Monday, 30 April 2018

Sibiu or Hermannstadt

They just drew back the ceiling at the Hotel Imperatul Romanilor in Sibiu to let in a sunny April morning. It's one of my favourite hotels, old, a bit down at heel, a faded grand dame. Its real name is the Romische Kaiser and it was founded in 1555, which is not old by English standards but is by Transylvanian standards and unheard of in where I live, in Wallachia, on the other side of the Carpathians.

Sibiu in 1999 when I first came was stunningly beautiful and as decayed and broken as Havana or Rangoon. Now it is rather depressingly well painted and tidy, but this is good, I remind myself. And there is still a fair amount of peeling paint if you leave the Big Square. It draws many tourists who are having breakfast beside me but it is not an over painted tourist gem like Brasov.

Sibiu is full of lovely Catholic, Protestant and Unitarian churches and lovely town palaces built for German noblemen. It was built by Germans and the majority of the people here were German until most were expelled after the war for the sins of their countrymen far away. The rest mostly went to West Germany in return for large subventions for Ceausescu or left after the revolution. About two thousand remain, one of whom left for Bucharest where he is the current President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis.

Ethnic displacement happened in cities throughout Eastern Europe that were once occupied by Germans and Jews. It happened to the Ascendancy towns of Southern Ireland. It will presumably happen in London and Paris, where the imperial monuments built by conquering peoples are increasingly inhabited by the descendants of the conquered.


  1. "[The Germans] were expelled after the war for the sins of their countrymen far away."

    In my opinion this is true in large measure. But it is not the complete picture. Romania fought besides the Nazis for more than three years. So, even if the Romanian citizens of German ethnicity had not fought in the Wehrmacht, but simply in the Romanian army, it would still have been used against them, as a pretext, by the post-war Communist administration, in order to despoil them of their lands and houses.

    However, to my knowledge, about 10% of Germans from the Romanian Banat (I don't know the situation of the Transylvanian Saxons) voluntarily enrolled in the Wehrmacht or SS. According to this article (in German) there were about 63000 Germans from the Romanian Banat in the SS.

    I've visited OraviĊ£a five years ago. Somewhere around the church there was a poem in German. (I cannot find it online.) Its theme was the loss of men in the war, it deplored their deaths in far away lands and the futility of their actions. However it was so strangely ambiguously written, that I was a little shocked, maybe I'm biased but I had the feeling that it sounded a little like an elegy expressing the regret that their pursuit was thwarted and, as a consequence, their community and whole way of life was scattered and destroyed.

  2. Let us have the academics speak about history and let us not drag such complex issues into the shallow internet area - it is simply not the right environment. About occupants, I suppose they should be happy in their countries historical borders, meaning that they live for something more evolved than only "lands and houses".