Chapter Thirteen

 The Second World War 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 “Home”, I answered.

 

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

 

  I answered, “Up ahead there”!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  Pastor Jakob Abrell reports the following:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  This concludes the pastor’s report.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

  

We Remember Our Dead

 

The War Dead 1914-1918

 

1.  Brautigam, Johann born around 1894

2.  Ernst, Andreas born 24.12.1879

3.  Klein, Jakob

4.  Knies, Peter born around 1899

5.  Schon, Konrad born 26.08.1882 missing 29.07.1914

  

The War Dead 1939-1945

 

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

 Taken Hostage after the Raid on Bastei June 5th 1942  

1.          Emrich, Johann born 11.06.1898 in Klein-Bastei

2.          Frey, Johann born 04.02.1904 in Klein-Bastei

3.          Hecker, Johann born 16.02.1880 in Klein-Bastei

4.          Heppenheimer, Heinrich born 04.06.1894 in Klein-Bastei

5.          Hopp, Johann born 08.11.1900 in Klein-Bastei

6.          Lamp, Johann born 1912 in Klein-Bastei

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

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

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

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

11.      Schonfeld, Georg born 05.06.1905 in Klein-Bastei

12.      Husch, Christian born 26.09.1881 in Gross-Bastei

13.      Leipold, Johann born 03.12.1898 in Gross-Bastei

 

The Other Hostages Taken

 

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

 

Deaths Resulting from the Second Partisan Raid on 18.08.1943

 

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

 

Deaths During the Evacuation and Flight

 

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

 

Deaths in the Krndija Internment Camp after 1945

 

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

 

Men Serving in the Military Killed and Missing

 

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

  

The Evacuation of Klein-Bastei

 

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

 

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

  

The Evacuation Trek from Lovas

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

   

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

 

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

   

  Families from Miletinac:

   Politsch and Wajandt.  

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