Travel, encounter and experience German heritage alongside the Danube
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Bela Crkva (German: Weißkirchen, Romanian: Biserica Alba, Hungarian: Fehértemplom), a city with almost 11.000 inhabitants, lies in the south of Banat, the Serbian part close to the Romanian Border. Bela Crkva is one of the settlements that used to have a large German population.

Bela Crkva belonged to the military borderland of Banat until 1872 and later to the Hungarian county Temes. After the end of World War I in 1918, it became a city of the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

The settlement emerged due to the colonisation efforts of Banat’s Governor Count Claudius Florimund Mercy after the Ottomans were banished. Between 1725 and 1728, 300 Germans from Franconia and Hesse were settled in the area. First German settlements have however been recorded as early as 1717. From 1742 onwards, Serbians, Romanians and Jews came to the city as well. The population made a living from craftsmanship, trade and viticulture. The region on the foot of the Carpathians has very good conditions for winegrowing and the German settlers made this part of Banat known for its wine.

The first Catholic church was built in 1723. After its demolition in 1744, a new church – Saint Anne – was built. With growing wealth, the number of Roman-Catholic citizens grew as well and a new, bigger church was commissioned and consecrated in 1806. The organ builder Franz Anton Wälter and the first organist came from Timișoara.

During the interwar period, the German population became a minority. Nevertheless, they had a rich cultural life in Bela Crkva and for example held a traditional carnival. Bela Crkva had two carnival societies which always competed for the most attractive procession.

The houses of the wealthier German citizens of Bela Crkva had a special salient window, the so called Kiebitzfenster. The German verb “kiebitzen” refers to the activity of silently – and secretly – observing one’s surroundings and the windows gave the inhabitants the opportunity to see everything that was going on in the street from a comfortable seat. Even special curtains were made for the windows.

During World War II, the German population was involved with the German occupying power. Therefore, most of the Germans left after the partisan army came to the city. Those who stayed were deported to camps and disowned.

Saint Anne today.

Title of a carnival magazine in 1929.

Lakescape near Bela Crkva.