The historical background of the short story is the history and culture of the Transylvanian Saxons, a group of people of German ethnicity who were settled in Transylvania (Romania) in waves starting from the mid-12th century. The colonization commenced under the reign of King Géza II of Hungary (1141–1162).
The Transylvanian Saxons formed protected communities in towns and villages, where they maintained ethnic tradition characterised in specific customs, folklore, way of life, and distinctive clothing style.
Status of privileged class
Along with the largely Hungarian-Transylvanian nobility and the Székelys, the Transylvanian Saxons were members of the Union of the Three Nations, a charter signed in 1438. This agreement preserved a considerable degree of political rights for the three aforementioned groups but excluded the largely Hungarian and Romanian peasantry from political life in the principality.
Loss of elite status
Emperor Joseph II revoke the Union of the Three Nations in the late 18th century. His actions were aimed at the political inequality within Transylvania, especially the political strength of the Saxons. Many Saxons began to see themselves as being a small minority opposed by nationalist Romanians and Hungarians. Although they remained a rich and influential group, the Saxons were no longer a dominant class within modern-age Transylvania.
World War I
After the end of the First World War, on December 1, 1918 the unification of Transylvania, Bessarabia, and Bukovina with the Romanian Kingdom is declared in Alba Iulia. The representatives of the Transylvanian Saxons decided to join Transylvania to support the Kingdom of Romania. In return they were promised full minority rights, but many wealthy Saxons lost part of their country through the land reform process that was carried out across Romania after the war. These events were overshadowed by the Spanish flu pandemic, which claimed at least 20 million lives worldwide between 1918-1920.
World War II
Taking into account the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany, many Transylvanian Saxons became staunch supporters of National Socialism. In 1942 and 1943, Germany concluded agreements with Hungary, respectively with Romania, following that the Germans who were fit for military service, could be incorporated into the regular German military units. As a result of these agreements, approx. 63,000 members of the German ethnic group voluntarily enrolled into the Waffen-SS units. More than 15% of them died in the war. Only a few thousand survivors were able to return to Romania where they were arrested and sometimes held in captivity for years.
Between 1945 and 1949, more than 70,000 Romanian Germans were deported to the Soviet Union. The deportation was part of the Soviet plan for German war reparations in the form of forced labor.
Mass exodus of the Romanian ethnic Germans
Because Romanian ethnic Germans were considered ‘Germans abroad’ by the German government, the Transylvanian Saxons have the right to German citizenship (Federal Law on Refugees and Exiles, 1953). Since the 1970s and in a major boost since 1990, the vast majority has emigrated mainly to Germany, but also to Austria, Canada and the United States. After the Romanian revolution of 1989, there is a mass exodus of Romanian Germans to Germany.
In 1993, the federal government is forced to enact stricter laws for the immigration in order to limit the influx. While in 1930 there were around 750,000 Germans living in Romania, by 2015 there were only around 30,000 left.
A ransom for the German minority in Romania
Between 1967 and 1989, Germany paid a ransom for the Romanian ethnic Germans, permitting a total of 226,654 persons to leave communist Romania. The negotiations with Nicolae Ceaușescu and the Romanian secret service Securitate under the code name Geheimsache Kanal (secret channel) were kept secret. The amount of payments for the so-called bounty is estimated at over one billion Germanmarks (approx. 550 Million US Dollar).
Romania joins the European Union on January 1, 2007.
In 2014 Klaus Johannis (Romanian: Iohannis) becomes the first Romanian president to come from an ethnic minority. He is a Transylvanian Saxon and former mayor of Sibiu. In 2019 he
is confirmed in office.
Frei – Politisch – Sozial:
Der Deutsch-Sächsische Frauenbund für Siebenbürgen 1921-1939
Böhlau Köln, 2017
Geschichte der Siebenbürger Sachsen
Kirchen- und Festtagskleidung der Siebenbürger Sachsen
Rose Schmidt, Werner Förderreuther
Nicolae Ceaușescu – Eine Biographie
Christoph Links Verlag, 2000
Hanser Verlag, 2010
In Focus: Photography in Romania
No. 34, 2020
Wege in die Freiheit: deutsch-rumänische Dokumente zur Familienzusammenführung und Aussiedlung 1968-1989;
Heinz Günther Hüsch, Peter-Dietmar Leber, Hannelore Baier
Hüsch & Hüsch, 2016
Wie lieb ich Dich, mein Dörflein klein
Meine Jugend in Meschen im siebenbürgischen Weinland
Schiller Verlag, 2015
The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu
Andrei Ujica, 2010