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 - Carl L. Becker

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"Völkermord der Tito-Partisanen" 1944-1948
"Genocide Carried out by the Tito Partisans"
Österreichische Historiker-Arbeitsgemeinschaft Für Kärnten und Steiermark, 1992
(Austrian Historian Working Group for Kärnten & Steiermark) 
Translated by Henry Fischer. Edited & Published at dvhh.org by Jody McKim, Sep. 2006
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4

Chapter 3

Genocide In the Yugoslavian Banat
"This is where innocent blood flowed like a river" 

(After World War I, the Banat was divided between Yugoslavia & Romania, with two thirds going to Romania & one third annexed to Yugoslavia)

The North Eastern Banat
"The Hunt for Danube Swabians"

Cernje 

  Cernje is located in the north eastern Banat in Yugoslavia.  About three thousand Danube Swabians lived there.  In addition there were approximately ten thousand more Danube Swabians who lived in the vicinity in the villages of Molidorf, Tschesterek, Heufeld, Hetin, Ruskodorf and others. 

  During the first days of the month of October in 1944 the Partisans took power from the Russian military.  Their rule was bloody and gruesome.  The most atrocious acts were carried out by the Gypsies who lived in a settlement in close proximity to Cernje.  The Gypsies had always been work-shy and intensely jealous of the prosperity of the hard working and thrifty Danube Swabians.  The Gypsies joined the communists and Partisans who were Serbians and attempted to share power with them.  They let the Danube Swabians know that they had power in no uncertain way and they were prepared to use that power ruthlessly.  As the new powers that be, everything that took their fancy they simply took from the Swabians including young girls and women to satisfy their lust. 

  The first Swabian killed in Cernje was the Roman Catholic priest, Franz Brunet.  He was taken from the rectory by Partisans on October 3rd, 1944 and shot for no apparent reason.  Immediately after that most of the Swabian men were taken from their homes and divided into groups.  At the same time many Swabians from the vicinity of Cernje were dragged here in chains and fetters.  Many Swabian women from outside of the village of Cernje were also brought here.  Mostly they were women from prosperous families and the “intelligentsia” among the men who were the first to be tortured and killed.  As these large groups arrived they were locked in two large cellars and were imprisoned there for weeks.  During the evenings groups of Swabians were taken out of the cellars and for hours on end the Partisans abused, tortured and mistreated them in as many ways as possible.  Each Partisan was now at liberty to let Swabian blood flow and break arms, legs and ribs, knock in a man’s teeth or simply kill them any way they pleased.  A great number of those taken out of the cellar never returned.  Their bodies ended up in shallow graves in the meadows.  As the numbers of Swabians in the cellar declined, they continued to bring in a new supply of men and women to endure the same fate. 

  The treatment of the women was especially horrendous.  It was brutal, gruesome and bestial.  One evening the Partisans took a rather beautiful woman out of the cellar.  She had to endure a long period of excruciating torture.  They stripped her of her clothes and because she resisted the Partisans and Gypsies used a hot household iron and “ironed” her whole naked body.  With deep festering burns all over her body she was thrown down the cellar steps by the Partisans.  For the next two days she suffered in the presence of the other prisoners before she finally died of her burns. 

  On October 8th, 1944 a bunch of drunk boisterous Partisans broke into one of the cellars.  Among them was a drunk officer who carried a machine pistol in his hand.  All of the Swabian prisoners were forced to stand and huddle against the wall in one corner.  The drunk officer simply shot at the tightly packed group of prisoners in the corner at point blank range in every direction, resulting in bloodying and killing many of them.   The numbers killed and wounded was enormous.  The landowning farmers Kampf Anton and Maier Josef from Cernje lived for a few days one of them wounded in his lungs and the other in his knee but received no medical help or bandages.  Finally on October 12th both of them were taken out of the cellar by the Partisans and shot up against the wall at the entrance way.  In the meanwhile the surviving prisoners were tortured and individually liquidated night after night with new methods devised by the Partisans. 

  On October 22, 1944 on what was a Sunday, all of the surviving Swabians in Cernje who had not been imprisoned in the cellars were forced to dig a pit for a mass grave.  It was twenty-five meters long, six meters wide and 3 meters deep.  On October 24th, which was Tuesday the new governing officials had drums beaten in all of the streets of Cernje to publicly announce to the entire population that all of the Danube Swabians were to be put to death.  The Serbian population and the Gypsies were invited to come and watch the massacre.  Later that day at 2:00pm, one hundred and twenty-four Swabian men and fifty women were led in fetters from the cellars where they had been imprisoned for weeks.  They were bound with wire to one another and were beaten and thrashed all along the way to the place of execution and screamed at by the Partisans and the Gypsies who had gathered to watch.  They were beaten so badly that they were unrecognizable.  When they arrived at the place of execution all of them were stripped of their clothes and were shot by a huge mob of Serbians and Gypsies.  The Swabians were bound together in groups and driven to the mass grave by some Partisans and shot by them and then tossed into the pit.  The clothes of the dead were put on a wagon and led back to town by the new “officials”.  The clothes were sorted and divided up among the Serbians and Gypsies.  The very next day they walked around town wearing the clothes of the dead men and women with great pride. 

  Hardly was the massacre over when the new “officials” had street announcements made everywhere in Cernje that wherever Danube Swabians were still living they would be slaughtered that evening.  Armed Gypsies went from house to house and informed the young girls and women that they, the Gypsies, had been given the right, the power and the order by the authorities to rape and slaughter them if they wished.  In fear and trembling of what awaited them, not less than seventy-five married and single young women and their families took heir own lives on the evening of October 24, 1944.  Some whole family groups chose to die together.  Mothers threw their little children into the well and then jumped in after them.  Other mothers hung their children and did the same to themselves beside them.  It just went on and on in a night of horrors as the Gypsies went on a rampage of lust, rape and murder. 

  The aged former mayor Peter Stein and his wife Susanne chose suicide.  Johann Goldscheck was one of the men who had died in the massacre earlier that day.  Gypsies raped his wife and daughter-in-law in front of the two children in the house.  When the Gypsies left all four of them took their own lives.  Eva the wife of Kaspar Rottenbach, Maria the wife of John his son, and their two daughters aged twenty and twenty-two were raped by a group of Gypsies in front of the two men.  All six of them then committed suicide.  They hung themselves in the attic of their house all in a row.  These are only a few examples.  This is the gruesome way in which the new People’s Democratic Republic of Yugoslavia of the Communists and Gypsies was introduced into this region of the Banat. 

  On October 25, 1944 it was time to liquidate those still imprisoned in the cellars plus the continuing oncoming victims being brought in from the surrounding region who fed the insatiable massacre machine.  On that day there were still four hundred and eighty living Danube Swabians, including thirty women.  They were bound to one another with ropes and wire and were led by heavily armed Partisans and pushed, abused and mistreated all the way to an estate called “Julia Major”.  From here they were to be taken to various hard labor camps.  But there were numerous situations in which individuals or groups were slaughtered in the most gruesome manner. 

  On November 15 and 16, 1944 there were one hundred Swabian men shot at one time and included sixty-seven farmers from Stefansfeld and thirty-three Swabians from Pardanj.  This massacre was at the insistence of a Serbian woman Partisan.  Her husband had attacked German troops during the occupation and had been shot by them by return fire.  She now wanted to see the blood of hundreds of unarmed Danube Swabian civilians flow in revenge and she had her heart’s desire. 

  Among the imprisoned Danube Swabian civilians in the cellars there were also Danube Swabian refugees from Romania and one German Army officer prisoner of war, Hans Konrad from Hatzfeld.  He was badly crippled from the torture he endured at the hands of the Partisans and was unable to work.  These were the grounds for the Partisans for his liquidation.  His wife was also in the camp.  As he was being led out to his execution, his wife left her labor group and ran towards him.  She reached him just as they were about to shoot him.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and refused to leave him.  They were shot together, even though neither one of them was a Yugoslavian citizen.  This occurred on November 9, 1944.  On that same day another eleven persons were liquidated.  Most of them were sick or due to the treatment and torture they had endured that they were unable to work.   The camp commander who ordered these shootings came from Ban. Karadjordjevo.  He had already been responsible for the deaths of countless others in Kikinda and later in Julija Major” where he boasted of that. 

  In the bitter cold of New Year’s Eve of 1944/1945 all of the inmates in the camp were driven out of their quarters at midnight.  They had to stand and wait in the cold and the snow and then on the orders of the Partisans they had to do sit-ups in the snow for about an hour.  But whoever got up and down too fast was beaten terribly.  The women had to endure the same thing.  A pregnant woman who was a Danube Swabian from Romania was not spared either.  As a result of this “exercise” she give birth to a child that died shortly afterwards.  This operation was carried out in reprisal because of a speech given by a Nazi official that was heard over the radio.  The operation lasted as long as the speech.  On April 18, 1945 the very last of the Swabians in Cernje who were still alive were driven out of their homes and taken to concentration camps.  But on April 19th, twenty-two elderly people among them were unable to walk were driven out of the camp at night and were shot.  Often in the following days both men and women were taken out at night to be shot for no apparent reason at all.  And many young women were taken out at night and disappeared forever.  Most of them were buried in one of the mass graves. 

  Karoline Bockmueller of Cernje writes: 

  “On October 4, 1944 at 8:30am the Russian troops passed through Cernje and headed west.  In the afternoon of the same day they were followed by groups of Russians who had been prisoners of war in Romania.  Only some of them were armed and remained in Cernje for a few days.  Towards evening of the day when they arrived they went from house to house to rob and plunder under the direction of some local Serbian Partisans.  During the night countless women and young girls were raped by the Russians, Partisans and Gypsies.  One of their victims was a nine-year-old girl (Eva B.)  She was badly injured having been barbarically raped by nine men.  She became unconscious and her legs could no longer bend.  On the following day her mother hung her and herself.  This was true of many of the other women and girls. 

  The sisters Maria and Susanne Rottenbach were raped as well as Sophie B. who later had a child as a result.  Therese Hoenig was raped by six men and was injured so badly that she was unable to walk and could only crawl on the floor.  The following were also raped:  Katharina and Gertraud Goldscheck. 

  Therese Hoenig and her mother as well as the Goldscheck and Rottenbach sisters all hung themselves the next day in their attics.  The only raped woman who went on living was Sophie B. 

  On October 5th groups of Gypsies from the area went from house to house and yelled to the Swabians inside that they were to come to the commons where they would be shot.  Gypsies and Partisans also entered some houses and took a number of men and some women whose husbands were in the German army and locked them in the cellar at the town hall.  On hearing this news, fifty-four persons, men, women and children hung themselves, took poison or jumped in a well and drowned. 

  On October 7th, 1944 our priest Franz Brunet was taken to the town hall by the Partisans.  He was so badly whipped and beaten along with four other men, so that none was able to walk.  The Partisans propositioned the priest that if he wanted to run away all he had to do was to jump over the wall and they would let him live.  The priest used all of his strength to jump over the wall.  As he reached the top of the wall the Partisans shot him.  The other men who had been abused with the priest were beaten to death.  The priest’s housekeeper Frau Klementine was brought to the town hall and she had to wash the blood away.  Other women who came to do the cleaning at the town hall daily had to bury the dead priest and the other men at the garbage dump.  In the cellars of the town hall in addition to the Danube Swabian men from Cernje there was a larger number of men imprisoned with them from the surrounding area: Stefansfeld, Heufeld, Mastort and others. 

  On October 8th or 9th in 1944, Franz Hoffmann begged a Partisan guarding the cellar to shoot him because he could not stand the torture and pain he had to endure.  The Partisan shot him on the spot and soon other inmates begged for the same fate.  One Partisan shot at them with his machine pistol and hit three of them: Peter Weissmann, Nikolaus Tabar and Josef Mayer.  None of them was dead but all were badly wounded.  But all four were buried alive in the grave at the garbage dump. 

  Men and women were taken out of the cellar at night and were whipped and tortured, while others were abused in the cellars.  There were fifteen year olds among them.  All of them were hardly recognizable because of the terrible tortures their bodies had endured, and as they were led two by two bound to one another by the Partisans to be shot at the dump we could only identify them by their voices or their clothes, which were often just rags that clung to their bodies. 

  The mass shootings lasted from October 12th to November 7th, 1944.  Every day several Swabians were executed.  The last shooting was on November 11th, 1944, and on that day the mass grave was covered over.  There were always public announcements that the shootings were taking place and everyone in Cernje was free to come and watch. 

  The victims were forced to undress naked at the dump, and step towards the mass open grave where a Partisan shot them in the back of the neck and the victim would fall forward into the pit.  Some of those who were shot were not dead immediately but whimpered for most of the day and some long into the night until death finally released them.  Our schoolmaster Franz Kremer and Hans Goldscheck and Katharina Schillinger were dragged by the hair from the cellar by the Partisans and Gypsies and screamed in pain on their way to execution.  The woman was not killed instantly as a result of the shooting and she whimpered and groaned until the next day and crawled around among the decomposing corpses in the mass grave.  The Gypsies were given permission to kill her with shovels and spades, which they then followed through on.   

  From Cernje alone, as far as I can remember, the following men and women were shot and buried in the mass grave at the dump (she names fifty-two victims).  I cannot remember all of them anymore. 

  On November 27, 1944 all men and women who were able to work were ordered to report.  There were three groups formed.  One group of men and women went to the hemp factory, the second had to work on the farms, the third group, mostly older people had to empty, pack furnishings and possessions in the houses of the Swabians.  Regardless of where they worked they were guarded, beaten and threatened with death by Partisans if they did not work hard enough or fast enough.  My own seventy year old grandmother, Katharina Bockmueller had to load furniture.  Once when she was unable to lift a chest she was beaten by Partisans and Gypsies until she was unconscious. 

  At noon on December 27, 1944 the drum beats in the streets of Cernje announced that all young women, both married and single, from eighteen to thirty years of age and men from eighteen to forty-five were to report to the town hall next morning at 4:00am.  They were to bring food for fourteen days and a change of clothes.  These people were loaded in cattle cars at the railway station.  The windows and doors were locked and the transport of eighty young women and thirty-five men were deported to slave labor in the Soviet Union.  Eye-witnesses told me of the heart rending scene at the railway station.  Parents were not allowed to say goodbye to their children and had no idea of where they were going.  I was sick in bed at that time. 

  Towards the end of February 1945 we younger women who were still in Cernje had to dig up the corpses of those who had hung themselves or took poison when the Partisans had arrived and started the pogroms.  These were often buried in their own gardens because we were not allowed on the streets at that time.  We had to disinter them and put them in the mass grave nearby the cemetery.  The Partisans wanted us to dig up the bodies with our bare hands but the local Serbians hindered that from happening. 

On March 18, 1945, along with four other women from Cernje I came to Luise Puszta by Etschka.  There was labor camp here with around one hundred women and fifty men from various communities in the Banat who had been dragged here like we had.  With nineteen other women I shared a small room.  We had to sleep on the floor with some hay and straw beneath us, and it was an earthen not a wooden floor.  There was no way to heat the room and it was over run with rodents and insects, cockroaches and lice.  In order to wash or clean ourselves we had to go to a nearby creek, but there was no soap.  We worked in the fields from sun-up to sundown.  And of course we received very little food and what we received provided little nutrition.  We were thrashed and beaten on our way to work and on our way home. 

  In September 1945, along with twenty other women I was sent to Elisenheim to care for cattle there.  We were all accommodated in one house and slept on straw on the floor.  The commander here was good to us.  With his own money he bought extra food rations to help us survive since we had to work so hard. 

  While I was here in Elisheim I decided I had to try to escape in order to find out where my daughter was, but I was betrayed by a Croatian woman and as punishment I was to sent to work at the fish pond in Etschka. 

  On May 10, 1946 along with another inmate I escaped and we headed for Rudolfsgnad because I was told that is where my seventeen year old daughter was and that she had given birth to a boy.  When I got to Rudolfsgnad I found out that my daughter Maria and her twelve month old child had both died of hunger on April 8, 1946.  I had to report to the camp commander at Rudolfsgnad and I was interned in a room with  about twenty adults and ten children.  Here we slept on straw that lay strewn on the floor.  Some of the inmates suffered from dropsy and were all bloated and swollen.  They died shortly afterwards.  Food was almost nonexistent.  Those who worked got a bit more. 

  As a result I reported for work and I was sent to work in the forest to cut wood and reeds for the camp bakery. 

  On May 8, 1947 since my child had died, there was nothing keeping me in Rudolfsgnad so I escaped from the camp and made my way to Molidorf to search for my mother.  There I was to learn that both she and her sister had died of hunger. 

  From among my extended family, fifty-six of them either starved to death or were victims of the mass shootings.  Upon my arrival in the camp at Molidorf all of the camp inmates were sick.  They sat in the yard under the trees or lay in the yard.  They whimpered from hunger and pain.  They were a fearful sight.  But even these poor dieing people were beaten and kicked by the Partisans whenever they passed by them.  On August 20, 1947 I escaped from the camp at Molidorf because life was becoming more and more impossible there for me.  I fled to Romania.  Here I found my uncle and aunt with whom I traveled across Hungary to Austria and from there to Germany where I now live.” 


Stefansfeld 

  Jakob Bohn provides this declaration with regard to the fate and destiny of the inhabitants of his home village Stefansfeld.

   “Close to the evening of September 30, 1944 the Red Army crossed over from Modasch in Romania and marched into my home village of Stefansfeld.  Serbian Partisans took over all authority and ruled according to their will.  Along with the confiscation of the land owned by the Danube Swabian population there was wholesale robbery and many cruelties were inflicted upon the people.  According to my own accounting of the two thousand eight hundred and eight inhabitants of my home village from September 30, 1944 until the closing of the camp in 1948, seven hundred and fifty-two persons were liquidated.  Six hundred and forty-six died in various camps, large numbers of who  starved to death.  Six persons chose suicide, sixty-nine were shot and twenty-three persons were and are still missing.  In addition eight persons from among the one hundred and thirty-five persons deported to Russia to forced labor in the coal mines did not survive.  That is the balance sheet for my home village.  I was among those deported to Russia. 

(He digresses with regard to the leadership of the Swabian German Cultural Association and its leadership and the fate of some of them.)  


Grossbetscherek ~ Betscherek 

  Grossbetscherek was the capital of the Yugoslavian Banat.  It had a population of thirty-five thousand.  The Danube Swabians made up about one third of the inhabitants.  The rest of the population consisted of Serbians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Romanians and Bulgarians.  The most prosperous landowners were the Danube Swabians.  They were also the most industrious and had purchased the most and the best land.

  A local Serbian government was constituted here on the day the Russian Army arrived on October 2, 1944.  It was discarded only ten days later.  Communist Partisan bands arrived from Syrmien and took over control.  On the first day of their coming to power, it was a Tuesday, October 10th the new authorities closed off the western sector of the city early in the morning, effectively cutting off the Danube Swabian population that lived in this section of the city.  Armed groups of Partisans, including uniformed women, went from house to house.  They checked the credentials of all of the population in this sector of the city, and any man or male youth who was believed to be “German” was driven out of their houses. 

  “Are you German?” was the only question that they asked.  If the man was, the command that followed consisted of three words.  “Chain and shoot!” 

  All of those Danube Swabians thus apprehended were subjected to cruel abuse, butted with rifles and dragged off to the Serbian part of the city.  They arrested about three hundred men in this way.  They were assembled on Takovska Street.  In the yard of one of the houses they were forced to take off their clothes.  In groups of ten they were driven out into the streets.  There was a long brick wall on one side of the street and the men had to kneel in front of the wall and were shot in the nape of the neck.  The Partisans brought wagons and dumped the bodies into them.  They had had a great pit dug on the site of the shooting range of the former Hungarian military installation from the First World War located in the east end of the city.  All three hundred dead were dumped there.  Among the victims was one fourteen year old boy.  A few days later, his father and brother-in-law were also shot.  A few days later and following, most of the Danube Swabians were driven out of their homes.  They were taken to various camps.  One of them was a former old mill in the north end of the city.  But thousands of Danube Swabians from the vicinity were also forced into the “mill” camp.  There were also sixty German prisoners of war, and hundreds of Danube Swabian men, women and children from the Romanian Banat who had fled westward from the advancing Russian Army, but were unable to continue on their trek from here and were imprisoned with the Swabians of Betscherek. 

  At the entrance into the mill there was a small room.  The Partisans set it up as a torture chamber.  Every night, whenever the Partisans felt the urge to shed Swabian blood they would round up individuals or groups and take them to this room.  In the first night alone they slaughtered twenty-five men, one after another.  At first they knocked out their teeth, used their rifle butts on their backs around their kidneys, smashed and shattered their shins with logs, threw them to the ground, jumped with all their might on their stomachs, broke their ribs and let them die slowly.  If they were still alive they bashed in their heads with their rifles or pieces of lumber.  The louder the victims screamed the Partisans sang louder and played their harmonicas and accordions to drown out the noise of their pain afflicted victims. 

  The sixty German prisoners of war imprisoned with the Danube Swabians were also subject to the same fate, and except for twenty-six men were killed by the Partisans.  In addition most of the men among the Danube Swabian refugees from Romania met their deaths at the hands of the Partisans including a very young boy from Detta, in the full knowledge of the fact that they were not Yugoslavian citizens.  The murder of the child Minges Walter was orchestrated by the Partisans in the courtyard that was set up like a circus ring and all of the inmates of the camp, especially the women, some four hundred persons in all had to witness and watch how Swabian children were liquidated. 

  Very often there were mass shootings in this camp consisting of groups of up to one hundred fifty men and women, and sometimes even more.  Those who were chosen for execution were often the owners of the homes and possessions taken over by the Partisans.  The victims were always handpicked.  In the camp courtyard, once chosen they had to step forward and were then bound to one another by wire and then were brutally beaten by the Partisans.  They were driven on foot to the shooting range and were forced to dig a hug hole.  On other occasions other inmates had dug the grave a few days earlier.  They had to undress and ten to twenty naked persons had to walk to the edge of the pit, or down into the grave and were then shot.  Anyone who resisted was beaten or stabbed to death with a bayonet.  The graves afterwards were covered with only a bit of earth to hide them from sight.  The Partisans took the clothes away in a wagon and traded them in the city or wore them themselves with great pride all around town. 

  The first official shootings took place on October 12, 1944 when seventy-five Danube Swabian civilians were taken out of the camp and were killed.  On October 14th another shooting took place with as many victims.  It went on like this every other day.  On October 20th a group of seventy men from Grossbetscherek were shot.  On October 29th in two separate actions the Partisans shot one hundred and fifty-four more men. 

  On another day all of the camp inmates had to report for roll call.  All of these who had gone one to high school were to step forward.  They were promised lighter work.  Those who reported had no idea that anything bad could come of it.  The sixty men were bound with wire, whipped, beaten, stripped naked and shot. 

  In the face of all of the torture he had endured one young Swabian who was terrified of what more was to come decided on suicide.  On the way home from doing forced labor all day he jumped off of the bridge across the Bega River and drowned right away.  It was in the middle of winter.  The Partisans used this to good effect.  As soon as the slave laborers entered the camp, they chose thirty of the men to shoot as punishment for the suicide.

   On November 17th, 1944 the Partisans carried out a gruesome atrocity involving the killing of sixty ill persons.  On that day all those who were sick or unable to work were to report to the “hospital” as quickly as possible.  Those unable to walk were separated from the others and locked in a room.  In the night they were ordered to take off their clothes and in groups of ten they were driven out into the camp courtyard.  There they were awaited by a large group of Partisans in the darkness who slugged them on their heads with their shovels.  Italian prisoners of war had to take the dead beaten bodies and toss them into a wagon and take the wagon out of the camp and bury them.  The next day the courtyard was still splattered with blood. 

  The killing of the sick became a regular feature of the life of the camp.  But these actions were always in groups.  November 25, 1944 there were fifty-four who were killed.  Another time it was seventy, while another time there were only thirty-five and so on. 

  But a large number of inmates in the camp met death individually.  On the night of November 29, 1944 there was one such case because the man was eighty-five and could not do heavy work and was taken from his quarters out into the courtyard and murdered by the Partisans.  He was buried in the courtyard in a grave the old man had to dig himself.  Victims like him were not always dead but badly wounded when the Partisans got through with them and were buried alive even when the victim begged them to shoot him.  On one occasion a Swabian man had been part of a mass shooting and was only wounded but thrown into the grave with the dead.  During the night he came back to consciousness and crawled out of the shallowly covered grave and made his way to the edge of the mass grave.  He was stark naked.  He called out to a passerby to help him.  The man in turn informed the camp commander instead.  He immediately sent a squad of Partisans who brutally murdered the badly wounded man.

  Large groups of inmates from the Grossbetscherek camp were sent to do forced labor outside of the camp.  Even in these situations there were many of them who were beaten or shot to death by the Partisans while on these labor details.  On May 20, 1945 seventy-five men for example were sent to the rock quarries in Beotschin in Syrmien who were accompanied by a large number of heavily armed Partisans.  The march was accompanied by constant beatings and abuse.  On turning over their prisoners to the officials at the Beotschin quarry where they were to work, they reported that twenty of them were totally incapable of work due to the injuries suffered by them on the march.  All of them soon died after their arrival. 

  If Partisans in other villages had the desire to murder some Swabians they could order some from the camp in Grossbetscherek or have them delivered to them.  They were gladly sent on the part of the camp officials.  On October 25, 1944 the Partisans in the Serbian villages of Melentzi and Baschaid were holding a special celebration.  The high point of the festival was to be the public massacre of some Danube Swabians.  For that purpose thirty Danube Swabians from the Grossbetscherek camp were sent to the festival.  There they were programmatically shot and beaten to death at the festival. 

  On December 27, 1944 the commander of the Grossbetscherek camp sent thirty-nine sick persons, thirty-five men and four women by wagon to Ernsthausen.  They were all slaughtered in gruesome ways as the high point of a Partisan celebration. 

An escapee from the camp in Betscherek reports: 

  “I was familiar with the internal operations of the camp.  I had to inform the commander of the camp of the number of inmates every evening.  Because of that I can realistically estimate that in the winter of 1944/1945 more than four thousand persons simply “disappeared” who were listed in the camp log as having died of typhus.  In truth, like the gravediggers reported to me, the dead were beaten or shot to death.  I saw the entries myself.  The old school teacher Koller from Elemir was thrashed three times in our room one night for no apparent reason.  I counted two hundred and eighty-five gashes.  The old man did not make a sound.  In the morning he was dead.  One of the favorite methods of abuse by the women Partisans was to pull away at people’s tongues.  Our own women who were kept in another building had all of their hair shaven off, even in terms of their private parts.  Our own barbers had to do it.  Many women were raped, including my own daughter… 

  Life in the Betscherek camp was worse than death could possibly be. 

  Wake-up call was at 3:00 am.  The camp was divided into numerous groups.  After being awakened the thrashings and ridicule began.  The men had to go out into the camp courtyard with their upper torso naked while it was still dark to do “free sport activities”.  There was a well in the yard with a wooden trough attached to it.  Water collected from the frequent rain, and the water had not been run off and because the yard was packed with so many people it was usually a sea of mud.  With curses and swearing the early morning “sport” began with the Partisan guards using rubber hoses and clubs on the men.  These half starved men had the wind knocked out of them and then had to walk around in the cold dampness of late autumn for half to a full hour in the dark, then forced to kneel, lie down and then crawl in the mud.  Only when the “free sport” was ended did they allow the mud encrusted people—there were seventeen thousand men, women and children—to use the wash trough.  But because there were so many people most could not even get close to it to make themselves wet.  There was no such thing as soap. 

  On some occasions when the inmates were sprawled in the mud the Partisans would begin to “dance” on their bodies.  A band of musicians would accompany them to drown out the screams.  During the dance they used clubs and whips on the people as well as wearing heavy boots with cleats.  This usually lasted for half an hour.  Five to ten people would be left dead in the mud.  After the “dance of death” everyone was driven back into their quarters, but because it was not yet dawn the Partisans had to fill in their time, so that the inmates were thrashed and tortured by the guards until 5:30 am.   

  Then came breakfast: a thin watery soup and fifty grams of bread.  After breakfast the groups were sent out to work.  There were various work groups.  The work at the railway stations and boat yards was hard labor, as was the task to empty and load goods at the warehouses.  They worked without stop from 6:00am to 6:00pm.  Often there was no food at noon.  At 6:00pm they were marched back to the camp and often some of them just simply could not go on.  These victims would be forced to rise and continue with beatings, whippings and kicks to vulnerable parts of their bodies.  If they could not get up, others would have to drag them, when they themselves could hardly go on as it was.  As they entered the camp the guards and sentries who had rested all day for this, now once again got into the act and welcomed them with beatings and all kinds of physical abuse.  The inmates were given their rations of their way to their quarters, watery soup and fifty grams of bread.  After supper there was no further official work.  They cowered in their so-called beds, only a very few managed to sleep, because the guards entered the barracks, and called the names of various prisoners and in front of all of the other prisoners they beat and abused them.  Very often they thrashed those who were asleep for no reason and with no warning.  During these evening hours the sentries were usually drunk and carried out two or three roll calls.  All of the prisoners had to stand.  The roll call consisted of a smack to the head or face or a jab against the chest of every tenth prisoner.  Often some prisoners were taken into the punishment cell and were beaten and tortured for hours.  The local Serbian civilian population was also given a free hand and could have access to the camp to beat and punish the Swabian inmates.  Near the end of 1945 the surviving children and the elderly Swabians from Betscherek and the surrounding vicinity were taken to the larger concentration camp at Rudolfsgnad on the Tisza River. 

  The concentration camp at Betscherek was closed and dismantled on May 22, 1947 when only a small number of prisoners had survived and were still able to work.  These survivors were first taken to St. Georgen and from there they were sent as slave laborers to the Serbian coal mines and to work on collective farms.  But in Betscherek not a single Danube Swabian lived in any of their former homes.  Their houses were now occupied by Slavic colonists and the families of the locally stationed Partisan units. 

Dr. Wilhelm Neuner who had once been a member of parliament in Belgrade reports: 

  “These Communist Partisans carried out mass shootings from the very first days of their Military dictatorship and ruled throughout the whole country.  In the capital city of Grossbetscherek, in which twelve thousand Danube Swabians lived, the western sector of the city was cut off from the rest of the city and this is where the vast majority of the Swabian inhabitants who were mostly farmers lived.  They broke into every home and liquidated all of the men they could find.  Only a small portion of the men was left unmolested.  I myself was led away to be executed.  But only by a fortunate set of circumstances I was able to get away.   But my father-in-law and five other relatives all of whom were farmers were taken and shot with countless others.  In the whole of the Banat, during these first days of Partisan rule the total number of Danube Swabian civilian victims who were killed in mass shootings and liquidations numbered close to ten thousand persons, including both men and women.” 

Hans Diewald from Betscherek writes: 

  “On October 10th the so-called German quarter of the city was blockaded by armed Partisans where the majority of the Swabians lived.  The Partisans went through the German quarter with a fine tooth comb and dragged off all of the Swabian men from their homes.  They were bound to one another in groups under heavy guard and led to the former Honved (Hungarian National Army) barracks.  Other Partisan units began to arrest Hungarians and Swabian women as well and brought them to the barracks.  The women and the Hungarians were later released after several hours of imprisonment.  Some two hundred and fifty Swabian men were shot that day including youngsters from thirteen to seventeen years of age. 

  On October 12th the German Quarter was once again blockaded only this time the Partisans arrived at 5:00am because during the first blockade at 8:00 am on the 10th many of the men were not at home, but had been in the city on various errands or were out working in their fields or had gone to a nearby village for some purpose.  During this second blockade they captured almost all of the Swabian men including myself.  All of us were taken to the so-called concentration camp a former jail, which had originally been a mill and were locked up in there. 

  In the following days newly arrested Swabian men arrived each day at the camp.  The men were caught in groups, had been taken off of the streets or taken from their homes.  Day after day Swabians were delivered to the camp.  By November all of the Swabian men were in the camp. 

  The women of the city, especially the Danube Swabians were the victims of rape and sexual violation by the Russian troops.  The number of rape victims increased daily.  The Serbs sent the Russian soldiers to the Swabian houses where there were women.  A friend of mine, sixteen year old Otto Tarillion told me that he was forced to watch while his mother was being raped repeatedly, while one soldier held a loaded gun aimed at him. 

  On October 12th the Swabians from the surrounding vicinity were brought to the camp in Betscherek from Rudolfsgnad, Perles, Sartscha, Modosch and Stefansfeld.  At the end of the week, on Friday or Saturday, the mass shootings began.  The first mass shooting took place on October 10th.  At that time two hundred and fifty men were shot.  The second shooting to place on October 20th and about two hundred persons were shot at that time.  The third shootings took place on October 23rd with thirty victims and the fourth on October 18th involving one hundred and fifty-two persons. 

  Before the shooting took place on October 23rd it was announced that all lawyers and professors were to report.  Because only a few did so, the Partisans threatened to shoot every tenth man.  As a result twenty-three men reported including merchants and officials that also included thirteen to seventeen year old high school students.  On October 19th at 7:00am several of my friends and I were taken to the execution place in the forest.  We were ordered to dig a mass grave.  As we did our work we were all convinced that we would be shot.  But as it turned out it was meant for the two hundred who were executed on October 20th

  In the camp we were awakened at 2:00 or 2:30am in the morning.  We had to perform “free sports”.  We were driven on foot through the camp and every time we passed a Partisan sentry we were beaten or thrashed, but that was also true while we ate or worked as well.  We worked on bridge construction and erecting silos.  We also had to load food stuffs and provisions to be sent to the Russian troops.  The Partisans who were our guards were seventeen to twenty years of age.  These were the ones who carried out the mass shootings   But, there were also women Partisans (often teenage girls) who participated in the execution squads.  Italian prisoners were often called upon to bury the victims of the shootings.  An Italian told me that often people who were badly wounded were thrown into the mass grave.  He often heard their groans as he had to throw earth upon them and buried them alive. 

  Each day in the camp we were fed twice.  In the morning there was clear soup and in the evening pea soup.  We received a small piece of bread in the morning and evening.  In November of 1944 all of the Swabians in the Banat were confined in camps.  There were forced labor camps in Lazarfeld, Kathreinfeld, Klek and Ernsthausen.  Before the entry of the Russian troops Betscherek had approximately fifteen thousand Danube Swabian inhabitants, but some eight thousand of them had fled with the retreating German army. 

  I was in the camp to the end of February or the beginning of March 1945.  Then I was sent to the camp hospital to work.  It went much better for me there.  I had better rations, but I had to work under constant guard.  At the end of May I was back in the camp and from there I went to work at the silos.  While working there I escaped.  It was on September 7, 1945.  I first fled over the border into Romania.  I worked there for some farmers.  On December 27th I returned to Betscherek by way of Johannisfeld der Bega.  I hid out at my uncle’s who was a Serb. 

  At the end of November 1944 there were forty-nine sick inmates in the Betscherek camp who were promised they were going to rehabilitation but were taken to Ernsthausen instead.  They were marched off early in the morning under heavy guard and remained under guard on their arrival in Ernsthausen.  The commander of the camp there was a Serb from St. Georgen.  He recognized the young nineteen year old Georg Saal from St. Georgen.  On the order of the commander young Saal was tied to a stake in the dung pile that was set on fire and Saal was burned to death.  The remaining forty-eight others from Betscherek were beaten with clubs, whips, pipes and stabbed with knives and butchered by the Partisans.  Later one could see the results of their work along the street.  Brains were splattered on walls, and streams of blood filled the street.  A young girl from Ernsthausen witnessed this and told me about it.  Her family name was Kramer I had met her in Johannisfeld in Romania. 

  On January 1, 1946 I left Betscherk and returned to Romania again.  I left there on January 10th for Hungary.  I arrived in Vienna on January 17th.” 

Michael Kristof a high school student recalls: 

  “The Russians moved into Betscherek on Monday, the 2nd of October, 1944 and with them came the Tito Partisans.  The behaviour of the Russians was in some measure bearable.  They took what they wanted and occupied themselves with raping women.  In the city of Betscherek the first Danube Swabians were arrested and imprisoned in a camp on Ocotber 5th.  At first it was the Swabians from Betscherek who were on the agenda of the Partisans, but there were also groups of Danube Swabians from the surrounding communities who were also brought here. 

  The numbers of prisoners who were brought to Betscherek were at the behest of the local Serb and Partisan leaders.  As an example, the commander at Betscherek requested sixty men from Lazarfeld. 

  The local commander there, a local Serb, had the courage, to send only half of the men he was ordered to send for which the commander in Betscherek was more than satisfied.  Of these thirty who were sent, fourteen of them were shot.  Those Swabians who were not delivered to the camps remained in their community, and then another group was taken to the camp.  A portion of them being sent to Betscherek at Christmas were sent to Russia instead.  All of the rest came to the camp in April 1945 as the total Swabian population was imprisoned in the camp. 

  It was at night when it was worste in the camp, with the hearings and selections and the shootings.  Those selected for the shootings at first were those who were well dressed, were physically strong or who through sickness were too weak to do any work.  There were not real rules or a pattern to the selections, it was a matter of filling the quota that had been set.  Those who were chosen were taken to a separate room, where they had to undress and were then tied to one another with wire in groups of four and taken to the old military firing range on the outskirts of Betscherek to be shot.  None of the Partisans had any measure of education and were determined to exterminate the “intelligentsia” of the Danube Swabians.  They would ask, Who happens to be a doctor?  A physician?  Druggist?  Merchant?  Teacher?  And so on.  People who had these professions were to report for lighter work because they were not suited for hard heavy work.  This trick often worked and many men fell victim to it. 

  Records were kept at the camp but the shootings in the protocols were simply identified as “died” after the person’s name along with the date.  This was a function of the camp administration office and carried out by Swabian inmates and they made the entries in the book of protocols under the direction of the Partisans.  I was assigned to the office for one week in mid-February 1945, but then the political commissar a woman Partisan had me removed.  But during that week I leafed through this book of protocols because I wanted to find out what had happened to my friends and family members, where they were, if they were still alive or if they had been sent to another camp, or had been shot or had died.  My own number in this book of protocols was 3214.  Through this glimpse in the book of protocols I learned that those I had been searching for who were well known to me and those of whom I had heard had all been shot and had simply “died” according to the recorder. 

  From this glimpse into the book of protocols it was obvious that very many people who were listed as having died had in fact been executed and shot.  For instance, on October 28, 1944 one hundred and fifty inmates had been shot, but in the protocol each one was listed as having simply died.  This was also true on other days in terms of smaller groups such as the thirty who were shot previously to that.  The shootings were always justified as reprisals.  Each day we had to assemble, sometimes more often and stand in the yard in the three columns.  We never knew the reason beforehand.  Sometimes it dealt with sending some of us to another community to work or some kind of detail the Partisans had in mind for us.  At such assemblies there were individuals chosen for the next shooting, and we would be told it was done “in reprisal”. 

  Through discussion with others in other camps I learned later that these shootings also took place at that time for the same reason, which indicates that the central leadership of the Partisans had set it in motion everywhere. 

  On Tuesday October 10th 1944 the German quarter of Betscherek was surrounded by the Partisans.  Groups of Partisans went from house to house, searched them and asked each person for their Legitimation (an official document of identity).  These documents were in both German and Serbian, that everyone had to have in which the nationality of the individual was stipulated which had been filled out during the German occupation. 

  All of the Swabian men, who were not yet in the camp and were found at home were led together in one of the side streets of the Market Place and mowed down by machine gun fire.  An eye witness shared this with me, who had been saved from the massacre by a Serb whom he had befriended for years and indicated that the victims had to undress their upper torsos, kneel down and where then shot. 

  The treatment the inmates received in the camp were as follows:  Reception into the camp was mostly by hefty kicks, boxing their ears and body punches.  Few were able to escape this.  Then the man was robbed of everything and anything of value and usually all he had left was the clothes he wore.  If he had good footwear of clothing it was either taken from him or it became a reason for him to be selected for a shooting.  It was assumed the man was rich and capitalist who needed to be liquidated.  With reception completed the inmate was then led to his quarters. 

  The cental camp at Betscherek was a burned down mill, two stories high.  A second camp was erected in November to accommodate the greater portion of the civilian population as women now were also imprisoned and interned. 

  In the three large rooms filled with machine parts the inmates were packed together in two story high bunks.  In each room there were about three hundred men accommodated, so that in all there were up to two thousand in the camp at all times.  In the smaller rooms in the mill were the women and children and the so-called ambulance, kitchen, storage area and office, and one room four the privileged inmates who worked in the kitchen and office or in other places in the camp. 

  No one was allowed outside of the room at night.  Because so many of them had dysentery, in each of the machine rooms there were two large barrels, and two people had to watch out that no spills took place.  On one occasion, all of the inmates had dysentery and the barrels overflowed and the two people who were called upon to make sure this did not happen were forced to lick it up in the morning for allowing it to happen. 

  At night when the people were exhausted and tired coming from work began the uncertainty whether one would live through the night or not in the face of the interrogations, tortures, beatings that always occurred at night.  For that reason the inmates in spite of their bodily weakness went to work in the morning with a sense of relief just to get out of the “nut house” in which they lived.  But with feelings of despair they returned once again in the evening to face it all over again. 

  On entering or leaving the camp there were always Partisans on the stockade around the courtyard standing on the stairs with ox hide belts with which they lit into in the inmates passing by them.  The inmates called this their normal dues. 

  Shootings occurred for all kinds unreasonable things.  The following is an example.  A tradesman from Betscherek who had to work privately in the city, usually came home later from his workplace by the time his comrades were all asleep.  Not wanting to awaken them from sleep, he lit a match in order to find his spot on the upper bunk.  A Partisan on the street outside noticed this light and came up to the room and asked, who had lit a match.  The tradesman acknowledged that he had and was made to come down off of his bunk and lie down on his stomach on the floor and the Partisan shot him in the nape of his neck right there in the room.  I witnessed this myself because I was in that room. 

The report of a friend of Michael Kristof who wishes to remain anonymous: 

  “I come from Grossbetscherek, Banat, Yugoslavia and on 04.10.1944 I was placed in the central camp in Grossbetscherek.  At that time we were only a few men in the camp.  I was placed in room number three.  In the afternoons I had to gather the horse manure in my hands and clean up the horse and stall.  In the night of October 4/5 I was awakened and called out to the yard and was forced to press my face up against the wall and was beaten and my head was banged against the wall, so that the bones in my nose were broken.

   Some time later they brought two of my comrades, Anton Hufnagel and I do not want to disclose the name of the other for good reasons.  Anton Hufnagel had been informed he had to go down into the courtyard.  He was so badly beaten that he was in a mental fog and he repeated all of the rude names that Partisans flung at him, and as a result they kept hitting him with their rifle butts.  After we were beaten and abused so badly we were led to the police in the city in a farmer’s wagon.  There we met other Swabian men from the city that we knew. 

  Hufnagel Anton was immediately taken into a room where his torture and mistreatment would continue, while a radio blared, harmonicas were playing along with violins so that his cries and screams could not be heard outside.  After a short period of time I was brought into the room.  I found Hufnagel lying on the floor totally motionless.  Now I had to completely undress.  Me feet were tied together and my hands were tied behind my back.  In this way I had to stand on a stool. I was whipped with ox hide belts by the Partisans until I fainted.  My flesh hung like pieces of rags from my body they poured cold water from a pail all over me.  As I came to I had to stand on the stool again.  At first I knelt on the stool and then I tried to stand up as my feet were still tied to one another. 

  The thrashing went into motion once more until I fainted and collapsed once again.  Cold water was poured all over me once again and then they rubbed salt into my wounds and I just lay there in my pain.  Now our third comrade came into the room he was put through the same torture I had endured.  During his torture, the hairs on my chest and between my legs were burned off by apply a burning kerosene soaked rag that they threw at me.  In my unconsciousness I felt the burning searing pain and saw the burning rags on me and turned on my side, so that the burning rag fell off of my chest onto my arm and burned my left arm.

   In the meanwhile Anton Hufnagel was beaten to death with their rifle butts.  Later worms infested my wounds that I healed through rubbing my own urine into my wounds for months, and also in Russia I did the same, because I was determined not to report sick because that would have meant that I would be shot.  This torment lasted two to three hours.  Afterwards our hands and feet were freed and we had to get dressed, and then our hands and feet were bound again, but in such a way that our hands were behind our backs tied to our feet with a rope.  We were trussed up like that for around eighteen hours until midnight with our open wounds that had been rubbed with salt, without being able to move to alleviate the terrible pain. 

  Around midnight our feet were untied and the three of us without Anton Hufnagel who was now dead were lead out of the room and had to climb on board a wagon with our hands still bound and were taken to the courtyard and headquarters of the Secret Police and handed over to them.  On arriving inside the three of us were tossed into a cell together.  Every night we were interrogated and beaten for several weeks.  For food we received two pieces of bread daily and some water.  Once a week we were shaved but it was hardly a pleasant experience.  After about three weeks all three of us were taken back to the central camp because they could not find prove we had done anything wrong that was worthy of further punishment. 

  At the Secret Police headquarters we were witnesses of the abuse of a woman named Zita by the Partisans and saw what happened to her through the window of our cell.  We saw how she had to dance naked on a table and then lie down on the table and part her legs for the Partisans who stuck the barrel of a revolver into her vagina and made her stand up and keep it inside of her.  She was then shot.  Through the window we also saw a young man of about twenty-eight years, whom none of us knew, whose penis they cut off while he was still alive and stuffed it into his mouth.  What happened to him after that we have no idea.  On being returned to central camp we were once again interrogated and beaten and tortured and we were constantly threatened with shooting.  I was put in a single cell in which three men lay unconscious.  My teeth were knocked in by the commander’s revolver and I was forced to swallow them, and the injuries I sustained killed the nerves.  One night we were locked into a very small cell for twelve hours so that none of us could find rest or move about and it became harder and harder for us to breathe and we were afraid of suffocation and we could not attempt to even fall down to find release because we were packed so tightly against each other. 

  After this night we were divided up in various cells.  After six days we were locked into a room with about thirty men, given a piece of bread and water and were not allowed to the leave the room.  We had to relieve ourselves in a barrel. 

  After eight days we were driven on foot to do labor.  We had to get up at 4:00am. Then we received some warm soup and now a larger piece of bread and when we returned from work in the evening we received another piece of bread and warm soup.  During the three weeks that my companions and I had been in the Secret Police prison and later imprisoned in the various cells in the central camp many men had been shot.  On December 28th 1944 I was taken along in the large transport of about one thousand eight hundred persons of which the vast majority were young women both married and single and sent to Russia.  There were no more than three hundred men among them.  In Russia I worked mostly in the coal mines until my release in 1949.” 


Ernsthausen 

  As in countless other communities in Yugoslavia during the fall of 1944 the Partisans established their Military Government in this former Danube Swabian community of some three thousand persons known as Ernsthausen and established a concentration camp here.  This camp received mostly Danube Swabians from the administrative district of Betscherek.  Several thousands of them ended up here.  The majority of them were women with small children.  Many of them died here as a result of the poor conditions under which they attempted survive.  But even greater numbers died as a result of being beaten to death, shot, slaughtered and tortured in gruesome ways. 

  Especially bloody was the massacre that took place on a Decemeber night.  On December 28th the high point of a Partisan celebration there was the massacre of thirty-eight innocent Danube Swabian men and women.  Two days before the festival on December 27th 1944 thirty-nine Swabian men and women from the concentration camp in Betscherek were brought to Ernsthausen in wagons.  They were elderly and sick persons.  When they arrived the camp commander ordered them to be imprisoned apart from the other Swabians and not allow them to come into contact with anyone.  As a result they were placed in a room of the Guesthouse once operated by George Schlitter.  One of these men, the former merchant Schag Ladislaus of Ernsthausen who was the father of a young daughter who had been working for the commander for some time was released from the group as a result of her pleas on his behalf.  He was taken from the Guesthouse and imprisoned with the other Swabians in the camp.  The remaining others were locked in the room for two days without any food or water. 

  On the afternoon of December 29th, one of the Swabian men who was housed in barracks close by the Guesthouse was ordered to bring sharp axes and hatchets to the place where the others were being held.  In a large hall the Partisans set up a large table on which they set the axes and hatchets.  During the evening there was a party involving Partisans and some Yugoslavian military personnel in the Guesthouse.  They made music, drank and laughed next to the room where the unwary waiting imprisoned Swabians were who could hear them.  Now that the Partisans were ready they brought in the thirty-four men and four women and led them into the room that had been prepared for their slaughter.  Long knives, hatchets and axes were on the table along with other instruments of torture.  With these tools of their trade they slaughtered one Swabian after another, both men and women as if they were swine in the presence and in the sight of many people.  Before slaughtering them they made fun of them and played hoaxes on them.  Some of them were offered a glass of wine to drink and as they took the glass to their lips their throat was slit with a long sharp knife.  They cut off parts of the bodies of some of the men and women with their knives and axes, chopped off their hands or fingers, chopped off their heads or massacred them in some other way.  The bodies of the Swabians were dreadfully dismembered.  Those who were not able to die on their own had their heads smashed in with axes.  Meanwhile the music was playing.  This celebration lasted until morning by which time the thirty-eight Swabian men and women had been liquidated.  Among the victims were many leading and well educated Swabians. 

  When the party was over, the hired hand of a neighboring farmer was ordered to come to the Guesthouse with a wagon and men from the concentration camp were called upon to assist him.  They had to shovel the dismembered corpses and internal organs on to the wagon and throw the other larger body parts on board and then drove the wagon under Partisan guard to the cemetery.  In other cases, liquidated Swabians were never buried in cemeteries, but in undisclosed places and mass graves.  The Partisans wanted these massacred victims buried nearby.  It was very cold at the time and the ground was frozen and it became obvious that digging a pit nearby was out of the question and the only alternative was the local cemetery.  There was large crypt in the cemetery built by the Solowich family before the war and by command of the Partisans it was opened.  The inmates from the camp were forced to throw in the corpses and body parts of their massacred fellow Swabians into the crypt.  The crypt was only partially closed, and later in the spring as it became warmer the whole area of the cemetery was rich with the foul odor and smell of the decomposing bodies.  This was not acceptable to the new Yugoslavian authorities.  They brought Swabian men from the concentration camp, and  under the leadership of Johann Merschbacher of Betscherek who was a contractor by trade sealed the crypt.  But all of the Swabians who had been involved in hiding the evidence of these deaths were threatened with death by the Yugoslalvian authorities if any of them brought this into the public light. 

  On the way to the cemetery some of the body parts fell off of the wagon so that a hand, or an eye or ear, a foot or something else was found.  In the hall of the Guesthouse there were large bloodstains and many small body parts were left behind.  These and the others that had fallen out of the wagon were swept into a pile as daylight arrived.  In the yard of Wilhelm Till’s house a huge fire was made and the assembled human flesh was burned.  The massacre had lasted until four in the morning, because at about that time the blood smeared butchers and murders went to one of the house next door to the Guesthouse and demanded warm water and washed the blood from their hands and faces and their boots.  Then they demanded a hearty breakfast and later went home to their own houses and families. 

  In the Ernsthausen concentration camp there were numerous other actions ordered by the Yugoslavian officials that resulted in the deaths of countless other Swabian women and men, many of them leaders in the Swabian community and well educated who also met similar gruesome deaths as individuals or in groups.  Some had their throats slit.  Others were tortured by the Partisans until they were dead. 

  Kirchner Elisabeth who was a very beautiful young girl was taken by the Partisans to their barracks one night after she had returned from doing forced labor and nothing further was ever heard from her again.  Her body was later buried by the Partisans beside the school garden. 


St. Georgen

  In November of 1944 drumbeats were heard throughout the streets of the village with the announcement that within half an hour all Danube Swabians were to report at the school. 

One woman who was there reports: 

  “I went with my there children.  Elfrieda was five months old.  When I arrived at the school and its yard it was filled with people.  The rooms in the school were divided in such a way that you had no idea of what was going on in the other.  Because of what we had heard about what had been going on throughout the surrounding area, each of us prepared ourselves for death.  We were locked in the school for seven days.  During this time our houses were plundered.  We learned later that this was also happening in other Danube Swabian communities.  But matters for them were worse than for us.  The people were driven on foot from Tschesterek to Hatzfeld and then back again to Selesch.  There they remained for nine days.  Then they were allowed to return home to their plundered houses.

  About two weeks after Christmas the men were taken to the camp at Betscherek.  Eventually, it was my turn.  I was thrashed, beaten and imprisoned for some time and then released. 

  In March of 1945 I was imprisoned for nine days at the military barracks in Betscherek.  I was thrashed with whips so badly that the blood ran down my legs.  Then they separated and tore me away from my three little children and taken to Cernje to the “political” camp there.  There I was imprisoned with countless other men and women until my escape in the fall of 1945. 

  From among the Swabians from St. Georgen:  thirty-two were sent to the labor camp in Semlin, one hundred and eighty were deported to Russia, sixty were sent to Betscherek, fifty-three were imprisoned at Elisenheim and fourteen were sent to Cernje. 

  On April 17, 1945 all of the remaining Swabians in St. Georgen were placed in local housing that served as a camp.  Many of the young married and unmarried women were sent to Mitrowitz where very many of them perished." 


Kathreinfeld

From the diary of a nursing sister: 

  “Kathreinfeld used to be a completely Danube Swabian community in the Banat whose prosperity and beauty was due to the industriousness and expertise of its inhabitants. 

  The German troops left our village at 9:00am on October 3, 1944.  We were told to quickly evacuate to ensure our safety.  But we hesitated, because of the arrival of the Russian troops in neighboring villages.  Old men and teenage boys we formed into a local defense formation, whose purpose was only known to us later.  They were to make a stand against the Russians at neighboring village to cover the German retreat.  Many of the young boys lost their lives there.  Since we had done nothing to merit any kind of retribution we did not think we had anything to fear. 

  My daughter and her three small children lived in a neighboring village.  My husband and I agreed that he would join our daughter and I would remain at home with our seventy-eight year old mother.  We thought it would be better this way, with my husband providing some protection to our daughter in such perilous times.  He left and I remained alone with my mother.  On that same night the first advance guard scouts of the Russian army reached our village.  They began to shoot indiscriminately, even though the streets were empty and everyone was hiding in the back of their houses.  I, myself had climbed up into the loft of the pig sty with my aged mother.  They banged at the doors and windows, and if the house was not opened to them, they broke in and took whatever they wanted. In this first night, countless girls and women were raped. 

  The next day the radios and all motors had to be turned in.  Those who did not comply would be shot.  The troops roamed about the village in groups confiscating proscribed items and raping women and girls for the next five days.  On the sixth day some Serbs from the Banat arrived to bring in a civilian government of sorts.  These young Partisan thugs who were heavily armed, wildly shot up the village outdoing the Russians by far.  At night they broke into our homes and whoever objected in any way was knocked down and beaten.  If anyone came to their aid they had worse to contend with.  At night I made my way through the gardens into the houses to provide first aid, to those with wounds and those almost beaten to death.  For those who needed more help than I could provide, I told the doctor who like myself provided medical help even though it was forbidden for him to do so.  When night came, no one knew if they would live to see the next day.  To a great extent most the people did not sleep in their own homes, but rather in the smaller and poorer homes.  Usually twenty persons assembled in such a home to spend the night together and not risk being alone in their own homes.  One night twenty-five women and girls assembled in the house next door to us, to sleep there overnight.  They became aware that one of the women was breathing heavily as if she were dieing.  They put the light on.  One of the women saw that she had slashed her wrists and was bloody all over.  She wanted to die because they would be killed anyway.  “They will drag off my daughter.  I would rather not live to see that . . .” 

  The nightly visits of the Partisans continued on end.  The cruelties they inflicted on our people are hard to describe.  Of the satanic thinking and actions of the Partisans and the sufferings of their victims through torture and killings I will record in only as a few examples of what we had to endure. 

  Our village Richter (local community leader) Josef Topka was called out of his home into his yard at night.  His wife had to remain in bed.  For half of an hour they thrashed and beat him into unconsciousness and then tossed him into the room where his wife was forced to remain in bed.  When they left, she put on a light and he was still able to say the words, “And now I must die.”  Then he died.  His whole body was a mass of lash and whip marks and his neck bore deep cuts from wire.  They had choked him with the wire to prevent him from screaming.  In the same night, two other houses had visitors like that.  In one home they beat a man to death, at another they threw the man to the earth and knelt on top of him and hit him until he was dead.  Then they also brought out his wife.  Tore off all of her clothes and whipped her with ox hide whips and bashed her with their rifle butts.  When here back was black and blue they turned her around and proceeded to do the same to the front of her body. 

  Among all of the concentration camps in Yugoslavia, the camp in Kathreinfeld would be among the most notorious.  At first the camp was for the sick, elderly and others who were unable to work and prisoners of war who were in the same condition.  Several thousand Danube Swabians mostly from the area around Betscherek were brought here.  They were treated very badly here, and those who were able to work were sent to forced labor.  In a very short time over six hundred Swabian inmates died.  Many, many others died as a result of gruesome beatings, torture and shootings and all kinds of other cruel deaths after much suffering by their victims. 

  In November 1944 the Partisans brought one thousand two hundred of the elderly and the children from Betscherek to Kathreinfeld.  They had to come on foot and were driven like cattle by the guards using whips on them.  Those unable to keep on moving were beaten and thrown in a ditch.  They were locked up in the school and after two days they were quartered in the houses of the village and were fed and looked after by the people of Kathreinfeld until April 18th in 1945.  They were elderly and sickly people who could no longer take the rigors of slave labor.  Kathreinfeld was now an internment camp for those unable to work.  But later some of those who had regained their health somewhat were reclassified and sent off to forced labor elsewhere.  Mothers who had still managed to be with their children, as well as younger grandmothers were taken away and torn from their children and they had leave them behind to find their own destiny.  Those chosen to do labor had to work out in the fields all winter.  All of their good clothing had been taken from them and they were now clothed in rags.  They wrapped their feet in these rags as well.  In the evenings they walked home in their wet or frozen rags and spent the night in unheated rooms or cellars.  Those who were sick in other camps were also brought to Kathreinfeld.  As a further result Kathreinfeld became an Internment Camp for the sick.  There was only one doctor in the village but he was strictly forbidden to provide care for them in any way. 

  Most of the sick came from the camps in Betscherek and the airport camp in Etschka.  They were filled with lice and their bodies were emaciated from dysentery.  Many of them had frozen fingers and toes, while others had suffered frozen limbs.  Their skin just hung from their bones.  Among the sick there were countless men and women who were simply suffering from the after effects of the brutal treatment they had received.  Nikolaus Schneider from Pardanj had escaped from his camp because he had been gruesomely tortured and headed back to his home village.  There he was captured again and sent to Kathreinfeld.  They had tied his hands and feet behind his back and left him on a wagon for the whole trip and would not let him down to stretch but often hit him with lead pipes and canes.  When they arrived with him in Kathreinfeld, he was beyond recognition.  The upper part of his head was terribly swollen with blood streaming down his cheeks, his eyes were swollen shut and black and blue like the rest of his face.  His hands and feet were the same as well as all of the bruises on his body. 

  On December 26th an order was issued at 10:00pm.  Orders always came at night.  All women from the ages of eighteen to thirty-five years and all men up to the age of forty-five were ordered to report in two hours at the community center.  They were then deported to Russia.  As a result only the elderly and the children remained in the village.  Many of the children including the very young were left alone.  Many small children no longer had a grandmother to rely on either.  Those men who were not taken to Russia because they were too old, were now driven into the camp. 

  The Partisans under the leadership of their political commissars were unbelievably bestial as the year 1945 began.  Long after the war had ended in our area a group of old and sick Swabian men were brought to Kathreinfeld from the camp in Cernje because they were no longer of any use as slave labor.  They were not in as bad shape as were others who had arrived here.  They could still sit upright in the wagons. The military commander of Kathreinfeld had been informed of their coming and their arrival.  He then immediately made arrangements so that these new inmates would not have any contact with the other prisoners.  He had them locked up in one of the rooms in the school.  It was soon clear to everyone in the camp that his group of people would be part of some kind of Partisan experiment.  A group of Partisans headed up to the school where the prisoners awaited an unknown fate.  The political commissar of the Partisans hurried away to get a concertina.  As he returned with his musical instrument the Partisans roamed around the room where the Swabian men were imprisoned.  The political commissar began to play the concertina and his Partisan cohorts began to beat the men, and a lesson in murdering human beings began.  The men screamed terribly in great pain and the commissar simply played louder on the concertina so that they could not be heard. 

  The political commissar wanted to give his men the opportunity to once and for all get their blood lust out of their system and satisfied by killing these poor defenseless human beings.  Experiments were made on how to kill a person without a knife or gun for instance.  Each of the Swabian men in turn was thrown to the floor so that their face and stomach was on the floor and their backs faced upwards.  Then the Partisans took their rifles and used the butt to smash the men in their backs around their kidneys in order to injure them.  Those who became unconscious were picked up by the head and feet and were tossed into the air and then crashed to the floor.  Then they jumped on them in their heavy boots.  For this purpose they dragged in a table.  They climbed up on it and then jumped down on the bodies of the men in their heavy work boots with the object of breaking their ribs.  Some of the men had their genitals torn off.  This torture lasted for several hours.  A few of them who still showed signs of life were smashed in the head with rifle butts or pieces of timber.  But during it all, the commissar played the concertina and egged the Partisans on.  When none of the Swabians were alive and the Partisans had become weary, they finally left.  But they left the bodies of the Swabians in the school. 

  However, not all of them were dead, Nikolaus Schirado was only unconscious.  He had broken ribs, a fractured skull and severe internal injuries.  Close to evening he regained consciousness and was able to escape. 

  In the same night the Partisans also beat and abused women in various houses.  They also tore off the genitals of Georg Bisching.  He still had enough strength to drag himself to the attic and hang himself to end his pain and suffering.  His wife was beaten with steel rods and whips and was unable to walk.  Another woman in the neighborhood who heard the screams opened a window to look out on the street.  Unfortunately for her the Partisans noticed and they proceeded to beat her unmercifully, so that she never walked again.  Her husband was still in their house and lay dieing.  He was tortured terribly and his genitals were trampled.  He was unconscious and died after three days.  In this way and manner under the leadership of the political commissars countless Swabian men and women met a gruesome end.  But the above examples demonstrate and describe their favorite methods.  

  But many Swabian women were murdered and put to death in the camp.  These too met their deaths in the above manner having their stomachs trampled, their ribs broken and rifle butt blows to their kidneys.  Exceptionally gruesome were the tortures inflicted on Magdalena Lisching and her death.  The teacher from the neighboring village of Ernsthausen Anna Dinjer was dragged off with several other women and thirty-four Swabian men to the Guesthouse of Georg Schlitter where they were all slaughtered and butchered with axes and hatchets by the Partisans at one of their celebrations. 

  The remaining population of Kathreinfeld was driven into the camp on April 18th 1945.  Up until this time, for the past six months, the elderly, children and the sick and those who were unable to work were brought from other camps to Kathreinfeld, but most of us villagers were still in our own homes.  Now it was our turn.  At 6:00am on April 18th the drumbeats were heard throughout our village and all of us were ordered to meet in the churchyard.  Later in the afternoon all of us were brought to the school.  The benches were gone and the rooms were empty.  In each of the classrooms they stuffed up to one and fifty persons for an overnight stay.  The children were terrified and screamed all night.  We received watery soup as our only nourishment.  Our houses were being emptied and all of our possessions were being piled up and sorted.  As a group of homes was emptied the former occupants returned along with countless others designated by the Partisans.  Straw was scattered on the floors to serve as a sleeping place.  All of those who were able to work were sent to slave labor or to a forced labor camp in the vicinity.  Mothers and grandmothers were separated from the children once again leaving the poor children to their own devices.  Later, “settlers” from Serbia arrived in our village and took over our homes and chose whatever furnishings happened to take their fancy. 

  On October 30, 1945 all of the elderly, sick, children and those unable to work were driven to the school late at night and the next morning were taken to the railway station and packed into cattle cars.  At noon the train left the station with none of the passengers having any idea of where they were going.  That night the train came to a halt at Knicanin (Rudolfsgnad).  Here everyone had to detrain and were housed in various houses of the community.  In former days the local population was three thousand.  The houses had now stood empty for a whole year and were in disrepair.  Every day new transports of Danube Swabians arrived, so that eventually there were twenty-four thousand people in the camp.  The houses were packed with people and straw covered the floors where they slept.  From among all of those who were brought to Kathreinfeld until it was closed and the surviving inmates sent to Rudolfsgnad seven hundred and seventy in all had perished. 


[Edited and Published at DVHH.org by Jody McKim Pharr Sep 2006]