Yugoslavian Banat


Pantschowa (Pancevo) in the Banat

 

  This article is a summary and a partial translation of a series entitled:  “A Volk AusgelÓ§scht” (The Liquidation of a People) that appeared in the Donautal magazine.

 

 

  Pantschowa (Pancevo), the largest community in the southern Banat in Yugoslavia, is located where the Temes and Danube Rivers converge.  It is one of the oldest settlements in the Banat.  In addition to the Danube Swabians many other nationalities lived in the region.  Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians, Slovaks and others had settled here on the lower Danube over the previous two hundred years and lived together in relative harmony.  Even though the Danube Swabians lived under “foreign” governments as a result of their ingenuity and industriousness they in particular achieved a measure of economic success.

 

  The city of Pantschowa had a population of over 25,000 inhabitants at the beginning of the Second World War.  Living among the Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians and Slovaks there were over 12,000 Danube Swabians.  The city was grateful to its Danube Swabian population for their contribution to the economic upswing the city experienced.  It became a major economic centre from which hundreds of river boats were loaded with goods and products for shipment to numerous countries.  There were also thousands of Danube Swabians who lived and worked in the numerous villages and communities in the vicinity and neighbourhood of the city.

 

  The Russian Army entered the area in the first days of October in 1944.  Under the protection of the Red Army the Communist Partisans took over the administration of the city and instituted  a gruesome reign of terror.  Anyone who appeared to be an anti-Communist according to their definition was marked for extermination.  This not only included the supporters of the Serbian General Neditsch but also the royalists among the Serbs, the so-called Chetniks plus the Danube Swabians all of whom were to be totally uprooted and destroyed.  The Danube Swabians in the region numbered about 40,000 of whom only a few thousand had fled with the retreating German Army.  The majority simply remained.  They had a clear conscience in terms of their loyalty to the State and were not afraid.  They had no idea of the fate that now awaited them under this new Partisan regime.  Simply because they were of German ethnic heritage, all of them were to be exterminated so that today not a singe one of them can be found there.

 

  Immediately following the take over of power by the Partisans they began arresting and liquidating the most prominent Danube Swabian men.  Their first victims were those whose houses, goods and land were what the Partisans wanted for themselves.  All of these men were dragged out of their homes and force marched to the old city stockade and punishment facility.  They also brought thousands of entire Danube Swabian families to Pantschowa where they would be tortured and abused all day long.  Every time new batches of bloodthirsty Partisans arrived who wanted their fair share of the goods and possessions of the Danube Swabians blood would flow.  They indiscriminately killed the innocent and helpless and chained Danube Swabians together and watched them die.  They would order whole groups out of the overflowing rooms of the stockade and chose individuals and would beat and torture them until they were dead or the Partisans got tired or lost interest.  Most of the victims were knocked to the ground with rifle butts aimed at their kidneys and if they tried to roll over on their backs they kicked them in the ribs until they were broken; teeth were knocked out with revolvers; noses were broken.  Their victims included men, women and teenaged girls.

 

  Many Danube Swabians died in this manner or as a result of it.  After a few days the Partisans seemed to have had their fill of this kind of torture as they went about their task of liquidation and it was a rather slow process.  They began to chain or tie them into groups and dragged them out of the camp and shot them in groups.  But first they had to take off their clothes and underwear and stand naked before the firing squads.  All told, there were 1,666 Danube Swabians in the camp in Pantschowa who were taken by night, chained together and led away never to be seen or heard from again.  Most of them were led down the street leading to Jabuka or they were shot at the airport.  Twelve huge mounds where they were buried were still discernable close to the factory in the vicinity of the airport in 1946.  They are the mass graves of the larger groups that were executed there.  Each of the groups totalled one hundred or more victims.  There were also many who simply died in the prison from beatings, lack of food, dysentery and cold.

 

  One of the first victims of the new bloody People’s Democratic regime was a school boy, Franz MaierhÓ§fer.  A Serbian woman who bore a grudge against his parents wanted to get even by getting at their son.  With the Partisans in control of the city she saw that this was her chance.  She did not allow the Partisans to kill the parents instead she asked the Partisans to kill the couple’s only child, an innocent helpless child.  The Partisans tore the child from his parents’ arms and shot him in front of them.

 

  The first person in the camp to be tortured unmercifully and to die as a result was the Lutheran pastor, Wilhelm Kund, the Dean of the Banat District of his church.  He was the oldest remaining Lutheran pastor in Yugoslavia after Bishop Philipp Popp had been executed by the Partisans in Zagreb.  They dragged the old pastor to a punishment cell that they had set up and abused and beat him for two hours simply because he was a pastor.  He too received many punches to the kidneys, the Partisans using brass knuckles and clubs.  They hit him in the face with planks of wood and broke his nose.  They then threw him to the floor.  They took turns jumping on him, hit him in the stomach and broke his ribs.  He was bloodied from head to toe and had severe internal injuries a result of which he later died.  The well known lawyer, Dr. Hans Leitner, also died after constant torture.  He had been brought to Pantschowa from Kowatschitza.

 

  Day after day, the Partisans brought more and more Swabian men and many women to the camp in Pantschowa also including residents of the city and most of them perished as a result of the mistreatment they received and those who survived this gruesome ordeal were led away to be shot in large groups.  The first of these mass shootings occurred on October 16, 1944.  On that day alone, 180 Swabian men had been bound and led from the camp were made to undress and stood naked out on the street that leads to Jabuka and were shot on the outskirts of Pantschowa.

 

    All kinds of gruesome things took place at these shootings because the Serbian Partisans and the Gypsies who accompanied them took advantage of the opportunity.  The naked victims were taken to the site of the mass grave already dug for them and were forced to lie down in it and wait for the executioner’s shot.  If anyone protested he was badly beaten before being shot.  The carpenter, Anton Geier, after he was stripped naked was impaled on a pitch fork by one of the Gypsies and only after a long time of pain and suffering was he thrown down into the mass grave while still alive.  The watchmaker, Michael Eichart, was killed by Partisans in a most brutal manner.  They cut out and removed some of his ribs while he was still alive and finally pushed him into the grave with the other Swabians but only after an eternity of suffering.

 

  On October 18th another 180 Swabians were driven out of the camp in chains and were shot.  On October 20th there were over 300.  Among them were some German prisoners of war.  On October 22nd they killed thirty men and one woman.  And that is how it went on day after day until mid November.  On November 9th, the former Swabian attorney-at-law, Dr. Simon Bartmann, a man who everyone knew was a Yugoslavian patriot and had opposed the Fascists, was included in a group of 84 Swabians that were shot.  This group also included eleven women, the dentist Dr. Hauber and the attorney Dr. Bartosch.  The others who were shot with them were all members of the professions, the intelligentsia and well-to-do persons.  On this occasion the operation was carried out with the Partisans going from cell to cell with a list of names that they called out who were designated for execution.  Whoever’s name was called out had to step out of the cell.  That is how they assembled the 84 Swabian men and women.  They were immediately surrounded by Partisans who beat them with their rifles or steel rods.  They tied them up with rope and wire to one another and drove them out of the camp, beating and mistreating them along the way.  The fate of elderly Dr. Simon Bartmann was surprising.  He had many friends among the nationalists and royalists among the Serbs with whom he had worked cooperatively even before the First World War when the Banat was not even part of Yugoslavia but still belonged to Hungary and the Serbs were as much a minority as were the Danube Swabians.  That now made no difference.  Dr. Bartmann had to die because he too was a “German”.  All of these victims like those before them were driven naked to the mass graves and put to death in a gruesome manner.

 

  On November 11, 1944 all of the remaining Danube Swabians in the city of Pantschowa (most of whom were women and children) were driven out of their houses by the Partisans and herded into a camp.  Everything they possessed was stolen from them.  In all, 3,042 of them were brought to Brestowatz where 7,000 people were interned.  In a very short period of time 400 of them perished.  Later in the winter the Swabian women were taken away to labour camps where many of them were put to death or were cruelly tortured and punished.

 

  At the end of December 1944 the Yugoslavian government handed over 1,000 younger women and teenaged girls to the Russian Army.  They were deported to the Soviet Union to the slave labour camps.  Not a single one of them ever returned home.  But at the camp in Brestowatz the Partisans often dragged off young women and girls and to this date their fate remains unknown.  The father of one of the girls protested to the Partisan Commander and as a result he was punished and tortured.  They held a burning candle beneath his nostrils and under his outstretched tongue.

 

  In the fall of 1945 there were 3,784 Danube Swabians, mostly women and children from Pantschowa, were taken out of the Brestowatz camp and sent to the larger concentration camp at Rudolfsgnad.  This would result in the mass starvation of the inmates from  Pantschowa.  Of the 3,784 who had arrived from Pantschowa that fall by summer’s end in 1946 only 1,884 were still alive.  More than half had died of hunger and disease that winter.  But the other men and women of Pantschowa who were not assigned to Brestowatz or Rudolfsgnad but had been kept in the camp in  Pantschowa were put to death in all kinds of ways.  Totally undernourished they were sent out to do heavy physical labour every day.  If anyone became sick or too weak to work they were beaten to death or shot.  Sometimes those who were sick or too weak to work were executed in groups.  That was the case on December 11, 1944 when 68 of the sick Swabians and wounded German prisoners of war were executed by Partisan firing squads.  Of those who died, 32 came from Brestowatz, including Markus Schwefelbauer.  The reason given for their execution was that because they were sick they were of no economic value.  The cheapest way to rid themselves of the sick was to shoot them instead of feeding them.

 

  Many of the camp inmates in Pantschowa were taken to labour camps in the district and put to heavy work and liquidated there.  Many were sent to the camp in Semlin which had been set up as a “show place” to demonstrate how to deal with Swabians.  Many thousands of Swabian men and women found their final resting place there.

 

  In the same way as in Pantschowa itself the Danube Swabians in the countless surrounding villages were exterminated or were brought to the camp at Panstschowa in the early days of the Partisan action taken against them.  Most of those who were brought to Pantschowa were the well-to-do and community leaders and were put to death.  The others would suffer the same fate later.  There were few survivors.

Lazarfeld in the Banat (1800-1950) 

  This article deals with the latter portion of the Lazarfeld Heimatbuch published in 1972 and has been translated by Henry Fischer.

  Lazarfeld was located in the District of Grossbetscherek in the County of Torontal all of which later became part of Yugoslavia.  It’s neighbouring communities also included:  Sartscha (1805), Klek (1818), Kathreinfeld (1793), Stephansfeld (1795), Ernsthausen (1822) and Sigmundfeld (1809).

 

  The settlement and founding of Lazarfeld took place in 1800 although the houses had been built in the previous year.  There was a very high death rate among the children in the first years because the houses were very damp.  To a great extent the settlers came from St. Hubert, Soltur and Scharlewil (Charleville).  These French names are typical in the northern Banat.  This would also remain true of the character of the settlements in the area which were secondary settlements as a result of population pressures in the already existing villages and their search for new and more land.  By 1821 there were 1,382 residents in the village.  It’s continued growth was steady so that by 1900 there was a population of 1,909.  On October 1, 1944 the population was officially set at  2,210.

 

  In 1848 a longing for freedom emerged in many lands resulting in unrest and revolution.  Beginning in France the unrest spread to the German states.  It was met with a welcome response in Hungary on the part of the Magyars who sought national independence.  The Emperor Ferdinand I refused to give in to the aspirations of the Hungarians.  They turned to the use of revolutionary means in order to meet their objectives and declared their independence.  They were led by Louis Kossuth the champion of the nationalist cause.  The national minorities in Hungary who consisted of more than half of the population did not support them in their aims.  They looked to the Emperor to support them in safeguarding their future and saw that as his responsibility to them.  The Danubian lands and territories freed from the Turks were once again the scene of warfare.  The Hungarians battled the Imperial and Royal Habsburg Army.  The Serbs, Croats, Slovaks and later also the Romanians rose up against the Hungarians.

 

  At the beginning of April in 1848 the Serbs who were centred in Neusatz (Novi Sad) asked the new Hungarian government in Pressburg for their own national freedom and independence.  The government denied their request.  In response on April 24th the Serbs in Kikinda raised their own flag on the town hall and began to partition the state land holdings and drove off the Hungarian hussars who were stationed in the town and then plundered the town.  Ernst Kiss, the nobleman and landlord of Elemer and Itebe, suppressed the rebel Serbs in the city and hung their leaders.  In retaliation 300 to 400 Serbs gathered in Betschkerek and burned the church records which were all written in Hungarian.  The “National Congress of Serbs” met in Karlovitz on May 13, 1848 and appointed the Archbishop of Karlovitz, Josef Rajastisch (German version of a Serbian name) as the Patriarch of all Serbs in the Monarchy and the Serbian Wojwod and elected Stephan Schuplikatz (ditto) as the titular head of the nation and Stratimirowitsch (ditto) their military leader began the campaign of liberation and freedom from the Hungarians.  The Military Frontier District had been Austrian territory until May 1848 when it was returned to Hungary and placed under their military jurisdiction.  Both Slavic populations and the resident Austrian military personnel resented this transfer.

 

  Approximately ten thousand resisters assembled in the local barracks and district army camps and were reinforced by Serbs from the Kingdom of Serbia who were chiefly engaged in theft and murder when they were set loose on the countryside.  At the outset the Serb forces were 20,000 in number who faced. 10,000 well armed members of the Hungarian Honvéd (National Citizens Army) under the command of Bechthold and Kiss.  The first battle took place on July 15, 1848.  On July 23, the Serbs under the command of Stratimirowitsch occupied Pantschowa and established his headquarters there.  Minor battles and skirmishes began at Neusin on August 3rd and five days later they burned Ernsthausen and a section of the village of Sartscha.  There were more skirmishes on August 28th at Etschka, the 29th at Stephansfeld and October 8th they were at Siegmundfeld.  The steward in charge of Stephansfeld, Matthias Herf was beheaded by the Serbs at Tomaschwatz and his head was placed on a lance on the bridge of the town.

 

  The Magyars were soon in a position to retaliate and faced the rebels at Perlas which they put to the torch.  Kiss established a military hospital at Siegmundfeld.  The Swabians in the various communities were in a constant state of anxiety and fear that their villages could be destroyed overnight.  Their wagons were loaded with necessities and their teams of horses were kept in harness.  They also set up their own sentries to patrol their villages especially in terms of the direction from which they assumed the attacks would come.  Kiss had his headquarters in Betscherek and that discouraged incursions in the vicinity and he also put a stop to attacks at Jarkowatz, Tomaschwatz, Botosch and Siegmundfeld.  The robber captain, Sandor Rozsa, and his brigand band of two hundred, kept the Serbs at bay and he and his mean were ensconced in Lazarfeld and Klek.  At the end of August they left for Werschetz in the pay of the Hungarians but they were now more interested in plunder and murder.  Only with Russians assistance was Austria able to put down the revolution and with that Austria’s policy had to change in terms of the diverse nationalities in the Habsburg holdings.

 

  On January 5, 1849 the Austrians occupied Budapest under Duke Windischgratz.  With the withdrawal of Hungarian troops out of southern Hungary, the Serbs were able to occupy all of it without meeting any opposition.  The Banat and Batschka were now an Austrian province with Temesvár as the capital.  Following that the Swabian population were given rights and freedoms in terms of their language.

 

  On July 28, 1914 shots rang out in Sarajevo that ended the Empire of 43,000,000 inhabitants, divided into seventeen nationalities.  The people of Lazarfeld were caught between the Austrians and the Serbs asked:  “Will there be war?  If so what will ever become of us?”  The men left to go off to war heading south and the cannonade of the siege of Belgrade could be heard in Lazarfeld.  The casualties mounted as the men from Lazarfeld served in Galicia and the Carpathians and on the Russian front.  The women and grandfathers and older teenaged boys cultivated the land and took care of the livestock.  Later the first Russian prisoners of war appeared in Lazarfeld and were more than happy to be agricultural workers.  In 1915 the grey uniformed troops of the German Reich were quartered in Lazarfeld.  It was their first contact with Reichs Deustche (Germans from the German Reich).  They were received warmly by the community.

 

  The second year of the war brought with it some food shortages.  Only a small portion of the crops could be retained by the farmers everything else had to be delivered to the military.  But the war claimed more and more victims and the casualty lists got longer and longer.  At the end of November 1916, the Emperor Francis Joseph died and so did the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary.  His successor Karl I, died in exile in April of 1922 on the island of Madiera.  The Empire was no more.

 

  As a result of the Treaty of Trianon the Batschka, western Banat, Srem, Slavonia (with a total of 600,000 Germans) were annexed by the new successor state of Yugoslavia.  The eastern Banat and Temesvár, Szatmar and a small triangle (Keres-Maros) with 750,000 Germans was awarded to Romania.  The other areas of settlement of the Swabians remained in Hungary (480,000).  As a result of Trianon Hungary lost two thirds of land mass and seven tenths of its population.

 

  In June 1920 the organization of the local chapter of the “Swabian-German Cultural Association” in Lazarfeld took place.  It was an utterly new phenomenon.  It had no political intentions…at the outset.

 

  In 1927 some fifteen families from within this entirely Roman Catholic village left the Roman Catholic Church and formed a Lutheran congregation.  Among them were the local physician and other intellectuals who found Roman Catholicism too rigid and controlling and repressive in terms of allowing people to do their own personal thinking about their spirituality and their relationship with God.

 

The Second World War

 

  On March 27, 1941, two days after the conclusion of the Pact between Germany and Yugoslavia in Vienna, the Serbs took to the streets to demonstrate against it.  “Better a war than this Pact!”  Worry-filled days followed for the Swabian population.  Many men received their call up for military service.  The big question was:  “Will it be war?”  The first bombs fell on Belgrade in the grey morning of Palm Sunday, April 6, 1941.  Without a declaration of war Germany began hostilities against Yugoslavia.  The Swabians bore the brunt of the hostilities simply because they were German.  There were hostages taken in every German village by the Yugoslavian police forces.  Seven women and eleven men from Lazarfeld were taken as hostages and accompanied by an armed escort.  “All Germans are guilty,” became a byword.  They were first taken to Gross Betscherek and then later to Peterwardein.  The hostages were the teachers, notaries, mayors and their family members.  Throughout Yugoslavia the Swabians endured a week of fear and uncertainty.  Both the Germans and Serbs knew that German and Romanian troops were massed on the border.  Those who lived close to the border sought safety by crossing the frontier clandestinely.  But the hostages in Peterwardein had no idea of what lay ahead for them.

 

  The Yugoslavian Army began to withdraw from the border areas.  It was only a matter of time until the German troops marched in.  The women sewed flags to welcome the German Army.  On the afternoon of Easter Monday, April 14th motorized German units from Romania began to enter from Temesvár, Modosch and Stefansfeld.  They headed for Gross Betscherek.  The columns of German troops passing through Lazarfeld took most of the next day.  They were welcomed by the Swabians with a sight of relief after the uncertainty of the last weeks.  The hostages were released and returned back home.  The plan had been to blow up the prison with the hostages in it but an unknown Serbian Orthodox priest had revealed the information to the German Army authorities.  In a week’s time normalization set it.  Although Serbia was occupied by German troops the Banat was a separate area of occupation distinct from it.  At its head was a German Vice-Governor in Grossbetscherek.

 

  During the period of time between the entry of the German troops and the beginning of the invasion of Russia on June 22, 1941, the Swabians had no sense of being in the middle of a war.  The quartering of German troops was more like entertaining visiting guests.  In late summer with the active support of the local Volksgruppe (Translator’s Note:  the former cultural association had been taken over by pro-Nazis) a commission from the Third Reich came to Lazarfeld in an attempt to recruit volunteers to serve in the Waffen-SS.  There were eight volunteers in all.

 

  There were massive and destructive floods in the first quarter of 1942 because of heavy rainfall.  Much of Grossbetscherek was flooded but most of Lazarfeld was spared due to the canal system.

 

  Berlin government officials (Translator’s Note:  Heinrich Himmler head of the SS) and the Volksgruppe leaders in the Banat worked jointly to organize a “voluntary” SS-Division to be called:  “Prinz Eugen”.  (Translator’s Note:  Eugen of Savoy the Liberator of Hungary from the Turks)  This division was to consist of 26,000 men.  The recruitment began in May and would last for four months.  The men to be recruited were born between 1892-1926.  This would lead to the charge levelled against the Swabians in the Banat at the end of the war to be used to justify their extermination and punishment.  In fact they were brutally enlisted in the SS against their will.  Their preference would have been to serve in the regular German Army.

 

  It was left to the women and older men to carry on the economic life of the community and yet 1942 would produce a bountiful harvest.  In the fall of 1942 the Prince Eugen Division went into action against the Partisans in Serbia and Bosnia.  This was a fatal political mistake.  It deepened the hatred of the Serbs towards the Swabians.

 

Evacuation and Catastrophe

 

  On August 23, 1944 King Michael of Romania declared an armistice with the Soviet Union.  As a result the Banat was in danger of becoming a battle ground or to be overrun by the Red Army.  In light of that the Volksgruppe ordered the population to prepare for a possible evacuation.  All of the Swabians in German occupied areas of Yugoslavia began to pack.  The wagons were enlarged and canvas tops were prepared.  The refugee treks were to follow a well regulated route and plan.  Those who had no vehicles would travel with someone who had space and room for them and their necessary luggage and food; the Lazarfeld population had been prepared for some time.  They simply waited for the order to leave.

 

  Then on September 18th, the Volksgruppe press reported:  “We will stay here!”  The people breathed a sigh of collective relief.  But soon they would pay bitterly for the false hopes they had been informed about.  It only dawned on them when the first treks from the Romanian Banat from Hatzfeld, Ostern and Tschakowa quartered in Lazarfeld…the Russians were coming and they would overrun the Banat.

 

  As the situation worsened they were told the Russians were being held at the Carpathian Mountain passes and only a few stragglers and deserters had made it into the Banat.  As a result the “Deutsche Mannschaft” (Translator’s Note:  a local civil defence force) including some men from Lazarfeld were sent to Romania to contain them.  There they soon discovered they were faced by massive Russian armies, not Partisans or stragglers.

 

  On Thursday, September 28th, the leadership of the Volksgruppe in Grossbetscherek ordered the evacuation of the Banat.  They did so on their own without authorization by the German Army and then relented afraid of some action that the German authorities might take against them.  The evacuation was held back due to political considerations.  If massive numbers of Swabiansd refugees fled through Hungary it would drive the Hungarians right into the arms of the Russians in order to save themselves.  At least that is what German officials feared.  So they were prepared to offer 100,000 victims if that would stabilize the resolve of an unreliable ally like Hungary for at least a few weeks.  These very short sighted political considerations of the Nazis does not however excuse the Volksgruppe leaders and their Führer, Sepp Janko, from the guilt and responsibility for what was about to happen.  Had they taken the responsibility to order the evacuation it would have perhaps meant their own deaths for treason but would have prevented the extermination of thousands upon thousands of innocent women, children and elderly.

 

  It was at mid-night on Sunday,  October 1, 1944 that the Volksgruppe leaders finally received permission to evacuate the German population of the Banat.  But for Lazarfeld and its neighbouring villages the order came too late.  So began the tragedy of our people and the end of the history of Lazarfeld.

 

  (Translator’s Note:  Sepp Janko and his inner circle in the Volksgruppe had already left for Germany by train.)

 

  On Saturday, the 30th of September 1944, twenty to twenty-five Russians troops and their officer entered Lazarfeld after having established their headquarters in Stephansfeld.  They allowed the villagers of Stephansfeld to drive them to Lazarfeld on their wagons.  They first went to the town hall and then the post office.  There they tore down the telephone wires.  In the town hall they looked for someone who could speak Russian.  A Russian prisoner of war from the First World War had never returned home to Russia acted as their interpreter.  The officer asked him about German forces in the village or area.  When told that there were none all of the public buildings were searched.  Some girls and women fled during the night to Klek which had not yet been occupied.

 

  On Sunday, October 1st, at daybreak the Russians returned to Stephansfeld.  A new day began, a day which the people of Lazarfeld will never forget.  At eight o’clock the beating of drums announced, “All men 16 years of age and over are to report at the town hall with guns and ammunition to march to Sartscha and make a stand and push back the Partisans.”  Many of the men simply ignored the order.  At nine o’clock a crony of the local Volksgruppe leaders handed out leaflets.  They announced, “Whoever flees without the permission of the Volksgruppe leaders will be excluded from our racial community.”  This leaflet and its authors and distributors determined the destiny of the people of Lazarfeld.  The whole community was packed and ready to leave.  The wagons were loaded.  The horses were harnessed.  But no one left.  They stood in the streets, unsure, uncertain as what to do.  Time ran out.  With each hour there was less hope of escape before the Russians entered the village en masse.  But the Volksgruppe leaders’ lives were far more precious than the thousands who would perish.

 

  As the last toll of twelve o’clock was sounding from the church tower–the bells would never toll again–the Red Army crossed the Sartscha bridge and came into Lazarfeld.  At that same moment a few families left attempting to escape.  Countless troops entered the village, disciplined and well warmed.  Every household provided quarters for twenty to thirty men.

 

  Almost simultaneously German troops had been flown into Grossbetscherek and were stationed at Klek and Alexandrowo.  German artillery fire was directed at Lazarfeld.  The first hit was the rectory and the second hit and destroyed the church tower.  The battle raged all night.  Around eleven o’clock the German infantry entered the northern part of the village and threw the Russians back half way through the village.  The villagers were caught in the middle, hiding out with the Russian troops in their homes.  Two families are known to have safely fled during the night.

 

  Early morning, October 2nd the Russians were reinforced and drove the German troops back to Grossbetscherek.  The battle for the airport and the Tisza Canal began. 

 

  Now the Russian troops began to plunder.  They broke into homes and took watches, jewellery and money.  The members of the Deutsche Mannschaft were beaten and bloodied.  Now everything under the sun was unleashed upon the population.  Rape was the order of the day.  Women as old as fifty years jumped into wells to drown to escape the horror that was taking place all around them.  The next day more troops arrived to be quartered and the plundering and raping went on.  Pigs and calves were slaughtered and the women had to cook and bake day and night.  They took the horses and the fodder.  Everything was taken and Partisans and Serbs from Scharen came and joined in the thievery and plundering.

 

  Right after the entry of the Russians the Partisans followed and took command.  They put the German population to forced labour.  The following day to the beating of drums in the streets of the village they announced, “All men must report to the town hall.”  They were ordered to gather and bury the battle casualties.  They buried twenty-five Russians and fifteen German soldiers in the cornfields.  In the following days everyone had to report at the town hall.  The Partisans guarded them on the way to the fields as they gathered in the harvest.

 

  Then came October 20th…The men stood outside the town hall again awaiting orders from Tito’s Partisans.  Names were read:  42 members of the Deutsche Mannschaft who were not allowed to return home and spent an uncertain night in the town hall.  They were forced on wagons to carry animals and were taken to the camp at Grossbetscherek. (This would be the last stop in the life of most of them.)

 

  One Lazarfeld survivor writes:  “On October 5th the Partisans imprisoned all of the Germans in Grossbetscherek in the camp.  Later, German men from the surrounding area were brought there to hire them out for slave labour.  The men were beaten, tortured and terribly abused.  Our day of misery began at four in the morning.  Breakfast consisted of watery soup.  We had to work hard all day.  After working fourteen hours at six o’clock we had watery soup again.  Even the healthiest among us became wrecks and those who tried to forage or beg for good from the Serbian population faced torture or execution if they were caught.  Those put to the wall to facing firing squads were those who had better clothes, were physically strong or were weakened through hunger or sickness.  Guilt or innocence had no meaning or significance at all.  The shooting range outside the city became the execution grounds for the Swabians.”

 

  Among the prisoners were Swabians from Romania who had no quarrel with the Serbs.  The estimate of how many were shot in Grossbetscherek Camp is 1,200 to 1,500 men.  This reign of terror in the camp lasted until May 1945.  The shootings finally ended on the intervention of the Russians.  From then on the men worked in the fields.  Shooting was reserved solely for men caught attempting to escape.

 

  At Christmas 1944 a Russian Commission came to Lazarfeld.  The population had to assemble on the main street.  Everyone had “to dance” at the dance hall, which meant to register if you were a woman eighteen to thirty-five years old and men up to fifty.

 

  On Christmas Day, a total of 99 residents of Lazarfeld, 13 men and 86 women and teenaged girls were marched through the village escorted by Partisans.  Heart rendering scenes took place.  Children clung to the skirts of their mothers and sobbed, “Momma don’t go away.  Take us along.  Don’t leave us alone!”  They drove the poor children away with their rifle butts.  Several mothers who were not among the selected age groups went along voluntarily to be with their teenaged daughters.  Those who remained caught a glimpse of what was in store for them.  When they reached Grossbeterscherk they were loaded in cattle cars in groups of 35 to 40 people in each car and sent to Russia to the coal mines of Stalino.  The journey lasted twenty days; they never saw the sky; received no food and were driven into primitive huts and worked in primitive and dangerous anthracite coal mines.  They worked side by side with German prisoners of war and other Swabians and Transylvania Saxons.  They worked, starved, grew ill and died or managed to survive.  They were at slave labour for five years before they were released.  Release came too late for 3 women, 3 teenaged girls and 1 of the men buried in unmarked graves somewhere in Russia.

 

  At the end of March 1945, the sick and weak among the prisoners in Grossbetscherek were transferred to Kathreinfeld Camp.  All of them died there.

 

  On April 18, 1945 the people of Lazarfeld had to leave their homes for mass quartering in public buildings; the school, the inns, the bank and larger homes.  Twenty to thirty people were packed into each room.  They slept on straw with one thin blanket.  The clothes they wore were their only belongings.  They worked under the watchful eyes of Partisan guards.  The houses they had left stood open…a ghost town…and the living dead were just down the street.

 

  The planned extermination continued.  At the end of April it was the turn of the 16, 17 and 18 year old girls and also those born in 1927, 1928 and 1929.  Horrible scenes took place as people engaged in a possible final farewell.  Again there were mothers who went with their daughters voluntarily.  Under armed Partisan guard they were taken to Grossbetscherek, were assigned to cattle cars and transported to the internment camp in Mitrowitz (Mitrovica).  There were over one thousand inmates packed into the former silk spinning factory.  The work was hard, conditions were bade and food was scarce.  The girls faces were wrinkled and grey.  In the winter of 1945-1946 a typhus epidemic broke out in the camp in which 25% died a terrible death.  Their bodies were thrown into mass graves.  The survivors were too weak to do any more work.  The only place for them were the extermination camps.  Russia, the labour camps and the extermination camps decimated the youth of the Swabian population.

 

Extermination Camp:  Rudolfsgnad

 

  In mid October of 1945 mothers and infants, toddlers and orphans, the elderly, the sick and those unfit for work were no longer to be spared from their Golgotha.  Rudolfsgnad was the name of the concentration camp where many would make their final stop in life.  The village situated in the Danube-Tisza-Triangle had 3,200 inhabitants at one time but by the end of November 1945 over 20,000 Swabians from the Banat had been driven there.  According to room size, twenty to thirty persons were packed in it.  They lay on the floor on bits of straw.  They had no blanks or covers.  The straw was never changed.  There was no possibility of washing and no one had a change of clothes.  They were under surveillance day and night.  Food was ban and scarce.  Cats and dogs soon disappeared.

 

  It was only in May of 1946 that there was any increase in rations.  But along with hunger there was cold.  They burned whatever they could find.  Sickness spread and so did death.  Each day eighty to ninety people died and sometimes more.  But worse was yet come.  In late fall of 1945 a epidemic hit the camp.  Mass deaths took place mostly the younger children and the elderly.  By February 1946 the epidemics reached their high point.  Mass graves of up to 9,000 contain 269 of Lazarfeld’s population.  Among them 39 children from 1 to 13 years.

 

  Adults could cope with hunger but not children.  Mothers and grandparents no longer wanted to see their children starve.  At nights they sneaked out of the closely guarded camps and stole into nearby Serbian villages begging food or resorting to stealing.  They knew they could pay for this with their lives if they were caught and shot on the spot.

 

  As the villages and market towns of the Swabians were re-settled by Bosnian immigrants the Swabian populations were dragged off to Rudolfsgnad.  Children whose mothers had been deported to Russia were left with their grandparents, neighbours or friends.  If they died the children were placed in the State Children’s Homes.  Bad treatment and under-nourishment led them to become living skeletons.  Some of them reverted to walking on all fours.  They were transferred to Slovenia and Macedonia.  Years later a reluctant International Red Cross was cajoled into work to re-unite the children with their families in Germany and Austria.  They only spoke Serbo-Croatian and no longer knew their German names having been given a new identity.

 

  At the beginning of 1948 a rumour spread in Rudolfsgnad, “The camps are being closed.”  A few days later a commission arrived.  All persons were identified and questions about family members were asked.

 

  March 1, 1948 Rudolfsgnad ceased to be a camp.  In February 1948 the Lazarfeld surviving population were re-settled around Pantschowa.  They had to work on agricultural estates of the government.  It took them three years to recuperate from their Rudolfsgnad experience.  Those unable to work and the old people were placed in a barrack camp in Karlsdorf which was called an old people’s home.

 

  No one thought of a return “home” because Bosnians were now in possession of their homes and land.  They now longed to leave this now strange unfamiliar and hated land and return to the land of their forebears of 250 years ago with the same hope they had once brought with them.  There were two possibilities to achieve this:  flight or legal emigration.  The first option was dangerous and the second was costly (12,000 Denar per person) and even then it would take a long time and painfully slow.

 

Flight

 

  In the fall of 1946 those families still together undertook flight.  The way was across the Romanian frontier through Hungary to Austria.  Or when families were reunited in the camp at Gakowa close to the Hungarian frontier and escaped from there.

 

  The survivors from Lazarfeld found sanctuary:

 

              Bundes Repblic of Germany              1,238

              Austria                                                   204

              USA                                                         83

              Canada                                                     51

              France                                                      12

              England                                                      3

              East Germany                                            9

              Yugoslavia                                               18

 

  Losses suffered by the families of Lazarfeld:

 

              Killed, Missing in Action                      211

              Died in Tito’s camps                              382

              Shootings and executions                         42

              Deportees died in Russia                           7

 

              Total                                                       653

Woilowitz in the Yugoslavian Banat

  The information for this article is taken from the Heimatbuch of the same title and has been translated by Henry Fischer.

  During its history the community would have three different names, representative of the three nationalities and languages of its inhabitants:  Marienfeld, Hertelendyfalva and Vojlovica.

 

  The first settlement was located five kilometres south of Pantschowa and was founded in 1868 in the catchment area of the German Banat Border Patrol:  Infantry Regiment Number 12.  This original settlement was built along the Danube River.  At its founding only two nationalities were involved:  Germans and Slovaks.  They had already lived together previously in Heideschütz and were Lutheran co-religionists.

 

  The settlement was abandoned in the mid 1870s as a result of annual floods and in 1876 it was totally submerged.  After a long struggle with the authorities the settlers were able to obtain permission to re-settle two kilometres south-east of Pantschowa in the state forest by the monastery of Woilowitz and build a new village named Hertelendyfalva.  The name itself demonstrates something about the times.  The Banat was now Hungarian since the Military Frontier District had been disbanded.  A new group, the Csangos (Hungarians) participated in the establishment of the new community.

 

  Thirty-five years later those times were over and the village became part of the new state of Yugoslavia in 1919.  It now took on the name of the old Serbian monastery:  Woilowitz-Vojlovica.

 

  One generation founded two villages.  When they established Marienfeld most of them en were 40 to 50 years of age.  In eight years they would leave and begin all over again.  This, however, would last until 1944 for some sixty years.  Tragedy struck when the German inhabitants were driven from their homes and put in the starvation camps of Tito.

 

  The Germans and Slovaks came to the area in 1869 and all of them came from Heideschütz and numbered about 180 families.  They established Marienfeld beside the Danube.  They were a filial of the Lutheran Mother Church in Pantschowa.  After the flood of 1881 the authorities provided them with a new site.  In 1882 and 1883 they were joined there by 1,500 Hungarians from the Bakony Forest area of Hungary and together with the others a three language community evolved taking on the Hungarian name:  Hertelendyfalva.  The Hungarians were Protestants as well and formed a Hungarian Reformed congregation in the community.

 

  The Slovaks and Germans were served by the pastors of Pantschowa:  Johann Schneeberger, Andreas Nyacsik, Ferdinand Unger and Georg Schwalm.  In 1886 the congregation numbered 1,108 Slovaks and Germans and was now a separate parish.  On March 4, 1923 the Slovaks separated and formed a congregation of their own and called their own pastor.

 

  Actual organized colonization of the Banat ended in 1804.  There were approximately 70,000 Germans by then known as Swabians who were living in the Banat at that time.  In 1900 there were 500,000.

 

  All along the Danube there was a flood plain belonging to the Crown and administered by the German Banat Infantry Regiment Number 12.  Nearby communities could buy this land for 20 Gulden per Joch.  The Serbian villages were not interested because they were chiefly cattle herders.  As a result the officials in charge planned a new colonization farther into the interior.  This region was part of the area under the jurisdiction of the German Banat Infantry Regiment 12.  In 1864 the community of Deutsch-Etschka put in a request to buy the land.  It was denied.  The second request by Etschka and Siegmundfeld and seventeen other communities was granted on April 1, 1865.  The newly established community was named by the Emperor Francis Joseph on December 8, 1865.  It was called Rudolfsgnad in honour of his son and heir Rudolf.  Three years later 1,550 families applied for land.  On July 5, 1868 Vienna authorized the development of seven additional communities.  The first families who settled on the flood plain came from the Banat from Deutsch-Etschka (200 families) Siegmundfeld (85 families) and 50 other families from the seventeen villages who had applied.

 

  Rudolfsgnad was the first of these new colonies in this colonization of the Banat and became an example for the others to follow.  It was an example of how to survive natural calamities, first in 1867 and over the next ten years.  In the summer of 1866 construction of a dam began that was take three years to complete.  Over 1,225 workers from eleven villages of the Banat Regiment came to assist in the construction.  The Serbian cattle herders showed no interest in that kind of work.

 

  The plans for the new settlements were well thought out and thoroughly put in place but once again natural disasters got in the way.  The dams became the lifeline of the settlements especially in the years of the floods in 1869 and 1870.  But many of the men who came to work also desired to settle here as well.  Soon the seven villages were strung along the Danube:  Elisenheim was the farthest north; Kӧnigsdorf (the settlers came from Ernsthausen, Tschenta, Sartscha and Albrechtsdorf); Giselahain; Marienfeld, Ivanovo and Gyurgyevo.  During the first flood, Kӧnigsdorf and Marienfeld were completely swamped.  Later the same happened to Albrechtsdorf, Giselahain and Gyurgyevo.  The populations of the latter three settlements returned to their former home villages.  Those from Albrechtsdorf returned to Debeljatscha, Gesilahain to Borcsa and Gyurgyevo to Kubin.  Kӧnigsdorf was not rebuilt and Marienfeld relocated to the Woilowitz forest.

 

  Rudolfsgnad was established on April 2, 1866 and school was under way in November with two classes and the building served as a church as well.  In addition to the German settlers in the seven villages there were also Hungarians at Albrechtsdorf, Romanians at Gesilahan, Slovaks at Marienfeld, Bulgarians and Romanians at Ivanovo and Hungarians and Bulgarians at Gyurgyevo.  The only totally German village was Kӧnigsdorf with 310 homesteads whose settlers came from twenty Banat villages:  78 families from Stefanfeld; 57 families from Rudolfsgnad; 38 families from Senta; 38 families from Sartscha; 15 families from Klik, 10 families from Ernsthausen and other families from Kathreinfeld, Perles, Betscherek, Siegmundfeld, Neuzin and St. Georgen.

 

  Marienfeld consisted of two hundred houses in 1870.  After the floods of that year only one hundred and ten of the families returned.  Seventy of the families, mostly Slovaks, returned to Heideschütz.  In all, about one thousand of the original 1,500 families in the seven villages did not return.  Only thirty-five families returned to Rudolfsgnad.  Constant flooding and destruction at Marienfeld led to petitions for permission to settle in the Woilowitz Forest but without success until 1884.

 

  The name Marienfeld seems inappropriate for a Lutheran community in the Banat and especially in light of the fact that there was a Roman Catholic village with  the same name in the northern Banat and had been established a hundred years before.  For that reason it was known as Marienfeld on the Danube.  There were a few Roman Catholic families in the village who were served by the priest in Startschowa.  The Germans and Slovaks formed a Lutheran congregation.  There were 202 families, 101 were German and 101 were Slovak.  Of these, 56 of the German families and all 101 Slovak families came from Heideschütz.  During the floods the Slovaks fled to Heideschütz and the Germans went to their former home villages, Pantschowa or German villages in the vicinity.  When the flood waters receded and the land dried they returned and built emergency housing until they were in a better position to construct proper houses.

 

  The congregation received the support it needed for a church and school and teacher.  They became a filial of Pantschowa and they were served by Pastor Schneeberger.  During the floods he was instrumental in providing aid and assistance to the destitute people and he received the Knight’s Cross of the Order of St. Francis.

 

  Pastor Johann Schneeberger was born in Ödenburg (Sopron) in Hungary on January 2, 1825 and studied theology there and in Tübingen, Jena and Halle.  Her first served in Lugos in the Banat.  On July 11, 1854 he was called by the Lutherans in Pantschowa to be their pastor.  He would remain until October 1875.  He also taught languages in the Lutheran high school:  French and Hungarian.  The congregation became the largest in the Seniorat (Church District or Deanery).  When he left he was embittered because of the difficulties that had been created by a small group of Reformed in the congregation who were pro-Magyar.  He served in Neuwerbass until his death in 1900.

 

  Heideschütz’s first settlers were mostly families from Liebling, Franzfeld and Mramorak as well as the Batschka.  It became quite a large community whose population blended the varying traditions brought from both the Banat and Batschka.  In the future forty families would leave for America while more Banat families moved in from Franzfeld, Pantschowa and Mramorak.

 

  On May 16, 1870 the settlers at Marienfeld requested permission to leave the site and re-establish themselves in the forests close to the Serbian monastery at Vojlovica.  It was turned down by the Banat Regiment Headquarters.  The reason given was that colonists were only needed along the banks of the Danube River and not in the interior.  With flood following flood, leaders of the community approached Vienna and Budapest because only the Emperor could take action on this request for Crown lands.  Their representative arrived in Budapest dressed to the nines as a German Swabian peasant farmer ready for church and was laughed at by the Hungarian authorities as he tried to arrange an audience with the Emperor Francis Joseph.  On a hint from one official when he reached Vienna he stopped the Emperor’s coach along the street to get his attention.  He bowed and took off his hat with a sweeping motion each day as the Emperor’s carriage passed by until he sent his adjutant to find out what the peasant wanted.  He shared the villager’s request with him.  He would receive a personal audience in a few days much to everyone’s surprise.

 

  In 1872 the Military Frontier District became part of Hungary and Marienfeld became Hertelendyfalva and Hungarian colonists arrived in the settlement and in 1884 the new location was occupied.  It was named after Count Hertelendy who was an administrator in Betscherek.

 

  The village had three long streets:  The German “gasse” where most of the first Germans had settled; the second was the Slovak street and lastly the Hungarian street.  The churches and parsonages stood next to one another.  The Hungarian Calvinist Church was south of the road to Homolitz, Startschowa and Brestowatz and east of it was the Lutheran Church compound serving the Germans and Slovaks.

 

  It would remain like this until 1945 when a small number of the German inhabitants fled in face of the oncoming Russians.

 

  The vast majority stayed at home as they were not “political” and simply hoped to remain at home doing their daily work and be left in peace.  Some Serbs in the area encouraged them to flee but they remained.  Only a few heeded the warning of their Serbian friends and joined the evacuation in September 1944.

 

  All of those who remained were forced to leave their homes by the Partisans and Russian occupation forces and were ordered to go to the community centre.  A group of them were taken to Panstschowa where they were tortured and most of them were shot.  This occurred at the end of October and beginning of November.  There were twenty-five involved and included four women.  Two of the women were twenty-two year old teachers.  There was also the mayor and two of the Elders of the Lutheran congregation.

 

  There were some survivors among those who were arrested and taken to Pantschowa.  Surprisingly enough they were all apprehended in their own homes by their Slovak neighbours and co-religionists.  The Slovak pastor’s son was in charge of the round up.  They were taken to the community centre and shoved down into the cellars where other Germans were already packed.  They were imprisoned overnight.  Close to the noon hour they were released from the cellar.  The two older women among them were called out first.  Each prisoner was bound to another with rope.  They were guarded by twenty armed Partisans on their march to Pantschowa where they were placed in the local prison.  On the streets Gypsies and Serbs spit at the prisoners.  Approximately one thousand Germans from the southern Banatb were imprisoned there.  The vast majority were men.  Each night was filled with terror as names were called out and the victims accompanied the Partisans from the jail and were never seen or heard from again.  After two weeks only fifty of the prisoners survived.

 

  They were put to hard labour with very little food.  Those who became ill were promised that they would be cared for at Homolitz.  They were loaded on wagons to make the journey but stopped at the Jabuka meadow and were forced to dig their own graves and were shot.  Only three of the men from Woilowitz of the thirty-nine taken to Pantschowa survived.  From among these survivors two were deported to the labour camps in Russia and one of them survived.  These two men were among the twelve men and forty-two young women from Woilowitz who were sent to Russia in December and January 1944-1945.  The elderly and most of the children were sent to Rudolfsgnad where most of them perished in the camp there.

 

  One resident remembers 1944 and the events which followed when he was a very young child.  He recalls his disappointment when the German soldiers left the village.  It was in October when he heard the news that “the Russians are coming!”  His mother and her younger sister went into hiding as the Russians arrived.  The fact that his mother had two small children did not spare her from deportation to the Soviet Union.  His mother was twenty-six years old and had two sons.  (His grandmother told him all of this.)  His father was in the Waffen-SS as were all of the German men in the Banat with the exception of the pastors, the reason given by the Kulturbund was that since they were not German citizens they could not serve in the Wehrmacht the regular German Army.  His mother’s youngest sister wasn’t even seventeen years old and for that reason she was not included in the deportation list of those to be sent to Russia.  She did not want her older sister to go alone and so she sought to join her.  But her older sister persuaded her to stay at home and help look after her children.  But on January 2, 1945 her younger sister was taken after all and on the 6th the convoy left on a two week journey to Dombas in Ukraine and the living hell of the coal mines.

 

  On January 2nd when his mother had to report at the community centre she arrived carrying her baby in her arms and held the hand of the older boy with the other.  As the Russian officer saw her situation he released her and sent her home with her children.  A neighbour (Slovak) protested about her release because her husband was serving in the Waffen-SS.  As a result she was called back into the office and sent to Russia.  The two little boys were left behind with their Oma.  Now a very difficult time was in store for the three of them.  Each day their neighbours, both Hungarians and Slovaks took whatever they wanted from the house, yard and stable.  The old grandmother wept and tried to care for the livestock the neighbours had not taken.  Each day they were told to be ready to leave immediately when a convoy could be assembled in the district for “resettlement”.

 

  In May of 1945 all of the German civilian population, women, children and the elderly were ordered out of their homes and were driven through the streets on foot to the central plaza where wagons were assembled to take them to Apfelsdorf/Jabuka where they remained that summer.  Then they were taken to Rudolfsgnad.  Survival became the daily agenda of every inmate.  The older boy sneaked out of the camp to beg and steal food and somehow their Oma kept them from starving.  It was only through this old woman’s utter determination, sacrifices, efforts and faith the both boys managed to survive.  This was true of countless other grandparents…”

 

  Another residents remembers it this way:  “The Russians and Partisans entered our village on October 10th, 1944.  The inhabitants had not joined the evacuation and a planned Bund evacuation of the school children never materialized.  Rape, plundering and beatings were a daily occurrence.  Some German prisoners of war they brought with them were shot and any collaborators that were identified and then the deportations to slave labour in Russia began shortly before Christmas.  Most of the children were separated from their parents and stayed with their grandparents.  In the months after the able bodied were taken to labour camps and the rest of the population was placed in various internment camps.  They people had to leave everything behind except for what they could grab at the last moment and carried with them.  They were driven on foot to the town plaza as if they were some kind of criminals.  Here the elderly and small children were separated from adults who were still capable of working.  They were then taken to different destinations and were forced to walk there guarded by armed Partisans.  They were robbed of any valuables they had and forced to exchange their clothes with that of the Partisans.”

 

Christmas 1945 in the Rudolfgnad Extermination Camp

 

  “It was Christmas Eve in 1945…it had snowed most of the day.  It finally began to stop at noon.  Heavy winds drove the snow in swirls and moved the clouds across the sky.  Soon all of the footpaths to the entrances of the houses were drifted in here in the village of Rudolfsgnad in the southern Yugoslavian Banat.  But none of that had much meaning for the people who were housed here.  They were totally isolated from the outside world.  Rudolfsgnad had been established by Danube Swabian colonists who had drained the swamps that were plentiful here alongside the Tisza River and eventually it became a community of some 4,000 residents who carried on a never ending struggle with floods and dam construction to confine the waters of the Danube River that were also close by.  A series of dams and dikes later protected the village.  A bridge just above the dams joined the Banat and the Batschka.  But now the eastern and southern portions of the village serve as a barbwire-enclosed internment camp for the central Banat…for Danube Swabians.  The Partisans confined over 26,000 persons here:  women, children and the elderly.  All under heavy guard.

 

  The inmates slept on straw on the floor of the rooms wrapping what little clothes they possessed around themselves for protection against rats and the cold except when they tried to delouse them.  There were massive numbers of rats everywhere in the camp.  They would gnaw at the dead and attack the sick and those who were sleeping.  The more fortunate among the inmates had fallen asleep while the sleepless thought of the misery they were in and tried to forget their never ending hunger that caused their stomachs to rumble.  Because it was Christmas the Partisans had with held to-day’s ration of barley or cabbage soup which at least could still their hunger for a short while.  The inhumane Camp Commander had ordered that there would also be no food tomorrow on “the feast day” so that the Swabian’s empty stomachs should celebrate that there was no work for them to do!  It was distressing to all of the inmates.  Only those who took the risk to escape from the camp and scavenge for food in the district had a chance to survive but if they were caught they would be beaten, tortured and executed.  The only other alternative was to sit around passively and starve.

 

  As was the case in all of the houses in the camp, eleven year old Karl and his three younger siblings were with their two grandmothers and one of their grandfathers.  In addition there was also his aunt Katy and her three children along four other family groups like theirs that shared life together in it.  Karl’s mother along with thousands of others, both men and women and an older teenaged boys and girls had been taken to Russia on Christmas the year before.  Aunt Katy had escaped that fate only because she had broken her leg, which was still not healed because there were no doctors of medicine available for Danube Swabians.  They all lay still in the darkness listening to the wind whistle around the window frames and rush in under the door.  Heat was not available.  Wood found in your possession would cost you your life and forests were just across the dam outside.

 

  The sobs of one of the Oma’s became more and more audible and she began to complain:  “Tomorrow is Christmas and we don’t even have a piece of bread to give to the children.  Last year it was still better, even though there was a lot of misery then too.  If my poor husband had lived to see this, what would he have said?”

 

  “He wouldn’t say anything.  He would endure all of this just like the rest of us,” the remaining grandfather said.  “Be thankful that he didn’t have to live through all of this, for surely he endured a lot of brutality at the hands of the Partisans before they shot him or beat him to death.  Only the dead are the fortunate ones in this camp.  We take them out by the dozens each day on the carts to the mass graves.”

 

  “I would so much like to die.  Better today than tomorrow,” whined the old distraught Oma.

 

  “We cannot even dare to think of that as long as the children are still alive,” the other Oma remonstrated.  “Who knows what will happen to them when we’re no longer around?  What will their parents think of us if they survive and can’t find their children?”

 

  “Be quiet with such talk and tell the children a story like you do every night but tonight is no time for fairy tales, tell the children the Christmas story,” Aunt Katy encouraged the despairing grandparents.

 

  “Will the Christ Child* not be coming to us?” one of the children asked.

 

  “No,” answered one of the Omas.  “The Partisans have imprisoned Him too!  But be quiet and listen to what I have to say.”

 

  She then told story of Bethlehem and Jesus’ birth and how His parents, Mary and Joseph, were poor “just as we are now.”

 

  “Did they have lice, rats and guards too?”  Little Elisabeth asked.

 

  The grandmother did not answer.  Was it because she didn’t have one?  Or was it because she was such an earnest believer that she feared some kind of punishment from God for trying to answer such a question?

 

  In a hushed voice she continued to tell the story to the point where King Herod ordered the massacre of all of the innocent children of Bethlehem.  It was then when Aunt Katy interjected, “And today, 1,945 years later we let children starve.”

 

  Karl asked his grandfather how it was that they were here in the camp and the Partisans were murdering people and took away their homes and property.

 

  “Why are the Partisans free and the Danube Swabians are prisoners under their guard.  In the past it was the other way around according to what you me Ota and it was the murderers who were put in jail.”

 

  “You still don’t understand my child,” the old man answered.  “All of us tried to live in peace with all of our various neighbours of different nationalities and did no one any harm.  But there were some exceptions among us and they were the ones who made sure to get away to safety.  But Tito and his bands are not as interested in our guilt for what they did as they are in taking over our property…that’s what they fought for and that’s why we’re here.”

 

  Time passed by quickly during the story telling and the littlest ones grew tired.  In order to celebrate the Christmas festival they whispered the words of “Silent Night” hoping that the sentry outside would not hear them.  Once it was quiet again one by one the children fell asleep.  Only Karl was unable to sleep. Various thoughts and memories waltzed into his mind of Christmases in the past.  Suddenly an idea came to his mind.  Wouldn’t be wonderful if the Christ Child came anyway.  What huge eyes everyone would make when they awoke if there would be food for them.  He would become the Christ Child himself.  But how?  Tonight the Partisans would be especially alert for any would-be-escapees going out for food.  Despite the presence of sentries, on several occasions Karl had been able to allude them and beg for food in the area and bring back food for the others.  But he had also been apprehended, beaten and tossed in a cellar and locked up.  The worst they did was take away the food he had been collecting.  In spite of that he wanted to try again tonight.  He got up quietly put on his grandfather’s shoes because his own had become too small since their internment and wrapped rags aground his shoes to keep warm and also so that he would not be heard when he crossed the wooden bridge.  He headed for Titel across the Tisza River even though it was the most difficult place to reach.  He succeeded in getting there only once before but had been caught on his way back.  He set out with determination and a prayer.  He was successful and that Christmas he became the Christ Child for his family.

 

*The Christ Child is the English translation of Christ Kind which was the German version of Santa Claus but not with its contemporary secular connotations of lavish gift giving.  He was a representative of the Christ giving simple gifts that a child would treasure usually fruit, nuts and candy.

Mramorak in the Banat 

  The information in this article finds its source in “Mramorak Gemeinde an der Banater Sandwüste” by Heinrich Bohland published in 1980 on behalf of the Village Association of Mramorak portions of which are translated by Henry Fischer.

 

  Above the entrance of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mramorak are the words:  “God is our refuge and strength.”  They were words of hope to many in the great disasters that the community faced together in its history.

 

  Most of the landed estates in the Banat and the Batschka were owned by the State and were designated as a military district and buffer zone against incursions by the Turks.  Prince Eugene of Savoy and Count von Mercy were basically in charge of the Banat on behalf of the Royal Court.  Few private landed estates or landlords per se were in this rather under-populated area.  Hungary was excluded from the administration of these two frontier provinces.  As a result the State, which in effect meant the Habsburg Dynasty, was able to divide up the land without any interference in these frontier areas.

 

  At fist, German Roman Catholics from neighbouring Austrian principalities were settled in the area.  Later Evangelical Lutheran settlers from Baden, Württemberg, Hessen, Alsace and Lorraine as well as the Pfalz (Palatinate) also arrived.  These would later become Swabians in the minds of the other people among whom they settled.  “Only a small portion were Swabians although most of them came from the Danubian territories of the Swabians.  All of them apparently left from Swabian ports on the Danube River.  The Hungarians called them “Svabok” and the Serbs followed suit with “Svaba” and it would refer to all Germans living in the area.

 

  The official State sponsored and organized immigration programme that had begun in 1686 officially ended on December 13, 1787.  Mass emigration from Germany ended as well as government financial support to new settlers.  The State would only continue to provide funds and resources to settlers in the Military Frontier District.  These settlers had to be industrious, hardworking and frugal to tame and populate the land.

 

  Looking into the past it was in 1562 when the Turks captured Temesvár and the Banat became a Turkish province for the next 164 years.  The Turks would be driven out of the Banat on July 21, 1718 and parts of Serbia and Wallachia would also be taken by the Habsburgs.  In appreciation for their support in the military campaign against the Turks, nobles both spiritual and lay were given huge tracts of empty ownerless land.  A Royal Patent and decree in 1689 called for a resettlement programme to be instituted by bringing German peasant farmers, artisans and craftsmen along with other nationalities to redevelop all of devastated Hungary also including the Banat and Batschka.

 

  Under their Archbishop Ippek thirty thousand Serbian families sought sanctuary from the Turks and were allowed to settle in Srem, Slavonia and the Batschka.  On December 11, 1690 they were granted the right to elect their own Orthodox bishop who was their temporal and spiritual lord and their soldiers would serve under one of their own officers in the Habsburg Imperial and Royal Army.  They mingled and worked alongside the Romanians in the area that was often infested with robber bands.  Cattle herding was their main occupation and they were semi-nomadic.

 

  Among the early settlers (1717-1722) were Germans from the Zips in Slovakia, Saxons from Tranyslvania and six hundred other Evangelical Lutheran farming families from Hessen and Franconia who were to supply provisions for the military and food for the miners living in the area and were settled in Denta and Langenfeld.  The vast majority of the settlers, however, were Roman Catholic, coming from Bohemia, the Steiermark and Tyrol.  All of the colonists proceeded by ship from Marxheim by Donauwirth that took them to Palanka or Pantschowa.

 

  The actual supervision of the colonization was under the direction of the Governor of the Banat, Count von Mercy, (1666-1734) who was also charged with the building of  fortifications at Temesvár, draining the swamps and inaugurating the cultivation of the silk worm and brought in Italian settlers for that purpose.  Local officials were elected by the settlers while the Count appointed the officials to govern the twelve districts that were usually named after their chief settlement.  Temeschburg, Lippa, Lugosch, Orschawa.  After Count von Mercy worked out the plan of settlement for depopulated Hungary he sent agents from Vienna to Germany to recruit settlers.  The political situation at the time was aggravated by French invasions which made the choice to emigrate easier for a lot of people.  Off to Hungary!  became a byword as well as free land, liberty, opportunity.  Tens of thousands left the south western principalities of Germany in the next three phases of the Schwabenzug…the Great Swabian Migration…the Swabian Trek.  It was Joseph II’s Edict of Toleration that officially allowed Protestants to enter and settle in the Banat, Batschka and Syrmien (Srem).  At first only Roman Catholics from the Habsburg holdings could settle in the Banat and Batschka.  In addition to the Germans in the Banat there were French, Italian, Spanish, Czechs, Slovaks and Poles as well as Hungarians.  The Lutherans who responded to Joseph II’s invitation not only involved Germans but Slovaks, Hungarians and Swiss as well who were allowed to settled in the Military Frontier District and the central Batschka.

 

  Joseph visited southern Hungary and the Military Frontier District and was well acquainted with the situation and the planning for the new settlements.  The new settlers had the same privileges of the earlier settlers and were given up to ten years of exemption from paying taxes.  There were many small migrating groups of settlers as well as the government directed one.  By 1771 there were 450,000 settlers in the Banat and Military Frontier District and by a decree of April 13th of that year all future settlers had to pay their own travel and livestock and acreage had to be purchased.  As a result there were only 67 new families numbering 364 persons emigrating to the Banat at their own expense.

 

  Before 1770 the majority of the 1,762 settler families came from the following areas:

 

                                                  Bamberg                           5

                                                  Bavaria                           13

                                                  Fulda                                6

                                                  Hessen                             2

Lorraine (Lothringen)  388

                                                  Luxembourg                 310

                                                  Mainz                            148

                                                  Nassau                             16

                                                  Pfalz (Palatinate)            85

                                                  Sauerland                         1

                                                  Sickingen                        49

                                                  Schwaben (Swabia)        31

                                                  Schwarzwald                  25

                                                  Trier                              520

                                                  Westphalia                    133

                                                   Württemberg                    3

                                                   Würzburg                      22

                                                   Zweibrücken                   5

 

 

  During 1770 there were 2,185 settler families coming from the following:

 

                                                   Bamberg                         3  

                                                   Bavaria                          15

                                                   Falkenstein                    39

                                                   Fulda                               6

                                                   Lorraine                      1,463

                                                   Luxembourg                  321

                                                   Mainz                              20

                                                   Nassau                            29

                                                   Passau                               1  

                                                  Trier                                67

                                                  Pfalz                                44

                                                  Schwaben                        41

                                                  Schwarzwald                   75

                                                  Straubingen                       5

                                                  Tirol                                  2

                                                   Trier                                67

                                                   Württemberg                    5

                                                    Würzburg                      24

                                                   Zweibrücken                  24   

 

 

  After 1770 there were 620 settler families coming from the following areas:

 

                                                    Bamberg                       22

                                                    Bavaria                         30

                                                    Falkenstein                     1

                                                   Fulda                              23

                                                   Hessen                             2

                                                   Luxembourg                    5

                                                   Mainz                           109

                                                   Nassau                             7

                                                   Passau                            32

                                                   Pfalz                              80

                                                   Schwaben                      17     

                                                   Straubingen                 214

                                                   Tirol                                9

                                                   Trier                                5

                                                   Westphalia                      6    

                                                   Würzburg                      54

 

 

  As of September 21, 1782 would-be settlers were granted freedom of conscience in regard to religion.  In order to accommodate the large scale Protestant emigration Joseph II sold large sections of crown lands on August 1, 1781.  Even when the period of mass emigration subsided new settlements were still being founded during the 19th Century because there were still large stretches of unpopulated and uncultivated lands.  There were continuing raids and incursions by the Turks into the area and frequent breakouts of epidemics and the plague.  One of the  later settlements in the southern Banat in the Military Frontier District took place on the prairie of Mramorak in 1820 whose men made up the 12th Regiment of the German Banat Border Patrol and were German Evangelical Lutherans.  By 1919 the population of the Banat was 1,530,000 of whom 571,000 were Romanians, 428,000 Germans, 306,000 Serbs, 153,000 Hungarians and the rest consisted of Bulgars, Jews, Croats, Russians, Ukrainians, Slovaks, Czechs and Gypsies.  As a result of the Treaty of Trianon in 1919 the Banat was divided and ceded to the new state of Yugoslavia and Romania.  Mramorak became part of the Yugoslavia.

 

  The Military Frontier District was established in 1754 as a defensive bulwark against the Turks and stretched from the shores of the Adriatic Sea to Transylvania.  The majority of the population in the District were south Slavs who were cattle herders and shepherds and over 80% of them were illiterate.  These settlers had military obligations for life in exchange for free land (24 Joch) and meadows (5 Joch).  If they became wounded and disabled they would receive the land as a lifetime pension.  In times of serving in the military they received 2 Gulden a day in pay.  In each settlement there was also land set aside for a clergyman, church and school.  There were funds available for the upkeep of the church and school and a salary for the clergy and teacher.

 

  Discipline was stern and strict and was carried out by the nobles assigned to the District.  It applied to both men and women.  The stocks for men and lashings for women.  Cowardice on the battlefield was punished by death.  Drunkenness and falling asleep while on duty were also punishable by death.  Kidnapping or selling Christian children to the Turks was also met with death.  The Grenzers as these troops guarding and defending the border were called were farmer-soldiers.  A kind of Minute Man that emerged during the American Revolution.  The military ordered and effected all areas of life.  The settler had two jobs; one for the government for which he was paid 20 Kreuzer a day and one for the community for which he was not paid but did his social service.  In serving the government he built roads, drained swamps, planted mulberry trees (silk worms), cut timber and firewood for the military officers.  In the community he built and maintained community facilities like the school and church and provided firewood for them and was responsible for the maintenance of the village streets.

 

  As mentioned previously all life was centred on the military base associated with the settlement.  Each man served seven months of the year patrolling the border.  The border also served as a quarantine area to prevent the epidemics in the south spreading into the Habsburg territories.  Pantschowa served as the military headquarters for the 12th Regiment of the German Banat Border Patrol.  The Military Frontier District would  continue to function in this way until it become a crown land in 1849.

 

  There were Serbs living in Mramorak as early as 1660 but the village was first mentioned by that name in 1717.  There was a large scale emigration of Serbs and Romanians that took place in 1806.  The settlement report of the 12th Regiment of the German Banat Border Patrol at the end of April in 1821 indicates that there were 265 homesteads of which 16 were without a household.  The name Mramorak was given to the eastern portion of the village and was corrupted to Marmor by the Germans.  When the Hungarians became in charge of the Banat it was renamed Homokos which means “sandy” and it a pretty apt description of the soil in the area.

 

  At a sitting of the War Department in Vienna on May 12th and 13th in 1820 the decision was made to reserve the lands on the prairie of Mramorak for German Protestant settlers to serve in the military there as difficulties were being experienced in Slavonia with the refusal of the officials there to accept Protestant settlers and had expelled some of them upon their arrival.  The settlement was first undertaken on November 18, 1820 and involved twelve settler families from Hessen-Darmstadt:

 

  Martin Baumung, Johann Berth, Peter Bingel, Adam Bitsch (Bitz), Anastasius Bohland, Johann Nikolaus Gaubatz, Friedrich Dapper, Philip Güldner, Johannes Küfner, Nikolaus Küfner, Ludwig Mergel and Peter Zimmermann.

 

  Some of their families are described as follows:  Adam Bitsch and his wife, three male and four female children and their hired hand named Leonhard;  Friedrich Dapper with his wife and three male children;  Daniel Berth with his wife and three male children and two female children.  Anastasius Bohland with three male children and one female child; Ludwig Mergel and his wife and two male children and four female children.  In this small sample of the original families we find  ten adults and twenty-five children!

 

  The Hungarian parliament that met in 1790 had forbidden the settlement of German Protestants in Slavonia and Croatia.  The Banat and its Military Frontier District was not part of Hungarian jurisdiction so that settlement was possible but these Germans would be isolated living amidst Slavic populations and it would be difficult for them to maintain their church life because the closest Protestant communities were two days distant.  But the decision had led to the Habsburgs sending a consul by the name of von Handel to Darmstadt in Hessen to initiate a recruitment of possible settlers.  The first colonist families set out from Frankfurt-an-Main and were settled in Mramorak along with some other families who had been refused entry into Slavonia because they were Lutherans and for that reason had been diverted to the Banat where land was still open for settlement.  At the same time a decision was made in Vienna to assign other Lutheran settlers coming from Württemberg to the emerging settlement of Mramorak. 

 

  They were also joined by settlers who had first settled in Franzfeld:  Peter Bender, Philip Heiss, Simon Kaiser, Christoph Kegel, Augustin Sattelmayer, Jakob Scholler, Caspar Stehle and Johann Stolz along with Johann Schmit who came with his family from the Batschka. There were nine men and eight women and their twenty-eight sons and thirteen daughters added to the population.  Later there were more from the Batschka and Slavonia:  Jakob Glas, Jakob Goller, Konrad Harich, Adam Kampf, Salamon Kampf, George Kemle, Michael Mayer, Jakob Mosmann, Gottfried Reiter, Michael Schick, Peter Schmähl, Peter Schramm, Martin Vogel and Paul Wagner.   As more and more German families settled there and the natural increase in population due to their large families and their policy of buying up the land of their Slavic neighbours they soon dominated the centre and northern and southern sections of the village.  They were industrious and thrifty and soon surpassed their neighbours in terms of their economic wellbeing.  They fulfilled their role as Grenzers in the military until 1873 when the District was once more  incorporated into the recently created Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary now that the Turkish menace was over.  In 1880 the number of Germans living in Mramorak was 1,431 persons.  By 1910 that had increased to 2,156.  In 1921 they accounted for 52% of the population and numbered 2,475.  In the census of 1941 there were 3,337 German inhabitants in the sprawling town.

 

  Lutheranism in the Banat had its beginnings during the reign of Charles IV when he invited Hessians from the Darmstadt area to settle in the Banat in a letter written to the Landgrave on April 20. 1722.  With his promise of free passage and a Royal pass six hundred families from Hessen and Franconia responded and left from the river port of Marxheim by Donauwӧrth.  Among them were eighteen families numbering 82 persons who came from Ober-Ramstadt in Hessen.  They went on to Palanka and founded the village of Langenfeld.  Other Lutheran settlers founded the villages of Petrillowa Orawitza, Russowa, Hauersdorf and Saalhausen.   All of their settlements lay between Palanka and Weisskirchen.

 

  They formed congregations and held worship services.  At first, a teacher by the name of Bey who apparently originated in Ober-Ramstadt read sermons at the services that began early in 1718.  Baptisms, marriages and funerals were carried out by the Jesuits in nearby Palanka.  But everything changed when young pastor Johann Karl Reichard arrived in the Banat on May 24, 1724.  He preached at an open air service in the Turkish cemetery close to Langenfeld on June 24th and Holy Communion was celebrated and there were numerous baptisms with over six hundred present.  As news spread in the Lutheran villages word got to the Jesuits and they lodged a complaint through the confessor of the Empress so that the pastor was forced to leave after serving there for only nine months.  He had come to the Banat in the guise of being a clerk and left in the same way wearing a uniform that Count von Mercy provided to assist him in his escape.  He also appointed him as the pastor of the Lutheran congregation on his personal estates in Tolna County in Hungary at Varsad where he would serve for six years before returning home to Hessen where he died in 1754.  He was the first Lutheran pastor to serve in the Banat and was ordained secretly by Bishop Daniel Krmn in Miawa, Slovakia on May 1, 1724 while the young man was on his way down the Danube to the Banat.

 

  The Lutheran congregations in Langenfeld and Petrillowa were the first in the Banat.  The director of the mine in Orawitza named Keller was the first Kirchenvater (chief elder and lay leader of the congregation).  With Pastor Reichard’s expulsion church life among the Lutherans soon ended.  Bey, the teacher in Langenfeld was forced to leave.  But in Petrillowa the teacher, Lamont and the Richter (mayor) Steiz were able to maintain a semblance of congregational life for several years.  Then on February 5, 1727 the Royal Administration in Temesvár issued a decree to punish all heretics and forever ended this first expression of Lutheran church life in the Banat.  There was still more to come.  During the years 1737-1739 almost all of the German villages in the area around Palanka and Weisskirchen died out during the Turkish invasion.  The life and work of thousands of Germans was destroyed.  For the next sixty years there would be no expression of Lutheran Church life in the Banat until after the Edict of Toleration of Joseph II.  It would first be in effect in the Batschka between 1784-1786 when new Lutheran villages were established in Torschau, Cservenka, Neuwerbass, Kleinker, Sekitsch Bulkes and Jarek and Reformed communities in Neusiwatz and Neuschowe.

 

  It was in 1790 when a Lutheran congregation was established in the Banat once again and it was only fifty kilometres from the original one.  The village of Heideschütz was an experimental village.  Two nationalities were settled together:  Germans and Slovaks.  They were co-religionists.  In addition, only Franzfeld (established 1791) and Mramorak (established in 1820) were the only major Lutheran communities in the area.  Franzfeld was inhabited entirely by German families, while Mramorak was inhabited by three nationalities:  Germans, Serbs and Romanians.  There were two religious confessions:  the Germans were Lutheran and the Slavs were Eastern Orthodox.  Later German Lutheran congregations emerged in the towns and cities of the southern Banat that were filial congregations of those in the surrounding villages.  Later they formed self sustaining congregations of their own in Panstschowa (1884), Werschetz (1869) and Weisskirchen (1873).

 

  The community of Vojlovica had a speckled career.  It was established in 1869 as Marienfeld and lay directly along the Danube.  Along with four other communities it was totally destroyed by flooding in 1876.  It was only rebuilt in 1883.  When it was part of the Military District two nationalities lived in Marienfeld, Slovaks and Germans.  After the abolishment of the Military Frontier District and its incorporation into Hungary there were also Hungarians involved in its rebuilding.  The Germans and Slovaks were Lutherans and the Hungarians were Calvinists.  They were all Protestants.

 

  In 1900 Franzfeld gave birth to a filial congregation in Jarkovac and Mramorak had two.  One in Bawanischte in 1904 and Kubin in 1912.  During the Austro-Hungarian period most pastors who served in the Banat came from the Zips in Slovakia or the Burgenland in Austria.  Most of them were ordained in Budapest and spoke two or three languages.

 

  With the establishment of the successor state of Yugoslavia after the First World War there were 250,000 Protestants in the new nation consisting of Germans, Slovaks, Slovenes and Hungarians.  New administrative organizations had to be established now that both the Lutherans and Reformed had been severed from the Hungarian Churches.  A Synod was held in Neudorf by Vinkovici involving all the nationalities and confessions to plan for their future in September of 1920.  Each nationality wanted a bishop and a church of its own except for the Slovenes who opted to be part of the German Lutheran Church that would be established on March 23, 1893 meeting in Neusatz.  Gustav Wagner was elected the Administrator of the Church and upon his death in 1926 he was succeeded by Philip Popp who was later unanimously elected Bishop of the German Evangelical Christian Church (Augsburg Confession) in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.  At that time there were 7l Mother Churches and 65 filial congregations that made up the new church that had just come into existence with over 100,000 members.  There were seven German Districts and one that was Slovenian.  The Banat District consisted of nine Mother Churches and seven filial congregations with a total membership of 15,000.  The German Reformed congregations would continue to be part of the Southern District of the Hungarian Reformed Church.  There were thirteen Mother Churches and seven filial congregations with a total membership of 30,000.

 

  Following the capitulation of Yugoslavia shortly after Holy week in 1941, the Batschka and the Lower Baranya were annexed and occupied by Hungary; the Independent State of Croatia was proclaimed and the Yugoslavian Banat was placed under the jurisdiction of the German Army as was what remained of Serbia.  This forced the separation of the Lutheran Church into new administrative units.  Bishop Popp encouraged Wilhelm Kund the pastor in Pantschowa and the Dean of the Banat District to establish a provisional church government for a future independent Banat.  The German Lutherans in the Batschka  who were under Hungarian occupation asked for the same provision  but the Hungarians hesitated and stalled to take any action because they eyed the Banat as a future acquisition that Hitler had promised them.  On March 15th, 1942 Franz Hein was installed as Bishop by Bishop Heckel of Berlin as the Bishop of the German Lutheran Church in the Banat which covered the territory of the former Church District with its 15,000 members.  The largest congregation was Franzfeld with 6,000 members, followed by Mramorak with over 3,000 and Pantschowa with just as many.

 

  War broke out in Yugoslavia on March 27, 1941 following the military putsch of General Simowitsch that was directed against Germany and openly expressed their  hostility towards the German population.  Fear and anxiety gripped the Germans as their young men were called up for service in the Yugoslav military.  The Serbian civilian population was armed and they began a reign of terror in the German villages terrifying the population with threats.  Hostages were taken in April of 1941 including thirteen men and one woman from Mramorak who were interned in Pantschowa.  The woman was Eva Bingel who taught in the German school.  She was offered encouragement and support by the others throughout their ordeal which helped carry her through those dark days.  Various Serbian groups took hostages and mistreated the German population but there other Serbs like the three hundred from Kovin who accompanied their Orthodox priest and marched on the District Council to demand the release of the German hostages.

 

  The next section is entitled, “From Darkness into the Sweet Light” by someone who was a witness and participant of the events.

 

  “The spring of 1941 was filled with anxiety and fear.  Men hid themselves in the beet cellars and in the hay lofts.  The women kept watch at the windows as the Serbs strode by their houses.  No one dared to leave their house.  Over at Schäfers, next door, they were secretly and hastily sewing swastika flags.

 

  And then there was a great sigh of relief:  The German soldiers are coming!  Everyone went out to greet them. women, men and children stood along the main street.  The women wiped away their tears of joy from their eyes with their aprons and the swastika flags hurriedly made hung rather awkwardly and floated in the breeze.

 

  Away with having to live with the limitations of being an unwelcome minority!  Away with having to bow down to the Serbian authorities.  Away with all of the public and hidden oppression we have had to endure!  Finally free and able to live our lives the way want to live them–this is what we Germans in Mramorak had lived to see and over which we were now  overjoyed.  No one could have imagined that this was the beginning of the soon approaching frightful end of our history in Mramorak.

 

  In May of 1941 there were tears again.  Tears of farewell this time as the first of the young men had to report for military duty in the German Army.  The disillusionment began.  But then came the youth marching through the streets, the evenings at home, the feasting, the midsummer festival in the old cemetery, in which the young girls in black gymnastic uniforms with white blouses jumped through the fire–to the amazement of the shocked women and the joy of the men.  We sang:  “Raise the flag” (Nazi marching song) and offered a “Sieg Heil” under the starlit sky.  Many were moved to tears.  No one had any idea of how comic such a display really was.  It was all so new, so neat and good–at least so we believed!

 

  When military vehicles passed by us–and this happened quite often–we children ran after them along the street and waved small swastika flags at the friendly soldiers.  The more the trucks raised the dust and we inhaled the exhaust fumes the happier we were.

 

  In this way the first “German” summer passed by and I began school.  I had always been afraid of going to school.  My mother said, “You won’t get eaten up!”  I wasn’t afraid of that.  I was afraid anyway and above all I was afraid that I would arrive late and be punished for it.  Even though we lived only a few houses down from the school and I always left for school early and sometimes stood there in front of the locked door of the school…

 

  During my days in school there was a picture of Hitler in every classroom.  The picture of King Peter II lay almost hidden in the firewood box.  Even though this milk faced handsome youth in a colourful uniform was a hundred times better looking than the Upper Austrian Adolph no one wanted him.  Many were wild about the Führer–with the exception of my Kuska Grandfather and Uncle Urschel, they were against Hitler through and through.  “That robber!” they said but certainly not out loud at the midsummer night festival.

 

  We paid for our first school books with German Marks and Pfennig.  That was part and parcel of the occupation at that time.  During my three years at school I had various teachers.  In most cases they were assistant women teachers who had taken a crash course and came from the Upper Banat.  They had no love for school but they were wild about the soldiers and spoke High German with them.  One of these young women carried on like this:  If someone in the class did something wrong she beat all of us, one row after another–on one occasion all the boys and another time all the girls but mostly she hit us boys!  She had absolutely no understanding of what it meant to be a Mramorak farm boy.  She made no effort to make learning fun or interesting.  We had to learn poems off by heart.  She never even attempted to interest us in the beauty of the language but just wanted to get through it…”

 

  Sepp Janko, who preferred to be called “Dr. Janko” was a veterinarian and the head of the Swabian German Cultural Union a front organization for the Nazis.  In effect he and his cronies were the Führers of the 160,000 to 180,000 Germans in the Banat and did the bidding of Heinrich Himmler.  June 22, 1941 marked a turning point with the German invasion of the Soviet Union for as a result all Germans whether they lived in the Third Reich or not became part of the war machine and those in Banat would pay heavily for their participation in it and would lead to their eventual extermination.  They were later declared to have been volunteers in the Waffen-SS when in reality they had no other choice in the matter.  Tito and his Partisans saw the Germans as a united force in the service of the enemy occupier of Yugoslavia, as a willing tool of the conqueror.  The dead and missing toll on the Eastern Front increased month after month.  By war’s end 89 men were killed in action and 61 were missing from Mramorak including two women.

 

  After the surrender of Nazi Germany in May of 1945 from the 11th to the 14th, various  captured German units were transferred to Tito’s Partisans in Cilli in Slovenia.  A large group of men from Mramorak were together but on the last day they were divided into groups and the men were separated from one another.  Of the larger group that included 98 known men from Mramorak nothing was ever to be heard of them again.  By accident Martin Klein a former resident of Mramorak who now lives in Zweibrücken made a discovery in Belgrade three years later about the fate of the men.  On August 24, 1976 he wrote the following:  “In 1949 I worked in an auto repair shop in Belgrade.  One day there was a major repair I had to make on a truck and the head of the truck convoy was in a hurry and asked me to hurry as I did my work.  I wanted to do my work properly and I wanted to lubricate the truck as well.  I needed time for that and I would not let the man talk me out of it.  The waiting official became more and more impatient with me and started to insult me and began to swear.  You know the way it is with the Serbs, he even swore at my mother and cast aspersions about my birth.  After I listened to this for awhile I also lost my temper and told him he could go to the devil…

 

  My response to him unleashed a regular cannonade of outrage and he screamed:  “Just why didn’t you come my way earlier and meet me at “Zidani Most”!  I would have killed you there like a rabid dog; I would have dealt with you like I did with all of your Fascist friends that were shot there!”

 

  In the same unfriendly tone I replied to him, “Your hate against us is so great because the memory of it keeps recurring.”  We got into an even more heated argument so that in my anger I picked up an axe and was about to let loose on him.  He was a real miserable type and egged me on so that the truck driver and his co-driver kept me from hitting him with the axe.  Obviously a terrible accident was prevented.

 

  The altercation between us awakened the interest of the others.  They tried to calm him down and asked him questions about the events that had taken place in the past at Zidani Most and what had actually happened.  Once he was composed he told them about the dramatic course of events that ended with the mass killing of the Swabians.   He made separate references to individual and named the Division to which they belonged.  Proudly he declared, “Hardly any of them were still alive after we got through with them and then we shot them!”

 

  Martin Klein continued:  “The smaller group of men from Mramorak were force marched in the direction of Zagreb.  We were exhausted, weak and hungry because we received no care of any kind.  Everything along the road that we saw was German Army equipment that stood there wrecked or destroyed.  Luckily the weather was good so that none of the men from Mramorak was left behind because whoever sat down to rest along the road would never have to get up and walk again.  All of those who could not go on where shot by the Partisans and their bodies simply left there.  On May 21st we were registered as prisoners of war in Zagreb.  In all there were twenty of us from Mramorak that had survived.  We were all loaded on a cattle car on May 22, 1945 and transported to Hrvatski Karlovac where we were imprisoned along with 35,000 other men who were members of the Croatian Home Defence Forces, and Croat, Italian and Austrian prisoners of war.”

 

  No evacuation of the German civilian population took place in Mramorak as Sepp Janko and his cronies fled for their lives without giving the order the others all awaited.  Then following the arrival and departure of the Russian troops in Mramorak the community was left in the hands of a Partisan unit.  On October 20, 1944 there was a mass shooting that took place outside of the village of Bawanische where one hundred and eight German men from Mramoark aged 18 to 71 years were liquidated after having been taken there by wagon because none of them could walk.  The younger men first had to dig the mass grave.  They had all been apprehended from their homes during the night and been beaten and tortured in the most fiendish and cruel ways.  The screams of the men were so terrible to hear that the Gypsies who heard them walked away and murmured about it to one another out of the hearing of the Partisans.

 

  In the first months when the Partisans were in power the cry of all of the Serbs was:  “Long life to Tito!”  At the time the homes of the Germans were filled with the food provisions they had prepared for the winter.  Any Serb could come and get and take whatever he wanted because the home owners were all confined in a quarter of the village around the Lutheran Church and school packed together in a “camp”.  Sixty or more persons slept in a room.  All of the German homes remained unoccupied until February 1946.  Then the new colonists came.

 

  With regard to the numerous camps, the experiences and the personal destinies of many people from Mramorak during this terrible time the information is not readily available to us.  No one was keeping records at the time.  But for example we do know something about the nearby labour camp in Brestowatz and two deaths that occurred there:  Filip Reiter born in 1889 died there on February 11, 1945 as well as Peter Güldner  born 1888 who died on April 27, 1945.  The village notary, Wilhelm Walter was beaten to death in the mayor’s office by the Partisans.  The Serbian women joined in abusing their German neighbours.  They especially enjoyed taunting the wives of prominent Germans who were forced serve them  and clean their houses like the pastor’s daughter, the doctor’s wife.  It was the German women in particular who were pillars of strength in the midst of the brutality.  When they were herded through the streets on work details they sang the hymns that sustained them even when they were beaten for doing so.  They simply sang louder.  They sang with tears in their eyes and one of their favourites was, “Aus Tiefer Not” a hymn of Martin Luther.  “Out of the depths I cry to You O Lord.”

  

  Upon their internment the Germans of Mramorak initially remained in their home community and because of that they found ways to secretly find or retrieve food and other necessities that they had hidden.  When they were distributed to other camps that would no longer be the case and their situation deteriorated immeasurably.  They had no outside contacts and had no idea of what lay ahead of them.

 

  The neighbouring community of Karlsdorf where 3,000 Germans lived was occupied by the Russians on October 2, 1944 and they endured all that was experienced in Mramorak.  Eight men from Mramorak were taken there by train by the Partisans and brutally murdered shortly after their arrival.  In Kovin, the district capital, where almost 5,000 Germans lived ten of the most prominent citizens were put to death in the most gruesome manner on October 13, 1944.  On November 6th, twenty-five persons from Mramorak were taken to Kovin including Barbara Tracht born in 1901 and three other married women and Elisabeth Eberle born 1920, Regina Kendel born 1921 Wilhelmine Nota born in 1923 and the following men that are known to us:  Martin Baumung born 1895, Jakob Brücker born 1895, David GÓ§ttel born 1900, Friedrich Ilg born 1889, Friedrich Meinzer, Peter Scherer, Friedrich ?, Michael Strapko born 1912, Friedrich Zimmermann and Peter Zimmermann.  On November 11, 1944 a Partisan “Razzia” (gruesome pogrom) was held at which a large number of Germans were butchered and shot including all of those from Mramorak.  On another occasion Johann Bohland was taken to Kovin and died there of starvation.

 

  In the prison in Kovin they were cruelly beaten and left naked because the Partisans wanted the clothes of the German women for their wives and relatives.  After constant beatings and torture they were bound and taken to the place where the bodies of dead animals were burned.  Others had dug mass graves for them.  They were all forced to lie down in the grave and were then shot.  If someone hesitated to go into the grave they were pushed in by a Partisan.  Among them was the young girl Susi Harich one of the prettiest in all of Mramorak.  She was badly wounded during the first salvo of bullets but still she taunted the Partisans and said, “So shoot me in the head!”  They hesitated until one stepped forward and shot her with his machine pistol.

 

  The Mramorak camp was closed down and the surviving population was sent to various labour and extermination camps.

 

  On the left bank of the Tisza River the German village of Rudolfsgnad was transformed into a large extermination camp.  The local inhabitants had been evacuated by the retreating German Army.  During the battles which followed in the area the village was badly damaged.  Following their internment in their home villages 23,000 Germans in the Banat villages, mostly the elderly, women and children were brought to this starvation camp the largest of its kind in the Banat.  The aged and the children from Mramorak were all brought there.  They would be among the 20,000 victims buried in the mass graves there.  Grandparents starved themselves for the sake of their grandchildren.  The cries of hungry children were heard all day long and into the night.  A whole generation died so that a portion of the next generation might live.  Between December 24th and 27th no food whatsoever was distributed in the camp.  Children sneaked out of the camp to beg for food or tried to catch snakes and frogs along the riverbank.  Any green weeds they found they ate.  Those who risked to go out of the camp to beg in the neighbouring Serbian and Hungarian villages would be shot if they were caught whether they were adults or children.

 

  A wagon piled with the dead was pushed and pulled by inmates as it went door to door each morning for the newly dead.  Death made more space available and new people were brought in to replace them from other camps.  Funerals were not allowed.  Some of the old men had to do the burying.  No pastor was allowed to do a committal nor could a relative say goodbye at the graveside.  There was no worship allowed and prayer was forbidden.  Pastor Kund from Pantschowa ministered as well as he could among the sick and dying and was often beaten when apprehended doing any pastoral work among the suffering people.  Although beaten he continued to pray and counsel people not to lose faith and hope.  Found holding such prayer meetings he would be dragged away and beaten.  They tore the hair from his beard and insulted him.  He was put in a punishment cell  for several days and nights and died there..

 

  After the elderly and the children had been taken from Mramorak the others were put to work to assist the new colonists in farming since they had no agricultural skills.  Then most of the Germans were sent to the labour camp in Karlsdorf in 1946.  From there they would be sent to various labour camps throughout Yugoslavia and when they were no longer fit or able to work they were sent to one of the extermination camps.

 

  In the Batschka just south of the Hungarian border two former German villages, Gakowa and Kruschivilje were turned into the final extermination centres in the Partisan’s war of terror on the German population.  Long columns of thousands of people were marched there and by the summer of 1945 there were over 21,000 inmates.  This number would vary slightly in the years ahead as the dead were constantly being replaced by others.

 

  The hunger and mass starvation and utter despair drove some of them to suicide.  Many mothers risked their lives sneaking out of the camp at night to beg for food.  They often had to travel ten to twelve kilometres and back.  The only release from pain was either by waiting for death to happen or trying to escape into Hungary.  In the spring of 1947 things changed and the camps were being closed down and there were mass flights across the border into Hungary with little interference on the part of the guards and sentries.

 

  It is unknown how many of the children of Mramorak died at Rudolfsgnad because some of the children were taken out of the camp and placed in state orphanages and raised as Yugoslavians and given new names and were not allowed to speak German.  Brothers and sisters were separated so that the older children would not influence them not to forget their identity.  It is estimated that up to 35,000 children were taken out of the camps and through efforts of their surviving parents and relatives about 5,000 of them were recovered and reunited with their families in the1950s.

 

  An attempt was made to attempt to identify the victims that were known to have died in Rudolfsgnad from Mramorak.  For 1945 they identified thirty-one older adults and one mother and her five children.  In 1946 they could list one hundred and thirty-four adults and three children.  In 1947 there were fifty adults among the identified victims.  In 1948 there were fifteen adults and one child.  Information with regard to the children who died is difficult to obtain because the family members who cared for them usually died before them as indicated earlier.  In addition there are ninety-two others whose date of birth or death are unknown.  There were a total of 343 adults and 9 children who could be accounted for who died there.

 

  In terms of the other camps at Besni Fok, Bor, Dolowo, Dubanovci, Franzfeld, Gakowa, Jarek, Jasenovac, Junkovac, Karlsdorf, Kula, Padinska Skela, Pantschowa, Radljevo, Semlin, Vrbovski, Gross Betscherek, Sremska and Mitrowitza a total of 47 persons perished.  There were also four who did not survive the deportation to Russia.

 

  We can account for the loss of at least 807 of the German villagers in Mramorak who were the victims of Tito’s now forgotten genocide excluding most of the children who died or have become lost and submerged in the Yugoslavian population of today.

In the Banat

Chapter Three

“This is where innocent blood flowed like a river”

  Following the German invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, the Banat was always under occupation by German troops.  The Banat state administration supported the regime of the Serbian General Nedic in Belgrade.  When local Danube Swabians in the Banat made application to or approached the state administration on issues of concern to them it was done so in the name of Serbian government in Belgrade and would only affect areas of the Banat in which they resided.  There was apprehension on their part with regard to some of the measures taken by the German occupation forces and their commanders that had adverse effects on their Serbian neighbors and the Danube Swabians sought to eliminate or weaken the consequences of them if at all possible.  Often they were unsuccessful and this created negative feelings among the Serbian population in the Banat so that it became a Partisan recruitment area.

 

  The Partisans introduced a systematic extermination program to the extent that only a small fraction of the Danube Swabian population would survive.  But what characterized it most were the gruesome and bloodthirsty methods that were used in carrying it out.  The use of the division of the region into the former areas of administration enabled this well planned operation to be put into effect here as elsewhere.  (Translator’s note: A sentence consisting of the next six lines in the text follows for which I offer a simple précis as follows).  With the benefit of hindsight this systematic liquidation program was modeled on the one that was operational in the Batschka as previously cited.  How is it possible that one can speak of this one area, the Banat in comparison to others in Yugoslavia, as the one where rivers of innocent blood flowed?  We need to reiterate that in a single day in all of the communities in a district the liquidation squads would appear at the same time with the request of the local administrations for the arrest and mass execution of Danube Swabian men and women.  This was carried out even though in many communities the local Serbian officials and population protested against it and as a result saved the lives of many, but these genocide squads seldom listened to any attempts at intervention and proceeded in spite of local opposition and liquidated every Danube Swabian man, woman and child.

 

 

Pardanj

 

  Individual stories and the experiences of whole families best describes what took place here in the words of Appollonia Schütz one of the residents:

 

  “We were driven out of Pardanj on April 18, 1945.  My husband was kept in Pardanj, while the children and I along with the elderly and those unable to work along with other mothers and their children were taken to Stefansfeld.  We were four hundred and fifty in number.  My sister and her daughter along with her two children who were eighteen months old and two and half years old were taken to Stefansfeld with me.  My niece got typhus in August.  When we were sent to Molidorf on September 28th we had to leave her behind.  In Molidorf we never heard from our family members again, neither my husband nor my niece.  (She describes the kind of food ration they received much like what has been described elsewhere previously)  Of the one hundred and twenty-six persons brought to Molidorf who were originally from Pardanj, on September 28th in 1945, in August of 1946 only nine women and one man had survived of the one hundred women and twenty-six men.

 

  My sister did not want to let her grandchildren die of hunger.  She sneaked out of the camp and traded her clothes in neighboring villages for food.  One day she went along with five other women and three children who were from Stefansfeld and went to Tova.  The camp commander became aware of this forbidden activity and surrounded Molidorf with sentries who awaited the return of the women at night in order to take them prisoner and put them in the camp jail.  The women left on the evening of August 6th and returned at midnight on August 8th.  The food they had traded was immediately taken from them and they led them away to be shot.  They had only walked about a meter along the street, when a shot rang out, that hit my sister.  She fell to the ground.  Uttering curses the Partisan who shot her stepped closer to her and shot her in the stomach with a dum-dum bullet so that her intestines burst and became visible.  He left her just lying there and took the other women to the commander.  My sister just lay there and lived until 4:00am.  Then she died.  While she was still alive and whimpered with pain, a fourteen year old Partisan stepped up to her, scolded her, took a rock and hit her on the head with it.  Everyone was afraid to approach the dieing woman.  I only found out what happened at 6:00am that morning.  I immediately went to her.  Even now the young Partisan who had hit her with the rock still stood there with his hands on his hips, glaring down on her and now at me.  He struck me and battered me with his rifle.  Then he led me to the camp commander.  My sister would be left to lie in the hot sun all day, but the commander allowed me to cover her with a blanket.

 

  My brother-in-law had earlier been taken to Cernje along with one hundred others from Stefansfeld, where he was shot along with sixty-eight of those from Stefansfeld.  In Cernje, on another occasion eighty-five persons from Pardanj were also shot.  Among them was another one of my brothers-in-law.  My daughter who had become ill at Stefansfeld was later sent to Rudolfsgnad as well as my husband.  Both would die of starvation there.  My second sister remained in Stefansfeld.  Her husband was also shot.  While attempting to cross the Romanian frontier one of my brother’s sons was shot by border guards. In turn, his own son and my other brother were also killed. Of my sister’s family only the two small grandchildren survived and I took them with me when I later escaped into Hungary and made my way with them to Austria.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Northern Banat

 

“Where the lust for murder raged”

 

Sanad

 

  The far northern portion of the Banat had a very small Danube Swabian population.  The liquidation of these Swabians happened in their own home communities or in the district towns of Neu Kanischa and Kikinda.

 

  The mixed language village of Sanad was far to the north.  On October 20, 1944 all of the Danube Swabian men were arrested and taken to Neu Kanischa and imprisoned there.  For several days they were brutally beaten by the Partisans.  On October 25th all of them were shot.  Only one of the men was able to escape and make his way to Hungary.  Now it was the turn of the Swabian women.

 

  The first group of Swabian women was also taken to Neu Kanischa and shot.  The other women and children were driven out of their homes on December 9th of 1944.  Most of them ended up in the concentration camp at Kikinda.  On December 17th, late in the evening sixty-four women were shot.  Among them were thirty-two women from Sanad.  Only five of the women from Sanad remained alive in the camp at Kikinda.  In March of 1945 the new authorities in Sanad discovered that four Swabian women had hidden in one of the homes in Sanad: a mother, her two daughters and an old woman.  They were apprehended and taken to Neu Kanischa to be shot.  The Partisans decided to be lenient and not shoot one of the girls.  She said she did not want to live if the others were to be shot.  All four were executed.

 

 

Kikinda

 

    The northern Yugoslavian Banat is the site of Kikinda (Gross Kikinda).  There were twenty thousand inhabitants in the city, of whom about one third were Danube Swabians.  The rest of the population was Hungarian and Serbian.  In the vicinity of the city there were numerous communities with Danube Swabian inhabitants.  Very close to the city was Nakovo an entirely Danube Swabian village with a population of five thousand.  To the east were the Swabian villages of Heufeld and Mastort.  In the north east were the so-called “Welsh Villages”: St. Hubert, Scharlevil (Charlesville) and Soltur.  Their ancestors had been French.  They originated in Alsace and Lorraine and had emigrated to the Banat about two hundred years before in the time of Maria Theresia along with the German settlers to resettle the former Turkish and now depopulated Banat. They lived in harmony with their Swabian neighbors and over the years they assimilated with them and became German speaking.  At the beginning of October 1944 after the Russians marched into the Banat from Romania they handed over the control of the Banat to the Partisans and Communists and all of what these “French Swabians” had was also taken away from them.  They were driven from their homes and property and in long columns were dragged to Kikinda and from there to various concentration camps where they were exterminated.

 

  Rose Mularczyk from Heufeld reports:

 

  “On Octbober 20th at mid-night we were taken from our beds by Serbian Partisans.  There were eighty-two men and twenty-two women.  We were imprisoned in the community center overnight.  The next day we were forced to walk to St. Hubert.  The men in the group were beaten along the way.  The night of that same day we left St. Hubert for Kikinda.  We were imprisoned there in the courthouse and all of the women were placed in one small cell.  On the 22nd of October we were led to the Milk Hall.  All night long we were threatened and abused by two Russians.  For five days we received hardly any food.  On November 2nd the Partisans brought in another group of men and women, about one hundred in all from our village of Heufeld.

 

  On November 3rd I was an eye-witness of the first slaughter of a large group of men.  In the past individuals had been killed individually.  This group of twenty-two men was  brutally murdered and two of them were from our neighboring village of Mastort.  The men were first stripped naked, forced to lie down and their hands were tied behind their backs.  Then all of them were thrashed with ox-hide whips.  After this torture, they cut pieces of flesh from their backs, and others had their noses, tongues, ears and male parts cut off.  Their eyes were poked out and all through this they were whipped and thrashed at the same time.  They were also hit with pipes.  At this time I was with another prisoner in the ground floor cell of the Milk House and I could witness all of this.  The prisoners screamed and writhed in pain.  This lasted for about an hour.  The screaming died down until there was only silence.  The next day when we crossed the courtyard it was bathed in blood and tongues, ears, eyes and male parts lay everywhere.

 

  The following day all of the married and single young women were force to do labor.  At the train station we cleaned the bricks and loaded heavy stones.

 

  Around November 10th the Partisans and Russians brought in a transport of two hundred and eighty prisoners of war.  All of them were Germans, except for six Italians and two Hungarians.  These soldiers could no longer walk.  They were in rags and many were ill.  I heard one of the Russian guards who had accompanied the prisoners tell one of the Partisans that the prisoners had had no food or water for six days.  If anyone bent to drink water in a puddle he was immediately shot on the spot.  In Kikinda they did not receive any food or water, but were packed into the cellar.  The prisoners were left there for three days, with no food or water and were abused and mistreated in all kinds of ways I do not want to relate.  Then they were taken out of the cellar and led away.  Most of them were unable to walk and like animal carcasses they were tossed on wagons and driven away.  The column set out in the direction of Schindanger and from there we later heard the shooting.  Later we learned that they had all been shot at Schindanger and were buried there in a mass grave.

 

  I along with the other women and young girls were given the task of house cleaning and we were somewhat freer than the others and I always tried to locate any of the Heufeld prisoners who might be there and found some of my relatives and brought them water.  But one could only do very little to ease their pain.  Through the constant mistreatment they became apathetic and depressed and most had been beaten beyond recognition.  One man went around on all fours and bellowed like a dog.

 

  About eight days after the prisoners of war were shot, it was on a Friday, they began to murder Swabian men.  The Partisans announced that all those men who were sick were to report to the so-called camp “hospital” and be looked after.  After the sick men reported in they had to stand behind the Milk Hall in the courtyard, forced to strip from their clothes and were slaughtered on the spot.  We could hear the screams of the victims from inside of the Milk Hall where we were working.  The women received some food but the men got nothing.

 

  Later, additional women were brought to the Milk Hall from Kikinda and neighboring villages.  Civilians were not allowed to enter the Milk Hall and any who dared to approach the barbed wire fence were shot down.

 

  On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays there were always large numbers of men and women who were slaughtered.  When one passed through the courtyard there was nothing but blood, eyes, ears, tongues, noses, etc.  It was horrible.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were used to refill the camp with prisoners, people who were driven to Kikinda from the surrounding countryside.  On Fridays the slaughter began again.  Later, I could not see the “actions” but I could hear them.  The screams of the victims and the mirth and frivolity of the Partisans who thought it was all in good fun.

 

  Often men were forced to kneel together in threes, and were shot in the nape of the neck and fell in a pile.  A Swabian woman who was from Mokrin was married to a Russian but still imprisoned with us.  One time she was able to swipe a potato and a Partisan saw her and thrashed her and all of the rest of us had to watch.  The woman was then placed in the cellar with the men.  She was bound together with several men and they were forced to lie on the floor.  The Partisans stomped all over them.  Then each person had their hands tied to their feet and they had to rise and sit down in exercise fashion.   Most of them just lay there.  They simply could not go on.  Later, all of them were taken away including the woman in the direction of Schindanger and then again we heard the shooting.

 

  Until the end of November I worked in the Partisan’s kitchen, and then along with nineteen other women we were sent to work in the city.  Six of us, including myself were taken to work in a store.  We had to sort clothes.  The other women had to go washing clothes, and most of them had belonged to the murdered Swabian men.  Four days later we had to go to the store again and were no longer allowed back into the camp at night, and so we slept in work place.  On one night, an automobile came and brought clothing.  The clothes were bloodied and there were bullet holes in all of them.  The cassock of a priest (Father Adam of St. Hubert) was among them.  In the evening we had to pile up clothes in one of the rooms, and then we could see that the rest of the rooms were piled ceiling high in clothes.  The next day we had to take the clothing again to the cellar for sorting.  We also found clothing of acquaintances from our villages who had disappeared and of whom there was no trace.  I found the clothing of our schoolmaster.  His clothes were pierced like a sieve and bloody, a sign that he had been whipped and tortured.  The next day we had to wash and iron the clothes and some of the women found items belonging to their husbands and relatives.

 

  In the camp at Kikinda there was a young girl from Charleville.  She was assigned to work in the office and had to record the names of all the men brought to the camp who were murdered or had died otherwise.  Eventually she was sent into the camp because did not want to marry one of the Serbian Partisans.  He denounced her and she was to be shot.  She had to write her own death sentence.  She was imprisoned in the cellar and the door was nailed shut.  That was always the case for those who had been sentenced to death.  Because of all she had seen and heard she lost her nerve and she became hysterical.  The political commissar of Kikinda of whom the girl was quite fond spoke against the action taken by the other Partisan and the girl was released from solitary confinement.  She was then deported to slave labor in Russia with many others.

 

  On December 26th we convinced the Partisans to let us go home to get some more clothes for the winter.  On the 27th of December at 3:00 am we were loaded on cattle cars and sent to Russia to forced labor.  For many of us it was a release from an intolerable situation…”

 

  The largest extermination camp in the region was in the city of Kikinda located in the east end of the community, centered in the buildings associated with the Milk Hall.  Countless numbers of Swabians, both men and women perished or were killed here.  The first to be driven into the camp by the Partisans were the Swabian men, women and children of Kikinda who were thrown out of their homes.  They took everything from them while others took up residence in their homes and shared their possessions with one another.  The Swabians were killed one after the other at the camp.  Whenever they were in the mood the Partisans would select one hundred Swabians and take them out of the camp and kill them.  Very often the Partisans tortured and abused their selected victims, then beat them to death, or used knives and butchered them like pigs, or shot large groups of them.  The first mass shooting took place here on October 8th, 1944 when twenty-eight were killed that day.  Shootings followed day after day.  The first to be liquidated were the “leading” Swabians in the region.  The parish priest Michael Rotten of Kikinda was among them.  He had been shot in the early days of Partisan rule.

 

 

Nakovo

 

  Because so many Danube Swabians from Kikinda had been liquidated the empty spaces in the camp were filled by Swabians from the neighbhoring communities forced there by the Partisans.  One evening in October 1944, sixty-eight Swabian men were brought in chains from Nakovo.  For three days they were locked up.  During this time they were brutally tortured by a large group of Partisans.  The Partisans were free to do whatever they wanted to these defenseless men.  They used their rifle buts on their backs to injure the men’s kidneys, threw them to the ground, jumped and stomped on their stomachs, knocked in their teeth, broke their ribs and mistreated them in every way imaginable.  This torture lasted for three days and nights.  Then they dragged them out of town.   It was a Sunday just before sunrise.  Close to the cemetery, but outside of its walls a large pit was dug.  The men from Nakovo and three men from Kikinda who had been taken with them, now numbering seventy-one persons had to strip naked by the cemetery wall.  Later, the victims’ shoes and clothing were traded by the Partisans.  The men were tied to one another with wire, and with thrashings and blows of their rifles the men were driven to the edge of the pit.  In the grey dawn these men were butchered with knives and thrown into their grave.  One man was able to free himself and escape in the early morning mist, naked as a jay bird.  He was fortunate.  They shot after him but they missed.  He fled across the Romanian border.  But the new city authorities of Kikinda posted notices that there were now seventy-one fewer Danube Swabians to deal with in the Banat.

 

  The first Danube Swabian liquidated in Nakovo was Franz Hess who was beaten to death by Partisans at the beginning of October 1944.  Another man, Josef Kemper was shot as he drove his wagon home from work.  Johann Kuechel was shot by Partisans in front of the community center on May 13th.  Nikolaus Hubert was shot when he was found hiding in a hay stack.  Johann Junker was shot for no reason at all.

 

  On December 22, 1944 all of the men from sixteen to sixty were taken to the camp in Kikinda and on March 18, 1945 they took all of the men over sixty years.  These eighty men were taken to do heavy forestry and lumbering work at Mramorak.  All of them died there including the former long standing mayor, Johann Blassmann.

 

 

St. Hubert-Scharlevil-Soltur

 

  A large armed Partisan unit set a blockade around the three “Welsh French” Danube Swabian communities on October 31, 1944.  On the same day, three hundred Swabian men were driven into the concentration camp at Kikinda.  For eight days they went without food, but the Partisans drove them out of the camp to do heavy labor.  When they returned to the camp at night they had to report for roll call.  Then the Partisans got the toll of those shot, beaten to death, or tortured to death the night before.  On November 3rd of 1944 all of the farmers who had large landholdings were shot.  On the evening of November 4th after arriving back at the camp after a day of hard labor forty of the men in the camp were sought out.  They had to strip naked and were shot next to the camp.  Their bodies were buried next to the railway tracks behind the Milk Hall.

 

  On November 5th all of the inmates of the camp had to sit on the ground in one place all day long.  At evening they selected one hundred and twenty men.  Almost all of them were from the “Welsh” villages.  Father Adam the Roman Catholic priest from St. Hubert was among them.  A heavily armed woman in Partisan uniform dragged him out of the line by his black cassock and beat him ruthlessly, supported and assisted by other Partisans, simply because he was a priest.  The Partisans whipped him with an ox-hide belt so that his gown was torn off of his back.  She boxed his ears, hit him with the back of her pistol and kicked him in the groin.  But he had to stand up on his own and offer no resistance.  She screamed that priests were not needed in the new Yugoslavia and therefore he would be shot.  Like a martyr he accepted what was happening to him. Then all one hundred and twenty men plus a few others chosen by the Partisans were forced to strip naked beginning with the priest.  They were bound to one another with wire and had to crawl under a barbed wire fence and from behind and above they received blows from the rifle stocks on their backs. When they reached the area behind the camp they were machine gunned to death.

 

  Johann Tout of Soltur was among the one hundred and twenty men but he was only grazed at the temple and was unconscious.  For a long while he lay under the corpses which were only buried in the morning.  During the night he came to and escaped to his native village of Soltur.  He was stark naked.  He hid out for ten days.  Women who still remained in the village tended his wounds.  But soon the authorities became aware of his presence.  They arrested him and he was dragged off to Cernje where he was shot.

 

  A week later a gruesome massacre occurred in the Kikinda camp.  One morning all of the Danube Swabian war invalids in the district, some of them veterans of the First World War and other elderly men unable to work were slaughtered.  They were kept locked up in a cellar of the concentration camp.  They were shackled and beaten and led to an area behind the camp.  They had to undress and give their clothes and shoes to the Partisans.  They let them wait for a long time in the cold, so that one of the old veterans from the First World War who was an invalid became impatient and called to the Partisans, that they were far too old to be tortured like this any longer and they should shoot them quickly and get it over with.  After awhile the Partisans ordered them to lie down in the bottom of the pit.  Whoever would not go, was shoved in.  So they lay there on the earth, one beside the other, and because the pit was too small, some were on top of one another.  The Partisans who stood above them began to shoot into the grave.  They were buried immediately and no one checked to see if they were alive or dead.  The next day another one hundred Swabian civilians were killed.  Sixty of them were from Baschaid and forty more from Kikinda.  They were killed in the same way as the group the day before.

 

  The large number of remaining older Danube Swabian women bothered the Partisan command now that most of the men had been liquidated.  On December 17, 1944 the first group of older and elderly Swabian women was shot.  That evening for no reason at all another sixty-four women were selected.  Most of these women were simply too old to work.  Thirty-two of them were from Sanad.  They were all shot the next day in an area behind the camp.

 

  For several weeks now with the mass shootings and executions the thousands of Danube Swabians who once lived in the district were reduced to those who were in the Kikinda camp.  Some one thousand victims were buried in the fields behind the Milk Hall.  Months later the earth sank where the mass graves were located.  Pigs that came to scrounge for food and dogs often pulled up bones and body parts of human beings.  When this became known throughout the city, the authorities had the land leveled and sowed oats over it, to hide and cover up the genocide that had been perpetrated there.

 

  The extermination camp at Kikinda earned a reputation for its gruesome atrocities.  In the summer of 1946 a young man was successful in escaping.  Because of that all of the remaining inmates were brutally punished.  All of them had to stand in one spot for three days in the camp courtyard in the hot July sun.  During these three days they received nothing to eat.  Whoever wavered in any way had to stand on their toes.  The Partisans then placed a board with a nail driven through it just under the heel of the victim so that if he sought to rest on his foot he would impale himself on the nail.  Just another example of what the Partisans were prepared to do to exterminate the Danube Swabian population as painfully as possible.

 

 

Heufeld

 

  Heufeld was a Danube Swabian community in the northern Banat almost on the Romanian border.  In the early days of October in 1944 the Partisans took control of the area after the Russian Army had moved through and the leading Swabian men in the Heufeld and Mastort, seventeen in all, were taken from their homes and after gruesome torture in neighboring Kikinda were put to death.

 

  On November 2, 1944 the Partisans arrested all of the Swabian men and eighty-six of them were brought to the town hall.  They also wanted to take Adam Stiegerwald, a seventy-five year old retired Roman Catholic priest who had returned to the village where he had been born.  He protested and refused to the leave rectory.  The Partisans beat him with their rifles and forced him out of the rectory yard.  The Partisans continued to brutally assault the old man in one of the rooms in the town hall.  The other Swabian men who were standing in the courtyard of the town hall both saw and heard how the old priest was being manhandled.  The Partisans knocked him down and jumped on his stomach breaking countless ribs in the process.  Because of his internal injuries he was unable to rise from the floor.  They tossed him down the stairs so that he landed at the feet of the men in the courtyard.  Not even now was he able to raise himself.  The Partisans shot him from the stairs in disgust.  This was the morning of November 2, 1944.  In the afternoon the priest’s body still lay there.  Finally, the Partisans called the Gypsies to take the body for burial.  They stripped him of his clothes and buried him naked along with some dead animals.

 

  On the same day the remaining Swabian men in Heufeld were driven on foot to Kikinda where after brutal torture by the Partisans most of them were killed.  Only three men from Heufeld survived.

 

  Anna Klein of Heufeld remembers:

 

  “My father was reported missing in action from the German army in 1944, and then in the same year at Christmas, the Russians dragged off our mother to go to forced labor.  With hefty sobs we cried after her, “Momma stay with us!  Don’t leave us!”  It was only years later that we discovered she had been taken to Ukraine where she along with many other Swabian women were working on construction projects.

 

  I remained behind with my older sister and younger brother.  We lived with our great Aunt until the spring of 1945 when all of us Swabians were forced to report at the town hall in the neighboring village.  She got us already to go and sent the three of us on our own, because she felt it was her duty to remain behind with her mother who was unable to walk.  My sister, who was nine years old at the time, took us two younger siblings by the hand and we followed close behind the rest of the people from Heufeld.

 

  A huge crowd of people had already assembled at the front of town hall by the time we arrived there.  Because we were terrified and we were beyond crying we witnessed what was happening all around us.  How fortunate we were, to be able to find our grandmother in the midst of all the weeping and fearful people who immediately grasped us into her arms as we clutched her body in every way we could.  We were taken to the internment camp in Molidorf where hunger, poverty, fear and need became greater and greater every day.  We lay on straw with many other people all packed together.  Many people began to die because of hunger, exhaustion and mistreatment and abuse.  As children we watched many people around us starve and die.

 

  One day our grandmother was to be among the victims.  In the early morning she slept longer than usual, and we did not want to waken her, but she never woke up, she lay dead there beside us on the straw.  She was wrapped up in a blanket, and a wagon that came by every morning to pick up all of the dead, arrived and took her along.  We were not allowed to go with her and we watched from a distance and saw the place where she was buried in a mass grave.  We now faced everything alone among strangers.  After two years the Communists took the surviving children who had escaped death into their State Homes.  This included the three of us who they considered to be orphans and put us in the Children’s Home in Debeljaca.  Here we found ourselves treated like human beings again, we could even sleep in beds.  But what was most important to us was the fact that we could eat to our heart’s content.

 

  During this early period away from the camp I lived in constant fear of the future and what it might hold for me and my brother and sister.  Because of everything we had gone through I was mistrustful and kept everything to myself and distant.  Shortly after we had been able to be rehabilitated physically we were all sent to different State Homes.  We had all been Swabian children in the first home but now we were placed among Serbian orphans.  At the age of nine I entered the Serbian public school.  We had already had a working knowledge of the Serbian language but now we were forbidden to speak German and I could only speak a few words to my sister in German secretly in the hiding places we found.  If we had been discovered doing so we would be severely punished and have our eating privilege suspended for a day or we received a beating.

 

  Slowly but surely I began to lose my ability to speak in German or even remember it, until I could only speak Serbian.  But now we were well treated.  They took a special interest in the state of our health and children who were still weak were sent to special rehabilitation.  As a result I spent some time with a Serbian farm family and on one occasion I was taken to the Adriatic coast to Split.  The first letter we received was from my uncle and for the first time we had news of our mother and this filled us with a rising sense of hope.  After years, there was hope and joy once more after our abandonment.  After what seemed like forever for us children who held on to our hope on October 12th in 1950 I arrived in Germany to meet my mother for the first time after six long years.”

 

 

Ruskodorf

 

  There were one hundred and twenty Danube Swabian families who lived in Ruskodorf.  The remainder of the population was Hungarian.  They were all poor people, most them did not own land and hired themselves out as day farm laborers on the large estates, and the two nationalities lived in harmony with one another.  After the annexation of this portion of the Banat to the new state of Yugoslavia after the First World War many Slavic colonists were brought from the south and settled here by the Yugoslavian government.  The estates of the Hungarian nobles who had left the county were divided up among these new colonists and the Hungarian and Danube Swabian population were not eligible to buy any of it.  After the Partisans came to power in the fall of 1944 these colonists wanted to confiscate the homes and property of the Swabians and see to their physical extermination.  During the first days of October, there were twenty leading Swabians in the community who were taken by force to nearby Cernje, including four women.  Here they were imprisoned in a cellar along with many other Swabians from the area and were brutally abused for several days.  On October 27th most of them were shot in the meadows just outside of Cernje where they executed one hundred and seventy-four of them.

 

  Fourteen Swabian men from Ruskodorf were taken to the camp at Kikinda and seven of them were brutally killed shortly after they arrived.  Another group of men were taken to the camp at Julia Major where many of them perished.

 

  But in Ruskodorf itself there were large portions of the Danube Swabians who were being gruesomely liquidated by the Partisans.  On November 5th, 1944 two men and one woman were horrendously slaughtered, the fifty-six year old machinist Matthias Frauenhofer, the forty-three year old landowner Johann Martin and thirty-two year old Maria Rottenbach.  After the Partisans inflicted all kinds of cuts to their bodies with knives, they then chopped off of their arms and legs while they were still alive with axes.  The walls of the room where these brutal atrocities were committed were splattered with blood.  Swabian women were given the task of cleaning up the mess.  The limbless bodies were tossed in a basket, loaded on a wagon and taken and buried in the animal cemetery.

 

  There were ten young women both married and unmarried who were tortured, violated, raped and liquidated by an extermination squad of Partisans made up of eight young Slavic colonists who lived in Ruskodorf who were rabid beasts who committed the atrocity in the presence of other terrified Swabian women in a room of the castle residence of the former Hungarian noble landowner.  The five married women, Katharina Kartje, Fanni Hass, Elisabeth Martin, Margarete Frauenhofer and Anna Reff had all of their finger nails torn off by a pair of pliers and then their hands and feet were chopped off with axes and they were raped and tormented until they died.  All ten women were buried in the animal cemetery.  After this bloodletting the ceiling of the room remained splattered with blood.

 

  The Danube Swabians who remained were in a local camp in Ruskodorf that was set up for that purpose.  On April 18, 1945 they were driven on foot out of the village to the camp in Molidorf.  A great portion of them died of hunger there.  Today you will find the Slavic colonists living in the homes of the Danube Swabians.

 

Beodra

 

  There were seventy-one Danube Swabian families that lived in Beodra.  At the beginning of October 1944 the Partisans brought twenty-eight Danube Swabian men, mostly from other communities to Beodra.  They were imprisoned in the stable of the police station and during the night they were hacked and chopped to death.  In addition, ten of Beodra’s Swabian men and two women were taken from their homes and imprisoned in the jail and were abused and tortured for sixteen days and early in the evening of October 18th, 1944 they were shot at the community manure pile.  The corpses were later buried.  Other Swabians died as a result of individual acts of terror by the Partisans.  The rest of the Swabian community was sent to the extermination camps at Kikinda, Betscherek and Rudolfsgnad.

 

 

Molidorf

 

  In Molidorf a community in which a thousand Danube Swabians once lived, the Partisans established a large concentration camp in 1945.  It was one of the largest in the Banat.  Approximately nine thousand Danube Swabians, mostly women and children from various other communities in the Banat were brought here.  In the year 1946 there were four thousand deaths.  They were simply left to starve.  Many of them were abused and shot.  In 1947 Swabians inmates were still being put to death.  In January of 1947 two children aged twelve and fourteen were shot.  In May of 1947 the camp authorities killed two women from Soltur, one of whom had three children and the other four.  At the end of May in 1947 this camp was closed down.  The surviving inmates were divided up among other camps.  But even now in the resettlement of the survivors from Molidorf, the women were beaten by the Partisans along the way to the new camps.  The old and sick people who were unable to travel were simply left behind to die because there was no one to care for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The North Eastern Banat

 

“The Hunt for Danube Swabians”

 

Cernje

 

  Cernje is located in the north eastern Banat in Yugoslavia.  About three thousand Danube Swabians lived there.  In addition there were approximately ten thousand more Danube Swabians who lived in the vicinity in the villages of Molidorf, Tschesterek, Heufeld, Hetin, Ruskodorf and others.

 

  During the first days of the month of October in 1944 the Partisans took power from the Russian military.  Their rule was bloody and gruesome.  The most atrocious acts were carried out by the Gypsies who lived in a settlement in close proximity to Cernje.  The Gypsies had always been work-shy and intensely jealous of the prosperity of the hard working and thrifty Danube Swabians.  The Gypsies joined the communists and Partisans who were Serbians and attempted to share power with them.  They let the Danube Swabians know that they had power in no uncertain way and they were prepared to use that power ruthlessly.  As the new powers that be, everything that took their fancy they simply took from the Swabians including young girls and women to satisfy their lust.

 

  The first Swabian killed in Cernje was the Roman Catholic priest, Franz Brunet.  He was taken from the rectory by Partisans on October 3rd, 1944 and shot for no apparent reason.  Immediately after that most of the Swabian men were taken from their homes and divided into groups.  At the same time many Swabians from the vicinity of Cernje were dragged here in chains and fetters.  Many Swabian women from outside of the village of Cernje were also brought here.  Mostly they were women from prosperous families and the “intelligentsia” among the men who were the first to be tortured and killed.  As these large groups arrived they were locked in two large cellars and were imprisoned there for weeks.  During the evenings groups of Swabians were taken out of the cellars and for hours on end the Partisans abused, tortured and mistreated them in as many ways as possible.  Each Partisan was now at liberty to let Swabian blood flow and break arms, legs and ribs, knock in a man’s teeth or simply kill them any way they pleased.  A great number of those taken out of the cellar never returned.  Their bodies ended up in shallow graves in the meadows.  As the numbers of Swabians in the cellar declined, they continued to bring in a new supply of men and women to endure the same fate.

 

  The treatment of the women was especially horrendous.  It was brutal, gruesome and bestial.  One evening the Partisans took a rather beautiful woman out of the cellar.  She had to endure a long period of excruciating torture.  They stripped her of her clothes and because she resisted the Partisans and Gypsies used a hot household iron and “ironed” her whole naked body.  With deep festering burns all over her body she was thrown down the cellar steps by the Partisans.  For the next two days she suffered in the presence of the other prisoners before she finally died of her burns.

 

  On October 8th, 1944 a bunch of drunk boisterous Partisans broke into one of the cellars.  Among them was a drunk officer who carried a machine pistol in his hand.  All of the Swabian prisoners were forced to stand and huddle against the wall in one corner.  The drunk officer simply shot at the tightly packed group of prisoners in the corner at point blank range in every direction, resulting in bloodying and killing many of them.   The numbers killed and wounded was enormous.  The landowning farmers Kampf Anton and Maier Josef from Cernje lived for a few days one of them wounded in his lungs and the other in his knee but received no medical help or bandages.  Finally on October 12th both of them were taken out of the cellar by the Partisans and shot up against the wall at the entrance way.  In the meanwhile the surviving prisoners were tortured and individually liquidated night after night with new methods devised by the Partisans.

 

  On October 22, 1944 on what was a Sunday, all of the surviving Swabians in Cernje who had not been imprisoned in the cellars were forced to dig a pit for a mass grave.  It was twenty-five meters long, six meters wide and 3 meters deep.  On October 24th, which was Tuesday the new governing officials had drums beaten in all of the streets of Cernje to publicly announce to the entire population that all of the Danube Swabians were to be put to death.  The Serbian population and the Gypsies were invited to come and watch the massacre.  Later that day at 2:00pm, one hundred and twenty-four Swabian men and fifty women were led in fetters from the cellars where they had been imprisoned for weeks.  They were bound with wire to one another and were beaten and thrashed all along the way to the place of execution and screamed at by the Partisans and the Gypsies who had gathered to watch.  They were beaten so badly that they were unrecognizable.  When they arrived at the place of execution all of them were stripped of their clothes and were shot by a huge mob of Serbians and Gypsies.  The Swabians were bound together in groups and driven to the mass grave by some Partisans and shot by them and then tossed into the pit.  The clothes of the dead were put on a wagon and led back to town by the new “officials”.  The clothes were sorted and divided up among the Serbs and Gypsies.  The very next day they walked around town wearing the clothes of the dead men and women with great pride.

 

  Hardly was the massacre over when the new “officials” had street announcements made everywhere in Cernje that wherever Danube Swabians were still living they would be slaughtered that evening.  Armed Gypsies went from house to house and informed the young girls and women that they, the Gypsies, had been given the right, the power and the order by the authorities to rape and slaughter them if they wished.  In fear and trembling of what awaited them, not less than seventy-five married and single young women and their families took heir own lives on the evening of October 24, 1944.  Some whole family groups chose to die together.  Mothers threw their little children into the well and then jumped in after them.  Other mothers hung their children and did the same to themselves beside them.  It just went on and on in a night of horrors as the Gypsies went on a rampage of lust, rape and murder.

 

  The aged former mayor Peter Stein and his wife Susanne chose suicide.  Johann Goldscheck was one of the men who had died in the massacre earlier that day.  Gypsies raped his wife and daughter-in-law in front of the two children in the house.  When the Gypsies left all four of them took their own lives.  Eva the wife of Kaspar Rottenbach, Maria the wife of John his son, and their two daughters aged twenty and twenty-two were raped by a group of Gypsies in front of the two men.  All six of them then committed suicide.  They hung themselves in the attic of their house all in a row.  These are only a few examples.  This is the gruesome way in which the new People’s Democratic Republic of Yugoslavia of the Communists and Gypsies was introduced into this region of the Banat.

 

  On October 25, 1944 it was time to liquidate those still imprisoned in the cellars plus the continuing oncoming victims being brought in from the surrounding region who fed the insatiable massacre machine.  On that day there were still four hundred and eighty living Danube Swabians, including thirty women.  They were bound to one another with ropes and wire and were led by heavily armed Partisans and pushed, abused and mistreated all the way to an estate called “Julia Major”.  From here they were to be taken to various hard labor camps.  But there were numerous situations in which individuals or groups were slaughtered in the most gruesome manner.

 

  On November 15 and 16, 1944 there were one hundred Swabian men shot at one time and included sixty-seven farmers from Stefansfeld and thirty-three Swabians from Pardanj.  This massacre was at the insistence of a Serbian woman Partisan.  Her husband had attacked German troops during the occupation and had been shot by them by return fire.  She now wanted to see the blood of hundreds of unarmed Danube Swabian civilians flow in revenge and she had her heart’s desire.

 

  Among the imprisoned Danube Swabian civilians in the cellars there were also Danube Swabian refugees from Romania and one German Army officer prisoner of war, Hans Konrad from Hatzfeld.  He was badly crippled from the torture he endured at the hands of the Partisans and was unable to work.  These were the grounds for the Partisans for his liquidation.  His wife was also in the camp.  As he was being led out to his execution, his wife left her labor group and ran towards him.  She reached him just as they were about to shoot him.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and refused to leave him.  They were shot together, even though neither one of them was a Yugoslavian citizen.  This occurred on November 9, 1944.  On that same day another eleven persons were liquidated.  Most of them were sick or due to the treatment and torture they had endured that they were unable to work.   The camp commander who ordered these shootings came from Ban Karadjordjevo.  He had already been responsible for the deaths of countless others in Kikinda and later in “Julia Major” where he boasted of that.

 

  In the bitter cold of New Year’s Eve of 1944/1945 all of the inmates in the camp were driven out of their quarters at midnight.  They had to stand and wait in the cold and the snow and then on the orders of the Partisans they had to do sit-ups in the snow for about an hour.  But whoever got up and down too fast was beaten terribly.  The women had to endure the same thing.  A pregnant woman who was a Danube Swabian from Romania was not spared either.  As a result of this “exercise” she give birth to a child that died shortly afterwards.  This operation was carried out in reprisal because of a speech given by a Nazi official that was heard over the radio.  The operation lasted as long as the speech.  On April 18, 1945 the very last of the Swabians in Cernje who were still alive were driven out of their homes and taken to concentration camps.  But on April 19th, twenty-two elderly people among them were unable to walk were driven out of the camp at night and were shot.  Often in the following days both men and women were taken out at night to be shot for no apparent reason at all.  And many young women were taken out at night and disappeared forever.  Most of them were buried in one of the mass graves.

 

  Karoline Bockmueller of Cernje writes:

 

  “On October 4, 1944 at 8:30am the Russian troops passed through Cernje and headed west.  In the afternoon of the same day they were followed by groups of Russians who had been prisoners of war in Romania.  Only some of them were armed and remained in Cernje for a few days.  Towards evening of the day when they arrived they went from house to house to rob and plunder under the direction of some local Serbian Partisans.  During the night countless women and young girls were raped by the Russians, Partisans and Gypsies.  One of their victims was a nine-year-old girl (Eva B.)  She was badly injured having been barbarically raped by nine men.  She became unconscious and her legs could no longer bend.  On the following day her mother hung her and herself.  This was true of many of the other women and girls.

 

  The sisters Maria and Susanne Rottenbach were raped as well as Sophie B. who later had a child as a result.  Therese Hoenig was raped by six men and was injured so badly that she was unable to walk and could only crawl on the floor.  The following were also raped:  Katharina and Gertraud Goldscheck.

 

  Therese Hoenig and her mother as well as the Goldscheck and Rottenbach sisters all hung themselves the next day in their attics.  The only raped woman who went on living was Sophie B.

 

  On October 5th groups of Gypsies from the area went from house to house and yelled to the Swabians inside that they were to come to the commons where they would be shot.  Gypsies and Partisans also entered some houses and took a number of men and some women whose husbands were in the German army and locked them in the cellar at the town hall.  On hearing this news, fifty-four persons, men, women and children hung themselves, took poison or jumped in a well and drowned.

 

  On October 7th, 1944 our priest Franz Brunet was taken to the town hall by the Partisans.  He was so badly whipped and beaten along with four other men, so that none was able to walk.  The Partisans propositioned the priest that if he wanted to run away all he had to do was to jump over the wall and they would let him live.  The priest used all of his strength to jump over the wall.  As he reached the top of the wall the Partisans shot him.  The other men who had been abused with the priest were beaten to death.  The priest’s housekeeper Frau Klementine was brought to the town hall and she had to wash the blood away.  Other women who came to do the cleaning at the town hall daily had to bury the dead priest and the other men at the garbage dump.  In the cellars of the town hall in addition to the Danube Swabian men from Cernje there was a larger number of men imprisoned with them from the surrounding area: Stefansfeld, Heufeld, Mastort and others.

 

  On October 8th or 9th in 1944, Franz Hoffmann begged a Partisan guarding the cellar to shoot him because he could not stand the torture and pain he had to endure.  The Partisan shot him on the spot and soon other inmates begged for the same fate.  One Partisan shot at them with his machine pistol and hit three of them: Peter Weissmann, Nikolaus Tabar and Josef Mayer.  None of them was dead but all were badly wounded.  But all four were buried alive in the grave at the garbage dump.

 

  Men and women were taken out of the cellar at night and were whipped and tortured, while others were abused in the cellars.  There were fifteen year olds among them.  All of them were hardly recognizable because of the terrible tortures their bodies had endured, and as they were led two by two bound to one another by the Partisans to be shot at the dump we could only identify them by their voices or their clothes, which were often just rags that clung to their bodies.

 

  The mass shootings lasted from October 12th to November 7th, 1944.  Every day several Swabians were executed.  The last shooting was on November 11th, 1944, and on that day the mass grave was covered over.  There were always public announcements that the shootings were taking place and everyone in Cernje was free to come and watch.

 

  The victims were forced to undress naked at the dump, and step towards the mass open grave where a Partisan shot them in the back of the neck and the victim would fall forward into the pit.  Some of those who were shot were not dead immediately but whimpered for most of the day and some long into the night until death finally released them.  Our schoolmaster Franz Kremer and Hans Goldscheck and Katharina Schillinger were dragged by the hair from the cellar by the Partisans and Gypsies and screamed in pain on their way to execution.  The woman was not killed instantly as a result of the shooting and she whimpered and groaned until the next day and crawled around among the decomposing corpses in the mass grave.  The Gypsies were given permission to kill her with shovels and spades, which they then followed through on. 

 

  From Cernje alone, as far as I can remember, the following men and women were shot and buried in the mass grave at the dump (she names fifty-two victims).  I cannot remember all of them anymore.

 

  On November 27, 1944 all men and women who were able to work were ordered to report.  There were three groups formed.  One group of men and women went to the hemp factory, the second had to work on the farms, the third group, mostly older people had to empty, pack furnishings and possessions in the houses of the Swabians.  Regardless of where they worked they were guarded, beaten and threatened with death by Partisans if they did not work hard enough or fast enough.  My own seventy year old grandmother, Katharina Bockmueller had to load furniture.  Once when she was unable to lift a chest she was beaten by Partisans and Gypsies until she was unconscious.

 

  At noon on December 27, 1944 the drum beats in the streets of Cernje announced that all young women, both married and single, from eighteen to thirty years of age and men from eighteen to forty-five were to report to the town hall next morning at 4:00am.  They were to bring food for fourteen days and a change of clothes.  These people were loaded in cattle cars at the railway station.  The windows and doors were locked and the transport of eighty young women and thirty-five men were deported to slave labor in the Soviet Union.  Eye-witnesses told me of the heart rending scene at the railway station.  Parents were not allowed to say goodbye to their children and had no idea of where they were going.  I was sick in bed at that time.

 

  Towards the end of February 1945 we younger women who were still in Cernje had to dig up the corpses of those who had hung themselves or took poison when the Partisans had arrived and started the pogroms.  These were often buried in their own gardens because we were not allowed on the streets at that time.  We had to disinter them and put them in the mass grave nearby the cemetery.  The Partisans wanted us to dig up the bodies with our bare hands but the local Serbians hindered that from happening.

 

On March 18, 1945, along with four other women from Cernje I came to Luise Puszta by Etschka.  There was labor camp here with around one hundred women and fifty men from various communities in the Banat who had been dragged here like we had.  With nineteen other women I shared a small room.  We had to sleep on the floor with some hay and straw beneath us, and it was an earthen not a wooden floor.  There was no way to heat the room and it was over run with rodents and insects, cockroaches and lice.  In order to wash or clean ourselves we had to go to a nearby creek, but there was no soap.  We worked in the fields from sun-up to sundown.  And of course we received very little food and what we received provided little nutrition.  We were thrashed and beaten on our way to work and on our way home.

 

  In September 1945, along with twenty other women I was sent to Elisenheim to care for cattle there.  We were all accommodated in one house and slept on straw on the floor.  The commander here was good to us.  With his own money he bought extra food rations to help us survive since we had to work so hard.

 

  While I was here in Elisheim I decided I had to try to escape in order to find out where my daughter was, but I was betrayed by a Croatian woman and as punishment I was sent to work at the fish pond in Etschka.

 

  On May 10, 1946 along with another inmate I escaped and we headed for Rudolfsgnad because I was told that is where my seventeen year old daughter was and that she had given birth to a boy.  When I got to Rudolfsgnad I found out that my daughter Maria and her twelve month old child had both died of hunger on April 8, 1946.  I had to report to the camp commander at Rudolfsgnad and I was interned in a room with  about twenty adults and ten children.  Here we slept on straw that lay strewn on the floor.  Some of the inmates suffered from dropsy and were all bloated and swollen.  They died shortly afterwards.  Food was almost nonexistent.  Those who worked got a bit more.

 

  As a result I reported for work and I was sent to work in the forest to cut wood and reeds for the camp bakery.

 

  On May 8, 1947 since my child had died, there was nothing keeping me in Rudolfsgnad so I escaped from the camp and made my way to Molidorf to search for my mother.  There I was to learn that both she and her sister had died of hunger.

 

  From among my extended family, fifty-six of them either starved to death or were victims of the mass shootings.  Upon my arrival in the camp at Molidorf all of the camp inmates were sick.  They sat in the yard under the trees or lay in the yard.  They whimpered from hunger and pain.  They were a fearful sight.  But even these poor dieing people were beaten and kicked by the Partisans whenever they passed by them.  On August 20, 1947 I escaped from the camp at Molidorf because life was becoming more and more impossible there for me.  I fled to Romania.  Here I found my uncle and aunt with whom I traveled across Hungary to Austria and from there to Germany where I now live.”

 

 

Stefansfeld

 

  Jakob Bohn provides this declaration with regard to the fate and destiny of the inhabitants of his home village Stefansfeld.

 

  “Close to the evening of September 30, 1944 the Red Army crossed over from Modasch in Romania and marched into my home village of Stefansfeld.  Serbian Partisans took over all authority and ruled according to their will.  Along with the confiscation of the land owned by the Danube Swabian population there was wholesale robbery and many cruelties were inflicted upon the people.  According to my own accounting of the two thousand eight hundred and eight inhabitants of my home village from September 30, 1944 until the closing of the camp in 1948, seven hundred and fifty-two persons were liquidated.  Six hundred and forty-six died in various camps, large numbers of who  starved to death.  Six persons chose suicide, sixty-nine were shot and twenty-three persons were and are still missing.  In addition eight persons from among the one hundred and thirty-five persons deported to Russia to forced labor in the coal mines did not survive.  That is the balance sheet for my home village.  I was among those deported to Russia.

 

  (He digresses with regard to the leadership of the Swabian German Cultural Association and its leadership and the fate of some of them.)

 

 

 

 

 

Betscherk

 

  Grossbetscherek was the capital of the Yugoslavian Banat.  It had a population of thirty-five thousand.  The Danube Swabians made up about one third of the inhabitants.  The rest of the population consisted of Serbs, Hungarians, Slovaks, Romanians and Bulgarians.  The most prosperous landowners were the Danube Swabians.  They were also the most industrious and had purchased the most and the best land.

 

  A local Serbian government was constituted here on the day the Russian Army arrived on October 2, 1944.  It was discarded only ten days later.  Communist Partisan bands arrived from Syrmien and took over control.  On the first day of their coming to power, it was a Tuesday, October 10th the new authorities closed off the western sector of the city early in the morning, effectively cutting off the Danube Swabian population that lived in this section of the city.  Armed groups of Partisans, including uniformed women, went from house to house.  They checked the credentials of all of the population in this sector of the city, and any man or male youth who was believed to be “German” was driven out of their houses.

 

  “Are you German?” was the only question that they asked.  If the man was, the command that followed consisted of three words.  “Chain and shoot!”

 

  All of those Danube Swabians thus apprehended were subjected to cruel abuse, butted with rifles and dragged off to the Serbian part of the city.  They arrested about three hundred men in this way.  They were assembled on Takovska Street.  In the yard of one of the houses they were forced to take off their clothes.  In groups of ten they were driven out into the streets.  There was a long brick wall on one side of the street and the men had to kneel in front of the wall and were shot in the nape of the neck.  The Partisans brought wagons and dumped the bodies into them.  They had had a great pit dug on the site of the shooting range of the former Hungarian military installation from the First World War located in the east end of the city.  All three hundred dead were dumped there.  Among the victims was one fourteen year old boy.  A few days later, his father and brother-in-law were also shot.  A few days later and following, most of the Danube Swabians were driven out of their homes.  They were taken to various camps.  One of them was a former old mill in the north end of the city.  But thousands of Danube Swabians from the vicinity were also forced into the “mill” camp.  There were also sixty German prisoners of war, and hundreds of Danube Swabian men, women and children from the Romanian Banat who had fled westward from the advancing Russian Army, but were unable to continue on their trek from here and were imprisoned with the Swabians of Betscherek.

 

  At the entrance into the mill there was a small room.  The Partisans set it up as a torture chamber.  Every night, whenever the Partisans felt the urge to shed Swabian blood they would round up individuals or groups and take them to this room.  In the first night alone they slaughtered twenty-five men, one after another.  At first they knocked out their teeth, used their rifle butts on their backs around their kidneys, smashed and shattered their shins with logs, threw them to the ground, jumped with all their might on their stomachs, broke their ribs and let them die slowly.  If they were still alive they bashed in their heads with their rifles or pieces of lumber.  The louder the victims screamed the Partisans sang louder and played their harmonicas and accordions to drown out the noise of their pain afflicted victims.

 

  The sixty German prisoners of war imprisoned with the Danube Swabians were also subject to the same fate, and except for twenty-six men were killed by the Partisans.  In addition most of the men among the Danube Swabian refugees from Romania met their deaths at the hands of the Partisans including a very young boy from Detta, in the full knowledge of the fact that they were not Yugoslavian citizens.  The murder of the child Minges Walter was orchestrated by the Partisans in the courtyard that was set up like a circus ring and all of the inmates of the camp, especially the women, some four hundred persons in all had to witness and watch how Swabian children were liquidated.

 

  Very often there were mass shootings in this camp consisting of groups of up to one hundred fifty men and women, and sometimes even more.  Those who were chosen for execution were often the owners of the homes and property taken over by the Partisans.  The victims were always handpicked.  In the camp courtyard, once chosen they had to step forward and were then bound to one another by wire and then were brutally beaten by the Partisans.  They were driven on foot to the shooting range and were forced to dig a hug hole.  On other occasions other inmates had dug the grave a few days earlier.  They had to undress and ten to twenty naked persons had to walk to the edge of the pit, or down into the grave and were then shot.  Anyone who resisted was beaten or stabbed to death with a bayonet.  The graves afterwards were covered with only a bit of earth to hide them from sight.  The Partisans took the clothes away in a wagon and traded them in the city or wore them themselves with great pride all around town.

 

  The first official shootings took place on October 12, 1944 when seventy-five Danube Swabian civilians were taken out of the camp and were killed.  On October 14th another shooting took place with as many victims.  It went on like this every other day.  On October 20th a group of seventy men from Grossbetscherek were shot.  On October 29th in two separate actions the Partisans shot one hundred and fifty-four more men.

 

  On another day all of the camp inmates had to report for roll call.  All of these who had gone on to high school were to step forward.  They were promised lighter work.  Those who reported had no idea that anything bad could come of it.  The sixty men were bound with wire, whipped, beaten, stripped naked and shot.

 

  In the face of all of the torture he had endured one young Swabian who was terrified of what more was to come decided on suicide.  On the way home from doing forced labor all day he jumped off of the bridge across the Bega River and drowned right away.  It was in the middle of winter.  The Partisans used this to good effect.  As soon as the slave laborers entered the camp, they chose thirty of the men to shoot as punishment for the suicide.

 

  On November 17th, 1944 the Partisans carried out a gruesome atrocity involving the killing of sixty ill persons.  On that day all those who were sick or unable to work were to report to the “hospital” as quickly as possible.  Those unable to walk were separated from the others and locked in a room.  In the night they were ordered to take off their clothes and in groups of ten they were driven out into the camp courtyard.  There they were awaited by a large group of Partisans in the darkness who slugged them on their heads with their shovels.  Italian prisoners of war had to take the dead beaten bodies and toss them into a wagon and take the wagon out of the camp and bury them.  The next day the courtyard was still splattered with blood.

 

  The killing of the sick became a regular feature of the life of the camp.  But these actions were always in groups.  November 25, 1944 there were fifty-four who were killed.  Another time it was seventy, while another time there were only thirty-five and so on.

 

  But a large number of inmates in the camp met death individually.  On the night of November 29, 1944 there was one such case because the man was eighty-five and could not do heavy work and was taken from his quarters out into the courtyard and murdered by the Partisans.  He was buried in the courtyard in a grave the old man had to dig himself.  Victims like him were not always dead but badly wounded when the Partisans got through with them and were buried alive even when the victim begged them to shoot him.  On one occasion a Swabian man had been part of a mass shooting and was only wounded but thrown into the grave with the dead.  During the night he came back to consciousness and crawled out of the shallowly covered grave and made his way to the edge of the mass grave.  He was stark naked.  He called out to a passerby to help him.  The man in turn informed the camp commander instead.  He immediately sent a squad of Partisans who brutally murdered the badly wounded man.

 

  Large groups of inmates from the Grossbetscherek camp were sent to do forced labor outside of the camp.  Even in these situations there were many of them who were beaten or shot to death by the Partisans while on these labor details.  On May 20, 1945 seventy-five men for example were sent to the rock quarries in Beotschin in Syrmien who were accompanied by a large number of heavily armed Partisans.  The march was accompanied by constant beatings and abuse.  On turning over their prisoners to the officials at the Beotschin quarry where they were to work, they reported that twenty of them were totally incapable of work due to the injuries suffered by them on the march.  All of them soon died after their arrival.

 

  If Partisans in other villages had the desire to murder some Swabians they could order some from the camp in Grossbetscherek or have them delivered to them.  They were gladly sent on the part of the camp officials.  On October 25, 1944 the Partisans in the Serbian villages of Melentzi and Baschaid were holding a special celebration.  The high point of the festival was to be the public massacre of some Danube Swabians.  For that purpose thirty Danube Swabians from the Grossbetscherek camp were sent to the festival.  There they were programmatically shot and beaten to death at the festival.

 

  On December 27, 1944 the commander of the Grossbetscherek camp sent thirty-nine sick persons, thirty-five men and four women by wagon to Ernsthausen.  They were all slaughtered in gruesome ways as the high point of a Partisan celebration.

 

  An escapee from the camp in Betscherek reports:

 

  “I was familiar with the internal operations of the camp.  I had to inform the commander of the camp of the number of inmates every evening.  Because of that I can realistically estimate that in the winter of 1944/1945 more than four thousand persons simply “disappeared” who were listed in the camp log as having died of typhus.  In truth, like the gravediggers reported to me, the dead were beaten or shot to death.  I saw the entries myself.  The old school teacher Koller from Elemir was thrashed three times in our room one night for no apparent reason.  I counted two hundred and eighty-five gashes.  The old man did not make a sound.  In the morning he was dead.  One of the favorite methods of abuse by the women Partisans was to pull away at people’s tongues.  Our own women who were kept in another building had all of their hair shaven off, even in terms of their private parts.  Our own barbers had to do it.  Many women were raped, including my own daughter…

 

  Life in the Betscherek camp was worse than death could possibly be.

 

  Wake-up call was at 3:00 am.  The camp was divided into numerous groups.  After being awakened the thrashings and ridicule began.  The men had to go out into the camp courtyard with their upper torso naked while it was still dark to do “free sport activities”.  There was a well in the yard with a wooden trough attached to it.  Water collected from the frequent rain, and the water had not been run off and because the yard was packed with so many people it was usually a sea of mud.  With curses and swearing the early morning “sport” began with the Partisan guards using rubber hoses and clubs on the men.  These half starved men had the wind knocked out of them and then had to walk around in the cold dampness of late autumn for half to a full hour in the dark, then forced to kneel, lie down and then crawl in the mud.  Only when the “free sport” was ended did they allow the mud encrusted people—there were seventeen thousand men, women and children—to use the wash trough.  But because there were so many people most could not even get close to it to make themselves wet.  There was no such thing as soap.

 

  On some occasions when the inmates were sprawled in the mud the Partisans would begin to “dance” on their bodies.  A band of musicians would accompany them to drown out the screams.  During the dance they used clubs and whips on the people as well as wearing heavy boots with cleats.  This usually lasted for half an hour.  Five to ten people would be left dead in the mud.  After the “dance of death” everyone was driven back into their quarters, but because it was not yet dawn the Partisans had to fill in their time, so that the inmates were thrashed and tortured by the guards until 5:30 am. 

 

  Then came breakfast: a thin watery soup and fifty grams of bread.  After breakfast the groups were sent out to work.  There were various work groups.  The work at the railway stations and boat yards was hard labor, as was the task to empty and load goods at the warehouses.  They worked without stop from 6:00am to 6:00pm.  Often there was no food at noon.  At 6:00pm they were marched back to the camp and often some of them just simply could not go on.  These victims would be forced to rise and continue with beatings, whippings and kicks to vulnerable parts of their bodies.  If they could not get up, others would have to drag them, when they themselves could hardly go on as it was.  As they entered the camp the guards and sentries who had rested all day for this, now once again got into the act and welcomed them with beatings and all kinds of physical abuse.  The inmates were given their rations of their way to their quarters, watery soup and fifty grams of bread.  After supper there was no further official work.  They cowered in their so-called beds, only a very few managed to sleep, because the guards entered the barracks, and called the names of various prisoners and in front of all of the other prisoners they beat and abused them.  Very often they thrashed those who were asleep for no reason and with no warning.  During these evening hours the sentries were usually drunk and carried out two or three roll calls.  All of the prisoners had to stand.  The roll call consisted of a smack to the head or face or a jab against the chest of every tenth prisoner.  Often some prisoners were taken into the punishment cell and were beaten and tortured for hours.  The local Serbian civilian population was also given a free hand and could have access to the camp to beat and punish the Swabian inmates.  Near the end of 1945 the surviving children and the elderly Swabians from Betscherek and the surrounding vicinity were taken to the larger concentration camp at Rudolfsgnad on the Tisza River.

 

  The concentration camp at Betscherek was closed and dismantled on May 22, 1947 when only a small number of prisoners had survived and were still able to work.  These survivors were first taken to St. Georgen and from there they were sent as slave laborers to the Serbian coal mines and to work on collective farms.  But in Betscherek not a single Danube Swabian lived in any of their former homes.  Their houses were now occupied by Slavic colonists and the families of the locally stationed Partisan units.

 

  Dr. Wilhelm Neuner who had once been a member of parliament in Belgrade reports:

 

  “These Communist Partisans carried out mass shootings from the very first days of their Military dictatorship and ruled throughout the whole country.  In the capital city of Grossbetscherek, in which twelve thousand Danube Swabians lived, the western sector of the city was cut off from the rest of the city and this is where the vast majority of the Swabian inhabitants who were mostly farmers lived.  They broke into every home and liquidated all of the men they could find.  Only a small portion of the men was left unmolested.  I myself was led away to be executed.  But only by a fortunate set of circumstances I was able to get away.   But my father-in-law and five other relatives all of whom were farmers were taken and shot with countless others.  In the whole of the Banat, during these first days of Partisan rule the total number of Danube Swabian civilian victims who were killed in mass shootings and liquidations numbered close to ten thousand persons, including both men and women.”

 

  Hans Diewald from Betscherek writes:

 

  “On October 10th the so-called German quarter of the city where the majority of the Swabians lived was blockaded by armed Partisans.  The Partisans went through the German quarter with a fine tooth comb and dragged off all of the Swabian men from their homes.  They were bound to one another in groups under heavy guard and led to the former Honved (Hungarian National Army) barracks.  Other Partisan units began to arrest Hungarians and Swabian women as well and brought them to the barracks.  The women and the Hungarians were later released after several hours of imprisonment.  Some two hundred and fifty Swabian men were shot that day including youngsters from thirteen to seventeen years of age.

 

  On October 12th the German Quarter was once again blockaded only this time the Partisans arrived at 5:00am because during the first blockade at 8:00 am on the 10th many of the men were not at home, but had been in the city on various errands or were out working in their fields or had gone to a nearby village for some purpose.  During this second blockade they captured almost all of the Swabian men including myself.  All of us were taken to the so-called concentration camp a former jail, which had originally been a mill and were locked up in there.

 

  In the following days newly arrested Swabian men arrived each day at the camp.  The men were caught in groups, had been taken off of the streets or taken from their homes.  Day after day Swabians were delivered to the camp.  By November all of the Swabian men were in the camp.

 

  The women of the city, especially the Danube Swabians were the victims of rape and sexual violation by the Russian troops.  The number of rape victims increased daily.  The Serbs sent the Russian soldiers to the Swabian houses where there were women.  A friend of mine, sixteen year old Otto Tarillion told me that he was forced to watch while his mother was being raped repeatedly, while one soldier held a loaded gun aimed at him.

 

  On October 12th the Swabians from the surrounding vicinity were brought to the camp in Betscherek from Rudolfsgnad, Perles, Sartscha, Modosch and Stefansfeld.  At the end of the week, on Friday or Saturday, the mass shootings began.  The first mass shooting took place on October 10th.  At that time two hundred and fifty men were shot.  The second shooting to place on October 20th and about two hundred persons were shot at that time.  The third shootings took place on October 23rd with thirty victims and the fourth on October 18th involving one hundred and fifty-two persons.

 

  Before the shooting took place on October 23rd it was announced that all lawyers and professors were to report.  Because only a few did so, the Partisans threatened to shoot every tenth man.  As a result twenty-three men reported including merchants and officials that also included thirteen to seventeen year old high school students.  On October 19th at 7:00am several of my friends and I were taken to the execution place in the forest.  We were ordered to dig a mass grave.  As we did our work we were all convinced that we would be shot.  But as it turned out it was meant for the two hundred who were executed on October 20th.

 

  In the camp we were awakened at 2:00 or 2:30am in the morning.  We had to perform “free sports”.  We were driven on foot through the camp and every time we passed a Partisan sentry we were beaten or thrashed, but that was also true while we ate or worked as well.  We worked on bridge construction and erecting silos.  We also had to load food stuffs and provisions to be sent to the Russian troops.  The Partisans who were our guards were seventeen to twenty years of age.  These were the ones who carried out the mass shootings   But, there were also women Partisans (often teenage girls) who participated in the execution squads.  Italian prisoners were often called upon to bury the victims of the shootings.  An Italian told me that often people who were badly wounded were thrown into the mass grave.  He often heard their groans as he had to throw earth upon them and buried them alive.

 

  Each day in the camp we were fed twice.  In the morning there was clear soup and in the evening pea soup.  We received a small piece of bread in the morning and evening.  In November of 1944 all of the Swabians in the Banat were confined in camps.  There were forced labor camps in Lazarfeld, Kathreinfeld, Klek and Ernsthausen.  Before the entry of the Russian troops Betscherek had approximately fifteen thousand Danube Swabian inhabitants, but some eight thousand of them had fled with the retreating German army.

 

  I was in the camp to the end of February or the beginning of March 1945.  Then I was sent to the camp hospital to work.  It went much better for me there.  I had better rations, but I had to work under constant guard.  At the end of May I was back in the camp and from there I went to work at the silos.  While working there I escaped.  It was on September 7, 1945.  I first fled over the border into Romania.  I worked there for some farmers.  On December 27th I returned to Betscherek by way of Johannisfeld der Bega.  I hid out at my uncle’s who was a Serb.

 

  At the end of November 1944 there were forty-nine sick inmates in the Betscherek camp who were promised they were going to rehabilitation but were taken to Ernsthausen instead.  They were marched off early in the morning under heavy guard and remained under guard on their arrival in Ernsthausen.  The commander of the camp there was a Serb from St. Georgen.  He recognized the young nineteen year old Georg Saal from St. Georgen.  On the order of the commander young Saal was tied to a stake in the dung pile that was set on fire and Saal was burned to death.  The remaining forty-eight others from Betscherek were beaten with clubs, whips, pipes and stabbed with knives and butchered by the Partisans.  Later one could see the results of their work along the street.  Brains were splattered on walls, and streams of blood filled the street.  A young girl from Ernsthausen witnessed this and told me about it.  Her family name was Kramer I had met her in Johannisfeld in Romania.

 

  On January 1, 1946 I left Betscherk and returned to Romania again.  I left there on January 10th for Hungary.  I arrived in Vienna on January 17th.”

 

  Michael Kristof a high school student recalls:

 

  “The Russians moved into Betscherek on Monday, the 2nd of October, 1944 and with them came the Tito Partisans.  The behavior of the Russians was in some measure bearable.  They took what they wanted and occupied themselves with raping women.  In the city of Betscherek the first Danube Swabians were arrested and imprisoned in a camp on Ocotber 5th.  At first it was the Swabians from Betscherek who were on the agenda of the Partisans, but there were also groups of Danube Swabians from the surrounding communities who were also brought here.

 

  The numbers of prisoners who were brought to Betscherek were at the behest of the local Serb and Partisan leaders.  As an example, the commander at Betscherek requested sixty men from Lazarfeld.

 

  The local commander there, a local Serb, had the courage, to send only half of the men he was ordered to send for which the commander in Betscherek was more than satisfied.  Of these thirty who were sent, fourteen of them were shot.  Those Swabians who were not delivered to the camps remained in their community, and then another group was taken to the camp.  A portion of them being sent to Betscherek at Christmas were sent to Russia instead.  All of the rest came to the camp in April 1945 as the total Swabian population was imprisoned in the camp.

 

  It was at night when it was at its worst in the camp, with the hearings and selections and the shootings.  Those selected for the shootings at first were those who were well dressed, were physically strong or who through sickness were too weak to do any work.  There were no real rules or a pattern to the selections, it was a matter of filling the quota that had been set.  Those who were chosen were taken to a separate room, where they had to undress and were then tied to one another with wire in groups of four and taken to the old military firing range on the outskirts of Betscherek to be shot.  None of the Partisans had any measure of education and were determined to exterminate the “intelligentsia” of the Danube Swabians.  They would ask, “Who happens to be a doctor?  A physician?  Druggist?  Merchant?  Teacher?”  And so on.  People who had these professions were to report for lighter work because they were not suited for hard heavy work.  This trick often worked and many men fell victim to it.

 

  Records were kept at the camp but the shootings in the protocols were simply identified as “died” after the person’s name along with the date.  This was a function of the camp administration office and carried out by Swabian inmates and they made the entries in the book of protocols under the direction of the Partisans.  I was assigned to the office for one week in mid-February 1945, but then the political commissar a woman Partisan had me removed.  But during that week I leafed through this book of protocols because I wanted to find out what had happened to my friends and family members, where they were, if they were still alive or if they had been sent to another camp, or had been shot or had died.  My own number in this book of protocols was 3214.  Through this glimpse in the book of protocols I learned that those I had been searching for who were well known to me and those of whom I had heard had all been shot and had simply “died” according to the recorder.

 

  From this glimpse into the book of protocols it was obvious that very many people who were listed as having died had in fact been executed and shot.  For instance, on October 28, 1944 one hundred and fifty inmates had been shot, but in the protocol each one was listed as having simply died.  This was also true on other days in terms of smaller groups such as the thirty who were shot previously to that.  The shootings were always justified as reprisals.  Each day we had to assemble, sometimes more often and stand in the yard in the three columns.  We never knew the reason beforehand.  Sometimes it dealt with sending some of us to another community to work or some kind of detail the Partisans had in mind for us.  At such assemblies there were individuals chosen for the next shooting, and we would be told it was done “in reprisal”.

 

  Through discussion with others in other camps I learned later that these shootings also took place at that time for the same reason, which indicates that the central leadership of the Partisans had set it in motion everywhere.

 

  On Tuesday October 10th 1944 the German quarter of Betscherek was surrounded by the Partisans.  Groups of Partisans went from house to house, searched them and asked each person for their Legitimation (an official document of identity).  These documents were in both German and Serbian, that everyone had to have in which the nationality of the individual was stipulated which had been filled out during the German occupation.

 

  All of the Swabian men, who were not yet in the camp and were found at home were led together in one of the side streets of the Market Place and mowed down by machine gun fire.  An eye witness shared this with me, who had been saved from the massacre by a Serb whom he had befriended for years and indicated that the victims had to undress their upper torsos, kneel down and where then shot.

 

  The treatment the inmates received in the camp were as follows:  Reception into the camp was mostly by hefty kicks, boxing their ears and body punches.  Few were able to escape this.  Then the man was robbed of everything and anything of value and usually all he had left was the clothes he wore.  If he had good footwear of clothing it was either taken from him or it became a reason for him to be selected for a shooting.  It was assumed the man was rich and capitalist who needed to be liquidated.  With reception completed the inmate was then led to his quarters.

 

  The cental camp at Betscherek was a burned down mill, two stories high.  A second camp was erected in November to accommodate the greater portion of the civilian population as women now were also imprisoned and interned.

 

  In the three large rooms filled with machine parts the inmates were packed together in two story high bunks.  In each room there were about three hundred men accommodated, so that in all there were up to two thousand in the camp at all times.  In the smaller rooms in the mill were the women and children and the so-called ambulance, kitchen, storage area and office, and one room four the privileged inmates who worked in the kitchen and office or in other places in the camp.

 

  No one was allowed outside of the room at night.  Because so many of them had dysentery, in each of the machine rooms there were two large barrels, and two people had to watch out that no spills took place.  On one occasion, all of the inmates had dysentery and the barrels overflowed and the two people who were called upon to make sure this did not happen were forced to lick it up in the morning for allowing it to happen.

 

  At night when the people were exhausted and tired coming from work began the uncertainty whether one would live through the night or not in the face of the interrogations, tortures, beatings that always occurred at night.  For that reason the inmates in spite of their bodily weakness went to work in the morning with a sense of relief just to get out of the “nut house” in which they lived.  But with feelings of despair they returned once again in the evening to face it all over again.

 

  On entering or leaving the camp there were always Partisans on the stockade around the courtyard standing on the stairs with ox hide belts with which they lit into in the inmates passing by them.  The inmates called this their normal dues.

 

  Shootings occurred for all kinds unreasonable things.  The following is an example.  A tradesman from Betscherek who had to work privately in the city, usually came home later from his workplace by the time his comrades were all asleep.  Not wanting to awaken them from sleep, he lit a match in order to find his spot on the upper bunk.  A Partisan on the street outside noticed this light and came up to the room and asked, who had lit a match.  The tradesman acknowledged that he had and was made to come down off of his bunk and lie down on his stomach on the floor and the Partisan shot him in the nape of his neck right there in the room.  I witnessed this myself because I was in that room.

 

  The report of a friend of Michael Kristof who wishes to remain anonymous:

 

  “I come from Grossbetscherek, Banat, Yugoslavia and on 04.10.1944 I was placed in the central camp in Grossbetscherek.  At that time we were only a few men in the camp.  I was placed in room number three.  In the afternoons I had to gather the horse manure in my hands and clean up the horse and stall.  In the night of October 4/5 I was awakened and called out to the yard and was forced to press my face up against the wall and was beaten and my head was banged against the wall, so that the bones in my nose were broken.

 

  Some time later they brought two of my comrades, Anton Hufnagel and I do not want to disclose the name of the other for good reasons.  Anton Hufnagel had been informed he had to go down into the courtyard.  He was so badly beaten that he was in a mental fog and he repeated all of the rude names that Partisans flung at him, and as a result they kept hitting him with their rifle butts.  After we were beaten and abused so badly we were led to the police in the city in a farmer’s wagon.  There we met other Swabian men from the city that we knew.

 

  Hufnagel Anton was immediately taken into a room where his torture and mistreatment would continue, while a radio blared, harmonicas were playing along with violins so that his cries and screams could not be heard outside.  After a short period of time I was brought into the room.  I found Hufnagel lying on the floor totally motionless.  Now I had to completely undress.  Me feet were tied together and my hands were tied behind my back.  In this way I had to stand on a stool. I was whipped with ox hide belts by the Partisans until I fainted.  My flesh hung like pieces of rags from my body they poured cold water from a pail all over me.  As I came to I had to stand on the stool again.  At first I knelt on the stool and then I tried to stand up as my feet were still tied to one another.

 

  The thrashing went into motion once more until I fainted and collapsed once again.  Cold water was poured all over me once again and then they rubbed salt into my wounds and I just lay there in my pain.  Now our third comrade came into the room he was put through the same torture I had endured.  During his torture, the hairs on my chest and between my legs were burned off by apply a burning kerosene soaked rag that they threw at me.  In my unconsciousness I felt the burning searing pain and saw the burning rags on me and turned on my side, so that the burning rag fell off of my chest onto my arm and burned my left arm.

 

  In the meanwhile Anton Hufnagel was beaten to death with their rifle butts.  Later worms infested my wounds that I healed through rubbing my own urine into my wounds for months, and also in Russia I did the same, because I was determined not to report sick because that would have meant that I would be shot.  This torment lasted two to three hours.  Afterwards our hands and feet were freed and we had to get dressed, and then our hands and feet were bound again, but in such a way that our hands were behind our backs tied to our feet with a rope.  We were trussed up like that for around eighteen hours until midnight with our open wounds that had been rubbed with salt, without being able to move to alleviate the terrible pain.

 

  Around midnight our feet were untied and the three of us without Anton Hufnagel who was now dead were lead out of the room and had to climb on board a wagon with our hands still bound and were taken to the courtyard and headquarters of the Secret Police and handed over to them.  On arriving inside the three of us were tossed into a cell together.  Every night we were interrogated and beaten for several weeks.  For food we received two pieces of bread daily and some water.  Once a week we were shaved but it was hardly a pleasant experience.  After about three weeks all three of us were taken back to the central camp because they could not find prove we had done anything wrong that was worthy of further punishment.

 

  At the Secret Police headquarters we were witnesses of the abuse of a woman named Zita by the Partisans and saw what happened to her through the window of our cell.  We saw how she had to dance naked on a table and then lie down on the table and part her legs for the Partisans who stuck the barrel of a revolver into her vagina and made her stand up and keep it inside of her.  She was then shot.  Through the window we also saw a young man of about twenty-eight years, whom none of us knew, whose penis they cut off while he was still alive and stuffed it into his mouth.  What happened to him after that we have no idea.  On being returned to central camp we were once again interrogated and beaten and tortured and we were constantly threatened with shooting.  I was put in a single cell in which three men lay unconscious.  My teeth were knocked in by the commander’s revolver and I was forced to swallow them, and the injuries I sustained killed the nerves.  One night we were locked into a very small cell for twelve hours so that none of us could find rest or move about and it became harder and harder for us to breathe and we were afraid of suffocation and we could not attempt to even fall down to find release because we were packed so tightly against each other.

 

  After this night we were divided up in various cells.  After six days we were locked into a room with about thirty men, given a piece of bread and water and were not allowed to the leave the room.  We had to relieve ourselves in a barrel.

 

  After eight days we were driven on foot to do labor.  We had to get up at 4:00am. Then we received some warm soup and now a larger piece of bread and when we returned from work in the evening we received another piece of bread and warm soup.  During the three weeks that my companions and I had been in the Secret Police prison and later imprisoned in the various cells in the central camp many men had been shot.  On December 28th 1944 I was taken along in the large transport of about one thousand eight hundred persons of which the vast majority were young women both married and single and sent to Russia.  There were no more than three hundred men among them.  In Russia I worked mostly in the coal mines until my release in 1949.”

 

 

Ernsthausen

 

  As in countless other communities in Yugoslavia during the fall of 1944 the Partisans established their Military Government in this former Danube Swabian community of some three thousand persons known as Ernsthausen and established a concentration camp here.  This camp received mostly Danube Swabians from the administrative district of Betscherek.  Several thousands of them ended up here.  The majority of them were women with small children.  Many of them died here as a result of the poor conditions under which they attempted survive.  But even greater numbers died as a result of being beaten to death, shot, slaughtered and tortured in gruesome ways.

 

  Especially bloody was the massacre that took place on a Decemeber night.  On December 28th the high point of a Partisan celebration there was the massacre of thirty-eight innocent Danube Swabian men and women.  Two days before the festival on December 27th 1944 thirty-nine Swabian men and women from the concentration camp in Betscherek were brought to Ernsthausen in wagons.  They were elderly and sick persons.  When they arrived the camp commander ordered them to be imprisoned apart from the other Swabians and not allow them to come into contact with anyone.  As a result they were placed in a room of the Guesthouse once operated by George Schlitter.  One of these men, the former merchant Schag Ladislaus of Ernsthausen who was the father of a young daughter who had been working for the commander for some time was released from the group as a result of her pleas on his behalf.  He was taken from the Guesthouse and imprisoned with the other Swabians in the camp.  The remaining others were locked in the room for two days without any food or water.

 

  On the afternoon of December 29th, one of the Swabian men who was housed in barracks close by the Guesthouse was ordered to bring sharp axes and hatchets to the place where the others were being held.  In a large hall the Partisans set up a large table on which they set the axes and hatchets.  During the evening there was a party involving Partisans and some Yugoslavian military personnel in the Guesthouse.  They made music, drank and laughed next to the room where the unwary waiting imprisoned Swabians were who could hear them.  Now that the Partisans were ready they brought in the thirty-four men and four women and led them into the room that had been prepared for their slaughter.  Long knives, hatchets and axes were on the table along with other instruments of torture.  With these tools of their trade they slaughtered one Swabian after another, both men and women as if they were swine in the presence and in the sight of many people.  Before slaughtering them they made fun of them and played hoaxes on them.  Some of them were offered a glass of wine to drink and as they took the glass to their lips their throat was slit with a long sharp knife.  They cut off parts of the bodies of some of the men and women with their knives and axes, chopped off their hands or fingers, chopped off their heads or massacred them in some other way.  The bodies of the Swabians were dreadfully dismembered.  Those who were not able to die on their own had their heads smashed in with axes.  Meanwhile the music was playing.  This celebration lasted until morning by which time the thirty-eight Swabian men and women had been liquidated.  Among the victims were many leading and well educated Swabians.

 

  When the party was over, the hired hand of a neighboring farmer was ordered to come to the Guesthouse with a wagon and men from the concentration camp were called upon to assist him.  They had to shovel the dismembered corpses and internal organs on to the wagon and throw the other larger body parts on board and then drove the wagon under Partisan guard to the cemetery.  In other cases, liquidated Swabians were never buried in cemeteries, but in undisclosed places and mass graves.  The Partisans wanted these massacred victims buried nearby.  It was very cold at the time and the ground was frozen and it became obvious that digging a pit nearby was out of the question and the only alternative was the local cemetery.  There was large crypt in the cemetery built by the Solowich family before the war and by command of the Partisans it was opened.  The inmates from the camp were forced to throw in the corpses and body parts of their massacred fellow Swabians into the crypt.  The crypt was only partially closed, and later in the spring as it became warmer the whole area of the cemetery was rich with the foul odor and smell of the decomposing bodies.  This was not acceptable to the new Yugoslavian authorities.  They brought Swabian men from the concentration camp, and  under the leadership of Johann Merschbacher of Betscherek who was a contractor by trade sealed the crypt.  But all of the Swabians who had been involved in hiding the evidence of these deaths were threatened with death by the Yugoslalvian authorities if any of them brought this into the public light.

 

  On the way to the cemetery some of the body parts fell off of the wagon so that a hand, or an eye or ear, a foot or something else was found.  In the hall of the Guesthouse there were large bloodstains and many small body parts were left behind.  These and the others that had fallen out of the wagon were swept into a pile as daylight arrived.  In the yard of Wilhelm Till’s house a huge fire was made and the assembled human flesh was burned.  The massacre had lasted until four in the morning, because at about that time the blood smeared butchers and murders went to one of the house next door to the Guesthouse and demanded warm water and washed the blood from their hands and faces and their boots.  Then they demanded a hearty breakfast and later went home to their own houses and families.

 

  In the Ernsthausen concentration camp there were numerous other actions ordered by the Yugoslavian officials that resulted in the deaths of countless other Swabian women and men, many of them leaders in the Swabian community and well educated who also met similar gruesome deaths as individuals or in groups.  Some had their throats slit.  Others were tortured by the Partisans until they were dead.

 

  Kirchner Elisabeth who was a very beautiful young girl was taken by the Partisans to their barracks one night after she had returned from doing forced labor and nothing further was ever heard from her again.  Her body was later buried by the Partisans beside the school garden.

 

 

St. Georgen

 

  In November of 1944 drumbeats were heard throughout the streets of the village with the announcement that within half an hour all Danube Swabians were to report at the school.

 

  One woman who was there reports:

 

  “I went with my there children.  Elfrieda was five months old.  When I arrived at the school and its yard it was filled with people.  The rooms in the school were divided in such a way that you had no idea of what was going on in the other.  Because of what we had heard about what had been going on throughout the surrounding area, each of us prepared ourselves for death.  We were locked in the school for seven days.  During this time our houses were plundered.  We learned later that this was also happening in other Danube Swabian communities.  But matters for them were worse than for us.  The people were driven on foot from Tschesterek to Hatzfeld and then back again to Selesch.  There they remained for nine days.  Then they were allowed to return home to their plundered houses.

 

  About two weeks after Christmas the men were taken to the camp at Betscherek.  Eventually, it was my turn.  I was thrashed, beaten and imprisoned for some time and then released.

 

  In March of 1945 I was imprisoned for nine days at the military barracks in Betscherek.  I was thrashed with whips so badly that the blood ran down my legs.  Then they separated and tore me away from my three little children and taken to Cernje to the “political” camp there.  There I was imprisoned with countless other men and women until my escape in the fall of 1945.

 

  From among the Swabians from St. Georgen:  thirty-two were sent to the labor camp in Semlin, one hundred and eighty were deported to Russia, sixty were sent to Betscherek, fifty-three were imprisoned at Elisenheim and fourteen were sent to Cernje.

 

  On April 17, 1945 all of the remaining Swabians in St. Georgen were placed in local housing that served as a camp.  Many of the young married and unmarried women were sent to Mitrowitz where very many of them perished.

 

 

Kathreinfeld

 

  From the diary of a nursing sister:

 

  “Kathreinfeld used to be a completely Danube Swabian community in the Banat whose prosperity and beauty was due to the industriousness and expertise of its inhabitants.

 

  The German troops left our village at 9:00am on October 3, 1944.  We were told to quickly evacuate to ensure our safety.  But we hesitated, because of the arrival of the Russian troops in neighboring villages.  Old men and teenage boys we formed into a local defense formation, whose purpose was only known to us later.  They were to make a stand against the Russians at neighboring village to cover the German retreat.  Many of the young boys lost their lives there.  Since we had done nothing to merit any kind of retribution we did not think we had anything to fear.

 

  My daughter and her three small children lived in a neighboring village.  My husband and I agreed that he would join our daughter and I would remain at home with our seventy-eight year old mother.  We thought it would be better this way, with my husband providing some protection to our daughter in such perilous times.  He left and I remained alone with my mother.  On that same night the first advance guard scouts of the Russian army reached our village.  They began to shoot indiscriminately, even though the streets were empty and everyone was hiding in the back of their houses.  I, myself had climbed up into the loft of the pig sty with my aged mother.  They banged at the doors and windows, and if the house was not opened to them, they broke in and took whatever they wanted. In this first night, countless girls and women were raped.

 

  The next day the radios and all motors had to be turned in.  Those who did not comply would be shot.  The troops roamed about the village in groups confiscating proscribed items and raping women and girls for the next five days.  On the sixth day some Serbs from the Banat arrived to bring in a civilian government of sorts.  These young Partisan thugs who were heavily armed, wildly shot up the village outdoing the Russians by far.  At night they broke into our homes and whoever objected in any way was knocked down and beaten.  If anyone came to their aid they had worse to contend with.  At night I made my way through the gardens into the houses to provide first aid, to those with wounds and those almost beaten to death.  For those who needed more help than I could provide, I told the doctor who like myself provided medical help even though it was forbidden for him to do so.  When night came, no one knew if they would live to see the next day.  To a great extent most the people did not sleep in their own homes, but rather in the smaller and poorer homes.  Usually twenty persons assembled in such a home to spend the night together and not risk being alone in their own homes.  One night twenty-five women and girls assembled in the house next door to us, to sleep there overnight.  They became aware that one of the women was breathing heavily as if she were dieing.  They put the light on.  One of the women saw that she had slashed her wrists and was bloody all over.  She wanted to die because they would be killed anyway.  “They will drag off my daughter.  I would rather not live to see that…”

 

  The nightly visits of the Partisans continued on end.  The cruelties they inflicted on our people are hard to describe.  Of the satanic thinking and actions of the Partisans and the sufferings of their victims through torture and killings I will record in only as a few examples of what we had to endure.

 

  Our village Richter (local community leader) Josef Topka was called out of his home into his yard at night.  His wife had to remain in bed.  For half of an hour they thrashed and beat him into unconsciousness and then tossed him into the room where his wife was forced to remain in bed.  When they left, she put on a light and he was still able to say the words, “And now I must die.”  Then he died.  His whole body was a mass of lash and whip marks and his neck bore deep cuts from wire.  They had choked him with the wire to prevent him from screaming.  In the same night, two other houses had visitors like that.  In one home they beat a man to death, at another they threw the man to the earth and knelt on top of him and hit him until he was dead.  Then they also brought out his wife.  Tore off all of her clothes and whipped her with ox hide whips and bashed her with their rifle butts.  When here back was black and blue they turned her around and proceeded to do the same to the front of her body.

 

  Among all of the concentration camps in Yugoslavia, the camp in Kathreinfeld would be among the most notorious.  At first the camp was for the sick, elderly and others who were unable to work and prisoners of war who were in the same condition.  Several thousand Danube Swabians mostly from the area around Betscherek were brought here.  They were treated very badly here, and those who were able to work were sent to forced labor.  In a very short time over six hundred Swabian inmates died.  Many, many others died as a result of gruesome beatings, torture and shootings and all kinds of other cruel deaths after much suffering by their victims.

 

  In November 1944 the Partisans brought one thousand two hundred of the elderly and the children from Betscherek to Kathreinfeld.  They had to come on foot and were driven like cattle by the guards using whips on them.  Those unable to keep on moving were beaten and thrown in a ditch.  They were locked up in the school and after two days they were quartered in the houses of the village and were fed and looked after by the people of Kathreinfeld until April 18th in 1945.  They were elderly and sickly people who could no longer take the rigors of slave labor.  Kathreinfeld was now an internment camp for those unable to work.  But later some of those who had regained their health somewhat were reclassified and sent off to forced labor elsewhere.  Mothers who had still managed to be with their children, as well as younger grandmothers were taken away and torn from their children and they had leave them behind to find their own destiny.  Those chosen to do labor had to work out in the fields all winter.  All of their good clothing had been taken from them and they were now clothed in rags.  They wrapped their feet in these rags as well.  In the evenings they walked home in their wet or frozen rags and spent the night in unheated rooms or cellars.  Those who were sick in other camps were also brought to Kathreinfeld.  As a further result Kathreinfeld became an Internment Camp for the sick.  There was only one doctor in the village but he was strictly forbidden to provide care for them in any way.

 

  Most of the sick came from the camps in Betscherek and the airport camp in Etschka.  They were filled with lice and their bodies were emaciated from dysentery.  Many of them had frozen fingers and toes, while others had suffered frozen limbs.  Their skin just hung from their bones.  Among the sick there were countless men and women who were simply suffering from the after effects of the brutal treatment they had received.  Nikolaus Schneider from Pardanj had escaped from his camp because he had been gruesomely tortured and headed back to his home village.  There he was captured again and sent to Kathreinfeld.  They had tied his hands and feet behind his back and left him on a wagon for the whole trip and would not let him down to stretch but often hit him with lead pipes and canes.  When they arrived with him in Kathreinfeld, he was beyond recognition.  The upper part of his head was terribly swollen with blood streaming down his cheeks, his eyes were swollen shut and black and blue like the rest of his face.  His hands and feet were the same as well as all of the bruises on his body.

 

  On December 26th an order was issued at 10:00pm.  Orders always came at night.  All women from the ages of eighteen to thirty-five years and all men up to the age of forty-five were ordered to report in two hours at the community center.  They were then deported to Russia.  As a result only the elderly and the children remained in the village.  Many of the children including the very young were left alone.  Many small children no longer had a grandmother to rely on either.  Those men who were not taken to Russia because they were too old, were now driven into the camp.

 

  The Partisans under the leadership of their political commissars were unbelievably bestial as the year 1945 began.  Long after the war had ended in our area a group of old and sick Swabian men were brought to Kathreinfeld from the camp in Cernje because they were no longer of any use as slave labor.  They were not in as bad shape as were others who had arrived here.  They could still sit upright in the wagons.   The military commander of Kathreinfeld had been informed of their coming and their arrival.  He then immediately made arrangements so that these new inmates would not have any contact with the other prisoners.  He had them locked up in one of the rooms in the school.  It was soon clear to everyone in the camp that his group of people would be part of some kind of Partisan experiment.  A group of Partisans headed up to the school where the prisoners awaited an unknown fate.  The political commissar of the Partisans hurried away to get a concertina.  As he returned with his musical instrument the Partisans roamed around the room where the Swabian men were imprisoned.  The political commissar began to play the concertina and his Partisan cohorts began to beat the men, and a lesson in murdering human beings began.  The men screamed terribly in great pain and the commissar simply played louder on the concertina so that they could not be heard.

 

  The political commissar wanted to give his men the opportunity to once and for all get their blood lust out of their system and satisfied by killing these poor defenseless human beings.  Experiments were made on how to kill a person without a knife or gun for instance.  Each of the Swabian men in turn was thrown to the floor so that their face and stomach was on the floor and their backs faced upwards.  Then the Partisans took their rifles and used the butt to smash the men in their backs around their kidneys in order to injure them.  Those who became unconscious were picked up by the head and feet and were tossed into the air and then crashed to the floor.  Then they jumped on them in their heavy boots.  For this purpose they dragged in a table.  They climbed up on it and then jumped down on the bodies of the men in their heavy work boots with the object of breaking their ribs.  Some of the men had their genitals torn off.  This torture lasted for several hours.  A few of them who still showed signs of life were smashed in the head with rifle butts or pieces of timber.  But during it all, the commissar played the concertina and egged the Partisans on.  When none of the Swabians were alive and the Partisans had become weary, they finally left.  But they left the bodies of the Swabians in the school.

 

  However, not all of them were dead, Nikolaus Schirado was only unconscious.  He had broken ribs, a fractured skull and severe internal injuries.  Close to evening he regained consciousness and was able to escape.

 

  In the same night the Partisans also beat and abused women in various houses.  They also tore off the genitals of Georg Bisching.  He still had enough strength to drag himself to the attic and hang himself to end his pain and suffering.  His wife was beaten with steel rods and whips and was unable to walk.  Another woman in the neighborhood who heard the screams opened a window to look out on the street.  Unfortunately for her the Partisans noticed and they proceeded to beat her unmercifully, so that she never walked again.  Her husband was still in their house and lay dieing.  He was tortured terribly and his genitals were trampled.  He was unconscious and died after three days.  In this way and manner under the leadership of the political commissars countless Swabian men and women met a gruesome end.  But the above examples demonstrate and describe their favorite methods.

 

  But many Swabian women were murdered and put to death in the camp.  These too met their deaths in the above manner having their stomachs trampled, their ribs broken and rifle butt blows to their kidneys.  Exceptionally gruesome were the tortures inflicted on Magdalena Lisching and her death.  The teacher from the neighboring village of Ernsthausen Anna Dinjer was dragged off with several other women and thirty-four Swabian men to the Guesthouse of Georg Schlitter where they were all slaughtered and butchered with axes and hatchets by the Partisans at one of their celebrations.

 

  The remaining population of Kathreinfeld was driven into the camp on April 18th 1945.  Up until this time, for the past six months, the elderly, children and the sick and those who were unable to work were brought from other camps to Kathreinfeld, but most of us villagers were still in our own homes.  Now it was our turn.  At 6:00am on April 18th the drumbeats were heard throughout our village and all of us were ordered to meet in the churchyard.  Later in the afternoon all of us were brought to the school.  The benches were gone and the rooms were empty.  In each of the classrooms they stuffed up to one and fifty persons for an overnight stay.  The children were terrified and screamed all night.  We received watery soup as our only nourishment.  Our houses were being emptied and all of our possessions were being piled up and sorted.  As a group of homes was emptied the former occupants returned along with countless others designated by the Partisans.  Straw was scattered on the floors to serve as a sleeping place.  All of those who were able to work were sent to slave labor or to a forced labor camp in the vicinity.  Mothers and grandmothers were separated from the children once again leaving the poor children to their own devices.  Later, “settlers” from Serbia arrived in our village and took over our homes and chose whatever furnishings happened to take their fancy.

 

  On October 30, 1945 all of the elderly, sick, children and those unable to work were driven to the school late at night and the next morning were taken to the railway station and packed into cattle cars.  At noon the train left the station with none of the passengers having any idea of where they were going.  That night the train came to a halt at Knicanin (Rudolfsgnad).  Here everyone had to detrain and were housed in various houses of the community.  In former days the local population was three thousand.  The houses had now stood empty for a whole year and were in disrepair.  Every day new transports of Danube Swabians arrived, so that eventually there were twenty-four thousand people in the camp.  The houses were packed with people and straw covered the floors where they slept.  From among all of those who were brought to Kathreinfeld until it was closed and the surviving inmates sent to Rudlofsgnad seven hundred and seventy in all had perished.

 

 

The South Eastern Banat

 

“Crimes of Horror”

 

Werschetz

 

  In the famous wine producing city of Werschetz in the Banat until the end of the last war there were twelve thousand Serbian inhabitants and large numbers of Hungarians and Romanians alongside of sixteen thousand Danube Swabians.  By the end of 1944 after the Partisans took over power after the Russian military left individuals and groups of Danube Swabians were liquidated by shootings, beatings, deportations and other measures estimated to number six thousand victims.  In addition to this, countless Swabians from the surrounding numerous Danube Swabian settlements in the vicinity of the city were brought to Werschetz to be exterminated.

 

  Beginning on October 3, 1944 the new police authorities carried out mass arrests of Danube Swabian men in Werschetz.  About four hundred of these men simply disappeared without trace.  Every night an always increasing number of people were taken out of the jail and taken to a cellar or another place by the police and were beaten, shot or put to death in some other manner.  Among these victims were also Swabian refugees from Romania who were in flight of the advancing Russian army, but had been unable to leave Werschetz before the Russian troops arrived and were taken prisoners by the Yugsolavian Partisans.  The corpses of the victims were buried in a variety places in the city, including the yards of some of the victims.

 

  On October 10th, 1944 there were one hundred and thirty-five Swabians, including a teenage boy and one woman that were forcibly assembled by the Partisans on one of the main streets of the city and shot in public in broad daylight.  They had to kneel down in rows and received a shot in the back of their heads.  Whoever refused to kneel was thrashed and brutalized, stabbed, had their teeth knocked in, shot several times and only after suffering for some time were finally killed.  The woman, Viktoria Geringer was the mother of the teenage boy who was also put to death.  The others were vineyard owners and workers on their way home from work after gathering in the harvest, with grapes piled high in their wagons when the Partisans simply took them and killed them.  When all of them were dead the Partisans brought other wagons and loaded the corpses on them and took them to the dump.  But the body of the woman had a rope tied around her neck and they dragged her body behind the wagon through the city.  On top of the bodies of the dead Swabians sat jubilant Partisans and Gypsies.  They did gross things to the bodies as the wagon moved along, made music with an accordion and sang Partisan songs.

 

  On October 23rd the leading Swabian citizens of the city, some thirty-five of them, were taken from their homes and put in the city jail.  They were gruesomely tortured there for the next two days.  Some of them were already killed then.  On October 25th early in the morning they were tossed on a truck and driven out of the city.  They disappeared forever.  The well known teacher, Nikolaus Arnold and the lawyer Dr. Julius Kehrer were among them.

 

  They also imprisoned two hundred and fifty German prisoners of war in the city jail at that time.  They were taken away in groups at night around 10:00pm after being brutally abused before they were led away with their hands bound to the open fields around the dump.  Each time a huge ditch had been prepared.  The intended victims were placed in groups of twenty after being stripped naked and were forced to walk to the edge of the pit and each one was shot in the back of his neck.  But the sounds of the shooting could be heard in the whole city. 

 

  On October 25th the former Swabian mayor Geza Frisch and five other leading Swabian spokesmen were also shot at the dump.  These men had been imprisoned for several days in a room in the mayor’s office and on the evening of the 15th they were fettered and driven through the streets of the city.  The Partisans followed behind them on wagons.  The men had to shovel and dig their own graves and take off all of their clothes and stand naked before their executioners.  Then each of them was shot in the nape of his neck.  Almost the next day Partisans could be seen walking around in the city wearing their clothes.

 

  Particularly gruesome was the treatment of countless Swabian women and young girls of Werschetz.  Hundreds of them were dragged away by Partisans and were never heard from again.

 

    On October 27, 1944 all of the remaining Swabian men in the city were taken from their homes and brought into the recently designated concentration camp for Danube Swabians.  They also brought in the Swabians from the district and crushed them together in the camp numbering about five thousand.  The camp consisted of five barracks, which could not at first accommodate all of the people.  But soon the camp was empty.  In the evenings trucks arrived day after day.  Groups of one hundred men who had been previously chosen were loaded on the trucks and driven away into he night.  All of these people disappeared.  The routine of first undressing and then being shot was carried out, and all night long the shooting could be heard in the city.  As a result the numbers in the camp gradually declined.  By December of 1944 there were only three hundred and fifty men left of the thousands who had been brought there.  These survivors were sent to forced labor at Guduritz doing forestry work and later were sent to heavy labor in Semlin where the majority of them perished.

 

  But many of the Swabians also died inside the camp as a result of abuse, starvation, torture and individual executions.  This treatment was especially designated for the well-to-do and educated Swabians.  Hundreds of them were buried close to the camp.  These actions were carried out on official orders from the highest authority that were well aware of the atrocities taking place.

 

  On November 18, 1944 after most of the men had been liquidated, the Swabian women and children of Werschetz were imprisoned in the almost empty camp.  From here thousands were sent to other camps where the women had to do heavy labor in winter and many of them perished.  Large groups were sent to Mitrowitz, Schuschara and other camps.  There were also large groups of men from Weisskirchen in these labor units.  The majority of those who lived to the end of 1945 were brought to the large concentration camp in Rudolfsgnad.  Most of the people from Werschetz died of hunger here in the winter of 1945 and 1946.  There were only a few individual survivors.

 

 

Karlsdorf

 

 

  Three thousand Danube Swabians lived in Karlsdorf.  It was occupied by Russian troops on October 2, 1944.  The Partisans appeared right afterwards and set up their Military Government.  By October 5th they were already arresting large numbers of Swabian men and women.  Every night people were arrested and taken away.  The nights during this period of time were especially dangerous for young women and girls.  Russian troops were always on the prowl in search of women to rape.  One seventy-three year old woman was the victim of three Russian soldiers.  Both men and women were soon considering suicide.  On October 9th there were twenty-eight men who were locked up in a tiny room.  On November 6th their torment began as they were abused, beaten and tortured.  The most horrible torture included knocking in a man’s teeth, plucking out an eyeball, cutting off their penises, breaking ribs and other bones.  As a result many of them died and were shot later.

 

  On the 4th and 8th of November thirty-eight Swabians including six women, one of whom was in the final stages of her pregnancy were dragged off to Uljima.  On November 9th four of them who had been brutally tortured returned home.  As for the others, there was never any word at that time.  Later it was learned that they had been shot in Weisskirchen on the night of November 9th and 10th.

 

  On November 12th all of the men from the age of sixteen to sixty had to report and were imprisoned in the deserted German air force barracks.  It was surrounded by barbed wire and now served as a slave labor camp.  But here mistreatment and torture continued.  One of the most feared of the Partisans was Livius Gutschu, a man who had murdered his own father, but who boasted of it until he himself was arrested and disappeared.   On November 18th the Swabian women and children and all of the others who were unable to work from Alibunar were brought to Karlsdorf.  They were quartered in the Swabian houses.  Some two hundred men were taken out of the camp a few days later.  They had to chop wood at Roschiana some twenty kilometers distant until the spring.  They lived there in earth dugouts.  One of the men from Uljma fell out of favor with the commander who had him so badly beaten and tortured that he collapsed.  He was forced to take off his trousers and they tied a brick to his genitals and with thrashings and whippings they encouraged him to dance.  In December these brutalities intensified and many died as a result of them.

 

  At year’s end, two hundred and eighty persons from Karlsdorf were deported to Russia.  When the wood felling brigade returned in the spring, two hundred men were again immediately sent to Semlin.  Most of the group came from Karlsdorf (one hundred and thirty-two), Weisskirchen (twenty-seven), Schuschara (fifteen), Alibunar (ten), Uljma (six) Ilandscha (four) Jasenova (three) Seleusch (one) and some from other communities.

 

  On February 12th six hundred men from the camp in Semlin (including ninety from Karlsdorf) were sent to Mitrowitz, where they joined four hundred men from Apatin and its vicinity.  When the group was brought back to Semlin on May 25th, there were one hundred and twelve fewer men who had died building the railroad or as a result of being shot to death.  Of the ninety men from Karlsdfor, twenty-one of them had died there.  In May of 1947 of the one hundred and thirty-two Karlsdorf men in camps, only sixty-six survived.  When the camp in Semlin was dismantled in September and the surviving inmates were sent to Mitrowitz there were still seventeen men from Karlsdorf who were still alive.  Next March there were only four.

 

  On April 27, 1945 all of the remaining Swabians in Karlsdorf were driven into the camp.  They remained there for four weeks while their homes were being emptied of their possessions.  After a period of four weeks the Swabians were quartered in homes in one section of the village.  During the summer all of the able bodied had to work.  All of those not able to work at Karlsdorf were sent to Rudolfsgnad at the same time as the inmates from the Kathreinfeld camp.  Some four hundred and fifty persons arrived in Rudolfsgnad on October 30th, including two hundred and sixty-four persons from Karlsdorf.  By April half of them had starved to death.  In March of 1948 only eighty persons from Karlsdorf were still alive.  In the summer of 1946 more and more people attempted to escape to Romania and then headed for Austria through Hungary.  Many of the people from Karlsdorf were successful, but many others were apprehended, captured, robbed and often tortured and shot by the Partisan heroes who received medals for liquidating the “German criminals”.

 

  In mid April of 1946 and later over a period of time larger groups of inmates were sent to Guduritz and Werschetz.  In Guduritz escape and flight into Romania was unofficially tolerated so that those who were there were able to save their lives.  Later, that is, in the spring and summer of 1947 there were large groups organized at Gakowa that crossed the border into Hungary.  There the planned escapes were also unofficially tolerated because of the money payments involved.

 

  Today Karlsdorf is known as Rankovicevo named after the commander of OZNA (Secret Police) and became the last station on the road of suffering of the Yugoslavian Danube Swabians who ended up at the camp there which became known as the “old folks home” describing the condition of the survivors of the holocaust who had nowhere else to turn or go when it was finally over.

 

 

Alibunar

 

    The center for the extermination of the Swabians in the vicinity of Alibunar was the town itself.  In November 1944 the mass shootings of men had taken place.  The victims always had to take their clothes off first.  Later the Swabian women in the camp in Alibunar had to wash the clothes that had been distributed among the Partisans.  This is one of the ways that the Swabians knew who, when and how many of the men had been killed.

 

  On November 18, 1944 all of the women and children, and all others unable to work were taken from Alibunar to the Karlsdorf camp.  The able bodied were sent to various slave labor camps in the area.  Whoever could not keep up with the pace of the marching column was shot and the bodies were thrown into the roadside ditches.

 

  Klara Knoll of Alibunar writes:

 

  “Alibunar was a regional center with a mixed population, mostly Romanian and Serbian.  Of the five thousand inhabitants there were two hundred and twenty Danube Swabians.  Most of the Swabians were merchants, tradesmen, artisans and craftsmen.

 

  On October 3rd, 1944 the Russian troops arrived in our town.  Only two days later the Serbian Partisans put in their appearance and took over the local government.  The first Swabian men and women were arrested around the 15th of October.  Prior to being shot they were tortured, thrashed, beaten and abused.  Their toenails were torn off, the Partisans had poured gasoline between their fingers and set the gasoline on fire.  Following the shooting some Swabian women found their toenails wrapped up in the wash that the Partisans brought them to do.  News of the victims and their deaths was first brought to the Swabians by some Hungarian women who had been responsible for bringing them their food. Wives were not allowed to bring anything to their husbands or come near the building where they were imprisoned.  One of the Partisans known to me through a friend told me that after the torture my husband was no longer recognizable.

 

  On November 17, 1944 all of us who were still alive were taken to Karlsdorf.  Swabians from other villages in the area who were a small minority were also taken with us.  Before we were marched out of town the Partisans held a speech in which they said that not all of us would be shot, but we would be their slaves for the rest of our lives.  The Partisans who accompanied us were told to shoot anyone who was unable to keep up with the marching column.  Three of the people from Alibunar were shot, including my own eighty-six year old father, Edmund Bauer on the outskirts of Alibunar along with two women.

 

  We arrived in Karlsdorf that evening.  All of us had to stand up against a wall.  We thought that we would be shot.  The children began to cry.  We were divided up into groups of ten and quartered in various houses.  The owners of the houses, women whose husbands were interned or doing slave labor, still lived in their own homes and were threatened with shooting if any of us was missing the next day.  For that reason I did not leave the house where I was assigned and I only became aware of my father’s death some three days later.

 

  In Karlsdorf we had to work in the fields and do other heavy labor, but we had warm houses to sleep in and we could dry our wet clothes or borrow clothes from the Swabians of Karlsdorf.

 

  After a week of being in Karlsdorf, on Saturday November 25, 1944 sixteen men and women from Alibunar were shot in our town, including my forty-three year old husband Franz Knoll.  In addition to the men and women from Alibunar there were eighty other persons from other villages in the area who were also shot and most of them came from communities where the Danube Swabians were a small minority.  They were shot and buried at the so-called cemetery dump.  They had to dig their own graves and were bound together in groups of ten and had to stand on a plank across the grave and then were shot and fell directly into it.  The first to fall in dragged in all of the others and then they were shot again for good measure as they lay in the grave.  All of the men and women were forced to undress completely and were shot naked.  Because the women hesitated to undress gasoline was poured on them and their clothes were set on fire and then they were shot.  On their way to execution the women had been told: “We are taking you to your Hitler.”  On their way to the shooting place the women’s hair was shorn.

 

  For several days no one was allowed to go near the mass grave.  The dead bodies were covered with only a thin layer of earth and soon dogs unearthed some hands and feet.  As a result aged men from Alibunar who were unable to work in the forest had to walk back home to Alibunar that was five kilometers away and cover the grave with sufficient earth.

 

 

The Southern Banat

 

“A Bloodbath Without Borders”

 

Kovin

 

  Hundreds of years previously Danube Swabian colonists had established what began a major community on the north bank of the Danube where formerly the Turkish fortress Semendria had stood in the midst of a swamp.  It was known as Kovin and five thousand Danube Swabians lived here.  But in the region about Kovin there were other large Swabian settlements at Ploschitz, Mramorak, Bavanischte, Homolitz, Startschevo and others whose population numbered in the thousands.

 

  The new People’s Democratic Yugoslavian government of Tito and the Partisans systematically exterminated in excess of ten thousand Danube Swabian men, women and children living in this region.  The able bodied men from fifteen years and older in these communities were to a great extent shot or beaten to death.  Thousands of young Swabian women, both married and single were dragged off from their families and young mothers from their children and were taken to Russia as forced labor.  Not a single teenage girl or women returned home in good health.  The remaining Swabian population was relentlessly driven out of their homes and lost all of their property.  Everything they had was taken away from them.  Even the shoes and clothes that they wore that were demanded from them were handed over to the Partisans.  Now wearing only rags they were dragged off to concentration camps in the region of Kovin.  This provided the setting later for the deaths of thousands of them, either as individuals or in groups who were liquidated by the Partisans who slaughtered, beat, shot, tortured or performed other gruesome deeds that led to their deaths, while others were simply left to die of starvation.  Not a single Swabian was left to live in Kovin or the other communities in this region.

 

  On October 13, 1944 the leading Swabians of Kovin were taken from their homes and were put to death in gruesome ways.  Among these first victims was Josef Fitschelka who operated a soda factory.  He had to undress until he was naked in the yard of the former landowner Franz Schneider and then he was brutally abused.  The Partisans took a two handed saw, held him down on his back and sawed their way through his body across his chest and stomach from left to right while he was still living.  He screamed terribly.  After him similar gruesome methods were used in killing the other rich people.  Among them was the entire family of the estate owner Franz Schneider.

 

  Immediately following this the Partisans began to arrest all of the remaining Swabian men in Kovin.  They were all imprisoned and for days they were fearfully tortured.  Early in the morning at 2:00am on October 19th two hundred and eighty of these men were shot at the slaughtering range.  Four German prisoners of war were also executed with them.  Twenty other men who were shot later had been forced to dig the mass grave at the execution site.  When the pit was dug they were ordered to move back fifty paces from it and lie down sideways.  The two hundred and eighty selected victims and the four German prisoners of war were fettered and led there and were forced to undress and in groups of ten they were ordered to lie down in the pit.  Whoever disobeyed was fearfully abused.  Once the men were lying in the pit that Partisans shot them from above.  Then the next group had to lie down on top of the dead and severely wounded naked men and they were shot in the same manner.  This went on like this until all of the men had been liquidated.  The twenty men who were kept waiting, then shoveled earth over the dead and badly wounded men until the mass grave was completely covered over.

 

  On October 20, 1944 another one hundred and five Swabians from Kovin were shot in the same manner.

 

  Now that most of the men from Kovin had been exterminated, the Swabians from the vicinity now had the full attention of the Partisans.  Day after day, long columns of Swabians from the surrounding district came by wagon and on foot.  They were fettered and badly beaten and bloodied.  They were put in the camp at Kovin and for days they were terribly tortured before they too suffered the same fate as the Swabians from Kovin.

 

 

Ploschitz

 

  Before the war over one thousand three hundred Danube Swabians lived in Ploschitz.  When the Partisans took power they arrested and imprisoned many of the Swabians.  On October 14th the Partisans had a party at the local village pub with music and dancing.  It was Sunday.  Next to the inn, in various rooms in the community center the Swabians were imprisoned.  Around midnight a pack of Partisans got their commander to allow them to get some of the Swabians from over in the community center.  The first was Martin Repmann the rich butcher.  He was led to the office of the community center.  Without any reason at all, and pure bravado, a woman Partisan hacked off the finger of his one hand with a sword in the presence of the village authorities.  Following that another Partisan severed his hand up to his wrist.  Other Partisans drew out their knives and stabbed him while at the same time they bashed in his head with their rifles.  Gypsies later dragged his body out to the dump and buried him were dead animals were left to rot.

 

  The second victim to be brought in was a married woman, Lina Klein.  She was stripped naked by the drunken Partisans, who dragged her out to the yard of the community center.  The Partisans crowded around her and stabbed her with a knife in the area of her vagina, and hacked off a finger of her one hand.  They broke her other hand.  They were still not satisfied with their bloody handiwork.  They stabbed her numerous times around the throat.  She bled profusely, but was still not dead.  Only after a drunk Gypsy stabbed her in the back with a long knife did she finally collapse.  In the presence of some two hundred witnesses, mostly Serbian Partisans and Gypsies her body was dragged to the well where more Partisans used her corpse for target practice with their pistols.

 

  Their third victim that night was Ernst Schreiber the watchmaker.  He was literally butchered by the Partisans with their knives.  Now that the Partisans had quenched their lust for blood on their Swabian victims they went on with their party at the pub.  On the following day the arrest of the other Swabians in Ploschitz continued.  These prisoners were fearfully tortured and abused over the next several days and then on October 19th they were force marched over to Kovin.  At that camp they were badly mistreated and beaten and individually or in groups they were killed.

 

  On October 23 there were only forty-two Swabians still alive in Ploschitz.  On that day they were fettered and driven on foot to the dump and shot there.  The method of their liquidation was a carbon copy of the procedures used several days before in the shooting of the Kovin Swabians.  Among the victims from Ploschitz was the photographer Stefan Luftikus.  While they were being forced to undress and be fettered, he called out to the Partisans, “During the four year occupation by the Germans we protected and defended you Serbs and nothing happened to a single one of you.  And now, in thanks for that you now want to kills us?”  Right after speaking these words he was killed.

 

 

Mramorak

 

  Mramorak was one of the two largest Lutheran Danube Swabian communities in the Banat along with Franzfeld. 

 

  After the Partisans had taken the Swabians from Ploschitz to Kovin large numbers were also taken in fetters from Mramorak.  These too had earlier been driven out of their homes by the Partisans and imprisoned.   After horrendous abuse by the Partisans, hundreds of Swabians from Mramorak were driven on foot to the Serbian village of Bavanischte where they again were mistreated, beaten and tortured and on October 20th they were shot en masse.  After that the surviving arrested Swabian men and women in Mramorak were taken to Kovin.  All day long they were newly tortured in horrendous new ways and some among them were murdered.  On October 28th thirty-seven women and teenage girls from Mramorak were shot.  Prior to their execution they were beaten and tortured unmercifully in the jail at Kovin and stripped of all of their clothes because the Partisans wanted them for their own wives and girlfriends.  They force marched the naked women and girls, beating and thrashing them along the way to the place of execution, the local dump and animal cemetery.  Others had been forced to shovel out a mass grave for them.  They, like the men, the day before them were driven to the mass grave awaiting them.  They too had to lie down in the grave as the men had and then they were shot.  Any who resisted were shot on the spot and tossed down among the other naked women and girls who had preceded them.  Among the young girls was Susi Harich one of the most popular girls in Mramorak.  At first she was simply shot and badly wounded to make her suffer.  She called up to her executioners, “Shoot me in the head,” and a Partisan stepped forward and killed her with one shot of his pistol.

 

 

 

Homolitz

 

    In one day, October 22, 1944 the Partisans killed two hundred and eighty-seven Danube Swabians including very many children in the village of Homolitz.  Thirteen year old Knabe Moradolf was among them.  They were all taken from their homes, one at a time, imprisoned in the town hall and mistreated and abused.  The next morning they were fettered and then driven on foot to the brickyards at dawn.  There they had to strip themselves of all of their clothes and then in groups they were driven to a large pit that had been used in the production of bricks.  There they were encircled by Partisans who mowed them down with machine guns and their bodies were thrown into the pit.

 

 

Startschevo

 

    As the first of their extermination efforts in Startschevo the Partisans proceeded much as they did at the same time in the entire district around Kovin and arrested and killed ten of the leading Swabians who lived there.  A few days later, all men fifteen years of age and over were driven together at the local Guesthouse at night, and were fearfully tortured and abused over a period of time as was true in all of the other Swabian communities in the district.  At a later date, all of them had to strip naked and leave their shoes and clothes in the Guesthouse.  The Partisans bound them to one another with wire and before dawn the naked prisoners were force marched to the place of execution and old brickyard with constant beatings and thrashing from whips along the way.  Near a large pit they were forced to halt.  Under the pressure of the constant beatings of the Partisans with their rifle butts, groups were forced to the edge of the pit and were shot before sunrise.  Not a single man from the age of fifteen upwards was left alive in Startschevo.  Among the victims was one of the leading Swabians in the village, whose family does not want his name to be mentioned and his two sons.  While the father was wired together with his oldest son, his younger son, not yet fifteen years old was bound to a very physically large man.  The method of shooting used by the Partisans was simultaneous and directed at whole groups and this large man was hit and fell headlong into the pit.  At the same time he pulled the young boy in after him who had not been hit by the spray of bullets all around him.  Other naked dead men and badly wounded others fell on top of both of them.  After the shooting ended, the Partisans and the Gypsies who had also beaten some of the Swabians to death, left without filling in the mass grave.  The young boy made use of the blood running all over him from the others to free himself from his fetters.  He crawled out of the grave and left quickly stark naked.  He found sanctuary with some relatives and a few weeks later he left Startschevo and found safety and a hiding place in Pantschowa.

 

 

Bavanischte

 

  From the village of Bavanischte there were also Danube Swabians who had been fearfully tortured by the Partisans and taken to Kovin in fetters in October of 1944.  They suffered the same fate as all of the other Swabians in the district of Kovin and were treated brutally and shot.  Especially gruesome was the fate of Swabian women and young teenage girls.  On October 29, 1944 the Partisans put to death twelve young girls and women from Bavanischte at the dump outside of Kovin.  They had been imprisoned in the courthouse at Kovin from the time of their arrival from Bavanischte and had been there for some time.  They had been molested and abused fearfully.  On the night of October 29th the Partisans took them out of their place of imprisonment and stripped them of their clothes.  Most of the teenage girls were from among the prettiest in the area and the married women were among the healthiest.  The Partisans wanted to rape the prettiest among them, Julianna Dines who was eighteen years old.  But she resisted with all of her might and strength against the attempts the Partisans and Gypsies made to rape her and she screamed frightfully.  In their fury because they were unable to achieve their goal, the Partisans took a pair of pliers, held her down and tore out a piece of flesh just above her vagina and she began to bleed profusely.  During that same night all of the women and young girls were fettered, stripped naked and driven on foot to the place of execution and shot.  But Julianna was first shot in the foot to make her suffer and left to lie there beside the grave.  The young Swabian was brave to the end and called out to the Partisans who were mostly Gypsies to shoot her in the head.  Which one of them finally did.

 

 

South Western Banat

 

“Wholesale Murder”

 

Pantschowa

 

  The largest community in the southern Yugoslavian Banat is located where the Tisza and Danube Rivers meet, the site of the city of Pantschowa (Pancevo).  It is the oldest settlement in the Banat.  Along with the Danube Swabian inhabitants there were numerous other nationalities:  Serbians, Romanians, Slovaks and Hungarians that lived together in peace and harmony for two hundred years.  Because of their almost inborn sense of the value of work and industriousness the Danube Swabian population secured for themselves a high standard of living, even though they lived under various forms of government during that history with different attitudes toward them.  Up to the beginning of the Second World War the city of Pantschowa had a population of twenty-five thousand, among whom the Danube Swabians numbered twelve thousand persons.  The Swabians were the mainstay of the local economy and industry and several thousand other Danube Swabians lived in the numerous villages that surrounded or were in the vicinity of the city.

 

  The Russian army arrived in this region in the first days of the month of October 1944.  Under their protection communist Partisans seized power and inaugurated a gruesome reign of terror.  All of those who appeared to be opponents or a threat to communism were meant for extermination.  This meant not only the followers of General Nedic, but  the Royalist Serbians the Chetniks of Drascha Michailowitz not to mention the Danube Swabians who were to be totally and systematically liquidated.  Of the approximately forty thousand Danube Swabians in Pantoschowa and its vicinity, only a few thousand had fled or been evacuated by the German forces.  The others remained with a clear conscience and did so without fear.  They had absolutely no idea of what lay ahead for them.  They were all to be exterminated, simply because they were of German origin, and today not a single Danube Swabian lives in this region or has possession of his home and property there.

 

  As soon as they came to power the Partisans began the arrest and liquidation of the leading and most esteemed Swabian men.  The first victims were the well-to-do whose property and possessions the Partisans wanted for themselves.  All of these Swabians were imprisoned in the so-called “old stockade” which was part of the district prison complex.  But in addition, thousands of Swabians from the surrounding vicinity, both men and women of “standing” were brought here and were tortured unmercifully for days.  Whenever the Partisans had a thirst for blood, desired sadistic pleasure or were drunk they would call for victims from among the innocent, defenseless, chained and fettered Swabians in order to kill them and watch them die.  They would be dragged out of the packed cells of the prison as individuals or in groups for no reason at all and be subjected to unimaginable cruelties until the Partisans had their fill or grew tired of it.  Just as in other regions of the Banat, the victims were thrown to the floor and the Partisans would use their rifle butts on their backs always aiming for their kidneys, and turned them over and did the same against their chest to break their ribs, bash in their teeth with their revolvers and break their nose.  Many, many Swabians never recovered from this personal abuse.

 

  Only after several days were the Partisans satisfied with their efforts at torturing their victims and believed that this method of liquidation would take too long, so they began to form the Swabians into groups and fetter them and drive them on foot out of the prison to be shot in groups.  But beforehand the victims had to give up all of their clothes and underwear until they were naked.  In this way one thousand six hundred and sixty-six fettered Danube Swabians were led away from this camp prison, usually at night and vanished without a trace.  Most of them were led out on to the road that led the way to the village of Jabuka or they were shot at the airport.   Nearby a factory close to the airport there were twelve huge mounds still visible in 1946.  They are the mass graves of large groups of Danube Swabian victims who were shot and buried here.  All of these groups consisted of one hundred or more victims.  But many others also died in the prison camp itself.

 

  One of the first victims of the bloody People’s Democratic regime was a young school boy Franz Maierhoefer.  A Serbian woman wanted to revenge herself on the boy’s parents who had offended her in some way.  When the Partisans came to power in Pantschowa she believed she could achieve her goal.  She did not ask for the death of the parents, but she requested that the almighty Partisans to kill their only innocent and unwary child.  The Partisans immediately acted on her request and tore the child from his parent’s arms and in a short time afterwards shot him.  The first of those who died as a result of ongoing brutal and gruesome torture in the prison camp was the Lutheran pastor and Dean of the Pantschowa Lutheran Church District Wilhelm Kund.  Following the martyrdom of the Lutheran bishop, Philipp Popp who was hanged by the Partisans in Agram, Wilhelm Kund was the leading Lutheran pastor in Yugoslavia.  The Partisans tortured him for two hours in the punishment cell in the prison camp simply because he was a pastor.  He too endured punches and rifle butts in the area of his kidneys on his back.  The struck him across the face with canes and steel rods and broke the bridge of his nose.  Then they threw him to the floor.  They took turns jumping on his stomach with all of their might and broke three of his ribs.  Through this abuse and torture he was a bloody mess and covered with blood everywhere and had severe internal injuries when they were finished.  Later he died of his injuries.  The well known lawyer, Dr. Hans Leitner from Kowatschitza was also brought here to the prison camp and after enduring much torture he later died as a result of it.

 

  As time went on, the Partisans brought more and more Swabian men as well as many leading Swabian women from the city of Pantschowa and the numerous communities in the vicinity to the prison camp and after most of them survived untold cruelties and abuse at the hands of the Partisans, the mass shootings began.  The first mass shooting took place on October 16, 1944.  On that day, one hundred and eighty Swabian men were bound and led from the camp and they were forced to undress and when they were naked they were shot on the road to Jabuka.  During this action, particularly new versions of gruesomeness were inaugurated by the Partisans and Gypsies. The Swabians were pushed forward towards the mass grave in groups by the Partisans or had to immediately lie down naked in the pit and were then shot.  Whoever resisted was badly beaten or simply shot standing there.  Anton Geier, just after he had undressed was run through with one of the spades used to dig the grave by a Gypsy and his entrails hung out and he lay there in great pain until he was thrown into the grave while still alive.  The Partisans also killed the watchmaker Michael Eichart in the most gruesome way.  They threw him to the ground and proceeded to cut out three of his ribs while he was alive and then tossed him down into the grave with the other Swabians and left him there to suffer for a long time. 

 

  Equally gruesome things were done on October 18th when another one hundred and eighty Swabians who were driven out of the camp with their hands bound were shot.  This was followed by three hundred more on October 20th among them were some German prisoners of war.  On October 22nd they killed thirty men and one woman.  So it went on and on to mid November.  On November 9th the former member of parliament   and lawyer Dr. Simon Bartmann whom everyone knew was a convinced Yugoslavian patriot and never a Nazi was shot along with eighty-three other Swabians.  Among these victims were included eleven women and the dentist Dr. Hauber and the lawyer Dr. Bartosch.  The others were members of the intelligentsia and prosperous people.  There was a procedure that was followed by the Partisans with regard to the shootings.  On the day of the planned execution the Partisans went from cell to cell with a list and called out the victim’s name.  The victim had to step forward out of the cell.  In this way the eighty-four Swabian men and women were assembled in the yard.  They were immediately surrounded by Partisans and were beaten with rifles and wooden stakes.  Then they were bound with rope or wire to one another and were driven out of the camp and were thrashed and beaten on their way to execution.  These victims like the others before them were forced to the mass grave after undressing and met their deaths either by shooting or some other gruesome invention of individual Partisans.

 

  On November 11, 1944 the Partisans drove out all of the Danube Swabians still living in Pantschowa from their homes including the women and children and brought them to the prison camp.  Everything that the Swabians possessed was to be left behind or anything they still had was taken away from them.  Three thousand and twenty-four of them were then brought to the camp at Brestowatz where there were already over seven thousand inmates.  There, in a very short period of time, four hundred of them died.  The Swabian women here were driven to do forced hard labor during the winter.  Here large numbers of Swabians were put to death or terribly abused and tortured.  About one thousand of the younger women and teenage girls were delivered to the Russians for slave labor in the Soviet Union with the compliments of the Yugoslavian government at the end of 1944.  Not a single one of them was healthy when they returned home, if they returned.  The Partisans also dragged off women and teenage girls from the camp in Brestowatz and to this day no trace of any has ever been found.  The father of one of the abducted girls, Suchi Dominik demanded to know what became of her.  The Partisans punished him gruesomely for his audacity.  The held a burning candle directly beneath his nostrils and under his tongue that they pulled out and then crushed his genitals.

 

  In the fall of 1945, three thousand seven hundred and eighty-four Swabians, mostly women and children who had lived in Pantschowa who were in the camp at Brestowatz were shipped to large concentration camp at Rudolfsgnad.  For the Swabians from Pantschowa this meant another mass extermination.  By the summer of 1946 only one thousand eight hundred and eighty-four of them had survived.  More than half of them, one thousand nine hundred starved to death that first winter.  But the Swabian men and women from Pantschowa who were not sent to Brestowatz and Rudolfsgnad, but had been kept back in the camp in Pantschowa continued to be exterminated.  They were constantly undernourished and forced to do hard labor.  Those who became weak or sick or injured were shot by the Partisans or bludgeoned to death.  The sick, frail and those others unable to work were often executed in large groups.  On December 11, 1944 sixty-eight sick Swabians along with invalid war veterans from the entire district of whom thirty-two were from the community of Brestowatz were shot.  They were liquidated because one could not expect any labor out of their broken bodies nor were they then of any value.  The cheapest way to deal with the burden they posed was to shoot them.  The invalids also lie buried on the road that still leads to Jabuka.

 

  Many of the inmates at the camp in Pantschowa were taken to other camps to do heavy labor and were liquidated there.  Many of them were sent to the camp in Semlin, the so-called show place camp erected for the Danube Swabians.  Many thousands of Swabian men and women met their deaths there.

 

 

Brestowatz

 

  Like Kathreinfeld so also Brestowatz was a community in which Swabian men and women were brought who were sick and otherwise unable to work from various other camps in the District.  The sick from Pantschowa were also brought here.  Not all such transports bearing the sick arrived in Brestowatz.  One survivor of such a transport testified:

 

  “I was in Pantschowa for only one day when a friend encouraged me to report sick.  I would be sent to Brestowatz and would not be required to do any heavy work like I would if I remained in Pantoschowa.  Because I had relatives in Brestowatz I followed my friend’s advice.  But I also had the feeling that perhaps it would be better to stay in Pantoschowa in spite of the hard work.  I thought that it was more probable that those unable to work had a greater chance of extermination than the able bodied.  But still, I reported in sick.

 

  When the transport was assembled there was no place for me on the wagon.  Because of the lack of space eighty-three others and I had to remain behind.  The evening of that day all of those who had not accompanied the transport were told to report in.  We were told to reconsider going to Brestowatz.  Even if one was sick, but was still able to work it might be better to stay in Pantschowa.  I joined those who decided to remain even though I wanted to go to Brestowatz.  Twenty of us remained in Pantschowa.  The rest were then sent to Brestowatz.  At least that is what was said.  They never arrived there.  They were taken to Alibunar and shot and buried there.”

 

  The Brestowatz internment camp was later closed and its inmates were sent to Rudolfsgnad.  A great portion of those inmates from Brestowatz who declared that they were unable to work died there of hunger while others were put to death.

 

 

Glogau

 

  In the earliest days of Partisan rule numerous Danube Swabian men were arrested and taken away to Sefkerin or Kowatschitza.  Many of them were shot in a field along the way.  An eyewitness reports:

 

  “In the second half of October (1944) I was taken to the town hall along with a friend and we were imprisoned.  As we entered our cell, we found six other prisoners of whom some were badly beaten.  One of them had his hand cut off.  Among these men there was Anton Gloeckner from St. Georgen and a man from Ernsthausen by the name of Rotten.  I was released with two others but the others were sent to Sefkerin on foot.  Not far from out of town the Partisan guard took them to a field and shot them with his machine pistol.  One of the men went down before he was hit and feigned death.  When he noticed the guard was approaching his victims he saw that he shot each man in the head and placed his own arm over his head and when the Partisan shot him and moved on, the wound was lodged in his protecting arm and had grazed his cheek and outer ear.

 

  As the sentry left, the man stood up and tried to stop the bleeding and thought of going to the village and go into hiding and let his wound heal.  As he came to the end of the field a woman Partisan who was without any weapon came along the path and asked what had happened to him.  He ignored her and rested under a tree and waited for the Partisan to leave.  When the Partisan was out of sight he gathered together the last of his strength and was able to reach a house at the outskirts of the village.  He was hidden in the house and a doctor came secretly.  A few days later he was arrested again and taken to the prison camp operated by the Secret Police in Kowatschitza.”

 

  On October 30th the Partisans arrested and apprehended forty-six persons including the local priest, Knappe.  Their hands were bound and they were taken to a nearby hill close to the village.  There they had to strip naked.  At the intervention of some of the local Serbs three of the Swabians were allowed to return home, but the others and the priest were shot.  But before they were shot they had to dig their own graves.

 

  Many of the men from Glogau worked at the airport in Opovo.  One of the liquidation commando brigades arrived on October 30th in many of the Banat villages in the area to carry out mass extermination actions against the Danube Swabian population.  They also put in an appearance at the airport.  The men who came from various communities in the area were asked individually who they were (what nationality), and any who responded that they were Swabians were immediately set aside and shot.  Because of knowing that, some of the Swabians who spoke good Serbian or Romanian pretended not to be Swabians and got away with it.  In total there were one hundred and eighty-three men from Glogau who were shot in the fall of 1944.

 

  A man from Betscherek who had joined the evacuation and then changed his mind reports the following:

 

  “From the 4th to the 7th of October 1944 I hid out in Glogau which is close to Pantschowa and I was a civilian at the time.  While I was in hiding I learned that the local officials indicated they would provide documentation to anyone who was going back to their home community.  On October 7th I went to the town office in Glogau.  There without a word I was arrested and locked up.  In prison I found three other Swabians who had been arrested just like me.  In the afternoon we were all brought to Sefkerin on foot where we met another twelve men at the school.  At our first sight of the twelve men their appearance was almost grotesque from the beatings they had obviously suffered.  They had been imprisoned here for several days and every local revenge seeking Serbian civilian could work out their rage on the twelve victims.

 

  On October 8th 1944 the civilian population was ordered to deliver up oats and grain.  The Serbian farmers brought wheat and maize and we had to unload the wagons.  We carried sacks weighing sixty to seventy kilograms from early morning until late at night and for that we received gruesome beatings rather than any food.  Every civilian and even the night watchman could beat us as often and as long as they wanted.  Some of us still had good shoes, but these were now taken away from us.  On October 9th 1944 we had the same work assignment and received more beatings than the day before.  In these two days we once received fifty grams of bread.  In the evening around 7:00pm three armed Partisans came and ordered five of us to come with them.  We were led to the forest which is about two miles distant from the village if Sekferin.  We were not forbidden to speak, and the Partisans watched us closely, so that none of us could escape in the darkness.  We were never told but we knew what their goal was.   We were to be shot.

 

  My friend Johann Schab from Lazarfeld and I spoke to one another along the way and came to the decision that at the first opportunity we saw we would escape.  In the woods before us an armed Partisan with a machine pistol indicated where he wanted us to stand to be shot.  We were forced to walk up path deep into the forest.  Two other armed Partisans with rifles supervised preparing us.  Even though we were deathly afraid we asked for the reason for our execution but were quickly silenced by blows to our heads and were pushed around.  Outside of swearing and scoldings there was no answer from them.  So we stood pressed close to one another preparing ourselves to be shot.  As the Partisan with the machine pistol walked behind us to shoot us in the back, my friend Schab pushed me aside with his left hand and both us made a run for it, and then the others followed.  In the blinking of an eye there was the crack of the first salvo of bullets.  I saw another escapee beside me to my left and then he sank to the ground and was dead.

 

  The Partisans shot, screamed and ran after us, but the darkness and the density of the forest saved us.  I ran scared to death and under the power of the last of my strength as best as I could.  After three or four hundred meters I simply collapsed, I had no idea of what had become of my friend Schab, he had gone off in another direction into the forest.  The Partisans were still shooting and screaming.  While I tried to move on in order to get away the shots and curses of the Partisans faded away.  I found myself standing at the edge of the forest by the Temes River.  In order to save myself from torture and death by the Partisans, I swam across the river without even thinking about it beforehand, and then made my way to Konigsdorf.  I spent the night out in the open because I was afraid to go near the houses because the Partisans were everywhere.”

 

 

Kowatschitza

 

  In Kowatschitza there was a prison operated by the OZNA (Secret Police).  Untold numbers of Swabian men were brought to this prison from the whole area around Kowatschitza.  Every Wednesday and Saturday mass shootings took place.  A former prisoner in this prison relates the following:

 

  “Along with another man from Glogau I was brought to the prison in Kowatschitza.  When we entered the cell, two men were lying there, who had been beaten unmercifully and did not move and who obviously were no longer alive but who would have died in one of the two weekly mass shootings that took place there.  The next day we had to go to work.  Every Wednesday and Saturday in the evening the cell was opened whereby several men from each of the cells were led out into the hallway and were bound or fettered.  We never heard from them again or ever saw them, only later we did see their clothes when we had to clear out the attic of the prison.  Each time the men were led away, we opened the windows of our cells and heard the group leave in the direction of Debeljascha.  After not even half an hour, each time we heard a salvo of machine pistols firing and then a large number of single shots.  These single shots we counted very carefully.  Because many inmates were taken away to work the next day, when the opportunity lent itself, they spoke to one another, so that in the evening we always knew who had been taken away the previous night.  The total that was estimated was usually close to the number of single shots we had counted during the night.  The selected group of victims was first gunned down together by numerous shooters and then each man was shot in the head to make sure he was dead.  The last mass shooting took place three weeks before my release.  On that occasion twenty-nine men were taken from the cells and twenty-eight of them were taken away by truck.  In the five weeks during which the regular Wednesday and Saturday shootings took place about two hundred men met their deaths.  The man who had come with me was already among the dead eight days after we had arrived.”

 

 

Jabuka

 

  The Partisans arrested twenty-one of the leading Danube Swabian men and women in early October of 1944, including Dr. Pete Weinz and his wife.  For quite some time there was no trace of them.  In January a “commission” arrived in Jabuka in search of the graves of fallen Partisans who had engaged the German occupation forces in battle in the vicinity of the village.  They brought along thirty Swabian men from the prison camp in Pantschowa who were forced to dig all over the place in search of such graves.  Left to the road that led to Pantschowa they stumbled on twenty-one corpses with fresh evidence of each of them having been shot in the nape of the neck.  Among the bodies was one that was a woman.  It became obvious that the corpses were those of the local Swabians who had been arrested and had disappeared months before.  Especially recognizable were the bodies of the doctor and his wife.  The body of the woman wore only underpants and there was still one earring in one ear.   One of the commission members noticed that and stepped down into the grave and tore off the remaining earring and stuck it into his pocket.  Not only the camp inmates who were involved but also the commission members were convinced that the bodies had nothing to do with the Partisans they were searching for because they would not have fallen in battle naked and tied to one another.  They then ordered a halt to further digging and ordered that the grave be covered again.

 

 

The Western Banat

 

“The Starvation Mill”

 

Rudolfsgnad

 

    In 1945 the authorities of the new Yugoslavian state made the former Danube Swabian community of Rudolfsgnad located on the left bank of the Tisza River where it meets the Danube into a massive concentration camp and renamed it Knicanin.  With the retreat of the German forces as the Russian Army advanced into the Banat, the inhabitants of Rudolfsgnad by and large were evacuated, but following that the village was severely   damaged during the battles that raged around it.  Twenty-three thousand Danube Swabians from the Banat, mostly women and children were driven from their homes and out of their villages by the Partisans in the fall of 1945 and were brought here and housed in the ruined or damaged empty homes.  The first of them arrived on October 30, 1945.  They were the Swabian population from Kathreinfeld as well as those who were unable to work who had been brought to Kathreinfeld from labor camps in the surrounding area. 

 

  The area around Rudlofsgnad was cut off and isolated, because the fate of the Swabian inmates there was not to come to the light of day or made public in any way.  No one was allowed to send or receive mail.  No one was allowed to visit them.  The Swabians were liquidated here en masse.  They were simply left to starve.  In the first few months there were seven thousand deaths.  In the coldest months of winter they received no food at all.  In the years ahead no one could send or bring food to the inmates.  In December of 1945, months after the war was over the commander ordered that no food of any kind be given to the prisoners from December 24th-27th to prevent any Christmas celebrations.

 

  In the month of January in 1946 the ration per person was seven decagrams of salt and two hundred and twenty-three decagrams of corn groats.  It was mostly shredded corn cobs that would have been fed to pigs.  There were no fats of any kind and no bread.  There were many days when there were no rations at all, and during that month there were none for five consecutive days.  In the month of February there was even a reduction in the personal ration that only heightened the level of starvation in the camp.  Even the smallest children and nursing mothers received the same ration.  From November of 1945 to the beginning of July in 1946 there was absolutely no bread during those eight months and no salt whatsoever.  With regard to this situation in Rudolfsgnad, one woman reports:

 

  “Those who went out to work and were able to secure some food or even a piece of bread and tried to smuggle it back into the camp were beaten unmercifully and locked up.  Cellars served as prisons with the windows bricked up and a tin roof.  Whoever ended up there was given no food or water.  In the summer time the hot tin roof created monstrous levels of heat within and imprisonment there was most feared at that time of year.  The heat and lack of water left the inmates on the verge of madness.

 

  The first victims of our hunger were the dogs and cats in the neighborhood.  During the winter of 1945/1946 as hunger raged among us the first thing to disappear were the house pets.  All of the other animals had been taken into the possession of the Partisans, so that the ten thousand starving inmates had no other alternative then to capture these household animals and slaughter them to quiet their hunger with their flesh.  If a cat appeared anywhere it was immediately chased by a mob, captured, butchered and eaten on the spot.  In this way a cat erred and strayed into the house where my family and I were living.  Because we had so many mice in our house, I tied up the cat with a rope.  When I left the house for a few minutes, the cat managed to free itself and disappeared.  I went in search of the cat in the houses of our neighbors.  Coming to the very first house, I was told that the cat had already been butchered and skinned and was being cooked.

 

  Snails and slugs were collected everywhere and clover wherever it could be found was used as “greens” to eat.  Even though leaving the camp was punishable by death until the beginning of 1948, mothers who were not prepared to watch their children starve to death, slipped past the sentries at night and brought the clothes of their dead relatives with them to trade for food in the Serbian and Hungarian villages in the vicinity.  Many, many of these mothers were shot by the Partisan sentries on their return to the camp and later their wounded bleeding bodies were thrown in one grave or another.

 

  In the spring of 1946 a camp kitchen was set up to cook for the inmates.  It was soup with either oats or peas.  There were also a bit more shredded corn cobs.  In the early summer there were also ripe mulberries.  The people had to do hard labor.  But most of them were so weak they could hardly lift their legs.  When one met acquaintances after not seeing them for some time at the feeding barrels, they had changed so much we did not recognize each other.  Our clothing had turned to rags and our bodies were like skeletons.  By this time about eight thousand of us had perished, but there were always new inmates being brought to Rudolfsgnad who had become sick or unable to work in other camps, so that there were always two thousand people imprisoned here at any given time.  In the times when nothing was cooked in the camp kitchen, many sought to cook for themselves.  But to speak of cooking it is not to be confused with the real thing.  We had already heard that many of the children were so hungry that they even ate sand to fill their empty stomachs.  It was the same in terms of cooking in the camp.  Weeds, grass and anything else you found.

 

  Whenever an animal died, up to a thousand people would gather to cut off a piece of flesh from the carcass of a horse or cow.  With their rusty knives or other utensils they cut around the cadaver when it was their turn.  On one occasion a brood sow went into labor on the street as the swineherd drove the herd to pasture.  The dead piglets hardly dropped to the street with the sow close by before they had been carried away and were cooked or dismembered.  It was not unusual for those who ate such meat became sick afterwards and some of them died.  The Partisans would often eat in front of the children and then toss their leftover melons in their direction and hundreds of children would fight over the melon rind and stuff their bloated empty stomachs.  This kind of nourishment had no real value except it provided some sense of satisfaction at first but often resulted in dysentery and diarrhea.

 

  What people endured because of diarrhea is indescribable.  Everyone was at one time or more often afflicted with this sickness for longer and shorter periods.  It took away the last of people’s strength and those who did not die of weakness were the victims of other diseases all around us.  Each day fifty or more persons died.  Once diarrhea struck there was seldom a return to health.  Some had it for a month, while others suffered with it for half a year or longer.  But by then the person had no strength at all and their body was inert and death was near.

 

  For months on end the people received no cooked food, since there was no firewood available to the Swabians.  We had to rely on ourselves as best as we could or perish.  But at the same time long columns of women and often children under ten years of age were driven daily out of the camp to do slave labor in the early hours of the morning.  They had to cut wood in the forest.  This wood was for the benefit of the leadership of the camp and delivered to them.  The camp inmates themselves were strongly forbidden to gather any wood for themselves and bring it back to the camp in order to make fires to cook.  Many of those who were apprehended with wood after working were immediately shot. 

 

  The need for burning material and making fires is best demonstrated by the people who lived nearby where the herd of cows pastured.  When a cow unburdened itself, the people rushed out to gather the pile of manure and made small balls out of it, and let it dry out for use as burning material in the winter.  There was nothing available during the winter to provide heating and if the people could not come up with something, they froze day and night in their room.  Every blade of grass and weed was gathered in the summer, dried and used as burning material in the winter.”

 

  Death by starvation and typhus epidemics carried off many of the people.  As starvation weakened the bodies of thousands of Swabian prisoners and their resistance towards other diseases was low, typhus epidemics broke out.  Diphtheria also raged.  Once it took hold these fearful and dangerous diseases spread among the children and women en masse.  But there were also other sicknesses that also affected countless numbers of the helpless starving victims.  All kinds of skin diseases and infections were transmitted from one to another.

 

  Most of the victims were women and children as most of the men had been shot earlier, and they died like flies from the beginning of 1946.  The deaths of these poor victims were always preceded by swollen feet, and then their faces would puff up and a few days later they died.

 

  Along with starvation there was a plague of lice.  No one could keep clean.  There was no soap.  In the winter the laundry could not be washed because most people only possessed the clothes they were wearing and their clothes could not dry fast enough in the winter.  In the summer the wells went dry but no one was allowed to get water from the Bega or Tisza River close by.  How satanic the Partisan regime was is perhaps best expressed in the cynical reason given by them when the Swabians were forbidden to get water from the river:  “The ships will not be able to sail on the river if so much water is carried off by you.”

 

  The bodies of the children were covered in rashes.  Since the adults were unable to keep clean to ward off the lice plague the children were even less likely to be free of their presence on their bodies.  Being eaten by the lice and all kinds of other insects the children scratched themselves in a frenzy and left open wounds that would often not heal.

 

  For the dead there was no burial.  There were men who would have buried the dead.  No priest was allowed to bless the body of the dead and no relative was allowed to accompany the body.  At the beginning the loved ones of the dead were allowed to put a small wooden cross with the corpse, that was then later put on the grave, but later all of this was forbidden.  Then a piece of paper with the name of the deceased was put in a small bottle that accompanied the body to the grave.  But soon there were no more bottles available.

 

  There was no medical help.  Each week a Russian doctor came from the city, and in a few hours he “looked after” one thousand to one thousand two hundred sick people.  With his pipe in his mouth he went from room to room where the sick were lying.  It was only seldom that he spoke to the sick to ask what ailed them, while on the other hand he never examined or helped anyone.

 

  Above all the treatment in this camp was completely inhumane.  The women forced to do slave labor daily, were weakened through starvation and hard work and those who were unable to work any longer were treated gruesomely and mercilessly mistreated.  The Roman Catholic priests who were in the camp were also assigned to heavy slave labor and handled brutally.

 

  As an example of the determination of the Partisan officials to exterminate the Danube Swabians is the fact that on the hottest day in 1946 all of the twenty thousand inmates here were driven into the meadow on the eastern side of the camp.  For the entire day they had to stand still in the sun all packed together.  The thousands of little children received no water all day and no one was excused from their group to relieve themselves in terms of their bodily functions.  Everyone had to remain silent and remain in one spot.  A massive detail of Partisan sentries who were heavily armed circled the Swabians keeping watch and threatening to shoot anyone who moved from their spot.

 

  There were no worship services and prayer was forbidden.

 

  In order to ridicule the religious sensitivities of the Swabian inmates the Partisans took all of the religious statues out of the local church at night and set them in the middle of the streets through the camp in such a way as to suggest that the saints were taking a walk through the camp.  Thousands of Swabian children in the camp were forced to look at them.  There was no school for them.  They were not to know about God and did not have any teachers and many of them were separated from their own parents.  Many of the children had no idea of where their parents were.  The parents of many of them had been shot or had starved death.  Hundreds of them no longer had grandparents either.  Family members or friends and former neighbors took them in.  One day, all of the children were taken away and quartered in the old school buildings and the former Guesthouses.  They now served as the “Children’s Home”.  This complex of buildings was surrounded by a barbed wire fence.  The poor abandoned little children who no longer had anyone in the world except perhaps an old grandmother or other adult who cared for them stood at the wire fences all day long and cried.  With no grandmother or “aunt” to provide an extra crust of bread for which they had risked their lives, the children were now totally dependent on the camp ration they received.  Death would now reap a rich harvest in the “Children’s Home”.  With what they were fed not even the adults could have survived much less the abandoned children.  They slept on the floor and only on rare occasions was there any straw provided for them at night.  A nurse at Rudolfsgnad reports:

 

  “I once went by the Children’s Home.  I opened the door and I saw the poor, pitiful, skeletal looking children just lying there.  They usually wore only shirts that in effect were actually rags.  Every day thirty of them died.  Every day a farmer’s wagon drove from the Children’s Home to pick up the dead bodies.  Their skeletal bodies were piled on the wagon like wood and then they drove off to be buried.  They were thrown in with the other dead in the mass graves.  When you passed by such a wagon you didn’t know if you should look or look away.   It just broke your heart.”

 

  It was not long afterwards that the Partisans drove up to the Children’s Home complex with trucks and loaded all of the surviving children on board.  The children themselves and all of the adults in the camp knew that the children were being taken away and they screamed and cried after one another.  The children, because in spite of leaving this place of suffering did not want to go and leave a grandfather or friend behind who was their last connection with their families and the life they had once known, and the others because they knew only too well that the children faced a dark and unknown future that would forever exclude those who loved them.  All of the crying, weeping, screaming and pleading had no effect.  As soon as a truck was filled with children it drove away.  In one day, seven hundred and fifty children were taken away and vanished without a trace.  The inmates at Rudolfsgnad were convinced they were being taken to Russia.  Many an old grandfather or grandmother could not cope with losing their grandchildren now after all they had gone through together in the hope that their parents were still alive somewhere.  For them this was more than they could bear.  Some of them hung themselves or jumped into the Tisza River to escape the horror that burdened their hearts that was beyond bearing.  The children had been their last reason for living.  Why go one with more suffering and starvation? 

 

  Later word came that the children were taken to Serbian villages and placed in orphanages and raised as “Serbian communists”.

 

  The dead Swabians could not be buried in the cemetery.  They were buried in the same place outside of the camp where animals that had died had been interred.  Every day a farmer’s wagon drove through the village and picked up the dead at each of the houses.  There were usually seven or eight of them that he drove out to a mass grave that had been dug for them.  There was a mass grave dug for each day.  Anyone who came across the wagon would stand there with his heart in his throat seeing the skeletal bodies heaped upon one another and knowing that eventually one day the wagon would come for him and the thousands of others who were still alive and take them to their own mass grave.  One day in the month of January in 1946 there were one hundred and thirteen who were picked up and buried like this.  Mothers were not allowed to accompany the bodies of their children, nor the children their dead parents.  No one was allowed to know where the grave of a loved one was to be found.

 

    After several thousand Swabian inmates were buried and there was unused space new transports of thousands of women and children from smaller camps scattered across the Banat were sent here and were exterminated like those who had come before them and in the process emptied the other camps that could then be closed.  This continued to the end of 1947.  In that same year four hundred persons from the Untersteiermark were brought here who had been dragged off to a camp in Croatia in 1946 and had remained there for some time.  Most of them were citizens of Austria.  Instead of sending them across the nearby border of Austria at the end of the war they were brought to the swamplands along the Tisza River.  Only fifty-seven of them would survive.  With the exception of three men all the rest were women and children.  They had to endure the same fate as the Danube Swabians in Yugoslavia until the closure of the camps in 1948 when they were sent to a prisoner of war camp in Neusatz.  On March 29, 1948 they were repatriated to Austria and on that day they were loaded on cattle cars and sent across the frontier.

 

  Complaints brought against the inhuman treatment the Swabians received brought no relief.  In fact it only became worse for the individuals who dared to raise them.  On one occasion in 1946 three Swabian women complained to the camp commander that they had been raped most brutally by Partisan guards.  The camp commander became furious because the three Swabian women were in no position to raise charges of sexual abuse against Serbian Partisans who were entitled to use them in any manner they desired and the commander turned them over to the same Partisans who had molested them to do so again.  As additional punishment they were imprisoned for nine days and were given no food during that time.

 

  In the same way the brutalities continued against the Swabians and the torture, abuse and shootings had no end.  There were few nights when Partisans did not carry out shootings in various parts of the camp, while others sexually abused women.  The feeling of helplessness and despair drove many to suicide.  In order to end their sufferings some chose suicide.  There were grandmothers who could no longer watch their grandchildren starve and took them in their arms and jumped into the Tisza River.

 

  Beginning in the spring of 1946 slave laborers from the camp could be “rented” privately for fifty Dinars a day.  This regulation in effect reconstituted the slave trade of the far distant past.  And yet because of it, countless persons were able to save their lives.  Many of the “buyers” who showed up for these public auctions were Serbian friends of the Swabians who rescued them from their misery for a time and assisted them in their physical recovery with rations and food.  Every Swabian was grateful to be chosen, even if he would have to work hard and long, he would at least finally be able to eat to his heart’s content.  To be sold as a slave was good fortune and in thousands of cases it was simply a matter of saving their lives.

 

  Now the general public was allowed to bring parcels to the camp.  One house was separated from the rest of the camp and surrounded with barbed wire and the parcels were delivered there.  Serbian and Hungarian neighbors and friends brought food and clothing to the Swabians that they knew.  In this way, they too saved their lives.  In close proximity to the “parcel house”, groups of Swabian inmates would gather hoping against hope to see if there was a parcel for them.  Partisan guards would break up these groups with clubs and rifle butts.   No one was allowed to speak to those who brought parcels.  The next day the Partisans opened the parcels.  Most of them were half empty when they were given to the recipient.

 

  Soon after the first parcels arrived from America.  Countrymen living there had heard of the sufferings in Rudolfsgnad and committed themselves to providing help.  Here and there some items in the parcel would be missing, but the inmate received something.  When it came to clothes it would lead to a nightly clandestine escape from the camp and the clothes would be sold for food and other provisions.  This help from America, often small that usually lasted for only a day was the nicest thing that these human beings had experienced in the years they had spent in the camps.

 

  The Yugoslavian government officials were informed that at the Yalta Conference involving the Big Three the forced emigration of the Danube Swabian population from Yugoslavia at the end of the war would not be acceptable.  The “new” Yugoslavia decided it had the right to do what it wanted with its Danube Swabian population.  They were outside of the law, and they had much labor to provide and remain in camps from which they would not be released except by death.  In the face of this uncertainty, the former member of parliament Dr. Wilhelm Neuner who was an inmate at the camp in Rudolfsgand wrote an official letter of complaint to the President of Yugoslavia and mailed it from a nearby village in the summer of 1946, sending copies to the accredited  ambassadors of the Great Powers in Belgrade.  He requested that the ongoing murder of innocent Danube Swabian civilians come to an end in this second year since the year of the war who still remained and were without protection because they had lost their right of citizenship.  The camp commander was aware of his action.  On August 8, 1946 he was taken from his quarters and after a short trial in the presence of the camp authorities he was condemned to death for his false report.  But his death would not be by an execution squad.  He was to be locked in a cellar and not be given food and left to starve to death.  Carrying out the full verdict of the court, Dr. Neuner was immediately locked up in a dark cellar in which he could not stand up or lie down.  The cellar had a low ceiling and was damp.  After eleven days he was brought to the Secret Police prison in Belgrade.  All he had accomplished by revealing the situation in the camps was that the functionaries at Rudolfsgnad were transferred and new commander was sent to take his place to oversee the liquidation program.

 

  Eventually, the inmates began to escape.  But often, the escapees were apprehended by the new Serbian colonists, either out in the fields or on the roads and even at the border who promptly brought them back to the camp.  This dampened the desire to flee on the part of others planning to do so.   But it did so for only for a short time.  Those who were brought back were terribly abused and mistreated and became physical wrecks and most of them could not contemplate escape again.

The Lost Danube Swabian Children of Yugoslavia

 

  The following is a summary and my translation of portions of Janitscharen? by Karl Springenschmid published in Vienna in 1978 that deals with the unknown fate of thousands of Danube Swabian children during Tito’s “Final Solution” of Yugoslavia’s  Danube Swabian problem.

 

  This brief study deals with the fate of some 20,000 Danube Swabian children from the Yugoslavian Banat.  A similar fate awaited the children in the Batschka which is a story all its own.  Their fathers had been taken to fight a war that was already lost and their mothers were dragged off to slave labour in the Soviet Union.  The children languished in extermination camps and many died of hunger along with their grandparents.  The orphans who survived and were still young enough were placed in so-called State “children’s homes” to be raised as “comrade citizens” of the new People’s Republic of Yugoslavia in the hope of turning them into Janisaries.

 

  Janisaries were annual quotas of Christian boys levied by the Turks in the Balkans who were taken from their families and raised as fanatic Moslems to do the bidding of the Sultan often against their own people that they no longer remembered.

 

  The 20,000 Danube Swabian children were placed in some 40 State homes throughout Yugoslavia where they were brainwashed into the state ideology of Yugoslavia.  They would no longer “remember” or be conscious of their Danube Swabian identity and heritage.

 

  To all intents and purposes the Second World War had bypassed the Banat.  Where could danger or a threat to the Banat come from?  The non Danube Swabian populations in their villages with whom they lived in peace for generations bore them no animosity or hostility.  There were no Partisans in the Banat unlike the other regions of Yugoslavia.  There was only a token force of the German occupying army in the Banat.

 

  But as the war took a turn in favour of the Allied Powers armies focus was shifted to the  campaign in central Europe.  There were those who encouraged the Danube Swabians to flee to Germany for safety.  This would later become “official” policy when it was too late for many.  It was only the Danube Swabians in Slavonia and Syrmien who fled en masse under the leadership and protection of the German Army but only because they were ordered to do so.  In the Batschka only a minority of the population joined the refugee treks.  In the Banat, by and large, the Swabians simply stayed put.  (Translator’s note:  This is a very biased account and disregards the Führer Order that the Danube Swabians were not to be evacuated or allowed to leave.  Those who left would be branded traitors and defeatists.  Those who actually left were mostly the local Danube Swabian Nazi leaders and party functionaries who had also escaped going into the military.)

 

  The Danube Swabian farmer had learned patience and how to live with catastrophe; occupation by a foreign army was just one more thing to come their way and they would be able to survive it.  They knew there would be political consequences just as there had been after the First World War.  But like always, the Banaters would be loyal to their ethnic and cultural heritage and loyal to the State in which they lived as they always had.  No wonder the Banat had developed into the most prosperous region in Yugoslavia and the Danube Swabians had the respect of the other nationalities around them.

 

  In less than a week, in fact a matter of three days, the Banat was overrun by the Red Army following the capitulation of Romania in August of 1944 and faced only token resistance on the part of the few German occupying forces.  Other Germans were rushed in at the last minute, but it was too late.  By September 16th the Soviet Army had reached the banks of the Tisza River and the city of Temesvar had been taken.  The Germans tried to hold the front here on the river line but by October 18th Belgrade fell and all of the Batschka was in danger and hastily organized treks attempted to escape as the Germans and Hungarians retreated to Lake Balaton and the siege of Budapest soon began.

 

  The Banat was in the hands of the Soviets.  The occupation had been so swift that little uproar or destruction was created.  There was no real resistance.  The occupation was basically what the Danube Swabian population had anticipated.  People simply played the game of ostriches and accepted the “results” of the occupation.  But then several weeks after the beginning of the occupation in this Soviet “liberated” area where 500,000 Danube Swabians lived the military administration of the region was handed over to the Partisans and their leadership.

 

  This was not an organized army in which order and discipline could be expected.  These were armed bands from Serbia and Bosnia in search of plunder in the prosperous Banat.  Belgrade was interested in the wealthy landholdings of the Danube Swabians in the Banat and Wojwodina (Batschka) some 1,800,000 joch (1.6 acres a joch) of land and 80,000 houses.  But what would they do with the Danube Swabians who were in the way?  Could they be trusted not to become an opposition to their planned takeover?  There was no need to fear that because all of the able bodied men were in the army or were already prisoners of war.  They would have a free hand with the Danube Swabian population.  Should they expel them from the country as others did and would in future.  That would create an international incident wherever they arrived.  There was only one alternative:   the 200,000 Danube Swabians who had remained must be liquidated.  For that purpose Belgrade set up the process and plan for the “final solution” to the Danube Swabian problem.

 

  The decrees and laws of the national anti-fascist assembly on November 21, 1944 had three points directed against the Danube Swabian civilian populaton.  (1)  All persons living in Yugoslavia of German origin were stripped of their citizenship and all rights of a person before the law automatically on the basis of their race.  (2)  All goods and property of the Danube Swabians were confiscated by the State.  (3)  They had no rights under the law to protect the above matters in the courts.  The Danube Swabian population were declared to be outlaws…outside the law.

 

  They were placed into the hands of the military administration of the Partisans wherever they happened to live.  Plundering, murder, rape, torture, beatings and mass shootings took place throughout the Banat.  Local Serbs followed the lead of the Partisans.  The Danube Swabians regardless of age, gender or status were guilty of the crime of being German.  A systematic plan of liquidation was set into motion.

 

  Moscow was only too glad to assist Yugoslavia in carrying out the extermination.  Tito would have the gratitude of the Soviets and would get rid of the younger Danube Swabians.  Although the Partisans had little to do with the actual “liberation” they sought to control the Banat and for this privilege they were willing to pay but not with money that they did not have but with able bodied workers to rebuild the wrecked Soviet economy.  The question was:  Where could they find the necessary workers?  Just about any Danube Swabian village or enclave would do.

 

  How many were taken?  In Apatin alone 2,400 women were deported to the labour camps in Russia.  In all, it is estimated that 40,000 Danube Swabian women from Yugoslavia were taken to the Soviet Union and this figure does not include those from Romania and Hungary and also excludes the Transylvania Saxons who all shared the same fate.  Few women and older teenaged girls able to work were left in the Banat.  Men from eighteen to forty, women from eighteen to thirty years were taken but those age groups differed in various villages according to the quota that had been established.  This mass deportation occurred around Christmas 1944.  But because so many of the men had gone off to war a second roundup followed at the beginning of 1945 and this time nursing mothers and pregnant women were not excluded and the age for women was raised to thirty-five and lowered to sixteen in some places to meet the quota.

 

  Packed in cattle cars they set out for Russia in the midst of a bitterly cold winter and their families had no idea of where they were or what had become of them.  Only one out of three of these women would ever return home from the coal mines at Stalino in Ukraine.  Those who were released three years later were sent to East Germany and from there they began to search for their husbands, children and families.

 

  But what had their children endured?  They had seen their mothers being taken away, torn right from their arms.  It was something neither the mothers nor children would ever forget if they were among those who survived.  The children were simply left behind as if abandoned.  Is there any way to describe that horrendous experience and trauma for the young children?  Some of the smaller children were left in the care of an older brother or sister; some were left with grandparents, relatives, neighbours and some were left alone.  One old grandfather in Fillipowa in the Batschka was left to care for over twenty of his grandchildren.  The strong sense of community among the Danube Swabians often led to an organized care of all the “orphaned” children but the Partisans often interfered in their efforts.

 

  The confiscation of houses and property of the Danube Swabians was carried out quickly and the displaced population were housed in internment camps.  The original plan was the total liquidation of all those in the camps by 1947.  A whole string of labour camps were set up in the Banat for those still able to work.  The rest of the population, the elderly and children were placed in large internment camps.  Karlsdorf that became Rankovicev was a camp for the elderly and infirm and better known as “the old folk’s home.”  Most of the Roman Catholic priests serving in the Banat were also placed there.  There were other camps in Rudolfsgnad (Knicanin), Gakowa, Kruschevlje, Stefansfeld, Molidorf, Brestowatz and Kathreinfeld.  All of them were former Danube Swabian villages.

 

  The first camp that was established was in Werschetz on November 18, 1944.  This was six days before the law passed by the so-called National Assembly which would become known as the AVNOJ.  Ten days later the people of Palanka, Neusatz and other parts of the Batschka were driven from their homes and into the camps.  The last village that was purged of its Danube Swabian inhabitants was Stanischitisch which had a Serbian majority that protected its local German population for as long as possible up until August of 1945.  By September no Danube Swabian man, woman or child was free in all of Yugoslavia.

 

  When the surviving children were taken out of the extermination camps for the purpose of “rehabilitation,” all of their possessions, especially pictures, documents and papers were taken away from them.  Brothers and sisters were separated and all of the children were strangers to one another.  Their names were never to be used again and if the children did they were punished.  Each child was given a Croatian or Serbian name.  They were also made to forget their origins, their place and date of birth.  They were told that they were orphans.  They had no living parents.  One of the youngsters fought for his identity in the years that followed by repeating his name, “Michael Heider” until he fell asleep each night.  If any of the children spoke German they were disciplined.

 

  The fathers of these children were released from prisoner of war camps and made their way to the Western Zone of Germany and Austria.  At the same time the mothers who had survived the labour camps in the Soviet Union were “dumped” in the Russian Zone of Germany and made their way illegally into the Western Zones.  The parents sought to be reunited with one another and then began the search for their children if they had any indication they could have survived the death camp at Rudolfsgnad or Gakowa.  But they were haunted by the question that if they located their children could they ever be a family again.  They undertook the campaign to locate their children using all of their energies and resources.

 

  Organizations were established by their fellow countrymen in Germany and Austria.  Key individuals began the investigations and research including Professor Gauss and Anton Rumpf.  The original investigation centred on targeting the location of the “children’s homes”.  They were unable to have much clout so they appealed to the International Red Cross at Geneva and provided them with the first list of names of the “kidnapped” children.

Franzfeld in the Banat

 

  The source of the information in this article is “Franzfeld 1792-1945 Geschichte einer donauschwäbischen Grossgemeinde im Banat” published in Reutlingen in 1982 by the Franzfelder Kulturelle Interesssengemeinschaft e.V.

 

  Franzfeld’s origins as a Danube Swabian community begins with the arrival of settlers from Baden, Württemberg, Alsace-Lorraine and Switzerland on June 24, 1792.

 

  Franzfeld was founded under the direction of Leopold II in May of 1791 and was named after Archduke Franz (Francis) who later succeeded to the Habsburg throne following Leopold’s death.  The name was changed by the Hungarians when the Banat became part of their jurisdiction and then again when the Yugoslavian authorities were in control after the First World War while Franzfeld would emerge again briefly from 1941-1944.  The present name is Kacerevo.  Franzfeld was in that portion of the Banat that was ceded to the new nation state of Yugoslavia in the Treaty of Trianon in 1919.

 

  The village is ten miles north east of the town of Pantschowa in close proximity to Belgrade placing it in the south western Banat.  It consisted of 4,680 Katastral Joch of land.  Neighbouring Danube Swabian villages included Alt-Seldosch, Apfeldorf (Jabuka) and Neudorf.  By 1944, Franzfeld consisted of 1,117 houses with 5,300 to 5,400 inhabitants almost all of whom were Lutherans.

 

  After the Peace of Passarowitz with the Turks, the Habsburg Emperor had a virtual swamp and wasteland on his hands:  the Banat.  Eugene of Savoy placed the colonization and redevelopment of the Banat in the hands of Field Marshall Count Florimundus von Mercy.  He ruled the Banat for the next fifteen years like a virtual king.  He was in charge of the first Schwabenzug (the Great Swabian Migration) that occurred 1722-1726 under the Emperor Charles IV.  Mercy governed the Banat as a royal crown land that was under Habsburg jurisdiction and not subject to Hungary or the County system.  He appealed for settlers from among the Holy Roman Empire’s German states and principalities.  The Banat was returned to Hungarian jurisdiction by the Empress Maria Theresia in 1778 over the objection of her son and heir, the future Joseph II.  Maria Theesia did so in order to win the support of the Hungarian nobles in her conflict with Frederick the Great over Silesia.  But the Military Frontier District in the Banat was excluded.  Franzfeld would be located in this area and thus outside of Hungary.

 

  In the time frame from 1749-1772 the second major phase of the Schwabenzug under Maria Theresia’s auspices took place.  These settlers were all recognized as “free peasants” and were not serfs.  The Repopulation Patent also stipulated that only Roman Catholics need apply.  Included in their freedoms was the right to migrate if they so desired.

 

  The Emperor Joseph II’s Repopulation Patent of October 1, 1781 also included an invitation to both Calvinist and Lutheran settlers.  With the issuance of this Patent and its special terms by the Imperial agent in Frankfurt-an-Main it was publicized throughout the south western German principalities.  The response was a virtual avalanche of settlers far beyond the scope of the other two large scale migrations preceding it.

 

  Throughout its history no group seems to have been able to last and reside in the Banat beyond two centuries without being replaced by another.  The Swabians would discover the same thing.

 

  The Military Frontier District where Franzfeld would be located was constantly being put to the torch during Turkish incursions into the area.  The onslaught that took place in 1738/1739 was so destructive that the entire southern Banat was devastated.  Settlements were burned.  Settlers were killed or carried off as slaves or were forced to flee and abandon their settlements.  That was especially true around Weisskirchen.  A final Turkish War took place 1788-1791 and resulted in the final liquidation of Turkish power in the area as settlement after settlement were retaken.  Belgrade fell to the Emperor’s forces on October 8, 1789 and the Peace of Sistow signed on August 4, 1791 formally ended the Turkish War.

 

  When the area was stabilized, plans for a massive colonization began.  The target set was 100,000 persons.  They did not only hope to resettle the depopulated settlements but to establish new ones.  The construction of new villages began under the direction of Gruber:  a construction engineer.  Each settlement would be designated on the basis the confessional (denomination) allegiance of the settlers.  Franzfeld was designated for Evangelical Lutherans, adherents of the Augsburg Confession.

 

The Emigration from Baden

 

  One of the major reasons for emigration was the lack of land especially with respect to the younger generation.  The land under cultivation could not support the growing population.  The constant conflicts and wars from 1679-1748 created insecurity and unrest among the population.  Consistently bad weather ruined crops.  Hail, floods and severe winters were often followed by famine.  Cattle could not endure the elements either.  The public relations officials and the sales pitch of the Habsburg agents met a ready response.  Key events in the history of Baden proved to be the impetus for emigration most of which were related to French invasions and the destruction visited upon the peasantry who were left at their mercy.  The major emigrations took place in 1712, 1732-1736 and 1770-1771.  The largest emigration by far was a result of the Toleration Patent of 1781, and 1785-1786 after a ruined harvest and 1798 and 1804 as a result of war with France.

 

The Emigration from Württemberg

 

  Emigration for the Evangelical Lutherans in Württemberg, Baden-Durlach and Ulm had been next to impossible until Joseph II’s Patent of 1781.  (Translator’s Note:  There were substantial settlers who came from these jurisdictions who arrived in Hungary during the first phase of the Schwabenzug and settled in the area that in the future would become Swabian Turkey.)  The Prince of Württemberg, Karl Eugene (1744-1793), was bitterly opposed to the emigration and attempted to curtail any attempts of leaving his domains but with very little success as his subjects exercised their right of migration.  About all the authorities could enforce was the payment of all debts by would-be settlers and obtain a promise that they would not do anything that would lessen the value of the land they worked to the detriment of their noble landlord.  The more the nobles were opposed to the emigration, the more resolved the people were to leave.  Many had no land and were simply agricultural day labourers with no future.  They had nothing to lose so they left.  Peasant boys married early and there was a fantastically high birthrate due to a long period of sexual activity and fertility.  Only single men were conscripted into the army.  The rights of nobles to ride roughshod through the peasants’ fields and gardens while out hunting and destroying their crops angered the peasants.  The sixth and last war of the Turks ended on August 4, 1791 and became the end of a chapter of history.  Now emigrants were on their way down the Danube streaming into the Banat even though their Prince opposed their emigration at every turn and set obstacles in their way.

 

Church Life and the Settlers

 

  To understand church life and faith in Franzfeld means to be aware of the church life and traditions of the lands from which the settlers came:  Baden, Alsace, the Pfalz and Württemberg.  Each group was only familiar with the life and faith, church customs and traditions of their own village.  This all changed overnight.  When they reached the Banat in 1790 the Evangelical Lutherans were billeted in Roman Catholic villages for one year while Franzfeld was being built in Brestowatz, Glogon, Homolit, Jabuka, Kubin, Pantschowa and Startschowa.  Others lived in Orthodox villages among Serbs and Romanians.  At the same time Hungarian and Slovak Lutheran villages were also under construction.  They learned to live together because they knew it was only temporary.

 

  When they settled in Franzfeld it became time to share the faith they brought with them which was expressed in their Bibles, hymnals and Luther’s Small Catechisms which they brought with them.  At the outset there were problems with the hymnals.  There were different words, different tunes and different melodies.  Added to that, in the first year there was no pastor.  Perhaps that was a blessing.  The people had to find a common church life together and sought to find the best.  This was necessary because of their diversified backgrounds:  58 families from Baden and Württemberg, 8 families from Switzerland, 6 families from Alsace, 4 families from the Pfalz, 3 families out of Hessen and one family each from Bavaria, Prussia and Saxony.  They had to learn to tolerate and appreciate one another’s differences.  That was easy for most but was most difficult for the Swiss who had no altars at home, no host for communion and no pictures in their churches.  No compromise was possible for the Swiss who left the settlement for Russia where they named their new village along the Volga none other than Franzfeld.

 

  They were what in the vernacular would be called “a mixed bag”.  Baden was Lutheran.  The Pfalz used the Heidelberg Catechism which emphasized the similarities between the teachings of John Calvin and Martin Luther and not the differences.  In Alsace and in Switzerland the emphasis was on the teachings of Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin.  Those from southern Württemberg were staunchly Evangelical Lutherans in the classic sense while those in the north leaned towards the teachings of the Reformed.  The one thing they all had in common was that they had been touched and transformed by Pietism which had worked to blend the two major traditions.

 

  Even though they were without a pastor they elected two Church Väter (literally fathers: elders), Merkle and Haid.  One was from Baden and the other from Württemberg, the two largest groups.  They held their offices for eight years during pastoral vacancies, the great famine of 1794 and the death of their first pastor in 1800.  It was only after a new pastor arrived in 1801 that new Church Fathers were elected but now it was an expanded Church Council with one man acting as the President.

 

  A secondary settlement of Franzfeld occurred in 1801.  The War Ministry in Vienna ordered the recruitment of 500-600 families for settlement in the Banat on September 17, 1800 and sought them from Austrian fiefdoms, Switzerland and neighbouring states.  The settlers were invited by Count Colloredo on behalf of the Viennese government and he indicated that Protestants would be acceptable.  The emigrants’ travel costs would be paid.  They arrived in droves.  By the end of 1801 there were 400 families at the border awaiting settlement.  Because of the response the invitation was withdrawn on December 17, 1801 and the would-be settlers who were on the scene were settled.  But still other families kept coming.  They were already on their way when the cancellation of the Patent was announced.  They had sold everything back home.  Sixteen such families from Württemberg arrived and four of the families, numbering thirty persons, were sent to Franzfeld.

 

  The southern Banat was still part of the Military Frontier District.  All of the inhabitants were Austrian subjects.  But in terms of religion they related to the Hungarian churches.  This was difficult for the German Lutheran colonists to deal with as they were unable to get a pastor from their homeland.  Most of the German-speaking pastors in the Hungarian Lutheran Church came from Zips (Slovakia) or the Burgenland.  Most of them preached in three languages:  Magyar, Slovak and German.  The Franzfelders spoke a common dialect but found it difficult to deal with the Hungarian or Slovak accent of the pastors.  He was therefore a stranger to them.

 

  In 1791 the Protestants of Hungary were granted religious freedom and self government.  This was to be put into effect in the Banat as well.  Religious freedom was tolerated but not self government so that the Hungarians had a great deal of influence in attempting to assimilate the German congregations and their members.  Up until now the German congregations had been able to go their own separate way.  That would continue.  But in all major matters the Roman Catholics and Orthodox had more clout.  Only a small minority of the Germans in the Banat were Evangelical Lutherans or Reformed.  That meant any man could become a Roman Catholic priest, Serbians could have one Orthodox priest for every existing congregation, but no one could become an Evangelical Lutheran or Reformed pastor in the Military Frontier District.

 

  The Franzfeld Evangelical Lutherans appealed for a pastor, wrote letters, presented petitions and sent delegations to the military authorities but were without one for three years.  Both pastors and congregations were subject to the will of the military authorities.

 

  Franzfeld had only seven pastors in the congregation’s 154 year old history.  The first pastor, Karl Gottfried Ritter arrived on January 19, 1793.  He came from Modern in the Zips and was both a pastor and teacher.  Daniel von Sonntagh became pastor and teacher on February 20, 1801.  He left in 1803 to serve a congregation in Austria.  He was also from the Zips.  Samuel Banyasz was the third pastor.  He served the congregation for 47 years.  He also came from the Zips in Slovakia and was born there in the village of Neusohl.  He had been a private tutor to the family of a baron and had trained as a pastor and teacher.  The next pastor was  Johann Frint who came from the Burgenland and was succeeded by Karl Bohus from Pressburg, then Julius Mernyi from the Burgenland and finally Franz Hein from the Batschka who would eventually become the one and only Lutheran Bishop in the Banat.

 

  At the time of the secondary settlement of Franzfeld in 1802 there were seventy Reformed families from Switzerland among them.  The military promised them a church and pastor but with the outbreak of the war with France there were no funds made available.  They, like the other Reformed settlers in the Banat and Batschka, had a difficult time establishing themselves.  They were always a minority among Lutherans.  This was not only true in Franzfeld but in Torschau, Cservenka, Werbass and other communities.  In the later established villages the settlers were all one confession.  Lutherans were in Kleinker, Sekitsch, Bulkes and Jarek and the Reformed in Neusiwatz and Neuschowe.

 

  There were also Separatists active in Franzfeld who were of a pietistic persuasion but became radicalized by their leader, Kühfuss, who had been placed in stocks and whipped in Neu Passua and eventually separated himself and his followers from the congregation and became the pastor of his own clientele.  It must also be noted that the emphases of the Pietistic Movement such as mutual support and loving service, mission to the entire world that was un-evangelized and bible study were well represented in the church life of Franzfeld’s Evangelical Lutheran congregation.  The small fellowship circles established by Michael Hahn were in their hey day at the time of the founding of Franzfeld.  This movement was particularly strong throughout Württemberg.  These groups continued to flourish in Franzfeld.  The participants were called “Stundenleute” (People of the Hour) because not only did they worship on Sunday but assembled in the afternoons in private homes.  This was also common in all Srem, Slavonia and later in Bosnia.

 

  At the time of the partition of the Banat in 1919 the western Banat of which Franzfeld was a part was ceded to the new state of Yugoslavia.  Of the 25,000 Evangelical Lutheran Germans in the Banat, 9,000 of them in seven congregations became part of Romania.  The remaining 16,000 in nine congregations and seven filial mission stations became part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Yugoslavia.  In addition there were 10,000 other Lutherans primarily Slovaks and a Hungarian minority in the Yugoslavian Banat.  The greater part of the membership of the German Lutheran congregations in the Yugoslavian  Banat lie buried in the mass graves at Rudolfsgnad along the banks of the Danube.

 

  Holy Communion was celebrated for the last time in Franzfeld at the Easter service in 1945.  The “Stundenleute” continued to meet and worship in private homes when the church was no longer open to the populace.  On April 26, 1945 the total population was placed in internment and labour camps.  That ended church life in Franzfeld but not its Christian witness.  The ministry of the care of souls was carried on clandestinely.  Hans Poglitsch, the vicar, and son of a “preacher” was given this ministry.  He took over the care of the sick and dying in the camp.  With the help of the youth group and others they ministered to the needs of all as well as they could.  It was all part of what was to come.

 

The Second World War and Its Aftermath

 

  The Banat was occupied by German troops in April 1941 facing virtually no opposition.  The Swabian population was held in suspicion and looked upon as a fifth column.  Thirty to thirty-five inhabitants of Franzfeld were taken to Pantschowa as hostages by the Serbs to terrify the population so that they would not aid the invaders.  They would take seven of the hostages with them when they retreated to Belgrade and shot them in the process.  In reprisal the German troops shot and hanged some thirty Serbs in Pantschowa at the Serbian cemetery.  None of these Serbs from Pantschowa had been involved in the hostage taking and this instigated feelings of hostility towards their Swabian neighbours.

 

  By the summer of 1944 an evacuation of the Swabian population in the Serbian Banat was no longer out of the question in light of the rapid advance of the Red Army in their direction.  The Banat Beobachter (Observer), the official Volksgruppe newspaper in its September 21,1944 edition bore the headline:  “Wir Bleiben!”  (We will remain!).  The inhabitants of Franzfeld breathed a sigh of relief as did all of the Swabians.  None of them wanted to have to leave “home.”

 

  They were badly informed and misled about the conditions on the approaching front lines and they were taken completely by surprise when the news came that relatives in Birda in the Romanian Banat were already in flight and had crossed the frontier into Yugoslavia in wagon treks.  They were already in Zichydorf.  From there some of them came to their relatives in Franzfeld for help because they were not able to move fast enough because the Romanians had kept their best horses and wagons and they were being slowed down.  By September 27, 1944 some of the families reached Franzfeld and “stayed over” until they could return home.

 

  As the front drew neared the people of Franzfeld had to make a decision.  Their day of decision was October 1, 1944.  Shortly before nine o’clock in the evening the order was given to prepare for evacuation.  The order came too late.  The only safe highway out of the Banat was no longer passable.  The order was cancelled.  The German Air Force personnel stationed in Franzfeld volunteered to fly out older teenaged girls, women and children.  When this became known in the village more and more people urged that an evacuation be carried out.  On October 3rd the last flight left and a total of 376 women and children from Franzfeld had been airlifted to safety.  On the 4th the evacuation was to continue but as the planes attempted to land at six o’clock in the morning they were fired upon by Russian troops who had surrounded the village during the night.  All hopes of evacuation were dashed.  Only a handful of teenaged boys left on October 3rd with the retreating German troops onboard some of their vehicles.

 

  People were uncertain as to whether to flee or stay.  The elderly in particular did not want to have to leave everything behind.  Some left for the sake of their children and especially their young girls and many left with “heavy” hearts.

 

  At nine o’clock on the morning of October 4, 1944 the cry was heard, “Die Russen sind da!”  (The Russians are here!”)  All was quiet in the village and then shots were heard in the outskirts as retreating Germans and Russians engaged one another.  They came from the direction of Pantschowa.

 

  The Russian troops entered the village and were relatively well disciplined.  They took horses and helped themselves to food.  But they did not molest or threaten the villagers.  A field kitchen was set up in the community centre and women cooked day and night for the Russian troops passing through on their way to the battle front.  The food supplies were confiscated from the farmers.  The attitude of the villagers was simply, “Just give them whatever they ask for as long as they leave us alone.”  But some people began hiding and burying valuables, food and clothing as a precaution.

 

  Then the Serbian Partisans arrived from the neighbouring villages and district.  They took over the administration of the village.  Under the pretext of fearing reprisals from the villagers they began house searches.  They took whatever they wanted.  Some took entire wagons filled with goods as well as the horses.  And often during the search the Swabians were molested and beaten for no reason at all.  All documents and records, even the parish register were burned.  Late in the evening of October 11, 1944 eleven men and three women were taken from their homes and were never heard from again.  The fact that there were no mass executions in Franzfeld as there were in other communities is attributed to the fact that the inhabitants of Franzfeld had opposed the conscription into the Waffen-SS and some men had been beaten for their obstinacy.

 

  Each day houses were plundered because only old people and children were at home at the time as the others were all at work.  The plunderers, both Serbs from the vicinity as well as the Partisans stationed in the village, also came at night.  In this way they could take the shoes and clothing of the workers who were away during the daytime.

 

  Rape was a daily occurrence  but no one said anything about it out of fear and shame.  The men had to work under armed guards.  Often their clothes were better than the guards…that soon changed as the guards forced an exchange.  The worker came home in rags and the attendant lice.  There was no sense in protesting.  They did heavy farm work without any machinery and few horses.  Some men were harnessed to pull the ploughs.

 

  At the end of November 1944 instructions were issued that sixty men and boys from 15 years of age to men as old as 60 years were to report for work in “another district”.  They were assembled and led away.  They were not informed where they were going.  They were told to take enough food to last them for a few days.

 

  On December 8, 1944 with the beating of drums in front of the community centre all remaining men 15 to 60 years of age were ordered to report.  They were to bring three days supply of food with them and assemble at the community centre.  Anyone who failed to report and later found would be shot along with all the members of his family.  Once the men were assembled body searches were conducted for money and watches.  By noon the search ended and they were led to Pantschowa under guard.  An occasional shot was fired over their heads to discourage any break out on their part.

 

  As the column of 380 to 400 men were led down the main street, silent tear-eyed women stood along the roadside watching as they disappeared from sight.  The church bell began to toll.  Everyone wondered if this was a portent of things to come.

 

  The men arrived totally exhausted in Pantschowa that same day and stayed overnight in a camp located in the old fish market.  During the night they had a medical examination.  The doctor who was from Franzfeld cautioned everyone not to report any sickness because the sick would be shot.  The tradesmen and farmers were separated from one another.  The 80 to 100 tradesmen remained in the camp while the others were marched to Kubin the next day.  Those who remained in Pantschowa were distributed to a multitude of labour camps where many if not most met their deaths.

 

  The other 300 in Kubin would remain together longer.  The first five days were awful.  The only food they had is what they had brought and the only water available was the rain water from eaves troughs.  They were kept in the upper story of a silk factory.  During the five days the Partisans deliberated on whether to shoot them or not.  One woman Partisan was opposed and she saved their lives.  Conditions improved a little in terms of the water supply and two weeks later they could send word home to notify their families where they were.

 

  On December 28, 1944 the deportation of Swabians to Russia began.  They selected persons in all of the camps for this purpose for the convoys heading to the labour camps in the Donets Basin…

 

  On the same day, all older teenaged girls and women of Franzfeld from eighteen to thirty-five years were ordered to report to the community centre.  There were 150 women and girls who were taken away that day.  Along with the men in the Kubin camp and many other Swabians from the district they were packed into cattle cars in Pantschowa on December 31, 1944 and left on New Year’s Eve for Russia.  A few managed to escape.  On January 3, 1945 an additional 25 persons, both men and women, were rounded up and taken to Russia.  Only tradesmen and industrial workers were exempted.  Everyone now tried to pass as one.  The inhabitants of Franzfeld were blessed in having factories and were able to keep back many of their people to work at silk weaving, in the flour mills and furniture factories.

 

    Life was almost normal.  There was no news of the war.  People were butchering pigs and milling grain for flour.  They could take laundry, food and clothing to the remaining men in Kubin.  It was done by wagon but under guard and took two days.  The women had to work in the fields every day.  All social and cultural life ended.  Services were held by the cantor (organist and choir leader) Joseph Poglitsch and his son, Vicar Hans Poglitsch.  The last service with Holy Communion was held in the church on Easter Sunday 1945.  The church was packed to the rafters.

 

  On April 26, 1945 all the Swabian inhabitants of Franzfeld were interned.  Two weeks prior to that the people had been forced to leave their homes and take up residence in a constricted area of the village.  Old people and children were accommodated in doors while all others slept outside or in outbuildings.  Then the registration began.  It took three days.  It was done “by family”.  Under armed guard the family along with other families were taken to an empty house and assigned room on the floor…hay or straw was also provided to sleep on.

 

  The first day in the newly established “camp” was a Sunday.  All those who were sick, too old to work and the children were separated from those who were able bodied.  They had to leave the camp and were directed to the assembly point by the Partisans.  The two groups stood across from each other with the Partisans standing in the middle keeping them apart.  No one who survived would ever forget the trauma of mothers being separated from their children.  Over 700 children were taken from their mothers that day.  The mothers had packed for their children and had to watch the Partisans load the wagons.  The confusion and agony was terrible and despite the heavy guard some of the mothers managed to smuggle themselves on the wagons with their children.  When the person count did not jibe the Commander of the camp simply let it go by.  The sixty wagons loaded with children and the elderly were taken to Jabuka.

 

  Those who remained worked with the livestock and horses.  The dogs were all shot or beaten to death.  The women and old men worked in the dairy and the other men worked on the land.  At first the camp inmates lived in the hope that things would eventually get better.  Instead their situation worsened.  The “camp” was encircled with barbed wire with a gate that was nailed shut.  All windows in the houses were screened with wire.  The tradesmen worked 8 hours a day for 6 days a week.  Everyone else worked from early morning to late at night.  In the summer they worked on Sunday as well.  The food gradually deteriorated in quality and became less and less.  The Vicar and the midwife, Elise Mueller, cared for the sick with no medicine available to them.

 

  By order of the Partisan Command in the Banat, all Swabian children up to ten years of age and all old people over sixty-five were to be sent to the newly established “starvation camp” of Rudolfsgnad in the fall of 1945.  Some others who wouldn’t leave their children or aged parents accompanied them.

 

  The “camp” in Franzfeld now became physically smaller.  The people had to move into even closer quarters.  Control at the main gate was “beefed up” and stricter.  It became even harder to smuggle in food and punishment became more severe.  The women found ways however with extra pockets in their work aprons worn under their wide skirts.  They kept the camp as clean as possible to avoid sickness and vermin.

 

  In May 1946 another convoy of old people was taken to Rudolfsgnad from Franzfeld.  Only a few of those who arrived there would survive.  What they endured before they died is almost unimaginable.  It was also that May that the circumference of the camp was made smaller again.  A sign that was placed in front of the gate indicated that Franzfeld was no more.  It was now Kacarevo.  The new camp was fenced in again and attempts at security were installed but the guards were now district recruits and not the fanatic volunteers of the past.

 

  In the fall of 1946 the first attempts at escape were made.  By May of 1947 large groups of inmates successfully made their way to the Hungarian and Romanian borders from where they made their way to Austria and Germany.  But some were not that fortunate and were sent to work in the coal mines and those who survived later ended up in the camps at Gakowa and Kruschivilje which were both close to the Hungarian frontier.  Flight from there was made easy especially if money was available to bribe the guards.  Many of them were caught the first time.  They would simply try again.  Desperation drove them.  Flight was on foot and they always faced the danger of capture and punishment.  They begged their way through Hungary or worked for a day or two and then moved on.  But the old were too weak to attempt it and remained and starved to death.  Because of letters the camp inmates received they knew they would be received as refugees in Austria and that became the impetus to attempt escape.

 

  To get out of the camp in Rudolfsgnad was another matter because the inmates were the elderly, a few mothers and countless smaller children.  Some men and women were able to rescue their family members personally.  Others died in the attempt as was the case of Barbara Morgenstern of Franzfeld.

 

  The camp in Franzfeld was officially closed in the spring of 1948.  When the last of the survivors were leaving the Camp Commander told them, “You are free and you can go.  But you must go like your forebears came as beggars to this land.”

 

  In May of 1945 new colonists from Bosnia, Montenegro and Macdeonia arrived in Franzfeld.  They had no agricultural experience and things deteriorated quickly.

 

  Franzfeld’s losses as a result of the Second World War include:

 

    135 men killed in action in various military formations

    292 men missing in action

      17 men died as prisoners of war in the Soviet Union

      12 men were executed by the Partisans

        2 women were executed by the Partisans

        1 teenaged girl was executed by the Partisans

    525 persons died in the camp at Rudolfsgnad (including 70 children)

      65 persons died in the camp  in Jabuka (including 14 children)

     55 persons died in the camp in Franzfeld (including10 children)

     20 persons died in the camp at Mitrowitz (including 1 child)

     17 persons died in the camp in Pantschowa

       4 persons died in the camp at Semlin

     37 persons died in other camps (including 2 children)

     19 persons died in labour camps in the Soviet Union*

 

  There were a total of 1,221 inhabitants of Franzfeld whose deaths can be verified who were victims of the Second World War and its aftermath.

 

  *There were 11 men and 8 women who died in the labour camps in the Soviet Union.  The last of the survivors were released from captivity in 1949 and all of them were sent to the then DDR (East Germany) and did not return to Yugoslavia.

 

  The publication also includes the names and places of origin of the original settlers in

Franzfeld on pages 426-437.    

Georgshausen/Velika Greda

 From Leidensweg der Deutschen im Kommunistischen Jugoslawien The Way of Sorrows of the Germans in Communist Yugoslavia 

  Georgshausen is a small village that until 1919 did not have a single Serbian inhabitant.  Alongside of the 650 Swabians there were around 250 Hungarians and 1 Slovak who lived there at that time.  This changed with the introduction of the Agricultural Reform Act of the Kingdom of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia in the year 1919.  Around Georgshausen a landowner had large undeveloped estates.  As a result of the Reform these lands were confiscated and settled by a new and “foreign” population.

 

  A new village was established for these new inhabitants and was identified as a “colony”.  There was limited and only gradual contact with these inhabitants of the colony, some 850 persons from Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovnia and Lika.  There was some hesitation about interaction with them, and much of the contact was at the weekly market, the train station and the local pubs.  The relationship between the colony and its inhabitants and the Swabians was not of a personal nature.  They lived alongside of one another but not with one another although the local administration was a common one.    The Richter was always a Swabian and the Notary was always a Serb.

 

  Then came 1941 and the occupation by German troops.  The German soldiers were warmly welcomed by the Swabian population.  During the following years during the war there was no conflict among the inhabitants and up to 1944 the Swabians, Hungarians and Serbs were all on friendly terms and lived together in harmony.

 

  On October 1, 1944 the Swabians of the village handed over the administration to the inhabitants of the colony.  On October 2nd the Partisans came to the village.  They began to establish a local government of their own.  From the outset their regime was hostile towards the Swabians whom they saw as their enemies.  In the first days nothing happened.  Then the Swabians were ordered to surrender their bicycles, radios, sewing machines and watches.  In addition vehicles of transportation were requisitioned to bring supplies to the campaigning Russian army and Partisans.  In all other ways life went on and daily work proceeded to bring in the corn and harvest the sunflowers.

 

  Day by day, the Partisans became more cheeky and impudent and large numbers of the men from the colony joined them in this.  They conducted malicious house searches and took what they liked.  It was not long before they became violent.  The teacher, Karl Petri was killed by one of his former students from the colony and thrown into a ditch.  The father of the community’s first regional leader Jakob Johann (Schneider Hans) was killed and buried in a field.  Several men were taken to the community center and were beaten and tortured until they died.  The women and young girls had no peace either.  The Partisans brought more and more Russian troops to the village that both alarmed and frightened them.

 

  All of this was a prelude for what was to come.

 

  On November 1st the first twenty men were arrested, bound and transported off to Werschetz where they endured an unbelievable martyrdom and death.  None of the twenty men ever came back.

 

  The second action took place on November 3rd.  On this day all of the rest of the Swabian men of the village were arrested.  Even the youth who were only sixteen.  They were taken to the Stojkowitsch-Camp in Werschetz.  From this second group, three men came back to the village.  Four other men had been allowed to remain at home because they were involved in important work at the mill.  From this second group it was determined that with the exception of the sixteen year old none of the others would leave the camp in Werschetz alive.

 

  Before Christmas of 1944 the deportation of the Swabian women to forced labour in Russia was ordered and carried out in Georgshausen.

 

  In the spring of 1945 all of the remaining Swabian women, children and old men were driven out of their homes and sent to a labor camp.  At the end of that road there was Rudolfsgnad.  In many cases this became the way of the cross ending in death.

 

  Of the 668 Swabians who lived in the village in 1941 the following are the losses they experienced through violent death:

 

  In Werschetz in the Sojkowitsch Camp 46 men lost their lives following gruesome torture.  To this day nothing has been heard from any of them.

 

  The deportation to Russia included 31 women and 8 men from the village.  Five men and one woman did not return.  They died as a result of accidents, exhaustion or in the trains on their way home to freedom.  Many of the women who returned were terribly sick and broken physically until the end of their lives.

 

  In the labor camps and in the camp at Rudolfsgnad 77 persons perished.  The majority were elderly men and women and children under 13 years of age.

 

  All men of military age were called up to serve in the Yugoslavian Army at the outbreak of the war and then later served in units of the German Army.  As a result many of the young men of the village lost their lives.  The losses included one man in the Yugoslavian Army and 34 men in the German Army.

 

  Those are sizable losses for a community of this size with 668 inhabitants in 1941.

 

  The village still exists today.  It is called:  Velika Greda.  The one time colony is now joined to the old village physically and as a result the Swabian cemetery has been used for that purpose.  The houses of the former Danube Swabian inhabitants are now occupied by people from Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Lika who arrived here as settlers.  Nothing now could indicate that for over 90 years Swabians lived and worked here.

 

  The total number of those who died violently have been provided by former inhabitants of the village and are accurate.  They come from surviving family members.  However, the figure for those who died in the camps is certainly too low.  Not all of the victims could be identified because whole families were exterminated or simply disappeared.

  The contents of this article are taken from “Die Geschichte der deutsch-evangelischen Gemeinden Des Banats” by Hans Walther Röhrig, published in Leipzig, 1940 and summarized and translated by Henry A. Fischer.

  After 150 years of Turkish rule and following the Peace of Passarowitz in 1718, the Banat came under Austrian control and was designated an Imperial Province governed by the Royal Chamber in Vienna.  Through war and devastation the land was depopulated, only the eastern areas occupied by the Turks were an exception and presented a better picture.  In Temesvar, alongside of families of Spanish Jews there were also a small number of Serbs.  Count Florimundus Mercy, the governor of the Banat was given the task to resettle the swamp infested wasteland the Banat had become.  Even before the Settlement Patent of Charles VI in 1722, promising certain rights and privileges for any would-be colonist, individual Germans, mostly craftsmen and former participants in the military forces during the War of Liberation began to settle in the Bant, but chiefly in the towns and cities.

  The one hundred year long resettlement of the Banat and the other Danube areas were divided into three phases, the so-called Schwabenzug or the Carolinian, Theresian and Josephinian colonization periods named after the respective sovereigns.

  Within the framework of this study it is the third period under Joseph II that is most important and covers the period from 1782-1788.  It was only in this period that large numbers of Protestants arrived in the Banat.  They consisted of approximately 3,000 families, a portion of whom settled in the Banat coming directly from the various German principalities, while others resettled there from other areas from within the Habsburg Empire especially from Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia and Hungary itself.

  The numbers of Germans in the Banat in 1839 numbered 224,807; in 1880 the census reported 364,080; while in 1910 there were 426,240 persons.  In 1939 the combined Danube Swabian population in the Romanian and Yugoslavian Banat were estimated at 450,000.

  Under Charles VI, whose government policy was highly influenced by mercantilism that projected economic advancement through increased population and productivity was unable to carry out a systematic settlement in the Banat due to the many military campaigns in the area and the ongoing incursions of the Turks in the south.  In contrast to the population policies of Maria Theresia which also included large numbers of non-Germans, Joseph II’s policy was specifically, “Germans only.”  Although the colonists were not politically motivated themselves they were used for political ends to populate and secure the border areas to strengthen the southern borders of the Empire.  The settlers were farmers and tradesmen and not a “nation” of their own with narrow social, political and religious boundaries of their own like the Transylvania Saxons who had preceded them six hundred years before, nor the Serbs who under the leadership of their Patriarch had sought refuge from the Turks and found asylum in the Banat.  The Germans came simply as settlers whose sense of community was their extended family and their neighbours who placed little importance on externals and focussed on the tasks of settlement and maintaining the traditions of home.

  It is not obvious why Germany was to be the chief source of these settlers.  At that time every state was interested in increasing its population and brought in settlers who were non-Germans and hindered the emigration of their own people to other lands and territories.  But political might prevailed and the German principalities lacked that because they were surrounded by “mightier” neighbouring states.  Larger states like England and France as well as Prussia hindered emigration by law and decree.  The southwest German principalities attempted to do the same, but the “Wanderlust” that was encouraged by the colonial publicity agents proved stronger.  The populations in this area were locked in into the estate landlord system; the border areas along the Rhine had been devastated and ravaged for decades by foreign troops and had endured their occupation.  Economic need and social oppression through the “serfdom” system also added to the discontent.  The Protestants (both Lutheran and Reformed) in the Pfalz (Palatinate) were persecuted as a result of the re-catholicizing policies of their ruler Karl Theodore and were engaged in various streams of emigration as a result.  Following Joseph II’s Edict of Toleration, which also applied to Protestant settlers in the Danube areas a virtual emigration fever broke out.  The promise of toleration and the other privileges granted to settlers i.e. land, houses, livestock etc. lured would-be German colonists.  In spite of censorship and control of the mail and the difficulties involved in securing proper documentation to leave and all kinds of other impediments in the southwest German principalities very few of those who left did so without the proper credentials.  The reports sent home by the colonists or those who made a return visit home only stimulated the interest of others to leave and join them in the new land.

  In addition to the political and economic issues, the social pressures and the religious reasons there must also be the acknowledgment of the basic wanderlust which was at issue among these land loving people between the Rhine and the Mosel who were bonded together in many ways.  It is the compulsion and drive to wander and seek adventure that is common to the southwest Germans who would colonize the Volga, Galicia, Bessarabia, North and South America and the Danubian provinces.  This “Swabian” roving spirit created not only the Danube Swabians but resulted in other ongoing migrations, so that thousands of them later left for North America and either remained there or returned.  Besides all of the other reasons and causes of the emigration, those of Swabian and Franconian origin left as restless spirits in search of a new life just over the horizon.

  The designation of the Germans living in the Danube region as “Swabians” is as inaccurate as referring to the Germans in Transylvania as “Saxons”.  (Translator’s note:  In North America there was a parallel in calling the Germans who settled in Pennsylvania the Pennsylvania Dutch.)  Because the first settlers appear to have been Swabians, that is how the designation began.  In Serbian they were called Svaba and in Hungarian they were called Svabok and the name stuck for all Germans in the Danube basin.  In 1922 the identification of all Germans in Szatmar, Banat, Batschaka, Swabian Turkey, Croatia and Slavonia, Syrmien, Bakony Forest, Western Hungary and the Budapest plains as the “Donauschwaben” by the ethnologists Sieger and Rüdiger in Vienna was suggested even though only a small proportion of them were actually of Swabian origin.  Regardless of the many differences that affected different groups in different localities, the shifting political situations and borders the Danube Swabians still shared a basic common history.

  To give the reader a flavour of the historical situation into which would-be Protestant settlers would come in response to the invitation of Charles VI to settle in the Banat is this decree of January 1, 1718 by the State Council in Temesvar:

    “Be it known to all, that no unbelievers, that is heathen, Jews, Turks, Lutherans or Calvinists and all other heretics mentioned above are hereby expelled from the city immediately and there will be no exceptions.”

  The following are some examples of the reasons given for this kind of policy.  Three reasons were given by Vienna for this need to exclude Protestants from its new settlement colonization program.  Absolutism was the Habsburg worldview; tolerance could only weaken the power of the state, but one uniform religious confession would strengthen the state.  Further Vienna believed that the state would be endangered if Protestants were settled in the Banat in the border areas where the Turks remained active who might forge an alliance with the Protestants in a very vulnerable area.  Thirdly, the tradition of the Vienna Imperial Chamber had always been supportive of the supremacy of Roman Catholicism and Maria Theresia embodied that in all of her religious policies.  In other regions of the Habsburg Monarchy, Hungary in particular, Protestantism had to be dealt with differently and some Protestants were able to settle there on private estates.  (Translator’s note:  Some of the first Danube Swabians from Germany were Lutherans and Reformed from Hesse and Württemberg who settled on private estates including the estates of Count Mercy, the governor of the Banat on his domains in Tolna County during the first phase of the Schwabenzug where large Lutheran and Reformed congregations later flourished.  Others settled on the east bank of the Danube at Kisharta, Vadkert and Meszobereny.)

 Protestants settlers joined in the migration down the Danube from the very outset and they received permission from the Diet at Pressburg in 1723 to do so and were guaranteed civil and religious freedom as they embarked at the riverports for Hungary.  But those who went on to the Banat were robbed of their pastors and teachers, their bibles and hymnbooks were confiscated and their settlements were placed under the jurisdiction of nearby Roman Catholic priests.  They assembled in their private homes for simple services of Bible reading, the singing of hymns and offering prayers.  Vigorous attempts were made to separate them from their faith but with limited results.  Other smaller groups continued to arrive but their numbers remained insignificant.  Most of them moved elsewhere or vanished into the general population, as did many of the families in Karansebesch serving there as border guards who would later emerge at the time of the Edict of Toleration and form a Lutheran congregation.

  (Translator’s note:  The author appears to be unaware of the Lutheran settlements in the Banat that were established in the spring of 1718 with the arrival of Hessian Lutheran settlers from Ober-Ramstadt located in the Odenwald at Neu Palanka south of Weisskirchen.  Their first settlement was located at Langenfeld shortly after the Turks were expelled from the area.  A sister settlement was founded at Petrilowa shortly afterwards and congregations were formed in both of the communities.  A steady stream of Hessian settlers continued to arrive and established new communities at Orawitza, Russowa, Haversdorf and Saalhausen.  A Levite Lehrer (a teacher who was also theologically trained) accompanied the first group of settlers and held services in the various communities.  These original families sent word back to their home parish in Ober-Ramstadt and called the pastor’s son to come and serve them and with the assistance of Count Mercy, Johann Karl Reichard was secretly able to begin his ministry there in 1723 but shortly afterwards was declared a fugitive and banished and he fled to the Tolna estates of County Mercy to serve the congregation in Varsad.  All public worship was denied the Hessian Lutheran settlers in the Banat, but some families and individuals about eighty-five in all, left and followed their former pastor to Hungary.  All of the settlements were later destroyed by the Turks and the population was massacred or carried off into slavery while some managed to flee and found haven among their co-religionists:  the Transylvania Saxons.)

 To all intents and purposes during the first decades of the Swabian migration into the Banat, the settlers were Roman Catholics until Joseph II, an ardent proponent of the “Enlightenment” decreed the Edict of Toleration in 1781 and 1784 in Hungary.  This decree should not be confused with religious freedom at this point, but simply tolerance.  But a breach with tradition had been made and this toleration of the Protestants (Translator’s note:  and Orthodox as well) was a giant step forward.  His Protestant subjects would always look upon him as their friend but he always remained a devout Roman Catholic.  He invited the Protestants of the German principalities to settle in the Banat and the Batschka.  In addition, he specifically invited the Protestants in the Pfalz to come and find freedom from persecution.

  Protestant settlements soon emerged in the Banat as a result of the Edict of Toleration consisting of Slovak Lutherans and Magyar Calvinists (Reformed).  Earlier in 1774 a Hungarian Reformed congregation was established in the Military Frontier District in Debeliacsa.  Our study however, is concerned with the German settlements.  The first of these was the Lutheran settlement in Liebling that was established in 1786 according to an official plan of the Imperial Administration in Temesvar and was located thirty kilometres south of Temesvar on the Brist Puszta (Translator’s note:  an open prairie.)  A distinction was made between those who took up land and those who were tradesmen who received only a lot on which to build their houses.  The places of origin of the colonists in Liebling from 1787 to 1830 included the following:

  Württemberg (Swabia) 50 families, Hungary 45 families, Rhine Pfalz 29 families, Hesse 20 families, Banat 14 families, Batschka 13 families, Zips and Galicia 13 families, Baden 12 families, other areas on the Rhine 4 families, Bavaria 5 families, Thuringia 2 families, Switzerland 2 families, Saxony 1 family, Transylvania 1 family and Silesia 1 family.

  Those who came from Hungary were primarily from Mezobereny, Kisharta and Vadkert earlier Hessian and Heidebauern settlements on the east bank of the Danube.   (Translator’s note:  The Heidebauern were descendants of Bavarian and Franconian families Charlegmagne settled to help defend the eastern frontiers of his empire along the Danube in the 10th and 11th century in present day Burgenland and Western Hungary.)   These colonists were known to be rather mobile and would move on again after first settling in Liebling.  This characteristic was also true of those who came from the Banat and Batschka.  Many of the recently arrived Protestant settlers in the Batschka moved on into the Banat and as a result most of the Protestants in the Banat where of this type or had already settled in the Banat but had held fast to their Protestant faith or could not obtain a pastoral ministry where they lived and moved on to the newly founded Lutheran and Reformed communities and settled there.

  The German Protestant community of Rittburg was established in 1786 consisting of 234 German families, most of them were Lutherans.  By 1791 an emigration from Rittburg began.  The Germans left the community as a result of economic need, floods and low crop yields year after year.  The Lutheran congregation ceased to exist after 1800.  The officials in Temesvar re-settled the village with Hungarians and it became a Hungarian Reformed community.

  A few years after the founding of Liebling a new Protestant settlement was established and the Lutheran community of Franzfeld came to birth.  The places of origin of the first colonists were listed in the Heimatbuch celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of its founding:  Baden 43 families, Württemberg 5 families, Alsace 5 families, Pfalz 4 families and Bavaria 1 family.

  The former homelands of the Liebling and Franzfeld settlers show that in comparison to the rest of the Banat, they in actual fact were Swabians.  In comparison, in the Batschka most of the colonists were from the left bank regions of the Rhine, especially the Pfalz.  This Swabian element is very rare in the Batschka.  In the Protestant communities in the Banat the process of mixing the various dialects was quickly set in motion, the characteristics of which markedly separated them from the Roman Catholic settlements.  In Liebling and the neighbouring Protestant communities their distinctive greeting was:  “Helf Gott!  (Translator’s note:  May God help you!”  The village plan, the style of the houses and church were the same as in the Roman Catholic Swabian settlements.

  Because of the high death rate and the ongoing further migrations there was a need for additional settlers soon after the founding of the villages.  Numerous colonists from Hungary and the Batschka answered the call for more settlers.  Even as this new stream of settlers moved in there was an additional migration from the area as well.  In 1787 families had moved on to other districts in search of better possibilities and opportunities.  In spite of warnings, official decrees and laws, shortly after 1800 large numbers of families from Liebling set out for Russia to settle in the Crimea.  Only some of them were successful, most were apprehended and forced to return to Liebling.  There is a record of seventeen families who were stopped in Transylvania in 1808 and were forced to return home.

  After 1830, as the community expanded many young single persons and young married couples left for other districts of the Banat to find land and space in which to build their future.   In 1839, Adam Hörl of Liebling moved to Birda where he had been preceded by families from the Batschka:  Kisker, Bulkes and Neu Werbass.  Soon other Lieblingers followed him.  In 1842 a teacher was called and after his arrival the congregation was formed.  In 1880 there were 392 German Lutheran inhabitants and by 1910 they formed the majority in this former Romanian village (713 Germans out of 1,1119 inhabitants.)  The German settlement was done under the auspices of the landowner and patron of the village, Lo-Presti.  In 1850 Lieblingers moved into neighbouring Schipet which was a Romanian village and by 1936 they numbered 127 persons of whom 100 were Lutherans.

  After 1848 settlers from Leibling and Kleinschemlak moved into the mixed confessional and ethnic community of Klopodia, most of them day labourers who later were followed by a new wave of settlers so that by 1871 there were 875 Protestants of both confessions in the community.  By 1936 there were only 400 who had remained there.  In the 1850s settlers from Liebling arrived in Neukaransebesch and discovered descendants of the Lutheran “Grenzer” families.  (Translator’s note:  The Grenzers were citizen soldiers living in the Military Frontier District who worked their land and took up arms when called upon much like the American Minute Men.)

  Butin, which was also a mixed ethnic and confessional village where a Slovak Lutheran congregation had been established, settlers from Liebling also took up residence there and eventually numbered about 200 persons, which would be reduced to 40 much later.  In 1893/1894 several families moved to Ebendorf where a Lutheran congregation had existed for some time.  The youngest daughter settlement of Liebling is Waldau established in 1808/1809.  The origins of the residents of the village were:  Liebling 36 families, Franzfeld 21 families, Birda 14 families, Kleinschemlak 10 families, Fager 5 families, Butin 3 familes, Moriisfeld  2 families and Schipet 1 family.

  The German community in Schipet is somewhat older and of its population: 87 were born in Schipet, 17 had come from Liebling, 5 from Semlak, 5 from Kleinschemlak, 2 from Waldau, 1 each from Butin and Franzfeld and 9 Roman Catholics.

  Both of the above examples demonstrate two important facts:  the ongoing migrations continued on into contemporary times and shows the close relationships maintained by the Protestant Swabians with one another.  The focal point throughout is Liebling.  It stands at the centre.  From here the new migrations had their beginnings but the daughter congregations remained in close contact with Liebling and one another especially through marriage.  The isolated congregation of Semlak in the vicinity of Arad was incorporated within the wider Liebling parish.  There was also a close inter-exchange between Liebling and Franzfeld in theYugoslavian Banat that also related to the south and stretched into Serbia and Bosnia.  Through the division of the Banat between Romania and Yugoslavia following the First World War, the relationship and communications with Franzfeld were effectively cut off.  The Lutheran Swabian congregations in Romanian Banat following the First World War developed into a union of closely related congregations with Liebling at its centre.

  Another major chapter in the life of the Protestant Swabians in the Banat was the American emigration.  This began in the 1890s and affected the Protestants as much as the Roman Catholic Swabian communities.  Most of them would remain in America until they had saved enough money and then returned home.  The largest numbers of emigrants left for the US after the First World War.  Before the war years about 100 Liebelingers lived in America, after the war the number increased to 471.  This was equal to 10% of the population of the community.  But in the last five years (1936) more Lieblingers returned than emigrated.  Economic reasons, the search for wealth and family expectations were the factors that drove the Protestant and Roman Catholic Swabians to leave at the time of the escalation of the Magyarization efforts of the Hungarians.  But one wonders if the basic wanderlust and roving spirit indigenous to the Swabians was also a compelling factor.

  There was another major Lutheran Swabian settlement in Kleinschemlak.  In this ancient Serbian district where Dazel Dsztoics owned the large Puszta he invited Germans to settle on his estates in 1802.  Lutheran families from Baden and Württemberg came to settle there in 1805.  Because of bad relations with him, most of them moved on and it was only in 1815/1816 that permanent settlers arrived.  As a result it would become an entirely German Lutheran village.

  Semlak by Arad was also originally a Serbian district that was first established in the 13th and 14th centuries.  It was destroyed under the Turks and was resettled by Romanians, Hungarians and Ukrainians.  In 1819 the first Germans arrived, primarily from Mezobereny in Hungary that had also provided numerous settlers for Liebling.  After Liebling, Semlak was the largest German Protestant community in the Romanian Banat with both Lutheran and Reformed congregations.

  With regard to the Lutheran congregations in what became the Yugoslavian Banat we have already dealt with the founding of Franzfeld in 1790.  Mramorak was established in 1820 when six families from Hesse migrated there and were joined by twenty-three other families from Franzfeld and the Batschka.  In 1831 the congregation formed a wider parish.  In the 1830s the residents of Siawatz, Tscherwenka and Werbass in the Batschka settled in Pantschowa in response to work opportunities there in the brickyards.  A Lutheran congregation was formed shortly afterwards.  Daughter congregations emerged in the Yugoslavian Banat as far as into Bosnia.

  There were also Protestant settlers who chose to reside in the towns and cities of the Banat.  Quite early, it was recognized that the Protestant military personnel had a need for church life and ministry in Temesvar.  The congregation became a filial of Liebling at first and then in 1824 it formed a parish of its own.  Since 1838, although they were few in number Lutherans resided in Lugosch.  In 1848-1850 there was a large influx of Lutherans from Württemberg, Bavaria and Hungary that brought about a radical change so that Lugosch became a Lutheran centre.  Industrial workers from all parts of Germany, from Slovakia and the Batschka began to move into Reschissa and among them were large numbers of Protestants.  German Protestant workers came to Ferdinandsberg in 1858 seeking employment at the soap factory operated by the Hoffmann Company.  In 1856-1859 Germans from Transylvania, the Zips and Slovakia came to Steierdorf most of them Lutherans and numbered some 300-350 persons at the time.

  This overview of the urban Protestant population in the Romanian Banat will have to suffice for the present.  The urban congregations as well as the agricultural communities present a rather colourful background in terms of the origins of the settlers and the close relationships they developed with one another.

  The author provides the following statistics for December 1935 but only for the Lutheran congregations and does not include those of the Reformed.

  Parishes or Mother Churches are in bold print while the filials (daughter) congregations are in regular type.
                                      
Romanian Banat

Parish                   Number of parishioners
 
Birda                               788

Detta                               121

Waldau                           215
Karansebesch                303

Ferdinandsberg               74
Kleinschemlak               732

Klopdia                           186

Liebling                        4,121

Schipet                            104
Lugosch                          333

Ebendorf                          58
Reschissa                       444

Diaspora                         170

Semlak by Arad         1,482
Yugoslavian Banat

Haiduschia                  1,056
Franzfeld                    4,594

Jarkovak                        344
Mramorak                 2,850

Kovin                             170

Banavischte                  100
Neu Betschej                183

Potiste Nikola                 68
Pantschowa                2,895
Grossbetscherek          223
Lazarfeld                         83
Gross Kikinda              268
Bojlovica                       894
Werschetz/
Weisskirchen                746
Diaspora                     1,730