Danube Swabian History
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Central Civilian Internment and Labor Camps
In the Batschka

Neusatz/Novi Sad - Already in November 1944, the notorious central camp Neusatz was the first of its kind established on the swampy banks of the Danube River in the South-Batschka.

Initially it contained able-bodied men and women from the South Batschka region. After additional central camps were created, it became the main "trading center" for this modern slave-trade and engaged in a continuous exchange of inmates with other central and liquidation camps. The sick ones were shipped to the liquidation camps and exchanged for still somehow usable workers. From here, many were selected for the deportation to Russia at Christmas 1944.

Even though the camp had a steady occupation of 2,000, it consisted only of two windowless barracks and a notorious "bunker" of six square meters. For even the slightest trespass, inmates were thrown into the waterlogged structure. For many the long ordeal of standing in the water was fatal.

The numerous mistreatments and murders without court proceedings, even though the war was over, induced Dr. Wilhelm Neuner, formerly Oberlandesgericht Präsident (equivalent to president of a state appeals court) and also internee at the camp, to send written complaints to the ministry of the interior at Belgrade. These complaints were secretly smuggled out of the camp. For his courageous actions he was locked into the "bunker." He then was passed from camp to camp, but continued his written complaints and was eventually expelled to Hungary. The camp is said to have been closed during the last days of March 1948, when its occupancy was down to about 400. There are no records of how many of the inmates perished.

Palanka/Backa Palanka - The central camp Palanka was set up in November 1944, containing 14-15 year old boys and 60-70 year old, able-bodied men from its surrounding area. Eventually it grew to an average of 600 internees.

Sombor - The town of Sombor, as already mentioned in a previous chapter, turned out to be the "turn-table" for the persecution, internment and murder of the Germans in the West-Batschka. It was established in November 1944 and also had jurisdiction of the central camps Hodschag, Apatin and Filipowa.

Thousands of ethnic Germans were stuffed into the lice-infested barracks, often mistreated, insufficiently fed and forced to work weekdays as well as Sundays. Whoever became sick was immediately sent to the death-camp Gakowa which was established on March 12, 1945. The first camp commander was Rajko, the second one Dusan Kurepa. Both were cruel sadists, the second one even worse; he personally committed at least thirteen murders. He sent for his vietims, nearly beat them to death and then cut their throat. The camp was one of the last to be closed sometime in March 1948.

Apatin - This town was originally inhabited by 12,000 Germans.  During the winter the local camp, under the overall jurisdiction of Sombor, suffered from starvation. The camp commander, Mito Volic was particularly cruel. His deputy, Milivoj Beljanski from Sombor took girls from the camp into his apartment and raped them. Later he was demoted and dismissed. His successor tied women to trees, whipped them until they became unconscious and threw them naked into the cellar. His specialty was to electrify naked women's breasts and genitals.

Hodschag/Odzaci - This camp too, fulfilled its purpose, particularly in the investigation and persecution of members of the "Kulturbund" (cultural society). Those arrested were never seen again.

Filipowa/Backi Gracac - Because the liquidation camps Gakowa and Kruschiwl were overflowing by mid-1945, this camp was opened between mid-June to mid-October 1945 for able-bodied, as well as those unable to work, of the Hodschag area. In this short time about 250 perished due to starvation and epidemic diseases. By about October 1945, about 2,000 had died of starvation at Gakowa and since there were now openings those unable to work at Filipowa were shipped to Gakowa.

Seidenfabrik at Werbass/Vrbas - Towards the end of 1945 this former silk factory was established as a central camp for the Germans of the Middle-Batschka. It also had jurisdiction over the relatively large work camps at Tschervenka, Kula and Weprowatz. The conditions there were worse than in a prison. Since there was no more work to be done in the fields as of December 1946, the camp commander made the inmates stand in formation from 5 to 11 o'clock during the bitter cold winter mornings. Then he let them sit till evening in the court yard. The camp was most likely dissolved the beginning of 1948.

Sekitsch/Lovcenac - This used to be an entirely German community at the eastern edge of the German settlements and in January 1945 was transformed into a central camp for about 6,000 Germans. In October 1945 it was reduced to 1,500 inmates and was functioning as a work camp. Most of the rest were taken to the liquidation camps of Gakowa and Kruschiwl at about the time their inmates were dying in great numbers. Before they were shipped they were searched once more and deprived of their last miserable belongings. They even had to exchange any still somewhat useful clothing they wore for torn rags.

Stärkefabrik at Subotica - This former starch factory was most likely converted into a central forced labor camp by the middle of November 1944. The 4,000 inmates were mostly Germans who earlier had fled to Hungary but tried to return to their homes after cessation of the war. Upon crossing the border from Hungary they were immediately robbed of all their belongings. According to reports, devastating typhus epidemics raged throughout the camp. It was most likely dissolved in January 1948.


Bibliography

  • GENOCIDE of the Ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia 1944-1948. Published by the Danube Swabian Association of the USA, 2001. ISBN 0-9710341-0-9

  • Volume III of the documentation Leidensweg der Deutschen im kommunistischen Jugoslawien, 1995; respectively in the Weissbuch der Deutschen aus Jugoslawien. (The Tragedy of the Ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia).

[Published at dvhh.org by Jody McKim, May 12, 2010]

 

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