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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 by Jody McKim, Sep. 2006
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3

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 South Western Banat
"Wholesale Murder"

Pantschowa

  The largest community in the southern Yugoslavian Banat is located where the Tisza and Danube Rivers meet, the site of the city of Pantschowa (Pancevo).  It is the oldest settlement in the Banat.  Along with the Danube Swabian inhabitants there were numerous other nationalities:  Serbians, Romanians, Slovaks and Hungarians that lived together in peace and harmony for two hundred years.  Because of their almost inborn sense of the value of work and industriousness the Danube Swabian population secured for themselves a high standard of living, even though they lived under various forms of government during that history with different attitudes toward them.  Up to the beginning of the Second World War the city of Pantschowa had a population of twenty-five thousand, among whom the Danube Swabians numbered twelve thousand persons.  The Swabians were the mainstay of the local economy and industry and several thousand other Danube Swabians lived in the numerous villages that surrounded or were in the vicinity of the city. 

  The Russian army arrived in this region in the first days of the month of October 1944.  Under their protection communist Partisans seized power and inaugurated a gruesome reign of terror.  All of those who appeared to be opponents or a threat to communism were meant for extermination.  This meant not only the followers of General Nedic, but  the Royalist Serbians the Chetniks of Drascha Michailowitz not to mention the Danube Swabians who were to be totally and systematically liquidated.  Of the approximately forty thousand Danube Swabians in Pantoschowa and its vicinity, only a few thousand had fled or been evacuated by the German forces.  The others remained with a clear conscience and did so without fear.  They had absolutely no idea of what lay ahead for them.  They were all to be exterminated, simply because they were of German origin, and today not a single Danube Swabian lives in this region or has possession of his home and property there. 

  As soon as they came to power the Partisans began the arrest and liquidation of the leading and most esteemed Swabian men.  The first victims were the well-to-do whose property and possessions the Partisans wanted for themselves.  All of these Swabians were imprisoned in the so-called “old stockade” which was part of the district prison complex.  But in addition, thousands of Swabians from the surrounding vicinity, both men and women of “standing” were brought here and were tortured unmercifully for days.  Whenever the Partisans had a thirst for blood, desired sadistic pleasure or were drunk they would call for victims from among the innocent, defenseless, chained and fettered Swabians in order to kill them and watch them die.  They would be dragged out of the packed cells of the prison as individuals or in groups for no reason at all and be subjected to unimaginable cruelties until the Partisans had their fill or grew tired of it.  Just as in other regions of the Banat, the victims were thrown to the floor and the Partisans would use their rifle butts on their backs always aiming for their kidneys, and turned them over and did the same against their chest to break their ribs, bash in their teeth with their revolvers and break their nose.  Many, many Swabians never recovered from this personal abuse. 

  Only after several days were the Partisans satisfied with their efforts at torturing their victims and believed that this method of liquidation would take too long, so they began to form the Swabians into groups and fetter them and drive them on foot out of the prison to be shot in groups.  But beforehand the victims had to give up all of their clothes and underwear until they were naked.  In this way one thousand six hundred and sixty-six fettered Danube Swabians were led away from this camp prison, usually at night and vanished without a trace.  Most of them were led out on to the road that led the way to the village of Jabuka or they were shot at the airport.   Nearby a factory close to the airport there were twelve huge mounds still visible in 1946.  They are the mass graves of large groups of Danube Swabian victims who were shot and buried here.  All of these groups consisted of one hundred or more victims.  But many others also died in the prison camp itself. 

  One of the first victims of the bloody People’s Democratic regime was a young school boy Franz Maierhoefer.  A Serbian woman wanted to revenge herself on the boy’s parents who had offended her in some way.  When the Partisans came to power in Pantschowa she believed she could achieve her goal.  She did not ask for the death of the parents, but she requested that the almighty Partisans to kill their only innocent and unwary child.  The Partisans immediately acted on her request and tore the child from his parent’s arms and in a short time afterwards shot him.  The first of those who died as a result of ongoing brutal and gruesome torture in the prison camp was the Lutheran pastor and Dean of the Pantschowa Lutheran Church District Wilhelm Kund.  Following the martyrdom of the Lutheran bishop, Philipp Popp who was hanged by the Partisans in Agram, Wilhelm Kund was the leading Lutheran pastor in Yugoslavia.  The Partisans tortured him for two hours in the punishment cell in the prison camp simply because he was a pastor.  He too endured punches and rifle butts in the area of his kidneys on his back.  The struck him across the face with canes and steel rods and broke the bridge of his nose.  Then they threw him to the floor.  They took turns jumping on his stomach with all of their might and broke three of his ribs.  Through this abuse and torture he was a bloody mess and covered with blood everywhere and had severe internal injuries when they were finished.  Later he died of his injuries.  The well known lawyer, Dr. Hans Leitner from Kowatschitza was also brought here to the prison camp and after enduring much torture he later died as a result of it. 

  As time went on, the Partisans brought more and more Swabian men as well as many leading Swabian women from the city of Pantschowa and the numerous communities in the vicinity to the prison camp and after most of them survived untold cruelties and abuse at the hands of the Partisans, the mass shootings began.  The first mass shooting took place on October 16, 1944.  On that day, one hundred and eighty Swabian men were bound and led from the camp and they were forced to undress and when they were naked they were shot on the road to Jabuka.  During this action, particularly new versions of gruesomeness were inaugurated by the Partisans and Gypsies. The Swabians were pushed forward towards the mass grave in groups by the Partisans or had to immediately lie down naked in the pit and were then shot.  Whoever resisted was badly beaten or simply shot standing there.  Anton Geier, just after he had undressed was run through with one of the spades used to dig the grave by a Gypsy and his entrails hung out and he lay there in great pain until he was thrown into the grave while still alive.  The Partisans also killed the watchmaker Michael Eichart in the most gruesome way.  They threw him to the ground and proceeded to cut out three of his ribs while he was alive and then tossed him down into the grave with the other Swabians and left him there to suffer for a long time.   

  Equally gruesome things were done on October 18th when another one hundred and eighty Swabians who were driven out of the camp with their hands bound were shot.  This was followed by three hundred more on October 20th among them were some German prisoners of war.  On October 22nd they killed thirty men and one woman.  So it went on and on to mid November.  On November 9th the former member of parliament   and lawyer Dr. Simon Bartmann whom everyone knew was a convinced Yugoslavian patriot and never a Nazi was shot along with eighty-three other Swabians.  Among these victims were included eleven women and the dentist Dr. Hauber and the lawyer Dr. Bartosch.  The others were members of the intelligentsia and prosperous people.  There was a procedure that was followed by the Partisans with regard to the shootings.  On the day of the planned execution the Partisans went from cell to cell with a list and called out the victim’s name.  The victim had to step forward out of the cell.  In this way the eighty-four Swabian men and women were assembled in the yard.  They were immediately surrounded by Partisans and were beaten with rifles and wooden stakes.  Then they were bound with rope or wire to one another and were driven out of the camp and were thrashed and beaten on their way to execution.  These victims like the others before them were forced to the mass grave after undressing and met their deaths either by shooting or some other gruesome invention of individual Partisans. 

  On November 11, 1944 the Partisans drove out all of the Danube Swabians still living in Pantschowa from their homes including the women and children and brought them to the prison camp.  Everything that the Swabians possessed was to be left behind or anything they still had was taken away from them.  Three thousand and twenty-four of them were then brought to the camp at Brestowatz where there were already over seven thousand inmates.  There, in a very short period of time, four hundred of them died.  The Swabian women here were driven to do forced hard labor during the winter.  Here large numbers of Swabians were put to death or terribly abused and tortured.  About one thousand of the younger women and teenage girls were delivered to the Russians for slave labor in the Soviet Union with the compliments of the Yugoslavian government at the end of 1944.  Not a single one of them was healthy when they returned home, if they returned.  The Partisans also dragged off women and teenage girls from the camp in Brestowatz and to this day no trace of any has ever been found.  The father of one of the abducted girls, Suchi Dominik demanded to know what became of her.  The Partisans punished him gruesomely for his audacity.  The held a burning candle directly beneath his nostrils and under his tongue that they pulled out and then crushed his genitals. 

  In the fall of 1945, three thousand seven hundred and eighty-four Swabians, mostly women and children who had lived in Pantschowa who were in the camp at Brestowatz were shipped to large concentration camp at Rudolfsgnad.  For the Swabians from Pantschowa this meant another mass extermination.  By the summer of 1946 only one thousand eight hundred and eighty-four of them had survived.  More than half of them, one thousand nine hundred starved to death that first winter.  But the Swabian men and women from Pantschowa who were not sent to Brestowatz and Rudolfsgnad, but had been kept back in the camp in Pantschowa continued to be exterminated.  They were constantly undernourished and forced to do hard labor.  Those who became weak or sick or injured were shot by the Partisans or bludgeoned to death.  The sick, frail and those others unable to work were often executed in large groups.  On December 11, 1944 sixty-eight sick Swabians along with invalid war veterans from the entire district of whom thirty-two were from the community of Brestowatz were shot.  They were liquidated because one could not expect any labor out of their broken bodies nor were they then of any value.  The cheapest way to deal with the burden they posed was to shoot them.  The invalids also lie buried on the road that still leads to Jabuka. 

  Many of the inmates at the camp in Pantschowa were taken to other camps to do heavy labor and were liquidated there.  Many of them were sent to the camp in Semlin, the so-called show place camp erected for the Danube Swabians.  Many thousands of Swabian men and women met their deaths there.


Brestowatz

  Like Kathreinfeld so also Brestowatz was a community in which Swabian men and women were brought who were sick and otherwise unable to work from various other camps in the District.  The sick from Pantschowa were also brought here.  Not all such transports bearing the sick arrived in Brestowatz.  One survivor of such a transport testified: 

  “I was in Pantschowa for only one day when a friend encouraged me to report sick.  I would be sent to Brestowatz and would not be required to do any heavy work like I would if I remained in Pantoschowa.  Because I had relatives in Brestowatz I followed my friend’s advice.  But I also had the feeling that perhaps it would be better to stay in Pantoschowa in spite of the hard work.  I thought that it was more probable that those unable to work had a greater chance of extermination than the able bodied.  But still, I reported in sick. 

  When the transport was assembled there was no place for me on the wagon.  Because of the lack of space eighty-three others and I had to remain behind.  The evening of that day all of those who had not accompanied the transport were told to report in.  We were told to reconsider going to Brestowatz.  Even if one was sick, but was still able to work it might be better to stay in Pantschowa.  I joined those who decided to remain even though I wanted to go to Brestowatz.  Twenty of us remained in Pantschowa.  The rest were then sent to Brestowatz.  At least that is what was said.  They never arrived there.  They were taken to Alibunar and shot and buried there.” 

  The Brestowatz internment camp was later closed and its inmates were sent to Rudolfsgnad.  A great portion of those inmates from Brestowatz who declared that they were unable to work died there of hunger while others were put to death. 


Glogau

  In the earliest days of Partisan rule numerous Danube Swabian men were arrested and taken away to Sefkerin or Kowatschitza.  Many of them were shot in a field along the way.  An eyewitness reports: 

  “In the second half of October (1944) I was taken to the town hall along with a friend and we were imprisoned.  As we entered our cell, we found six other prisoners of whom some were badly beaten.  One of them had his hand cut off.  Among these men there was Anton Gloeckner from St. Georgen and a man from Ernsthausen by the name of Rotten.  I was released with two others but the others were sent to Sefkerin on foot.  Not far from out of town the Partisan guard took them to a field and shot them with his machine pistol.  One of the men went down before he was hit and feigned death.  When he noticed the guard was approaching his victims he saw that he shot each man in the head and placed his own arm over his head and when the Partisan shot him and moved on, the wound was lodged in his protecting arm and had grazed his cheek and outer ear. 

  As the sentry left, the man stood up and tried to stop the bleeding and thought of going to the village and go into hiding and let his wound heal.  As he came to the end of the field a woman Partisan who was without any weapon came along the path and asked what had happened to him.  He ignored her and rested under a tree and waited for the Partisan to leave.  When the Partisan was out of sight he gathered together the last of his strength and was able to reach a house at the outskirts of the village.  He was hidden in the house and a doctor came secretly.  A few days later he was arrested again and taken to the prison camp operated by the Secret Police in Kowatschitza.” 

  On October 30th the Partisans arrested and apprehended forty-six persons including the local priest, Knappe.  Their hands were bound and they were taken to a nearby hill close to the village.  There they had to strip naked.  At the intervention of some of the local Serbs three of the Swabians were allowed to return home, but the others and the priest were shot.  But before they were shot they had to dig their own graves. 

  Many of the men from Glogau worked at the airport in Opovo.  One of the liquidation commando brigades arrived on October 30th in many of the Banat villages in the area to carry out mass extermination actions against the Danube Swabian population.  They also put in an appearance at the airport.  The men who came from various communities in the area were asked individually who they were (what nationality), and any who responded that they were Swabians were immediately set aside and shot.  Because of knowing that, some of the Swabians who spoke good Serbian or Romanian pretended not to be Swabians and got away with it.  In total there were one hundred and eighty-three men from Glogau who were shot in the fall of 1944. 

  A man from Betscherek who had joined the evacuation and then changed his mind reports the following: 

  "From the 4th to the 7th of October 1944 I hid out in Glogau which is close to Pantschowa and I was a civilian at the time.  While I was in hiding I learned that the local officials indicated they would provide documentation to anyone who was going back to their home community.  On October 7th I went to the town office in Glogau.  There without a word I was arrested and locked up.  In prison I found three other Swabians who had been arrested just like me.  In the afternoon we were all brought to Sefkerin on foot where we met another twelve men at the school.  At our first sight of the twelve men their appearance was almost grotesque from the beatings they had obviously suffered.  They had been imprisoned here for several days and every local revenge seeking Serbian civilian could work out their rage on the twelve victims. 

  On October 8th 1944 the civilian population was ordered to deliver up oats and grain.  The Serbian farmers brought wheat and maize and we had to unload the wagons.  We carried sacks weighing sixty to seventy kilograms from early morning until late at night and for that we received gruesome beatings rather than any food.  Every civilian and even the night watchman could beat us as often and as long as they wanted.  Some of us still had good shoes, but these were now taken away from us.  On October 9th 1944 we had the same work assignment and received more beatings than the day before.  In these two days we once received fifty grams of bread.  In the evening around 7:00pm three armed Partisans came and ordered five of us to come with them.  We were led to the forest which is about two miles distant from the village if Sekferin.  We were not forbidden to speak, and the Partisans watched us closely, so that none of us could escape in the darkness.  We were never told but we knew what their goal was.   We were to be shot. 

  My friend Johann Schab from Lazarfeld and I spoke to one another along the way and came to the decision that at the first opportunity we saw we would escape.  In the woods before us an armed Partisan with a machine pistol indicated where he wanted us to stand to be shot.  We were forced to walk up path deep into the forest.  Two other armed Partisans with rifles supervised preparing us.  Even though we were deathly afraid we asked for the reason for our execution but were quickly silenced by blows to our heads and were pushed around.  Outside of swearing and scolding's there was no answer from them.  So we stood pressed close to one another preparing ourselves to be shot.  As the Partisan with the machine pistol walked behind us to shoot us in the back, my friend Schab pushed me aside with his left hand and both us made a run for it, and then the others followed.  In the blinking of an eye there was the crack of the first salvo of bullets.  I saw another escapee beside me to my left and then he sank to the ground and was dead. 

  The Partisans shot, screamed and ran after us, but the darkness and the density of the forest saved us.  I ran scared to death and under the power of the last of my strength as best as I could.  After three or four hundred meters I simply collapsed, I had no idea of what had become of my friend Schab, he had gone off in another direction into the forest.  The Partisans were still shooting and screaming.  While I tried to move on in order to get away the shots and curses of the Partisans faded away.  I found myself standing at the edge of the forest by the Temes River.  In order to save myself from torture and death by the Partisans, I swam across the river without even thinking about it beforehand, and then made my way to Konigsdorf.  I spent the night out in the open because I was afraid to go near the houses because the Partisans were everywhere." 


Kowatschitza

  In Kowatschitza there was a prison operated by the OZNA (Secret Police).  Untold numbers of Swabian men were brought to this prison from the whole area around Kowatschitza.  Every Wednesday and Saturday mass shootings took place.  A former prisoner in this prison relates the following: 

  "Along with another man from Glogau I was brought to the prison in Kowatschitza.  When we entered the cell, two men were lying there, who had been beaten unmercifully and did not move and who obviously were no longer alive but who would have died in one of the two weekly mass shootings that took place there.  The next day we had to go to work.  Every Wednesday and Saturday in the evening the cell was opened whereby several men from each of the cells were led out into the hallway and were bound or fettered.  We never heard from them again or ever saw them, only later we did see their clothes when we had to clear out the attic of the prison.  Each time the men were led away, we opened the windows of our cells and heard the group leave in the direction of Debeljascha.  After not even half an hour, each time we heard a salvo of machine pistols firing and then a large number of single shots.  These single shots we counted very carefully.  Because many inmates were taken away to work the next day, when the opportunity lent itself, they spoke to one another, so that in the evening we always knew who had been taken away the previous night.  The total that was estimated was usually close to the number of single shots we had counted during the night.  The selected group of victims was first gunned down together by numerous shooters and then each man was shot in the head to make sure he was dead.  The last mass shooting took place three weeks before my release.  On that occasion twenty-nine men were taken from the cells and twenty-eight of them were taken away by truck.  In the five weeks during which the regular Wednesday and Saturday shootings took place about two hundred men met their deaths.  The man who had come with me was already among the dead eight days after we had arrived."


Jabuka

  The Partisans arrested twenty-one of the leading Danube Swabian men and women in early October of 1944, including Dr. Pete Weinz and his wife.  For quite some time there was no trace of them.  In January a “commission” arrived in Jabuka in search of the graves of fallen Partisans who had engaged the German occupation forces in battle in the vicinity of the village.  They brought along thirty Swabian men from the prison camp in Pantschowa who were forced to dig all over the place in search of such graves.  Left to the road that led to Pantschowa they stumbled on twenty-one corpses with fresh evidence of each of them having been shot in the nape of the neck.  Among the bodies was one that was a woman.  It became obvious that the corpses were those of the local Swabians who had been arrested and had disappeared months before.  Especially recognizable were the bodies of the doctor and his wife.  The body of the woman wore only underpants and there was still one earring in one ear.   One of the commission members noticed that and stepped down into the grave and tore off the remaining earring and stuck it into his pocket.  Not only the camp inmates who were involved but also the commission members were convinced that the bodies had nothing to do with the Partisans they were searching for because they would not have fallen in battle naked and tied to one another.  They then ordered a halt to further digging and ordered that the grave be covered again.


 

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