Danube Swabian History
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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 Southern Banat  
"A Bloodbath Without Borders"

Kovin

  Hundreds of years previously Danube Swabian colonists had established what began a major community on the north bank of the Danube where formerly the Turkish fortress Semendria had stood in the midst of a swamp.  It was known as Kovin and five thousand Danube Swabians lived here.  But in the region about Kovin there were other large Swabian settlements at Ploschitz, Mramorak, Bavanischte, Homolitz, Startschevo and others whose population numbered in the thousands. 

  The new People’s Democratic Yugoslavian government of Tito and the Partisans systematically exterminated in excess of ten thousand Danube Swabian men, women and children living in this region.  The able bodied men from fifteen years and older in these communities were to a great extent shot or beaten to death.  Thousands of young Swabian women, both married and single were dragged off from their families and young mothers from their children and were taken to Russia as forced labor.  Not a single teenage girl or women returned home in good health.  The remaining Swabian population was relentlessly driven out of their homes and lost all of their property.  Everything they had was taken away from them.  Even the shoes and clothes that they wore that were demanded from them were handed over to the Partisans.  Now wearing only rags they were dragged off to concentration camps in the region of Kovin.  This provided the setting later for the deaths of thousands of them, either as individuals or in groups who were liquidated by the Partisans who slaughtered, beat, shot, tortured or performed other gruesome deeds that led to their deaths, while others were simply left to die of starvation.  Not a single Swabian was left to live in Kovin or the other communities in this region. 

  On October 13, 1944 the leading Swabians of Kovin were taken from their homes and were put to death in gruesome ways.  Among these first victims was Josef Fitschelka who operated a soda factory.  He had to undress until he was naked in the yard of the former landowner Franz Schneider and then he was brutally abused.  The Partisans took a two handed saw, held him down on his back and sawed their way through his body across his chest and stomach from left to right while he was still living.  He screamed terribly.  After him similar gruesome methods were used in killing the other rich people.  Among them was the entire family of the estate owner Franz Schneider. 

  Immediately following this the Partisans began to arrest all of the remaining Swabian men in Kovin.  They were all imprisoned and for days they were fearfully tortured.  Early in the morning at 2:00am on October 19th two hundred and eighty of these men were shot at the slaughtering range.  Four German prisoners of war were also executed with them.  Twenty other men who were shot later had been forced to dig the mass grave at the execution site.  When the pit was dug they were ordered to move back fifty paces from it and lie down sideways.  The two hundred and eighty selected victims and the four German prisoners of war were fettered and led there and were forced to undress and in groups of ten they were ordered to lie down in the pit.  Whoever disobeyed was fearfully abused.  Once the men were lying in the pit that Partisans shot them from above.  Then the next group had to lie down on top of the dead and severely wounded naked men and they were shot in the same manner.  This went on like this until all of the men had been liquidated.  The twenty men who were kept waiting, then shoveled earth over the dead and badly wounded men until the mass grave was completely covered over. 

On October 20, 1944 another one hundred and five Swabians from Kovin were shot in the same manner. 

  Now that most of the men from Kovin had been exterminated, the Swabians from the vicinity now had the full attention of the Partisans.  Day after day, long columns of Swabians from the surrounding district came by wagon and on foot.  They were fettered and badly beaten and bloodied.  They were put in the camp at Kovin and for days they were terribly tortured before they too suffered the same fate as the Swabians from Kovin. 


Ploschitz

  Before the war over one thousand three hundred Danube Swabians lived in Ploschitz.  When the Partisans took power they arrested and imprisoned many of the Swabians.  On October 14th the Partisans had a party at the local village pub with music and dancing.  It was Sunday.  Next to the inn, in various rooms in the community center the Swabians were imprisoned.  Around midnight a pack of Partisans got their commander to allow them to get some of the Swabians from over in the community center.  The first was Martin Repmann the rich butcher.  He was led to the office of the community center.  Without any reason at all, and pure bravado, a woman Partisan hacked off the finger of his one hand with a sword in the presence of the village authorities.  Following that another Partisan severed his hand up to his wrist.  Other Partisans drew out their knives and stabbed him while at the same time they bashed in his head with their rifles.  Gypsies later dragged his body out to the dump and buried him were dead animals were left to rot. 

  The second victim to be brought in was a married woman, Lina Klein.  She was stripped naked by the drunken Partisans, who dragged her out to the yard of the community center.  The Partisans crowded around her and stabbed her with a knife in the area of her vagina, and hacked off a finger of her one hand.  They broke her other hand.  They were still not satisfied with their bloody handiwork.  They stabbed her numerous times around the throat.  She bled profusely, but was still not dead.  Only after a drunk Gypsy stabbed her in the back with a long knife did she finally collapse.  In the presence of some two hundred witnesses, mostly Serbian Partisans and Gypsies her body was dragged to the well where more Partisans used her corpse for target practice with their pistols. 

  Their third victim that night was Ernst Schreiber the watchmaker.  He was literally butchered by the Partisans with their knives.  Now that the Partisans had quenched their lust for blood on their Swabian victims they went on with their party at the pub.  On the following day the arrest of the other Swabians in Ploschitz continued.  These prisoners were fearfully tortured and abused over the next several days and then on October 19th they were force marched over to Kovin.  At that camp they were badly mistreated and beaten and individually or in groups they were killed. 

  On October 23 there were only forty-two Swabians still alive in Ploschitz.  On that day they were fettered and driven on foot to the dump and shot there.  The method of their liquidation was a carbon copy of the procedures used several days before in the shooting of the Kovin Swabians.  Among the victims from Ploschitz was the photographer Stefan Luftikus.  While they were being forced to undress and be fettered, he called out to the Partisans, “During the four year occupation by the Germans we protected and defended you Serbs and nothing happened to a single one of you.  And now, in thanks for that you now want to kills us?”  Right after speaking these words he was killed.


Mramorak

  Mramorak was one of the two largest Lutheran Danube Swabian communities in the Banat along with Franzfeld. 

  After the Partisans had taken the Swabians from Ploschitz to Kovin large numbers were also taken in fetters from Mramorak.  These too had earlier been driven out of their homes by the Partisans and imprisoned.   After horrendous abuse by the Partisans, hundreds of Swabians from Mramorak were driven on foot to the Serbian village of Bavanischte where they again were mistreated, beaten and tortured and on October 20th they were shot en masse.  After that the surviving arrested Swabian men and women in Mramorak were taken to Kovin.  All day long they were newly tortured in horrendous new ways and some among them were murdered.  On October 28th thirty-seven women and teenage girls from Mramorak were shot.  Prior to their execution they were beaten and tortured unmercifully in the jail at Kovin and stripped of all of their clothes because the Partisans wanted them for their own wives and girlfriends.  They force marched the naked women and girls, beating and thrashing them along the way to the place of execution, the local dump and animal cemetery.  Others had been forced to shovel out a mass grave for them.  They, like the men, the day before them were driven to the mass grave awaiting them.  They too had to lie down in the grave as the men had and then they were shot.  Any who resisted were shot on the spot and tossed down among the other naked women and girls who had preceded them.  Among the young girls was Susi Harich one of the most popular girls in Mramorak.  At first she was simply shot and badly wounded to make her suffer.  She called up to her executioners, “Shoot me in the head,” and a Partisan stepped forward and killed her with one shot of his pistol. 


Homolitz

    In one day, October 22, 1944 the Partisans killed two hundred and eighty-seven Danube Swabians including very many children in the village of Homolitz.  Thirteen year old Knabe Moradolf was among them.  They were all taken from their homes, one at a time, imprisoned in the town hall and mistreated and abused.  The next morning they were fettered and then driven on foot to the brickyards at dawn.  There they had to strip themselves of all of their clothes and then in groups they were driven to a large pit that had been used in the production of bricks.  There they were encircled by Partisans who mowed them down with machine guns and their bodies were thrown into the pit. 


 

Startschevo

    As the first of their extermination efforts in Startschevo the Partisans proceeded much as they did at the same time in the entire district around Kovin and arrested and killed ten of the leading Swabians who lived there.  A few days later, all men fifteen years of age and over were driven together at the local Guesthouse at night, and were fearfully tortured and abused over a period of time as was true in all of the other Swabian communities in the district.  At a later date, all of them had to strip naked and leave their shoes and clothes in the Guesthouse.  The Partisans bound them to one another with wire and before dawn the naked prisoners were force marched to the place of execution and old brickyard with constant beatings and thrashing from whips along the way.  Near a large pit they were forced to halt.  Under the pressure of the constant beatings of the Partisans with their rifle butts, groups were forced to the edge of the pit and were shot before sunrise.  Not a single man from the age of fifteen upwards was left alive in Startschevo.  Among the victims was one of the leading Swabians in the village, whose family does not want his name to be mentioned and his two sons.  While the father was wired together with his oldest son, his younger son, not yet fifteen years old was bound to a very physically large man.  The method of shooting used by the Partisans was simultaneous and directed at whole groups and this large man was hit and fell headlong into the pit.  At the same time he pulled the young boy in after him who had not been hit by the spray of bullets all around him.  Other naked dead men and badly wounded others fell on top of both of them.  After the shooting ended, the Partisans and the Gypsies who had also beaten some of the Swabians to death, left without filling in the mass grave.  The young boy made use of the blood running all over him from the others to free himself from his fetters.  He crawled out of the grave and left quickly stark naked.  He found sanctuary with some relatives and a few weeks later he left Startschevo and found safety and a hiding place in Pantschowa. 


Bavanischte

  From the village of Bavanischte there were also Danube Swabians who had been fearfully tortured by the Partisans and taken to Kovin in fetters in October of 1944.  They suffered the same fate as all of the other Swabians in the district of Kovin and were treated brutally and shot.  Especially gruesome was the fate of Swabian women and young teenage girls.  On October 29, 1944 the Partisans put to death twelve young girls and women from Bavanischte at the dump outside of Kovin.  They had been imprisoned in the courthouse at Kovin from the time of their arrival from Bavanischte and had been there for some time.  They had been molested and abused fearfully.  On the night of October 29th the Partisans took them out of their place of imprisonment and stripped them of their clothes.  Most of the teenage girls were from among the prettiest in the area and the married women were among the healthiest.  The Partisans wanted to rape the prettiest among them, Julianna Dines who was eighteen years old.  But she resisted with all of her might and strength against the attempts the Partisans and Gypsies made to rape her and she screamed frightfully.  In their fury because they were unable to achieve their goal, the Partisans took a pair of pliers, held her down and tore out a piece of flesh just above her vagina and she began to bleed profusely.  During that same night all of the women and young girls were fettered, stripped naked and driven on foot to the place of execution and shot.  But Julianna was first shot in the foot to make her suffer and left to lie there beside the grave.  The young Swabian was brave to the end and called out to the Partisans who were mostly Gypsies to shoot her in the head.  Which one of them finally did.


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

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