The Batschka

Filipowa in the Batschka 

  This article deals with the war and its aftermath in the life of this large Danube Swabian community in the Batschka and is a translation of excerpts from the Heimatbuch of Filipowa by Henry Fischer.

  In the two World Wars in the 20th Century, there were 433 men from Filipowa who died or went missing in action.  There were 202 casualties in World War I  and there were 231 in  World War II.  At the beginning of World War I the population of Filipowa was 3,800 while at the beginning of World War II there were 4,800 inhabitants.


  In World War I, Filipowa was part of the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary and the men from Filipowa fought in Serbia, Galicia, Russia and Italy.


  Between 1918-1941 Filiopwa was part of the successor state of Yugoslavia following the dismemberment of Hungary on the basis of the terms of the Treaty of Trianon.  Young men did military service from nine to eighteen months, usually in Macedonia and Serbia.  Many reservists from Filipowa were called up to serve in the Yugoslavian forces following the invasion by Germany, Italy and Hungary on April 5, 1941.  The war was over in two weeks and the Batschka was annexed and occupied by Hungary.  The people of Filipowa were now Hungarian citizens.  The Hungarian policy towards its minorities was put into effect in the Batshcka as well.  Conscription soon followed after, both in terms of the military as well as labour forces.  Serbs and Jews were conscripted into  labour battalions and others, especially the Danube Swabians, were recruited into the Hungarian armed forces.  As a result at the time of the invasion of Russia later in 1941 the number of Swabians serving on the front was out of proportion to the number of Magyars.  With the annexing of the Lower Baranya and the Batschka and northern Transylvania the German minority in this new “greater” Hungary numbered 1,200,000.


  The Danube Swabians in the Batschka found themselves caught in a conflict of loyalties between their ethnic heritage and loyalty to the State in which they lived.  When the war ended many of them hoped that they would be under German occupation.  They were terribly disappointed with the Hungarian takeover on April 18, 1941.  This was especially true of many members of the Schwäbisch-Deutschen Kulturbundes (Swabian-German Cultural Assocation) an organization that was now incorporated into the Volksbund der Deutschen in Ungarn (Translator’s Note:  A Nazi Front organization which was tolerated by the Hungarian Government in agreement with Hitler).  Encouraged by the victories of Germany in the early stages of the war, many young men left Hungary secretly and joined the German armed forces.  By December of 1941 almost 1,500 had joined the Wehrmacht (German Army) and 2,000 the Waffen-SS.


  Many young men from Filipowa took this route during June, July and August in 1941 without their parent’s knowledge or approval and volunteered in Belgrade.  Part of the reason was a rumour that the younger age groups would soon be conscripted in the Hungarian Honvéd (National Army).


  In August of 1941 many single young men and women and married couples left for Germany as “guest workers”.  Soon after they arrived the men were conscripted into the Wehrmacht.  Some of the women became air raid victims later in the war.


  The Hungarian Army called up all men who had been born in 1920 on October 1, 1941 and considered all of those in that age group who had enlisted in the German armed forces were deserters until the Hungarian Government and Reich came to terms over the issue.  Call ups for active service in the Honvéd for other age groups soon followed:  those born in 1921 at the beginning of October 1942; those born in 1922 at the beginning of October 1943; and those born in 1923 in July of 1944.  In addition reservists were constantly called up as well.


  Early in the German campaign in Russia in 1941, the SS leadership saw the need for men to replace and reinforce their units because of the heavy losses they suffered.  The Reichsführer of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, propounded the idea of a “Volk”  (racial) obligation on the part of all Germans regardless of their citizenship.  Himmler had to find ways to secure volunteers in the client states of Hungary, Romania and Croatia without interfering in the internal affairs of their allies.  The recruitment of volunteers for the SS were set in motion in all of those states.


  In the new year, a “verbal” agreement was reached between the German and Hungarian governments on February 24, 1942 which was the groundwork for the official treaty that called for the first three recruitment offensives of the SS.  Initially the Hungarians insisted that the recruits had to be volunteers who had their parent’s consent and were loyal to Hungary and were in the age groups born between 1912 and 1920 and numbered up to no more than 20,000 men.  By June the Prime Minister Karoly had increased the figure to 30,000 who could do their “national service” in the German armed forces.  There was a great deal of opposition to the first promotion and recruitment drive by the Hungarian Administration, Police organizations and the Churches (Roman Catholic and Lutheran).  The campaign was brought to an early halt.  By the first of May there were 16,527 recruits who arrived in Germany of whom 9,322 men came from the Batschka.


  These recruits became part of:  2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich”; 6th SS Mountain Division “Nord”; 8th SS Cavalry Division “Florian Geyer”; 22nd and 33rd SS Cavalry Divisions.


  The objective of Himmler was to siphon off the man power resources of the ethnic Germans of south eastern Europe to replenish and reinforce his Waffen-SS.  Finally, in May of 1942 the High Command ordered that the ethnic Germans of eastern Europe were the private preserve of the Waffen-SS.


  On February 24, 1942 the recruitment and conscription of ethnic Germans in Hungary for the Waffen-SS was begun with those men born from 1912-1924, men from eighteen to thirty.  According to Point 5 in the agreement with the Hungarian State they would only be accepted as “volunteers” upon recruitment through the local Volksbund leaders.  Local muster commissions were set up in the Danube Swabian villages for this purpose with the participation of representatives of the Waffen-SS.


  On February 27, 1942 the local Volksbund leaders in Filipowa called together its Deutsche Mannschaft (Translator’s Note:  their version of the Brown Shirts) and shared the order for the official call up for all men from eighteen to thirty years of age to report for service in the Waffen-SS.


  The great majority of the men in those age groups in Filipowa reported as ordered.  There were a total of 204 men who did so.  One could guess that 70% of them did not do so with any kind of inner conviction…it was a voluntary-must-have-to kind of thing.  That portion of the local population that was opposed to the Volksbund and the political direction it was taking did not report.  There were 72 men in all.  Some of them hid out in Filipowa or among other nationalities in the neighbourhood.  Of those effected by the first call up in Filipowa which involved 300 men about one quarter of them were volunteers, half of them responded in terms of a moral duty as they saw it and one quarter refused to participate.


  After a visit to Berlin on the part of Dr. Franz Basch the Führer of the Volksbund to inaugurate a new conscription effort among the ethnic Germans of Hungary for the Waffen-SS with the “support” of the Hungarian Prime Minister resulted in another verbal agreement and exchange of diplomatic notes on May 22, 1943.  The agreement dealt with the recruitment of men born between 1908 and 1925 and following a conference with Regent Horthy in April 1943 the ethnic Germans in the Honvéd were free to leave the Hungarian Army and join the Waffen-SS.  The Volksbund anticipated at least 6,000 responses to this new call up.  The numbers of Waffen-SS recruits stood at around 21,500 at the time of the call up and by the end of 1943 that figure had only risen to 22,125.  The reasons for the rather miserable response at the mustering commissions was the growing war weariness and suspcion in the villages where 10,000 ethnic Germans who had served in the Honvéd had returned home from the Russian front as the Second Hungarian Army withdrew from the field.  In addition the secret opposition of the Hungarian government was also at work as well as the loyal Roman Catholics opposed to National Socialism and the Loyalty Movement of the Swabians who were opposed to the Volksbund.  The manpower was also needed to bring in the harvest.  The Volksbund leadership had high hopes along with Himmler but even the members of their organization hesitated to report for enlistment in the Waffen-SS after this second “opportunity” to do so.  Even the Volksbund faithful perceived these calls for volunteers as a “conscription effort” and not a  call for volunteers.  At the end of 1943 there were 22,125 ethnic Germans from “greater” Hungary serving in the Waffen-SS and 35,000 in the Hungarian Army.


  All of this changed on March 19, 1944 when Hungary was occupied by German troops.  The Hungarian Regent, Horthy, was officially left in power and Hungary still had a national government but the real rulers were SS Obergruppenführer Otto Winkelmann, General of the Infantry, Hans von Greiffenberg and above them stood Dr. Eduard Veesenmayer who ruled in Budapest as the ambassador of the Greater German Reich.


  On April 14, 1944 Veesenmayer concluded an agreement with Foreign Minister Csatay for the ethnic Germans in Hungary of all military age groups to be recruited into the Waffen-SS.  Point Four the agreement called for all ethnic Germans who were Hungarian citizens to be handed over to serve in the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS for the duration of the war.  The military service of the ethnic Germans began with seventeen year olds.  Point Five raised the question of reservists, non-commissioned officers and soldiers in the Hungarian Army.  These men were ordered to join the Waffen-SS.  The Hungarian Army could withhold up to 10.5% of the ethnic Germans who were in their army if they served in specialist positions.


  From July to October 1944 the vast majority of the Danube Swabian men were mustered into the Waffen-SS.  This last “recruitment” was met with a great deal of passive resistance.  Many men refused to report.  Others took the first opportunity to desert.  But the vast majority followed the call-up order.


  The SS Panzer Division “Horst Wessel” was formed out of the men conscripted in the Batschka.  They served in the Slovak uprising and on the Tisza front until December 1944.  The call ups in the Batschka continued until October of 1944.  By the end of the war 120,000 ethnic Germans from Hungary served in the Waffen-SS on all fronts until the final collapse of Hitler’s Germany.


  On March 19th and 20th, 1944 a “Blitz Action” took place in Filipowa to recruit those men who had avoided conscription as well as the youngsters who had been born in 1926.  Only a few of the older men reported and many of the eighteen year olds went into hiding.  This was followed by another surprise call up that took place in Filipowa of all men born between 1894 and 1908 and all the boys born in 1927.  Whoever failed to report was sought out.  On July 28th the muster commission registered 217 men including the assistant priest in the village.  They were to report in early September for training.  Because of that many of the men went into hiding among the Slovaks, Magyars and Serbs who lived in the vicinity.  On October 15th Hungary capitulated and sought an armistice with the Red Army.  German troops entered Filipowa and took the 200 men to Hodschag and put them in uniforms.  The Germans abandoned the Batschka and retreated across the Danube.  On October 21st the Tito Partisans occupied Filipowa.


  There were between 800 to 1,000 men from Filipowa who served in the Hungarian and German armed forces out of a total population of 5,281 in 1944.  Of those serving in the armies, 165 died killed in action or died of wounds in hospital or did not survive the prisoner of war camps.  In addition 67 of the men are missing and presumed dead.  A total of 231 men almost a quarter of those who served in the army.


The vast majority served on the Eastern Front.  Thirty of the men died in the siege of Budapest after it was surrounded by the Red Army from December 24, 1944 to February 13, 1945.  The majority of the defenders in both the Hungarian and German forces defending Budapest were Danube Swabians.  This fifty-nine day stand slowed down the Russian advance into Austria and prevented their entry into southern Germany before the Allied Armies arrived there.


The Evacuation and Flight


  By the end of October 1944, in both Srem and Slavonia, almost their entire German civilian population had been evacuated.  The carrying out of the evacuation of the Batschka and the Banat, the heartland of the Swabian settlements in Yugoslavia, was much more difficult.  Following the capitulation of Romania on August 23, 1944 the Russian Front was at the Tisza River and the Danube Swabians were warned to be ready to evacuate.  Because of the political ramifications there were no real plans for such a major evacuation.  Only the area around Neusatz (Novi Sad) was chosen for evacuation.  Neusatz was ordered to evacuate on October 4th and by the 9th the last of refugees had left.  South from Apatin to Cservenka and the southern Batschka, wagon treks began leaving between October 8th to the11th, 1944.  Some went by ship to Mohács in Hungary where most of the treks also headed as well as towards Baja.


  In the northern Batschka the evacuation was left to local and individual initiative.  It was the younger people who joined the horse and wagon convoys not willing to be around when the Red Army arrived while the older people were more willing to risk staying at home.  They had a clear conscience in terms of their loyalty to the state.  About half of the Danube Swabians in the Batschka and the Lower Baranya were evacuated while less than ten per cent of those living in the Banat were able to escape.  An exact estimate of  how many Danube Swabians remained “at home” and fell into the hands of the Russians and Patrisans in Yugoslavia is hard to come by.  The best estimate is around 200,000 which means more than half of them had fled or were evacuated.


  On October 4, 1944 the drums were beaten at the street corners in Filipowa announcing the evacuation.  Those with wagons prepared to leave.  Women without men-folk to handle the horses hesitated to join the trek.  After several days the evacuation got under way on October 12th and lasted until the next day.  It is noteworthy to mention that some families already returned back home on the 13th.  On the 15th, the mayor, Georg Eichinger, issued a final call for all residents to leave.  Only a few responded and left that day.  There were 139 families (approximately 600 persons) out of  a community of 5,300 who left.  According to statistics prepared in Bonn following the war they suggest that 40% of the Danube Swabian population remained behind, in Filipowa it was 88%.


  The reasons suggested for this are:  1) It was a Roman Catholic community that had opposed the “forced” recruitment of “volunteers” to serve in the Waffen-SS;  2) Winter was on the way;  3)  The large number of children would be difficult to manage on the trek for women without men folk; 4)  They had no sense of guilt or fear of any kind of reprisals that might be taken against them.


Under the Military Authority of the Partisans


  Because Filipowa was off of the beaten track it failed to attract much attention from the Red Army.  The last German troops left the village on October 15th with the last of the evacuees and a few they had scraped together to serve in the military.  It was only six days later when the Partisans arrived.  Those were days of apprehension and anxiety.  It was reported that the Russians and Partisans were in Hodschag and Keresztur on October 20th.  On October 21st the Russians and Partisans marched into Sombor and on the same day in the afternoon the Partisans came to Filipowa by train.  The first ten were dressed partly as civilians and soldiers carrying machine guns as they walked through the deserted streets.  The people were fearful.  A little girl appeared with a bouquet of flowers and a Partisan picked her up and kissed her.  Everyone breathed a sight of relief as a result of that.


  Drums were beaten at the street corners and the inhabitants were ordered to surrender all munitions and weapons immediately.  The local village officials met with the newly constituted Liberation Front and formed a new village administration with Serbs at its head.  But this local government had little power over the Russians and Partisans who passed through.  Between October 26th and November 8th there was no day in which the Russians failed to come to Filipowa to take horses, wine, watches, freshly butchered port products and went on the prowl for young girls and women.  They were “daily guests”.


  Beginning on October 28th, 1944 periodic labour battalions were formed consisting of able boded men and boys and at other times specific age groups.  They repaired the former airport the Germans had made out on the meadow outside of Hodschag.  They were always under Russian guard.  On All Saints’ Day at 6:00 a.m. all the teams of horses that could be found in the village and the able bodied including women and girls went to work at the airport.  Mass was held at 6:00 p.m. after the workers came home.  Under the order of the Russian High Command, work continued at the airport until November 5th.


  On November 5th all radios, bicycles, motorcycles, typewriters, rifles and sports’ uniforms had to be surrendered.  A wild drunken celebration followed on November 7th in honour of the October Revolution.  The shooting and salvos of gunshots lasted all day.


  The first real shock to the villagers was the “execution” of 36 year old Eva Eichinger who was shot in front of the church rectory.  Her husband had enlisted in the SS and a Partisan officer was billeted in her house.  An order to search her house was carried out the day before and a cartridge had been found.  She was taken into custody and brought to the town hall where she was informed that she was condemned to death.  The  execution took place immediately without any notice being given to the village.  It soon became obvious that she had withstood the advances of the Partisan officer and fear and terror raged in the village as the people finally realized they were in the hands of the Partisans and were without any recourse or defence.


  Labour battalions continued to forced labour at the airport while the Partisans brought in the sugar beet harvest.  Boys and girls born in 1929 to 1931 (thirteen to fifteen year olds) were assembled to do the work.


The Massacre of November 25, 1944


  Early on the morning of November 25th some of the farmers sought to go out and work in their fields but were turned back by Partisans both men and women who had surrounded the village.  After Mass there was the beating of drums throughout the village with the announcement that all boys and men from the ages of sixteen to sixty were to report at the town hall.  Those who did not show up would be apprehended by the Partisans and shot.  The priests also had to report.  There were four at the time.  By nine o’clock there were about 350 men and boys who had reported.  There were no other men around except for those working over at the airport.  The Partisans, both men and women, cast hate filled eyes upon the men they guarded.  Most of the men assumed that they were being formed into another labour battalion again.  At ten o’clock they were formed into four columns in the church  yard.  A table was set up and Serbian clerks were seated at them.  Two Partisan officers, one called, Slavko, and the other a Hungarian accompanied by a local police officer inspected the four columns.  The police offer approached the priests and told them to take their place at the back of the line.  The two local doctors, a pharmacist and a teacher were told to join them.  Then each man and boy had to go to the table in turn, answer some questions and ordered to join one of two groups.  No one could determine the criteria for selection for either group but the group alongside the church grew much larger than the one being formed along the street…but all of those who were better dressed seemed to end up in the larger group.


  At noon, Martin Mexiner asked for permission to ring the church bell and a Partisan accompanied him to the tower.  As the bell tolled the men crossed themselves and prayed.


  The Partisan officers became impatient with the slow pace of the registration and began questioning men and boys and sending them to the larger group.  A machine gun was set up by the Partisans to guard the large group and more and more men and women Partisans arrived with a stretcher and spades.  Everyone seemed to know that there was trouble ahead.  One Partisan let loose with a burst of gunfire over the heads of the men in the larger group and managed to also upset his own officers.


  The local police officer attempted to get some of those in the larger group transferred to the smaller one because he was aware that the larger group would be murdered.  He was somewhat successful but Partisans would exchange others back to the larger group.  It was a kind of see-saw battle between them.  In the end 212 boys and men remained in the large group meant for liquidation.  They had to form themselves into four columns alongside of four columns of Partisans both men and women on their flank.  Eight Partisans stood at the head and carried machine guns and the stretcher filled with spades.  A Partisan came from the town hall seated himself on a horse and under his command the   column headed towards Hodschag.  The column left at three o’clock that afternoon.  The smaller group were driven into the church and people watched from their windows and doors cracked open for a stolen glance at what was taking place.  The column would end up at a meadow outside of Hodschag and only years later would the silence be broken as to what occurred there as told by an eyewitness.  There were no Danube Swabian survivors.  Some local Partisans from the Wojwodina would tell the story and end the officially imposed silence.


  Men who would denounce others as members of the Volksbund would be able to earn their freedom.  No one did.  Since no one responded they began to beat men to a bloody pulp to make them do so, with no results.  The execution squad consisted of Serbs from the area around Nisch and had participated in the massacre of the men from Hodschag on November 23rd and knew they needed help with this large group from Filipowa and were reinforced by fifty men from the barracks in Sombor and were Serbs, Slovaks, Croats and Hungarians.  These men did not know what was going on.  As the beatings began they realized they were to be part of a death squad.  The leaders of the execution commando were uncertain of what to do and asked for further orders in Hodschag.  The courier returned at night with the order to proceed.  This latter group did not hate their Swabian neighbours but were unable to help them.


  The Russians were obviously aware of the liquidations taking place but took no action to prevent them.  After November 25th they would step in to stop such gruesome actions hoping to secure as many Danube Swabians as possible in Yugoslavia, Romania and Hungary for slave labour in the Soviet Union.


  The ditches dug for the airport now became mass graves.  One Serb reported that a Partisan ordered a son to beat his father to death.  The son refused.  The father said,  “Let’s not waste time.  Hit me with all you’ve got.  The quicker the better for all of us…”


  As the men were dispatched in many and various gruesome ways they made the sign of the cross and shouted words of comfort to one another being taken away to be killed.  After crossing themselves many of the fathers of the younger boys made a cross on their foreheads.  The men were forced to go into the ditches and remove their clothes and were shot or beaten to death.


  Of those who were killed, thirty-five were 16 to 19 years of age, fifty-two were 50 to 60 years old and the other one hundred and twenty-five were 20 to 50 years of age.


  About seventy men and boys remained behind in the church.  They saw the handwriting on the wall and prepared themselves for the worst.  But miraculously they were released the next morning after a night of terror.


The Background


  The Partisan Movement carried out their campaign against the Danube Swabians as punishment for their betrayal of the State…the confiscation of their property and their victimization which followed were seen as both legal and just from their perspective.  The fact that the confiscation and the internment of 200,000 civilians has been hushed up certainly begs the question why.  Especially kept secret is the fact that over 70,000 of them perished in the process.  Between October 1944 and April 1945 an estimated 4,000 of them were executed in the Batschka.  It was a “Stalinst purge” of the leadership of the Danube Swabians.  In the Banat there were an additional 2,900 civilians who were massacred in the same way. Of the 34,200 Danube Swabians in the Banat there were 11,000 who died in the internment camps.


  There were numerous issues and reasons behind this genocide and are part of the “Greater Serbia National Movement.”  As early as 1918 Serbian nationalists who were anti-Communists called for the expulsion of the Danube Swabians to Germany.  Serbia had little fertile land and was overpopulated at the time.  The minorities in the Batschka and Lower Baranya especially the Danube Swabians were envied for their prosperity and fertile land.  During World War II the Chetniks favoured such an expulsion programme.  In Point Four of the Resolution passed at a Congress in Montenegro in 1942 states:  “Only Serbs, Croats and Slovenes may dwell on the territory of our State.  There can be no national minorities.”  A portion of the Chetniks went over to Tito’s Partisans.  They took over the expulsion programme that would seal the fate of the Danube Swabians should the Banat, Batschka and Lower Baranya ever fall into their hands.


  Partisan apologists respond by saying, “With the liberation of the Batschka we would face the minority problem of the Magyars and Swabians.  The Politbureau were only confronted with the problem of what to do with the Hungarians, the fate of the Swabians had long been decided.”


  But there was also the hunger for fertile land.  The great collectivization of farms that took place after the war basically consisted of the confiscation of Swabian owned land.


  At the Anti-Fascist Congress for the Liberation of Yugoslavia at Jajce on November 23td to the 30th in 1943 they declared the deposing of the monarchy and the nationalities programme of the Partisans into effect.  It had a vision of a state which had no place for Germans.


  The Swabians were charged with collective guilt and as traitors and had no legal or civil rights and deserved to be punished and executed if they fell into Partisan hands.  This was only another step that led to the declaration of the AVNOJ in Nobember 21, 1844 in Belgrade that ordered the confiscation of all properties of those who were ethnic Germans and they were declared enemies of the State.  This decree was the basis for the liquidations carried out in the Banat, Batschka, and the Lower Baranya in October and November of 1944.


  Following the passing of the Russian military through the region, “Regional Liberation Committees” were set up in the villages be local Serbs or those living in the vicinity.  Meanwhile Partisan units were arriving in the area and in effect were in military control until February 15, 1945 when political control of the Batschka was handed over to the civilian Liberation Committees.  The first phase of military control by the Partisans was the arrest and detention of certain elements of the Swabian population; relatives of men in the SS, members of the Volksbund organizations, community leaders, professionals and intellectuals.  Phase two were a flurry of massacres and executions of these groups of “war mongers.”  Some suggest these actions were taken to eliminate any opposition to what was to follow.  It was a move to prevent “a counter revolution.”  The same occurred in many Magyar and Slovak communities for the same reason.  In all cases, all official records list them as Fascists.


  It was the “Krajiska Brigada” commanded by a former Serbian barber who commanded the execution squad that massacred the men and boys of Filipowa.


  Was the liquidation carried out and ordered by the highest echelons of the Partisan Command or were the actions taken as a result of local initiative?  There is no clear cut answer to the question but here are three theories.


  There was a central command structure involved during the liquidations in the Banat at the end of October and in the Batschka at the end of the November because they were all similar and followed the same pattern.  There is no evidence that execution squads moved from one area to another to carry out the liquidations.  Rather it appears the motive was to terrorize the Swabian population and make them compliable and co-operative.  It is rather obvious that the Russian military officials and the Interior Minister, Alexander Rankovic, were both well aware of what was taking place.  The actions did not take place in a vacuum.


  In many respects the liquidations bear a strong resemblance to a Leninist purge aimed against the “Intelligentsia” to weaken any opposition on the part of the people.  The Soviet military authorities were certainly familiar with the purpose and method and were often present at such actions as was the case in Filipowa.


  The actions in the Batschka were the result of orders given by local commanders with the cooperation and support of local officials.  Many of the actions appear rather rash, spontaneous carried out in a lot of confusion with a lack of order and discipline.  They were on a rampage against Fascists, Chetniks and Ustaschi.  They wanted victims and found them.  Often the locally stationed Russian commanders became involved.


  At the Anti-Fascist Congress of Liberation in Belgrade on November 21. 1944 a decree was issued to confiscate  all of the property and possessions of all ethnic Germans who were all enemies of the State except those who had joined or supported the Partisans.  The decree went into effect the next day but it was not related to the liquidations taking place.  The confiscation affected the property and possessions of both those who had fled and those who had remained behind and was held in custody by the Partisan military command who declared the Swabian possessions as belonging to the State.  In a real sense this was the first step in the collectivization of land in Yugoslavia.  But not only were the Swabians robbed of their property by this decree but they were declared enemies and traitors to the State and deserved some form punishment.  Confiscation and dispossession led to the next inevitable step…they lost all of their civil rights and protection as citizens.  They were aliens illegally located in Yugoslavia and enemies and the only solution was internment.


  The decree of November 21, 1944 gave the local authorities the right to drive the Swabians from their homes and intern them in concentration camps.  How aware the Belgrade authorities were of the measures that local jurisdictions would take is unknown.  But to all practical purposes their decree led to the extermination of thousands.


The Internment Camps


  The declaration of the Danube Swabians as “enemies of the people” and the confiscation of their possessions and property led to their systematic internment.  Between the end of November 1944 and the beginning of March 1945 they had to leave their homes and were placed in internment, extermination or labour camps.  By the end of September 1945 their unoccupied homes were given to new settlers from Montenegro and Bosnia.  In these camps that were established 16% of the inhabitants from Filipowa who were in them had died.  There were approximately 3,300 who had remained and not joined the evacuation of whom 833 eventually died in the camps.  One out of every four persons.


  At the beginning of November 1944 the Swabian populations living in the cities, e.g. Panschowa, Werschetz, etc. were driven out of their homes and were spread around in the camps in the neighbouring villages.  In all cases the camps were set up to act as holding camps to house forced labourers and were isolated from the outside world and all freedom of movement was denied them nor could they purchase or sell anything.  Both the Russians and Partisans made use of them; clearing debris caused by the war, street and railway repairs.  With the constant demands of the Soviet military for labourers the camps served as a constant source of manpower (although many of them were women).  In this way it was easier for the Partisans to meet any requests made of them by the Russian military.  At Sombor the labour groups at the camp had to repair rail lines and highways from Kikinda to Szeged which had both been destroyed by the retreating Germans.  Those in the camp at Palanka and later those assembled at Neusatz from the southern Batschka worked in the mines at Vrdnik.  In all of the camps the numbers who perished there were very high.  There were always a rash of shootings and executions; daily mistreatment and torture; limited nutrition and constant hard physical labour.


  It was in the Lutheran village of Jarek where the first concentration camp for those who were unable to work was established for the Danube Swabian population in the southern Batschka, while simultaneously the camp in Nakovo which served the same purpose in the Banat was opened two weeks later.  This indicates that a planned solution to the Swabian population was being put into effect.  It was not simply a result of “local initiative” after all.  This internment process was in full operation  by March and April of 1945 by which time all of the Swabian population were in camps.


  Control of the whole situation affecting the Swabians was taken out of the hands of the military authorities of the Partisans on February 15, 1945.  On February 16th the Civilian Liberation Committees took power in the Banat, Lower Baranya and the Batschka.  The Swabians would receive no humane treatment at the hands of these civilian authorities.


Filipowa from November 25, 1944 to Good Friday, 1945


  On the gloomy morning of November 26, 1944 followed the massacre in the Hodschag meadows, the seventy men and boys in the smaller incarcerated group in the church were released.  They hurried home and the streets remained deserted.  Shortly before noon, fifty wagons were assembled to pick up the Partisan execution squad and return some of them to Sombor.  Some of the drivers learned of the massacre from their passengers.  It was only later that they shared the news because they were threatened with death if they revealed the information.


  Before the noon hour meal drummers went up and down the streets announcing that all girls and women, sixteen to sixty years of age had to register at the community administration office.  It was a carbon copy of the order given for the men the day before.  They were terrified and they whispered to one another, “Now it’s our turn!”  Or was it just another call up for forced labour?  A Russian officer spoke to them at the town hall who informed the women they had to be at the railway station the next morning at 4:00 a.m.


  On November 27th, approximately 300 women and teenaged girls waited at the station for a train.  The organizational ability of the Serbian officials involved was practically non-existent.  At 6:00 a.m. the group was led back to the town hall.  There they were divided into groups and force marched to Sombor.  After an absence of two weeks they marched back home through the muddy streets of Filipowa on December 12th after doing hard labour at the airport installation in Sombor.


  On December 15th the Chief of Police, Djoko, set up another work group of women that now included girls as young as fourteen years old that set out for Sombor.  They returned on December 22nd and hoped to spend Christmas together with their families.


  On Christmas Eve, 239 persons, both men and women, were rounded up for deportation to the Soviet Union although none of them were aware of their destination.  The vast majority were teenaged girls and women for there virtually very few men left.  They assumed that they would be digging trenches on the Hungarian front.


  The first weeks in the new year were relatively quiet.  The deportation had seriously limited the work force left in the village which made it difficult to organize work groups.   On the 23rd all of the men reported to the town hall and then had to go to work in the hemp factory.  On February 1st the pharmacist’s shop was cleared of medicine and it was taken to a neighbouring village.


  On February 3rd, seven men were taken to Hodschag and put on trial as deserters from the German Army.  Three of them that had served in the Waffen-SS were taken to Sombor and the other four were placed in the camp in Hodschag which consisted of vacated houses.  In the next few days all of them men between sixteen to sixty who lived in the district were interned there.


  The Partisan military officials were aware that their mandate would end on February 15th and hastened to complete their “cleansing action.”  The daily fare of the Swabians were curses, beatings, interrogations and hearings.  The first victims were former soldiers and then they sought out Volksbund members.  The execution squads came at night with lists of names and dragged away the victims who were never seen or heard from again.  On February 14th those men from Filipowa who had survived were marched home…


  February 28th saw the arrival of 500 Serbian refugees in Filipowa.  They had lived in Croatia but had been driven out of their homes in 1941 by the new Croatian State and were resettled in Serbia.  They were now being portioned out to the various Swabian villages.  The families who were chosen to received these guests had to provide room and beds, clothing and their meals.


  On the evening of March 11th the drums were heard beating in the streets and all able bodied girls and women, boys and men from fourteen years of age and upwards were to report to the community centre the next morning.  They were told to bring enough food to last them for three days but many brought more.  After a few days most of the group found themselves in the camp in Sombor in overcrowded ramshackle barracks where they remained for several weeks.  Most of them worked at the airport, the coal yards, maintenance work at the town hall or in a large Russian military hospital.  This is when the “unlovely” relationship between the people of Filipowa and the Commander, Rajko, first began.


  At noon on March 14th drums beating in the streets were followed by the announcement that people from Karawukowo, a village 13 kilometres away would arrive and room had to be made for them in Filipowa.  Many of the residents went to the community hall to take people into their homes.  At 3:00 p.m. approximately 1,200 arrived.  In the space of less than two hours these Swabians only had time to gather a few necessities as they were driven out of their houses and taken from their village under the armed guard of Partisans.  Their priest came with them.


  On March 15th after several attempts to destroy the memorial cairn honouring the first settlers and the victims of World War I by shooting at it at first and then trying to topple it by having a team of horses strain to do so they finally resorted to using a crane.  The figures on it were defaced  or broken and it was buried somewhere during the night.


  March 16th saw the arrival of 1,500 more Swabians mostly old men and women with their grandchildren.  They had been driven out of Prigrevica Sveti Ivan.  The next day another 1,000 arrived from the same village.  They too were housed in Filipowa with many of the houses occupied by twenty to thirty persons.  It was said that they had to leave their village because it was so close to the Danube and the front lines were too close.  The people thought the move was temporary.  The church these days was packed with people.  When were they going home they asked?.


  March 25th the Partisans and the Serbian settler refugees celebrated their Great Youth Day.  A parade went through the village.  At the community centre anti-Fascist speeches were made.  They later danced in the streets.


  On March 29th the Serbian settlers raided the Swabian houses and took clothes and whatever else took their fancy.


  March 30th the Serbs still left in Filipowa left on wagons drawn by their teams of horses and they yelled, “We leave today but your turn comes tomorrow.”


The Diary of Paul Mesli


  Good Friday, March 30, 1945


  “A great surprise!  The Serbian refugees have to leave.  All teams of horses and the last wagons are requisitioned.  Some of them are used to cart them away.  They left in the direction of Hodschag.  It was a long column.  Each wagon was stuffed with plundered goods.  They sang battle songs as they left.  A few Serbian families remained behind.


  In the evening after work we had to return to the school.  There was a lot of tension in the air in terms of the Partisans.  Word spread among the men about the dire prediction of the departing Serbs.  The Swabians were all in dread that night and very few managed to sleep.


  March 31, 1945


  In the morning it was back to work.  The village was preparing for Easter.  At 7:30 a.m. armed Partisans numbering about 200 marched into Filipowa.  They surrounded the village.  Then men had to leave for work.  All of the men were sent back to the school where they had been interned.  A great noise was heard coming from the community centre.  Terror spread among the men and boys as heavily armed Partisans stood guard.


  A few minutes later, looking through the windows of the school the men could see the Partisans in battle readiness move out of the community centre.  They split up into groups and each group headed down one of the streets.  They could see women and children running all over the place.  Everyone thought of his own family at home.  For husbands, fathers and grandfathers it was something that went beyond mere pain.


  Mass for Easter was in progress and someone rushed into the church to say what was going on and the people streamed out of the church rushing home to their families.  In groups of five the Partisan units carried out their commander’s order.  It was 9:00 a.m. when the brutal action began.  They herded the people into the streets just like cattle: the elderly, infants and toddlers, mothers and older girls with small pitiful bundles they managed to assemble.  They were pushed and shoved, beaten and assaulted with rifle butts.  But the men were kept locked in the school.  They saw everything but could do nothing.  As the column of misery was driven out of the village the remaining Partisans began to pillage and plunder the houses.  The vacated houses would become a camp for five hundred slave labourers.


  Out in the meadow just above Filipowa seven to eight thousand people were surrounded  by armed Partisans under a gloomy afternoon sky.  They selected five hundred of them they decided were able bodied and took them back to the empty houses and began to establish a camp.  Those who remained, numbered about seven thousand, and were people who were over 45 years of age and mothers with children too young to work.  There were at least three thousand children under the age of twelve.  These too were Fascists!  Many of them were already orphaned or in the care of their grandparents.


  It was then reported that all of them out in the meadow would be sent to Gakowa.  There was a camp there…


  The men and boys were placed in separate houses from the women of those five hundred who were interned in the “Filipowa Camp”.  The houses were stripped bare except for straw on the floors.


  Easter Day, April 1, 1945


  The nuns were allowed to remain in their convent and gathered together the sick and infirm who had been left behind unattended.  An Easter mass was held for them in the church but none but the nuns and few of their charges were allowed to attend.   Those on labour detail had to empty the houses of all furniture and possessions.


  Easter Monday, April 2, 1945


  At 9:00 a.m. a larger column of cattle cars and an engine arrived at the train station which the men and boys were to load with swine.  At 2:00 p.m. the Partisans force marched the people from the meadow to the train station, all old people and young mothers with children dragged and beaten along the way.  Some were shot if they could not keep up.  No one was allowed to speak as the Partisans screamed, “Collective guilt for all Fascists!”


  April 3, 1945


  The train left overnight for Weprowatz but their destination was still unknown.  Those in the camp continued to clear out the houses.  The Partisans spent much of the day shooting the dogs and cats.  Now a life of hard labour became our daily fare.  On April 20, 1945 word first came that the people of Filipowa were in the extermination camp in Gakowa…people were already dying of starvation there.



  In the beginning of March 1945 the Danube Swabians in north western Batsdhka were placed in concentration camps if they had not been deported to the USSR or were already in a labour camp somewhere in Yugoslavia.  The same procedure was carried out in the Banat and southern Batschka beginning in March 26-April 19 1945.


  Internment usually took place in a quarter of the community in which the houses were emptied of all furnishings, food, possessions and large numbers of the local inhabitants were placed in each of them.  Close by would be a central camp in the area containing all of the able bodied people.  It was possible to have contact with one another secretly.  When one was no longer able to work one was sent to one of the concentration camps where they elderly, small children and young mothers were being exterminated.


  The major camps for those not fit for work in the Batschka were at Gakowa, Kruschivlje and Jarek.  In the Banat it was Rudolfsgnad and Molidorf where thousands died and were replaced by the next victims who arrived.  Of the 33,000 Danube Swabians interned in Rusdolfsgnad from October 1945 to March 1948 at least 10,000 of them perished.  In Jarek at least 6,000 perished.  In Filipowa the labour camp counted 250 deaths among the 1,500 internees who passed through there.


  The concentration camps at Gakowa and Kruschivlje were established on March 12, 1945 with the arrival of 7,000 Danube Swabians from Apatin.  They would serve as the major extermination camps in the western Batschka lying almost on the border with Hungary.  Gakowa became the centre for the internment of those unfit for work.  In April, Summer and Fall in 1945 larger groups arrived from the other camps at Apatin, Hodschag and Sombor.


  In 1931 Gakowa had a population of 2,692 of whom 2,370 were Swabians.  By the end of the 1945 there 17,000 Swabians packed into the confines of the emptied houses.  In the first ten months 4,500 of them died.  Approximately 8,900 persons died there in the thirty- three months it was in operation until the end of December in 1947.  Of those there were 756 victims from Filipowa.


  Kruschivlje had a population of 907 in 1931 of whom 869 were Swabians.  By the end of 1945 there were 7,000 persons confined there in the camp.  At the closing of the camp at the end of December 1947 there were known to have been at least 3,605 victims who died there including ten from Filipowa.  The last new inmates were sent there  in December of  1947.


  Gakowa lies 15 kilometres north of Sombor and 7 kilometres from the northern border of Yugoslavia with Hungary.  Kruschivlje is 4 kilometres north east of Gakowa.  Neither camp was surrounded by barbed wire and watch towers.  There were more or less regular patrols who guarded the camp.  Escape attempts were the order of the day to beg for food in the neighbouring villages.


  Each morning those still able to work were escorted to work in the fields around the camp and others had to cut firewood and while they were gone the Partisans stole their clothing, any money or valuables.  Food became more and more scarce.  In May real hunger began and in June the people attempted to get by the guards and patrols to beg for food in the vicinity.  Dysentery caused the deaths of many of the aged and young children.  Typhus broke out late in the fall of 1945 and lasted the whole winter.  The treatment in both camps was more humane when the military were in charge.  When the civilian administration took charge the camps became extermination centres.


  Often when new groups arrived at the camps they were “sorted” by the Partisans.  Mothers with children over three years of age were separated from them and the children were placed in the care of old people.  Following this “sorting” those who able to work were assigned to slave labour camps in the area at Sombor, Hodschag and Batina.


  Confiscation of what the inmates still possessed was a daily occurrence and if appreciable “goods” were found execution would follow.  The people were confined to their houses and yards and could only be on the streets on their way to work or to pick up their food rations.  To leave the camp and get caught was met with execution but first they were beaten and tortured and placed in a cellar overnight.  In the morning they were given spades to dig their own graves and were shot as the other inmates of the camp were forced to watch.  But the hunger of the children drove the mothers to attempt to get them food.  When they went begging they avoided the homes of Serbs and sought out Hungarians, Slovaks and Croats who were less antagonistic to the Swabians.  Children as young as seven years of age sneaked out of the camp and went begging.


  By 1945 approximately 40,000 Danube Swabian children were orphaned or partially orphaned.  Their parents had either been executed, starved to death in the camps or had been deported to the Soviet Union.  These children were cared for by their grandparents, older brothers and sisters or relatives or friends of their families.  About 20,000 survived the first year and then after that children’s convoys were assembled at various times and they were taken to State Children’s Homes.  This occurred four times in Gakowa.  Their parents or families who were in Germany and Austria after release from prisoner of war  and labour camps in Russia would later search for them and try to be reunited with them.  It took the Red Cross until 1951 to get any cooperation from the Yugoslavian authorities.  Eventually 5,000 children found their way back to their families in the West.  The other 15,000 were raised as Yugoslavs and were given other names and had no idea that they were Swabian and were lost to their families and people.


  As children were left behind through the death of the adult or adults who cared for them, and there were more and more of them every day, they were assembled in “children’s homes” in the camp.  Usually some teenaged girls or a woman were given the responsibility to care for them.  But it was no better here than in the other houses.  They slept on straw and received the same pitiful rations as before.  Many suffered from malnutrition and scurvy.  If they got sick they were placed in the “children’s hospital”.  But the description “hospital” is a misnomer.  It had beds but often three or four children lay in each.  It was the scene of the most sorrowful and miserable sights in the camp.  They were skeletal.  Skin and bones.  They simply whimpered because they no longer had the strength to cry.  It was hard to visit without tears coming into your eyes.


  Many women and girls who served in the children’s home and hospital did so out of motherly concern for the orphans.  But others did what they had to do glad to be spared from doing the hard physical labour others were forced to do out in the fields.  Some of the cooks found “favour” with the Partisans and sold some of the food to them.  It takes all kinds.


  On reaching 13 years of age, the children were placed in the labour groups.  The younger children of able bodied women in the labour groups were taken away from their mothers and put in the starvation camps.  In many of the camps, children were the vast majority of the inmates.  There are no statistics with this regard for Gakowa but in  Rudolfsgnad in the Banat on April 30, 1946 we know that 46% of the inmates were boys and girls under the age of fourteen.


  In December of 1944 the first State Homes for the children were established.  Early in the summer of 1945 parentless children in the camp at Gakowa were placed in these homes.  Later in May the same kind of children who were at the camp in Kruschivilje were brought to Gakowa where they were examined to see which should be sent to the State Homes.


  A Roman Catholic priest (Johler) notes in his diary:


  June 29, 1946


  The first convoy of children without parents to the children’s homes left today in great haste in open air trucks.  The children were not allowed to take anything; no clothes, no mementos or reminders of their parents.  Officially they were being taken to Baja for rehabilitation.  Others were to leave later in the week.


  July 18, 1946


  Word was spread yesterday that the children in the children’s homes who numbered from 700 t0 800 would be transported away shortly.  This morning around 550 children were led to the train station shortly after they awakened from sleep.  Some twenty nuns went with them.  No one knows where.  Everything was done so secretly.


  The remaining children were the next to go and many of the children with grandparents and relatives were also be included.  Fear gripped the hearts of everyone.  But the operation was carried out and they showed no mercy to anyone.


  That afternoon all of the children in the care of grandparents and relatives were ordered to be brought to the children’s homes, “so they would be looked after in the future.”  With that also came the warning, “Whoever fails to bring their children will be shot.”


  July 20, 1946


  A convoy of children from Kruschivilje arrived here to join the children in Gakowa who are to be sent away.  Hundreds of children in columns driven along like slaves in the heat and dust were walking to their unknown destiny.  The very young and small children were tossed on top of one another in ox drawn wagons.  Arms and legs, heads and feet stuck out all over.  Armed Partisans marched alongside of them herding the children like cattle and brutally assaulting any of the weeping grandparents who dared to be on the streets seeking to have one last glimpse of their grandchildren.


  Yesterday only a few grandparents and relatives had reported with their children.  The beating of drums was heard up and down all of the streets and the announcement was repeated that those who would not surrender their children would be shot publically.


  Shortly after the drums were heard no more.  I saw an eleven year old crying beneath my window.  I knew her well.  I saw her mother die and buried her and gave her and her two brothers into the care of a kindly aunt.  Up until now the child had always lived in hope.  Now she was desolate.  She knew she would be dragged off by the Partisans and there was nothing any of us could do.


  July 21, 1946


  No services were allowed today.  But masses were held in two different houses in the camp.  The large number of children who came for communion touched us all very greatly.  Many of them had to wait for three quarters of an hour to receive perhaps their last communion.


  July 22, 1946


  The drummers were out on the streets again and with the same warning and the camp population lives in total anxiety.


  July 26, 1946


  There is no longer any interest in the parentless children.  We hear the removal of the children has been postponed for a month.


  August 1946


  All those parenting the orphaned children were ordered to register the children for school classes.  For the present the children remain here.


  September 1946


  Today a group of orphans were led away from their school classes.  At noon they were heard singing Serbian marching songs in honour of Tito as they marched to a large closed transport van under the direction of the Camp Commander.  It had no windows.  Painted grey.  Looked fearsome.  The children were led inside.  Their singing stopped.  The doors were closed.  The other children who had gathered to watch were driven away by a soldier with a stick.  The motor started up and five hundred more children were taken on the road to the south.  But where?


  January 20, 1947


  Last night several hundred children were taken away in pitch darkness.  No one knows how many or where they were taken.


  February 1, 1947


  After the children’s homes were emptied they were still determined to act with regard to the children who were still in the camp in the care of relatives.  The beating of the drums again today!  All children must be registered if they were without parents in order to receive better food and clothing.  Those who failed to comply with the order would be punished by thirty days in the cellar prison.


  February 8, 1947


  News has come that the children have been taken to various cities.  They have received better rations and clothing.  They were being raised by the State.  They can do whatever they like except pray.


  February 10, 1947


  In the last few weeks many mothers have come to Gakowa voluntarily from other camps or were brought by force to do labour whose “orphaned children” had been taken away.  They asked for the return of their children.  That was not granted because the children were free now and their parents were interned prisoners and no communication was permitted between the two.


  Women who worked in the camp children’s homes often had to accompany and care for the children in the State Rehabilitation Homes.



 B.B. from Apatin writes:  “Those children with TB were taken to Palic and the others, 245 girls and 120 boys four to fourteen years of age were sent to the State Children’s Homes in Stara Kanjiza and Petrovo Selo.  These children’s parents had either died, been deported to the Soviet Union or were otherwise missing.  I, myself, was brought to Petrovo Selo on July 14, 1946 as a child care worker where a home for boys was set up in a former convent.  They were cared for here.  They attended school classes from 8 to 11 in the morning and from 14 to 16 hours in the afternoon.  They went on hikes three times a week.  They learned Serbian lyrics to German melodies in which their parents were scolded and vilified.  For instance the following:


“Our parents were beasts and worthless people

That is why they had to die,

We want to live!

Our bodies and souls belong to Tito,

Only Tito and Comrade Stalin.”


  Religious instruction was not permitted as well as any worship activities.  When two priests asked the director of the home for permission to give religious instruction and provide worship, the director who was a twenty-one year old Partisan from Srem replied:  “There is a barrier between us.  The children belong to us.  And we can do what we want with them.  We need no God, He is much too old.  He doesn’t help you anymore and we need no help from Him.  We have Tito instead.”


  The better pupils were later sent to officer’s training schools, the second best were trained in a trade, the others became farmers and workers.  They did not feed them in vain, they would “capitalize” on their investment.  On August 15, 1946 I was shipped back to Gakowa because of contracting malaria.  On August 23, 1946 I escaped from the camp at night and made it across the frontier into Hungary.”



Escape and Flight


  Until the summer of 1946 any attempts to escape from Gakowa was to take one’s life into one’s own hands.  As one inmates reports:  “If people were caught at the border by the Partisans they were often shot on the spot.  We had to go there and pick up the bodies for burial.  One time I had to pick up a husband and wife and an eight to ten year old son.  The parents had been beaten to death and the boy had been slit open with a bayonet and his intestines were all hanging out.  I could recognize them because of the village attire they wore from Stanischitz.”


  Such “black” (Translator’s note:  the colour black has the connotation of being illegal and clandestine) flights continued to take place because of the desperation of the people.  But at the end of 1946 there were also “white” flights either through bribes paid to the leadership of the camp, individual guards at the camp or border.


  In the spring of 1947 there was mass flights or group flights as the Yugoslav authorities decided that 100,000 Danube Swabian survivors were still a problem that the nation could not absorb.  With Gakowa and Kruschivilje so close to the Hungarian frontier they became the preferred camps for mass flights and escapes.  There had already been one mass flight from Gakowa in December of 1946.  Between the last week of March and the first week of April in 1947 up to 3,000 inmates escaped.  They left in groups of one hundred and obviously the Camp Commander was aware of what was taking place.  By the end of 1947 between 30,000 to 40,000 Swabians had escaped from the camps and crossed the frontier into Hungary and made their way to Austria and Germany.



Deportation to the USSR


  As people were leaving from attending Mass on Christmas Day in Filipowa, drummers beat their drums standing in front of the church and announced all women 17 to 30 years of age and men up to 40 years of age were to report immediately.  In all, 239 men and women were sent to Russia.


  The deportations went into effect at the end of December and early in January in the Banat, Batschka and Lower Baranya in Yugoslavia.  The entire action was carried out by the Partisan High Command.  Similar actions took place in Hungary and Romania under the direction of special Russian commissions.  The deportations began on December 25, 1944 and lasted until early January, 1945.  In some areas the age groups differed:  men from 17 to 45; women 18 to 40.  The only exceptions were pregnant women and nursing mothers, physically handicapped or those who were obviously physically ill.  Women far outnumbered men.  In some areas by a ratio of six to one.  Eight to one in others.  It is estimated that there were between 27,000 to 30,000 deportees from Yugoslavia of whom 4,500 perished in the labour camps in Russia.


  In the Romanian Banat there were 50,000 Swabians who were also involved.  In addition to them were the Swabians in Szatmar and the Transylvania Saxons.  From Hungary there were upwards of 65,000 Swabian deportees.  There were at least 150,000 Danube Swabians involved almost 8% of the total prewar population.  Estimates range from 16,500 to 17,600 for the number of deportees who perished in the camps.  From among the 239 deportees from Filipowa, 28 men and 25 women died there.


  The first group deported from Filipowa numbered:  24 men and 85 women for a total of 109 persons.  The oldest man was 43 years old and the youngest man was 19 years old.  The oldest women were 28 years old and the youngest were 18 years old.  They left on Christmas Day on a night march to Apatin.  On December 29th they left Apatin by train and arrived at Charkow in the USSR on the night of January 21st and 22nd. 1945.  During their time there 16 of the men died and 9 of the women.


  The Yugoslavian authorities claimed that Filipowa did not meet its quota so that a second deportation occurred involving 130 persons (30 men and 100 women).  They left marching through deep snow and in the bitter cold of December 28th for Apatin and arrived in their camp at Antrazit on January 19, 1945.  Two of these deportees died in the first week because of the extreme cold and lack of any heat in the camp.  There were also a number of 16 year old girls in this group most of whom died.  In total, 12 of the men and 16 of the women died perished.


Acts Perpetrated Against Individual Swabians


  The following are three examples of the twenty-four that are found in the Heimatbuch.


  Magdalena Hoffman was born in Filipowa on January 25, 1856.  In her 90th year she accompanied the other villagers in the expulsion from their village.  Before the people were loaded onboard the box cars that would take them to Gakowa she rested at a friend’s house.  On Easter Monday they came for her.  She still couldn’t believe it was really happening.  She was upset and unable to lift up her bundle of possessions as she tried to board the box car.  Three shots rang out and she lay dead at the feet of a Partisan who pushed and shoved the next people onboard.


  Theresia Hӧnisch born in Filipowa on August 13, 1921.  Along with her two children she was sent to Gakowa.  Many died because of hunger daily so she sneaked out of the camp at night to beg for food for her young children.  On the way back to the camp she was caught by a Partisan and was taken to the camp commander who took away the food she had been able to beg and began to beat and brutalize her.  She was thrown in the “cellar” with other people who were being punished.  After days of this kind of punishment she was released only to die a few days later as a result of the mistreatment she had suffered.  Her children, Georg and Erika, died of malnutrition a few days later.


  Elisabeth Wurtzky born in Filipowa on May 31, 1885.  She was interned at Gakowa and on January 5, 1946 she participated in morning worship at the church with some other women.  The Partisans broke in during this clandestine service and herded all of the women to the office of the camp commander.  On their way the others managed to escape from their guards except for Elisabeth.  The commander declared her guilty and ordered her to be executed.  Four armed Partisans led her to the cemetery.  She  was forced to undress in the bitter cold and then taken to an open mass grave and killed with one shot to her head.

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.

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.  

Werbass, Vrbas, Verbász in the Batschka



  The article which follows is a summary and translation of various parts of The History of the Twin Communities of Old and New Werbass published in 1975 by the Werbass Homeland Association.


  At the end of the 17th Century the Serbs moved into what became the Batschka just as the German settlement of Hungary also began.  The difference between the two groups was that the Germans were lured there with Patents and land grants from the Habsburg Crown, while the Serbs were fleeing the wrath of the Turks since they had allied themselves against the Turks.  They sought only temporary sanctuary until the Turks were driven out of southern Serbia.  When that did not happen they settled permanently.  The area had been depopulated by the Turks and had become a wasteland and cultivated fields no longer existed in the midst of the devastation.


  The Edict of Toleration of Emperor Joseph II in 1781 and 1784 ended the centuries long oppression of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches in both Hungary and Austria.  His mother the Empress Maria Theresia had forbidden the settlement of non-Roman Catholics in her Population Patent of June 21, 1755.  The Protestants who lived in the area went on to Transylvania and Srem to avoid conversion.


  For the purpose of emigration many of the settlers carried letters of recommendation from their pastors.  From the tone of these letters and other church documents the pastors by and large were of the Pietistic tradition.  The words of faith and assurance that the pastors and church leaders sent with the emigrants were still in the hearts and consciences of the settlers and were their last link with their former homeland.  Those who left for Hungary were all noted and recorded in the parish records.  The following is an extract from one of them:  “May the Lord give all them blessings, good fortune, good health and success that they may be true to their God and King, steadfast and faithful in their faith and remain so, so that our Lord Jesus Christ will grant them every heavenly gift and the crown of life.”


  People of substance as well as the poor joined the Swabian Trek in its final phase under the auspices of Joseph II.  The German princes and state officials discouraged would-be emigrants from leaving and claimed that the recruiting agents misled the people.  They asked, “Why leave your beautiful homes for the swamplands of Hungary?  Hungary is the cemetery of the Germans.”  The settlers were not free farmers and “belonged” to their lord of the manor to whom they owed allotted labour service, taxes and tithes of their crops.  Those who emigrated had to be released from their servitude and receive a certificate of manumission after the payment of all of their debts.  They left need and poverty behind in the hope of a better future for their children.  Leave taking was difficult for most of them especially their immediate families that they would never see again, their church and cemetery and the graves of loved ones.


  Those who had no resources were granted their manumission for free, others who had funds had to pay an emigration tax of one Gulden per man, forty-five Kreuzer for a woman and ten Kreuzer per child.  The manumission fee and the poll tax was eight Gulden per man.  In all of the princely domains the Swabian Trek to Hungary was big business bourn by the peasants who were leaving.  The taxes differed in each territory.  Assistance was available through the Imperial Agents as well as a travel allowance.


  The emigrants also required an accompanying pass issued by the Imperial Agents at Frankfurt, Rothenburg and Koblenz.  Heads of families had to register at their offices.  On the pass were his name, age, religion and place of origin; the name of his wife and children and signed the promise to settle in the Kingdom of Hungary and to report in Vienna for the next stage of the emigration to Herr Welz at 216 Hofgarten.  Only family units were permitted to emigrate.  Wives had to accompany their husbands.  Only those who could provide security for their families left behind could leave alone and spy out the land and get settled first before they followed him.  Many took their aged parents with them as well as unmarried brothers and sisters.  In some cases they even brought their hired hands and maids with them.


  Many of the unmarried, married for the purpose of emigrating.  Others found wives among the other would-be settlers on their way to Vienna and were married there before moving on into Hungary.


  Tensions developed between the territorial princes and their subjects who sought to emigrate.  They were autocrats and had no real concern or understanding of their people and many issued anti-emigration laws.  The Kurpfalz (Rhine Palatinate) is an example.  The ruler was an Elector of the Holy Roman Empire.  Because of the devastation of the area by the French at the close of the 17th Century and restrictions imposed upon the religious freedom of the Protestants, thousands saw no other alternative than to leave for other lands.  In addition to this was the desperate economic situation of the peasants.


  The settlers travelled with “sack and pack” and carried only the necessities for their journey, all else was sold and this money was the “fortune” they brought with them.  It took four to six weeks of travel to reach their destination and funds would be needed.


  As many began the trek they left early in the morning accompanied by relatives and friends for part of the way.  Others, lacking official permission to leave, stole away in the night after secretly selling their property.  Avoiding the night watch, climbing over the village walls, whole families disappeared into the night.


  Many settlers followed footpaths or walked on the roads but most left by wagon.  Those who walked carried only necessities in their bundles, sacks, packs, baskets, carts and wheelbarrows.  Bedding, clothing, food.  They travelled in small and larger groups and formed a community in which a “leader” emerged, usually an older gifted man who made arrangements and decisions for the rest.  The assembly areas were at Regensburg and Ulm on the Danube.


  When they arrived in Ulm they were accommodated in the town.  Baptisms and marriages were frequent and the economy of the town was effected by the emigration but the people of Ulm were supportive of the emigrants.  That was especially true of the pastors of the town to whom may turned for help and guidance.  The island of Schwall lies at the confluence of the major and minor branches of the Danube where ship navigation of the river begins.  The Ulmer Schachtel (boxlike boats) travelled seven to eight kilometres an hour and had a capacity of one hundred to one hundred fifty tons.  They were made of unfinished lumber and timber and were disassembled in Vienna and sold there as lumber.


  The emigrants landed at the Rossau docks after sailing through the Danube Canal.  The area was swampy, forested, open meadows, reeds and brambles with a few fishermen’s huts here and there.  At the docks there were tradesmen, merchants and farmers with food, drink and various supplies for sale.  Some of the settlers slept on the docks, some in the ship overnight, while those who could afford it walked across the Augarten Bridge to Leopoldstadt and took up quarters in one of the inns, “Zum Goldene Fischtrügel”, “Fischer”, “Lamm” or “Goldenen Hirschen”.


  An agent of the ship company usually accompanied the settlers to Vienna until an emissary of the Crown accompanied them to the Hofkanzlei:  Royal Chancellery for Hungary and Transylvania.  The whole group walked through the city in their distinctive attire.  Each family registered and showed the documents that were required, received money for the next leg of the trek and were assigned to a specific location in Hungary.


  Many arrived without proper documentation, usually the poor, but no obstacle was put in their way and they were assisted in the same way as the others.  The Imperial government was fully aware of the territorial princes’ opposition to the emigration and by accepting these people word got back home and more people would follow.


  Countless marriages took place in Vienna and most couples were in the early twenties or late teens.


  They took larger ships to Offen (Buda part of Buda-Pest) and registered again and arrangements were made to get them to Sombor the chief staging area for the Batschka settlements.  The last part of the journey was on foot along the Danube and Tisza Rivers and through rather desolate uninhabited areas.  They slept out under the sky, experienced hunger, were plagued by sickness and their were deaths along the way.


  At Sombor they registered again and if settlers arrived without documents they were accepted.  Facilities were there for the settlers to house them until they could move into their own homes in Werbass.  They were then transferred to neighbouring Roman Catholic villages and housed with families who received one Kreuzer per person per day.  This lasted for about six months until their homes were built.  At the time of the  founding of the settlement between 1784-1786 there were 252 landowning families along with 42 cotters and their families who were tradesmen or day labourers.  The majority of the families had their origins in the Pfalz, Württemberg, Hessen, Alsace and the Saarland and included both Lutherans (Evangelisch) and Reformed.  A comprehensive list of the first settlers can be found on pages 72 to 94 with rather detailed information on the part of most of them.


  During the reign of the Empress Maria Theresia a large group of Slovak Lutherans settled in the Batschka in 1760.  They lived on ecclesiastical lands owned by Archbishop Adam Patasic who was determined to convert them.  In the face of his attempts to do so they moved en masse to Srem which was outside of the Archbishop’s jurisdiction and established themselves at what would become known as Alt Pazowa (Passua).  On these private estates the Slovaks were not allowed to have a pastor or hold any public worship services but they were nurtured in their faith by meeting in household assemblies.  Each year at Easter the entire community would travel together from Kolócsa and make a pilgrimage to their home congregations in the counties of Pest, Nógrad, Zolyom and Turoc to receive Holy Communion.


  Following the promulgation of the Edict of Toleration, Petrovac was the first Lutheran congregation established in the Batschka by Slovaks who settled there in 1783 along with their Pastor Andres Stehlo.  This was followed by a massive wave of Protestant immigration from various German principalities that resulted in the establishment of Torschau in 1784, Cservenka in 1785 and Werbass from between 1784-1786.  These Lutheran settlements all had a Reformed minority living among them.  In future the two confessions would be settled separately.  In 1786, Lutherans established Kleinker, Sekitsch and Bulkes and the Reformed founded Neusiwatz and Neuschowe.  Jarek was another Lutheran settlement that came into existence in 1787.


  The first resident Lutheran pastor in Werbass was Johann Georg Meyer (born in 1755 in Bayreuth, Bavaria) who graduated in theology at Potsdam in 1784 but was without a call and could not be ordained.  After discussions with government and church officials an agreement was concluded for him to become the pastor of Werbass in July of 1786.  He accompanied the settlers who founded Cservenka and then assumed his pastorate in Werbass.  The church chronicle reports that he was a true care taker of souls in Werbass for twenty-two years until his death on December 16, 1808.  His was no easy task.  The congregational members differed greatly from one another coming from a variety of church backgrounds, traditions and customs out of which a sense of community needed to be built.  Each group was familiar with a different order of service and worship practices and sought retain their own tradition.  The hymnbooks and melodies differed and again each group wished to maintain a sense of home and their childhood.  He needed a lot of tact and patience to work through a new common church life for his people.


  In 1791, a Seniorat (Church Conference) was established for the Lutheran congregations and pastors in the Batschka and Srem as part of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Hungary as the Lutheran Church was known.  There were fourteen congregations of which seven were German, six were Slovak and one was Hungarian.  The head of the Seniorat (known as the Senior comparable to a dean) was Andreas Stehlo of Peterovac one of the Slovak congregations.  Along with six other Seniorats they formed Montan District or Diocese with a superintendent-bishop.


  Many of the pastors who served the Batschka Lutherans came from Upper Hungary (Slovakia) chiefly from the Royal Free Cities and the mining towns of Zips County.  Their schools in Leutschau, Neusohl, Schemnitz and Eperjes produced strong Lutheran leadership and were highly influential in the development of the church life of the Lutherans in the Batschka.


  The settlers left a lot behind but they also brought a lot of their homeland with them.  Their schools were almost carbon copies of what they had been in their German homelands.  Most of the teachers had been engaged in teaching back home before coming to the Batschka and brought the same pedagogical approaches and understandings to their task.  They brought their text books with from wherever they came from and the teaching approaches of 1750s from those areas.  The first Lutheran teacher, Leopold Weber came from Herrstein a very small principality and Werbass would emulate its school system.


  There were four factors which shaped the identity of the Lutheran Danube Swabians:  their faith, their mother tongue, their pastor and their teacher.  The roles of teacher and pastor were complimentary, necessary and essential to the life of the Danube Swabian Lutheran Church.  Their schools had the task of teaching reading, writing and arithmetic to underscore learning scripture, catechism and the hymns.  Higher education was beyond the means and the aspirations of the settlers and those who arrived after them.  Church and school were so closely related that the school came under the influence of the church and pastor.  The curriculum was under the direction of the local pastor and the Church District.  Church appointed officials inspected the schools and had the responsibility of providing supervision to the teachers.  The bishop’s visit always included the teacher and the school.  Initially there were no standards or requirements of teachers because there was no training programme or educational institution in operation.  The teachers were saintly, good men, usually craftsmen or tradesmen in origin or retired soldiers and attached themselves as assistant teachers as a method of upgrading and preparation.


  During the early settlement period truancy was a major problem as children were often engaged in herding cattle, goats, etc.  So that this function became an occupation so that the children were free to come to school.  Those parents who persisted in keeping their  children at work were fined and the money was used to buy books for the poor children.  The first teacher, Leopold Weber, had been a weaver as his name implies.  The key text book that was used was Becker’s School Book (Gotha).  He also trained another man to be a teacher but he served very briefly.  Pupils came for only half the day.  The boys in the morning and the girls in the afternoon.  Arithmetic was taught “to be done in your head”.  Only the boys learned to write because paper, ink and pens were too costly.


  There were also Jews among the original settlers in Werbass and had German names and basically came from the same locales as the others.  Later Jewish immigrants came from Austrian principalities and Slovakia.  During the reigns of Maria Theresia and Joseph II they were allowed to settle in southern Hungary.  Many of them settled among the German settlers because of language and cultural similarities.  Most of the Jewish residents originally lived in Alt Werbass but after 1850 they resettled in Neu Werbass.  There were approximately two hundred and fifty of them living in the community in the 1840s when they formed a religious community.  Most of them came to Werbass as trades people i.e. tailors and merchants and shop keepers.  Their descendants established various industries and larger stores and businesses.  Their synagogue stood next to the Reformed Church and they also built and operated their own school.


  At the time of the settlement of Werbass in 1786 there were 105 Reformed families that were initially part of the Lutheran congregation.  The Reformed Church officials in Hungary were anxious for the provision of Reformed pastors for the new settlers arriving in the Batschka and carried out extensive correspondence with the government authorities and by November 1784 they had the promise that there would be financial support for two Reformed clergy as soon as possible.  In correspondence of March 19, 1785 it was noted that the Reformed pastor who had been sent to Torschau shortly before had already  abandoned his flock there.  On June 19, 1786 another piece of correspondence indicates that there were 119 Reformed families Cservenka and 102 families in Neu Werbass and in Torschau there were 381 adults that were desperately in need of pastors.  The government authorities agreed to provide support for a pastor in Cservenka and another to serve both Torschau and Neu Werbass.  In November of 1786 Johann Buzás arrived and held his first service in Neu Werbass on the 12th.  He would serve here until 1804 and would hold services on Sundays at seven o’clock and the following Sunday at ten.  The Lutherans and Reformed shared in the use of the same “prayer house” until both congregations eventually had their own churches.  The Reformed also had their own school and teacher.  In the future there would also be a small Methodist congregation and a Roman Catholic parish and school.


  The following statistics give an overview of the growth of the two major denominations.  At the time of the settlement 310 houses had been built to accommodate the families.  By 1858 the number of houses had increased to 473.  In 1820 a census was undertaken and there were a total 2,679 inhabitants in Werbass that included 1,982 Evangelical Lutherans and 627 Reformed-Calvinists as well as 56 Roman Catholics and 14 of the Jewish faith.  Later in the census of 1858 Werbass had a total population of 3,985 of whom 1,909 were males and 2,080 were females of whom 2,592 were Evangelical Lutherans, 1,052 were Reformed, 252 were of the Jewish faith, 127 Roman Catholics and 2 were Eastern Orthodox.  During the 1850s the statistics are as follows: in 1854 there 1,487 Evangelical Lutherans and 978 Reformed.  In 1855 there were 1,521 Evangelical Lutherans 1,012 were Reformed.  In 1856 there 1,556 Evangelical Lutherans and 1,034 Reformed.  In 1857 there were 1,598 Evangelical Lutherans and 1,052 Reformed.  In 1858 there were 1,644 Evangelical Lutherans and 1,079 Reformed.


  In 1900 the total population of Werbass was 6,369 that rose to 6,924 by 1910.  The census undertaken by the Yugoslavian government on March 31, 1931 indicated the following information about the population of the twin communities of Alt (old) and Neu (new) Werbass by ethnicity and religion:


                                                                                 Alt Werbass               Neu Werbass

  Serbs                                                                         2,006                                 547

  Roman Catholics                                                           860                             1,893

  German Protestants                                                    1,707                             5,406

  Other Christians                                                            990                                323

  Muslims                                                                            3                                    3

  No religion or unknown                                                  19                                189

  Totals                                                                           5,585                            8,361


  Combined total for the twin communities                 13,946


  (The Jewish population was not included and numbered 369 persons)                                


The Second World and Its Aftermath


  Following the end of the First World War and the defeat of the Central Powers the decision was made at Versailles that the Batschka would become part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes which would better be known as Yugoslavia.  With the capitulation of Yugoslavia following the German invasion in 1941 the Batschka was returned to Hungary and Hungarian troops arrived in Werbass on April 3,1941.  When the Eastern Front began to crumble and collapse the Red Army advanced into the Balkans as the German and Hungarian occupying forces began to withdraw in the summer and early fall of 1944.  The inhabitants of Werbass were noticeably worried.  The people looked for something to hold on to and many turned to the church which was now often overflowing.  Fear was an overarching emotion and everyone prayed fervently for the end of the war while the local Serbian population made dire and ominous predictions about the future of the Danube Swabian population.


  Everyone was well of the fate that had befallen Werbass’ Jewish population following the Hungarian occupation.  Services in the synagogue were forbidden in 1943 and 1944 and they met in homes as their ancestors had in the past.  The total destruction of the Jewish community would take place in April 1944.


  But in retrospect we must mention that some of the young people had emigrated to Palestine in the 1930s as Zionists but there were few who followed their lead.  No one seemed to pay much attention to anti-Semitism until the Hungarian occupation in 1941.  Suddenly all relationships with the Jews in the community ended.  Their stores were boycotted and they were beaten out on the streets.  The windows of the synagogue were broken by “vandals”. Worshippers were molested at the synagogue which led to their assemblies in private homes.  Some of the German inhabitants attempted to raise their voices at the mistreatment of their Jewish neighbours but were unable to accomplish much of anything.  The paramilitary members of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party, the Hungarian version of Nazism who were fierce anti-Semites played a major role in what would transpire.  Local Jewish men who had won military decorations in the First World War were interned by the Hungarians in the camp at Begéc in the southern Batschka and were taken there in trucks that were used to transport slaughter animals.  The entire convoy was then sent across the Danube River into the area where the Croat national government, the Ustacha, were in control.  They too were also fiercely anti-Semitic, all of which meant certain death for all of them.


  Hungarian governmental regulations and restrictions went into effect against the Jewish population and targeted their economic life.  Many attempted to get lost in the larger communities in order to escape surveillance.  About one third of the Jewish community left or went into hiding.  A pogrom of mass murders of both Jews and Serbs was carried out by Hungarian troops in Novi Sad in January of 1942 and also included the rest of the southern Batschka.  Prominent members of their community in Werbass were taken to the camp in Batschka Topola and held there for several months.  Then another blow was levelled at the remaining Jewish population on July 1, 1942 when all Jewish males from the ages of 18 to 45 years were conscripted to serve in labour battalions to support the Hungarian Army on the battlefield in the Soviet Union.  Countless numbers of them from Werbass died miserably in Ukraine and on other fronts in the war with Russia.


  The surviving Jewish population in Werbass who were mainly women and children and the elderly kept in doors and out of sight.  They avoided the streets and the mistreatment that they could expect.  But even in those dark, dark days there were individuals who were examples of Christian charity towards their former friends, neighbours and co-workers.  Everyone had a sense of knowing that there was more to come.  On March 19, 1944 the German Army occupied Hungary and the order was given for the quickening of the pace in carrying out the final solution to the Jewish problem by the “new Hungarian regime” now in place:  The Arrow Cross Party.  The first step was the introduction of the yellow star of David.  On April 26, 1944 a round up of the remaining Jews in Werbass took place at night.  The operation was carried out by the local police, Hungarian troops, SS officers, Gestapo officials and civilian authorities who packed the Jews in the school.

Only those of mixed parentage were exempted.  They along with others in the camps at Batschka Topola, Maria Teresopel and Baja were packed fifty per cattle car with no food or water and were taken to Gänserndorf in the vicinity of Vienna.  From here there were some “special” people who were sent to Theresianstadt but the rest went to their death in Auschwitz.  It is estimated that 160 of the Jewish inhabitants of Werbass perished in this way.  There were some survivors from the labour battalions and others who returned to Werbass after the war but all of them left en masse in 1948 when the State of Israel was declared and sought their future there.



   Once the first refugee treks from the Banat passed through Werbass the thought of flight became uppermost in the minds of many.  There were no battles in the vicinity of Werbass because it lay far removed from the front lines.  The populace held its breath.


  In July and August of 1944 military activity began in the area.  Fighter aircraft were heading north overhead.  Retreating German and Hungarian troops passed through Werbass.  It seemed to be raining all the time.  More and more refugee wagon trains were quartered and then went on.  Despite what they saw the local population on the whole did not get the message and decided to stay put.  Even their enemies were human what was there to fear?  There was one military action in October that led to a major explosion destroying military supplies and taking a few lives.  As Hungarian troops left by train they assured everyone they would be back in three days.  Too easily the people believed them to their own destruction.  On October 8, 1944 the civilian and military officials belatedly ordered the evacuation of the German population of Webass.  Whoever had a horse and wagon or could get aboard military transportation or get on the last train left on October 9th.  Other people were simply uncertain what they should do.  They remained.


  Flak bombardment of the town by the Russians began on October 18th.  There was no response on the part of the German and Hungarian military.  They had simply vanished.  On their part he Russians later said that was the reason why they were lenient when they entered and occupied Werbass.  On October 19th Russian frontline troops and Serbian Partisans marched into the town.  Each house was forced to fly the Yugoslavian flag with a red star imposed upon it.  To their relief there were no instant reprisals against the German population.  German prisoners that were in the custody of the Partisans were forced marched to Neusatz (Novi Sad).  During the night guards went from house to house and assembled stoves for the military.  All German males from 16 to 50 years and females from 18 to 40 years were assembled and taken to do forced labour to bring in the sugar beet and corn crops.  Both men and women were physically abused if they did not work fast enough to suit the Partisans.  In meeting a Partisan on the streets individuals knew they could expect a beating at their hands.  Houses were emptied and men were interned in them and given little if any food but they were called upon to work every day.


  In November they took a number of men out to the cemetery and had them dig twenty-five to thirty graves near the place where some soldiers had been buried.  Later that night both Hungarian and German men were thrown into the local jail and forced to undress down to their underwear and were beaten half to death if they had been members of the Swabian Cultural Union and then force marched them out to the cemetery in their bare feet where they were shot.  Some of them had dug the graves themselves a few days before.  One man reports:  “One night a Partisan came for me to have me interrogated.  My wife tapped him on the shoulder and begged him to let me stay at home and fainted in his presence.  That did not phase the man a bit and I was not allowed to help her as she lay there on the floor.  At the community centre I had to hand over everything I had.  Then the door to the jail cell opened and I felt a push from behind and fell inside.  There were about twenty-four of us.  I can’t remember who all of them were.  But I remember the Roman Catholic priest, Tarján, our teacher Heinrich Dietz, Karl Schmidt, his wife, son and daughter, Lenhard Buzder a merchant, Mrs. Häfner neé Krist,  and Mr. Heib who lived on the Kaffeegsse (Coffee Street) etc.  Nothing happened the first night.  My wife wept in front of the community centre.  A Russian spoke to her.  He told her what was going on inside the community centre and for that reason she went out to the cemetery.  The Russian was an officer who was stationed at Haus Tuzlic (local inn).  Thank God all of us were freed that second night because of that Russian officer.  We were interrogated individually about whether we had been members of the Bund and if we had been beaten since we were arrested.  We had to sign a statement to the effect that we were not.  Two of the men in our group had been beaten severely the first night we were there and we had heard their almost animal cries as they crawled back in our cell on all fours.  They signed the same statement we did and I didn’t question it for a moment.  As I was being taken out of the jail I saw my friend Johann Gabel who sat in another cell.  I could hardly recognize him because of the bruises on his face and after his release he was sickly for a very long time.


  On another occasion a Partisan came for me and took me to a hearing before Russian Secret Police officers in Alt Werbass.  I was only under arrest for the one night and then released.  There were others who were in the custody of the Secret Police in the Gayer furniture factory, Hause Bayer (an inn) the school were Heinrich Deitz taught and Hause Tuzlic.  On the day of the burial of the wife of Dr. Tessenyi the Partisans apprehended Kiss Tibor and Karl Gayer the owner of the furniture factory from the funeral procession and took then away and they were never seen again.  Schäffer, Tischler, Gutsohn and Friseur had prepared to leave with the evacuation but decided to remain after all and were among the first that were arrested and murdered.  There were so many others whose names escape me now.  But there was Paul Theiss the merchant, his brother Daniel, Paul Rumpf who had been the Richter (mayor) and his son Paul who had just come home from the Hungarian Army.  Heib Andreas, Jr. Professor Jakob Lotz, Karl Schmidt-Ott, Peter Weiss, Bladt Kaufmann, Martin Kremer former member of the Town Council, Kovács the former chief of police, Philip Schmidt a mason was taken to the cemetery on his way home from work and unknowingly was forced to fill the grave in which his son had been thrown the night before.  The old man later died in Jarek.  The wife of Konrad Schadt and the wife of Karl Schadt and the foster daughter of the Bank Director Paul Becker were all led away and never seen again.


  On December 21, 1944 I like many other men was on my way back from doing slave labour and was taken by the Partisans to the camp in silk factory and interned.  Young men were led away and sent to Russia and young women and older teenaged girls were assembled and sent to slave labour in Russia.”


  The internment of the remaining German population took place on the day of Pentecost on May 20th, 1945 and then the new colonists from Montenegro arrived.  The Lutheran church in Neu Werbass were vandalized by the youth from among the colonists.  Anything made of wood was used for firewood.  The Lutheran Church in Alt Werbass was totally dismantled and the materials used for other purposes.  The tower of the  Reformed Church in Alt Werbass was torn down and the church was turned into a warehouse.  The Reformed Church in Neu Werbass was eventually given to the small Hungarian Reformed congregation and still stands to this day.


  With their internment on the day of Pentecost the fate of the villagers was accelerated.  After the church service the Partisans held back all of the worshippers and whoever had a German name (all of them did) were designated to go to the camp created out of a section of the houses in Werbass.  There was no first going home, no saying goodbye, no taking any precious items.  From worship they went straight to the camp.  Later in the same morning, wagons driven by Partisans in the company of local Serbian girls went from house to house and issued the same order to the elderly, sick and children who had not been in church.  All of the people were driven to the camp through the streets of their town with only what they could carry.  On arriving at the camp the people’s goods were confiscated.  The Partisans tore clothing apart to find money that might sown in the seams.  They took soap, jewellery including wedding rings.  Family members were separated.  Some were confined to basements, the yard or the first story.  Visiting was forbidden.  They could not leave their area and had to do everything in the room in which they were assigned.  There was no water available, not even for the children.  All of their belongings were piled up almost to the height of the room.


  The Tuesday after Pentecost all the small children and their mothers as well as the elderly were assembled and then told to get ready to leave.  About 360 of them were forced to go on foot to the train station.  They were helped along by being beaten with rods and rifle butts.  A storm erupted so that people lost sight of each other.  Children cried.  Old people stumbled and fell.  The guards screamed and scolded them.  Old men who tried protect the women and children were thrashed and beaten.


  At the railway station a locomotive and a long line of open freight cars awaited them.  They were packed onboard with whatever belongings they still had.  The people were driven from one freight car to another at the whim of the sentries.  Those who seemed to be too slow were beaten until they bled and again it was especially the old men.  Their way of sorrows began that night.  It was raining as the people from Werbass left their home forever.  Next morning they arrived at Jarek.  They were soaked by the rain.  Hungry.  Cold.  Tired.  They sat on their meagre bundles.  Some of the old had died on the way.  They were finally ordered off the freight cars and carried their bundles and the smallest children into Jarek which had  been the most beautiful Lutheran village in the Batschka which had been turned into an extermination camp.  Fearfully with great despair they entered the village.  The guards were in a hurry.  They robbed and plundered the people of whatever they might have left.  Finally the body searches were over and the assignment to houses in the village began.  People began to die in the very first days.  A second group arrived from Werbass a week later.  People simply lay about on the floors or on straw if they could get it.


  The starvation diet they received was soup in the morning with no body to it.  Beans for lunch boiled in water without salt.  There was no supper.  Bread was made without salt and was barley based.  The lack of salt effected everyone especially the children.  Hunger was a constant reality.  When a family member died they traded the clothes for food.  A black market flourished among the Partisan guards.  Five and six year olds were so weak that they could not stand or walk.  There was a “hospital” set up for children but no one took their child there because visiting was forbidden.  Many of the children died of diphtheria.  Typhus made victims of many of the adults and the two German doctors in the camp could not handle the large numbers of the sick and dying.


  There was no life in the camp, only slow death.  They scrounged for food everywhere because the inhabitants had fled en masse with very little time to spare and left everything behind and for that reason people searched everywhere.  The people were not allowed to leave their houses.  Partisans patrolled the streets.  They were not allowed into the backyards either for fear that they would communicate with others.  They could only go to the kitchen but at designated times.  Inspections were regular and thorough because they were still on the lookout for valuables.  They would shove the sick aside and search beneath them.  Up to one hundred people died daily.  Each death had to be reported.   They came for the body with a wagon.  Friends and family sewed the bodies in linen, straw mattresses and accompanied the body to the door.  If an older man was present he often offered a prayer and spoke of the Christian hope to the others gathered around him.  On occasions hymns were read or said because all forms of singing were forbidden.


  The bodies were taken to mass graves of eighty or so.  Bodies were covered with lime.  The old funeral director of Werbass was allowed to pull the wagon with the bodies to the grave site.  He paid everyone his last respects, prayed over his friends and neighbours and listed all of the names that are included in this book.


  Everyone under sixty-five had to work mostly in a neighbouring Hungarian village.  No visitors were allowed in Jarek but some sneaked in by accompanying the workers at the Hungarian village back to the camp.  If caught it meant the cellar.  Somehow one copy of the New Testament and several hymnbooks had alluded the searchers.  They were shared and passed on among the camp inmates.  There were numerous Lutheran and Reformed pastors in the camp who tried to minister as best as they could.  Those who survived Jarek were sent to the death camps at Gakowa and Kruschilvje.


  A total of 602 men, women and children from Werbass died in Jarek.  From among those who survived and were sent to Gakowa another 42 perished.  During three nights in November 1944 a total of 101 villagers were executed.  The total losses among those who remained behind in Werbass number 745 persons.

Jarek in the Batschka


  The information that appears in this article finds its source in several publications but primarily the Heimatbuch that was published by the Village Association of Jarek.


  The picturesque Danube Swabian village of Jarek was located 15 kilometres from Novi Sad in present day Serbia.  In 1937 there were a total of 1,911 inhabitants all of whom were Swabians and Evangelical Lutherans.  It was founded in 1787 as the last settlement in the Batschka under the sponsorship of Emperor Joseph II.  The first settlers came primarily from Württemberg as well as Hessen-Nassau, the Pfalz and Alsace.  The initial 80 families all came from Württemberg and by 1788 they were in great need and had to borrow wheat from the government using their future crops as collateral.


  These settlers were first placed on the estate of Count Sigismund Pejachevich whose agents had recruited them promising land, homes and work.  Instead they found themselves destitute and spent the first winter in the cellars they had dug in the ground.  There were seven hundred colonists involved on his estate.  Some had come as early as 1770 from Hungary:  Kisharta, Vadkert, Meszӧbereny, Mokra, Nagyszӧlles and were all German-speaking Lutherans.  New settlers from Germany joined them in 1786.  All of the groups complained to the authorities and eventually word got to Emperor Joseph II who took immediate action.


  The settlers from Württemberg found it hard to cope with the climate, swamps and barren land.  In terms of their church life they had to accept the ministry of Roman Catholic priests and were placed under their jurisdiction.  They were registered in the Roman Catholic parish records in Ruma.  Seventeen family names that are recorded would be re-settled in Jarek.  Others moved on elsewhere or returned home.  Most of the Württemberg families settled in Ruma from March to September of 1786.  By February of the spring of 1787 they had left.  There were 80 families and some 300 persons.


  They were later joined by other Lutherans as mentioned previously and together they established community and church life and would have to brace themselves to face many hardships in the future.  One of the major setbacks that affected the second and third generations was “the flight of 1848”.  The village and its inhabitants were victims of the Hungarian Revolutionary War of that same year.  Serbian rebels were on the rampage throughout the area and the local population of Jarek fled north to the neighbouring Lutheran village of Kisker 20 to 30 kilometres away as well as Schowe, Altker and Werbass wherever they sought sanctuary.  In late August 1848 plundering bands of Serb rebels crossed the Danube and struck Jarek and the Hungarian village of Temerin on the night of August 29th-30th.  They put both of them to the torch setting fire to many buildings.  The fires got out of control in Jarek and everything was totally destroyed except for the twenty-five year old Lutheran Church which was badly damaged.


  In the future grandparents would tell the story of a Serb who aimed and fired at the crucifix on the altar of the church and instantly became deaf and mute.  For generations, the older residents told the children the stories about “the flight” many of which became local village legends.


  On their return to their burned out and blackened village they had to sell their services as agricultural workers throughout the area.  Slowly the village and church were renovated and their homes were restored.  Their church bells had been carried off but they were located in Karlowitz and were brought back home.


  Later many of the young families of Jarek left to establish themselves in other villages because there was no more available land or the existing land that was for sale was far too expensive.  Between 1883/1884 many left for Budisawa, others migrated to Syrem and 200 would leave for the United States.


  What distinguished the inhabitants of Jarek most of all was their deep piety.  The Bible played a major role in their family life.  Many wives, mothers and grandmothers would write out the 91st Psalm by hand and sew it into a special pocket in the breast pocket of their family members serving as soldiers.  Every trooper from Jarek knew Psalm 91 by heart in both the First and Second World Wars.


The Last Days in Jarek


  The summer of 1944 was one of relative peace and calm in Jarek although war was raging well beyond its perimeter.  The only reminders were the death notices from the army.  Flights of silver Allied aircraft overhead were simply a sight to behold.  A few bomb shelters were built but no bombs ever fell on Jarek.


  Large numbers of children from the cities of Westphalia had been evacuated to the Batschka to escape the bombing and 240 of them were in foster homes in Jarek.  Later children also came from Vienna.  The last of the children left in April 1944.  In that spring the first bombing attacks on Novi Sad took place.  The airport was hit and the Hungarians set up a make shift air base at Jarek and the pilots were billeted in private homes.  The summer was soon over and the harvest was in full swing as September began.  German troops arrived and were housed in the school buildings.  Troops marched through Jarek on their way to the front as well as trucks and wagons with supplies.  The first rumours that Jarek was endangered were heard and fear began to spread.


  Novi Sad was bombed heavily, day after day.  The shock waves from the explosions could be felt: windows rattled and floors trembled.  People who were bombed out sought shelter in Jarek.  Then the entire population fled into the villages in the district which appeared to be safe from bomb attacks because they were out of the way and not strategic supply centres.


  In the middle of September as Jarek went about the harvest the first refugees from the Banat arrived.  They were Swabians who had been ordered to evacuate.  They came with horses and wagons.  They had been travelling for five or six days.  Their horses were exhausted and the wagons were dirty.  They arrived towards evening.  They were grateful for a roof over their heads.  From these refugees the people of Jarek learned that they too could soon be on the refugee trail themselves.


  By the end of September, retreating battle weary troops and refugees from the Banat streamed through Jarek.  The German front to the east was collapsing.  The Hungarian pilots and their aircraft were ordered out quickly to a safer area to the northwest.  The troops followed on the trains.  In the neighbouring villages and area Partisans from Srem began to put in an appearance.  But Jarek was still at peace until the first days of October.


  Fire broke out in the hemp factory and caused alarm in the whole village and the fifteen year olds had to put it out as all other men-folk had been taken into the army.   As late as September12th, the men from 35 to 50 years of age had also been taken.  Many of them were stationed in the northern Batschka and three or four days before the evacuation they were sent home to assist the villagers in their flight.  By the end of September the Village Council was informed of an imminent evacuation and these older men got home just in time to help carry it out.


  Many had heard from their fathers and grandfathers of the evacuation of 1848, when the people of Jarek fled to the north and middle Batschka and it looked like the same thing was happening again:  packing, bread baking, butchering and fodder gathering.  Instead of taking the best linens, bedding and clothes they took their every day things!  They wanted to “save” the best.  Just like the last time they would soon be coming home again.  They thought they were only fleeing across the Danube.  Many wanted to stay and take their chances with the Russians.


  The order to evacuate Jarek was received on the evening of October 6, 1944.  The Village Council met for the last time.  All men from eighteen to fifty years of age had been conscripted into the Waffen-SS and only some older youth were around to help.  At ten o’clock that night some older youth were sent from house to house to tell the members of the household to be ready and packed in the morning to leave.  A blackout had been ordered and so all the preparations were made in the dark.  Next morning at nine o’clock the first wagons appeared on the main street.  Chaos reigned in the village.  Traffic jams were everywhere.  Things were often at a standstill.  Retreating German and Hungarian troops passed through with trucks and wagons.  No one seemed to know what to do.  Who was in charge?  At noon amid the confusion, a German officer arrived.  Under his direction and leadership the first column of wagons got under way even though it took a lot of shouting and screaming on his part.  The bells in the church tower struck noon.  But the first column of wagons still stood there.  The side streets were filled with wagons and no one had any idea of what was going on.  Nothing had changed by one o’clock.


  The officer complained bitterly and told the mayor, Nikolaus Schurr, to start out and lead the column.  By two o’clock they were on their way to Novi Sad.  On that Saturday, October 7th the first wagon convoy of 290 wagons set out led by the mayor.  Many people from Wassergasse, Kreuzgasse and Neugasse returned to overnight in their homes because they were afraid to travel in the dark.  Those who remained in the village spent a restless and  fearful night.  No one slept.  Cattle and livestock that had not been sent out to pasture bellowed for fodder and water.  Some of the villagers went from house to house to care for them.  But plunderers also began to arrive from the district.


  On the next day, a Sunday, the second trek of 140 wagons left under the leadership of Johann Schollenberger, the custodian of the orphans.  As they wagons left the bells in the church tower tolled and the church doors were wide open and the fleeing villagers could hear the teacher, Wilhlem Heinz, at the organ playing, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” “Befiehl Du Deine Wege”, “Harre Meine Seele” to encourage the weeping people.  The teacher sent his family with the trek but remained behind with those who had no transportation.  All of the livestock were then set free to pasture.  As the trek left it was passed by streams of Hungarian refugees from Temerin.  The inhabitants of both villages were experiencing a second flight together almost a century apart.


  After the departure of the two large wagon treks there were still many loaded wagons that belonged to poorer people who had no draught animals that were standing in the streets and the people were getting more and more anxious about leaving.  They looked for tractors that had been left behind but there were only a few available and these hitched up a few wagons and drove off towards Novi Sad.  As there were no tractors or horses that were available, army lorries arrived in the evening.  Now the people could only take the most necessary items from the wagons and load them on the army trucks which took them until midnight.  They left for the docks at Novi Sad and were then to travel up the Danube.  They travelled to Vukovar and then on to Mohács but could not go on because the Russians were already approaching the Danube from the north and east.  They were assigned to railway transportation to Germany.  They were joined by refugees from Palanka and Cservenka and then went on to Szigetvar, Nagykanisza and Sopron and entered Austria arriving in Vienna on October 28th.  They then went on to Salzburg and  some went on to Munich.


  Plundering began as the evacuation was underway in spite of the continuing presence of German troops and engaged in sexual orgies with Hungarian girls and paid them off with clothes, bedding and furnishings from the Swabian homes.  The livestock were stolen or confiscated by the retreating German Army.  Some of the Jarek villagers returned home.  The local Serbs welcomed them and promised to protect them even though they were afraid of what might happen themselves when the Russians and Partisans arrived.  Most of the looters came from Temerin and they came in droves and carted off their plunder.


  The last German troops left Jarek on the night of October 22nd and 23rd.  The villagers who had remained gathered together for protection.  The Russian troops who arrived a few days later were well disciplined.  As they passed through the village they kept asking, “Which way to Berlin?  How much farther is Berlin?”  They thought it would be twenty or thirty kilometres away.


  On November 25, 1944 the National Committee of Liberation decreed that all Swabians had lost all of their rights of citizenship and were enemies of the State.  The remaining Swabians of Jarek were expelled from their homes and the “abandoned” community was turned into an internment camp.  On December 3rd the Swabians of Budisawa were delivered to Jarek and quartered in the lower part of Ochsengasse.  An order was also issued that all of the Swabians of Jarek were to be interned in the camp as well.  But fifty able bodied persons, both men and women, were taken to labour camps in Novi Sad and Schowe.  Three thousand Hungarian civilians were brought to Jarek from Zabalj, Curug and Mosorin charged with treason for their activities during the Hungarian occupation.  The Partisans robbed them of their possessions even tearing gold earrings from the women’s ears.  They were to be followed by thousands of Danube Swabians in the coming weeks, months and years. 


  Jarek would become one of the most notorious of the death camps in Yugoslavia where thousands of the elderly and children perished until it was closed down in August 1946 and the survivors were sent to meet their final fate at Gakowa and Kruschivilje.

The Evacuation of the Children of Alt-Futok


  The following is the translation of an article of the same title in German that appeared in the Donautal magazine.  Atl-Futok was a community in the Batschka.


  Romania’s capitulation on August 23, 1944 finally awakened the Swabian community leaders in the Batschka to the danger approaching and initiated what would become  “The Great Escape” of the German population of Yugoslavia in October 1944.


  It was Saturday, September 30, 1944 and at ten o’clock in the morning the sound of salvos of artillery fire began and lasted for half an hour coming from the direction of Novi Sad (Neusatz) and could be heard from a distance.  The population assumed that German troops were dealing with a Partisan attack or military manoeuvres were taking place in Peterwardein.  The firing started up again on the morning of October 3rd…a Tuesday.  The population knew nothing of what was occurring nor were they aware of the threatening danger they were in because they had no news of what was happening on the Eastern Front.  For the inhabitants of the village of Alt-Futok the battlefield was still somewhere way out there far to the east of them.  The German Army was retreating for tactical reasons they were told.  Yet despite that, Swabian refugee treks from the Banat had passed through the village on September 3rd.


  On the day of the great fire when sixty houses had gone up in flames, the Banat refugees challenged the villagers asking, “What are you waiting for?  Get going!  The Russians are already in Romania.”  Few people took them seriously.


  Two days later on October 5th the community officials had the drums beaten on the street corners and the town crier read out the last official decision of the Alt-Futok village Council.  All children between the ages of six to fifteen were to be prepared for an emergency evacuation to be set in motion on Sunday, October 8th.  They were all to assemble next to the inn in upper Alt-Futok and every child was to bring sufficient food to last for ten days.  By noon most of the wagons were already crowded with children.  The convoy of wagons and trucks headed out for Palanka at three in the afternoon.  The evacuation of the  184 children was now in the hands of a group of women from Futok.  The leader of these care givers was 23 year old, Käthe Einz from Torschau, who was the Kindergarten teacher.


  The convoy consisted of two groups.  A motorized bus group with 40 children led by Eva Mülbi and the wagon trek with Käthe Einz with her 145 children.  They also had a military escort.  The men were from Neutsatz (Novi Sad) and other parts of Hungary and  had been billeted in Futok.  The wagons that transported the children to Palanka had been requisitioned from the Serbian inhabitants of Futok.  The children were unloaded in Palanka and boarded ships and barges while the military returned with the wagons back to Futok.  Palanka was already evacuated and the two barges the children boarded had been meant for 200 children from Bulkes.  They arrived too late.  The ships and barges had left with their jam packed cargo.  The children of Bulkes had to return home where disaster awaited them.  Almost all of them died in the death camp in Jarek.

Siwatz in the Batschka


  The following article is a condensed version and translation of various portions of “Siwatz 1786-1944” published by Pannonia Verlag, Freilassing, 1963 on behalf of their Village Association.


  Siwatz, which was also known as Neusiwatz, was established in 1786 in the Batschka as part of the settlement programme of Joseph II which officially allowed the settlement of Protestants.  As a result the following villages were founded:  Torschau 1784, Cservenka 1785, Neuwerbass 1785, Kischker 1786, Bulkes 1786, Neuschowe 1786, Neusiwatz 1786, Sekitsch 1786 and Jarek in 1787.  What distinguished Siwatz from most of the others is that it was a Reformed settlement.  There were other Reformed colonists living in the Lutheran villages but they were a minority but in several cases they later formed Reformed congregation if and when their numbers warranted it.  That was not the case in Siwatz that was almost exclusively Reformed during the settlement period and after.


  The Immigration Patent of Joseph II was promulgated in 1783 and was soon publicized in the regions along the Rhine River especially the upper Rhine, the Pfalz (Palatinate) in the Zweibrücken area and Hessen.  The circulars and leaflets urging emigration appeared everywhere.  Whole districts were eager to respond.  So-called agents appeared claiming to have special “connections” in Vienna.  Two in particular were Peter Decker (a teacher) and Konrad Bauer of Duchroth bei Kreuznach in the Palatinate.  They recruited over one hundred families living between the Mosel and Rhine Rivers each of whom paid them 1 Florin and 30 Kreuzer.  The two agents left for Vienna with a list of names of the perspective emigrants and these self-proclaimed “deputies” had an audience with the Emperor Joseph II and handed over the list to him.  The Emperor was impressed and agreed to provide for the emigrants on their arrival.


  They returned home in April 1783 and informed their recruits of the arrangements they had made and many well-off families and others now sought to join them.  As the word spread, the country roads and village streets in the district were clogged with would-be emigrants from the whole district because of Decker’s propaganda efforts.  The Palatinate governing authorities ordered him to appear for questioning but he fled and joined his recruits and made it safely to Vienna.  They were all settled in Galicia along with Decker.  The other “deputy”, Bauer, blamed everything on his fugitive companion in crime and nothing every happened to him because they considered Decker was the mastermind.


  At first the German princes tolerated Joseph’s recruitment of their subjects from their domains but soon began to set up barriers and hindered the massive exodus that was taking place.  In some locales it was completely forbidden.  The people simply left secretly by night and once they were outside of their master’s territory they felt free to move on.  In order to travel unhindered by officialdom they needed a travel pass issued by the Commissar of Emigration in Frankfurt if possible.  For most families it was not possible to get to Frankfurt and instead got false credentials and papers along the way.  Once they got to Regensburg they could not be turned back and “papers” were not essential.  It was there were they received an Imperial Passport.  On arriving in Vienna they had to decide on settling in either Galicia or Hungary and go to the appropriate consulate and register with them.  The emigration to Galicia was so massive that by the end of summer of 1783 all of the available land was settled and all of the rest of the would-be colonists were sent to Hungary.


  On arriving at the Hungarian Royal Chancellery the family pass was surrendered and the entire family was registered and each person received 2 Gulden for travel expenses along with a settler pass to be surrendered at Buda at the Royal Hungarian Commission there.  At their arrival at Ofen (Buda) the pass was marked with the name of the place where the family was to be settled and where they were to report.  Those going to the Batshcka would have to report at Sombor.  For the journey from Ofen to Sombor each person was given 1 Gulden.  In this way 3,500 families would arrive in the next eighteen months and others would continue to come up until 1789.


  Much of the early settlement of Siwatz is known as a result of the book “The German Colonist” written by Johann Eimann who provides the information on the places of origin of the first settlers and the early colonial history of the community.  He later became the notary of Siwatz.  His book became a best seller throughout the Batschka and in Germany.  He had attended four years of Latin school and at the age of 21 years he left the Palatinate illegally in 1785 and went off to Hungary.  As one of the few educated men in the settlement he became a leader in its community life.  He would hold the position of notary until his death and the position would remain in the hands of his family from 1793 to 1920!  In his painstaking research he was able to identify the places of origin of all of the families in Siwatz who came from the Pfalz (Rhine Palatinate) along with information on the family members.  They are all listed from page 17 to 40.  There were initially 135 families but others came from other communities in the vicinity or from Hungary.


  Those coming from Hungary had previously lived in Bonyhád, Vádkert, Morágy, Harta, Zsibrik, Bátaapáti, Gyӧnk, Hidas, Zips County (Slovakia) and Alsónána.  The majority of these communities had sizable numbers of Reformed inhabitants and several of them had a Reformed majority.


  As the settlement expanded and its population grew the lack of available land forced many young families to leave and find their fortune and future elsewhere.  In 1802 many of them moved into the adjoining village of Altsiwatz and by 1832 they had established a filial Reformed congregation there that eventually was able to support itself in the future. Not only was there a shortage of arable land the cost of land became exorbitant and poorer families sold their land and bought land in Srem and Slavonia where it was much cheaper and in many cases had not but cleared or had never been cultivated. Many families from Siwatz settled in Beschka, Velimirovac and Cacinci.  In fact the majority of the families in Velimirovac came there from Siwatz.


  As the houses were being built and the village laid out the colonists from Germany were billeted in homes in nearby villages.  In most cases they lived among Serbs as the men began to build the first primitive huts with reed roofs and did so hurriedly anxious to be on their own.  Once they were settled the land was designated and distributed among them.  They also discovered that they had Serb neighbours who were cattle herders and cared nothing for agricultural work. Once the fields were ploughed and sown the cattle ran rough shod over the crops that led to open disputes between the colonists and their predecessors in the village.  It led to the colonists sending two deputies to represent them to complain to the Emperor.  They chose Philipp Grossmann and Philipp Werner.  They asked that the two nationalities be separated in their settlement which the local officials were slow to do and in light of recent Turkish incursions back into the Balkans it was not considered that important to their way of thinking.  The situation deteriorated between the two groups which was detrimental to the growth and development of the community.  In October of 1796 they petitioned various levels of government to order a separation which was finally granted by Emperor Francis I.  It was ordered to be carried out in 1797.  The German colonists paid the costs of a surveyor to carry out the land separation.  The results were the two villages of Alt and Neu Siwatz with Hungarian and Serbs in the older village and the Germans in the new settlement.


  In 1936 the population of Neusiwatz was 2,526 of which 2,386 were Germans who were Reformed and 98 Hungarians and 42 Slavs (Serbs and Croats).  There were 510 houses in the community.


Church and Religious Life


  Friedrich III, also known as the Pious, was the Prince Elector of the Palatinate and brought his former Lutheran territory into the Reformed camp and had the Heidelberg Catechism published for use in all congregations and attempted to suppress Lutheranism but was unable to convert all of them.  The Thirty Years War had a devastating effect on the Reformed in the Rhine Palatinate.  The armies of the Palatinate were defeated and Roman Catholic troops occupied the territory and were quartered in homes.  All of the Protestant churches (both Lutheran and Reformed) were handed over to Roman Catholic priests and monks and Protestant clergy were driven out of the land.  Although the Religious Peace of Westphalia of 1648 was to guarantee religious freedom the Reformed in the Palatinate continued to be oppressed by their now Roman Catholic sovereign and were persecuted up to their emigration to Hungary in 1785.  Because of the ongoing religious persecution and the oppression by their landowners they left house and home in the hope that in the new homeland they sought they would be free from feudal lords and practice their faith freely.


  From the research work done by Johann Einmann we know that Siwatz was settled by Germans of the Reformed faith who had come from the regions along the Rhine.  Up until the expulsion and evacuation of its population in 1944 it was and remained the only entirely German Reformed community in the Batschka.  The founding of Siwatz was synonymous with the establishment of a Reformed congregation.  Along with their Bibles and hymnbooks from the Pfalz, they brought the Heidelberg Catechism that shaped and formed their church and community life.  No pastors accompanied the Reformed settlers or followed afterwards from their homeland and as a result the various new Reformed congregations approached the Hungarian Reformed Church for support in terms of pastoral leadership and had Hungarian pastors who spoke German.  The first Reformed pastor in Neuwerbasss, Johann von Buzás was one of them as well as Stefan Gozon who served as the first Reformed pastor in Cservenka.  It was due to them that the settlers maintained their German identity and operated German schools for their children.


  From the very beginning of the settlement–without the benefit of a church, school or even a house–first services were held in the out-of-doors that consisted of prayers and hymns on the site where the church would one day be built.  Once a few of the houses were built services were held in them in which sermons were read from a book.  At the time of the evacuation in 1944 the book of sermons was still extant.  Services were held in the home of Katharina Hoffmann and from November 1786 until the Spring of 1787 they were held in Abraham Krob’s house.  In the Spring of 1787 the government erected an orphanage that also served as a school and was used as prayer house.  In the same year the government erected a lovely prayer house which was fully furnished within that was used until 1810.  A tower with a bell was erected next to this reed roofed structure.


  The construction of a new church began in 1810 and it was completed n 1811.  Its cost was estimated at 17,000 Gulden.  In 1836 it was in need of a major renovation..


  From May 1786 until August 1788 the community was without any pastoral leadership.   Christian Lüch provided the leadership at the first simple services.  After his early death he was succeeded by Kaspar Schäfer who was also called upon to conduct funerals.


  On November 20, 1786 the newly arrived Reformed pastor at Neuwerbass, Johann von Buzás was brought to Siwatz and held a service in Katharina Hoffmann’s house and celebrated Holy Communion.  On that occasion two elders were elected along with a teacher for the school.  It was from then on that Abraham Krob held services in his house, conducted funerals and baptized many of the infants.


  In the Spring of 1787 he was elected the schoolmaster in Neuwerbasss and he was succeeded by Heinrich Schenkenberger from Cservenka.  He carried out his role of teacher and lay worship leader in the orphanage schoolhouse until the arrival of the first resident pastor Samuel Szelle on August 11, 1788.  He would serve here for the next 23 years.  He was succeeded by a series of Hungarian pastors in the decades ahead until 1882 when Josef Poor, who had been in neighbouring Torschau, was called to be their pastor.  Prior to coming to Siwatz he had been the Reformed pastor in Gyӧnk where he had married Katharina Simon.  His successor was Karl Glӧckner who was from Hungary and had studied in Bonyhád and Budapest.  At the time of the evacuation in 1944 he was still in office in Siwatz.  He remained behind and died a year later well into his eighties.


  With the need for expansion because of the need for more available land families began to buy land in the neighbouring community of Altsiwatz.  By 1820 there were fifty German Reformed families living there and the original families from Neusiwatz were joined by others from Torschau, Neuwerbass and Cservenka.  Within fifteen years there numbers rose to two hundred and fifty.  In 1855 they separated from the congregation in Neusiwatz and formed a new congregation of their own but did so on good terms.  The major problem they sought to address was that of distance.  There were one hundred and fifty and boys and girls in the school and the new congregation purchased a house and turned it into a school.  A prayer house followed soon to be followed by a church as the congregation grew to a membership of over one thousand by 1858 and became a Mother Church with their own pastor and in 1893 they reported a membership of 1,400 members.


  There is little evidence available about the beginnings of the German Roman Catholic Church in Altsiwatz and the arrival of the original settlers.  When the German Reformed settlers arrived in Serbian Siwatz large numbers of German Roman Catholic settlers from the adjacent areas also appeared on the scene.  Because the Reformed were the vast majority of the German settlers, the Roman Catholics wanted to separate themselves from them and moved on to Altsiwatz with the Serbs when they left.  There were also Hungarian Roman Catholics who did the same.  The first documented reference to them comes from 1794 noting that a Roman Catholic parish of Germans and Hungarians had been formed with 272 souls.  It was a filial of Kula and later belonged to the Kernei parish.  They appealed to Emperor Joseph II for a church and priest.  Their request was granted in 1797 and by 1800 they had 526 parishioners.  In 1859 there were 1,255 souls.  At the time of the evacuation in 1944 about 1,500 of the German-speaking members of the parish fled while many of those who remained behind perished in the death camps.


Hungary and the Minorities


  Following the failure of the War of Independence in 1848 under the leadership of Louis Kossuth the new Hungarian Constitution of 1867 strengthened the forces of Hungarian nationalism that sought to assimilate and incorporate all of the minorities into what they called the “Hungarian nation”.  The first attempts were made in the closing years of the 19th Century in terms of education in the schools of the minorities.  All children had to study and learn Hungarian in all of the schools.  Those pupils who went on in school beyond that of their village school had to take all of their classes in Hungarian and became quickly assimilated in the dominant culture.  Propaganda was directed at the children and the parents.  This Maygarization programme suffered a setback with the outbreak of the First World War.  The local German men served in the Hungarian Army and the Austrian Imperial Army.  At war’s end as a result of the Treaty of Trianon in 1919 Siwatz and the rest of the Batschka became part of Yugoslavia, a new Slavic State and they could leave the attempts to Magyarize them behind.


  In order for them to preserve their identity and culture the Swabians as they were called by Slavic neighbours formed the Swabian-German-Cultural Association in Neusatz on June 20, 1920.  The Yugoslavian government accepted this and maintained friendly relationships with the organization but in the future it would be seen as a menace to the State.  They wanted to wean the Swabians from all things Hungarian and brought about some measures against the Swabians who were seen to be pro-Hungarian.  To protect themselves the Swabians formed their own political party.  The German Party ran candidates in the 1929 election and three representatives were elected in the Sombor district and served in the parliament.


  The local branch of the Kulturbund ( the recognized short form of the organization) was formed in Siwatz in 1920.  The aggressive policies of Nazi Germany would have an effect on the association and their ideology infiltrated the Kulturbund.  One’s German-ness became the watchword among the young.  In the Spring of 1941 Yugoslavia was quickly overrun by the German army and the Hungarian army occupied the Batschka claiming it as their territory and part of Greater Hungary.  They offered no resistance to the Kulturbund nor interfered in its activities.


  As a result of the change in government there was a large increase in the membership of what was now the Volksbund connected to the same movement in Hungary and a front organization for the Third Reich.  In 1942 the local chapters of the Bund carried out a recruitment drive among the German-speaking population for volunteers to serve in the German and Hungarian armed forces and the SS.  Most of the young Swabians who grew up in Yugoslavia had little or no exposure to Hungarian and chose to enlist in the German forces.  When the SS enlistment commission made up of Bund leaders came to Siwatz to carry out the recruitment drive there were few volunteers.


  The local Bund  saw its best days between 1941-1944 both organizationally and in terms of membership growth.  Unfortunately, all of this set the German population apart from the other nationalities among whom they lived.


  As conditions worsened for the German Army on the Eastern Front, the population became agitated.  All of the young men from 18 to 35 years of age were already serving on the front lines.  In the summer of 1944 as Germany’s allies, the Romanians and the Bulgarians capitulated, it was obvious to the population that the situation was dangerous.  Yugoslavia was about to become a theatre of war once again.  The Front moved closer from the south-east.  Temesvár had already fallen.  The first refugee treks from the Banat passed through Siwatz.  Anxiety was palpable everywhere.  No one seemed to be able to grasp the fact that they would have to leave.  The last of the men were taken into the army, fathers and sons to hold a disintegrating front.


  In October 1944 the news that the enemy was at the Tisza River frightened the populace of Siwatz.  The Volksbund leaders gave the order to pack for an evacuation.  After a false alarm on October 4th a second order went out on October 8th.  The Russians had crossed the Tisza River nearby.  The population was ordered to flee across the Danube.  Even though the covered wagons were packed they were ordered to feed their abandoned livestock first.  After taking leave of those staying behind the first column of wagons headed for the Danube.  Numerous columns of horses and wagons followed in the next few days.  Women and children waited along the streets and were loaded onboard horse drawn wagons or tractor driven ones.  It became impossible to cross the Danube and the treks drove alongside the river to Dunafӧldvár in Hungary.  Many others were able to escape down the river in ferries.  The wagon convoys were sent in different directions through various regions of Hungary.  The treks were bombed and strafed by fighter aircraft.  Their horses were requisitioned by the military.  Many of the refugees from Siwatz had to pass through Czechoslovakia and fled to Silesia.  They would have to flee west when the Russians began to stream across Poland and the eastern German provinces.


  About 90% of the population of Neusiwatz and most of the German population of Altsiwatz left on the refugee treks.  The livestock left behind bellowed for food, cats and dogs howled and then the looters came.  The mayor, Ferdinand Stieb stayed behind and organized the feeding of the cattle and set up a night watch to prevent more looting.  Caring for the livestock took most of the time of those who had remained until October 20, 1944 the day the first Russian troops came and assembled all of the livestock, slaughtered all of the animals and transported their carcasses away.


  Slavic inhabitants of the area accompanied the military who allowed them to loot and plunder the Swabian homes at will.  Both  the troops and civilians sought wine as their first objective.  The barrels were dragged out of the wine cellars.  They became drunk and fired their rifles to scare the Swabians.  Four days after the arrival of the Russian troops who were moved on in the direction of the Danube, Partisan units came to replace them.  They were the new lords of the land and would set up a government.  But there first task was a rather gruesome practice they had initiated in the south in Srem and the southern Batschka against the Swabian civilian population which had remained behind and not joined the evacuation and flight.


  Sixteen persons were ordered to report to the town hall and then other hostages were taken and imprisoned.  After four days all of the 73 who had been arrested disappeared.  The powder magazine where they had been locked up was bathed in blood.  Out in the cemetery there was a large long recently dug grave that was guarded by the Partisans for over a week.  The mayor was among the arrested.  They had also arrested 67 Hungarian men who were included in the bloodbath.


  Seventeen divisions of Russian troops passed through Siwatz.  The abandoned Swabian homes were totally looted and nearly destroyed by the military and the Slavic population at large.  The few Swabians assembled together in homes for mutual protection and consolation.  By the end of November there were fewer troops passing through and several of the Siwatz evacuees crossed Hungary and returned home to Siwatz.  Even some of the soldiers from the village managed to work their way home and everyone hoped things would become normalized soon.


  Individuals simply disappeared.  Others were taken away.  Some were beaten to death or taken away to Sombor and never heard from again.  There were those who were shot in their own homes.  In the midst of the terror there were some who took their own lives.  The village was a total mess.  Horses were stabled in people’s houses.  All the windows in the houses were broken and the doors battered down.


  On December 26, 1944 all German women between the ages of 17 to 35 years and men from 17 to 45 were assembled throughout the Sombor District and were delivered to the artillery barracks in Sombor.  Several others from Siwatz were brought to join them there on December 29th.  On December 31st all of them were loaded on cattle cars and sent to Russia and after sixteen days arrived at Stalino in Ukraine and sent to the coal mines.


  On April 4, 1945 Siwatz was surrounded by Yugoslav military personnel.  All German women, children and the elderly were given ten minutes to take leave of their homes and then were force marched to the railway station and sent to Gakowa…the death camp.


  Another group of able bodied older men and one younger man who had returned to Siwatz were selected for a punishment detail and sent to Srem to work on rebuilding the railway and were gruesomely tortured by the sentries and eventually martyred.  Only a few survived the cruelty and torture.


  Of those who remained behind to face the wrath of the Partisans, five men and three women of the fifty-five persons taken to do slave labour in the Soviet Union died there.  Two men and five women were killed during the flight.  Fourteen men were executed or murdered by the Partisans.  The number who perished in the camps at Gakowa and Jarek from Neusiwatz included 53 men, 69 women and 3 children for a total of 125 persons.  Those from Altsiwatz included 33 men, 47 women and 1 child for a total of 81 persons.  In addition there were 81 men from Neusiwatz and 68 from Altsiwatz who lost their lives on the battle front or in Russian prisoner of war camps after the war.

Kucura in the Batschka



  The panic stricken German population of Kucura joined the wagon treks fleeing from the Batschka on October 8, 1944.  This included 164 males and 315 females.  A total of 497 persons.  There were five men who had remained behind in Kucura who were later deported to the Soviet Union four of whom perished there in the labour camps.  In addition there were 53 men and teenaged boys and 102 women and teenaged girls who were interned by the Partisans in various camps throughout Yugoslavia such as Jarek, Gakowa and Rudolfgnad.  Only 15 of the men and teenaged boys survived and only 24 of the women and teenaged girls were spared.  The total German population of Kucura had been 823.  There were 126 men in the German Armed Forces and 4 men were serving in the Hungarian Honvéd.


  Many of those who remained at home and did not join the evacuation appear to have been elderly.  Some of the evacuees were taken by military transport vehicles.  This was for protection against the ravages of winter…at least you had roof over your head.  The others left during the week in horse drawn wagons.  They travelled through the central region of the Batschka between the Danube and the Tisza River and along the right bank of the Danube through Swabian Turkey in Hungary and then went through Austria, Czechoslovakia to their final destination in Silesia.  Their wagons were not equipped to handle the rough terrain and mountains they passed through and the teams of horses were handled by old Opas, teenaged boys and young women in terrible winter weather often seeking shelter in the out-of-doors.  Finally finding a place to stay and stop moving.  Only having to flee the oncoming Red Army advancing across Poland once they entered Silesia.  They ended up resting there for only one week.  Then they pushed westwards until they were finally allowed to stay in Bavaria.



  The origins of Kucura are the various establishments and travel stations found on the main roads to provide food, shelter and lodgings in an otherwise rather uninhabited area.  This “inn” was located on the Kula Road.  It was known as Kodzura and is of Serbian origin.  During the Hungarian era (up until 1918) the town was called Kutzora.  It was during the Yugoslavian period after 1918 that it became Kucura.


  On the day that the German population fled and joined the evacuation the town had a total population of 4,050 persons.  The three major nationalities were the Ukrainians who made up 66% of the population, the Germans who made up 21% and the Hungarians whose numbers accounted for 10%.  In addition there were also Serbs, Jews and Gypsies who lived there.


  The Ruthenians (Ukrainians) were the first to settle in Kucura.  When they arrived is not known.  In all likelihood they came after the Battles of Zenta and Peterwardein.  They came from the Carpatho-Ukraine and were Greek Catholics.  Their ancient Ukrainian language served as the language of worship.  Their dialect was heavily interspersed with Serbian and Hungarian words as well as some German.  Some no longer had any command of their former mother tongue.  Many of them had Hungarian family names.  It appears they had been given those names by Hungarian officials.  At the time when the settlement took place many Ukrainians had no family names.  Another version of the story is that those with Magyar names came from the area around Mako famous for the onions raised there that had found their way to the Batschka.  


  When and from where the Hungarians came from is also unknown.  They just seemed to appear on the scene.  It is difficult to ascertain just how Hungarian they actually are.  In fact they appear to be Magyarized Ukrainians.  The only difference between them and those who called themselves Ukrainians is that they were Roman Catholic.  This forced  assimilation of the Ukrainians had begun prior to the First World War.


  The Germans made their appearance in the Batschka after the 150 year occupation of the Turks was ended.  The leading commander of the liberation was a Frenchman, Prince Eugene of Savoy who was in the service of the Austrian Habsburgs.  The depopulated territories recently won were in need of settlers and a large portion of them were Germans from the regions that were constantly under attack or invaded by the French.  Alsace, the Saar, Palatinate, Baden, Württemberg and Hessen.  Along with the German settlers there were also Slovaks and Ruthenians.  But the Serbs had been here before them as refugees from the Turks and were protected by the Habsburgs who settled them in the border and frontier areas to ward off future attacks and incursions by the Turks.


  There was the assumption that the Germans that settled here migrated from Torschau or Werbass that had been founded between 1784-1786.  In fact, they arrived here two decades later than the original Germans colonists.  Their migration from the other communities was primarily due to overpopulation in the original settlements in the Batschka and the lack of additional farming land for young families to be able to support themselves.  The only land that was then available was in Slavic communities like Kucura, Altker and others like them.


  The first Germans to settle in Kucura came from Harta in Pest County in Hungary.  The Listmaier and Haass families are examples of that.  (Translator’s Note:  the Listmaier family were the Lisztmeyers from Heideboden in Western Hungary and were not from Germany.)  The Kuhn family later came from Mezӧbereny and the Schmahls came from Vadkert.  They were followed by the Gӧttel and Reister families who came from Torschau, the Reidls from Sekitsch. the Albus family from Werbass and the Lautenbach and Lauterer families from Bulkes.  There is strong evidence to suggest that the Harta settlers came in 1790.


  In 1972 when the community proceeded to tear down the abandoned Lutheran Church a crane was used to knock down the tower.  A small lead box was discovered beneath the cross in which there were a variety of documents.  Unfortunately the documents had been damaged and portions of the writings were not legible.  All kinds of attempts were made to decipher the documents but without success.  That was until mid-February a year later when Mrs. Susan Roth was able to take on the task.  The following are portions of the document:  “The early beginnings of the Evangelical Lutheran congregation in Kucura belong to the first years of this century (1800).  In 1803 the first Evangelicals came to Kucura.  They were of both Protestant confessions, the Augsburg (Lutheran) and Helvitic (Reformed) from Kiss Harta (Small Harta) and Vadkert in Pest County and were shortly joined by others from nearby communities, Torschau in particular.  Their numbers increased so quickly through the ongoing migration that by 1804 there was the need for a schoolmaster that they would be able to support.  Adam Hütter from Torschau was called to this office.  In 1805 this small congregation bought a house to serve as the school as well as some land to support the school and teacher.  The numbers continued to increase and more land had to be purchased.”


  In October 1811 the congregation called Josef Nagy from the Banat to be both pastor and teacher.  Up until then the congregation had been a filial of Kiss Ker.  Two years later he returned to his former parish in the Banat.  Michael Koschina arrived in November 1813 to replace him as pastor and schoolmaster for the eight three years.  In May of 1821 he resigned his position and went to Meschez in Thuró County where he lived without a church office or position in the future.


  On November 24. 1821 Samuel Borovsky came to serve as the pastor but accepted a call to Neu Schowe in July of 1824.  In August Paul Makonyi was appointed pastor and remained until April of 1826 when he accepted a call to Neusatz. In the month of July 1826 Professor Georg Jessenly who taught at the Bacs-Srem Gymnasium (Junior College) in Werbass operated by the Seniorat (Church District or Deanery) served as the interim pastor until October of 1827 when he was called to serve as pastor at Kisatsch.


  In 1818 the congregation had been visited by the Superintendent (bishop) Adam Lovich.  A prayer house and school had been built and he was present for the consecration of a 140 pound bell.  In 1828 a new cemetery was dedicated.  In 1828 a new house and courtyard had been purchased to house the pastor and his family.


  Up until June of 1837 the Lutherans and the Reformed formed a “united” congregation but in that year the Reformed formed their own congregation as a filial of the Reformed congregation in Torschau.


  In 1843 and 1844 a new parsonage was built.  When the debt was retired yearly subscriptions were undertaken to finance the building of a church because the narrow and damp prayer house needed to be replaced.  The new church was completed in 1861.


  All of these major undertakings were accomplished during the pastorate of Daniel Stur who would serve in Kucura from 1837 to 1887.


  According to the census of 1891 the total population of Kucura was 4,072 and the census indicated the nationalities and religious persuasion of the inhabitants.


  Lutherans                           1,007                              Germans

  Reformed                              151                              Germans

  Roman Catholic                    563                              Hungarians

  Uniat Greek Catholic         2,267                              Ruthenians (Ukrainians)

  Orthodox                                 37                              Serbs

  Jewish                                      47


  Up to the end of 19th Century the Lutherans of Kucura never had a German pastor.  All of them had been either Slovak or Hungarian.  After Daniel Stur’s retirement a pastor Müller was called by the congregation.  He did not remain very long.  The congregation felt rejected.  Pastor Lanyi was called in order to bring peace.  He was replaced by Daniel Hinkel from Alt Werbass.  He was to be the last pastor of the Lutheran Church in Kucura.


  At the turn of the 19th Century the German population levelled off due to emigration to the United States, Canada, Argentina, Srem, Slavonia and Bosnia.




  The vast majority of the Germans that remained behind died in various camps in Yugoslavia but the largest number died at the camp in Jarek which ironically was once a picturesque Lutheran village known for its singular beauty.  The following breakdown presents a picture of who the victims in Jarek were:


  1   14 year old boy

  1    1 year old boy

  4   men over 80 years of age

  4   men in their 70s

  8   men in their 60s*

  1   man in his 50s

  6   men with no age listed


25   men and boys died at Jarek                              *Pastor Lanyi was 63 years old


 1    11 year old girl

 1      2 year old girl

 5    women over 80 years of age

11   women in their 70s

19   women in their 60s*

  3   women in their 50s

17   women with no age listed



57    women and girls died at Jarek                         *Pastor Lanyi’s wife was 61 years old


  There were also 5 men and I woman who were shot by the Partisans.  One woman died at the camp in Rudolfsgand.  Two women died at the camp in Gakowa and one man died at the camp in Mitrovica.



Völkermord der Tito-Partisanen


sterreichische Historiker-Arbeitsgemeinschaft

Für Kärnten und Steiermark

Translated by

Henry Fischer


Genocide Carried out by the Tito Partisans



Chapter One


General Introduction


  There were approximately one half of a million persons of German origin living in Yugoslavia before the Second World War according to the census of March 31, 1931.  These figures however only include those individuals who claimed German as their mother tongue.  Those of German origin actually numbered more than that, and historians suggest that they numbered in the neighbourhood of 600,000.

   Among the German speaking population of Yugoslavia the vast majority of them can be counted as the descendants of those commonly known as the Danube Swabians.  These were German colonists who had been settled by the Hapsburg Monarchy some two centuries before in the area that lay between the Danube, Tisza, Drava, Sava and Morash Rivers after the expulsion of the Turks who left an unpopulated wilderness and wasteland behind them.

   In addition to them, there were also the Germans in Lower Steiermark, the descendants of Bavarian and Franconian colonists who migrated in the 9th century to resettle the unpopulated area left after the Avars were driven out.  There were also the Gottscheer Germans, who were the descendants of Franconian, Swabian, Tyrolian and Carinthian peasant farmers who were settled in the area and were subsequently scattered from there.  Above all, many of them moved into the towns and were known as ethnic Germans in Croatia and Slovenia.

   The Danube Swabians to a great degree originated in the hereditary Hapsburg lands, from Alsace and Lorraine and the Palatinate, and a portion from Austria as well and many others from the south-western German principalities.  With the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the Danube Swabian settlement areas and populations found themselves divided up into the various successor states of Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia.  As a result, some 600,000 now belonged to Yugoslavia.  The major settlement areas in Yugoslavia were the Batschka, where one third of them resided, in addition to a portion of the Banat, plus Syrmien (Srem), Slavonia and Lower Baranya.

   The Lower Steiermark was annexed to the new Yugoslavian state after the First World War.

   During the Second World War Yugoslavia was occupied by the German Army and their allies.  As the German Army and their allies in Yugoslavia began to retreat, a portion of the German speaking population was evacuated.  But about one half of the German population, who had lived in peace and friendship with their various Slavic neighbours for almost two centuries were not prepared to abandon what for them was their homeland.

   At the beginning of October 1944 the first Russian troops entered Yugoslavia and in a few day’s time they first occupied the Banat, and then the Batschka, and completed the occupation of Syrmien and Slavonia by the war’s end.  In those areas occupied by the Russian troops, the Military Governments of the Serbian Partisans were quickly installed in every region, and were in power until the third of March of the following year.  Attempts by their political opponents, other nationalists and royalists to share in government were denied and they were eventually liquidated.

   Immediately with the setting up of Military Government by Tito’s Partisans a systematic program of liquidation of the remaining German-speaking population was put into effect.  It was a field day for individual revenge and sadism.  The vast majority of the survivors of Tito’s death camps managed to escape to West Germany in the 1950s, while a few thousand remained in Yugoslavia scattered throughout the country and who no longer constitute a “German minority”.

   Estimates of the numbers of Danube Swabians in Yugoslavia who were victims of mass shootings, starvation, and the diseases which raged in the camps and other causes, have been set at about 175,000 persons, which is 32.7% of the population reported in 1939.  Included in that number are men killed or missing in action in the military, some 40,000 who constitute 7.5% of the population, which indicates that 135,800 civilians lost their lives (25.3%).  The vast majority of the civilian casualties occurred after the occupation by the Red Army, during the reign of the Partisan’s “military government”.  There were mass shootings and executions, but also a planned systematic liquidation program in effect.

   (The authors digress about variations in the estimated numbers and are not included)

   The purpose of this documentation is not simply to put blame or guilt on individuals who were involved, but to raise our voices in condemnation over what occurred, and how it occurred.  These are the crimes of Tito and his henchmen, which are centred on the following charges and issues:

  1. The November 21, 1944 “National Decree” that all persons of German origin were outside of the law with no legal recourse or standing and were to be dispossessed of all property and possessions.


  1. The systematic mass shootings of men in all areas and districts.


  1. The carrying off of all able bodied men and younger women for slave labour in the Soviet Union.


  1. The internment of all other civilians regardless of age or sex into concentration camps where massive numbers died from beatings, malnutrition, epidemics, cold and brutality.


  1.  Those released from the camps had to provide three years of slave labour.


  1.  The “kidnapping” of children without parents from the internment camps and their placement in state children’s homes to be made to forget their identities and be raised as Communists and speak only Serbo-Croatian.


  We raise these complaints not only against individual Partisans but also many who were not Partisans who committed crimes against innocent people, killed, tortured, murdered, beat and sexually abused them.  We know only too well, that these kinds of acts were not looked upon as crimes because they were done to Danube Swabians who were outside of the law and there could be no consequences for the perpetrator.  Nor could the Danube Swabians call upon any of the state institutions to plead their case.  These acts were not crimes, for there was no law against them nor was it forbidden to do, and no court would have convicted them.

   (The authors engage in questions of complex legal considerations and niceties.  In its place I offer this summary that encapsulates the situation in which the Danube Swabian civilian population would find itself)


  1. 1.          All persons of German origin living in Yugoslavia automatically lose their Yugoslavian citizenship and rights, privileges and protection of such citizenship.


  1. 2.          The entire property of all persons of German origin can be confiscated by the state and claim ownership of it.


  1. 3.          All persons of German origin cannot appeal to their rights of citizenship in the courts or state institutions, nor could they seek legal defense.

   With this law in effect the 250,000 Danube Swabians were robbed of their property and possessions and declared to be outlaws.  Confiscation meant more than loss of property or money.  It meant the very clothes on your back.  Everything now belonged to the State, even their lives and their bodies.  Danube Swabian labour was only for the benefit of the State.  No one had a right to live with their family nor any rights to their children who were taken away from them.  No one had the right to come and go anywhere on one’s own.  The Danube Swabian had no rights but that of a beast of burden.  They were in effect reduced to slavery.

   There is no question now that the liquidation program that followed was systematic and planned from the top.  Tito and his Partisan leadership were at the helm and in control throughout.  There were three basic methods and phases of the liquidation:


  1. 1.     Mass liquidations through execution and mass shootings
  2. 2.     Deportations of the able bodied to the Soviet Union
  3. 3.     Mass liquidation through starvation and slave labour in the concentration camps and the labour camps

   All three of these methods were already set in motion prior to November 21st, but not entirely everywhere at the time.  But from this point onward the three methods would affect all persons of German origin and would eventually lead to their extermination.

   The Mass Liquidations

   These mass shootings and massacres were not the result of the decree but occurred along with the arrival of the Red Army and the setting up of the Military Governments by the Partisans who quickly followed on their heels.  The bestial nature of these actions is hard to describe and was subject to the local situation.  The final destiny of thousands of men and women from the Danube Swabian communities is still unknown and has not seen the light day, and eye witnesses are no longer alive in terms of the perpetrators of the genocide program while the testimony of the survivors could fill volumes.

   Most of the mass liquidation operations occurred prior to January of 1945, and only small groups and individuals met their deaths in this way after that date.  In these later actions it was a matter of sadism rather than official policy.  A beast had been unleashed in search of victims.  Part of the process was always terror and torture.

   An observer comments:  “The Tito Partisans thought up various ways and methods, which in their eyes were appropriate for the extermination of their victims to maximize their suffering.  For instance there was the Schichttorten-Effect.  For this purpose old and abandoned wells and mine shafts were used.  They threw in a group of men in the shaft or well and then tossed in hand grenades after them.  Then another group of men were thrown in and the process repeated itself, until the last layer, who were left wounded with no way of getting back up to the top.”

   Deportations to Russia (Soviet Union)

   The first mass deportations were carried out on Christmas Eve in 1944.  The choice of date was hardly accidental, which would make thousands upon thousands of children virtual orphans.

   In all areas and communities of the Batschka and the Banat, all Danube Swabian men from 18 to 40 years of age, and all women from 18 to 30 had to report to an assembly area where they were examined physically to determine if they were able bodied for labour by a Russian commission.  They were then packed into cattle cars and transported to a destination that was unknown to the victims.  Only pregnant women and nursing mothers were exempt, but for many of them their fate would be even worse.

   The officials were not satisfied with the numbers they had apprehended and a second so called “recruitment” was undertaken, in which the age for women was raised to 35 years, and some mothers of infants were also taken.  At the time of this second deportation the Partisans also occupied parts of south western Hungary and carried out the deportations there as well.  In Slavonia and Srem, only isolated actions associated with the deportation were carried out.  There were some 40,000 persons involved in the these deportations, including 2,400 persons from Apatin alone.  It was only in the summer of 1945 that their destination and destiny became known.  Few families were left intact.

   Only the aged and the children were left behind, and only a few of the children had one of their parents with them to face what the future would hold for them.  Most of the children were with grandparents, or under the care of a teenaged brother or sister or relative.  In many cases small children were left alone in their houses and had to fend for themselves.  One old man in Filipovo gathered twenty-eight of his grandchildren in his house because all of their parents had been deported to Russia.

   (The authors now detour into an examination of what they perceive to be the reasons behind the liquidation of the Danube Swabian population, and I offer a brief summary.)


  The reasons for the liquidation of the Danube Swabian population had several sources.  But at no time were they accused of going over to or supporting National Socialism.  At least no Yugoslavian government has ever accused them of such!  It was a well known fact among their Slavic neighbours that the vast majority of the Swabians did not support the Nazis.  During the occupation by the German Wehrmacht (Army) there were numerous instances where the local Danube Swabian populations offered protection to the Serbians among whom they lived and many of the Danube Swabian men had served in the Yugoslavian Army during the German and Hungarian invasion in 1941.  This was also well known in government circles.  Nor was membership in the Swabian Folk Group Union before the war seen as anti-Yugoslavian, but primarily pro-German in terms of language and culture.  The government never took action against the organization or saw it in any way subversive.  None of these issues were reasons for the persecution that was unleashed against them.

   The issue behind the liquidation of the Danube Swabians at its simplest was racism.  The Partisans, like the Nazis saw assimilated families (inter-marriage with Hungarians, Serbs, Croats, Slovaks) to be the source for “contamination” of the “race”, and they were as brutal, bestial and sadistic as any of those involved in the Final Solution of the Jewish population during the reign of the Third Reich.

   The attitude of the local Slavic populations also played a role and through the support and help of many of the different nationalities, some 20,000 to 25,000 Danube Swabians escaped from the camps, and some 15,000 to 20,000 of them were able to flee to Austria and Germany.  That some 42,000 survived in the extermination camps after three and one half years of inhuman treatment was due to the assistance of thousands of Serbs, Croats, Hungarians, Slovaks and Ukrainians.  These people put their lives and the lives of their families on the line in assisting the Danube Swabians in any way they could.  This puts a lie to the claim that the Danube Swabians had lorded it over their neighbours during the Nazi occupation.

   The other issue, as always, was economic.  The Danube Swabians’ property, homes, assets and savings were confiscated.  Nor were the bestial reprisals against them a result of any of their actions taken during the Nazi occupation.  The Roman Catholic priesthood, and the Lutheran and Reformed Danube Swabian pastors always sided with their Slavic neighbours against any Nazi attacks or actions taken against them.  In effect, the clergy in sense were the only anti-Nazi force that was active during the occupation.  It is ironic that such a large number of the anti-Nazi clergy were included in the mass shootings and executions.  They had three strikes against them.  They belonged to the German racial group.  Religion and Communism were enemies.  They were often the leading intellectuals in the Danube Swabian communities.

   For example, in the Batschka there were forty-eight priests who were persecuted by the Partisans in some of the most bizarre cruel manner representing both German and mixed parishes.  Eighteen of them were killed.  Four were taken in the deportation to Russia.  Seventeen were interned in the camps and nine were imprisoned.

   There were large elements of the population in the Batschka who were able to evacuate prior to the coming of the Russian Army and the Partisan Military Governments that followed. While in Slavonia and Srem there had been well organized mass evacuations of almost the entire Danube Swabian population, but in the Banat most of the attempts at flight were thwarted by Folk Group officials and the local populations were trapped in stalled treks and had to return home and to death and destruction, along with thousands of other Danube Swabians fleeing from the Romanian Banat who had sought to cross the Danube passing through Yugoslavia and make it to safety in Hungary but shared in the fate of the Danube Swabians of Yugoslavia instead.


   The imprisonment of the Danube Swabians in internment camps began in December of 1944 and was completed by April 1945.  There were three kinds of camps:

 1.     Zentralarbeitslager “Central Labour Camp”

  1. 2.     Ortslager “Regional or District Camp”
  2. 3.     Konzentrationslager führ Arbeitsunfähige

“Concentration Camp For Those Unable to Work”

   In the Central Labour Camps most of the inmates were men who were put into work groups and put to hard labour.  In the District or Regional Camps, the local Danube Swabian population was interned, often in their own villages as a stopgap method.  The Concentration Camps were for women, children and older men unable to work.  But in some cases, mothers were separated from their children and teen-agers were later taken to the Labour Camps with them as well.

 The Forced Labour Camps

  As soon as the Russians occupied an area and the Partisans “set up shop”, various forms of slave labour were demanded of the Danube Swabian population.  They were always given the hardest and most difficult tasks, but their food and accommodation were at the bare minimum.  They worked from 4:00 am to dark and received a piece of bread and watery soup at each meal.  In many instances work parties would be replaced and they themselves were then released to go home.  This was the general rule for work parties under the command of the Russian military at the airport in Sombor.  This never happened to those who were under the jurisdiction of the Partisans.  There was no release, except death or flight.  Those released by the Russians were invariably picked up by the Partisans and put back into labour battalions.

   The Danube Swabian slave labour battalions were made available to the railways, sanitation departments and such.  To be more available for work, local labour camps were set up in old factories, schools, former homes of Danube Swabians that were converted into guarded compounds.  Prisoners were shifted from camp to camp and were marched on foot over long distances during the night to be available for work the next day at the new site.  The Partisan Command was in charge and in control of this action and placement.

   The slave labourers included both men and women and their life in the camps was miserable.  Torture and beatings were “normal”.  Many died because of this constant abuse and mistreatment.  They could not keep up with the marching column going to work and would be beaten and driven to the work place.  Many such labourers did not last for more than a week at the labour camp.

   Families of those who were in the labour camps had no contact or any information about their family members.  Often mothers had to leave their children in the care of the oldest child or turned them over to a relative or friend or simply left them to fend for themselves without knowing if they would ever meet again.  Often those who took in other children would be interned in a camp and had to provide for them.  It was against the law for “Germans” to send our receive mail and mothers had no way of letting their children know where they were.  Nor did the mothers know of the situation or whereabouts of their children.

   As early as the fall of 1944, each district where the Danube Swabians lived had a large central Forced Labour Camp.  When the Military Government was abolished on March 3, 1945 these camps came under the command and direction of various state “enterprises”.  The worst feature of these forced labour camps was the practice of gathering groups of them for mass shootings or individual executions.  Many of those who were sick and too weak to work were the victims of these shootings.  But one could work hard and dutifully all day, only to be return to camp and face a gruesome death to entertain the guards.  It was during the time when the Partisans were in control that the mass shootings took place, later everyone lived in fear of individual execution.

   The situation was better for those slave labourers who worked and were lodged at their work place away from the District Camp.  These facilities were not well guarded.  There were no barbed wire compounds and it was easier to leave at night and scrounge for food.  Often the officials of such camps had too much heart to let the inmates starve and increased their rations.  If a person was unable to be assigned to such a camp, he/she would weaken to such a degree that they would be sent to a concentration camp.  The situation of the forced labourers simply got worse as they were moved from one work place to another.  Everything they had was taken away from them.  Their garments became rags.

   The Labour Camps were guarded by the military and all work groups were accompanied by a sentry on the way to their work place.  The guards’ task at the camp was to keep the inmates inside and prevent all outside contact.

   With the introduction of a civilian government on March 3, 1945 the forced labourers could be purchased for work at the rate of 50 to 110 Dinars per day and the purchaser would have to provide accommodations and food.  The slave labour “market” proved to be the salvation of many as former neighbours, friends, acquaintances of the other nationalities purchased them and assisted them back to health and well being and made contacts and traced the whereabouts and fates of their family members.

   2.  Concentration Camps

  The Concentration Camps were introduced in the Banat, when all the remaining Danube Swabian population was driven from their home communities to a central camp.  This was carried out in Werschetz on November 18, 1944 and then proceeded to be carried out everywhere.  In the Batschka it began on November 29, 1944 in the southern districts in Palanka and several of the villages around Neusatz.  In a planned approach all of the rest of the Batschka followed suit, with Stanischitsch the last to be affected in August 1945.  This community had a large Serbian population that spoke out against the expulsions of the Danube Swabian population.  At the same time the actions were also begun in Syrmien and Slavonia, so that by September 1945 no person of “German origin” was at liberty anywhere in Yugoslavia.

   In every district there was at least one Forced Labour Camp.  But those unable to work were driven into the concentration and internment Camps that in effect were designed to be extermination camps and often served several districts.  These extermination camps were located at:


                             Guidritz (Guduvica)

                             Kathreinfeld (Katarina)

                             Stefansfeld (Supljaja)

                             Molidorf (Molin)

                             Karlsdorf (Banatski Karlovac)

                             Brestowatz (Banatski Brestovac)

                             Rudolfsgnad (Knicanin)


                             Jarek (Backi Jarak)

                             Sekitsch (Sekic)


                             Gakowa (Gakovo)

                             Kruschevlje (Krusevlje)



                             Pisanitza (Pisanica)




  The number one rule and order in these camps was that no inmate could leave except in the company of a guard.  All outside contacts were forbidden and to go out begging for food was punishable by death.  The Partisans themselves called the camps, “extermination centres” and they were mills grinding out death.

   In systematic fashion in both the forced labour and concentration camps all of the possessions of the inmates were taken away from them except what would be necessary to clothe their naked bodies at burial.  Food was practically non-existent and as a result thousands would die of malnutrition, disease, cold and starvation.

   They would receive soup two times a day, usually with a sprinkling of beans, peas, oats, barley or wheat cooked along with the clear water.  There was a daily bread ration but there were occasions when there was none.  It consisted of a small piece the size of two matchboxes.  Both the bread and soup contained no salt and the soup was without lard.  The rate of death was horrific.  Every day a hole the size of a room in a house was dug and the bodies of the dead were sewn into rags in their clothes or naked and were thrown into it the next day.  Some mothers accompanied all of their children to one of these mass graves, while more often a child would be forced to toss the body of their mother and other siblings into one of these graves, only to end up in another one themselves.  For the Danube Swabian victims there was no cemetery or funeral of any kind.

   3. The Closing of the Camps

  In the summer of 1948 all of the camps in Yugoslavia were shut down.  Those able to work had to take on jobs.  Those unable to work could rejoin their families and find work there in order to support themselves.  Others who were unable to find somewhere to live were sent to what was called, “The Old Folks’ Home” in Karlsdorf-Rankovice.  This was hardly any different than the camps they had survived.  Since 1948 Karlsdorf bears the name of Rankoviecvo in honour of the head of the OZNA who was personally responsible for the carrying out of the liquidation of the Danube Swabians from the Fall of 1944.  Karlsdorf is the last station of the cross of the Danube Swabian minority in Yugoslavia of what was planned to be the total extermination of all persons of German origin in the country …genocide.


In the Batschka


Chapter Two


  The systematic liquidation program of the Danube Swabian population in the Batschka closely followed the parameters of the governmental districts into which the Batschka was divided for administrative purposes.


  1. 1.     North and Middle Batschka
  2. 2.     South and South West Batschka
  3. 3.     West and North Batschka


  Each of these districts had a central Slave Labour Camp, countless “working stations”, and internment and concentration camps for those unfit for work.  The original internment and concentration camps were closed as the inmates were sent to the chief district camp.


  North and Middle Batschka consisted of the communities in and around Kula and Subotitza and the villages scattered in the remaining eastern Batschka.


  South and South West Batschka covered the areas around Neusatz and Palanka.


  West and North West Batschka consisted of the regions of Hodschag, Apatin and Sombor.


The South and South West Batschka


“…people were treated as if they were even worse than animals.”




  Neusatz was the capital of the Wojwodina.  In October 1944 the Partisans arrested many    of the Danube Swabians  and forced them from their homes.  For some time they were held at the navy barracks on the Danube and at night groups of them were led away and shot in the vicinity of the “Battle Bridge” over the Danube.  The well known engineer Wilhelm Weiss and the lawyer Leopold Veith died in this way.  The rest of the Danube Swabian population was taken to a nearby concentration camp.  Partisans and functionaries took possession of the homes and property of the expelled Swabians.  Many died in the concentration camp and among the first victims was Peter Weinert, a Roman Catholic priest from Palanka.


  The concentration camp was located in the swamps along the Danube.  Although there were always two thousand Danube Swabians in the camp, there were only two barracks.  One was for women and children and the other for the men.  The conditions were unsanitary.  When the Danube River rose the areas around the barracks were under water.  It was especially bad for the women.  More than seven hundred of them were located in one room that was meant to accommodate one hundred.  They slept on boards in two tiers above one another.  They could not wash and were pressed together and could not stretch out.  For many of them, this would last for three years.  There were no windows.  It was always dark and damp in the barrack.  This became a breeding ground for tuberculosis.  Pests and insects were everywhere and the lice viciously attacked the people.  Many of the children bore open wounds caused by them and their own scratching.


  The barracks were surrounded by barbed wire fences.  Heavily armed Partisans were on guard and threatened anyone with death if they got within two meters of the fence.  There were only two brick buildings in the camp.  One was a pig sty for the swine of the Minister of the Interior for the Wojwodina and the other was a “bunker” for camp inmates who were being punished.  Up to twenty persons (men, women and children) were locked up in this room that was three by one meters, with no windows or ventilation.  The swine had the freedom of the camp and messed up and rooted up everything.


  The camp in Neusatz operated like a central camp.  Even though it consisted of only two barracks, a pig sty and bunker about half of the Danube Swabians living in the area passed through it.  When the vast majority in another camp died, it was closed down and the survivors were sent to Neusatz.  At one time, over one hundred Lower Steiermark Germans were sent here as well as many Austrian citizens who had fallen into the hands of the Partisans.  Many others were brought here for punishment.  One of the basic tenents of the liquidation operation was the separation of families and ordered that no contact be possible between family members.  When mothers were apprehended who had been forced to abandon their children, or older children who tried to reach a parent were caught, they were sent to Neusatz for punishment in the bunker, and were then forced to remain in the Neusatz camp.


  All of those who had been deemed “dangerous” by the authorities were consigned to Neusatz.  All the intellectuals who survived the mass shootings and executions were ordered to Neusatz from the camps where they had been imprisoned.  The majority of the German Roman Catholic priests had been liquidated.  The surviving priests were scattered in various camps.  There were fourteen Roman Catholic priests and one Lutheran pastor kept in custody.  All of them were dragged off from their communities and brought to Neusatz.  There was also a veterinarian and several university professors who were also brought here to the camp.


  When the concentration camp at Betscherek was shut down on May 22, 1947 and its inmates were to go to St. Georgen, the authorities found an excuse a few days before to lock up five Danube Swabian teenaged girls and three married women.  They were brought to the main office during the night and were forced to strip naked in the presence of the camp functionaries and the police department.  They butted out their cigarettes on their breasts, tore off their pubic hair and made fun of them.  They forced the menstral pad of one girl into her mouth.  Following this night of mistreatment all eight of them were returned to the camp, but four of them managed to escape during the transfer of the camp inmates and somehow made it to Austria.  Their fear of going through a nightmare like that again, was stronger than their fear of death.  The other four women were brought to Neusatz.  Here they were imprisoned in the bunker to make sure they would not escape like the others.


  The inmates who were capable of working were sent from the camp to do forced labour.  As a result almost nine hundred of the inmates were sent to the forced labour camp at Mitrowitz in Syrmien, where they had to work on railway construction for a long period.  The women in the Mitrowitz camp had their hair shorn, the sick were marched out into the night, were shot and their bodies thrown into the Sava River.  Only three hundred of them survived their stay in Mitrowitz and were returned to Neusatz.


  At dawn all of the camp inmates had to leave the barracks and men and women were separated for roll call that could last for hours.  After that, the slave “dealers” arrived and chose the men and women they wanted to “rent” for the day or a longer period.  Eighty Dinars a day was the price and many of the young women and teenaged girls were used for sexual purposes.  Any who refused to co-operate were beaten and imprisoned in the bunker without food or water.  Often the young women were sent to keep house for the Communist Party officials and local authorities.  They too, could be used “for any purpose”.  This became one of the major reasons that young women took terrible risks in attempts to escape from the camps.


  The food in the camp was terrible and never enough.  It consisted basically of clear hot water passing as soup and a small piece of bread-when there was bread.


  (The author spends a great deal of time dealing with this issue and lengths to which  people went to get food.)


  At the beginning of 1947 at the order of the Minister of the Interior of the Wojwodina all of the aged and all those unable to work were sent to the camp at Gakowa, close to the Hungarian border.  For one thousand Dinars per person escape was possible by joining what was called “white transports” across the border to Hungary led by local guides who were actually in the pay of the camp authorities who received their “cut” and became rich in the process.  There were nights when over four hundred Danube Swabian inmates made it across the frontier in this manner and then had to make their way through Hungary to sanctuary in Austria.


  Meanwhile the brutality continued at the camp in Neusatz, especially in terms of the young women and teenaged girls and it was simply looked upon as the order of the day.  All of this took place with the full knowledge of the highest government officials and was encouraged.


  One of the men from the camp somehow managed to escape and out of anger the camp commander threatened collective punishment for the remaining inmates.  It was in the month of January in 1947 and it was a frigid winter day.  An ice and snowstorm raged outside and the commander ordered the guards to drive the inmates out of their barracks and out into the storm and made them stand in one place on pain of beating if they moved.  In the beginning of February in 1948 the inmates were all denied water for one full day.  These tortures were not only visited upon the men in the camp at that time, but  also the three hundred surviving women and one hundred children, as well as fifty-seven Austrians and Reich German citizens who had been brought to the camp.


  Because of the ongoing brutality and mistreatment Dr. Wilhlem Neuner, one of the inmates in the camp, sent a petition to the Yugoslavian Prime Minister in Belgrade.  As a result a representative of the Ministry of the Interior in Belgrade came and carried out an investigation.  In the presence of the representative Dr. Neuner complained that in spite of the end of the war, Danube Swabians were still being gruesomely dealt with and for no reason at all were still being executed.  The representative did not attempt to dispute Dr. Neuner’s contention that over twenty thousand Danube Swabian civilians had been liquidated in Yugoslavia in the camps set up for that purpose.  The doctor was informed he was in no position to place himself as the judge and jury over the policies of the Yugoslavian State and if he persisted in such charges the situation for himself and the other Danube Swabians would only become more gruesome and the government of Yugoslavia would not allow international opinion or action to keep them from their policies.  On the next day, February 16, 1948 Dr. Neuner was thrown into the bunker but only after they had first tossed in the corpse of a pig that had died a few days before already in a state of decomposition.


  After 1948 and the gradual closing down of the camps, the inmates at Neusatz could volunteer to work in the coal mines in Serbia or work on the newly created collective farms.  Those who were unwilling to volunteer as ordered spent time in the bunker, until they were ready to go.  In this way the camps were emptied and eventually closed.  In the spring of 1948 with most of the men gone, it was time to close the Neusatz camp.


  There were still four hundred inmates in the camp as they began to tear down the barracks over their heads and sell off the lumber, meanwhile resettling the prisoners to the nearby prisoner of war camp.  There they joined the families of intellectuals and other professionals from the Lower Steiermark, some one hundred persons mostly women and children.  The fourteen Roman Catholic priests and the one Lutheran pastor were also there.  On March 29, 1948 all of these others were taken to the train station in Neusatz and loaded in two cattle cars and then securely locked before setting off without any water or nutrition until they arrived in Spielfeld in Austria.  Those who remained behind were taken to the camp in Karlsdorf  in the Banat shortly afterwards.





 Futok was a mixed language community, and from the very first days the Partisans mistreated and beat the Danube Swabian population at will, especially the women.  There were individuals who were singled out for torture and execution.  On December 4th all of the Danube Swabians were driven out of their homes and force marched to Jarek.  They numbered about eight hundred persons.  All of the able bodied were kept back in Futok in a labour camp set up in the local hemp factory and were taken to various places from there to work.  Other slave labourers were brought from other areas in the vicinity later.  The slave labour camp in Futok was closed down in January of 1947, and the survivors were sent to the camp in Gakowa.



Batschki Jarek


“The First Hunger Mill”

  The Lutheran Danube Swabian village of Jarek was almost totally evacuated by the retreating German army in September of 1944.  On December 4th, the residents of Futok were the first arrivals in the camp and included women, children and the aged.  In a very short period of time Danube Swabians from all areas of southern Batschka were interned here in Jarek.  They came from Palanka, Katsch, Temerin, Tschnrug, Gajdobra, Bukin, Novoselo, Schowe, Torschau, Plavna, Wekerledorf, Obrowatz, Batsch, and others including some of the evacuees who returned to Yugoslavia after the war to return “home” at Tito’s invitation.


  Many of the people driven on foot to Jarek never arrived there.  Men, women and children who could not keep up with the marching columns were beaten and often killed.  Groups that could not go on were told to wait for wagons to pick them up and after the others had moved on they were shot.  Many of these victims were children.  Many of them died in the vicinity of Gloschan and experienced the brutality and sadism of the Partisans.  The cruel treatment and lack of food at Jarek led to the deaths of thousands.  In the first eight days after the camp was opened there was no food at all.  Corn bread and watery soup was the staple fare of the camp afterwards.  The most terrible time for the inmates and countless children was the fall of 1945 and the spring of 1946 when there was no wood for heat or cooking and no salt was available.  Soon large numbers of deaths began to occur.  The greatest losses were from among the Danube Swabians from Bulkes another one of the Lutheran villages.  When they first arrived they numbered nine hundred and two persons, and after a few months seven hundred and eighty-eight had perished.


  In the summer the sick and those unable to work any longer who were inmates in the forced labour camps in the south Batschka, Syrmien and Slavonia (both men and women) were brought to Jarek where most of them died in a very short period of time.  Twelve men were occupied day and night burying the dead.  Every day there were ten to twenty children among the dead.  They went from house to house with a wagon collecting the dead who had perished overnight.  The bodies were placed in mass graves.  At first they erected primitive crosses and names were written on them.  One day all of the crosses were collected and burned and it was forbidden to erect a cross in the future.  Those who left the camp in search of food were shot if apprehended.  One woman sought to visit a friend’s grave and begged the Partisan guarding the cemetery to do so.  He shot her as she prayed at the graveside.


  In the spring of 1945 there were almost seventeen thousand persons in the Jarek camp.  In spite of the large number of deaths over the summer months of 1945, by August 16th there were eighteen thousand inmates.  And although vast numbers of Danube Swabians were brought to Jarek after that by the time the camp was shut down in the spring of 1946, the remaining eight thousand were loaded into cattle cars during Holy Week and sent Gakowa and Kruschevilje.  In all, almost fifteen thousands people died in Jarek.  In one year alone, six thousand four hundred perished.  Among the dead were three thousand seven hundred children under the age of eight years.  Included among the dead were Pastor Franz Klein who served the Lutheran congregation in Katsch, Professor Dr. Jakob Mueller of Neusatz, the physician Dr. Michael Koepfer from Obrowatz, and leaders of the Swabian Cultural Union, Karl Mahler of Bulkes and Josef Bolz of Neu-Schowe.


  The transport to Gakowa and Kruschevlje traveled for two days during which time the cattle cars remained locked and no one received any food or water  and no one was able to escape.




  Bulkes was an entirely Lutheran Danube Swabian community with a population of three thousand.  When the Red Army arrived in October 1944, only sixty-five families had been evacuated by the retreating German and Hungarian troops.  The first persons to be liquidated by the Partisans were the local intellectuals and leaders of the community.  They were arrested in their homes and taken to Palanka and were murdered there by the Partisans.  On November 17th 1944 all of the men from the ages of 16 to 60 years were taken from their homes by the Partisans and force marched to Batschka Palanka.  There were one hundred and fifty-six in total.  Approximately two hundred men from Bukin, and just as many from the entirely Danube Swabian village of Gajdobra were brought with them.  They were imprisoned in the local high school and on the 18th of November they were force marched to the forced labour camp in Neustaz.  The Partisans who accompanied them, killed all of those who could not keep up.  Six men from Bulkes were such victims, fourteen from Bukin and five from Gajdobra.


  From the Neusatz camp these men were later sent to Mitrowitz in Syrmien and worked on railway construction.  The work there was difficult and hard.  Of the thirty-six craftsmen from Bulkes only three would survive.  A large number of other men from Bulkes, Gajdobra and Bukin were sent as slave labourers to the coal mines in Vrdnik, where almost all of them perished.


  On December 4, 1944 the remaining men in Bulkes (there were only eighty-six) were driven on foot to the slave labour camp at Palanka.  The older men from Bukin and Gajdobra joined them there, and most of these older men died.


  The young women and teenaged girls of Bulkes were deported to the Soviet Union in three groups.  On December 18th there were one hundred and fifty.  An additional eighty were taken on Christmas day, December 25th and finally one hundred and twenty began the way of sorrows on December 28th.  Not one of them would return to their home community.


  On April 15, 1945 all of the remaining Danube Swabian population in Bulkes were driven out of their homes.  The community now consisted of old women, children and a few of the older men completely unfit for work.  For two days and nights they were forced to camp out in the meadows.  Then they were marched to the camp in Jarek.  Their pastor, Karl Eichler, was among them and he was constantly abused and mistreated, but he was one of the one hundred and fourteen survivors after a few months in Jarek of the nine hundred inhabitants of Bulkes who had arrived in the camp.





  In southern Batschka the Partisans quickly took over the administration and governance of the area after the entry and occupation by the Russian troops, and established a central forced labour camp in Neusatz and Palanka and established similar camps in those areas where there were concentrations of Danube Swabian populations.  Both men and women were taken and put to work that winter doing some of the hardest and heaviest work.  For only a portion of the Danube Swabian population had been evacuated.  The percentages differ from district to district.  In Bulkes only a small portion of the population fled, while in Jarek only a few families remained behind, in Towarisch only one family stayed.  With the initiation of the Military Government by the Partisans in October the mass executions and deportations of the Danube Swabians began.


  The most beautiful community in the southern Batschka was the large town of Palanka- (Batschka-Palanka) on-the-Danube.  It consisted of three communities:  Batschka Palanka, Neu Palanka and Alt Palanka (Old and New Palanka).  Batschka Palanka and Neu Palanka were entirely Danube Swabian in terms of their population, while Alt Palanka counted Serbs, Hungarians, Slovaks and Danube Swabians among its inhabitants.  The total population of the tri-town was over sixteen thousand.  The Danube Swabians were the economic mainstay of the communities.  It was the centre of German culture, commercial and economic life for the overwhelmingly Danube Swabian population in the vicinity in: Gajdobra, Wekerledorf, Bulkes, Bukin, Novoselo, Obrawatz, Towarisch and Tscheb.  In the whole area there were approximately thirty thousand Danube Swabians forming a very large minority among the other nationalities.


  When the Partisans came to power in October 1944, the most influential Danube Swabians and some Hungarians were arrested, gruesomely tortured and killed.  Later in October 1944, seventeen Danube Swabian youth aged from fourteen to nineteen were taken from their homes.  They were chained together in the local high school and then driven on foot into the forests north of the town where they were forced to dig a huge hole.  When the task was done they were shot.  Their bodies were then tossed into the pit by the Partisans.  The shallow graves were later disturbed by pigs that unearthed some of the bodies.


  On October 26, 1944 another one hundred men were arrested.  They were taken to the local court building and were terribly abused.  In order that the screams of the tortured men could not be heard outside, radio speakers were turned up to their highest volume.  On October 27th the survivors of the day of terror were shot in the same forest as the  teenaged boys.  Among those shot was the Roman Catholic priest Karl Unterreiner.


On November 7th, 1944 there were one hundred and eighty-four Danube Swabian men were taken from their homes.  They were first imprisoned and beaten at the high school.  At 2:00pm the next day they were driven on foot out of the community.  They were to do forced labour in the coal mines in Vrdnik in Syrmien.  As they proceeded on their march eastwards from Alt Palanka the Partisans led them to the Danube to be loaded on boats.  The boats were then set adrift into the river current.  The Partisans tossed men into the cold river and shot them like target practice.  Others were stabbed and thrown into the river to drown.  The survivors were then force marched on the other side of the river.  When they reached Neschtin the Partisans took away everything the men still had.  Many had to take off their shoes and give them to the Partisans.  They marched barefoot through the snow banks.  The road was rocky and many cut and bruised their feet.  But whoever could not keep up with the column was shot.  In the night the sorrowful column arrived in Susek in Syrmien.  Here again many of them were tortured and beaten.  Three of them, including a young boy, were delirious when they were finally killed.  As the march continued, six more men were killed who could not continue barefoot through the snow.  At Rakowatz, several men too weak from beatings to go on were shot.  In the evening of the second day the survivors arrived at the coal mines in Vdrnik.  Many of them would die there.


  In mid-November all of the remaining Danube Swabian men from sixteen to sixty years of age were arrested.  Most of the Danube Swabian men from the neighbouring villages were also brought to Palanka.  All of the assembled men were driven on foot to the slave labour camp at Neusatz.  Many of those who could not keep up on the march were shot.  The old Roman Catholic priest Peter Weinert was on the march and died at the Neusatz camp.  The pastor of Neu Palanka, Stefan Mesarock-Mueller was led on foot towards the Hungarian border and was killed somewhere along the way.


  One woman from Palanka reports:  “I could not flee at the time of the great disturbances on November 14, 1944 because my mother was ill and my child was very young.  The local Serbian population assured us they would protect us from the Partisans in thankfulness for our help to them during the German occupation.  With the arrival of the Partisans, law and order came to an end as plundering and murder were the order of the day.  Danube Swabians were being killed and beaten all over the town.  No one knew if he or she would be next.  The merchant Joseph Hauswirth was killed in front of his wife because he could not produce the amount of sugar the Partisans demanded.  The watchmaker Ladislaus Pressl was killed because he could not produce enough gold watches to suit them.  The wife of the land owning noble, Lajos Reis, was dragged through the streets by the hair and after gruesome torture she was slowly killed because she had sought to hide with a Serbian family.


  The nobleman Wilhelm Wagner sought to work together with the local Serbs when the Hungarian officials were evacuated, and his efforts to maintain order were supported by the Serbian population.  When the Partisans arrived he was arrested and day after day he was systematically tortured and finally killed.


  Shortly afterwards all of the remaining Danube Swabian men were assembled and had to march to work in the slave labour camps in Serbia.  Some of these who survived reported than many died on the way.  Karl Csernvenyi was beaten during the crossing of the Danube, was stabbed and thrown off the bridge and drowned.  His brother Julius had an even more gruesome death.  His hands were both broken, his eyes were put out, his nostrils slit, many of his teeth were knocked out, strips of skin were cut from his body, his penis was cut off and stuck in his mouth…


  But one day the entire population had to assemble in the streets of our beloved town.  We stood in the rain all night and marched to Jarek in a march of death for the next sixty kilometers.  We were forced to march quickly and we soon abandoned our baggage.  Shut-ins, cripples and the sick stayed behind and were beaten or shot to death.  Infants and toddlers lay with the bodies of their dead grandmothers on the roadways along with the grandfathers.  The sixty kilometer stretch of road was the site of hundreds of corpses.”




  Novoselo was one of the oldest of the Danube Swabian settlements in the Batschka and they compromised its entire population of some three thousand.  The actions against the Danube Swabians began in the fall of 1944.


  The first action was the arrest and murder of the doctor, Joseph Fath.  He had two sons, both of whom were taken to concentration camps and died there.  The youngest was Erwin and he was fifteen years old and was brutally killed by the Partisans at the Palanka camp.


  On November 19, 1944 all men from the ages of sixteen to sixty years were taken to Palanka.  For several days they were imprisoned in the assembly hall of the high school.  The men were from Wekerledorf and seventy men from Plavna accompanied them.  In all they number about two hundred men.  They were brutally tortured and some for no reason at all were shot.  The survivors were driven to the camp at Neusatz on November 24th.  They had to march the forty-two kilometers while their Partisan guards rode in wagons and tortured, maimed and beat them at will.  They shot all of the men who could not keep up.  Nine men from Novoselo died in this way.  In a group of nine hundred assembled Danube Swabian men at the camp, only forty-five were alive when they were brought back to Neusatz.  Many of them were then sent to Mitrowitz in Syrmien.


  At Christmas the young women and teenage girls were deported to the Soviet Union, and then during Holy Week the rest of the residents of Novoselo were chased out of their homes and sent to one of the various forced labour camps or the concentration camp at Jarek.




  In the mixed language village of Obrowatz right after the take over by the Yugoslavian officials, thirty-four of the Danube Swabian villagers, including married and unmarried young women were shot for no apparent reason.  Two of the leading Serbian villagers attempted to prevent the shootings.  As a result of these attempts to protect their Danube Swabian villagers, the two Serbs were killed by the Partisans along with them.


  The village doctor, Michael Koepfer, who was well known and loved by the Serbian villagers was brutally abused by “foreign” Partisans and sent to the concentration camp at Jarek where he later died.


  The men of the village were dragged off to the labour camp at Neusatz or other camps in the vicinity.  At the beginning of 1945, the young girls and women were deported to Russia, and the old women and children were taken to Jarek and the vast majority of them perished there.


  A resident of Obrowatz writes, “A few days after the Russian and Bulgarian troops withdrew, a very difficult time was ahead for the Danube Swabian population as the Partisans undertook their brutal reign of terror that began with killings.  Some of the Partisans were local Serbs.  On November 21, 1944 all Danube Swabian property was confiscated by the Partisans and we lost all rights of citizenship.  But by then the Partisans had already taken the lives of forty-two persons: thirty-four Danube Swabians, six Hungarians and two Serbs.”


  The shootings began on October 30, 1944.  On that day three women were shot.  What was their crime?  The oldest was eighty-four years and crippled after a stroke, another was her daughter married to the merchant, Franz Reinhardt who had fled to Germany, and the third was their servant girl.  Franz had hidden some food before he fled and that was found by the Partisans.  That was the crime for which the three women were executed in the courtyard of the town hall.  The next shootings took place on November 3rd and continued all month.  The last known date for such “actions” was November 24th, involving mostly men but also some women.





  This community was the birthplace of Dr. Jakob Bleyer the future leader of the Swabians in their attempts at preserving their Swabian identity in Hungary following the First World War.


  On November 9, 1944 twenty Danube Swabian men were taken from their homes.  They were to be taken to the coal mines in Vrdnik in Syrmien to do forced labour, to replace many of those who were killed on their way there from Batschka-Palanka.  From the outset of the march from Tscheb the Partisans chose the two youngest men in the group and for no apparent reason shot them on the spot.  The other eighteen were badly treated all of the way to Vrdnik.  Like the men from Palanka their shoes were taken from them and most of their clothing in the bitter winter cold.  After the two day forced march they reached Vrdnik where two of them died soon after.


  The survivors from Tscheb were sent to the camp at Neusatz in early December.  Again some of them were shot on the way unable to keep up with the others.  Most of the others died in the labour camps.


At New Year’s the women and teenaged girls were deported to Russia.  On June 2, 1945 the remaining women, the elderly and children were chased out of their homes and force marched to the concentration camp at Jarek.





  In the village of Towarisch, Danube Swabians accounted for about one third of the population.  They were farmers and Roman Catholics.  The rest of the inhabitants were Serbs and Orthodox.  In the fall of 1944, as the Russians were advancing across the Tisza River and the Hungarian army was leaving, the Roman Catholic priest assembled the Swabians after Mass and encouraged them to leave and join the German army that was evacuating to the west.


  Most of the Danube Swabians followed the priest’s advice and under his leadership left their homes.  Only ten families remained.  They could not believe they had anything to fear from the Partisans.  They were later joined by another family who had turned back when the evacuation column crossed the Danube.  But by now the new Yugoslavian authorities were in power in Towarisch.  Their first order of the day was the liquidation of the Danube Swabian population.


  All ten families and the returnees were taken from their homes.  They were forced to march to the limits of the village and dig a large pit.  All the men, women, children and elderly were bound together and had to walk beside the pit and were shot.  They thought that they had exterminated the total Swabian population and left the mass grave open.  It was to be filled in the next morning by some other people.  The returnee family was among the victims.  As the shots had leveled rows of people bound together one woman was not hit but had fallen into the grave with the others.  She was tied to her dead husband.  For hours she remained under the corpses of others.  As night came, she was able to free herself from her fetters and crawled out of the grave into the night.  By dawn she reached Bukin where she had relations and sought a haven.  Later she was apprehended for being a “German” and was carried off.  She was sent to the Jarek concentration camp.


  During Holy Week of 1945 all of the Danube Swabian communities in the region had been depopulated of their inhabitants with the children, the elderly and women in various concentration camps and the men and able bodied women in the forced labour camps.  All of them camps in which large numbers of them would perish.




  The community lies close to the Danube and the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants were Serbo-Croatian and the Danube Swabians were a small minority.  In the fall of 1944, some seventy men were taken into custody and removed to Palanka and from there to various slave labour camps.  The other able bodied persons in Plavna were sent to slave labour in various places in the next weeks and months.  In the summer of 1945 men were brought from the camp in Sombor on foot to work in the hemp factory as slave labour.  Because of the lack of food, long and heavy work many died of disease.  These men were mostly from Gakowa and Stanischtsch.


  The experience of the Danube Swabians in Plavna is best expressed in the life story of one of the children, who at the age of seven arrived alone in Salzburg, Austria on Christmas Day in 1948.  She tells the story of the five previous years in this way:


   “My parents were both deported on Christmas’ Eve in 1944.  My grandmother told me that they had been taken to Russia.  I remained at home alone with my grandmother.  Then they also came for my grandmother.  Later she told me that they had taken her to Kolut where she was forced to work.  As my grandmother was being taken away she begged our neighbours to take me to Batsch where we had relatives.  But soon the Danube Swabians in Batsch were on the agenda of the Partisans and the relatives who had taken me in, took me along with them to Jarek and its concentration camp.  But soon I was almost alone again as my aunt and uncle were taken from Jarek to do labour elsewhere and they would never return.  Because so many had already died in Jarek, we were all brought to Gakowa.


  My grandmother working in Kolut discovered somehow that I had survived from an old woman in Plavna and that I was in Gakowa.  She came to Gakowa at night and was able to smuggle me out of the camp and took me back with her to Kolut.  There she became very ill and since she was unable to work any longer, she had to go to Gakowa.  But because so many of the people died of hunger there and were badly abused, she took me with her one night.  We were able to sneak and crawl out of the camp and we entered Hungary that same night.  We then walked a great distance until we reached the Steiermark in Austria.  My grandmother worked as a servant for a farmer and also died there.  Before she died she had given the farmer the address of some friends in Vienna to contact.  After she died the farmer wrote to the people in Vienna.  The woman in Vienna had been our neighbour in Plavna and came and took me to Vienna.


  My parents had been released from Russia due to severe illness and were sent to Germany.  At first, it was my mother who found out where I was.  Later, my father did too.  After my father wrote to us in Vienna, we sent his address to my mother.  When she learned he was in Bremen she went to join him.  At that time he was unable to stand or walk.  We arranged for my father to meet us in Salzburg instead of getting me in Vienna.  Our neighbour sent me along to Salzburg, but my father was not there.  He had become ill again and could not move or travel.  I was then taken by the Red Cross to my sick parents in Bremen.”



North and Middle Batschka


“Where the bloodletting raged’




  In the central region of the Batschka there were numerous and large Danube Swabian communities that originated from the planned settlement under Joseph II.  The vast majority of these communities were Lutheran and some Reformed.  The twin towns of Alt and Neu Werbass (Old and New Werbass) were the cultural and economic centre of the district, surrounded by the Lutheran communities of Sekitsch, Feketisch, Alt Ker, Klein Ker, Tscherwenka and Torschau.  Kula was also in the neighbourhood but it was an ethnically mixed community and its Danube Swabians were Roman Catholic.  This region would become a field of blood for its Swabian inhabitants.  It was to be the scene of the most atrocious mass murders and shootings throughout the Batschka in the fall of 1944.  In only a few weeks, some six hundred men from the twin towns of Werbass were victims of mass shootings.


  In Neu Werbass the most important and influential leaders and intellectuals among the Danube Swabians were arrested and shot individually or in groups.  Other Danube Swabian men had to watch the executions and bury the dead.  The victims were brought to their graves and were shot in the back of the neck.  One of the Partisans who had lived in Werbass was proud and boasted of the fact that he had personally shot eighty of the men himself.  As a reward for his “heroism” he was made the District Commander at Kula and although he was totally illiterate he held that office for years afterwards.


  The rest of the Danube Swabian population was packed into the old silk and velvet factory which now became a camp until the spring of 1945.  Later all of them were sent to Gakowa and Kruschevlje.


  There were also executions in Alt Werbass involving countless Danube Swabian men and women.  Most took place in the courtyard of the notary’s house and the local garbage dump.  The total deaths in Alt Webass due to shootings, beatings and hangings numbered three hundred and seventy men and women.  All of the corpses were buried naked while the Partisans bargained or gambled for their clothes.





  The mass executions in Kula were hardly any less terrifying.  In the fall of 1944 over two hundred Danube Swabians perished and the methods were even more brutal than in Werbass.  Whole families were beaten to death.  That was the case with Dr. Saur and his wife and two small children.  Here again it was the intellectuals and leaders of the community who were on the liquidation lists.





  Klein Ker had a population of four thousand Lutheran Danube Swabians when the Partisans arrived on November 9, 1944 and sealed off the community and barricaded the houses.  Eighty-two of the leading citizens were arrested.  Half of them consisted of married women and single girls.  They were all driven on foot to the town hall.  Here they were imprisoned and tortured.  On November 10th they had to strip down to their underwear.  Their hands were bound with wire.  They were force marched to the railway tracks where all of them were forced to lie down and each person was dispatched by gun or rifle.  Two of the stronger men (Dr. Leibmann the physician and a farmer) were left to the last, because they threw all of the corpses into a large pit.  Then Gypsies were recruited to cover over the mass grave.


  On November 14th an additional seventy Danube Swabians were taken from their homes.  The majority of these victims were women and single girls.  They were assembled at the town hall and were terribly abused.  The women and girls were molested.  They were kept imprisoned in a very small room packed tightly together until the following night.  The Partisans called them out one at a time to bind their hands as a prelude to taking them out for execution.  When the farm labourer Ludwig Schwarz was called out, he suddenly lunged at an armed Partisan, threw him to the ground, jumped over him and in front of everyone made it to the courtyard.  The other Partisans shot after him.  He was only wounded in the hand and could jump over the wall and escaped into the darkness.  For the next three months he was in hiding, until he could escape with his family and get out of the country.  But the others were taken to the town limits where they were shot.  Their bodies were thrown into a water-filled ditch and later filled with earth.


  On November 17th another blockade was in effect and fifty Danube Swabians were assembled.  Among them, more than half of them were women and teenaged girls.  Some children aged fourteen were also among them.  These too were imprisoned in the town hall and were physically abused.  During the night of November 18th they were loaded on trucks that took the road to Werbass, but all of them were shot at the Roman Wall along the way.


  On November 19th the Partisans assembled seventeen men and women during the night and shot them at the local mill.  They left the dead in the street.  One of the women was only wounded.  She lay there under the bodies of the others.  One could hear her whimpering in pain until noon the next day, but no one was allowed to help her.  She lay there until she died.  On another day in November, three of the older men in the town were taken and shot in Werbass because the functionaries there knew them and they wanted “Swabian blood to flow”.


  In December of 1944 another fifteen men were taken out of the town.  They were taken to Mitrowitz to work on the railway and none of them was ever heard from again.


  In May of 1945 the remaining Danube Swabians after the deportations to Russia were driven out of their homes and taken to concentration camps.  Many were taken to Jarek where almost all of them died.





  Subotitza was one of the major cities of Yugoslavia and was primarily inhabited by Romanians and Hungarians.  In the immediate vicinity of the city there were villages with a large German-speaking minority.  The Military Government of the Partisans established two camps in the city in the fall of 1944.  A transit camp was set up to handle the flow of the returnees from the evacuation and when it was ascertained that they were Danube Swabians they were sent to the camps in the north and central Batschka.  Most of the women and children were sent to Sektisch, while the able bodied were consigned to the forced labour camp in Subotitza or its environs.


  The labour camp in Subotitza had a large inmate population and the current number was always kept in the neighbourhood of four thousand persons.  They were assigned to various work in the vicinity.  Conditions here for the internees were no different than it was in any of the other camps in the Batschka.


  With regard to the extermination program in North and Middle Batschka we are well informed by the report from a woman from Erdevik in Syrmien who had been evacuated with her children in the fall of 1944, and later along with many others she returned to Yugoslavia in May of 1945.  She reports the following:


  “We arrived in Subotitza on June 6, 1945 from eastern Germany from where we had been evacuated.  Those of us who were Danube Swabians were immediately separated from the others and placed in work details.  Young mothers who refused to be separated from their children were beaten and imprisoned.  Those who did not give up their money or valuables freely were shot.  On the day of our arrival I witnessed twenty-five such shootings.  All of them were women.  Among the dead were Frau Nusspl from Palanka, the twenty-three year old Maria Kirschner from Hodschag, nineteen year old Katharina Beuschl from Wekerle, the twenty-seven year old Eva Beck from Ruma, eighteen year old Katharina Mueller from Ruma, seventeen year old Maria Fischer from Krndija and thirty-three year old Rosalia Berger from Pasua.  The older women among us were consigned to the camp in Sekitsch and young women remained in the slave labour camp in Subotitza.  The men were led away.  They had no idea of where they were going.  We never heard from any of them again.  For two months I worked at the Partisan hospital where I became unable to work any longer and as a result I too was sent to Sekitsch.”


  Several times typhus epidemics broke out in the labour camp in Subotitza.  Large labour parties from the camp lived out in the open for months, even in the winter.  They often stayed overnight in haylofts or haystacks and at the crack of dawn they were driven to work.  Like inmates in other camps they could never change their clothes and for weeks on end they could not stretch out and have a good night’s sleep.  Those no longer able to work were sent to Sekitsch and later to Gakowa and Kruschevlje.  An excuse was found to close down the camp in Subotitza:  there were no longer any inmates left capable of working.  In January 1948 the surviving inmates were all sick and of them fifty were in the final stages of dieing from typhus.





  These two Lutheran Danube Swabian communities were on the route of the international highway north of Werbass and were entered by Russian troops on October 12, 1944.  Three days later the Partisans set up their Military Government.  Countless numbers of Danube Swabian men were arrested and brutally beaten and tortured.  At the same time others from the civilian population were being taken to forced labour camps.  In the beginning they worked in the vicinity and were allowed to return home, but soon they were taken farther afield and were not allowed to return to Sekitsch.  In October all men from the ages of 18 to 60 years had to report to the Partisan authorities.  They were never released.  The younger men among them were sent to the camp in Subotitza, while the older men were sent to Topola.


  Sekitsch was officially declared a camp on November 20, 1944.   Those who lived in the eastern portion of the village were driven from their homes into the western part of the community.  The houses in the eastern part of the village were emptied of everything of value and in late November the old men and women, as well as the children from Bajmok were brought to Sekitsch and packed into them.  In a very short period of time all of the Danube Swabians in the vicinity who were unable to work, including those from the Lutheran village of Feketitisch were brought and interned here in Sekitsch.  Soon it became the dumping ground for the region, while those who were able bodied from Sekitsch, both the men and the women were assigned to Topola, Morawitza, Bajmok and Subotitza.  Women with small children and infants were not spared.  They had to leave the children behind even if there was no one to care for them.


  The death rate at the Sekitsch camp compared to other concentration camps was not among the highest.  Everything had been confiscated in the fall of 1944.  Very few of the Danube Swabians in Sekitsch had joined the evacuation and those who had remained had prepared and stored provisions for the future as they awaited the Russian occupation.  As a result the people of Sekitsch were not dependent upon the camp food at all.  They shared this with the arrivals from the vicinity.  But this food supply would soon end.  When they were transferred to the camps at Gakowa and Kruschevlje they died very quickly.  They died like flies at Kruschevlje, as they were unprepared for what they had to endure there.


  On October 1, 1945 the whole camp at Sekitsch was transferred to Kruschevlje.  The death rate there and at Gakowa was so high that they could accommodate the seven thousand inmates at Sekitsch.  The only Swabians who remained in Sekitsch were those who were still capable of providing labour of some kind.


  Before being transferred, everything the inmates still had was taken away from them.  Most had only the clothes they wore left to them, bedding and everything else was taken away from them.  The Sekitsch inmates had nothing to trade unlike the others in Kruschevlje.  The shipment of the Sekitsch Swabians was in open cattle cars and the trip lasted two days and it never stopped raining.  In Sombor, Partisans pulled up to the train and beat the women and children.  Many of them were gruesomely mistreated.  A secret church report in 1946 indicated that of the six thousand inhabitants of Sekitsch only about one thousand were still alive.  They were all in Germany or Austria, so that less than one hundred were still alive in Yugoslavia.


  Two women from Sekitsch were shot at Krushevlje.  They had sneaked out of the camp to beg for food in a nearby Hungarian village.  On their way back to the camp they were spotted by a sentry who shot both of them. 



West and North West Batschka


“Death reaps a plentiful harvest”




    In the district of Hodschag the Danube Swabians formed the greater portion of the population.  It was in effect a totally Danube Swabian region.   It consisted of the entirely Swabian communities of Hodschag, Filipovo, Karvukovo and communities with small Serbian populations like Parabutsch, Milititsch and Brestowatz.  While still in other communities the numbers of Danube Swabians was high in Batsch, Deronje, Wajska and Plavna.  A large part of the population had been evacuated in the fall of 1944 as the Russians advanced into Yugoslavia.  But the percentage of those who fled differed greatly in the various communities of the district.  While the vast majority of the Swabian population allowed themselves to be evacuated, almost all of the Swabians in Filipovo remained at home and the greater portion of the Swabians remained in Hodschag.


  In the very first days of the arrival of the Partisans, key and influential Swabians in the district were arrested and brought to Hodschag.  With their arrest many of them simply disappeared forever, while others were placed in camps and set to forced labor.  In the fall, the Partisans rounded up one hundred and eighty-two Danube Swabian men from the age of 16 to 60 years and they have been missing ever since.  They were led out of town in two groups, one in the direction of Karavukovo, and the other towards Filipovo.  Along the way they had to strip naked and were shot.  The bodies were buried in a mass grave.  Only one man survived.  Already stripped naked and ordered to the mass grave in the blink of an eye he made a dash for it.  The Partisans fired and gave chase and even shot one of their own by mistake.  He managed to escape and hide with strangers.  In the spring and summer all of the Swabians in the area were rounded up and driven on foot into the camps and he was among them.  He managed again to survive in the camp under a false name.


  In the spring and summer, large numbers of women and single girls, as well as men from the various surrounding communities were brought to Hodschag.  In the north east section of Hodschag two rows of houses facing one another the length of one street were surrounded with a barbed wire fence.  For years to follow, thousands of prisoners were imprisoned here and were sent to work in various camps and work stations.  The most dangerous work places were in the marshes and bogs.  The first large death toll in the marshes was among young women from Apatin.  Most of them had nursing infants or were somewhat unhealthy in order to have escaped the deportation to slave labour in the Soviet Union and had been sent to Gakowa and Kruschevlje.  There they were separated from their children and assigned to Hodschag.  In the first few days in Hodschag and the marshes, twenty-seven of them perished.  They died of fever and deep depression over their separation from their children.  They suffered greatly from dysentery.  Both in the marshes and the central camp, typhus broke out.  In spite of vaccinations, all who entered the camp “hospital” died very quickly.


  The commander of the camp, a Partisan from Deronje was a cruel and frightful person.  He punished anyone who broke the camp rules brutally.  He imprisoned all “lawbreakers” by locking them in a cellar until he or one of his men saw fit to release the person.  The victims were often in the cellar for days, without food or sanitary facilities.  Some were to be used as “examples” and were beaten and tortured.  Those punished most severely were those who had tried to escape or pass information from one camp to another.


  The rations the inmates received were barely enough to live and the labour they did was hard and done in the summer heat.  In the mornings they received a ladle of tea made out of some boiled leaves of one kind or another.  There was no sugar.   At noon there was always bean soup without salt or lard.  They received the same at night.  In the summer of 1945 the inmates numbered over one thousand four hundred who continued to be fed meagerly and faced constant starvation.


  There was a “hospital” in the camp in name only, and only those unable to stand up on their own were allowed in it.  They were often simply skeletal from lack of food, brutal hard work, dysentery and diaherea.  It was the last stop before the cemetery if there had been one.


  In the early summer of 1945 one after another of the Danube Swabian communities in the Hodschag district were depopulated.  Those still able to work were sent to Hodschag and the others ended up in Filipovo at first and then later in Gakowa and Kruschevlje.


  In the fall of 1945 all of the women and single girls at the work places throughout the entire district were assembled and brought to the central camp at Hodschag.  They were convinced they were being deported to Russia.  Many of the mothers who heard the rumors found themselves in the same camp as their daughters and they did not want to be separated from them and tried to sneak them into the Hodschag camp with them.  Most of those who were caught experienced the brutal and sadistic mistreatment of the camp commander.  He created a work brigade consisting of these young girls and women who had to break corn in the fields all winter day after day.  From sunrise to sundown they had to work and even in the worst winter snowstorms.  After only a few days, many of them had frozen hands or feet.  But work went on, day after day.  In the spring, the “brigade” returned to Hodschag, and was broken up and the survivors were sent to new work places.  A large group of them later came to Batsch.


  In the spring and summer of 1946 the unpopulated district was resettled by “colonists” from the southern regions of the country.  The colonists had to take over the field work in the summer and as a result the Swabian slave labourers were sent back to the central camp in Hodschag.  In the middle of September with no work any longer available in the area, all of the inmates were sent to Gakowa and Kruschevlje.  By now, the number of inmates in the camp had dwindled to less than one thousand.  In the fall of 1945 there had been over four thousand.  In the meantime, about three thousand had perished or were sent to Gakowa and Kruschevlje to die.





  The population of the community was entirely Danube Swabian and numbered some five thousand persons.  It was one of the wealthiest and most prosperous communities in the Batschka.  The majority of the population left with the evacuation treks accompanied by units of German troops to ward off attacks by Partisans.  Although the Partisans at first established the Military Government in the surrounding area nothing was done in Karavukovo.  A delegation of Danube Swabians was sent to Hodschag to meet the Partisan functionaries there whom they believed would take over the rule of Karavukovo.  To their great good fortune the Serbs who were sent to set up the local government of the town were upright men.  But they were unable to prevent the orders for men and women to be sent to Hodschag for forced labour or to other places as ordered.  But a large portion of the able bodied were able to remain at home longer even if they were called upon to provide slave labour.  But still many of the Karavukovo Danube Swabian men were arrested and shot.  Among them was the well known Balthasar Broder, a mason and builder.


  In the summer of 1945 all of those who were unable to work were forced to go to nearby Filipovo and after a short period of time these elderly persons and the children were sent to Gakowa.  The local priest, Alexander Thiel, was among them.  He was later released and for a short time he returned and served what remained of his parish, but was arrested and imprisoned for six months at Neusatz.  Following his release from there he fled to Austria.


  When harvest workers were needed they were brought from the camp in Sombor.  A group of one hundred and sixty men and women were force marched from Sombor on June 21, 1945.  The men and women were placed in separate camps that in effect were the former houses of wealthy families.  The nutrition they received here was somewhat better and there were very few deaths among them.  The Partisan guards were accommodated in the house next to the women’s camp.  This resulted in constant disturbances and the mistreatment and abuse of the women.  For weeks on end they were awakened every night and driven out into the courtyard and were forced to stand for hours in the rain and other bad weather, while the Partisans went into their quarters and searched through the clothing and took whatever caught their fancy.  Women who had hidden anything were forced into the cellar and were beaten and locked in overnight.  Some were so badly abused that they died when they were transferred to a camp at Hodschag.


  The men had more peace from the Partisans than the women.  But if they too were found to have hidden any valuables they were beaten so badly that few of them were able to recover.


  In the summer of 1945 the labour station at Deronje was closed and the inmates were sent to Karavukovo.  From the beginning of the Fall more and more of the Swabian forced laborers were returned to the central camp in Hodschag and from there they were assigned to other work stations.  All of the women were resettled in Hodschag, and in the spring they were sent to work in the swamps along the Danube where there had been a massive death rate among women working there the previous summer.


  In the spring of 1946 the brick factory was re-opened and a labour camp was established there.  Former residents of Karavukovo provided the leadership in the factory and camp and brought former residents in the Hodschag central camp back to work here.  This proved to be heavy and difficult work for the undernourished and exhausted Swabian slave laborers.  At that time there were already new “colonists” from the Pirot region well established in the community occupying the former homes and living off of the work of their former owners and their ancestors over the generations.  They were simply not prepared to do such heavy work and left it to the Swabians.


  In the spring of 1946 as well, the men’s camp at Karavukovo was closed down.  Large numbers of them were sent to Hodschag’s central camp and from there they were later re-settled at Batsch and put to forced labour there.





  The community was located north west of Hodschag and was a rich hemp producing centre.  There were numerous Serbian families in the area and they had their own Orthodox parish and lived with the majority Danube Swabians on good terms over the centuries.  A large portion of the Swabian population were evacuated by the retreating German army and to all intents and purposes left the area to the local Serbians.  About one hundred families from among the Danube Swabian population trusted the word and promises of their Serbian neighbours and especially that of the Orthodox priest that they would protect them from the Partisans and decided to remain at home.  In the first days of Partisan rule very few of the Swabian men or women were arrested and taken to the slave labour camps in Hodschag and Sombor, which in effect was a result of the local Serbian population and their promise of protection.  But not even Milititisch would be spared some atrocities.  One of the Swabian men was bound and tossed into a heated kettle in the hemp factory and was scalded to death most cruelly.


  On March 11,1945 a large number of men and women were taken to the camp in Sombor.  They had to cover forty kilometers at night on foot to a work camp to serve the Russians in Baranya in Hungary.  But, by the time they got into the area the Russians already had fourteen thousand slave labourers, so that the Milititisch men and women remained in Sombor.  Here they worked in the Partisan hospital.  In the months of April and May numerous work parties were assigned to Semlin and Mitrowitz and included workers from Milititisch.  They worked in the marshes and most of them perished there.  All those who survived who were not sent to Mitrowitz in Syrmien on June 21st went from Sombor to Karavukovo on foot where they remained until the closing of the camp in the summer of 1946 and then were moved to Hodschag on their way to Gawkowa and Kruschevlje.


  In the spring of 1945 all of the Danube Swabians were assembled in a central location and there they were divided into two groups.  Those who were able to work, both men and women, and those unable to work, the elderly, children and the sick and infirm.  It was a heart rending scene to watch as the two groups were led away each heading in a different direction and destiny.  The children sought to be with their mothers or grandmothers and cried after them, the mothers attempting to take their children with them or running after them.  They were beaten back with punches and rifle butts.  The elderly and the children were first driven on foot to Filipovo and like all of the other Swabians throughout the Batschka in camps for those unable to work were then assigned to the death camp at Gakowa.  The able bodied were either kept in Milititisch for labour, while others were sent to Hodschag and then assigned to labour camps in the district.





  Batsch was a fortress town from ancient times lying between the Danube and Tisza Rivers and played an important role in Hungarian history and after the settlement of Danube Swabians in the village it was a mixed village ethnically.  There were Slavs, Hungarians and Swabians.  The Danube Swabians accounted for about twenty-five per cent of the population of four thousand.  They were, however, the most prosperous, educated and culturally advanced.


  As early as the Fall of 1944, large numbers of the Swabians were taken to Hodschag and used as slave labour in various districts in the region.  Later in the spring of 1945 all of the Danube Swabians throughout the district were driven out of their home communities, and brought to Hodschag.  Only two men were left behind in Batsch where they continued to do slave labour.  They were the butcher Pauschert and the locksmith Armbrust.  In the Fall the Partisans brought the Roman Catholic priest Novotny from Plavna and imprisoned him in the town hall.  A few days later the Partisans claimed to be looking for the priest who had escaped and rummaged through the Franciscan monastery and searched the rectory but without any success they claimed.  In actual fact he had been beaten and tortured to death in the basement of the town hall and already buried.  Two other well known citizens of Batsch then also disappeared and were probably murdered because they were never seen again.  The men belonged to the Kubesch and Gebauer families.


  At the end of March in 1945 a large work party from the camp in Sombor arrived in Batsch.  A camp was set up for them in a former dance hall.  Most of them came from Gakowa, Stanischtisch and Apatin. 


  In the Summer of 1945 the Partisans led another work party from the camp in Sombor on foot to Batsch were they had to work in the hemp factory.  There was another work party in the village consisting of women forty-five years of age and older.  They had been brought from Hodschag to Batsch.  Both of these labor camps were closed in the fall of that year and the inmates were transferred to work on the district collective farm.


  In the Spring of 1946 new slave labour battalions were brought to Batsch from the central forced labour camp in Hodschag.  Most of them were young single and married women who had worked in the corn fields all winter.  Another large group among these new slave labourers were younger and older teenaged boys and men from Filipovo.


  In July 1946 the camp in Batsch was dismantled and the inmate survivors were taken back to Hodschag, and most of them were later sent to Gakowa and Kruschevlje in September of that year.  Those who were kept back were “sold” as slave labourers to the inhabitants of the district up to 1948.





  Filipovo lies north of Hodschag and was an entirely Danube Swabian community which was well known throughout the Roman Catholic world.  The religious and church life of the community was mirrored in the fact that approximately forty of its sons became priests and about one hundred women took the veil as nuns in various orders.  Of its four thousand inhabitants only a small portion left with the evacuation carried out by the German army.  On the counsel of their priest, Peter Mueller, most remained behind.  The priest was later arrested by the Partisans and given a long prison sentence.


  The Partisans were prepared to make Filipovo into a showcase of their liquidation program and carried out the most large scale mass shootings here in the Batschka.  One morning, all men from the age of sixteen to sixty years were forced to report to them.  Among the men were the assistant priest Paul Pfuhl and the Filipovo born priest Anton Zollitsch home on leave from the Banat.  The commander of the liquidation squad recognized Zollitsch as a former comrade in arms in his former regiment and he had the two priests leave the group and sent them home.  All of the rest were marched out of the village on to the road to Hodschag and were shot.  But first they had to dig their own graves.  Then take off their clothes.  Then they were shot in groups and their bodies tossed into the graves.  There were two hundred and forty-three victims in all.  No survivors.  Their clothes were taken by wagon to Hodschag a few days later and were sold at the “flea” market.


  Men and women from Filipovo were taken to the central labour camp in Hodschag to do forced labour.  In the spring of 1945 all of the Danube Swabians in the village were driven out of their homes.  A portion of them had to do slave labour in Filipovo itself, others were taken to the central camp in Hodschag and from there scattered in labour camps throughout the area.  The children and all those unable to work at first remained in Filipovo and were joined by the children and elderly from the surrounding communities.  They were all later sent to Gakowa and Kruschevlje.  In September 1946 the able bodied who had managed to survive in the Hodschag central camp were sent to the same destination and shared the same fate.





  The Danube Swabian town of Apatin on the Danube was not only the oldest such settlement in the Batschka, it was also the largest all Swabian community in Yugoslavia with a population of fourteen thousand.  With its founding two hundred years earlier it marked the beginning of the Danube Swabian settlement of the Batschka.  It played a key role in industry, commerce and culture and served as a river port on the Danube.


  The Russian Army reached Apatin in October of 1944.  For weeks battles raged in the streets of the town.  The Russians were determined to cross the Danube here and as a result they suffered huge casualties.  It is estimated that up to sixty thousand Russians fell or drowned in the crossing.  While the battle raged to cross the Danube the Partisans arrived to set up their Military Government in the town and district.  Their first act was the arrest of large numbers of the leading citizens.  Almost daily men were taken from their homes and imprisoned in different parts of the town and beaten, tortured and killed.  Others were put in a recently established camp and were sent to slave labour from there.  Many were sent to Sombor and then imprisoned at Zupanija and Kronic-Palais or remained in Sombor.  None of these men were ever heard from again.  There were at least sixty-four documented victims of this action and many of them died a rather painful gruesome death.


  (The bestiality and sadism perpetrated against certain individuals is described but I decline to translate that out of consideration of the sensitivities of the reader and my own.)


  Arrests were still taking place in the first months of 1945.  Apatin had been the key centre of Roman Catholicism in the Batschka and the most anti-Nazi region in the Batschka and yet the Partisans were determined to liquidate the Danube Swabian people  en masse.  The western Batschka would witness the greatest numbers of victims and the most gruesome deaths in the region.  Apatin was the first of the Danube Swabian communities in western Batschka to be cleansed of its Danube Swabian population.  Countless numbers of labour work parties were sent from Apatin to Syrmien by forced marches on foot.  Men and women from Apatin were sent to various labour camps.  These labor battalions had a high death rate.  One forced labour unit of five hundred men, lost twenty-seven of their number on the way who died of exhaustion and beatings.  Within a few weeks only forty-three survivors who were barely alive returned to Apatin.


  Not much better was the destiny of the labour convoys in the spring of 1945 which were sent to Semlin and Mitrowitz to work in the swamps, from where only a few from among every hundred managed to survive.


  March 11, 1945 was a black day in the life of Apatin.  On that day, the entire remaining Danube Swabian population of the town were driven from their homes and forced to walk to Gakowa and Kruschevlje as the first victims of those concentration camps.  They were the first to feed the death mill.  After only a few months seven hundred of them had died from hunger.  On the march to the camps those who could not keep up, were forced on by beatings.  Those who collapsed were simply left to die where they lay.  No one was permitted to help them in any way regardless of their relationship to the unfortunate person.


  The long term presence of the Russian military and the Partisans led to the rape of countless women and young girls.  The number that took place cannot even be estimated.  The extent to which it occurred is reflected in the fact that not even a ninety-two year old grandmother was spared and was gang-raped.  But along with rape they also perpetrated all kinds of torture including electrical shock treatments to the breasts and vaginas of their victims.


  Shortly after the establishment of Military Government by the Partisans a census of the community was undertaken.  A few hundred families with non-German sounding names registered as Hungarians or Slavs.  Those whose registration was validated were not included in the expulsion of March 11th.  Approximately two thousand people were excluded in this way.  It was estimated that about two thousand had left with the retreating Hungarian Army when they abandoned the city.  In the neighbourhood of two thousand and four hundred single and married young women along with some men had been deported to the Soviet Union between Christmas 1944 and New Years 1945.  As a result not quite eight thousand were sent to Gakowa and Kruschevlje.


  Those who remained at home had no peace either.  There were raids and arrests, and a pogrom on Easter Monday that was unleashed against many leading citizens of the town resulting in horrendous deaths for many of them.


  When the first expellees from Apatin arrived at Sombor on their way to Gakowa there was not enough room for all of them in the barracks of the camp, and about four thousand women and children, including nursing infants had to spend the night out in the open in the bitter cold, while others were allowed to huddle together in the streets.  When Bulgarian troops who were stationed in Sombor heard the crying and whimpering of the children, they invited their Partisan “allies” into their barracks for a drink.  They got them drunk and let the women and children into their own barracks.  In the early morning hours of March 12th the expellees went on to Gakowa and Kruschevlje by foot.  The group that had found refuge in the Sombor camp had everything they had taken away from them except the clothes they wore.


  A few days after arriving, women who were able bodied were separated from their children, most of them were infants and toddlers and the mothers were taken to Baranya to dig trenches for the Russians.  This work was completed on March 21st and the women were taken to Sombor and from there they were sent to various labor camps throughout  western Batschka.  Labour units of men were from time to time sent to Syrmien to work in the swamps and marshes.  Most of them died or were killed there.


  For a long time the inmates at Gakowa and Kruschevlje came from Apatin, Kernei and Sentiwan.  All of those who could work were taken out of the two concentration camps and were taken to various labour camps in western Batschka.  In a few weeks, only children and the elderly remained in the camps.  There were only a few parents if any.  A large number of younger married women were assigned to the Hodschag district, from among whom months and years later were able to return to Gakowa and Kruschevlje in search of their children.  Most of them perished working in the swamps in the Hodschag district.  What the extermination camps in Semlin and Mitrowitz meant for hundreds of the men from Apatin, the Hodschag camp meant for the women which became the last station of their way of sorrows and the cross for both of them.


  In later months as the former industries in Apatin went back into production many of the tradesmen and craftsmen from Apatin had the good fortune to return there as slave labourers in their trained field.  This change in circumstances saved many of their lives.





  In the overwhelmingly Slavic community of Sonta the population was ordered to report to the town hall in the fall of 1944 and declare their nationality, which meant their ethnic origin.  A short time later all of those who were classified as Danube Swabians and were able bodied had to return to the town hall and report again and were taken away to do forced labour.  They were first taken to Apatin and then at Christmas and New Years they were deported to Russia along with the victims from Apatin. 


  At the end of January in 1945 all Danube Swabian men were taken from their homes and imprisoned in the former bakery and were used as slave labour.  On March 12th all of the men were taken to Sombor and from there on to Baranya to dig trenches and build fortifications for the Russians.  The seventy kilometer distance was traversed on foot without a pause.  After completing their work they were returned to Sombor and assigned as slave labour.  The rest of the Danube Swabian population of Sonta  was forced to go to Milititisch in the spring of 1945 and those unable to work were later sent to Filipovo and then on to the grinding death mill in Gakowa and Kruschevlje.





  The richest and most prosperous community in western Batschka was Sentiwan.  The population was six thousand mostly consisting of Danube Swabians.  It was the centre of the hemp export industry known throughout the world.  Hemp was “the white gold” of the Batschka.


  Soon after the establishment of the Military Government many of the Danube Swabian men were arrested and taken to the camps in Apatin and Sombor.  Others were imprisoned in government jails.  The former mayor Mueller who had campaigned for the Serbian Nationalist Party, who always denied his German origins was taken to Sombor and imprisoned, while his wife was taken to the slave labour camp at Parabutsch.


  A large number of the men were imprisoned in the local convent and sent out as slave labourers.  On March 12th they were taken to Sombor and then brought to Baranya to build fortifications and accommodations for the Russian troops.  After their return from Barnaya they were divided up among various villages and districts to do slave labour.  On March 15th the remaining population in Sentiwan was taken to Sombor and then on to Gakowa and Kruschevlje.  But the able bodied remained behind, both men and women and were used as forced labour working the fields and the local industries.





  Since the turn of the century, Doroslo had a large number of Danube Swabian inhabitants.  In the last decade before the First World War a large number of the German families took Hungarian names and considered themselves to be Hungarian.


  The few remaining Danube Swabians in the community were taken to various labour camps as early as the fall of 1944.  Many of those families that had assimilated with the Hungarians, had retained their German names and now had to share in the lot of the Danube Swabians.  It was only after years spent in the labour camps that they again spoke the language of their forebears.  This was an example of the kind of basic racism that lay behind the liquidation program of the Tito Partisans.





“Slave Market and End Station on the Way of Sorrows”


  The city of Sombor had a very small Danube Swabian population.  But it played a major role in the destruction of the Danube Swabians of western Batschka.  In the barracks on the road to Bezdan the internment camp for the Jews that had been set up by the Hungarian officials just shortly prior to their retreat from the area, now instead received thousands upon thousands of Danube Swabian men and women who were packed together, mistreated, abused, terrified, and oppressed on their way to liquidation.  It was the first large scale slave labour camp in the Batschka.  Every day new groups from every corner of the Batschka arrived in the camp at Sombor and for seven days a week they did hard labour with only a limited amount of nutrition.


  In the fall of 1944, a labour battalion from Sombor was brought to Bezdan to bury the one hundred and twenty-seven persons who had been exterminated there in a variety of ways.  The first victims were the intellectuals and businessmen.  All of the men in the area had to report and show their hands to the Partisans, and whoever had “soft” hands was immediately shot.


  The regional commander of the Partisans sent individual orders and commands to the local communities identifying the number of men or women they were to provide.  These orders were always filled promptly.  By the spring of 1945 the Sombor central camp was the largest show place of slave labour in Yugoslavia.  New labour groups were constantly being selected and then marched off to all areas of the Batschka to do labour.  When they were brought back from such a work detail, within the day or week individuals were assigned to another labour group and driven on foot to another work site.  To enable the full functioning of this method the inmates were assigned numbers instead of names.


  One of the hardest and heaviest work assignments was digging trenches for the Russian troops in Baranya.  At 3:00am in the morning they were set to work.  They were housed in abandoned damaged homes, barns, lofts and animal stalls where they were packed together lying on boards or bare floors, sleeping in their clothes and unable to get comfortable.  As they left their “quarters” they had breakfast: soup without salt or lard but a handful of peas.  The peas were always hard and not edible.  Most often it was cold and had not even been heated and “become” soup.


  Because all cups and utensils had been taken away from them the slave labourers had to eat and drink out of common dishes.  There was also a fifteen decagram of bread.  This was to last the worker until night.  At noon there was a short break in which the piece of bread could be eaten.


  Each worker was assigned to dig his own trench/fox hole and the diameter was proscribed.  Until every worker was done, none could leave.  If a man was assigned a rocky piece of terrain he was unable to finish it.  Because all of them had been weakened by hunger, no one ever finished before dark.  But not even then was there any rest.  They had to help those who were not done.  In the late hours of the night around 10:00pm and even later, the labourers were marched into a new area to overnight in whatever they could find for themselves.  Many did not receive an evening ration.  These assignments lasted for nine days.  In the first days they suffered so much from hunger that they ate whatever they found in the fields.  Those who survived returned on foot to Sombor.  The heat was intense.  Already on their way to their work assignments the men and women were thrashed along the way.  It was much worse on the way back when many were so weak that they could barely walk.  The inhabitants of the area through which they passed were mostly Hungarians who often stood in front of their houses with food and containers of water to give to the wretches passing by.  Whoever attempted to step out of line to gulp some water or snatch some food had to risk a beating or a battering with rifle buts from their guards.  The return march lasted a full day and night with only a brief rest during the night, but without any food or water.


  On March 23rd a large labour unit was assigned to work in the Partisan hospital. The men and women worked until 10:00pm and longer and then were awakened and set to work the next morning by 4:00 am.  The hospital operated a fine kitchen, but with a threat of punishment to anyone who gave food to the slave labourers.  Their fare was tea in the morning and bean soup at night and lunch and some bread, but not the bread that the Partisans got.


  The Partisan commanders in Sombor saw as their mission in life to bring about as much suffering as possible to weaken and discourage their Danube Swabian prisoners and hasten their deaths and yet make use of them for their own purposes at will.  When there was no other work available in order to wear down the inmates they would have to dismantle buildings in one part of town and then carry all of the heavy building materials to the opposite side of town and rebuild it there.  There were always endless columns of men and women slave labourers hauling materials, stones and lumber through the streets of Sombor, a sight that no citizen of the city was spared from seeing.


  Until the fall of 1945 there was not a day in which individuals or groups were not beaten or abused.  In the camp courtyard there was the body of a truck or car whose windows were covered with tin.  It was painted white.  Whenever a sentry decided or wanted to punish someone, the person was put in the “white horse” for days.  Those imprisoned in it received no food or water and were not let out.  They had to meet the needs of their bodily functions inside of it, but then had to clean it up when they were released.  It was terrible to spend cold winter nights in there because they were not allowed covers or heavy clothing.  Most of those who endured the hunger, cold, stink, constant standing and thrashings never recovered their health.  Many died shortly afterwards.


  One of the favourite tortures of the Partisan guards was the ridiculing of God and prayer.  When women were found praying together they were usually beaten.  But the penalty for praying could also be to force the culprits on their knees facing a wall in a row with others and pray out loud in unison while the Partisans kicked them.  Then, one at a time, they had to stand up in their place in line and step towards the Partisans and tell them if God had helped them and would free them from the camp.  As soon as anyone answered they received a whack across the ears, followed by a myriad of curses.  “What are you praying for?” they usually screamed and forced the person on their knees and told them to pray on.  “Perhaps He will help you after all!”  And then a while later they would begin the process all over again.  These same methods were used on those who attempted to escape from the camp and flee out into the countryside.


  On July 20, 1945 all of the inmates of the camp and the outside labour parties were assembled at the camp and put in the barracks.  Because it was getting dark, groups of tens were formed and put in a barrack.  Here they had to surrender everything they had.  Only their necessary clothes were left to them.  If anyone tried to hide any possession and he was discovered would be shot.  In the night shots rang out in the courtyard as executions were carried out.  The Partisans carried out this same action on the labour details that could not return to the camp on time.  The body searches that followed were most brutal and abusive when dealing with women and the younger girls.


  In May of 1946 the Partisans in Sombor demonstrated against the decision of the Western Powers to place Trieste under United Nations supervision as a free city instead of annexing it to Yugoslavia.  In the evening, when the commander of the camp returned after participating in the demonstration, he had two old Danube Swabian men taken out of the barracks and brought to his office where he and three other Partisans brutally attacked them.  They cut off some of their body parts, battered and hit them, stabbed them with knives and finally slit their throats.  This was the commander’s personal protest against the Allies decision with regard to Trieste.


  He sought other ways to still his rage by shedding Danube Swabian blood.  A second torture chamber for the Swabians in Sombor was the jail—Zupanija.  Hundreds had endured this prison.  The hostages went through countless interrogations with no idea of why they were arrested nor the significance of the questions they were asked.  They simply endured the thrashings and torture.  Most of the questions were about persons they had never even heard of.  Nor were they given any peace as they were told to condemn their Serbian or Hungarian neighbours or friends.  A hostage who was imprisoned here for three months recalls:


  “I was asked if I knew a well known lawyer in Sombor and if I was not also known to him.  I told them I had never had anything to do with him.  From time to time I had simply heard about him.  I never ever saw him.  I was questioned about him day and night and the questions were always accompanied by thrashings.  I was once confronted by others who had to answer the same questions.  I had to watch them being beaten and abused, just like I had been.  This went on for weeks.  They always said we would come to remember what they wanted to know.  One night I was again taken for questioning.


   Pistols lay on the table.  The Partisan picked them up and told me I was about to be shot.  They asked if I had a wife and children and other things.  Then they told me to stand by the wall and to open my mouth and one of them placed a loaded pistol in my mouth.  I was afraid that my family would never know what had become of me.  But I was returned to my cell where the same man came for me again the next day and wanted to shoot me if my memory had not improved.  The next night I was taken by two armed Partisans, questioned briefly, if I knew anything now, and then taken to the courtyard.  I was convinced I would now be shot.  The Partisans said it would be a shame to shoot me right away when I cold cut their firewood for them first.  They took me to the woodpile and I cut and chopped the wood.  After several hours I was returned to my cell and a few days later I was moved out of the prison with others from the Sombor camp and sent elsewhere…”


  More dangerous than Zupanija prison was Kronic-Palais.  Only a very few of those who entered this prison ever saw the light of day again.  The world will never know how many persons suffered terrible torture and death in there.  The prisoners were moved from cell to cell and some were sent to Neusatz.  Some were brought back again, only to be sent to Neusatz again.  The prisoners were a means to an end to incriminate others.  The torture here was the most brutal in the world.  Every day there were countless dead in their cells who had died as a result of their torture.  Officially, they had simply disappeared.


  (I decided not translate some of the grotesque things that were done to the prisoners.)


  There is no record of a single Danube Swabian who was investigated because he was a Nazi or a war criminal.  It was enough to simply be of German origin and you would be confined behind prison walls and never be heard from again.  The so-called Committees of Investigation of War Crimes were only located in Hungarian communities and districts.


  One of the Partisans’ favourite methods of execution was to shoot a whole row of Danube Swabians with a single shot and bullet.  They held contests to see how many people one bullet could kill if they stood behind one another in a row.


  The vast majority of the Sombor district Danube Swabian communities provided the major portion of the inmates of the Sombor central labour camp by the end of 1946.  There were several thousand and they came from Kolut, Gakowa, Kurschevlje, Stanischtsch, Monoschtor, Siwatz, Tschnopol and Kernei. 


  Many others were also being held prisoner in their home communities and had to do slave labor there.  In the spring and summer those unable to work were brought to Gakowa and Kruschevlje.  The last community to experience this was Stanischtsch.  It was also the last of the several hundred communities in which the Danube Swabians lived in order to be de-populated.


  But Kernei would experience the ultimate act of barbarity.  Here in the fall, countless Danube Swabian women were raped in the presence of their children and those who resisted and fought them refusing to submit were shot.  On the same day some drunken Partisans forced fifteen of the Swabian men into the cellar of the school.  Pushing them up against the wall in a corner of the cellar they began to shoot them with their submachine guns.  One man’s body had sixteen wounds. 





  In north western Batschka just below the Hungarian border the two entirely Danube Swabian villages of Gakowa (Gakovo) and Kruschevlje were located.  They were chosen by the Partisans as the last station of the Way of Sorrows of the Danube Swabians in their liquidation program in Yugoslavia.


  A few weeks after the Partisans set up their Military Government in Gakowa in the fall of 1944 the whole population of Gakowa, with the exception of the able bodied men were brought to neighbouring Kruschevlje.  Meanwhile, the able bodied men from Kruschevlje were brought to Gakowa.  From there, the men who numbered two hundred and fifty were taken to Bezdan to do slave labour there for a time.  On the way to Bezdan, one man who cold not keep up was beaten to death.  In Kruschevlje a man, Karl Franzen and a woman, Anna Depre, were shot in front of the church because they had tried to enter their own homes.  During this time the Partisans plundered all of the homes and assembled all the food stuffs to carry out their extermination project.  From now on and later able bodied men and women from Gakowa and Kruschevlje were brought to the Sombor forced labour camp and were sent off to various labour details to do some of the most difficult and heavy work that could be found for them to do.


  On March 12th 1945 eight thousand persons arrived in Gakowa and Kruschevlje from Apatin who had come on foot all of the way.  Both villages were hermetically sealed with the threat of death to all who tried to enter or leave the area.  More and more new mass arrivals of women, children and the elderly streamed into the two villages.  As soon as the liquidation program was set in motion in the communities of the western Batschka, all of those not able to work were driven to these two remote border villages.  Both camps were called extermination camps by the Partisans.


  Exhausted groups arrived in the thousands on foot almost daily.  Mothers with small children were mostly brought together to Krushevlje.  But seldom would they be allowed to remain together.  Every day, able bodied persons were chosen and taken away to work at the various labour camps in the western Batschka, so that every day more and more children were without a parent.  At first, most children had a grandmother or relative to look after them.  But after only a few weeks the death rate due to starvation rose greatly and hundreds and hundreds of children lost their relatives who could have cared for them and many a grandparent gave up the little food they had to the children and starved themselves so that the children might live.


  There was no mail or contact possible with the people in the camp.  Those who were separated had no way of hearing from or knowing about one another.  The only news was what the rotating labour units in the labour camps would share when new workers arrived from Gakowa and Kruschevlje but often the news was weeks or months old.  Most of the mothers would not know the fate of their children for years…if ever.


  Now almost every Danube Swabian community in the Batschka was represented among the inmates of the two concentration camps in the once picturesque villages.  By the summer of 1945 there were twenty-one thousand inmates in the two village camps.  This number would remain fairly constant because there was a constant flow of people coming here from other internment camps.  At times an entire camp would be emptied and sent here.  They simply filled the empty spaces of the countless others who had perished.


  In the summer of 1945 the camp from Filipovo was the first to arrive, followed by those from Sekitsch and in the spring of 1946 the survivors of the infamous camp in Jarek arrived.  (A note from the translator.  Ruth Brueckner of Cservenka was eleven years old at this time and arrived here in Gakowa from Jarek with her mother and grandparents.  She alone would survive.  Later, all on her own, as a thirteen year old she would escape into Hungary and would walk across the country following the railway tracks to Austria by night and hiding during the day.  Through the Red Cross she was reunited with her father who had  recently been released from a Russian prisoner of war camp.  She now lives in Canada…just down the street.)


  At the point that the Jarek inmates arrived there was a total of twenty-seven thousand Danube Swabians in the two camps.  There were eighteen thousand four hundred in Gakowa and eight thousand six hundred in Kruschevlje.  In the following years the total number of inmates was never less than twenty thousand.  As slave labourers were unable to work or had become too sick to work and all of the internment camps were closed in the Batschka, all of their inmates were sent here.  When the labour camps were finally closed Gakowa and Kruschevlje became their last holding camp.  But now a new stream of Danube Swabians came in large transports coming from the Banat, especially the wretched children from the notorious Rudolfsgnad “starvation” camp.


  In April of 1945 all of the inmates in both camps had to surrender all of their possessions and valuables.  Death was threatened to those who hid anything.  Two women in Kruschevlje were shot as a result of having hidden some money.  All of the camp had to witness the execution.  The others later had to pass by their bodies on their way to surrender what they possessed, including the children.  This “action” lasted until early dawn next day and only then could the bodies be removed for burial.


  Because of the gnawing hunger and mass starvation all around them, many of the mothers and older children took the risk to sneak out of the camps and beg for food in the vicinity as far as twenty kilometers, and return and attempt to sneak back into the camp.  Often it was at this point that they were sighted or apprehended and shot, except some were held back for a public execution for the benefit of the other inmates.


  Until the fall of 1946 it was only death or an attempt to escape to Hungary that usually resulted in costing the person’s life that were the only ways out of the two camps.  But now there was a new opportunity opening to them.  In the spring of 1947 it became obvious to the Interior Ministry and other government offices that the time had come to end the attempt at exterminating the entire Danube Swabian population before world opinion was totally awakened against Yugoslavia over the mass executions and shootings not to mention the internment program and as a result it sought a new way to deal with the issue of getting rid of the Danube Swabians permanently in another way.  In the fall of 1946 the camp commanders turned a blind eye to the mass flights out of the camps into nearby Hungary. Whoever was caught attempting to escape was brought back to the camp and all that the prisoner possessed was taken away from him or her.  But this really had little effect upon other inmates attempting to escape.  In response to that the camp commanders and other officials changed the “escape route into Hungary” into a lucrative business.  They tolerated a group of middlemen who would organize mass escape groups called “transports” and personally guide and lead them across the frontier into Hungary.  Anyone who wanted to join such a “transport” had to pay one thousand Dinars and of course the commanders received their cut.  These “official transports” were never stopped or apprehended by the border guards.  They were known as “white transports” compared to the “illegal” attempts by amateurs who went “black” across the border.  That whole winter witnessed a flood of transports across the border and the business flourished.  It would finally end in the fall of 1947.


  The camp commanders secretly made millions.  Transports left every night and often the numbers were up to several hundred.  Everyone had to pay the one thousand Dinars even small children in the arms of an adult or older sibling.  It has been estimated that the escapees paid in the neighbourhood of ten to twenty million Dinars to the operators and commanders.  But after having been robbed of everything they possessed where did the money come from?  Above all this demonstrates the close relationships that many of the Danube Swabians had with the other nationalities, especially the Hungarians, Slovaks and Orthodox Serbs who were often middlemen as well for family members who had escaped to Germany and Austria and sent them the funds.  But there were always those who had “no one” outside, whose only alternative was to go “black” or illegally.  The number of those who were able to save themselves from the camps at Gakowa and Krushevlje has been estimated at thirty thousand.  But when the camp in Gakowa was closed down in the spring of 1948 there were still twenty thousand inmates.


  At the beginning of the fall of 1946 there were able bodied persons who were removed from the slave labour camps and were sent to Gakowa and Kruschevlje.  In the summer of 1947 a new regulation was introduced where these able bodied inmates could accept work in coal mines or collective farms.  They would be paid for their work and could live as free persons.  They really had no other choice except to remain and die.  Most of them could not raise the money to buy their way on a “white transport” for themselves and their family members and were also afraid to take the “black” route and were not prepared to die of hunger if they remained.  Faced with this only other alternative, many of the able bodied accepted and were scattered across the country working in mines and collective farms finding a life for themselves once more.


  A majority of those who responded were parents of children who had been sent to Gakowa, Kruschevlje, Rudolfsgnad or some other internment camp.  Because they did not know the whereabouts of their children and as inmates in the camps had no access to any information, there was only one way for them to begin the search for their children and a hoped for reunion with them.  Once they gained their freedom and could earn money they would be in a position to discover if there was any word of their children and if they had survived and be reunited with them.  Was it a dream or a hope?  They desperately clung to their hope.


  But there were also others who were still in various central labour camps far removed from the possibility of a transport to Hungary, either white or black.  In the spring of 1948 all of the labour camps were dismantled.  Those able to find work and were still able to work found whatever livelihood they could.  Those who were unable to work either found support from family members or friends.  But the vast majority of them who really had no one to take them in, were sent to Rudolfsgnad and then later resettled at Karlsdorf.  There they lived in the old air force barracks that was called the “old folks home”.  They were not allowed to leave and lived much in the same way as they had in the labour camps except that they had money that they could use to bargain with the people in the neighbourhood.   


(Translator’s note. And now the saddest page in the history of the Danube Swabian people is expressed in this one short paragraph.  The ultimate crime of inhumanity.)


  In the summer of 1946 all the children without a father or mother resident with them in Kruschevlje camp were taken away and brought to the camp at Gakowa.  After a short period of time all these children and those in the Gakowa camp under the age of twelve were taken away from their grandparents or relatives and were removed to an unknown destination.  It was only months after that it was disclosed that the children had been scattered throughout various State Childrens’ Homes and orphanages across Yugoslavia and were being raised as Serbo-Croatians assuming a new name and identity in order to be lost to their families and people forever. 

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