Danube Swabian farmers are among the vegetable producers in the Holland Marsh and Leamington, Ontario, farm areas. Many of Ontario’s small industrial plants that make everything from plastics to custom parts for the space industry were founded or are headed by Danube Swabians. Tradesmen and supervisors have been involved in major construction projects, including Toronto’s Rogers Centre.
Danube Swabians are ethnic Germans from the Danubian Lowlands (now part of Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia). In the late 17thcentury the Habsburg rulers in Vienna decided to colonize these lowlands and embarked on an energetic “impopulation” program. German colonists were considered to be very desirable by the authorities in Vienna because they possessed special skills to build the towns and cities, and they would introduce superior, Western methods of agriculture. Also, they were known to be steady, industrious, and above all politically neutral.
The first Danube Swabian to immigrate to Upper Canada was a Lutheran minister who settled in Markham Township. In the 1890s, some Danube Swabian farmers became homesteaders in the prairie Provinces as well as Ontario. Other Danube Swabians arrived in Canada in two waves, one in the 1920s and the other beginning in 1948 and lasting for approximately 10 years. Beginning in 1944, Danube Swabians were expelled from their homes and their lands were collectivized by the Communists, who assumed power at that time.
Presently, there are approximately 32,000 Danube Swabians living in Toronto.
NEW YEAR’S EVE. “Silvester” is celebrated with merrymaking at the Danube Swabian Club and at the St. Patrick’s German Parish.
KINDERMASKENBALL (CHILDREN’S MASQUERADE) is held on a Sunday afternoon in February. Children dress in outlandish costumes and partake in fun and games.
THE SCHLACHTFEST is held twice a year, once in February and again in the fall. It is a nostalgic reminder of similar old-country feasts, and demonstrates home cooking of pork products, with particular emphasis on homemade sausages.
TRACHTENFEST, in April, sees Danube Swabians wear their native trachten, the traditional costumes worn on Sundays in Danube Swabian villages. This spring festival attracts dance groups from across southern Ontario.
THE ROSE BALL, in May, is a formal dance, where “Miss Blue Danube,” the princess of the pavilion, is chosen. The pavilion has been hosted by the Danube Swabian Club for more than two decades.
MOTHER’S DAY, in May, is observed with a banquet to honour mothers.
PILGRIMAGE. On the second Sunday in June, an annual pilgrimage to Mary Lake, King City, Ontario attracts over 3,000 Danube Swabians, who attend an open-air mass and memorial service to give thanks for their regained freedom.
YOUTH FESTIVAL. An annual gathering of Danube Swabian youth groups from Canada and and the United States is held every July, usually at Donauschwaben Park Waldheim. Jugend-Treffen features sporting events and other activities.
SENIORS’ PICNIC. In August, a picnic for seniors is held at Donausch -waben Park Waldheim.
OKTOBERFEST. In September, Danube Swabians join in Oktoberfest festivities with a polka competition. Although Oktoberfest is not a Danube Swabian custom, they were the first to bring the festival to Toronto in 1970.
KIRCHWEIHFEST (CONSECRATION OF THE CHURCH FESTIVAL) is held in November. Traditionally, each community celebrated its own Kirch -weihfest to commemorate the dedication of the earliest church. It has become a secular festival, with dancing and merriment to the sounds of a brass band. The girls wear “Trachten” and the boys don hats decorated with flowers and coloured ribbons.
KINDER RESCHERUNG (CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS PARTY) is celebrated in Decem ber. Children sing traditional songs and visit with Santa. A family banquet is held the second week of December as well.
GERMAN HOUR, CHIN Radio 100.7 FM, (Tel. 416-531-9991, 622 College St). Saturday, 6:00 a.m. Host: Rickle Marcus. Saturday, 6:30 a.m. Host: Jan Dziuma. Saturday, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Host: Julli Jeschke, Ulrich Jeschke.
HEIMATBOTE, (Tel. 905-881-6350, Fax 905-886-3794, 17 Doncrest Dr., Thornhill). The voice of the Danube Swabians in North America. Editor-in-chief: Anton Wekerle.
1686 Ellesmere Road, Scarborough,Ontario, M1H 2V5
NEUE WELT, German language bi-weekly newspaper, (Tel. 416-237-0591, Fax 416-237-9590, www.neueweltonline.com, 2 Billingham Rd. Suite 203). Publisher & Editor-in-chief: Karsten Mertens
2 Billingham Road, Suite 203
ASSOCIATION OF DANUBE SWABIANS, (Tel. 416-290-6186, 1686 Ellesmere Rd). Fosters Danube Swabian culture, customs, the use of the German language, as well as the physical well-being and good fellowship of its members. Supports six dance groups, two choirs, women’s auxiliary, and a sports group. President:Mrs. Bridgette Wecker.
ST. MICHAELSWERK, (Tel. 416-598-4835, 131 McCaul St). Attends to the needs of the Danube Swabians with respect to cultural, social, and charitable aspects of the community. Organizes annual pilgrimage to Mary Lake in King City, Ontario on the second Sunday in June. President: Anton Wekerle.
Member of youth group of St. Michaelswerk.
Since they form part of the German-speaking community of Toronto, Danube Swabians make use of German cultural institutions, libraries, and theatres. Some children attend the various German language schools that are found throughout Metro.
Andrew Brandt, former Chair and Chief Executive officer of LCBO, former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party; Ernst Roch, graphic artist, designer of the 1976 Olympic Games logo, a 1962–63 series of postage stamps, and the six-cornered emblem of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa; Dr. Gerda Wekerle, Professor, York University; Dr. Christine Wekerle, Professor of University of Toronto; Dr. Lorenz Eckert; Klaus Hartmann, B.A., LL.B.; Peter Reiss, B.A., LL.B.
Contributors: Tony Baumann, President, the Association of Danube Swabians; Anton Wekerle, President, St. Michaelswerke.
Sources: A. Baumann, A. Wekerle, B.A.