(This information was found in a photocopy of a German summary of a Hungarian book that became available to me through contacts in Hungary.)
A large-scale emigration broke out during this period and drew the interest and concern of the press, the County officials, economists and historians. The emigration to the United States must be seen as part of the general migration within Hungary since the 18th century. There was a close correlation between the emigration to the United States and the emigration into Croatian Slavonia from the 1860s onward. The same economic, social and sociological reasons motivated both population movements.
The issues around the sale and availability of land and the pauperization that resulted played a significant role. Social conflicts among the various classes in different regions resulted in unrest. The slow development of industry and commerce also was a root cause of emigration.
From 1867 to 1914, during the Dual Monarchy economic development was on the rise as was construction and technology. These, however, made no essential difference in the standard of living of agricultural day labourers, owners of small plots of land and other workers. These accounted for the large-scale inner migration to Slavonia but after 1880 more and more of them left for the United States. There were few in Somogy County who shared in the emerging prosperity. They set out for Slavonia and the United States in pursuit of happiness and a better living. This regional study of Somogy provides an analysis of what transpired across Hungary.
It was not the poorest of the people who emigrated but those living in misery that tried to better their lot somehow and did not simply surrender to what fate handed them. The emigrants to Slavonia sold their meagre acreage and moved across the Drava River to acquire larger land holdings that they carved out of the wilderness only to run smack into Serb and Croatian nationalism. The Hungarians “who had always lived there,” and the new immigrants were regarded as third-rate citizens. Hungarian and Serbo-Croatian nationalism met head on. In 1904 the crisis was centred on education. Nationalism played a major role in all of life: church, economy and administration. The government and the local officials were anti-Hungarian.
The Croats, Serbs, Slovenes and Bosnians were influenced and affected by the productiveness and agricultural know-how introduced by the Germans and Hungarians who migrated to Slavonia from Hungary. But both groups were influenced by one another in terms of how they dressed, customs, eating habits and social conduct. They learned interdependence and mutual respect for one another. They lived in peace and became a craw in the throat of the nationalist rabble-rousers.
At the beginning of the 1900s, Hungarians who had settled in Slavonia set out for the United States. In 1907 the chief of police in Sopron reported on reasons for the emigration of these Hungarians. It was due to harassment by Croat officials, the deep hatred of the uneducated Croats toward them and their inability to maintain their own Hungarian identity and educate their children in Hungarian and were being turned into Croats.
The German farming element in the population of Hungary usually referred to as the Swabians, were very much involved in the emigration from Hungary. The eldest son usually inherited all of the land the family owned and the younger sons laboured at a trade. They were the pioneers of this emigration and were hardworking and skilled in agriculture. In proportion to their numbers more of them took part in the emigration than Hungarians both in Somogy County and the country at large.
The emigrants who went to Slavonia were not in search of a job on a short-term basis but sought to establish a permanent home. Nearly all of them took their families with them. The motivation was simply land! Land of their own. They prospered and did reasonably well. They lived better lives and provided a more secure future for their children. They ignored the foreboding clouds of political upheaval all around them. They would not give up the economic gains they had made through hard work and accepted their lot as a disparaged minority in a foreign environment.
The North American emigration differed in this respect. People went overseas to find work, earn money and return home and establish themselves. Some of them planned to stay and make a fortune. They sold land, borrowed money or went to loan sharks or in many cases the family raised the money to send the young men and women off to America. Some them were actually well-to-do and simply went to increase their fortunes and estates. The poor could only raise the money if someone vouched for them or were their close relatives. This often led to a “community loan business,” the precursor of the future Credit Unions. This collective cooperation made emigration possible for many. The loans were interest bearing and the family members who remained behind were responsible for them. It was the biggest local enterprise undertaken by the peasants of Hungary. Everyone gained by it. European steamship companies, industrial and financial interests in the United States sent agents into the villages to recruit would-be emigrants. Many of the “American” Hungarians returned with considerable sums of money.
With the money that the emigrants sent home the family bought land, houses, horses, livestock and machinery. But on returning home it was obvious that they had been influenced by the “American way of Life,” and gave voice to “democratic” rights. Younger men were often not allowed to emigrate until they had done their required three year military service and for that reason many of them left secretly and left Europe from German, French, Dutch and Belgian ports.
(The following are some statistics and information that I noted from the schedules that appeared in the Hungarian text that dealt with Swabian emigrants from Somogy County.)
Those who emigrated from Ecsény:
Ellenberger, Janos (the younger)
Stark, Janosné (Mrs. Janos Stark)
Flick, Konradnée (Mrs. Konrad Flick)
Those who emigrated from Gadács:
Those emigrating from Kötcse:
Landek, Andreas (the younger)
Those emigrating from Somogyszil:
Holler, Janosné (Mrs. Janos Holler)
During 1906 there were 129 emigrants from Somogy County who left for the United States of whom 28 were Swabians. Six of them were from Lutheran villages.
In 1907 there were 425 emigrants from Somogy County leaving for the United States of whom 101 were Swabians. Of these 49 were from the Lutheran villages.
These figures need to be seen in light of the fact that the Swabians accounted for less than 7% of the population of the County.
Additional emigrants in 1907 that came from other Lutheran villages in Somogy County included the following:
Benedek, Janosné (Mrs. Janos Benedek)
Schaefer, Imrené (Mrs. Henry Schaefer)
Majer, Georgné (Mrs. Georg Majer)
During 1908 the following emigrants left Somogy County from the Lutheran Swabian villages:
Schultheiss, Peterné (Mrs. Peter Schultheiss)
Frischkorn, Illes (Elias)*
In 1908 there were a total of 149 emigrants from Somogy County to the United States of whom 50 were Swabians and of their number 27 were from the Lutheran villages.
During this period of the emigration from Somogy County included in the study there is no mention made of any single women leaving for overseas unless they were part of a family. In 1903 the Hungarian parliament passed a law allowing Counties to issue passports to would-be emigrants that made it more convenient and possible to obtain them. On leaving the emigrant had to indicate their destination, the harbour from which they planned to exit Europe and how long they proposed to stay away. The cost for a passport was one Krona. The passport did not indicate the ethnic identity of the holder nor what language or languages he spoke. Passports were seldom issued for anyone over 50 years of age because the American Immigration officials would send them back. There were only a few passports issued for Canada during this period. Wives who wanted to join their husbands were often refused passports to get the husband to return home to Hungary. The peak of emigration from Somogy County prior to the First World War was 1907.
Of further interest are some of these statistics. The numbers of passports issued to the following villages between 1900 and 1910:
The individual stories behind the statistics in many cases remain untold. The reader will note an * following the name of Frischkorn Illes who was my grandfather. Four years later his wife Elisabeth Tefner left to join him in Milwaukee. While they were there a daughter Caroline was born, in January of 1914. She was my mother. The young family hurriedly returned to Hungary as war clouds gathered in July of that year and Elias returned home just in time to be conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian Army and was rushed to the Serbian front.