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German-speakers in Australia


Image: Sorb symbolThe Wends (also known as Sorbs) are a minority Slavic people and are concentrated in an area known as Lusatia in the eastern corner of Germany that borders the Czech Republic. In Australia they are usually known as Wends, and in Germany as Sorbs. Their history goes back more than a thousand years, but they became Lutheran during the Reformation (16th century). In the 19th century the area of Lusatia straddled the political borders of three German territories. The northern part (Lower Lusatia), centred around the city of Cottbus, was part of the Prussian province of Brandenburg, and the southern part (Upper Lusatia), centred around the city of Bautzen, was part of the kingdom of Saxony. After 1815 a section across the centre of Lusatia was added to Silesia.

Although Lusatia was part of the territory of German states, the Wends/Sorbs had their own language, cultural customs and traditional dress. Both the German and Wendish/Sorbian languages were used in Lusatia. The German language was used for all official business. Famine in the late 1840s caused many to emigrate, and encouraging letters back home from the significant number of Wends who had gone to SA increased numbers leaving. Large numbers of Wends emigrated to Texas also. In SA they settled alongside Germans and eventually stopped using the Wendish/Sorbian language, for although they could understand German, their German neighbours couldn't speak Wendish/Sorbian. Most British-Australians thought they were Germans.

For several decades now the German Government has been supporting the maintenance of Sorbian culture and language in Lusatia. Sorbs make up about 10% of the population of Lusatia, though in some local communities in the Kreis (District) of Kamenz, up to 90 per cent of the population is Sorbian. Approximately 45,000 Sorbs are still Sorbian speakers; all Sorbs speak German as well.
The Sorbs are not connected with the Serbs, who are a different Slavic race.

dot point Sorbs/Wends in Australia homepage

dot point History (in English, from the Technische Universitšt Cottbus)

dot point Sorbian Cultural Information (Foundation for the Sorbian Nation)

dot point Texas Online - About Wends

dot point Texas Wendish Heritage Society

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