Danube Swabian History
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Genocide, Horror & Survival "1944-1948"

A most descriptive first-hand account of a Banater who suffered and survived
Tito's concentration and extermination camps from 1944 to 1948.

by John Mueller

My family lived in Mastort and our ordeal began with the arrival of the Red Army, followed by Tito's partisans, on October 6, 1944.   At first, we were concentrated in a few houses in Mastort but soon were transferred to the death camp of Molidorf.   From Molidorf, we were shipped in open cattle cars to the extermination camp of Gakowa, from which we escaped to Hungary in September of 1947.

As part of the madness of WWII, I lost my father and two uncles. One of my uncles (and godfather) was tortured and hacked to death by the Partisans at the infamous Milchhalle (milk hall) death mill in Kikinda. My paternal grandparents and an aunt starved to death in Molidorf.  Another aunt died of mistreatment, starvation and disease in Gakowa. My mother almost died from mistreatment at the hands of armed and sadistic Partisans who forced her and about 20 other women internees to lie in a frozen ditch that she and the other women in a work detail had been ordered to hack open as part of their "punishment" for being ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia.  

To survive, we ate potato peels, melon rinds and anything else edible we found in the Partisans' HQ garbage dump.  We ate grass and anything that was still growing there on the ground and on trees, scavenging for dead hares in winter times and mother risking death by sneaking out at night to go begging for food and clothing from sympathetic Hungarians and Serbs living in neighboring villages. Fortunately, mother could speak both Serbo-Croatian and Hungarian which she learned in school before German became compulsory.  But she survived and managed to escape from Gakowa with me at age 10, my seven-year-old brother and my four-year-old sister.

My family lived in Mastort and our ordeal began with the arrival of the Red Army, followed by Tito's partisans, on October 6, 1944.   At first, we were concentrated in a few houses in Mastort but soon were transferred to the death camp of Molidorf.   From Molidorf, we were shipped in open cattle cars to the extermination camp of Gakowa, from which we escaped to Hungary in September of 1947.

After a few months in Hungary and almost four years in an Austrian refugee camp (Feffernitz, in the province of Carinthia) we emigrated to the United States under the sponsorship of my mother's uncle who had come to the USA as a 19-year-old in 1907,  like so many other Donauschwaben, in search of work and a better life.

Deutsch Zerne, my hometown, was a short distance away from Mastort.  My father's sister, Katharina Muller, who died in Gakowa, was married to Mathias Bockmuller from Deutsch Zerne but they lived in Mastort.   He, like my father and godfather, perished in WWII as conscripted ethnic German soldiers in the Prinz Eugen Division.  Sadly, this division ostensibly was organized to defend our homeland but the German Germans decided otherwise when the going got tough on other fronts.   Sending our men to those war fronts left our homeland unprotected when we needed the help of our men the most.  Many of them perished at the same time as members of their families suffered and died at home.

And that, as they say, is history.

John F. Mueller,
Rochester Hills, Michigan, USA

I was born in Mastort (Massdorf) in 1937 and lived there until our expulsion in 1944.  My wife and I returned there in 1985 for my one and only quick look-see visit, but nothing was the same anymore, obviously.  As they say, you really can't go home again. 

Note: Mastort/Massdorf, just southeast of Kikinda in the western Banat region of what was formerly called Yugoslavia (now Serbia-Montenegro). The eastern Banat became part of Romania after the Banat region was divided among the successor states of Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia following WWI.

German Name Official Name Hungarian Country
Mastort / Massdorf Novi Kozarci Kistöszég Yugoslavia

 

 

 

 

 

 

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