This article is my attempt to summarize the salient points raised in Anton Scherer’s study published in German in Graz, Austria in 1990 under the title “Unbekannte SS-Geheimberichte Űber die Evakuierung der Südostdeutschen im Oktober und November 1944 Sowie Űber die Politische Lage in Rumänien, Ungarn, der Slovakei, im Serbischen Banat und im “Unabhänigen Staat Kroatien.” 

  These secret SS reports have come to light after the official history of the war has been concluded and were issued in the months of October and November 1944 by the headquarters of the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle the so-called VOMI.  (This special section   was established by Heinrich Himmler to deal with all issues related to the ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe under the auspices of the SS.)  The author was Section Head Schwarz addressing matters dealing with the evacuation of ethnic Germans in South Eastern Europe in October and November 1944 in light of the political situations in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, the Serbian Banat and the “Independent” State of Croatia.

 

  As a result of the successful military offensive of the Soviet Union that led to the retreat of German forces from Russia, Romania changed sides on August 23, 1944 and the former Axis ally became an enemy overnight and as a result the Transylvania Saxons in the southern portion of Transylvania could not be evacuated in any kind of planned or systematic action.  Indirectly, as a result of a failure in military planning and local follow through it was also to be true for the Danube Swabian population in the Banat, both in Yugoslavia and Romania.

 

  Hitler hesitated to evacuate the German civilian populations because he anticipated a coordinated British and Russian attack in the Bosphorus Straights.  In addition, there were also gaps and overlaps in terms of the responsibilities of various Reich officials and commissions, so that not only were the evacuation staff headquarters of the VOMI set up far too late but the task given to them was perhaps more than they could handle and certainly beyond their competency.  There were also different points of view on the part of the Bund (Folk Group organization) leadership in Gross Betscherek (Sepp Janko) for the Yugoslavian Banat and in Budapest (Franz Basch) for Hungary and Berlin.

 

  Naturally we do not find any report with direct instructions to address the partial failures of the VOMI.  But we do get an overview of the course taken in the evacuation and discover a wealth of facts and numbers that reveals more than at first appears.

 

  It is a well known fact that during a speech on October 6, 1939 Hitler had indicated that he planned on the “return” of the Volksdeutsche (Germans living outside of Germany) from eastern and southern Europe back to the Reich.  This, however, was not well known among the Germans living in south-eastern Europe.  Hitler, however, never made any concrete plans to effect it.  The rather thoughtless and hasty announcement by Hitler created ever widening diplomatic repercussions.  The newspapers of the Volkdsdeutche organizations did not even mention it and the various Bund Führers went into a state of shock and kept the news from the ethnic German populations of south east Europe because they were a farming people rooted to the land and the news would have created great unrest among the Danube Swabian populations.  They would never have battled and struggled for a cause under Hitler that would have taken them away from their centuries’ old homeland.

 

   The ethnic Germans of Bessarabia and the north Bukovina were not handed over to Stalin following the non-Aggression Pact Hitler signed with Russia.  The same was also true of the German population in the Dobrudscha.

 

  The German ambassador in Belgrade, Victor von Heeren (August 2, 1941); Dietrich von Jagow in Budapest (February 17, 1943); Manfred von Killinger in Bucharest (March 20, 1943) had to contradict the idea of a resettlement of the Germans living in south east Europe as announced by Hitler, at least for the duration of the war on the basis of official Nazi foreign policy.  The resettlement of the three groups mentioned previously resulted in economic setbacks in terms of the countries involved as well as the German war effort.  The Führer of the Bund in Hungary, Franz Basch as well as his colleagues in Esseg Branimir Altgayer, Sepp Janko in Grossbetschek and Andreas Schmidt in Kronstadt were all opposed to a resettlement.  Basch eventually agreed to the emigration of the landless workers to labour in the Reich.

 

  The Bund in Yugoslavian Banat and Serbia attempted to resettle only the endangered scattered German colonies in Serbia that numbered 2,577 persons and also attempted to build their own strong independent leadership for themselves and their organization so that at the time of the end of a successful war when the Serbian Banat would be annexed by Hungary the Bund could maintain its power in terms of its jurisdiction over the German population and its aspirations.

 

  At first, the ethnic Germans served in the armies of Germany’s allies.  Later there were ethnic German volunteers who served in German units and the Waffen-SS; then on Himmler’s orders the Bund organized the forced conscriptions of men in various age groups into the German military and lastly all ethnic German men were included in the signed agreements between the Reich and its allies.  But these men would not experience their service in the Reich armies and their cause as payment for the reward of Reich citizenship but as a punishment in the end.

   Transylvania 

  Following the capitulation of Romania on August 23, 1944 the fate and destiny of the Saxons in southern Transylvania as was well as the Danube Swabians in both Serbian and Romanian Banat were sealed.   The Red Amry drove the Germans into retreat. The tanks of the 6th Soviet Army reached the Iron Gate on the Danube at Turnu Severin

 

  The German embassy in Bucharest and the commanders of the German army were taken totally by surprise with regard to the Romanian turnabout against their former ally but an orderly evacuation of the Saxons in northern Transylvania was still possible.

 

  The SS-General Artur Phelps (a Transylvania Saxon) and the Bund Führer, Andreas Schmidt, published and distributed leaflets calling upon the Saxon population of Romania not to flee because Berlin was taking measures to defend them.  The Reich government quickly changed its stance.  They approached the new Romanian government requesting the opening of a transit corridor for the evacuation of the Saxon population of southern Transylvania but to no avail.  The Saxon farming population did not want to leave voluntarily and leave everything behind and had to be forced by the military to agree to flee.  As a result because of the lack of a corridor many regions and districts of southern Transylvania had no possibility of being evacuated and only 3,000 were successful in escaping.

 

  Dr. Hans Otto Roth, one of the leading politicians and functionaries of the Nazi Bund wrote an article in the SiebenburgischDeutsches Tageblatt (Transylvania German Daily News) published in Sibiu (Hermannstadt) in which he wrote:  “Do not leave your farm or work place but remain strong and calm.”

 

  General Phelps encouraged the arrest of his countrymen, Dr. Hans Otto Roth, who he accused of holding a “communist friendly” stance along with his supporters because they sought to prevent and hinder the evacuation of the Saxon population when it was no longer possible to save the entire German population of Romania.  The German diplomat, Reichel stationed at the embassy spoke against it in his report of September 20, 1944.  He charged that the Reich did not want to make war on those people who quickly sought to defend the German population which now found itself in a very difficult situation but to stand by for the reoccupation of Romania by the German army.  Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop supported this view as well.  This so-called “communist friendly” Dr. Roth was arrested by the Romania Stalinists and died in prison on April 1, 1953.

 

  The situation was totally different in northern Transylvania.  The area had been annexed by Hungary on August 30, 1940 as part of the Vienna Accord with Hitler.  The local Hungarian population formed a majority and the German “island” in their midst was rather small in comparison.  On September 9th and 10th General Johann Friessner, the “big shot” SS-Police Führer Winkelmann, SS officer Dr. Weibgen, the Bund Führer Franz Basch and the Bund advisor of the German Ambassador von Veersenmayer all advised against a total evacuation of the Saxons in northern Transylvania because of its possible effect on the morale of the Hungarian Army and the possible political consequences.  As a temporary measure they approved the evacuation of women with children under the age of fourteen.

 

  It was only because of the courage and determination of the Saxon population and their District Leader, Robert Gassner that the Saxons of northern Transylvania could be evacuated in well organized wagon treks.  The Hungarian Army attempted to prevent them from crossing the Tisza River on the pontoon bridges at Tiszafüröd but they were overpowered by German troops.  SS-General Artur Phelps is reported to have evacuated a larger number of his fellow Saxons than Himmler had allowed him and as a result that led to a decrease in the numbers and quota of Danube Swabians from the Banat who were permitted to leave according to Sepp Janko.  (Not a very reliable source.  He made sure he was in their number.  A comment offered by H. Fischer.)

   Romanian and Serbian Banat 

  The mention of an impending military understanding between the onrushing Soviet Army and the German military authorities in the Banat to make an evacuation of the Danube Swabian civilian populations possible in both regions of the Banat as reported by the VOMI has been fully contradicted by the new information that has been uncovered.  There was no possibility of a centralized organized evacuation in the Romanian Banat as the eastern front collapsed.  The only evacuations that took place in most cases were a matter of local initiative and leadership that attempted to reach the Serbian Banat in their own unprotected wagon treks.

 

  General Johann Friessner, Commander of Army Group E, was ordered to retake the area that stretched from Werschetz to Temesvar with one division but was forced to move westwards instead.  In the face of that, one of the higher authorities of the SS, the so-called Police Führer of Serbia, SS Gruppenführer, Hermann Behrends was ordered to capture Temesvar with a handful of lightly armed police companies, SS men who were on furlough, groups and units of the Deutsche Mannschaft made up of Banat Germans who were ordered to join them by their Bund leaders.  The city was taken and he was awarded the Knight’s Cross for his heroism.  In reality the undertaking proved to be a failure.  Behrends proceeded to forbid an evacuation of the Danube Swabian civilian population in the Serbian Banat and cited a “Führer order,” for his action.  According to Janko and Lorenz his aide, he had written it himself and reputedly he had the power to do so.  After the war ended, Behrends was accused of war crimes and handed over to the Yugoslavs, tried and executed.  His name will always be associated with the tragedy that was inflicted upon the Banat Danube Swabians.

 

  In a letter to Himmler, dated October 2, 1944 an SS officer named Jürgens informed him that he was a participant in the operation involving the 4th SS-Police Tank Division stationed in Temesvar.  His unit had succeeded in making one massive sweep of the area and evacuated 12,000 Danube Swabians in the Romanian Banat from the villages of Denta, Deta, Liebling, Schlag, Woiteg, Billed and Gertianosch.  Billed was occupied by the Russians on September 22nd and Gertianosch on the 26th.  Jürgens then raised some grave concerns with regard to violations and the dereliction of duty on the part of the Reich officials who were responsible with regard to the carrying out of the evacuation.  On his part Behrends made reference to the “Führer order” again and Lorenz supported him.  Martin Bormann wrote to Himmler on November 8, 1944 and blamed the failure on the diplomatic corps, the Abwehr (Secret Service) and the army leadership.  There was enough blame to go around for everyone.

 

  Our inability to understand Behrend’s position and stance in the matter today is a result of our current understanding of the military situation at the time.  The army reports of the time are crucial as they indicate there were only minor setbacks that would not matter in the long run in terms of the final victory.  This naive optimism that still believed and clung to the idea of final victory also affected those who could be called realists both in the military and the political authorities.  For example, to give the reader a glimpse into the thinking and perception of those involved, at a conference on September 12th and 13th Hitler suggested to the German and Hungarian generals who were present that at the latest within six weeks conflict would break out in the Bosphorus between the Soviets and their Anglo-American allies.

 

  Behrends probably honestly believed the Banat would become the scene of the decisive battle of the war.  The highways, roads and streets could not be blocked by evacuation treks to impede the movement of the army.  The army would need the road system to themselves to maintain mobility that would be necessary to meet the mechanized strength of the Soviet forces.

 

  It was only on October 1, 1944 as the Red Army surrounded Gross Betscherek the one-time capital of the Serbian Banat, that Behrends gave permission for an evacuation.  By then it was far too late and as a result only 10% of the Danube Swabian population in the Serbian Banat was evacuated.

 

  Instead of approaching Himmler directly, Janko the Bund Führer according to his own report went to see the military officials in Belgrade prior to September 20th with a request to assign the SS-Prince Eugene Division to the Banat to protect the evacuation of the Danube Swabian civilian population.  Regardless of his true intentions, which continue to be debated, this request was made far too late.  Janko was sent to General Field Marshall Maximilian von Weicks the Commander of German Forces in the Balkans.  He did not even warrant an answer.  Janko claimed he sent a wire to Himmler that was also not answered.  At the last minute, one of von Weicks’ subordinates, Berger, promised to transfer the SS-Prince Eugene Division which was made up of mostly Danube Swabians but they were unable to abandon their positions on the Bulgarian frontier.  In effect, the Danube Swabian civilian population was abandoned on all sides.  The SS-Prince Eugene Division had been established using Danube Swabians to provide protection for their “homeland” and now when their women and children needed them they were stationed elsewhere.  It is ironic that at the time of the establishment of the Division, Janko had written a letter to Himmler on June 1, 1942 expressing his warmest thanks on the part of the Bund for providing the Danube Swabian population with the security they needed and how grateful he was to have played part in making it possible.

 

  No one knew which Reich office or commission was really in charge or what power or   influence the Bund leadership really had; all of which led to the uncertainty about the destiny of thousands of Danube Swabians.  In many cases it was a matter of the personal judgement of army officers passing through their communities in the Banat.  Still believing in final victory, the VOMI in Berlin ordered that the German populations outside the borders of the Reich were to withdraw only as the last foothold was given up.  The same position was communicated to evacuation headquarters in the Romanian Banat to SS-General Weingartner in September 1944;  SS-General Weibgen in Hungary and SS-General Hintze in the Serbian Banat on September 23rd.  They all faced an impossible task.  Despite the situation, Hitler ordered, “The harvest in the Banat must be transported along with the army and they alone should handle the matter.”

   Hungary 

   On October 23, 1944 the adviser for Bund affairs attached to the German Embassy in Budapest by the name of Meckel reported that there were crucial differences between the Bund Führer Franz Basch and the SS-Regimental Standard Führer, Dr. Weibgen.  The point of contention between them arose from the fact that a large portion of the Danube Swabian population in Swabian Turkey (at least 50%) refused to even consider sending their children to the Reich despite the current military situation.  It ended up as a serious quarrel between the two men.  Each of them tried to blame the other for the failure of the evacuation.  According to Meckel the issue was the fact that the order for resettlement came much too late from Dr. Weibgen and there was no time to make all of the basic preparations for it.  On Saturday the 21st, Dr. Goldschmidt who was the executive officer of the Bund expressed to Meckel that Basch was disappointed by both the Embassy and the SS who had provided him with so little information.  Basch indicated that in the future he would act on his own.  What he meant by that was something Meckel was never able to understand.  He suggested it might have meant that he had begun an undertaking with Szalasi, the leader of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party (Nazi anti-Semite movement) who was his bosom buddy.  Or it could have had something to do with his view of the current military situation and could no longer sustain the belief in the final victory that Hitler promised as had Dr. Roth in Transylvania when the same thing happened there.  He was in no position to continue holding the view of final victory for the sake of the Bund members who still believed and clung to it.  It was simply unclear how he might act.  All of this was taken very seriously by the Embassy and the SS officials.  Basch went on record that he opposed “with all of his power” as Bund Führer the establishment and operation of an extensive Reich Evacuation Authority that would have jurisdiction over the Bund leaders or take any measures they opposed.

   Croatia 

  The governments of both Hungary and the Independent State of Croatia had requested the resettlement of the family members and dependents of all Danube Swabian volunteers in the Waffen-SS and providing them with citizenship in the Reich.  Even in the midst of the war, Himmler demanded the total resettlement of the Danube Swabians living in Croatia for transfer and settlement in Poland leaving Croatia as part of the Italian sphere of influence.  In contrast to the Foreign Office (von Ribbentrop) Himmler advised the Bund leadership to be prepared to evacuate while the Reich ambassador in Croatia, SS-Führer Siegfried Kasche who was a staunch supporter of Pavelic (leader of the Fascist Ustachi Movement in Croatia) opposed it along with the Croat leader and did so as late as  September 6, 1944.  This strained relationship between Himmler and Kasche led to a bitter feud. In late summer of 1944 Himmler finally demanded the resignation of “the greatest criminal and blockhead there was,” namely Kasche.  But Hitler kept Kasche at his post.

 

  As Partisan raids increased the Danube Swabian population abandoned their settlements and by December 18, 1943 there were over 20,000 of them who were resettled.  Himmler chose and authorized an SS officer, Kammerhofer who was originally from the Steiermark to carry out the programme.  Following the end of the war he was accused of war crimes in a Yugoslavian court and was condemned to death and executed.  The same fate was also visited upon the former ambassador, Kasche and the Bund Führer Branimir Altgayer.

 

  Kammerhofer worked out a plan for the evacuation of the entire Danube Swabian population in response to a communiqué he received from von Ribbentrop in his letter of September 16, 1944 indicating that they were in great danger if they remained.  Hitler’s order that was based on his assumption that conflict would break out between the Soviets and the Anglo Americans over control of the Bosphorus was simply countermanded by his Foreign Minister.  He indicated, however, that the evacuation should not in any way affect the morale of the German troops.  It was already far too late for an evacuation in the Banat, either in Romania or Yugoslavia.  General Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Commander in Chief of the Wehrmacht (German Army) gave the authorization for the evacuation for no more than 215,000 Danube Swabians in the south-eastern theatre of the war.  This was far less than had been proposed.

 

  In a three day conference that involved Kasche, Kammerhofer and Altgayer the plan to evacuate the Danube Swabians in Croatia was finalized.  The first phase took place in eastern Syrmien (east of Mitrowitz) and the next phase was in the western border areas of Syrmien and eastern Slavonia and at the last the area around Essegg.

 

  They attempted to avoid panic among the population.  They were to bring in their harvest for the Wehrmacht and provide other supplies in addition.  In the first days of October eastern Syrmien was evacuated; western Syrmien and eastern Slavonia were evacuated on October 13th and the Essegg region at the end of October.  The Bund leadership only left Essegg on November 14, 1944.  The evacuation of the Danube Swabians from their settlements in Croatia took six weeks to complete.  Partisans attacked only a few of the wagon treks.  Force was not used to make the people leave.  Those who remained behind would be vulnerable to Partisan attacks and live under constant threat.  In the past they had already experienced some of the atrocities they committed against German civilians.  For that reason many of them were more than prepared to leave the country.  No other group of Germans in south-eastern Europe was evacuated in 1944 with such order, competence, and completeness and suffered such few casualties as those in Croatia.  Branimir Altgayer played the key role in the entire operation.

 

  Following this basic introduction to the documents that follow Anton Scherer begins with this report:

 

  The Secret Monthly Report for October 1944 of the SS-Headquarters of VOMI

 

  “In the course of the return, repatriation and assembling of the Germans from the south-east, over 150,000 persons crossed the borders into the Reich by November 1, 1944.  The evacuation took place in the various areas as indicated in the body of this report as follows:

   Serbian Banat 

  As indicated in the previous month’s report the preparations undertaken have resulted in 20,000 German evacuees from the area who are currently on their way westward passing through the Batschka.  Along their way they have been joined by treks of Danube Swabians from the Romanian Banat.  The earlier estimates as to the number of Germans who had left the Serbian Banat had been from 30,000 to 35,000 persons but now we know the number is far lower.  It was the Bund leadership that had reported the higher figure earlier for reasons of their own.  We are dealing with only 20,000.  The treks were authorized by the Headquarters of the VOMI and were led by SS Weibgen to Vienna.

 Batschka 

  During the first days of October, individual Soviet Army units reached the Tisza River and crossed over it and threatened to overrun the entire area.  It was at this point that the question of the evacuation of the Batschka became real.  Here, as in the Serbian Banat the greatest threat to the Danube Swabians was seen to be the local Serbian population who could be counted on to support the Soviet Army as it drew ever nearer to the area.  The political situation in Hungary at the beginning of the month was so strained that an early evacuation of the Batschka could have lead to an outbreak of panic which would affect the stance of the Hungarian government and the morale of their army units.  At the same time the representatives of the Reich declared to the Hungarian government that the Reich would defend the borders of Hungary as if they were their own.  It was thought that this declaration would have no validity with them if an early evacuation of the Danube Swabian population took place.  It would work against the policy.  This situation changed when the Hungarian officials in southern Hungary asked for assistance in light of the precarious position of the Hungarian population in the Batschka. On the night of October 6, 1944 the Hungarian authorities assembled the Hungarian population in each of their villages to the accompaniment of drum beats calling upon them to prepare to leave for safety in Hungary.  In response to that, there was a massive movement of Hungarian civilians fleeing from the Batschka.  Because of that, SS-General Winkelmann and SS-Captain Lorenz, the German ambassador Veersenmayer and Basch the Bund leader had no reason any longer to hesitate issuing the order to evacuate the Danube Swabians in the Batschka and did so on October 7, 1944.  It would be carried out in two phases, those who were north and south of the Francis Joseph Canal should the Russians come any closer.

 

  On October 10, 1944 the total evacuation of the Danube Swabian communities north of the canal was ordered and set into motion.  The treks from the Batschka moved across the large Danube bridge at Dunafödvár and four pontoon bridges to the south of the city.  It is not possible to determine how many of the 240,000 Danube Swabians (200,000 in the Batschka and 40,000 in the Lower Baranya) were evacuated.  The agitation of our opponents among the local Danube Swabian population led to a large number of them remaining behind.  This was especially true in terms of representatives of the churches who said that the Danube Swabians had nothing to fear from the Soviets and the German claims of cruelty were only propaganda.  Because of their deep attachment to their land, the church’s promise of parole resulted in many of them remaining behind.  With regard to the Soviet treatment of the Danube Swabians who remained behind in the Batschka is currently not known.  We still have no clear picture of their situation.

   Szatmar and Carpatho-Ukraine 

  At roughly the same time in the beginning of October the organized and planned evacuations of the German populations in Szatmar and Carpatho-Ukraine were underway by October 9, 1944.  Once again the opposition to the evacuation on the part of the church was intense.  In Szatmar, where there were approximately 40,000 Germans, only 6,000 obeyed the order to evacuate.  It was much the same picture in the Carpatho-Ukraine and only 7,000 of its 20,000 German inhabitants agreed to be evacuated.  This number was later changed to 8,000 as a result of reports we received from the Bund in Budapest.  These two treks moving westwards had to bypass Debrecen where fierce tank battles were raging but managed to get through.

   Swabian Turkey – The Counties of Tolna, Baranya and Somogy 

  With the threat of the oncoming Soviet Army that was already passing through the Batschka it became urgent to develop evacuation measures for Swabian Turkey.  Most critical was the situation in the Lower Baranya where Croat forces and bands of Partisans terrorized the population.  Because of the political uncertainty in Hungary at the time the situation of the Danube Swabians in Swabian Turkey was seriously threatened because the vast majority of the population were totally opposed to an evacuation.  In an agreement between SS-General Winkelmann and Weibgen along with Franz Basch, measures were agreed upon in order to prevent any efforts to sabotage the evacuation.

   Croatia 

    In the evacuation plan for the Danube Swabians in Croatia three zones of operation were identified by SS-General Kammerhofer and Altgayer on the part of the Bund.  The evacuations in the first zone began at the beginning of October and the second on October 13th and the final trek at the end of the month.  The figure of 150,000 evacuees that was suggested by Kammerhofer and Altgayer cannot be verified with any certainty and is highly unlikely.  That was because the figure includes the men serving in the Waffen-SS who would later be evacuated from Zagreb and also the men serving in the local Home Defence forces.  All together there are probably about 90,000 to 100,000 evacuees on their way.

 Slovakia 

  The Reichsführer of the SS, Heinrich Himmler ordered the evacuation of the entire German population in the Zips on October 27, 1944.

   Transportation 

  With regard to the entire operation there are several matters that need to be mentioned.

 

  The transportation situation in Western Hungary in the first few days of October was catastrophic to say the least.  As many trains as possible were sent from the Reich but large numbers of them did not reach their destination or arrived too late because air raids destroyed stations, railway yards, bridges and tunnels.  As long as the weather remained temperate the wagon treks were more reliable and safer and could be kept supplied.  Oversight of the routes, resting places and supply depots was carried out by Weibgen and supported by Behrend’s subordinates and carried out by the Bund leaders.  The actual treks themselves were led by a person from the community designated as the Trek Führer.  Along the line of march discipline was good.  Traffic jams seldom occurred as they travelled across Hungary.  They spent the nights in the out-of-doors.  Health services, especially for the children were provided.  A major problem was fodder for the horses and this was often left to personal initiative.  They received supplies of hay and oats upon arriving in Lower Austria.  Here they also had the opportunity to stay in homes overnight and bed down their horses in stables if the weather demanded it.

   Health Services 

  The VOMI was responsible for providing health services and personnel for each of the individual treks under the leadership and direction of the German Red Cross led by SS-General Keusen.  The central headquarters for the operation was in Budapest with a staff of 150 women and twelve men.  The men were primarily doctors.  An emergency hospital with fifty beds was set up in Sopron.  On the whole, the Hungarian government and officials remained neutral in providing care or assistance to the evacuation but insisted all treks had to pass into the Reich through Sopron.  Passing through the area the treks went through German villages that were totally opposed to the Bund and refused to house the refugees.

   Reception of the Evacuees in the Reich  

  The resettlement of the evacuees in the Reich was under the dual direction of the VOMI and the Reich Interior Ministry.  The man directly responsible was an SS officer named   Ellermeier.  He was instructed to take charge of the distribution of the evacuees passing into Austria through Western Hungary and to see to their needs and resettle the 215,000 evacuees under his jurisdiction.  They were dispersed as follows:

 

  Bayreuth                                           20,000

  München/Upper Bavaria                  30,000

  Lower and Upper Silesia                  40,000

  Salzburg                                              5,000

  Steiermark                                        10,000

  Sudedtenland                                    10,000

  Thuringia                                          20,000

  Bohemia/Moravia                             20,000

  Upper Austria                                   60,000

 

  With the threat of the oncoming Red Army escalating further evacuations to the Reich were planned and set into motion.  The Hungarian government refused to accept any non-citizens on its territory because they were concerned with the material costs involved in providing food and supplies and accommodations to the evacuees who would become a burden on the Hungarian State.  The Reich officials were also suspicious of the real intentions of Szalasi and his government.  For that reason plans were underway to move them through Western Hungary as quickly as possible and 254,000 of them were sent on as follows:

 

  Lower Austria                                 80,000

  Upper Austria                                  20,000

  Steiermark                                       20,000

  Salzburg                                            4,000

  Bayreuth                                          20,000

  Tyrol                                                20,000

  Sudetenland                                     10,000

  Münich                                            10,000

  Lower Silesia                                   20,000

  Bohemia and Moravia                     50,000

 

  As mentioned previously the original evacuation figures varied from the actual numbers as was the case with numbers provided from Croatia originally.  The intention was to resettle the various groups in close proximity to one another in neighbouring regions.  Due to transportation difficulties that was not always possible.  Great effort was made to keep families from the same community together whenever possible but there were always limitations that stood in the way of that.  The evacuees often resented that and saw it as just one more unnecessary difficulty to be bourn.  The costs of the evacuation were the responsibility of the Reich government.  In the transit camps that were established schools were set up, jobs were provided as well as job training and more permanent housing was secured for them.

   The author proceeds to detail the administrative set up and the financial apparatus under which the evacuation was carried out and the subsequent programmes provided for the evacuees including a detailed report on the school system that I do not provide at this point as not to be of specific interest to myself and a North American reader.  It is all about the Teutonic tendency to over administrate and become lost in the details.    The Political Situation in Hungary 

  The mistrust between the Bund and Horthy the Regent of Hungary and his government became more and more accelerated.  In the critical days when it was a question of whether to evacuate or not things between the two were to a great extent rather quiet and peaceful.  At a meeting between Basch and Szalasi that was held prior to October 15th 1944 they reached a mutual agreement and a direction was set.  The Bund leaders heartily welcomed the Arrow Cross revolution on October 15th when they took over power and worked closely with all of the organs of the new government.  But these close relations in the midst of the war could not hide the fact that the aspirations and goals of the Bund were not in harmony with the known objectives and policies of Szalasi and the Arrow Cross rank and file.  But understandably these were all “put aside” in the face of the current situation that both of them faced.

 

  The training of a Home Defence force that made its first appearance in September and October had positive results.  A training centre was set up in the Batschka but as the war situation changed it was transferred to Hidas in Baranya County in Swabian Turkey.  At the order of the Bund leadership SS military training camps were set up in Villany and Nemetboly in Baranya and at Nyirgesufalu in Komarom County north-west of Budapest.

 

  Following the government takeover by the Arrow Cross Party the Home Defence forces worked in harmony with the government authorities and the Hungarian Army.  The Home Defence forces still lacked officers, anti-tank weapons as well as uniforms.

   Croatia 

  As the news from the frontlines became more and more ominous the Danube Swabian civilian population was on the brink of panic and fear.  Many of them sought safety in the larger towns and centres even though the situation in their area was calm in terms of the Croatian population and the government authorities.

 

  The command was given for the evacuation of the entire Danube Swabian population and individuals were free to leave the country on their own if they had the means to do so.  The party officials of the Bund and their families were ordered to remain behind to look after all of the details.  The units of the Home Defence were also to remain behind to provide security.  The Croatian government’s attitude towards the Danube Swabians became even more negative and unfriendly even in areas where they had been indifferent to them in the past.  The Croatians no longer believed that the Reich could win the war.  The evacuation of the Danube Swabians was both celebrated and the cause of fear among the Croatians; fear about what the future might bring and joy because the Danube Swabians had to leave their land, property and possessions behind for them.  Croatia sat back to see what would happen

   The Secret Monthly Report for November 1944 

  By order of the SS Reichsführer, Heinrich Himmler, on November 8, 1944 a Home Defence Force was to be established in Hungary.  For this purpose he appointed SS-Commander Lorenz to carry it out.  The leadership and mustering of the Home Defence Forces was handed over to SS-General Winkelmann.  Nine Führers and fifteen subordinate officers were to be trained by the SS as soon as possible.

   Evacuation in Hungary 

  During the month of November the evacuees leaving the Batschka and those who were already in Western Hungary were in transit to the Reich.  The first wagon trek crossed the border into the Reich (Austria) on November 14th.

 

  As the battle raged twenty kilometres south and south west of Budapest the Danube Swabian villages in the area were ordered to leave on November 2nd.  This order affected 28,000 Danube Swabian civilians.

 

  The further advance of the Russian Army in the south necessitated an evacuation of Swabian Turkey.  There proved to be countless difficulties involved in planning such a move.  As a result of the requisitioning 5,000 horses for the 22nd Cavalry Division there were too few teams of horses available for the many wagons that would be needed.  Not even rescinding the order for requisitioning the horses could rectify the situation because it was now too late.  No railway transportation was readily available.  The army trucks were needed to haul supplies to the front.  The Danube Swabian population of Swabian Turkey had only recently begun to unshackle itself from the Magyarization process imposed upon them for generations through the efforts of the Bund but only a portion of them are reliable  It must be reported here that the VOMI was well aware of all of this and the volatile political situation in Swabian Turkey.  SS-Commander Lorenz visited the area extensively in the interests of the Bund.  There was no decline in the chicanery and terror tactics used by the Hungarian authorities, the Hungarian Army and the clergy in opposing an evacuation and in effect was another way for the Hungarian government to carry out is “nationalities” policy, seeking to win this, the largest settlement area in Hungary for its own cause and not that of their allies the Third Reich.

 

  Whenever there was a positive response in Swabian Turkey and the people began to prepare to flee the local Hungarian officials speedily talked them out of it.  They convinced many of them to stay because the Hungarian population would not flee and they could also remain because nothing would happen to either of them.  The few treks that did leave Swabian Turkey were settled in the Steiermark.  They brought their food and supplies with them.

   Croatia 

  With regard to the evacuation from Croatia as of November 7th we can report the following:

 

  Approximately 90,000 persons were evacuated.  We need to take into account that 28,000 were serving in the Waffen-SS and about 15,000 are working in the Reich as well as those in the Home Defence forces who remain at home to protect and secure their property.  This number is out of a total population of 165,000 persons and is significant.

   Romanian Banat 

  The destination of 12,500 evacuees from the Romanian Banat was Upper and Lower Austria and 5,000 to 8,000 of them were resettled in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.  The 18,000 Transylvania Saxons were resettled in Lower Austria (10,000) and Upper Austria (8,000).  In all the treks out of northern Transylvania resulted in the rescue of 30,000 Transylavnia Saxons.

   Serbian Banat 

  The treks from the Serbian Banat were involved in the resettlement of 15,000 evacuees and not 35,000 as reported erroneously by the Bund leadership.

   The Political Situation in Hungary 

  The matter of the evacuation in Hungary must be understood against the background of the total political situation at the time.  The inner circle of the Bund leadership was only too well aware of the impending collapse of Hungary regardless of Szalasi’s take over of the government on October 15th.  His plans and policies to “cleanse” Hungary, its government and army had not succeeded or been carried out.  It had been a bloodless coup.  He placed his cronies in all of the positions of power.  But many positions still remained in the hands of conservatives and others who worked against Szalasi’s goals and objectives.  It also became obvious that the actual number of convinced Arrow Cross Party members was actually smaller than he claimed or estimated.  They had bitten off more than they could chew.

 

  The Hungarian Army and its command structure is a case in point of the conditions that existed at the time.

 

  The former Prime Minister Bela Imredy reports that according to the information he had in November 1944 that there were 300,000 Hungarian troops stationed in Western Hungary whose morale and spirit left a lot to be desired but feelings of anti-German attitudes were rampant among them.  Joseph Nyirö of Transylvania and one of Hungary’s most famous authors pointed out that Hungary did not know why the war went on.  That government propaganda had failed and the issue had to be clarified whether Hungary was prepared to fight for its life.  He declared further, that he was ashamed of all of the talk of war weariness that Hungary exemplified in light of the fact that Hungary had lost 150,000 men up to the collapse of Romania, while during the First World War the number of war victim was over 1,000,000.  Of what use were all the cries about more weapons and armaments when the Hungarian Army units handed them over to the Russians without even a fight?  Other deputies in the parliament reported that 80% of the Hungarian Army units failed to obey orders to attack or withstand enemy attacks along their front.  It is estimated that there were 80,000 Hungary Army deserters during the Battle of Budapest.  They fought their war with alcohol in the bars and did not believe in a final victory.  They were quite open in refusing to “take it” for the Germans.  With the call for total mobilization in Hungary the cost of deferment papers rose to 8,000 Pengo.  In mid November there were two unsuccessful military coups by the Hungarian Army against the government.  This was related to the fact that the Hungarian Army was not well armed or sufficiently trained and had no self confidence at all.  Now a new regulation was put into effect so that the front line Hungarian soldier received the same pay as his German counterpart.  In addition orders were issued that action would be taken against the families and dependents of any deserters.

 

  The Chief of Staff of the Hungarian Army, General Vörös, deserted to the Russians in October.  In mid November the BBC in London reported that the Commander of the Hungarian Seventh Army, General Hopp had crossed over the Russians.  General Vörös spoke on both Radio Moscow and Bucharest and called upon the Hungarian troops to go over to the Russians.  He ordered that Budapest should not be defended and the people must refuse to evacuate.

 

  In light of these political developments the Bund leaders took the attitude that the power of command was now in the hands of the Reich authorities because Szalasi had no power or control over the government officials or the officer corps of the Hungarian Army.  The Bund leaders saw this as their opportunity.  They encouraged Szalasi to cleanse the Hungarian Army of undesirable elements to boost the morale of the troops.  The older officers were unreliable and beyond rehabilitation.  Young officers needed to be schooled and trained.  In addition the Szalasi government had to carry out a massive propaganda campaign in the press and radio and call for victory and total war.  They were delusional to the bitter end.

  

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