Významné osobnosti šiestich národností žijúcich v Sládkovičove/DiószeguThe first written mention of Sládkovičovo (until 1947 known as Diószeg) can be found in documents from Béla IV of Hungary in 1252. The name of the village is said to originate from a “walnut forest” found here. In 1301 the village leader was Milóš Dudvágy and his family, whose ancestors had been working and living here for a long time. In 1337 Péter Orros became the new village leader, appointed by Louis I of Hungary. In 1530 the village and its surroundings were destroyed by Ottoman forces. Twenty-two inhabited houses were there in 1553 which belonged to the Poor Clares of Buda until the order was dissolved on the orders of Joseph II. The village belonged to the Church after that until it was bought by the Erdődy family and then by the Esterházy family.
The village received the status of a town in 1582, and in the 17th century the Royal Highway (Via regia) was built through Diószeg. The settlement had the rights to organize fairs and collect tolls. There were two important buildings during this time: the manor and the church. During the uprising of Francis II Rákoczi, Diószeg was strengthened by the imperial duke Quido Stahremberg but he could not prevent the town from burning down in 1709.
Joseph II populated Diószeg with German farmers and artisans in 1786. Later two separate villages were created: German and Hungarian Diószeg (Németh Diószeg and Magyar Diószeg). Following the Eszterházy family, the Zichy family became the new owners of the area.
The railway which connected Bratislava to Budapest was built through Diószeg in 1850, leading to huge industrial growth in the region. In 1867 the sugar refinery, built by the Jewish Kuffner family and the brothers Gutmann, who were Austrian bankers, started production. The sugar refinery and the Kuffner industrial complex, built by Baron Karl Kuffner de Diószeg, changed the reputation of the settlement and became known throughout Europe as a centre for Austro-Hungarian sugar refining. In 1870 Diószeg had its status as a town renewed.
Two world wars, two financial crises, the deportation of the Jews in 1944, the deportation of the Germans in 1946, the deportation of the Hungarians in 1947 to Hungary and Czechia, and the resettlement of the Slovaks from Hungary changed the ethnic complexity of the municipality.
On 1 January 1983, Sládkovičovo became a town yet again. In 1986 the village of Malá Mača was merged with the town, but became separate again in 2002.
Hungarian minority
Originally the settlement had been populated only by Hungarians and there were very few other ethnicities. Initially the inhabitants were farmers and artisans. It was only in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries that other ethnicities began to settle there.
With the start of sugar refining in the second half of the 19th century, many experts from Hungary came and took part in the development of the sugar refinery and the agricultural complex. Many of them became important scientists in Hungary.
In 1947 some of the Hungarian inhabitants were, based on their supposed cooperation with the fascists, deported to Hungary or to the Sudetenland, whose German-speaking population had been deported. Many of the Hungarians had to undertake Slovakization to stay in what was their home town. Today only 31.7% of the population is Hungarian, and this number is in a steady decline.
German minority
The first change in the ethnic diversity of the village happened in 1787, when German settlers came from Breisgau, Württemberg, Bamberg, Mainz, Lahr, Trier, and Fulda. Sixty-two families, numbering 321 people who were mostly farmers and artisans, came to Diószeg.
The locals called them “Švábi” based on their origin. Their coexistence was problematic and frequent disputes caused the split into the aforementioned two villages. The German settlers preserved their ethnic identity and had a school as well as their own self-ruling authority.
Before World War II, this minority joined the fascist structures of the rest of the German minority in Slovakia. After World War II, some of them were deported to Germany and only those living in mixed marriages who agreed with Slovakization stayed.
After the war, this minority assimilated and because of the post-war circumstances it almost disappeared. Today no one is of German ethnicity.
The archivist Hildegarda Pokreis wrote a very detailed book entitled Nemecká kolonizácia Sládkovičova/ Diószegu v 18. storočí (The German colonization of Sládkovičovo/Diószeg in the 18th century), which was published by OZ Ponvagli in 2016 with the support of the Government Office of the Slovak Republic’s Programme for the Cultures of Minorities 2016 (ISBN: 978-80-972129-2-6). This book fuelled an interest in the descendants of the Germans in Sládkovičovo/Diószeg and their fate.
Jewish minority
The arrival of the Jews in Diószeg was related to the sugar refinery, which was built by two Jewish families: the Kuffners, who came from Břeclav, and the Gutmanns from Lipník nad Bečvou, who owned a bank in Vienna and ran a business.
Since there were no experts in sugar refining and managing an agricultural complex, the Kuffners invited Jewish experts from Břeclav and from all over Austria-Hungary. The Jewish community in Diószeg was never very numerous, but its members were very well educated and wealthy, and they had important jobs.
The end of this golden era came with the rise of fascism. At the beginning of World War II, Diószeg became part of Hungary, so the fate of the Jews was governed by Hungarian law. This meant that in contrast to Slovakia, which began deportations in 1942, the 124 Jews from Diószeg were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau only in May 1944.
Ninety-nine of them became victims of the Holocaust. The small group of survivors had it very tough. They came back home, but their property had been stolen; their houses were inhabited by strangers and not even their old workplaces took them back in. In the end they scattered all around the world, and the Jewish religious community in Diószeg was disbanded in 1949.
Almost nobody is of Jewish ethnicity today, and the history of this successful community is only told by the once prestigious buildings of the manor, sugar refinery, mill, and Jewish cemetery with the memorial for the 99 Holocaust victims from Diószeg.
A book was written about the history of the Jewish community by Tomáš Lang, Ludmila Pártošová, Hildegarda Pokreis, Eva Sudová, Lenka Sudová, and Wram and Lóránt Talamon entitled Spomienky na Diószeg, história židovskej komunity v Diószegu/Sládkovičove Remembering Diószeg: the history of the Jewish community in Diószeg/Sládkovičovo), which was published by OZ Ponvagli in 2016 with the support of the Government Office of the Slovak Republic Programme for the Cultures of Minorities 2016 (ISBN: 978-80-972128-1-9).
Czech minority
The arrival of the Czechs was connected to the birth of Czechoslovakia after World War I. The new republic had to fill government jobs which had been done by Hungarians up to then. New government officials, policemen, soldiers, stationmasters, and others came.
Many Czechs came to Diószeg, but their coexistence with the locals, who were mostly Hungarian, was quite problematic. They lived there for just twenty years, because after the Slovak State was created in 1939 they had to leave. Most of them returned to Czechia and only a few who were in mixed marriages stayed. We have very little information about their lives, and we only mention Jan Mikloško, an RAF pilot, in this publication. Today only 0.5% are of Czech ethnicity, but most likely none of them are descendants of the interwar Czechs who had lived there.
Slovak “minority”
We use the term “minority” here, because up until 1980 Slovaks in Diószeg/Sládkovičovo were actually a minority despite the mandatory Slovakization. From 1880 to 1910, anywhere from 9-20% of the locals were of Slovak ethnicity but these numbers had been in a steady decline.
After World War II, Slovaks came to Sládkovičovo from the south of Hungary in 1947, who had been living in a Slovak village called Pitvaros. It was supposed to be their “homecoming” to Slovakia after their ancestors had left in the 18th century. It was a huge disappointment for them to come to a mostly Hungarian village, where they were given the houses of deported Germans and Hungarians.
Despite losing all their property in 1948, these hardworking Pitvaros people didn’t take to self-pity; they worked hard even under the new circumstances and raised a new generation of successful citizens. The younger ones and descendants of the older generation used the option to study in their mother tongue, which they couldn’t do in Hungary. Many of the resettled people stayed, and their descendants became important personalities in science, culture, politics, and business.
Today 64% of the population is of Slovak ethnicity, but most of these Slovaks came to Sládkovičovo for work during the socialist era; after the Velvet Revolution, many young families moved here from different parts of Slovakia.
The Romani minority
Historical research about Romani settling in this region is almost non-existent, and information about the life of Romani in this southern Slovak region is minimal. This is due to the fact that they travelled from place to place, and it was hard to register them. For a long time it wasn’t even properly defined who was a Romani and who was not. The data from the 1880, 1910, and 1930 censuses have no mention of Romani, but we do know that there was a Gypsy settlement near the graveyard; its inhabitants made a living from traditional crafts while many others were musicians.
The Romani author Ladislav Tavali wrote two books about their lives: Nemenná krv/O rat, pe naparuďol (Unchanging blood) and Život rómskych detí/Romane čhavórengeró dživibe (The life of Roma children). The Gypsy settlement was demolished in the 1960s. Some of the Romani have assimilated into the majority culture and became full members of society. But even today there are groups of Romani living at the outskirts of the town and near the sugar refinery who are hard to socially integrate.
The ethnic diversity of the citizens has been lost over time along with its multi-ethnic tolerance. In what is now a small city which was an example of tolerance towards ethnic and religious minorities during the 19th and 20th centuries, more extremist opinions have appeared. During the 2016 parliamentary elections, Marian Kotleba’s far-right party Naše Slovensko got 104 votes (4.63% of the total), which is alarming.
With this publication and its basic idea showcasing the multi-ethnic tolerance in the specific circumstances in the history of Diószeg/Sládkovičovo, we want to help fight against racial, ethnic, and religious xenophobia.