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Memories of September & October 1944

by Alex Leeb

     No one in our village had a radio, nor was there a telephone, except for the Post Office.  We were isolated from other surrounding villages. When someone came back from visiting other villages, they would inform us the occurrences from the villages.

     The village of Billed, being 99.9, per cent German. As the German Army were retreating, they made Billed their headquarter for a short time. As Nick Tullius has stated, the Germans were retreating from Greece, and held themselves on the main highways. The road from Temeswar to Tschanad into Hungary was a high-quality road to travel with trucks, tanks, automobiles, especially when it rained.

     With the German headquarters being in Billed, our villages (Knees) was also occupied by German soldiers. They commuted back and forth between the two villages.  For over a year, we witnessed German uniforms, Hungarian and Romanian, uniforms.  We had no problem distinguishing the uniforms.

     In mid September, 1944, for three days Hungarian, soldiers passed through our village toward Temeswar. Heavy rainfall, soldiers were walking in water and mud, and exhausted. 

On the fourth day, three horse-pulled-buggies, full with soldiers, entered our village.  Their uniforms looked strange to us and they spoke a language which we never heard before.

     About 12, of us children, played soccer on the street, as we observed the strange uniforms enter our village. One of my cousins was grabbed by one of the men with the strange uniform. They regimented him to take them to the city hall. The German soldiers had occupied the city hall. When they turned the corner heading towards the city hall, my cousin pointed out the city hall to them.

     The mystery uniform men, dismounted from the wagons, positioned themselves for combat against the Germans in the city hall.  Once the shooting began, my cousin came running home exhausted and told us about the episode. While this was happening, we went and told our mothers and grandparents, what happen.

     When the soldiers retreated, we discovered they were Russian, soldiers.  The casualties in the battle were, one German soldier and four Russian soldiers.  Grandfathers, women and the children, were the only German habitants left in the villages. Some people built bunkers in the gardens, to hide from the Russians. We sensed that day, the Russians would return to our village the same night.

     The city hall was still occupied by the German soldiers. Our grandfathers hid themselves in the bunkers, while the women and children, were hiding in the basement in a house nearby. There must've been about 10-12, women, (including grandmothers) and 18-20, children, ages from 2-16, hiding in the basemen.

     We were whispering to each other, in scared voices. At 3 AM, men's voices were heard outside in the court-yard. The lady of the house, asked; "should I open the door and see who it is, it might the men from the bunkers.?" She was outnumbered, everybody voted against her. The voices, became louder and louder. We heard knocks, at the main door of the house. There were knocks on the basement door but the it was locked. We could hear them talking in Russian.

     With force, the Russian, soldiers broke through the door and swarmed down the basement with their machineguns. For us children, it was a nightmare. The Russian soldiers, beating up our grandmothers, and we watched, while our mothers and the young girls were raped by the Russian soldiers. The next day, the Russians came back to the same place, they took the lady's father, who was in his mid 70's and crippled, tied him to the post in the barn. They brought his daughter in the barn, about 10, Russian soldiers raped her in front of her father. Her father was helpless - the only help he could give her was, the tears from his eyes.

     For the next three days, our village was surrounded. The Russians on the NE side and the Germans on the SW side. Nobody could leave the village or they would be shot.  After three days, the Germans, retreated back to Billed. The Russians moved into our village. When leaving our village and go to Billed, you had to cross a bridge.

     One German soldier held the Russians back from the other side of the river.  When he couldn't detain the Russian any longer, he retreated himself back to Billed.  While entering Billed, he was shot by a Partisan.

    This was just the beginning of our fate, in September of 1944. Comparing to what our Donauschwaben cousins in Yugoslavia experienced, ours was just a drop in the bucket.


[Published at DVHH.org 2004, by Jody McKim Pharr]


 

 

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