Filipowa in the Batschka 

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The Evacuation and Flight


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


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


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


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


Under the Military Authority of the Partisans


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


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


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


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


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


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


The Massacre of November 25, 1944


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The Background


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The Internment Camps


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


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


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


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


Filipowa from November 25, 1944 to Good Friday, 1945


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The Diary of Paul Mesli


  Good Friday, March 30, 1945


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


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


  March 31, 1945


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


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


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


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


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


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


  Easter Day, April 1, 1945


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


  Easter Monday, April 2, 1945


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


  April 3, 1945


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


  June 29, 1946


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


  July 18, 1946


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


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


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


  July 20, 1946


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


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


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


  July 21, 1946


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


  July 22, 1946


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


  July 26, 1946


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


  August 1946


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


  September 1946


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


  January 20, 1947


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


  February 1, 1947


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


  February 8, 1947


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


  February 10, 1947


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


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



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


“Our parents were beasts and worthless people

That is why they had to die,

We want to live!

Our bodies and souls belong to Tito,

Only Tito and Comrade Stalin.”


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


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



Escape and Flight


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


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


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



Deportation to the USSR


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


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


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


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


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


Acts Perpetrated Against Individual Swabians


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


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


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


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

9 Responses to “ Filipowa in the Batschka ”

  1. Joe Schaeffer says:

    Thank you very much for posting this history. My father’s side of the family is from Filipowa, and they also endured the horrors of deportation, separation, and the concentration camps. This information provided additional insight into their experiences.

  2. German says:

    Wonderful article! We are linking to this great content
    on our site. Keep up the great writing.

  3. Grandchild of Anton Koenig says:

    This was very informative..My Mom was in the camps,she was born Aug,1944.I also have an Uncle living, who was there as well.Their family was German/Swabian.Born in Filipowa/Batchka.My Grandmother maiden name was Anna Krewenka or Krevinka.I’m trying to do some family history before the war..Thank you for this article.

  4. Thank you for this article. My grandparents and father were from Filipowa. My aunt was sent to the Russian labour camps and died of starvation. Several of my great-uncles were among those that were shot it the 1944 massacre and other relatives died in the concentration camps. I grew up hearing stories, but never really paid attention until I grew up and starting tracing our family roots. It’s too bad that this history is all but forgotten.
    My grandparents were Adam Milla and Rosalia Kupferschmidt.

  5. Linda Eichinger says:

    My grandparents and father were from Filipowa also. I am trying to find out what happened to my grandparents and my father……
    My grandmother’s name was Eva Eichinger and my father’s name was Peter Eichinger.

    Very informative article!!

  6. Anita Couch says:

    Thank you so much for the wonderful translation and overview of history on my fathers side of the family. My grandparents are Vincent and Eva Keller, geborene Braunstein. At family gatherings, their conversations would always bring them back to Filipowa, their beloved home. I never fully understood all they were talking about, this artikel gives so much inside to their hardships. I’m so glad to found your website and thank you so much for posting/translating. I look forward to further research and to read more about this subject.

  7. Anita Couch says:

    Correction to my comments from yesterday:
    My great-, great-, great-, great-grandfather is Vincenz ((Vincenz) Keller, born 21.01.1760 in Dürbheim bei Spaichingen, and the first one that emigrated to Filipowa.
    My grandfather is Franz Keller, born 01.04.1891, and married my grandmother Eva Braunstein. He lost his life in the November 25, 1944 massacre in Filipowa.
    The surviving family settled in Baden-Württemberg and nearby after the war. My father Johann Keller died in 2012, I moved to the USA in 1977 at the age of 23.

  8. Susan Short says:

    Thank you for such a detailed history. My Grandfather was Martin Eichinger, born in the US in 1905. HIs father,Frank Eichinger, however returned to Filopowa with his second wife and they perished in the camps in 1945. I have little history of them. I know that Filopowa comes up repeatedly in my family history through several branches.

  9. Elfi Pahl says:

    The information on Filipowa was very helpful. My mother was born there in 1932, Rosalia Pertschy and was in the camps in Gakawa, her father was murdered and her mom raised 5 children and 3 orphans (Her cousins whose mother was raped and murdered). They fled through Hungary and ended up in Austria where she met my dad Adam Pahl. They came to the U.S. in 1958.
    We have quite a few Eichingers in the family, including my godmother and my mom’s cousins. Both my grandfather and father were conscripted (my dad was only 18) into the german army and taken prisoner in 1945 to Russia, where they were POWs for 5 years until they were released in 1950 and went ot austria. It is unclear to me how they found each other and my paternal grandmother, but i think the REd Cross helped reunite families. I am also not sure why in 1950 did the russians finally release millions of Germans who had been captive.

    Hope to learn more, as this is our story.

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