary of Burgenland as a part of Austria. We photographed and interviewed people from all over Burgenland who was born in 1921. With these results we arranged an exhibition, which started on 29th of March in the Rathaus of Eisenstadt and which will be showed during the year 2011 on different places in Burgenland. If you are interested in this project you are invited to post this information on your website

Detailed information about our project you will find here:

Fritz Moßburger
Fotokreis Eisenstadt

6) A 103rd BIRTHDAY (courtesy of Bob Strauch)

Ed Note: We routinely publish obituaries of Burgenland-born emigrants (see article 10 below). However, in keeping with this 90th-Anniversary-of-Burgenland themed newsletter, Bob has shared an article celebrating survival—in this case, of 103 years of life! The honoree, Rose Recker, was born 13 years before Burgenland, emigrating from it only 3 years after its "birth." Even younger sister Gisela, still in Moschendorf, is a year older than Burgenland!

Northampton/PA. Mrs. Rose Recker, née Toth, of Northampton, PA, recently celebrated her 103rd birthday. She was born on February 6, 1908 in Moschendorf, Burgenland, Austria [Ed: then Német-Sároslak, Hungary] and emigrated to the United States at the age of 16, settling in Northampton. She married John Recker, who was born in Northampton and raised in Gaas, Burgenland, at Our Lady of Hungary Catholic Church, Northampton, on June 13, 1927. The couple celebrated 59 years of marriage. The couple had three daughters. Rose worked at a cigar manufacturing factory in Coplay and was a cook for many years at the St. Joseph's Beneficial Society, Northampton. She is a resident of Northampton Village since 2004, where she loves to participate in bingo, crafts, and special entertainment events. A sister, Gisela Urban, still lives in Moschendorf and celebrated her 90th birthday last year.



Shortly after the reminder notice went out at the end of March (that Newsletter 208 was published and available online), I received a very short, somewhat cryptic reply email from member Dave Kelly asking, "How do we find the MN news?"

I confess that I considered a sassy reply (for example, "Check in the snow bank to the right of your driveway, that's where my brother always looks!" ...both my brother and Dave live in Minnesota, after all, and it was March!), but I curtailed my tongue and chose to write a more thoughtful reply:

Hi Dave, What do you mean by "the MN news"? If you mean Burgenland-related ethnic events in Minnesota, there is no news since no one sends me any information to share! (The exception is the Midwest BB Picnic, which I usually hear about.)

I may be a Minnesota-born boy but I've lived in NC for over 30 years, so I'm far out of its information loop... all I know is what I read in the online versions of the Star-Tribune and the Pioneer-Press (and that is mostly sports).

I'd be glad to add MN event info (if someone would share it) and I do occasionally write about Burgenländers from MN. In fact, I currently have one of my staffers starting research into the major Burgenländer settlement areas in Minnesota... for a hoped for article... but don't know when or if it will make it into the newsletter.

I do, though, have two articles scheduled for the next newsletter that are Neusiedl-based (one on the Neusiedlersee, the other on the Heideboden). These should be of some interest to you [Ed note: Dave's Burgenländers come from Wallern and Apetlon, so this is his corner of Burgenland.].

So, give me a reply and tell me what you meant.

I've yet to hear from Dave but I thought it worthwhile to publish my reply as a reminder to all of you to feel free to share Burgenland-related events with me. I depend on you to provide this type of information about your local communities. However, do remember to provide enough lead time. We are a monthly newsletter that publishes on the last day of each month (and I do need a few days lead time to format submissions for publication). So, by the time you read this in early June, I'll be accepting event info only for events in July or later. I look forward to hearing from you.


New member Sandra Holmstrom from Chicago, Illinois, expressed interest on her membership form in surnames HOLLENDONNER from Goberling and KORNFEIND from Hannersdorf, saying,

"I am especially interested in finding information on my grandmother - Rosina Hollendonner - born approximately in 1904. The background story as to why she never spoke of her family is a mystery."

Contributing Editor Margaret Kaiser chose to respond, saying:

Hi! Welcome to the Burgenland Bunch! A few possible findings below:

Passenger Manifest:
Rosina Hollendonner, age 18, arrived US April 25, 1922 on board the Hansa, her father is Josef at Goberling #77; going to her uncle John Bahr, 153 45th Street, Chicago, she was previously in US between 1903 and 1908. She was born in Chicago April 19, 1903 (?). So it would appear she was in US until she was about 5 years old, sent to Hungary, and she returned in 1922. This was not necessarily unusual. Many children were born here, went to Hungary to be cared for by relatives while their parents worked here. They returned later on in life - about the same time frame as your Rosina.

Possible family (Passenger Manifest):
Arrived May 31, 1911 in NY on board the Kronprinz Wilhelm going to Chicago.
Josef, age 34 (relative in Old Country, father Johann)
Maria, age 31
Josef, age 6
They were going to Josef's brother John in Chicago.

This same (I suspect) Josef (Joseph) enlisted in the WW1 draft September 1918 at age 41, born Feb. 6, 1877, nearest relative Mary, S. Wells Street, Chicago.

Joseph, of 4455 S. 5th Avenue, naturalized March 1, 1917; witnesses Joseph Kollaritsch and John Kappols; listed as arriving US on May 30, 1911.

If you wish to search Goberling records, please advise and I can advise film nos., etc.

Also we would be pleased to enroll your Burgenland ancestors on the Burgenland Honored and Remembered (BH&R) website, just send us the her death year and cemetery.

Best wishes for successful searching.


None of the above, of course, explains why Rosina Hollendonner "never spoke of her family," but is does indicate a possible reason... if this is the correct Rosina, it is clear that her childhood memories of family were confused by the living arrangements. However, one might question why the Josef Hollendonner family emigrating in 1911 would not have taken their eight-year-old daughter along when they did take a six-year-old son. I suspect additional information is needed to resolve Sandra's questions.


Editor: This is part of our occasional series designed to recycle interesting articles from the BB Newsletters of 10 years ago.

This month, we provide two related articles talking about social status in the emigrant era Burgenland.


May 31, 2001


The movements which work revolutions in the world are born out of the dreams and visions in a peasant's heart on a hillside. - James Joyce, "Ulysses"

We get many questions about the status of Burgenland immigrants prior to their emigration to the new world. Many infer that they were serfs or peasants, involved in a thralldom that was like slavery. At some point in history that well may have been true but, by the time of the "Auswanderung," social conditions had changed considerably. While conditions throughout Europe varied greatly, my comments pertain mostly to Transdanubia* and the years 1880-1924.

* Transdanubia = across the Danube. Defined as that portion of pre 1921 Hungary west of the Danube Bend assuming one is standing east of Lake Balaton looking west. It includes the region that became the Burgenland.


The very bottom of social structure, we hear a lot about slavery. It has been with us since pre-history and, at some point in time, we all had slave ancestors. So many "Burgenländers" (western Hungarians) were carried off to the Ottoman Empire during the Austro-Turkish Wars (16th-18th centuries) that white Christian slaves had little value in the slave markets of Constantinople for many years. How many Turkish branches have sprouted on our family trees? I'll close my slavery remarks by saying that by the 19th century, slavery was no longer a Burgenland issue and it can be ignored for our purposes. Still, I wonder how many ancestors were brought up as Moslem Janissaries or carried off to Ottoman harems.


Serfdom ("Leibeigenschaft") evolved during the Dark Ages. It existed well into the 19th century (last outlawed in Russia in 1851). In its simplest form, it was the exchange of freedom and labor for security. Serfs "belonged" to their "lord" and could be used as he saw fit. The possibilities of abuse were endless. Nothing could be done without permission, including marriage, travel, occupational changes, education, etc. There were various levels of serfdoma serf with greater responsibility (a cook or miller, etc.) would "outrank" a field hand or laborer. Because of abuses within the system, there was always much unrest. Under the reigns of Maria Theresia and Joseph II, serfdom was abolished in Hungary by 1786. Serfdom is not an issue for our purposes. By 1800, no Trandanubians could be considered serfs.

Peasants (H-paraszt)
G=German, H=Hungarian, L=Latin

A "simple" Austro-Hungarian "social order," or "standigkeit," as it existed in rural areas from 1800 forward follows. Starting with gypsies (Rom) and moving up the social ladder, we have peasants who rent cottages and worked as day laborers (H-napszámos) or apprentice craftsmen (G-Söllner), then those who rent both house and farmland as tenants with hereditary rights (H-zsellér), (craftsmen with established businesses could have equal status, also called G-Söllner), local merchants followed, then village "mayors" (Richter) and professional people like doctors or notaries, school teachers and priests or pastors, then lesser local nobility and finally greater local nobility (the Eszterházy and Batthyány). The crown and its court were so far above the lower elements as to not even be considered. Each of these groups in turn had gradations such as those whose family or village had been granted "nobilis" status with exemption from taxes and land-owning restrictions or who held any sort of official status. It was a very structured society.

Since only those of "nobile" status could own land prior to 1848, it was necessary for a "free" man who wished to farm (L-"colonus") to enter into a "lord-subject" relationship ("Unterthänigkeit") with the landowner. By paying rent consisting of farm produce, money and a certain amount of labor (G-"robot"), a peasant would be given a cottage and/or lot, a certain amount of tillable soil, a share in common pasturage and certain woodland rights. The actual amount (G-"Sessio") varied village-by-village depending on the fertility of the soil. The theory was that enough land would be given to sustain one family and allow them to meet the "rental" obligation. Very similar to our own early and late American "sharecropping" conditions. Total land available for use in an average full "Sessio" might approximate as much as 40 acres (18 tillable, 20 in common and 2 for house and garden) but, in general, it was considerably less due to family partitioning. Holdings (G-"hold") were frequently of 1/2 or even 1/4 Sessio. (Note: prior newsletters contain much discussion concerning this topic.)

This "rental" agreement, however, could be passed on to descendants, split, exchanged or traded (with permission of the owner) and "robot" service could be met by utilizing the labor of women and children at reduced value. Supplying a horse or ox and wagon was worth the equivalent of more than a day of manual labor.

The Hungarian revolution of 1848 ushered in various reforms, one of which abolished robot and another which removed restrictions to the ownership of land. By 1867, peasants were being encouraged to buy their land, 1/3 paid by the crown, 1/3 by the peasant and 1/3 donated by the aristocracy. Finding enough cash in what was a "barter" economy and establishing land value (the "Kommisierung") created much dissension. One Berghold great-grandfather died as a result of a dispute over land value. Nonetheless, the land was eventually purchased and the peasant "tenant" farmer (sharecropper) became a "small holder" (a landwirt) or owner of property.

These then are the rungs of the social order in place prior to the Auswanderung. It does not answer the questions of immigrant status but it does remove the "tags" of slave or serf. I also feel "peasant", though appropriate in some cases, can be misleading. In the following article, I consider that question.


May 31, 2001


Some tell romantic stories of family connections with the nobility. This is generally accepted with reservations unless the name is Eszterházy, Batthyány, Draskovitch, Erdödy or one of the other minor nobility. Others label their people as serfs or peasants. Two schools of thought, both erroneous. The first implies that association with "nobility" somehow confers some special significance. The second implies that by using the lowest social tag there is nowhere to go but up. The true facts are generally in between.

In my previous article, I suggested that terms applied to immigrants are often misleading. The average immigrant was fairly young and rarely the oldest child. Given the rule of primogeniture, the oldest child would have less reason to emigrate.

Some immigrants had families which accompanied them; most stayed behind and were sent for later. Many had day laborer jobs prior to emigration and could not support a family. Hence the peasant tag. They could live at home with parents and siblings who were having a hard time supporting themselves (and perhaps still making land payments), apprentice to a craft, join the seasonal workers wandering Europe or they could emigrate. Some did all of the above. My grandfather Sorger (4th son) worked in his father's pottery, tended grapes in his vineyard, was later apprenticed to a builder and then worked as a journeyman bricklayer before emigrating.

The greatest push-pull factors to Burgenland emigration were mainly economic. Coupled with the development of low rail and ship fares, the stage was set for the "Auswanderung." Poor economic conditions developing in the "Heimat" then provided the triggers to set in motion the first ripples of what become a tidal wave of emigration. Those triggers were periods of drought, monetary and fiscal crises, bank failures, swine virus and destruction of vineyards (phylloxera) among others. (The economic importance of wine and pork production can not be overemphasized.) Our ancestors emigrated not because they were peasants from poverty stricken families, living under intolerable conditions, they emigrated because the immediate economic climate held little hope for the future. As Dr. Dujmovits wrote in the most recent edition of the Burgenländische Gemeinschaft News, "Burgenland now has enough sustenance for all its children—they no longer need to emigrate."

If we are to apply a social order tag to these mainly young immigrants, it might be better to use the tag which applies to their parents. I have a great deal of trouble labeling my four immigrant grandparents as peasants when they came from the following backgrounds:

Berghold - blacksmith, gasthaus owner, carter
Neubauer - small holder (landwirt)

Occupation of immigrant son prior to emigration - carter
Occupations of 2 immigrant brothers - miller, watch maker
Time period - 1901

Langasch - schoolteacher
Kornheisel - smallholder (landwirt)

Occupation of immigrant daughter prior to emigration - factory worker
Time period - 1902

Sorger - potter (from 3 generations of potters), vineyard owner
Tarafass - smallholder (landwirt, colonus)

Occupation of immigrant son prior to emigration - brick layer
Occupation of immigrant brother - potter
Occupation of immigrant sister - housewife; husband - iron worker
Time period - 1901-04

Mühl - carpenter, casket maker (father was a school teacher)
Pöltl - potter, vineyard owner

Occupation of immigrant widowed mother - house maid, seamstress
Occupation of immigrant daughter prior to emigration - house maid
Occupation of immigrant twin - house maid
Occupation of immigrant brother - tailor
Time period - 1907

Your grandfather may have been a day laborer but his father was probably something completely different. How can you then say that your ancestors were peasants? If we do so, we must label any American farmer of the period with small acreage as a peasant also. Let's not add erroneous tags to our family histories.


(courtesy of Bob Strauch)

Friday, June 10, 2011 & Sunday, June 12, 2011: Sängerfest at the Reading Liederkranz in Reading, PA. Info:

Sunday, June 26, 2011: 94th Stiftungsfest at the Coplay Sängerbund in Coplay, PA.
2:00 PM: Choral concert with the Coplay Sängerbund Chorus, the Hianz'nchor, and guest choruses.
4:00-8:00 PM: Dance in the grove with the Joe Weber Orchestra. Members and their guests welcome (guests must be accompanied by a member).


Friday Jun 10, 6-11 pm and Saturday, Jun 11, 1-11 pm: A German Sommerfest. German music, food, drink, song & dance!  ~ Open to the Public ~ $5 ($2 Child, 6-15 yrs). Lancaster Liederkranz, 722 S. Chiques Rd, Manheim, PA., 717-898-8451. Musical Entertainment: Friday evening: Hank Haller; Sat. afternoon: Philadelphia Brass Band; Sat. Evening: Walt Groller. Performances Throughout: Alpenrose & Kindergruppe Schuhplattler Dancers, Liederkranz Mixed Chorus, Men's Hobby Chor, and Alleweil Jung Folk Dancers. 17th Annual Duck Race on the Chiques Creek, Sat., 6 pm.

(courtesy of Margaret Kaiser)

Friday, June 3: First Friday with Joe Rodgers. (Kitchen special: Wurst)

Thursday, June 16: Steamed Cheeseburgers.

Friday, June 17: Heurigan Abend ("A meeting where wine of the latest vintage is drunk") with Schachtelgebirger Musikanten (Box Mountain Musicians). Austrian Donau Club. $3. (Kitchen special: Meatloaf).

Friday, June 24: Gemütlicher Abend with Nick Kwas. (Kitchen special: Sandwiches)

Tuesdays at 7 pm:
Men's and Women's Singing Societies meet. Austrian Donau Club.
Thursdays at 7 pm: Alpenland Tänzer (Alpine Country Dancers) meet. Austrian Donau Club.

11) BURGENLAND EMIGRANT OBITUARIES (courtesy of Bob Strauch)

Marie Dentzer

Marie Dentzer, died peacefully, May 10, at the age of 91. Born Marie Winkowitsch in Donnerskirchen, Austria in 1919. Her family immigrated to America in 1923 where she resided in Newark for twenty years, married her beloved husband Theodore Dentzer in 1940 and lived in Irvington until 1953 when they moved to Madison, raising two sons, Joseph and Theodore, and two daughters, Jacqueline and Donna. She had ten grand children and three great grand sons, and has a surviving sister Theresa of Glen Gardner.

Marie was a member of St. Vincent's Church, a First Aid Auxiliary volunteer for many years, the recording secretary for Madison Senior Citizens Corp, and was a food service cashier for Madison High School from 1960 until her retirement.

A day of remembrance for family and friends will be hosted by her family at 3:00 PM, May 22 at her home.

Published in (NJ) Daily Record on May 15, 2011


Anna Frigyesi

SOUTH BEND - Anna Frigyesi, 85, passed away on Friday, April 29, 2011. She is survived by her husband of 56 years, Frank; her two daughters, Ann Garriott (Gale) and Maria Etling (Tom); and four grandchildren, Kathryn and Elizabeth Etling, Alexandra and Andrew Garriott. Anna lived an extraordinary life.

She was born in Fertod Szeplak, Hungary, on July 25, 1925, and married her husband, Ferenc Frigyesi, on October 30, 1954. Her first daughter, Ann, was born on September 17, 1955, but Anna's dream of settling into family life in Hungary did not happen because political unrest was in the air. In the fall of 1956, through a series of amazing events triggered by the Hungarian Revolution, Anna found herself alone in Hungary with her year-old baby, trying to secure passage to Austria to join her husband who had earlier escaped and was then desperately trying to get his family out of the country. Several times Anna tried to cross the border, but each time the police caught her and brought her back. In one final attempt, Anna literally commandeered an empty train by cleverly convincing the driver she had a weapon (she didn't), and then ordered the driver to take her as far as he could. She walked the final 10 miles to the border with baby Ann in tow, narrowly avoiding soldiers and gunfire along the way, and was reunited with her husband. Ultimately, they arrived in South Bend, Indiana, and began a new life. A second daughter, Maria, was born on October 26, 1957. Anna's husband worked nights in a factory and did small remodeling jobs during the day which, over the years, turned into a fulltime home building/remodeling business. Anna came into the business to run the office and the family thrived. Anna became active in Our Lady of Hungary Church and her daughters graduated from Marian High School and then St. Mary's College. Anna became well-known in the South Bend community and greeted everyone with a warm smile, a sincere hello and an occasional bottle of homemade wine. She was loved and adored by her family and friends and will be remembered by them forever. She will be missed by everyone who knew her.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 a.m. Friday, May 6, 2011, in Our Lady of Hungary Church. Entombment will follow at St. Joseph Cemetery. Family and friends may call from 4-8 Thursday in the Zahoran Funeral Home, 1826 Kemble Avenue. To leave an online condolence, visit our website, or our Facebook page, Zahoran Funeral Home.

Published in South Bend Tribune on May 1, 2011


Sister Juliana (Sister Marie Cecilia) Neuherz

A Pittsburgh Sister of Mercy for 71 years, died at the Convent of Mercy on April 22. Born in Neumarkt, Austria, she was 88 years old. Daughter of John and Maria (Lamm) Neuherz,

Sister Juliana entered the Sisters of Mercy from Most Holy Name Parish in Troy Hill in 1940 and made final vows in 1946. Sister Juliana received her BS from Mount Mercy College (now Carlow University) and a MS Ed from Duquesne University. She taught in diocesan schools including Our Lady of Lourdes, Burgettstown, Saint Peter, Northside, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Pleasant Hills, Our Lady of Mercy Academy, Monroeville. In addition, she served as director of religious education at Saint John Capistran Parish and Northside Catholic Center. After retiring from teaching, Sister Juliana assisted in the Infirmary until 2004 when she became a part of the Apostolate of Prayer. A woman of deep faith and trust, Sister Juliana's caring and encouraging manner was a source of strength and confidence to her family, to her Sisters and to the many she taught through the years. She had the gift of understanding that enabled others to pursue their hopes and the gift of humor that lightened many a challenging day as she committed herself so fully to others in ministry.

Preceded in death by her parents and three brothers, Sister Juliana is survived by her sister Lois Neuherz Blanyer of Pittsburgh; her sister-in-law, Connie Neuherz of Colombus, OH, and many nieces and nephews.

Friends will be received Tuesday, April 26 from 1-8 p.m. at the Convent of Mercy, 3333 Fifth Avenue. Funeral Mass will be celebrated Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. in the Chapel at the Convent of Mercy, followed by interment in Saint Xavier Cemetery, Latrobe. Arrangements entrusted to the EDWARD P. KANAI FUNERAL HOME, 500 Greenfield Avenue. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Sisters of Mercy, 3333 Fifth Ave., Pgh, PA or the Carlow University Scholarship Fund. Send condolences at

Published in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from April 25 to April 26, 2011


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