Slavonia


Krndija in Slavonia

 

  The following information is a summary of portions of the Krndija Heimatbuch by Matthias Stolz published in Graz in July 1987.

 

  Slavonia is the eastern portion of Croatia between the Drava and Danube Rivers with Esseg (Osječke-Baranjska) as its chief city.  In the far distant past it belonged to the Roman province of Pannonia and Esseg was then known as Mursa.  It was the capital of Lower Pannonia and founded in 8 B.C. by Caesar Augustus.  Slavic tribes entered Slavonia in the 7th Century after the defeat and expulsion of the Avars.

 

  Germans settled in the towns during the Middle Ages:  Esseg, Zagreb, Warasdin, Vukovár, Slavonski Brod and Poschag.  These communities were all but destroyed by the Turks as a result of their conquest and occupation.

 

  In Slavonia east meets west and that was to prove to be its tragedy.  It was the scene of conflict between Hungary and the Turks and then later between the Habsburgs and the Turks.  It would lead to Christian and Muslim crusades and holy wars.  In 1526 Suleiman the Magnificent crossed the Sava River from Bosnia with a mighty host and the resistance of the Christian forces was futile.  Many of the Slavonian towns fell into the hands of the Turks.  On August 15th the Turkish Sultan began to construct a bridge across the Drava River in the vicinity of Esseg.  It was completed in six days.  He took 200,000 men across along with 300 canons to fight and defeat the Hungarians at Mohács on August 29th.  Croatian and Serbian refugees fled to Zagreb as the Turks overran and occupied Slavonia.  Those who remained behind were slaughtered or died of plague.  Others were sold into slavery or were resettled elsewhere within the Ottoman Empire.  While there were others who fled and hid in the mountains to escape the Turks.

 

  Valpovo was threatened by the Turks.  (Naschize (Našice) was in close vicinity and Krndija lay just south of it.)  The church and monastery in Valpovo had existed since  1373.  The church was put to the torch by the Turks but the monastery survived.  The Knights Templar also owned a monastery and estates in the area as well.  When Pope Clement V abolished the Templars in 1312 he gave their property to the Knights of St. John.  A Turkish Pasha resided in Djakovo and Turkish nobles took over the estates in the area.  Esseg developed into a Turkish city surrounded by a series of walls.  In the 1580s Esseg was the centre of Slavonia in terms of the economy and its strategic military location.  The eight kilometre long wooden bridge across the Baranya swamp joined it to Darda.  Next to Belgrade it became the chief assembly point for the Turkish army preparing for the attack and siege of Vienna.  Their army was mixed in terms of nationality.  It had Hungarian contingents commanded by Tӧkӧlly who had allied himself and his troops with Sultan Mustapha who promised to make Tӧkӧlly king in Vienna.  The Hungarian units left Esseg on June 14, 1683 and were later followed by another 20,000 men.  The Turkish Army struck out for Szekésfehervár and were strengthened with troops from the Crimea and moved on to Raab (Gyӧr) and Komorn.

 

  At the end of 1682 Emperor Leopold of Austria began to build up strength to face a Turkish invasion.  The president of the War Office, Margrave Hermann of Baden, was in charge of the defence of Austria.  Through the efforts of Pope Innocent XI talks were undertaken with Poland.  An alliance was struck with Jan Sobieski III of Poland.  The agreement called for Leopold to provide 60,000 men to face the Turks and the Poles in turn promised 40,000.  But the Austrians would be forced to wait for Polish assistance.

 

  Initially the Emperor had to rely on his own troops.  Karl (Charles) V of Lorraine who was his brother-in-law was his Commander.  In April 1683 a great war council was held.  Their strategy was to simply avoid battle as long as possible because the Turks vastly outnumbered them.  The crossings over the Raab River were strengthened from Raab to St. Gotthard to prevent a takeover of the Hungarian cities by Tӧkӧlly.  The defence of inner Austria was left to the troops of the Ban of Croatia and Count Herbertstein and they were put into position.  Mustapha’s army was on the way to Esseg and 4,000 farmers had to dig wells for them.  Word of this came to Vienna and the Austrians knew the Turks were moving up on the right bank of the Danube.

 

  Along with Tӧkӧlly’s contingents the Turkish host numbered in the neighbourhood of 400,000 men.  Karl of Lorraine was not strong enough to face the Turks because his cavalry needed open countryside to work effectively.  On July 1st the Turks stood before the gates of Raab.  The city was defended by infantry and the local population while Karl retreated with his cavalry across the Leitha River to defend Lower Austria.  A week later the Emperor was informed that a siege of Vienna was imminent.  The news led to the Emperor’s flight from Vienna to Linz along with his Royal Court.  The last one hundred and fifty years had been used to build and strengthen the defences of Vienna, especially its walls and fortifications in the inner city.  Thousands of citizen helped to build batteries and palisades for the coming siege.  The city outside of the walls was set on fire and went up in flames.  By July 17, 1683 Vienna was surrounded and its defence was in the hands of its commander, Count Starhemberg.  The situation of the city worsened daily.

 

  A united army consisting of Austrian Imperial forces, German contingents from the Reich and Polish troops arrived and that would make all the difference.  On September 12, 1683 the major battle for Vienna was fought in the fabled Vienna Woods and Vienna was relieved and the Turks fled the scene.

 

  In 1684 the war against the Turks in Hungary got under way.  Karl V of Lorraine stood at the head of the Imperial Army and its allies.  In 1685 he captured Gran (Estergom) and in 1686 Ofen (Buda) fell.  In 1687 he defeated the Turks at Harsany.   This victory resulted in the destruction of the Turkish Army in Hungary and their occupation of Hungary ended forever.  Under the command of General Dünewald and Count Leslie the greater part of Slavonia was liberated along with Esseg and Djakovo but it would take thirty years to free the land between the Drava and Sava and Danube from the Turks.

 

  The first concern of the Emperor’s commanders was the redevelopment of the lands recovered from the Turks that had been devastated.  The borders had to be made secure and a new economy had to be put in place.  The administration and governing of the newly won territories had to be set in place.  This was not to be a simple task.  There were national, political, military and imperial interest groups working at cross purposes.

 

  The first step was the establishment of a fortified frontier and secure border.  The old defensive fortifications of Esseg were torn down and the construction of new ones began in 1702.  The major task of the military frontier was to ward off attacks by the Turks from Bosnia and Serbia which were both occupied by them.  Many Serbian refugees had joined the Imperial Army’s retreat out of Serbia and in response to their loyalty, the  Emperor Leopold I he had granted them religious freedom, freedom from serfdom, the election of their own commanders and settled them as “Grenzers” (border guards) in the Military Frontier District.  Other Serbs settled in southern Hungary and some settled in Slavonia.  These Grenzers were soldier-farmers who campaigned both offensively and defensively as required.  The Military General Council was established in Esseg (1745-1783) and the commanding general resided there.  The officials of the army, most of whom were Germans were in charge of both the military and civilian government and administration of the District.

 

  The major military headquarters were in Esseg.  Peterwardein, Brod, Dadischka, Babina and Greda were the regional equivalents.  There were four divisions in the Military Frontier District:  Croatia, Slavonia, Banat and Transylvania.  From 1849-1866 the zone was an Austrian Crown Land and subject to the War Office.  In 1851 and then in 1872 the Banat and Transylvania Districts were annexed to Hungary.  In 1881 the Croatia and Slavonia Districts became part of Croatia.  With the borders now secure, the economic development of the region became a priority of the State.  The land itself was the property of the State and was given as grants to military commanders, diplomats, high churchmen and the nobles or they were purchased by the them.

 

  The city of Esseg was raised to the status of a Royal Free City in 1809 by Francis I for its unfailing support during the Turkish wars and was now occupied by the Hungarians.  It was later put under siege by the Austrian Imperial Army in February 1849 during the Hungarian War of Independence and was taken and occupied by them.

 

  But earlier in 1745 the provinces of Slavonia and Srem became part of the Kingdom of Croatia.  During the 150 year occupation by the Turks, the Roman Catholic population left Slavonia.  They were followed by Serbian Orthodox refugees who fled across the Sava.  With the setting up of the Military Frontier District new settlers arrived and among them were Germans.  They moved into towns and were skilled tradesmen, merchants and construction workers.  From 1690 to 1740 settlers arrived from southern Germany and Austria and settled in Esseg, Poscheg, Slavonski Brod and Gradischka.  In Esseg these immigrants came from Upper and Lower Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Bavaria, Carinthia, Silesia and the Steiermark but also from Pécs, Buda, Szeged, Peterwardein, Marburg, Grosswardein and Pressburg.  Esseg became a German-speaking city and its clergy were German as well and until the end of the 19th Century it retained its German character.  The Jesuits established a German Gymnasiumn (Junior College) in Poscheg.

 

  Individual nobles and estate owners began to resettle their unpopulated lands.  In 1700 there were less than 150,000 inhabitants in Slavonia.  The priority of the landowners was economic.  They preferred the cheap labour of serfs but had to take on free peasants as well.  As a result some Germans settled at Retfala (1750), Sarvas (1760), Kravic (1770) and Kula (1785) and in Esseg the “new town” (1792).  This private development differed from the State sponsored immigration programme in the Banat, Batschka and Baranya.  The rights of these peasant settlers in Slavonia were restricted by the nobles.  They were not allowed to own the land they developed and worked.

 

  The Counts of Prandau had their origin in Vienna and controlled the Valpovo estates in Slavonia (1721-1885).  They were the richest and largest landowners by 1880 and there were four market towns and 41 villages on their domains with 38,409 inhabitants.

 

  After 1820 there were very few groups of settlers from the German lands who arrived in Slavonia and as a result there were only a very few German villages established.  In their place there was a rather steady migration of Swabians (as the Germans were now called) from the Batschka and Swabian Turkey (Tolna, Baranya and Somogy Counties in Hungary) into Slavonia.  At first they strengthened the existing German communities and then formed “daughter” colonies in villages with Slavic populations.  With the breakup of the estates and the emancipation of the serfs in 1848 large portions of Slavonia were parcelled out for sale.  This led to an increase of “daughter” colonies where Germans formed a minority.

 

  The low price of land in Slavonia beckoned the poorer farmers and agricultural labourers in the north to seek their fortunes here.  The local Croats and Serbs still mostly engaged in livestock herding and agricultural skills among them were limited.  Nor did they have the capital to pay their taxes or purchase land from the nobles.

 

  In the Djakovo area Germans began to settle during the early 1800s.  First in the town itself and by mid-century Swabian settlers mainly from the Batschka settled in the nearby villages of Gorjani Tomašanci, Slatinik, Vučvci, Viškovci, Mandičevci and Drenje.  Many of the Slavic inhabitants sold their houses and land to the newly arrived Swabian settlers.  All of this was a slow process of redevelopment.  Much of the land was swampy and thickly forested.  The Sava, Drava, Vuka, Ilova Rivers flooded the valleys year after year.  Robbers infested the area.  Theft, murder and hostage taking were rather a daily occurrence.  The State had to intervene and take control of the development of Slavonia.  But there was opposition from the nobles and estate owners who still wielded a great deal of power at that time.  An Imperial Regulation of December 23 ,1858 that applied to Hungary, Croatia and Slavonia stipulated certain conditions for new settlements.  For example, housing for at least fifty families had to be erected before a community was recognized as such by the government; settlers in such new communities all had to be of the same nationality, religious confession (denomination); were given exemption from  taxes for six years and fifteen years of exemption on paying taxes on their houses; exemption from providing robot (free labour service) to the State for fifteen years.

 

  Croat nationalism that emerged in the 19th Century increased in its strength in the area around Djakovo.  Their goal was not to allow the establishment of entirely German communities.  Although of German origin on his father’s side, Joseph Georg Strossmayer (1849-1905) the bishop of Djakovo was the driving force of Croat nationalism and led the Croatian People’s Party in the Landtag  (1860-1873) and was its chief spokesman.  At the First Vatican Council he opposed the doctrine of the Infallibility of the Pope but accepted it in 1872 in order to maintain his bishopric.  The bishop had a greater loyalty to his political and Croatian nationalist interests than his spiritual calling.

 

  In 1882 Bishop Strossmayer had forests cleared to establish three villages at Josipovac, Jurjevac and Krndija.  Josipovac had Slovak settlers.  Jurjevac was settled by Czechs and Krndija was settled by various nationalities in May of that year.  By 1900 the Germans were the majority in the village.  It was not easy for them to be under the jurisdiction of Strossmayer and had no church or school.  The colonists received one Joch of land for house and garden, ten Joch of meadow and agricultural land.  These lands were covered by thick oak forests and had to be cleared within ten years.  For every Joch of cleared land the settler had to provide 3.4 meters of wood and could keep the rest.  For each Joch not cleared the settler was fined 3 Gulden.  From the left over wood, the settlers could build a house and other agricultural buildings.

 

  The first Swabian settlers came from Nemetker, Kanizia, Tolna (Hungary) and Ganth, Borzowar and Sokolovac.  The first families included:  Német, Mireiter, Kerper, Cigler (Ziegler), Natachlich, Kilbinger, Ivanovič, Heragovič and Donoslo.  Thirty of them came from Herzegvalfa and Németker in Hungary and set out in covered wagons that had been sent for them and arrived in Krndija with just a few belongings.  Important tools such as saws, axes, shovels and mallets for construction were given to them as well as weapons to fend off the wolf packs that were prevalent in the area.  Wood huts were built for every 20 to 30 persons and a fire was lit in front of each hut to provide warmth for the inner rooms; while on the other hand it would help to keep the wolves at bay.  Within three years they were able to change from common quarters to single and family housing.  This provides a short glimpse into the life of the settlers.

 

  Krndija is 17 kilometres north west of Djakovo and 32 kilometres south of Esseg.  A steady stream of Swabian families continued to settle in the community, chiefly from the Batschka:  Filipowa, Kolut, Batsch, Bukin, Paraput, Palanka, Obrovac and Batsch-Sentiwan.  In the village dialect the name of the village was corrupted to Kerndia.  Eventually it would become a German-speaking community and very few non-Germans lived there.  In the census taken of the Djakovo District in 1910 Swabians made up 20% of the population.  In 1890 the Swabians accounted for 63.5% of the population of Krndija.  In 1900 the village population was 916 and the Swabians numbered 779, Magyars 69, Slovaks 15 and Czechs 14.  When asked their places of origin, 408 claimed Slavonia and Croatia, 14 were from Austria and 494 were from Hungary.  By 1910 the population reached 1,016 and 953 were Swabians.  It was the largest community in the area, while the town of Djakovo itself had 843 Swabian inhabitants.

 

  The census of 1931 reported that Krndija counted 1,400 inhabitants and the number who were Swabian stood at 1,345.  In Djakovo the number of Germans stood at 1,597.  In the mixed villages in the District there were 77 Swabians in Garnjani, 643 in Tomašanci and 58 in Ivanovči.

 

  The first major pressures the Swabians in Slavonia experienced in terms of a forced assimilation by the Croats began after the Compromise of 1868 between Hungary and Croatia.  They fared much better after the founding of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia following the First World War which recognized their minority rights in terms of language in their schools.  Throughout Krndija’s history the Roman Catholic clergy were the strongest political force in Slavonia.  But Krndija was always on good terms with the neighbouring Serbian villages.  The radical Croatian nationalist ideology and power of the Ustaša (Translator’s Note:  The Fascist Croatian Party) would lead to tragedies in the future and when their dream of an independent state of Croatia became possible with support of the Nazi occupiers of Yugoslavia, the Swabians in Slavonia would be sold out by the Ustaša and their men would be handed over to serve in the German armed forces.

 

  The Chetniks (Royalists) and later Tito’s Partisans (Communists) were the opponents of the Ustaša and the German and Hungarian occupation forces.  The men of Krndija served in the German or Croatian armed forces but chiefly in the German Waffen-SS.  As the Chetniks backed off in their campaign in Slavonia the Partisans came to the fore.  The leadership of the recently created Swabian Volksgruppe (Nazi Front Organization) in Croatia got into the act to take action against the terrorist attacks of the Partisans.

 

  Members of the German Brotherhood (local defence force) were to defend the German communities in Croatia from Partisan attacks.  These rather weak units were abolished in 1942 when it was obvious that they could not carry out their mandate.  In the Spring such a force had come into existence in Krndija consisting of able bodied men of the village.  Their training was rather limited.  Their weapons were mostly old with some new guns including a single machine gun.  Bunkers and barricades were set up on the streets of the village.  Lodgings for the Croatian Home Defence Force were in nearby houses and buildings.  The local men worked in their fields during the day but as soon it was dark they went on duty at the bunkers or carried out a night patrol on the streets of the village.     The Partisan attacks became more frequent and they were much better trained and armed.  Most of the Partisans in Slavonia came from the area where they operated and worked as farmers by day and took up arms at night.

 

  The outlawed Communist Party began to re-form in the Djakovo District after the collapse of Yugoslavia in April 1941.  Their forces were often badly beaten by the Croat security forces.  This led to more brutal actions on the part of the Croats.  More and more units of Partisans were formed and their forces became stronger primarily due to the brutality that the Ustaša unleashed against the Orthodox Serbian civilian population in Croatia and their forced conversion to Roman Catholicism.  The first major Partisan operation was in Bosnia in April 1942 at Windhorst followed by attacks in Slavonia; at first in the mountains of western Slavonia and then later in the eastern plains.  

 

  Their first large scale attack in the area was against the German installations at Slatinik on July 27, 1942 and on December 23, 1942 at Trnava.  Other raids took place at Podgorac, Caglin, Orljevac and Kula where some men from Krndija lost their lives.  With the German defeat at Stalingrad and their retreat on the Eastern Front in 1943 the Partisans increased their attacks and eventually it became Krndija’s turn.

 

  On August 16, 1943 the neighbouring village of Gerjani was overrun by the Partisans and on August 26th they launched raids and occupied Drenje, Pridvorje, Mandecevci and Tomašanci without firing a shot.  On the evening of the next day, August 27th, the attack on Krndija would shortly be under way.  Partisan units gathered throughout the District while the men of Krndija were working out in their fields unaware of the approaching Partisan forces.

 

  On the afternoon of August 27th many of the villagers left for Esseg including whole families who felt uneasy with the situation.  The men continued with the threshing in the fields until early evening.

 

  When night arrived a moist wind swept across the village.  There was distant thunder.  Men were on sentry duty all around the village, on its streets and at the community centre.  Many of them had their dogs with them and they too were unaware of the approaching danger.  Shooting broke out just shortly before midnight.  The Partisans had encircled the village and attacked from every side.  The alarm bell was tolling and in some places fire was being returned.  They were no match for the Partisans in numbers, training or weapons.

 

  Soon there were only isolated shots, the barking of dogs, Partisan commands and the cries of frightened civilians.  The Partisans broke into homes in search of weapons or men of the Home Defence Force who were hiding there.  Phase two of the attack now followed:  looting.  This group had no weapons and included many women and youth.  Those men found in their houses were ordered to hitch up their horses.  Fifteen to twenty loot-loaded wagons and horses and as many drivers headed west in two columns. 

 

  About thirty houses and buildings were put to the torch, including the hemp factory with thousands of tons of flax.  The flames could be seen in Srem and the Batschka, Hungary and Zagreb.  This attack and destruction was much more severe than those on the nearby mixed-nationalities villages.  Four men had been killed and one man died of his wounds later.  Most of the villagers fled to Esseg the next day in total panic.  The military relief force sent to Krndija could not prevent them from leaving.  The elderly and children would remain in Esseg and family members brought food and supplies to the city as it was needed after the others had returned to Krndija.

 

  By the end of August 1943 only the District towns of Našcice and Djakovo in the vicinity of Krndija had not been under attack by the Partisans.  The railway and main highway along the Drava and Sava Rivers were both controlled by the Germans and the Croats.  To all intents and purposes all of western Slavonia from Poschega and Podgarac and Krndija was in Partisan hands.  The military outpost in Krndija was expected to defend the inhabitants of the District.

 

  In their propaganda distributed among the Slavic population the Partisans claimed that only members of the Volksgruppe were their enemies and all others would be spared.  That had not been the case in the attack on Krndija on August 28th when indiscriminate arson had taken place all of which bonded the villagers to one another.

 

  A defensive position was erected in the centre of the village as there were not enough soldiers to defend the perimeter.  It was surrounded by numerous bunkers and palisades.  A unit of the Croatian Security Police were the backbone of the defences.  Local men who belonged to the Home Defence Force joined them.  There were about 250 men in all.  By the beginning of 1944 the only strong military strong point in the District was at Krndija.  The Partisans roamed around the entire area at will.  The local men continued to work in the fields and farms and were always accompanied by a military escorts as they did so during the day.  By the Spring and later in the summer of 1944 it was only safe to walk in a few fields.  At night the men sought safety behind the fortifications when their work was done.  The morale of the Croatian forces was very low.  Many went over to the Partisans.  Trips to the city were dangerous.  Kidnappings followed by murder began.  Military escorts accompanied all travellers.

 

  Repeated raids and infiltration by the Partisans did not result in taking the strong point.  A major offensive would have to be launched.

 

  The strong point was reinforced by troops and officers and the strong point in Podgarac was also strengthened.  In June 1944 many women and children returned from Esseg because of the first large scale bombing raids.  On Wednesday, June 22nd the strong point at Podgarac fell and the telephone system in the District was out of operation.  The situation in Krndija was perilous.

 

  There were 12,000 Partisans being stationed for the upcoming attack.  An attack brigade of 2,000 men threw themselves at the bunkers.  The main attack began at twenty-two hours.  The major push was at midnight with grenades and mortar fire.  By noon of the next day the Partisans realized the defenders were out of ammunition.  But a relief force arrived and air craft came to their defence.  Anyone who had fallen into the hands of the Partisans was murdered.  Forty men had fallen and lost their lives which included two fifteen year old boys from the village.

 

  By the Fall of 1944 all of the area around Krndija was in the hands of the Partisans.  Both the troops and the civilians feared the destruction of the strong point and the annihilation of the defenders and the local civilian population.  The Partisans were moving artillery into the area they had just received from the British.

 

  Hearing of the speed of the Russian advance into the Banat and the failure of Janko and his cohorts in the Volksgruppe to evacuate the Swabian population but had managed to arrange for their own escape, the Volksgruppe leadersip in Croatia planned and organized an evacuation of the endangered Swabian civilian population.  It began in the east in Srem where the planned evacuation was set into motion.  In Krendija the evacuation began on October 27, 1944.  It was carried out secretly and their convoy was defended by soldiers.  Unlike what took place in other settlements, the men of Krndija who were not drafted into the German Army could not join the evacuation but remained behind to defend the strong point.

 

  Two hundred truck loads of women and children and a few belongings were escorted by soldiers to Esseg.  They crossed the Drava, went across Hungary and into Austria where a few families stayed in Burgenland.  Most of them were housed in the Steiermark around Voitsburg.  Others went by train to Upper Austria, Silesia and the future D.D.R.  (East Germany).  Some of those who fell into the hands of the Russians were sent back home to Yugoslavia in May 1945.  They ended up in Tito’s extermination camps at Gakowa and Kruschivlje were many of them perished.

 

  The men left behind in Krndija faced a different fate.  A breakout was too dangerous.  At the beginning of December 1944 Soviet and Bulgarian Divisions moved forward into Srem.  Armed by the Soviets, several Partisan Divisions joined in the attack.  In Gorjani the nightly drunkenness and celebrations of the Partisans got out of hand.  Morale was low in the strong point and men were still dying daily.  On December 12, 1944 after eight days of total encirclement of the strong point the defenders abandoned Krndija.  From December 13th to the 21st those who got through the Partisan lines were assigned to the strong point at Bizovac.  From there they were eventually transferred to Zagreb where they went through a mustering process into the armed forces.  The younger men, mostly born in 1927 (17 year olds) were assigned to the SS-Handschar Division.  The greater portion of the men were assigned to police units and some of the older men were sent to Austria to rejoin their families.

 

  After the strong point in Krndija was abandoned the Partisans moved in and the looting began.  The only people left were Serbs.  The houses were torn down and materials were used to enlarge houses in neighbouring villages.  At the end of the war in May 1945 this was stopped by the Partisan officials.  Only 60 of the 324 houses were still left standing.

 

  A portion of the urban German population in Croatia decided to remain and did not participate in the evacuation.  Their rationale for doing so was “after all we never fought against the Partisans.”  An internment camp for Swabians was set up in Krndija from mid 1945 to the summer of 1946.  Those in the camp were mostly from Zagreb, Vinkovci, Djakovo, Slavonski Brod.  They were later joined by those Swabians who had returned from Austria and Germany in their desire to return home or went sent to Yugoslavia by the American, British and Russian occupying forces.  There were approximately 4,000 Swabians imprisoned in the sixty remaining houses and the school.  An estimated 1,000 of them perished there from overwork, starvation and disease.  Three families from Krndija survived and escaped to the Western Zones of Germany.

 

  There were a total 152 villagers who lost their lives in the Second World War and in what followed.  A total of 96 men were killed in action or declared missing during the war.  There were 19 men and young boys died defending the village.  Six men were carried off by the Partisans and murdered.  An additional 25 persons died in transit or at various extermination camps in Yugoslavia and 6 persons died in the firebombing of Dresden where their refugee train had brought them on that fateful day.  

 

 

 

Syrem, Slavonia, Baranya

 

The Cauldron

 

Srem:

 When the Beasts Ruled

 

“Whoever cannot work will not be allowed to live”

      Semlin

      The German population in Srem and Slavonia was scattered and isolated and lived among Croats and Serbs who formed a majority in the mixed communities in which many of them lived.  But alongside of them were large and overwhelmingly German communities, like Ruma, Indija, Pasua, Franztal, Sarwasch and Sotin and several others. In most communities in Srem and the eastern portion of the Slavonia there were also large German populations.  During the Second World War, both regions were part of the Independent State of Croatia.

 

     The relationship between the Serbs and the Croats during the time of the so-called Independent State of Croatia was stretched to the limits.  As long as the situation permitted, the German population in Srem sided with the Serbs in the face of actions taken against them by the Croats.  Indija is not the only example, in which the home defense forces of the German population came to the defense of the Serbs and prevented a bloodbath.  The relationships between the Germans and both the Serbs and Croats over the previous century had always been very positive.  In the past they had not intervened or become involved in the quarrels and arguments between the two groups, and let them work things out amongst themselves.  They were always friends of both and enemies of neither.

      Throughout the war, both Srem and Slavonia experienced ongoing raids and stronger and stronger attacks by the Partisans directed against the Croatian and German troops.  But the Partisans did not hesitate to include the local civilian populations in the conflict.  Their bestial treatment of the innocent civilians who fell into their hands was a clear indication of what the local populations could expect if the Partisans ever came to power if there was no one to curb them and hold them back from committing ongoing atrocities.  They acted with excessive brutality of a satanic nature during the entire war, against the Serbian, Croatian and German civilian populations who did not support and stand by them, and did so with displays of gruesome bestiality.  The Serbian Royalists suffered as much as the Croats and the Germans.

      Because of what they had learned and experienced during the war years, the vast majority of the German population left their homeland in the fall of 1944, knowing that they would be helpless and defenseless against the Communist Partisans and would have to face unimaginable horrors at their hands.  How accurate they actually were in their assessment of the situation was soon to be proven true.  From the very first days of rule by the Partisans the German population was herded together and the majority of them were immediately shot.  But these mass shootings in Srem and Slavonia were not the equal of some of the greater atrocities that the later labour camp inmates would have to suffer.

      Semlin-on-the-Danube across the river from Belgrade on the other side of the Sava, through the incorporation of surrounding villages had a very large German population.  Already in October of 1944 by order of the Partisan Ruling Council a concentration camp was erected there.  Several thousand German civilians were brought here over a brief period of time.  The vast majority came from the Batschka and the Banat.  The camp consisted of four barracks, three of which were occupied by men and one by women.  With even less daily nutrition than the slave labourers in the Batschka and the Banat, they were set at hard labour every day.  Many of them who were too weak or sick to work were beaten or shot to death.  One of the inmates in this camp informs us:

      “We were brought to Belgrade on ships from Pantschowa.  Our group consisted of men from various communities in the Banat:  Karlsdorf, Werschetz, Kovin, Mramorak, Franzfeld, etc.  We were taken on foot from Belgrade to Semlin.  On our way we were often beaten with rifle butts in our ribs.  Whoever could not keep up was beaten.  Weaker men threw away their backpacks in order to keep up with the others in order to avoid being beaten or put to death.  On our way we ran into a column of wagons, which had license plates denoting various villages in the Banat.  They were loaded with furniture, household items, bedding and such heading for Belgrade, even though everywhere you turned you could read notices on walls that stated, “We do not need the belongings of strangers, nor do we want them.”   After a short period of waiting in front of a command station, we were led into the Camp Kalvaria (Calvary).  It was ten o’clock when we set foot in the camp and there and then we were driven into a barrack like cattle, in which all of us could not stand upright nor could we sit down to rest.  During that night, everything they had not already taken away from us was now confiscated.    The next day we were led to the airport to work.  While we were working at the airport everything that we had managed to save and hide in our backpacks all disappeared.  All we had left was what we were wearing.  At the airport we had to remove debris, while others were taken to the docks to load or unload ships.   It often happened that entire work parties received no food or rations in spite of doing hard labour all day.  At evening we got watery bean, potato or pea soup, and 40 to 45 Decograms of bread daily.  During the nights we had to dig ditches in two shifts.  For those who had no implements, they had to use their bare hands to carry the earth some 100 meters.  One of the shifts worked from the time they returned to the camp from working outside until midnight, and were then replaced by the other shift.  But often both shifts had to work through the night.  Whoever could no longer go on working and received a slip from the doctor, was allowed to rest for a day in the camp clinic.  Until the end of March the camp was without a doctor.  His function was carried out by a Partisan, who was in charge of the brutalization and mistreatement of the prisoners, and the shooting of prisoners, which he both organized and carried out.  He loved to be called “Doctor”, and would make the decision whether a person was sick or not.  Every few days, the sick who were in the clinic were sent to the “Hospital” in Belgrade.  They had to make their way to Belgrade on foot in the evening.  Those who were unable to go on, were helped by the others and dragged along with them as best as they could.  They were taken about 100 meters from the camp and shot there.  These actions were always under the direction of the “Doctor”.  In such actions, Martin Berger of Karlsdorf and Jakob Kuhn of Weisskirchen lost their lives.

      A Gypsy family with an eighteen year old son lived in close proximity to the airport.  He came and visited the airport on a daily basis, and he was allowed to choose any man from among the prisoners and beat him with a cane for as long as he wanted.  If any of the other prisoners turned around so as not to witness this brutality, he would be the next to endure a beating.  If any man hesitated or spoke out against this punishment was forced to kneel and place his hands behind his back and was then beaten with the rifle butts of the sentries.  On one occasion, when one man had already received several blows from the rifle butts, attempted to ward off the next blow by raising his hands against the offender.  His hands were immediately chained behind his back and later in the night and on the following day he was gruesomely mistreated and abused.  Every bone in his hands and feet were broken.  In the following night all of the prisoners were forced to assemble.  By order of the Camp commander one of the Partisans stepped forward and shot the man lying on the ground beaten, bloodied and moaning pathetically.  He was buried in the vicinity of the camp yard.

      On February 12th, a labour group of some six hundred men was assembled and force marched in the direction of Mitrowitz.  On their way they were joined by another four hundred men from Apatin who were working on the railway line from Schid-Vodjinci.  They had to carry the heavy steel train tracks wherever they were required.    This meant that they carried them for at least six hundred to fifteen hundred meters.  Whoever could not keep up was shot.  The first few days, the men received absolutely nothing to eat.  A few days later they received a quarter liter of pea soup and 10 Decagrams of bread.  Everything lacked salt.  The ration was increased later to a half liter of pea or bean soup, and 30 to 40 Decagrams of bread, but both the peas and beans were hard and indigestible.   After a short time, all of the men had serious cases of dysentery, working in extreme heat and drinking excessively, they weakened physically to the point that it was life threatening for many of them, so that on May 16th the work assignment ended, because there were no longer even fifty men who were capable of any work.  Of the four hundred men from Apatin, three hundred and thirty-nine of them were sent back to Apatin on April 27th.  But on the next day at the railway station at Slankovici, twelve of the sick men were shot.  Among them was the sixty year old Michael Fraus of Zychidorf.  Of the group, who had come from the Semlin camp the survivors returned to Semlin, but without one hundred and twelve of their fellow prisoners who had been either shot or beaten to death.

      On May 29th, three hundred of the men who had lost the capacity to do any further work were transferred to the internment camp at Jarek in the Batschka.  They were mostly the men who had worked on railway construction.

      In September of 1945 the camp at Semlin was closed and the inmates were all sent to Mitrotwitz.

      All of the men who had spent several months in the Semlin Camp, aged dramatically in a very short period of time, so that they were unrecognizable to their families.  Young men in a short time looked like aged men, and most of them had lost almost all of their teeth.  From Semlin and Mitrowitz only human wrecks returned, at whose sight it was apparent what they had endured.


     Ruma

      Before the war, there were over ten thousand Germans living in Ruma.  The community, which was located in one of the most beautiful of all of the regions of Srem   formed the centre of the German settlement in the area.  No sooner had the Partisans set up their military government on October 25, 1944 when they began the roundup of the local German population throughout the area and began to liquidate them.  They dragged off the German populations from Nikintzi, Grabovtzi, Kraljevtzi, Hrtkovitzi, Ptintzi, Wrdnik and many other villages herding them to an assembly area, and not only the men, but the women and children as well.  They were all imprisoned in the Hrvatski Cathedral at first.  Then they had to undress until they were naked, and left their clothes behind and were marched out to the brickyards where ditches had been dug, and as each group arrived they were shot.  The next batch to be executed had to lie down on top of the corpses of the group just executed before them.  Those who protested or refused to co-operate were bayoneted to death and thrown into the pit.  Many were severely wounded when they were thrown in.  They were still alive and cried out and moaned as the next group lay on top of them and suffocated them.  About 2,800 Germans died in this way on the first day.  Many other Germans from the vicinity were also shot individually, stabbed or beaten to death.

      Mitrowitz

      In the city of Mitrowitz located in Srem, there was only a small German minority that lived among the Croatian population.  But close to the city there were numerous communities, among which Germans formed the vast majority of the population, while some of the villages were entirely German.  It was here in Mitrowitz where the Partisans set up an internment camp in the local silk factory, which would become the most gruesome of all of the Partisan installations.  This was especially true in terms of the high death rate in this facility.  By the beginning of December 1945 there were at least two thousands persons interned here.  In April of 1946, only four hundred and fifty were still living.  In the first half of the month of January, there were days when twenty four persons died of starvation.  On December 15th, sixty-nine women from Betschmann were brought to the camp in Mitrowitz.  By mid-February only eleven of them were still alive.  On January 6, 1946 there were still sixty-four women from Sektisch.  By April they had all perished except for twelve.  Of one hundred and fifty children who were still alive in November 1945, by April in 1946 they numbered less than fifty.  When the inmates of the Semlin Camp were brought to Mitrowitz in December 1945, there were seventeen men from Karlsdorf.  In March of the next year, thirteen of them had already died.  Enormous were the numbers who were shot and beaten to death by the Partisans.  Twenty alone were victims of abuse and mistreatment.  The Partisans were not prepared to wait for people to simply die on their own.  In the early evenings they were taken out of the camp to the banks of the Sava River, where they were shot and their bodies were thrown into the river.  Every time they took groups away like that they were always told they were being taken to a hospital.  The high death rate was due to the inhumane mistreatment the prisoners experienced, but above all it was the lack of nutrition.  For a long time, there was only soup twice a day with only a trace of grain.  But on Christmas Day of 1945 they were only given soup once.  There were months when they received no bread at all.  When there was bread it was only a small chunk of corn bread.  The camp was hermetically sealed at all times.

      Even in 1946, long after the war was over, the camp officials for no reason at all continued to order the death of German civilians in their hands.  They demonstrated special brutality in the butchering of the German physician, Dr. Franz Ehrlich and his helper the nurse known as Sister Juli in September of 1946.  Dr. Ehrlich, in his position as camp doctor had the duty to keep medical records of all of the inmates, recording their illnesses and the causes of their deaths.  He did all of this conscientiously and truthfully, and if someone died of starvation he recorded it as such, and if a prisoner was beaten to death by a Partisan he reported it as such.  Because of this he greatly angered the camp commander who then threatened him.  He was instructed to record other illnesses as the causes of death.  But the doctor refused to do so and continued to record the truth.  In response the commander ordered that his assistant, the nurse, Sister Juli a nineteen year old from Ruma be thrown into the punishment bunker.  She was a very beautiful young woman.  During the night, the commandant went to the bunker and raped her.  At her request, Dr. Ehlers examined her the next day and he noted the crime in his medical records.  Because of that he was ordered to appear before the commandant, who asked him to change his records.  Dr. Ehrlich refused to do so.  He would not falsify the truth.  He would not lie.  Immediately following his interview, he was taken out of the camp that evening.  At the same time the young nurse, Sister Juli was also taken.  The two of them were dragged to the banks of the Sava River.  There they were tortured in frightful ways and then towards morning they were butchered with knives.  Their bodies were thrown into the Sava.  But the bodies did not float away, but remained there by the river bank.  Their corpses had been decapitated.  Serbian civilians had witnessed this massacre.

      In the spring of 1947, the inmates of the camp were transferred to Jarek where they were housed in an old warehouse.  From among the many thousands who had been in the camp at Witrowitz only four hundred had survived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Vukovar

 

     Vukovar was an important Croatian city with a large German minority.  The city was occupied by the Partisans on April 12,1945.  On the very same day, the Partisans arrested all of the leading personalities if the area, including the teachers Michael Paitz, Jakob Kiefer and Leonhardt Baumgartner.  The arrested men were immediately shot.  Their liquidation was announced publicly the next day to the entire population.  The next day a new series of arrests and imprisonments began.  As a result one hundred and twenty men simply disappeared.  They were shot in the former German military camp grounds trenches.  Among the victims that day were the most important officials in the city, which included Matthias Schreckeis and the mayor, Ing. Turk.  Fathers of some of the Partisans were shot that day.  Three of them were driven on foot and forced to cross a minefield that tore them all apart with their explosions.  On the same day the plundering of homes and properties began.  Anything the Partisans wanted they took.  On one of the following days Martin Muller and Martin Hutz were publicly executed standing up against a wall and shot by a Partisan formation.  It was reported that guns had been found in their possession, one hidden in a wheelbarrow and the other buried in the garden.  In truth neither of them had any arms nor had they tried to hide them.  The finding of the guns was only a ruse.  On April 16th all of the inhabitants of the city had to report and indicate their nationality.  The intention of the registration was revealed on April 24th, when all persons who had claimed to be German, had to leave their homes and Vukovar that day.  A portion of those being expelled from the city were led down to the Danube and put on ships and sent to Palanka.  The group consisted of young mothers with children and old women.  From Palanka they were driven on foot to Jarek heading for the internment camp there.  The pace of the march had to be maintained by everyone or they were beaten.  One woman who could no longer go on, was beaten and shoved about by the Partisans, and fell into a ditch and broke her leg.  Without any consideration for her condition she had to come along and maintain the pace of the march.  She was helped along by some of the others.  Without counting the children, there were sixty-two persons in this group when they arrived in Jarek on May 1st.  After three and one half months only six of them were still alive.

 

     The second, and much larger group of the expellees from Vukovar on April 24th were taken to the Ovtschara-Puszta of Count Elz.  There were one hundred and sixty persons in this group.  At the end of May they were driven on foot to Jarek.

 

     A third group of those expelled on April 24th were taken to the Czech College on the Danube.  Not counting the children, there were some two hundred persons.  They would be the third group to be sent to Jarek later.

 

     Another group made up of able bodied women and men were assembled and were taken to Mitrowitz and Schid to work on railway construction.  They numbered two hundred persons.  After some time, almost worked to death and unable to work any further they were also brought to Jarek.  But the vast majority of them had succumbed and become victims while they were in Mitrowitz.  Only a few individuals survived and came to Jarek.  Of four brothers who had been sent to Mitrowitz only one came to Jarek and he died four days after his arrival. 

 

     On August 7th another sixty-two persons in Vukovar were driven out of their homes.  They were individuals who had claimed to be Croatians, even though they had German names.  About forty of them were brought to Jarek, and twenty were sent to Valpovo.  Only a few of them from Valpovo arrived in Jarek the next year.  Again in November another forty persons were taken to Valpovo.  From among them only a few individuals were able to survive.

 

     On January 4th an additional sixty persons were driven out of their homes and were driven to Valpovo.  Among them was the 76 year old Elisabeth Kleiber the benefactress of the community.  Years before she had established a large childrens’ orphanage at her own expense and continued to support and maintain it.  At the time she was expelled she was living in the orphanage and had entrusted all of her estate to its future.  This kind and generous woman, the friend of the poor, was dragged off to Valpovo, where she would die.  When the camp at Jarek was closed and the survivors were sent on to the camp at Kruschevlje, of the hundreds of Germans from Vukovar who had been brought to Jarek, only twelve persons were among them.  All of the others had perished.

 

 

Slavonia

 

     Esseg-Josipowatz

 

     Esseg (Osijek) is the capital city of Slavonia; it is an old military fortress city, and since the expulsion of the Turks had a large German population.  With the passage of time there was a gradual assimilation of the Germans with the Croatian population, but there was ongoing German influence on the life of the city.  But the large increase in the Croatian population also played a major role in lessening the German influence on Esseg.  In the previous decades an important German Catholic weekly newspaper, “Christliche Volkszeitung” had wide circulation both in Srem and Slavonia as well as the Batschka.  A much larger German population could be found in the vicinity, among which were some purely German villages and communities.  After the evacuation of the German troops from the area only a small proportion of the German population in the area remained behind.  But there was actually one transport that was retrieved by the Partisans in Austria and brought back to Yugoslavia.  The minority, who remained behind, still amounted to thousands and ended up in the camps at Valpovo and Josipowatz.  The total number of inmates at the Josipowatz camp began with four thousand persons, mostly women and children.  The youth of the children rich German families in Slavonia was totally annihilated.  Hunger and accompanying diseases made quick work of them.

      Valpovo

       The largest internment camp in Yugoslavia by far was in Valpovo.  There was a small German population in Esseg along the Danube, where it was almost submerged with the much larger Croatian population among whom they lived.

      The German population of Esseg and its vicinity, who had not been consigned to slave labour in Josipowatz, were expelled from their homes in May of 1945 and brought to Valpovo.  The number of inmates in the camp at the time was in the neighbourhood of some five thousand.  In the summer of 1945 a frightful typhus epidemic broke out in the camp, and claimed some three thousand victims.  In May of 1946 some of the inmates of the camp were brought to Esseg to stand on trial before the Peoples’ Court and were condemned to prison at Lepoglava for several years, and a smaller number were released.  About eight hundred persons were transferred to Rudolfsgnad and the camp in Valpovo was closed.

      Like all of the camps in Slavonia, this camp was not exclusively an internment camp. It involved a large number of able bodied workers, who made up at least half of the inmates and who served as slave labour.  As it was true throughout Slavonia, their methods here were brutal, but there was far less in the way of shootings and torture.  Here the objective was the quick death of thousands of persons through hunger to assure there could be no resistance, and make them susceptible to a host of fatal diseases.  The Partisan sentries adhered to the code, “Don’t murder any.  Just leave it to the cauldron to do the work for us.”  After May of 1945 the countless and often daily and weeklong detention in punishment cells, along with torture and abuse no longer took place.  There was only one case where a man was shot in the back of the neck for having left the camp and gone begging for food in the neighbouring village.

      Nutrition consisted of a breakfast, consisting of tea brewed from various kinds of leaves.  There was no sugar.  For lunch there was soup, in which you might find potato peelings or the pods from which beans were taken.  Otherwise it was clear water without lard or salt.  There was bread twice a day, about 15 Dekagrams.  It was baked out of barley or oats.  For shelter there were barracks, without windows, without heat, and without light.  Lice and fleas and other insects were everywhere among the three hundred inmates in each barrack.  They were also the cause of many of the illnesses and epidemics which followed and affected all of the inmates at one point or another.  Only after the inmates arrived from the city was there any effort made to control the lice and fleas, without any concern about those who were already ill.

      Valpovo, Semlin, Mitrowitz and Jarek were millstones whose task was to grind to death as many of the people as possible.  Once you were caught in it, few would be able to come out of it alive.  This quartet made complete and quick work of its victims.

 

      Djakovo


    Only a few Germans lived in the episcopal city Djakovo.  But in its surrounding territory there was a large German population.  The evacuation of the scattered German populations in Slavonia had been a difficult undertaking.  It is no wonder that in the area around Djakovo there were large numbers of Germans who had remained behind.  They were all taken to Krndija.  From among all of the camps in Slavonia this one earned its reputation for brutality.  Thousands of people were here on the shortest way to death, through hunger and disease.  From among almost four thousand inmates, after a short period of time, only eighteen hundred remained.


     Pisanitza

      Even in central Croatia, the Partisans established their extermination camps for the Germans.  In Pisanitza by Bjelovar they held thousands of them in a concentration camp.  The inmates came from Croatia, Slavonia and Srem.  Most of them had been evacuated but after the war was over they had returned home.  Among them were also families from the Wojwodina (Batschka).  On arriving in Agram (Zagreb), everything they had was taken away from them.  They had been given provisions and food from UNRRA and other relief organizations for their journey “home”.  This was all booty from the point of view of the Partisans who were only too happy to take it.  The treatment of the people in Pisanitza was such that one thousand persons died of hunger or its consequences.  In September of 1945 all young women and girls were ordered to report for assembly.  They had to submit themselves to an examination by the Partisans to determine whether they were carriers of sexually transmitted diseases and in the process many of them were sexually abused.


Baranya


     Belmonoschtor

      The small portion of Baranya that was at first part of the Wojwodina, was annexed to Croatia in the spring of 1945.  In the fall of 1944, the Partisans allied with the Red Army had gone far beyond the Yugoslavian border and had taken not only the Hungarian part of the Batschka as far as Baja, but also the Hungarian County of Baranya up to Pecs.  While they co-operated with the Red Army in the rounding up of the able bodied among the German population for slave labour in Russia in the Hungarian Batschka, in the Baranya the Partisans began with the arrests and internment of German civilians in concentration and slave labour camps.  This herding of the German population into camps in the Baranya resulted mostly after they had finished working on fortifying defensive positions for the Russian army, which had involved some 14,000 labourers from the Batschka.  Those from the Baranya, both men and women in these brigades were not released but interned in slave labour camps in the Batschka, overwhelmingly in Sombor.  Those who were not fit for work from among the German population from the vicinity of Bezdan on the other side of the Danube and the German villages and mixed villages in its vicinity were all taken to Gakovo.  In the Baranya the Hungarian assimilation process had been most effective and many of the families involved no longer spoke German and considered themselves to be Hungarians with German names.  The vast majority of the German population of Baranya were taken to the camp at Belmonoschtor (Beli Manastir).  There in its vicinity, close to Grabowatz, in the spring of 1945, thirty-six German persons, both men and women, who were too sick to work were shot.

      The Partisans set up their military government in Belmonoschtor and carried out a reign of terror on the local German population from there.  Countless German men, mostly intellectuals, including the local priest, Theodor Klein, the mayor Johann Seller, the innkeeper Franz Gunter, the merchant Wittmayer and his father-in-law Jakob Binder were all shot and were buried out in the fields.  They cut off pieces of Father Klein’s body while he was still alive and rubbed salt in his wounds.  They left him lying there in pain until he finally died.  The camp in Belmonoschtor was closed in the fall of 1946 and the surviving inmates were transferred to Tenje by Esseg.  On January 20th the camp in Tenje was also closed and the rest of the survivors were sent to Rudolfsgnad.

 

 

Die Deutschen in Syrmien, Slawonien, Kroatien und Bosnia

 By Valentin Oberkersch (Part Three) 

The Folk Group Organizations

 

  With the foundation of Swabian German Cultural Union (SDKB) in June 1920 in Neusatz, there were representatives from ten Syrmien and two Bosnian communities in attendance.  Slavonia was the only area of German settlement that was no represented.  The vast majority of members came from the Batschka, Banat and Syrmien.  The twenty member governing Council included four from Syrmien, Dr. Viktor Waidl (India), Prof. Josf Taubel (Putinici), Franz Mathies (Semlin) and Jakob Kettenbach the Lutheran pastor in Neudorf.

 

  By 1924 there were 128 community groups within the membership of the SDKB and 12 of the communities were located in Syrmien:  Semlin, India, Calma, Bezanjija, Erdewik, Neu Pasua, Surcin, Drenovic, Racinovci, Kertschedin, Beska and Mitrowitz.  The SDKB, however, was banned on April 23, 1924 by the Nationalist government because it was perceived to be a political motivated organization.  All of the local groups went out of existence and their assets were turned over to the community authorities, but that was not the case in India, which continued to carry out some of its programs.  But as the political situation changed by 1927 because of the numerous changes in government the SDKB was reconstituted and new local groups were permitted in Bosnia and Slavonia.  The head of the new organization was Johann Keks from the Banat and the governing Council was increased to thirty members including five representatives from Croatia-Slavonia and one from Bosnia.  The financial situation of the organization was desperate due to previous government action and interference.  In response to appeals to Germany for financial support to assist the “threatened” German communities in Syrmien, Slavonia, Bosnia and Slovenia resulted in the receipt of 6,000 Reich Marks from the VDA (Verein Die Deutschen in Ausland) (Organization for the Germans in Foreign Lands) and 3,000 Reich Marks from the German Foreign Ministry in 1927.  This sum would be donated annually by both German government agencies.

 

  With the coming of the Dictatorship in 1929, the SDKB had to change its constitution to avoid any activity that could be termed political.  By the end of 1937 there were ninety-one communities in Croatia-Slavonia that were within the membership of the SDKB.  (Hrastovac joined on April 5,1936, and Kapetanovo on February 22. 1936.)  There were also eight communities in Bosnia.  By 1941 all of the communities had a local group and carried out the program of the SDKB.

 

  The conflict created by Awender and the Renewal Movement had little or no effect in these regions with the exception of Ruma, where it attracted the attention of a lot of the younger sports federations.  But it did not lead to the kinds of confrontations that were taking place in other parts of the country.

  But despite that, the Renewal Movement would play a major role in the political situation that would emerge in Slavonia.  Unlike the Banat and the Batschka that were heavily populated by Danube Swabians and were not threatened with assimilation, Slavonia and Bosnia were sparsely settled by German populations and in most cases were assimilating with the Croatian population, and losing their identity much like the Swabians in Hungary who were undergoing strenuous efforts to Magyarize them within the next generation.

 

  In 1924, Viktor Wagner under the auspices of the VDA in Berlin visited the area and in his report on his return indicated, “In my many conversations I discovered that these Germans are absolutely without any leadership.  Each one of the farmers told me, “We are Germans and have always been Germans and want to remain Germans, but how can we remain Germans when nothing is done to help us.”  The German consul in Agram in 1928 wrote about the situation in the following terms:  “The number of Germans in Slavonia is not inconsiderable (I would estimate at least 60,000 persons) but because this region is so far unlike the Batschka and its large German population in closed settlements and communities, these are scattered and in mixed communities and their survival is threatened, it is only the Protestant clergy who encourage and support their flocks in their continued use of their language, while the Roman Catholic priests are totally opposed, all of whom come from Croatian Nationalist circles and work with great zeal to make Croats out of their parishioners.”

 

  In 1934 during the period when large numbers of local organizations were being founded in the communities of Slavonia, one of its own, Branimir Altgayer played a leading role and in December 1934 he was elected to the governing Council of the SDKB but became part of the opposition against expelling Awender and the renewers from the group.  Following their expulsion from the SDKB all local groups were told to distance themselves from Awender and his friends, but the local organizations in Essegg and Georgshof refused to do so citing their constitutional freedom to do so.  In December 1935 the two groups were both ordered to disband and quickly on the heels of that action an additional eighteen local organizations in Slavonia followed the lead of the two others and together they formed the KWVD (Cultural and Hiking Society of the Germans).  The government limited their activities to Slavonia and Baranya for they were quite content to see a weakening of the SDKB, while Altgayer fell under the sway of Awender and his deputy Josef Beer and took his orders from him.

 

  Following their constituting convention that was attended by over six hundred participants of whom two hundred and fifty were from Essegg and its surroundings,  Altgayer was given the assignment to recruit the farmers, trades people and labourers to the movement.  In the next two years, eighty-two local community chapters of the KWVD were organized in Slavonia.  (Hrastovac July 12, 1936 but in Kapetanovo they were unsuccessful.)  Communities in which the number of Germans was miniscule or a small portion of the population joined a group close by.  That was true of Antunovac.

 

  The relationships between the two rival organizations were hostile to say the least for the next two years before the two organizations merged at a national level and the situation in the communities was volatile if both groups had a local organization.  Friends, relatives and entire families were split.  Usually the differences were generational.  The union took place on October 30, 1938 when the KWVD joined the SDKB collectively.  As part of the union agreement Altgayer became the head of the SDKB in Slavonia, while Syrmien and Bosnia was under the leadership of Sepp Redinger one of the youth leaders of the SDKB.  Lichtenberger became head of the Youth organization and Josef Beer became the administrator of the SDKB.  And with the retirement of Keks from the presidency of the organization, Sepp Janko was elected to head the SDKB.  But this defacto take over by the Renewers took place in the midst of very difficult times for the organization.  The organization was mostly on paper.  During the times of the quarrels and disputes many of the members had fallen away or had become cynical and distanced themselves from the activities of the organization.  The financial situation above all was a total mess.  This situation to a great extent continued until the defeat and break-up of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1941.

 

The German Reich and Its Policy With Regard to German Minorities “Outside” Its Territories

 

  The VDA was the major organization in Germany that addressed itself to the linguistic and cultural identity of the German populations throughout Eastern Europe.  In their minds, the destiny of these populations was directly related to the destiny of the German State.  The VDA experienced a surge of support for its work and mandate and concerns in the mid 1920s.  New organizations also emerged in Germany in support of similar goals, especially in the cities.

 

  The Foreign Office co-operated and worked with the DVA.  National Folk Groups made contact with the DVA through the German ambassadors stationed in their countries.  Between 1930-1932 the efforts of the DVA were curtailed due to a lack of funds during the Depression.  But in the late 1920s groups formed within the framework and administration of the DVA that espoused political goals for the organization.  With the takeover by the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazis) in 1933, the DVA was a natural tool to be used to further Hitler’s policies of whatever was best for the German     Reich, or at least as he perceived it.  The DVA, in effect, was absorbed into the Nazi government structure.  Hitler placed the leadership and the issues related to the “outside” Germans in the hands of Rudolph Hess.  He and his staff had total responsibility for this area of activity.  The Gustav Adolphus Society of the Lutheran Church that also worked with the German diaspora abroad fought to maintain its autonomy but was hampered by constant surveillance, interference and restrictions.

 

  The DVA formed a Volksdeutsche Rat (Folk German Council), whose aim was to centralize the Nazi concerns and objectives of the new leadership: that although the Volksdeutsche were not citizens of the Reich they were participants in its national destiny and belonged to the same People and Blood.  (Translator’s note:  it is very difficult to convey the meaning of Volk, which means folk, but it has racial overtones and is all part of the Nazi myth of people, blood, race and superiority.)  To indicate its importance in the plans of the Third Reich its budget was increased from 3,000,000 Reich Marks in 1933 to 7,000,000 in 1934.  But the VDA found itself in opposition with the Hitler Jugend and the Ausland Organization (Foreign Organization) whose jurisdictions and goals were often at cross purposes with them.

 

  The Folk Groups, in various countries, were only too well aware of the internal conflicts of the Reich ministries and that often the ambassadors either favoured or opposed the work of the DVA.  Hess eventually asked Himmler for help and that led to the establishment of the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (Folk German Governing Office) the so-called VOMI.  SS Grüppenführer Werner Lorenz, an SS Police General was placed at its head, even though he had no experience or interest in the Volksdeutsche “Question” as it was known in Nazi circles.  Some of the leaders within the DVA were afraid of a takeover by the SS.  On July 2, 1938 Hitler in effect handed the DVA over to the VOMI.

 

  The Folk Groups throughout Eastern Euope could not deal with the government of the Reich without incurring difficulties with the government of their own country to whom they owed their loyalty.  The DVA, compared to the VOMI was a safer contact, and the officials were less obnoxious.  The VOMI now also worked hand in hand with the Foreign Office and its foreign policy.  With the outbreak of the war the task of the VOMI was to build up the Folk groups in the various nations and nurture them in the Nazi world-view and enlist them to the cause of the Third Reich.

  

The Relationship of the Churches with the German Folk Group

 

  Episcopal boundaries were also redrawn after the Treaty of Trianon in 1919, that led to the dismemberment of Hungary and the Danube Swabian Roman Catholics in the Batschka who numbered 165,000 and the 140,000 in the Banat were placed in new jurisdictions but none of the leadership positions were held by Danube Swabian priests.  In most cases the priests had been trained in Hungarian institutions and were often the vanguard of assimilation, and yet most of them had a command of the German language.  There would be some leading Roman Catholic clergy involved in the formation of local SDKB in their communities.  But such support by the priests was frowned upon by their Bishop, Lajco Budanovic and was brought to their attention and could result in a move to a different parish.

 

  There were approximately 125,000 Danube Swabian Roman Catholics in Syrmien, Slavonia, Croatia and Bosnia and found themselves in the diocese of Bishop Aksamovci who was an ardent Yugoslavian Nationalist.  Because their numbers were larger in Syrmien there were constant issues raised around the use of the German language in worship and in the schools.  They would always be informed that only those language rights that existed in the past could be continued and nothing new could be undertaken.  The vast majority of the clergy were advocates of “Croatian only.”  The Roman Catholics looked with envy at their Lutheran neighbours who maintained the German character of their worship and the German instruction that took place in their schools, along with their church libraries and publications from the Gustav Adolphus Society in Germany.

 

  In Slavonia the number of German speaking priests could be counted on the fingers of one hand and the episcopate was not prepared to accede to the wishes of their German- speaking parishioners.  Meanwhile the Lutheran pastors were preaching and teaching in German in their churches in those areas were German was forbidden to be taught in the Roman Catholic schools.

 

  It was only in 1930 after the SDKB made a breakthrough in recruiting members in West Syrmien and Slavonia that petitions circulated and were sent to the bishop in Djakovo requesting linguistic changes in church and school.  This is what they requested.

 

  The Gospel is to be read in German on Sundays and Feast Days.

  Once a month Mass be celebrated with German hymns and sermon.

  Religious instruction for children be conducted in German.

  The use of German when Latin is not required in the reception of the sacrament.

  Confession can be made in German.

  Permission to pray the Lord’s Prayer in German at the graveside of German Catholics.

 

  In Berak, where 70% of the population were German and paid the vast majority of the expenses of the parish the Bishop replied:

 

  “Certainly you Germans are the majority of the church members, that is why you also pay the majority of the costs of the parish.  But you must never forget that you live in Croatia where Croatian is spoken.  But you want to make Croatia part of Greater Germany and that cannot and will not happen.  I tell you, so long as one Croatian household remains in Berak, you will not be allowed to have German services.”

 

  They tried again in May 1938 and the Bishop sought the support of the government which only created unrest in the countryside and this time his response was:  “because of national considerations and the lack of German speaking priests I have to decline your requests.”  (The last quoted statement was actually a lie.)  When the German Bishop’s Conference was informed, Bishop William Berning of Osnabrück and also one of the “outside” Germans, indicated he would send priests to meet the needs of parishes in Yugoslavia, but none of the bishops requested any.  In the bishopric of Agram, this was also true in spite of the fact that the bishop was Ante Bauer…a fanatic Croatian.

 

  As early as 1924 there had been attempts to get permission to establish a Roman Catholic and Lutheran seminary in the Wojwodina.  The request was denied.  Even the German ambassador spoke to the papal nuncio who pointed out it was too late to begin such work since the vast majority of the population was totally assimilated.

 

  When it came to the Lutherans and Reformed both churches had different jurisdictions and relationships prior to the establishment of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.  They had to use considerable energy and resources to restructure themselves into a “national” church.  To their advantage, the Serbs were the majority in the new state and in “in charge”.  Relations between Protestants and Orthodox were always good unlike their relationships with the Roman Catholics.

  The Protestants were of various nationalities.  The Lutherans were German, Slovak, Magyar and Slovenes, while the Reformed were Magyars and Germans.  Even before 1918 there had been a “national” struggle among the Lutherans in Croatia-Slavonia.  But by 1920 at Neudorf the national church was established with two Seniorats, each with a bishop of its own nationality.  In effect there were two Church Districts:  one was Slovak, and the other “Evangelical”.  This second District consisted of 100,000 Germans, 18,000 Slovenes and 5,000 Mgyars.  The first president of this District was Adolf Wagner who was succeeded on his death by Dr. Philip Popp, pastor at Agram.

 

  All these church structures had to be ratified by the government.  In 1926 at Neu Werbass, Philip Popp was elected bishop and the following Seniorats were formed:  Banat, Batschka, Croatia-Slavonia, Upper Croatia, Slovenia, Belgrade and Bosnia.

 

  The Reformed Church was divided into four Seniorats:  East, Western, Northern and Southern.  The Southern Seniorat was made up German speaking congregations and the other three were Magyar in membership.

 

  The Protestants used German as the language of worship and education and administratively, but governmentally and officially used the Serbo-Croatian language.   The Slovenes and Magyars followed the same pattern in the use of their own languages.  Most pastors were trained in Germany and Austria and were the key representatives of the German communities.  Both churches received support from Germany and Switzerland, but chiefly from the Gustav Adophus Society.

  

The Further Development of the Folk Group Organization

 

  With the occupation and the partition of Yugoslavia, Dr. Sepp Janko sent off his agents to their new spheres of influence on “his behalf” as he put it.  These were really rather grandiose pretensions on his part.  There was no longer a Yugoslavia.  Croatia had declared its independence under the Ustaschi Facists.  The Lower Baranya and the Batschka had been annexed by Hungary, and the Banat was governed by the German Military.  Janko maintained his pretensions of “Führership” in the Banat.  He sent Branimir Altgayer to represent him in Croatia, Josef Meier in Slavonia and Sepp Redinger in Srymien and Bosnia.  After establishing themselves in their respective regions the group met in Essegg on April 13, 1941 a few days after the war ended.  Each one of them informed their provisional government that he was the Führer of the Folk Group in their territory.  Altgayer indicated that he had the assurance of Pavelic, the Ustaschi leader, that all of the rights and privileges of the German minority in Croatia would be honoured and guaranteed by law as soon as possible.  It actually occurred on Apirl 15, 1941.  On April 21st, his two other cronies, Meier and Redinger, were to be warmly embraced by Pavelic in Agram.  Pavelic later indicated that the two of them argued between themselves about their powers and jurisdictions and he suggested that they go and see the German ambassador to work things out.

 

  Altgayer went off to the VOMI in Berlin and got official sanction for his Führership.  He was informed that Meier and Redinger would be re-settled in Germany because of the embarrassment they had caused with Pavelic.  Altgayer was more than happy to be rid of Meier but wanted to retain the services of Redinger.  Eventually both were demoted, but allowed to remain.  One of the issues for Altgayer in establishing his Nazi fiefdom was the jurisdiction of eastern Syrmien.  Would it become part of “Greater Croatia” or not?  The people actually liked their current independent status and being occupied by German troops and had already been in close contact with the Folk Group “boss” in the Banat—Sepp Janko.  Himmler actually visited in the area as the local leaders of the Folk Group sought to stay out of the hands of the Croatians.  The German military also had designs on the area, while the government in Agram had already begun establishing the military and civilian government they had in mind for all of Syrmien.

 

  But Hitler stepped in and his decision was that all of Syrmien would revert back to Croatia as it had before 1918.  Pavelic and his henchmen made all of the right noises about the German minority and the rights of the Folk Group organization as they had promised Herr Hitler.

 

  Altgayer established headquarters for the leadership of the Folk Group in Essegg in close contact with the VOMI.  But the German ambassador wanted him in Agram where the government was located.  And now the Folk Group became the DVK (Deutsches Volkstgruppe in Kroatien) (German Folk Group in Croatia).  The first task was to put all of the little führers in place: men’s, women’s, youth.  Five districts were set up with their own little führers too.  But all was not well in terms of relationships with the Croatian government and resistance against some of the goals and objectives of the DVK.  They saw the Croatians as their enemies even though Nazism and the Ustaschi were heading in the same direction.  The message of Pavelic was becoming loud and clear, there was no room for anyone except Croatians in Croatia and no other ethnic group would be accepted.  That was not only directed against the German minority but also the Serbian population.  Pavelic’s feathers had been ruffled when the Germans allowed the Italians to occupy Dalmatia.  There was no smooth sailing ahead.

 

  But it was the Serbian question that first took centre stage.  Along with the Moslems, the Serbs made up half of the population.  The Serbian population looked to the German population to protect them from the German military, and also the Croatian government.  The Ustaschi units of Pavelic were the enemies of the Serbs in every way.  Their teacher from the past, Starcevic had taught them that there were no Serbs in Croatia; they were actually Croatians who through the past centuries when the Turks occupied all of Croatia, Slavonia and Bosnia had been forced in one way or another to convert to the Greek Orthodox Church.  The Serbs had to disappear from Croatia, if Croatia was to be for the Croatians.  That left them with three alternatives for dealing with the Serbs: expulsion, forced conversion and assimilation or extermination.  The last alternative of course their propagandists were quick to say was only theoretical, it was not really thinkable.  The plan for expulsion created other problems.  Would the Germans accept refugees in their territory?  The final solution was the mass conversation of the Serbian Orthodox population to Roman Catholicism and they would become “Croatians again.”  Pavelic even gained the support of the higher clergy and the papacy for his plan.  Beginning in the Fall of 1941 all officials were instructed to force the Serbian population to convert using whatever means that were necessary.  In many cases local German authorities refused to comply and ignored the order.  There were countless cases of the local Swabian population protecting the Serbs or protesting against the actions taken against them.  This led to quarrels and confrontations between Croatian police and the Danube Swabian populations.  When the massive extermination program got underway for Serbs who refused to convert, the Lutheran bishop Philip Popp ordered all of his pastors to issue baptismal certificates to all Serbs who asked for them, in order for them to save their lives and maintain their religious integrity.  One third of the Serbian population would perish in this preview of the holocaust to come for the Danube Swabians. 

 

  Despite the disagreements, two representatives of the DVK were allowed to sit in the Sabor—Altgayer and Gasteiger.  The Ustaschi and the Danube Swabians in Syrmien were in constant if not perpetual conflict.  Pavelic complained to the Reich about the activities and attitudes of the native German population as well as the German occupation forces because they tolerated the Serbs and protected the Orthodox population and thereby made themselves enemies of Croatia.  Even Tito’s Partisan press acknowledged that and even commended Bishop Popp for his actions.  Raids were carried out in several communities against the local German authorities in which several men were killed.  It was made to appear that their killings had been the work of the Partisans, when in fact it they were actually carried out by the Ustaschi.  In every sense of the word, the Ustaschi and the Roman Catholic Church drove the Serbians into the waiting arms of the Communist Partisans.

  

Re-settlement and Emigration

 

  From the beginning of the Partisan War in the summer of 1941 it was clear that the Danube Swabian communities in Bosnia were in constant danger and could not be protected.  Some had already been re-settled in the area around India in Syrmien.  As matters got worse in Bosnia others were re-settled in Syrmien as well.  Other communities were occupied or surrounded by Partisans while those who lived in the isolated communities sought refuge in the larger settlements.  There was the recognition that they had to move and farmers as well as artisans and skilled workers and their families chose to leave for Germany.  It goes without saying that there were countless Germans who lost their lives at the hands of the Partisans.

 

  It was obvious that the German settlers had to leave Bosnia and Himmler wanted to carry out the transfer as quickly as possible.  If he had his way the entire German population in Bosnia would be re-settled in Germany in August 1942.  The local leaders were afraid to oppose the VOMI and they did not want to have to deal with the Croatians.  On September 30, 1942 an agreement was signed between the Reich and Croatian government to re-settle all of the Germans south of the Sava River with four exceptions and all of those north of the river.  By November 13, 1942 the re-settlement of the Bosnia Germans was completed and 18, 360 persons were at a camp near Lodz in Poland while others were scattered across the Reich.  They were to be placed in the homes confiscated from their Polish owners who had been driven from the area.  They were evacuated in the spring of 1944 to Alsace as the Eastern Front began to crumble.  Himmler was not totally satisfied with the re-settlement of the Bosnia Germans.  He saw himself as having the task of dealing with all the Folk Germans personally, within the Reich borders.  His interests then turned to the re-settlement of the Croatian Germans.

 

  Lorenz of the VOMI and his undersecretary in the Foreign Office, Martin Luther set in motion the plan to re-settle 150,000 Germans in Croatia, mostly in Slavonia and Syrmien.  But uttermost in their minds was the recruitment of at least 5,000 volunteers for the Waffen-SS.

 

  But such a re-settlement could have adverse psychological affects on the rest of the German populations in South-Eastern Europe.  So that Rippentrop and Hitler needed to discuss the matter.  The DVK asked for re-consideration of the issue after the war because a re-settlement at this time would create a great wave of unrest among the Danube Swabian population.

 

  The total re-settlement was officially shelved, but the Foreign Office indicated a partial re-settlement was necessary in certain areas, like Bosnia where there were still some Germans and western Slavonia by January of 1943.  The re-settlement of the Bosnian Germans had a great impact on the Danube Swabians in Hungary, and the Magyars as well as the Roman Catholic Church made capital out of it and won many to their point of view.

 

  Western Slavonia’s German communities were “young,” scattered and small and very hard to defend against Partisan bands.  Their economic value was also slight and a re-settlement would not be a major action.  Because of transport needs and arrangements in Germany necessary for such a move it was more expedient to move them into nearby Syrmien.  The VOMI was highly influenced in their decision by the Folk Group leaders with regard to this issue.  It also had to be acceptable to the Croatian government that was totally opposed to a mass migration because of the effect on morale.

 

  Things did not improve in Slavonia in 1943, Partisan attacks increased and casualties among the Swabians mounted.  Murders and kidnappings became common.  By the end of 1943 Berlin and the Folk Group leaders agreed that the communities in East Syrmien and the Sava and Drava must be evacuated.  The task to carry out the evacuation would be undertaken by special troops.  They would have to contend with Partisan actions such as hostage taking and as a defence against army action in their area.

 

  About 25,000 Danube Swabians from thirty communities were evacuated to more secure areas, but it made them look bad in the eyes of the Croatians who demanded that they stay and help fight against the Partisans.  Most of the evacuees were women and children and the elderly.

 

  Here is a typical report of an isolated Swabians community, Cacinci:

 

  “On October 2, 1943 the Partisans attacked the area from three sides.  The battle lasted thirty hours.  Because of the superior fire power of the Partisans and the lack of outside help, the brave defenders, the Croatian military and the German Home Guard suffered many casualties and had to give up the area.  Two men and four women from among the Swabian population lost their lives.  As the battle ended the Partisans began to plunder and the burn the German homes.  Many German women and children were driven into the yard of the Brenner family, where for many hours they had to listen to a speech while their homes were broken into and robbed.  German men who had been unable to escape, hid themselves.  Many of them were discovered and assembled together.  They were questioned, interrogated and severely abused.  Ten of them were taken away and three simply disappeared.  Many soldiers and policemen were killed in a farmyard.  The Germans left in the area now lived in terror and fear.”

 

  The VOMI was well aware of the situation.  Croatian troops were not able to defend the refugees.  There were unable to house and feed them and became more and more unfriendly to the German population.

 

  On April 13, 1944 after hassles between the ambassador, the Foreign Office, the VOMI and Himmler, the order to evacuate the threatened Swabian population was given.  On April 18, 1944 Lorenz sent a telegram to Essegg to this effect:

 

  “The Germans in these areas are in danger day and night.  The Croatian government is in no position to provide the necessary protection and therefore their evacuation is absolutely necessary.”

 

  By now some 1,500 men were missing or killed and the Partisans harassed Germans in the villages and let the Serbs and Croatians alone.  German families with men in the Waffen-SS were especially targeted and threatened and plundered.

 

  The next phase of the evacuation was the removal of 8,000 refugees who had fled their former communities, but they were unable to leave with the first transports because of a lack of military protection and over 6,000 of them were left behind.

 

  The evacuations were begun again on December 18, 1943 that included 3,593 persons who had fled or been driven from their home communities.  After this date a carefully planned evacuation took place in 49 villages of Slavonia including:  Georgshof, Spisic-Bukovica, Djulaves, Borova, Cabuna, Suhopolje, Bacevac, Budanica, Pcelic, Kapan-Antonsdorf, Presac, Novaki, Lukatsch, Weretz, Vocin, Adolfsdorf, Cdiglenik, Vaska, Budakovac, Ciganka, Neu-Bukowitz, Eralije, Drenovac, Johannesberg, Mikleus, Slatina, Jaksic, Rajsavac, Trestonovac, Kula-Josefsfeld,  Porec-Josefsdorf, Kaptol, Veotovo, Grabic, Fericanci, Cacinci, Bankovci. Ve;olo Bidalpvac. Cadkavacki Lug,.Podravska Moslavina, Viljevo, Kucanci, Golinci, Pridvorje, Drenje, Mandicevac, Drenjski Slatnik, Babina Gora, Radosavci and Tominovac.  In addition Obrez and Grabovci in Syrmien were also part of the evacuation of 16,613 persons.  In all 20,206 persons left their homeland behind.

 

  To assist in this massive action there were 184 soldiers and officers assigned, along with 14 nurses and 81 men from the labour forces to act as drivers.  The trek also included 3,100 cows, 7,200 pigs, 260 sheep, and 3,800 horses in addition to household furniture, food and fodder.  Those who decided to remain behind for the harvest would leave for Germany in the Fall of 1944.

  

The Military Situation

 

  The military in the Reich was chiefly interested in the manpower resources of the Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans).  In eastern Syrmien at India the Waffen-SS established a recruitment centre for volunteers during May and June of 1941.  In effect it was call-up of certain age groups and those who would not serve voluntarily were released and sent back home.

 

  In mid-July 1941 an officer of the Waffen-SS contacted the Führer of the Deutschenmannschaft (The Men’s Association of the SDKB) in the Banat, Michael Reiser and told him that his orders were to set up a regiment of Swabians from the Banat, Hungary and Croatia.  Nothing came of this because the German ambassador in Belgrade opposed it.

 

  August 6, 1941 Ribbentrop declared the same thing only now it was to be a larger formation consisting of men only from the Banat to fight Bolshevism.  The question of military service for the Danube Swabians in Croatia was literally up for grabs.  Consideration was given for German formations in the Croatian Army, but the question of language for use in command was a stickler.  In the summer of 1941 the Foreign Office and the VOMI were in touch with the Croatian military but were unsuccessful in their attempts to win concessions and Altgayer played a leading role in the discussions.  An agreement was reached September 16, 1941 in which it was stipulated that in terms of members of the DVK called up into the Croatian Army, ten per cent of every age group called up to do military service could chose to serve in the German armed forces and such service would be in fulfillment of their national service.  All kinds of concessions and safeguards to maintain the German-ness of the conscripts in the Croatian Army were included in the agreement.

 

  The military forces of the Croatian Army consisted of the regular army units and the Ustaschi brigades.  Himmler needed more canon fodder after the disasters in Russia and was not content with his ten per cent of the take of the Danube Swabaians of military age in Croatia.  He especially detested those “pacifists among the Folk Germans who sat around at home.”  But the German ambassador in Agram did all he could to hinder the Swabians from joining the Waffen-SS.  In order to avoid service in the second rate Croatian Army or serve with the fanatic Ustaschi, Swabians volunteered to serve in the Prince Eugene Waffen-SS in place of the quota of ten per cent.  Their families were also assured of support while they served.

 

  By July 1942, Himmler was on the German ambassador’s case with regard to the further recruitment for the Waffen-SS in Croatia.  In August 1942 Himmler had pushed his agenda so that the Foreign Office capitulated and took his position of “open” recruitment of the Danube Swabians of Croatia.  The Ambassador still stood in the way and pushed for the option that they could serve in the Croatian Army to avoid repercussions with the Ustaschi government.

 

  As far as Hitler was concerned an evacuation of the German military anywhere was “defeatist” regardless of the situation and must be avoided at all costs.  Finally on September 21, 1942 the German ambassador gave in and delivered a note to the Croatian government with these terms:

 

  All able bodied German men in the Independent State of Croatia born between 1907 and 1925 would serve in the German Army or Waffen-SS and receive citizenship in the Reich for such service.  Secondly, the Croatian state would recognize the rights and citizenship of the families of those serving in the German Armed Forces.  The financial support of the families of the men who were recruited would be provided by the German government.  Thirdly, the recruitment program would be carried out by the DVK leadership and a commission of the Waffen-SS.

 

  This note was sent without the knowledge of the Foreign Office.  All of the points were acceptable to the Croatian government with the addition of the care of the families of those men in the Wehrmacht as well as the Waffen-SS and the re-settlement of all such persons and their families to the Reich after the war was over.  The agreement was dated October 10, 1942.

 

  Mustering began on August 30, 1942 (even before the exchange of notes had taken place) and ended November 26, 1942.  Other recruitment drives followed.  The mustering was not carried out fully in Hrastovac because of a Partisan raid.  In all, 27,357 reported of whom 20,760 were accepted into the military.  Up until November 28, 1942 there were 31 transports of recruits to SS training camps in Germany in Breslau and Berlin, Auschwitz in Poland, Prague in the Czech Protectorate and Pantschowa in the Banat.  On December 8, 1942 transport numbers 32 and 33 left.  The Waffen-SS got between 6,000 and 7,000 men.  Only about two per cent of the men failed to show up for the transports.

 

  But arguments between Himmler at the VOMI and the Foreign Office continued and the ambassador in Agram never ceased to oppose the actions.  Ribbentrop and Himmler fought again and again, while Altgayer waited in the wings to see which way the wind was blowing and what opportunities might present themselves for his benefit.

 

  At the end of February 1943 the mustering of men born from 1908 to 1925 was begun.  Some 5,000 to 6,000 men were selected for the Prince Eugene Division.  Out of a population of 150,000 there were 25,800 men in the armed forces and of these 7,000 would end up killed in action or missing.  Many of the deaths occurred in prisoner of war camps after the war.  A large number of those in the Prince Eugene Division were captured by the Partisans in Unter Steiermark and ten days after the war’s end many of them were murdered along with Reich troops and Croatians.  The survivors were marched from Slovenia to the Romanian border to the mines at Bor.  One third of them men died on the march.  Tito’s right hand man Milovan Djilas reports on all of this but had no idea of the numbers involved.  It did not matter.  They were enemies.  Who would even care?

 

The German Settlements and the Partisan War

 

  Syrmien with its thick forests was a natural hiding place for the Partisans.  After June 21, 1941 small groups of Communist youth fled to the forests.  Soon their acts of sabotage announced their presence.

 

  The German population sympathized with the Serbian population and got into conflict with the Ustaschi and the Swabians were seen as a hindrance to their campaign against the Partisans.  The Partisans called for an uprising in the Spring of 1942.

 

  Individual acts of murder and kidnapping of German farmers began and increased as more and more Serbs left to join the Partisan bands.  Ustaschi units carried out atrocities against the Serbian population and the Danube Swabians in many places sought to protect them especially the women and children whenever possible.  This was markedly so in Syrmien where Germans formed a majority of the population in some areas.

 

  Partisan attacks began in Slavonia some time later.  This was because the Serbian population in this area were a small minority.  The attacks here were directed against the Germans, especially the small and scattered communities.  First major attacks and raids began in the Spring of 1942.  Most of the attacks were to secure food and supplies.

 

  The western areas of Slavonia had the next series of raids.  Klein Bastaji was attacked March 15, 1942 and one German youth and a Croat were shot to death and several persons were kidnapped.  June 5th the Partisans returned.  The Defence League with only a few weapons was unable to drive them off.  Three German men died, fifteen were kidnapped, of whom four were later able to escape.  The community centre and the Lutheran prayer house defended by the pastor were both burned to the ground.  The homes were plundered.  Their cattle and livestock were driven away.  A Ustaschi unit came to the village the same day, shot four Serbian men and one woman and drove the rest of the Serbian population to the nearby provincial capital of Daruvar.  The Serbs were later freed, but no word was ever heard again of the men who had been kidnapped.

 

  The raids reached a highpoint in 1943 despite German and Croatian Army operations against them in Syrmien.  Murders, killings multiplied.  Raids at battalion strength easily overran the defences of small villages and towns.  The people of Hrastovac were encouraged to go to eastern Syrmien for re-settlement.

 

  In 1944 the situation was better because all of the small and scattered groups of Swabians were in re-settled areas of population concentration that were easier to defend.  In Syrmien recent campaigns against the Partisans had been successful and they had split up into smaller groups.  By mid 1943 there had been a total of 267 deaths among the Danube Swabian population including men, women and children and the Home Defence Leagues in the villages had lost 356 dead and missing, mostly young teenage boys and elderly men.  By January 13, 1944 the figures were 563 killed and 353 kidnapped and missing (both civilians and Home Defence League).

  

The Evacuation

 

  With the capitulation of Romania in the summer of 1944 the Red Army was breaking into the Danubian plains and if Croatia fell, the Danube Swabians would be caught between the Ustaschi and the Partisans.  Some of the Swabians still believed in a German victory, others turned to their Serbian and Croatian neighbours for support.

 

  The plans for an evacuation were completed by September 1944.  Everyone now claims to be responsible for it, trying to cast the best light on their actions.  This was especially true of Altgayer and Gasteiger in their faulty recollections of the events that followed.  Whatever the case may have been, it required the support of the Reich ministries.  On September 11th it was Gasteiger who flew to Berlin to get the official seal of approval.  He was denied access to all of the important personages at the VOMI.  He then went to the Foreign Office and three hours later he was informed that the Folk Group in Croatia could be evacuated.  When he returned to Agram and met with the other DVK leaders he had a hard time convincing them that he had received permission to proceed.  On the morning of September 10, 1944 the German ambassador telegraphed the Foreign Office for instructions.  Official word finally came on September 25, 1944 to proceed with the evacuation if the DVK leadership felt there was a danger and threat to the German population.

 

  On October 3, 1944 the head of the evacuation, Kammerhofer, informed the leadership in Essegg that he had received orders for the evacuation to begin.  The plan called for the evacuation of eastern Syrmien, to be followed later by western Syrmien.  Because the evacuation plans were secret and the population was not prepared to leave, the notice to evacuate was so sudden that they had no time to pack and prepare their horses and wagons for the long trek ahead of them.  The weather was cold and wet and rain would persist for the flight through Hungary and often they would spend their nights out in the open and the horses and wagons had great difficulty in the mountains of Austria and the heavy snowfall slowed down the long columns of refugees.

 

  The first to leave were the people from Neu Slankamens.  Without a warning of any kind, on the night of October 3rd and 4th a telephone call was made by the District DVK leadership in India informing the local authorities to immediately open certain secret orders in their possession and to carry out the instructions without question.  The orders for evacuation were very specific and were to be carried out even if there was opposition on the part of the population.  The trek was to leave on the morning of October 4th at 9:00 am.  “Every family was allowed to take only one wagon.  Farmers who possessed two or more wagons had to surrender them to families that had none.  If there were still insufficient wagons, the German military stationed there could requisition wagons and horses from the Serbian inhabitants of the village.”  The wagon trek left Semlin-Franztal on October 5th; Neu Pasua and Neu Banovci left on October 6th.  On October 9th it was India’s turn to leave followed by Beschka and Kertshedin on the 10th.

 

  While the evacuation was in full swing in eastern Syrmien, Kasche the ambassador, Kammerhofer and Altgayer met in Essegg for discussions on October 3rd to the 5th.  At this meeting they made more detailed plans and called for specific actions to be taken in order to avoid panic that could get in the way of the war effort in the area.  The three areas that were to be evacuated were specified:  eastern Syrmien the region east of Mitrowitz, western Syrmien including the neighbouring eastern Slavonian communities and eventually Essegg and the surrounding area.  The evacuees were to be divided into two groups.  The first group consisted of mothers with children under the age of fifteen, the sick, those unable to march, wives and families of those men serving in the Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS and police.  The second group consisted of everyone else.  Providing food, supplies, provisions and determining the routes to take were also the concern Kammerhofer and Altgayer.  The German ambassador was upset when he discovered that the evacuation was already underway prior to clearance by him and with the approval of Berlin.  He saw it as a defeatist act and how on earth could he explain that to the Croatian government?  He complained to the Foreign Office but it was already too late.  The panic they had anticipated did not take place.  In Ceric when the Swabians were ordered to leave a service was held at the church including the Croatian population that prayed for their brothers and sisters leaving on their momentous journey.  The Croatians by and large were fearful of what all of this would mean for them in the coming days.

 

  The wagon treks were guarded against Partisan attack, but none occurred, not even in Partisan controlled territory.  The first wagon treks headed towards Essegg, they then crossed the Danube and left Croatia behind.  They went on to Pecs, Segitvar, the Balaton and then on to Sopron and Austria.  The eastern Syrmien communities were evacuated in two weeks; some left by rail; others on the Danube ships to Mohacs and others found transportation with the German Army.  The combined treks involved up to fifteen thousand wagons and horses.  Some of the men accompanying the treks were kept behind at the Hungarian border for enlistment into the German Army.

 

  The last trek left on October 31, 1944 from Sarwasch and crossed the Drava bridge at Essegg that day.  In most cases the Swabians left “voluntarily” although some tried to return home but were prevented from doing so.  But among the urban Germans more than half of the population remained.  Most wagon treks were on the roads for one to two months.  The ambassador in Agram informed Ribbentrop, that as of January 9, 1945 the evacuation of the Swabians in Croatia was completed and that 110,000 had been evacuated.  It is estimated that approximately 90% of the German population in Croatia was evacuated.  That would hardly be true in all of the other areas of the Danube Swabian settlements in the rest of Yugoslavia, Romania or Hungary.

    

Partisan Treatment of the Swabians Who Remained Behind

 

  There was a large proportion of the Swabian population who remained behind who did not participate in the evacuation from Syrmien-Slavonia numbering between 10,000 to 20,000 persons.  Most of them felt that they had nothing to fear.  They had been honest, hard working people and had paid their taxes.  Many expected to be protected by their Slavic friends and neighbours.  It had been the same during the First World War.

 

  But there were obvious signs that this was a pipe dream.  Fear was dependent upon the degree of German-ness they had displayed, i.e. membership in the DVK.  The Partisans on their part, both the Royalists and Tito’s Communists had announced that all of the non-loyal minorities would be expelled following the war.  This was especially true in the north including the Swabians, Hungarians and Romanians.  The Serbians were on an anti-minority crusade, which included the Croatians.  Tito’s forces certainly gave the Swabians in Croatia an idea of what to expect during their raids and attacks throughout the war.  There was no question of their feelings and intent and it was no wonder that such a large proportion of the Swabian population participated in the evacuation.

 

  The occupation of eastern Syrmien by the Partisans and Russians occurred after taking Belgrade without a fight.  A Syrmien Front was established from Brcko-Vukovar and there was heavy fighting between the Partisans and the Waffen-SS Division Prince Eugene that lasted a few months.  The German troops eventually retreated and crossed the Sava River and fled to the west.  The Partisans took Brcko on April 7th and Vinkovci on April 13, 1945.

 

  Local units of Serbians were recruited from the surrounding communities whose chief goal was to plunder the homes and properties of the evacuated Swabians that had been left unoccupied.  Most of them did this secretly and the majority of them were young people.  There were isolated cases of rape and numerous beatings of Swabians.  In a few days “Narodni Odbori” (Partisan governments) were established and placed in charge.  They now proceeded to organize the plundering.

 

  In India on October 22, 1944 close to midnight a Partisan unit under the leadership of a Serb from Vojka occupied the town.  On the 24th all of the Swabians were ordered to report at the town hall that day.  On October 28th most of the men were arrested and taken to the former Hungarian school, which was also later the assembly point for men taken from smaller communities in the area:  Slankamen, Kertschedin and Beschka.  Among them were also several soldiers:  Germans, Croatians and Hungarians.  The prisoners were interrogated and tortured at night.  The murders and killings began in the school and outside of the building.  In the town of India itself two Swabian women were beaten in public.  After a short release the men were re-arrested on November 8th and 11th.  On November 11th seven of the Swabian men, one Croat and a Serb were driven on foot to the neighbouring village of Alt Pasua.  Here they had to dig their own graves and were later machine gunned down.  Gypsies then took control with axes in their hands to make sure that all of them were dead.  They smashed the heads of each man.  On November 12th a total of 64 men, women and children were driven out of the town on foot to the local garbage dump where they were murdered in the most gruesome manner.  On the 18th more murders took place in India and this time the victims were the elderly of whom only eight could be identified afterwards.

 

  In Semlin and Franztal all of the Swabians were ordered to report to the Salt Office or they would be shot.  As always the Swabians were obedient to the authorities and reported with only a few exceptions.  Of those who reported, with only a few exceptions, were killed.  There were 242 identified victims.  They were taken at night to the banks of the Danube River and killed and their bodies were tossed into the river.  Those who had not been included, mostly elderly men and women were taken to the first concentration camp for Danube Swabians in Syrmien, at Semlin-Kalvarija (Calvary).   Their crime in effect was that they were Germans.  The number of inmates in the camp from Semlin and Franztal who died there numbered 118 persons including Franz Moser who had been a member of the Croatian parliament in 1912.

 

  In November 1944 both people from India and a portion of the surviving Swabians from the surrounding area were all force marched to the camp at Kalvarija which was some 50 kilometres away, where almost all of them died of hunger.  There was another concentration camp for Danube Swabians at Sajmiste where Germans from the Banat and the Batschka were interned.

 

  The camp Kalvarija was closed down in September 1945, and the survivors were taken to Bezanija to the camp at Mitrowitz.  On April 14, 1946 all of the remaining Swabians in Semlin and Franztal were arrested and taken to Mitrowitz.  A list of the names of those who died there included 75 persons from Semlin and Franztal and another 114 civilians from the two communities died in various other Yugoslavian concentration camps, prisons and were killed in private homes.

 

  In Ruma, men, women and children were imprisoned in the “Hrvatsi Dom” (Croatian House) along with Swabians from other villages in the area.  They were taken in groups to the brickyards and upon arriving there they were either shot or gruesomely murdered and their bodies were thrown into a deep pit among whom some were still alive.  In one day 2,800 Swabians died in this way.  Many other Swabians in Ruma were shot individually, beaten to death or stabbed and slaughtered with knives.

 

  To give all of this a cloak of legality, the Anti-Fascist Council for the Liberation of Yugoslavia passed appropriate laws on November 21, 1944 taking away the citizenship and human rights of the Danube Swabians and the right to confiscate all of their assets and property.  They had no defence or court of appeal because they belonged to the “German Folk Group.”

 

  With the secession of fighting on the Syrmien Front, western Syrmien and Slavonia fell into the hands of the Partisans as well as the remaining Swabian population.  With the fall of the Third Reich on May 9, 1945 the refugees and evacuees from Yugoslavia who were now in the Russian Zone of Austria were encouraged to go back home by the Austrian officials and the Soviet military.  If they did not do so they would no longer receive ration cards.  There were other restrictions that were introduced to encourage them to leave.  On the other hand there were others who simply wanted to go home and needed no prodding to do so.  This was also true in various areas of Germany where the refugees had ended up. Several train transports left Germany and Austria for Yugoslavia and some wagon treks also set out from the eastern and southern Steiermark in Austria.   A portion of these transports came across Hungary, while others crossed directly from Austria.  It was only the first of these transports that were accepted by the Yugoslavian authorities and the others were turned back and refused entry.

 

  Those who had come by way of Hungary were immediately locked up in a factory in Subotica and they were robbed of everything they had except for what they were wearing.  After a short period of time they were taken to the concentration camp at Sekitsch and from there those unable to work were taken to the camps at Krusevlje and Gakovo.  Some of the evacuees from eastern Syrmien were among them.

 

  The same thing was also true for those returning home from Germany and Austria by train crossing the border into Slovenia.  None of them ever saw their homes again.  Only one of the wagon treks made it home, but before they could even enter their pillaged houses in Jarmina they were taken to the concentration camp at Josipovac.  Those who had been on the train transports were robbed of everything and badly abused and eventually ended up in the camp at Mitrowitz.

 

  By the end of 1945 Mitrowitz-Svilara (Silk Factory) became the central camp for the Danube Swabian population in Syrmien and various other areas.  This camp would become one of the most horrendous of the concentration camps for the German population of Yugoslavia.  At this point there were 1,000 persons: women, children and men.  The three groups were separated from one another.  The children could not remain with their mothers.  The lack of food, heat and unhygienic conditions in the winter of 1945 and 1946 resulted in countless deaths.  Whole families died out in a matter of weeks.  In the warmer months of the year some internees were better off.  Those who were able to work were “sold” to the mines or farmers for a fee payable to the camp officials.  This actually saved the lives of many of them as on the outside they received better rations.  Even the sick volunteered to do slave labour.

 

  The Swabians in those communities taken by the Partisans after the Syrmien Front collapsed in May and June of 1945 were taken to the new established just for them:  Josipovac-Oberjosefdorf.  It was here where the Danube Swabians from the following villages and towns were interned:  Essegg, Vukovar, Vinkovci, Djakovo and the villages in their vicinity.  Facilities for the prisoners were few and far between and many women had to camp out under the sky.  Unlike Mitrowitz they were not cut off from the outside world, and that may have been the basis for sending the internees to Austria later.  In July 1945, one of these transports was allowed to enter Austria by the British.  Also in Josipovac the people who were able to work were employed outside the camp.  But the condition of those unable to work deteriorated so that three quarters of the prisoners were sick with dysentery.  On July 10, 1945 the camp and its inmates were moved to Valpovo.

 

  The internees had to walk all of the way, many of them were sick and water was forbidden and it was terribly hot and a survivor describes how miserable they looked.  In Valpovo it was hunger and dysentery that claimed countless victims.  Pastor Peter Fischer describes the situation in these words:

 

  “The camp consisted of ten wooden barracks in terrible shape.  Three thousand persons had to be put up in them.  Even though we occupied space in two shifts there was still not enough room to accommodate everyone.  So some of us had to find a place under the barracks or between them.  The misery got especially worse whenever it rained.”

 

  Food was almost non-existent.  Cleanliness was impossible under the circumstances and so all kinds of diseases were spread among the people.  Five to ten persons died each day.  The dead were buried naked without coffins.  Typhus epidemics were common and resulted in a huge death rate due to a lack of medication and proper care of any kind.  The camp in Valpovo was closed down in May 1946.  In January of that same year there were a total of 3,000 internees and the number of deaths up to that point was 1,967 persons.

 

  On July 22, 1945 another train transport with overcrowded cattle cars was sent to Austria.  The British refused to accept delivery of the packed train and sent them back.  They had travelled for three weeks in all.  For two weeks they were at the camp in Gross-Pisanitz in Croatia imprisoned in the out of doors.  Many died here exposed to rain and cold, sunstroke, hunger, illness and the sound of constant gunfire over their heads.  Many of those who died were children.  The survivors were now taken in the direction of Essegg.  This time in open wagons, facing rain and hail on the way.  On August 15, 1945 the transport arrived in the death camp at Krndija.

 

  This once German village had been turned into a concentration camp to accommodate the Danube Swabian population.  The highest number of inmates at any given time was 3,000 persons.  This number was in constant flux as victims died and new victims arrived to take their place.  A breakout of typhus was first reported in January.  From August 15, 1945 to mid May 1946 there were 1,300 deaths.  In May 1946 internees were released if they had relatives outside.  The survivors of Valpovo and Krndija were sent to Podunavlje in the Lower Baranya, which in turn was closed down on August 27, 1946.  The inmates were sent to the camp at Tenje, which was closed January 20, 1947.  Two transports of Danube Swabians were sent to Austria from Tenje.  Those left at Tenje were sent to Rudolphsgnad in the Banat.  It was an extermination camp.

 

  Eventually many of the survivors ended up at the camps in Gakowa and Krusevlje which were located close to the Hungarian border and were later not hard to escape from and then they fled across Hungary.  Crossing into Austria was again illegal as well as the borders between Austria and Germany, but countless Swabians were successful in making their escape and flight to freedom.  In the early months of 1948 the remaining camps were closed.  Those who had survived wanted to leave the country as quickly as possible, although now the Yugoslavs had need of them for their labour and were willing to pay for it.  The Red Cross attempted to re-unite families, although Yugoslavian officialdom was not very helpful.  The cost of a passport to leave Yugoslavia rose from 1,500 Dinars to 12,000 in a short period of time, but the migration continued.  Today only a few thousand persons of German origin continue to live in Syrmien, Slavonia, Croatia and Bosnia.

 

  When the Croatian government fled from Agram to Austria in May 1945, Altgayer went with them.  The Lutheran bishop, Philip Popp remained in Agram with those in his   congregation who were unable to be evacuated, after first calling upon his pastors to join the evacuation if their congregations did, if not, they were to remain behind with them.  They all concurred throughout Yugoslavia with each pastor suffering his own fate whether in the labour camps in the Soviet Union or the extermination camps of Tito.  The Partisans occupied Agram on May 9, 1945.  Now a savage bloodbath took place against the Croatian “collaborators” and any Germans they could lay their hands on.  Bishop Popp was arrested at the end of May 1945 after sending his wife and son to seek asylum in the Swedish embassy.  A show trial followed and he was sentenced to death, but over 1,000 local citizens signed a petition to free the bishop.  On June 29, 1945 the first and only bishop of the Lutheran Church in Yugoslavia was executed by a firing squad.

 

  Following the capitulation of the Third Reich and the occupation of Austria by the Allied Armies most of the prominent members of the Folk Group leadership who had all managed to escape were in the British Zone of occupation in Carinthia and the Steiermark.  These Folk Group leaders and others were interned by the British at Wolfsberg and included Altgayer and Janko as well as the German ambassador Kasche and their closest associates.  Altgayer and Kasche were turned over to the Communist powers that be in Yugoslavia by the British on September 30, 1946.  Following a series of prolonged show trails both men were condemned to death.  Kasche was hung along with the leading Croatian Ustaschi leaders and Altgayer was shot.  Janko, however, managed to escape from Wolfsberg but was tried in abstentia in Yugoslavia and condemned to death, but he had found refuge in Brazil where he lives to this day.  (Translator’s Note:  Sepp Janko and his deputy Josif Beer are best known for their final declaration to the Danube Swabians in the Banat:  We will stay!  This was their response to the fact that the Red Army was already entering the eastern Banat and countless evacuation treks were ready to set out at a moment’s notice, which would have saved the lives of thousands upon thousands of Danube Swabians.  While their declaration was being spread abroad throughout the Banat to remain, they were packing and were among the last to get across the Danube bridges out of harm’s way.  Only a few of the local Folk Group leaders disobeyed the order and led their treks out of the Banat and saved the lives of their people from the holocaust that was to come.)

 

Die Deutschen in Syrmien, Slawonien, Kroatien und Bosnia

 By Valentin Oberkersch (Part Three) 

The Folk Group Organizations

 

  With the foundation of Swabian German Cultural Union (SDKB) in June 1920 in Neusatz, there were representatives from ten Syrmien and two Bosnian communities in attendance.  Slavonia was the only area of German settlement that was no represented.  The vast majority of members came from the Batschka, Banat and Syrmien.  The twenty member governing Council included four from Syrmien, Dr. Viktor Waidl (India), Prof. Josf Taubel (Putinici), Franz Mathies (Semlin) and Jakob Kettenbach the Lutheran pastor in Neudorf.

 

  By 1924 there were 128 community groups within the membership of the SDKB and 12 of the communities were located in Syrmien:  Semlin, India, Calma, Bezanjija, Erdewik, Neu Pasua, Surcin, Drenovic, Racinovci, Kertschedin, Beska and Mitrowitz.  The SDKB, however, was banned on April 23, 1924 by the Nationalist government because it was perceived to be a political motivated organization.  All of the local groups went out of existence and their assets were turned over to the community authorities, but that was not the case in India, which continued to carry out some of its programs.  But as the political situation changed by 1927 because of the numerous changes in government the SDKB was reconstituted and new local groups were permitted in Bosnia and Slavonia.  The head of the new organization was Johann Keks from the Banat and the governing Council was increased to thirty members including five representatives from Croatia-Slavonia and one from Bosnia.  The financial situation of the organization was desperate due to previous government action and interference.  In response to appeals to Germany for financial support to assist the “threatened” German communities in Syrmien, Slavonia, Bosnia and Slovenia resulted in the receipt of 6,000 Reich Marks from the VDA (Verein Die Deutschen in Ausland) (Organization for the Germans in Foreign Lands) and 3,000 Reich Marks from the German Foreign Ministry in 1927.  This sum would be donated annually by both German government agencies.

 

  With the coming of the Dictatorship in 1929, the SDKB had to change its constitution to avoid any activity that could be termed political.  By the end of 1937 there were ninety-one communities in Croatia-Slavonia that were within the membership of the SDKB.  (Hrastovac joined on April 5,1936, and Kapetanovo on February 22. 1936.)  There were also eight communities in Bosnia.  By 1941 all of the communities had a local group and carried out the program of the SDKB.

 

  The conflict created by Awender and the Renewal Movement had little or no effect in these regions with the exception of Ruma, where it attracted the attention of a lot of the younger sports federations.  But it did not lead to the kinds of confrontations that were taking place in other parts of the country.

  But despite that, the Renewal Movement would play a major role in the political situation that would emerge in Slavonia.  Unlike the Banat and the Batschka that were heavily populated by Danube Swabians and were not threatened with assimilation, Slavonia and Bosnia were sparsely settled by German populations and in most cases were assimilating with the Croatian population, and losing their identity much like the Swabians in Hungary who were undergoing strenuous efforts to Magyarize them within the next generation.

 

  In 1924, Viktor Wagner under the auspices of the VDA in Berlin visited the area and in his report on his return indicated, “In my many conversations I discovered that these Germans are absolutely without any leadership.  Each one of the farmers told me, “We are Germans and have always been Germans and want to remain Germans, but how can we remain Germans when nothing is done to help us.”  The German consul in Agram in 1928 wrote about the situation in the following terms:  “The number of Germans in Slavonia is not inconsiderable (I would estimate at least 60,000 persons) but because this region is so far unlike the Batschka and its large German population in closed settlements and communities, these are scattered and in mixed communities and their survival is threatened, it is only the Protestant clergy who encourage and support their flocks in their continued use of their language, while the Roman Catholic priests are totally opposed, all of whom come from Croatian Nationalist circles and work with great zeal to make Croats out of their parishioners.”

 

  In 1934 during the period when large numbers of local organizations were being founded in the communities of Slavonia, one of its own, Branimir Altgayer played a leading role and in December 1934 he was elected to the governing Council of the SDKB but became part of the opposition against expelling Awender and the renewers from the group.  Following their expulsion from the SDKB all local groups were told to distance themselves from Awender and his friends, but the local organizations in Essegg and Georgshof refused to do so citing their constitutional freedom to do so.  In December 1935 the two groups were both ordered to disband and quickly on the heels of that action an additional eighteen local organizations in Slavonia followed the lead of the two others and together they formed the KWVD (Cultural and Hiking Society of the Germans).  The government limited their activities toSlavonia and Baranya for they were quite content to see a weakening of the SDKB, while Altgayer fell under the sway of Awender and his deputy Josef Beer and took his orders from him.

 

  Following their constituting convention that was attended by over six hundred participants of whom two hundred and fifty were from Essegg and its surroundings,  Altgayer was given the assignment to recruit the farmers, trades people and labourers to the movement.  In the next two years, eighty-two local community chapters of the KWVD were organized in Slavonia.  (Hrastovac July 12, 1936 but in Kapetanovo they were unsuccessful.)  Communities in which the number of Germans was miniscule or a small portion of the population joined a group close by.  That was true of Antunovac.

 

  The relationships between the two rival organizations were hostile to say the least for the next two years before the two organizations merged at a national level and the situation in the communities was volatile if both groups had a local organization.  Friends, relatives and entire families were split.  Usually the differences were generational.  The union took place on October 30, 1938 when the KWVD joined the SDKB collectively.  As part of the union agreement Altgayer became the head of the SDKB in Slavonia, while Syrmien and Bosnia was under the leadership of Sepp Redinger one of the youth leaders of the SDKB.  Lichtenberger became head of the Youth organization and Josef Beer became the administrator of the SDKB.  And with the retirement of Keks from the presidency of the organization, Sepp Janko was elected to head the SDKB.  But this defacto take over by the Renewers took place in the midst of very difficult times for the organization.  The organization was mostly on paper.  During the times of the quarrels and disputes many of the members had fallen away or had become cynical and distanced themselves from the activities of the organization.  The financial situation above all was a total mess.  This situation to a great extent continued until the defeat and break-up of theKingdom ofYugoslavia in 1941.

 

The German Reich and Its Policy With Regard to German Minorities “Outside” Its Territories

 

  The VDA was the major organization in Germany that addressed itself to the linguistic and cultural identity of the German populations throughout Eastern Europe.  In their minds, the destiny of these populations was directly related to the destiny of the German State.  The VDA experienced a surge of support for its work and mandate and concerns in the mid 1920s.  New organizations also emerged inGermany in support of similar goals, especially in the cities.

 

  The Foreign Office co-operated and worked with the DVA.  National Folk Groups made contact with the DVA through the German ambassadors stationed in their countries.  Between 1930-1932 the efforts of the DVA were curtailed due to a lack of funds during the Depression.  But in the late 1920s groups formed within the framework and administration of the DVA that espoused political goals for the organization.  With the takeover by the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazis) in 1933, the DVA was a natural tool to be used to further Hitler’s policies of whatever was best for the German     Reich, or at least as he perceived it.  The DVA, in effect, was absorbed into the Nazi government structure.  Hitler placed the leadership and the issues related to the “outside” Germans in the hands of Rudolph Hess.  He and his staff had total responsibility for this area of activity.  The Gustav Adolphus Society of theLutheranChurch that also worked with the German diaspora abroad fought to maintain its autonomy but was hampered by constant surveillance, interference and restrictions.

 

  The DVA formed a Volksdeutsche Rat (Folk German Council), whose aim was to centralize the Nazi concerns and objectives of the new leadership: that although the Volksdeutsche were not citizens of the Reich they were participants in its national destiny and belonged to the same People and Blood.  (Translator’s note:  it is very difficult to convey the meaning of Volk, which means folk, but it has racial overtones and is all part of the Nazi myth of people, blood, race and superiority.)  To indicate its importance in the plans of the Third Reich its budget was increased from 3,000,000 Reich Marks in 1933 to 7,000,000 in 1934.  But the VDA found itself in opposition with the Hitler Jugend and the Ausland Organization (Foreign Organization) whose jurisdictions and goals were often at cross purposes with them.

 

  The Folk Groups, in various countries, were only too well aware of the internal conflicts of the Reich ministries and that often the ambassadors either favoured or opposed the work of the DVA.  Hess eventually asked Himmler for help and that led to the establishment of the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (Folk German Governing Office) the so-called VOMI.  SS Grüppenführer Werner Lorenz, an SS Police General was placed at its head, even though he had no experience or interest in the Volksdeutsche “Question” as it was known in Nazi circles.  Some of the leaders within the DVA were afraid of a takeover by the SS.  On July 2, 1938 Hitler in effect handed the DVA over to the VOMI.

 

  The Folk Groups throughout Eastern Euope could not deal with the government of the Reich without incurring difficulties with the government of their own country to whom they owed their loyalty.  The DVA, compared to the VOMI was a safer contact, and the officials were less obnoxious.  The VOMI now also worked hand in hand with the Foreign Office and its foreign policy.  With the outbreak of the war the task of the VOMI was to build up the Folk groups in the various nations and nurture them in the Nazi world-view and enlist them to the cause of the Third Reich.

  

The Relationship of the Churches with the German Folk Group

 

  Episcopal boundaries were also redrawn after the Treaty of Trianon in 1919, that led to the dismemberment of Hungary and the Danube Swabian Roman Catholics in the Batschka who numbered 165,000 and the 140,000 in the Banat were placed in new jurisdictions but none of the leadership positions were held by Danube Swabian priests.  In most cases the priests had been trained in Hungarian institutions and were often the vanguard of assimilation, and yet most of them had a command of the German language.  There would be some leading Roman Catholic clergy involved in the formation of local SDKB in their communities.  But such support by the priests was frowned upon by their Bishop, Lajco Budanovic and was brought to their attention and could result in a move to a different parish.

 

  There were approximately 125,000 Danube Swabian Roman Catholics in Syrmien, Slavonia, Croatia and Bosnia and found themselves in the diocese of Bishop Aksamovci who was an ardent Yugoslavian Nationalist.  Because their numbers were larger in Syrmien there were constant issues raised around the use of the German language in worship and in the schools.  They would always be informed that only those language rights that existed in the past could be continued and nothing new could be undertaken.  The vast majority of the clergy were advocates of “Croatian only.”  The Roman Catholics looked with envy at their Lutheran neighbours who maintained the German character of their worship and the German instruction that took place in their schools, along with their church libraries and publications from the Gustav Adolphus Society inGermany.

 

  In Slavonia the number of German speaking priests could be counted on the fingers of one hand and the episcopate was not prepared to accede to the wishes of their German- speaking parishioners.  Meanwhile the Lutheran pastors were preaching and teaching in German in their churches in those areas were German was forbidden to be taught in the Roman Catholic schools.

 

  It was only in 1930 after the SDKB made a breakthrough in recruiting members in West Syrmien and Slavonia that petitions circulated and were sent to the bishop in Djakovo requesting linguistic changes in church and school.  This is what they requested.

 

  The Gospel is to be read in German on Sundays and Feast Days.

  Once a month Mass be celebrated with German hymns and sermon.

  Religious instruction for children be conducted in German.

  The use of German when Latin is not required in the reception of the sacrament.

  Confession can be made in German.

  Permission to pray the Lord’s Prayer in German at the graveside of German Catholics.

 

  In Berak, where 70% of the population were German and paid the vast majority of the expenses of the parish the Bishop replied:

 

  “Certainly you Germans are the majority of the church members, that is why you also pay the majority of the costs of the parish.  But you must never forget that you live in Croatia where Croatian is spoken.  But you want to make Croatia part of Greater Germany and that cannot and will not happen.  I tell you, so long as one Croatian household remains in Berak, you will not be allowed to have German services.”

 

  They tried again in May 1938 and the Bishop sought the support of the government which only created unrest in the countryside and this time his response was:  “because of national considerations and the lack of German speaking priests I have to decline your requests.”  (The last quoted statement was actually a lie.)  When the German Bishop’s Conference was informed, Bishop William Berning of Osnabrück and also one of the “outside” Germans, indicated he would send priests to meet the needs of parishes in Yugoslavia, but none of the bishops requested any.  In the bishopric of Agram, this was also true in spite of the fact that the bishop was Ante Bauer…a fanatic Croatian.

 

  As early as 1924 there had been attempts to get permission to establish a Roman Catholic and Lutheran seminary in the Wojwodina.  The request was denied.  Even the German ambassador spoke to the papal nuncio who pointed out it was too late to begin such work since the vast majority of the population was totally assimilated.

 

  When it came to the Lutherans and Reformed both churches had different jurisdictions and relationships prior to the establishment of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.  They had to use considerable energy and resources to restructure themselves into a “national” church.  To their advantage, the Serbs were the majority in the new state and in “in charge”.  Relations between Protestants and Orthodox were always good unlike their relationships with the Roman Catholics.

  The Protestants were of various nationalities.  The Lutherans were German, Slovak, Magyar and Slovenes, while the Reformed were Magyars and Germans.  Even before 1918 there had been a “national” struggle among the Lutherans in Croatia-Slavonia.  But by 1920 at Neudorf the national church was established with two Seniorats, each with a bishop of its own nationality.  In effect there were two Church Districts:  one was Slovak, and the other “Evangelical”.  This second District consisted of 100,000 Germans, 18,000 Slovenes and 5,000 Mgyars.  The first president of this District was Adolf Wagner who was succeeded on his death by Dr. Philip Popp, pastor at Agram.

 

  All these church structures had to be ratified by the government.  In 1926 at Neu Werbass, Philip Popp was elected bishop and the following Seniorats were formed:  Banat,Batschka,Croatia-Slavonia, Upper Croatia,Slovenia,Belgrade andBosnia.

 

  The Reformed Church was divided into four Seniorats:  East, Western, Northern and Southern.  TheSouthern Seniorat was made up German speaking congregations and the other three were Magyar in membership.

 

  The Protestants used German as the language of worship and education and administratively, but governmentally and officially used the Serbo-Croatian language.   The Slovenes and Magyars followed the same pattern in the use of their own languages.  Most pastors were trained in Germany and Austria and were the key representatives of the German communities.  Both churches received support fromGermany andSwitzerland, but chiefly from the Gustav Adophus Society.

  

The Further Development of the Folk Group Organization

 

  With the occupation and the partition of Yugoslavia, Dr. Sepp Janko sent off his agents to their new spheres of influence on “his behalf” as he put it.  These were really rather grandiose pretensions on his part.  There was no longer a Yugoslavia.  Croatia had declared its independence under the Ustaschi Facists.  The Lower Baranya and the Batschka had been annexed by Hungary, and the Banat was governed by the German Military.  Janko maintained his pretensions of “Führership” in the Banat.  He sent Branimir Altgayer to represent him in Croatia, Josef Meier in Slavonia and Sepp Redinger in Srymien and Bosnia.  After establishing themselves in their respective regions the group met in Essegg on April 13, 1941 a few days after the war ended.  Each one of them informed their provisional government that he was the Führer of the Folk Group in their territory.  Altgayer indicated that he had the assurance of Pavelic, the Ustaschi leader, that all of the rights and privileges of the German minority in Croatia would be honoured and guaranteed by law as soon as possible.  It actually occurred on Apirl 15, 1941.  On April 21st, his two other cronies, Meier and Redinger, were to be warmly embraced by Pavelic in Agram.  Pavelic later indicated that the two of them argued between themselves about their powers and jurisdictions and he suggested that they go and see the German ambassador to work things out.

 

  Altgayer went off to the VOMI in Berlin and got official sanction for his Führership.  He was informed that Meier and Redinger would be re-settled in Germany because of the embarrassment they had caused with Pavelic.  Altgayer was more than happy to be rid of Meier but wanted to retain the services of Redinger.  Eventually both were demoted, but allowed to remain.  One of the issues for Altgayer in establishing his Nazi fiefdom was the jurisdiction of eastern Syrmien.  Would it become part of “Greater Croatia” or not?  The people actually liked their current independent status and being occupied by German troops and had already been in close contact with the Folk Group “boss” in the Banat—Sepp Janko.  Himmler actually visited in the area as the local leaders of the Folk Group sought to stay out of the hands of the Croatians.  The German military also had designs on the area, while the government in Agram had already begun establishing the military and civilian government they had in mind for all of Syrmien.

 

  But Hitler stepped in and his decision was that all of Syrmien would revert back to Croatia as it had before 1918.  Pavelic and his henchmen made all of the right noises about the German minority and the rights of the Folk Group organization as they had promised Herr Hitler.

 

  Altgayer established headquarters for the leadership of the Folk Group in Essegg in close contact with the VOMI.  But the German ambassador wanted him in Agram where the government was located.  And now the Folk Group became the DVK (Deutsches Volkstgruppe in Kroatien) (German Folk Group in Croatia).  The first task was to put all of the little führers in place: men’s, women’s, youth.  Five districts were set up with their own little führers too.  But all was not well in terms of relationships with the Croatian government and resistance against some of the goals and objectives of the DVK.  They saw the Croatians as their enemies even though Nazism and the Ustaschi were heading in the same direction.  The message of Pavelic was becoming loud and clear, there was no room for anyone except Croatians in Croatia and no other ethnic group would be accepted.  That was not only directed against the German minority but also the Serbian population.  Pavelic’s feathers had been ruffled when the Germans allowed the Italians to occupy Dalmatia.  There was no smooth sailing ahead.

 

  But it was the Serbian question that first took centre stage.  Along with the Moslems, the Serbs made up half of the population.  The Serbian population looked to the German population to protect them from the German military, and also the Croatian government.  The Ustaschi units of Pavelic were the enemies of the Serbs in every way.  Their teacher from the past, Starcevic had taught them that there were no Serbs in Croatia; they were actually Croatians who through the past centuries when the Turks occupied all of Croatia, Slavonia and Bosnia had been forced in one way or another to convert to the Greek Orthodox Church.  The Serbs had to disappear from Croatia, if Croatia was to be for the Croatians.  That left them with three alternatives for dealing with the Serbs: expulsion, forced conversion and assimilation or extermination.  The last alternative of course their propagandists were quick to say was only theoretical, it was not really thinkable.  The plan for expulsion created other problems.  Would the Germans accept refugees in their territory?  The final solution was the mass conversation of the Serbian Orthodox population to Roman Catholicism and they would become “Croatians again.”  Pavelic even gained the support of the higher clergy and the papacy for his plan.  Beginning in the Fall of 1941 all officials were instructed to force the Serbian population to convert using whatever means that were necessary.  In many cases local German authorities refused to comply and ignored the order.  There were countless cases of the local Swabian population protecting the Serbs or protesting against the actions taken against them.  This led to quarrels and confrontations between Croatian police and the Danube Swabian populations.  When the massive extermination program got underway for Serbs who refused to convert, the Lutheran bishop Philip Popp ordered all of his pastors to issue baptismal certificates to all Serbs who asked for them, in order for them to save their lives and maintain their religious integrity.  One third of the Serbian population would perish in this preview of the holocaust to come for the Danube Swabians. 

 

  Despite the disagreements, two representatives of the DVK were allowed to sit in the Sabor—Altgayer and Gasteiger.  The Ustaschi and the Danube Swabians in Syrmien were in constant if not perpetual conflict.  Pavelic complained to the Reich about the activities and attitudes of the native German population as well as the German occupation forces because they tolerated the Serbs and protected the Orthodox population and thereby made themselves enemies of Croatia.  Even Tito’s Partisan press acknowledged that and even commended Bishop Popp for his actions.  Raids were carried out in several communities against the local German authorities in which several men were killed.  It was made to appear that their killings had been the work of the Partisans, when in fact it they were actually carried out by the Ustaschi.  In every sense of the word, the Ustaschi and the Roman Catholic Church drove the Serbians into the waiting arms of the Communist Partisans.

Re-settlement and Emigration

 

  From the beginning of the Partisan War in the summer of 1941 it was clear that the Danube Swabian communities in Bosnia were in constant danger and could not be protected.  Some had already been re-settled in the area around India in Syrmien.  As matters got worse in Bosnia others were re-settled in Syrmien as well.  Other communities were occupied or surrounded by Partisans while those who lived in the isolated communities sought refuge in the larger settlements.  There was the recognition that they had to move and farmers as well as artisans and skilled workers and their families chose to leave for Germany.  It goes without saying that there were countless Germans who lost their lives at the hands of the Partisans.

 

  It was obvious that the German settlers had to leave Bosnia and Himmler wanted to carry out the transfer as quickly as possible.  If he had his way the entire German population in Bosnia would be re-settled in Germany in August 1942.  The local leaders were afraid to oppose the VOMI and they did not want to have to deal with the Croatians.  On September 30, 1942 an agreement was signed between the Reich and Croatian government to re-settle all of the Germans south of the Sava River with four exceptions and all of those north of the river.  By November 13, 1942 the re-settlement of the Bosnia Germans was completed and 18, 360 persons were at a camp near Lodz in Poland while others were scattered across the Reich.  They were to be placed in the homes confiscated from their Polish owners who had been driven from the area.  They were evacuated in the spring of 1944 to Alsace as the Eastern Front began to crumble.  Himmler was not totally satisfied with the re-settlement of the Bosnia Germans.  He saw himself as having the task of dealing with all the Folk Germans personally, within the Reich borders.  His interests then turned to the re-settlement of the Croatian Germans.

 

  Lorenz of the VOMI and his undersecretary in the Foreign Office, Martin Luther set in motion the plan to re-settle 150,000 Germans in Croatia, mostly in Slavonia and Syrmien.  But uttermost in their minds was the recruitment of at least 5,000 volunteers for the Waffen-SS.

 

  But such a re-settlement could have adverse psychological affects on the rest of the German populations in South-Eastern Europe.  So that Rippentrop and Hitler needed to discuss the matter.  The DVK asked for re-consideration of the issue after the war because a re-settlement at this time would create a great wave of unrest among the Danube Swabian population.

 

  The total re-settlement was officially shelved, but the Foreign Office indicated a partial re-settlement was necessary in certain areas, like Bosnia where there were still some Germans and western Slavonia by January of 1943.  The re-settlement of the Bosnian Germans had a great impact on the Danube Swabians inHungary, and the Magyars as well as the Roman Catholic Church made capital out of it and won many to their point of view.

 

  Western Slavonia’s German communities were “young,” scattered and small and very hard to defend against Partisan bands.  Their economic value was also slight and a re-settlement would not be a major action.  Because of transport needs and arrangements in Germany necessary for such a move it was more expedient to move them into nearby Syrmien.  The VOMI was highly influenced in their decision by the Folk Group leaders with regard to this issue.  It also had to be acceptable to the Croatian government that was totally opposed to a mass migration because of the effect on morale.

 

  Things did not improve in Slavonia in 1943, Partisan attacks increased and casualties among the Swabians mounted.  Murders and kidnappings became common.  By the end of 1943 Berlin and the Folk Group leaders agreed that the communities in East Syrmien and the Sava and Drava must be evacuated.  The task to carry out the evacuation would be undertaken by special troops.  They would have to contend with Partisan actions such as hostage taking and as a defence against army action in their area.

 

  About 25,000 Danube Swabians from thirty communities were evacuated to more secure areas, but it made them look bad in the eyes of the Croatians who demanded that they stay and help fight against the Partisans.  Most of the evacuees were women and children and the elderly.

 

  Here is a typical report of an isolated Swabians community, Cacinci:

 

  “On October 2, 1943 the Partisans attacked the area from three sides.  The battle lasted thirty hours.  Because of the superior fire power of the Partisans and the lack of outside help, the brave defenders, the Croatian military and the German Home Guard suffered many casualties and had to give up the area.  Two men and four women from among the Swabian population lost their lives.  As the battle ended the Partisans began to plunder and the burn the German homes.  Many German women and children were driven into the yard of the Brenner family, where for many hours they had to listen to a speech while their homes were broken into and robbed.  German men who had been unable to escape, hid themselves.  Many of them were discovered and assembled together.  They were questioned, interrogated and severely abused.  Ten of them were taken away and three simply disappeared.  Many soldiers and policemen were killed in a farmyard.  The Germans left in the area now lived in terror and fear.”

 

  The VOMI was well aware of the situation.  Croatian troops were not able to defend the refugees.  There were unable to house and feed them and became more and more unfriendly to the German population.

 

  On April 13, 1944 after hassles between the ambassador, the Foreign Office, the VOMI and Himmler, the order to evacuate the threatened Swabian population was given.  On April 18, 1944 Lorenz sent a telegram to Essegg to this effect:

 

  “The Germans in these areas are in danger day and night.  The Croatian government is in no position to provide the necessary protection and therefore their evacuation is absolutely necessary.”

 

  By now some 1,500 men were missing or killed and the Partisans harassed Germans in the villages and let the Serbs and Croatians alone.  German families with men in the Waffen-SS were especially targeted and threatened and plundered.

 

  The next phase of the evacuation was the removal of 8,000 refugees who had fled their former communities, but they were unable to leave with the first transports because of a lack of military protection and over 6,000 of them were left behind.

 

  The evacuations were begun again on December 18, 1943 that included 3,593 persons who had fled or been driven from their home communities.  After this date a carefully planned evacuation took place in 49 villages of Slavonia including:  Georgshof, Spisic-Bukovica, Djulaves, Borova, Cabuna, Suhopolje, Bacevac, Budanica, Pcelic, Kapan-Antonsdorf, Presac, Novaki, Lukatsch, Weretz, Vocin, Adolfsdorf, Cdiglenik, Vaska, Budakovac, Ciganka, Neu-Bukowitz, Eralije, Drenovac, Johannesberg, Mikleus, Slatina, Jaksic, Rajsavac, Trestonovac, Kula-Josefsfeld,  Porec-Josefsdorf, Kaptol, Veotovo, Grabic, Fericanci, Cacinci, Bankovci. Ve;olo Bidalpvac. Cadkavacki Lug,.Podravska Moslavina, Viljevo, Kucanci, Golinci, Pridvorje, Drenje, Mandicevac, Drenjski Slatnik, Babina Gora, Radosavci and Tominovac.  In addition Obrez and Grabovci in Syrmien were also part of the evacuation of 16,613 persons.  In all 20,206 persons left their homeland behind.

 

  To assist in this massive action there were 184 soldiers and officers assigned, along with 14 nurses and 81 men from the labour forces to act as drivers.  The trek also included 3,100 cows, 7,200 pigs, 260 sheep, and 3,800 horses in addition to household furniture, food and fodder.  Those who decided to remain behind for the harvest would leave forGermany in the Fall of 1944.

The Military Situation

 

  The military in the Reich was chiefly interested in the manpower resources of the Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans).  In eastern Syrmien at India the Waffen-SS established a recruitment centre for volunteers during May and June of 1941.  In effect it was call-up of certain age groups and those who would not serve voluntarily were released and sent back home.

 

  In mid-July 1941 an officer of the Waffen-SS contacted the Führer of the Deutschenmannschaft (The Men’s Association of the SDKB) in the Banat, Michael Reiser and told him that his orders were to set up a regiment of Swabians from the Banat, Hungary and Croatia.  Nothing came of this because the German ambassador inBelgrade opposed it.

 

  August 6, 1941 Ribbentrop declared the same thing only now it was to be a larger formation consisting of men only from the Banat to fight Bolshevism.  The question of military service for the Danube Swabians in Croatia was literally up for grabs.  Consideration was given for German formations in the Croatian Army, but the question of language for use in command was a stickler.  In the summer of 1941 the Foreign Office and the VOMI were in touch with the Croatian military but were unsuccessful in their attempts to win concessions and Altgayer played a leading role in the discussions.  An agreement was reached September 16, 1941 in which it was stipulated that in terms of members of the DVK called up into the Croatian Army, ten per cent of every age group called up to do military service could chose to serve in the German armed forces and such service would be in fulfillment of their national service.  All kinds of concessions and safeguards to maintain the German-ness of the conscripts in the Croatian Army were included in the agreement.

 

  The military forces of the Croatian Army consisted of the regular army units and the Ustaschi brigades.  Himmler needed more canon fodder after the disasters in Russia and was not content with his ten per cent of the take of the Danube Swabaians of military age in Croatia.  He especially detested those “pacifists among the Folk Germans who sat around at home.”  But the German ambassador in Agram did all he could to hinder the Swabians from joining the Waffen-SS.  In order to avoid service in the second rate Croatian Army or serve with the fanatic Ustaschi, Swabians volunteered to serve in the Prince Eugene Waffen-SS in place of the quota of ten per cent.  Their families were also assured of support while they served.

 

  By July 1942, Himmler was on the German ambassador’s case with regard to the further recruitment for the Waffen-SS in Croatia.  In August 1942 Himmler had pushed his agenda so that the Foreign Office capitulated and took his position of “open” recruitment of the Danube Swabians of Croatia.  The Ambassador still stood in the way and pushed for the option that they could serve in the Croatian Army to avoid repercussions with the Ustaschi government.

 

  As far as Hitler was concerned an evacuation of the German military anywhere was “defeatist” regardless of the situation and must be avoided at all costs.  Finally on September 21, 1942 the German ambassador gave in and delivered a note to the Croatian government with these terms:

 

  All able bodied German men in the Independent State of Croatia born between 1907 and 1925 would serve in the German Army or Waffen-SS and receive citizenship in the Reich for such service.  Secondly, the Croatian state would recognize the rights and citizenship of the families of those serving in the German Armed Forces.  The financial support of the families of the men who were recruited would be provided by the German government.  Thirdly, the recruitment program would be carried out by the DVK leadership and a commission of the Waffen-SS.

 

  This note was sent without the knowledge of the Foreign Office.  All of the points were acceptable to the Croatian government with the addition of the care of the families of those men in the Wehrmacht as well as the Waffen-SS and the re-settlement of all such persons and their families to the Reich after the war was over.  The agreement was dated October 10, 1942.

 

  Mustering began on August 30, 1942 (even before the exchange of notes had taken place) and ended November 26, 1942.  Other recruitment drives followed.  The mustering was not carried out fully in Hrastovac because of a Partisan raid.  In all, 27,357 reported of whom 20,760 were accepted into the military.  Up until November 28, 1942 there were 31 transports of recruits to SS training camps in Germany in Breslau and Berlin, Auschwitz in Poland, Prague in the Czech Protectorate and Pantschowa in the Banat.  On December 8, 1942 transport numbers 32 and 33 left.  The Waffen-SS got between 6,000 and 7,000 men.  Only about two per cent of the men failed to show up for the transports.

 

  But arguments between Himmler at the VOMI and the Foreign Office continued and the ambassador in Agram never ceased to oppose the actions.  Ribbentrop and Himmler fought again and again, while Altgayer waited in the wings to see which way the wind was blowing and what opportunities might present themselves for his benefit.

 

  At the end of February 1943 the mustering of men born from 1908 to 1925 was begun.  Some 5,000 to 6,000 men were selected for the Prince Eugene Division.  Out of a population of 150,000 there were 25,800 men in the armed forces and of these 7,000 would end up killed in action or missing.  Many of the deaths occurred in prisoner of war camps after the war.  A large number of those in the Prince Eugene Division were captured by the Partisans in Unter Steiermark and ten days after the war’s end many of them were murdered along with Reich troops and Croatians.  The survivors were marched from Slovenia to the Romanian border to the mines at Bor.  One third of them men died on the march.  Tito’s right hand man Milovan Djilas reports on all of this but had no idea of the numbers involved.  It did not matter.  They were enemies.  Who would even care?

 

The German Settlements and the Partisan War

 

  Syrmien with its thick forests was a natural hiding place for the Partisans.  After June 21, 1941 small groups of Communist youth fled to the forests.  Soon their acts of sabotage announced their presence.

 

  The German population sympathized with the Serbian population and got into conflict with the Ustaschi and the Swabians were seen as a hindrance to their campaign against the Partisans.  The Partisans called for an uprising in the Spring of 1942.

 

  Individual acts of murder and kidnapping of German farmers began and increased as more and more Serbs left to join the Partisan bands.  Ustaschi units carried out atrocities against the Serbian population and the Danube Swabians in many places sought to protect them especially the women and children whenever possible.  This was markedly so in Syrmien where Germans formed a majority of the population in some areas.

 

  Partisan attacks began in Slavonia some time later.  This was because the Serbian population in this area were a small minority.  The attacks here were directed against the Germans, especially the small and scattered communities.  First major attacks and raids began in the Spring of 1942.  Most of the attacks were to secure food and supplies.

 

  The western areas of Slavonia had the next series of raids.  Klein Bastaji was attacked March 15, 1942 and one German youth and a Croat were shot to death and several persons were kidnapped.  June 5th the Partisans returned.  The Defence League with only a few weapons was unable to drive them off.  Three German men died, fifteen were kidnapped, of whom four were later able to escape.  The community centre and the Lutheran prayer house defended by the pastor were both burned to the ground.  The homes were plundered.  Their cattle and livestock were driven away.  A Ustaschi unit came to the village the same day, shot four Serbian men and one woman and drove the rest of the Serbian population to the nearby provincial capital of Daruvar.  The Serbs were later freed, but no word was ever heard again of the men who had been kidnapped.

 

  The raids reached a highpoint in 1943 despite German and Croatian Army operations against them in Syrmien.  Murders, killings multiplied.  Raids at battalion strength easily overran the defences of small villages and towns.  The people of Hrastovac were encouraged to go to eastern Syrmien for re-settlement.

 

  In 1944 the situation was better because all of the small and scattered groups of Swabians were in re-settled areas of population concentration that were easier to defend.  In Syrmien recent campaigns against the Partisans had been successful and they had split up into smaller groups.  By mid 1943 there had been a total of 267 deaths among the Danube Swabian population including men, women and children and the Home Defence Leagues in the villages had lost 356 dead and missing, mostly young teenage boys and elderly men.  By January 13, 1944 the figures were 563 killed and 353 kidnapped and missing (both civilians and Home Defence League).

  

The Evacuation

 

  With the capitulation of Romania in the summer of 1944 the Red Army was breaking into the Danubian plains and if Croatia fell, the Danube Swabians would be caught between the Ustaschi and the Partisans.  Some of the Swabians still believed in a German victory, others turned to their Serbian and Croatian neighbours for support.

 

  The plans for an evacuation were completed by September 1944.  Everyone now claims to be responsible for it, trying to cast the best light on their actions.  This was especially true of Altgayer and Gasteiger in their faulty recollections of the events that followed.  Whatever the case may have been, it required the support of the Reich ministries.  On September 11th it was Gasteiger who flew to Berlin to get the official seal of approval.  He was denied access to all of the important personages at the VOMI.  He then went to the Foreign Office and three hours later he was informed that the Folk Group in Croatia could be evacuated.  When he returned to Agram and met with the other DVK leaders he had a hard time convincing them that he had received permission to proceed.  On the morning of September 10, 1944 the German ambassador telegraphed the Foreign Office for instructions.  Official word finally came on September 25, 1944 to proceed with the evacuation if the DVK leadership felt there was a danger and threat to the German population.

 

  On October 3, 1944 the head of the evacuation, Kammerhofer, informed the leadership in Essegg that he had received orders for the evacuation to begin.  The plan called for the evacuation of eastern Syrmien, to be followed later by western Syrmien.  Because the evacuation plans were secret and the population was not prepared to leave, the notice to evacuate was so sudden that they had no time to pack and prepare their horses and wagons for the long trek ahead of them.  The weather was cold and wet and rain would persist for the flight throughHungary and often they would spend their nights out in the open and the horses and wagons had great difficulty in the mountains ofAustria and the heavy snowfall slowed down the long columns of refugees.

 

  The first to leave were the people from Neu Slankamens.  Without a warning of any kind, on the night of October 3rd and 4th a telephone call was made by the District DVK leadership in India informing the local authorities to immediately open certain secret orders in their possession and to carry out the instructions without question.  The orders for evacuation were very specific and were to be carried out even if there was opposition on the part of the population.  The trek was to leave on the morning of October 4th at 9:00 am.  “Every family was allowed to take only one wagon.  Farmers who possessed two or more wagons had to surrender them to families that had none.  If there were still insufficient wagons, the German military stationed there could requisition wagons and horses from the Serbian inhabitants of the village.”  The wagon trek left Semlin-Franztal on October 5th; Neu Pasua and Neu Banovci left on October 6th.  On October 9th it was India’s turn to leave followed by Beschka and Kertshedin on the 10th.

 

  While the evacuation was in full swing in eastern Syrmien, Kasche the ambassador, Kammerhofer and Altgayer met in Essegg for discussions on October 3rd to the 5th.  At this meeting they made more detailed plans and called for specific actions to be taken in order to avoid panic that could get in the way of the war effort in the area.  The three areas that were to be evacuated were specified:  eastern Syrmien the region east of Mitrowitz, western Syrmien including the neighbouring eastern Slavonian communities and eventually Essegg and the surrounding area.  The evacuees were to be divided into two groups.  The first group consisted of mothers with children under the age of fifteen, the sick, those unable to march, wives and families of those men serving in the Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS and police.  The second group consisted of everyone else.  Providing food, supplies, provisions and determining the routes to take were also the concern Kammerhofer and Altgayer.  The German ambassador was upset when he discovered that the evacuation was already underway prior to clearance by him and with the approval of Berlin.  He saw it as a defeatist act and how on earth could he explain that to the Croatian government?  He complained to the Foreign Office but it was already too late.  The panic they had anticipated did not take place.  In Ceric when the Swabians were ordered to leave a service was held at the church including the Croatian population that prayed for their brothers and sisters leaving on their momentous journey.  The Croatians by and large were fearful of what all of this would mean for them in the coming days.

 

  The wagon treks were guarded against Partisan attack, but none occurred, not even in Partisan controlled territory.  The first wagon treks headed towards Essegg, they then crossed the Danube and left Croatia behind.  They went on to Pecs, Segitvar, the Balaton and then on to Sopron and Austria.  The eastern Syrmien communities were evacuated in two weeks; some left by rail; others on the Danube ships to Mohacs and others found transportation with the German Army.  The combined treks involved up to fifteen thousand wagons and horses.  Some of the men accompanying the treks were kept behind at the Hungarian border for enlistment into the German Army.

 

  The last trek left on October 31, 1944 from Sarwasch and crossed the Drava bridge at Essegg that day.  In most cases the Swabians left “voluntarily” although some tried to return home but were prevented from doing so.  But among the urban Germans more than half of the population remained.  Most wagon treks were on the roads for one to two months.  The ambassador in Agram informed Ribbentrop, that as of January 9, 1945 the evacuation of the Swabians in Croatia was completed and that 110,000 had been evacuated.  It is estimated that approximately 90% of the German population in Croatia was evacuated.  That would hardly be true in all of the other areas of the Danube Swabian settlements in the rest ofYugoslavia,Romania orHungary.

Partisan Treatment of the Swabians Who Remained Behind

 

  There was a large proportion of the Swabian population who remained behind who did not participate in the evacuation from Syrmien-Slavonia numbering between 10,000 to 20,000 persons.  Most of them felt that they had nothing to fear.  They had been honest, hard working people and had paid their taxes.  Many expected to be protected by their Slavic friends and neighbours.  It had been the same during the First World War.

 

  But there were obvious signs that this was a pipe dream.  Fear was dependent upon the degree of German-ness they had displayed, i.e. membership in the DVK.  The Partisans on their part, both the Royalists and Tito’s Communists had announced that all of the non-loyal minorities would be expelled following the war.  This was especially true in the north including the Swabians, Hungarians and Romanians.  The Serbians were on an anti-minority crusade, which included the Croatians.  Tito’s forces certainly gave the Swabians in Croatia an idea of what to expect during their raids and attacks throughout the war.  There was no question of their feelings and intent and it was no wonder that such a large proportion of the Swabian population participated in the evacuation.

 

  The occupation of eastern Syrmien by the Partisans and Russians occurred after taking Belgrade without a fight.  A Syrmien Front was established from Brcko-Vukovar and there was heavy fighting between the Partisans and the Waffen-SS Division Prince Eugene that lasted a few months.  The German troops eventually retreated and crossed the Sava River and fled to the west.  The Partisans took Brcko on April 7th and Vinkovci on April 13, 1945.

 

  Local units of Serbians were recruited from the surrounding communities whose chief goal was to plunder the homes and properties of the evacuated Swabians that had been left unoccupied.  Most of them did this secretly and the majority of them were young people.  There were isolated cases of rape and numerous beatings of Swabians.  In a few days “Narodni Odbori” (Partisan governments) were established and placed in charge.  They now proceeded to organize the plundering.

 

  In India on October 22, 1944 close to midnight a Partisan unit under the leadership of a Serb from Vojka occupied the town.  On the 24th all of the Swabians were ordered to report at the town hall that day.  On October 28th most of the men were arrested and taken to the former Hungarian school, which was also later the assembly point for men taken from smaller communities in the area:  Slankamen, Kertschedin and Beschka.  Among them were also several soldiers:  Germans, Croatians and Hungarians.  The prisoners were interrogated and tortured at night.  The murders and killings began in the school and outside of the building.  In the town of India itself two Swabian women were beaten in public.  After a short release the men were re-arrested on November 8th and 11th.  On November 11th seven of the Swabian men, one Croat and a Serb were driven on foot to the neighbouring village of Alt Pasua.  Here they had to dig their own graves and were later machine gunned down.  Gypsies then took control with axes in their hands to make sure that all of them were dead.  They smashed the heads of each man.  On November 12th a total of 64 men, women and children were driven out of the town on foot to the local garbage dump where they were murdered in the most gruesome manner.  On the 18th more murders took place inIndia and this time the victims were the elderly of whom only eight could be identified afterwards.

 

  In Semlin and Franztal all of the Swabians were ordered to report to the Salt Office or they would be shot.  As always the Swabians were obedient to the authorities and reported with only a few exceptions.  Of those who reported, with only a few exceptions, were killed.  There were 242 identified victims.  They were taken at night to the banks of the Danube River and killed and their bodies were tossed into the river.  Those who had not been included, mostly elderly men and women were taken to the first concentration camp for Danube Swabians in Syrmien, at Semlin-Kalvarija (Calvary).   Their crime in effect was that they were Germans.  The number of inmates in the camp from Semlin and Franztal who died there numbered 118 persons including Franz Moser who had been a member of the Croatian parliament in 1912.

 

  In November 1944 both people from India and a portion of the surviving Swabians from the surrounding area were all force marched to the camp at Kalvarija which was some 50 kilometres away, where almost all of them died of hunger.  There was another concentration camp for Danube Swabians at Sajmiste where Germans from theBanat and the Batschka were interned.

 

  The camp Kalvarija was closed down in September 1945, and the survivors were taken to Bezanija to the camp at Mitrowitz.  On April 14, 1946 all of the remaining Swabians in Semlin and Franztal were arrested and taken to Mitrowitz.  A list of the names of those who died there included 75 persons from Semlin and Franztal and another 114 civilians from the two communities died in various other Yugoslavian concentration camps, prisons and were killed in private homes.

 

  In Ruma, men, women and children were imprisoned in the “Hrvatsi Dom” (Croatian House) along with Swabians from other villages in the area.  They were taken in groups to the brickyards and upon arriving there they were either shot or gruesomely murdered and their bodies were thrown into a deep pit among whom some were still alive.  In one day 2,800 Swabians died in this way.  Many other Swabians in Ruma were shot individually, beaten to death or stabbed and slaughtered with knives.

 

  To give all of this a cloak of legality, the Anti-Fascist Council for the Liberation of Yugoslavia passed appropriate laws on November 21, 1944 taking away the citizenship and human rights of the Danube Swabians and the right to confiscate all of their assets and property.  They had no defence or court of appeal because they belonged to the “German Folk Group.”

 

  With the secession of fighting on the Syrmien Front, western Syrmien and Slavonia fell into the hands of the Partisans as well as the remaining Swabian population.  With the fall of the Third Reich on May 9, 1945 the refugees and evacuees from Yugoslavia who were now in the Russian Zone of Austria were encouraged to go back home by the Austrian officials and the Soviet military.  If they did not do so they would no longer receive ration cards.  There were other restrictions that were introduced to encourage them to leave.  On the other hand there were others who simply wanted to go home and needed no prodding to do so.  This was also true in various areas of Germany where the refugees had ended up. Several train transports left Germany and Austria for Yugoslavia and some wagon treks also set out from the eastern and southern Steiermark in Austria.   A portion of these transports came across Hungary, while others crossed directly from Austria.  It was only the first of these transports that were accepted by the Yugoslavian authorities and the others were turned back and refused entry.

 

  Those who had come by way of Hungary were immediately locked up in a factory in Subotica and they were robbed of everything they had except for what they were wearing.  After a short period of time they were taken to the concentration camp at Sekitsch and from there those unable to work were taken to the camps at Krusevlje and Gakovo.  Some of the evacuees from eastern Syrmien were among them.

 

  The same thing was also true for those returning home from Germany and Austria by train crossing the border into Slovenia.  None of them ever saw their homes again.  Only one of the wagon treks made it home, but before they could even enter their pillaged houses in Jarmina they were taken to the concentration camp at Josipovac.  Those who had been on the train transports were robbed of everything and badly abused and eventually ended up in the camp at Mitrowitz.

 

  By the end of 1945 Mitrowitz-Svilara (Silk Factory) became the central camp for the Danube Swabian population in Syrmien and various other areas.  This camp would become one of the most horrendous of the concentration camps for the German population of Yugoslavia.  At this point there were 1,000 persons: women, children and men.  The three groups were separated from one another.  The children could not remain with their mothers.  The lack of food, heat and unhygienic conditions in the winter of 1945 and 1946 resulted in countless deaths.  Whole families died out in a matter of weeks.  In the warmer months of the year some internees were better off.  Those who were able to work were “sold” to the mines or farmers for a fee payable to the camp officials.  This actually saved the lives of many of them as on the outside they received better rations.  Even the sick volunteered to do slave labour.

 

  The Swabians in those communities taken by the Partisans after the Syrmien Front collapsed in May and June of 1945 were taken to the new established just for them:  Josipovac-Oberjosefdorf.  It was here where the Danube Swabians from the following villages and towns were interned:  Essegg, Vukovar, Vinkovci, Djakovo and the villages in their vicinity.  Facilities for the prisoners were few and far between and many women had to camp out under the sky.  Unlike Mitrowitz they were not cut off from the outside world, and that may have been the basis for sending the internees to Austria later.  In July 1945, one of these transports was allowed to enter Austria by the British.  Also in Josipovac the people who were able to work were employed outside the camp.  But the condition of those unable to work deteriorated so that three quarters of the prisoners were sick with dysentery.  On July 10, 1945 the camp and its inmates were moved to Valpovo.

 

  The internees had to walk all of the way, many of them were sick and water was forbidden and it was terribly hot and a survivor describes how miserable they looked.  In Valpovo it was hunger and dysentery that claimed countless victims.  Pastor Peter Fischer describes the situation in these words:

 

  “The camp consisted of ten wooden barracks in terrible shape.  Three thousand persons had to be put up in them.  Even though we occupied space in two shifts there was still not enough room to accommodate everyone.  So some of us had to find a place under the barracks or between them.  The misery got especially worse whenever it rained.”

 

  Food was almost non-existent.  Cleanliness was impossible under the circumstances and so all kinds of diseases were spread among the people.  Five to ten persons died each day.  The dead were buried naked without coffins.  Typhus epidemics were common and resulted in a huge death rate due to a lack of medication and proper care of any kind.  The camp in Valpovo was closed down in May 1946.  In January of that same year there were a total of 3,000 internees and the number of deaths up to that point was 1,967 persons.

 

  On July 22, 1945 another train transport with overcrowded cattle cars was sent to Austria.  The British refused to accept delivery of the packed train and sent them back.  They had travelled for three weeks in all.  For two weeks they were at the camp in Gross-Pisanitz in Croatia imprisoned in the out of doors.  Many died here exposed to rain and cold, sunstroke, hunger, illness and the sound of constant gunfire over their heads.  Many of those who died were children.  The survivors were now taken in the direction of Essegg.  This time in open wagons, facing rain and hail on the way.  On August 15, 1945 the transport arrived in the death camp at Krndija.

 

  This once German village had been turned into a concentration camp to accommodate the Danube Swabian population.  The highest number of inmates at any given time was 3,000 persons.  This number was in constant flux as victims died and new victims arrived to take their place.  A breakout of typhus was first reported in January.  From August 15, 1945 to mid May 1946 there were 1,300 deaths.  In May 1946 internees were released if they had relatives outside.  The survivors of Valpovo and Krndija were sent to Podunavlje in the Lower Baranya, which in turn was closed down on August 27, 1946.  The inmates were sent to the camp at Tenje, which was closed January 20, 1947.  Two transports of Danube Swabians were sent to Austria from Tenje.  Those left at Tenje were sent to Rudolphsgnad in the Banat.  It was an extermination camp.

 

  Eventually many of the survivors ended up at the camps in Gakowa and Krusevlje which were located close to the Hungarian border and were later not hard to escape from and then they fled across Hungary.  Crossing into Austria was again illegal as well as the borders between Austria and Germany, but countless Swabians were successful in making their escape and flight to freedom.  In the early months of 1948 the remaining camps were closed.  Those who had survived wanted to leave the country as quickly as possible, although now the Yugoslavs had need of them for their labour and were willing to pay for it.  The Red Cross attempted to re-unite families, although Yugoslavian officialdom was not very helpful.  The cost of a passport to leave Yugoslavia rose from 1,500 Dinars to 12,000 in a short period of time, but the migration continued.  Today only a few thousand persons of German origin continue to live in Syrmien,Slavonia,Croatia andBosnia.

 

  When the Croatian government fled from Agram to Austria in May 1945, Altgayer went with them.  The Lutheran bishop, Philip Popp remained in Agram with those in his   congregation who were unable to be evacuated, after first calling upon his pastors to join the evacuation if their congregations did, if not, they were to remain behind with them.  They all concurred throughout Yugoslavia with each pastor suffering his own fate whether in the labour camps in the Soviet Union or the extermination camps of Tito.  The Partisans occupied Agram on May 9, 1945.  Now a savage bloodbath took place against the Croatian “collaborators” and any Germans they could lay their hands on.  Bishop Popp was arrested at the end of May 1945 after sending his wife and son to seek asylum in the Swedish embassy.  A show trial followed and he was sentenced to death, but over 1,000 local citizens signed a petition to free the bishop.  On June 29, 1945 the first and only bishop of theLutheranChurch inYugoslavia was executed by a firing squad.

 

  Following the capitulation of the Third Reich and the occupation of Austria by the Allied Armies most of the prominent members of the Folk Group leadership who had all managed to escape were in the British Zone of occupation in Carinthia and the Steiermark.  These Folk Group leaders and others were interned by the British at Wolfsberg and included Altgayer and Janko as well as the German ambassador Kasche and their closest associates.  Altgayer and Kasche were turned over to the Communist powers that be in Yugoslavia by the British on September 30, 1946.  Following a series of prolonged show trails both men were condemned to death.  Kasche was hung along with the leading Croatian Ustaschi leaders and Altgayer was shot.  Janko, however, managed to escape from Wolfsberg but was tried in abstentia in Yugoslavia and condemned to death, but he had found refuge in Brazil where he lives to this day.  (Translator’s Note:  Sepp Janko and his deputy Josif Beer are best known for their final declaration to the Danube Swabians in the Banat:  We will stay!  This was their response to the fact that the Red Army was already entering the eastern Banat and countless evacuation treks were ready to set out at a moment’s notice, which would have saved the lives of thousands upon thousands of Danube Swabians.  While their declaration was being spread abroad throughout the Banat to remain, they were packing and were among the last to get across the Danube bridges out of harm’s way.  Only a few of the local Folk Group leaders disobeyed the order and led their treks out of theBanat and saved the lives of their people from the holocaust that was to come.)

 

Die Deutschen in Syrmien, Slawonien, Kroatien und Bosnien

ByDr. Valentin Oberkersch (Selections, Summaries and Translations)

(Part Two)

 

The German Schools

 

  Both Maria Theresia and Joseph II had put a great emphasis on the establishment of schools in the new settlements they supported and stipulated that the schools were the responsibility of the State (1770).  Prior to that they were understood to be an additional function of the local parish church.  In this sense they were to be “national” schools, reflecting the local population in terms of nationality and religion.  But in Croatia and Slavonia, we find that the landlords or the communities themselves established their own schools.  But in many instances it took time to convince the peasant population of the value of their children attending school.  But even where schools existed education was limited both in terms of content and length, which took place only during the winter months.  In these schools the children learned to read, write, mathematics, and the catechism.

 

  Schools and their upkeep as well as the salaries of the teachers was an expensive proposition during the early years of settlement and in many quarters was seen as a frill and not a necessity.  The teachers during this period were often untrained; some were retired soldiers, tradesmen or farmers and had to take on other responsibilities in order to make a living, such as the notary, knife-smith, bell-ringer and organist.  We can get a picture of the schools and the lives of the teachers in this period from that provided by the experience of the first schoolmaster in Franztal, Bernhard Schätzchen.  He had been a sergeant in the Baden contingent of the Imperial Army.  He not only taught the children in the newly founded school in 1820, but was also the bell-ringer.  For every child he taught he received 2 Groschen per month, and received his board from the various families in the community who took turns having him for meals.  Friedrich Falkenburger the schoolmaster in Neu Pasau who had been fully trained in Heidelberg also carried on his trade as a shoemaker.

 

  After the death of Joseph II the number of schools declined.  At the time of his death there were 35 schools in Pozega County in 1792 and there were only ten in 1847.  In all of Slavonia, including the Militlary Frontier District there were 48 local schools in 1830.

 

  German schools were established in the following communities:  Ruma 1772,  Neu-Banovci 1786, India 1790, Neu-Pasau 1791, Sarwasch-Hirschfeld 1809, Calma 1821, Neudorf 1830, Johannisfeld-Jovanovac 1836, Erdewik 1838, Putinci 1845, Bezanja 1862, Ernestinenhof 1865, Surcin 1869, Johannisberg 1892, Alt-Vukovar 1892, Dobanovci 1895, Lovas, 1898.  The first of the German confessional schools was established in Eichendorf-Hrastovac and Kapetanovopolje in 1876, Deutsche Nijemci 1904, Becmen 1876, Obrez 1884 and private German schools in Ivanobvopolje 1871, and Beocin 1882.

 

  In the Concordat with Rome in 1855 the oversight of the schools was given to the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, which was reorganized in 1860 and the parish priest was head of the school in the community.

 

  During the 1840’s the Croatian Nationalists demanded that Croatian was to be language of instruction in all schools.  The first implementation of the regulation took effect in 1860 when Croatian was introduced into all of the schools after grade four.  But many of the larger communities were able to achieve concessions in this regard.  Bishop Strossmayer was very much involved in instigating and carrying out this regulation and took his German parishes to task with a vengeance, especially Essegg and others who had appealed for reconsideration to Vienna.

 

  Ruma had a population of 8,000, of whom 5,000 were German, 2,250 were Serbian and there were 250 Hungarians who had been Croatized.  The community simply asked:  Why not have German instruction?  And proceeded to implement it.  Four teachers taught German and four taught Croatian.  But German instruction was limited to two hours a day.  The regulations were eventually successful so that by 1868 there were only eleven German Schools in all of Croatia and Slavonia: six were in the provinces and five were in the Military Frontier District.

 

  In 1874 Croatian was designated as the language of instruction in all schools unless the students had another mother tongue, which could only be taught if Croatian was an obligatory subject for all of the pupils.  The government would not share in the costs of any schools that used any other language as the language of instruction other than Croatian.   They especially targeted the German confessional schools and attempted to legislate the forbidding of the use of the mother tongue over against Croatian.

 

  By 1881/1882 there were 48 schools that included German instruction in their educational program.  By 1918/1919 there were 22 left, but during the two periods the German population had increased by 60%.  In 1890 there were 212 children in the average German school compared to 118 Croatians or Serb or 205 Magyars.  At that time there were 140,885 Croat/Serbian pupils in school, 10,363 Germans and 3,682 Hungarians.  The Lutherans maintained their German schools much longer primarily due to the fact that they had German clergy who played a leading role in the schools.  Yet, by 1912/1913 there were only 4,500 pupils in German schools in Croatia and Slavonia.  In 1909/1910 there had been 13,000.

  

The Germans and the Confessional Situation

 

  In Croatia-Slavonia, 70% of the German population of about 175,000 persons were Roman Catholic and were part of two dioceses:  Agram and Bosnia-Srem.  During the first wave of immigration the settlers from Germany were accompanied by their own priests, all of the next generations were to be served by Croatians, who were often Croatized Germans and were fanatic nationalists just like Strossmayer.  This would lead to confrontation any time their German parishioners gave any indication of attempting to assert their German language, traditions or heritage.  Any German priests who attempted to serve in either diocese were suspect and would not be accepted by their Croatian counterparts or bishops.  They would almost always be appointed to parishes that were totally Croatian, regardless of their desire to serve a German parish.  None of the bishops would permit the use of German in the Mass or allow any preaching.  Some concessions were made in 1836 and German priests were allowed to serve in Essegg, Jarmin, India and Peterwardein and in some parishes the same applied to the use of the Hungarian language.  In the city of Agram there were always German priests serving there because of the cosmopolitan nature of the city and its international connections.

 

  The long term result of this attempt to stifle and muzzle the aspirations of the German population through the church, led to the abandonment of the Church by the emerging German leadership and intelligentsia who stepped outside of the Church, seeing it as irrelevant and simply a political tool of the Croatian Nationalists.  Studying in Germany and Austria many of them became fiercely anti-Roman Catholic in response to the growing “Free From Rome” movement that was sweeping Austria and a new phenomenon took place there which was repeated in Croatia and Slavonia:  Lutheran prayerhouses were erected in Roman Catholic communities, schools established and pastors called especially in the towns.

 

  In Bosnia the situation was somewhat different in that only about one third of the German settlers there were Roman Catholics.  Chiefly at:  Windthorst, Siboska, Kalenderovci, Polje and Sitnes.  In Rudolfstal and Opsiecks the Roman Catholics formed the majority of the population.  These parishes were regularly served by German priests many from the various monastic orders in the area.

 

  The Protestants formed only a small minority in Croatia and Slavonia.  In 1891 there were 36,151 Lutherans and 12,365 Reformed.  This number increased up to 1914 with an ongoing emigration from Swabian Turkey in Hungary.  In the national census of 1900 Lutherans accounted for 1.24% of the population and the Reformed 0.57%.  With the exception of Slovak Lutherans and Hungarian Reformed, the Protestants by and large were Germans.

 

  With the passing of the General Regulation XXVI in the year 1791 members of the two Evangelical Churches were forbidden to settle or own land in Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia, but the existing Evangelicals in Lower Slavonia were not allowed to be harassed.   The War Office in Vienna decreed in 1839 that the purchase of land and property by Protestants in the Military Frontier District was also forbidden.  The existing Protestant populations already living in the District were to be expelled.  There were over 600 of them in Neu Pasua alone and they began to prepare to emigrate to Russia but their pastor, Andreas Weber through a personal appeal to the Emperor was able to prevent it.  But the Protestant population continued to face difficulties of this nature until 1859.

 

  On September 1, 1859 the Emperor issued an Imperial Patent for Croatia that officially recognized both of the Evangelical Churches.  But it took up to 1866 before the Protestants were granted freedom of religion by the Sabor.  Opposition came from the Bishop of Senj, Vjenceslav Soic, who protested against the legalization of the Confessions of the Protestant Churches whose entry into Croatia was seen as introducing a “foreign” element into the life of the nation.

 

  As a result of the Compromise between Hungary and Croatia in 1868, all of the Lutheran and Reformed congregations in Croatia and Slavonia remained under the supervision of the Seniorats and Superintendents of their respective churches in Hungary, with the exception of the Lutheran congregation in Agram.  This would lead to conflict and misunderstanding in the future.  In 1873 the government of Croatia attempted to set in motion the legal establishment and administration of an independent Lutheran and Reformed Church of Croatia and Slavonia but were unable to put it into effect.

 

  In 1881 there were 15 Lutheran pastorates in the country:  in Agram, Alt-Pasua, Neudorf, Beschka, Antunovac, Eichendorf, Surtschin, Bingula, Brekinska, Rieddorf-Retfala, Neu Pasau, Hrastiin, Laslovo, Tordinci, Korodj.  As mentioned previously, all of them with the exception of Agram were part of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Hungary (Lutheran).

 

  This relationship was frequently challenged both by the Croatian Sabor and the congregations and pastors themselves, but there was no desire to create friction with the Hungarian government or church authorities.  Eventually in 1900, the Lutheran congregations formed an independent Seniorat within the Hungarian Church, with the exception of the congregations in Agram that remained independent, and Antunovac and Eichendorf that continued their membership in the Seniorat of Tolna, Baranya and Tolna in Hungary.  The much smaller Reformed constituency maintained distance from the religious authorities in Hungary as much as possible.

 

  Most of the Protestant congregations were served by German pastors and thereby avoided the struggle that the Roman Catholic Germans had with their Croatian priests.  The one exception was the pastor in Neudorf, Senior Nicholas Abaffy, a Slovak and also a fanatic pan-Slav who turned his congregation against him with his determination to Croatize the members.  He even attempted to change the German name of the village to the Croatian: Novo Selo.  The German newspapers also criticized him in 1910 because of his political agitation on behalf of the Coalition Party, claiming he used the pastorate for non-religious purposes.   In 1917, after Abaffy’s death, Franz Morgenthaler of Neu Pasua was elected the Senior.  The Slovaks insisted that the election was void because he could not handle the Croatian language adequately.  He was given two years to learn the language and if he failed to be proficient in it, he could not continue in his office.

 

  In addition to that, the assembly of the Seniorat had to deal with the difficulties in Bingula.  The Lutheran “brothers” in Bingula were experiencing constant conflict as German and Slovak speaking members of the same congregation sought ascendancy in the leadership of the congregation.  Because they could not come to terms over which language to use in worship, the Germans desired to establish their own German congregation and if that was not to be granted to them, they would leave the church.  The assembly in convention supported the request of the German members, but that did not settle the local problem.

 

  Another major difficulty in many regions was the question of religious education because a number of the Lutheran teachers did not have a command of the Croatian language and some of the officials of the government insisted that the instruction had to be in Croatian.  In 1905/1906 the education officials ordered that all religious instruction at Weretz had to be in Croatian or the school could not be opened.  Weretz was a filial of Slatina and the pastor there could not speak Croatian and therefore the children could not be taught religious education in their “church” school!

 

  The two Protestant Churches and their individual congregations had regular contact, received support and maintained relationships with Protestant Church circles in Austria, Switzerland and Germany unlike their Roman Catholic counterparts.  As a church of the “diaspora” the Churches also received financial support and assistance from Germany as well as pastors.  They especially assisted in projects beyond the means of the fledgling churches and were instrumental in providing 16,000 Marks towards the building of the new church in Agram.

 

  Bosnia proved to be a different situation and the small scattered congregations existed autonomously.  Franzjosefsfeld at first existed as a filial of their mother church in Franzfeld in the Banat.  It became a parish in 1891.  This was followed by Banja Luka in 1893, Lukavac in 1904, in Schutzberg in 1910, Bosnisch Brod in 1914.  A congregation was established in Sarajevo along with a filial congregation in Zabidovici in 1898.  They formed a syond with a president as their provisional church government.

  The Germans as a “Folk Group” in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia 

  With the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire following the First World War, the long held dream of the South Slavs was realized in the establishment of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, a decision that was made without the input or approval of the populations that would be involved in redrawing the map of this portion of the Balkans.  The major partners of this union would turn out to be the Serbs and Croats, but they were not equally matched.  Croatia was very much the junior partner and bristled because of their secondary position in the new Kingdom that would have repercussions for the future and in the end have disastrous affects on the German populations involved.

 

  Serbians troops occupied all of the territories of future Yugoslavia, but did so in a rather ruthless manner:  plundering, mistreating local populations, murdering and terrorizing the minorities they encountered.  There was to be no question of who was in charge.  The Serbs.  In their minds Yugoslavia was simply Greater Serbia.  Croatia alone could offer any resistance and was prepared to do so as subsequent history would prove.  During this period of transition the German population had to endure a lot and was in no position to offer any resistance.  Most of the men had gone off to war, mainly on the Eastern Front and were prisoners of war.  There were immediate calls to confiscate the property of the German minority and expel them from the country.  The Serbian troops could not maintain order and districts set up “home guard” units that often included the older German men to protect their villages from vandalism, raids and attacks from disbanded soldiers, deserters and brigands.  Women and children often had to seek safety in the forests in the bitter cold of 1919.

 

  With the declaration of the State and Kingdom of Yugoslavia a whole new relationship arose among the widely scattered German communities in the new jurisdictions in which they found themselves and their new authorities and rulers with whom they had to deal.  In each of the areas of German settlement there were men who were prepared to establish organizations for the welfare, freedom and defense of the German minority as an identifiable ethnic group, the so-called Volkgruppe (Folk Group), which also had racial overtones.  These areas of settlement in the new south Slav state were the western portion of the Banat, the largest part of the Batschka (Wojwodina), Lower Baranya, Srem, Slavonia, Croatia, Bosnia as well as Slovenia.  Most of these areas had a previous history with Hungary, except for Bosnia and Croatia and Slavonia, which had an existence of their own.

 

  Initially there was little change for the Germans in Croatia and Slavonia except they found themselves caught in the middle of the struggle between the Croats and Serbs for control of the new nation state.  There was no longer a language problem since the Germans were now Croatian speaking and not very fluent in German at all if they still had any knowledge of their language.  Because of the enlarged Folk Group in this new centralized state, the leadership of the ethnic German minority from across the Kingdom in diversified groups and organizations worked towards the objective of establishing a centralized organization to enable them to have a national voice.

 

  The elections that were planned excluded the German minority as well as all of the others and were designed for an electorate that consisted only of Croats, Serbs and Slovenes.  This resulted in great unrest in all of the regions with sizable German populations.  One of the stipulations and guarantees that the new state of Yugoslavia had agreed to uphold as a result of the Treaty of Trianon was to protect minority rights but they insisted that to give the minorities the vote would destabilize national sovereignty.  Because the German minority was prevented from any role or participation in the political and public life of the Kingdom, they opted to form a cultural organization to unite all elements of the minority, in the various areas of settlement, and as a result the Swabian German Cultural Union (SDKB) was formed at Neusatz (Novi Sad) on June 20, 1920 with over two thousand participants in attendance.

 

  In 1921 a new constitution was passed by the Sabor with a vote of 223-196, which made all citizens equal before the law.  This equalization of all of the minority ethnic groups began a new phase in which the Germans could now fully participate.  They had been given the franchise and all of the political parties sought their support for they recognized that the ethnic Germans who numbered approximately one million persons were now a force to be reckoned with.  But the leaders of the Folk Group organizations were already planning to give birth to a political party of their own:  a “German Party” to protect their rights and freedoms and full participation in the life of the nation.  The party manifesto that was passed at the assembly in Hatzfeld on December 17, 1922 began with a confession of loyalty to the Dynasty and State and included a twelve point program to achieve their objectives.  The party leadership that was elected included:  Dr. Ludwig Kremling of Weisskirchen, president who served with an executive: Dr. Stefan Kraft of India, Dr. Hans Moser of Semlin and Michael Theiss of Hatzfeld.  Of the twenty members of the party Council Dr. Sepp Müller of Ruma, Dr. Jörg Müller of Ruma, Christian Marx of Erdwik and Franz Moser of Semlin represented Srem.

 

  The new party contested the elections in 1923 and eight members were elected; four from Srem, three from the Banat and one from Slovenia.  But in various parts of the Kingdom, German candidates were elected representing other parties.  In Bosnia the Germans voted for Moslems and Croatian candidates because they were more tolerant than the Serbs who were running.  Many of the parties saw the German Party as a divisive force, while they in turn said they would go out of existence whenever the Germans achieve their full rights guaranteed by the Constitution.  This was said in the context of the situation in which many of the German communities lived such as Lazarfeld.  In April of 1924, sixty German farmers out working in their fields were attacked by a mob of some two hundred so-called Dobrowolzen (patriots).  Sixteen of them were badly injured.  The leader of the Serbian mob was a lawyer and he screamed:  “You Germans have your rights, but we have the power!”  All kinds of intimidation of voters would follow, leading to the public beating of many of the German Party candidates.  In the next elections, the German Party received more votes but only elected five representatives.

 

  King Alexander set aside the Constitution on January 6, 1929 and declared a dictatorship and disbanded all political parties and issued a proclamation to his:  “Beloved people, all Serbians, Croatians and Slovenes.”  He made no mention of the other seventh of the population:  the minorities.  He always did it that way.  He desired a centralized government and national unity, but only on his own terms, which resulted in his assassination.

 The Emerging Conflicts (1933-1939) 

   With the dictatorship in place, in spite of the efforts of the leadership of the German minority there was great discontent on the part of some in the various areas of German settlement.  There were questions about the finances of the SDKB with charges of mismanagement that required the intervention of the German ambassador in Belgrade.  At the beginning of 1933 the discontent took on concrete form.  Dr. Jakob Awender, a physician from Pantschowa headed what became known as the “Renewal Movement” and he its “Führer” attacked the key leadership of the SDKB in the press and at every opportunity.  This was at the time of the Depression and there had been successive crop failures all of which fueled the discontent.  The co-operatives set up by the SDKB attempted to respond to the crisis but only succeeded in making it worse.  Not only were the farmers critical of the leadership but the young academicians who had studied in Germany and Austria were also vocal in their opposition.  They were highly influenced by the political trends taking place in Austria and Germany and were fed up with the old leadership, values and attitudes.  At first, this was perhaps nothing more or less than a generation gap.  With the coming of the dictatorship in Yugoslavia in 1929 the German Party like the other political parties was banned.  This meant fewer positions and offices available to the new intelligentsia who chafed at the lack of opportunities available to them.  These and other malcontents are the ones who assembled at Pantschowa as the “Renewal Movement” and chose Awender as their Führer.  They published their own weekly newspaper and wrote highly critical articles and personal attacks against the leadership of the SDKB and demanded their resignations.

 

  In November 1933 a new German ambassador, Viktor von Heeren was appointed and arrived in Belgrade.  He officially supported the “old leadership” of the Folk Group but he had really come to get the lay of the land and hinder and avoid any internal squabbles among the German minority, which now was virtually impossible.

 

  With the assassination of the King in 1935, the political parties stepped into the void.  In effect the National Party took over the government following the elections in which only two German Party representatives were elected.  They in turn supported the majority party and were “welcome” to join the party, and Dr. Kraft the leader of the SDKB did, hoping to get a better hearing for the issues that were of primary concern of the Germans in terms of the school and language issue.  The government carried on friendly relations with Germany and felt no need to treat the German minority with kid gloves.  The German ambassador’s main concern was the foreign policy of the Yugoslavian state and the Folk Group was left responsible for its own fate and destiny.

 

  Attempts were made by the government in 1938 to curtail and prevent the sale of land to the Germans.  This was hardly a new approach on their part.  The Folk Group leadership saw this as catastrophic and repressive to the aspirations and economic future of the ethnic Germans.  In turn, their discontent was interpreted by the Serb Nationalists as a recognition that they were acting as a “fifth column” on behalf of the German Reich, which sought to interfere in the internal affairs of Yugoslavia.  The government however backed down to maintain their lucrative trading relationship with Germany.

 

  But the Folk Group leadership faced turmoil within the organization and the German communities.  On January 15, 1935 the ruling Council of the SDKB expelled Awender and several of his followers in the Renewal Movement to avoid a split in the membership.  Unfortunately this only intensified the conflict.  The growth and development of the SDKB in the previous years had been concentrated on the establishment of youth groups in every community and district and they very quickly became the most active organizations within the cultural union.  A large portion of the members of these groups were open to the objectives of the Renewers and their propaganda, while there were others who sympathized with them even though they disapproved of some of their methods and continued to accept and follow the “old leadership”.

 

  There is no question that the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) in Germany better known as the Nazis and their party organs were involved in the development of the Renewal Movement and both provided support and influenced it.  The German ambassador gave “public” support to the “old leadership” in the cultural union SDKB in the press but was involved in the background in providing aid to Awender when called upon.

 

  From the very beginning various other ministries and offices in the Reich government felt sympathy for the Renewers and provided massive support.  This was especially true of the Verein für das Deutschtum im Ausland (VDA) whose concerns dealt with the German populations outside of the German Reich.  Discussions between Paul Claus the representative of the VDA in Yugoslavia and the leadership of the Renewal Movement took place in the spring of 1935 whereby Awender, Dr. Sepp Janko and Fritz Metzger undertook the task to lead the struggle to renew the German Folk Group so that it could stand on its own two feet financially so that it would not be a burden to Reich foreign policy.

 

  Both the “old” and “new” leadership sought approval and support in important Reich circles.  Early in 1935, the German ambassador in Belgrade passed on a letter of complaint to the Reich Foreign Office outlining the crimes, activities and faults of the Renewers, highlighting the fact that Awender had no character at all and was a man of ill repute.  They requested that the SDKB be the only recognized official voice of the Folk Group in Yugoslavia to speak to any issues affecting the German minority.  But in the central organs of the NSDAP, the Völkischen Beobachter (The People’s Observer) reported that there was a need to support both groups assisting them to form a united front in carrying out the objectives of the German minority.

 

  This did not help matters a bit.  The SDKB was determined to cleanse itself of the Renewers organizationally.  Along with Awender they expelled the Youth Leader of the SDKB, Jacob Lichtenburger.  Assuming that they had the support of the majority of the youth group an assembly was called on July 28, 1935 at Neusatz to install a new Youth Führer in his place, namely Dr. Erich Petschauer.  But the installation could not be carried out because the vast majority of the youth present were sympathizers of the Renewal Movement and occupied the hall and heckled and disrupted every attempt on the part of any one to speak on behalf of the Folk Group leadership and they then walked out.

 

  The conflict sharpened and deepened.  Discontent and concern spread among the membership of the SDKB and it was obvious that things were coming to a head and action had to be taken.  On August 5, 1935 representatives of the two groups met in Neusatz to work out a compromise.  The SDKB was represented by: Dr. Oskar Plautz, Thomas Menrath, Dr. Sebastian Nemesheimer and Dr. Richard Derner.  The representatives of the Renewers were:  Fritz Metzger, Peter Kullmann, Jakob Krämer and Branimir Altgayer.  But talks broke down and the quarrel simply went on.

 

  Things came to a head at Neu Werbass on August 11th, 1935 in response to a speech by Josef Bürchel the Nazi Gauleiter (District Leader) of the Saar-Palatinate on the occasion of a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the settlement of the Batschka.  Both groups hoped to use the occasion for their own purposes.  Instead he spoke of the need for unity against the forces that threatened their racial purity.  His essential message was:  take pride in being German and in effect he did not support either group as he had been ordered.

 

  This was a clear indication to both groups that the Reich was determined that the German minority would not upset or effect their foreign policy in terms of Yugoslavia, but that the Folk Group would adopt the political outlook of the Nazis.  As the leader of the old political establishment, Kraft knew he needed the support of the Reich regardless of who was in power in order to achieve such objectives as the school question.  He sought such support in the Reich Foreign Office.  Although a declared opponent of Nazism he sought out contacts within the various ministries of the Reich and the Party for support for the German minority.  In January 1936 he met with Hitler’s Deputy, Rudolph Hess who was in charge of all affairs dealing with the Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) and Dr. Kraft was received warmly as he later reported.

 

  Things would not remain quiet for long.  At a meeting on March 18, 1936 the representative of the VDA, Dr. Helmut Carstanjen reported on the situation of the Folk Group in which he made scathing remarks about the “old leadership”.  The representative of the Foreign Office, Fritz von Twardowski defended them and declared that the question of the Folk Group in Yugoslavia was a matter of foreign policy.  He reported that Dr. Kraft was now engaged in friendly discussions with the government in guaranteeing the rights of the German minority and these discussions should not be jeopardized because of any outside interference on the part of the Reich.  It was at this point that Heinrich Himmler and his Volksdeutschen Mittelstelle (VOMI) intervened.  He was highly critical of Dr. Kraft and the VOMI was not prepared to have Dr. Kraft speak on behalf of the Folk Group or under the auspices of the Reich.  He inferred that his reception by Hess had gone to his head.  He instructed the German ambassador in Belgrade to invite Dr. Kraft and Awender to dinner, along with a representative of the VOMI some time after Easter to work out a solution to the conflict.  It was a futile meeting.  The quarrel was now waged out in the open in the German and Yugoslavian press much to the delight of the Yugoslavian government.  Meanwhile, at the same time, the Yugoslavian foreign policy was actively pro-German.

 

  The VDA began to lessen its financial support for the work of the SDKB and provided resources to the Renewers instead.  The SDKB leadership protested to the Rich, claiming to be the sole voice of the Folk Group in Yugoslavia.  They called upon the VDA and the German ambassador for their support since they represented the vast majority of the German minority.  But in 1937, the Renewers through Gustav Halwax were calling upon the Yugoslavian government for the legalization of their Party so that they had the right to hold meetings, conferences and assemblies.  The police had been repressive, combative and brutal against German youth groups at their assemblies and the old leadership saw this as a reason for the discontent and fear in the German communities in terms of their rights as citizens of Yugoslavia.  Kraft and the old leadership saw this kind of treatment as tantamount to calling forth a radicalization of the German minority.

 

  The relationship between the VDA, the VOMI and the SDKB leadership did not get any better in the summer of 1937.  This led to the leadership of the SDKB approaching von Neurath the Reich Foreign Minister and explained the conflict with the DVA with the hope that a peaceful solution could be worked out.  The DVA and VOMI were informed of the meeting and letters that were exchanged.  In effect, the old leadership was now without support in the Reich ministries.

 

  The membership of the two factions within the Folk Group wished for an understanding and unity among all of their people.  But among the leaders there was only division.  A call for Dr. Kraft’s resignation became public.  It was felt that with his ouster rapprochement with the Renewers would now be possible.  The opposite was the result and the Renewers were no further ahead because Kraft remained in his position and they became more strident in their opposition.

 

  Berlin wanted no part in the quarrel.  Both the VOMI and the Foreign Office wanted nothing to do with it.  The German ambassador arranged for an arbitration panel to deal with the feuding parties, both of which agreed in advance to accept the recommendations and results.  The panel was made up of various Folk group representatives from other countries including Estonia, Romania and Latvia.  A solution was worked out and then presented on May 15, 1939 that called for Dr. Kraft stepping down from his position with an appropriate pension.

 

  Of great importance to all of the ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe were the Anschluss (annexation) of Austria by the Reich and the incorporation of the Sudentenland that raised their German consciousness and in addition in Yugoslavia there was now a great desire for unity.  A “German Unity Front ” and platform was developed with the participation of Dr. Kraft and sought to establish guarantees that the German minority had legal rights by law as an identified separate entity.  But personal quarrels and aspirations again got in the way and impeded the effort.  As always Awender and his followers were at the head of the discontent and sought a political solution through incorporation with the governing party but with minimal success.  The ideological struggle went on.  On August 26, 1938 two of the “old leaders” Moser and Grassl agreed to support the Radical Party and would join the struggle against Nazi propaganda that was flooding the German communities.  They established a committee to plan and carry out actions against the Renewers.  Germans who would join the voter’s list of the Radical Party were to be granted five seats in parliament.

 

  At an assembly of representatives of all groups within the SDKB, on October 29, 1938 all Germans were called upon to support the list of candidates submitted by the government at the next election.  As a result the Croatian Nationalists (Ustaschi) conducted a reign of terror in Slavonia and Croatia among the German communities to keep them from voting for the government party.

 

  The occupation of Czechoslovakia on March 15, 1939 resulted in intensive anti-German feeling and alarm especially on the part of the Serbian population, as well as the other Slavic people.  Army officers were instructed to develop strong anti-German sentiments among their troops.  Germans in the army were suspect and were forbidden to speak German, they were scolded every day and many received corporal punishment.  But officially the government policy towards Germany had not changed.

 

  On October 31, 1938 there was a rapprochement with the Renewers, who along with their youth groups returned to the fold of the Swabian German Cultural Union (SDKB).

  The Last Years of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1939-1941) 

  With the personal resignation from the leadership of the SDKB by Dr. Keks the successor of Kraft the functionaries met in early May of 1939 to deal with the question of succession.  Awender proposed himself for the position with the support of the Renewers and others.  But the VOMI was not pleased with this development.  They were opposed to Awender because of his past performance in terms of his relationships with the Yugoslavian government.  In his place the Renewers proposed Dr. Sepp Janko who was a “leading personality” and a staunch Renewer.  All those present at the meeting cast their votes for him and the VOMI ordered him to report to Berlin.  There he was informed of the VOMI’s slate of candidates for positions in the Folk Group.  Parliamentary representatives were:  Hamm, Trischler and Grassl.  The leader of the SDKB was Sepp Janko.  The Führer of Slovenia:  Baron.  The Führer of Croatia:  Altgayer.  The Führer of the Renewal Movement:  Awender.  But in effect, there would be a triumvirate who would be in charge:  Hamm, Janko and Trischler.  But the plan was never put into effect because of the swiftly changing situation in Yugoslavia.  Yet, Janko ended up at the top as planned.  To all intents and purposes the organization was bankrupt.  The membership of the SDKB had always remained small during the 1930’s and the dues barely covered the costs of the organization.  But by November 15, 1940 almost the entire German minority had become members through a vast publicity campaign spearheaded by Joseph Beer and raised 3,000.000 Dinar in one year.

 

  The outbreak of World War Two had little effect on the Folk Group.  On September 2, 1939 a partial military mobilization was ordered.  Some Germans were called up and horses and wagons were requisitioned, especially if they were known members of the SDKB.  Many of the reservists and recruits who were called into the army who were ethnic Germans were called:  Hitler’s swine.  Germany was seen as the Arch-Enemy of Yugoslavia, but the land would become their cemetery if they dared to invade it.  Most of the army officers were very critical of the government’s pro-German foreign policy and the demise of the Small Entente.  There were however 450 officers in the armed forces who were ethnic Germans.

 

  But the speech of Adolph Hitler on October 6, 1939 caused a great stir and deep concern to the leadership and membership of the SDKB.  He called for the re-settlement of the ethnic Germans in the Diaspora back home to the Reich.  There was great upset and confusion.  No one had a desire to leave “home”.  The Yugoslavian government also asked for clarification as to how and when this would take place.  There were only evasions and no answers forthcoming.  By October 28, 1939 Berlin had no alternative than to respond and did through the German ambassador who reported:  “The re-settlement to Germany of the German Folk Group in Yugoslavia is not actually planned at the present time.”

 

  Meanwhile the Croatian Nationalists gained new concessions and a degree of autonomy from the central government in Belgrade, which was dominated by the Serbians.  In short order, Bosnia was also seeking autonomy.  Slavonia was now made into a separate jurisdiction and Croatia was making a play for parts of the Wojwodina, but there were also autonomy concerns on the part of the people living in the area.

 

  Dr. Philip Popp, the bishop of the Lutheran Church in Yugoslavia who served the congregation in Agram was appointed to the Croatian senate in March of 1940.  Some of the concerns he brought to the government’s attention were the school issue, the use of the German spelling of family names, rescinding the law that forbade the purchase of land by the ethnic Germans.  He was successful in that in 1940/1941 session of parliament, a private German Lutheran school was opened in Agram.

 

   Fears with regard to a “fifth column” continued to plague the country at the instigation of military men.  From their perspectives all ethnic Germans were spies.  All suspicious persons should be arrested.  The Western Powers appeared to behind it and supported the spread of leaflets to scare both populations.  During May and June of 1940 ethnic Germans were arrested in Srem and Slavonia and charged with being spies and guilty of espionage.  On June 6, 1940, Ludwig Ritz, a close fellow worker with Altgayer was arrested and taken to the feared Glavnajaca prison in Belgrade where he was badly tortured but he did not incriminate himself in any way and was later set free after a long well publicized trial.

 

  After the fall of France, Yugoslavia was having a nervous breakdown of its own.  It began to assess its relationships with its neighbors and re-established diplomatic relations with the USSR on June 24, 1940 and the Communist Party of Yugoslavia came out of the woodwork.  The borders to the north and west were strengthened in fear of an Italian/German alliance.  Men aged 40 to 50 years of age were called up to do this defensive preparation and again also included ethnic Germans.  These men were not given uniforms nor did they receive rations or shelter.  Nor did their families receive any support while they were into the armed forces.

 

  On June 28, 1940 Russia occupied Bessarabia and the northern Bukovina.  As a result of an agreement with the Reich, Russia allowed the emigration of the ethnic German populations for re-settlement to Germany.  The Folk Group in Yugoslavia took on the task to build a transit camp at Prahovo and Semlin and provided provisions and assistance to the 140,000 ethnic German émigrés.  Semlin could accommodate 10,000 at a time, and Prahovo some 5,000 persons.  Thousands of young people were involved in setting up the camps over a period of four months.  In Agram and Urplje in Croatia aid stations were set up by German girls and women from Slavonia, Croatia and Slovenia at train stations to serve warm meals and refreshments to the people in transit to Germany.  The costs were over 2,000,000 Dinars.

  As a result of the Vienna Accords of August 30, 1940 Hungary regained some of its former territory lost to Romania and fear reigned in the Wojwodina as the local Hungarian population agitated for a return to Hungary and the Serbs were convinced that the ethnic Germans would support them.  By the fall of 1940 political and foreign developments were drawing Yugoslavia ever closer to possible conflict with Germany fueled by the Serbian nationalist circles which became more and more vitriolic in terms of their mistrust of the ethnic German population that led to quarrels, confrontations and on occasions physical mob violence.  During one such melee in Beschka, Peter Deringer a well known member of the SDKB was shot and killed by a Serb in November 1940.

 

  The highest military authorities began to plan measures to take along with the local authorities in the case that war would break out.  In all communities with an ethnic German population a list of names of the most prominent and important members of the SDKB were to be prepared by the local officials and these individuals would be immediately arrested and taken as hostages.  This would not be true of the other minorities and their leaders.  It was the task of the Secret Police to keep their eye on the ethnic German leadership.  The implications for the ethnic Germans should war break out were threatening to say the least.  Appeals to the German ambassador were of little value nor was he sympathetic to their concerns.

 

   Sepp Janko who was ill at the time when the question of what would happen to the leadership of the ethnic Germans should war break out, sent Fritz Metzger in December 1940 to the VOMI and asked for weapons to protect the leadership.  The ethnic German population was unarmed except for hunting rifles.  Because the Reich was still working with the Yugoslavian government in hopes of establishing a military pact, the idea of arming the ethnic Germans was out of the question.  There were all kinds of rumors and stories of arms and ammunition being shipped down the Danube to Werbass and buried there in the cemetery.  All of the stories were eventually proven false as late as 1963.

 

  But there is also another question that is played up in some circles of whether or not ethnic German men left Yugoslavia and volunteered to serve in the Waffen-SS.  The first volunteers from among the ethnic German men who served in the German forces were those who had gone to seek work in Germany prior to the war and had remained there.  Their numbers were not large.  Some hundreds of younger men accompanied the ethnic Germans from Bessarabia who journeyed from Semlin to the Reich.  Janko and the others were not prepared to consider a voluntary recruitment program at this time because of the complications involved.  Later when such recruitments took place and parents became aware of what was afoot they raised such a rumpus that Janko had to high tail it to Austria and tried to talk the boys into coming home and they were released in order to do so.  This involved about two hundred such volunteers.

 

  The Waffen-SS was in search of recruits for the war effort and sought “volunteers” from among the ethnic Germans throughout Eastern Europe.  Under the orders of the Folk Group leadership, Gustav Halwax was sent on a mission to the Reich where he volunteered to serve in the Waffen-SS and saw service on the Western Front.  In December 1940 he returned to Neusatz.  At this time, Janko was apparently sick, or at least he later claimed to be, and Metzger took over for him.  Halwax met with his old comrades from the Renewal Movement to win them over to his plan to carry out VOMI policy and goals because Berlin was not happy with Janko’s independent “politics”.  Metzer and his cronies had the VOMI recall Halwax to Germany where he could do less damage to the ethnic German cause.

 

  In spite of what the SDKB leadership was saying, on January 24, 1941 the VOMI in writing to the Foreign Office indicated that Heinrich Himmler had announced the arrival of 200 Waffen-SS volunteers from Yugoslavia, 500 from Hungary and 500 from Romania.  The VOMI planned for a mustering and recruitment of ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia and sent Dr. Hans Huber, the official physician of the SS to be in charge.  He would travel around in sport’s circles offering his services and examining the young men without the men being aware that he was actually mustering them for the SS.  They would participate in sport’s events in Germany and then later return home.  In March 1941 Halwax reappeared at Neusatz sent under the auspices of the VOMI.  The plan was now to convert all of the youth organizations into Sports Clubs and received the approval and endorsement of the German ambassador.

 

  All of this took place two to three weeks before the military uprising in Belgrade and the outbreak of the war and these Sport Clubs could not be put into effect as a recruitment tool of the VOMI.

 

  These sport’s fraternities were not be confused with the Deutschen Mannschaft (German Men’s Fellowship).  Its origins were within the SDKB in the early summer of 1939.  These groups were established for men beyond the parameters of the youth organization and had their beginnings in Apatin, Lazarfeld and India and then spread.  They were also involved in assisting in the resettlement of the ethnic Germans from Bessarabia at Semlin and Prahovo.  They were characterized as para-military organizations, but very often that was only window dressing for their real purpose that was defensive in nature.

 

  Yugoslavia maintained its neutrality in the first phase of the Second World War.  The USSR was on the move in the Balkans with the occupation of Bessarabia and Bukovina in June 1940 and German interests lay in Romania as a source for wheat and oil.  From the perspective of the Yugoslavian government the British were not reliable allies and the Italians were massing troops on the frontier of western Yugoslavia.  By October 4, 1940 German troops were stationed in Romania to help keep the peace with Hungary and as a buffer against any moves made by the USSR.

 

  December 27, 1940 saw the signing of the Axis Pact between Germany, Italy and Japan to keep the Western Allies and Russia off balance.  Molotov visited Berlin and saw German policy as threatening to the interests of the USSR and demanded to have a free hand in the Balkans…Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Greece.  As a result Hitler saw that war with the USSR was inevitable.

 

  The Italians launched an invasion of Greece on October 29th, 1940 that ground to a halt through British intervention and Italian stupidity.  The British could now bomb the oil fields in Romania so Germany had to act to secure the situation.  The Axis Pact was signed by Hungary on November 20, 1940, followed by Romania on November 23rd and Slovakia on the 24th.   Bulgaria hesitated, afraid of the Soviet response, but joined the Pact on March 1, 1941.

 

  In a letter to Mussolini on November 20th, Hitler indicated that they needed Yugoslavia to secure the oil fields in Romania and that efforts had to be undertaken to entice the Yugoslavians to join the Axis.  Meanwhile, the British and Americans tried to win Yugoslavia to their side.  The British went so far as to supply weapons and armaments.  Negotiations and meetings were undertaken and finally Germany asked for an answer on March 25, 1941.

 

  The Royal Council of the king of Yugoslavia voted to sign the Axis Pact on March 24, 1941 because of the pressures coming from all kinds of directions.  Two ministers of the Council voted against it and resigned from the government.  The Pact was signed in Eugene of Savoy’s Belevedere Palace in Vienna on March 25th.  But a military coup took place in Belgrade on March 27th and installed a new king.  Riots and demonstrations broke out in Serbian and Slovenian areas.  “Better War Than This Pact,” was the rallying cry and slogan.  The German ambassador was publicly insulted at the coronation of the new king:  Peter II.

 

  The new regime was not ready to ratify the Pact and sought other options and considered an immediate mobilization that was suggested by the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch, Gavrilo Dozic in order to gain some time.  Berlin was also trying to read the signals coming out of Belgrade.  On the 27th of March, Hitler indicated that if the new government would refuse to follow the terms of the signed agreement they would be considered enemies and they would be stamped off of the map of Europe.

 

  The leader of the coup, Simovic sought to use the leadership of the Folk Group as intermediaries with the Reich government.  On April 1, 1941 he had discussions with the leaders of the Belgrade District of the SDKB, Christian Brücker and Hans Moser.  He told them that he wanted to hinder a war with Germany and to break off relationships with the British and the Americans.  It was the wish of his government to enter into talks with the Reich government.  He also wanted to meet with the Führer of the Folk Group, Sepp Janko as well as Hamm the parliamentary representative to speak on his behalf to the German Foreign Office and other German functionaries.  He was personally prepared to go to Berlin to pursue such discussions.

 

  Following the coup and the coronation of Peter II, Janko had sent a telegram on behalf of the Folk Group with a pledge of loyalty to the new regime and indicated to Simovic of his readiness to work and co-operate with the new government.  But on the same day he was invited to meet with Simovic he was asked to meet with the police chief in Neusatz to discuss matters related to the leadership of the SDKB.  On that day, March 28, 1941   he was taken into “protective custody” in Gross Betscherek and taken to the Neusatz police station and prison.  On the following day he was taken to Simovic and he was to speak to the German embassy to arrange for communication with the Reich government, because Yugoslavia was not prepared to go to war.  The message that Janko received from Berlin was, “Keep negotiating, but promise nothing!”  That was a way of saying that it would be war.  Simovic wanted Janko to speak over the radio indicating that Yugoslavia’s foreign policy would not be negative towards the Axis Powers and that the German minority was not being mistreated in any way in spite of propaganda reports on Austrian radio from Graz.  Janko pleaded that he was such a man of conscience that he could not do what he had been asked, after all he himself had been arrested and jailed at Simovic’s orders.

 

  In his third meeting with Simovic, Janko refused to speak over the radio but suggested that he would accompany a government official to Berlin to begin talks.  Agreement was reached and the flight would leave on April 6th or 7th.  Simovic wanted to meet with his cabinet first.  He had already sent a mission to Moscow, which tried to arrange a military alliance with the USSR, but the Russians were only prepared to sign a “Friendship Pact”, with some “nice” words from Stalin:

 

  “We are brothers of the same blood and same religion(?).  There is nothing to divide our two nations.  I hope your army will hold back the German army for as long as possible.  You have mountains and forests, where tanks are useless.  Organize a guerilla war.”

 

  The issues of the safety and security of the ethnic German minority in Yugoslavia was not lost on Berlin, the Foreign Office or the VOMI.  A telegram was sent to the German ambassador in Budapest from the Foreign Office, signed Weizsäcker:

 

  “For your personal information, I inform you that the VOMI has received the following instructions:  The German Folk Group in Yugoslavia is in danger of being called up to serve in the Yugoslavian armed forces, and in order to escape that they will be encouraged to cross the border into Hungary on their way to Germany.  Please convey to your Hungarian counterparts to permit the fleeing Germans to freely cross the borders of Hungary and allowed to go on unhindered to Germany.”

 

  Other telegrams were sent to Rome and Bucharest, asking for the same kind of assistance to the “refugees”.

 

  There is no evidence that such a call for flight on the part of the ethnic German minority was ever issued.  Janko is quick to point out that Hitler’s so-called order for the ethnic Germans to refuse to comply with their call up into the Yugoslavian army on March 28, 1941 was never received by the SDKB leadership.  Very few failed to respond to their call ups into the military.  (Translator’s note:  From my own personal perspective it is interesting to note that the concern of the VOMI and the SDKB leadership was not the danger facing the ethnic German population, meaning the women and children and the elderly, but only the men of military age.  The rest of the population apparently was expendable as would prove to be the case in the holocaust that followed.)

   The Collapse of Yugoslavia 

  Following the coup of March 27, 1941 the ethnic German population became restless and afraid.  In Srem the local ethnic German populations were confronted by demonstrations by Serbian Nationalists hostile to Germany and advocating war against the Reich.  The Germans held back in order not to cause any reprisals against them.  To a great degree they remained in their houses awaiting the outcome of the developments that were taking place, realizing that not much good news awaited them.  But the Croatian and Serbian populations were just as upset and uncertain about what was happening in Belgrade or the streets of their own communities and the “unknown elements” that might be on the prowl.  In some villages with mixed populations, each group depended upon the support of the other to defend them from army forces as they had done during the First World War.

 

  Right after the coup in Belgrade, those settlements with a large majority of ethnic Germans were occupied by Tschetniks (Serbian Army), that guarded all public buildings and installations and kept the population off the streets and in their homes.  The community later paid for this protection.  The call up and mobilization of men for the Yugoslavian Army was publicly announced in all communities on April 1, 1941, but all ethnic German men had been called up two or three days earlier.  Along with the mobilization there was the requisition of food and supplies, horses and wagons.  In some cases this involved shooting and violence.

 

  There is no official record of the numbers of ethnic Germans mustered into the army, or how many failed to report for service.  In each community, it was a different story, the only consistency was what was true of one nationality was also true of the others.  According to the information contained in the various Heimatbücher, most of the ethnic Germans reported to the Army.  The vast majority of them were assigned to duty in remote areas of Bosnia, Macedonia, southern Serbia and Herzegovnia.

 

  At 5:30 pm on April 6th, 1941, the Reich government announced that the German Army had invaded Greece and Yugoslavia during the night.  To this day we have no idea of how many ethnic Germans fell in this war against the German Army.  Numbers are usually not given in the Heimatbücher either, and those that list any names indicate that they were murdered by Yugoslavian troops, usually by men from their own units.  The war lasted only two weeks and the losses suffered by the Yugoslavian Army were not very high since the campaign was short.  That was also true of the ethnic Germans serving in their armed forces.

 

  As soon as the war broke out the police confiscated all weapons in the possession of the ethnic Germans, mostly hunting rifles and in addition they also took all radios.  The prepared lists of leading ethnic Germans were used to arrest them as hostages in Srem.  In Belgrade and Semlin all ethnic German men were arrested (even an 80 year old man).  In Srem the total number of hostages numbered about four hundred.  The dungeons of the fortress of Peterwardein were filled to overflowing so that those from Srem were kept in their own regions.  They were released within a few days as the German Army moved quickly into Srem and the Yugoslavian troops fled from the area.

 

  Talk of a “fifth column” at work to explain the rapid victory of the German Army really does not hold any water in terms of historical fact, nor does the use of the Deustche Mannschaft units doing rearguard action.  All of that is the figment of the imagination of the retreating Serbs.  Many of the Yugoslav troops deserted and wore civilian clothes and headed for home.

 

  A day after the invasion began the news spread that all of Yugoslavia was disintegrating.  On April 10, 1941 Slavko Kvaternik declared the independent state of Croatia in Agram and the Hungarians who had not participated in the fighting were already moving in to occupy the Batschka and the Lower Baranya.  Along with the retreating Yugoslavian Army fled the authorities and local officials along with the police forces leaving anarchy behind them.

 

  By Easter of 1941, a week after the beginning of the Yugoslavian campaign all of the larger settlement areas of the ethnic Germans in Croatia, Slavonia and Srem were in the hands of German troops that were welcomed by the inhabitants, in Schutzberg in Bosnia as the German troops arrived the villagers stood on the streets and sang, “Now Thank We All Our God.”

 

Die Deutschen in Syrmien, Slavonien, Kroatien und Bosnien

 Written by: Dr. Valentin Oberkersch 

(Translated with his family’s permission 2006)

Translated by Henry A. Fischer

(The following is a translation and summarization of key sections of Dr. Oberkersch’s book that would be of interest to English speaking Danube Swabians whose families came from Syrem, Slavonia, Croatia and Bosnia as well as those with a general interest in the history and ultimate destiny of the Danube Swabian people in the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia.  Translator’s note.)

Introduction:  The Historical Development of the Region Up Until 1918

  Croatia became a vassal of the Hungarian Crown in 1102.  This relationship would continue up to the Turkish victory over the Hungarians at the Battle of Mohács in 1526.  The Turks occupied only a portion of Croatia while the north western area around Agram (Zagreb) belonged to the Habsburg candidate for the throne of Hungary, and would experience frequent incursions and Turkish raids in the century that followed.

 

  Slavonia and Srem endured 150 years of Turkish occupation.  As a result, the local Roman Catholic population fled from the area to avoid ongoing conflict and raids and the Turks brought in new settlers as far north as the Sava River, who were Moslems and Orthodox Serbs who were forced to resettle there.  By and large, most of the area was unpopulated and settlements were clustered around fortresses.  With the defeat of the Turks in their second attempt to take Vienna in 1683 and their retreat throughout Hungary the Austrian Imperial Army and their allied forces proceeded to liberate all of the territories that had once been part of Hungary.  So that by 1686 after Buda the capital of Hungary had been taken on August 12th the battle of Mount Harsany took place, which was about 30 kilometers south east of Pécs.  Charles of Lorraine attacked the forces of the Grand Vizer and defeated them, which would prove to be significant for the liberation of Slavonia.  Shortly afterwards Count Dünewald crossed the Drava River and his army liberated all of Slavonia with the exception of a few towns and by October 5, 1687 the city of Essegg, the capital of Slavonia was taken and the first attacks down the Danube towards Srem were undertaken by the onrushing Imperial forces with the Turks in full flight.

  Many towns fell to small contingents of troops along the Sava River.  The major campaign undertaken by the Imperial troops was under the command of Prince Max Emmanuel of Bavaria, and later Prince Louis of Baden.  They occupied all of Srem in 1688.  On August 6th the fortress of Belgrade fell to them.  In the following year they invaded Serbia and Bulgaria and occupied the key fortresses.  But then a great portion of their troops had to withdraw to defend the Rhineland and the Pfalz from a French invasion.  As a result the Grand Vizer, Mustapha retook Serbia and Belgrade.  His invasion of Srem against Louis of Baden in 1691 failed and he was defeated and lost his life at the Battle of Slankamen.

  The withdrawal of the Imperial troops to deal with the French had lasting effects on Slavonia and Srem, in that the Serbian Patriarch from Ipek along with 25,000 Serbian families fled across the Sava River with the Imperial forces.  Emperor Leopold I allowed them to settle there and granted them privileges.  This resulted in a major increase of the Serbian population in the region of the Wojwodina, which would be crucial in the Revolution of 1848 when they would attempt to declare an autonomous Serbian state.

  Finally on September 11, 1697 Prince Eugene of Savoy defeated the Turks at the Battle of Zenta, which led to the Peace of Karlowitz on January 26, 1699.  Croatia and Slavonia were ceded to Austria, but south eastern Srem remained as a buffer against Belgrade and the Turkish Empire.

  In 1716 the war broke out again.  The Turks were defeated at Peterwardein on August 5, 1716.  In the next year the Imperial troops occupied the Banat, northern Transylvania and on August 18, 1717 re-took Belgrade.  The Peace of Passarowitz signed on July 21, 1718 liberated all of the Banat and Srem from Turkish rule.

  The liberated territories were placed under the jurisdiction of the Royal Chancellery in Vienna.  Prince Livius Odescalchi, a nephew of Pope Innocent XI was given the lands and title of Count of Srem in 1698.  The Neo-Acqustica commission established in Vienna to determine the ownership of lands and estates in the formerly occupied Turkish territories in 1700 received few claims because very few of the Hungarian nobility had survived the Turkish wars and occupation or had no documented evidence to prove ownership to back up their claims.  As a result the lands and estates were sold to many nobles or military commanders who were of German origin.

  In 1718 the former Counties of Hungary were re-established.  Croatia was unable to lay claim to Srem and Slavonia, which now became part of the army controlled Military Frontier District, a defensive measure against future Turkish invasions.  In 1751 the area became incorporated into the Hungarian sphere of influence and eventually part of its administration.  The nobility of Slavonia were most unhappy with this situation.  Throughout the 19th century, “nationalism” became the big issue for the South Slavs who saw the Magyars (Hungarians) as their enemies and a threat to their aspirations, which would erupt in Croatia in the Revolution of 1848/1849.

  The hope of the Croatians, as allies of the Habsburg Emperor against the Hungarian rebels, was for a far-reaching “national” autonomy with the introduction of the Croatian language as the official government language, but these hopes were not fulfilled.  The centralization that took place during the “Bach Era” in Austria, created more bad blood among the South Slavs, especially because German was established as the governing language throughout the Empire.  They saw themselves under the yoke of Vienna.  The Croatians saw that the threat to their national survival was no longer the Turks or Hungarians, but the Germans.  Hatred of all things German broke out during the Croatian Sabor (parliament) in 1860 and would affect future events right up to 1918.  An attempt at re-rapprochement with the Magyars was the new order of the day.

  The Hungarian-Austrian Compromise of 1867 was not well received by the leading Croatians.  The concept of Dualism in the Empire was unacceptable to the Slavs, the Roman Catholic bishop Josip Strossmayer and his political circle were adamantly opposed to it.  A Croatian-Hungarian Compromise followed in January 30, 1868.  The Compromise allowed the Croatians autonomy in their domestic affairs and matters of religion.  It was an attempt on the part of the Hungarians to prevent a united front and union of the Slavs.

  Political parties of all stripes fought for control of the Sabor beginning in the 1870’s; the National Party had the support of the nobles who supported the Compromise with Hungary.  The supporters of the “South Slav” idea found expression in the “Independent National Party” under the leadership of Bishop Strossmayer.  Their ideology was based on the principle of the unity of all of the South Slavs, except the Bulgarians.  The financial support for the party came from the coffers of the bishop’s diocese.  The third party was “Croatian Rights” who were united with the Austrian Monarchy and its aspirations, in effect they were the official anti-Serbian party.  But even this party was suspicious of both Vienna and Budapest.

  The 700,000 Serbian minority in Croatia established their own Serbian Independent Party in Ruma in 1881 to safeguard their rights and demanded equality for their minority.  Their liberal approach was opposed by others among the Serbs, who formed the “Radical Party”, which leaned heavily on the Orthodox clergy for support and leadership.

  As the 19 century ended, the younger generation of leadership sought to take advantage of the new issues that divided Austria and Hungary to advance their cause of a union of the South Slavs:  Yugoslavia.

  With the rise of the Kossuth Coalition that came to power in Budapest in 1904 that sought full independence from Austria, the Croatian opposition parties offered support to the Magyars if they would support Croatian self-determination.  The Serbian parties also followed suit with the same solution in 1905.  As a result a Croatian-Serbian Party was formed to work for autonomy and the ideal of self-determination and unity of the South Slavs and the destruction of the Habsburg Danubian Monarchy.    In the elections of 1906 the Coalition won the majority of seats in the Sabor, and played the leading role in the life and history of Croatia up to 1918.  Friendship with the Hungarians did not last very long.  The annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, followed by the Balkan War (1912-1913) were flashpoints of conflict and unrest among the south Slavs finally resulting in Sarjevo and the outbreak of World War I and the end of the Danubian Monarchy.

   The Settlement of the Germans 

  The migration of German settlers into the Croatian and Slavonian areas prior to the occupation by the Turks, had its origins in the beginning of the 16th century, chiefly in the towns and cities, made up tradesmen, artisans, miners, and merchants who came from all areas of Germany.  The settlers arriving after the liberation from the Turks, again consisted of the same urban classes but the majority now were peasant farmers.  In both cases they came in response to invitations from the nobles and landlords.  At times, of course, some individuals came on their own, taking the risks that were involved.

  Prior to the coming of the Turks, the first Germans who arrived were priests and missionaries, most of them monks on missions to extend the boundaries of the Roman Catholic Church and later to stamp out heresy.  At the end of the 8th century the land was part of Charlemagne’s Empire and remained so until the coming of the Magyars.  In this period the local population was Christianized and the central leadership provided for this was in Bavaria.

  There is a strong possibility and some evidence that the south Slavs are of Gothic origin, especially the Bosnians.  Many of the names of the higher clergy in the Middle Ages are German.  All of this was contemporary with Stephen I of Hungary and his Bavarian queen who also brought German monks, priests and missionaries.  Nikolaus of Guns in Hungary was later the Banus (Governor) of Croatia from 1280 to 1281.

 

  After the Tatar invasion and the recall of their armies back to Asia, Bela IV of Hungary in 1243, invited Germans to settle in Hungary promising freedom from some feudal taxes.  His brother Kolomann who was Count of Slavonia gave special privileges to German monks at Weretz.  The German population was increasing in the area.  Varasdin is the first and oldest German settlement in Croatia and was established earlier than 1209.  In 1231 Germans were also reported living in Vukovar, Petrinja, Samobor, Agram, Kreuz and Kopreinitz.  The shoemakers of Agram were well known and the shoemaker’s quarter was known as the “German village.”  Immigrants like these soon filled the land and settled as both small and large groups.  The emergence of all of the cities and towns in Croatia and Slovania can be traced back to them.  They also brought new ideas and farming concepts to the peasant population.  There were never any totally German communities.  In the early history of the towns Germans played a leading role but as they became outnumbered they attempted to guarantee their rights by law before they were totally swamped.  This lasted for a much longer period in those communities into which a steady stream of German settlers continued to arrive:  Agram and Varasdin.  This now continuing flow of Germans now also included military personnel as the Turks became a threat throughout the Balkans.  In 1579 they were involved in the re-establishment of the fortress at Karlstadt.  In 1645 it was reported that there were 300 German families living in the city.

  This tradition of “German towns” in Croatia would continue well into the 19th century and 20th centuries and there were continuing migrations of German settlers, but only in those towns that were not occupied by the Turks.  The Germans simply disappeared in these areas.  The Germans that could be found there later arrived after the Turks had been driven out.

  But how much of the German migration in the Middle Ages consisted of peasant farmers?  It is difficult to tell.  There are some areas in Srem that have names of possible former German villages.  The Germans working in the mines were probably Zipser Saxons from Upper Hungary (Slovakia), who brought their own community organization with them.  They were especially present in Bosnia.  In 1463 the Turks conquered Bosnia and that was the end of the German mining communities.

  It was a totally new situation after the Turks were driven out of Croatia, Slavonia and Srem.

  In 1700 there were fewer than 14,000 people living in all of Slavonia after the Turks were through with it.  To all intents and purposes one could say that Srem was totally uninhabited.  The remaining towns contained most of the surviving population.

  The first stage of reconstruction and redevelopment of the land was repairing and expanding the towns and fortresses to withstand any reappearance of the Turks.  The need was for construction workers and skilled artisans.  There were none.  Esseg and Peterwardein and their fortresses needed immediate attention and as a result the two cities became the first of the new German towns after the expulsion of the Turks.  In 1690 Esseg was granted its municipal rights and charter.  The influx of merchants and skilled artisans who came primarily from the Austrian territories continued throughout the 18th century.  Essegg maintained its German character well into the 20th century although they were a minority of the population.

  Semlin located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers received its first German settlers in 1721 after the Peace of Passarowitz.  There was another large influx of new German settlers after the Peace of Belgrade in 1739.  Germans coming down the Danube arrived in Belgrade and moved on from there to towns in Srem.  Peterwardein and Karolowitz experienced large growth in their German populations.  German sections of towns had names to that effect.  It was the norm.  Germans from Belgrade were the founders of Neusatz (Novi Sad).  New Vukovar in effect was the German part of the town, settled with 33 families between 1723 and 1725.  There was a high rate of mortality among the German settlers because of the climate and summer epidemics of all kinds.

  A massive immigration of German peasant farmers did not take place here as it did to the north of the Drava and Danube Rivers.  After 1718 a portion of the land was under the control and administration of the Royal Chancellery and the Department of War while the rest belonged to various nobles without the resources to develop their holdings.  There were other obstacles:  most of the land was thick forest wilderness; it did not appear as if the land could be developed agriculturally; wolf packs prowled the forests; security against robbers and brigands was non-existent; settlers were offered few concessions or inducements like freedom from taxes or military service; many nobles had no interest in developing their estates and wanted serfs to serve them at their bidding and not free peasants; there were few government officials in the area to whom the settlers could go for help and support; there were no roads and the settlers would have to struggle with total isolation.

  In spite of these kinds of difficulties, the Royal Chancellery organized a settlement on the Crownlands at Kutjevo, located in southern Hungary, between 1785 and 1787 at Josefsfeld-Kula and Josefsdorf-Porec.  These were the only government sponsored pioneer settlements in the vicinity.  The settlers came primarily from Luxemburg, Alsace, Lorraine and the Pfalz.  Two other villages were also established but could not be sustained.  The settlers in these communities all become Croatianized within a generation or two.

  Nor are the settlement attempts under the auspices of the nobles in Srem and Slavonia very numerous.  Deutsch-Mihaljevci was established on the Mitrovac estate by the noble Franz von der Trenck in 1744.  Later in 1752, Lukasdorf-Lukac was founded by retired soldiers.  One of the settlements numbered 8 men, 7 women and 33 children.  In six months  5 men, 3 women and 13 children had died. 

  Characteristic of all of these early efforts was the small number of people involved.  Only by an influx of later settlers could the communities have survived.  There was no economic base to support the skilled artisans who had come with them and they had to move on elsewhere.

  More important settlement work was undertaken during the Theresian phase of the Schwabenzug in Slavonia.  A whole line of farm villages were established in the vicinity of Essegg:  Krawitz in 1769, Hirshfeld-Sarwasch in 1769 after Magyars and Slavs had left, Deutsch-Rieddorf sometime in 1768/1769 next to the Hungarian village of Retfala, Terezovac-Suhopolje in 1770 and Antonsdorf-Kapan in 1776.

  There were other German settlers on estates in Slavonia that were not able to establish permanent settlements for various reasons and merged with their Slavic neighbors.

  In Srem the following Theresian settlements were established under royal auspices:  Ruma, Sotting and Jarmin.  All of these later received an influx of German settlers.  In Ruma the first Germans came in 1746 and by 1784 there were 700 Germans settled there.  Most of the growth was due to the arrival of newcomers.

  During the Josephinian settlement period the Prandau estates were settled by Germans in 1786 at Josefsdorf-Josipovac.  The first immigrants came from south western Germany who were later joined by Germans from Bohemia.  Settlers from Württemberg founded Neustadt at Essegg in 1792.

  The most important settlements during this epoch were located in the Military Frontier District.  The earliest was Neu Gradiska in 1748 soon followed by Friedrichsdorf.

 

  In 1783 Neu Slankamen and later in 1787 Semlin received their first German settlers.  In 1806 there was a large influx of Germans from Bohemia who moved into Neu-Salankamen that greatly strengthened the community.

  In 1791, after many difficulties, Neu Pasua in eastern Srem, was settled by Lutherans from Württemberg.  At the same time a small German enclave was established in the Croatian village of Neu Banovci, which was very close to Neu Pasua.  Only through the later migration of German families from Neu Pasau was the future of the German community in Neu Banovci assured.

  At the same time, (1790-1794) Karlowitz received 36 German families, Ruma received 26 families and Bukovitz another 20 families.  Most of them came from Alsace, Lorraine, Württemberg, Basel, Baden and Nassau (Hesse).

  At the beginning of the 19th century new communities were established in the Military Frontier District to provide fresh produce to the towns and troops.  Siegenthal was founded in 1816 to serve Semlin.  (Later it would be called Franztal.)  The first settlers here came from Lazarfeld in the Banat.  In 1819 close to Vinkovci, the Lutheran village of Neudorf was established.  They were Franconian pietists who had come from various Lutheran settlements in the Batschka after having left Württemberg originally.  In 1828 Hessendorf was established in the vicinity of Mitrovitz but there were too few Germans to develop and ongoing German community.

  At the beginning of the 19th century the German settlements on both sides of the Drava and Danube Rivers were experiencing a population explosion and a lack of land for expansion.  As a result Srem and then later Slavonia were the next areas of expansion.  But there were political and national issues and sensibilities at work.  While the nobles were anxious to raise their own economic situation by making use of the their undeveloped lands and estates they knew that in order for that to happen required an increase in the population.  There were Serbians residing there but they were not seen as the answer to the problem.  In fact, the area was moving backwards economically as the Serbs refused to undertake the cultivation of the land, preferring herding cattle.

  At this point the nobles and landlords saw that they had to take the initiative and went as far as looking for settlers in Hungary but they also courted others, including Magyars, Russians, Slovaks and many others.  As a result the owner of the Ruma estate called for Serbs to settle in 1746 in his new village of India, and then he called for Czechs in 1825 who like the Serbs shortly afterwards went on to other places.  It was only in 1827 when the Germans arrived and soon became the majority in a permanent settlement .  By 1848 they were 65.8% of the population of 1,500.  He also settled Germans in Putinci at that time, while other nobles established Calma, Banostor, Cerevic and Greguerevci and Vukovar and Sotting received more Germans as well.

  Compared to the emerging daughter settlements emerging in Srem very little development was taking place in Slavonia.  But in 1824 Johannisberg was settled with Germans from the Egerland.  Deutsch-Derschanitz later becoming Johannesdorf-Jovanovac was settled by Germans who came from the Tolna in Hungary in 1836.  They had been brought specially to begin the cultivation of tobacco.  In 1843 Neu Zoljani was settled by Germans from Veszprem County in Hungary.

  In addition to these contractual settlements between a landlord/noble and a group, some individuals were simply making their own arrangements and purchased land and houses.

  To a great extent Slavonia remained a wilderness and backwoods area, relatively untouched by an attempts at settlement.  With the emancipation of the serfs in 1848, the local population was more unreliable than ever.  The Swabian villages of Hungary and the Batschka were overcrowded and there was now nowhere to go to seek a living.  The government in Vienna set the stage for a new settlement movement.

  The Regulation and Decree was issued by the Emperor on December 31, 1858 and was addressed to the Kingdom of Hungary, Croatia, Slavonia, the Serbian Wojwodina, the Banat and the Princedom of Transylvania with a renewed call for agricultural settlement and development of the Dual Monarchy.

  Some of the regulations included:  each settlement requires a minimum of 1,000 Joch of land; homes for at least fifty families must be provided; all members of the community, regardless of their place of origin must be of one nationality and confession (religious denomination).  The intention of the decree was to provide a supply of workers for the landholders, but the Emperor also stipulated the need for providing incentives like tax exemptions.  The government sought to gain immigrants from other countries to strength its population and broaden its economic base.  The would-be-settlers would become citizens of the Monarchy upon arrival; their sons born outside of the Monarchy were free from military service; they were guaranteed the free expression of their religion if they were recognized groups in the Monarchy; cattle, machinery, goods, equipment, goods would pass through customs at no cost.

  To the consternation and disappointment of Vienna there was no response from Germany.  The mass migrations had ended with Joseph II and now it was the United States of America that beckoned.

  The results of the new settlement Patent of the Emperor were hardly impressive in Croatia and Slavonia.  Only ten German settlements were established in response to it.  Three were established in 1866 by contracting with the landowners and their agents at Blagorodovac, Eichendorf-Hrastovac and Antunovac.  The settlers came from Baranya, Tolna and Somogy Counties in Hungary.  In the same year there were also settlements established in Sokolovac and Djulaves (later Miolovicevo), but the contract between the settlers and the noble were only officially ratified in 1877.  Dobrovac was also settled in 1866 but the contract only finalized in 1881.  Settlers from the Böhmerwald settled in Filipovac in 1886.  The village of Kerndia was already settled in 1880/1881 but a contract with Bishop Strossmayer was not signed until 1891.  The last two communities were Kapetanovo Polje settled in 1882 and Franjevac-Strizicevac in 1886 the contracts for which were only ratified by their landlord later in 1891.

  We need to be reminded that 80% of the land involved was heavily forested wilderness and the chief task of the colonists was clearing the land.  The land they took over was often not very fertile or at best marginal to say the least.  They had to pay for the house lot and garden and clear it and were given some of the wood that they cut to use in the construction of their homes and other farm buildings but often at high prices.  No other language group or nationality responded to the Patent except the Germans at a time when anti-German feeling in Croatia was at its highest, but the nobles made the adjustment because the Germans were industrious and would stick to it no matter what happened.  Exactly what they wanted.

  But other settlement was taking place outside of the Patent of the Emperor.  Some of the landlords simply parceled out the land.  Groups of settlers obtained loans and mortgages to buy land and create a settlement.  But it was difficult to cope with the elements, floods, isolation, hunger, epidemics and frequent crop losses.  Most of those who responded were from among the poor and they overlooked the risks that were involved because of the possibility of improving their lives and that of their families

  With the Slavic peasantry freed from serfdom they were anxious to sell the land and the house they had received and move on, preferably into the towns.  As a result, the price of land fell dramatically in Slavonia and Srem after 1848.  At the same time land was scarce and expensive in other German settlement areas, especially Swabian Turkey and the Batschka.  Selling a small plot of land there enabled them to buy a holding Slavonia.

  The new migration was from within the Monarchy and resulted in the strengthening of the original settlements.  It especially had a very positive effect on the German Lutheran communities.  The Military Frontier District was an area where this was most noticeable.  The first settlers lured their families and friends to join them in Slavonia or Srem.  As a result villages where Germans were a minority, by 1880 had become the majority.  Banovci 64%, Gasimci 53%, Mrzovic 57%, Slatinik 60%, Tomasanci 65%, Pisak  75%,.  But the success of the German communities led to jealousy and anti-German feelings and subsequent actions against them.

  During this period, both in Srem and Slavonia, Germans from within the Monarchy settled in almost every single village and bought land and stayed there at least for a time.  For that reason it would not be possible to note every such settlement, but only those in which a large portion of the population were of German origin.

 

  Western and central Slavonia were the locales of the most important of these newly established enclaves:  Gross-Pisanitz (1881), Palesnik (1882), Klein-Bastei (1885), Marjanci, Colinci (1870), Kucanci (1876) Cacinci (1908) and the vicinity of Trnjani (1890) and Garcin (1890).  According to the mayor of Drenovac the last two mentioned communities were settled in 1875 by colonists from the Burgenland: Oberndorf, Kitzladen, Pinkafeld, Oberschützen, Wörterberg, Althau and Sinnersdorf.  A second group of settlers from the Burgenland from the vicinity of Güns established themselves in Uljanik by Daruvar and some individuals went on to Kutina and Dolci.  During this settlement with the exception of Gross-Pisanitz and Cacinci, not more than one hundred or two hundred Germans were involved, but they were strong enough numerically to survive and maintain their German identity and in some places they formed the majority of the local population some even eventually reaching five hundred German inhabitants.  These villages were also not as scattered from one another as they were in other parts of Slavonia and the contacts between villages were will maintained and their ethnic identity was protected and not threatened with assimilation as it was in other areas and included: Selci, Satnica (1875), Pisak, Vucevci (1850), Gortgani, Gasinci, Tomasanci, Semeljci, Kesinci, Viskorvci, Forkusevci, Mrzovic (1858) Vrbica, Djurdjanci, Slatnik (1875) and Drenje.

 

  The same situation also prevailed in the following settlements and enclaves in western Srem:  Ilaca, Kukujevci, Bapska-Novak, Schider Banovci, Nijemci (1870), Nustar, Ceric, Svinjarevci, Jankovci, Tordinci, Vodjinci, Ivankovo, Orolik, Drenovci and Rajevo Selo (1883).

  In eastern Srem, south of Ruma the enclaves of Nikinci, Hertkovci and Grabovci later resulted.

  This inner migration within the Monarchy had a powerful effect and influence on the strengthening of the German Lutheran settlements in Croatia.  Much of it was concentrated in the Military Frontier District, which up until the Protestant Patent was promulgated had to deal with a lot of difficulties, which were now surmounted by the more liberal Military administration in its interpretation of the new laws.  Enclaves would emerge in Beska and Krcedin (around 1859), Becmen (around 1860) in Surcin (around 1869) and Obrez (around 1860).  The settlement of Bezanija by families from Neu Pasau began already in 1842.  With the dispersal of the Military Frontier District all of these settlements received new settlers and developed new daughter settlements in Dobanovci (1875) and Asanja.

  Bosnia was finally in the spotlight of European history in the later half of the 19th century.  It had been under Turkish rule for over four hundred years and its population had converted to Islam to a great extent.  Austria-Hungary claimed its sphere of influence at the Congress of Berlin in 1878 and formally annexed Bosnia in 1908.

  Economically it was a total mess.  Minimal cultivation of its land was taking place.  No cattle rearing or sheep herding was in existence.  It was in need of development in every sense of the word.

  The earliest German settlement resulted from the efforts of monks from Germany led by Franz Pfanner and resulted in the village of Windhorst (1869).  Settlers came from Baden, Rhineland, Prussia and later from Westphalia, Hannover, Oldenburg and Holland.  Other villages were later established in the vicinity.

 

  Franzjosefsfeld was established in 1886 in north eastern Bosnia, the first Danube Swabian settlement, consisting of 91 families from Franzfeld in the Banat who numbered 402 persons.  This was a Lutheran community later joined by others from Neu Pasau, Tscherwenka, Schowe and other Lutheran villages in the Batschka ans Srem.  They endured floods, bad crops and epidemics located in the heart of a vast wilderness.  Schonborn, known as Petrovo Polje was also an early Lutheran settlement.

 

  As the government got involved and established “colonies” in Bosnia between 1891 and 1904 there were 54 colonies in all with over 9,000 inhabitants.  Of these, twelve were German with a total population of 1,800 persons.  But attempts were always made to put a stop to the government colonization programme, which was finally accomplished by law in 1906.

 

  In 1891 the colonies at Branjevo and Dugo Polje were established by the government.  These settlers came from Lutheran villages in the Batschka and a few families from Srem.  Dugo Polje was established by nine Lutheran families from the Batschka and was the smallest of the colonies.

 

  Four more were established in 1894:  Dubrava-Königsfeld by twenty families from Slavonia, the Batschka, Galicia and Moravia.  Within two years only two men remained, when a new re-settlement was undertaken.  Vrbaska-Karlsdorf was established by settlers from Galicia.  Prosara was established by twenty-one German families from Galicia and Russia and proved to be the worst situation in which to plant a colony.  Korace was settled by eight families, numbering 38 persons from Galicia.

  In 1895 the government colony of Ukrinski was established with settlers from Russia, Galicia, Slavonia, Swabian Turkey and Bukovina and other areas.  There were 300 persons, half of whom were from Danube Swabian communities.  In 1937 there was a population of 1,096 persons.  Because of floods and famine, the colony moved to a new site and took on a new name:  Schutzberg.

  In 1895 another colony was established by the government at Vranovac and most of the colonists came from Galicia and southeran Russia (Black Sea Germans).  In 1896 the colony of Kardar was founded on the Sava River.  The settlers came from Galicia who were later joined by others from Slavnonia and the Banat.  Also in 1896 the colony of Ularici-Franferdinandshöh (later Putnikovo Brdo) where after the heavily forested land was cleared the soil was found to be marginal and sugar beet cultivation proved to be the only economically viable crop.  Later in 1898/1899 the colony of Sibouska was formed, the only government sponsored German Roman Catholic agricultural community.  The settlers came from Galicia and Bukovina and maintained a close relationship with the Lutheran community of Schützberg in order to maintain their German identity.

  The last government sponsored German colony was Vrbovac in 1903/1904.  The first settlers came from Galicia and were later joined by families from the Banat.  There were of course also individuals and families who moved into Bosnia on their own and not part of a planned settlement programme.  Some of these private settlers also came from Galica,, Bukovina and southern Russia.  Often these groups moved on to the colonies later as they were unable to support a German school or develop congregational life as a diaspora group.

  Some colonies developed factories, saw mills and other businesses, while others remained very small and lived a rather primitive, isolated existence.  In 1912 a new colony was formed at Sitnes, consisting of settlers from the other Bosnia colonies.  On the whole, life was more difficult and the land inferior on the government colonies

  Croatia and the Colonization Question 

  Prior to 1848, the Croatians paid little attention to the small groups of settlers in the wilderness.  It was only in 1865 when the Croatian intelligentsia acknowledged that there were German and Hungarian minorities present in their country.

  In Srem, it was a different matter living there among the Serbians who as early as 1846 and 1847 began expressing their concern that they were being “replaced” by the industrious Germans, whose hard work had led to success, which unfortunately led to embitterment on the part of their Serbian neighbors.

  The nationalist press raised a hue and cry against the “invaders” from the north even though they made a tremendous contribution of the economy.  Radicalization set in.

  By and large there were voices of the opposition but the government had to have a greater concern for the nation’s finances rather than its nationalistic feelings.  After 1848 there was simply no let up in ongoing immigration and “foreign” settlement.  The entry of more and more Hungarian settlers and their setting up of their Hungarian schools created quite an uproar.  Every minority was as seen as a threat by the Croatians and from their perspective assimilation was the only solution.  The German threat eastwards as the official policy of Prussianized Germany was read into the real motivations of the German settlers moving into Croatia.  This would prove especially true in Bosnia were some of the settlers actually came from the Reich.

  When that argument failed to work, the Croatian nationalists pictured the Germans as the tools and weapons of the Magyars in their ongoing attempt to lord it over them.  It was a matter of the indolence of the Slavic peasants and the industriousness of the “Swabians” and the economic consequences.  The Swabians created an economic miracle in a marginal wilderness for which the Slavs were not grateful as long as they were there.

  Many areas of Slavonia were uninhabited and were of no real economic value.  Only settlers and capital investment could change that.  Many of the settlers brought capital with them.  That served as an antidote to the charge that they were opportunists and carpetbaggers and ne’er-do-wells.  By 1910, ten per cent of the arable land was still undeveloped.  First of all, the nobles preferred German settlers and then Slovaks and Czechs who were seen as their Slavic brothers.  Their last choice was the Magyars (Hungarians) who usually assimilated within one generation.  It was the Germans who resisted assimilation the longest.  This would prove to be dangerous in the future.

  As neighbors the Germans got along with the Croatian and Serbian populations.  The government saw them as a necessary economic evil at best, and as a threat to the unity of the Slavs at the worst.  It was the latter view that would prevail.  The answer was to make the Slavs industrious, thrifty and work focused so that they no longer sold their land to the Germans.  The banking institutions would support their peasantry in this endeavor.  But there were only minor initiatives, especially in the new areas opening for settlement.  The Slavs decided they would rather be farm laborers working for the Germans.  All of the new settlement laws of the government favored inner-migration and attempted to thwart emigration elsewhere as much as possible.  Still the population stagnated.  The only group that was affected was the Hungarians who began to leave.

  But as the 19th century ended, the major issue was no longer immigration into Slavonia but the emigration of countless thousands of young people to the United States and this also included vast numbers of the German population.  By the outbreak of the First World War almost all immigration into Slavonia had ceased and the presence of Germans, Hungarians, Slovaks and the other nationalities was simply accepted as an economic and social reality that had no political implications.  There was no conspiracy or a fifth column directed against the Croatians.

 The German Population and the Revolution of 1848 

  Political life in Croatian and Slavonia before the Revolution was a mirror and reflection of neighboring Hungary.  In both countries, first place on the political spectrum were the nobles and their agenda.  The urban citizens in Hungary, however, were awakening to issues that had no counterpart in Croatia and Slavonia.  German speaking nobles were landlords in Croatia and supported the aspirations of the nobility of Hungary and as a special interest group they took their cue from Budapest.  The nationality question was of no consequence to them.  The German nobles also had no interest in “national” politics as Germans.  The “national” movements began among the urban populations fed on “romanticism”, mostly the poorer classes who felt discriminated against and the watchword became “Volk” (Folk) and “folk language.”  The Germans formed the largest single element in the urban settlements and went over to identifying with the Croatian aspirations and gave up their mother tongue.

  Most of the Croatian Nationalists were of German origin and had German names!  This was often through marriage.  Bishop Strossmayer is one important example.  In his case it became fanaticism.  But under the surface this was not the cultural and social movement born out of romanticism, but ethnic identification, another word for nationalism and racism and had political implications:  the unification of the South Slavs.  There was the demand for the use of the Croatian language by the government administration over against the use of Latin in the Counties and German in the courts.  After 1840 this became more and more contentious.

    In Essegg and other communities with a large German population they sided with the nationalist movement and supported their aspirations early in 1848 over the language issue.  They would support opposition against the Hungarian attempts to suppress such a movement.  In a petition they said the following:

  “We all desire to be united with Croatia as we always have been, but without breaking away from Hungary.  We are happy to accept the use of the Croatian language in all of the affairs of the city governance; but we will also continue to use our own language in out life and commerce…”

  The Croatian Nationalist became more strident and by May of 1848 they introduced the use of Croatian in all of the affairs of Weretz County.  The German population was caught between the rival nationalistic groups and had to make a choice and sided with the pro-Hungarian party.  They were attracted by the liberalism of Kossuth and a proposed new constitution with broader freedoms.  That act was a reflection of the basic liberalism of the German population in Essegg, which were the ideals of the French Revolution.

  The Banus (Governor) Jelacic opposed the aspirations of the Hungarian rebels and sided with the German-Austrian Emperor, while the German population of Slavonia and Croatia by and large followed the lead of Essegg in support of Kossuth and his allies.  To the horror of Jelacic, in April 1848 the Hungarian rebels abolished serfdom and declared that all nobles and commoners were equals!

  May 30, 1848 the mayor of Essegg, Alois Schmidt left for Budapest to declare the city of Essegg loyal to the Revolution.  The next day, the Town Council refused to accept or acknowledge Jelacic as the Banus and sent no representatives to Agram to a meeting of the Sabor to avoid participating in his installation.  Jelacic would never forget that.  He would later disenfranchise the citizens when he occupied the city and threatened to deport them to the United States.  It was only in 1850 that the German citizens regained their civic rights.

  In Srem things came a head before 1845.  Eastern Srem was heavily pro-Serbian, while western Srem was won over by the pro-Hungarian party.  The Germans by and large sided with the Hungarians but not in an overt or political way.  Ruma was an exception where the German population supported the Serbs.  But this would not last long.  By April 26, 1848 the German citizens complained to the County Administrator about the agitation of the Serbian youth who sowed hatred among the nationalities and threatened to beat up the German population of Ruma.  Other communities, like Semlin also wrote letters of complaint to the same effect.  This did not sit well with the Serbian Nationalist leadership who sought to control the Wojwodina where the largest German settlements were located.  The Military Frontier District was still under Hungarian control, but most of the officers were German and they needed to be won over.  The Serbian leadership prepared a proclamation addressed to:  

  

To Our German Brothers

  “The Serbian nation has been forced to preserve its national rights and freedoms by taking up the sword for the sake of its religion, traditions and customs, its language and nationality, in the face of the threats of the newly situated Magyar government, which we will oppose forever.

  The Serbian nation recognizes every religion, nationality, language, traditions, and customs, the right to life and ownership of every individual German brother and citizen.  The Serbian nation is not warring against German brothers, their religion, life, nationality or traditions to destroy them, nor their life, home and lands to destroy, plunder or rob, because such cruelties are not consistent with our own national character.

  Therefore, German brothers we acknowledge before God and all nations, that the Serbian nation and its military power has no aggressive intention against you, our German brothers, nor will we limit your religious or citizenship rights, on the contrary we will protect these rights as we face a common enemy and honor our loyalty to his Majesty, the Emperor, Ferdinand I, as a guarantee of your rights forever.

  BUT WE ALSO ISSUE THIS WARNING…all those Germans who oppose us or go over to the enemy will be treated as our enemies.

  Long live the Emperor, and King, Ferdidnand I, long live the German and Serbian people.  Long live our Brotherhood.”

  The relations between the local populations were strained.  On the local scene the Serbian population did not reflect their leadership’s actions and attitudes towards the Germans.  Violence broke out in many communities this was especially true in India.  The priests of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches both got into the act.  On the whole the German and Slovak populations wanted no part in these conflicts but were physically forced to support the Serbs.  The relations between the Serbs and the Roman Catholic population in particular continued to get worse and worse.

  The Serbian leadership began to mobilize the entire population regardless of nationality or religious confession.  This led to unrest and rebellion among the German population, especially in the Military Frontier District.  Troops had to be sent in to restore order and arrested Swabians and took them to Karlowitz to the military barracks.  The Serbs declared the Wojwodina a part of their state and were faced by the opposition of the Roman Catholic population.  In response to the Serbian provocations, the Roman Catholic population became more and more pro-Hungarian.  As long as the Hungarians and Serbs battled one another anarchy reigned in the Wojwodina.  Plundering, murder and robbery were the order of the day.  The Serbian population simply ran amok.  The Germans, like those in Bukowitz suffered greatly at their hands…

  The Removal of the German Language from Government and School 

  After 1860, the language issue in Croatia was taken up with great vehemence and as a result German disappeared as the language of the Courts.

  By action of the Sabor on October 5, 1861 all government authorities and officials had to be able to speak either Croatian or Serbian.  All representatives elected to the Sabor also had to speak one of the languages.  On October 13, 1861 the language of instruction in the schools was to be Serbo-Croatian, and German could no longer be taught as a subject in the high schools.  But Emperor Francis Joseph vetoed the new regulations.  The Croatians found other ways to impose their decree, beginning in the cities.  But in most of the German towns and cities, the Germans were able to maintain the use of their language and elect mayors, parliamentary representatives who were German speaking.

  In 1868 the Compromise between Hungary and Croatia and Slavonia was signed that granted some autonomy on domestic and religious affairs.

  It is interesting that in their negotiations with the Hungarians they used Kossuth their fiercest enemy as their model.  Kossuth had said that the evolving middle class in the towns would be the bearer of the national movement and the ultimate enemy would be the Germans.  “Our future depends on a middle class.  The nobles are easy to incorporate, but they are few, the source must be the citizens of the free cities.  But they must become Hungarans.  Our cities to a great extent are German, which means that commerce and industry is in German hands.  It is our nationality that is threatened by them.  They are the enemy.  Kossuth’s words met a responsive chord among the Croatians.

  But Srem was a different story.  No middle class evolved among the early agricultural settlers.  They brought their clergy and teachers with them.  After 1848 a few farmers sent their sons to study for the priesthood or teaching.  Their education was either in Croatian or Hungarian and did not prepare them to function as the intelligentsia of their peasant farmer society.  In the 1880’s and after the distance between the urban Germans and the farmers in the isolated areas led to them growing farther and farther apart in other ways as well.  The end of both groups appeared to be just ahead.  Neither group was of any significant political importance.

  The Germans in Srem found themselves caught between the Serbs and the Croatians who each sought hegemony over the other.  Since the Serbs were the majority, the Croatians hoped to catch up by assimilating all of the Germans into their language group.  They were quite successful in western Srem, but not in the eastern part.

  What happened was a resurgence of a “German conscousness” among the German population.  During the last decade of the 19th century a “German middle class” emerged in Ruma (with a population of 8,000 of whom 7,000 were Germans) as a result of some leading personalities who had attended German high schools outside of Srem, Slavonia and Croatia, especially in Graz and Vienna in Austria.  This had a tremendous affect on the deepening of a German consciousness on the part of all of the scattered German populations.  The first attempt at a German organization and a newspaper began in Ruma, November 2, 1903.  The first members were from Ruma, India, Putinci, Beschka and Neu Slankaman.  There were none from western Srem or Slavonia because information did not flow freely into those areas.  The first edition of “Deutsche Volksblatt fur Syrmien” (German People’s Paper fur Srem) was a weekly, with a circulation of 2,000 copies.  Soon other newspapers appeared in other areas.  This led to local libraries, agitation for German speaking priests and teachers, assemblies and the like.  The government legislated against them, but the Germans had “friends at court” and moved ahead.

  The Croatian press and public reaction against the German activism was to go on the attack everywhere.  Serbs and Croatians in Srem began to organize against the German threat.  After 1904, Ruma elected a German mayor and the majority of the Town Council were Germans, India elected to Germans of its twelve Town Council members, in Putinci it was eleven out of twelve and the Germans won a majority in Sotting in 1907.  The Croatian Nationalist parties all had apoplexy.

  Did this now mean that a German candidate could win election to the Sabor?  (Parliament).

  There were two categories of voters:  twenty-four years of age, male, citizen, and a taxpayer.  And the following could vote simply on the basis of their profession:  clergy, teachers, physicians, notaries, all university faculty members, druggists, engineers and professors.  There were 88 seats in the Sabor for a period of five years.

  In 1907 the Social Democrats pointed out that out of 2,500,000 men only 45,000 could vote.  The electoral district of Ruma, which included:  Ruma, India, Putinci, Kraljevci, Petrovci and Klein Rdinci had only an electorate of 1,108.  This was one of the largest of the electoral districts.  There were six electoral districts with less than 100 voters.  This left the door open to buy votes.  The Germans joined all those calling for universal suffrage just introduced in Austria in 1908.  But the government hedged, afraid that the German and Hungarian minority, which represented ten per cent of the population, would elect their own representatives and therefore influence the nation in some way.

  In 1910 an election reform law was passed against universal suffrage but expanding the electorate to 200,000 persons.  As a result in Ruma, the Germans were the majority of the electors at 53.25%, while in Semlin they represented 36.26%.  Of the 190,043 votes, 8,388 were Germans, which was 4.4%.  No one was happy with the reform.

  In 1917 the number of seats was increased to 122 and all of the electoral districts were made the same size in terms of the number of voters on the basis of the Croatian and Serbian populations, to make sure the minorities did not have the population to elect one of their own.  There was no electoral district with a German majority.  The closest were Essegg-Upper Town 34.7%, Semlin 38.3%,  Essegg-Lower Town 37.3% and Dobrinci 31.0%.

The Partisan Raid on Mlinska on 10.09.1942

 

     The German settlements in western Slavonia and Croatia in the vicinity of mountains and surrounded by huge forests, were soon the target and goal of incursions and raids by the Partisans.  Besides, there were things of value to get there.  Both Djulaves and Bastaji had already been attacked.  The German men who had offered resistance, had been kidnapped and then brutally murdered.  Mlinska appealed to the leaders of the Volkgroup in Essegg for help and assistance.  Some of the men no longer felt safe in sleeping in their homes.  The continuing threat and the carrying out of the beastly murders by the Partisans in other communities simply added to the apprehension and the fear all of Mlinska experienced.

 

     I was called upon to defend Mlinska with fifty-five men from the eastern Slavonian and Syrmien region.  We had one light weight machine gun, a machine pistol, old rifles from the First World War, a chest of hand-grenades and another chest of ammunition.  I had take one of the rifles to the local Serbian blacksmith to put it back into shape.  Because we were only too well aware of our precarious position, I requested that the Domobrani, (Henry’s Note.  The local Croatian militia) in Garnesnica, who were called upon to defend the regional capital, should also provide support for us.

 

     A few days before the raid on Mlinska, the Partisans had attacked Goila which was defended by German troops stationed there because of the oil derricks there, which were totally destroyed, and these troops were much better equipped then we were.

 

     On the night of September 10th 1942, the Partisans marched on Mlinska from all sides.

Their major attack was directed along the road that led to Vinograd.  They sneaked through the barnyards towards our chief defensive position, the school.  From along the bridge across the Mlinska Creek in the direction of Vinograd, there sounded the ear piercing cries and screams of women and children.  Because our machine gun was useless, and the Partisans were armed with machine pistols and numerous machine guns that far outnumbered our rifles, there was no alternative for me and the few men I had around me but to break through the encirclement and head to Garesnica, in order to get help.  At the heights before Klein Pasijan the Partisans had strung a chain in our way along the road.  As a result one of our men was severely wounded.  A dum-dum bullet blew away part of his hip.  We dragged him along with us to Gross Paskujan, and one of our countrymen brought him in a wagon from there to Garnesnica.  As I stood on the heights above both of the Pasijan villages, I looked back at Mlinska and the school was already burning, and shortly afterwards our reserve ammunition which we had hidden under the school exploded and blew the building apart.

 

     No help was available from the Domobrani troops in Garnesnica.  The Partisans must have known about our breakout, because they now undertook an attack on Garnesnica.  As we came into Garnesnica, we met a terrified horde of “Homeland Defenders” (which is a literal translation of Domobrani), and the commander asked me to place my men on sentry duty during the night to personally protect him.  He had no confidence in his own Domobranis.

     There were many instances in which Domobrani were unable to provide any defense for the Croatian population, because many of their officers turned traitor and worked closely with the Partisans.  Such a state could hardly be tolerated.  The Germans alone could not protect him.

 

     There were nineteen men from the local defense troops who lost their lives in the attack on Mlinska, and three men from the village were murdered.  They were the last to be buried in the Mlinska cemetery.

 

     The school and several houses were burned to the ground.

 

     The wounded man, that I brought to the hospital in Bjelovar died there.

 

     After the raid, it was clear, that our homeland would be lost to us.  Following the expulsion of the Turks from the area there had been no military activity, but now, through the activities and goals of the Partisans it became a virtual battlefield.  The Germans, who in the main part were defenseless became the major target of both the nationalist and communist elements among the Partisan brigades.  The time was fast approaching when their properties and homes would be easy take over without too much effort.  For after all everyone knew the Germans had been given the best land.

 

The Court Proceedings of the Partisans

 

     After the raid on Mlinska, there was a court proceeding that was held up in the forest, in Bukvik, dealing with the captured and accused men they had apprehended in Mlinska.

 

     Our fellow villager, Johann Ferber, who was also captured and taken by the Partisans , later shared with us the following:

 

     “During the raid, the following fellow villagers were accused and taken away:

 

     Stefan Frey was accused of having led a Partisan officer into a trap, resulting in him being severely wounded.

 

     As a matter of fact, two soldiers had entrenched themselves in his house, in order to defend themselves against the Partisans.  They had sought refuge in his house.  They had done so to defend his house from further destruction and further gunfire, but he attempted to convince the soldiers to give themselves up.  But they insisted on dealing with a Partisan officer.  Stefan Frey proceeded to notify one of the Partisan officers, and as a result one of the Partisan officers approached the house to negotiate with the soldiers.  As he approached them, one of the soldiers shot him in the shoulder.  This was looked upon as a hostile act on Stefan Frey’s part, and it was because of that he was being put on trial.

 

    Johann Hoffmann and one of the officers of the regional security forces were captured while in uniform.

 

     Heinrich Hosser was the local leader of the German Folkgroup organization.

 

     The Partisans found a rifle in our yard, that one of the fleeing soldiers had somehow hidden.  At that time I had sought safety in our cellar and I knew nothing about a gun at all.  The Partisans were afraid that there were soldiers hiding in my barn and stalls, so that they shot wildly and managed to hit one of my horses in the foot.

 

     The Partisans who carried out the trial were also our accusers.  They had to give the grounds for the reason for putting us on trial.  The Partisans sat in a circle all around us.  Each one of us was assigned a defender.  It was simply a show trial held to entertain the screaming and boisterous attackers, who screamed the loudest when the death sentence was passed on one of the men.

 

     Stefan Frey, Johann Hoffmann and the officer were sentenced to death.  They were led away by a special unit and butchered in the forest nearby.

 

     Stefan Frey had twenty-seven stab wounds on his body, and each of his fingers were cut open, so that they could make him suffer as long as possible.  Johann Hoffmann was stabbed through his ear and into his brain, and had his throat cut.  The officer and a Ustasi soldier, whom they had kidnapped in Vinograd, where likewise butchered.  The Partisans were jubilant and ecstatic over the screams and moans of the martyred men.

 

     When it was discovered that Heinrich Hosser was not the wanted Johann Schüssler who was the local leader of the German Folkgroup Organization, they let him return home.

 

     I was fortunate that one of the Partisans was a Slovenian who was studying with the same master craftsman I was.  He spoke up for me, but with the warning that I could not reveal the fact that I had seen him among the Partisans.  He also played a leading role among the Partisans.  Through him my life was spared and I was able to tell the families of the murdered men where they could find their bodies.

 

     The Partisans had totally plundered all of the houses of Mlinska.  All of the drawers were emptied of their contents, all of the bedding, pillows, mattresses and covers were taken, and even the towels hanging in the kitchen.  They also took all the money they could find.  They loaded everything on wagons and drove off.

  

The Great Leave Taking

 

    After the raid, resulting in the beastly murder of Stefan Frey and Johann Hoffmann, and David Turban’s death after the attack on the village of  Jaras of Popovac, where he was shot, and with the school and many houses in Mlinska in flames, it was clear to everyone that we could no longer remain here.  There was fear every night, and they spent long and sleepless nights.  The village was completely defenseless, and many of the men no longer slept in their homes at night.

     How long could one live with all of this uncertainty and the constant fear of the loss of life all around them?

 

     The crops that had not yet been taken in were quickly harvested, but no new crops were planted.  But some still prepared for the next year, but only enough to see them through.

 

     Appeals were sent to the Folk Group leadership in Essegg, to make every effort to resettle the population of Mlinska and remove them from this dangerous situation in which they found themselves.  There were already plans to resettle the Germans of Bosnia to safety in the German Reich, and they desired to join this evacuation.

 

     In the Treaty between the German Reich and the Independent State of Croatia of 30.09.1942 the resettlement of the Bosnia Germans had been approved.  This item in the Treaty was now extended to also include those Germans in Croatia.

 

     The agreement included:

 

      A forced resettlement would not be undertaken.  The right to resettle was extended to all Germans, including also those men serving in the Croatian or German armies, or had joined the Waffen-SS.  This also applied to those who were already in the Reich who had gone there to work.  In cases of mixed marriages with non-Germans, if they were half-Germans they would be accepted.

 

     The following items could be taken by those who were being resettled:  clothes, bedding, dishes and tableware, linens, food and other provisions.

 

     All livestock, furnishings, machines and tools would have to be left behind.

 

     In terms of money, each person would receive 2,000 Kuna or 100 Reichs Mark.   All other money was to be presented with their documentation at the time they were registered with the Resettlement Commission.

 

     The representatives of the German Resettlement Commission were to meet with the representatives of the Croatian Government in order to establish an inventory of value of the homes and landholdings of the Germans to be resettled, and also to do the same in terms of the livestock and machinery.  No representative of the Croatian government ever put in an appearance.

 

     The chief of staff of the headquarters of the Resettlement Commision consisted of individuals who had been involved in the earlier resettlement of the Bessarabia Germans from the eastern territories.  The process was soon underway and registration began quickly.  None of the residents of Mlinska or Pasijan will ever forget the very personal nature of this darkest hour in their lives, the personal worries, grief and anxieties they endured in giving up forever their homes and the only life they had ever known.  The inner anguish was more than many could bear, as they were forced to uproot themselves with only a vague hope of what the future might hold for them.  These memories need to be preserved and acknowledged and are done so here.

 

     Things would be different for many of them in their personal experiences during their time in the camps after arriving in Poland.  What was in effect there was a lack of understanding and sympathy.  In their dealings with Reich officials they were met by undisguised arrogance.  These men were completely ignorant of their origins and the situation into which they had been placed by the events that had forced their resettlement.  They poured cold water on all of their hopes and dreams.  Our people had a sense of community with one another, and also with the other people around them, and were accustomed to common courtesy and kindness in their personal interactions.  The military style of life in the camps to which they were subjected was foreign to them.

 

     When they were registered by the Commission they were informed of what they were allowed to take with them, and packing became everyone’s full time occupation.  But as always they were prepared to help and assist one another in this task.  Chests were nailed shut and names and numbers were written on them.  Bedding was either sewed into sacks or into bundles.  Everyone wanted to take as much as they could, especially in terms of food provisions.  On many occasions they unpacked what they had already packed because they had found other items they could not do without and had to discard what they had originally chosen.  There were a whole set of different feelings around each item, and it was painful to make the choice.  None of this is written down anywhere.  But the memories remain and continue to be matters that the older people discuss among one another remembering those days.

 

     On October 27th 1942, four days before our major local festival to commemorate the dedication of our school, the heavily loaded wagon train, under the protection of the Wehrmacht (Henry’s Note.  German Army) got under way, heading for the train station in Garesnica.

 

     The Croatian Army was to take over our abandoned properties.  But none of them put in an appearance so that our people had to feed the livestock before they left, leaving them unattended.  Of course there were those who attempted to alleviate the situation for their livestock.  Several filled all of the water troughs and released the livestock from the stables and let them roam in order to find food for themselves.  Others filled the mangers with hay, so that they would not starve.  There were others who could not deal with having to leave the results of the harvest behind for others who were only too glad to see them leave.  They went into their wine cellars and opened the faucets of their wine barrels and watched the wine drain onto the earth floor.

 

     My mother, who stayed with me and was not resettled, visited Mlinska one more time the next day, the 28th of October.  At Suputs, our next door neighbours, across the street from us, there was a table full of slaughtered chickens, and a huge crock of sour peppers in her kitchen that she had dragged in.  She was obviously exhausted from her labours, for it had been no small fete and Ljubica explained all of her efforts by saying, “My Joco really likes your sour peppers!”

     It was much like what others found as well.  There were a couple of women from Mlinska who returned early on the 28th, having walked quickly from Garesnica to come home to Mlinska.  Forever after, they claimed the pitiful bellowing of the unmilked cows rang in their ears.

 

     The men in Garesnica were busy with loading their belongings on the train cars.  When everything was loaded and the people were on board, the train left for Germany at three in the afternoon on October 28th 1942.  The horses remained in harness with the wagons and where simply left standing there.  There were some of the men who removed their harnesses with the hope that they might need them again some time in the future.  For if there had not been any hope like this, our leave taking would have been even more unbearable.

 

     Later we learned that three days later a company of Domobrani came to Mlinska.  They soon discovered the wine cellars whose barrels had been tapped.  Using their helmets they scooped up the wine from the floor and drank it.  They were soon so drunk that two Partisans, it was said, could have captured the whole company all on their own.

 

     For the other nationalities, as well as the Partisans from the surrounding area, along with the Gypsies, who now took up quarters in the German homes, began to live in what for them was a fool’s paradise.

 

     The day after the raid on Mlinska my grandmother was standing at the gate to our yard, looking down the street in the direction of the school and wept.  A Partisan (a woman) passed by her and said, “Little grandmother, why are you crying?  Because of the houses that are in flames?  These will all be rebuilt by the industrious hardworking hands that first built Mlinska.”

 

     But those industrious hardworking hands were no longer there in Mlinska after the war was over, which was only too obvious to all who visited there in the following years.

  

This followed by the charts with regard to the resident families of Mlinska.

 

The Mlinska Dialect follows, which cannot really be translated into English.

 

In The Camps

 

    Along with the loss of their homeland they now also lost their independence.  They were simply numbers in a camp, in which those in charge had little understanding or any empathy for the people committed to their care.  Even less were they even able to comprehend what effect the raid on their community and their resettlement had on them.  They were often treated and dealt with as if they were there to serve the officials rather than have heir own needs met.

 

     Their disillusionment already began on their journey to the Kirschberg Camp, when they were unloaded at Zgierz and were deloused.  Without any consideration for modesty, all of the mothers, daughters, and little children were forced to undress and then were herded together under showerheads.  While this procedure went ahead their clothing was “deloused”.  The same happened to the men and the older sons.  They had never received treatment like this before, and were shocked to find themselves in a situation that was totally out of character for them.

 

     After this cold shower they were taken back to the train depot and entrained and went on to Pabianice, where they had to be loaded on board trucks, that brought them to the camp at Kirschberg.  The large pieces of their luggage were unloaded from the trucks and stored in a warehouse, while they were allowed to take their smaller pieces with them.  They arrived in Kirschberg on October 30th, 1942.

 

     Two to three families were ushered into each of the houses, on their arrival in Kirschberg, which had been the summer homes of rich people from Lodz.  In Camp #1 the villagers from Mlinska, Brschljanic, Paschijan, Dischnik and Popovac were billeted.  With their registration they received a ration book for food, the first steps towards a more regularized and ordered life.  From then on, they had to follow orders:  Report to receive your food allotment.”  Report for this and get in line for that, day after day, always standing in line.  Order had to prevail.  Wishes and desires were never given any consideration.  The people in charge and the administration always knew better.  Such treatment was totally repellant to them.  They had never experienced anything like this   living among foreign populations in the past.

 

     Being unoccupied and living in such close quarters had all kinds of adverse effects upon our people.  They had too much time on their hands, in order to grumble about what they had endured, and what they had to live with in the present.  For the women there was no problem with regard to cooking in the camp.  The food was prepared in a large kitchen, but it was not to the taste of our people.  For noon there was hot soup, which seldom included meat.  In the mornings and at evening there was a thick broth.  Small children received a quarter of a litre of milk.  Those families consisting of only adults seldom received milk or butter, because they were in short supply.  During the third year of the war as shortages became more pronounced many of our people found ways to escape from the camp and find food in the neighbourhood.  But of course there were those who were part of the camp administration who experienced no shortages at all and lived high on the hog.

 

     In order to improve on their meager rations, in the winter of 1942/1942 the men from the camp were driven over to the warehouse in Pabianice to bring back some of the possessions they had brought with them.  But they could only bring back what they found there.  Most of the chest had been broken into and the contents stolen.  The disappointment and bitterness of the people reached new heights.

 

Daily life in the Camp:

 

    During the summer, all adults had to report at 7:00 in the morning, and 8:00 in the winter, and assemble at a central area for roll call just like soldiers.  The commander of the camp would give orders for the day, and the people were placed in work units.  The able bodied men were put in groups, and were set to work either in Litzmannstadt (Lodz) or in the camp.  Many of them only came home on the weekends.  Most of them worked in the armaments industry.  All of the able bodied had to work, including the women.

 

     Each of the camps had their own administration and commander and office workers, who also had their living quarters.  The camp commander was an SS man.  The headquarters for the whole complex was in camp V.  It was there were the large cooking kitchen, the hospital, the dental clinic, school, moviehouse, sport’s field, and youth home were to be found.  At the age of sixteen and seventeen our young boys were taken into the army.  Families, who had sons at the front, were allowed to leave the camp and were settled at Stockhof by Litzmanstadt.  There they were free citizens.

 

     After becoming naturalized citizens of the German Reich, the people were called up for settlement in the General Government of Poland in the areas of Lublin and Samosc.  Because the homesteads promised to them would be in Polish territory, they were hesitant in resettling there because of their experience in the past living among other nationalities.  Because of their hesitation various underhanded methods were used against them.  The pressures against them became more intense, until the spring of 1944 when several men decided to go to Berlin.  They were successful, and the Interior Ministry declared that they could not be resettled against their will.

 

     The offer extended to them to settle in Luxembourg or the southern Steiermark, was accepted by some of them.  The offer came at the same time that it was announced that they camp would be cleared.  At the end of 1944 the camp was quickly evacuated, as the front lines came closer and closer.

 

    At this point the community that had once been Mlinska was torn apart as the people were scattered far and wide and in truth this was the end of German Mlinska forever.

  

The Last Leaf of the Tree

 

     Our fellow villager, Heinrich Hosser, who was born 07.12.1893 in Somogydöröschke, and he was the last of the survivors of the generation who had left Hungary and settled in Croatia.  At first, his parents migrated to Srp. Seliste.  Here they sold their property later and moved on to Mlinska in 1917.  In 1942 the family was resettled in Kirschberg, Poland.  From here Heinrich Hosser moved on to the Steiermark.  From Steiermark he went on to the refugee camp in Salzburg.  When this camp was closed, he and his wife, along with his son and daughter-in-law and their children, moved to Neckarelz, where he lived out his final years with his son’s family.  When he made his final journey, the last leaf of the trunk of the original settlers in Mlinska fell from the tree, a mute testimony to the unforgettable story of the founding and development of what had once been Mlinska.

 

The End of the War

 

     In the last year of the war, the villagers from Mlinska and Pasijan were scattered under God’s blue heaven throughout all of Germany.  Some were in Luxembourg, others in the Steiermark, where they were settled along the frontier of Croatia.  Others were sent through Germany to the Ennstal.  The families, in the heart of the Reich who found work and a home, were much better off than the others.  Those who were settled in the west and the south east, as well as those who had remained in the camp, were all forced to flee with the coming of the advancing Allied armies.  Some found themselves on the streets and roads as the war and the front lines caught up with them.  A hard, uncertain and above all a hopeless time began for all of them.  No one knew what tomorrow might bring.  To their good fortune, the occupying powers had a better understanding of their situation as homeless and displaced persons, than many of their own German officials.  But there were also examples of the support and kindness they received from local German families.  Especially difficult was the situation of women with children without a husband or father, who had been conscripted into the army, had died or was missing, or was somewhere in a prisoner of war camp.

 

     Who on earth can write of all of the worries and difficulties we endured, which every family had to bear on their own.  Some were terribly afflicted.

 

     From the various letters and reports, I want to lift up one of them, which I especially find the most tragic.  Perhaps, it will help some other to deal with the effects of their own fate more easily.

 

     Elisabeth Kah, the wife of Heinrich Kah (Erdmann), whose family name was Deak, who came from Antunovac writes briefly, in simple sentences, what a human being can endure.  Here is an excerpt from her letter:

 

          “After the resettlement from Mlinska, by night we came to Kirschberg, in

            District of Litzmannstadt, in present day Poland.  It was there where our

            son Horst Kah was born on 18.04.1943.

            From July 1943 until March 1944 we lived in Tomaschow.  From there I

            returned to Kirschberg and on 19.05.1944 our son Gerhard was born.  In

            September of 1944 he was hospitalized, where we had to leave him,

            because at the end of October, we had to flee to Graz.  From their we had

            to move to Knittelfeld/Steiermark in November 1944.  On 23.02.1945, along

            with my two children, Horst and Elisabeth, I were victims of an air raid.

            Both of the children died as a result, while I was terribly wounded.

            After the air raid we found shelter in the small village of Fensch, in the

            vicinity of Knittelfeld.

            After my recovery I searched all across Germany for my son Gerhard, and

            in 1949 I received word that he was living with a family in Bad Pyrmont in

            Germany.  Along with a transport of other infants and children, along with

            wounded soldiers he was brought to Bad Pyrmont and was given to a family

            that had seven children of their own.

          At the beginning of 1949, I was able to embrace my son Gerhard, who in the

           meantime had been baptized Peter, at the German and Austrian border, having

           been brought there by a member of the family that had cared for him.  We then

           returned together to Fensch.

           Fourteen days before, my mother-in-law Theresia Erdmann had left to go

           overseas to Brazil to join her daughter.   She had been made aware of the fact

           that Gerhard had been found.  On 03.11.1949 I was divorced from my husband.

           On 22.03.1950 I fled across the border between Austria and Germany along with

           Gerhard, having paid the last of my money to a man who would get us across so

           that I could join the family that had raised Gerhard.  They had expressed the wish

           that we come and join them.  Since that time I have lived in Bad Pyrmont.

           Because of my separation from my former husband, I was unable to claim any of

           the property we had lost, even though we possessed all of the papers, which was

           also true of countless other refugees…”

 

     Until now the personal losses of the Mlinska villagers, as a result of the Partisan raid and the war that we have explored were very painful, but they were not as great in comparison to what villages and their people suffered.  The greatest losses occurred after the end of the war, by those who returned home.  They believed that now that the war was over they had had enough of the uncertainties of living in Germany and later in Austria, and they wanted to go home to reclaim their homes and property.  That is what they believed assuming they had a right to do so.  But they soon found out they had no rights at all in their homeland, but were at the mercy of the new political reality that was now in place.  Many of those who returned never even saw Mlinska again, but instead were immediately thrown into extermination camps.  Most of them would remain there as victims.

 

     The following attempting to return home to Mlinska:

 

      Two Rittinger families, Jr. and Sr.

      The family of Philipp Friedrich

      The family of Philipp Ferber

      The family of Hock

      The family of Feist and Heberling

      The family of Müller and Lux

      The family of Kraus and Knies

      The family of Jakob Rohmann and Rottenbiller

      The family of Eva Beck and Henrich Beck

      The family of Eiler and daughter Birkenbach with her son

 

     Our countrymen, Johann Rittinger, who along with a few other of our people were able to return and reach Mlinska, describes his journey back to our hold homeland.

 

     “In the Steiermark around Graz there was no longer a possibility of us remaining there.  The Russians sent us home, and the Austrian officials were only to glad to be freed of us Germans.  We as Germans were now undesirable foreigners.  That is why they were in such a hurry to get rid of us.  At Wildon we were loaded on trains and they wanted to send us home across Marburg on the  Drava River.  When we arrived there the bridge had been dynamited and we were sent back to Graz.  We remained there for two days on a railway siding.  I learned that there was a Tito embassy in Graz, where one could report in order to return home to Yugoslavia.  Along the way I met a group of Yugoslavian Germans who had been robbed of everything on a transport going back to Yugoslavia and tried to talk me out of going back home.  But shortly afterwards we received official permission to return to home after finding the embassy.  When I showed the Partisan my papers, he said, “You don’t need any papers to go to Yugoslavia, because you are already inside of Yugoslavia.  Everything from here to Vienna will soon belong to Yugoslavia.”

 

     We then traveled across Hungary in the direction of home.  At Kotoriba our luggage was loaded on horse drawn wagons that were waiting for us.  Our luggage was divided among the wagon drivers and we were brought into a camp.  My driver was an honest man and told me, that he did not want to have our luggage.  He gave me his address, and as soon I as I was free I could come and claim them.  I was later able to do that.

 

     In the camp at Martijanec people were already dieing of typhus.  In a few days we were marched to the transit camp at Pettau.  Here we still received good food.  We were interrogated and at our wish we were sent to Croatia.   We arrived at the camp of Precko by Agram.  In this camp I cam down with typhus and was put in the hospital at Sv. Duh.  In Precko the last of our possessions were taken from us, as well as our papers.

 

     While in hospital I was visited by Dr. Koharvic, who earlier had been a physician in Garesnica.  I recognized him and he also recognized me.  He immediately went to work to attempt to have our people freed as soon as possible.

 

     Two days before Christmas in 1945, my aunt Elisabeth Ferber and my brother were on our way to Mlinska.  On the road between Garnesnica and Pasijan, not far from the depot, we ran into Ljuban Vujkovic.  As we passed by one another, he recognized us and turned and asked, “Hans, is that you?  What on earth do you want in Mlinska?  You no longer have no reason to be there.  Hitler had a bullet for himself, and for you we have one too!”

 

     That was some greeting.  With great fear we came to Mlinska.  There I met my mother, and her granddaughter, Frieda.  They lived with Vujkovic Marko.  We were not allowed into our own homes.  This had been ordered by the local committee.  I found shelter with Frljanovic.  He encouraged us.  And told us that we could no longer think in individualistic terms in the future.  That no longer had any meaning or significance.

 

     Old Uncle Hocks was with Anbna Prodanovic, Friedrichs were at Janos and Feist and his daughter at Madjeric.

 

     In Palesnik there was also a camp.  Eva Beck and her children, and her, and my brother-in-law Heinrich Beck got out of the camp and came to Mlinska.   Others also came and joined us, and we worked wherever we could.

 

     We found safety here and settled in.  Since we had relatives in the Krndija camp, my brother-in-law Heinrich Beck and I drove there with food and provisions.  On our way back I met a transport of prisoners at the station in Bjelovar, among whom were all of the Mlinska people who were with us, who had been assembled while we were gone and were being sent to an extermination camp.  I was warned to go into hiding, which I did without returning to Mlinska, but headed to Agram and Dr. Koharivic.  Because he could not oppose the orders of the local committee, he looked after me by placing me in the hospital and giving me work there to support myself.  I stayed there until all of the members of my family, who had survived the camps, assembled in the neighbourhood.  In 1955 we left for Germany.  It was thirteen years after we had left home in the first place and hopefully we would find a home again.

 

Memories

 

     Our fellow villagers and countrymen Johann Kohler and Johann Rittinger, Sr., have recorded their painful experiences in the form of poetry.  They said what many lived through within themselves.  When the heart is full the mouth runs over.

 

The Terrors of Krndia

By

Johann Rittinger

 

Upon the hill of Krndia there stands a cross above its heights,

  As often as I think of it, my heart knows so much pain.

 

In the cemetery of Krndia, on the path that separates,

 There lies buried my blessed wife.

 

She had suffered so much before she met her end,

 And made her husband a widower.

 

The angel of death harvested here,

 And bedded thousands in these graves.

 

He robbed many a mother of her child,

 And bowed the heads of many of the elderly.

 

Whole families he brought to an untimely end,

  And made very many little children into orphans.

 

He forced the aged mothers count the long days,

 And then finally at the end laid them in their graves.

 

He robbed many a young hopeful groom of his bride,

 And turned the hopes of a would-be bride to dust.

 

O, Cemetery of Krndia, you terror of the time,

 Within you lie humans from far and wide.

 

One from the south, the other from the east,

 The third from the north, and the fourth from the west.

 

Without a home now, having been driven from their house,

 That is how my loved ones were afflicted by others.

 

O, Acre of freedom, with a cross at the center,

  You have become a field of crosses, with one after another.

 

My heart wants to break because of all of this even now,

 And I want to fly to Krndia and weep myself until I can cry no more.

 

Of what use is all of my weeping, of what value is my complaint,

 I cannot have my loved ones back again.

 

They lie here buried on the fields of Krndia

 God wanted it this way and called them out of this world.

 

I am abandoned by my brothers and sisters, my parents are dead,

 Have mercy upon me, Almighty God!

 

Today I thought of Krndia again,

 And wish my loved ones good night, one more time.

Chapter Thirteen

 The Second World War 

  Up until the German invasion of Yugoslavia in April of 1941, and even after the entry of German troops on Maundy Thursday, we Germans in Bastei were left unmolested except for a few incidents involving certain personalities, and we went about our work mostly unaffected by it all.  Shortly before the war broke out, all of our men of military age received their enlistment order into the Yugoslavian Army and all of them obeyed and reported for duty, and thank God all of them returned home safely to their families following the capitulation.

 

  From the outbreak of the war up to the arrival of the German Army that passed through Gross Bastei was only a matter of a few days.  But nothing happened to us at that time, but we were afraid because we had learned that in other places German men were taken hostage and jailed, so it was no wonder that we were relieved to welcome the German troops.

 

  Several of the German soldiers participated with us in the Good Friday service in our prayerhous.  One of the soldiers, whose name was Erich Staudte, asked my father if our forebears had emigrated from Heppenheim an der Bergstrasse.  At that time we did not know that our forefather Leonhard Heppenheimer and his wife Anna Katharina and their son Nicolaus had emigrated to Hungary and first arrived in Kalazno around 1724 from Nieder-Ramstadt.

 

  A few months after the entry of the German Army and the declaration of the Independent State of Croatia, word spread of attacks by armed men taking place in the countryside who were called:  Chetniks.  (They were Serbian Royalists and Nationalists).

In order for us to be able to defend our village, the Germans of Bastei received several guns and rifles and went on night patrols along with Serbs from the village, but only the Germans were armed…  These night patrols lasted until March 15, 1942.  On that night Johann Partz, who lived in Gross Bastei was shot in the stomach standing in his front doorway and was wounded so badly that he died the next day.  The “troopers of liberation” as the Partisans called themselves, also wounded a young Croat by the name of  Franjo Petrovic who suffered terribly for the next few months before he finally died.

 

  In light of this frightening experience, the leaders of the German villagers had to decide on a course of action to take in the face of these first two deaths.  Should they leave their destiny in the hands of others, or would they defend themselves and their homes that their grandparents had struggled to establish.  The men decided that they would defend the village with the hope that the Partisans would avoid Bastei as a result and leave them in peace.

 

  The events on June 5, 1942 shattered this hope.  I lived through that day as a seventeen year old teenager and this is how I remember it:

 

  “It was already broad daylight.  I had harnessed the horses to go and get some hay for feeding the livestock.  My father stood at the door of our house and wanted to come with me.   But because he had just come home after being on the night watch, I told him he should get some rest and got to sleep.  I would drive out to the fields by myself.

 

   That was the last time I would ever see me father.  I simply drove off…

 

   I arrived at our field, tied up the horses, gave them some clover to eat, and then I heard the whistling sound of bullets fly overhead, and the horses were frightened and ran off with the wagon.  I just managed to jump on the back of the wagon, while the horses headed back to the village, and was only just able to get them to turn to the left on a track into our vineyard and on to Miletinac.  Just ahead, at the Serbian cemetery, I saw a group of rather frightened Serbs cowering together.  I stopped the horses close beside the men until all of the shooting had stopped.  After about fifteen minutes I asked the Serbs to take charge of my horses, while I went into the village to find out what had happened.  The Serbs were concerned for me and the oldest said, “My son, for God’s sake stay here”!

 

  I didn’t follow what I knew was the well intentioned advice offered and marched off in the direction of the village.  At the village’s end at Leipold’s house #57, there were German women and girls huddled together in a group and in talking to them I discovered that they did not know what had happened down in the center of the village, or at the other end of town either.  I went on ahead, and all at once a girl called after me, “Henry, don’t go any further”!  But by then two Partisans had seen me and I had seen them too.

 

  “Where are you going”? They demanded to know.

 

 “Home”, I answered.

 

  “Where do you live”?  One of them asked.

 

  I answered, “Up ahead there”!

 

  Then the one Partisan said to the other, “That’s where our men are”.

 

  I managed to hear that, but I could not turn around, because they were watching me so closely, and besides I was curious to find out what had happened.  I then went ahead as far as our plum orchard, and slid into the orchard itself and found my way quickly to our hayloft.  My cousin Henry was already there.  The Partisans had ordered him to tell our men to give themselves up and nothing would happen to them.  My cousin had sized up the situation correctly and had sneaked off and he told me the Partisans were setting our prayerhouse on fire.  But he did not tell me that our pastor and three men (including my father) were in the attic of the prayerhouse.

 

  We did not feel safe in the hayloft and all at once we heard women screaming, “They’re setting the houses on fire!”

 

  It became clear to us that we could not remain in our hiding place.  We crept from our hayloft to our neighbours the Krahlings and then on to the Freys.  Here we dashed into the Keim’s fruit orchard, then the Kleins, and ran across the land of a Serb.  The people here stood in their yard.  They offered no help, nor did they hinder us.  We just kept on running and crossed over the street and headed for the forest.  Meanwhile, someone must have told the Partisans about us, because they began to shoot at us and we dove into a ditch filled with water and followed it to the forest by the Serbian cemetery.

 

  Deep in the woods, near by Keim’s vineyard, we searched for a hiding place.  After a few hours we heard cries of “Ustasi”!  They were our Serbs.  They wept and said the Usatasi (Croatian Fascists) were shooting the Serbs in the village.  We felt sorry for them and we went home to see what had happened”.

 

  Pastor Jakob Abrell reports the following:

 

  “I will attempt to recount the events of the worste day of my life as best as I can in retrospect.

 

   As soon as my young son asked me what it was that he should do after I woke him, I quickly answered, “You know”.  He immediately followed my advice.  Then, I hurried to see what was going on.

 

  At first I could see nothing of any enemies.  But soon our situation became clear to me.  We were being attacked from all sides.  I had to make my way back to my house to get some ammunition which I had left there and found myself under heavy fire.  In a few minutes I was running back from where I had come from in order to see what things were like on the other side of the village.  It was soon obvious to me that the attackers were all over the rest of Klein-Bastei.  In order to get to my yard, I would have to go over the fence.  As soon as I was able to reach it, the resistance on the part of our men had completely stopped.  Women and children and several men had fled for safety into the yard of the parsonage.  Now I discovered that from among my men, a twenty four year old young married man had been killed.

 

  At my suggestion, three of the men went along with me to the attic of the parsonage where we sought to defend ourselves.  My old mother and my son were in the house, my wife and other children and a sick neighbour had hidden in the cellar of the parsonage.  In the attic we opened the shuttered windows, two faced the street and two looked over the courtyard and we prepared to shoot if necessary.

 

  Meanwhile the attackers had swarmed into the yard, but my companions were no longer prepared to offer resistance.  As a result they suggested that we surrender, which I opposed, because I knew what would happen if we did.  But because there was no longer any resistance on the part of our men, and on all sides we heard the screams of the raiders and the weeping and crying of the women and children, the three men renewed their suggestion that we surrender.  I realized that I could no longer count on them, and I permitted them to give themselves up.  They crept down from the attic and left me their ammunition which I no longer needed.

 

  By now our enemies were already inside of the house.  I remained all alone up in the attic.  Only God was with me into Whose hands I placed myself.  Although I knew real doubt, an inner peace took hold of me that never left me in the experiences I would now endure.  I was ready to give up my life with a gun in my hands.

 

  Next the intruders below wanted to know where the Papa (Pastor) was.  Then my neighbour, one of the three men who had been with me said, I was up in the attic.  He was ordered to call me.  Which he did.  In the meanwhile, the others downstairs asked if I had a wife and family and where they were.  They told them that my wife was not at home, although my aged mother and son were in the house.  They had already smashed in all of the windows in the house and had also shot into the house through the windows.  They smashed down the doors into the house and pushed my mother and son Reinhard out of the house and screamed at my mother and pushed her around.  Then they wanted her to climb up the stairs and bring me down from the attic.

 

  Soon it was obvious to them that the terrified old woman could not do that, so they sent me my son with the same task.  And I heard it all.  My son came to me.  I did not want to let him go back downstairs.  They were also threatening to burn down the house.  When Reinhard asked me what to do up here with me, I ordered him to lie down.  He did that, but he asked fearfully, “What if they throw hand grenades”?  Then he began to cry.  And yet he said, “I will go downstairs.  They won’t do anything to me.  After all I have already faced them once”.  As a result, I let him go back down into the house.

 

  By now the Partisans had driven numerous men in the parsonage yard and they knew what was going on and that I had not given an answer to their order for me to come down.  Nor had I done so.  The intruders continued to order me down, assuring me that nothing would happen to me and they threatened to set the parsonage on fire and I would be burned alive.

 

  Eventually, they threatened to shoot my aged mother and my son, if I would not come down from the attic.  Not even this threat could get me to come down.    Then a brave young man with a military police badge on his arm came up to get me.  I let him come half way up the stairs and then pulled at the trigger as if to shoot.  He was down a lot quicker that he had been in coming up.  As a result of that they prepared to set the house on fire.  So I began to shoot through the floorboards of the attic down at them below.  They could not see me and I could not see them.  But the wooden stairs caught on fire and I had no way of putting out the fire.  It looked to me as if I would never come out of this alive.  Death was reaching out to me.

 

  They had dragged over a long ladder from one of the neighbours but to my good fortune it was too short and they threw a grenade from it, close to me.  I stepped back from it and threw myself to the floor.  But because it did not explode right away, I grabbed it.  I wanted to toss it out of the attic window, but I missed!  But in the very next moment, the second grenade came flying in and ran rolled three steps before it exploded.  Not even one splinter touched me.  My ears were deafened by the explosion and the breath was knocked out of me.  But that was all over in a matter of seconds.  The attic was filled with smoke, the stairs and roof were on fire and in order not to suffocate I needed to get fresh air.  I moved to the other side of the roof because I still had to contend with the explosion of the first grenade.  The whole house was now in flames.  Torches had been thrown into all of the rooms, they continued to shoot at the roof and even threw rocks.

 

  Now they began to bind the men in the yard two by two.  This included those who had surrendered as well as those who had been with me in the attic.  There were sixteen men in all.  Then they led them away, one group behind the other.  The wailing and weeping was immeasurable.  Three men were killed and sixteen men were now dragged off by the Partisans, and both the parsonage and prayer house had gone up in flames.  The crying of the women, mothers and children was heartbreaking.  Of the sixteen men dragged away as hostages, three were later released, the other thirteen were never heard of again, and we can assume they were gruesomely murdered.

 

  In the midst of all of this confusion, I heard shots coming from the direction of the train station and had the hope that perhaps help was coming.  That’s what was happening.  The relief forces were coming from two sides and the Partisans had to retreat to their mountains.  Because I no longer heard anything of the Partisans I went to the open window for air.  I got no more than a breath when a bullet shot by one of the retreating heroes whizzed by me.  He only got one shot and missed.  But the bullets he fired left holes in the window frame that I could use to anchor a rope in order to escape.

 

  As the Partisans left, I went to the window again to get a breath of air as the fire and smoke engulfed the burning house.  I saw the little daughter of a neighbour cross the yard and I identified myself and asked her to call her mother to get a rope up to me.  She ran and after only a few moments the neighbour’s wife stood below me with a rope.  But she faced a lot of difficulty because I was too high up for her to reach.  She ran away momentarily but returned with a few young but tall boys who carried a long pole that they reached up to me with the rope attached.  I pulled the rope up to the window, put it through the hole and knotted it.  The people who gathered down below shouted that the Partisans were gone and I slowly let myself down the rope.  I tried to hurry down in case one of the Partisans was still in the area to take a final shot at me, and so I hurried and lost my grip and fell down several meters to the ground.  Those were my only burns.

 

  At the third neighbour’s house, I was given some first aid until help would arrive.  My people could not believe I had survived.  “You’re still alive”, they said incredulously.  And I knew I was like a brand saved from the burning, God alone knows why and how.

 

  The first help to arrive were the Croatian Ustasi, who forced the Partisans to retreat.  But this was not a good sign, for they began to assemble all of the prosperous Serbs of the village, both men and women, young and old.  Anyone who tried to escape from them was simply put to death in front of our eyes.  All of the Serbs who lived in the vicinity of the burning parsonage were driven together in one place, close to the parsonage.  I stood with several of my people close by these poor Serbs, when a shot rang out.  A young woman in the center of the assembled crowd of people cried out, a second gunshot rang out and a young mother surrounded by her crying children, her husband and other family members was dead.  Two of these Croatian “heroes” (Ustasi) took the two bodies by their arms and legs and dragged them to the yard of our parsonage and threw the bodies into our still burning house in the midst of the smoking flames.  After the Ustasi left, their families took their half burned and charred bodies and buried them.  Why did they shoot these women?  Because they had proclaimed their innocence, the Ustasi replied, they had to die for questioning them.  It was this kind of blind hatred that the Croats had nurtured for decades.

 

  A large number of Serbs were driven together by the Croatians and were tortured and later released.  Their release had been demanded by the Partisans in a letter they sent with the three Germans they had set free, on the same day, and promised to release the others if the Croatians would comply.  To this day none of the hostages has been released.  They were all likely murdered in some gruesome way.  After the Usatsi did their evil work they soon left town.  Now a company of Einsatzstaffel (SS) arrived.  These were Volks Deutsche (ethnic Germans not from Germany proper) in German uniform who were part of the Croatian Army who were given the task of protecting their people and their property.  These units also left the very same day to return to their base at Virovitica.

 

  I went along with them and took my old mother and Reinhard to relatives in Virovitica.  Right after my arrival there I met my wife who had just arrived from Essegg.  On the next day, June 6th 1942 I returned again to Bastei to have the funeral for the three men.  When I arrived in Bastei , the coffins were not yet finished.  All of the arrangements had to be finalized so that I could catch the train at 5:00 pm.  God gave me the strength for this very difficult ministry.  The funeral for these three men who had fallen, who were my parishioners was my last ministry in Bastei for almost a year.  Only one May 1st and 2nd in 1943 did I return to Bastei to hold a service and baptize five children born during my absence.

 

  After the raid on June 5th 1942, a company of “security forces” (Einsatzstaffel) were stationed in Klein-Bastei to provide security.  In the past no one paid any attention to our pleas to provide protection, but once the suffering hit us, then they came to protect us.  At the funeral of the three men who had been killed, one was sixty-five, another forty and the youngest was twenty-four years of age. Along with the security forces there were also representatives of the Folk Group leadership who were present.

 

  A teacher who directed the main German school in Virovitka approached me after the funeral while we were still at the cemetery, and asked me what I was thinking to suggest remaining in Bastei, when that was obviously no longer possible and offered me a teaching position with him.  That day, (June 6th) I drove back to Virovitka with the security forces to be with relatives to whom I had sent my immediate family members.  The leadership of the Folk Group in the district was located there and the Fuehrer had been known to me since my youth.  As I explained to the director how difficult it would be for me to remain in Bastei, and for the sake of the people, because the Partisans had targeted me I did not want to invite further attacks upon the community in their attempt to take me.  Other pastorates that were open were also threatened with attack the school director indicated.  The next day the director was heading for Essegg to meet with the Fuehrer and other leaders of the Folk Group and people were always needed to serve in their offices and he would attempt to secure a position for me.  As a result, I traveled to Essegg the following day.  There I got a position on a weekly newspaper that was published by the Folk Group leadership.  From Essegg, I took my wife and son to Nijemci by Vinkovci to my mother-in-law where we were to rest and get hold of ourselves.  But I did not stay for very long.  Already on June 15th 1942, before my hands had even healed, I reported in at my new job.  I began to work so soon because I wanted to be selfsupporting of myself and my family and not needing aid from others.  We had lost everything we had except the clothes on our backs.  During this time, so many loving people helped us.  It was only later that we received any assistance from the Church, which was the result of an offering which Bishop Popp had ordered to be carried out in the Lutheran congregations of Croatia.  We received 100,000 Kuna, whereby we were able to furnish a three room apartment”.

 

  This concludes the pastor’s report.

 

  According to the pastor, the “security forces” came for the funeral of the three men and then on the same day returned to their base in Virovitca.  What would we do now?  We had witnessed the death and destruction.  Some of our people had been taken hostage by the Partisans and had not come back.  The Serbs told us, “You people have sided with Germany.  You are as good as dead”.  We also knew that the Partisans had promised our people on June 5th that nothing would happen to them if they would surrender their guns, and some did, but the Partisan “victors” did not keep their word, but took all men seventeen years of age and older that they could get their hands on, held them, bound them together and led them away.

 

  On the basis of this experience we lost all hope that the Partisans would leave us alone, if we simply trusted them and took them at their word.  From now on, the young men went into hiding, as best as they could.  Some went to friends in other villages, and the very old men, as well as the women and children attempted to carry out the work on the land as best as they could, as well as caring for the livestock.

 

  At this point the Partisans brought frightened poor Serbian women and children, mostly from Bosnia and quartered them among the German population.  These destitute people helped as much as they could, but there were as terrified of the Ustasi as the Germans were of the Partisans.  They would gladly try to protect one another if their efforts would have any effect.  When the time came for the threshing to begin, the “security forces” came to the Bastei train station and patrolled the stretch of track from there to Daruvar.  Several weeks later they received the order to assemble all of the Serbs who lived in our village including the poor women and children who were quartered in our homes and to transport them to a “camp”.  As we know now, many of them did not survive the camp.  It is well known that some of our people protested against this action against their Serbian neighbours and friends, but it was of no more help than the pleas and protests   individual Serbs had made when our own men were taken away by the Partisans on June 5th.

 

  Trenches were dug around the total circumference of the village and bunkers to sleep two to three men were built every one hundred metres.  This was to provide long term security.  We did our work during the day and took our turns on sentry duty just like the soldiers.  The relationships between ourselves and the soldiers was good, but not always without problems, sometimes it was said, that it was because of us that they had to be there, but most often that occurred when they drank too much.  About one third of the  male population of Bastei were now soldiers.

 

  In the spring of 1943, the soldiers from the “security forces” were relieved by a company of Croatian Home Defence forces.  These Croatian troops handled themselves correctly and were most helpful and remained here in Klein-Bastei with the Germans, until all of them had to leave.  On August 18th, 1943 at two o’clock in the morning the first shells from a bombardment fell on the village, and it was soon clear that this was part of a planned Partisan operation.  We were surrounded by Partisans on all sides but the major attack came from the north.  Here the Partisans had a small artillery piece and aimed it at the bunkers and the machine gun emplacements.  The Croatian soldiers were very brave, but after several hours, the attackers were able to puncture our defenses.  I had always feared that we would not be able to withstand any major offensive.  That proved to be true now, but the Croatian troops were able to break through the Partisan lines in the train station area and we were able to retreat with them to Daruvar and safety.  We lost two of our able bodied men in the battle, and five old men and one young woman were shot after the battle, or beaten to death, which the Partisans were prone to do.  The losses among the Croatians and the Partisans, however, is not known.

 

  Still on the afternoon of August 18th, 1943 German bombers bombed and strafed both Gross and Klein-Bastei because they believed the Partisans had taken both.  The day after we drove in transport trucks under armed guard back to Klein-Bastei to pick up old people, women and children and if possible some food supplies.  Our dead had already been buried by many of the Serbs of good will in Gross-Bastei and some of the family members who had remained behind.  What a sight we saw.  All the stables and haylofts were burned to the ground, several dead soldiers lay in the sun now for two days, and there were dogs surrounding us wanting to come with us.  My grandfather sat on our roof attempting to brick in the large whole that was a result of the bombing.  For many years he had been the Church Father (Translator’s Note.  Lay leader of the congregation).  He had absolutely no interest in politics and he could not believe it was possible that anyone would want to drive him from his beautiful Klein-Bastei.  Only once he saw that all of our people from Klein-Bastei were going to Daruvar he realized he would be left alone and finally decided to join the exodus.  We were all loaded on open flat cars at the train station in Bastei and as the train left, some dogs followed after us along the tracks, and could not believe that their “families” were leaving them behind.

 

  The author indicates that he has decided to decline to report on the gruesome cruelties inflicted on the aged and the women and children when the Partisans took the village.  But several eye witnesses report that there were Serbs who managed to save the lives of some by hiding them from the Partisans on pain of death if they had been discovered.

 

  A Partisan officer who grew up and was born in Klein-Bastei remained a human being and placed himself in the role of the protector of the terrified women and children whenever he found it possible to do so.

 

  A Serb villager, in later years, reported the liquidation of the German hostages.  The Partisans also destroyed the Lutheran cemetery of which there is no longer any sign.

  

We Remember Our Dead

 

The War Dead 1914-1918

 

1.  Brautigam, Johann born around 1894

2.  Ernst, Andreas born 24.12.1879

3.  Klein, Jakob

4.  Knies, Peter born around 1899

5.  Schon, Konrad born 26.08.1882 missing 29.07.1914

  

The War Dead 1939-1945

 

  1. Parz, Johann born 27.11.1913 in Gross-Bastei  executed 15.03.1942
  2. Keim, Johann born 30.05.1917 in Klein-Bastei killed in action 05.06.1942
  3. Kraehling, Anton born 30.10.1902 in Klein-Bastei killed in action 05.06.1942
  4. Meisinger, Johann born 16.10.1877 in Klein-Bastei killed in action 05.06.1942

 Taken Hostage after the Raid on Bastei June 5th 1942  

1.          Emrich, Johann born 11.06.1898 in Klein-Bastei

2.          Frey, Johann born 04.02.1904 in Klein-Bastei

3.          Hecker, Johann born 16.02.1880 in Klein-Bastei

4.          Heppenheimer, Heinrich born 04.06.1894 in Klein-Bastei

5.          Hopp, Johann born 08.11.1900 in Klein-Bastei

6.          Lamp, Johann born 1912 in Klein-Bastei

7.          Lehn, Georg, Sen. Born 10.12.1889 in Klein-Bastei

8.          Lehn, Georg, Jun. Born 10.09.1914 in Klein Bastei

9.          Schonfeld, Peter, Sen. Born 09.11.1876 in Klein Bastei

10.      Schonfeld, Peter, Jun. Born 24.01.1909 in Klein Bastei

11.      Schonfeld, Georg born 05.06.1905 in Klein-Bastei

12.      Husch, Christian born 26.09.1881 in Gross-Bastei

13.      Leipold, Johann born 03.12.1898 in Gross-Bastei

 

The Other Hostages Taken

 

  1. Gartner, Heinrich born 01.05.1898 in Gross-Bastei taken on 05.06.1942
  2. Remmert, Lorenz, Sen. Born ? in Miletinac taken on 15.09.1942
  3. Remmert, Lorenz, Jun. Born  ? in Klein-Bastei taken on 15.09.1942

 

Deaths Resulting from the Second Partisan Raid on 18.08.1943

 

  1. Frey, Konrad born 04.12.1912 in Klein-Bastei
  2. Frudinger, Johann born 02.11.1882 in Klein-Bastei
  3. Keim, Johann born 29.04.1890 in Klein-Bastei
  4. Keim, Michael born 04.02.1875 in Klein-Bastei
  5. Knies, Johann born 22.04.1891 in Klein-Bastei
  6. Leipold, Johann born 17.01.1873 in Klein-Bastei
  7. Muth, Magdalena Stieb born 27.02.1910 in Klein-Bastei
  8. Neuhardt, Friedrich born 02.06.1876 in Klein-Bastei

 

Deaths During the Evacuation and Flight

 

  1. Emrich, Johann born 06.07.1870 died in Essegg in 1943
  2. Grunwald, Jakob born 22.08.1876 died 05.11.1943 in Lowas/Syrmien
  3. Heppenheimer, Heinrich born 09.04.1875 died 28.12.1943 in Vukovar

 

Deaths in the Krndija Internment Camp after 1945

 

  1. Grunwald, Eva Sommenauer, born 06.03.1882
  2. Frudinger, Georg born 26.04.1885
  3. Frudinger, Anna Knies born 1895

 

Men Serving in the Military Killed and Missing

 

  1. Brautigam, Heinrich born 05.11.1920 missing since 1945 in Yugoslavia
  2. Brautigam, Jakob born 22.12.1915 missing since 1945 in Poland
  3. Emerich, Johann born 28.07.1924 killed in action 20.11.1942 in Yugoslavia
  4. Emerich, Konrad born 08.03.1912 missing since 1944 in Yugoslavia
  5. Frudinger, Johann born 19.08.1909 missing since 1945 in Yugoslavia
  6. Hocker, Heinrich born 09.08.1919 missing since 1945 in Yugoslavia
  7. Hocker, Georg born 19.03.1921 killed in action 17.08.1943 in Yugoslavia
  8. Keim, Georg born 28.09.1911 missing in action 1945 in Yugoslavia
  9. Keim, Michael born 26.09.1913 missing since 1945 in Yugoslavia
  10. Keim, Heinrich born 03.04.1922 killed in action 19.03.1943 in Yugoslavia
  11. Knies, Jakob born 17.03.1918 killed in action 1944 in Yugoslavia
  12. Krahling, Georg born 10.05.1915 killed in action 22.03.1943 in Yugoslavia
  13. Lehn, Johann born 10.09.1920 killed in action December 11943 in Yugoslavia
  14. Semmelroth, Johann born 29.08.1908 missing 29.09.1944 in Yugoslavia

  

The Evacuation of Klein-Bastei

 

  After a few day layover in Daruvar all of the able-bodied men were taken into the German military forces, women with children and the aged were taken to the train station in Grubisno Polje by transport truck and from here they went by train to Bjeldvar, Essegg, Vinkovci to Tovarnik.  Here the people were unloaded.  Some were quarantined in Sotin, but most were placed in Lovas.  The younger women without small children and several men who were middle aged had to remain in Daruvar for several weeks.  Why they had to stay behind, no one ever knew.  But sending some on and keeping others behind created a lot of bad feelings among the evacuees.  The author’s mother had to remain in Daruvar, while his nine year old sister, thirteen year old brother and sick old grandfather aged sixty eight were sent to Lovas and quartered separately from one another there.  A few weeks later those who were left behind in Daruvar also came to Lovas or its vicinity.  But the Germans from Gross-Bastei and Miletinac still remained far behind.  They were taken out on 18.05.1944 along with five German families from Ivanovo Selo and eventually reached Neu Pasua and were quartered there.  The people from Brezik and Ciganka were also brought here.  At the end of February 1944, the Germans from Bokowitz also arrived at Lovas.

 

  The circumstances behind the fact that the Bokowitz and Bastei people were both here had something to do with the fact that the one of the authouritie’s wife and her sister had husbands from Bastei.  When the Bastei people came to Lovas and shared what had happened to them, some of the Lovas people were offended and skeptical, about believing them, but thirteen months later they found themselves in the same situation and left their beloved homeland along with the Bastei and Bokowitz Germans.  Today they are grateful that they were able to leave.  The brothers Franz and Paul Senz remained at home, because they refused to leave their sick father behind.  As a result, all three of them died gruesome deaths at the hands of the Partisans.  They were an example of many that were to follow throughout Slavonia.

  

The Evacuation Trek from Lovas

 

(The following is taken from the Heimatbuch of Lovas and is written by Stephen Haring and is included because the Bastei evacuees joined them)

 

  “What was it like in our village in 1944?  We still lived in our neat houses, but the unmerciful war had already demanded a victim from every other house.  Many soldiers had fallen or were reported missing.  Shortly before our expulsion the last of the harvest would be taken in.  The work was done mostly by women who had to take the place of their men.  Children and older men were their only helpers.  In addition, this work in the fields was also dangerous.  We did not have the Partisans to fear only at night when they raided our villages, but out here in the open in broad daylight.  Women and children were no longer safe working in the fields.  Two times prior to leaving we were “visited” by the Partisans.  Even though we had a night watch, made up of old men and teenage boys, who fought bravely, there were still many instances of plundering and destruction of homes.

 

  The refugees from Bokowitz and Bastei who were quartered in Lovas shared this fear and terror with us, because they had certainly been through it themselves earlier. Unknown to us was the fact that we would become homeless just like them.

 

  When the Romanians switched sides in August of 1944, the German south eastern front collapsed.  The Russians were rushing straight in our direction.  The terrible news spread early in the morning.  “We have to leave home”!  This terrible thought started to assume reality as the never ending refugee treks and columns from eastern Syrmien passed through Lovas along our main street to Vukovar, and then they moved on to Essegg.  Then came the bombing raids on our district capital Winkowzi and that left no doubt as to what was coming and heading our way.  For all of us, the bombing of Winkowzi was a horrible experience.  For hours after the raid was over the whole town was a sea of flames.

 

  A few days after the bombing raid, the “klein Richter” (Translator’s Note.  He was the right hand man of the local “richter”, something like a reeve in Canada, whose function was to let the community know of all important decisions and news that affected the local populace) beat his drum and passed through the village making the announcement about what was about to occur.  His news was that all inhabitants should come to the Gasthaus Haring (The Haring Guesthouse…Inn) on October 18th at 10:00am, where they would be informed of the evacuation and various matters associated with it.  Promptly at 10:00am the villagers of Lovas and the refugees from Bastei and Bokowitz assembled at the Gasthaus.  The word was given to leave the next day.  The whole village was to join the flight ahead in their horse drawn wagons staying ahead of the rapidly advancing Red Army.  Only a few of the very aged people and mothers with infants would be evacuated by train.  Special instructions and guidelines were shared with the anxious people.

 

  For every team and wagon there would have to be four to five persons on board.  We were to take fodder for the horses, food supplies for the people and bedding.  This became a very hectic time.  The wagons were loaded and then unloaded.  But each time there was just too much they tried to take with them.  One had to decide on what was necessary and leave the rest behind.  The adults maintained a sense of calm outwardly for the sake of the children.  There was no hysteria or panic.

 

  The positioning of people in the individual wagons was done quickly.  The hour of flight steadily grew closer.  The order was finally given.  The wagons were loaded.  Many of the confused people went into their homes one last time and visited their yards on more time for a final look.  It was painful and the livestock and fowl had to be left behind and unattended.  Many put out feed in the troughs to last the creatures for a few days.

 

  On Sunday, October 22nd 1944 we had to leave our beloved Lovas forever.  The trek was to be on the move at 7:00am, but getting the column underway took much longer than we had thought.  At 9:00am the first wagon was able to move out.  Immediately all of the bells in our church tower began to toll.  The way into the unknown now began.  At the time, no one believed this was our final farewell to “home”, but it was.

 

  Nor was our farewell to our fellow Roman Catholic Croatian neighbours easy for us.  Tears were shed on both sides.  The wagons now headed for Vukovar and on to Essegg.  But at Dalj we were already in a traffic jam.  The bridge across the Drava River at Essegg called the Nadelohr created a great obstacle for the planned evacuation of the Swabians from throughout Syrmien and Slavonia.  We spent our first night at Dalj.  Waiting here was difficult for all of us.  Our biggest fear was there would be bombing raids in an attempt to destroy the bridge and cut us off from an escape route.  But finally it was time for us to move on.  We drove towards Essegg and saw the imposing cathedral and its magnificent towers against the skyline, and we went over the bridge and across the Drava into friendly Hungary from where many of our ancestors had come.

 

  Here in Essegg many families went through terrible scenes of parting.  Many of the men from Lovas served in the SS Prinz Eugene Division or the auxiliary police and were upset that their closest family members had gone out into the unknown on their own as refugees.  The wives and children had to leave the fathers and husbands behind.  It was no wonder that many of the men walked alongside of the wagons for kilometers on end, until they had to take their leave for the last time and for many the final time.

 

  The Folk Group leadership and with the support of the German Army made the evacuation possible and saved the German population of Slavonia from the holocaust that was to come in Yugoslavia for the remaining Swabians who had been unable to escape.  Nowhere else did the Folk Group leadership plan or carry out an effective evacuation as was accomplished in Croatia.  (Translator’s Note.  There was a “secret Fuhrer order” that forbade the evacuation of the Danube Swabian populations of Yugoslavia, Romania and Hungary, because it was “defeatist”, and as the Bund leaders in Hungary continued to proclaim, “Victory is still ours”!  Only in Slavonia and Syrmien did the leadership disobey.)

 

  Upon entering Hungary we joined an unending column of refugees heading for Pecs.  The major problem became food and water for the horses, nor was the Hungarian population very helpful.  Teenage boys would forage at night for corn stalks and hay for the horses.  As the journey continued wagons lost wheels or broke down, horses went lame and wagons got stuck in the mud up to their axles in constant pouring rain.  The people were dirty and filthy and soon lice ridden.  Often German soldiers forced the Hungarian population to take us in, in their homes overnight.  On other occasions the refugees were to overnight in the stables.  But there were always exceptions among the Hungarians who treated us well.

 

  The refugee column was set in constant motion as the front lines drew closer and closer.  The thunder of canons and artillery were our constant terrible companions and urged us on with greater zeal.  We felt like our legs could no longer carry us.

 

  The trek reached the Balaton (Translator’s Note.  Lake Balaton, commonly called the Plattensee by the Swabians) during the cold of November.  It was especially hard on the elderly, the infants, and the horses, so that each family had to fend for itself and do the best that they could and not expect much help from one another.  (The author shares some memories about some individual situations that developed).

 

  Close to the Austrian and Hungarian border, the Home Defence unit from Lovas caught up with the trek.  They were men from our village who had been forced to remain behind in Lovas for a few days to take some cattle to Towarnik, as well as wagons filled with wheat.  This had been done by order of the German Army.  The men had come in a car and tractor trailers.  They too had some bad weeks behind them.  In Essegg they were almost taken into the Croatian Home Army.  A man from Lovas who was on sentry duty at the bridge that crossed the Drava at Essegg told them to disappear into the night.  The Germans were posted there to keep the bridge open until the last of the treks had passed through.  The men waited for night to fall before they crossed over.  With their “wheels” they were able to catch up to the Lovas trek and their families.  There was much joy when we saw them and in the days ahead they would come in handy to assist the many families who had no men folk with them.

 

  On November 7th 1944 we crossed over into what had once been Austria.  But instead of resting we had to walk across Austria because our horses could not handle their loads and wagons in the mountains.  We were not welcome here either.  We lived through the bombing of Wiener Neustadt where we had sought shelter.  The trek went on through rain and snow storms finally reaching St. Polten on November 11th, 1944.  Here the refugees were welcomed by the local population into their own homes and treated as invited guests.  By the end of November we reached Braunau.  We had to give up our horses to the German Army.  It had taken four weeks to reach Upper Austria by trek with mostly aged persons, women and children and teenagers.  Most of them were sent to farms to do a variety of agricultural work with which they were all familiar.

 

(The author goes into some detail about situations on the trek and the resettlement that I omit)

 

  In Upper Austria we no longer had any fears of the Yugoslavian Partisans, but the area was totally saturated with refugees and there was some ill will directed against us by the local populations, although many others were very supportive and kind to us.

 

  In the summer of 1946 transports were formed to take the refugees out of Austria into Germany.  But it was reported that only the Swabians from Hungary were to be included, for the refugees from Yugoslavia were free to go home.  But all of the Swabians from Slavonia could claim to have been born as Hungarian citizens and were included in the transports, and uknown to them at the time they were spared the horrors inflicted on the remaining Swabian population in Yugoslavia.

 

  On arriving at Scharding by train from Braunau, the Bastei refugees were overwhelmed when they met the refugees from Hrastovac.  Many of them were related to one another and were now returning together to the land of their forebears.  Most of the Hrastovacer were settled in Weisskirchen and the Bastei families were taken to Seligenstadt.  The area was later occupied by the Americans, but then replaced by the Russians.  The new officials refused to give the refugees ration cards for food and when they protested they were quickly expelled and put into cattle cars on 02.08.1945 and sent packing.  They ended up at a major camp at Forst by Cottbus.  From here they were to be sent back to Yugoslavia.  It was only because of the personal intervention of a Russian officer that such an order was never put into effect.

 

  At the end of October we ended up in cattle cars again and taken away into the unknown.  It appeared that no town or city wanted to take us in.  On November 11th 1945 we unceremoniously landed in Bad Doberan.  But because typhus had broken out among us, we were not allowed to disembark and go into the waiting area of the station, instead we spent the night under the sky with our pillows and rag blankets or what remained of them while it rained and snowed intermittently during the night.  Later in the night we were given shelter in an unheated local dance hall.  The sick among us were taken to the local hospital.

 

  The next morning the Russians came with trucks and took all of the younger people to harvest the potato crop in the surrounding fields of the village.  It rained and snowed, and we almost froze in our rags that substituted for clothes as we worked till sunset.  The next morning the Russians came for us again and even though our meager clothes were still soak and wet we went out to work in the fields again.  Around two in the afternoon we ran off and hid in the nearby forest, while the Russians went out in search of us.

 

  We joined the others and refused to accompany the Russians the next day and threatened to report them to the International Red Cross that had established itself in the town.  They seemed to have respect for that and did not return.  Meetings were held with the local officials by two of the older men from Bastei and then gradually families were assigned to live in homes in the community and we began to build a new life for ourselves and our families.

   

  The author provides a listing of all of the German inhabitants of both Klein and Gross Bastei in 1943, which is followed by extensive information on each family.  For those interested, there is information on the following families, which can be made available by the translator on request:

 

  Abrell, Albert, Arndt, Beni, Binder, Braun, Brautigam, Emrich, Ernst, Frey, Frudinger, Gaertner, Goldmann, Gruenwald, Hansel, Hecker, Heppenheimer, Hopp, Husch, Keim, Klein, Knies, Kraehling, Leipold, Lehn, May, Meisinger, Muth, Neuhardt, Partz, Petermann, Reiber, Ritzl, Schild, Schmidt,Schoenfeld, Schoen, Sterner, Stieb, Szabo, Tewich, Wertz, Zarth.

   

  Families from Miletinac:

   Politsch and Wajandt.  

When and How Where the Communities in Hungary Settled by Germans Who Were the  Ancestors of our Grandparents and Great Grandparents? 

  (Translator’s Note:  The following information is taken from the work of Gustav Schmidt-Tomka on the History of the Lutheran Seniorat of Swabian Turkey)

 

  Kotcse

  This is the first of the secondary settlements in Somogy on the estates of the Protestant noble families: Berzcenyi, Antal and Benko.  According to preserved documents, the original settlers included five Roman Catholic Magyars, twelve Hungarian Calvinists, and forty seven Lutheran and seven Reformed  families from Germany.  The church records begin in 1730.

 

  Bikal

  At the end of the 18th century, German Lutheran settlers arrived in Bikal and soon they became the majority in the village.  The Lutherans appear to have come from Tolna County.

 

  Mekenyes

  There were Lutheran German settlers in Mekenyes from 1735.  They came from Gyonk and Zomba, because they could not remain there.  In Gyonk, their Reformed landlord, Peter Magyari Kossa, refused to provide them with land on which to build a church.  In Zomba their fanatic Roman Catholic landlord Dory von Jobahaza forced them to convert or leave.  They settled in Mekenyes on April 24th, 1735.

 

  The family names of the colonists indicate an Ober Hessen (Upper Hessen) origin, and the city of Schlitz as their place of origin in particular.  At the beginning the Lutherans had to put up with a lot at the hands of the Serbs who lived throughout much of Baranya along with the Croats.  The colonizer was the princely family of the Esterhazys, who were then and later good to their Lutheran subjects even though themselves were prominent Roman Catholics.

 

  Mekenyes was a Mother Church  as early as 1737, and called Pastor Franz Tonsor from Lapofo (1737-1743) in Somogy County, who also served the Slovaks in Kurd.  After nameless acts of interference, he was expelled from Mekenyes in 1743 and the prayer house was locked up.  Each year, an annual mass was read inside even though there was not a single Roman Catholic in the village.

 

  Egyhazakozar

  The village was given its name by the Serbian refugees who settled in the area under the Emperor Leopold I.  In 1800 they still had their resident Orthodox priest Andrevics.  In 1732 the first German Lutheran family settled here.  But it was only in the 1750’s that there was a large scale migration of the German Lutherans into the village.  Johann Heinrich Birkenstock, whose origins can be traced back to Rainrod in the vicinity of Alsfeld in Upper Hessen, played a leading role in the formation of the Lutheran congregation that developed here.

  He had first settled in Felsonana, and he was responsible for settling the Lutherans here.  Most responded to his call in 1755/1756.  He was well liked and trusted by Esterhazy.  He was called the “Farmer King”, and it apparently went to his head.  But he was the champion of his fellow Lutherans and their religious freedom as well as being instrumental in forming a Mother Church.

 

  In the interests of his congregation he made journeys to Vienna and the royal offices there to speak to Maria Theresia, because of the oppression of the Lutheran congregation, forcing it to become a filial of the Roman Catholic parish of Bikal.  He never got more than worthless promises for all of his efforts.  The teacher who served the Lutherans was also driven out of Mekenyes and was replaced by a Roman Catholic.  But by bribing the Roman Catholic priest in Bikal with countless gifts they were able to secretly have a Lutheran teacher serving in the village.  Along with all of the other Lutheran congregations in the area, Mekenyes achieved official toleration in 1781 with the Emperor Joseph II’s Edict.

 

  On the advice of Birkenstock, Esterhazy also settled German Lutherans in other villages.  Gerenges, Nagyag, Tekesch, Kaposszekcso, Csikostottos and Taros.  All of these Lutherans were persecuted, oppressed and exiled up until 1781 and the Edict of Toleration.

 

  In 1783 Egyhazakozar became a Mother Church and along with the pastor in Bikal served all of the congregations in the vicinity.  Until 1783 the Lutheran congregations suffered under the yoke of the Roman Catholics and paid tribute to them.

 

  Nagy Hajmas

  This village was settled by Roman Catholic Germans and Croatians by Count Philip Ludwig Zinzendorf, the Abbot of Pecsvard in Eisenburg County (1711-1735).  Among these settlers there were also some Lutherans.  The date of the arrival of the first settlers in unknown.  The Lutherans united with the Mekenyes congregation in 1791 and later became a filial.

 

  Toffu

  The German Lutherans who settled in Toffu around 1720 were settled there by the Esterhazys.  About thirty families received land allotments.  Toffu and Hidas (1739) were the primary Hessian Lutheran settlements in northern Baranya.

 

  Barcs

  In Barcs the majority of the German settlers came in 1850 from Tolna and Baranya counties.

 

  Somogy Dorocske

  This village received its German settlers in the middle of the 18th century through the enlistment of the Hunyadi family, according to the book by Johann Weidlein.

 

  

  Izmeny

  The village received its Hessian Lutheran settlers after 1720.  It was a long street village on the von Mercy holdings.

 

  Gadacs

  Located in Somogy County, Gadacs was considered a puszta belonging to Somogyszil until 1848 when it became an independent community.  It’s church, like that in Somogyszil was built in the 1850’s.

 

 

The Settlement of the Germans in Klein and Gross Bastei 

  With regard to the arrival and settlement of the first Germans in Klein-Bastei, Gross-Bastei and Miletinac, we have no factual history to which to refer.  But upon the basis of the church records we can ascertain that the first children were born in 1891.  It is obvious that young families expecting a child remained behind in Hungary until after the child was born before migrating to Slavonia.

 

One of the early pioneers, Johann Brautigam born in Murga on 21.06.1871 later reflected:

 

                     “The first German family came from Kotcse, Somogy County

                       in 1886 and were the May family.  In 1887, four families came

                       from Bikal, and a year later six more families came from Bikal

                       and Nagy Hajmas.  In this way, Klein Bastei was settled with

                       Germans…  There were 42 German and 42 Serbian house

                       numbers”.

 

  The last Lutheran “preacher”, Jakob Abrell was the source of the following report:

 

                      “ German settlers came around 1885 from Swabian Turkey, from

                         the communities of Bikla, Mekenyes, Csikotottos, Kaposzekoscsi,

                         Barcs and others, and most settled in Klein Bastei, while a few

                         others moved into Gross-Bastei…”

 

  Klein-Bastei and Gross-Bastei had a population of 2,000 before the Second World War, of whom there were 300 to 350 Germans.  The rest of the population was mixed, mostly Serbs, Croats and some from Czechoslovakia and Hungary.  Almost all of the Germans lived in Klein-Bastei.  Gross-Bastei was the seat of the local government, the local post office, the Orthodox Church, a Roman Catholic chapel, the school, small shops and stores, tradesmen, work places, dairies, blacksmith shops, a lock maker, tailor and shoemaker.

 

  There is no definite evidence to suggest that there was a planned settlement programme carried out by Count Jankovic and his successors the Tukory and Turkovic families to recruit German settlers.  A Yugoslavian source indicates, “The last arriving settlers in Bastaji were Czechoslovakians and Germans and were settled by members of the Jankovic family”.

   The Places of Origin of Our Ancestors Who Settled in Bastei 

  From Kotcse:

  The May family, who are believed to be the first to settle in Klein-Bastei.  They were Adam May and his wife Katharina whose maiden name was Lohr , who had a daughter born on 02.05.1885 in Kotcse and on the basis of that the earliest they could have moved on to Klein-Bastei was in 1886.

 

  From Bikal:

  The extended families of the Keims and Freys, three Knies families and the Frudinger family (in Bikal known as the Fruhdinger), the Schild, Schonfeld, Peter, Hansel and Sterner families.

 

  From Mekenyes:

  The families Krahling, Waygand, Krahling (the parents of Susanne Knies in Mekenyes known as the “Eckfelders Krahlings).  The Hopp, Stieb, Tewich and Schmidt families.

 

  From Nagy Hajmas:

  The Emrich, Leipold, Reiber and Sabo families.

 

  From Nagyag:

  The Grunwald, Ernst and Lehn families.

 

  From Csikostottos:

  The families Schonfeld Lorenz, Schon Nikolaus, Meisinger and Wertz.

 

  From Kaposszekcso:

  The Hecker and Goldmann families.  (The latter may have lived in Gernyes before he moved on to Klein-Bastei).

 

  From Tofu:

  The Heppenheimer family came in 1873 from Sabadi to Tofu and then around 1891 they moved on to Klein-Bastei.

 

  From Barcs:

  The Ritzl and Neuhardt families.

 

  From Nagyberki:

  The family of  Klein Jakob from the lower village.

 

  From Somogydorocske:

  The Gartner family.

  From Belac:

  The Ernst family (The daughter married Stefan Partz)

 

  From Paschian bei Gross Mlinska:

  The Muth family (They came from Csikostottos to Paschian)

 

  From Izmeny:

  The Zarth and Petermann families.

 

  From Grabitsch:

  The Semmelroth family and Johann Lamp

 

  From Gadacs:

  The Wajandt family along with the Knoch family in Miletinac.

 

  From Hrastovac:

  The following settlers in Klein-Bastei took brides from Hrastovac:  Georg Keim married  Elisabeth Stark, Jakob Keim married Katharina Wagner, Johann Hecker married Katharina Bierer on 24.12.1985.   Johann Hecker married a second time to Katharina  Bierer on 31.12.1890, Johann Schild married Elisabetha Just, Johann Knies married Anna Starck, Peter Schonfeld married Barbara Dietz and Heinrich Frey married Christine Ochsenhofer.

  Hrastovac in Slavonia (Eichendorf) 

  (Translator’s Note:  The settlement of Hrastovac described in their Heimatbuch is quoted by the author.  There is a lot of detail and description of geography and topography, and the difficulties the settlers faced that I omit)

 

  In the 1850’s Baron Tukery living in his modest little palace in Daruvar found himself in financial difficulties and the solution to his problem was the cutting down of the forests of his vast estates.  Thousand year old oaks, beech and ash that were two and three feet in diameter were cut down and dragged by oxen teams to Sisak the site of the closest transportation link, the railway station.  The scrub and diseased trees etc. were left standing.  Several thousand arcres of deforested land surrounded Daruvar and Pakrac and was of no real use to anyone.  So it was decided to parcel out small sections and sell the land cheaply to settlers.  The nobleman’s steward named Stein in Pakrac, a former army officer carried out the programme, and soon found some buyers.  But the local Serbs and Croats were not interested because they knew how difficult it would be to clear thel and and put it under cultivation.  Only small attractive parcels of land around Uljani were purchased by them and most of it was already cleared.

 

  Each parcel included a place to build a house and a plot of 6.5 joch and share of the 400 joch meadow.  Five gulden was the down payment and five years later the rest of the cost, with no taxes for the first ten years was offered.  This proved to very appealing to the Germans in Swabian Turkey where there was no land available, and very expensive when it was.  That is how Hrastovac came into existence along with Blagorodvac, Kapetanovo, Polje and Sokolovac.

 

  The first settlers to Hrastovac arrived in the spring of 1865.  From among them, only three families would remain and all of them originated in Egyhazakozar.  Johann Muller, Johann Sauerwein and Jakob Fleisch.  The other four families, like many who would follow them, gave up and returned home or went elsewhere.

 

(Translator’s Note:  The author continues describing the difficulties faced by the original settlers in Hrastovac that are available to be read in the Hrastovac Heimatbuch English translation)

  The Klein-Bastei Dialect 

(Translator’s Note:  The dialect spoken in Klein-Bastei was identitical to the Hessian that was spoken in the Lutheran villages in Swabian Turkey)

  Klein-Bastei and Its Neighbours 

  In the east and south there was a creek that formed the border between Gross and Klein-Bastei.  In Gross-Bastei the majority of the population that lived there were Serbs, but there were also Croats, Germans, Hungarians, as well as Czechs and Slovaks.  To the south west lay Gross Maslenjaca and the inhabitants were Croats who settled here after the First World War by the Tukory family.  The river Ilova was nearby and served as the border between Slavonia and Croatia.  North of Bastei was Miletinac, where approximately fifteen German Lutheran families lived who were part of the Lutheran congregation in Bastei.  Some of these families left before the Second World War and settled in Cacinci.  The overwhelming majority of the population in the vicinity were Serbs.

 

(Translator’s Note:  The author shares some personal reminiscences)

 

  The relations between the Germans and their Slavic neighbours up to and including the time during the Second World War were without any great problems or difficulties.  There were occasions that verged on conflict but they were dealt with cordially.  How it was between them during the settlement period is difficult to assess or know.  From the oral history that was shared it was obvious that because of language difficulties it was hard for them to communicate with one another and there were often misunderstandings as a result of that.  The one thing we do know is that the Serbs were only too glad to sell land to the Germans and the deeds that were signed attest to that.  From the church records it can be ascertained that the Lutheran children were baptized by the Orthodox priest until such time a pastor became available to them when a congregation was established.

  In the First World War all able bodied men, regardless of nationality served in the Austro Hungarian Army and an equal portion fell victim in battle.  There were heavy losses among all of the ethnic groups.  At the close of the war when young Slavs came home on leave they did not return to their units on the frontline positions but fled into the forests and formed groups for mutual protection and were called “greens”, and there is strong evidence that there were also Germans among them.

 

  With the collapse of the Dual Monarchy in 1918, the two general stores in Bastei, both owned by Jews, Frank and Schonauer were plundered and robbed by the Slavs.  The Germans and Hungarians were threatened, but as the new government of Yugoslavia took control, things and relationships were back to normal.  The young Germans were drafted into the army but saw service only in Serbian Macedonia and never in Croatia-Slavonia.  Most served on the border of Macedonia with Albania and many returned home suffering from malaria. But all of the minorities met with this kind of treatment and the rights promised to the minorities by the Treaty of Versailles were never implemented in Yugoslavia.

 

  The German children had to attend the public school in Gross-Bastei and the language of instruction was Serbo-Croatian.  From 1932 to 1941 they had a German department in the school.  Relations with their Slavic neighbours were good until the Second World War, when they found themselves caught between the Serbs and Croatians in their fratricidal war.

  The Economic Development of Klein-Bastei 

(Translator’s Note:  A synopsis of some salient matters)

 

  In most cases the settlers only had enough money to pay for the land and house plot, while others had sufficient funds to build a rude house.  After the houses were built many of the younger generation left for America, Canada or Germany.  They went to earn money in order to later buy land in Bastei, or to pay the family debts.  Others earned extra money by working on the estates of the Tukory family, or the railways and furniture and timber industries.

  The Working Year of the Farmer  The Seasonal and Religious Festivals of the Year  Family Festivals and Celebrations  Community Life in Klein-Bastei  The Lutheran Church in Slavonia 1868-1918 

  Of great importance to the development of the Lutheran Church in Slavonia was the work and the activities of the British Foreign Bible Society and the preachers from the Pilgrim Mission of St. Chrischona, which was based in Switzerland.  This was especially true in the early years when the Lutheran Church was unable to respond to the Protestants  in Slavonia and Croatia after Protestant Patent became law in 1859, because they did not have the pastors to serve small isolated groups in a very backward and primitive situation.  As a result, few of the Lutherans had pastors or schools in which the German language was used.

 

  The Mission, less rigid and inflexible like the official church structures and administration, was able to respond quickly to meet the needs of the forgotten Protestant settlers.  In response to the appeals, the Mission sent preachers and teachers to serve in many of the settlements.  Often the function of the preacher and teacher were united in one person, who was called a Levite.  In most cases the missionaries arrived as teachers and then became preachers of the congregations later.  Some of them were later ordained.  Some of these men gave their lifetime of service to the mission.  Three men served for fifty years: Adolf Locher, Jakob Keller and Carl Busse and were buried in this land in which they had served.

 

  The missionaries played a leading role in developing and sustaining the confessional identity of the population they served and Senior Jakob Kettenbach played a leading role in this but they were also instrumental in the building of numerous prayer houses (Bethauser) and schools, including those in Hrastovac, Zvonimirovac, Velmirovac, Darkovac, Sidski Banovci and others communities.

 

  The pastor preachers of the Mother Churches also had a vast territory in which to serve in addtion to the community in which they resided.  The preacher in Vinkovacko Novo Sello (Neudorf) served the diaspora all along the Sava River.  Before Podrauska Slatina became an independent congregation with 28 filials and mission stations, the whole of Virovitica County was served by the pastor in Essegg.  No wonder the ministry of the local Levits was so important to the church.  Many of the filials in the future would become a Mother Church with its own brood of filials and mission stations of its own.  In terms of the official Lutheran Church structures, the important event was the establishment of the Croatian/Slavonian Evangelical A.B. Seniorat in 1900.  (Translator’s Note.  The letters A.B. are the short form for the Augsburger Bekentniss, the Augsburg Confession, the statement of faith that unites all Lutheran congregations throughout the world).  Now the church in Slavonia was officially structured.  The Lutherans had maintained their identity in a sea of Catholicism and during a century of oppression.

 

  Through the Bible Society’s literature, the people’s faith had been nurtured and strengthened.  Above all, the scriptures and tracts were well received.  The “Fellowship”  movement had a strong impact on the spiritual life of the congregations.  As the Seniorat grew, expanded and deepened, other language groups became part of the church:  Slovaks and Magyars.  A remnant of those who remained behind after World War II, still maintain congregational life in some of these places to this day.  The seed has not been unearthed entirely.

 

 

Church and School in Klein-Bastei 

  The development of the church and school in Klein-Bastei cannot be discussed separately, nor do they have a separate history.  From the time of settlement around 1888 and the arrival of the first preacher in 1908, when the prayer house and parsonage were dedicated, the Lutheran children were baptized by the Orthodox priest Panta Bikicki, and marriages were conducted by the Lutheran pastor in Hrastovac.  The children went to school in Gross-Bastei and were taught in Serbian.  Religious instruction was provided by the pastor in Hrastovac and also the parents because of the distance involved, some thirty kilometers.

 

  With regard to some information the author had personally and in documented form, there was also a Hungarian school in Kelin-Bastei under the leadership of Pastor Mernyi, during 1908 and 1909 and up to the end of the First World War, while he served the people in Klein-Bastei.  After the First World War, sometime around 1920 another preacher arrived, Ferdinand Dully, who had served as the Director of the Siloah Orphan Home in Neu Pasua up until 1919.  According to relatives he had married couples there in Klein-Bastei as early as 1922.  During the times when there was no preacher or pastor available to the congregation in Klein-Bastei, the tasks were undertaken by members of the congregation who preached at worship services and conducted funerals.  Among these congregational leaders of special significance were Stefan Reiber born in Tarros on 21.11.1869 and his wife the former Katharina Oberlander.

 

  Ferdinand Dully did not only serve as a preacher, but also as  the teacher, who provided religious instruction for the children, but also taught reading and writing in German.  During his pastorate the Agricultural Credit Union was established.  At the end of 1932, Dully and his family left to serve in Konigsfeld in Bosnia.  He was succeeded by Karl Mittermayer.  He spent a lot of his time with the youth and had them develop an interest in hiking and sports.  He later undertook the directorship of the Siloah Orphan’s Home in Neu Pasua in 1935 and would later accompany all of the children on their evacuation from Slavonia and re-established the Home in Egolfstal in Allau in Austria.

 

  In 1935, Jacob Abrell and his family arrived to serve as the pastor in Klein-Bastei.  When the “Renewers” established a local group, the pastor was very much opposed to them and their activities.  (Translator’s Note.  The so-called “Renewers” were a group of younger men within the Danube Swabian Cultural Association, who had political aspirations and took their inspiration from one Adolph Hitler, and attempted to use the existing organization to further the aims of the Third Reich).  He feared that the youth would be estranged from the church because of the group and its “heathen” ideology.  (The author then attempts to provide a rationale indicating that the pastor did not really understand the implications involved which is always the “party line” on the part of the Renewers, which I do not care to repeat. Henry’s note)

 

  When the time came, however, to defend Klein-Bastei against the Partisans on June 5th, 1942, the pastor stood first in the ranks against the raiders, while many others gave in to their fears.  After the attack, in which the prayer house and parsonage were both destroyed, the took over a leadership position in Klein Bastei and worked with the Folk Group leaders in Essegg.  He held this position until the evacuation of Essegg in November 1944.  He also took the church records to Essegg at the request of the Senior there shortly before the evacuation.  Jakob Abrell died in Ingolstadt, Germany on 28.01.1964.

   Faith-Church-Church Building-Pastors and Preachers  

  The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Klein-Bastei was found in 1888, according to the report of Jakob Abrell during the time of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the congregation in 1938.  There is no documentation to corroborate this, but it appears that the pastor from Hrastovac and one of the leading church officials was present for the event from the Seniorat.  It would take twenty years from the founding of the congregation to the building of its prayer house and parsonage.  During this period, Klein-Bastei was a filial of Hrastovac.  It is therefore obvious that at funerals and most of the worship services that the lay leadership of the congregation fulfilled such “pastoral” roles, as mentioned previously.

 

  Ferdinand Dully the former director of the Siloah Orphan’s Home arrived in Klein- Bastei in the fall of 1919, at the time that the institution was transferred to Giganka by Slatina from Neu Pasua, and the new director would also serve the small Lutheran congregation there in addition to his ministry to the children.  There were fourteen places in the home for children, but on the night of October 28th, 1919 a mob attacked and plundered it.  The only thing they left behind undestroyed was one wall with a mural that proclaimed:  Jesus Lives.  Out of fear for the safety to the children, the church planned for the return of the institution to Neu Pasua, but it took until February 8th, 1921.

 

(Tanslator’s Note.  The author repeats much of the same information with regard to the ministry of Ferdinand Dully and Karl Mittermayer and his own personal memories about them)

 

  After the prayer house and parsonage were burned down during the Partisan raid on Klein-Bastei on June 5th, 1942, pastor Jakob Abrell was able to save his life at the last minute and escape the flames.  He then moved to Essegg, but he still concerned himself  with his Partisan threatened congregation from there.  He himself later wrote:

 

          “Bastei counts a bit more than 300 souls and was an independent congregation

           because it was too far away from any other pastoral station, and had only four

           pastoral visits each year.  There were also two small groups in the area who were

           served from Bastei.  Daruvar, which could be reached by train, had about twenty

           Lutherans and Miletinac, which could be reached by a reasonable walk also had

           about thirty believers.  In both communities regular services were held six times a

           year, and religious education was provided every two weeks.

 

           Following the raid on Klein-Bastei on June 5th in 1942, in which three of the men

           from the congregation lost their lives, thirteen other men were dragged off by the

           the Partisan raiders and were never seen or heard from again.  The prayer house 

           and the parsonage, and all of the contents were burned, and I was forced to leave

           Bastei.  Because of the danger in most of our congregations, especially the smaller

           and isolated ones I was given a position with the Folk Group leadership in Essegg.

           I held this position until our evacuation at the beginning of November in 1944.

 

           On May 1st and 2nd of 1943 I was back in Bastei and held a service as well as

           baptized five children.  During my time in Essegg I assisted the Senior, Walter in

           preaching, baptisms and funerals.  I also committed the church records to him at

           his request”.

 

  There is no record or information as to what happened to these Church Records of Bastei which were given to Senior Walter.

 

  (Translator’s Note.  The author digresses in sharing personal stories and memories of Christmas pageants and such)

  The Treffen-Reunion at Seligenstadt   

The Second World War

  

  Up until the German invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, the German population had been left unmolested.  Shortly before the war broke out, the men of military age were all called up for service and all of them reported for duty and all of them returned home safely after the capitulation and collapse of Yugoslavia.

 

  From the outbreak of the war to the arrival of the German army’s march through Gross-Bastei was only a matter of a few days.  Nothing happened, but the German population was afraid because they had learned that in other places men were taken hostage and jailed, so it is no wonder that  they were relieved and welcomed the German troops.

 

  Several of the German soldiers attended the Good Friday service at the prayer house and they expressed an interest in knowing the origins of the various German families back in Germany, the information which few of the families could provide to them.

 

  A few months after the entry of the German troops and after the declaration of the independence of the State of Croatia, word spread of attacks by armed men taking place in the countryside.  They were called: Chetniks (Serb Nationalists).  In order to be able to defend the village, the Germans of Bastei received several guns (rifles) and went on night patrols with Serbs from the village.  Only the Germans carried arms.  These night patrols lasted until March 15th 1942.  On that night Johann Partz who lived in Gross-Bastei was shot in the stomache through his front door and died the next day.  These “freedom fighters” also wounded a young Croat, who died of his wounds a month later.

 

  The leaders of the German villagers had to decided what course to take in light of these first two deaths in their community.  Should they leave their destiny in the hands of others or would they defend themselves and their homes which their grandparents had struggled to build up for them.  The men decided they would defend the village and word might spread so that the Partisans would leave them alone.

 

  June 5th, 1942 would disprove that supposition.

   When and How Where the Communities in Hungary Settled by Germans Who Were the  Ancestors of our Grandparents and Great Grandparents? 

  (Translator’s Note:  The following information is taken from the work of Gustav Schmidt-Tomka on the History of the Lutheran Seniorat of Swabian Turkey)

 

  Kotcse

  This is the first of the secondary settlements in Somogy on the estates of the Protestant noble families: Berzcenyi, Antal and Benko.  According to preserved documents, the original settlers included five Roman Catholic Magyars, twelve Hungarian Calvinists, and forty seven Lutheran and seven Reformed  families from Germany.  The church records begin in 1730.

 

  Bikal

  At the end of the 18th century, German Lutheran settlers arrived in Bikal and soon they became the majority in the village.  The Lutherans appear to have come from Tolna County.

 

  Mekenyes

  There were Lutheran German settlers in Mekenyes from 1735.  They came from Gyonk and Zomba, because they could not remain there.  In Gyonk, their Reformed landlord, Peter Magyari Kossa, refused to provide them with land on which to build a church.  In Zomba their fanatic Roman Catholic landlord Dory von Jobahaza forced them to convert or leave.  They settled in Mekenyes on April 24th, 1735.

 

  The family names of the colonists indicate an Ober Hessen (Upper Hessen) origin, and the city of Schlitz as their place of origin in particular.  At the beginning the Lutherans had to put up with a lot at the hands of the Serbs who lived throughout much of Baranya along with the Croats.  The colonizer was the princely family of the Esterhazys, who were then and later good to their Lutheran subjects even though themselves were prominent Roman Catholics.

 

  Mekenyes was a Mother Church  as early as 1737, and called Pastor Franz Tonsor from Lapofo (1737-1743) in Somogy County, who also served the Slovaks in Kurd.  After nameless acts of interference, he was expelled from Mekenyes in 1743 and the prayer house was locked up.  Each year, an annual mass was read inside even though there was not a single Roman Catholic in the village.

 

  Egyhazakozar

  The village was given its name by the Serbian refugees who settled in the area under the Emperor Leopold I.  In 1800 they still had their resident Orthodox priest Andrevics.  In 1732 the first German Lutheran family settled here.  But it was only in the 1750’s that there was a large scale migration of the German Lutherans into the village.  Johann Heinrich Birkenstock, whose origins can be traced back to Rainrod in the vicinity of Alsfeld in Upper Hessen, played a leading role in the formation of the Lutheran congregation that developed here.

  He had first settled in Felsonana, and he was responsible for settling the Lutherans here.  Most responded to his call in 1755/1756.  He was well liked and trusted by Esterhazy.  He was called the “Farmer King”, and it apparently went to his head.  But he was the champion of his fellow Lutherans and their religious freedom as well as being instrumental in forming a Mother Church.

 

  In the interests of his congregation he made journeys to Vienna and the royal offices there to speak to Maria Theresia, because of the oppression of the Lutheran congregation, forcing it to become a filial of the Roman Catholic parish of Bikal.  He never got more than worthless promises for all of his efforts.  The teacher who served the Lutherans was also driven out of Mekenyes and was replaced by a Roman Catholic.  But by bribing the Roman Catholic priest in Bikal with countless gifts they were able to secretly have a Lutheran teacher serving in the village.  Along with all of the other Lutheran congregations in the area, Mekenyes achieved official toleration in 1781 with the Emperor Joseph II’s Edict.

 

  On the advice of Birkenstock, Esterhazy also settled German Lutherans in other villages.  Gerenges, Nagyag, Tekesch, Kaposszekcso, Csikostottos and Taros.  All of these Lutherans were persecuted, oppressed and exiled up until 1781 and the Edict of Toleration.

 

  In 1783 Egyhazakozar became a Mother Church and along with the pastor in Bikal served all of the congregations in the vicinity.  Until 1783 the Lutheran congregations suffered under the yoke of the Roman Catholics and paid tribute to them.

 

  Nagy Hajmas

  This village was settled by Roman Catholic Germans and Croatians by Count Philip Ludwig Zinzendorf, the Abbot of Pecsvard in Eisenburg County (1711-1735).  Among these settlers there were also some Lutherans.  The date of the arrival of the first settlers in unknown.  The Lutherans united with the Mekenyes congregation in 1791 and later became a filial.

 

  Toffu

  The German Lutherans who settled in Toffu around 1720 were settled there by the Esterhazys.  About thirty families received land allotments.  Toffu and Hidas (1739) were the primary Hessian Lutheran settlements in northern Baranya.

 

  Barcs

  In Barcs the majority of the German settlers came in 1850 from Tolna and Baranya counties.

 

  Somogy Dorocske

  This village received its German settlers in the middle of the 18th century through the enlistment of the Hunyadi family, according to the book by Johann Weidlein.

 

  

  Izmeny

  The village received its Hessian Lutheran settlers after 1720.  It was a long street village on the von Mercy holdings.

 

  Gadacs

  Located in Somogy County, Gadacs was considered a puszta belonging to Somogyszil until 1848 when it became an independent community.  It’s church, like that in Somogyszil was built in the 1850’s.

 

 

The Settlement of the Germans in Klein and Gross Bastei 

  With regard to the arrival and settlement of the first Germans in Klein-Bastei, Gross-Bastei and Miletinac, we have no factual history to which to refer.  But upon the basis of the church records we can ascertain that the first children were born in 1891.  It is obvious that young families expecting a child remained behind in Hungary until after the child was born before migrating to Slavonia.

 

One of the early pioneers, Johann Brautigam born in Murga on 21.06.1871 later reflected:

 

                     “The first German family came from Kotcse, Somogy County

                       in 1886 and were the May family.  In 1887, four families came

                       from Bikal, and a year later six more families came from Bikal

                       and Nagy Hajmas.  In this way, Klein Bastei was settled with

                       Germans…  There were 42 German and 42 Serbian house

                       numbers”.

 

  The last Lutheran “preacher”, Jakob Abrell was the source of the following report:

 

                      “ German settlers came around 1885 from Swabian Turkey, from

                         the communities of Bikla, Mekenyes, Csikotottos, Kaposzekoscsi,

                         Barcs and others, and most settled in Klein Bastei, while a few

                         others moved into Gross-Bastei…”

 

  Klein-Bastei and Gross-Bastei had a population of 2,000 before the Second World War, of whom there were 300 to 350 Germans.  The rest of the population was mixed, mostly Serbs, Croats and some from Czechoslovakia and Hungary.  Almost all of the Germans lived in Klein-Bastei.  Gross-Bastei was the seat of the local government, the local post office, the Orthodox Church, a Roman Catholic chapel, the school, small shops and stores, tradesmen, work places, dairies, blacksmith shops, a lock maker, tailor and shoemaker.

 

  There is no definite evidence to suggest that there was a planned settlement programme carried out by Count Jankovic and his successors the Tukory and Turkovic families to recruit German settlers.  A Yugoslavian source indicates, “The last arriving settlers in Bastaji were Czechoslovakians and Germans and were settled by members of the Jankovic family”.

   The Places of Origin of Our Ancestors Who Settled in Bastei 

  From Kotcse:

  The May family, who are believed to be the first to settle in Klein-Bastei.  They were Adam May and his wife Katharina whose maiden name was Lohr , who had a daughter born on 02.05.1885 in Kotcse and on the basis of that the earliest they could have moved on to Klein-Bastei was in 1886.

 

  From Bikal:

  The extended families of the Keims and Freys, three Knies families and the Frudinger family (in Bikal known as the Fruhdinger), the Schild, Schonfeld, Peter, Hansel and Sterner families.

 

  From Mekenyes:

  The families Krahling, Waygand, Krahling (the parents of Susanne Knies in Mekenyes known as the “Eckfelders Krahlings).  The Hopp, Stieb, Tewich and Schmidt families.

 

  From Nagy Hajmas:

  The Emrich, Leipold, Reiber and Sabo families.

 

  From Nagyag:

  The Grunwald, Ernst and Lehn families.

 

  From Csikostottos:

  The families Schonfeld Lorenz, Schon Nikolaus, Meisinger and Wertz.

 

  From Kaposszekcso:

  The Hecker and Goldmann families.  (The latter may have lived in Gernyes before he moved on to Klein-Bastei).

 

  From Tofu:

  The Heppenheimer family came in 1873 from Sabadi to Tofu and then around 1891 they moved on to Klein-Bastei.

 

  From Barcs:

  The Ritzl and Neuhardt families.

 

  From Nagyberki:

  The family of  Klein Jakob from the lower village.

 

  From Somogydorocske:

  The Gartner family.

  From Belac:

  The Ernst family (The daughter married Stefan Partz)

 

  From Paschian bei Gross Mlinska:

  The Muth family (They came from Csikostottos to Paschian)

 

  From Izmeny:

  The Zarth and Petermann families.

 

  From Grabitsch:

  The Semmelroth family and Johann Lamp

 

  From Gadacs:

  The Wajandt family along with the Knoch family in Miletinac.

 

  From Hrastovac:

  The following settlers in Klein-Bastei took brides from Hrastovac:  Georg Keim married  Elisabeth Stark, Jakob Keim married Katharina Wagner, Johann Hecker married Katharina Bierer on 24.12.1985.   Johann Hecker married a second time to Katharina  Bierer on 31.12.1890, Johann Schild married Elisabetha Just, Johann Knies married Anna Starck, Peter Schonfeld married Barbara Dietz and Heinrich Frey married Christine Ochsenhofer.

  Hrastovac in Slavonia (Eichendorf) 

  (Translator’s Note:  The settlement of Hrastovac described in their Heimatbuch is quoted by the author.  There is a lot of detail and description of geography and topography, and the difficulties the settlers faced that I omit)

 

  In the 1850’s Baron Tukery living in his modest little palace in Daruvar found himself in financial difficulties and the solution to his problem was the cutting down of the forests of his vast estates.  Thousand year old oaks, beech and ash that were two and three feet in diameter were cut down and dragged by oxen teams to Sisak the site of the closest transportation link, the railway station.  The scrub and diseased trees etc. were left standing.  Several thousand arcres of deforested land surrounded Daruvar and Pakrac and was of no real use to anyone.  So it was decided to parcel out small sections and sell the land cheaply to settlers.  The nobleman’s steward named Stein in Pakrac, a former army officer carried out the programme, and soon found some buyers.  But the local Serbs and Croats were not interested because they knew how difficult it would be to clear thel and and put it under cultivation.  Only small attractive parcels of land around Uljani were purchased by them and most of it was already cleared.

 

  Each parcel included a place to build a house and a plot of 6.5 joch and share of the 400 joch meadow.  Five gulden was the down payment and five years later the rest of the cost, with no taxes for the first ten years was offered.  This proved to very appealing to the Germans in Swabian Turkey where there was no land available, and very expensive when it was.  That is how Hrastovac came into existence along with Blagorodvac, Kapetanovo, Polje and Sokolovac.

 

  The first settlers to Hrastovac arrived in the spring of 1865.  From among them, only three families would remain and all of them originated in Egyhazakozar.  Johann Muller, Johann Sauerwein and Jakob Fleisch.  The other four families, like many who would follow them, gave up and returned home or went elsewhere.

 

(Translator’s Note:  The author continues describing the difficulties faced by the original settlers in Hrastovac that are available to be read in the Hrastovac Heimatbuch English translation)

  The Klein-Bastei Dialect 

(Translator’s Note:  The dialect spoken in Klein-Bastei was identitical to the Hessian that was spoken in the Lutheran villages in Swabian Turkey)

  Klein-Bastei and Its Neighbours 

  In the east and south there was a creek that formed the border between Gross and Klein-Bastei.  In Gross-Bastei the majority of the population that lived there were Serbs, but there were also Croats, Germans, Hungarians, as well as Czechs and Slovaks.  To the south west lay Gross Maslenjaca and the inhabitants were Croats who settled here after the First World War by the Tukory family.  The river Ilova was nearby and served as the border between Slavonia and Croatia.  North of Bastei was Miletinac, where approximately fifteen German Lutheran families lived who were part of the Lutheran congregation in Bastei.  Some of these families left before the Second World War and settled in Cacinci.  The overwhelming majority of the population in the vicinity were Serbs.

 

(Translator’s Note:  The author shares some personal reminiscences)

 

  The relations between the Germans and their Slavic neighbours up to and including the time during the Second World War were without any great problems or difficulties.  There were occasions that verged on conflict but they were dealt with cordially.  How it was between them during the settlement period is difficult to assess or know.  From the oral history that was shared it was obvious that because of language difficulties it was hard for them to communicate with one another and there were often misunderstandings as a result of that.  The one thing we do know is that the Serbs were only too glad to sell land to the Germans and the deeds that were signed attest to that.  From the church records it can be ascertained that the Lutheran children were baptized by the Orthodox priest until such time a pastor became available to them when a congregation was established.

  In the First World War all able bodied men, regardless of nationality served in the Austro Hungarian Army and an equal portion fell victim in battle.  There were heavy losses among all of the ethnic groups.  At the close of the war when young Slavs came home on leave they did not return to their units on the frontline positions but fled into the forests and formed groups for mutual protection and were called “greens”, and there is strong evidence that there were also Germans among them.

 

  With the collapse of the Dual Monarchy in 1918, the two general stores in Bastei, both owned by Jews, Frank and Schonauer were plundered and robbed by the Slavs.  The Germans and Hungarians were threatened, but as the new government of Yugoslavia took control, things and relationships were back to normal.  The young Germans were drafted into the army but saw service only in Serbian Macedonia and never in Croatia-Slavonia.  Most served on the border of Macedonia with Albania and many returned home suffering from malaria. But all of the minorities met with this kind of treatment and the rights promised to the minorities by the Treaty of Versailles were never implemented in Yugoslavia.

 

  The German children had to attend the public school in Gross-Bastei and the language of instruction was Serbo-Croatian.  From 1932 to 1941 they had a German department in the school.  Relations with their Slavic neighbours were good until the Second World War, when they found themselves caught between the Serbs and Croatians in their fratricidal war.

  The Economic Development of Klein-Bastei 

(Translator’s Note:  A synopsis of some salient matters)

 

  In most cases the settlers only had enough money to pay for the land and house plot, while others had sufficient funds to build a rude house.  After the houses were built many of the younger generation left for America, Canada or Germany.  They went to earn money in order to later buy land in Bastei, or to pay the family debts.  Others earned extra money by working on the estates of the Tukory family, or the railways and furniture and timber industries.

  The Working Year of the Farmer  The Seasonal and Religious Festivals of the Year  Family Festivals and Celebrations  Community Life in Klein-Bastei  The Lutheran Church in Slavonia 1868-1918 

  Of great importance to the development of the Lutheran Church in Slavonia was the work and the activities of the British Foreign Bible Society and the preachers from the Pilgrim Mission of St. Chrischona, which was based in Switzerland.  This was especially true in the early years when the Lutheran Church was unable to respond to the Protestants  in Slavonia and Croatia after Protestant Patent became law in 1859, because they did not have the pastors to serve small isolated groups in a very backward and primitive situation.  As a result, few of the Lutherans had pastors or schools in which the German language was used.

 

  The Mission, less rigid and inflexible like the official church structures and administration, was able to respond quickly to meet the needs of the forgotten Protestant settlers.  In response to the appeals, the Mission sent preachers and teachers to serve in many of the settlements.  Often the function of the preacher and teacher were united in one person, who was called a Levite.  In most cases the missionaries arrived as teachers and then became preachers of the congregations later.  Some of them were later ordained.  Some of these men gave their lifetime of service to the mission.  Three men served for fifty years: Adolf Locher, Jakob Keller and Carl Busse and were buried in this land in which they had served.

 

  The missionaries played a leading role in developing and sustaining the confessional identity of the population they served and Senior Jakob Kettenbach played a leading role in this but they were also instrumental in the building of numerous prayer houses (Bethauser) and schools, including those in Hrastovac, Zvonimirovac, Velmirovac, Darkovac, Sidski Banovci and others communities.

 

  The pastor preachers of the Mother Churches also had a vast territory in which to serve in addtion to the community in which they resided.  The preacher in Vinkovacko Novo Sello (Neudorf) served the diaspora all along the Sava River.  Before Podrauska Slatina became an independent congregation with 28 filials and mission stations, the whole of Virovitica County was served by the pastor in Essegg.  No wonder the ministry of the local Levits was so important to the church.  Many of the filials in the future would become a Mother Church with its own brood of filials and mission stations of its own.  In terms of the official Lutheran Church structures, the important event was the establishment of the Croatian/Slavonian Evangelical A.B. Seniorat in 1900.  (Translator’s Note.  The letters A.B. are the short form for the Augsburger Bekentniss, the Augsburg Confession, the statement of faith that unites all Lutheran congregations throughout the world).  Now the church in Slavonia was officially structured.  The Lutherans had maintained their identity in a sea of Catholicism and during a century of oppression.

 

  Through the Bible Society’s literature, the people’s faith had been nurtured and strengthened.  Above all, the scriptures and tracts were well received.  The “Fellowship”  movement had a strong impact on the spiritual life of the congregations.  As the Seniorat grew, expanded and deepened, other language groups became part of the church:  Slovaks and Magyars.  A remnant of those who remained behind after World War II, still maintain congregational life in some of these places to this day.  The seed has not been unearthed entirely.

 

 

Church and School in Klein-Bastei 

  The development of the church and school in Klein-Bastei cannot be discussed separately, nor do they have a separate history.  From the time of settlement around 1888 and the arrival of the first preacher in 1908, when the prayer house and parsonage were dedicated, the Lutheran children were baptized by the Orthodox priest Panta Bikicki, and marriages were conducted by the Lutheran pastor in Hrastovac.  The children went to school in Gross-Bastei and were taught in Serbian.  Religious instruction was provided by the pastor in Hrastovac and also the parents because of the distance involved, some thirty kilometers.

 

  With regard to some information the author had personally and in documented form, there was also a Hungarian school in Kelin-Bastei under the leadership of Pastor Mernyi, during 1908 and 1909 and up to the end of the First World War, while he served the people in Klein-Bastei.  After the First World War, sometime around 1920 another preacher arrived, Ferdinand Dully, who had served as the Director of the Siloah Orphan Home in Neu Pasua up until 1919.  According to relatives he had married couples there in Klein-Bastei as early as 1922.  During the times when there was no preacher or pastor available to the congregation in Klein-Bastei, the tasks were undertaken by members of the congregation who preached at worship services and conducted funerals.  Among these congregational leaders of special significance were Stefan Reiber born in Tarros on 21.11.1869 and his wife the former Katharina Oberlander.

 

  Ferdinand Dully did not only serve as a preacher, but also as  the teacher, who provided religious instruction for the children, but also taught reading and writing in German.  During his pastorate the Agricultural Credit Union was established.  At the end of 1932, Dully and his family left to serve in Konigsfeld in Bosnia.  He was succeeded by Karl Mittermayer.  He spent a lot of his time with the youth and had them develop an interest in hiking and sports.  He later undertook the directorship of the Siloah Orphan’s Home in Neu Pasua in 1935 and would later accompany all of the children on their evacuation from Slavonia and re-established the Home in Egolfstal in Allau in Austria.

 

  In 1935, Jacob Abrell and his family arrived to serve as the pastor in Klein-Bastei.  When the “Renewers” established a local group, the pastor was very much opposed to them and their activities.  (Translator’s Note.  The so-called “Renewers” were a group of younger men within the Danube Swabian Cultural Association, who had political aspirations and took their inspiration from one Adolph Hitler, and attempted to use the existing organization to further the aims of the Third Reich).  He feared that the youth would be estranged from the church because of the group and its “heathen” ideology.  (The author then attempts to provide a rationale indicating that the pastor did not really understand the implications involved which is always the “party line” on the part of the Renewers, which I do not care to repeat. Henry’s note)

 

  When the time came, however, to defend Klein-Bastei against the Partisans on June 5th, 1942, the pastor stood first in the ranks against the raiders, while many others gave in to their fears.  After the attack, in which the prayer house and parsonage were both destroyed, the took over a leadership position in Klein Bastei and worked with the Folk Group leaders in Essegg.  He held this position until the evacuation of Essegg in November 1944.  He also took the church records to Essegg at the request of the Senior there shortly before the evacuation.  Jakob Abrell died in Ingolstadt, Germany on 28.01.1964.

   Faith-Church-Church Building-Pastors and Preachers  

  The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Klein-Bastei was found in 1888, according to the report of Jakob Abrell during the time of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the congregation in 1938.  There is no documentation to corroborate this, but it appears that the pastor from Hrastovac and one of the leading church officials was present for the event from the Seniorat.  It would take twenty years from the founding of the congregation to the building of its prayer house and parsonage.  During this period, Klein-Bastei was a filial of Hrastovac.  It is therefore obvious that at funerals and most of the worship services that the lay leadership of the congregation fulfilled such “pastoral” roles, as mentioned previously.

 

  Ferdinand Dully the former director of the Siloah Orphan’s Home arrived in Klein- Bastei in the fall of 1919, at the time that the institution was transferred to Giganka by Slatina from Neu Pasua, and the new director would also serve the small Lutheran congregation there in addition to his ministry to the children.  There were fourteen places in the home for children, but on the night of October 28th, 1919 a mob attacked and plundered it.  The only thing they left behind undestroyed was one wall with a mural that proclaimed:  Jesus Lives.  Out of fear for the safety to the children, the church planned for the return of the institution to Neu Pasua, but it took until February 8th, 1921.

 

(Tanslator’s Note.  The author repeats much of the same information with regard to the ministry of Ferdinand Dully and Karl Mittermayer and his own personal memories about them)

 

  After the prayer house and parsonage were burned down during the Partisan raid on Klein-Bastei on June 5th, 1942, pastor Jakob Abrell was able to save his life at the last minute and escape the flames.  He then moved to Essegg, but he still concerned himself  with his Partisan threatened congregation from there.  He himself later wrote:

 

          “Bastei counts a bit more than 300 souls and was an independent congregation

           because it was too far away from any other pastoral station, and had only four

           pastoral visits each year.  There were also two small groups in the area who were

           served from Bastei.  Daruvar, which could be reached by train, had about twenty

           Lutherans and Miletinac, which could be reached by a reasonable walk also had

           about thirty believers.  In both communities regular services were held six times a

           year, and religious education was provided every two weeks.

 

           Following the raid on Klein-Bastei on June 5th in 1942, in which three of the men

           from the congregation lost their lives, thirteen other men were dragged off by the

           the Partisan raiders and were never seen or heard from again.  The prayer house 

           and the parsonage, and all of the contents were burned, and I was forced to leave

           Bastei.  Because of the danger in most of our congregations, especially the smaller

           and isolated ones I was given a position with the Folk Group leadership in Essegg.

           I held this position until our evacuation at the beginning of November in 1944.

 

           On May 1st and 2nd of 1943 I was back in Bastei and held a service as well as

           baptized five children.  During my time in Essegg I assisted the Senior, Walter in

           preaching, baptisms and funerals.  I also committed the church records to him at

           his request”.

 

  There is no record or information as to what happened to these Church Records of Bastei which were given to Senior Walter.

 

  (Translator’s Note.  The author digresses in sharing personal stories and memories of Christmas pageants and such)

  The Treffen-Reunion at Seligenstadt   

The Second World War

  

  Up until the German invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, the German population had been left unmolested.  Shortly before the war broke out, the men of military age were all called up for service and all of them reported for duty and all of them returned home safely after the capitulation and collapse of Yugoslavia.

 

  From the outbreak of the war to the arrival of the German army’s march through Gross-Bastei was only a matter of a few days.  Nothing happened, but the German population was afraid because they had learned that in other places men were taken hostage and jailed, so it is no wonder that  they were relieved and welcomed the German troops.

 

  Several of the German soldiers attended the Good Friday service at the prayer house and they expressed an interest in knowing the origins of the various German families back in Germany, the information which few of the families could provide to them.

 

  A few months after the entry of the German troops and after the declaration of the independence of the State of Croatia, word spread of attacks by armed men taking place in the countryside.  They were called: Chetniks (Serb Nationalists).  In order to be able to defend the village, the Germans of Bastei received several guns (rifles) and went on night patrols with Serbs from the village.  Only the Germans carried arms.  These night patrols lasted until March 15th 1942.  On that night Johann Partz who lived in Gross-Bastei was shot in the stomache through his front door and died the next day.  These “freedom fighters” also wounded a young Croat, who died of his wounds a month later.

 

  The leaders of the German villagers had to decided what course to take in light of these first two deaths in their community.  Should they leave their destiny in the hands of others or would they defend themselves and their homes which their grandparents had struggled to build up for them.  The men decided they would defend the village and word might spread so that the Partisans would leave them alone.

 

  June 5th, 1942 would disprove that supposition.

   

The Settlement of the Liberated Danube Basin

 

  It was obvious to the commanders of the Austrian forces that the liberated areas were in a devastated condition.  It was almost deserted, because the local populations had fled to save their lives, the former cultivated fields were in ruins, and the low lying areas had turned into swamps during the floods.  The only local inhabitants they encountered lived in ramshackle huts, the agricultural lands were abandoned, had reverted to wilderness, were unfriendly and unproductive.

 

  The surviving population had endured countless forms of cruel atrocities, and they were without hope in terms of finding a safe and secure life for themselves, and as a result they became nomadic, traveled in groups and often resorted to plundering and robbing others.

 

  With the establishment of the Military Frontier District, the Austrians had begun to provide security for the region, but what was still missing was a stable population to develop it, who could be brought into the region to undertake the hard work to bring about new life in the area.

 

   Following consultation and planning and preparation, promoters to act as recruiters of colonists were sent into the various German principalities that made up the Holy Roman Empire to entice settlers to come to develop the new territories that had been added to the Hapsburg holdings.

 

  Three major streams of settlement followed under the various Hapsburg monarchs, later known as the Schwabenzug…Swabian Migration.  First under Emperor Charles (Karl)VI (1711-1740,  then his daughter, Maria Theresia (11740-1780) and her son Emperor Joseph II (1780-1790).

 

  These mass movements were known as the Karolinian Emigration 1722 to 1726, the Theresian Emigration from 1763 to 1771 and the Josephinian Migration from 1782 to 1787.  In between these major waves of settlement there were always individual and groups of settlers who entered Hungary on their own and settled in the Middle Danube areas of Hungary.

 

  In addition to the Hapsburg’s efforts at colonization, there were the private lords, nobles and large landholders who sought to gain settlers on their estates, who only allowed them to settle with the understanding that they would work on their domains.

 

  This was not an attempt on the part of the Hapsburgs to Germanize the former Hungarian territories.  The Emperor wanted people from various nationalities to participate in the economic development of their newly won empire.  The settlers included Czechs, Slovaks, Romanians, Hungarians, Croatians, Serbs, Italians, French and Germans.

 

  The Emperor ruled in a “Catholic” Empire, and for that reason he had no intention of settling Protestants in his realm.  The Hapsburgs sought to maintain their “Catholic” unity among all of the people who were their subjects.

 

(Translator’s note.  The author then digresses into an examination of Hapsburg policy in this regard, concluding with Joseph II’s repudiation of this policy during the final phase of the Schwabenzug which included Protestants, who settled mainly in the Batschka and the Banat.  His lengthy Immigration Patent begins on page 27 and is reviewed by the author but is not included in this translation.)

  The Emigration Process for the Would Be Settlers 

  Every would-be settler first had to report to his noble landlord and obtain from him his permission to leave as well as purchase his manumission.  (Literally: bought his freedom to serve his lord).  Following this, the would-be settler had to search out one of the settlement commissioners in Frankfurt-an-Main, in Koblenz or Rottenburg am Neckar and present his documentation.  Following his recruitment and compliance with the rules for emigration to Hungary, he received a passport, which he took with him as he and his family went on foot to Ulm on the Danube, or if he came from Hessen or Franconia , to Wurzburg and Nuremburg and then on to the riverport of Regensburg.  At one of these places he and his family took ship down the Danube on the so-called Ulmer Schachtel, (Literally: box), which in effect was an open raft.

 

  Reaching Vienna, the settler had to report to the Royal High Court, where he had to provide his name, place of origin, age and the amount of money he was carrying and pay a two Gulden traveling fare per person to the Royal Chamber in Buda in order for him to continue his journey down the Danube to the Hungarian capital.

 

  While they were there their destination for settlement was also identified, but many of the settlers changed their minds on the way.  Countless numbers of them responded to the invitations of the Hungarian nobles and their agents to leave the ships and settle on their estates.  While on their way there were many of the young single men and women who traveled with groups married as they passed through Ulm, Regensburg, Passau and Vienna.

 

  The length of the journey to the southern parts of Hungary, into what later became Yugoslavia was approximately 1,200 kilometres, covered both by ship and on foot when passing by the rapids and going overland to the settlements.  Most of the immigrant groups journeyed for six to seven weeks…

 

  (Translator’s Note.  The author deals with some general observations with regard to the development of the settlements)

  The Batschka and Southern Hungary in the 19th CenturySlavonia After the Turkish Occupation 

  For over a century after the liberation from the Turks, Slavonia which was to become the homeland of our ancestors,  remained undisturbed and undeveloped.  The land north of  the Sava was part of the Miltitary Frontier District and was ruled from Vienna, and the land south of the Drava, Croatia and Slavonia were ruled by the Ban in Agram (Zagreb). The liberated territories were returned to the nobles and landed gentry and estate owners if they could produce documents to substantiated their land claims.  But because so many nobles had gone into exile or had no heirs the Hapsburgs granted or sold estates to former  military commanders (sometimes as back pay).  Most of them did not live on their estates and showed little or no interest in them.  The aristocrats held all of the high offices.

 

  Following the French Revolution in 1789, and the wars of liberation to 1813, the various  nationalities were awakened by the idea of a national consciousness.  As part of this national rebirth, the “Illyric Movement” took place among the South Slavs.  This awakening expressed itself in the emphasis on national language and the upkeep and further development of it in all aspects of life and a call for self determination and independence from the Hapsburg Monarchy.

 

  As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, the Germans in their various states and principalities moved towards some form of national union and the Slavs too longed for a union of all Slavs.  Among the Croatians Ljudevit Faj and Louis Gay were the major advocates .  While among the Serbs, Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic played that leading role.  As part of the Illyrian Movement the differences between the various Slavic groups were downplayed.  There was Slavism, Neo-Slavism, Austro-Slavism, Pan-Slavism, both with and without Russian support…

 

(Translator”s Note.  The author provides additional information on the nationalist movements among the South Slavs).

  The Revolution of 1848 

  With the breakout of the Revolution of 1848 all across Europe, the relations between Hungary and Croatia were strained.  The Croatians did not want to be a satellite of Hungary, but an equal partner, with only a king in common.  They wanted to use the Croatian language in the Hungarian parliament and in all public institutions.  Because these demands were not accepted by Hungary, they separated from Hungary and declared war.  General Jelacic, the commander of the Military Frontier District hurried to Vienna with his troops to support the Hapsburgs against the Hungarian insurgents.

 

  In Vienna, the March uprising toppled Metternich from power, and after a second uprising, a parliament was called into being which declared the emancipation of the peasants in May and then during the third uprising in October, Field Marshall Prince zu Windischgratz attacked all troops that refused to fight against the Hungarians rebels.  Joseph Jelacic, the Ban of Croatia, besieged the Hungarian forces at Schwechat (Translator’s Note.  Today’s location of the Vienna Airport) while the Habsburg government fled to Olmutz.  Emperor Ferdinand abdicated, his successor, young  Francis Joseph attempted to placate the nationalities with a new constitution.

 

  Jelacic called for a new election for representatives to the Landtag (parliament) and at is first assembly had himself installed as Ban by Joseph Rajacic the Orthodox Metropolitan  and representative of the Serbs.  Jelacic helped the Austrians put down the Hungarian revolution.

 

  The Ban visited Emperor  Francis Joseph and hoped to achieve the full independence of Croatia from Hungary.  The Emperor was not prepared to go that far and that damaged the future relations with the Hapsbugs and the Croats and all Germans.

 

  When the Serbs, under the leadership of their Patriarch found refuge in Hapsburg territory during the reign of Leopold I in 1690-1691, they had the written promise that they would be free to return to Serbia after the liberation from the Turks.  They saw their settlement in the Batschka, Banat, Syrmien and Slavonia as only temporary.

 

  After a few generations, they declared this “haven” to be their “homeland”, and their own settlement area they desired to govern.  Austria granted them their cultural autonomy in church and school.  They were free to educate their preists and teachers and develop a national life of their own.  In all of these areas where they resided there were numerous non-Serbian populations.

 

  With the re-organization of the Hungarian government, the Serbs in 1859 achieved self government for the Vojwodina, Serbia and the Temesvar Banat, with their seat of government in Temesvar, a Crownland until 1860, under the control of Vienna.  The Emperor wanted to demonstrate to the Hungarians that he had the other nationalities  as his subjects and allies against them.

  The Swabian Petition of 1849 

  After the Hungarian Revolution was put down in 1849, twenty seven men, who were loyal subjects of the crown arrived in Vienna on October 2nd and presented a petition  to the young Emperor.  They were Danube Swabians from Bogarosch.

 

  The began by acknowledging their thanks and appreciation for their invitation to settle in the Hapsburg Empire.  They shared the difficulties the colonists contended with in the swamps and wilderness of the Banat, where with industriousness and skill they had planted a new society…culture.  So much so, that the Banat had become the granary of the Empire, the pearl of Hungary, a part of the Hapsburg Monarchy to whom the Swabians always looked to for help and direction.  They wrote, “We respect and honour all of the other nationalities among whom we live and we only desire what others have in terms of rights and equality and not to be treated as orphans in our own house, so we ask for the consideration for our 350,000 Danube Swabian people”.

  They pointed out that since the other nationalities had been given special recognition and freedoms and governmental structures, that the same should be granted to the Danube Swabians who desired to be loyal to the Emperor.  The Serbs had a Woidwoden, the Romanians a Captain, the Slovaks a Paladin, the Swabians asked for a German Count to act as their “head”, much like the Saxon Counts in Transylvania.  They did not seek national independence, and had no separatist tendencies.  They wanted to be subjects of the larger Empire, where “we are all proud to be Austrians not Hungarians, Serbs, Poles, etc.  We believe that is through a German count, who could act to defend our rights, and interpret government decrees, and allow the use of the German language in government and public life”.

 

  The petition was signed by representatives of twelve Swabian communities in the Banat.  The Swabian National Assembly, that had been elected met in Billed and had the priest, Novak write the petition on their behalf and later signed it at Bogarosch.

 

  This was the first political action ever taken by the Swabians and it demonstrated how forward looking the Swabian leaders were at the time.  But with the establishment of the Vojwodina (1849-1860), Austria upgraded the status of the Serbs, punished the Hungarians and due to a lack of understanding of the Swabian’s situation, simply ignored  their request.

  Joseph Georg Strossmayer 

  Joseph Juraj Stosmajer (1815-1905) now appeared on the scene.  He saw in the union of the South Slavs the possibility of union of the Orthodox Serbs and the Roman Catholic Croatians back into “the lap of mother Rome”, with himself at the head of this Slavic State Church.  Like Gay, Strosmajer was culturally German, who became a 200% Croat.  He saw that the “Greater Serbian Movement” under Nikola Paschitsch left little room for a partnership.  As a result he moved to a stronger Croatian nationalist position.

 

  He became the exponent of Croatian nationalism, culture, art and language.  The “father” of the Fatherland.  He was hated and loved like Bismark in Prussia.  He was the “awakener” of the Croatian people.  The power of the Croatian people was so great that it could give birth to a patriotic Croat like him made out of a “German” child.

 

  He was the son of a horse trader and his Croatian wife, and grew up in bilingual Essegg, and felt and thought in German.  Following his eduction in Djakowar, Budapest, and Vienna he was a royal chaplain and confessor at the Schonbrunn Palace.  He wanted to become the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg.  The Emperor, who had the right of appointment to the position, however, did not support his candidacy.  Distant Djakowar was perhaps, seen as a punishment.  But that would not hold him back.

 

  At the instigation of the Ban Jelacic in Vienna the Emperor named Strosmayer, bishop of Djakowar.  This very intelligent and sensitive man awakened the latent call for the liberation of the Croatians.  He was in favour of the use of the Croatian language as the language of instruction in all of the schools of the land.  He wanted to make everyone in the land a Croat.  He was an enemy of the German language.  He was successful and renowned in various fields, building churches and cathedrals, the intensification of agricultural use of the land on his Episcopal estates, patron of Croatian culture, a theologian and philosopher.  At the first Vatican Council in 1869-1870, he was one of the leading voices to oppose papal infallibility.

 

  Strosmayer made certain that the educational system for priests and teachers would produce patriotic Croatians.  He hindered the used German in worship and appointed Croatian priests to serve German majority parishes, and with time assimilation was almost complete.  That  people lost the right to use their mother tongue did not concern him a bit, but not everyone was prepared to do that.

 

  With the Turkish threat no longer real, the Croatians agitated for the elimination of the Military Frontier District and incorporating it into Croatia and Slavonia.  The region was underdeveloped and backward.  The representatives of the Croatian parliament knew that the tax income from the area and a strong economy would depend on building a railway and highway network in the land.  Even though the Croatian nationalists opposed the settlement of other nationalities in their midst, they believed it was necessary to bring in Germans to teach the population and set an example.

 

  The estate owners made a good living by selling lumber and timber.  Slavonian oak was world famous as an export.  What do you do about de-forestation?  There were countless swamps that needed to be dammed and drained with canals to make the land useable for agriculture.  There were also Croatian settlers who worked the land who were free from paying taxes, but when taxes were later imposed they left the area and took up tax free land somewhere else.  A Croat politician complained about the poor work ethic of the Croatians.  They saw work as something forced upon them and not as something that was necessary.  In 1848 most of them were shepherds, and a small number were cattle herders.  They were simply lazy.  (Translator’s Note.  That is an opinon).

 

  As a result there was a byword in Slavonia to the effect, “Svabo ore I sije, sokac sedi I pige”, which translated means:  The Swabian ploughs and eats, the Croatian sits and drinks”.

 

  Unfortunately, the result of all of this was envy out of which hatred would emerge.  In spite of that, the Swabians in the Military Frontier District and towns and cities attempted to make friends with their neighbours.

   The Compromise with Hungary – 1867 

  The Dual Monarchy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire emerged as a result of the Compromise of 1867.  The self government the Hungarians were able to achieve were what the Slavic people also wanted and hoped for.  Austria continued to have complete jurisdiction over Finance and Defence, but in terms of  foreign affairs, the Hungarians did manage to gain some influence.

 

  Each of the states, had their own home army.  In Hungary, it was the Honved.  Domestic, economic, school and church issues were dealt with by each state.  For the citizens of the Dual Monarchy there were two constitutions in effect and the capitals were Vienna and Budapest.  The Emperor was now crowned wit the crown of St. Stephen.  As a result, the following fell under the jurisdiction of Hungary: the Batschka, Syrmien, Banat, Croatia,  Slavonia and Slovenia and were now part of the Kingdom of Hungary.

 

  Those German speaking populations living in the former territory of Hungary were already exposed to Magyarization as early as 1830.  There was much more pressure after 1848, but now official Magyarization became official state policy.  (Translator’s Note.  The term Magyarization meant the forced assimilation of all other nationalities within  an expanded meaning of “Hungarian”, beginning with language and then family names and the national “culture”).

 

  The Slavic populations felt betrayed and their aspirations were put on hold, in spite of their loyalty to the Habsburgs against the Hungarians.

   The Compromise Between Hungary and Croatia – 1868 

  The Croatians were to unite in a Compromise between Austria and Hungary, because they were part of the Kingdom of Hungary for centuries.  The Croats wanted to be an equal partner with its own territory acknowledged within the Hapsburg Monarchy, and not to be put under the power and control of Hungary.  During this time, Strosmayer and the Serb minister Graschanin had dealings with one another.  Both dreamed of a South Slav State, Serbia and the tripart Kingdom of Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, independent of Austria and Turkey.

 

  Discussions took place, and various revisions were considered, but the Emperor broke off talks in June of 1868.  Hungary promised that representatives of Croatia could participate in dealings of special concern to them in discussions with Austria.  The agreement made certain, Croatia’s independence in terms of the courts and governing of its own territory.  The Banus, would be equal to a Prime Minister, but was responsible to the Hungarian Prime Minister in Budapest.  Croatia could be in charge of two ministries: the Interior Ministry and Education.  The flag of Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia had the crown of St. Stephen imposed upon it.

 

  The Croats would have twenty nine members of parliament in the Lower House, and two in the Upper House of the Hungarian-Croatian parliament.  The trading city of Fiume was independent, but was united with the Hungarian crown.  Croatia, of course, was not content with the results and would rather have had an agreement with Austria.

 

  Austria became more and more concerned about the separatist movements among the South Slavs, but young Francis Joseph had his hands full with the Czechs, Moravians and Slovaks as it was, who sought a Triune Monarchy.

 

  An uprising in 1871 in Rakowitz was followed by a call for an independent state of Croatia under the leadership of Dr. Eugene Kwaternik.  He sought to achieve freedom from Hungary and Austria, and the independence of Dalmatia from Italy.  In three days the uprising was put down and Kwaternik and the other rebel leaders were shot.

 

  The occupation of Bosnia-Herzogovnia by Austria in 1878, pained Serbia and the annexation of the territory in 1908 only angered Serbia more.  This act also meant that men of military age had to serve in the forces of the Dual Monarchy.

 

  On June 28, 1914 Austrian military maneuvers were to conclude with a military parade in Sarajevo, Bosnia in which Arch Duke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Dual Monarchy and his wife were assassinated.  It was on the anniversary of the date of the defeat of Lazar and the Serbian nobles in 1389 at the hands of the Turks, and was seen as an affront by the Greater Serbia Movement, even though the Arch Duke was a friend of the Slavs and a proponent of the idea of a Triune Monarchy.

 

  Only in the mid-19th century, were Protestants permitted to settle in Croatia-Slavonia.  According to the constitution of 1850, religious freedom was granted in Austria, and all persons were equal before the law.  But only in September of 1859 was there a law put into effect that Protestants could purchase houses and land.  The Croatian parliament protested, echoing what the bishop of Djkovar in his letter to the Emperor had objected to in the Compromise of 1868 which made Roman Catholics and Protestants equal before the law.

 

  This news hit the settlements in the Batschka, Banat and Syrmien, and also on the estates in southern Hungary, with a big bang.  The reason for the response was economic stagnation and need.  Large families could not feed their children.  Land was neither available or too expensive.  The second son of a farmer who learned a trade and his sons after him were unable to take over from their parents and found it difficult to marry and support a family.  They hoped that by selling their properties they could buy more land in Slavonia.  They did not think of the difficulties that lay ahead of them.

 

  Most families arrived with horse and wagon.  Some found empty homes whose inhabitants had left for the cities.  They settled in numerous areas.  German minorities were swallowed up by assimilation, while others were able to maintain their identity, and some formed the majority of the population in their villages.

 

  A great interest in settlers was expressed by nobles and the clergy who had estates.  Among the bishops was the very rich bishop of Djakovar, the Serb Patriarch in Karlowitz (around Vukovar) and the Jesuits in Poschegg.  Nobles included Counts Eltz, Schonborn, Baron Trench, Prandau Ehrefels, Counts Palffy and Caraffa, Baron Turkowitz and Count Pejatschewitsch.  The noble family Pejatschewitsch was especially active on their large estates in the Ruma District:  Ruma, India, Putinzi and in the Essegg District: Retfalva and Kravitz and in the Naschetz District: Deutsch-Bresnitz and Seliste-Welimviowatz.  The Count is reputed to have paid 200 gulden to one Ivan Bukowatz for settlers on his estates at the rate of 5 kreuzer per head and was able to inhabit abandoned villages and had the wilderness lands cleared for cultivation.  There were also villages that had been developed by Serb refugees.  There were also Slovak settlers, as well as Czechs.  Most of them came by wagon from north of Pressburg (Bratislava), others on foot, who did seasonal work and then returned home again.  Only later did some of them actually settle in Slavonia.

   The Emigration of our Forebears into Hungary  

  The settlers who came to Klein Bastei had their origins in Swabian Turkey in south western Hungary.  (Translator’s Note. The Counties of Tolna, Baranya and Somogy)  The vast majority of these people’s ancestors had their origins in Hessen.  The dialect always remained south Hessian.  The reason for their emigration was the fact that their situation at home was unbearable.  Famine, military service, and heavy work dues and duties, the high taxes and various forms of injustice led to their leaving.  Added to that was the hunting duties owed to the princes and nobles.  The western borders were not secure against the French and the high birth rate, were all issues that added to the struggle for their daily bread.

 

  In light of this situation, it was not difficult for the agents of Count von Mercy to find willing emigrants.

 

  But the question for many remains, but where did our ancestors come from in Germany before they emigrated to Hungary?  From the research done by some of the families we know that the ancestors of the Knies family came from Sellnrod in Hessen, which today is 6315 Mucke.  The Krahling family came from 6479 Dauernheim-Ranstadt in Hessen, while the Heppenheimer family had its roots in Nieder-Ramstadt bei Darmstadt, also in Hessen.  The author would have liked to research the origins of all of the families in Klein Bastei, but time did not allow for that.  But it is obvious that the vast majority of them must have had their origins in Hessen.  His mother had remarked upon hearing the way the inhabitants of Seligenstadt spoke, “Now we are at home again”.  It is here in the southern portion of Hessen where words and grammatical usage are consistent with the dialect spoken in Klein Bastei.  The phrase “spillen gehn”, meaning to visit someone, is still in use in Seligenstadt.

 

  The author quotes another source from the Landsmannschaft aus Ungarn for the following information of the German settlement of Hungary:

 

  “During the 150 year occupation of Hungary by the Turks (1526-1686), a vast number of communities were destroyed.  The local population was taken off to slavery, many were massacred and others fled to other areas beyond their reach.  In the 15th century there were 900 inhabited communities in Somogy County.  Many of them are only known now by name.  How the population declined is described in this example of Kaposvar, which was liberated by Turkish Louis in 1688 and the total population was 120 persons.  In the county districts only households existed.  At the end of the 16th century it has been estimated that a total population of 45,000 persons lived in Tolna, Baranya and Somogy Counties.  In 1692 there were only 3,221 left.  Szekszard had 290 people in 1692 and Simontoryna had 144.  The same was true in Baranya.  With the Turks gone a new population was necessary to develop the land.  The Landtag (parliament) of 1715 empowered the Emperor Charles to carry out a planned programme of re-population.  Because there were no longer enough Hungarians to call upon, the Emperor turned to his German holdings and his vassals to supply him with settlers.  In Temesvar he put Count von Mercy at the head of the colonization, with the first aim being the re-settlement of the Banat.

 

  Count von Mercy sent his agents to the German principalities along the Rhine and Main Rivers, who used fliers and leaflets to beckon and lure settlers to come to Hungary.  In large towns, like Worms, they set up emigration bureaus.

 

  The local nobles mistrusted the agents and had them abused and even jailed.  But there was no way to stop the stampede to Hungary.  Whole families disappeared overnight.  Mercy needed colonists for the Banat to meet the Emperor’s objectives.

 

  Captain Vatzy worked for Count von Mercy as his representative in Vienna for the Banat colonization.  All of this would prove to be of great importance for the Lutheran and Reformed emigrants from Germany who responded to the invitation who settled in the what would be later known as Swabian Turkey.  This was especially true of Tolna County were the primary Lutheran and Reformed settlements were established, with most of the colonists coming from Ober Hessen.  No primary settlements emerged in Baranya and Somogy Counties except for Felso Mocsolad and Kotcse.

 

(Translator’s Note.  The author digresses about the hunting practices of the nobles in Hessen and their effect on the life of the peasants).

 

  These hunting practices of Ernst Ludwig of  Hessen is an example of  what the emigrants sought to leave behind them.  Their pietist pastors preached against “the hunt” and the disasters it caused the peasants and their animal victims.  Although the nobles opposed the emigration in Hessen, from 1721 to 1725 up 1,000 persons from Hessen Darmstadt set out for Hungary.

 

  From Ober Ramstadt, for instance, 82 persons, whole families, some of them fleeing illegally left for the Temesvar Banat, 12 miles distant from Belgrade, in the district of Langenfeld.  Larger and smaller groups were on the way down the Danube.

 

  Then an important event took place in 1722 that would have a major impact on the future Lutheran congregations and settlements that would emerge in Tolna County.  Count Claudius Florimundus von Mercy de Argenta purchased estates in Tolna County.  He was the governor of the Banat and president of the Temesvar Colonization Commission.  His estates stretched from Paulsdorf (Palfa) to the north, to Abstdorf (Apati) in the south at the county border with Baranya.  In order to settle his lands he carried out extensive operations.  He allowed freedom of religion and conscience to all of his subjects.  Very quickly, the following Lutheran settlements came into being: Varsad, Felsonana, Kismanyok, Izmeny.  His settlement programme was continued and ended by his successor, his nephew Count Anton Ignace (Karl Augustus) von Mercy.  He adopted Anton on September 24 ,1727 as his son and heir.  The younger von Mercy died at the battle of Essegg on January 22, 1767.  He was succeeded by his son, Count Claudius Florimundus von Mercy II, who had been a student of Pastor Georg Barany at Szarszentlorincz, who died in 1794 after a short term as the ambassador of the House of Hapsburg in Paris and London.  It was Mercy II who sold the Tolna estates to Count Georg Appony for 700,000 to 780,000 gulden.

 

  The first Mercy settlements were actually established by former owners, such as Count Wenceslas Zinzendorf, Baron von Schilson and the Skekely family.  1722-1772 the von Mercys were the richest and most powerful of the landowners in Tolna County, who had all of the privileges of the Hungarian nobility, and after 1723 “the power of the sword”, which meant power over life and death of his subjects.

 

  All three of the Mercys were the protectors and defenders of their Lutheran subjects against the attempts to persecute them on the part of the Roman Catholic clergy and the Roman Catholic County Administration.  The destiny of the Seniorat (Translator’s Note.  The Lutheran Church Administration of the Counties of Tolna, Baranya and Somogy , i.e. Syond) in human terms, under the “quiet persecution” of Maria Theresia would have had a different result if the Mercys, the landowners and protectors of numerous totally Lutheran communities had not been there for them.  These settlements were the seed of the future Seniorat.  The Mercy settlement policy was the result of the suggestions of their adviser, Pastor Georg Barany, who advocated that settlers of the same confession  be settled separately from others who did not share their convictions in order to avoid disputes and arguments.  Only Magyar Kolesd was mixed confessionally.  As a result there were either Roman Catholic or Lutheran villages.  Mercy I would not permit the formation of Calvinist congregations among his Lutheran settlers.

 

  Count von Mercy carried out a publicity campaign in Hessen as President of the Banat Colonization Commission.  These campaigns were carried out to settle his Tolna domains.  As a result he sent his commissioner, Captain Vatzy to Vienna, fully empowered to act in his name to entice some of the emigrants heading for the Banat for his Tolna estates.  From a report of Pastor Johann Balassa of Szarszentlorincz, von Mercy was ordered to Vienna for an audience with Charles the Emperor to answer for his manipulation of the situation and charged him with settling Lutherans in Hungary contrary to his orders and decrees.  But Count von Mercy did not allow that to deter him for a moment and continued with his colonization efforts in the Tolna.  From 1721-1724 there was a massive emigration of Hessian Lutherans into the County.

 

  In 1722 emigrants from Ober Hessen founded Kalazno, which became a filial of the Varsad congregation in 1724, where Karl Johann Reichard was the pastor who had been driven out of Langenfeld in the Banat by the Jesuits and had taken protection with Count von Mercy.

 

  The Lutheran settlement of Apati was established during the reign of  the Emperor Charles in 1724, and not Maria Theresia as others suggest.  The names of Lutherans in Apati already appear in the church records of Kismanyok as early as 1724 when it was a filial congregation.

 

  From its beginnings in 1722, Kalazno had a “Bethaus” (Literally: prayer house) and a teacher.  In 1733 the Bishop of Pecs wanted to form a Hungarian Roman Catholic parish in Varsad and Kalazno.  That perhaps indicates that when the Hessian settlers first arrived there were Magyars already living there.  Only later would Kalazno become a completely German speaking Lutheran community.  In 1725 Michael Reulein was the teacher here.  The ruins of a church from the Middle Ages was discovered early in its history.

 

  In 1719 Gyorkony was a Mother Church.  (Translator’s Note.  This is a term used by the Lutheran church in Hungary to describe a congregation with a resident pastor who also served a number of smaller congregations in the vicinity, that were served by teachers who also functioned as clergy, with the exception of celebrating Holy Communion).  In that year Georg Barany organized the congreation in Gyonk, then turned it over to Stefan Denes and went to the mixed language German/Hungarian congregation in Gyorkony.  Daniel Krmann, Superintendent (Translator’s Note:  Bishop) of Slovakia, who was a major Orthodox Lutheran opponent of Pietistm, nonetheless, appointed Georg Barany as the Senior of the Tolna “Contuberniums” on January 27, 1720 to provide leadership to the fledgling emerging congregations greatly under pressure from the Roman Catholic church authorities.  There was no superintendent in southern Hungary until 1742.

 

  The two nationalities in Gyorkony did not get along.  As a result, Barany asked permission from Count von Mercy to resettle the Hungarians at Szarszentlorincz in 1722 and he accompanied them.  Szarszentlorincz became the center of Lutheranism and the Seniorat.  The Lutherans in Nagyszekely became a filial of the congregation in Szarszentlorincz, prior to that they had belonged to Varsad.   The colonizer of Naygsekely was Count Styrum-Limburg who was of Dutch origin.

 

  On May 9th 1724, Kistormas was founded by settlers from Wiesbaden.  There were sixty families with their own pastor and teacher who accompanied them.  Some of them also moved into Kolesd among the Hungarian Lutherans there.  The church records in Kistormas indicate that “we arrived between seven and eight o’clock in the evening  on the wagons provided by Count von Mercy which had brought us from the market town of Tolna on the Danube, we were a new small group of Lutheran colonists who sat down and rested in the deep grass of the “puszta” (Translater’s Note:  Prairie) of Tormasch.  We came from the region around Wiesbaden.  The green grass and the earth formed our bed and the sky was our roof for our first night in our new home.  We brought our preacher with us, Johann Nikolaus Marsilius Tonsor who was born in 1692 in Wallau, and was ordained in Wertheim am Main on our way here to Hungary.  Among us is also our school master Johann Wolfgang Friedrich of Idstein by Wiesbaden”.

 

  Mucsi existed when Zinzendorf owned it and in 1718 there was a small Lutheran congregation in the Roman Catholic village.  The pastor of Bikacs discovered that years later, but it disappeared in the 1730’s in the time of the great persecution.

  Hessen and the Danube Swabians 

  (Translator’s Note:  This is only a recap and resume of this section based on the work of  Johann Weidlein)

 

  The Hessian connections with Hungary were varied.  According to a census in 1715 in Tolna County there is a reference to the Lutheran Hessian village of Majos.  Between 1715-1720 a whole row of Hessian villages arose in the hilly lands of Pecs: Zabod 1718, Kismanyok 1719, Varsad 1718-1719, Nagyszekely 1720.  There was a great increase in Hessian colonists after 1719.  Most of the Hessian settlements in Hungary were established 1722-1724.  Felsonana, KeszoHidegkut, Mucsfa, Izmeny, Diosbereny (Roman Catholic Hessians).  Lutherans from Hessen arrived in Bataapati in 1730.  After von Mercy accommodated the original Hessian emigrants, he had no room for more, so that his neighbours took them: Gyonk 1722, Bonyhad 1723, Kety 1732, Szarzd 1735, Udvari 1736, Murga 1745.  In northern Baranya there were Hessian settlements at Toffu  in 1722, and Hidas in 1730 and they were primary Hessian settlements in addition to those in the Tolna.  Mekenyes received its Ober Hessen settlers in 1735 from Tolna County.  The goal of the emigrants from Fulda was the eastern Baranya and the domains of Prince Eugene of Savoy.

 

  In the 18th and 19th centuries the Hessians in Tolna and the eastern Baranya moved on deeper into Magyar areas and the south Slav areas, including those moving into Slavonia and Syrmien.  The greatest stream of settlers in the 18th century went to the Batschka and the Banat.  There were many Hessians among them at Temesvar, Verbass, Neusiawatz, Sektisch, etc.  But here they were a small minority and their dialect disappeared.  Only in Swabian Turkey would the Hessian dialect survive.  The Batschka was overwhelming from Pflaz, Swabia and Bavaria, and in the Banat it was the same except for Liebling which maintained a Hessian character in terms of its Lutheranism and dialect since many of the original settlers also came from Swabian Turkey.  In other areas of Hungary, the Bavarian dialect is the chief common characteristic, especially among the Heidebauern.  But Swabian Turkey’s 200,000 Hessians were in effect “Little Hessen”.

  

Klein Bastei

 

The Story* of a German Village in Salvonia

 

In Croatia

 

(This translation does not include certain sections of the book, which however, are acknowledged in the text)

 

By Heinrich Heppenheimer

  An Introduction  

The Geographical Disposition of Klein Bastei

  The Historical Past 

  The name “Bastaji”, (Bastei, bastion, fortress) indicates that it comes from the time of the Turkish wars.  But like Daruvar, 14 kilometres distant, Bastei was settled during the Roman occupation of the area.  The area was always rich in forests, was well watered, and the rolling hills were cultivated even prior to the coming of the Romans.  Little is known of the people living here during the Middle Ages, all is in relative darkness prior to 1300.  But during that period Christianity emerged.  Around 1550 the Turks broke into the area and they destroyed everything , driving away the local population.

 

  All kinds of peoples passed through, or lived in the area temporarily.  Illryians, Celts, Dacians.  For about 500 years (up to 500 AD) the Romans ruled the area.  The highways they constructed, the drainage and irrigation systems they put into place, the tilling of the soil and planting of the vineyards made for a prosperous province, with its major settlement Sirmium (now Mitrovitz), eventually giving its name to the region of Syrmien, Srem.

 

  The Roman emperor Diocletian (308) resided in Spalato (now Split).  The Roman fortresses and their Legions could not stop the westward expansion of the Germanic tribes, and the Slavs who followed them, (Croatians and Serbs).  Wave after wave of German tribes: Quaden (Schwaben), Markomann, Alans passed through here from 50 AD to 378 AD.  The Vandals in 400, then Attila the Hun, followed by the West Goths.  When the Franks destroyed the Avar Empire that was located in Panonia, it became part of the Franks’ domains (791-796).  The Carolingian East Mark (Austria), extended from Lake Balaton to the Sava and the Danube Rivers.  The Croatian cattle herders who entered the area after 550 had no interest or concern in creating a nation or state.  Along with Christianization, Mitrowitz became the seat of a bishopric.  All of later Slavonia and Syrmein were given to the Counts of Friaul (in Italy) who were members of the Frankish royal administration.

 

  The Burgenland (present day Austria) was established as a defensive border area with countless fortresses (Burgen) and was settled with German colonists.  Monks spread Christianity, built churches and monasteries which became the cultural center of the life of the nation.

 

  The settlement programme followed on the heels of the missionary efforts of both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.  The Western church sent missionary monks from Passau, Regensburg and Salzburg into the south east, while the Orthodox monks Cyril and Methodius headed north to Moravia from the south east.  The liturgy was translated into Slavonian and introduced the Cyrillic alphabet.  The Orthodox Churches were established along ethnic lines:  Bulgarian, Serbian, etc.

 

  The Magyar tribes arrived from Asia and occupied Panonia and the Tisza region by 895 and then headed westwards under Arpad’s leadership.  By 1091 they also occupied Slavonia and Syrmien.  They were defeated by Otto the Great at Lechfeld in 955.  These nomadic tribes now settled down and the Christianization process began.  St. Stephen, the king, was the founder of the Magyar nation.  In 995 he married Princess Gesela of Passau, daughter of the Duke of Bavaria and the sister of Emperor Henry II.  Stephen was crowned Apostolic King of Hungary by Pope Sylvester II in 1001.  He was canonized by Rome in 1083 for his conversion to Roman Catholicism, acknowledging the power and authority of the pope and gave his assistance to the Christianization of the Magyar people and the construction of churches.

 

  Under Geza II, after 1150, German knights and artisans were invited to settle in Hungary and became the Zipzer Saxons and Transylvania Saxons, who originated in the Rhine Mosel region and Luxemburg.  The Slavic princes also enticed Germans to settle in the Great Moravian Empire at the same time.

 

  The first mention of the designation: Croat, was by the Croatian Duke Trpimir (840-855), a vassal of the Emperor of the Franks, Lothar.  Prince Tomislav declared himself to be King of the Croats in 925.  But there is no way of knowing if he was actually king and if and when and where he was crowned.  He did unite the Croats and had to be on guard in terms of the Venetians and the Hungarians who had aspirations to subjugate them.

 

  One of the last of the Croatian kings was Zvonimir (1076-1088).   His wife was Helene the fair.  They were childless.  At one assembly at Kniner Feld, he was murdered.  It was in 1089.  Battles for the succession led to outside “help” being necessary.  The control of Croatia was offered to the Hungarian king, Ladislaus I.  He accepted, but was busy at war elsewhere at the time.  His nephew Kolomar I, who succeeded him to the Hungarian throne made a pact with the twelve leading Croatian noble families in 1102 and was elected Croatian King and crowned.  This past history would effect the fufure history of both peoples.  The personal union of the two nations in the person of the king lasted 816 years, from 1102 to 1918.

  The king permitted the Croatians their own government, a Banus (governor) was the Hungarian spokesman and representative of the Magyar king.  The nobles formed a Landtag (kind of parliament of nobles), the Sobor.  The Hungarians perceived this union as “eternal” and had the right to occupy all of Croatia.  The Croats on the other hand, bided their time until they would have an opportunity to see the end of the dynasty and freely elect their own king.  But to all intents and purposes, Croatia had given up its independence.  On a confessional basis, both Hungary and Croatia were in an alliance with the papacy.

 

  Their other Slavic neighbour, the Serbs, blossomed under the Nemanjiden, Prince Stefan Nemanja (1144-1200) and Emperor Stefan Duschan (1331-1355).  The prince had united the two strains of Serbs and freed himself from vassalage to Byzantium.  The Emperor added territory and raised the archbishop to Patriarch.  In 850, the Serbs had converted to the Orthodox Church, unlike their Croatian counterparts.  This confessional difference remains the main difference between the two nations to this day.

 

  During these centuries (1096-1270), many Christians desired to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  But because the Seljuk Turks put in their appearance at this time, such pilgrimages became more and more dangerous.

 

  Pope Urban II called for a holy crusade against the infidel in 1095.  Under the slogan, “God wills it”, seven crusades by land and sea set out from Europe.  The first and second crusades passed through Croatia, countless numbers of them did not live to reach the Holy Land.  Even a children’s crusade followed, ending up with all of them being sold into slavery by the Venetians.

  

The Rise of the Ottoman Empire

 

  Turkish Moslems wandered out of Turkestan to the west and planted themselves firmly in Asia Minor by 1243.  There, Osman I, founded the Ottoman Empire in 1301.

 

  At the Battle of Kosovo Polje on June 28th  1389, Prince Lazar of Serbia, and his nobles were destroyed by the Turks, who then took over power in the lands between the Danube and Sava Rivers.  Serbia and Bosnia remained under the Turks for 400 to 500 years.  The Serbs kept the memory of the defeat alive in their folk songs and in the Orthodox Church, especially in the monastic communities.

 

  It was only in 1453 when the Turks were finally able to take Constantinople and it became Istanbul.  Turkish power spread, and more and more provinces paid tribute.  The Turks became a terror and threat to all of Christiendom, especially through their Spakis (knights) and Janisaries (Christian captives raised as fanatic Moslems).  The fatalism of Islam provided its warriors with special courage.  The subject people were not forced to accept Islam, but were heavily taxed and excluded from positions of authority in society if they remained Christians.  The wealthy converted en masse, especially in Bosnia.

 

  France had aspirations to attain power and control in Europe and their chief rival was the House of Hapsburg in Spain and Germany and saw the Ottoman Turks as an ally against them, threatening them from the south east.  In this way France hoped to take over the Hapsburg German lands on their eastern borders.

 

The Turkish Threat to Western Europe

 

  Under Sulieman II, the city of Belgrade was taken in 1521, which had been in the possession of Hungary since 1433.  The Turks now focused their efforts on Hungary and by 1526 they had taken Transylvania.  Louis II of Hungary and his host met the Turks at Mohacs and it cost him and most of his army their lives.  Since there was no heir to the throne, the newly elected Hapsburg King, Ferdinand I (1527-1564) was opposed by Zaplya Janos, selfstyled King in Transylvania, with Turkish support.

 

  Ferdinand “exiled” the pretender, and was acknowledged as King in 1527 and was crowned King of Hungary.

 

  There was now a “personal union” between Austria and Hungary of which Croatia was now a part.  The Ottomans unleashed a reign of terror and over 30,000 people were carried off as slaves, while countless others were massacred.  In 1529 the Turks laid siege to Vienna.  A pasha ruled from the Sava River to Pest and from the Balaton to the Tisza River, and his residence was in the city of Pest.  (Across the Danube from Buda).

 

  The nobles, by and large, fled out of Turkish occupied territory.  Many Croatians fled to Burgenland and were settled in five villages as “islands” of Croats.  From the captured territory of Hungary, in five years the Turks launched attacks on Austria, 188 times, killed, maimed, drove off livestock and burned villages.  The Turks wore green (the symbol of their faith) and red (the symbol of joy) in terms of their clothing, while the Christians were forced to wear black as a sign of humility and subservience..  And people were always being carried off into captivity and slavery.

 

  For about 150 years, Slavonia and Syrmien were under the Turks, and in this period, the economy and life changed drastically.  The number of villages and houses declined, and the land reverted to wilderness.  The Turks had begun a religious crusade but ended up as an expansionist empire.

 The Second Siege of Vienna 

  France, always a willing ally of the Turks since 1536, saw its best opportunity to gain German territory during and after the Thirty Years War.  The Grand Vizer, Kara Mustapha laid siege to Vienna with an army of 150,000.  Accompanying the Turks were 15,000 men under the young Hungarian Count Emmerich Tokoly.  He allowed himself  to be crowned rebel King of Slovakia, and served as a Turkish vassal.

 

  The Hapsburg emperor and his entourage fled from Vienna and left a force of 15,000 to withstand the Turks.  But a combined German and Polish relief force of 86,000  arrived, under Johann III Sobieski and Duke Karl V of Lorraine.  On September 12th 1683, the Turks were routed and fled back into Hungary.  Count Tokoly’s forces were also defeated.  He was successful in escaping to the Sultan and following his report of the failed siege the Sultan sent his Grand Vizer “the velvet rope”…an invitation for him to commit suicide.  Among the commanders of the Hapsburg forces were Max Emmanuel of Bavaria and Count Louis of Baden…Turkish Louis.  In addition, there was the young Prince Eugene of Savoy.  The liberation of Hungary was now at hand.  But young Prince Eugene was not prepared to stop there.  He pursued the Turks to Sarajevo in Bosnia and Nisch in Serbia.  If troops had not been needed to face the French in the west, Serbia and Bosnia would have been liberated from the Turks much earlier.  This concluded the second Turkish War (1683-1699).  The Third Turkish War (1716-1718) and the Fourth (1737-1739) would follow.

 

  One after another the following were taken from the Turks:

 

     Ofen (Buda)      1686

     Mohacs             1688

     Belgrade           1689

     Nisch                1691

     Zenta                1697

     Temesburg       1716

     Peterwardein    1716

     Belgrade          1717 again (Turks re-took it in 1690)

 

  Several peace treaties were made with the Turks, which they then proceeded to break.  Slankamen 1691, Karlowitz 1699, Passarovitz 1718, and in Belgrade in 1739.  Little wars simply went on.  The Hapsburgs took Hungary in 1697, Slavonia and Syrmien in 1687, the Batschka, Banat and Transylvania in 1691.

 

  The Hapsburgs now assumed legal rights over the “liberated” territories.  The Austrian emperor wanted to return the abandoned estates in Hungary back to their former owners.  But in many cases, many of the estates no longer had an owner, and as a result the land was sold or granted to the military.

 

  The Ottomans had overstepped themselves at the height of the expansion of their empire in attempting to take Vienna in 1683.  It stood in the shadow of the young “white knight” the “edler Ritter”, Eugene of Savoy the victorious military commander and future statesmen known throughout all of Europe.

  

The Austrian Military Frontier District

 

  In response to the ongoing Turkish threat, the Hapsburg established a defensive line to thwart any future attempts of the Turks to retake their Danubian Empire.  It consisted of a strip of land twenty to fifty kilometres wide and some 2,000 kilometres long from the Adriatic Sea to the Carpathian Mountains, which was guarded and controlled by the military.  But defence was not its only concern, there was also the need to provide supplies and food for the troops.

 

  The best solution would be “farmer soliders”, a kind of local militia, called “Grenzers”…literally, border men, who would live in the District with their families and carry on agricultural work and livestock herding, and would not only defend the “empire”  but their own homes and families.

 

  Among the settlers in the District were refugees from the Ottoman occupied areas.  Having lost their land and given land to defend met a mutual need.  A second settler group were discharged troops, who as veterans wanted to find a homeland and a future for themselves.  A third group were Serbians who fled into southern Hungary and Syrmien with their Patriarch Arsenije Carnojewitsch in 1690 from the Turks, because they had rebelled against their Moslem overlords.  Another group were the Croatians who lived in the area all along and survived the Turkish occupation.  The last group were Germans invited to settle in the Banat and Syrmien frontier areas.  The only German “Grenzer” village in Slavonia is Neudorf, in the Military Frontier District there were 520,000 Croatian Roman Catholics, 650,000 Orthodox Serbs and only 34,000 of other nationalities in 1881.

 

  The Frontier was defended by 17 regiments, with 100,000 men under arms.  Each man had to serve 150 days a year on sentry duty, in training and in the field.

 

  From 1849 to 1866 the Military Frontier District was governed as a separate Crownland.  The Frontier also functioned as a sanitation corridor.

 

  As Turkish power declined the Frontier District was dismantled.  Transylvania in 1851, Banat in 1873, Croatia-Slavonia in 1881/1882.

 (Tanslator’s Note.  I have left out some of the detail not really of much importance to the story at this point)

 

 

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