Schwabenkinder –
Child Labour and Markets for Children in Upper Swabia

Length: 30 minutes (Südwest 3 SWR, series “Landesschau unterwegs”, 5 Feb. 2000)
They were called “Schwabenkinder” (‘children destined for Swabia’) in Switzerland and Austria. Each year in March they made their way to Swabia in Germany to enter service tending livestock. Boys and girls. Their ages: 7 to 14. They had to work hard while German children of the same ages went to school. Each year several thousand “Schwabenkinder” came by steamer across Lake Constance and were rented out to farmers at downright markets for children, for example in Friedrichshafen. Abject poverty was what forced their parents to send them off as seasonal labour for 8 months. They came from the poor mountain villages in the Vorarlberg, Tyrol and Grisons regions. For some it was the yearned-for farewell to hunger, for others a slave-like existence at the mercy of the employer’s whims. Verification exists that the “Schwabenkinder” migrations had been going on since the 16th century. They didn’t end until the 1930s. Eye-witness accounts from “Schwabenkinder” still alive regarding the places where they were in service in Upper Swabia or at home in the mountain villages form the core of the film.

Screenplay and director: Valentin Thurn
Camera: Joachim Priem, Wolfgang Freund
Editor: Jutta Gutschmidt
Executive Producer: Monika Buscher
Thanks to Paul Zangerl, Dr Sebastian Marseiler, Claudia Lang, Dorothee Breucker,
Municipal Archives of Ravensburg