Internment at the Lendl/Lengyel Camp


   The source of the information in this article is from a lecture delivered by Josef Wirth at the International Historical Conference held in Budapest, March 5-6, 1987The presenter was a seven year old participant in the events he describes.


  When the internment of Swabian civilians in Tolna County began the vast majority of the Volksbund members, especially their leaders were no longer in Hungary.  They had either fled or gone into hiding.  Some were in labour camps in the Soviet Union.  The vast majority of the inmates in the internment camp in Lengyel were the elderly, children, women and even nursing infants.  We faced the grossest forms of inhumanity and were spared nothing.  This “action” taken against us did not appear to have been ordered by the central government but by local officials and self-appointed “special commissions” that claimed to be government “Commissars”.  Local functionaries bare the brunt of the blame but so does the national government and the Allied Control Commission in Budapest.


  I discovered that there were all kinds of people in the camp at Lengyel.   One man told me he had been a Communist since the 1919 Red Revolution.  He was arrested because a member of his extended family was a Volksbund member.  Very few people attempted to help us except for some villagers in neighbouring Hungarian communities.  I will use the village of Tevel as an example of the people who were interned in our camp.  Until 1945 it was an entirely German community in Tolna County and according to the census of 1941 it had a population of 2,516.  The number of war dead from the village was 207 or 8% of the population.  Of that number 58 of the men fell while serving in the Hungarian Army and 99 men serving in units of the German Army lost their lives.  There were also 13 of the Jewish population who perished in German concentration camps.  In addition 33 men and women died in Soviet labour camps in Ukraine and 4 people died due to other causes related to the war.


  As the Volksbund became more and more radicalized in their Nazi ideology, their Führer, Franz Basch lashed out at their greatest enemies, the local intelligentsia, at a mass assembly of the Bund in Hidas in August 1940.  He made all kinds of threats against them.  In April 1942 as he toured Swabian Turkey he said the time would soon come when those who stood on the sidelines of the struggle of their “Volk” (Translator’s Note:  code word for race) would have to face the consequences.  The consequences that were to follow where not exactly the kind which he had envisioned.


  The Volksbund controlled the German press in Hungary.  The Volksbund Führer’s tours of an area were very much like that of a Gauleiter (Regional Nazi leader) inspection tours in Germany.  Following such visits their newspaper would report that the total population of twenty-five villages went out to greet him when he entered their community.  There was great “joy” for the “many thousands” committed to the cause.  Everyone knew that their newspaper was filled with lies.  It is therefore hardly any wonder that the Hungarian public was taken in by their propaganda and had such a false picture of the Swabian population.  The Volksbund fanned the flames of the Hungarian nationalists who had advocated the expulsion of the Swabians for generations.


    The most important effort in which the Volksbund was engaged was the recruitment of Swabians to serve in the German Army.  During 1942 and 1943 they campaigned to muster volunteers to serve in German units.  They played a major role in planning and carrying out the forced conscription of all Swabian men of military age in 1944 even including those men serving in the Hungarian Army.  A German physician involved in the physical examination of the conscripts pointed out to me how different the various commissions were and how they made decisions.  Wherever the Voksbund was powerful, like in the southern Batschka, the recruitment commission was welcomed and a great spread was put on the table for them.  At other places they were met with flying rocks.  That occurred at Harta where the Lutheran pastor led the opposition and had the local population behind him and not the Volksbund officials.  But what needs to be dumped in the laps of the Volksbund and their leaders is the overly large number of 15, 16 and 17 year olds they “passed” for recruitment.  Many of these boys were killed in action or languished in prisoner of war camps for years after peace had been declared.


  In Swabian Turkey where the largest concentration of Swabians resided in “rump” Hungary after the Treaty of Trianon at the end of the First World War, the Volksbund leaders sought desperately to gain their allegiance.  It was in this region where most of the mass assemblies were held:  Cikó 1939, Hidas 1940, Magócs 1941 and Bonyhád 1944.  But the results were rather modest.  The recruitment effort for volunteers to serve in the German Army had far less response than in the newly annexed Batschka and Transylvania.  The girls in Swabian Turkey did not wear the Volksbund uniform but wore their traditional village attire.  In their attempt to find a regional Führer they had to parachute in Florian Krämer from the south Batschka.  The only prominent Volksbund personality from the area was Dr. Mühl, who later fell into disgrace when his home community Bonyhád which was the most important town in the region could not organize a local chapter of the Volksbund due to the opposition and agitation of the True to the Homeland Movement (Treu zur Heimat).


  The chaos created during the inspection of the Bonyhád region by the SS-General Lorenz (from Himmler’s office in Berlin) became a complete rout for the Volksbund because of his drunkenness and lecherous advances towards young girls which was the case in Kisdorog.  The actual influence the Volksbund had in the region can best be seen in terms of the numbers who participated in the evacuation organized by them.  Despite the mass propaganda effort to get the population of Swabian Turkey to evacuate most the vehicles and trains that were provided left empty.  In Tevel, which the Volksbund press painted as “always first among those who gave themselves to the movement” when the evacuation took place at the end of November 1944 there were fifteen families of the five hundred families in Tevel who answered the Volksbund’s call and fled westwards along with the regional Volksbund leadership.  These same “Führers” had used torture and beatings on 15, 16 and 17 year olds at Hidas in the Fall of 1944 in order to get them to “volunteer” in the German Army.  Some of them managed to escape and came home only to be taken back under guard by the local Volksbund leaders.  I share this terrible story of one of the 17 year olds who was taken from his home by armed men.  A few days before the end of the war he and an older soldier were ordered to guard a food depot.  Because of the entreaties of the old soldier he entered the depot to get him some bread and was discovered doing so and was taken to a court martial, condemned to death and executed.


  In the Spring of 1945 all kinds of punishments were inflicted upon those who were inmates at the internment camp in Lengyel in Tolna County.  The “political” police were in charge of the camp’s operation.  In March 1945 they began to assemble Volksbund members and no one was to be excused because of age, gender or status.  Under the leadership of the Small Landowner and Social Democratic parties a Regional National Committee was formed in Bonyhád on April 10, 1945.  Its objective was to punish the German war criminals by using the local police to carry out appropriate action.


  On March 14, 1945 when the Lengyel castle of the Apponyi family still served as a hospital, the Finance Minister telegraphed the County administration and requisitioned “five or six wagons of cartographic materials in the Apponyi Castle in Lengyel.” The Russians had converted the castle into a military hospital.  A letter to the County sheriff from some time between March 14th and April 16th  indicated that the castle was to be used to intern Swabians.


  In the Spring of 1945 over 3,000 Szekler (Magyar) families from Bukovina were sent for resettlement in the Bonyhád district.  The County officials were responsible to make arrangements to provide for them.  In each of the surrounding villages a local committee developed a list of names of those families who were Volksbund members.  The political police played a major role in the whole affair.  In some cases people were warned that their property would be confiscated.  When the local list was completed the families were taken into custody by the police and placed in the internment camp in Lengyel.  This action was carried out in Tevel on April 25, 1945.  The entire population of the village had to assemble in a meadow and leave the doors of their houses unlocked.  All of the families that had a Volksbund connection had to endure day long harassment at the hands of the police before they were brought to Lengyel.  The local committee handed over their homes and properties including their household furnishings, bedding and clothes to the new settlers who arrived from Bukovina.  The action was directed by Gyӧrgy Bodor a police officer from Transylvania under Confiscation Order Nr. 600/1945.


  According to information at his disposal Peter Lazló estimated that in May of 1945 there were 20,000 Swabians interned at Lengyel which made it the largest camp in Hungary.  It is unlikely that they were all there at the same time in the castle.  Because of the chaotic conditions in the camp a “selection” was undertaken to separate the aged who were unable to work as well as the children and mothers with infants from the other family members who were force marched out of the camp and taken to northern Tolna County.  Families had physically resisted the separation but were unable to prevent it.


  After a short while they were they were set free.  They were totally destitute and most of them went into hiding with Hungarian families.  Many others escaped along the way and hid in old wine-press houses, huts or stayed with relatives or friends who hid them.  The police carried out raids nightly in order to catch them.  Those who were captured were taken back to the camp.  One old man from Tevel who was to be returned to the camp was shot when he attempted to escape.  Only those who had fled and hid out in Hungarian villages were able to escape ongoing internment.  Despite that the vandalized castle was filled to the brim with people.  The nutritional and hygienic situation bordered on the catastrophic.  The guards were gangs of youth who were called “cattle herders” by the inmates.  Beatings were the order of the day.


  Peter Lazló claimed that in May of 1945 the local and national press attacked the actions taken by Bodor and the Bonyhád Regional Police Commissioner.  The coalition parties got involved as well and called for an investigation.  The first action that was taken was the removal of the young guards.  On May 27th, Bodor was ordered back to Budapest.  His settlement programme and the Lengyel Camp were dissolved and his position was taken over by the Regional Police Commissioner of Bonyhád.  A portion of the internees were jailed in Szekszárd.  From among those released, some of them were taken in by the “new owners” of their homes.  Most, however, had to seek shelter elsewhere.



No Responses to “ Internment at the Lendl/Lengyel Camp ”

Leave a Comment