Second World War


Treu Zur Heimat:  The Swabian Loyalty Movement in Hungary

 

   The following is a summary of some of the information on this subject from a lecture given by István Fehér in Budapest in 1988 at the International Historical Conference held there on March 5-6 in 1987.

 

 

  The Loyalty Movement was founded in Bonyhád in Tolna County in January of 1942.  Its beginnings can be traced back to 1930 as an anti-Volksbund movement in the Tolna.  Three hundred of the German Hungarians (Translator’s Note:  their preferred designation) living in Bonyhád signed a declaration in which they condemned the extreme political positions of the Volksbund (Translator’s Note:  A Nazi front organization posing as a cultural and educational society).  Many of the ideas and concepts of the Loyalty Movement were borrowed from “Die Donau”, a weekly newspaper published in Apatin in the Batschka, that had a strong  Christian and Hungarian nationalist bias.  They were also joined in their opposition by those German Hungarians who were either Social Democrats and members of the Small Landholders Party in the Hungarian parliament.

 

  In March 1943, a call went out from the “Loyal to the Homeland Movement” to all of the German Hungarian communities in which they attacked the activities and agitation of the Volksbund and its promulgation of hatred towards Hungary and the Hungarian people.  They called upon the people to continue in brotherly relationships with both the Hungarian people and in loyalty to the Hungarian State.  They assured the people that there were Swabians in every community prepared to make sacrifices, face persecution and threats for their refusal to allow themselves to be taken in by the agitators from the Volksbund or support and join them.  Their ideology was focussed on withstanding Nazism.  Their goal was not the assimilation of the German population in Hungary but was a call for loyalty to the State of which they were citizens and not to a foreign power.

 

  Local branches of the movement were established throughout Swabian Turkey, the Batschka, both sides of the Tisza River and the area around Budapest.  The vast majority of the members were land owning farmers who were not taken in by the demagoguery and Nazi politics of the Volksbund.  This was their constant concern and emphasis up to the end of 1943 when the myth of the invincibility of Hitler’s armies had finally been broken.  Following the defeat at Stalingrad large numbers of Swabians began to resign from their membership in the Volksbund (most of whom had been tricked into joining in the first place.)  Such withdrawals had to be reported to the Central Volksbund offices in Budapest.  It required a degree of bravery to take this action on their part.  Johann Polster, the notary in Lack/PüspÓ§klak in Baranya County, had “resignation cards” printed by the thousands at his own cost for this purpose.  Anyone who resigned their membership in the Volksbund had to provide a reason for doing so.  The  notary provided them with three options:  1)  As a Christian I cannot accept the Volksbund’s anti-Christian policies.  2)  As a loyal citizen of Hungary I cannot give me allegiance to another State.  3)  The Volksbund  has led its members into political error.  They were distributed en masse and were filled out and sent to Dr. Franz Basch at the Volksbund headquarters in Budapest but they were never acknowledged.  Most of them came from Swabian Turkey.

 

  Obviously the members of the Treu Zur Heimat Movement did not send in these cards.  The reason for its existence was not primarily to recruit members for their movement but rather that the Volksbund membership decline in order to weaken it and discredit its ideology.  On March 20, 1943 the movement had its beginnings in Elek with a charter membership of 250.  A few weeks later the local leaders reported 400 members.  By December there were 800.  Many of them were or had been Social Democrats.  The members informed  each other of the news reports coming from the Russian Front.  At the end of 1942, there were 392 families in Meszӧbereny who joined the movement and by the Spring of 1943 an additional 196 families had followed suit.

 

  The members of the movement became the special target of Basch when he and the Volksbund announced the second recruitment of volunteers to serve in the SS in the Fall of 1943.  His rallying cry to the Volksbund faithful was, “Two kinds of Germans live in this land.  One who knows to whom he belongs…our camp!  While the other kind has been our enemy from the beginning.  They are blood of our blood but are not part of our movement.”  It is hardly any wonder that after the German military occupation of Hungary on March 19, 1944 that the Sztojay puppet Arrow Cross government dissolved the Loyalty Movement on orders from Basch.  The organization was declared illegal and some of its leaders were arrested and were deported from Hungary to concentration camps in the Reich.  The initiators of the movement:  Bela Perczel, Stefan Lehmann and Josef Bauer fell into the hands of the Gestapo.  Johann Leitner, the Richter (mayor) of Wakan/Vokány in Baranya County was one of those who was sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp in former Austria.  Ironically there were also Volksbund members who served as “commandos” at the camp.

 

  In Vokány and Güns and in other places as well many of the members of the Loyalty Movement went into hiding to avoid the forced conscription into the Waffen-SS and convinced others to join them.  When the forced mustering and registering of the Swabian men of Elek was ordered by the SS on September 1,1944 not a single man reported.  During the summer of 1944 all of southern Hungary was flooded with leaflets distributed by the Loyalty Movement lampooning Adolf Hitler.  Some of the members even distributed them at meetings of the local village Volksbund.

 

  This heroic and brave stand taken by the Loyalty Movement during the German occupation was never acknowledged by the Hungarian State in terms of the Potsdam ordered expulsion of Hungary’s German ethnic population.  One of the members of the leadership of the Loyalty Movement who survived the concentration camps and returned home to Hungary was among those who were expelled simply because he owned land.

 

  In July 1946 at the time of the expulsion order in Egrad/Magyaregregy, which had a mixed population, the local Communists, Social Democrats, Small Landowner’s Party and the National Farmer’s Party members registered an appealed on behalf of the Swabian population of their village who had been members of the Loyalty Movement and had battled against the Volksbund.  In their petition to the Appeals Commission they wrote:  “We do not want to condone anyone who is guilty and has betrayed our nation.  The Volksbund was unable to organize a local group here because no one supported them.  The barber who moved here as an organizer was driven out of town.  All of the men opposed the mustering into the Waffen-SS.  Not one man from this village served in the SS.  The Germans in our community have shared in our good times and in our bad times, faced the same evils and enjoyed the same good fortune.  We are prepared to live out our future struggles together with them.”  The deportation of the entire German population took place anyway.

 

  In total, there were 35,000 to 40,000 members in the Loyalty Movement compared to 150,000 in the Volksbund in their hey day.  A vastly inflated number by Volksbund statisticians and Magyar nationalist agitators.

Pantschowa (Pancevo) in the Banat

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Lazarfeld in the Banat (1800-1950) 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Second World War

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Evacuation and Catastrophe

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Extermination Camp:  Rudolfsgnad

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Flight

 

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

 

  The survivors from Lazarfeld found sanctuary:

 

              Bundes Repblic of Germany              1,238

              Austria                                                   204

              USA                                                         83

              Canada                                                     51

              France                                                      12

              England                                                      3

              East Germany                                            9

              Yugoslavia                                               18

 

  Losses suffered by the families of Lazarfeld:

 

              Killed, Missing in Action                      211

              Died in Tito’s camps                              382

              Shootings and executions                         42

              Deportees died in Russia                           7

 

              Total                                                       653

Filipowa in the Batschka 

  This article deals with the war and its aftermath in the life of this large Danube Swabian community in the Batschka and is a translation of excerpts from the Heimatbuch of Filipowa by Henry Fischer.

  In the two World Wars in the 20th Century, there were 433 men from Filipowa who died or went missing in action.  There were 202 casualties in World War I  and there were 231 in  World War II.  At the beginning of World War I the population of Filipowa was 3,800 while at the beginning of World War II there were 4,800 inhabitants.

 

  In World War I, Filipowa was part of the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary and the men from Filipowa fought in Serbia, Galicia, Russia and Italy.

 

  Between 1918-1941 Filiopwa was part of the successor state of Yugoslavia following the dismemberment of Hungary on the basis of the terms of the Treaty of Trianon.  Young men did military service from nine to eighteen months, usually in Macedonia and Serbia.  Many reservists from Filipowa were called up to serve in the Yugoslavian forces following the invasion by Germany, Italy and Hungary on April 5, 1941.  The war was over in two weeks and the Batschka was annexed and occupied by Hungary.  The people of Filipowa were now Hungarian citizens.  The Hungarian policy towards its minorities was put into effect in the Batshcka as well.  Conscription soon followed after, both in terms of the military as well as labour forces.  Serbs and Jews were conscripted into  labour battalions and others, especially the Danube Swabians, were recruited into the Hungarian armed forces.  As a result at the time of the invasion of Russia later in 1941 the number of Swabians serving on the front was out of proportion to the number of Magyars.  With the annexing of the Lower Baranya and the Batschka and northern Transylvania the German minority in this new “greater” Hungary numbered 1,200,000.

 

  The Danube Swabians in the Batschka found themselves caught in a conflict of loyalties between their ethnic heritage and loyalty to the State in which they lived.  When the war ended many of them hoped that they would be under German occupation.  They were terribly disappointed with the Hungarian takeover on April 18, 1941.  This was especially true of many members of the Schwäbisch-Deutschen Kulturbundes (Swabian-German Cultural Assocation) an organization that was now incorporated into the Volksbund der Deutschen in Ungarn (Translator’s Note:  A Nazi Front organization which was tolerated by the Hungarian Government in agreement with Hitler).  Encouraged by the victories of Germany in the early stages of the war, many young men left Hungary secretly and joined the German armed forces.  By December of 1941 almost 1,500 had joined the Wehrmacht (German Army) and 2,000 the Waffen-SS.

 

  Many young men from Filipowa took this route during June, July and August in 1941 without their parent’s knowledge or approval and volunteered in Belgrade.  Part of the reason was a rumour that the younger age groups would soon be conscripted in the Hungarian Honvéd (National Army).

 

  In August of 1941 many single young men and women and married couples left for Germany as “guest workers”.  Soon after they arrived the men were conscripted into the Wehrmacht.  Some of the women became air raid victims later in the war.

 

  The Hungarian Army called up all men who had been born in 1920 on October 1, 1941 and considered all of those in that age group who had enlisted in the German armed forces were deserters until the Hungarian Government and Reich came to terms over the issue.  Call ups for active service in the Honvéd for other age groups soon followed:  those born in 1921 at the beginning of October 1942; those born in 1922 at the beginning of October 1943; and those born in 1923 in July of 1944.  In addition reservists were constantly called up as well.

 

  Early in the German campaign in Russia in 1941, the SS leadership saw the need for men to replace and reinforce their units because of the heavy losses they suffered.  The Reichsführer of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, propounded the idea of a “Volk“  (racial) obligation on the part of all Germans regardless of their citizenship.  Himmler had to find ways to secure volunteers in the client states of Hungary, Romania and Croatia without interfering in the internal affairs of their allies.  The recruitment of volunteers for the SS were set in motion in all of those states.

 

  In the new year, a “verbal” agreement was reached between the German and Hungarian governments on February 24, 1942 which was the groundwork for the official treaty that called for the first three recruitment offensives of the SS.  Initially the Hungarians insisted that the recruits had to be volunteers who had their parent’s consent and were loyal to Hungary and were in the age groups born between 1912 and 1920 and numbered up to no more than 20,000 men.  By June the Prime Minister Karoly had increased the figure to 30,000 who could do their “national service” in the German armed forces.  There was a great deal of opposition to the first promotion and recruitment drive by the Hungarian Administration, Police organizations and the Churches (Roman Catholic and Lutheran).  The campaign was brought to an early halt.  By the first of May there were 16,527 recruits who arrived in Germany of whom 9,322 men came from the Batschka.

 

  These recruits became part of:  2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich”; 6th SS Mountain Division “Nord”; 8th SS Cavalry Division “Florian Geyer”; 22nd and 33rd SS Cavalry Divisions.

 

  The objective of Himmler was to siphon off the man power resources of the ethnic Germans of south eastern Europe to replenish and reinforce his Waffen-SS.  Finally, in May of 1942 the High Command ordered that the ethnic Germans of eastern Europe were the private preserve of the Waffen-SS.

 

  On February 24, 1942 the recruitment and conscription of ethnic Germans in Hungary for the Waffen-SS was begun with those men born from 1912-1924, men from eighteen to thirty.  According to Point 5 in the agreement with the Hungarian State they would only be accepted as “volunteers” upon recruitment through the local Volksbund leaders.  Local muster commissions were set up in the Danube Swabian villages for this purpose with the participation of representatives of the Waffen-SS.

 

  On February 27, 1942 the local Volksbund leaders in Filipowa called together its Deutsche Mannschaft (Translator’s Note:  their version of the Brown Shirts) and shared the order for the official call up for all men from eighteen to thirty years of age to report for service in the Waffen-SS.

 

  The great majority of the men in those age groups in Filipowa reported as ordered.  There were a total of 204 men who did so.  One could guess that 70% of them did not do so with any kind of inner conviction…it was a voluntary-must-have-to kind of thing.  That portion of the local population that was opposed to the Volksbund and the political direction it was taking did not report.  There were 72 men in all.  Some of them hid out in Filipowa or among other nationalities in the neighbourhood.  Of those effected by the first call up in Filipowa which involved 300 men about one quarter of them were volunteers, half of them responded in terms of a moral duty as they saw it and one quarter refused to participate.

 

  After a visit to Berlin on the part of Dr. Franz Basch the Führer of the Volksbund to inaugurate a new conscription effort among the ethnic Germans of Hungary for the Waffen-SS with the “support” of the Hungarian Prime Minister resulted in another verbal agreement and exchange of diplomatic notes on May 22, 1943.  The agreement dealt with the recruitment of men born between 1908 and 1925 and following a conference with Regent Horthy in April 1943 the ethnic Germans in the Honvéd were free to leave the Hungarian Army and join the Waffen-SS.  The Volksbund anticipated at least 6,000 responses to this new call up.  The numbers of Waffen-SS recruits stood at around 21,500 at the time of the call up and by the end of 1943 that figure had only risen to 22,125.  The reasons for the rather miserable response at the mustering commissions was the growing war weariness and suspcion in the villages where 10,000 ethnic Germans who had served in the Honvéd had returned home from the Russian front as the Second Hungarian Army withdrew from the field.  In addition the secret opposition of the Hungarian government was also at work as well as the loyal Roman Catholics opposed to National Socialism and the Loyalty Movement of the Swabians who were opposed to the Volksbund.  The manpower was also needed to bring in the harvest.  The Volksbund leadership had high hopes along with Himmler but even the members of their organization hesitated to report for enlistment in the Waffen-SS after this second “opportunity” to do so.  Even the Volksbund faithful perceived these calls for volunteers as a “conscription effort” and not a  call for volunteers.  At the end of 1943 there were 22,125 ethnic Germans from “greater” Hungary serving in the Waffen-SS and 35,000 in the Hungarian Army.

 

  All of this changed on March 19, 1944 when Hungary was occupied by German troops.  The Hungarian Regent, Horthy, was officially left in power and Hungary still had a national government but the real rulers were SS Obergruppenführer Otto Winkelmann, General of the Infantry, Hans von Greiffenberg and above them stood Dr. Eduard Veesenmayer who ruled in Budapest as the ambassador of the Greater German Reich.

 

  On April 14, 1944 Veesenmayer concluded an agreement with Foreign Minister Csatay for the ethnic Germans in Hungary of all military age groups to be recruited into the Waffen-SS.  Point Four the agreement called for all ethnic Germans who were Hungarian citizens to be handed over to serve in the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS for the duration of the war.  The military service of the ethnic Germans began with seventeen year olds.  Point Five raised the question of reservists, non-commissioned officers and soldiers in the Hungarian Army.  These men were ordered to join the Waffen-SS.  The Hungarian Army could withhold up to 10.5% of the ethnic Germans who were in their army if they served in specialist positions.

 

  From July to October 1944 the vast majority of the Danube Swabian men were mustered into the Waffen-SS.  This last “recruitment” was met with a great deal of passive resistance.  Many men refused to report.  Others took the first opportunity to desert.  But the vast majority followed the call-up order.

 

  The SS Panzer Division “Horst Wessel” was formed out of the men conscripted in the Batschka.  They served in the Slovak uprising and on the Tisza front until December 1944.  The call ups in the Batschka continued until October of 1944.  By the end of the war 120,000 ethnic Germans from Hungary served in the Waffen-SS on all fronts until the final collapse of Hitler’s Germany.

 

  On March 19th and 20th, 1944 a “Blitz Action” took place in Filipowa to recruit those men who had avoided conscription as well as the youngsters who had been born in 1926.  Only a few of the older men reported and many of the eighteen year olds went into hiding.  This was followed by another surprise call up that took place in Filipowa of all men born between 1894 and 1908 and all the boys born in 1927.  Whoever failed to report was sought out.  On July 28th the muster commission registered 217 men including the assistant priest in the village.  They were to report in early September for training.  Because of that many of the men went into hiding among the Slovaks, Magyars and Serbs who lived in the vicinity.  On October 15th Hungary capitulated and sought an armistice with the Red Army.  German troops entered Filipowa and took the 200 men to Hodschag and put them in uniforms.  The Germans abandoned the Batschka and retreated across the Danube.  On October 21st the Tito Partisans occupied Filipowa.

 

  There were between 800 to 1,000 men from Filipowa who served in the Hungarian and German armed forces out of a total population of 5,281 in 1944.  Of those serving in the armies, 165 died killed in action or died of wounds in hospital or did not survive the prisoner of war camps.  In addition 67 of the men are missing and presumed dead.  A total of 231 men almost a quarter of those who served in the army.

 

The vast majority served on the Eastern Front.  Thirty of the men died in the siege of Budapest after it was surrounded by the Red Army from December 24, 1944 to February 13, 1945.  The majority of the defenders in both the Hungarian and German forces defending Budapest were Danube Swabians.  This fifty-nine day stand slowed down the Russian advance into Austria and prevented their entry into southern Germany before the Allied Armies arrived there.

 

The Evacuation and Flight

 

  By the end of October 1944, in both Srem and Slavonia, almost their entire German civilian population had been evacuated.  The carrying out of the evacuation of the Batschka and the Banat, the heartland of the Swabian settlements in Yugoslavia, was much more difficult.  Following the capitulation of Romania on August 23, 1944 the Russian Front was at the Tisza River and the Danube Swabians were warned to be ready to evacuate.  Because of the political ramifications there were no real plans for such a major evacuation.  Only the area around Neusatz (Novi Sad) was chosen for evacuation.  Neusatz was ordered to evacuate on October 4th and by the 9th the last of refugees had left.  South from Apatin to Cservenka and the southern Batschka, wagon treks began leaving between October 8th to the11th, 1944.  Some went by ship to Mohács in Hungary where most of the treks also headed as well as towards Baja.

 

  In the northern Batschka the evacuation was left to local and individual initiative.  It was the younger people who joined the horse and wagon convoys not willing to be around when the Red Army arrived while the older people were more willing to risk staying at home.  They had a clear conscience in terms of their loyalty to the state.  About half of the Danube Swabians in the Batschka and the Lower Baranya were evacuated while less than ten per cent of those living in the Banat were able to escape.  An exact estimate of  how many Danube Swabians remained “at home” and fell into the hands of the Russians and Patrisans in Yugoslavia is hard to come by.  The best estimate is around 200,000 which means more than half of them had fled or were evacuated.

 

  On October 4, 1944 the drums were beaten at the street corners in Filipowa announcing the evacuation.  Those with wagons prepared to leave.  Women without men-folk to handle the horses hesitated to join the trek.  After several days the evacuation got under way on October 12th and lasted until the next day.  It is noteworthy to mention that some families already returned back home on the 13th.  On the 15th, the mayor, Georg Eichinger, issued a final call for all residents to leave.  Only a few responded and left that day.  There were 139 families (approximately 600 persons) out of  a community of 5,300 who left.  According to statistics prepared in Bonn following the war they suggest that 40% of the Danube Swabian population remained behind, in Filipowa it was 88%.

 

  The reasons suggested for this are:  1) It was a Roman Catholic community that had opposed the “forced” recruitment of “volunteers” to serve in the Waffen-SS;  2) Winter was on the way;  3)  The large number of children would be difficult to manage on the trek for women without men folk; 4)  They had no sense of guilt or fear of any kind of reprisals that might be taken against them.

 

Under the Military Authority of the Partisans

 

  Because Filipowa was off of the beaten track it failed to attract much attention from the Red Army.  The last German troops left the village on October 15th with the last of the evacuees and a few they had scraped together to serve in the military.  It was only six days later when the Partisans arrived.  Those were days of apprehension and anxiety.  It was reported that the Russians and Partisans were in Hodschag and Keresztur on October 20th.  On October 21st the Russians and Partisans marched into Sombor and on the same day in the afternoon the Partisans came to Filipowa by train.  The first ten were dressed partly as civilians and soldiers carrying machine guns as they walked through the deserted streets.  The people were fearful.  A little girl appeared with a bouquet of flowers and a Partisan picked her up and kissed her.  Everyone breathed a sight of relief as a result of that.

 

  Drums were beaten at the street corners and the inhabitants were ordered to surrender all munitions and weapons immediately.  The local village officials met with the newly constituted Liberation Front and formed a new village administration with Serbs at its head.  But this local government had little power over the Russians and Partisans who passed through.  Between October 26th and November 8th there was no day in which the Russians failed to come to Filipowa to take horses, wine, watches, freshly butchered port products and went on the prowl for young girls and women.  They were “daily guests”.

 

  Beginning on October 28th, 1944 periodic labour battalions were formed consisting of able boded men and boys and at other times specific age groups.  They repaired the former airport the Germans had made out on the meadow outside of Hodschag.  They were always under Russian guard.  On All Saints’ Day at 6:00 a.m. all the teams of horses that could be found in the village and the able bodied including women and girls went to work at the airport.  Mass was held at 6:00 p.m. after the workers came home.  Under the order of the Russian High Command, work continued at the airport until November 5th.

 

  On November 5th all radios, bicycles, motorcycles, typewriters, rifles and sports’ uniforms had to be surrendered.  A wild drunken celebration followed on November 7th in honour of the October Revolution.  The shooting and salvos of gunshots lasted all day.

 

  The first real shock to the villagers was the “execution” of 36 year old Eva Eichinger who was shot in front of the church rectory.  Her husband had enlisted in the SS and a Partisan officer was billeted in her house.  An order to search her house was carried out the day before and a cartridge had been found.  She was taken into custody and brought to the town hall where she was informed that she was condemned to death.  The  execution took place immediately without any notice being given to the village.  It soon became obvious that she had withstood the advances of the Partisan officer and fear and terror raged in the village as the people finally realized they were in the hands of the Partisans and were without any recourse or defence.

 

  Labour battalions continued to forced labour at the airport while the Partisans brought in the sugar beet harvest.  Boys and girls born in 1929 to 1931 (thirteen to fifteen year olds) were assembled to do the work.

 

The Massacre of November 25, 1944

 

  Early on the morning of November 25th some of the farmers sought to go out and work in their fields but were turned back by Partisans both men and women who had surrounded the village.  After Mass there was the beating of drums throughout the village with the announcement that all boys and men from the ages of sixteen to sixty were to report at the town hall.  Those who did not show up would be apprehended by the Partisans and shot.  The priests also had to report.  There were four at the time.  By nine o’clock there were about 350 men and boys who had reported.  There were no other men around except for those working over at the airport.  The Partisans, both men and women, cast hate filled eyes upon the men they guarded.  Most of the men assumed that they were being formed into another labour battalion again.  At ten o’clock they were formed into four columns in the church  yard.  A table was set up and Serbian clerks were seated at them.  Two Partisan officers, one called, Slavko, and the other a Hungarian accompanied by a local police officer inspected the four columns.  The police offer approached the priests and told them to take their place at the back of the line.  The two local doctors, a pharmacist and a teacher were told to join them.  Then each man and boy had to go to the table in turn, answer some questions and ordered to join one of two groups.  No one could determine the criteria for selection for either group but the group alongside the church grew much larger than the one being formed along the street…but all of those who were better dressed seemed to end up in the larger group.

 

  At noon, Martin Mexiner asked for permission to ring the church bell and a Partisan accompanied him to the tower.  As the bell tolled the men crossed themselves and prayed.

 

  The Partisan officers became impatient with the slow pace of the registration and began questioning men and boys and sending them to the larger group.  A machine gun was set up by the Partisans to guard the large group and more and more men and women Partisans arrived with a stretcher and spades.  Everyone seemed to know that there was trouble ahead.  One Partisan let loose with a burst of gunfire over the heads of the men in the larger group and managed to also upset his own officers.

 

  The local police officer attempted to get some of those in the larger group transferred to the smaller one because he was aware that the larger group would be murdered.  He was somewhat successful but Partisans would exchange others back to the larger group.  It was a kind of see-saw battle between them.  In the end 212 boys and men remained in the large group meant for liquidation.  They had to form themselves into four columns alongside of four columns of Partisans both men and women on their flank.  Eight Partisans stood at the head and carried machine guns and the stretcher filled with spades.  A Partisan came from the town hall seated himself on a horse and under his command the   column headed towards Hodschag.  The column left at three o’clock that afternoon.  The smaller group were driven into the church and people watched from their windows and doors cracked open for a stolen glance at what was taking place.  The column would end up at a meadow outside of Hodschag and only years later would the silence be broken as to what occurred there as told by an eyewitness.  There were no Danube Swabian survivors.  Some local Partisans from the Wojwodina would tell the story and end the officially imposed silence.

 

  Men who would denounce others as members of the Volksbund would be able to earn their freedom.  No one did.  Since no one responded they began to beat men to a bloody pulp to make them do so, with no results.  The execution squad consisted of Serbs from the area around Nisch and had participated in the massacre of the men from Hodschag on November 23rd and knew they needed help with this large group from Filipowa and were reinforced by fifty men from the barracks in Sombor and were Serbs, Slovaks, Croats and Hungarians.  These men did not know what was going on.  As the beatings began they realized they were to be part of a death squad.  The leaders of the execution commando were uncertain of what to do and asked for further orders in Hodschag.  The courier returned at night with the order to proceed.  This latter group did not hate their Swabian neighbours but were unable to help them.

 

  The Russians were obviously aware of the liquidations taking place but took no action to prevent them.  After November 25th they would step in to stop such gruesome actions hoping to secure as many Danube Swabians as possible in Yugoslavia, Romania and Hungary for slave labour in the Soviet Union.

 

  The ditches dug for the airport now became mass graves.  One Serb reported that a Partisan ordered a son to beat his father to death.  The son refused.  The father said,  “Let’s not waste time.  Hit me with all you’ve got.  The quicker the better for all of us…”

 

  As the men were dispatched in many and various gruesome ways they made the sign of the cross and shouted words of comfort to one another being taken away to be killed.  After crossing themselves many of the fathers of the younger boys made a cross on their foreheads.  The men were forced to go into the ditches and remove their clothes and were shot or beaten to death.

 

  Of those who were killed, thirty-five were 16 to 19 years of age, fifty-two were 50 to 60 years old and the other one hundred and twenty-five were 20 to 50 years of age.

 

  About seventy men and boys remained behind in the church.  They saw the handwriting on the wall and prepared themselves for the worst.  But miraculously they were released the next morning after a night of terror.

 

The Background

 

  The Partisan Movement carried out their campaign against the Danube Swabians as punishment for their betrayal of the State…the confiscation of their property and their victimization which followed were seen as both legal and just from their perspective.  The fact that the confiscation and the internment of 200,000 civilians has been hushed up certainly begs the question why.  Especially kept secret is the fact that over 70,000 of them perished in the process.  Between October 1944 and April 1945 an estimated 4,000 of them were executed in the Batschka.  It was a “Stalinst purge” of the leadership of the Danube Swabians.  In the Banat there were an additional 2,900 civilians who were massacred in the same way. Of the 34,200 Danube Swabians in the Banat there were 11,000 who died in the internment camps.

 

  There were numerous issues and reasons behind this genocide and are part of the “Greater Serbia National Movement.”  As early as 1918 Serbian nationalists who were anti-Communists called for the expulsion of the Danube Swabians to Germany.  Serbia had little fertile land and was overpopulated at the time.  The minorities in the Batschka and Lower Baranya especially the Danube Swabians were envied for their prosperity and fertile land.  During World War II the Chetniks favoured such an expulsion programme.  In Point Four of the Resolution passed at a Congress in Montenegro in 1942 states:  “Only Serbs, Croats and Slovenes may dwell on the territory of our State.  There can be no national minorities.”  A portion of the Chetniks went over to Tito’s Partisans.  They took over the expulsion programme that would seal the fate of the Danube Swabians should the Banat, Batschka and Lower Baranya ever fall into their hands.

 

  Partisan apologists respond by saying, “With the liberation of the Batschka we would face the minority problem of the Magyars and Swabians.  The Politbureau were only confronted with the problem of what to do with the Hungarians, the fate of the Swabians had long been decided.”

 

  But there was also the hunger for fertile land.  The great collectivization of farms that took place after the war basically consisted of the confiscation of Swabian owned land.

 

  At the Anti-Fascist Congress for the Liberation of Yugoslavia at Jajce on November 23td to the 30th in 1943 they declared the deposing of the monarchy and the nationalities programme of the Partisans into effect.  It had a vision of a state which had no place for Germans.

 

  The Swabians were charged with collective guilt and as traitors and had no legal or civil rights and deserved to be punished and executed if they fell into Partisan hands.  This was only another step that led to the declaration of the AVNOJ in Nobember 21, 1844 in Belgrade that ordered the confiscation of all properties of those who were ethnic Germans and they were declared enemies of the State.  This decree was the basis for the liquidations carried out in the Banat, Batschka, and the Lower Baranya in October and November of 1944.

 

  Following the passing of the Russian military through the region, “Regional Liberation Committees” were set up in the villages be local Serbs or those living in the vicinity.  Meanwhile Partisan units were arriving in the area and in effect were in military control until February 15, 1945 when political control of the Batschka was handed over to the civilian Liberation Committees.  The first phase of military control by the Partisans was the arrest and detention of certain elements of the Swabian population; relatives of men in the SS, members of the Volksbund organizations, community leaders, professionals and intellectuals.  Phase two were a flurry of massacres and executions of these groups of “war mongers.”  Some suggest these actions were taken to eliminate any opposition to what was to follow.  It was a move to prevent “a counter revolution.”  The same occurred in many Magyar and Slovak communities for the same reason.  In all cases, all official records list them as Fascists.

 

  It was the “Krajiska Brigada” commanded by a former Serbian barber who commanded the execution squad that massacred the men and boys of Filipowa.

 

  Was the liquidation carried out and ordered by the highest echelons of the Partisan Command or were the actions taken as a result of local initiative?  There is no clear cut answer to the question but here are three theories.

 

  There was a central command structure involved during the liquidations in the Banat at the end of October and in the Batschka at the end of the November because they were all similar and followed the same pattern.  There is no evidence that execution squads moved from one area to another to carry out the liquidations.  Rather it appears the motive was to terrorize the Swabian population and make them compliable and co-operative.  It is rather obvious that the Russian military officials and the Interior Minister, Alexander Rankovic, were both well aware of what was taking place.  The actions did not take place in a vacuum.

 

  In many respects the liquidations bear a strong resemblance to a Leninist purge aimed against the “Intelligentsia” to weaken any opposition on the part of the people.  The Soviet military authorities were certainly familiar with the purpose and method and were often present at such actions as was the case in Filipowa.

 

  The actions in the Batschka were the result of orders given by local commanders with the cooperation and support of local officials.  Many of the actions appear rather rash, spontaneous carried out in a lot of confusion with a lack of order and discipline.  They were on a rampage against Fascists, Chetniks and Ustaschi.  They wanted victims and found them.  Often the locally stationed Russian commanders became involved.

 

  At the Anti-Fascist Congress of Liberation in Belgrade on November 21. 1944 a decree was issued to confiscate  all of the property and possessions of all ethnic Germans who were all enemies of the State except those who had joined or supported the Partisans.  The decree went into effect the next day but it was not related to the liquidations taking place.  The confiscation affected the property and possessions of both those who had fled and those who had remained behind and was held in custody by the Partisan military command who declared the Swabian possessions as belonging to the State.  In a real sense this was the first step in the collectivization of land in Yugoslavia.  But not only were the Swabians robbed of their property by this decree but they were declared enemies and traitors to the State and deserved some form punishment.  Confiscation and dispossession led to the next inevitable step…they lost all of their civil rights and protection as citizens.  They were aliens illegally located in Yugoslavia and enemies and the only solution was internment.

 

  The decree of November 21, 1944 gave the local authorities the right to drive the Swabians from their homes and intern them in concentration camps.  How aware the Belgrade authorities were of the measures that local jurisdictions would take is unknown.  But to all practical purposes their decree led to the extermination of thousands.

 

The Internment Camps

 

  The declaration of the Danube Swabians as “enemies of the people” and the confiscation of their possessions and property led to their systematic internment.  Between the end of November 1944 and the beginning of March 1945 they had to leave their homes and were placed in internment, extermination or labour camps.  By the end of September 1945 their unoccupied homes were given to new settlers from Montenegro and Bosnia.  In these camps that were established 16% of the inhabitants from Filipowa who were in them had died.  There were approximately 3,300 who had remained and not joined the evacuation of whom 833 eventually died in the camps.  One out of every four persons.

 

  At the beginning of November 1944 the Swabian populations living in the cities, e.g. Panschowa, Werschetz, etc. were driven out of their homes and were spread around in the camps in the neighbouring villages.  In all cases the camps were set up to act as holding camps to house forced labourers and were isolated from the outside world and all freedom of movement was denied them nor could they purchase or sell anything.  Both the Russians and Partisans made use of them; clearing debris caused by the war, street and railway repairs.  With the constant demands of the Soviet military for labourers the camps served as a constant source of manpower (although many of them were women).  In this way it was easier for the Partisans to meet any requests made of them by the Russian military.  At Sombor the labour groups at the camp had to repair rail lines and highways from Kikinda to Szeged which had both been destroyed by the retreating Germans.  Those in the camp at Palanka and later those assembled at Neusatz from the southern Batschka worked in the mines at Vrdnik.  In all of the camps the numbers who perished there were very high.  There were always a rash of shootings and executions; daily mistreatment and torture; limited nutrition and constant hard physical labour.

 

  It was in the Lutheran village of Jarek where the first concentration camp for those who were unable to work was established for the Danube Swabian population in the southern Batschka, while simultaneously the camp in Nakovo which served the same purpose in the Banat was opened two weeks later.  This indicates that a planned solution to the Swabian population was being put into effect.  It was not simply a result of “local initiative” after all.  This internment process was in full operation  by March and April of 1945 by which time all of the Swabian population were in camps.

 

  Control of the whole situation affecting the Swabians was taken out of the hands of the military authorities of the Partisans on February 15, 1945.  On February 16th the Civilian Liberation Committees took power in the Banat, Lower Baranya and the Batschka.  The Swabians would receive no humane treatment at the hands of these civilian authorities.

 

Filipowa from November 25, 1944 to Good Friday, 1945

 

  On the gloomy morning of November 26, 1944 followed the massacre in the Hodschag meadows, the seventy men and boys in the smaller incarcerated group in the church were released.  They hurried home and the streets remained deserted.  Shortly before noon, fifty wagons were assembled to pick up the Partisan execution squad and return some of them to Sombor.  Some of the drivers learned of the massacre from their passengers.  It was only later that they shared the news because they were threatened with death if they revealed the information.

 

  Before the noon hour meal drummers went up and down the streets announcing that all girls and women, sixteen to sixty years of age had to register at the community administration office.  It was a carbon copy of the order given for the men the day before.  They were terrified and they whispered to one another, “Now it’s our turn!”  Or was it just another call up for forced labour?  A Russian officer spoke to them at the town hall who informed the women they had to be at the railway station the next morning at 4:00 a.m.

 

  On November 27th, approximately 300 women and teenaged girls waited at the station for a train.  The organizational ability of the Serbian officials involved was practically non-existent.  At 6:00 a.m. the group was led back to the town hall.  There they were divided into groups and force marched to Sombor.  After an absence of two weeks they marched back home through the muddy streets of Filipowa on December 12th after doing hard labour at the airport installation in Sombor.

 

  On December 15th the Chief of Police, Djoko, set up another work group of women that now included girls as young as fourteen years old that set out for Sombor.  They returned on December 22nd and hoped to spend Christmas together with their families.

 

  On Christmas Eve, 239 persons, both men and women, were rounded up for deportation to the Soviet Union although none of them were aware of their destination.  The vast majority were teenaged girls and women for there virtually very few men left.  They assumed that they would be digging trenches on the Hungarian front.

 

  The first weeks in the new year were relatively quiet.  The deportation had seriously limited the work force left in the village which made it difficult to organize work groups.   On the 23rd all of the men reported to the town hall and then had to go to work in the hemp factory.  On February 1st the pharmacist’s shop was cleared of medicine and it was taken to a neighbouring village.

 

  On February 3rd, seven men were taken to Hodschag and put on trial as deserters from the German Army.  Three of them that had served in the Waffen-SS were taken to Sombor and the other four were placed in the camp in Hodschag which consisted of vacated houses.  In the next few days all of them men between sixteen to sixty who lived in the district were interned there.

 

  The Partisan military officials were aware that their mandate would end on February 15th and hastened to complete their “cleansing action.”  The daily fare of the Swabians were curses, beatings, interrogations and hearings.  The first victims were former soldiers and then they sought out Volksbund members.  The execution squads came at night with lists of names and dragged away the victims who were never seen or heard from again.  On February 14th those men from Filipowa who had survived were marched home…

 

  February 28th saw the arrival of 500 Serbian refugees in Filipowa.  They had lived in Croatia but had been driven out of their homes in 1941 by the new Croatian State and were resettled in Serbia.  They were now being portioned out to the various Swabian villages.  The families who were chosen to received these guests had to provide room and beds, clothing and their meals.

 

  On the evening of March 11th the drums were heard beating in the streets and all able bodied girls and women, boys and men from fourteen years of age and upwards were to report to the community centre the next morning.  They were told to bring enough food to last them for three days but many brought more.  After a few days most of the group found themselves in the camp in Sombor in overcrowded ramshackle barracks where they remained for several weeks.  Most of them worked at the airport, the coal yards, maintenance work at the town hall or in a large Russian military hospital.  This is when the “unlovely” relationship between the people of Filipowa and the Commander, Rajko, first began.

 

  At noon on March 14th drums beating in the streets were followed by the announcement that people from Karawukowo, a village 13 kilometres away would arrive and room had to be made for them in Filipowa.  Many of the residents went to the community hall to take people into their homes.  At 3:00 p.m. approximately 1,200 arrived.  In the space of less than two hours these Swabians only had time to gather a few necessities as they were driven out of their houses and taken from their village under the armed guard of Partisans.  Their priest came with them.

 

  On March 15th after several attempts to destroy the memorial cairn honouring the first settlers and the victims of World War I by shooting at it at first and then trying to topple it by having a team of horses strain to do so they finally resorted to using a crane.  The figures on it were defaced  or broken and it was buried somewhere during the night.

 

  March 16th saw the arrival of 1,500 more Swabians mostly old men and women with their grandchildren.  They had been driven out of Prigrevica Sveti Ivan.  The next day another 1,000 arrived from the same village.  They too were housed in Filipowa with many of the houses occupied by twenty to thirty persons.  It was said that they had to leave their village because it was so close to the Danube and the front lines were too close.  The people thought the move was temporary.  The church these days was packed with people.  When were they going home they asked?.

 

  March 25th the Partisans and the Serbian settler refugees celebrated their Great Youth Day.  A parade went through the village.  At the community centre anti-Fascist speeches were made.  They later danced in the streets.

 

  On March 29th the Serbian settlers raided the Swabian houses and took clothes and whatever else took their fancy.

 

  March 30th the Serbs still left in Filipowa left on wagons drawn by their teams of horses and they yelled, “We leave today but your turn comes tomorrow.”

 

The Diary of Paul Mesli

 

  Good Friday, March 30, 1945

 

  “A great surprise!  The Serbian refugees have to leave.  All teams of horses and the last wagons are requisitioned.  Some of them are used to cart them away.  They left in the direction of Hodschag.  It was a long column.  Each wagon was stuffed with plundered goods.  They sang battle songs as they left.  A few Serbian families remained behind.

 

  In the evening after work we had to return to the school.  There was a lot of tension in the air in terms of the Partisans.  Word spread among the men about the dire prediction of the departing Serbs.  The Swabians were all in dread that night and very few managed to sleep.

 

  March 31, 1945

 

  In the morning it was back to work.  The village was preparing for Easter.  At 7:30 a.m. armed Partisans numbering about 200 marched into Filipowa.  They surrounded the village.  Then men had to leave for work.  All of the men were sent back to the school where they had been interned.  A great noise was heard coming from the community centre.  Terror spread among the men and boys as heavily armed Partisans stood guard.

 

  A few minutes later, looking through the windows of the school the men could see the Partisans in battle readiness move out of the community centre.  They split up into groups and each group headed down one of the streets.  They could see women and children running all over the place.  Everyone thought of his own family at home.  For husbands, fathers and grandfathers it was something that went beyond mere pain.

 

  Mass for Easter was in progress and someone rushed into the church to say what was going on and the people streamed out of the church rushing home to their families.  In groups of five the Partisan units carried out their commander’s order.  It was 9:00 a.m. when the brutal action began.  They herded the people into the streets just like cattle: the elderly, infants and toddlers, mothers and older girls with small pitiful bundles they managed to assemble.  They were pushed and shoved, beaten and assaulted with rifle butts.  But the men were kept locked in the school.  They saw everything but could do nothing.  As the column of misery was driven out of the village the remaining Partisans began to pillage and plunder the houses.  The vacated houses would become a camp for five hundred slave labourers.

 

  Out in the meadow just above Filipowa seven to eight thousand people were surrounded  by armed Partisans under a gloomy afternoon sky.  They selected five hundred of them they decided were able bodied and took them back to the empty houses and began to establish a camp.  Those who remained, numbered about seven thousand, and were people who were over 45 years of age and mothers with children too young to work.  There were at least three thousand children under the age of twelve.  These too were Fascists!  Many of them were already orphaned or in the care of their grandparents.

 

  It was then reported that all of them out in the meadow would be sent to Gakowa.  There was a camp there…

 

  The men and boys were placed in separate houses from the women of those five hundred who were interned in the “Filipowa Camp”.  The houses were stripped bare except for straw on the floors.

 

  Easter Day, April 1, 1945

 

  The nuns were allowed to remain in their convent and gathered together the sick and infirm who had been left behind unattended.  An Easter mass was held for them in the church but none but the nuns and few of their charges were allowed to attend.   Those on labour detail had to empty the houses of all furniture and possessions.

 

  Easter Monday, April 2, 1945

 

  At 9:00 a.m. a larger column of cattle cars and an engine arrived at the train station which the men and boys were to load with swine.  At 2:00 p.m. the Partisans force marched the people from the meadow to the train station, all old people and young mothers with children dragged and beaten along the way.  Some were shot if they could not keep up.  No one was allowed to speak as the Partisans screamed, “Collective guilt for all Fascists!”

 

  April 3, 1945

 

  The train left overnight for Weprowatz but their destination was still unknown.  Those in the camp continued to clear out the houses.  The Partisans spent much of the day shooting the dogs and cats.  Now a life of hard labour became our daily fare.  On April 20, 1945 word first came that the people of Filipowa were in the extermination camp in Gakowa…people were already dying of starvation there.

 

 

  In the beginning of March 1945 the Danube Swabians in north western Batsdhka were placed in concentration camps if they had not been deported to the USSR or were already in a labour camp somewhere in Yugoslavia.  The same procedure was carried out in the Banat and southern Batschka beginning in March 26-April 19 1945.

 

  Internment usually took place in a quarter of the community in which the houses were emptied of all furnishings, food, possessions and large numbers of the local inhabitants were placed in each of them.  Close by would be a central camp in the area containing all of the able bodied people.  It was possible to have contact with one another secretly.  When one was no longer able to work one was sent to one of the concentration camps where they elderly, small children and young mothers were being exterminated.

 

  The major camps for those not fit for work in the Batschka were at Gakowa, Kruschivlje and Jarek.  In the Banat it was Rudolfsgnad and Molidorf where thousands died and were replaced by the next victims who arrived.  Of the 33,000 Danube Swabians interned in Rusdolfsgnad from October 1945 to March 1948 at least 10,000 of them perished.  In Jarek at least 6,000 perished.  In Filipowa the labour camp counted 250 deaths among the 1,500 internees who passed through there.

 

  The concentration camps at Gakowa and Kruschivlje were established on March 12, 1945 with the arrival of 7,000 Danube Swabians from Apatin.  They would serve as the major extermination camps in the western Batschka lying almost on the border with Hungary.  Gakowa became the centre for the internment of those unfit for work.  In April, Summer and Fall in 1945 larger groups arrived from the other camps at Apatin, Hodschag and Sombor.

 

  In 1931 Gakowa had a population of 2,692 of whom 2,370 were Swabians.  By the end of the 1945 there 17,000 Swabians packed into the confines of the emptied houses.  In the first ten months 4,500 of them died.  Approximately 8,900 persons died there in the thirty- three months it was in operation until the end of December in 1947.  Of those there were 756 victims from Filipowa.

 

  Kruschivlje had a population of 907 in 1931 of whom 869 were Swabians.  By the end of 1945 there were 7,000 persons confined there in the camp.  At the closing of the camp at the end of December 1947 there were known to have been at least 3,605 victims who died there including ten from Filipowa.  The last new inmates were sent there  in December of  1947.

 

  Gakowa lies 15 kilometres north of Sombor and 7 kilometres from the northern border of Yugoslavia with Hungary.  Kruschivlje is 4 kilometres north east of Gakowa.  Neither camp was surrounded by barbed wire and watch towers.  There were more or less regular patrols who guarded the camp.  Escape attempts were the order of the day to beg for food in the neighbouring villages.

 

  Each morning those still able to work were escorted to work in the fields around the camp and others had to cut firewood and while they were gone the Partisans stole their clothing, any money or valuables.  Food became more and more scarce.  In May real hunger began and in June the people attempted to get by the guards and patrols to beg for food in the vicinity.  Dysentery caused the deaths of many of the aged and young children.  Typhus broke out late in the fall of 1945 and lasted the whole winter.  The treatment in both camps was more humane when the military were in charge.  When the civilian administration took charge the camps became extermination centres.

 

  Often when new groups arrived at the camps they were “sorted” by the Partisans.  Mothers with children over three years of age were separated from them and the children were placed in the care of old people.  Following this “sorting” those who able to work were assigned to slave labour camps in the area at Sombor, Hodschag and Batina.

 

  Confiscation of what the inmates still possessed was a daily occurrence and if appreciable “goods” were found execution would follow.  The people were confined to their houses and yards and could only be on the streets on their way to work or to pick up their food rations.  To leave the camp and get caught was met with execution but first they were beaten and tortured and placed in a cellar overnight.  In the morning they were given spades to dig their own graves and were shot as the other inmates of the camp were forced to watch.  But the hunger of the children drove the mothers to attempt to get them food.  When they went begging they avoided the homes of Serbs and sought out Hungarians, Slovaks and Croats who were less antagonistic to the Swabians.  Children as young as seven years of age sneaked out of the camp and went begging.

 

  By 1945 approximately 40,000 Danube Swabian children were orphaned or partially orphaned.  Their parents had either been executed, starved to death in the camps or had been deported to the Soviet Union.  These children were cared for by their grandparents, older brothers and sisters or relatives or friends of their families.  About 20,000 survived the first year and then after that children’s convoys were assembled at various times and they were taken to State Children’s Homes.  This occurred four times in Gakowa.  Their parents or families who were in Germany and Austria after release from prisoner of war  and labour camps in Russia would later search for them and try to be reunited with them.  It took the Red Cross until 1951 to get any cooperation from the Yugoslavian authorities.  Eventually 5,000 children found their way back to their families in the West.  The other 15,000 were raised as Yugoslavs and were given other names and had no idea that they were Swabian and were lost to their families and people.

 

  As children were left behind through the death of the adult or adults who cared for them, and there were more and more of them every day, they were assembled in “children’s homes” in the camp.  Usually some teenaged girls or a woman were given the responsibility to care for them.  But it was no better here than in the other houses.  They slept on straw and received the same pitiful rations as before.  Many suffered from malnutrition and scurvy.  If they got sick they were placed in the “children’s hospital”.  But the description “hospital” is a misnomer.  It had beds but often three or four children lay in each.  It was the scene of the most sorrowful and miserable sights in the camp.  They were skeletal.  Skin and bones.  They simply whimpered because they no longer had the strength to cry.  It was hard to visit without tears coming into your eyes.

 

  Many women and girls who served in the children’s home and hospital did so out of motherly concern for the orphans.  But others did what they had to do glad to be spared from doing the hard physical labour others were forced to do out in the fields.  Some of the cooks found “favour” with the Partisans and sold some of the food to them.  It takes all kinds.

 

  On reaching 13 years of age, the children were placed in the labour groups.  The younger children of able bodied women in the labour groups were taken away from their mothers and put in the starvation camps.  In many of the camps, children were the vast majority of the inmates.  There are no statistics with this regard for Gakowa but in  Rudolfsgnad in the Banat on April 30, 1946 we know that 46% of the inmates were boys and girls under the age of fourteen.

 

  In December of 1944 the first State Homes for the children were established.  Early in the summer of 1945 parentless children in the camp at Gakowa were placed in these homes.  Later in May the same kind of children who were at the camp in Kruschivilje were brought to Gakowa where they were examined to see which should be sent to the State Homes.

 

  A Roman Catholic priest (Johler) notes in his diary:

 

  June 29, 1946

 

  The first convoy of children without parents to the children’s homes left today in great haste in open air trucks.  The children were not allowed to take anything; no clothes, no mementos or reminders of their parents.  Officially they were being taken to Baja for rehabilitation.  Others were to leave later in the week.

 

  July 18, 1946

 

  Word was spread yesterday that the children in the children’s homes who numbered from 700 t0 800 would be transported away shortly.  This morning around 550 children were led to the train station shortly after they awakened from sleep.  Some twenty nuns went with them.  No one knows where.  Everything was done so secretly.

 

  The remaining children were the next to go and many of the children with grandparents and relatives were also be included.  Fear gripped the hearts of everyone.  But the operation was carried out and they showed no mercy to anyone.

 

  That afternoon all of the children in the care of grandparents and relatives were ordered to be brought to the children’s homes, “so they would be looked after in the future.”  With that also came the warning, “Whoever fails to bring their children will be shot.”

 

  July 20, 1946

 

  A convoy of children from Kruschivilje arrived here to join the children in Gakowa who are to be sent away.  Hundreds of children in columns driven along like slaves in the heat and dust were walking to their unknown destiny.  The very young and small children were tossed on top of one another in ox drawn wagons.  Arms and legs, heads and feet stuck out all over.  Armed Partisans marched alongside of them herding the children like cattle and brutally assaulting any of the weeping grandparents who dared to be on the streets seeking to have one last glimpse of their grandchildren.

 

  Yesterday only a few grandparents and relatives had reported with their children.  The beating of drums was heard up and down all of the streets and the announcement was repeated that those who would not surrender their children would be shot publically.

 

  Shortly after the drums were heard no more.  I saw an eleven year old crying beneath my window.  I knew her well.  I saw her mother die and buried her and gave her and her two brothers into the care of a kindly aunt.  Up until now the child had always lived in hope.  Now she was desolate.  She knew she would be dragged off by the Partisans and there was nothing any of us could do.

 

  July 21, 1946

 

  No services were allowed today.  But masses were held in two different houses in the camp.  The large number of children who came for communion touched us all very greatly.  Many of them had to wait for three quarters of an hour to receive perhaps their last communion.

 

  July 22, 1946

 

  The drummers were out on the streets again and with the same warning and the camp population lives in total anxiety.

 

  July 26, 1946

 

  There is no longer any interest in the parentless children.  We hear the removal of the children has been postponed for a month.

 

  August 1946

 

  All those parenting the orphaned children were ordered to register the children for school classes.  For the present the children remain here.

 

  September 1946

 

  Today a group of orphans were led away from their school classes.  At noon they were heard singing Serbian marching songs in honour of Tito as they marched to a large closed transport van under the direction of the Camp Commander.  It had no windows.  Painted grey.  Looked fearsome.  The children were led inside.  Their singing stopped.  The doors were closed.  The other children who had gathered to watch were driven away by a soldier with a stick.  The motor started up and five hundred more children were taken on the road to the south.  But where?

 

  January 20, 1947

 

  Last night several hundred children were taken away in pitch darkness.  No one knows how many or where they were taken.

 

  February 1, 1947

 

  After the children’s homes were emptied they were still determined to act with regard to the children who were still in the camp in the care of relatives.  The beating of the drums again today!  All children must be registered if they were without parents in order to receive better food and clothing.  Those who failed to comply with the order would be punished by thirty days in the cellar prison.

 

  February 8, 1947

 

  News has come that the children have been taken to various cities.  They have received better rations and clothing.  They were being raised by the State.  They can do whatever they like except pray.

 

  February 10, 1947

 

  In the last few weeks many mothers have come to Gakowa voluntarily from other camps or were brought by force to do labour whose “orphaned children” had been taken away.  They asked for the return of their children.  That was not granted because the children were free now and their parents were interned prisoners and no communication was permitted between the two.

 

  Women who worked in the camp children’s homes often had to accompany and care for the children in the State Rehabilitation Homes.

 

 

 B.B. from Apatin writes:  “Those children with TB were taken to Palic and the others, 245 girls and 120 boys four to fourteen years of age were sent to the State Children’s Homes in Stara Kanjiza and Petrovo Selo.  These children’s parents had either died, been deported to the Soviet Union or were otherwise missing.  I, myself, was brought to Petrovo Selo on July 14, 1946 as a child care worker where a home for boys was set up in a former convent.  They were cared for here.  They attended school classes from 8 to 11 in the morning and from 14 to 16 hours in the afternoon.  They went on hikes three times a week.  They learned Serbian lyrics to German melodies in which their parents were scolded and vilified.  For instance the following:

 

“Our parents were beasts and worthless people

That is why they had to die,

We want to live!

Our bodies and souls belong to Tito,

Only Tito and Comrade Stalin.”

 

  Religious instruction was not permitted as well as any worship activities.  When two priests asked the director of the home for permission to give religious instruction and provide worship, the director who was a twenty-one year old Partisan from Srem replied:  “There is a barrier between us.  The children belong to us.  And we can do what we want with them.  We need no God, He is much too old.  He doesn’t help you anymore and we need no help from Him.  We have Tito instead.”

 

  The better pupils were later sent to officer’s training schools, the second best were trained in a trade, the others became farmers and workers.  They did not feed them in vain, they would “capitalize” on their investment.  On August 15, 1946 I was shipped back to Gakowa because of contracting malaria.  On August 23, 1946 I escaped from the camp at night and made it across the frontier into Hungary.”

 

 

Escape and Flight

 

  Until the summer of 1946 any attempts to escape from Gakowa was to take one’s life into one’s own hands.  As one inmates reports:  “If people were caught at the border by the Partisans they were often shot on the spot.  We had to go there and pick up the bodies for burial.  One time I had to pick up a husband and wife and an eight to ten year old son.  The parents had been beaten to death and the boy had been slit open with a bayonet and his intestines were all hanging out.  I could recognize them because of the village attire they wore from Stanischitz.”

 

  Such “black” (Translator’s note:  the colour black has the connotation of being illegal and clandestine) flights continued to take place because of the desperation of the people.  But at the end of 1946 there were also “white” flights either through bribes paid to the leadership of the camp, individual guards at the camp or border.

 

  In the spring of 1947 there was mass flights or group flights as the Yugoslav authorities decided that 100,000 Danube Swabian survivors were still a problem that the nation could not absorb.  With Gakowa and Kruschivilje so close to the Hungarian frontier they became the preferred camps for mass flights and escapes.  There had already been one mass flight from Gakowa in December of 1946.  Between the last week of March and the first week of April in 1947 up to 3,000 inmates escaped.  They left in groups of one hundred and obviously the Camp Commander was aware of what was taking place.  By the end of 1947 between 30,000 to 40,000 Swabians had escaped from the camps and crossed the frontier into Hungary and made their way to Austria and Germany.

 

 

Deportation to the USSR

 

  As people were leaving from attending Mass on Christmas Day in Filipowa, drummers beat their drums standing in front of the church and announced all women 17 to 30 years of age and men up to 40 years of age were to report immediately.  In all, 239 men and women were sent to Russia.

 

  The deportations went into effect at the end of December and early in January in the Banat, Batschka and Lower Baranya in Yugoslavia.  The entire action was carried out by the Partisan High Command.  Similar actions took place in Hungary and Romania under the direction of special Russian commissions.  The deportations began on December 25, 1944 and lasted until early January, 1945.  In some areas the age groups differed:  men from 17 to 45; women 18 to 40.  The only exceptions were pregnant women and nursing mothers, physically handicapped or those who were obviously physically ill.  Women far outnumbered men.  In some areas by a ratio of six to one.  Eight to one in others.  It is estimated that there were between 27,000 to 30,000 deportees from Yugoslavia of whom 4,500 perished in the labour camps in Russia.

 

  In the Romanian Banat there were 50,000 Swabians who were also involved.  In addition to them were the Swabians in Szatmar and the Transylvania Saxons.  From Hungary there were upwards of 65,000 Swabian deportees.  There were at least 150,000 Danube Swabians involved almost 8% of the total prewar population.  Estimates range from 16,500 to 17,600 for the number of deportees who perished in the camps.  From among the 239 deportees from Filipowa, 28 men and 25 women died there.

 

  The first group deported from Filipowa numbered:  24 men and 85 women for a total of 109 persons.  The oldest man was 43 years old and the youngest man was 19 years old.  The oldest women were 28 years old and the youngest were 18 years old.  They left on Christmas Day on a night march to Apatin.  On December 29th they left Apatin by train and arrived at Charkow in the USSR on the night of January 21st and 22nd. 1945.  During their time there 16 of the men died and 9 of the women.

 

  The Yugoslavian authorities claimed that Filipowa did not meet its quota so that a second deportation occurred involving 130 persons (30 men and 100 women).  They left marching through deep snow and in the bitter cold of December 28th for Apatin and arrived in their camp at Antrazit on January 19, 1945.  Two of these deportees died in the first week because of the extreme cold and lack of any heat in the camp.  There were also a number of 16 year old girls in this group most of whom died.  In total, 12 of the men and 16 of the women died perished.

 

Acts Perpetrated Against Individual Swabians

 

  The following are three examples of the twenty-four that are found in the Heimatbuch.

 

  Magdalena Hoffman was born in Filipowa on January 25, 1856.  In her 90th year she accompanied the other villagers in the expulsion from their village.  Before the people were loaded onboard the box cars that would take them to Gakowa she rested at a friend’s house.  On Easter Monday they came for her.  She still couldn’t believe it was really happening.  She was upset and unable to lift up her bundle of possessions as she tried to board the box car.  Three shots rang out and she lay dead at the feet of a Partisan who pushed and shoved the next people onboard.

 

  Theresia HÓ§nisch born in Filipowa on August 13, 1921.  Along with her two children she was sent to Gakowa.  Many died because of hunger daily so she sneaked out of the camp at night to beg for food for her young children.  On the way back to the camp she was caught by a Partisan and was taken to the camp commander who took away the food she had been able to beg and began to beat and brutalize her.  She was thrown in the “cellar” with other people who were being punished.  After days of this kind of punishment she was released only to die a few days later as a result of the mistreatment she had suffered.  Her children, Georg and Erika, died of malnutrition a few days later.

 

  Elisabeth Wurtzky born in Filipowa on May 31, 1885.  She was interned at Gakowa and on January 5, 1946 she participated in morning worship at the church with some other women.  The Partisans broke in during this clandestine service and herded all of the women to the office of the camp commander.  On their way the others managed to escape from their guards except for Elisabeth.  The commander declared her guilty and ordered her to be executed.  Four armed Partisans led her to the cemetery.  She  was forced to undress in the bitter cold and then taken to an open mass grave and killed with one shot to her head.

Woilowitz in the Yugoslavian Banat

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Christmas 1945 in the Rudolfgnad Extermination Camp

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

The Final Days of Torschau in the Batschka 

  This article is a translation of excerpts from the Heimatbuch of the village of Torschau.

  In September of 1944 threatening war clouds gathered in the Batschka.  On the 2nd news came of the Bulgarian capitulation to the Russians.  By the 8th the Russians marched into Yugoslavia.  At that time large scale flights of US bombers could be seen passing overhead Torschau.  Fear began to spread.  In German and Hungarian military circles there was talk of an evacuation of the Batschka.  On the 13th of September a total of 190 local men from the ages of 17 to 40 years were drafted into the German armed forces as agreed upon by the Hungarian government of Regent Horthy in a treaty signed on February 28, 1942.  The approaching catastrophe now took another giant step towards Torschau.

 

  The front was breaking down on all sides.  On the 27th refugees from Gross-Betscherek in the Banat passed through Torschau.  This event created chaos and confusion and anxiety among the local German population.

 

  On October 1st it was the Kirchweih but very few people came to the service.  Not even the traditional dance was held because of the fears and anxieties of the people.  People met to plan what to do.  At noon the next day the Volksbund called a public meeting.  Plans for an evacuation were revealed.  Organized convoys of wagons pulled by tractors and horses, supplies and provisions that were needed and families were assigned places in the convoy.  The alarm was sounded at midnight on October 4th.  The Hungarian occupation forces gave the order to evacuate.  People ran through the streets in pouring rain gathering their families and loved ones for flight.  The weeping and crying was indescribable.  A portion of the villagers wanted to leave by train.  The people panicked at the railway station waiting for a train to arrive.  A German officer put through a call to Neusatz (Novi Sad).  He was informed there was no threat or danger.  The people were all sent home.  They were all overjoyed…but it would not last.  To be honest, everyone really knew that it was only a reprieve. 

 

  On October 7th the Hungarian army and police withdrew.  The post office was closed and railway traffic ceased.  Now the people knew the end was near.  The threats of the Slavic population became more and more menacing.  Courage and hope seemed to disappear among the German population.  Panic broke out.  Citizen sentries were set up to protect the population.  They were unarmed and were only stationed at the entrance and exit streets of the village to be in a position to warn the population if an attack came.  They thanked God that they had always lived in peace with their Serbian neighbours whose presence would perhaps prevent an attack.  They too had no idea of what was in store for them either.

 

  Later on October 7th the village received the order to evacuate from the German Army.  The same confusion and panic that took place at night on October 4th repeated itself.  It was no longer certain that the population of Torschau could be evacuated.  Very little had been packed and little preparation had been made.  The best was left behind and only their every day clothing was taken with them.  There was only pain and sorrow over leaving and very little clear thinking.  Days before many had buried their valuables in their yards or gardens, plastered them in their walls.  Items like earrings, gold, money, clothes, etc.  They were preparing for the homecoming that would never be.

 

  The next Sunday, October 8th the people had no idea of what to do.  Go or stay?  Many gave up the inner battle–and decided to stay.  The physically stronger people were prepared to make an effort to leave.  The German military in Werbass promised them a military escort through the Batschka where the population was overwhelmingly Serbian and who might attack German refugee columns.  There was a last announcement made at the town hall that evening.  The greater part of the community voted to leave.  The decision was made to leave next day, October 9th at six o’clock in the morning.  That would prove to be a bitter hour.  The military escort did not arrive.  During the night the last remaining German armed forces had withdrawn from the entire region abandoning the 100,000 Danube Swabians in the area to their fate.

 

  The 146 loaded farm wagons left by the main street heading north.  Eleven tractors, each with five to seven wagons in tow led the way.  They waited for final orders from Werbass in vain and at eight o’clock the village mayor ordered the trek to set out.  All six bells in the towers of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches tolled as the Schwabenzug got under way.  All hearts beat faster.  The people wept.  The horses trudged on.  In that hour two thirds of the population became homeless refugees.

 

  On October 9th only a portion of the population left.  They had no idea of the military situation or where they were going or for how long.  All they knew was that they were heading north and north west…to Germany.  Those who remained behind wept in the streets as did those who were fleeing.  They called out to each other.  The entire population was out in the streets as the church bells tolled.  The Torschau convoy passed through Kucura and the local Serbian population wept to see them go.  When they came to Werbass the portion of the population that had not left awaited them in front of the Lutheran Church with supplies, food, provisions and mineral water.  Passing through Kula the local Serbs wept openly as they made their way through their village.  At four o’clock in the afternoon they reached Cservenka where they were to spend the night.  Almost all of the houses stood open and uninhabited.  The German residents had left the day before and in a great hurry.  It was during their Kirchweih celebration.  The tables were still set with sumptuous meals and baking of all kinds.  So few people had remained behind that all of the Torschau people were easily accommodated.

 

  Next morning they headed for Sombor on the Danube.  Neusiawatz was already evacuated.  They saw the bodies of countless Jews with their stars of David who had been shot and left along the roadside.  Some people were now afraid to go on but there was no turning back.  At Sombor they caught up with the convoy from Cservenka.

 

  They had to stay in the forests overnight in the pouring rain because the German Army was to cross the Danube on the only bridge that was still intact.  They would have to wait their turn.

 

  After crossing the Danube and reaching Baja, the same thing happened to them again and they had to wait for the retreating army to cross over first ever aware that the Red Army was already at Kecskemet and closing in on them.  Some small family groups were able to cross but the convoy was held back.  There was another bridge at Dunafӧldvár but they were encouraged to try at Kalocsa where there were two small bridges.  They took that route and crossed over at Paks-on-the-Danube and stayed in Bikács for a day.  Hungary capitulated on October 22nd and the refugee columns streamed north to Sopron and passed into Austria.

 

  At midnight between October 8th and the 9th to the accompaniment of drum beats the announcement of the voluntary evacuation of Torschau was made to the populace.  The next day 1,967 of the inhabitants fled while 1,015 remained at home.

 

  The village was now a kind of No Man’s Land.  Hungarian troops there one day.  Local Partisans the next.  On some days both groups were there at opposite ends of the village.  And the local population was simply caught in the middle.

 

  Eventually Partisan units occupied the village and set up their headquarters.  Threats, beatings and shootings became the order of the day.  Then a much larger group of Partisans came and the Regional Commander was stationed in Torschau.  He was named Gojko and came from Beschka in Srem.

 

  On December 6th all of the German men were “sorted” by order of the Commander.  Those able to work were sent to the labour camp that had been set up in Werbass and the others were placed in a camp set up in a portion of Torschau.  Two days later on December 8, 1944 the women and children were herded out into the streets and marched through the village to the camp.  The camp was at the south end of the main street.  By December 15th all of the German civilian population in the Batschka were interned in camps just like it.

 

  December 15th was also a day of horror for 350 of the people who were force marched to the starvation camp at Jarek.  Most of them were old, physically ill, men and women unable to work and their children, as well as other children torn out of their mother’s arms.  These were horrendous scenes to behold as the weeping children were dragged away.  One mother attempted to escape with her children and was shot.  The Serbian mayor stepped in and was able to prevent all of the children from being taken and in effect saved their lives.  The children who were taken to Jarek had to walk because only the infirm were allowed on the wagons.

 

  At Jarek, this gruesome bestial camp housed 14,000-16,000 inmates.  People died like flies.  The woman Commander of the camp was a monster.  Of the 350 persons from Torschau sent to Jarek, 276 of them perished there.  The German name for the Lutheran village of Jarek had been “SchÓ§nhausen” (beautiful place) but it became “HÓ§llenhausen” (the house of hell).  Others from Torschau were sent to the extermination camps in Rudolfsgnad, Gakowa and Kruschivilje.

 

  On January 1, 1945 all of the internees in the camp in Torschau were taken on foot to Kula where fifty men and women were sent to the Soviet Union to do forced labour.

 

  From among the 1,015 villagers who had remained behind the following losses were suffered:

 

  14 persons were shot between 1944-1946 including 4 women

  11 persons committed suicide in the camps between (1944-1947) including 4 women

276 persons died in the camp at Jarek including 59 children

  52 persons died in the camp in Torschau

  16 persons died in the labour camp in Werbass

  26 persons died in the extermination camp in Gakowa

    9 persons died in the extermination camp in Kruschivlje

  12 persons died in various other camps

    9 persons died in the labour camps in the Soviet Union

 

  In all, there were 624 victims of the holocaust in Torschau perpetrated against them by Tito and his Partisans.

 

  Torschau was the oldest and the largest Lutheran settlement in the Batschka and was established in 1784.  It had a Lutheran and Reformed congregation but the Lutherans formed the majority.  The last German Lutheran schoolmaster in Torschau was Johann Wolff who had been born in the Zips in what is now Slovakia.  He survived the camps and he and his wife fled for sanctuary to Hungary to be with their son Louis who had grown up in Torschau.  He had Magyarized his name and became known as Lajos Ordass.  He was the Bishop of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Hungary as the Lutheran Church was and is still known today.  Because he denounced the expulsion of the Danube Swabians from Hungary he was arrested, put on trial and imprisoned by the new Communist regime.  He was released during the unsuccessful Hungarian uprising in 1956 and restored as Bishop but with the arrival of the Russian troops to quell the revolt he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Hodschag a Market Town in the Batschka 

  The information which follows is taken from the Heimatbuch written by Friedrich Lotz under the above named German title and a portion of it is an original translation by Henry Fischer.

 

  That Batschka has been a temporary home to countless peoples:  the Celts, Romans, Huns, Goths, Avars, Slavs, Magyars and the Turks all of which disappeared after awhile.  All of them came as victorious conquerors and held sway for a short or long period of time but never achieved a permanent status in the land.  This beloved homeland of so many was a land where much blood was spilled, tears shed and where the sweat of the brow was the price to pay in an attempt to tame it.

 

  The Celts who were the first residents and were a mixture of tribes and peoples entered the Batschka in the 14th and 15th Centuries B.C.  The Romans never actually inhabited the Batschka but settled in Dacia (Transylvania) and Pannonia (Hungary in the region between the Danube and the Drava Rivers).  The Samartians lived in the Batschka and the Romans campaigned against these warlike horsemen and were never able to subjugate them.  The so-called “Roman trench” found in Hodschag comes for this era.

 

  There is very little known about life here during the Middle Ages.  Until the beginning of the 18th Century little of consequence took place in this rather insignificant region.  There were no fortresses or strongholds.  No monasteries or any famous personalities.  Nor historical events of major importance.  It was also geographically unimportant.  Obviously some form of settlement took place in the Middle Ages but all of this was obliterated during the Turkish occupation.  Some artefacts and ruins exist on the sites of later communities that would emerge including Filipowa and Kruschivlje.

 

  Present day’s Batschka’s roots had their origins in the 18th Century and at the end of the 17th.  At that time various peoples were settled here.  There were Serbs, Croats, Germans, Magyars, Slovaks, Slovenes and Ukrainians.  The large scale settlement at that time was the result of a plan to repopulate and redevelop the region on the part of the  Habsburg dynasty and carried out on the basis of national and confessional considerations that created a rather colourful rainbow of nationalities, languages, religious confessions, customs and traditions in the Batschka that would emerge as a result.  But it was a long, slow process beginning with the Peasants Uprising of 1514, the Turkish occupation and ended with the Kuruz Rebellion of the Magyars at the beginning of the 18th Century (1711).  The re-population was also speeded up because of the countless deaths due to the Turkish “Pest”…the plague which came out of Asia.

 

  The Peasants War of 1514 had been caused by the oppression of the Magyar peasantry, who to all intents and purposes were agricultural slaves with no land, home or livestock of their own.  Everything belonged to their feudal lord and master.  The peasant worked the land and had to give almost all of the crop to his master and had to provide feudal service (called Robot) and was often brutally mistreated.  After the death of King Matthias the Just (1490) the lot and bondage of the peasants became even worse and it is no wonder that their misery drove them to rebel.  Georg Dózsa provided the leadership for the peasants and was the overseer of the vast estates of a nobleman in the northern Batschka.  Dózsa sent Lorenz Meszaros, a priest, to the Batschka to call for an uprising of the peasant serfs.  He had an easy job because the peasants were dissatisfied and were being oppressed by their owners.  The vast majority of them were Magyars and led by Anton Nagy they murdered the nobles and plundered their estates in the Batschka.  They then headed for Szeged and many others from the Batschka joined them.  The flame of rebellion spread throughout Hungary.  The nobles fled to Batsch.  Serbian troops from Srem annihilated large numbers of the peasant horde between Hodschag and Sonta.  After the uprising was put down many of the peasants did not return to their former masters.

 

  Almost immediately following that at the meeting of the Hungarian parliament in 1518 there was talk about “the Turkish peril.”  As a result of the Peasants War and the consequent massive population losses due to the massacre of the peasants and the destruction that accompanied the reprisals of the nobles when the Turks entered the Batschka it was in a state of utter ruin with a meagre population.  Letters from 1529 indicate that following the defeat of the Hungarians at the Battle of Mohacs the largest part of the remaining Magyar population in the Batschka fled north out of fear of the Turks.  Esseg fell to the Turks in 1526 and by 1529 all of the Batschka was in Turkish hands.  Hunger followed and the survivors were shipped in boats down the Danube on their way to lifetime of slavery.  The Turks made some attempts at repopulating the Batschka mostly with Slavs but did so only sparsely.

 

  In 1689 the Turks were driven out of the Batschka.  As early as 1686 Sombor was taken by the Imperial Army and all of the Batschka became a war zone.  The Sultan Sulieman faced Charles of Lorraine at the battles in Sombor and Batsch and the Turks retreated from the Batschka.  With the Banat and Srem still in their hands the Turks tried to retake the Batschka.  The Imperial troops and the Serbian frontier militia were stationed on the Batschka side of the Danube River and the Turks were on the Banat side and their Magyar rebel allies the Kuruz guerrilla fighters.  The Batschka was totally devastated in these battles and turned into swamplands, forests and was depopulated and the surviving population was totally impoverished.

 

  In 1687 some Orthodox and Roman Catholic Slavs settled in the Batschka but the vast majority of the Serbs came in 1690 with their Orthodox Patriarch, Arsen Crnojevic III.  Following the liberation of the Batschka the Royal Chancellery in Vienna planned for a concentrated effort to eliminate Turkish power in the Balkans by uniting all of the various nationalities and with their support and assistance accomplish that.  For this reason, King Leopold invited all of the Balkan peoples to come under his protection and offered them a wide range of privileges.  In 1689, the Patriarch responded and came with 500 troops and fought shoulder to shoulder against the Turks.  But the fortunes of war resulted in a total rout of the Austrians and their allies and the Grand Vizer went on a rampage through Csango and Serbia.  The Patriarch fled with 37,000 Serbian families to escape the wrath of the Turks and Leopold welcomed them and others to settle in Srem, Slavonia and the Batschka and on August 2, 1690 Leopold settled large numbers of them in the Military Frontier District.

 

  There is a notable difference between the Serbian and German settlement of the Batschka.  The Serbs did not leave their homeland voluntarily.  They fled before the wrath and fury of the Turks and only came to the Batschka on a “temporary” basis.  They always planned to go home and kept the right to do so.  But their homeland would be under Turkish control for two hundred years and they had to remain in the Batschka.  The Military Frontier District in the Batschka was the largest portion of it stretching from the shores of the Adriatic Sea to the Carpathian Mountains in Tranyslvania.

 

  With the outbreak of Racoczi’s rebellion (Kuruz) from 1703-1711 the Serbs in the Batschka fought on the side of the Austrian Imperial Army against them.  The campaigns again resulted in the devastation of wide stretches of the Batschka.  Only after the uprising was put down and the Banat was liberated from the Turks that a reconstruction of the Batschka could be undertaken.

 

  A new population emerged after 1733 as Orthodox Serbs and Roman Catholic Croats settled there again.  But these settlers soon moved on, each group going into other areas where they would find themselves more compatible with the existing conditions there.

 

The German Immigration and Settlement

 

  Many entirely German villages were established in the Batschka in the 18th Century but none of them have a German name.  Instead, the communities adopted the name of the “puszta” (Hungarian for open prairie) where they were located.  Hodschag was settled by Germans from Baden, Switzerland and Alsace and it is there version of Odzaci as it was known by the Turks.

 

  The first German settlers accompanied the military into the Batschka as early as 1702.  Most of them were tradesmen, fishermen and others were in the shipping business.  In 1717-1718 a German enclave was also established in Belgrade after Eugene of Savoy had taken the city in 1717.

 

  In 1723 Charles VI of Austria invited German settlers with a six year exemption from paying taxes in response to a request by the Hungarian parliament.  This invitation was publicized all over the German-speaking principalities of the Holy Roman Empire.  The first German city and village settlements in the Batschka were:  Futok 1702, Neusatz (Novi Sad) 1709, Baja 1712, Tschatalja 1729 and Neudorf on the Danube 1733.  The first village settlement was Tschatlja.  The two major phases of the Great Swabian Migration undertaken by the Empress Maria Theresia (from 1749-1772) and Joseph II (from 1784-1787) in the Batschka resulted in the establishment of the following:

 

  Apatin 1749, Bukin 1750, Hodschag 1756, Kolut 1760, Filipowa 1762, Priglewitz-Sentiwan 1763, Gakowa 1763, Neu Palanka 1764, Gajdobra 1764, Kernei 1765, Karakukowa 1766, and Kruschivlje.  In addition Neu Fotok 174 and Vaskut 1756 were established on the private estates of noblemen.

 

  During the settlement activities of Maria Theresia only Roman Catholics were allowed to settle in the Batshcka.  These settlements were in the western Batschka and the later settlements under the auspices of Joseph II were in the eastern Batschka.  These settlements were established as follows:  Torschau 1784 (Lutheran and Reformed), Cservenka 1785 (Lutherans and Reformed), Neuwerbass 1785 (Lutheran and Reformed), Deutsch Palanka (Roman Catholic) 1785, Kleinker (Lutheran) 1786, Sekitsch (Lutheran) 1786 and Bulkes (Lutheran) 1786.  They were also settled in Serbian villages at Siawatz (Reformed) 1786, Schowe (Reformed) 1786, Kula (Roman Catholic) 1786, Parabutsch (Roman Catholic) 1786, Brestowatz (Roman Catholic) 1786, Weprowatz (Roman Catholic) 1786, Tschoplja (Roman Catholic) 1786, Bezdan (Roman Catholic) 1786, Stantischtisch (Roman Catholic) 1786 and Jarek (Lutheran) 1787.

 

  The dates that cover the Theresian colonization period are 1749-1772.  It begins with the Peace of Aachen on October 18, 1748 that ended the War of the Austrian Succession and the period ends with the Partition of Poland on August 5, 1772.  These events effected both the beginning and conclusion of the colonization.  With the end of the War of the Austrian Succession Vienna was finally free of war costs and could support the repopulation plan for southern Hungary and the Partition of Poland led to the acquisition of Galicia a new area for German settlement that effectively played down the idea of more settlements in the Batschka.  There were two major streams of settlement during this period.  The first from 1749-1762 and the second from 1763-1772.

 

  The Empress took a very active part in the settlement of the Batschka and many enactments effecting the colonization were personally signed by her.  But her concerns were not only economic but also religious.  She built Roman Catholic churches at state expense and sent church furnishings down the Danube.  Protestants who came had to convert to Roman Catholicism.  That was very unlike her contemporary, Frederick the Great of Prussia who tolerated all of the faiths of his settlers on his new domains.  She encourage early marriages and gave gifts to young couples who married within the three months of their arrival: six Gulden and six measures of wheat.  Count Grasselkovics stood by her side in her colonization efforts.  He was the President of the Hungarian Royal Chancellery which was the official opposition against the Empress and the German colonization, always ready to point out the problems and difficulties.  He studied at Pécs under the Franciscans who supported him as a student.  He worked his way up as a civil servant until he was ennobled and became the owner of some landed estates.  He was not hasty in his colonization efforts and was an economical administrator.  He made the best use of the funds that could have easily been wasted in the colonization campaign.  For that reason it would make him important in the settlement of the Batschka.

 

  He was no promoter of mass settlement and especially no advocate of German settlement at all.  When 2,910 Magyar, Slovak and German families were settled in the Batschka in 1762 he suggested an end to any further colonization.  He feared economic repercussions.  The argument he used was that the economy of the Batschka was totally  dependent on livestock rearing and the grazing lands would be used for only subsistence agricultural pursuits.  He indicated that this would also lead to the displacement of the local Serb population who were cattle herders and not farmers.

 

  Grasselkovics actually feared that with the German settlement of the Batschka there would be no opportunity to develop a sense of patriotism and loyalty—to Hungary.  This was an early fear of Magyar nationalists.  As a result the second phase of the Queen’s colonization programme of settling Germans in the Batschka that began in 1763 was met with total hostility on the part of the Hungarians.  The Hungarians demanded to have a free hand in its implementation but she appointed Baron von Cottmann of the Imperial Chancellery to head it and had the colonization efforts proceed as quickly as possible.  On their part the Hungarians were not ready to give up.  Despite the costs involved in buying up land out of her own personal treasury Maria Theresia she had Cottmann carry out her wishes.  In her favour conditions in Germany were bad economically and in terms of future opportunity.  By 1743 German officials agreed that conditions were so bad in Franconia (Oberpfalz-Palatinate) and Bavaria that the population had no alternative other than to consider emigration.

 

  Most of the original colonists in Hodschag came from the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) region of Baden.  The area was forested and the land under cultivation was limited.  Older sons and daughters had to hire themselves out while the youngest son inherited.  The area had been over run in the Thirty Years War and there had been constant French incursions ever since.  The available land could not support the growing population.

 

  In 1754 Maria Theresia sought to recruit five hundred German families in VÓ§rder Austria to settle in the Batschka and arranged for that with the representatives of the territories involved.  They came from Bregenz, Stockach, Waldkirch, Rothenburg, Feldkirch, Rheinfelden, Günzburg and Bludenz.  Family land holdings were becoming smaller and smaller and were no longer able to support the families.  A year’s earnings could not provide what a family required each quarter of the year.  Poverty was rampant and the nobles wanted the excess population to leave.  But the reports of settlers who returned back home frightened those who were interested in going.  These mountain people had no desire to leave but encouraged those in the lowlands to do so.  The Patent and travel money that was provided persuaded them to give it a try.  The journey down the Danube by ship would take six to eight weeks.

 

  The settlement of the community fell under the jurisdiction of the Royal Hungarian Chancellery.  The Patent written in Vienna was written in Latin and was often modified or changed.  The Royal commissioners in the Batschka would carry out the actual implementation of the settlement.  Several sittings of officials would take place in Pressburg (now Bratislava) to hammer things out to everyone’s satisfaction.

 

 

  Following the First World War like numerous other areas and regions of Hungary the Batschka was annexed by one of the successor states and in their case it was Yugoslavia.

 

  The outbreak of war with Germany on April 6, 1941 resulted in an eleven day Blitzkrieg leading to the capitulation of Yugoslavia.  The Batschka and the Lower Baranya were annexed and placed under Hungarian occupation and the Yugoslavian portion of the Banat was occupied by the Germans and were under the jurisdiction of the German military in Belgrade while Slovenia was annexed to the German Reich.  Croatia, Slavonia, Bosnia and Dalmatia  became part of the new Independent State of Croatia.

 

  On Good Friday, the Hungarian Honvéd (National Army) marched into the Batschka after the fighting was over.  In some places there were bloody skirmishes with the local Serbs.  The German population was mistrustful of a Hungarian occupation.  Following the occupation the Germans were placed under the jurisdiction of the Volksbund of the Germans in Hungary led to Dr. Franz Basch.  All German schools of higher education were placed under the control of the Department of Education of the Volksbund.  The Magyars had learned nothing since 1918 about forced assimilation of their German population and attempted to introduce the same Magyarization measures in the Batschka.  The German school in Hodschag was closed and a Hungarian one was opened.  Few families sent their children to it.  They made an appeal to the Volksbund and got a German teacher from Neuwerbass.

 

  Young men from among the German population in the Batschka enlisted voluntarily in the Waffen-SS and the German Wehrmacht (regular German Army) during a campaign carried out by the Volksbund.  Hungarian officials attempted to curtail it but that simply escalated the recruitment.

 

  By the summer of 1944 the Russian Front was moving westwards.  On August 23rd Romania capitulated and the Second Ukrainian Army moved dangerously close to the Banat.  By September the situation was growing graver each day.  It became obvious that the German Army could not hold back the rolling tide of the advance of the Red Army.  The people in Hodschag began to consider flight but few took the warning seriously or did much in the way of preparation.  The German population was just too attached to their homes and their land.  They couldn’t leave their inheritance behind.

 

  When the first refugee treks from the Banat passed through Hodschag unrest and disquiet took over.  The German military announced, “Do not flee!  We will hold the Batschka at all costs!”  The next they heard was that the Russians were on the opposite bank of the Tisza River.  The Batschka must evacuate!  Everyone rushed to get ready to leave as the German Army remained for the next eight days.  It had finally sunk in and dawned on the people as to what lay ahead.  They loaded their wagons.  Took bedding, clothes, pots and pans.  They butchered pigs and took meat and bacon and loaves of bread as well as a sack of feed for the horses.  Trains were no longer running.  Old people, widows, wives and children of enlisted men who had no means of transportation and were anxious to leave reported to the local officials who gave them horses and wagons of farmers who had decided not to leave and would remain behind.

 

  The first column of wagons left soon after and joined the refugee trek.  They travelled to Bezdan by way of Dorosolo, Stapar and Sombor where they crossed the Danube bridge into Baranya County in Hungary.  Then they travelled north west through villages and towns of Swabian Turkey and then went on to Austria.  Arriving in Pécs many of the refugees from Hodschag left the trek and were taken by train to Silesia.  Others made their way to Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden, Hessen and the Pfalz or remained in Austria.

 

  Tito’s brainchild, the Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia met in Belgrade on November 21, 1944 where it was decided how they planned to deal with their enemies…the Germans of Yugoslavia.  This council consisted of the various Partisan formations who were now in control after the German and Hungarian military had left the country.  They began to impose their own brand of terrorism on the German civilian population by taking away all of the rights of citizenship and declaring the Germans to be “outside of the law” and all of their land, property and possessions were to be confiscated by the State.

 

The Black Day, November 23, 1944

 

  An eyewitness reports:  “We, the people of Hodschag who remained behind lived in fear and worry after the German military withdrew.  Only a few had any idea that evil would befall us.  We asked ourselves,  “What will happen today or tomorrow when the Russians or the Partisans arrive?”  For the most part we were rather trusting and confident that they wouldn’t create too much trouble for us.  Ten days later the first Russians came and moved into Hodschag.  They were quartered in farm houses and were well served by their hosts.  When they were sober they were well disciplined.  It was later when the Partisans came.  They were poorly clothed but well armed including machine guns.  We had to turn in our radios, bicycles and motorcycles.  Then the Partisans took whatever they wanted in any home they entered.  We simply had to accept this without expressing any opposition.

 

  On November 23rd the Partisans let loose.  Russian soldiers who were billeted in our house promised us their protection.  Looking from our window I could see that three Partisans were bringing five German men up the street.  In fact the Partisans were leading groups of men and boys on all of the streets.  Quietly I went and hid out in the barn because I wanted to wait until it was safe to be about.  By eleven o’clock it was safe.  It was only later that I found out what had taken place that day.  More than 180 men and young boys were driven together and assembled in the Haus Raab (local inn) and 40 of the younger men dug a mass grave in the field to the left of the road to Karawukowa.  There were three Serbs who were in charge the village:  Dobranov, Urbas and Pavkov.  These men were aware of what was happening and attempted to free some of those who had been arrested.  That is how the tavernkeeper Franz Kraus, the merchant Ladislaus Kollmann and the Slovak, Hanns Petko and some others were rescued from the fate the others suffered.  The three men were determined to prevent a mass murder of the men and boys.  It resulted in open angry denunciations of the Partisans but they were unable to prevent them in their intentions.

 

  It was a cloudy, rainy fall day and it was already dark at five o’clock.  The 180 prisoners had to undress in Haus Raab.  As soon as it got darker they were lined up in four columns all of them bare naked.  They were forced to march from there, flanked on all sides by Partisans.  They had taken away their clothes not only to share them among themselves but in this way their white bodies would be more visible as targets should someone make a break to escape.  At the mass grave all of them were brutally murdered and lime was spread over the bodies and then the grave was shovelled in.  Only young Hans Mayer, son of Nilli Hanns was able to vanish in the cornfield in the darkness of the night.  The mass grave was guarded for several days and nights and no one was allowed to come close to it.”

 

  The Germans of Hodschag were walking in the footsteps of all of the Danube Swabians in Yugoslavia.  Of the 170 names that were compiled later there were eight 16 year olds, two who were 17 years old and one 15 year old.  In addition, five more men and two women were murdered later in the same way.  Five more men were executed in Sombor and one in Sekitsch.  All of the rest were interned in camps guarded and run by the Partisans.  The prisoners were sold as slave labour and worked in the areas during the day and were starved and mistreated at night.  A great number of them perished.  Many of those still fit to work were sent to concentration or labour camps.  Those who were unfit for work, the children, elderly and the sick were sent to the big extermination camps at Jarkek, Gakowa and Kruschivlje where vast numbers of them perished.  Epidemics, including typhus, swept through the camps and claimed thousands of victims.  There were 50 men and 177 women and children who died in this way.  Many of those who were able to work were deported to slave labour in the Soviet Union and included men, women and teenaged boys and girls.  The numbered 166 persons.  There were 66 men and teenaged boys and 25 of them died there; 40 women of whom 3 perished and 60 teenaged girls of whom 3 died.  The number of men killed or missing serving in various armies during the war and those who died as prisoners of war numbered 191. 

 

  The documented total losses in Hodschag were 436 persons as a result of the Second World War and its aftermath.  

Mramorak in the Banat 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

                                                  Bamberg                           5

                                                  Bavaria                           13

                                                  Fulda                                6

                                                  Hessen                             2

Lorraine (Lothringen)  388

                                                  Luxembourg                 310

                                                  Mainz                            148

                                                  Nassau                             16

                                                  Pfalz (Palatinate)            85

                                                  Sauerland                         1

                                                  Sickingen                        49

                                                  Schwaben (Swabia)        31

                                                  Schwarzwald                  25

                                                  Trier                              520

                                                  Westphalia                    133

                                                   Württemberg                    3

                                                   Würzburg                      22

                                                   Zweibrücken                   5

 

 

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

 

                                                   Bamberg                         3  

                                                   Bavaria                          15

                                                   Falkenstein                    39

                                                   Fulda                               6

                                                   Lorraine                      1,463

                                                   Luxembourg                  321

                                                   Mainz                              20

                                                   Nassau                            29

                                                   Passau                               1  

                                                  Trier                                67

                                                  Pfalz                                44

                                                  Schwaben                        41

                                                  Schwarzwald                   75

                                                  Straubingen                       5

                                                  Tirol                                  2

                                                   Trier                                67

                                                   Württemberg                    5

                                                    Würzburg                      24

                                                   Zweibrücken                  24   

 

 

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

 

                                                    Bamberg                       22

                                                    Bavaria                         30

                                                    Falkenstein                     1

                                                   Fulda                              23

                                                   Hessen                             2

                                                   Luxembourg                    5

                                                   Mainz                           109

                                                   Nassau                             7

                                                   Passau                            32

                                                   Pfalz                              80

                                                   Schwaben                      17     

                                                   Straubingen                 214

                                                   Tirol                                9

                                                   Trier                                5

                                                   Westphalia                      6    

                                                   Würzburg                      54

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

  

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Werbass, Vrbas, Verbász in the Batschka

1785-1975

 

  The article which follows is a summary and translation of various parts of The History of the Twin Communities of Old and New Werbass published in 1975 by the Werbass Homeland Association.

 

  At the end of the 17th Century the Serbs moved into what became the Batschka just as the German settlement of Hungary also began.  The difference between the two groups was that the Germans were lured there with Patents and land grants from the Habsburg Crown, while the Serbs were fleeing the wrath of the Turks since they had allied themselves against the Turks.  They sought only temporary sanctuary until the Turks were driven out of southern Serbia.  When that did not happen they settled permanently.  The area had been depopulated by the Turks and had become a wasteland and cultivated fields no longer existed in the midst of the devastation.

 

  The Edict of Toleration of Emperor Joseph II in 1781 and 1784 ended the centuries long oppression of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches in both Hungary and Austria.  His mother the Empress Maria Theresia had forbidden the settlement of non-Roman Catholics in her Population Patent of June 21, 1755.  The Protestants who lived in the area went on to Transylvania and Srem to avoid conversion.

 

  For the purpose of emigration many of the settlers carried letters of recommendation from their pastors.  From the tone of these letters and other church documents the pastors by and large were of the Pietistic tradition.  The words of faith and assurance that the pastors and church leaders sent with the emigrants were still in the hearts and consciences of the settlers and were their last link with their former homeland.  Those who left for Hungary were all noted and recorded in the parish records.  The following is an extract from one of them:  “May the Lord give all them blessings, good fortune, good health and success that they may be true to their God and King, steadfast and faithful in their faith and remain so, so that our Lord Jesus Christ will grant them every heavenly gift and the crown of life.”

 

  People of substance as well as the poor joined the Swabian Trek in its final phase under the auspices of Joseph II.  The German princes and state officials discouraged would-be emigrants from leaving and claimed that the recruiting agents misled the people.  They asked, “Why leave your beautiful homes for the swamplands of Hungary?  Hungary is the cemetery of the Germans.”  The settlers were not free farmers and “belonged” to their lord of the manor to whom they owed allotted labour service, taxes and tithes of their crops.  Those who emigrated had to be released from their servitude and receive a certificate of manumission after the payment of all of their debts.  They left need and poverty behind in the hope of a better future for their children.  Leave taking was difficult for most of them especially their immediate families that they would never see again, their church and cemetery and the graves of loved ones.

 

  Those who had no resources were granted their manumission for free, others who had funds had to pay an emigration tax of one Gulden per man, forty-five Kreuzer for a woman and ten Kreuzer per child.  The manumission fee and the poll tax was eight Gulden per man.  In all of the princely domains the Swabian Trek to Hungary was big business bourn by the peasants who were leaving.  The taxes differed in each territory.  Assistance was available through the Imperial Agents as well as a travel allowance.

 

  The emigrants also required an accompanying pass issued by the Imperial Agents at Frankfurt, Rothenburg and Koblenz.  Heads of families had to register at their offices.  On the pass were his name, age, religion and place of origin; the name of his wife and children and signed the promise to settle in the Kingdom of Hungary and to report in Vienna for the next stage of the emigration to Herr Welz at 216 Hofgarten.  Only family units were permitted to emigrate.  Wives had to accompany their husbands.  Only those who could provide security for their families left behind could leave alone and spy out the land and get settled first before they followed him.  Many took their aged parents with them as well as unmarried brothers and sisters.  In some cases they even brought their hired hands and maids with them.

 

  Many of the unmarried, married for the purpose of emigrating.  Others found wives among the other would-be settlers on their way to Vienna and were married there before moving on into Hungary.

 

  Tensions developed between the territorial princes and their subjects who sought to emigrate.  They were autocrats and had no real concern or understanding of their people and many issued anti-emigration laws.  The Kurpfalz (Rhine Palatinate) is an example.  The ruler was an Elector of the Holy Roman Empire.  Because of the devastation of the area by the French at the close of the 17th Century and restrictions imposed upon the religious freedom of the Protestants, thousands saw no other alternative than to leave for other lands.  In addition to this was the desperate economic situation of the peasants.

 

  The settlers travelled with “sack and pack” and carried only the necessities for their journey, all else was sold and this money was the “fortune” they brought with them.  It took four to six weeks of travel to reach their destination and funds would be needed.

 

  As many began the trek they left early in the morning accompanied by relatives and friends for part of the way.  Others, lacking official permission to leave, stole away in the night after secretly selling their property.  Avoiding the night watch, climbing over the village walls, whole families disappeared into the night.

 

  Many settlers followed footpaths or walked on the roads but most left by wagon.  Those who walked carried only necessities in their bundles, sacks, packs, baskets, carts and wheelbarrows.  Bedding, clothing, food.  They travelled in small and larger groups and formed a community in which a “leader” emerged, usually an older gifted man who made arrangements and decisions for the rest.  The assembly areas were at Regensburg and Ulm on the Danube.

 

  When they arrived in Ulm they were accommodated in the town.  Baptisms and marriages were frequent and the economy of the town was effected by the emigration but the people of Ulm were supportive of the emigrants.  That was especially true of the pastors of the town to whom may turned for help and guidance.  The island of Schwall lies at the confluence of the major and minor branches of the Danube where ship navigation of the river begins.  The Ulmer Schachtel (boxlike boats) travelled seven to eight kilometres an hour and had a capacity of one hundred to one hundred fifty tons.  They were made of unfinished lumber and timber and were disassembled in Vienna and sold there as lumber.

 

  The emigrants landed at the Rossau docks after sailing through the Danube Canal.  The area was swampy, forested, open meadows, reeds and brambles with a few fishermen’s huts here and there.  At the docks there were tradesmen, merchants and farmers with food, drink and various supplies for sale.  Some of the settlers slept on the docks, some in the ship overnight, while those who could afford it walked across the Augarten Bridge to Leopoldstadt and took up quarters in one of the inns, “Zum Goldene Fischtrügel”, “Fischer”, “Lamm” or “Goldenen Hirschen”.

 

  An agent of the ship company usually accompanied the settlers to Vienna until an emissary of the Crown accompanied them to the Hofkanzlei:  Royal Chancellery for Hungary and Transylvania.  The whole group walked through the city in their distinctive attire.  Each family registered and showed the documents that were required, received money for the next leg of the trek and were assigned to a specific location in Hungary.

 

  Many arrived without proper documentation, usually the poor, but no obstacle was put in their way and they were assisted in the same way as the others.  The Imperial government was fully aware of the territorial princes’ opposition to the emigration and by accepting these people word got back home and more people would follow.

 

  Countless marriages took place in Vienna and most couples were in the early twenties or late teens.

 

  They took larger ships to Offen (Buda part of Buda-Pest) and registered again and arrangements were made to get them to Sombor the chief staging area for the Batschka settlements.  The last part of the journey was on foot along the Danube and Tisza Rivers and through rather desolate uninhabited areas.  They slept out under the sky, experienced hunger, were plagued by sickness and their were deaths along the way.

 

  At Sombor they registered again and if settlers arrived without documents they were accepted.  Facilities were there for the settlers to house them until they could move into their own homes in Werbass.  They were then transferred to neighbouring Roman Catholic villages and housed with families who received one Kreuzer per person per day.  This lasted for about six months until their homes were built.  At the time of the  founding of the settlement between 1784-1786 there were 252 landowning families along with 42 cotters and their families who were tradesmen or day labourers.  The majority of the families had their origins in the Pfalz, Württemberg, Hessen, Alsace and the Saarland and included both Lutherans (Evangelisch) and Reformed.  A comprehensive list of the first settlers can be found on pages 72 to 94 with rather detailed information on the part of most of them.

 

  During the reign of the Empress Maria Theresia a large group of Slovak Lutherans settled in the Batschka in 1760.  They lived on ecclesiastical lands owned by Archbishop Adam Patasic who was determined to convert them.  In the face of his attempts to do so they moved en masse to Srem which was outside of the Archbishop’s jurisdiction and established themselves at what would become known as Alt Pazowa (Passua).  On these private estates the Slovaks were not allowed to have a pastor or hold any public worship services but they were nurtured in their faith by meeting in household assemblies.  Each year at Easter the entire community would travel together from Kolócsa and make a pilgrimage to their home congregations in the counties of Pest, Nógrad, Zolyom and Turoc to receive Holy Communion.

 

  Following the promulgation of the Edict of Toleration, Petrovac was the first Lutheran congregation established in the Batschka by Slovaks who settled there in 1783 along with their Pastor Andres Stehlo.  This was followed by a massive wave of Protestant immigration from various German principalities that resulted in the establishment of Torschau in 1784, Cservenka in 1785 and Werbass from between 1784-1786.  These Lutheran settlements all had a Reformed minority living among them.  In future the two confessions would be settled separately.  In 1786, Lutherans established Kleinker, Sekitsch and Bulkes and the Reformed founded Neusiwatz and Neuschowe.  Jarek was another Lutheran settlement that came into existence in 1787.

 

  The first resident Lutheran pastor in Werbass was Johann Georg Meyer (born in 1755 in Bayreuth, Bavaria) who graduated in theology at Potsdam in 1784 but was without a call and could not be ordained.  After discussions with government and church officials an agreement was concluded for him to become the pastor of Werbass in July of 1786.  He accompanied the settlers who founded Cservenka and then assumed his pastorate in Werbass.  The church chronicle reports that he was a true care taker of souls in Werbass for twenty-two years until his death on December 16, 1808.  His was no easy task.  The congregational members differed greatly from one another coming from a variety of church backgrounds, traditions and customs out of which a sense of community needed to be built.  Each group was familiar with a different order of service and worship practices and sought retain their own tradition.  The hymnbooks and melodies differed and again each group wished to maintain a sense of home and their childhood.  He needed a lot of tact and patience to work through a new common church life for his people.

 

  In 1791, a Seniorat (Church Conference) was established for the Lutheran congregations and pastors in the Batschka and Srem as part of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Hungary as the Lutheran Church was known.  There were fourteen congregations of which seven were German, six were Slovak and one was Hungarian.  The head of the Seniorat (known as the Senior comparable to a dean) was Andreas Stehlo of Peterovac one of the Slovak congregations.  Along with six other Seniorats they formed Montan District or Diocese with a superintendent-bishop.

 

  Many of the pastors who served the Batschka Lutherans came from Upper Hungary (Slovakia) chiefly from the Royal Free Cities and the mining towns of Zips County.  Their schools in Leutschau, Neusohl, Schemnitz and Eperjes produced strong Lutheran leadership and were highly influential in the development of the church life of the Lutherans in the Batschka.

 

  The settlers left a lot behind but they also brought a lot of their homeland with them.  Their schools were almost carbon copies of what they had been in their German homelands.  Most of the teachers had been engaged in teaching back home before coming to the Batschka and brought the same pedagogical approaches and understandings to their task.  They brought their text books with from wherever they came from and the teaching approaches of 1750s from those areas.  The first Lutheran teacher, Leopold Weber came from Herrstein a very small principality and Werbass would emulate its school system.

 

  There were four factors which shaped the identity of the Lutheran Danube Swabians:  their faith, their mother tongue, their pastor and their teacher.  The roles of teacher and pastor were complimentary, necessary and essential to the life of the Danube Swabian Lutheran Church.  Their schools had the task of teaching reading, writing and arithmetic to underscore learning scripture, catechism and the hymns.  Higher education was beyond the means and the aspirations of the settlers and those who arrived after them.  Church and school were so closely related that the school came under the influence of the church and pastor.  The curriculum was under the direction of the local pastor and the Church District.  Church appointed officials inspected the schools and had the responsibility of providing supervision to the teachers.  The bishop’s visit always included the teacher and the school.  Initially there were no standards or requirements of teachers because there was no training programme or educational institution in operation.  The teachers were saintly, good men, usually craftsmen or tradesmen in origin or retired soldiers and attached themselves as assistant teachers as a method of upgrading and preparation.

 

  During the early settlement period truancy was a major problem as children were often engaged in herding cattle, goats, etc.  So that this function became an occupation so that the children were free to come to school.  Those parents who persisted in keeping their  children at work were fined and the money was used to buy books for the poor children.  The first teacher, Leopold Weber, had been a weaver as his name implies.  The key text book that was used was Becker’s School Book (Gotha).  He also trained another man to be a teacher but he served very briefly.  Pupils came for only half the day.  The boys in the morning and the girls in the afternoon.  Arithmetic was taught “to be done in your head”.  Only the boys learned to write because paper, ink and pens were too costly.

 

  There were also Jews among the original settlers in Werbass and had German names and basically came from the same locales as the others.  Later Jewish immigrants came from Austrian principalities and Slovakia.  During the reigns of Maria Theresia and Joseph II they were allowed to settle in southern Hungary.  Many of them settled among the German settlers because of language and cultural similarities.  Most of the Jewish residents originally lived in Alt Werbass but after 1850 they resettled in Neu Werbass.  There were approximately two hundred and fifty of them living in the community in the 1840s when they formed a religious community.  Most of them came to Werbass as trades people i.e. tailors and merchants and shop keepers.  Their descendants established various industries and larger stores and businesses.  Their synagogue stood next to the Reformed Church and they also built and operated their own school.

 

  At the time of the settlement of Werbass in 1786 there were 105 Reformed families that were initially part of the Lutheran congregation.  The Reformed Church officials in Hungary were anxious for the provision of Reformed pastors for the new settlers arriving in the Batschka and carried out extensive correspondence with the government authorities and by November 1784 they had the promise that there would be financial support for two Reformed clergy as soon as possible.  In correspondence of March 19, 1785 it was noted that the Reformed pastor who had been sent to Torschau shortly before had already  abandoned his flock there.  On June 19, 1786 another piece of correspondence indicates that there were 119 Reformed families Cservenka and 102 families in Neu Werbass and in Torschau there were 381 adults that were desperately in need of pastors.  The government authorities agreed to provide support for a pastor in Cservenka and another to serve both Torschau and Neu Werbass.  In November of 1786 Johann Buzás arrived and held his first service in Neu Werbass on the 12th.  He would serve here until 1804 and would hold services on Sundays at seven o’clock and the following Sunday at ten.  The Lutherans and Reformed shared in the use of the same “prayer house” until both congregations eventually had their own churches.  The Reformed also had their own school and teacher.  In the future there would also be a small Methodist congregation and a Roman Catholic parish and school.

 

  The following statistics give an overview of the growth of the two major denominations.  At the time of the settlement 310 houses had been built to accommodate the families.  By 1858 the number of houses had increased to 473.  In 1820 a census was undertaken and there were a total 2,679 inhabitants in Werbass that included 1,982 Evangelical Lutherans and 627 Reformed-Calvinists as well as 56 Roman Catholics and 14 of the Jewish faith.  Later in the census of 1858 Werbass had a total population of 3,985 of whom 1,909 were males and 2,080 were females of whom 2,592 were Evangelical Lutherans, 1,052 were Reformed, 252 were of the Jewish faith, 127 Roman Catholics and 2 were Eastern Orthodox.  During the 1850s the statistics are as follows: in 1854 there 1,487 Evangelical Lutherans and 978 Reformed.  In 1855 there were 1,521 Evangelical Lutherans 1,012 were Reformed.  In 1856 there 1,556 Evangelical Lutherans and 1,034 Reformed.  In 1857 there were 1,598 Evangelical Lutherans and 1,052 Reformed.  In 1858 there were 1,644 Evangelical Lutherans and 1,079 Reformed.

 

  In 1900 the total population of Werbass was 6,369 that rose to 6,924 by 1910.  The census undertaken by the Yugoslavian government on March 31, 1931 indicated the following information about the population of the twin communities of Alt (old) and Neu (new) Werbass by ethnicity and religion:

 

                                                                                 Alt Werbass               Neu Werbass

  Serbs                                                                         2,006                                 547

  Roman Catholics                                                           860                             1,893

  German Protestants                                                    1,707                             5,406

  Other Christians                                                            990                                323

  Muslims                                                                            3                                    3

  No religion or unknown                                                  19                                189

  Totals                                                                           5,585                            8,361

 

  Combined total for the twin communities                 13,946

 

  (The Jewish population was not included and numbered 369 persons)                                

 

The Second World and Its Aftermath

 

  Following the end of the First World War and the defeat of the Central Powers the decision was made at Versailles that the Batschka would become part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes which would better be known as Yugoslavia.  With the capitulation of Yugoslavia following the German invasion in 1941 the Batschka was returned to Hungary and Hungarian troops arrived in Werbass on April 3,1941.  When the Eastern Front began to crumble and collapse the Red Army advanced into the Balkans as the German and Hungarian occupying forces began to withdraw in the summer and early fall of 1944.  The inhabitants of Werbass were noticeably worried.  The people looked for something to hold on to and many turned to the church which was now often overflowing.  Fear was an overarching emotion and everyone prayed fervently for the end of the war while the local Serbian population made dire and ominous predictions about the future of the Danube Swabian population.

 

  Everyone was well of the fate that had befallen Werbass’ Jewish population following the Hungarian occupation.  Services in the synagogue were forbidden in 1943 and 1944 and they met in homes as their ancestors had in the past.  The total destruction of the Jewish community would take place in April 1944.

 

  But in retrospect we must mention that some of the young people had emigrated to Palestine in the 1930s as Zionists but there were few who followed their lead.  No one seemed to pay much attention to anti-Semitism until the Hungarian occupation in 1941.  Suddenly all relationships with the Jews in the community ended.  Their stores were boycotted and they were beaten out on the streets.  The windows of the synagogue were broken by “vandals”. Worshippers were molested at the synagogue which led to their assemblies in private homes.  Some of the German inhabitants attempted to raise their voices at the mistreatment of their Jewish neighbours but were unable to accomplish much of anything.  The paramilitary members of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party, the Hungarian version of Nazism who were fierce anti-Semites played a major role in what would transpire.  Local Jewish men who had won military decorations in the First World War were interned by the Hungarians in the camp at Begéc in the southern Batschka and were taken there in trucks that were used to transport slaughter animals.  The entire convoy was then sent across the Danube River into the area where the Croat national government, the Ustacha, were in control.  They too were also fiercely anti-Semitic, all of which meant certain death for all of them.

 

  Hungarian governmental regulations and restrictions went into effect against the Jewish population and targeted their economic life.  Many attempted to get lost in the larger communities in order to escape surveillance.  About one third of the Jewish community left or went into hiding.  A pogrom of mass murders of both Jews and Serbs was carried out by Hungarian troops in Novi Sad in January of 1942 and also included the rest of the southern Batschka.  Prominent members of their community in Werbass were taken to the camp in Batschka Topola and held there for several months.  Then another blow was levelled at the remaining Jewish population on July 1, 1942 when all Jewish males from the ages of 18 to 45 years were conscripted to serve in labour battalions to support the Hungarian Army on the battlefield in the Soviet Union.  Countless numbers of them from Werbass died miserably in Ukraine and on other fronts in the war with Russia.

 

  The surviving Jewish population in Werbass who were mainly women and children and the elderly kept in doors and out of sight.  They avoided the streets and the mistreatment that they could expect.  But even in those dark, dark days there were individuals who were examples of Christian charity towards their former friends, neighbours and co-workers.  Everyone had a sense of knowing that there was more to come.  On March 19, 1944 the German Army occupied Hungary and the order was given for the quickening of the pace in carrying out the final solution to the Jewish problem by the “new Hungarian regime” now in place:  The Arrow Cross Party.  The first step was the introduction of the yellow star of David.  On April 26, 1944 a round up of the remaining Jews in Werbass took place at night.  The operation was carried out by the local police, Hungarian troops, SS officers, Gestapo officials and civilian authorities who packed the Jews in the school.

Only those of mixed parentage were exempted.  They along with others in the camps at Batschka Topola, Maria Teresopel and Baja were packed fifty per cattle car with no food or water and were taken to Gänserndorf in the vicinity of Vienna.  From here there were some “special” people who were sent to Theresianstadt but the rest went to their death in Auschwitz.  It is estimated that 160 of the Jewish inhabitants of Werbass perished in this way.  There were some survivors from the labour battalions and others who returned to Werbass after the war but all of them left en masse in 1948 when the State of Israel was declared and sought their future there.

 

 

   Once the first refugee treks from the Banat passed through Werbass the thought of flight became uppermost in the minds of many.  There were no battles in the vicinity of Werbass because it lay far removed from the front lines.  The populace held its breath.

 

  In July and August of 1944 military activity began in the area.  Fighter aircraft were heading north overhead.  Retreating German and Hungarian troops passed through Werbass.  It seemed to be raining all the time.  More and more refugee wagon trains were quartered and then went on.  Despite what they saw the local population on the whole did not get the message and decided to stay put.  Even their enemies were human what was there to fear?  There was one military action in October that led to a major explosion destroying military supplies and taking a few lives.  As Hungarian troops left by train they assured everyone they would be back in three days.  Too easily the people believed them to their own destruction.  On October 8, 1944 the civilian and military officials belatedly ordered the evacuation of the German population of Webass.  Whoever had a horse and wagon or could get aboard military transportation or get on the last train left on October 9th.  Other people were simply uncertain what they should do.  They remained.

 

  Flak bombardment of the town by the Russians began on October 18th.  There was no response on the part of the German and Hungarian military.  They had simply vanished.  On their part he Russians later said that was the reason why they were lenient when they entered and occupied Werbass.  On October 19th Russian frontline troops and Serbian Partisans marched into the town.  Each house was forced to fly the Yugoslavian flag with a red star imposed upon it.  To their relief there were no instant reprisals against the German population.  German prisoners that were in the custody of the Partisans were forced marched to Neusatz (Novi Sad).  During the night guards went from house to house and assembled stoves for the military.  All German males from 16 to 50 years and females from 18 to 40 years were assembled and taken to do forced labour to bring in the sugar beet and corn crops.  Both men and women were physically abused if they did not work fast enough to suit the Partisans.  In meeting a Partisan on the streets individuals knew they could expect a beating at their hands.  Houses were emptied and men were interned in them and given little if any food but they were called upon to work every day.

 

  In November they took a number of men out to the cemetery and had them dig twenty-five to thirty graves near the place where some soldiers had been buried.  Later that night both Hungarian and German men were thrown into the local jail and forced to undress down to their underwear and were beaten half to death if they had been members of the Swabian Cultural Union and then force marched them out to the cemetery in their bare feet where they were shot.  Some of them had dug the graves themselves a few days before.  One man reports:  “One night a Partisan came for me to have me interrogated.  My wife tapped him on the shoulder and begged him to let me stay at home and fainted in his presence.  That did not phase the man a bit and I was not allowed to help her as she lay there on the floor.  At the community centre I had to hand over everything I had.  Then the door to the jail cell opened and I felt a push from behind and fell inside.  There were about twenty-four of us.  I can’t remember who all of them were.  But I remember the Roman Catholic priest, Tarján, our teacher Heinrich Dietz, Karl Schmidt, his wife, son and daughter, Lenhard Buzder a merchant, Mrs. Häfner neé Krist,  and Mr. Heib who lived on the Kaffeegsse (Coffee Street) etc.  Nothing happened the first night.  My wife wept in front of the community centre.  A Russian spoke to her.  He told her what was going on inside the community centre and for that reason she went out to the cemetery.  The Russian was an officer who was stationed at Haus Tuzlic (local inn).  Thank God all of us were freed that second night because of that Russian officer.  We were interrogated individually about whether we had been members of the Bund and if we had been beaten since we were arrested.  We had to sign a statement to the effect that we were not.  Two of the men in our group had been beaten severely the first night we were there and we had heard their almost animal cries as they crawled back in our cell on all fours.  They signed the same statement we did and I didn’t question it for a moment.  As I was being taken out of the jail I saw my friend Johann Gabel who sat in another cell.  I could hardly recognize him because of the bruises on his face and after his release he was sickly for a very long time.

 

  On another occasion a Partisan came for me and took me to a hearing before Russian Secret Police officers in Alt Werbass.  I was only under arrest for the one night and then released.  There were others who were in the custody of the Secret Police in the Gayer furniture factory, Hause Bayer (an inn) the school were Heinrich Deitz taught and Hause Tuzlic.  On the day of the burial of the wife of Dr. Tessenyi the Partisans apprehended Kiss Tibor and Karl Gayer the owner of the furniture factory from the funeral procession and took then away and they were never seen again.  Schäffer, Tischler, Gutsohn and Friseur had prepared to leave with the evacuation but decided to remain after all and were among the first that were arrested and murdered.  There were so many others whose names escape me now.  But there was Paul Theiss the merchant, his brother Daniel, Paul Rumpf who had been the Richter (mayor) and his son Paul who had just come home from the Hungarian Army.  Heib Andreas, Jr. Professor Jakob Lotz, Karl Schmidt-Ott, Peter Weiss, Bladt Kaufmann, Martin Kremer former member of the Town Council, Kovács the former chief of police, Philip Schmidt a mason was taken to the cemetery on his way home from work and unknowingly was forced to fill the grave in which his son had been thrown the night before.  The old man later died in Jarek.  The wife of Konrad Schadt and the wife of Karl Schadt and the foster daughter of the Bank Director Paul Becker were all led away and never seen again.

 

  On December 21, 1944 I like many other men was on my way back from doing slave labour and was taken by the Partisans to the camp in silk factory and interned.  Young men were led away and sent to Russia and young women and older teenaged girls were assembled and sent to slave labour in Russia.”

 

  The internment of the remaining German population took place on the day of Pentecost on May 20th, 1945 and then the new colonists from Montenegro arrived.  The Lutheran church in Neu Werbass were vandalized by the youth from among the colonists.  Anything made of wood was used for firewood.  The Lutheran Church in Alt Werbass was totally dismantled and the materials used for other purposes.  The tower of the  Reformed Church in Alt Werbass was torn down and the church was turned into a warehouse.  The Reformed Church in Neu Werbass was eventually given to the small Hungarian Reformed congregation and still stands to this day.

 

  With their internment on the day of Pentecost the fate of the villagers was accelerated.  After the church service the Partisans held back all of the worshippers and whoever had a German name (all of them did) were designated to go to the camp created out of a section of the houses in Werbass.  There was no first going home, no saying goodbye, no taking any precious items.  From worship they went straight to the camp.  Later in the same morning, wagons driven by Partisans in the company of local Serbian girls went from house to house and issued the same order to the elderly, sick and children who had not been in church.  All of the people were driven to the camp through the streets of their town with only what they could carry.  On arriving at the camp the people’s goods were confiscated.  The Partisans tore clothing apart to find money that might sown in the seams.  They took soap, jewellery including wedding rings.  Family members were separated.  Some were confined to basements, the yard or the first story.  Visiting was forbidden.  They could not leave their area and had to do everything in the room in which they were assigned.  There was no water available, not even for the children.  All of their belongings were piled up almost to the height of the room.

 

  The Tuesday after Pentecost all the small children and their mothers as well as the elderly were assembled and then told to get ready to leave.  About 360 of them were forced to go on foot to the train station.  They were helped along by being beaten with rods and rifle butts.  A storm erupted so that people lost sight of each other.  Children cried.  Old people stumbled and fell.  The guards screamed and scolded them.  Old men who tried protect the women and children were thrashed and beaten.

 

  At the railway station a locomotive and a long line of open freight cars awaited them.  They were packed onboard with whatever belongings they still had.  The people were driven from one freight car to another at the whim of the sentries.  Those who seemed to be too slow were beaten until they bled and again it was especially the old men.  Their way of sorrows began that night.  It was raining as the people from Werbass left their home forever.  Next morning they arrived at Jarek.  They were soaked by the rain.  Hungry.  Cold.  Tired.  They sat on their meagre bundles.  Some of the old had died on the way.  They were finally ordered off the freight cars and carried their bundles and the smallest children into Jarek which had  been the most beautiful Lutheran village in the Batschka which had been turned into an extermination camp.  Fearfully with great despair they entered the village.  The guards were in a hurry.  They robbed and plundered the people of whatever they might have left.  Finally the body searches were over and the assignment to houses in the village began.  People began to die in the very first days.  A second group arrived from Werbass a week later.  People simply lay about on the floors or on straw if they could get it.

 

  The starvation diet they received was soup in the morning with no body to it.  Beans for lunch boiled in water without salt.  There was no supper.  Bread was made without salt and was barley based.  The lack of salt effected everyone especially the children.  Hunger was a constant reality.  When a family member died they traded the clothes for food.  A black market flourished among the Partisan guards.  Five and six year olds were so weak that they could not stand or walk.  There was a “hospital” set up for children but no one took their child there because visiting was forbidden.  Many of the children died of diphtheria.  Typhus made victims of many of the adults and the two German doctors in the camp could not handle the large numbers of the sick and dying.

 

  There was no life in the camp, only slow death.  They scrounged for food everywhere because the inhabitants had fled en masse with very little time to spare and left everything behind and for that reason people searched everywhere.  The people were not allowed to leave their houses.  Partisans patrolled the streets.  They were not allowed into the backyards either for fear that they would communicate with others.  They could only go to the kitchen but at designated times.  Inspections were regular and thorough because they were still on the lookout for valuables.  They would shove the sick aside and search beneath them.  Up to one hundred people died daily.  Each death had to be reported.   They came for the body with a wagon.  Friends and family sewed the bodies in linen, straw mattresses and accompanied the body to the door.  If an older man was present he often offered a prayer and spoke of the Christian hope to the others gathered around him.  On occasions hymns were read or said because all forms of singing were forbidden.

 

  The bodies were taken to mass graves of eighty or so.  Bodies were covered with lime.  The old funeral director of Werbass was allowed to pull the wagon with the bodies to the grave site.  He paid everyone his last respects, prayed over his friends and neighbours and listed all of the names that are included in this book.

 

  Everyone under sixty-five had to work mostly in a neighbouring Hungarian village.  No visitors were allowed in Jarek but some sneaked in by accompanying the workers at the Hungarian village back to the camp.  If caught it meant the cellar.  Somehow one copy of the New Testament and several hymnbooks had alluded the searchers.  They were shared and passed on among the camp inmates.  There were numerous Lutheran and Reformed pastors in the camp who tried to minister as best as they could.  Those who survived Jarek were sent to the death camps at Gakowa and Kruschilvje.

 

  A total of 602 men, women and children from Werbass died in Jarek.  From among those who survived and were sent to Gakowa another 42 perished.  During three nights in November 1944 a total of 101 villagers were executed.  The total losses among those who remained behind in Werbass number 745 persons.

In the Banat

Chapter Three

“This is where innocent blood flowed like a river”

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

 

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

 

 

Pardanj

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Northern Banat

 

“Where the lust for murder raged”

 

Sanad

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Kikinda

 

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

 

  Rose Mularczyk from Heufeld reports:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Nakovo

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

St. Hubert-Scharlevil-Soltur

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Heufeld

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  Anna Klein of Heufeld remembers:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Ruskodorf

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Beodra

 

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

 

 

Molidorf

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

The North Eastern Banat

 

“The Hunt for Danube Swabians”

 

Cernje

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  Karoline Bockmueller of Cernje writes:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Stefansfeld

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Betscherk

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  An escapee from the camp in Betscherek reports:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  Hans Diewald from Betscherek writes:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  Michael Kristof a high school student recalls:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Ernsthausen

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

St. Georgen

 

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

 

  One woman who was there reports:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Kathreinfeld

 

  From the diary of a nursing sister:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

The South Eastern Banat

 

“Crimes of Horror”

 

Werschetz

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Karlsdorf

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Alibunar

 

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

 

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

 

  Klara Knoll of Alibunar writes:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

The Southern Banat

 

“A Bloodbath Without Borders”

 

Kovin

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Ploschitz

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Mramorak

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Homolitz

 

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

 

 

Startschevo

 

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

 

 

Bavanischte

 

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

 

 

South Western Banat

 

“Wholesale Murder”

 

Pantschowa

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Brestowatz

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Glogau

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Kowatschitza

 

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

 

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

 

 

Jabuka

 

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

 

 

The Western Banat

 

“The Starvation Mill”

 

Rudolfsgnad

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  There were no worship services and prayer was forbidden.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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