Distribution of Germans in Romania (2002 census)
Rumäniendeutsche (Germans of Romania) are an ethnic group in Romania. Between the 2 world wars, their total number amounted to 786,000, according to estimates from 1939 — a figure which had subsequently fallen to about 36,000 by 2011. The Germans of Romania are not a single, unitary, homogeneous group, but rather a series of different sub-groups, each with their own culture, traditions, dialect(s), and history. This stems from the fact that various German-speaking populations arrived in different waves or stages of settlement, initially as early as the High Middle Ages, firstly to Transylvania (some of them crossing the Carpathians to neighbouring Moldavia and Wallachia), then subsequently during the Modern Age in other Habsburg-ruled lands (such as Bukovina, at the time part of Cisleithania, or Banat), as well as in other areas.
Throughout time, the German community in Romania has been actively contributing to the culture. The most noteworthy examples are visible in the following respects:
— Romanian architecture (e.g. the villages with fortified churches in Transylvania or some of the most renowned castles as well as several medieval town centers, now popular touristic attractions);
— Romanian language (2% of Romanian words are of German origin, mainly from the influence of Transylvanian Saxons and Austrians)
— Romanian literature (the first letter written in Romanian was addressed to the former early 16th century mayor of Kronstadt, Johannes Benkner, and the first book printed in Romanian was in Hermannstadt).
Although the German minority in Romania has dwindled in numbers to a considerable extent since the fall of the Iron Curtain (many returned to Germany), the few but well organised Romanian-Germans who decided to remain in the country after 1989 are regarded by many Romanians as a hard-working, thorough, and practical community who has contributed to the local culture and history.
The bilateral political and cultural relationships between post-1989 Romania and unified Germany increased after the signing of a 1992 friendship treaty. On the occasion of the election of Frank Walter Steinmeier as President of Germany in 2017, incumbent Romanian president Klaus Johannis stated that: “[…] there is a profound friendship bounding the Romanians and the Germans, thanks mainly to the centuries-long cohabitation between Romanians, Saxons, and Swabians in Transylvania, Banat, and Bukovina.”
Famous Rumäniendeutsche include:
— Herta Müller, novelist and poet (Nobel Prize in Literature, 2009)
— Stefan Hell, physicist (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2014)
— Johnny Weissmüller, Olympic swimmer and Hollywood actor noted for the role of Tarzan
— Horst Köhler, former President of Germany
— Klaus Johannis, currently President of Romania
— Conrad Haas, 16th century pioneer of rocket propulsion
— Peter Maffay, famous rock musician in Germany
— Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, chess grandmaster
According to German statistical data from 2016, the number of Romanian nationals in Germany was 452,718 (up from 94,326 in 2008).