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Klek 102 (Former Bär Residence)


Building in the village.
The razed Catholic church stood here until the end of the 1940s.


Klek (Serbian Cyrillic: Клек; alternative names: Klekk, Begafó) is a village located in the Zrenjaninmarker municipality, central Banat District, Vojvodinamarker, Serbiamarker. The village has a Serb ethnic majority, and its population is 2,959 (2002 census).

"The Old Village of Klek" was founded in 1766 by German Donauschwaben, or Banatschwaben, by an ethnic German population that settled the Danube River valley after the Ottoman Empire was defeated. The people from the colonies gathered in the city of Ulmmarker and other areas on the Danube. From there, they were brought, via the Danube, to the Banat.

"The Old Village of Klek" was founded on a swampy marsh formed by the Temesch and Bega River, in the Banat Region. The first settlers were from the cities of Sharpeville, Saint Hubert, and Solute. They transformed a useless swampland into a land that produced many useful crops. The farmers produced crops such as corn, sugar beet, hemp, tobacco, sunflower, poppy, as well as various other fruits and vegetables. The Old Village, however, became unpopulated due to repeated flooding, so the present-day location of Klek was founded in 1818.

Descendants of the original settlers lived in Klek for more than 150 years before being forced from their homes and placed into concentration camps at the end of World War II. Genocide, flight, and expulsion led to a near complete disappearance of The Germans from West Banat. This formerly strong German minority has now become quite small, many of which have returned to Germany.

A Brief Timeline

1683: The Ottoman Turks that dominated Southeastern Europe were forced back after their defeat at the Battle of Vienna, which took place on September 12th, 1683.

1716: Prince Eugene of Savoy earned a decisive victory for Austrian forces in the war between Austria and the Ottoman Empire when he defeated the Turks at the Battle of Petrovaradin, which is now part of Novi Sadmarker, Serbia.

1717: After the expulsion of the Turks by Prince Eugene the Banat became part of the Austrian monarchy, and the walls around the town of nearby Gross-Betschkerek (now Zrenjaninmarker), constructed during the Great Turkish War, were torn down.

1718: In the Treaty of Passarowitz, the Ottoman Empire lost the Banat to Austriamarker.

1718 - 1723: Construction of the Bega canal began. The Bega Canal was the first navigational canal, established between the towns of Temeschwarmarker and Klek. Digging of the canal, namely the construction of the artificial riverbed of the Bega River started in 1718. The works started in the southeast of Temeschwar, which is the Romanian town today, and went all the way to Klek, in the length of about 70 km (about 37 kn in Romania). The digging lasted for five years.

1738 - 1740: A typhus epidemic broke out. In Banat alone, more than 3,000 people died.

1745 - 1867: Klek became subject to Austrian Habsburg rule, also known as The Habsburg Monarchy.

1751: Empress Maria Theresa of Austria encouraged resettlement by colonizing the region with large numbers of German settlers who were seeking better living conditions. Many of these settlers arrived from Swabia. Klek was first settled by a group of immigrants from the cities of Sharpeville, Saint Hubert, and Solute. Typically, the settlers arrived in groups originating from the same area. So their lifestyles, customs, as well as their language were preserved.

1766: "The Old Village of Klek" was founded. The agricultural town originally stood on a different spot near the River Bega. This location was later referred to as "The Old Village of Klek." It was decided to move the village due to repeated flooding, caused by the River Bega.

1806: Larger boats (that could carry significantly more cargo) were now able to travel the Bega River and Theis River.

1818: Klek was founded, with a total of 168 houses.

1820: Principal crops such as wheat and corn were ground with the aid of a windmill.

1822: The first school was built in Klek. It also served as a place or worship.

1831: An epidemic of asiatic influenza and cholera broke out, killing at least 82 residents of Klek.

1837 - 1838: Several powerful earthquakes occurred on December 23rd, 1837 and again on January 23rd, 1838, causing several houses to collapse.

1848: A Roman Catholic Church was built and was consecrated on July 2nd, 1848. This marked the occasion for Church Fest and later, Kirweih, which was celebrated on this day until 1944.

1848: During the European Revolutions of 1848, the Banat was occupied by Serbian troops; then by Hungarian troops in 1849.

1849: A swarm of locusts destroyed nearly 75% of all the crops in Klek.

1851: Julius Weitersheim, the first priest, came to Klek. Until 1851, Klek was a filial of Lazarfeld.

1867: Franz Joseph I of Austria also became King of Hungarymarker. It was decided that the Germans were now to be integrated with the Hungarians, and that the Hungarian language was to be taught in German schools.

1867 - 1918: Klek became subject to rule by the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

1880: Horse-drawn mills become fairly common, later to be replaced by steam-driven mills.

1888: A new school was built, employing three teachers.

1890: A brickyard, a place where bricks were made and sold, was built in Klek.

1898: Approximately 62 kilometers of railway tracks were laid from Gross Betschkerek to Klek, to Hatzfeldmarker. Passenger trains, as well as freight trains, made transportation much easier and enhanced the economy of Klek.

1900: The first threshing machine came to Klek. It was to be used for separating seeds and grain from their husks or straw.

1906: The first mower and hay baler came to Klek. The mower was used to cut the plants that were harvested, and the baler was used to compress those crops into bales, and to bind the bales with twine. The village farmers no longer had to use scythes or sickles to bring the crops in, working from dawn until dusk.

1910: The River Bega was widened and deepened to accommodate larger vessels. A lock was also built near Klek, on the River Bega. In fact, Klek became a center of rail, water, and road-based traffic. Neighboring towns began to bring their crops to Klek to be loaded on freighters and sent to other destinations.

1910: A hail storm destroyed 100% of the village's crops, causing a food shortage.

1911: A sugar factory was built in nearby Gross-Betschkerek. This was advantageous for Klek farmers who happened to grow sugar beets.

1911: A Kindergarten program was established in Klek. Children started at the age of 4. At age 6 they began First Grade.

1914: Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated on June 28, 1914 by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb living in Austria-Hungary.

1914 - 1918: World War I, also known as the First World War

1917 - 1918: Klek, located in the Banat was flood plain, was greatly affected by devastating flooding.

1918 - 1941: Klek became a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenesmarker (this would become Kingdom of Yugoslaviamarker after 1929).

1920: For most of the period from 1779 to 1920, the Banat was attached to Hungary. After World War I, the Allies divided it via the Treaty of Trianon (which was signed on June 4th, 1920). Hungary retained the district of Szegedmarker, Romaniamarker acquired a large eastern section, and the remainder, largely part of the province of Vojvodina in present-day Serbia, went to Yugoslavia.

1920: A club, or kulturbund, intended to preserve the culture of the ethnic Germans in Klek, was established. The club was created to retain various customs, dances, and songs. However, in 1925, the governing Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes forbade such activities.

1930: A farmer's cooperative was built, complete with offices, meeting rooms, storage facilities, and employee housing. Various types of grain were sold at the co-op and bulk purchases were made at reduced costs.

1930: An ensemble of singers, or choir was organized, as was a voluntary fire department and music club.

1937 - 1945: World War II joined what had initially been separate conflicts. The first began in Asia in 1937 as the Second Sino-Japanese War, whereas the other began in Europe in 1939 with the German Invasion of Poland. This global conflict split the majority of the world's nations into two opposing military alliances: the Allies of World War II and the Axis Powers.

1941: Bombs fell on Belgrademarker, on Palm Sunday, April 6th, 1941. Germany’s army attacked and all Germans became the object of hatred of the Serbian people. On that day, the Yugoslav police marched through Klek, taking hostages with bayonets at the ready.

1941: On Easter Monday, April 14, German troops passed through the town of Klek on their way to Gross-Betschgerek. Fortunately, the hostages were returned, unharmed.

1943 - 1945: Yugoslavia declared fresh independence as Democratic Federal Yugoslavia.

1943: Himmler established mandatory military service for ethnic Germans living in Yugoslavia and the Balkan countries. The Prinz Eugen Nazi SS Division was organized; primarily made up of ethnic Germans from the Banat (many of whom had been former officers in the Yugoslav Army). Note: enlistment in the Prinz Eugen Nazi SS Division was compulsory, and resistance was punishable by death. At the age of 20, all men were drafted into the armed services, regardless of the fact that the vast majority of Catholic Germans in the Banat left Germany more than 100 years prior, and were opposed nationalist ideals.

1944: The German military completed construction of an aircraft landing strip approximately sixteen kilometers from Klek. Not long afterward, residents of Klek received word that the Germans and Russians were fighting in Romania, which was not far from the village. The front was steadily growing closer, and the soldiers who had escaped, warned the villagers to leave immediately. Fortunately, many of the residents were able to flee, never to return again.

1945 - present: Klek has remained within Vojvodinamarker which is a part of Serbia. Serbia had been a federal republic until 2006 after which it became independent.

Historical population

  • 1961: 1,796
  • 1971: 1,940
  • 1981: 2,344
  • 1991: 2,729


References

  • Lorenz Lang, Geschichte der Gemeinde Klek im Banat 1818-1944, Neubiberg 1978.
  • Slobodan Ćurčić, Broj stanovnika Vojvodine, Novi Sad, 1996.
  • Christoph Ohlig, Integrated Land and Water Resources Management in History: Proceedings (Page 134), BoD – Books on Demand 2005.


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