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Original scientific paper

Germans in Slavonia: From Coexistence through Stigma to the Reaffirmation of National Identity

Dragutin Babić ; Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, Zagreb, Croatia

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page 147-172

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This paper analyses the German national minority in Osijek and Baranya, based on empirical
research (interviewing) conducted in Osijek and Beli Manastir. The questions in interviews
encompassed the memories of the Germans (Danube Schwabians) regarding the arrival and
acceptance of their ancestors, through the coexistence they established with the Croats, Serbs,
Hungarians and others, to the WWII occurences, which radically changed the number, social
status and complete existence of these nationals. A part of the ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche)
greeted the National Socialist mobilization in Kulturbund with delight, and a part of the
Germans was actively involved in German military formations, which severely undermined
the pre-war relations between the nations in the local communities. Through the war activities
of partisans and particularly through their war victory and establishment of the new authorities,
the German national community was almost completely stigmatized as the occupiers and
adversaries. A slight exception were the Germans who participated in the National Liberation
War and those that were treated as supporters and facilitators. The rest, and this was the great
majority, were expelled from their homes, sent to concentration camps, murdered and forced
to exile. The socialist paradigm of the WWII interpretation was mostly binary, with an intensive
dichotomy of We/Good - They/Evil, concealing many niches within these occurences,
especially those at the micro-level, which were not plain and unambiguous. The group of
the defeated, that by generalization included almost all Germans, did not have the right to
remembrance. The stigma was extremely strong and any memory of WWII outside the official
ideological framework was not advisable, and in the first years after the war even dangerous.
It was first in 1990 that the collapse of socialism and the federal state and the introduction of
elementary democratic norms in the public sphere enabled the destigmatization of the German
national minority. The interviewed Germans kept in their communicational memory the
knowledge of their ancestors’ arrival, the problems they were facing, the first forms of coexistence,
and the severe destruction of that coexistence during and after WWII. The revival of the
national identity after the 1990s strengthened the small German community and enabled its
visibility in the public sphere, the slowing down and even stopping of assimilation, further
destigmatization and coming out of ethnomimicry.


the Germans, Slavonia, coexistence, stigma, national identity

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