The following is a result of my summarization and compilation of several articles that appeared in several sources, including Unsere Post that first appeared in the early 1990s.

 

  The reason for my interest in these reports on Tiszalök resulted from my conversations with my Godfather’s two sons who were prisoners there; John and Henry Heiczereder of out-of-the-way Ecsény in Somogy County deep within Swabian Turkey.  They had been part of the forced recruitment of all Danube Swabian men in Hungary into the German Waffen-SS in September of 1944.  At the time, Henry had just turned seventeen a few weeks before and John turned nineteen a few weeks later.

 

  Their father had emigrated to Canada when they were two and three years old and had been sending home money to buy land and built a house and hoped to return in the early 1940s when the war broke out.  There had been no news of their whereabouts or if they had survived the war until 1949 when I worked at the Post Office as a high school student during the Christmas “rush”.  I happened to be sorting mail for the street where my Godfather lived and I ran across a Red Cross postcard with a twenty-four-word message from John in a prisoner of war camp outside Moscow.  This was the first sign of hope after the darkness of so many pain-filled years for their father.  Strange as it may seem the two brothers had met accidentally in a transit camp so that their father learned that the younger son had also survived.

 

  Now came the longest part of waiting.  This is where the untold story of Tiszalök comes into the picture.  The following is the official story behind their story.

 

  During 1950-1951 the Stalinist prime minister of Hungary, Mátyás Ráksi imprisoned thousands of returning Danube Swabians upon their release from Soviet prisoner of war camps, five years after their capture.  The families of these men had been deported to the American Zone of Germany from 1946-1947 and the Russian Zone in 1948.  They were placed in the “special punishment” camp at Tiszalök in Eastern Hungary where they were sentenced to slave labour under very inhumane conditions to build a dam and a hydro-        electric facility.  On October 4, 1953 the prisoners demonstrated against their captivity and the harsh conditions under which they lived.  Five of the men were shot as an example to the others:  George Gazafi, Josef Schulz, Hans Tangl, Josef Willhofer, Matthias Geistlinger.  Their place of burial was unknown until just recently.

 

  The Danube Swabians who joined the Waffen-SS in 1942 did so on a voluntary basis but in 1944 they were forced into the Waffen-SS against their will with the full sanction of the Hungarian government.  The units of the Waffen-SS were seen as the military “elite” and their losses were heavy.  This elite character of the recruits of 1942 resulted in many of them serving as guards a the concentration camps and many of them paid the price in the punishment they received from the Allies, especially the Soviets who sought to punish them collectively and not only for their own individual actions.  All of those who had the SS tattoo and fell into Soviet hands were beaten, starved and were put to   hard labour in the Gulag.  The issue was always centred on their Hungarian citizenship and German nationality.

 

  The Soviet authorities released the last Hungarian prisoners of war in 1948 but the Danube Swabians were kept behind.  All of the German prisoners of war were finally released in 1949, arranged by Konrad Adenauer including members of the Waffen-SS, but once again the Danube Swabians were informed they could not be released with them because they had been born in Hungary and were not German citizens.  Finally at the end of 1950 they were released and returned to Communist Hungary. 

 

  The rigorously Stalinist regime of Rákasi secretly isolated these prisoners of war for the next three to five years.  These were years of brutality.  Heavy labour each days was followed by very little to eat.  Prisoners were interrogated and beaten and sometimes into unconsciousness and placed in irons.  Prisoners were whipped and shackled to the floor.  In the spring of 1953 a police lieutenant was overhead to say to a civilian technician that as far as Hungary was concerned the camp inmates were not be considered to be human beings.  He indicated that he believed that once their work was finished they would all end up on the gallows.

 

  One of the survivors wrote to the parents of a comrade, “I wanted to give you news of your son.  He is still in Hungary at the camp in Tiszalök.  This camp is surrounded by barbed wire and is heavily guarded.  This is also true of the work place.  No one is able or allowed to come near the place.  The camp authorities are fiercely anti-German.  The camp is located in an open field and between it and the work place there is a highway.  When we were marched out of the camp early in the morning the civilians on the road were held back some 200 metres from the gate of the camp so that none of us could be recognized.  We wore old Hungarian army uniforms with stripes.  At first we were simply forbidden to do anything.  We could not sing or whistle.  Could not enter another barrack or yard.  Or anything else you might think of.  Above all we were not supposed to have any friends.  If it became apparent that we struck up a friendship, one of us was moved to another barrack.  Only card playing and chess were allowed and later we were allowed to go out into the yard in groups of two.

 

  We heard nothing from the outside world nor had any idea of the political situation.  We had no idea of how things stood or had changed and I was totally surprised by the world I found after I was released.  I’ve known your son since 1950.  He is one year older than I am.  We always worked together at our trade along with (person wishes to remain anonymous) up until the last hour.  We worked day and night in shifts to finish the dam and hydro project by the end of the October.  At least that was the plan.  When it’s done I believe that the others will be released too…at least that’s what was talked about.

 

  I’m sure the others will be released some time this year that would be more than high time.  The food improved in quality and amount the last year I was there.  Before that we had very little to eat and we endured hunger.  Now everyone at least looks better and has regained their health.  When I left there were eight hours of work and sixteen hours of rest.  In the camp there are many others from your vicinity but I do not know all of them.  In this camp there are over eight hundred men who all want to be released to West Germany.  All of those who wrote home from Russia are now in Hungary.  You can be sure of that and you can tell their families that.  Your son was way for one year at another camp along with two hundred and forty others.”

 

  It was only ten years after the Second World War was over that the Iron Gate opened for the Danube Swabian prisoners of war from Hungary.

 

  The government of Hungary used this “windfall” of slave labourers to replace the many Danube Swabians lost in the war and through the deportations to complete a hydro- electric power dam at Tiszalök and a chemical works at Kazincbarcika.

 

  From another report of a survivor of the “secret camp” at Tiszalök:  “A hydro electric dam was built and the workers themselves were the raw materials.  We received 400 grams of bread each day that everyone devoured at breakfast with their morning coffee or what at least passed as coffee and then worked all day.  Our work was always done behind barbed wire in both summer and winter.  All positions of leadership in the camp were with the GPU (secret police).  No one was allowed to speak except in their barracks.  Whoever disobeyed left himself wide open for reprisals.  The outhouses were located in the farthest end of the camp away from the barracks.  No one was allowed to cross over the yard to them alone but had to be a in a group of five, even if he had to wait for hours for others to come.  If you were caught going it alone you received a beating.  The only other food in addition to the 400 grams of bread was potato and bean soup.  The clothes brought along by the prisoners from Russia were taken away from us, and we were given prison uniforms.  On the backs of all prisoners was a long red stripe.  The released prisoners returned their prison uniforms and were given new civilian clothes and leather shoes with the compliments of the Hungarian State.”

 

  All attempts made to secure the release of these unfortunate men were in vain as the Hungarian authorities denied holding them.  That at least is what the U.S. Permits Officer, J. C. Pailett in Budapest reported in mid 1951 to Ludwig Leber a member of parliament in the state of Württemberg:

 

                   “We are in no position to answer your questions because the

                     Hungarian authorities have declared that the presence of a

                     group of prisoners of war in Hungary in which you have an

                     interest are simply unknown to them…”

 

  On December 3rd and 4th in 1953 the last transport of Danube Swabian prisoners of war from Tiszalök arrived in Piding, Bavaria and wrote the final chapter of the tragedy of the Danube Swabians at war’s end.

   John and Henry Heiczereder were in that last transport, but it would only be 1955 before they were re-united with their father in Canada because the Canadian Immigration authorities classified them as members of the SS.    

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