Moving along the side roads of Romania, it is easy to find the names of places and streets in German. For example, in the small town of Mühlbach (Sebe), street signs are duplicated in two languages: Romanian and German, and above the doors of the Romanian school it is written in huge letters: Bildung ist Freiheit (education is freedom). The inscription is visible even from the federal highway.
A few kilometers from Mühlbach is the capital of the Transylvanian Saxons - Sibiu or Hermannstadt. The city is similar to South German or Austrian. Cafes, hotels and museums have German names, and the restaurant waiter will respond to a casual tourist in German rather than English.
According to the last census, about 60 thousand Germans live in Romania. The history of the German people in Romania is 800 years old. The theologian Hans Klein, the co-founder and current president of the local branch of the German Democratic Forum in Romania (DFDR), stresses: “The Transylvanian Saxons have lived here for many centuries, this is a great historical experience. Even during the world wars and in the times of communism, they were treated well. And today, despite the fact that the Germans in Romania are a national minority and make up only 1.5% of the total population, they occupy 60% of the deputy seats in the city council of Hermannstadt.
The German Democratic Forum in Romania, which financially supports schools, kindergartens and ethno-cultural activities, was founded 27 years ago by church activists. “That is, not politicians,” Klein stresses. - Because people trust him. After the Romanian Revolution of 1989, President Klaus Johannis was a member of the forum, in 2000 he became mayor of Hermannstadt. Since 2014, he is the head of state.
“In public organizations, some character traits are strengthened,” Klein believes. Saxons are becoming more hard-working, reliable and predictable. Just these typical German qualities attract Romanians. "They come to our events, send their children to our schools."
50 public and private kindergartens and eight German-teaching schools in Hermannstadt are very popular. The competition in them is huge, says associate professor-Germanist Liana Regina Iunesh from the University. Lucian Good. “The reason lies in the positive stereotypes,” says Iunesh. “The experience of the last 20 years shows that school graduates become successful people in life.” Therefore, only two percent of children in German schools from families of Transylvanian Saxons.
But the reason for the small number of German children in German schools lies elsewhere. 95% of Germans in the country in the 1990s moved to Germany. Almost no one comes back. “Then the rest felt lonely, began to turn to the church for support,” recalls Gerhild Rudolph. He works as a cultural adviser at St. John’s Church and in the nearby German House with its history museum and the Erasmus Romanian-German book cafe.
In summer, the German population increases by several times: the so-called flight Saxons come to Transylvania, the homeland of their ancestors. In August, up to 10 thousand people gather at the Big Meeting.