The following article is based on: Das War Zanegg, the Heimatbuch of Zangegg in Moson County (Weisselberg) in Western Hungary by Johann Neuberger published in May of 1989 and is my own translation. 

   Currently the name of the village is Mosonszolnak and it is located 30 kilometres east of the Neusiedler See; 70 kilometres from Vienna and 150 kilometres from Budapest.  It is situated in Moson County and lies only 7 kilometres from the Austrian border on the main railway line in close proximity to Strasssommerein and Kaltenstein (now known as Hegyshalom and Level).

 

  For centuries the region was known as the Heideboden by its inhabitants who were descendants of German-speaking colonists who first cultivated the grasslands and moors that covered the area.  They were later joined by Croatian refugees at the time of the Turkish invasions and conquest of Hungary along with one Hungarian village in the vicinity of Strasssommerein.  As a result of the Treaty of Trianon in 1919 following the First World War the western portions of the Heideboden became part of the Burgenland in Austria and the eastern section remained as part of Hungary.

 

  Many of the villages of the Heideboden were destroyed during the Turkish raids and military campaigns in the area.  In all likelihood most of them had earlier been built on previous Roman sites.  Zanegg has existed as a community for over one thousand years.  During the Middle Ages it was identified as a German-speaking village.  The name first appears in 1546 as an Urbarial village of the Habsburg Domain at Ungarisch Altenburg, this document provides information on the contractual relationship the peasants had with their noble landlord.

 

  The earliest identifiable population living in the area were the Celts who were followed by the Romans, Germanic tribes like the East Goths, and then came the Huns, the Lombards, the Avars, and the Franks under the leadership of Charlemagne who settled Franconian and Bavarian colonists in the area.  They were followed by the rampaging mounted nomadic Magyar tribes.  Through the efforts of Stephen I, the first Christian King of Hungary, a massive German immigration into the Heideboden followed under his direction.  The next to appear on the scene were the Slavs followed by the Turks.  Zanegg was probably settled during the reign of Stephen I (997-1038).

 

  An ancient church that is some eight hundred years old still stands but unlike the church in Kaltenstein it was not meant to serve a monastic community.  It is also associated with Queen Maria of Hungary at a later date.  It was badly damaged in 1707 during an attack by the Kuruz rebels and the tower had to be totally replaced.

 

  When the Turks first lay siege to Vienna in 1530 they passed through the Heideboden and destroyed most of the settlements and took a major portion of the population back to Turkey as slaves.  Although the Heideboden would be held by the Habsburgs during the Turkish 150 year occupation of Hungary it was always in danger of raids and scattered attacks until it was overrun a second time when they marched on Vienna in 1683.

 

  As a result of the first Turkish assault on Zanegg in 1529 only twelve houses were left standing, while thirty-two houses were burned or destroyed and only a few inhabitants continued to live there according to a report in 1532 written to the steward of the Domain of Ungarisch Altenburg.  After defeating the Hungarian army at Mohács in 1529 the Turkish army of 300,000 was set loose and cut a swath of destruction to the West and overran Hungary.  In September they entered the Heideboden and plundered, murdered and put it to the torch.  They did not run into any opposition anywhere.  The Austrian military forces at Ungarisch Altenburg retreated to support the coming siege of Vienna.  The population of the Heideboden fled to the islands in the Neusiedler See, Austria and further West.  Most of those who remained behind in their communities were massacred.

 

  As the frustrated and unsuccessful Turks ended the siege of Vienna they returned to Hungary passing through the Heideboden again and created havoc throughout the area and destroyed anything and everything they had missed on their former rampage.  No place and no one were spared.

 

  Eventually some of the bravest former inhabitants returned or came out of hiding in the forests and swamps and began to rebuild.  Most of the larger settlements were reclaimed while the smaller villages reverted to wilderness.  The Domain of Ungarisch Altenburg listed nine such destroyed villages all of which were a few kilometres from Zanegg.  By 1532 there were perhaps up to fifty people living in Zanegg.  Some of them had survived the ravages of the Turks while others came there who could not return to their former farms and sought a sense of security in “larger” Zanegg.  It is not known what happened to the rest of the population.

 

  The family names listed in the Urbarial List of 1546 were still common in Zanegg in 1946 when the entire population was deported.  Included among them were the Zechmeisters whose origins had been in Bavaria centuries before.  There was a gradual increase in the population and numerous houses were built or repaired.  The new homes were always built on the site of ruined homes.

 

  During the 150 years of Turkish occupation that followed, the people of the Heideboden lived in constant uncertainty.  Turkish raiders and marauders were always on the prowl and attacked the frontier settlements.  In 1594 the Turks took the fortress of Raab, a Habsburg defensive position in the area and would hold it for four years.  That meant constant danger to the Heideboden and its single fortress at Ungarisch Altenburg.  The Hungarian Prince of Transylvania took over Slovakia and other Hungarian nobles joined them in an attack on Vienna and the Heideboden was ravaged in the process.  The rebel forces had both Turkish and French support.  As a result the Austrians had to reinforce their troops in Ungarisch Altenburg.  The local populations had to support the soldiers who were quartered in their homes.  This led to numerous confrontations with the troops.  In 1619 and 1620 countless homes in Zanegg were put to the torch by the soldiers from Ungarisch Altenburg.  The peasant farmers in Zanegg as well as all of the neighbouring villages had gone over to Lutheranism in the early 16the century although the Habsburgs remained staunchly Roman Catholic and opposed the new faith and used their power and influence to eradicate it as quickly as possible.  The inhabitants of Zanegg like their neighbours throughout the Heideboden refused to convert despite the pressure exerted against them by the military commander of the fortress in Ungarisch Altenburg and the bishop of Raab.  It was only in 1670 when the Decade of Sorrows began that they appeared to have given up their Lutheran faith at the height of the persecution that history would call the final phase of the Counter Reformation in Hungary.

 

  Because of all of these difficulties there was little growth in population or development of the land.  Despite of all of these factors by 1659 Zanegg had between 600-800 inhabitants.  The vast majority of them claimed to be Lutherans but there were already 300 Roman Catholics in the area who had been “forcibly converted”.

 

  The new attack unleashed against Vienna in 1683 led to a new Turkish threat throughout the Heideboden.  Three hundred thousand Turks under Mohammed IV and the Grand Vizer, Kara Mustapha rampaged their way across the Heideboden.  On July 1st the Turks were at the gates of nearby Raab and by July 2nd they were at Ungarisch Altenburg.  The Imperial Army retreated to defend Vienna.  The hordes of Turks burned down houses; destroyed the ripening crops in the field; massacred the population in such gruesome ways that the chroniclers did not want to pass on the precise information to future generations because of the brutality.  They spread fear and destruction everywhere.

 

  At Vienna the Turks met their match and fled for their lives as the forces of Europe raised the siege.  The victorious Imperial Army was hot on their trail and in 1686 they liberated Buda.  This led to the end of the Turkish threat to the Heideboden.  Zanegg was only slightly damaged unlike other villages in the area.  In the census of 1696 during the canonical visitation by the Bishop of Raab’s emissaries there was a population of 900 in Zanegg making it the largest surviving community in the area.  Moson claimed a population of 561; the twin villages of St. Peter-St. John had 517 inhabitants and the population of Strasssommerein was listed as 631 persons.

 

  By 1700 Zanegg was considered to be a prosperous village.  Fortunately it had not been on the main road to Vienna and the population had learned how to cope with the Turks and defend themselves.  The tower of the church was actually a small fortress and the wall around the cemetery was used as a defensive position by the local population.

 

  During the period from the 16th to the 19th century one of the only industries besides agriculture in which the inhabitants of Zanegg engaged was the processing of salt peter needed in the production of gun powder.  With all of the wars going on at the time it was essential to process and protect the sources.

 

  As the 18th century dawned now that the Turks were no longer a constant threat to the Heideboden a new menace emerged that created even more damage and destruction than the Moslem hordes had inflicted upon the communities.

 

  There were still many among the Hungarian nobility who did not recognize the Habsburgs as legitimate kings of Hungary.  The Princes of Transylvania were forever taking over Upper Hungary (Slovakia) and even threatened Vienna itself.  Emperor Leopold established a centralized form of government over the newly liberated areas of Hungary and placed Germans in control.  This led to the uprising of the Hungarian nobles who called their forces the Cruciati…the cross bearers of the holy cause of Hungary.  The common people called them Kuruzen and their Imperial foes were the Labanzen.

 

  Because the Habsburgs were involved in the War of the Spanish Succession against France (1701-1714) the commander of the Kuruzen, Francis Rákoczy used that to good advantage in the timing of the insurrection.  His hordes of peasants created chaos and panic throughout Western Hungary and Lower Austria from 1703-1708.  Arson, plundering and robbery were the order of the day for his rampaging forces.

 

  On December 19, 1707 the Kuruzen under Commander Adam Balogh fell upon Zanegg.  At the time the Imperial forces were in winter quarters in Zanegg under Field Marshal Johann Count Palffy a subordinate of General Count Draskovitch.  The Kuruzen raiders took the Imperial forces by surprise.  The Croatian cavalry fled to Neusiedl without offering any resistance.  The Croatian infantry took up positions behind the wall enclosing the cemetery.  The Kuruzen quickly occupied the village and plundered the homes and then put them to the torch.  Then they disappeared to the east, the direction from which they had come.  They drove the cattle ahead of them and many prisoners including the Croatian army band they took along to entertain them.

 

  Peace in the area only came in 1711 when Rákoczy went into Turkish exile.

 

  The rest of the 18th century brought peace and prosperity as well as a renewed development of the Heideboden.  Maria Theresia purchased the Domains of Ungarisch Altenburg for her daughter, Baroness Maria Christina in 1763 and it would remain in the hands of the Habsburgs until 1945.

 

  Early in the 18th century there was movement out of the Heideboden to the south in Tolna County which had been opened to settlement and some of the families in Zanegg joined the migration and most of them settled in Bikács and Györköny.  Like the others from the Heideboden who settled there they declared themselves to be Lutherans once more, having secretly practiced their faith for over several generations while outwardly conforming to the dictates of Roman Catholicism.  When the Edict of Toleration was passed later in the 18th century it was too late to have any effect in Zanegg because the Lutheran leadership had left unlike several neighbouring communities where Lutheran congregations once again emerged.  Some families again left Zanegg and took up residence in those villages where the Lutherans had once again surfaced and formed congregations.

 

  Napoleon took Vienna in 1805 and later in 1809 his forces crossed into the Heideboden and took the fortress of Raab.  The fortress at Ungarisch Altenburg was occupied by the French for half a year and the surrounding villages had to provide supplies and food to the garrison.  Plundering and robbery were the order of the day and now the French added their own added debasement of the population:  rape.  The French left a terrible reputation behind them.  They finally left the Heideboden in 1809 following the Peace of Pressburg.  It would take years for the region to recover.

 

  When the Revolution of 1848 broke out, although Moson County was three quarters German-speaking the population sided with the liberal reformers on the basis of their social objectives of liberty, human rights and the emancipation of the serfs and opposed the Vienna government.  They were more in tune with the students and workers in Vienna and Ungarisch Alternburg than the events in far off Budapest.

 

  The peasant farmers in the Heideboden wanted to throw off the yoke of their oppressive nobles.  They wanted to own their own land they paid for and worked for generations.  The farmers in Neusiedl and Weiden rose up against their nobles in May of 1848 and attacked their manor houses and sent them packing to Vienna.  Uprisings also took place in Frauenkirchen and Parndorf.  In St. Johann’s the farmers sabotaged the noble’s brickyards where they were forced to work.

 

  Louis Kossuth who stood at the head of the Hungarian reform movement was often described as a radical and demagogue of Slovak origin and like all Magyaronen (Magyar lovers) he tried to be more Hungarian than the Hungarians.  He had a dream of a Greater Hungary.  Thousands answered his call to the struggle for freedom and liberty.  His revolutionary army fought the Imperial troops but the south Slavs (Croats and Serbs) and the Transylvanians opposed his great plan.  The Ban (Governor) of Croatia, Jelacic took command of the Imperial forces and invaded Hungary to destroy the rebels.  On October 5, 1848 he established his headquarters at Ungarisch Altenburg and his much hated Croatian troops roamed across Moson County and demanding and requisitioning supplies.  When news of a new student uprising in Vienna reached him he went to the rescue with his Croatian troops.  Kossuth came from the south to support the Viennese rebels and called for volunteers in Moson County to join the Honvéd (the newly constituted national army of Hungary) but here he downplayed his Hungarian nationalist themes in favour of liberty, equality and fraternity and his ten thousand man force was welcomed in Ungarisch Altenburg and students and farmers from the Heideboden joined his newly established volunteer army.  A group of young men from Zanegg led by Paul Zwickl, son of the village Richter (an elected official) joined them.  These men were involved in the battle at Schwechat with only two rifles among them; the rest had shovels, scythes and other farm tools as weapons.  Bombarded by artillery the force was dispersed and the men fled back home in disorder.

 

  On November 1st the uprising was put down in Vienna and Kossuth’s troops were driven back into Hungary.  On December 24th the Imperial troops entered Ungarisch Altenburg and by January 5th the Imperial Army occupied both Buda and Pest.  With Russian support the Habsburg Emperor defeated the rebellion and Hungary was placed under martial law and the long slow struggle between the Habsburgs and the Hungarians continued until finally reaching a Compromise in 1867 that gave birth to the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary, one of the major Great Powers in Europe.  As the First World War began the Dual Monarchy was already on the brink of destruction.

 

  In August 1914 all men 20-45 years of age were called up into the army.  On Sunday afternoon following mass their final farewells were said after many of them had made their confession and communed.  During mass, the chaplain of the Moson Regiment, Julius Fehervari encouraged the men with soul searching words to defend the Fatherland; the village band accompanied the men on their way to the railway station.  Many would never return while others would spend years as prisoners of war.  Over five hundred were conscripted in the immediate area.  Some served in the Honvéd, while others were in German-speaking units.  The men from Zanegg served in Serbia, at Lemberg/Przempysl in Galicia and the Carpathian Mountain front.  In 1917 some of them were on the Italian front at the battle of Piave and Isonzo.  When war ended, 88 men had been killed in action; 35 were missing in action and 97 were prisoners of war mostly in Russia.

 

  Later in 1919 as many of the prisoners of war started returning from Russia they became leaders of the local soviets (Communist party units) in the villages of the Heideboden.  They formed a local government in Zanegg; most of them were from among the poorer families and many of their children and grandchildren would be the leading Bund (National Socialists = Nazi) members and volunteers in the Waffen-SS only twenty years later.  It was an irony of history that was repeated in countless villages.

 

  When the Heideboden was divided between Austria and Hungary following the First World War, about 25,000 of the inhabitants remained in Hungary the majority of the German-speaking population now more familiarly known as the Heidebauern.  Unlike other areas in Western Hungary that became part of Austria there was no referendum held in the Heideboden because the Hungarians knew that the population would vote to join the Burgenland in Austria along with the western Heideboden.  It was the officials and the Roman Catholic clergy who preferred to remain in Hungary.  As a result of the new borders Zanegg was cut off from its former markets and faced the great economic depression that was just around the corner.  There were many who sought employment in Austria while others made their living as smugglers.

 

  The interwar years followed.  Dr. Jacob Bleyer is the man who would play a leading role in what would influence all that was to follow.  He sought to preserve the village culture and mother language of the various German-speaking communities in what remained of Hungary after the First World War.  For that purpose he founded the   Ungarnländischen Deutsche Volksbildingsverein (UDV).  (The Germans of Hungary Folk Education Union)

 

  A local chapter of the UDV was established in Zanegg in 1925.  All of the members were farmers.  By 1933-1934 the total membership in Hungary was 27,517.  The leaders and organization was mistrusted by the Hungarian government and their local officials.  The Hungarian nationalists saw them as the enemy referring to the movement as Pan Germanism as they put it without ever explaining what they meant.  The gradual assimilation of the children of the German-speaking population was imminent everywhere as a result of the government take over of the German schools.  The UDV would attempt to reverse this process as much as possible within the framework of also being loyal citizens of Hungary.

 

  A radical change in climate in terms of the “nationalities question” came with the German annexation of Austria in March 1938.  Germany was in need of food products and cattle which Hungary supplied and prices increased to the advantage of the farmers.  The coming war was good for them at first until prices were fixed by the government.  In their concern about German-speaking populations living close to the borders of Greater Germany or the so-called Third Reich made Hungarian officials nervous and for that reason they began a settlement programme in the Heideboden bringing in settlers from eastern Hungary and establishing communities on the sites of former settlements.

 

  Hungarian assimilation policies met Hitlerism in a head-on collision in Zanegg.  The villagers took sides and a bitter conflict broke out with the formation of a rival organization to the UDV, the so-called Volksbundes Der Deutschen in Ungarn (The Folk Union of the Germans in Hungary) under the leadership of Franz Basch.  Their opponents were just as determined to maintain their language and heritage but refused to accept Hitlerism that had wormed its way into the policies and programmes of the Bund by which it would be known in the future.

 

  Many members of the Bleyer organization went over to the Bund.  It was not clear or obvious at first that the Bund was in fact “the lengthened arm of Hitler” to speak for all the German-speaking people of Hungary.  The local group was organized on June 30, 1940.  How many members there were is not certain, although in 1941 they claimed over one thousand members in the area including all family members.  Actually those who signed on the dotted line were fewer and those who were active in the organization even fewer.

 

  The vast majority of the members of the Bund were from the poorest classes.  Their number one reason for joining was to better their social and material standing.  Rather than being German nationalists, what attracted them were the social issues of Nazism.  The socially outcast women found position and status in the singing groups and other functions carried out at the local Bund hall.  The male leadership, the so-called Fuhrers were worshipped by these socially displaced women.

 

  The Bund was also attractive to others indirectly because of the results of Hungarian government policy and the attitudes of Hungarian society.  In the 1930s the social policies of Hungary were retrogressive and led to economic stagnation.  The non-Hungarian rural population which included almost everyone in Zanegg were looked down upon by Hungarian society as uncouth, primitive and backward.  There was a great deal of animosity created with the arrival of Hungarian settlers in the area and their take over of land to which the Germans were not entitled.

 

   The clever propaganda of the Nazis was directed to the hopes and dissatisfactions of the German people and brought them on board to their way of thinking.  Hitler was portrayed as the “saviour” of the German people.  Emotion was placed above reason.  Their uniforms, radio programmes and newspaper attracted people.  It was the youth who were most impressionable and were the most responsive.

 

  Most of the public officials in Zanegg in 1940 were Hungarians who understood German but only spoke to the population in Hungarian.  Some were not extreme nationalists but others like the vice-notary Marko were fanatics.  His stock and trade was the chauvinist nationalist motto:  “Whoever eats Hungarian bread should speak Hungarian!”  The teachers in the village school were more proficient in Hungarian than they were in German.  The local priest, however, preached and prayed in German until the Russian occupation in 1945.

 

  The majority of the villagers in Zanegg remained neutral between the two nationalist movements.  They turned their backs on both and focussed upon family, daily work and the religious life.  The world situation was outside their concerns or life experience.  They simply wanted to be what they had always been.  Almost all of the population identified themselves as Germans in terms of their nationality and mother tongue in the census of 1941.  That was their self-understanding after a thousand years in the Heideboden.  Of the 3,171 inhabitants 83% claimed to be German but that figure included the new Hungarian enclaves in the area whose population numbered five hundred.  In Zanegg itself, 97% were German.

 

  Few of the farms were owned by members of the Bund and many of the farm labourers were not members either.  The Bund members called their opponents:  Englishmen and they in turn called them:  Hitlerites.

 

  The reason for their opposition to the Bund was centred on a few factors.  The farmers and landowners were suspicious of anything that sounded like socialism.  (The actual name for the Nazi Party in Germany was the National Socialist German Workers Party that gave birth to the name Nazi).  There was also the vehement anti-church stance of the Bund.  They held their gatherings on Sunday morning at the same time as church services were being held.  The arrogant and brash behaviour and attitudes of the youth leaders offended the older conservative farmers.  Both the Social Democrats and Communists in Zanegg were opposed to the Bund.

 

  This simple, non political population was a football kicked around between the two strident nationalist groups vying for supremacy.  As a result from 1938-1943 the men of Zanegg were drafted into the Hungarian Army but in 1944 they were conscripted into the German Army.  Men from 21 to 35 years of age served in the Hungarian Army from 1938-1941 when Hungary regained some of its lost territories in an accommodation with Hitler.  The same men again served in the Second Hungarian Army in Ukraine in 1942-1943.  The vast majority of this army were German Hungarians.  Nineteen men from Zanegg fell at Voronezh in February 13/14 in 1943 in the opening onslaught that led to the surrender and disaster at Stalingrad.  Those who survived serving on the Russian front and returned home found themselves in the Waffen-SS in 1944 as a result of an agreement between the Hungarian government and Hitler.

 

  During the Second World War, Hitler needed soldiers more than anything else.  Because the Germans of Hungary were not citizens of the Reich they could not join the German Wehrmacht (Army) and were eligible only for the Waffen-SS.  As a result of the Accord with the Hungarian state, recruiters from the Bund were successful in finding thirty young men in Zanegg to volunteer to serve in the Waffen-SS in the spring of 1942.  A second recruitment was carried out June 20, 1943 resulting in thirty more volunteers who had been addressed by the Bund leadership.  These volunteers served from Finland to France and Russia and the casualties among them were heavy.

 

  These volunteers by and large were young men from the poorer families.  Only a handful of them came from landowning families.  The reasons behind their choice were varied.  Some sought to escape the destiny of their fathers as hired hands and farm labourers.  For others it was a sense of adventure.  There were others who knew that they would be called up into the Hungarian army where they would be discriminated against because they were German and would simply be used as canon fodder.  While on the other hand the propaganda that was used was so effective that they did not even discuss the matter with their families before joining.  They really had no understanding of the political implications of their actions or the possible results.  The majority of them were not fanatics but were simply caught up in something beyond their comprehension.

 

  On April 14, 1944 an agreement was signed between Hungary and the Third Reich that committed all German living in Hungary of military age to be conscripted into the Waffen-SS and were destined to be canon fodder as they had always feared.  The Hungarian nationalists were glad to hand them over to the Germans; the less of them that were around, the better, as one of them put it.

 

  The Hungarian officials ordered the men in Zanegg to register for recruitment at the school on July 11, 1944.  Some of the men stated that they preferred to join the Hungarian Army but were refused that option.  The County administrators assigned all of the men in Zanegg to the SS and handed them over to them.  All of the men in Zanegg were at home except for those born in 1920, 1921 and 1922 serving in the Hungarian Army and those who had volunteered to serve in the SS.  Within two weeks approximately five hundred men born in 1894 up to 1927 were drafted into the SS.  That meant youth from 17 years of age to men who were fifty.  By November and December all of them were serving on the front lines.  One hundred of them fought at the battle of Budapest where twenty-five of them lost their lives.  Three of them were taken prisoner by the Russians and were released only eight years later after also serving in the labour camp at Tiszalok in Hungary and were then able to rejoin their families who had been deported to Germany.

 

  The men who were forced into the Waffen-SS were treated like the feared SS who never saw front line duty but did the dirty work of Hitler and his henchmen.  In the prisoner of war camps they were segregated from the other prisoners.  They were treated badly in the Soviet Union and were kept in captivity much longer than the other prisoners.  The tattoo under their arm gave them away and they were lumped in with the others. 

 

  After they were released in Russia and returned to Hungary they were put in a labour camp at Tiszalok from 1950-1953.  Many of them were from the youngest age group who had been born in 1926 and 1928 and had been sixteen to eighteen years old at the time.  All of the Waffen-SS conscripts were interned in Hungary at Ungarisch Altenburg and Raab until they could join the deportation with their families.  They were charged and treated as traitors to their Hungarian Fatherland.

 

  During the Second World War, one hundred and forty-five men from Zanegg were killed in action.  There were also twenty-five civilian deaths as a result of bombings, molestation and beating, explosions and shootings.  One out of four of the seven hundred men who served in the military died.

 

 In the last weeks of March 1945 refugee columns were streaming westwards.  Refugees from Transylvania, Yugoslavia and southern Hungary that had wintered in Zanegg had already left.  The Hungarian troops in the area simply waited for the end of the war and most disappeared.  German soldiers were quartered in the houses of the villagers and either deserted or prepared for the last stand as the frontlines moved into the area very quickly after the fall of Budapest.

 

  In the second last week of March the population of Zanegg were encouraged to flee.  Only 5% of the population responded mostly officials and Bund functionaries and families with young daughters.

 

  Some left by ship from Ragendorf and travelled up the Danube to Passau.  Others left by wagon and German military vehicles for Austria.  Despite their fear the people of Zanegg had about the onrushing Red Army they were not prepared to leave their homes and take to the road.  They would take their chances and remain.

 

  At the end of March 1945 the Germans established a defensive line between Ungarisch Altenburg and Raab (Györ) to protect the main highway and rail lines from Budapest to Vienna.  But the Russians moved quickly to the south and took Sopron and Raab.  On April 1, 1945 the first Russians approached Zanegg.  The first of them arrived on foot or in horse drawn wagons.  They got fresh horses, threw grenades at several houses and left the way they came.  The German troops saw that they were in danger of being cut off from the highway to Moson.  German tanks moved out to clear the Russians out of the area and reached the highway to St. Johann and Moson but made only limited gains.  The Russians were waiting for them and eleven of the tanks were destroyed along the road.

 

  The Germans regrouped in Zanegg and the Russians launched a heavy attack on the village.  Aircraft strafed the village and artillery was brought up.  The village went up in flames and created a ghastly smoke screen.  This was between 16:00 and 18:00 hours.  At 18:00 hours the first Russian troops coming from the direction of St. Johann to the south arrived in Zanegg.  Shortly before their arrival the German troops had moved out to the north-west towards Strasssommerein.  For a short time it was very quiet.  Scouts entered the village and when the villagers assured them that the Germans were gone, massive numbers of troops streamed in following a blast of the whistles blown by the scouts.  There was no more gun fire.  The greatest suffering the village would endure would come in the days that would follow.

 

  The women had the worst to endure as the Russians occupied the village.  The frontline troops were disciplined and created no problems during the first night.  But the reserve troops who came to replace them went wild.  During the second night despite warnings on the part of the village elders, women felt secure after the first night’s experience and very few went into hiding and the Russian troops raped numerous women, some girls as young as 12 years of age and older women who were over 60.  The women sought safety in the wine cellars, haylofts, barns and fields but were caught and violated by the armed troopers.  Nor was there safety in numbers.  The men had all gone off to war, the few who had managed to return home had gone into hiding so that they would not be taken to Russia.  As a result younger women were hidden in attics for weeks or in closets hidden behind false walls hastily erected.  There was no place of safety available in the light of day either.  They were like hunted animals and lived in constant terror.  The troops took all of the food and drink that was available and their capacity for wine was insatiable.

 

  Fear and terror reigned in Zanegg at the hands of the Russians who saw themselves as avengers.  When the deportations began in 1946 many of the women were terrified of being sent to Russia.

 

  With the Potsdam Declaration in place the Hungarian plan to “cleanse” the Heideboden and bring in more Magyar settlers that had first begun in 1938-1939 could now be carried out and done so even legally.  This racist policy and inhumanity was already on the agenda of the County Administration.  An article appeared in the local newspaper on August 1, 1945:  “25,000 Swabians will be expelled from our County.  From among the twenty-eight communities in the County, fourteen of them are entirely Swabian by mother tongue.  They number about 25,000 and are marked for deportation.  The first objective of this expulsion of the Swabians from Hungary is to make the western frontier purely Hungarian in population.”

 

  The reason given for the expulsion was not the guilt of the Swabians but the goal of the Hungarian government to Magyarize the western border areas.  Human rights and the legality of their actions had no place in their thinking.

 

  Four weeks after the Potsdam Conference was over, Zanegg became the assembly camp for all of the German speaking population in the County.  The inmates called it the “Zanegg Ghetto.”  At the end of August the first to arrive were the inhabitants of Kaltenstein (Level).  Without any distinctions being made all Germans were thrown out of their houses.  They were loaded on wagons with a few personal effects and were taken to Zanegg and divided up in the homes of the villagers.  This first act of course was illegal.  It was only on December 22, 1945 that the official decree was passed in parliament.  The nationalists were in hurry and had no time or concern for such niceties.  In September the population of Maria-Gahling/Kalnók were brought to Zanegg and during the winter portions of the population of Ungarisch-Kimling, Ragendorf, Karlburg, Strasssommerein, St. Johann-St. Peter as well as Moson were brought there as well.

 

  During the winter of 1945-1946 the houses in Zanegg were stuffed with people.  In some houses there were three extended families.  In the large farm houses there were hundreds of policemen and the officials who would carry out the expulsion and deportation.  The food supplies of the villagers became sparser all the time.  Heating was very limited.  The long wait, the uncertainty, terrified the people who were mostly the aged, women and children.

 

  The people of Zanegg had it somewhat easier.  They were still in their own homes.  In spite of the confiscation and requisitioning of their property they still had their vegetables and livestock and fowl.  Even though they assisted the others their own condition was better.  But they were easily manipulated by the local Communists and officials.  The men of Zanegg who managed to get home after the war ended were easily apprehended and dragged off to slave labour in Ungarisch Altenburg and Raab.  Some of the men fled across the border into nearby Austria.

 

  The Germans imprisoned in Zanegg were subjected to more and more repression.  Even old men were forced to do compulsory labour, to work on roads or out in the fields.  On many occasions they were mistreated, abused and beaten.  The worst abusers were the Hungarian police.

 

  During the last weeks prior to the deportation the village was totally sealed off from the outside world.  A pass was needed to leave.  Police were everywhere.  The chief of police was known as Acel meaning steel like the Russian word Stalin.  He had an immense hatred for the Germans.

 

  Most of the population refused to believe that they would actually be deported.  Especially those who had not joined the Bund, opposed it or had claimed Hungarian nationality at the time of the census in 1941.  But the coalition of Hungarian nationalists who governed Hungary wanted to cleanse the western border areas of Germans and the Communists wanted the houses and land for the proletariat and unlike the situation in the rest of Hungary the entire German-speaking population of the Heideboden was to be expelled.  A priest born in Zanegg was invited home to preach in the church for three evenings to prepare the people to leave.  He preached his final sermon on “black” Sunday (Passion Sunday) and said his final farewell to a weeping congregation.  While there were others who were simply relieved that it was finally going to be over.

 

  On April 7, 1946 the list of deportees was listed at the community centre.  The people were ordered to check the list for their names and prepare to leave.  According to the official deportation order all persons whose mother tongue was listed as German in 1941 were to be expelled.  The farmers who had listed themselves as Hungarian were also on the list because their property was needed.  Only those with powerful friends or influence could avoid the deportation.  The only exceptions were older persons who were sick or bedridden and numbered three families.

 

  The people packed bedding and clothes and gathered whatever food they could find to take with them.  Some women made large quantities of soup for the journey.  Each person was allowed fifty kilograms of goods.  Small personal keepsakes, china, etc were hidden or buried in the hope of coming back some day.  Beginning in February 1946 many deportation trains from the area around Budapest had passed through Zanegg and had been closely observed by the German population.  Some of these long columns of cattle cars had remained on the siding for a day or two.  Some Zanegg inhabitants spoke to the expellees and asked what was going on.  They told them to take the soup and little ladders to help older people and children to get in and out of the cattle cars.

 

  There were to be four transports of deportees from the Zanegg “camp” in April 1946.

 

  The first transport left on April 12th in the afternoon heading for Strasssommerein and   Nickelsdorf on the Hungarian Austrian border and by the 18th they were in the American Zone of Germany.  It was the day before Good Friday and the people were divided up among the various villages around Mosbach.  They were accompanied by ten Hungarian police officers but no doctor as had been ordered.

 

  The second transport was loaded up on Saturday, April 13th.  They left on Palm Sunday at about 2:00 hours in the morning.  They crossed the border at Sopron.  They were accompanied by Hungarian police and two American soldiers.

 

  The third transport left on April 17th at 18:00 hours and took the same route to Sopron.  They arrived in Ulm on Easter Monday.  Hungarian police and two American soldiers accompanied them.  Some of the young boys fought and quarrelled with the Hungarian police to get some of the personal possessions the police had taken away from the deportees.  The local priest and teacher had said farewell to each cattle car load of people and their dogs sat there howling as their owners left.

 

  The fourth transport was boarded on Maunday Thursday and left on Good Friday at 13:30 hours.  They also headed towards Sopron.  In Austria at one of the stops two little girls from Ragendorf could not get back on the train and were left behind.  The father got off the train in Linz and returned and a railway worker had taken the children in overnight.

   In a relatively short period of time, the better part of a week, the Zanegg Ghetto was emptied.  The deportations in St. Johann-St. Peter were carried out next.  By June 1946 the entire German population of the Heideboden had been deported.  The goal to Magyarize the Heideboden after one thousand years was finally achieved.

2 Responses to “ Zanegg in the Heideboden ”

  1. Jennifer Kuntner says:

    My father Max Kuntner died recently, 8th Jan 2012. I have found his birth certificate. He was born in Zanegg/Ungarn 16/2/1927. I wanted to know more about his early life and have read this article. He did not tell me very much and the information I found in the article has helped me gain a better understanding of what my family went through.
    I would be very grateful if anyone has any more information.

  2. Uwe Kretz/Kuntner/Graf says:

    My mother Theresia Kretz born Graf (1. May 1936) came in 1947 from Zanegg to Mosbach. It. was a touching experience to read the article and think all that she had to go through as a small child. Sadly she died a long time ago on the 10. of august 1993, but she will keep on living in our hearts. She was the sister of Max Kuntner cited in the message above. Greetings to Jennifer from his cousin Uwe.

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