Čačinci in Slavonia

 A Summary of the Heimatbuch: Čačinci und seine Donauschwaben Translated byHenry A. Fischer 

  Slavonia was part of the Triple Kingdom of Croatia:  Croatia-Dalmatia-Slavonia.  The first king of Croatia was Tomislav (910-928) who received his crown from the Pope in 924.  When the dynasty lacked a male heir, Hungary objected to the “elected” king, Petor Svačic and forcibly annexed Croatia to the Hungarian crown following the defeat of Petor at the Battle of Karlovac.


  Koloman I of Hungary established the personal union of the crown of Hungary with Croatia.  Croatia would maintain some autonomy ruled by a “Banus” as a representative of the Hungarian king along with a national assembly, the Sabor, which also guaranteed the privileges of the Croatian nobility.


  After the disaster at the Battle of Mohács where the Turks both defeated and killed Louis II of Hungary in 1526, the Kingdom passed into the hands of the Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand, the brother-in-law of Louis who had no male heir and therefore both Hungary and Croatia became part of his Austrian domains.  But the greater part of Hungary remained in Turkish hands for the next 150 years.  Only after the failure of the second siege of Vienna by the Turks in 1683, they were defeated in battle after battle as they retreated to south.  Following the liberation of most of Hungary from the Turks the Habsburgs established a Military Frontier District to protect the new southern borders of Hungary.


  Following the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 and Passarwitz in 1718, the uninhabited regions that had turned into wilderness were repopulated with colonists from the various principalities of southwest Germany, parts of the Holy Roman Empire, the ancestors of the Danube Swabians.  The settlers also included some from French territories, Alsace and Lorraine.  These settlers came in three massive waves, first under Charles VI from 1720-1739, secondly Maria Theresia from 1740-1779 and thirdly Joseph II from 1780-1790.


  During the first two migrations, (waves of settlers) only Roman Catholics were allowed to participate.  (Translator’s note:  That was the official policy but many Lutherans and Reformed settled in Swabian Turkey from the very beginning of the migrations.)  With the publication of the Edict of Toleration by Joseph II, Protestants were allowed to settle in the Batschka and Banat as well as Swabian Turkey.  Slavonia and Syrmien were off limits to Protestants up until 1859.


  There were also Orthodox Serbs living in Slavonia and Syrmien who had come there as refugees from the Turks during the 15th and 16th centuries and were used to defend the frontiers against the Turks.


  (Translator’s note:  All of this forms the basic backdrop for the future settlement of Čačinci and the arrival of the Danube Swabians in their midst in 1900.  The intent of this summary is to now focus in on the experience of the Danube Swabians in Slavonia beginning with the period following the First World War.)


  Following the First World War, Slavonia became part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croatians and Slovenes, the nation known as Yugoslavia.  This new state was to be a constitutional parliamentary democracy with a Monarch and royal dynasty.  In this three nationalities state the Croatians, Serbs and Slovenes were equal.  As far as the other national minorities in the land were concerned their rights were to be protected by the League of Nations after its establishment. 


  In the end of March 1931 the census of Yugoslavia indicated the following minorities:

505,000 Albanians, 499,000 Germans, 468,000 Hungarians, 137,000 Romanians, 133,000 Turks, 76,000 Slovaks, 70,000 Gypsies, 53,000 Czechs, 36,000 Russians, 28,000 Ukrainians, 18,000 Jews and 41,000 listed as others.


  The German minority was concentrated in enclaves in the Vojvodina, Banat and Syrmien, while they were scattered throughout Croatia, Slavonia, Bosnia, Slovenia and the Lower Baranya.  The distribution of the Danube Swabian population in 1931 was as follows:  120,000 in the Banat, 173,000 in the Batschka, 49,000 in Syrmien, 80,000 in Slavonia-Croatia, 15,000 in Bosnia and 29,000 in Slovenia.


  Like the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, the new state of Yugoslavia consisted of various nationalities and cohesion and unity would elude them in the years ahead.  The Serbs dream of a Greater Serbia was seen as a put down on Croatian aspirations.  Agitation for an independent state of Croatia began to simmer, first led by Stephen Radic who was assassinated in parliament in 1928.  In this volatile situation the king, Alexander declared himself dictator and abolished the constitution on January 6, 1929 and dissolved parliament and all political parties, including the German Party that had elected representatives in parliament.  New administrative districts were established for the purpose of governing, each named after the area’s major river.


  This resulted in Serbian majorities in six of the nine districts, which only added fuel to the Croatian fires of discontent.  But within a year the king was assassinated in France by a Macedonian terrorist and it is reasonable to conclude that he carried out the act on behalf of Anton Pavelic the exiled Croatian nationalist.


  A regency took over for Peter I, who was still a minor.  The regent was Prince Paul, the brother of the murdered king and the Ban of Zagreb and Laibach (Croatia and Slovenia).  In effect, Prince Paul was in control and in power.  He moderated Serbian aspirations and created a new outside enemy, Hungary, to deflect political energy.


  In the mid 1930s, Yugoslavia became more and more dependent on trade with Germany as a result of the Depression.  Even the annexation of Austria was not seen as a threat to Yugoslavia, which now shared a common border with the Third Reich.  But the Croatian nationalists were busy behind the scenes, especially Radics’ successor:  Vlatko Maček, who sought to re-establish the Triple Kingdom of Croatia.  The Yugoslavian government was moving towards a non-aggression pact with Hitler and a Tripartate Pact with Hungary and Romania.  In March 1940 the pact was signed at the Belvedere Palace in Vienna.  Two days later a military Putsch took place in Belgrade led by an air force general, Dusan Simovic.  The 18 year old King Peter was declared to be of age and Simovic was named the new prime minister.  The delegates returning from Vienna were arrested at the train station on their arrival.


  The Third Reich saw this as a provocation and set April 6th as the date to launch an invasion.  Within eleven days, on April 17, 1941 the war was over.  Many Danube Swabian leaders were arrested and held hostage when hostilities broke out.  The quick capitulation of Yugoslavia prevented a bloodbath.


  On April 10, 1941 the leader of the Ustachi, the Croatian Fascists, Slavko Kvaternik Pavelic proclaimed the Independent State of Croatia.  He took over the government on behalf of the Ustachi as allies of the Third Reich and Italy.  Germany and Italy officially abolished the former “state” of Yugoslavia.  Croatia was given all of the territory of the former Triple Kingdom including Bosnia, Herzegovina and all of Syrmien.  Germany took over the southern Steiermark and southern Carinthia.  The Italians got Slovenia and a portion of Dalmatia, while acting as “Protector” of Montenegro.  In addition Italy was given Kosovo, western Macedonia and Albania.  Bulgaria got the larger portion of Macedonia.  The Vojvodina went to Hungary, while the Banat was placed under the German military and governed by them from Belgrade in what remained of Serbia.


  Following the takeover by the Ustachi, representatives of the Danube Swabians sought to work out the rights of the German minority.  A law was decreed on June 21, 1941 consisting of eight articles outlining the place of the Germans in Croatia and their rights and obligations to the state as well as the leadership of the German Reich.  The “Führer” of the Danube Swabians had a voice and vote in the governing cabinet.


  The issue now facing the German minority was military service.  On September 16, 1941 it was focussed on serving in the Croatian Army.  In February of 1942 German units within the Croatian forces were sent for training and service with the German divisions in Bosnia and they were invited to join the Waffen SS.  This would be part of the rationale Tito would use for exterminating the Danube Swabians down to every last man, woman and child as traitors to the nation.  These were the decisions acted upon at the assembly of AVNOJ (provisional partisan revolutionary government) on November 21, 1944.  It was to provide a legal cover for the disenfranchisement, confiscation of property, internment and expulsion of the Danube Swabian population.


  Čačinci is located on the railway line from Agram (Zagreb) and Esseg (Osijek).  The closest district town was Nasice with a population of 6,000.  The mostly uncultivated land in this area was owned by several Croatian nobles:  Count Gutmann, Drasskovics and Pejacivic.  The Danube Swabian settlers arrived at the turn of the century from the Batschka and Syrmien where they were running out available land for expansion.  Land here was simply cheaper.  But, bad harvests, war and other natural disasters and hard work took their toll.  The number of Danube Swabian settlers increased at the end of the First World War.  They were farmers, merchants and tradesmen.


  There were two churches in the village, one was Reformed and the other Roman Catholic.  The Lutherans had a prayer house that also served as a school.  There was a total population of 3,300 in the village prior to the evacuation of the 820 Danube Swabian inhabitants.  In addition to them, there were other minorities:  Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Jews and Hungarians.  Most of the inhabitants were Croatians, except in the “old village” where there were Serbs.  The Danube Swabians got along well with their neighbours, which, however, was not true in terms of the relationship between the Croats and Serbs.  As a result the Danube Swabians were often called upon to be “the middle man” in terms of disputes and were elected as mayors and councillors.


  Both the district doctor and midwife were Danube Swabians and lived in Čačinci:  Dr. Ackermann and Elisabeth Hepp.  The cemetery was shared by four denominations: the Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Reformed and Lutherans.


  The Lutheran congregation was the smallest of the four groups.  It was a filial of Podravska Slatina where the pastor resided.  He held services in Čačini and provided religious instruction for the children every fourth Sunday.  The congregation had its own presbyterium elected for four year terms.  (Translator’s note:  the Church Council.)  Children were confirmed at the age of 12 years.  Memorizing Luther’s Small Catechism was emphasized.  Because the classes were small the children were called upon often to give answers during the Public Examination before the congregation.  Most of them never forgot the experience.


  In 1930 the congregation bought the house of Karl Sahm to convert it into a prayer house.  The costs were covered through offerings and gifts from neighbouring congregations.  Before the prayer house was dedicated the congregation used the school and church of the Reformed congregation for worship.  A tower and bell were added to their prayer house in 1934.  After the war the tower was torn down and the prayer house was used as living quarters and the small bell simply disappeared.  There were usually 80 to 90 pupils attending the Lutheran school until the evacuation.


  The Reformed congregation was also without a resident pastor and was a filial of Velimirovac.  There were about 70 Reformed families in the village.  Their church building was dedicated in 1928.  Prior to its erection services were held in one of the classrooms of their school.


  Most of the Roman Catholics in the village were Croatians while Danube Swabians formed the largest minority among them.


  After the invasion of Yugoslavia during the Second World War and the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia, the German schools developed much better than previously.  New state laws were passed for this purpose on September 25, 1941.  The official Danube Swabian organization representing the minority, known as the Bund, carried out negotiations with the Croatian government to carry out their own objectives.  As a result thousands of Danube Swabian children received instruction in German.  These schools, however, would become the special target of Partisan attacks and many of them were closed, including Čačinci on October 3, 1943.


  The former Kulturbund (Cultural Association) of the Danube Swabians in Yugoslavia was gradually taken over by a new element calling themselves “Renewers” or “Renovators”.  They were mostly young men who had studied in Austrian or German universities where they were influenced by National Socialism and attempted to introduce the Nazi ideology into the Kulturband and their programme and objectives.  The followers of the movement organized themselves in Esseg under the leadership of Branimir Altgayer from Slavonia.  Čačinci was placed under the Esseg leadership.


  Many young men were recruited into the army while others went to work in Germany.  Those who remained at home were trained to protect and defend the village.  Everything began to take on a military character in every aspect of daily life.


  In October 1943, after several days of unrelenting siege, Čačinci was occupied by Partisan units.  The attack began on a Saturday night.  The men who were still at home fought alongside of the Croatian troops stationed in the village that was completely surrounded by the Partisans.  Because the village could not hold out against the attackers, the fighting men broke out of the encirclement and retreated towards Esseg.  In the forests through which they fled they were mistaken as fellow Partisans by the attackers and were able to make their escape.  The Partisans terrorized the villagers, burning down houses as well as the local German community centre:  Deutsche Heim.  They plundered and destroyed at will while the population hid themselves as best as possible.


  One eye witness reports:


  “On Saturday, October 2, 1943 the Partisans attacked the village from three sides.  The battle lasted for thirty hours.  Because of being outnumbered and with no possibility of re-enforcement the Croatian troops and the Swabian Home Defence forces had to abandon the village after suffering heavy casualties.  From among the Danube Swabian population, four men and two women lost their lives.  Johann Saffenauer met a gruesome death at the hands of the Partisans.  Leaving in small groups, many of the defenders were able to escape.


  Once the battle ended the Partisans plundered and burned the homes of the Swabians.  Many women and children were driven into the yard of one of the homes and were made to listen to a Communist harangue them while their homes were plundered and burned to the ground.  To legalize their actions the Partisans claimed that they were searching for concealed weapons and munitions.


  Swabian men who were unable to escape, hide themselves and several were captured and then driven together into a yard.  They were brutally interrogated and tortured.  They dragged off ten of the men.  Three of them would never be heard of again.  One of those who were released was later picked up again and disappeared forever.  Several of the local police were murdered in one of the yards of the village.


  Those missing, wounded and dead were numerous on both sides.  For the Swabian population this was a time of great fear.  Many of their homes were burned down, all of the houses had been plundered and their cattle had been driven away.  They were now officially non-persons and had nothing but fear.  Many of the Swabians who had gone    into hiding, had been assisted in doing so by their non-German neighbours.


  The desire to leave Čačinci grew stronger, but only a few individuals had been successful in escaping through the Partisan lines that formed a ring around the village.  On Saturday, October 16, 1943 German military units arrived accompanied by many of the men from Čačinci who had been successful in making their escape and had returned to rescue the surrounded Danube Swabian population.  The order was simply, “Pack quickly!  We must leave in two hours.”  Unfortunately, there were those who could not leave for various family reasons, while there were others who felt that they had done nothing wrong and would not be molested any further.


  The column of wagons and trucks travelled to Esseg passing through Josefsdorf.  They remained in Esseg for a few days but for some it would be a longer stay, waiting for family still on their way who had been forced to remain behind.  Uncertainty and fear had led to their flight.  Some now went from Esseg to live with family or friends in the area or were accommodated by the Bund in India and Beschka.


  About a year later, at the beginning of October 1944 the order to flee and pack again was given.  The reason was the onrushing front as the Red Army moved into Yugoslavia.  The German army could no longer hold back the Russian advance.  No one was prepared to fall into the hands of the Partisans again.  The wagon treks left and headed across Hungary to Austria and Germany and some went as far as East Prussia.


  Many attempted to return “home” to Yugoslavia when the war ended.  Some were turned back at the border, while others were welcomed and put into extermination camps like Rudolfsgnad in the Banat were several perished.


A School Teacher’s Story:  Mathias Hohmann


  In the summer of 1943, I was at home in Čačinci on summer holidays from my school in Bačivac.  At the beginning of September I wanted to return to my job.  Because the Partisans had cut the railway lines I could not return.  Shortly afterwards, Čačinci was under attack by the Partisans.


  On October 3rd at 4:00 a.m., the Partisans succeeded in putting the Croatian military to flight, surrounded the village and began to plunder the Swabian houses.  Everything they found in the houses and yards was taken and driven out to the forest, where it was left to rot.  After the plundering there were only empty houses or the shell of burned out houses.


  Those of us men who had not been able to escape were driven together by the Partisans in the yard of Adam Hock.  We had no idea of what would become of us.


  Every now and then a female Partisan would scream at us, shouting that we were “bandits”and should be thrown into the burning houses because we deserved it.  For one day and night we endured such threats and beatings as we waited for the judgement of the Partisan leaders as to what would become of us.  On October 5, 1943, twenty of us men were dragged off to the mountains.  After a two day march, during which we had nothing to eat, we reached Vočin.  During the day we were locked up in a bunker, where we were chained and bound hand and foot.  At night the interrogations took place and most of us were beaten and abused in the process.  There were also accidents that resulted from these night time activities and men went to pieces from the experience.  All of this and the fear we had lasted until November 13, 1943.  By this time, only seven of the twenty men from Čačinci were still alive.  We were sentenced to slave labour for three to four months or three to six months.  I was part of the second group and I had to serve six months of labour in the forest.


  We were still imprisoned in the earth bunker.  It was November 5, 1943 when a sentry called two of us out to take us to the commander.  There an axe and spade were handed to us.  We knew what this meant, and we stood rooted to the spot, because we did not know if we were going to dig or own graves.  We were led to a spot where many innocent victims were already buried.  Because of our fear of impending death we were unable to dig, so that the sentry had to tell us that the grave was not meant for us.  When we finished digging the grave, two Partisans led their victim forward.  It was the Croat, Meso Busljeta, a twenty one year old man from Čačinci who was condemned to death for the crimes of his father.  His face was covered with blood, so that it was difficult to recognize him, only his uniform gave him away and we recognized it because we had been imprisoned with him all this time.


  On November 13, 1943 the seven of us began our slave labour at Zuecovo.  This was at the time of the first snowfall.  We had no shoes so we wrapped rags around our feet in order to work out of doors.  We had to cut down trees and then saw them up every day.


  I had no contact with my family.  At Christmas 1943 three of our comrades were released.  A short time later one of them was apprehended again and was never heard from again.  Another one of them was murdered when he returned to Čačinci.


  After our six month sentence was over we were brought to Slatinsk Dunavoc by the Partisans.  In the meanwhile, German troops marched into Čačinci and so we had to wait until April 5, 1944 to return home.  We spent Easter in our home village but without any of our families.  There had been great joy in the village on our return because we had been given up for dead.  There were no longer any Danube Swabians left in Čačinci and I wondered how to reach my family.  On April 20, 1944 a German unit reached the village and an officer who knew me said, “Your name is Hohmann.  I should take you to your family.”  I was overcome and went with him to Slatina where I was then transferred to Esseg.  There I was questioned at Bund headquarters for two days until I was sent to my family in India on April 27th.


  In India I took up teaching once again on May 8, 1944.  I lived there with my family until October 10, 1944.  On that day we boarded trains and fled for Germany and arrived in Schärding in Austria.”

 From the Diary of Eva Stiefel:   Friday, October 1, 1943

  Today my brother-in-law returned home by train.  He was on business in Agram.  We were happy to see him because there had been no connections for eight days because the Partisans had torn up sections of the tracks.  As a result we could hope again, that we would get letters from our men.

   Saturday, October 2, 1943

  Heavy shooting began this morning at 4:30 am.  As daylight came the Partisans threw grenades and damaged several houses.  We realized our situation was dangerous.  So we began to store clothes, laundry, meat and flour and other necessities in a storeroom.  We had no idea of how bad things would get.  Later we realized that we left too much behind for the Partisans.  The fighting raged all day.  It became quiet in our area as evening came.  But in the village the Partisans had already infiltrated Peter Ries’ place and there had already been some deaths.

   Sunday, October 3, 1943

  Today is a day that will always remain in our memory.  We want to be thankful to God that He helped us in this dark hour.  They were fearful hours that we lived through from 9 to 11 o’clock, but God be praised, it is all over now.  Today began with more shootings in the morning.  On our side, the Ustachi had four dead and nineteen wounded.


  We carried out chores in the house, yard and stable.  After breakfast the fighting intensified and we all hid in the small room close to the yard.  Philip’s family was also with us.  Rozič, the officer who is quartered in our house came for his things and said, “We can’t hold out much longer, the Partisans are already in all of the side streets.”  He took his ammunition and left us.  We were terrified as we saw the military and the local Defence Forces begin to retreat.  They fled out of the village.  In less than an hour the first Partisans were here.  At first screams broke out all along the street and at the same time shots were heard as the Partisans fired at the windows of the houses.  In our room the bullets passed through the dressers and were embedded in the walls.  And then the gate to our yard was thrown open.


  We were huddled sitting on the floor of the room and each of us tried to crawl and hide in a corner.  We were all pale as death.  Then the Partisans broke into our house and called out:  “Zdravo Druze?”  They asked if there were any bandits (solders) or ammunition in the house.  They looked in every corner but took nothing with them.  Some time later a horde of them stormed into our house and each of them took whatever he wanted.  So some rushed in, others rushed out, until soon everything was gone.  We had to watch as they dragged our things away.  Later my sister and I planned to go to Philip’s house and open the locks.  Then a woman Partisan appeared and said, “Wait a moment,” and took out her machine pistol and shot at the lock.  The doors and windows of the house were wrecked.  A team of horses hitched to a wagon stood in front of the house crammed full with Partisans.  They dragged out whatever was available and loaded the wagon.  At the end, only broken pottery, dishes and books were left behind.  It was awful.  All day long the plundering continued.  We had to feed the Partisans and then they were friendlier towards us.  I always held little Erhardt in my arms, it was the only way I could deal with my fears because women with little children were not taken away.


  In the afternoon it continued.  One wagon after another followed each other out of the village.  There were hundreds of wagons full of possessions of the Swabians.


  At 3:00 pm the railroad station was set on fire and fires raged in every part of the village.  Late tonight Partisans appeared and ordered my father to hitch up our horses and drive for them.  He pretended that he was too sick to do it.  They called for someone else to drive the team and wagon and we never saw them again.  At night now there is finally some peace.  The sky was bright and red from the great fires in the village as more and more houses of the Swabians went up in flames.

   Monday, October 4, 1943

  Today we heard of what had been burned down.  All night long the columns of wagons filled with the Swabian’s possessions left the village.  All of the stores and shops were totally stripped, even those of the Croatians.  Many Swabian families had everything taken from them or were burned out.  Hepps, on the street behind us had everything taken from them.  In the afternoon we learned that three men and one old woman were dead along with Johann Saffenaur who had literally been butchered by the Partisans using their knives.  Among the buildings that were burned were the train station, homes of the Banzhofs, Mayers, Kruscherics, Stampfers, Lotschperichs, the town hall, the government office, the Schilling’s store and the houses of the Hemmeles, Leitheims, Mattls, Kopfers, Pathays, the school and the Deutsche Heim as well as the factory across from the mill.


  Many of the Swabian men had fled with the Ustachi troops.  One hundred and four men were led off by the Partisans, among them was the carpenter Som, Annasenz, Gregor, Banzhof, Adam Mullerlei.  None have returned.


  Tuesday, October 5, 1943

  During the night many of our people left as a pause set in and there was a no Partisan activity.  We could hear our stallion and the colt neighing in the stable.  All day long we were afraid they would set Philip’s house on fire.  They had already tried to do it by setting the curtains ablaze but the fire went out.  Then people from Skretnica arrived.  Philip’s family was with us.  The Partisans appeared again and were still searching for things to carry off.  They opened every small drawer.  Shortly they found our Fritz’s military medal.  One of them screamed, “Now we see we’ve found what we’ve been searching for!”  Another Partisian, a good man said, “You idiot, don’t you recognize a Yugoslavian medal when you see one!”


  Wednesday, October 6, 1943

  The streets were cleared and then cleaned and fences were repaired.  We had no desire to do anything and we asked one another how long this could possibly go on.


  Thursday, October 7, 1943

  During the night the Partisans set off all of the landmines the Ustachi had laid around the village.

   Friday, October 8, 1943

  Up until noon today they set off mines and booby traps.  In the afternoon I was at my Bechtel’s Godmother.  I remarked that it was still burning and smouldering all over the village.  There were simply no firemen around.  It’s bad.  I hear that many people are leaving by wagon for Miholpac and going on to Esseg.


  Saturday, October 9, 1943

  I went in search of our horses and I needed a pass for that purpose.  I could only get that at headquarters and it was located in Mikleuska.  In the evening we are supposed to go to a meeting.

   Sunday, October 10, 1943

  No entry.

   Monday, October 11, 1943

  Today Lydia left.  I gave her a letter for my dear husband.  This evening we heard the Lamps are leaving too.


  Tuesday, October 12, 1943

   Today our horses drove past our house and that was very difficult for us.  Lydia has not returned.  Her flight to Esseg must have been successful.  Our uncle Jakob was in Miholje.

   Wednesday, October 13, 1943

  Today our Ustachi military returned in the morning.  Many people left with them.  The Partisans also come here daily to “visit” us.

   Thursday, October 14, 1943  Friday, October 15, 1943

  Nothing much has happened.

   Saturday, October 16, 1943

  Today was an alarming day.  In the afternoon the German police and the district Defence Forces arrived.  They are the ones who had fled with the military.  They said, “Pack everything quickly!  In two hours we have to get going!”  We have no horse or wagon so we have to stay here.  Our father went down to the corner to observe them leaving.  There were many people there with their little bundles, because there were some horses and wagons there after all.  All of them left out of fear.  Almost all of our Swabians have gone.

   Sunday, October 17, 1943

  For two weeks now we have been in the hands of the Partisans.  Many people left again yesterday.  I wanted to leave too and go to my parents in Neu Pasua but I couldn’t leave my in-laws here all alone.  Today is four weeks since my husband returned to his military unit after his leave.


  There are many Partisans in the village again.  Last night 70 wagonloads of goods were taken away.  All of the houses have been stripped empty.  Even the doors and window frames have been removed so that no one can live in them again.  So much for our “inheritance.”

   Monday, October 18, 1943

  Today those of us who are still here packed and in the evening we listened to the radio.  We sold our camera to Muzar.


  Tuesday, October 19, 1943

  Today we butchered a piglet.  In the afternoon, Urban came with two Partisans.  They told us to send word for our men to return.  Nothing would happen to them or us.

   Wednesday, October 20, 1943  Thursday, October 21, 1943  Friday, October 22, 1943

  No entries.

   Saturday, October 23, 1943

  The Wilgings’ Godmother returned home from Josipovac.

   Sunday, October 24, 1943

  Today I wrote letters to my beloved husband and parents.  In the evening Urban came again to invite us to the meeting.

   Monday, October 25, 1943

  I went to Slatina with Jusup and then on foot to Sopjansha to my sister Ada.

   Tuesday, October 26, 1943

  Today I came back home.

   Wednesday, October 27, 1943

  Adam travelled to Esseg today and took three radios to sell.

   Thursday, October 28, 1943

  We heard that everything was taken away from Adam. 

   Friday, October 29, 1943

  A letter arrived from Adam with a picture of Susan.  They were in Siwatz in the Batschka.

   Saturday, October 30, 1943

  No entry.


  Sunday, October 31, 1943

  Today my dear husband celebrates his birthday.  My thoughts are with him and it lies heavy on my heart.  When are we going to get out of this?  Away from the Partisans?



  At the beginning of November I left Čačinci for Miholjac by wagon along with my in-laws, Aunt Margaret and Elfrieda.  We stayed there overnight.  In that night a fierce battle raged in Čačinci between the Partisans and the Ustachi and German police.  There were many deaths.  The next morning the Partisans withdrew and all of the Swabians who were still left in the village left with the German police.


  When we arrived in Nasice we heard about all of this.  In the afternoon they arrived under military escort.  In Nasice we were all loaded on a train that took us to India and Beschka.


  In October 1944 we were loaded on the cattle cars of a train as part of the evacuation and arrived in Vienna before we were sent on to East Prussia.  In December 1944 we had to flee before the advancing Russian Army and that is another story.


Recollections of Susanne Brauchler


  “…it was time for us to leave.  We were nine persons on one wagon.  We had some clothes along with food for us and oats for our horses.  From Čačinci we headed for Miholjac and then Esseg and on to India.  We remained in India for an extended period in which our supplies were soon used up.  But we found work and were able to buy bread.  I had no children of my own but my sister Theresia Ries had six.  The oldest was a boy of seventeen who was working in Vienna, the youngest was only several months old.  That meant that five of the children were with their mother.  Their father was serving in the military and I took the whole family under my care and we worked together.


  The order came for us to leave in six days.  My sister had to leave on a transport by rail and I myself was to become part of a wagon column.  My mother-in-law was also with me on the wagon because she could not go by train.  I was pleased that we would stay together because we loved one another as mother and daughter.


  So we left India and headed for Esseg.  There we left Croatia behind when we crossed the bridge over the Drava River.  Our way took us across southern Hungary to Graz in Austria and then on to Grieskirchen and Neumarkt.  We remained there for some time.


  In nearby Pahring I found a place for us to live with a farmer.  My mother-in-law was happy to come with me…the farmer told me, “We have enough work and you won’t have to worry about getting enough to eat, but we can’t pay any money.”  So I worked there and we had food and a warm room and were comfortable there.


  On February 9, 1945 a young boy showed up at the farm with a note.  He told me that three of my sister’s children were at the train station in town.  I asked the farmer’s wife if I could go and fetch the children.  She answered, “Go and get them!”  I walked as fast as I could to the train station.  It was very cold on that February 9th day.  When I saw the half frozen children my heart was touched so deeply.  The three of them had been journeying since January 24th and had only reached the camp at Neumarkt that day.  For these three little children these had been terrible days.  They could not go on.  So I had to get a wagon and drive them to Pahring that was now my home.


  Soon some neighbour’s children passed by, they wanted to see the Banater Dirndl (as refugees from Yugoslavia were called in Austria).    “God, they look just like us,” they said.  The farmer’s wife had set some bath water on the stove.  I couldn’t bathe the little ones because they were half frozen.  I tried to give some food to the youngest one but she could not swallow.  I gave all of them some hot tea and put them to bed.  The farmer’s wife and her neighbours were of the opinion that if the children fell asleep they would never waken.  All afternoon I sat at their bedside and awakened them so that they could not fall into a deep sleep.  At night I gave them warm milk to drink.  Around 8:00 pm I put them back to bed and they slept through the night.


  In the morning the farmer’s wife asked if the children were still alive.  When I was able to assure her they were, she gave me more milk for the children.  After they got up, washed themselves, dressed and ate their fill of milk they began to tell me of their long ordeal.  The oldest girl was thirteen, the little boy was six and the little one sixteen months old.  The family had to flee from East Prussia in the winter of early 1945 and that is where their long journey had begun.  The thirteen year old always had to carry the baby.  She herself was handicapped and had sight in only one eye.


  Because the Weichel River was frozen, the children crossed the river on a sled.  Adults had to walk and as a result the three youngest children were separated from their mother and she and the older children were to be placed in the camp where the younger children were being taken.  Their mother and the other children never reached the camp.  All of the tears of the desolate children could not change things.  The three children were placed on a transport heading for Austria to the camp at Neumarkt.  The thirteen year old knew that they had an aunt there and gave this information to the director of the transport.  As a result that is why they had gotten off of the train at the local station.


  That is how I got the message and brought the children to me.  It was a difficult time both for the children and for me.  We lived together for almost a year and made the best of it.  We would often sing the song, “A bird came flying,” to the little one and she would soon fall asleep.


  One night something mysterious happened.  The little one sat up in bed and began to sing, “A bird came flying and sat down on my foot, had a little letter in her beak, a greeting from my mother.”  She then lay down again and continued sleeping.  My mother-in-law asked, “Did you hear that?  The little one must feel the love of her mother that she experiences in the night.  You’ll see.  Something will come of this.”


  And it did too.  The very next day the children’s grandmother came and told them, “Your mother is alive and she is coming soon.”  What a fantastic joy we all experienced.  We wept tears of happiness and were even joined by the farmer’s wife.  The children’s   Ries grandmother had received the news from relatives who lived near Passau.


  At first we were in doubt.  Could this really be possible.  We would only believe if we could see my sister.  The relative of Grandmother Ries had met a woman on the street in Passau who had just come across the border from the East Zone.  She had a letter and wanted to drop it off at the parsonage to be sent onward.  The letter stated that a woman had lost her three children and she believed that they were with her sister.  The man realized that the address was that of his cousin, Grandmother Ries.  So he sent it directly to her.  So now we knew that my sister was still alive.


  This relative now also took on the responsibility to write to my sister.  From Passau the letter got across the border to the East Zone.  A pastor in the East Zone passed it on informing my sister that the children were alive and in good health and with her sister.  Soon my sister came across the border near Passau and we had a reunion with many tears of joy.  My sister came with one son.  The daughter who had been with her had also been lost during the flight from East Prussia.  She was left all on her own.  Fortunately some Čačinci people, the family of Adam Mayer took her into their family and were able to contact us.  Now the whole Ries family were re-united in Pahring, but without the husband of my sister, who has been missing since the end of the war.”


Welimirowatz in Slavonia-Part Three


  Entering the 20th century the term Danube Swabian came into vogue to describe the descendants of the Germans settlers who had responded to the call of the Habsburg Emperors and first established their communities in the early 18th century.  During the 20th century the Danube Swabians found themselves living between different worlds.  They knew the world of the other nationalities among whom they lived.  Observed and adapted what was helpful in their relationships with them as well as met their own goals.


  They lived as individuals, families and as village communities as if they were islands surrounded by people of other nationalities, values, language, faith, customs and traditions. 


  They lived between “East” and “West” if we think in terms of the division of the Church.  The Slovenes and Croats belonged to the Roman Catholic Church.  The Serbs, Montenegrians and Macedonians belonged to the Orthodox Church of the East and the Protestant minority could not even train its clergy in the territory of Croatian State.  There were also Moslems in Bosnia and Herzegovinia.  There was no ecumenicity.  The Croatian clergy along with the help of the Ustaschi would attempt to force the conversion of the Serbs living in their Independent State of Croatia that emerged during the Second World War and committed countless atrocities against them with the support of the clergy and hierarchy.


  On the island of Corfu after World War I representatives of Serbia and the recently established “Yugoslavian” Committee met to design an independent state.  On July 20, 1917 the Pact of Corfu was concluded.  Nikolai Paschitsch represented the Serbian government and Dr. Ante Trumbitsch as leader of the Yugoslavian Committee established a “democratic kingdom” of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes under the dynasty of the Serbian princely Karadjordjewitsch family.  This kingdom was to incorporate the State of Serbia, the princedom of Montenegro and all of the South Slavs of the Danubian Monarchy of Austria-Hungary:  the Croats, Serbs and Slovenes.


  The Croats feared the Serb’s overwhelming power and the Serbian drive for greatness.  They would have rather been an independent state of their own but then they would not have succeeded in annexing Dalmatia, Istria and the islands at Italy’s expense.  Croatia had been part of the Austro-Hungarian alliance with Germany that had lost the war and Italy was one of the winners.   The Prince Regent, Alexander, proclaimed the new Kingdom on December 1, 1918 on behalf of his ailing father, Peter I.  The Croatian leaders Dr. Ante Paveltisch and Stefan Raditsch spoke out against “Yugoslavia”.


  Elections were held for representatives to sit in the National Assembly that would design a constitution.  The German minority living in the new state were not permitted to vote.  June 28, 1921 by only a slight majority the Constitution was passed.


   Annexation of territory from Austria’s Carinthia Province followed as well as the outlawing of the Communist Party and the persecution of its members began.  Attempts at taking over Albania were held in check by the Great Powers.  Fiume was controlled jointly with Italy.  The Agrarian Reform Laws would remain a thorny issue in the years to come.


  The new parliament was uncertain about the place of the national minorities in the new state.  They were uncertain whether to grant citizenship to the Germans or make them second class citizens.  Many preferred a “transfer” of the German population to Austria.  In 1923 the Germans were given a vote for the first time.  But Germans had been conscripted into the Yugoslav Army long before that and sent to the south and stationed in Macedonia.  The minority rights guaranteed in the peace treaties with Austria-Hungary were not acceptable to the Yugoslavian Government in 1921 or 1931.


  But the Serbs had their greatest difficulties with the Croats.  They continued to act up in parliament and opposed the Constitution at every turn.  Some were arrested as enemies of the State including Raditsch, and Matschek as well as others.  Matschek took over the leadership of the Croatian Farmers’ Party and worked to change the Constitution.  He was simply representing the growing rebellion throughout Croatia.


  The situation the Germans in Croatia faced was becoming more and more difficult.  The Croats asked for their electoral support and they knew this would be seen as an affront to the ruling party.  But on the whole the Germans avoided political involvements.  When the land reform laws were put into effect they realized that the government was not well disposed towards them.  They were patient, although they had anxieties about the future.  But envy of the “wealth” of the Germans and railing against it became a national pastime.  The goal of the South Slavs was the “Yugoslavianization” of all the population.


  This along with a failing economy led to the migration of many of the younger German   men to Brazil, Canada and the US.  Agricultural prices were falling, so those with trades moved to the towns and cities in search of work.


  The land ownership reforms were meant to divide up the large estates, which in fact never happened.  The estate owners managed to give up unsuitable land or the land their tenants had cleared  (Welimirowatz had 500 acres of such land).  The handouts were only small parcels of land to veterans (Serbs only) or Slavs “coming home” from Hungary.  The only universal policy in the midst of all the corruption that took place was to freeze out the Hungarians, Romanians and Danube Swabians and prevent them from benefiting from the reform in any way.


  The continuing crisis in parliament led to King Alexander’s introduction of a Royal Dictatorship.  On January 6, 1929 the Constitution was set aside and royal power was established.  The parliament was dismissed and all political parties and organizations were forbidden.  On December 3, 1929 the name Yugoslavia was first used officially.  The king attempted to divide the Kingdom into nine Bans and the prefecture of Belgrade to neutralize the ethnic divisions of the old historical provinces.  In reality in this way the Serbs formed the majority in six of the Bans and for that reason his idea was not acceptable.  A new Constitution was promulgated with a cameral system.  Along with the elected parliament there would also be a senate.  The populace would only elect half of the senators.  The king would name the other half.  In 1940 two German senators were appointed:  Bishop Philip Popp of the Lutheran Church and Dr. Grassl a leading German figure in the nation.


  In 1931 there was an uprising in many regions by anti-Serbian Croats who were members of an organization called:  Ustasche meaning struggle.


  Dr. Matschek established a Croatian self-government programme in 1932 and two months later the Slovenes also demanded self-government.  Because of the pressures and tensions of the nationalities’ issues among the brother Slavs, the king and government did not deal with the economic and social issues.  Foreign affairs policies had resulted in good relationship with Bulgaria, reached a compromise with Italy, a Balkan Pact with Romania, Greece and Turkey and a small “war pact” with Romania and Czechoslovakia all opposed to any reinstitution of a “Greater Hungary” after the Treaty of Trianon.  During a state visit in France in October 1934 the king was assassinated along with the French foreign minister.  His under age successor Peter II was controlled by a Regent’s Council headed by his uncle, his father’s brother Paul.  According to the census of 1931 Serbs accounted for 44% of the population and the Croats were 34%.  The two were not reconciled with one another when Hitler appeared on the scene in Germany.  Economic ties between Germany and Yugoslavia were strengthened and Yugoslavia left the orbit of France and sided with Germany on the international scene.  The approaching Second World War would be the setting for the Croats gaining the independence that had always               eluded them in the past.


  In an ironic way the growing and overwhelming nationalism of the Hungarians, Romanians, Serbs and Croats awakened a similar “national” consciousness among the various groups of Danube Swabians.


  They had gone about their work for decades whether in agriculture or their trades and were content with their destiny even though preserving their language, faith and customs also proved to be hard work.  They were tied together in their village communal life and relationships and built a life of their own experiencing common difficulties together.  They assumed they would be able to maintain the use of their mother tongue and never thought for a moment that the State would encroach upon this natural human right of all peoples.  German was their language to express intimacy, family life and prayer, community life and song and celebration.  It was no wonder that they could not grasp the idea that their children could no longer speak their mother tongue at school and could be won to the concept of total assimilation.  When others called for liberty, equality and fraternity for themselves they were not considered to be part of the package.  After 1918 equality for the Germans in Hungary meant to become Hungarians while in Yugoslavia it meant giving up their Protestant faith, folk identity and heritage.


  In Neusatz the Schwäbische Deutsche Kulturband (Swabian German Cultural Union) was formed in June of 1920.  Local groups of the SDKB as it was known were formed in 97 communities throughout Yugoslavia and by 1924 there were 128.  This organization was not in opposition to the State in any way.  It transcended the confessional differences and sought to preserve and maintain their national identity.  Their first concern was the retention of their German schools and the education and preparation of German schoolteachers.  The organization was banned in 1924.


  When parliament approved the voting rights of the minorities a Partei die Deutschen (German Party) was established in Hatzfeld in December of 1922.  They were permitted to campaign in the election of 1923.  They supported the basic tenants of the DSKD:  language rights, cultural development, German place names to be retained and peace and friendship with their neighbours.  They wanted the nation to achieve the equality of which it spoke for the sake of their homeland.  Eight of their candidates were elected to the Belgrade parliament in 1923.  In 1925 there were five.  1927 had six.  1931 there was only one.  1932 saw the election of two.  In 1935 there were two again and in 1938 there were three.


  The German school demands were recognized and promises were made but were not kept.  In 1927 the SDKB was allowed to resume its work and newly formed groups rose from 29 to 64.  With the coming to power of the Royal Dictatorship in 1929 all political parties were banned.  This worked to cool off the Danube Swabians who were basically patient and loyal to the State.  But in the new Constitution of the King in 1931 the rights of the minorities were not anchored in it.


  As the SDKB was allowed to begin operations for the third time in 1931 many of the groups had lost courage and refused to believe that promises would be kept this time either.  In 1931 there 13 local groups; in 1936 there were a total of 96; in 1934 there were 129 and in 1941 it had expanded to 3,250 local groups.  The membership was 75,000 and consisted primarily of the heads of households.  The assassination of the king in 1934 alarmed the Danube Swabians.  They too streamed to Belgrade and participated in the national mourning.  The Swabians were sad that the king had not been able to carry out his reforms.


  In 1934 there was a crisis within the SDKB as the younger generation within its membership bound itself to what they called:  the Renewal Movement.  They were simply impatient with the older leadership that had sought and fought for so long for what appeared were only minimal gains if any in the language and schools question.


  The German minority in Slavonia was not organized until March of 1936 in Essegg.  It was named The Cultural and Welfare Union of Germans (KWVD) and was founded by Branimir Altgayer who was elected its head.  The Croatisation of the Swabians in Croatia/Slavonia could only be halted by a united effort by the entire German population.  They wanted to be “true” and “loyal” to the State but also their national heritage and identity and ethnicity.  In a short time 74 local groups were organized and in addition to the joining of younger men some whole villages left the SDKB and joined the KWVD.  In 1936 the first German weekly newspaper appeared:  Slavonian Peoples News.  1938 saw the reunion of the KWVD and the SDKB.


  In the meanwhile domestic politics changed to the advantage of the German minority.  The continuing opposition of the Croats to the central government in Belgrade led to the growing division and animosity between the Serbs and Croats.  At the same time the economic ties with Germany expanded which led to better relationships between the German minority and the government.  All of this set the scene for the coming conflict and the opening salvos of the Second World War.


  On Maunday Thursday of 1941 (Grünen Donnerstag) the reality of the coming war became a fact as all able-bodied men in Welimirowatz had to report in Naschatz.  It was the day of national mobilization.  The names of those drafted were read out in public.  Most of the men could return home where they were to await further orders.  All radios were confiscated and the Swabians were cut off from the rest of the world.


  On April 10, 1941 the Independent State of Croatia was proclaimed in Agram.  The leader of the Ustasche Movement, Dr. Ante Pavelic formed a government in Agram on April 16, 1941 with himself at its head.


  The thousand-year-old dream of the Croats was finally fulfilled.  It was a “child” of the war and dependent upon the Axis Powers:  Germany and Italy.  Because Bosnia and Herzegovinia were annexed to it as well it was even larger than “Greater Croatia” of the Middle Ages.  The Ustasche exiles now returned back home and with Pavelic they began a reign of terror.  The massive expulsion of the Serbian population that had settled in Croatia after the First World War and the forced conversation of Orthodox Serbs to Roman Catholicism and the extermination camps that were set up all played a role in driving the Serbian population into the arms of Tito’s Communist partisans.  The Serbs threatened with genocide and extermination fled to the mountains and forests and joined his forces there.  The Slavic brothers battled one another in the forests and mountains.


  The Swabians, as the “relatives” of a friendly state were handled carefully and given some special privileges.  They were taxed according to Croatian regulations and were to fulfill all of the obligations of citizenship but also received such great liberties that as a “National Group” they were practically a state within the state.


  The newly formed Volksgruppe (Group with a common ethnic identity) included all of the Germans throughout Croatia, Slavonia, Syrmien and Bosnia.  Of these 180,000 Germans the vast majority were Roman Catholics while some 40,000 were Lutherans and 4,000 were Reformed.


  The Germans in Croatia were officially recognized and given judicial and other public rights that were codified in the law.  They were equal citizens in the new state.  The Führer (leader) of the Volksgruppe was given the equivalency of one of the State Directors.  Germans were guaranteed political, economic, social and cultural freedoms and self-government over their own affairs under Croatian Law.


  This was more than merely cultural autonomy that the Serbs had in Austria and much more than what the Swabians had vainly demanded in Yugoslavia.  All of the attempts at Croatizing the German population by the parliamentary government since 1918 were abandoned.  The German schools, Credit Unions, the Volkstum (local defence forces) in 498 local areas in the land, the equalization of German as one of the languages of government offices were achieved in a unitary state.  The issue of military service would blow the whole fabric apart.


  In June and December of 1943 and the summer of 1944 Partisans raided Welimirowatz.  They surrounded the unprotected village and stormed into the yards and houses and demanded to be waited on by the villagers.  They also had to provide for those who stood guard as sentries.  During the occupation the housewives were ordered to cook for whole groups of men but always had to taste the food they prepared in the presence of the Partisans to assure them it had not been poisoned.  This kind of mistrust was unwarranted.  As shots from arriving Croatian and German troops rang out next day they left the village in a hurry.


  Women now balked at the idea of remaining alone in their houses and invited others to live with them.  Men often hid in manure piles or inside of the chimneys of outdoor bake ovens.  Mothers travelled to Essegg and stayed with their children who were at school and did so for extended periods. 


  On another visit by the Partisans they cut down the telephone poles to Naschitz and left them there on the road.  In December they came after midnight.  At the time they were looking for two men on furlough.  The father was able to sneak away and the son was hidden in his grandmother’s bed under her heavy feather Teck (comforter).  Instead the Partisans took all kinds of booty:  bedding, shirts, suits, socks, groceries, a radio and jewellery.  They also broke into other houses and the local store and took their booty with them in wagons that they also confiscated.


  The sawmill in Naschitz was destroyed and the men now had to drive to Essegg with their wheat.  On the way home they were relieved of their flour by the Partisans but were allowed to come home.  The threshing machines of the neighbouring villages were also destroyed.  In 1944 Welimirowatz was one of the few villages able to thresh their crops because a district Defence Force was stationed there.


  Although no battles raged, the constant fear and anxiety were unnerving.


  It was the rapidly approaching Eastern Front in their direction that put the German population in its path in danger.  The orders for leaving came as no surprise.  In the hope of returning soon when the fortunes of war shifted to the advantage of the German Army many did not find the leave taking of their homes that difficult.  One after another, from east to west across Slavonia, the unending evacuation columns were sent in motion like the first settler treks into the area almost two hundred years earlier.  The women checked the harnesses and gear one more time; neighbours brought out their wagon; the local blacksmith repaired one more wheel; a canvas roof was set in place over half of the wagon.  Some bedding was bundled; clothing scattered in suitcases and bags; sacks of flour, fried meat in lard in large stone crocks; sausages, large loaves of bread and baking of all kinds.  All of them had been set aside for the day.  Two days before the departure they were still working in their fields.  The harvest was in; winter wheat was sown; and the land was tilled waiting for next season.  Everyone planned on an early return.


  As evacuation became more and more obvious, the Croats and Slovaks in the neighbouring villages came to Welimirowatz and wanted to buy cattle, machinery, wheat and corn at give-away-prices.


  Many of the men were in the military somewhere far from home unable to support their families in this situation.  The oncoming war front, the bombing raids were a go-ahead for all of the German haters.  The plan to exterminate the Swabians unveiled at Jajce in November of 1943 was unknown to the Swabians themselves.


  Croats in the vicinity came and offered to look after homes and possessions, cattle and machinery until the owners returned.  It never dawned on the Croats that the Swabians would never come “home” again.


  Some of the villagers locked the doors of their houses and took the keys with them because they believed they would be coming home soon. There were others sneaking around the village just watching and sizing things up.  They were the booty takers.


  On October 27, 1944 Naschitz was under attack by the Partisans and the sound of artillery could be heard all day long.  Their wagons that were fully loaded stood in the yards and they were ready to go.  Some items were hurriedly unpacked, repacked or replaced.  But the order to leave was not given.


  The day finally came.  A Sunday.  October 28, 1944.  The wagons had to be ready for departure standing out on the village street by 10:00 am.  For those families without wagons or a team of horses the German Army forced some Croats from nearby villages to bring their wagons and joined the column.  They were promised that they could return once the column reached Pécs in Hungary.  The obvious fear and mistrust of these men was easily understandable on the part of the families they took with them.


  Anxiously waiting to hear the order to leave, they first heard the rolling of the drum as the Kleinrichter made his last announcement in the life of the village.  With trembling lips he called out:  Liebe Leute wir mussen jetzt unser Heimat verlassen.  Vorverts.”  (My dear people we now have to leave our home.  Let us go forward.)  What everyone had awaited but had not wanted to happen was now set into motion.


  As all of the wagons and vehicles still stood on the streets or waited on the bridges the Wendel family began to ring the church bells.  How sad they sounded.  All across the village in the yards and by the houses people stood and wept.  The old grandmothers with their brood of grandchildren around them; the ancient grandfather the head of the house, the teenage boys and the women now on their own ventured out into the unknown as wagon followed wagon in a long column with a final:  Im Gottes Jesus Namen.”  (In the Name of Jesus) they set their teams and wagons in motion.


  One man on furlough was able to accompany and assist his family for the first part of the trek.  He eventually had to say farewell.  He never returned from the war.  The wagon train moved very slowly as it reached the neighbouring district.  There was a German checkpoint here.  The captain in charge only let men over sixty years of age pass, along with the women and children.  Old people and small children were allowed to sit in the wagons while the others had to walk alongside of their wagons.  About one dozen men had to stay behind at the checkpoint.  They were placed in the Home Guard and were posted in various villages in the neighbourhood.  Most of them would never see their families again.


  The first night was spent in the Croatian village of Bentisch-Anzi.  The German military took care of the horses.  The next morning the trek headed across Rakitowitz and Poretsch and then towards Unter Miholtz.  Here the refugees spent their second night.  But there was no sleep to be had due to the sounds of battle that raged in the area they had just passed through.  Before daybreak they left to cross the Drava River into Hungary.  The river crossing was difficult and only the drivers could remain in the wagons, the others were taken across by German troops in their barges.  Those who had been driven by Croats were left here and their drivers returned home and they would wait for eight days to be evacuated by train.  They were sent to Thuringia and Silesia.  Some of the wagons were now sent on to the Steiermark in Austria.   The largest group ended up in Linz and sent to live with farm families in the area.  Their flight ended on November 28th exactly one month after leaving home.  Some 150.000 had been evacuated in rain and snow and constant frigid cold.


  The Volksgruppe leader Brandimir Altgayer was unlike Sepp Janko and the others who fled to save their own skins but refused to give the order to evacuate in the Banat and Batschka.  Despite fierce opposition by the German authorities he managed to get approval for the evacuation.  He did not want to see the tragedy that had already taken place in the Banat to be repeated.  The Swabians of Slavonia have him to thank they too did not end up in Tito’s extermination camps or face deportation to the USSR.  He was surrendered to the Partisans by the British for judgment after the war and was executed.


  The terrible war ended on May 8, 1945.  In the Russian Zone of Austria, well- intentioned Russian officers were of the opinion that refugees from Yugoslavia were free to go back home and encouraged them to do so.  Austria had nothing to offer them.  It hardly had enough even for itself.  In different parts of the Steiermark, Lower and Upper Austria transports of returning refugees were assembled.  Some sixty families from Welimirowatz living in the area of Kirchdorf along with two hundred other families from Yugoslavia were shipped in cattle cars from Linz to Salzburg and finally the border.  Before going through the customs and immigration routine they got into discussions with Serbian royalists that were with them who earnestly warned them not to go any farther.  They wanted to go home too but only if there was change in the system as they put it.  They had heard of the plundering, shootings and the extermination camps in operation and what awaited any returning Swabian families.  After the people pleaded with the English officers in charge the transport did not continue across the border.


  Among the families involved were those of Johann Büchler, Johann Brandt, Heinrich Brauchler, Fillip Drumm, Fillip Färber, Johann Felde, Johann Gehring, Heinrich and Peter Greb, Jakob Hebel, Heinrich and Karl Heil, Elisabeth Heineck, Friedrich and Peter Hoffmann, Adam Huber, Fillip and Peter Benz, Adam and Peter Johler, Martin Kampferseck, George Körper, Fillip and Johann Klees, Jakob Kolb, Friedrich Lamb, Jakob Lottche, Heinrich März, Heinrich May, Johann, Fillip and Johann Medel, Karl Müller, Peter Neumann, Heinrich, Jakob Jakob, Johann and Peter Pister, Christian Poth, Jakob Raff, Andreas Reinhardt, Heinrich Reiss, Stefan Reitenbach, Reter Reitz, Franz Roos, Adam Schell, Peter Schira, Peter Schmidt, Josef Schramm, Alexander and Johann Schuck, Heinrich Stock, Heinrich Tenz, Friedrich and Heinrich Toth, Gerog, Jakob and Karl, Christian and Heinrich Wendel, Adam Zepp.


  Some other groups were not as fortunate.  Forty-four villagers from Welimirowatz were   in a transport involving two thousand people that included the elderly Schlafmanns.  They were robbed and plundered several times.  Their horses and wagons were taken away from them and then they were force marched on foot by Partisans who jabbed those who slowed down with their bayonets.  They came home to empty and plundered houses.  A few mornings later they were picked up in lorries to “register” at the town hall.  They were arrested and put into an internment camp at Schipowatz by Naschitz and in July 1945 they were taken to the labour and extermination camp at Valpovo.


  In this the largest internment camp in Slavonia set up by the Central Committee the first Swabians and persons with German sounding names were first interned in May 1945.  Men, women and children were separated in barracks without windowpanes, no heat and shoddy roofs.  Three hundred people were crowded into each barrack.  The Commandant was a German hater.  There was no water and no sanitation.  Every day sixteen to thirty-two people died.  They were buried in mass graves.  The prisoners were left starving and vulnerable to disease.  In the summer of 1945 groups began making escape attempts across Hungary to Austria and Germany.  The camp held up to five thousand persons at one time.  When it was full to capacity new internees were sent to the labour camps at Welika, Pisanitza, Krndja, Darda, Tenje and many others.


  The survivors of Valpovo were sent to the living hell of Rudolfsgnad in the Banat.


  Among those who died during the Second World War in addition to the men who were killed in action or are missing, two of the villagers were shot by the Partisans: Jakob Brauchler 24 years of age and Fillip Riegel at the age of 39 years.  Both of the men were at home on furlough and were taken by the Partisans and shot after being tortured.


  The following villagers died in various camps:


  Catharina Benz nee Knittel 49 years of age died in the labour camp at Darda


  Peter Büchler 38 years of age at the Valpovo Camp


  Friedrich Klees 22 years of age died in a Soviet prisoner of war camp in Russia


  Margaret Medel nee Dermer 58 years of age at the Valpovo Camp


  Friedrich Medel 63 years of age at the starvation camp in Rudolsgnad in the Banat


  Else Nothdurft 2 years of age perished in the camp at Valpovo


  George Pauss 38 years of age died in a Soviet prisoner of war camp in Russia


  Anna Maria Schlaffmann nee Reinhardt 57 years of age at the Valpovo Camp


  Michael Schlaffmann 74 years of age at the extermination camp in Pettau


  Jakob Schramm 42 years of age died at the camp in Valpovo


  Karl Schramm 35 years of age died at the camp in Valpovo


  Heinrich Tenz 77 years of age died in the labour camp in Darda


  Fillip Winterstein 44 years of age in the starvation camp at Rudolfsgnad in the Banat  


Welimirowatz in Slavonia-Part Two


  In the Fall of 1884 two men from Cservenka in the Batschka, Philip Trautmann and Johann Kaiper made their way to Naschitz as “spies” and allowed themselves to be shown the settlement site in the forest by Naschitz.  They let the black earth sift through their fingers.  Later they refreshed themselves drinking the water at Naschitz.


  They listened once more to the conditions of settlement offered by Count Pejatschwitz who was in search of German settlers.  Together they agreed to return in the Spring and undertake the beginning of the settlement in the forest.  They brought the news and the good impression they had of Slavonia back to their curious families and friends and all of the would-be-settlers in Cservenka, Siwatz and Torschau.  With regard to questions about the soil and the water they answered, “The soil is just like here and the water is very good.”


  Those committed to going to Slavonia had until the Spring to prepare.  There were some things to sell and others to pack into their wagons.  Plans were made and the hope for a better future grew each new day.  Friends and relatives came to say their farewells and offer their best wishes but also added, “You know you can always come back if things don’t work out.”


  Early on the morning of April 16,1885 there were loud noises in fourteen houses in Cservenka.  While the father fed the horses and put the last of their things on the wagon, the mother wakened the children, helped the smaller ones dress and prepared the last breakfast they would eat in the Batschka.


  The neighbours came by, one more time, wished them luck and watched their friends, neighbours or family members leave.


  The small column of wagons went over to Miletitsch to Gombas because it was the only place where they could cross the Danube on a ferry.  Many of them grew afraid as a passing ship created waves that tossed them about for a few moments.  At Erdut they travelled on land again and waited for one another and then drove past Dalj and then through the city of Essegg the capital of Slavonia and then stopped at Deutsch-Retfala.  They spent the night here in the front yards of the inhabitants and after a good rest set out across Bisowatz and Koschka and then there were only 50 kilometres to go to Naschitz.


  They arrived in Naschitz in pouring rain and soaked to the skin.  They were allowed to park their wagons in the nobleman’s yard close to his castle and were put up in his cellars where a Gasthaus operated.  On the morning of April 18, 1885 the settlers signed a settlement agreement in the office of the nobleman and received their Ansiedlers Buch (Settler’s Book) in which the necessary foodstuffs, tools and materials the Count provided were listed for later payment.  A steward of the Count led them four kilometres into the forest.  They travelled along a new road that led through the forest to Unter Miholtz through a forest with old stumps with beech and two meter thick oak trees and then to a trail to the right.  This trail was to be the main street of the settlement but now it was in the middle of undisturbed forest and thick underbrush.  The wagons halted.  The children looked at their mothers obviously wanting to ask all kinds of questions and their mothers in turn looked with wonder at their husbands and the stranger who had accompanied them there.


  The steward looked at the earnest faces of the men and women and remarked, “Yes, right here, with the gracious permission of his Excellency Count Pejatschwitz a settlement will arise in the forest.”


  The men now knew that it would only be through hard work and industriousness and great perseverance and above all by working together and offering mutual support to one another that they would be able to achieve that goal.


  The women hoped and trusted in God’s help and His protection and this simple faith was very necessary in the face of the difficulties, worries and problems that awaited the settlers.  The children were the first to forget their uncertainties about the future.  They jumped from the wagons and ran around after such a long journey.  Then the first child with wet feet came running to his mother who then recognized that there was more than just clearing land that lay ahead of them.


  At a dry spot in the forest the wagons were unloaded of fodder for the horses, clothing, bedding, dishes, tools and farm implements.   At the same time the Count’s steward wanted some of the men to come with him to the sawmill to get boards and materials for the construction of the first wooden huts and also pick up some food and hay from the Count that had been promised to them.


  Meanwhile the women and smaller children prepared the first dinner dragging the larger fallen tree branches for a fire to do the cooking.  They had brought food to last the first weeks but were happy to hear that such preparations had also been made for them.  For that purpose the Count had a store in Naschitz:  Goldfinger’s.


  Three or four families formed a cooking and living commune.  One of the kettles brought with them was hung over the fire.  Their water barrels had been filled in Naschitz and so the first Einbrennsuppe was prepared and bread broken into it and eaten out in the open.


  These fourteen families grew into one big family in these early days.  The men were already doing the initial work of clearing and preparing emergency quarters.  They were skilled workmen and the women and children were soon housed.  The men stretched out under the wagons because they didn’t want to take their eyes off of their horses and wagons.  The wagons were set in a square with the horses tied in the centre of the area.


  In the first days a well had to be dug and a Backofen (outdoor bake oven) had to be built.  Their bread was made from barley flour and was very good and nutritious.


  In the following days a roof made out of reeds was added to the huts.  The children helped in the roofing and their stay in the forest was proving to provide a lot of fun.  With the help of the Count the men were able to secure a milk cow in Naschitz to meet the needs of the younger children.


  They continued to assemble their wagons around the huts at night to form a “fort”.  Surveyors in the employ of the Count came to the forest and marked out the first house and yard lots.  They were 40 meters wide and 200 meters long.  They were staked out with wooden pegs.  The children played a game of their own striding off the distances or watched the surveyors as they measured.


  A few days later they were warned about the wolves in the neighbourhood that could be a danger to the horses.  They heard them at night and set a watch and built up the fires since they certainly had more than enough wood.


  At the end of April more settlers came from Alt and Neu Siwatz.  The settlers from Torschau came a few days later.  The settlement now consisted of 92 families with over 500 persons.


  The surveyors could hardly keep up with their job.  The forest was filled with activity.  The noise of many saws, the chopping sounds of countless axes and chattering women and laughing children out removing the branches from the fallen trees that were later gathered and burned during the night.


  The logs were rolled or pulled by horses down the trail and boards, lumber and beams were made out of them at the Count’s sawmill.  Firewood for the settlers and longer beams for special purposes were also the result of this activity.


  At this point the first settlers from Swabian Turkey arrived from the Baranya, Somogy and Tolna Counties.  They were offered the temporary shelters the first settlers had used.  Removal of the large tree stumps took the greatest effort of all.  The families did not seem to mind that their daily menu lacked variety.  The hard work demanded that all of the people worked and they needed good and nutritious food.  Bean soup or Einbrennsuppe along with bread and bacon were their daily fare.  The first work included clearing their house plots and the building of a settler’s house and then clearing the spot for the house garden and building a fence around it.  Then fowl could be kept and the menu could vary in the future.


  The hardest work of this time was the service they provided to the Count that was part of the settlement agreement.  It consisted both of hand labour and the use of their teams of horses to drain the fields through ditches and canals which greatly weakened the already overworked men.  There was swamp fever, plague and malaria to contend with and there was no known protection against any of them.


  The repayment of their debts in the Ansiedler Buch along with the bad harvest of 1888 reached a total indebtedness of 80,000 Gulden.  The recently arrived missionary pastor Göde was able to negotiate with the Count that the debts would not be charged interest and only 50 Gulden had to be repaid each year.


  The children had no school at this time.  No one had really thought of it at the time of settlement.  But now the children were assembled to learn hymns, prayers, reading and writing.  They could not afford a teacher and as a result they were content with a Not Lehrer (emergency teacher) who happened to be one of the settlers as it had in former times among the early settlers in Swabian Turkey more than a century and a half before.


  A spot for the cemetery also had to be identified and cleared.  But the settlers also sought comfort and strengthening through fellowship.  They joined in hymns and prayers in one another’s homes even though the times were difficult and hoped for better times in the future.


  A settler agreement was signed on April 15, 1885 and the signatories included:  Valentine Werbach, Jakob Fischer, Daniel Fischer, Johann Bruder, George Jusstus, Johann Buchenauer, Conrad Herbst, Franz Koch, Jakob Heil and Jakob Klees.


  On September 1,1859 religious freedom was first introduced into Croatia/Slavonia by Emperor Francis Joseph.  The Protestants already living there rejoiced over it and the Croatian parliament fought against it.  For the Roman Catholic Croats, the Protestants were traitors to the nation and called their pastors “Patent clergy.”  The earlier Tolerance Patent of Joseph II in 1781 and later Leopold II in 1791 had no effect in Croatia/Slavonia in terms of the situations in which Protestants were forced to live.


  The Patent of Francis Joseph was the impetus for the new wave of colonization.  In the past the Protestants could only settle in the former Military Frontier District before it was reunited with Crotatia/Slavonia in 1873.  There were major German Lutheran settlements in Neu Passua, Neu Banovci, Neudorf and Winkovci.


  As early as 1859 Protestants of both the Augsburg and Helvetic Confession formed a single congregation in Agram (Zagreb).  The census of the times indicated that there were 35,691 Protestants in Croatia/Slavonia, (25,000 Lutherans and 10,691 Reformed.)  But Lutheran settlers also streamed into the country from Slovakia who settled at Markowatz and Jelisawatz, while Germans from Swabian Turkey and the villages in the Batschka moved into Syrmien, Slavonia, Croatia and later Bosnia.


  All sought a new home and land along with some assurances for the future to be able to make a decent living for themselves and their families.  They were looking for land as much like “home” as possible.


  No pastors came with the settlers.  They would follow after.  This would lead to much confusion and friction.


  The mass immigration that the estate owning nobility desired only expanded the conflicts and the divisions already at work in these regions.  The Roman Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs and Protestant Germans formed confessional groups while at the same time the Croats, Serbs, Germans, Magyars, Slovaks and Czechs were “nationality” groups and all of this worked against developing into a state “nationality” in assimilating all of the population into becoming Croatian.  Of special concern was the grouping of the Protestants of the Augsburg Confession (Lutherans) and the Helvetic Confession (Reformed) as if they were a homogenous group.


  When one refers to the settlement period during the time of constant want and the daily struggle for bread there is was no basis for the separation of the Reformed and the Lutherans.  It must be remembered, however, that the Hungarian Church authorities opposed such a union and sent Hungarian pastors to serve the German congregations.  One church fellowship in the same village served by one pastor and a single school made sense but the Reformed Church authorities dissolved such fellowships that the early settlers had enjoyed and created tensions in the development of life in the villages.


  The Reformed Congregation


  A year after the settlement the separation that took place within the congregation took place but no one knows the reason for it but the inference was that it was due to “outside forces”.


  In Schider Banovci in 1885 the so-called “Bishop” Szaz who was the Superintendent of the Danube District of the Reformed Church ordered and carried out a separation of the Protestants living together there who had established a joint congregation.  He did so against the will of the Reformed members.  A travelling circuit rider was appointed by him to serve all of the Reformed people in the area.  What was ironic about his action was that the preacher who served this joint congregation named Keller was Reformed and was one of the missionaries trained in Switzerland at St. Chischona to serve Diaspora congregations.  He had been given permission to teach all of the children but in terms of religion he used both Luther’s Small Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism


  This imposed division fractured all kinds of relationships in the village for years to come.


  At great expense to themselves the Reformed in Welimirowatz undertook a threefold construction programme:  a parsonage, a Bethaus (prayer house) and a school room all under one roof.   The first confirmation was held out doors, the second, because of bad weather was held in Naschitz.  A bell tower was erected in front of the Bethaus in 1925 and on December 18, 1925 the two bells were dedicated.


  Later in 1920 an attempt was made to unite all of the Protestants in Yugoslavia into one church with no “national” distinctions but his failed.


  In the following years all of the Reformed congregations formed a Seniorat consisting of four church districts:  Banat, Baranya, Batschka and Slavonia.


  By 1939 the Reformed congregation had become a Mother Church that counted 407 members and served a filial congregation in Cacinci with 261 members while the pastor also served a far-flung Diaspora in neighbouring villages with an additional 668 members.  In total, the parish had over 1,300 members.  Hungarian pastors served the congregation during much of its history.  Their agenda was the Magyarization of the members but it never proved successful.

   The Evangelical Lutheran Congregation 

  During the first year of Welimirowatz’s settlement, Karl Bläser one of the students at St. Chrischona in Switzerland came as the elected pastor to the serve the Protestant families in Essegg who were part of the Diaspora in Slavonia.  From them he learned about a settlement deep in the forest around Naschitz.  He visited the settlers in the forest and held a service on the spot that had been set aside as a future church site.  The pastor was soon aware of the life situation of the colonists; their relative poverty and the fact that   there were some 500 of them including 70 children of school age.  At the beginning of 1886 he brought his concern about the spiritual needs of these settlers to the attention of church officials in Essegg.  Following discussions between the leaders of the congregation in Essegg and the colony’s leaders the new settlement then known as Seliste by Naschitz became a filial of the Essegg congregation.  Karl Bläser wrote:  “The new colony Seliste by Naschitz has bound itself as a filial of the Essegg congregation.  And I have managed to get assistance from the mission funds of St. Chrischona to get a trained brother Johann Zmaila a native Croat to be the Levite Lehrer (schoolteacher and worship leader) in Seliste at the cost of 1,000 Swiss Francs annually.”


  The colony of Seliste would provide a home and wood and pay the teacher 100 Gulden at year’s end.  The Croatian school authorities recognized the church school as a private school.


  A year later Karl Bläser reported to the congregational assembly in Essegg on January 9, 1887:  “Concerning the filial in Seliste, everything is in much better order.  The school has been recognized as a private school by the High Imperial National Government and had fifty pupils.  I have also spoken to His Excellency the Count and he has promised to come up with a bell for the congregation.”


  At first the colonists had formed one Protestant church community.  The Reformed Church of Switzerland and the mission society at St, Chrischona sent preachers and teachers into Croatia/Slavonia but did not emphasize the confessional differences.


  The colony of Seliste planned a special welcome for their first “caretaker” souls, Johann Zmaila in the Fall of 1885.  A banner was placed over the bridge welcoming him.  Seven riders on decorated horses went out on the road to meet him.  The room they had prepared for their Prediger (preacher) was decorated with flowers.  They waited for him and Pastor Bläser from Essegg.


  Zmaila later wrote:  “In the most beautiful part of Slavonia, some seven hours from Essegg (today an hour by car) lies the newly established colony of Seliste.  After a four day stay at Pastor Bläser’s in Essegg, we left on a Fall morning for Seliste with a team of horses and buggy.  Even though we had to contend with several wheel breaks we were still able to drive though the forest.  We got stuck in mud eight times and arrived quite a bit later than expected.  Fortunately, I carried a hammer, wrench and chisel with me.  We arrived at our destination on three wheels.  Our joy was great and our welcome was very warm.  We were led to my future classroom and we sang a hymn in celebration.


  The houses do not yet have glass windows.  The emergency school is to be completed in the next few weeks.  On Sundays I will have the opportunity of bringing the Good News of Jesus the risen Lord to the congregation on two occasions and also a Bible Study on Wednesday evenings.”


  Zmaila had to begin his ministry under difficult circumstances.  In this time of great need in which these people lived and laboured it was difficult to be ray of hope and bring comfort at times of tragedy.  For some reason the desire of the settlers to maintain their German heritage and language did not sit well with him and a year and a half later he left for Krschedin to serve a state school among his own countrymen and left the mission society.  He had been their first and only Croatian Protestant iterant preacher and teacher.


  Karl Friedrich Büsse, another member of the mission society was his successor beginning in September 1887.  He was welcomed with great joy by the settlers.  He began his ministry with great zeal at the week day school, the Sunday School that he established and the church services.  With the help of the colonists he was able to erect a suitable school, a Bethaus and a parsonage with the assistance of friends from many regions.  Everyone worked on these projects.  This led to a bonding of these people who had come from other areas and regions, spoke different dialects and wore different forms of dress.  They discovered unity in a common purpose.  The 65 children now had a proper school and the congregation an assembly area for worship.


  Büsse was the son of a tailor, born March 19, 1858 in Baknitz a small village close to Magdeburg.  At the age of five he lost his mother.  Like his father he apprenticed himself to become a tailor and was later accepted into the guild and travelled around Prussia and Saxony in perfecting his skills, which was the norm in Germany at that time.  In Basel he was apprenticed to Hidlebrandt and it was there where he later said he heard his first witness to the living Christ.  This experience changed the direction of his life.  While still in Hildebrandt’s employ he decided to take on missionary work.  He reported at St. Chrischona for training and from 1883-1887 he was an eager pupil and he dreamt of going to Africa to witness for Christ.  From his savings he supported his father.  He graduated along with Zmaila.  At the request of the congregation in Seliste the mission society was asked to send a shepherd to the “orphaned” congregation.  Shortly after he arrived in Seliste in November 1889 he brought his young bride to join him in his ministry.  They had five children but the two youngest died in infancy.


  He won the hearts of his people and was affectionately known as the Predigervetter.  (Uncle preacher is as close to an English translation that I can come up with.) 


  The congregation was known for both its piety and faithfulness.  Two sons of the congregation became pastors:  Peter Reiss and Johann Weber.  The bells in tower of the church bore the inscriptions:  “Glory to God in the Highest” and “Peace on earth.”  Both of these bells were ringing on October 28, 1944 as the total population of the village left in the evacuation.  This marked the end of the life of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Welimirowatz with its 460 members along with 269 members in the filial close by in Cacinci that joined an evacuation trek of its own shortly after.


  Origins of the Settlers in Welimirowatz


  From the Church Records of both the Lutheran and Reformed congregation we can learn about the origins of the various families.

   From the Batschka: 

  Feketisch:  Balk and Krumm


  Piwnitz:  Ries


  Alt und Neu Siwatz:  Bär, Barwich, Becker, Benz, Brauchler, Drumm, Glas, Hebel, Hobrath, Huber, Klees, Knittel, Kolb, Köhler, Körper, Lamb, Lottje, Mayer, Neumann, Pister, Reitz, Schenkenberger, Schira, Schlarb, Schmidt, Stock, Schuck, Toth, Wendel, Werner, Weissmann, Winterstein, Zeich.


  Torschau:  Benz, Heil, Herz, Johler, Kreuscher, Medel, Pister, Riegel, Schell, Schick, Schumacher, Weber.


  Cservenka:   Braun, Büchler, Hassmann, Hoffmann, Huber, Klees, Koch, Loos, Nothdurft, Oster, Reitenbach, Schmidt, Schramm, Zepp.

    From Swabian Turkey: 

  Bikal (Baranya):  Heineck.


  Bonnya (Somogy):  Dechert, Müller, Reinhardt.


  Csikótstóttos (Baranya):  Gehring.


  Döröschke (Somogy):  Justus


  Ecsény (Somogy):  Dechert, Eichel, Gehring, Krebs, März, Schmidt.


  Egyhazaskozar (Baranya):  Heineck, Reith, Tenz.

  Ivanbattyan (Baranya):  Faulstich.


  Ivandarda (Baranya):  Müller, Poth.


  Györköny (Tolna):  Leimbeck

   Gyönk (Tolna):  Funk, Dechert, Leimbeck.  

  Keszö Hidegkút (Tolna):  Lahm.


  Kéty (Tolna):  Dermer


  Kötsce (Somogy:  Felde, Franz, Funk, May, Müller, Reitz, Schmidt.


  Lajos Komarom (Veszprem):  Giebitz, Gsellmann, Kowatsch, Meidlinger, Reiss, Reitz, Szabo.


  Miszla (Tolna):  Dermer.


  Morágy (Tolna):  Müller.


 Nagyszékely (Tolna):  Hildebrand, Reinhardt, Wiandt.


  Ofen Pest:  Kampfereseck.


  Siklos (Baranya):  Tschamber.


  Magyarboly (Baranya):  Poth.    


Welimirowatz in Slavonia


Summarized and Translated


Henry A. Fischer



Menschen zwischen Welten

Heimatbuch Welimirowatz



Leopold Karl Barwich



  The area in which Welimirowatz is located in central southeast Europe has been home to various peoples over the centuries for both short and long term occupations.  The Ilyrians are the first peoples we can identify and were a branch of the Celtic people and were resident in the area by 400 BC and were followed by various other Celtic tribes such as the Dacians.


  The Romans controlled the area for 500 years up until approximately 500 AD.  Their roads, aqueducts, cleared acreage and vineyards changed the area into a flourishing fertile province with the most important settlement at Sirmium (Mitrowitz), which also gave its name to the region of Syrmien and also known as Srem.  A whole system of Roman roads connected Poschegg, Naschitz, Koschka, and Essegg (then called Mursa) to protect the Danubian frontier. 


  The Roman emperor Diocletian lived in Spalato (Split) in 308 AD.  The Roman fortresses could not prevent the westward migration of the Germanic and Slavic tribes that followed after them.  The Germanic Quaden (50-180 AD), Markommen, Gepiden and Allanen (378 AD), the Samartians and the Jazyzens all moved in and settled.  Many of the Vandals came and pillaged and plundered.  Atila the Hun (441-453) also called Etzel became master of Pannonia.  The Longobards (Lombards) came in 566 AD and the western and eastern Goths passed through Slavonia in 200-376 AD.


  After the Franks defeated the Avars, Pannonia was incorporated into the Frankish Empire (791-796).  They established the Carolingian Ostmark (Eastern Mark = Austria), which reached as far south as Lake Balaton and the Sava and Danube Rivers.  The cattle herding Croatians who had come into the region in 550 paid no attention to the building efforts of the Franks.


  With the Christianisation of the land, Mitrowitz became the seat of a bishop and what later became Slavonia and Syrmien were placed under the jurisdiction of a Frankish Count the so-called Counts of Friaul.


  Burgenland to the north was established as a borderland frontier area and built up with many “Burgen”:  forts and fortresses and settled by German peasants accompanied by monks to expand Christianity and built churches and cloisters as cultural and religious centres in the land.


  The settlement activities were a result of the missionary work of both the Eastern and Western Churches.  The Western Church sent missionary monks from the bishoprics of Passau, Regensburg and Salzburg to the eastern and south eastern lands while the Eastern Church sent the apostles to the Slavs:  Constantine and Methodius who ministered in the south east as far as the Great Moravian Empire.  They translated the liturgy into the Slavic language and developed an alphabet and written script similar to the Greek of the Orthodox Churches that are still used in Serbia, Bulgaria and Russia.  The concept of “national” or “ethnic” churches is a legacy of the Orthodox Church and its missionaries.


  The Magyars, coming out of Asia first arrived in the lower Danube area in 838 and occupied what had been Pannonia up to the Tisza River.  In 896 under the leadership of Arpad they invaded central Europe and campaigned in Upper Italy, Germany and France.  By 1091 the Magyars controlled Slavonia and Syrmien.  In 955 Otto the Great defeated them at the battle of Lechfeld just outside of Augsburg.  From out of this nomadic tribal people a settled agrarian society was formed and developed which also became Christian.  Stephen I, the first Christian king and saint was the founder of the Magyar state.  He married Gesila, daughter of the Duke of Bavaria in 995.  She was also a sister of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II who was crowned apostolic King of Hungary in 1001 by Pope Silvester II.  The Hungarians still take great pride in the crown of St. Stephen a symbol of Hungarian national identity.  Because of his conversion to the Roman Church he gained the recognition of the Pope for his support in the conversion of his people to Christianity and was canonized in 1083.


  Under Geza II in 1150 German knights, artisans and craftsmen were invited into the land.  This was especially true in the Zips and Transylvania where settlers from the Rhine and Mosel area as well as Luxemburg established themselves.  During this time the Slavic princes of the Moravian Empire also enticed Germans to settle in their lands.


  The Croatian Duke Trpimir (840-855) recognized Lothar, the French king (843-855) as his liege lord and in that enactment is the first reference to the name Croat to describe him and has people.  Prince Tomislav called himself King of the Croatians in 925.  But it cannot be determined whether or not he in fact was the first Croatian king, nor do we know where or when he was crowned and who carried out the coronation.  He formed the Croatians into a “state” in 924 and had to be on constant guard against invasion from the Venetians and the Magyars.


  Zvonimir (1076-1088) is one of the last of the Croatian kings.  His wife was Helen the Fair, but they had no children.  At an assembly that was held in 1089 he was murdered.  Quarrels to determine the succession broke out and they could only be resolved by outside intervention.  The Hungarian king, Ladislaus I was invited to govern the land.  He accepted but found himself constantly involved in many wars.  His nephew Kolomar I who succeeded him to the Hungarian throne made an agreement with the twelve Croatian noble families in 1102 and at Biograd he was elected and crowned king of Croatia.


  This historical development would have serious consequences and placed a heavy burden on both Hungary and Croatia.  This personal union of the crowns was only meant to bind the two nations during his lifetime but would in effect last for 816 years from 1102 to 1918.


  The king gave the Croatians their own administration by appointing a Banus (governor) as the Hungarian spokesman and the representative deputy of the Hungarian king.  The Croatian nobles formed a parliament:  Sabor.


  The Hungarians looked upon this “union” as permanent and claimed the right of possession of the whole land, then the Kingdom of Croatia-Dalmatia and the Adriatic providing Hungary with a port and direct access to the sea.  The Croats saw this agreement as a temporary one hoping for the possibility of freely electing their own king when the Hungarian dynasty was without an heir.


  Confessionally (religiously) both Hungary and Croatia had united with the Church of Rome and were bound to the Pope.  The whole process was one in which the Croats gave up both their independence and autonomy.  


  The other Slavic people in the region were the Serbs under the leadership of Great Prince Stefan Nemanja (1114-1200) and under king Stefan Duschan (1331-1355) they experienced a “golden age.”  The Grand Prince united the two Serbian states:  Raszien and Zeta and later freed himself from the lordship of Byzantium.  The king later conquered neighbouring regions and raised the Archbishopric to a Patriarchite.  The Serbs had chosen to enter the Orthodox Church in 850.  Their Orthodoxy is the major difference between the Serbs and Croats to this day and as a result there have been constant blood feuds between these two Slavic “brothers.”


  During the Crusades Belgrade was used as a jumping off point and staging area for the crusader armies.  This was in response to the Moslem Turks who had moved westward out of Turkestan and who by 1243 were firmly established in Asia Minor.  There in 1301 Osman I founded the Ottoman Empire and began its westward expansion.


  At the battle of Kosovo Polje the Turks defeated Prince Lazar of Raszien on June 28, 1389 and destroyed the Serbian nobility and ended their lordship of the whole area up to the Danube and Sava Rivers.  Serbia and Bosnia would remain in Turkish hands for the next 400 to 500 years.  In the Orthodox monasteries and their folk songs the Serbs would long remember this as the blackest day in their history as a people.


  It was only in 1453 when the Turks were able to take Constantinople and made it their capital and renamed it:  Istanbul.  The Turks conquered many other peoples and states in the Mediterranean area and all of them became tribute-paying provinces.  But most of the conquered peoples were not forcibly converted to Islam but as unbelievers they had to pay huge taxes, which became a major incentive to convert and that occurred most successfully in Bosnia and Albania.


  Hungry for power and an alliance with the French led to more Turkish incursions into central Europe.  France sought hegemony in Europe but felt threatened by the Habsburgs in Spain and Germany and welcomed the Turkish threat to the south eastern portions of the Habsburg holdings to enable the French to more easily move into the German border lands with France.


  Under Sulieman II, the Turks captured Belgrade in 1521, which had been in Hungarian hands since 1433.  The Turks now took on Hungary at the Battle of Mohács in 1526 against the forces of Louis II of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia after the Turks had already occupied Transylvania.  The young king lost his life in this courageous stand against a vast horde that greatly outnumbered his meagre forces.  There was no heir to the throne of Hungary and conflict broke out between the elected Habsburg candidate Ferdinand (1527-1564) and a noble from Transylvania, Janos Zapolya who had the support of the Turks.


  In 1527 Ferdinand drove out his rival for the throne who had established his reign in Buda and entered the city where he was crowned king on November 3, 1527.  Ever since that time, Austria and Hungary were bound to one another as Croatia was bound in the personal union of the past with Hungary and now also Austria.


  After their victory at Mohács the Turks carried out a disastrous pillaging of the land, robbing, burning, murdering and carrying off 30,000 people as slaves.  In 1529 they laid siege to Vienna for the first time but were unsuccessful in taking the city.  As the lords of Hungary they established a Pashaluk (domain of a Pasha) from the Sava River to Pest and from Lake Balaton to the Tisza River.  The Hungarian nobility could escape subjugation by the Turks only by flight.  Thousands of Croats fled to the Burgenland and were settled in five “Croatian” villages that exist to this day and lived a separate existence among the local population.  From the occupied parts of Hungary the Turks launched raids into Austria at the rate of 188 times in the space of five years.


  The Turks wore green as the symbol of their faith and red the symbol of joy.  Christians had to wear black as symbols of their vassalage and defeat.  It was not only at the times of raids or general warfare when local populations were carried off into slavery.  It was simply a regular occurrence leading to the decimation of the Hungarian population.


  For approximately 150 years Slavonia and Syrmien were under the lordship of the Turks and the economy and the life of the area changed.  The number of homesteads and villages both declined; fields were infested with weeds and underbrush and wilderness encroached the land on all sides.  The Turks simply let the land go to the dogs.  The Ottomans who had first sought to war against the infidels were now only interested in winning land and gaining riches through killing and plundering.


  The Grand Vizer Kara Mustapha approached Vienna with an army of 150,000 in 1683   accompanied by the young Hungarian noble Emmerich Tököly with a force of 15,000.  He sought the support of the Turks to take over Upper Hungary (Slovakia) and be free of the Habsburg yoke.


  The Royal Court had fled and only a force of some 15,000 remained in the city.  But a combined German and Polish army of 85,000 arrived under John Sobieksi and Duke Karl of Lorraine.   On September 12, 1683 the Turks were badly mauled in battle in what would become the Vienna Woods and left the field in full flight.  Others involved in the rout of the Turks were Max Emmanuel of Bavaria and Louis of Baden the future “Türkenlouis”.  In addition young Eugene of Savoy also saw action.  This led to the rapid withdrawal of the Turks from southeast Europe and the liberation of the captive nations.  Eugene of Savoy would drive them from Belgrade in Serbia, and Sarajevo in Bosnia.  If he had not been occupied in the wars against France in the west he would have freed Serbia and Bosnia from the Turks much sooner.  One after another the following cities were liberated:  Ofen, Mohács, Belgrade, Nisch, Slankamen, Zenta, Sarajevo, Temesvár, Peterwardein.  As a further result of his victories the following were in the hands of the Habsburgs:  Hungary 1697, Slavonia 1687, Syrmien 1687, Batschka 1691, Banat 1691 and Transylvania 1691.


  But most of the land had no surviving local population nor did it having any landlords any longer.  The land was given as a fee or reward to soldiers who fought for the Habsburgs or was simply sold to the highest bidder if there was no claimant for the land.


  To protect the new frontiers against the still threatening Turks, the Austrians planned and established a Military Frontier District.  It was a long stretch of land some 20 to at times 50 kilometres wide from the Adriatic along the Sava and Danube to the Carpathian Mountains.  In all it was 2,000 kilometres long and was guarded and controlled by the Austrian military.


  But it was not enough that it guarded the borders it also had to provide the support and supplies necessary to maintain the frontier sentries and soldiers.  The best alternative was settling the Military Frontier District with former soldiers who were called:  Grenzers (Border Guards).  They and their families lived in the District, carried out agricultural pursuits, the rearing of livestock and also served as soldiers to defend the frontier and protect their homes and families.


  Many of these settlers were refugees from the Turks in danger of extermination if they remained in their former homes.  Others were retired soldiers and as veterans they were ready to settle down.  The third group were Serbs under their Patriarch who had fled from the Turks and were settled in Syrmien and southern Hungary.  Another group were the Croats who had survived the Turkish occupation and massacres.  The last group to arrive were Germans invited to settle in the Military Frontier Districts of the Banat and Syrmien.  The only Grenzer village in Slavonia was in Neudorf by Winkowci settled in 1819 by the Broder Regiment.  In 1881 the Military Frontier District had a population of 520,000 Roman Catholic Croats, 650,000 Orthodox Serbs and some 34,000 others of various nationalities and religious faiths.


  Seventeen regiments consisting of some 100,000 men under arms patrolled the Military Frontier District.  The Regimental Commander was also the administrator of the District under his command.  He had responsibility for all aspects of life, all military matters, including training and all aspects of the lives of men from 18-60 years of age in his District, the spiritual care of the population, the educational system for the children, the material and economic welfare of the District and the upholding of law and order and the functioning of jurisprudence and the courts.


  The Slavic population by and large was extensive, extended families lived in quarters called Zadruga in which three or four families lived together with up to seventy persons.  Work was shared, while the sick and the old were cared for.  The oldest organized the work to be done, and the oldest woman was in charge of the house and the able bodied men did their duty on the frontier.  Most of the field work was done by the women and they had 18-24 Joch of acreage, 4-5 Joch of meadows with forests included.  Later the acreage was increased to 30-36 Joch.  They needed many industrious hands.


  Participation in worship was regulated and controlled and following the service all men also participated in a military parade.  Schools were conducted for the children.  Women sewed the uniforms and provided supplies.  The largest village on the Sava border had twenty-five houses.  At each watch tower there were thirty-eight men under one officer who were stationed there.  One third of the men went on patrol, one third were on standby and one third had free time.  Every Grenzer had to provide 150 days of service patrolling the border annually.  In times of war they were withdrawn from the borders and sent to the battlefront.


  Between 1849-1866 the Military Frontier District was administered as a Crownland.


  But as well as serving military and defensive purposes the District also served as a “sanitation corridor” to protect the Empire from plague and other epidemics.  During times of peace with the Turks, travellers and merchants had to pass through sanitation checkpoints.  There were many flooded areas and swamps in the Sava and Drava area and malaria was common.  There were cholera epidemics in 1745 and 1831 that took countless lives.


  As Turkey began to become the “sick man of Europe” by 1851 the Transylvanian section of the Military Frontier District was dismantled and the Banat in 1873 and the Croatian and Slavonian section was reunited with Croatia/Slavonia in 1881-1882.  The families living there did not like or appreciate the change because they liked things just as they were.


  The Military Frontier District had been set up to provide protection and also assure would be settlers that they would be safe as they engaged in rebuilding and resettling the depopulated wilderness the Turks had left behind.


  During the various phases of the Great Swabian Migration (Schwabenzug) there were always small groups and families on the move outside of the official government sponsored programmes.  Along with the State the private landlords, nobles and estate owners also coaxed settlers to their lands but only settled them as Kleinhauslers (cotters) and let them work on their estates.  The colonization was not in response to “national interests” or some kind of German scheme to take over the territory.  This settlement was an umzug…a change of residence within the same Empire.  The Emperor wanted to give this possibility to all of the nationalities to settle in the Danube lands:  Czechs, Slovaks, Romanians, Magyars, Croats, Serbs, Italians, French, Spaniards and Germans.


  The Emperor ruled a Catholic Empire and did not want to settle Protestants within it.  The Habsburgs wanted to maintain Catholic unity for all of their subjects and citizens.  For Maria Theresia it was far more important that the new settlers were Catholics than Germans.


  Slavonia was left rather undisturbed following the Liberation from the Turks in 1687 for almost a century.  The area north of the Sava was part of the Military Frontier District and under the control of Vienna and the land south of the Drava was Croatia/Slavonia and administered by the Banus in Agram. (Zagreb).  The reconquered territories were returned to their hereditary owners if they could prove their claims.  Because so many of the noble families had died out or fled the area in the time of the Turk, the Crown either sold the land or used it as payment to men for their services to the House of Habsburg.  The new landowners seldom lived on their holdings and cared very little about them.  The aristocrats were more interested in assuming high office in the government instead.


  After the French Revolution in 1789 and the War of Liberation against Napoleon in 1813 a “national” consciousness awoke among many nationalities.  This rebirth was very strong among the South Slavs.  This consciousness focussed on the “mother tongue” to build up its use and preserve it in the life of the people and the possibility and idea of being a “nation” within the Habsburg Monarchy became their goal.  Slavism and Panslavism were born as their historians tried to find the common roots of the Croats, Serbs, Slovenes, Bulgars and Russians.  Unfortunately this had little effect on how they dealt with one another in terms of their future “national” history that was to unfold.


  In 1848 the Croats saw their opportunity to become equal partners with the Magyars with only a common king to bind them.  They wanted to use their own language even in the Hungarian parliament.  Because the Magyars refused to cede these issues to them the Croats declared war on the Hungarians.  General Jelacic, the Commander of the Military Frontier District hurried to Vienna with his troops and assisted the Austrians in putting down the Hungarian uprising.  He then called upon the Emperor to grant Croatia independence from Hungary.  The young eighteen-year-old Emperor, Francis Joseph did not want to take Croatia away from Hungary.  As a result he worsened the relationship with his loyal Croats and in effect created an anti-German feeling among them.


  During the year of the Hungarian War of Independence, Josip Juraj Strossmajer (1815-1905) first came upon the political scene.  He saw the possibility of uniting the South Slavs by “bringing back” the Orthodox Serbs into the fold of the Church of Rome under his leadership and establishing a “national” Church.  He was actually by culture a German who become a 200% Croat and discovered early that the Serbs were not interested in his kind of partnership and as result he moved more and more in directions toward promoting narrow Croat national interests.


  Among the Croats he became known as the “Father” of the “Fatherland”.  He was the founder of the Yugoslavian Academy of Science and Art, the Croatian University at Agram and the Art Gallery.  He was hated and loved like Bismark in Prussia as the awakener of Croat nationalism.  He was a perfect example of how great his concept of Croatianism was in that a “German boy” like himself could be transformed into a patriotic Croat.


  Joseph George Strossmayer was the son of a horse trader and his Croatian wife and grew up in German speaking Essegg learning both languages but always thought of himself and felt like a German.  After completing his schooling in Djakovar, Budapest and Vienna he became the Court Chaplain and Confessor at Schönbrunn and rector of the Imperial Augustinium.  He desperately wanted to become the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg.  Emperor Francis Joseph who had the power to appoint the successor to the See did not set much store by him and failed to support him in his ambitions.  Far away in Djakovar he could have seen this as a put down.  But not Strassmayer!  He knew how to put himself back on top of the heap.


  In 1849 at the recommendation of the Banus Jelacic he was put forward as his nominee for the position of Bishop of Djakovar.  On taking office this very intelligent and straight thinking man became the “awakener” of the fledgling freedom movements of the Croats.  He must be seen as an opponent of the German language because he insisted on the use of the Croatian language as the language of instruction in all of the schools in the land because he wanted to make everyone Croatian.  He must also be recognized for his other achievements in many areas of the life of the Croats:  in church and cathedral building, intensification of the economy and industry on his Episcopal land holdings and estates, a patron of Croatian culture, a theologian and philosopher who also had the courage to oppose the dogma of Papal Infallibility at the Vatican Council in 1869/1870.


  Strassmayer held that the purpose of educating Catholic priests and teachers was they would become patriots…lovers of the homeland.  Through the hindrances he put into effect against the use of German in worship through the appointment of Croatian priests in mixed language parishes and even where Germans were the majority he achieved “total integration” which was his long term goal.  The fact that the German population was losing their mother tongue did not bother him a bit.


  With the decline of any future threat from the Turks, the Croats clambered for the unification of the Military Frontier District with Croatia/Slavonia.  When it finally took place because of a lack of development and economic resources to build roads and railways to open up the territory for settlement, the Croatian parliament realized the answer was higher taxes and better forms of agricultural development.  Even though as Croatian nationalists they opposed settlement of other nationalities in their “homeland” they believed it was necessary to allow Germans to come in as “teachers” and “models” for the local population.


  The estate owners made their fortune by selling lumber.  Slavonian oak became a world- renowned export.  The question was:  what to do with the deforested and cleared land.  There were also numerous swamps that needed to be regulated by dams in order to cultivate the land and produce various crops.  There were also Croatian settlers who worked the land during the tax free period but left rather than remain and pay taxes and went on to other tax free land somewhere else.  A Croatian official remarked:


  “Our people have a bad work habit.  They see work as slavery not as a necessity.  In 1848 they were to a great extent shepherds and not even herders of cattle.  As a result of their laziness it has become a national shame.”  This basic lifestyle and attitude would clash with the industriousness of the Swabians and lead to envy and later “race hatred”.  As the Swabian settlers gained economically the Croats fell farther and farther behind.


  The Compromise between Austria and Hungary in 1867 resulted when Francis Joseph saw that he could never attain hegemony in Germany as a result of the disastrous war with Prussia in 1866.  The Danube Monarchy, the Imperial Austrian Empire became the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary.


  The Hungarians achieved a change in their former relationship through the self-government of their half of the Empire in a partnership with Austria, a symbol of what the Slavic populations in the Monarchy desired and wished for themselves.  Financial affairs, the military and defence as well foreign policy remained in the hands of Vienna although the Hungarians had some influence in foreign affairs.


  Each jurisdiction within the State set up their own national army.  In Hungary this was the Honvéd.  Domestic policies, economic issues, church and school as well as administration were in accord with the national law and existing statutes acted upon by Austria and Hungary.  For the citizens of the Dual Monarchy there were two constitutions and both Vienna and Budapest were government centres.  Following the Compromise the Hungarians offered Francis Joseph the Crown of St. Stephen and he became King of Hungary in 1867.  As a result all of the neighbouring territories were incorporated into the Kingdom of Hungary:  the Batschka, Syrmien, Banat and Croatia/Slavonia.


  Those Germans living in the Hungarian portion of the Empire had been pressured by   Magyarisation efforts ever since 1830.  Now the pressure was exerted by the State itself.  On the other hand the Bohemians, Moravians and Slovaks as well as the South Slavs:  Serbs, Slovenes and Croats felt betrayed by Vienna.  They had been loyal citizens and held back from making demands previously.  It was small thanks for their support against the Magyars in the War of Independence.


  The Croats were bound under the Compromise since they belonged to the Kingdom of St. Stephen’s Crown.  But now they wanted to be “equal” as a nation, with their own territory within the Empire of the Habsburgs and not be placed under the jurisdiction of the Hungarians.  At this time it is conjectured that Strossmayer was dealing secretly with the leadership of Serbia.  The concept of a South Slav state was born that would include Serbia and Dalmatia/Croatia/Slavonia independent of both Austria and Turkey.


  After long deliberations and many revisions in which the Emperor also participated an agreement was reached in June of 1868.  Hungary promised that in the future discussions with Austria, representatives from Croatia would also participate.  The treaty guaranteed Croatia sovereignty in matters of its laws and the governing of its territory.  The Banus would deal with the Hungarian Prime Minister directly and be responsible to him.  Croatia would deal with matters related to the churches, schools and jurisprudence.  The flag of the new triune state of the Kingdom of Dalmatia/Croatia/Slavonia would have the Crown of St. Stephen imposed upon it.  They would have twenty-nine deputies in the Hungarian Lower House of parliament and two representatives in the Upper House.  The city of Fiume would remain independent but united with the Crown of Hungary.  The Croats failed to achieve all they had set out to do but they did make major gains.  Yet the Croats were still unsatisfied.


  In 1871 a three-day uprising occurred in Croatia under the leadership of Dr. Eugene Kwaternik for the liberation of Croatia from the Hungarians and Dalmatia from the Italians.  He and two of his confederates where shot.  On the heels of that in 1878 Austria occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina.


  The South and North Slavs now agitated and pressed for an extension of the Dual Monarchy into Tripartate Monarchy including them alongside Austria and Hungary.  It is an historical irony that Francis Ferdinand the heir of the Habsburg Monarchy who was assassinated in Sarejevo was in favour of the inclusion of the “third” partner in the Monarchy.


  It was only in the mid 1850s that Protestants were allowed to settle in Croatia/Slavonia on the initiative of the Hungarian parliament.  A law came into effect on September 1, 1859 that Protestants could apply for house and land purchases and the Croatian parliament immediately protested as the Bishop of Djakovar had done earlier in a personal letter to the Emperor Francis Joseph.  The Emperor’s response was that in the Compromise of 1868 equal status was granted to Catholics and Protestants.


  The news had a profound impact upon the original settlements of the Swabian Protestants (Lutheran and Reformed) in the Batschka, Banat, Syrmien and the estates in southern Hungary, so-called Swabian Turkey.  The reasons behind the large-scale response are difficult to identify precisely.  We do know that it was a time of economic stagnation and need.  It was hard to earn enough bread for the many “children rich” families.  Land was jealously guarded and maintained by the families that owned any.  Little land was available or for sale and when it was it was very expensive.  The second sons of farmers who had learned a trade and the sons of craftsmen who could not take over the family trade all found it hard to set up and start a family.  All of them hoped that by selling what land they had they could buy more land with the money in Slavonia.  They did not seem to think of the difficulties they would face in settling and living together initially.  Families made their way by horse and wagon and obtained information on the way while other groups sent out spies and emissaries on ahead.


  In many villages there were empty houses of predecessors who had moved on to other areas or began new life in a neighbouring town or city.  This resulted in small patchwork of scattered German communities throughout the region.  These German minorities became assimilated in some areas while others managed to preserve their heritage and language living among other nationalities while a few became the majority in some communities and flourished with their own distinctive German village character.


  Both the spiritual and secular landlords set their eyes on the possibility of recruiting settlers.  From among the church held lands were those of the very rich bishops of Djakovar, the Serbian Patriarch in Karlowitz and the Jesuits in Poschegg.  Secular lords were:  Count Eltz, Schönbrunn, Baron Trenck, Prandau Ehrenfels, Count Palffy and Caraffa, Baron Turkovics and Count Pejatschwitz.


  The Pejatschwitz nobles were active in the settlement endeavour on their large estates in the Ruma area (Ruma, India, Putinzi) and Essegg (Deutsch Retfala and Kravitz) and Naschitz (Deutsch Bresnitz and Seliste/Welimirowatz).  They paid agents like Ivan Burkowatz five Kreuzer for every person who settled on their land and occupied empty villages and cleared the forest and wilderness.  The Serb cattle herders simply left at their coming.  The landlords required seasonal workers to bring in their harvests and to engage in planting.  There were also workers needed in the town industries.  As a result the Pejatschwitz nobles offered settlement agreements to Czechs and Slovak settlers at Naschitz.  Swamp fever and contaminated water led to sickness and death on a grand scale.  In one year a large number of these settlers died.  The Count decided to try it just one more time.  He had four deep wells dug in Markowatz in 1880 and settled Czechs and Slovaks there and supported them in various ways up to 1890.  The settlers erected houses and along with the settlement in the forest known as Seliste (Welimirowatz) became part of the political district of Naschitz.


  The Czechs and Slovaks came in search of jobs and came from Slovakia and Moravia and came south annually on foot while a few had wagons for the 350 kilometre trek.  With the savings from their earnings and working as lumbermen they managed to survive over the winter.  They accepted the invitation to settle and struggled to survive through the difficult first decade of settlement.


  (This information was found in a photocopy of a German summary of a Hungarian book that became available to me through contacts in Hungary.)


  A large-scale emigration broke out during this period and drew the interest and concern of the press, the County officials, economists and historians.  The emigration to the United States must be seen as part of the general migration within Hungary since the 18th century.  There was a close correlation between the emigration to the United States and the emigration into Croatian Slavonia from the 1860s onward.  The same economic, social and sociological reasons motivated both population movements.


  The issues around the sale and availability of land and the pauperization that resulted played a significant role.  Social conflicts among the various classes in different regions resulted in unrest.  The slow development of industry and commerce also was a root cause of emigration.


  From 1867 to 1914, during the Dual Monarchy economic development was on the rise as was construction and technology.  These, however, made no essential difference in the standard of living of agricultural day labourers, owners of small plots of land and other workers.  These accounted for the large-scale inner migration to Slavonia but after 1880 more and more of them left for the United States.  There were few in Somogy County who shared in the emerging prosperity.  They set out for Slavonia and the United States in pursuit of happiness and a better living.  This regional study of Somogy provides an analysis of what transpired across Hungary.


  It was not the poorest of the people who emigrated but those living in misery that tried to better their lot somehow and did not simply surrender to what fate handed them.  The emigrants to Slavonia sold their meagre acreage and moved across the Drava River to acquire larger land holdings that they carved out of the wilderness only to run smack into Serb and Croatian nationalism.  The Hungarians “who had always lived there,” and the new immigrants were regarded as third-rate citizens.  Hungarian and Serbo-Croatian nationalism met head on.  In 1904 the crisis was centred on education.  Nationalism played a major role in all of life:  church, economy and administration.  The government and the local officials were anti-Hungarian.


  The Croats, Serbs, Slovenes and Bosnians were influenced and affected by the productiveness and agricultural know-how introduced by the Germans and Hungarians who migrated to Slavonia from Hungary.  But both groups were influenced by one another in terms of how they dressed, customs, eating habits and social conduct.  They learned interdependence and mutual respect for one another.  They lived in peace and became a craw in the throat of the nationalist rabble-rousers. 


  At the beginning of the 1900s, Hungarians who had settled in Slavonia set out for the United States.  In 1907 the chief of police in Sopron reported on reasons for the emigration of these Hungarians.  It was due to harassment by Croat officials, the deep hatred of the uneducated Croats toward them and their inability to maintain their own Hungarian identity and educate their children in Hungarian and were being turned into Croats.


  The German farming element in the population of Hungary usually referred to as the Swabians, were very much involved in the emigration from Hungary.  The eldest son usually inherited all of the land the family owned and the younger sons laboured at a trade.  They were the pioneers of this emigration and were hardworking and skilled in agriculture.  In proportion to their numbers more of them took part in the emigration than Hungarians both in Somogy County and the country at large.


  The emigrants who went to Slavonia were not in search of a job on a short-term basis but sought to establish a permanent home.  Nearly all of them took their families with them.  The motivation was simply land!  Land of their own.  They prospered and did reasonably well.  They lived better lives and provided a more secure future for their children.  They ignored the foreboding clouds of political upheaval all around them.  They would not give up the economic gains they had made through hard work and accepted their lot as a disparaged minority in a foreign environment.


  The North American emigration differed in this respect.  People went overseas to find work, earn money and return home and establish themselves.  Some of them planned to stay and make a fortune.  They sold land, borrowed money or went to loan sharks or in many cases the family raised the money to send the young men and women off to America.  Some them were actually well-to-do and simply went to increase their fortunes and estates.  The poor could only raise the money if someone vouched for them or were their close relatives.  This often led to a “community loan business,” the precursor of the future Credit Unions.  This collective cooperation made emigration possible for many.  The loans were interest bearing and the family members who remained behind were responsible for them.  It was the biggest local enterprise undertaken by the peasants of Hungary.  Everyone gained by it.  European steamship companies, industrial and financial interests in the United States sent agents into the villages to recruit would-be emigrants.  Many of the “American” Hungarians returned with considerable sums of money.


  With the money that the emigrants sent home the family bought land, houses, horses, livestock and machinery.  But on returning home it was obvious that they had been influenced by the “American way of Life,” and gave voice to “democratic” rights.  Younger men were often not allowed to emigrate until they had done their required three year military service and for that reason many of them left secretly and left Europe from German, French, Dutch and Belgian ports.


  (The following are some statistics and information that I noted from the schedules that appeared in the Hungarian text that dealt with Swabian emigrants from Somogy County.)

  Those who emigrated from Ecsény:


  Ellenberger, Janos (the younger)


  Wiandt, Heinrich

  Abel, Johann

  Stickl, Janos

  Anspach, Johann

  Klein, Heinrich

  Reinhardt, Heinrich

  Stark, Peter

  Becker, Johann

  Ellenberger, Heinrich

  Stickl, Filip

  Stark, Janosné (Mrs. Janos Stark)

  Flick, Konradnée (Mrs. Konrad Flick)

  Müller, Heinrich

  May, Jakob

   Those who emigrated from Gadács:


   Veing, Heinrich


   May, Peter

   Veing, Heinrich

   Those emigrating from Kötcse: 


  Aumann, Adam

  Gutmann, Friedrich

  Meinhardt, Andreas


  Buchenauer, Adam

  Barabas, Wilhelm

  Landek, Andreas (the younger)

  Guthmann, Heinrich

  May, Friedrich

  Reichert, Imre

  Landek, Andreas

  May, Leonhard

  Meinhardt, Jakob

  Franz, Heinrich

  Those emigrating from Somogyszil:

  Holler, Janosné (Mrs. Janos Holler)

  Pentaller, Heinrich

  Becker, Jakob

  Stickl, Adam

  Meil, Heinrich

  Reissinger, Johann


  During 1906 there were 129 emigrants from Somogy County who left for the United States of whom 28 were Swabians.  Six of them were from Lutheran villages.


  In 1907 there were 425 emigrants from Somogy County leaving for the United States of whom 101 were Swabians.  Of these 49 were from the Lutheran villages.


  These figures need to be seen in light of the fact that the Swabians accounted for less than 7% of the population of the County.


  Additional emigrants in 1907 that came from other Lutheran villages in Somogy County included the following:


  Benedek, Janosné (Mrs. Janos Benedek)


  Wenhardt, Philip

  Ferber, Jakob

  Rofritsch, Johann

  Kring, Josef


  Adam, Johann

  Dechert, Heinrich

  Adam, Sebastian

  Strott, Sebastian

  Felder, Sebastian

  Magyari, Johann

  Reinhardt, Kristof

  Schaefer, Imrené (Mrs. Henry Schaefer)

  Jung, Johann


  Majer, Georgné (Mrs. Georg Majer)


  Schaefer, Heinrich


  During 1908 the following emigrants left Somogy County from the Lutheran Swabian villages:


  Ferber, Sandor


  Pfeiffer, Michael


  Ferber, Sebastian

  Hild, Josef


  Simon, Louis

  Frey, Adam

  Schultheiss, Peterné (Mrs. Peter Schultheiss)

  Schenk, Georg


  Ferber. Johann


  Landek, Konrad


  Weibel, Adam

  Hildt, Michael

  Rall, Heinrich

  Felder, Adam

  May, Jakob

  Gyorgy, Heinrich

  Barabas, Wilhelm

  Brandtner, Adam

  Trimmel, Andreas


  Hartenstern, Heinrich

  Jahn, Johann

  Müller, Heinrich

  Frischkorn, Illes (Elias)*

  Göbel, Johann

  Groth, Jakob

  Tefner, Jakob

  Lehr, Andreas


  In 1908 there were a total of 149 emigrants from Somogy County to the United States of whom 50 were Swabians and of their number 27 were from the Lutheran villages.


  During this period of the emigration from Somogy County included in the study there is no mention made of any single women leaving for overseas unless they were part of a family.  In 1903 the Hungarian parliament passed a law allowing Counties to issue passports to would-be emigrants that made it more convenient and possible to obtain them.  On leaving the emigrant had to indicate their destination, the harbour from which they planned to exit Europe and how long they proposed to stay away.  The cost for a passport was one Krona.  The passport did not indicate the ethnic identity of the holder nor what language or languages he spoke.  Passports were seldom issued for anyone over 50 years of age because the American Immigration officials would send them back.  There were only a few passports issued for Canada during this period.  Wives who wanted to join their husbands were often refused passports to get the husband to return home to Hungary.  The peak of emigration from Somogy County prior to the First World War was 1907.


  Of further interest are some of these statistics.  The numbers of passports issued to the following villages between 1900 and 1910:


  Bonnya                            156

  Ecsény                               71

  Gadács                             113

  Döröschke                        245

  Somogyszil                      335


  The individual stories behind the statistics in many cases remain untold.  The reader will note an * following the name of Frischkorn Illes who was my grandfather.  Four years later his wife Elisabeth Tefner left to join him in Milwaukee.  While they were there a daughter Caroline was born, in January of 1914.  She was my mother.  The young family hurriedly returned to Hungary as war clouds gathered in July of that year and Elias returned home just in time to be conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian Army and was rushed to the Serbian front.

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