Village of Obresch
in Syrmia

Obresch - map
History of Obresch


Ortsbiografie der deutschen Minderheit eines Dorfes in Syrmien

By: Michael Schmidt - 1980
Translated by: Roy Engel

    Obresch was, before the arrival of German settlers, a pure Serbian village. The first Germans came during the years 1860 to 1865. By 1882, the number of German families totaled twenty-five. Most of these originated from Katsch and Werbas (Vrbas), but also from Altker, Krtschedin, Neu Schowe and Kowil St. Iwan. The small pastoral branch was established in 1882 and was associated with the pastoral mission in Surtschin, which was founded in 1880. At this same time, Obresch obtained* an Evangelical German school. The prayer chapel was built in 1890 and around 1900, Obresch had a new school with a teacher’s residence. The teachers who were on staff at the school were: Philipp Ehmann, 1884; Karl Klaus, 1887; Andreas Meschick, 1890; again Karl Klaus and subsequent to his death; Gottfied Hollinger, 1895; and Johann Kellrig, 1901.

    Detailed information about the teachers is available only for Gottfried Hollinger. There is a monograph about him in the Batsch/Syrmien Seniorat from the year 1901, indicating that he was born in Sekitsch and attended public school there. After his confirmation, he trained as a shoemaker and traveled until he was 22 years of age. He self-studied to achieve his teaching credentials. Prior to his arrival in Obresch, he taught for one year at the Salasch St Tomaschi and then at Betschmen. He arrived in Obresch in 1895 in the capacity of head teacher. It is reported that his spelling was flawless and his handwriting beautiful.

    Later teachers were Schwarz (from 1909) and Pfaff (from 1929) and thereafter the teachers changed almost annually. Some of these included; Sonja Grohmayer, Ludwig Niedan, Ernst Erlemann, Philipp Sehne, Trump, Bobula, Hans Mengel and lastly Peter Haas.

    The prayer chapel sustained much damage during the First World War, including the bells, which had to be removed. The chapel was repaired after the war, but there was not enough money to replace the bells, so this purchase had to be postponed. It was not until March of 1922 that the bells were able to be replaced. With the help of the entire community, the bells were hoisted into position. The teacher Heinrich Schwarz delivered an inspiring speech in the churchyard on this occasion.

    During the spring of 1926, Obresch received a notice from the district authority in Semlin declaring that there were three school programs in Obresch, but only two classrooms, thereby affording two classes only—one-half day of instruction each. Should the Evangelical congregation not make the prayer chamber available as a classroom, as it was for many years, the German teacher would be reassigned elsewhere. It was indeed true that the Obresch Evangelical congregation employed a private teacher for many years, who instructed students in all subjects in the prayer chamber of the church. However, once the number of students had reached a required minimum, the German class was assumed by the Croatio-Slavonian government and the Obreschers, out of kindness, continued to permit the use of the prayer chamber as a classroom until such time that a new school could be built. Now that the German classes were to be discontinued at the school, the congregation refused to make the prayer chamber available for a classroom at this time. This caused the threat that the German teacher would be reassigned elsewhere. It should be noted that the teacher was not identified as “Evangelical,” as this would have been a slight against the Evangelical church. However, since there was only one German teacher available in Obresch and that he also faithfully taught the Evangelical congregation religious classes - the communication from the district was seen as a veiled threat against the Evangelical congregation. No credible reason for relocating the teacher was ever provided, save the refusal to offer the prayer chamber for school classes. In 1925 a directive from the ministry of education in Pribicevic raised the hope of a German school program for Obresch. The conditions for this to occur were:

    1. The prescribed minimum number of students.
    2. A teacher already available in the village.
    3. A classroom provided by the church congregation.

    It was in the interest of the congregation to have the children instructed in their mother tongue. It was not seen, however, that it was the obligation of the church congregation to fulfill the government’s responsibility of providing a school building, by making the church available as a classroom.

    This letter made it clear again that wherever there was a community with a small portion of Germans, there would always be attempts made to paralyze the German schools.

    When the German army marched into Yugoslavia in 1941 and gained control of the Partisan forces, Obresch suffered significantly under these circumstances. The Partisan assault on the residents already began in 1942.

    The following is a diary entry made by an Obresch resident about these times. She writes:

    Soon after the invasion of the German army in 1941, many of the men of Obresch were drafted into the Wehrmacht. A number were assigned to protect the railway near Vrbolje. From there they were posted to the highways and various towns. Many soldiers disappeared without a trace on the secondary roads and were never seen again.

    In September of 1942, the first Obreschers went missing. The first two were Georg Gleich and Ludwig Scherer, both serving with the German military, who were on leave and opted to spend that time at their homestead. They disappeared without a trace on the road between Obresch and Ruma. Both left behind four young children. Just two weeks later, Michael Schön and Katharina Gleich, Georg Gleich’s wife, disappeared between Ogar and Obresch while returning from Ruma. Michael Schön was a merchant and had traveled to Ruma to purchase wares and was accompanied by Mrs. Gleich, who was in search of her missing husband. Mr. Schön’s horse and carriage returned to Obresch without occupants. Ogar is just seven km from Obresch.

    On October 20, 1942, Heinrich Fritz was murdered. He was on vacation at home and drove out on the fields in Beletinzi. He was attacked by Partisans and shot. He had also been stabbed numerous times in his side. He was left to die on the field. He was just 23 years old.

    On October 24, 1942, a group of farm workers were driving home from the fields. They encountered Partisans waiting for them at Benator. Serbian vehicles were allowed to pass, but the Germans were ordered off their wagon and taken to the Graschki woods. The prisoners were Daniel Sigmund, age 69, Adam Hügel, age 46 and Andreas Albert, age 35. On the following day, a group of men from Obresch was accompanied by German soldiers in search of the missing farm workers. All three were found in an abandoned well in the Graschki woods. Their throats had been slashed and their bodies had been stabbed many times. Daniel Sigmund had his mustache ripped out and tears still welled in his eyes. He also had stab wounds in his neck. It is likely that these wounds were inflicted because he couldn’t walk fast enough for his captors. He had worked in the fields all day and was, after all, 69 years of age. All three men had cuts on their hands, evidently as a result of attempts to defend themselves. Adam Hügel’s head was severed from his body, attached only by some skin. His body bore many stab wounds and had suffered indignities. Andreas Albert was likewise a terrible sight. He had been undressed save for his shorts. Hügel’s 15-year-old son Adam, who was with them the previous day, had been allowed to drive the horse and wagon home. The day that the three men were found was October 25, 1942, the same day as the Obresch church bazaar. It was a rather somber bazaar. All three men were buried together in the same grave in the Obresch cemetery.

    On October 30, 1942, 70-year-old Nikolaus Leopold ventured out to plow the German church fields. He was confident that he would be safe since he was working very close to the village. While he was plowing, two men approached him from the nearby woods. Mr. Leopold continued his work as he chatted with the men. Suddenly one of the men pulled a revolver out of his pocket and shot Mr. Leopold in the head. He was left to die on the field as the men drove away with his horse and wagon. As a result, no one dared work in the fields after this tragedy. However, winter was approaching and the fields needed to be prepared.

    On November 24, 1942, German workers ventured out to the fields under the protection of armed guards. On the return trip they again encountered Partisans at Benator. A lively battle ensued. All except Jakob Müller, age 40, escaped with their lives. Jakob Müller died from a gunshot wound. His son Jakob, age 17, fell just three weeks later in Serbia.

    On November 30, 1942, Johann Schenk was granted leave from the military to return home for Christmas. He decided to return to his assignment on December 28, 1942. He was accompanied by a battle squadron and they were ambushed by Partisans between Obresch and Grabovci. Johann Schenk died in this battle. His head was disfigured beyond recognition. He was 32 years old and single. Two other soldiers died in the skirmish and another two died of injuries they sustained.

    On March 17, 1943, the Germans once again set out to work on the fields under the protection of military personnel. Their goal was to sow barley and oats. The soldiers maintained watch over the civilians from the edge of the Garaschki woods. Partisans from Bujnatz engaged them in battle. It was an intense fight, but there was only one casualty. Jakob Sigmund was struck in the left leg by a bullet and bled to death. He was 35 years old and left behind four young children.

    On May 4, 1943, Jakob Greiling returned to Obresch from Berlin to recuperate after suffering a war injury that required surgery. He was to be escorted to his village by the German military. They stopped in Grabovci to stay the night and Jakob contacted his family to let them know that he would be arriving home the following day. His family was overjoyed. They cooked and baked that evening and early the next morning they were at the edge of the village waiting for him. Jakob and his escort set out for Obresch from Grabovci at 7 a.m. on May 4, 1943. As they approached the woods, they came under attack. Seven soldiers were killed, their heads mutilated, and nine men disappeared without trace, including Jakob Greiling.

    On July 22, 1943, Heinrich Kohl was returning to Obresch for vacation. He had been in Africa and southern France. He arrived in Semlin on July 17 and arranged for a car to take him to Obresch. The car came under attack at the Kreutzstraße (Crossing Road). Heinrich Kohl, age 22 and single, was killed.

    On July 31, 1943, another Obresch soldier, Johann Oster, died in battle in Bosnia. He was another of the young, single men that were claimed by the war.

    Soon came the autumn of 1943 and the attacks by the Partisans escalated. Fortuitously, there had been no reported incursions in Obresch itself. This changed during the night on November 15, 1943. The silence was shattered by the sound of machine gun fire, shouting and music. The Partisans looted everything they could get their hands on. They ransacked closets and cupboards, taking everything; meat, sausages and bacon. They hitched horses to wagons and drove them up against the front doors of the homes of the Germans, where the women and children were alone, since the men were either away at war or standing guard outside the village. The perpetrators escaped unhindered. Everyone was frightened by this turn of events and three Obreschers lost their lives—Heinrich Damm, age 63, Johann Fix, age 46 and Jakob Fritz, age 38. Three men were wounded and Franz Arras, age 70, was taken by the Partisans as a wagon driver. He was never returned or heard from again.

    On the same day that Obresch was invaded, Aschanja was also attacked. A 19-year-old soldier died there and was later buried in Obresch.

    On November 29, 1943, Aschanja was again attacked. German soldiers were en route to Obresch and were engaged by Partisans. Five soldiers died, 19 unaccounted for and 13 were injured. The dead were taken to Obresch and then to Belgrade to be buried in the cemetery for war heroes.

    From November 16 to December 15, 1943, the Germans no longer dared to sleep in their own homes because they believed that their lives were in constant danger. Every evening the residents would meet at six of the German’s homes and stay the night together. There would often be more than 20 people sleeping in a small room, usually in a line along the floor. Some families also stayed overnight in the chapel. The men held watch all night. These were very fearful nights for the people.

    On December 15, 1943, the German community of Obresch was evacuated in exchange for the Serbs of Voganj, near Ruma. The Serbs of Voganj moved into the Germans’ homes in Obresch and the Germans into the homes of the Serbs in Voganj.

    On October 8, 1944, the Germans of Obresch left Voganj and together with the German community of Ruma fled into the unknown.

    Today, Obreschers are living in Austria, Germany and countries overseas. They have dispersed like seeds in the wind.

    Mrs. Theresia Lang has further written in her diary that she had visited her home village in 1977 and was disappointed by the condition of the homes and the many changes that had been made during the intervening years. However, on the front door of her house was still inscribed “Karl Lang 1940.” She also wrote that she no longer wished to see her homeland in Yugoslavia and would visit no more.

* Translator’s note: It is not clear if this school was built or was in an already existing building.