Hodschag a Market Town in the Batschka 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The German Immigration and Settlement

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Black Day, November 23, 1944

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

2 Responses to “ Hodschag a Market Town in the Batschka ”

  1. Heike Sichterman says:

    My family was personally afflicted by the massaker. Most of my father’s family(last name Stegili) perished and he was an orphan at he age of 12. Only due to his uncle who fled in time, did he later get to Germany. My father never talked about it. All we know we know from this uncle. I am living in America right now teaching German and I am telling his story to everyone who wants to hear it.

  2. Anton Selinger says:

    I was born in Hodschag in June of 1940. My father, Milititsch) was a barber, My mother, Anna( geb. Neumayer of Batsch)and sister Anna. We were part of that ethnic cleansing and were in Gakowa from March 1945 to sometime in 1947, when we escaped across the boarder into Hungary, then to Vienna Austria and in 1950 to New York,NY courtesy of my mother’s brother, Anton Neumayer who was born in Trenton NJ. Would like to hear stories from others with similar experiences.

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