The Final Days of Torschau in the Batschka 

  This article is a translation of excerpts from the Heimatbuch of the village of Torschau.

  In September of 1944 threatening war clouds gathered in the Batschka.  On the 2nd news came of the Bulgarian capitulation to the Russians.  By the 8th the Russians marched into Yugoslavia.  At that time large scale flights of US bombers could be seen passing overhead Torschau.  Fear began to spread.  In German and Hungarian military circles there was talk of an evacuation of the Batschka.  On the 13th of September a total of 190 local men from the ages of 17 to 40 years were drafted into the German armed forces as agreed upon by the Hungarian government of Regent Horthy in a treaty signed on February 28, 1942.  The approaching catastrophe now took another giant step towards Torschau.

 

  The front was breaking down on all sides.  On the 27th refugees from Gross-Betscherek in the Banat passed through Torschau.  This event created chaos and confusion and anxiety among the local German population.

 

  On October 1st it was the Kirchweih but very few people came to the service.  Not even the traditional dance was held because of the fears and anxieties of the people.  People met to plan what to do.  At noon the next day the Volksbund called a public meeting.  Plans for an evacuation were revealed.  Organized convoys of wagons pulled by tractors and horses, supplies and provisions that were needed and families were assigned places in the convoy.  The alarm was sounded at midnight on October 4th.  The Hungarian occupation forces gave the order to evacuate.  People ran through the streets in pouring rain gathering their families and loved ones for flight.  The weeping and crying was indescribable.  A portion of the villagers wanted to leave by train.  The people panicked at the railway station waiting for a train to arrive.  A German officer put through a call to Neusatz (Novi Sad).  He was informed there was no threat or danger.  The people were all sent home.  They were all overjoyed…but it would not last.  To be honest, everyone really knew that it was only a reprieve. 

 

  On October 7th the Hungarian army and police withdrew.  The post office was closed and railway traffic ceased.  Now the people knew the end was near.  The threats of the Slavic population became more and more menacing.  Courage and hope seemed to disappear among the German population.  Panic broke out.  Citizen sentries were set up to protect the population.  They were unarmed and were only stationed at the entrance and exit streets of the village to be in a position to warn the population if an attack came.  They thanked God that they had always lived in peace with their Serbian neighbours whose presence would perhaps prevent an attack.  They too had no idea of what was in store for them either.

 

  Later on October 7th the village received the order to evacuate from the German Army.  The same confusion and panic that took place at night on October 4th repeated itself.  It was no longer certain that the population of Torschau could be evacuated.  Very little had been packed and little preparation had been made.  The best was left behind and only their every day clothing was taken with them.  There was only pain and sorrow over leaving and very little clear thinking.  Days before many had buried their valuables in their yards or gardens, plastered them in their walls.  Items like earrings, gold, money, clothes, etc.  They were preparing for the homecoming that would never be.

 

  The next Sunday, October 8th the people had no idea of what to do.  Go or stay?  Many gave up the inner battle–and decided to stay.  The physically stronger people were prepared to make an effort to leave.  The German military in Werbass promised them a military escort through the Batschka where the population was overwhelmingly Serbian and who might attack German refugee columns.  There was a last announcement made at the town hall that evening.  The greater part of the community voted to leave.  The decision was made to leave next day, October 9th at six o’clock in the morning.  That would prove to be a bitter hour.  The military escort did not arrive.  During the night the last remaining German armed forces had withdrawn from the entire region abandoning the 100,000 Danube Swabians in the area to their fate.

 

  The 146 loaded farm wagons left by the main street heading north.  Eleven tractors, each with five to seven wagons in tow led the way.  They waited for final orders from Werbass in vain and at eight o’clock the village mayor ordered the trek to set out.  All six bells in the towers of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches tolled as the Schwabenzug got under way.  All hearts beat faster.  The people wept.  The horses trudged on.  In that hour two thirds of the population became homeless refugees.

 

  On October 9th only a portion of the population left.  They had no idea of the military situation or where they were going or for how long.  All they knew was that they were heading north and north west…to Germany.  Those who remained behind wept in the streets as did those who were fleeing.  They called out to each other.  The entire population was out in the streets as the church bells tolled.  The Torschau convoy passed through Kucura and the local Serbian population wept to see them go.  When they came to Werbass the portion of the population that had not left awaited them in front of the Lutheran Church with supplies, food, provisions and mineral water.  Passing through Kula the local Serbs wept openly as they made their way through their village.  At four o’clock in the afternoon they reached Cservenka where they were to spend the night.  Almost all of the houses stood open and uninhabited.  The German residents had left the day before and in a great hurry.  It was during their Kirchweih celebration.  The tables were still set with sumptuous meals and baking of all kinds.  So few people had remained behind that all of the Torschau people were easily accommodated.

 

  Next morning they headed for Sombor on the Danube.  Neusiawatz was already evacuated.  They saw the bodies of countless Jews with their stars of David who had been shot and left along the roadside.  Some people were now afraid to go on but there was no turning back.  At Sombor they caught up with the convoy from Cservenka.

 

  They had to stay in the forests overnight in the pouring rain because the German Army was to cross the Danube on the only bridge that was still intact.  They would have to wait their turn.

 

  After crossing the Danube and reaching Baja, the same thing happened to them again and they had to wait for the retreating army to cross over first ever aware that the Red Army was already at Kecskemet and closing in on them.  Some small family groups were able to cross but the convoy was held back.  There was another bridge at Dunafӧldvár but they were encouraged to try at Kalocsa where there were two small bridges.  They took that route and crossed over at Paks-on-the-Danube and stayed in Bikács for a day.  Hungary capitulated on October 22nd and the refugee columns streamed north to Sopron and passed into Austria.

 

  At midnight between October 8th and the 9th to the accompaniment of drum beats the announcement of the voluntary evacuation of Torschau was made to the populace.  The next day 1,967 of the inhabitants fled while 1,015 remained at home.

 

  The village was now a kind of No Man’s Land.  Hungarian troops there one day.  Local Partisans the next.  On some days both groups were there at opposite ends of the village.  And the local population was simply caught in the middle.

 

  Eventually Partisan units occupied the village and set up their headquarters.  Threats, beatings and shootings became the order of the day.  Then a much larger group of Partisans came and the Regional Commander was stationed in Torschau.  He was named Gojko and came from Beschka in Srem.

 

  On December 6th all of the German men were “sorted” by order of the Commander.  Those able to work were sent to the labour camp that had been set up in Werbass and the others were placed in a camp set up in a portion of Torschau.  Two days later on December 8, 1944 the women and children were herded out into the streets and marched through the village to the camp.  The camp was at the south end of the main street.  By December 15th all of the German civilian population in the Batschka were interned in camps just like it.

 

  December 15th was also a day of horror for 350 of the people who were force marched to the starvation camp at Jarek.  Most of them were old, physically ill, men and women unable to work and their children, as well as other children torn out of their mother’s arms.  These were horrendous scenes to behold as the weeping children were dragged away.  One mother attempted to escape with her children and was shot.  The Serbian mayor stepped in and was able to prevent all of the children from being taken and in effect saved their lives.  The children who were taken to Jarek had to walk because only the infirm were allowed on the wagons.

 

  At Jarek, this gruesome bestial camp housed 14,000-16,000 inmates.  People died like flies.  The woman Commander of the camp was a monster.  Of the 350 persons from Torschau sent to Jarek, 276 of them perished there.  The German name for the Lutheran village of Jarek had been “Schӧnhausen” (beautiful place) but it became “Hӧllenhausen” (the house of hell).  Others from Torschau were sent to the extermination camps in Rudolfsgnad, Gakowa and Kruschivilje.

 

  On January 1, 1945 all of the internees in the camp in Torschau were taken on foot to Kula where fifty men and women were sent to the Soviet Union to do forced labour.

 

  From among the 1,015 villagers who had remained behind the following losses were suffered:

 

  14 persons were shot between 1944-1946 including 4 women

  11 persons committed suicide in the camps between (1944-1947) including 4 women

276 persons died in the camp at Jarek including 59 children

  52 persons died in the camp in Torschau

  16 persons died in the labour camp in Werbass

  26 persons died in the extermination camp in Gakowa

    9 persons died in the extermination camp in Kruschivlje

  12 persons died in various other camps

    9 persons died in the labour camps in the Soviet Union

 

  In all, there were 624 victims of the holocaust in Torschau perpetrated against them by Tito and his Partisans.

 

  Torschau was the oldest and the largest Lutheran settlement in the Batschka and was established in 1784.  It had a Lutheran and Reformed congregation but the Lutherans formed the majority.  The last German Lutheran schoolmaster in Torschau was Johann Wolff who had been born in the Zips in what is now Slovakia.  He survived the camps and he and his wife fled for sanctuary to Hungary to be with their son Louis who had grown up in Torschau.  He had Magyarized his name and became known as Lajos Ordass.  He was the Bishop of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Hungary as the Lutheran Church was and is still known today.  Because he denounced the expulsion of the Danube Swabians from Hungary he was arrested, put on trial and imprisoned by the new Communist regime.  He was released during the unsuccessful Hungarian uprising in 1956 and restored as Bishop but with the arrival of the Russian troops to quell the revolt he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

11 Responses to “ The Final Days of Torschau in the Batschka ”

  1. herta richter tompkins says:

    I was born in torschau and remember the expulsion. Thanks for filling in the details for me. My grandfather Heinrich Richter,was one who helped get printed a book called TORSCHAU compiled by people in the USA the nyc area. Its in the old german print and I have trouble reading it.I have his plan of the town with owners names on all houses.Also have complete family trees of both parents and old photos.

  2. Michael Reitenbach says:

    Hello,
    My name is Michael Reitenbach.

    I am looking for information about my relatives that were originally from Torschau. My Gr Grandfather was Jonas Reitenbach. He married Anna Graf from Apatin, Hungary. They came to the United States in 1907.

    My email is reitenbachm@neo.rr.com

  3. Peggee says:

    My father Johann Wagner, born 1927, was raised in torschau.
    I also have copy of map dated 1944, showing his fathers name (also johann wagner) , on Kanal street, 3rd from bottom. Are there any records to verify ownership (census, taxes paid) ? Trying to submit forms for restitution, hoping for letter of acknowledgement & apology from government.

  4. Marc Pilotta says:

    I have seen the book about Torscheau Herta Richter Tompkins mentioned in her above post. My second cousin who was in the concentration camps after war showed it to me once. She died shortly after showing it to me and it appears to have been either thrown out or misplaced by her children when cleaning out her home.

    Herta

    I think you should share this book with Peter Haas (www.dvhh.org/torschau/)the DVHH Torschau Coordinator. I to would like to have the opportunity to view it once again.

    Herta or anyone one with this book about Torschau, please contact me as I would like to discuss the book further. My email address is pilotmdd@optonline.net

  5. Roland Link says:

    My name is Roland LINK. My grandfather was Nikolaus Link, born in Torschau. My GrGrandmother name was Christine Biermann from Torschau. So if annybudy hafe information about Torschau or my relatives, please send me a mail to maximilian476@outlook.com. Thx.

  6. Elisabeth Marentette says:

    My mother was born in Torschau in 1925..She made the Swabian Trek at the age of 19 with her mother. My great grandmother died in Jarek and lies in a mass grave there. They eventually ended up in Austria, then to Germany where my sister and I were born. In 1956 we emigrated to Canada. My mother’s family name was Kohlheb, daughter of Florian and Theresia and sister to Adalbert. My sister and I are planning a trip to Torschau. Looking for people who might have known the family for any further information.

  7. Herb Steiner says:

    My father, Ludwig, then Lajos, then Louis Steiner was born, in 1899, and grew up in Torschau. His family was one of a handful of Jewish families in the village. He had very fond memories of his childhood there. As a young man, I drive him to Connecticut to meet his childhood friend, Peter

    Dad gave me the book about Torschau and identified his house on the village map.

  8. Bruce Burmann says:

    My grandfather, Frederick D. Burmann was born in Torschau in 1888 and emmigrated to New York in 1906. I would like to find a village map from these years and information leading to the location of his home. I recently visited Savino Selo, Serbia which is Torshau today. It is a beautiful little village that I would like more information of at that time.

  9. Nenad says:

    My name is Nenad and i was born in Savino Selo (Torschau). I’m interesting in history of Torscau and i will be grateful to anyone who have and want to share a copy of book about Torschau. If anyone want some specific photos of Torschau I can make it and send.

  10. Nenad says:

    If someone have a map of Torschau, you can mark house you want and I will make photo how it looks today.

  11. I was born in Torschau in 1934. My Mother died there in 1942 my dad my sister and my oma left because of the russian and tito’s
    partison.We later traveld all over until the rusians imprisond us somewhere in Austria-my oma died in that hel hole and my sister got tb and she died in Viana .My da and i finaly got to America the best place in the world-ithink of my birth country many times.

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