Narrating the Danube Swabian Identity and Experience from Women's Perspective

Gendered Memories of a Culture in Transition


  • Agatha Schwartz University of Ottawa



Danube Swabians, expulsion, genocide, victimhood, multidirectional memory


This article uses selected memoirs by American women who came from the Danube Swabian minority in present-day Hungary and Serbia (former Yugoslavia). The entire ethnic group was expelled from the region at the end of World War II. All five memoirs were published in the new millennium. This article examines how the narratives frame memories of a prewar happy childhood from young women’s perspective. The childhood memories are presented in stark contrast to the authors’ postwar experiences of expulsion, sexual violence, genocide, flight, and the eventual building of a new life in a new country. All narratives document the brutality with which the Danube Swabian communities were destroyed, particularly in Yugoslavia. Nostalgic overtones about a lost homeland intersect with a lasting feeling of being atopos—i.e., “of no place,” in exile and in the diaspora. While most of the narratives emphasize Danube Swabian victimhood, one narrative stands out in its attempt to create a more multidirectional approach to memory about World War II.

Author Biography

Agatha Schwartz, University of Ottawa

Agatha Schwartz, PhD, is emeritus professor of German and world literatures and cultures at the University of Ottawa. Her research interests are nineteenth–twenty-first century Central European literature and culture, women’s writing, and narratives of trauma. Her most recent publications include Wartime Violence, Trauma, and Resilience in the Narratives of German Canadians (Ottawa: Legas, 2022); “Trauma, Haunting, and the Limits of Narration in Gabi Köpp’s Warum war ich bloß ein Mädchen, Leonie Biallas’s ‘Komm, Frau, raboti.’ Ich war Kriegsbeute, and Renate Meinhof’s Das Tagebuch der Maria Meinhof” (Seminar 57.1, 2021); and “Challenging Tradition and Crossing Borders: Women’s Activism and Literary Modernism in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy” (in The Routledge International Handbook of Gender in Central-Eastern Europe and Eurasia, 2021).


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