Ortsbiografie der deutschen Minderheit eines Dorfes in
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.