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History

Gottchee was founded at the end of the 13th century and has a rich history and culture that still exists today.

Fig. 1 – Location of villages

Fig 1 – Location of villages: The village names are written in the German language. GHGA has published a map showing names and locations of all Gottscheer villages, including an index that cross-references German and Slovenian village names.

Fig. 2 – Modern Geography

Fig 2 – Modern Geography: The former county of Gottschee (today known as Kocevska) is geographically located in the country of Slovenia. This map shows the location of the county of Gottschee which lies in the south central part of Slovenia, the southern border of Gottschee near the country of Croatia. The ethnic and linguistic area was about 331 square miles.

 

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A Brief Timeline

End of 13th Century

Gottschee was founded at the end of the 13th century, carved out of the uninhabited mountain forests in what is today the south central part of Slovenia.

1300

The county of Gottschee was colonized in 1300 by the Carinthian counts of Ortenburg with settlers from Carinthia and Tyrol, and by other settlers who came from Austrian and German Dioceses of Salzburg, Brixen, and Freising. The settlers cleared the vacant and heavily forested land and established towns and rural villages.

The area of lower Carniola (the duchy of Carniola was called Krain in German) that was to become Gottschee had been a strategic part of the Holy Roman Empire since the year 800. As a result, there were a number of important castles and fortifications in and around Gottschee.

1350

In 1350, the emperor made available 300 families from Thuringia in Germany, and this group formed the basis of the population of Gottschee County as a German-speaking language island in a duchy mostly inhabited by Slovenians.

The people of Gottschee continued to preserve the customs of their ancestors. They also developed a distinct German dialect called Gottscheerisch. It was mainly a spoken language and those that were born there in the 1920s and 1930s still speak the language today (On the Links page, click Gottscheer Relief Association of New York to view and listen to the Gottscheerisch language.)

1471 - 1574

In 1471, Gottschee received the municipal charter and city seal. About 100 years later, in 1574, Gottschee was owned by the Hapsburg Archduke Carl. Also in that year, there was an Urbarium (land register) produced with statistics of land, the number of villages, names of the owners, and taxes.

1641 - 1770

In 1641, Wolf Engelbrecht of Auersperg bought the county (Grafschaft) of Gottschee. In 1770, Maria Theresa ordered a count of all males in order to be drafted into the Austrian army. In that same year, all urban and rural dwelllings were counted and recorded.

Late 1800s

In the late 1800s, the Gottschee ethnic and linguistic area of 331 square miles consisted of 176 villages organized into 19 townships and 18 parishes. The population was about 26,000 and like many Slovenians and other Europeans, Gottscheers began to emigrate from their homeland. Many immigrated to various areas in the United States and Canada, with large numbers settling in Cleveland, Ohio, and Brooklyn, New York.

1918 – 1941

In 1918, after World War I, with the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Duchy of Carniola and with it Gottschee became part of the province of Slovenia in the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Gottscheers were given Yugoslavian citizenship. In 1929, the kingdom became known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Slovenia gained its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Today, the area of the former county of Gottschee is known as Kocevska, Slovenia. The city of Gottschee is known as Kocevje.

1941-1992

During World War II, the Gottscheers lost their homeland. When the German and Italian armies invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941, an agreement between Italy and Germany gave control of the Gottschee land area to Italy. Nine months later, the German government resettled the Gottscheer ethnic Germans from their 650-year homeland. This was done in December 1941 and January 1942, when almost 12,000 Gottscheers were relocated to Brezice (Rann), Slovenia that had been incorporated into the German Reich during the war.

Between 1941 and 1943, many of the Gottscheer villages were destroyed in battles between the Yugoslavian partisans and the Italian forces. At the end of the war, the Gottscheers were forced to flee into Austria. Some of the refugees eventually found new homes in Austria and Germany, however, most immigrated to the United States and Canada, where they had friends and relatives who had immigrated to those countries prior to World War II.

1992-Today

GHGA was founded in June 1992 by a group of seventeen subscribers to the newsletter, The Gottschee Tree, when they met in Salt Lake City, Utah for a Gottscheer Western Regional Reunion. In 1993 GHGA was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the state of Colorado. As of June 2023, there are more than 413 members.

Today, the largest number of Gottscheers and their descendants live in the United States, many living in Ohio and New York, with smaller numbers living in Austria, Canada, Germany, and Slovenia.  GHGA and many other Gottscheer organization are working hard to preserve our history and ensure future generations will carry on the traditions of our past.

Bibliography

A Short History of the Duchy of Carniola and Gottschee County by L. Edward Skender. Colorado: Gottscheer Heritage and Genealogy Association, 1994.

“Das Jahrhundertbuch”: Gottschee and its People Through the Centuries by Erich Petschauer, completed by Hermann Petschauer, translated by Herma Moschner. New York: Gottscheer Relief Association, Inc. 1984.

Gottschee 1406-1627, Feudal Domain on the Frontier of Empire by Georg Widmer, translated by Andrew J. Witter. Colorado: Gottscheer Heritage and Genealogy Association, 2001.

Gottschee: A History of a German Community in Slovenia from the Fourteenth to the Twentieth Century by Thomas F. Bencin. Colorado: Gottscheer Heritage and Genealogy Association, 1996.

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