Photo Stories of the Danube Swabians 2008

24/May/2013 - 8/Sep/2013
Today, there are still Germans living in the Danubian tri-border region (Donaudreieck) - an area now divided between Northern Serbia, Eastern Croatia, and Southern Hungary - alongside Croats, Serbs, and Hungarians, as well as Romanians, Bulgarians, Roma, Ruthenians, Slovaks, Czechs, and Ukrainians. The area has always been "Europe in a nutshell" a majority consisting of many minorities.


In September 2008, photographer Sandra Kühnapfel and DAAD "lector" (cultural representative) Joern Nuber set out on a search for traces of German culture in the area between the Danube, Drava, Sava, and Tisza Rivers. The problem: how to identify culture that is typically German in a setting located so far from Germany. What does one look for? Familiar objects or arrangements of objects in apartments and homes?

Certainly these are things that might reflect typically German habits and lifestyles. Still, hardly anyone lives in their parents' homes anymore. Most houses changed owners at least once during the years after World War II, with furniture and other objects getting lost in the process. Later, many such objects were considered clutter and thrown away, to be replaced by more fashionable things.

In the end, however, if one asks for specific things, the drawers are pulled out and the shoe boxes opened, and their treasures disclosed: old, curled black-and-white family photographs, a variety of souvenirs and mementos, grandfather's old spoon marked with the emblem of the Wehrmacht. Eventually, this variety of cultural traces forms a coherent picture - one of a people preserving its identity while adapting to regional circumstances through contact with other cultures. Traces of conscious adherence to tradition, alongside traces of modernisation and of an interest in the affairs of contemporary Germany.