The Flame Devours Us 

From the Diary of Pastor Matthias Rometsch
Chronik Neu-Pasua 1790-1945

Contributed by Gerhard Banzhaf, translated by Henry Fischer and edited by Rose Vetter

   The events described from the capitulation of Romania on August 23, 1944 until our crossing of the Danube River bridge at Essegg on October 15, 1944 are taken from my diary that I recorded at that time and edited afterwards.


   Friday, August 25, 1944 Romania has collapsed.  As a result our troops are in great danger.  All those belonging to the German folk group in Romania are in dire straits.  We are terribly worried about the situation in the southeast and our own fate.  Pastor Höft from Neu Banovci laughed in the face of all of our anxieties. 


  Thursday, August 31, 1944 After serious discussions with the Community Director Hellermann and the mayor Mr. Gerber I was sent to the General to discover what the current situation is.  General von Sydow, the Commander of the 20th Motorized Flak Division, informed me what the situation in the Balkans looks like and that since our allies cannot be trusted he said it is very serious.  He said the Romanians were already engaged in fighting against us.  The Serbian Chetniks (Royalists) have approached our soldiers to defend them against the Partisans.  He did not anticipate any help or activity on the part of our German Folk Group leadership.  The entire German population in Romania has been taken completely by surprise and he wondered if steps could be taken to transport the wheat crop from our village to the Reich.  The General promised to share all important news and information with me. 


  Friday, September 1, 1944 The Partisans blew up the train tracks between Batanitz and Neu-Pasua.  They also attempted an attack on our village but were driven off by the artillery of the Home Defence Forces.  Our men had assembled very quickly.  There were no casualties.  The attack was co-ordinated with the attempted Putsch (coup) in Agram (Zagreb) that had been instigated by the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Transportation and the President of the Police forces.  The attempted overthrow was put down. 


  Saturday, September 2, 1944:  I was in Alt-Pasua and met with the District Magistrate Käsdorf who encouraged me to see to the safety of my family.  He saw the situation as very dark and threatening.  He hoped there would not be an evacuation of the civilian population.  He anticipates a Partisan attack upon Alt-Pasua. 


  Sunday, September 3, 1944 We are disturbed by the military situation in Romania.  There are major air raids on Budapest.  The bombers fly right over our village. 


  Monday, September 4, 1944 I applied for the second document towards my travel permit in Alt-Pasua today that I had initiated back on August 10th.  The secretaries at Headquarters there, including Lotte Neumann, who had lived with us have abandoned the place.  My wife Clärli and our children could have left with them but she declined the offer made by Captain Pust.  Lieutenant Glindmeier strenuously urged us to leave and even tried to make connections for us with Lufthansa.  For some time now Mittermayr has endeavoured to make arrangements with the Reich German Party officials in Semlin for the evacuation of the children and staff of the orphanage.  I approached Professor Bornikoel at the German embassy in Belgrade (whose family has already left for Germany) to find a way to secure the evacuation of the orphanage.  Again I was without success.  I will now focus my efforts on the Consular officials in Winkowzi.  The Reich Germans in both Belgrade and Semlin have already left. 


  Thursday, September 7, 1944 Yesterday the announcement was made that the Russians are at the Iron Gates; today the news is that the Bulgarians have broken their treaty with the Reich.  I drove to Winkowzi for travel permits to Germany for Clärli and the children to enable them to go to Basel to join her parents as well as a group permit for the orphans.  The officials there did not consider our situation to be dangerous.  They claimed to know nothing about the departure of the Reich Germans that we knew had taken place.  I was promised permission to travel to Germany.  On my return journey home I observed the arming of the Croatian Defence Force in India to defend the railway; this was carried out under the auspices of the German Folk Group leadership.


  Friday, September 8, 1944 I officiated at the burial of twelve members of the SS Police in Alt-Pasua who had lost their lives resulting from an ambush by Partisans beyond Vojka.  Their corpses indicated that they had been gruesomely treated.  Throats had been   slit, the bodies had been scalded with boiling hot water, eyes had been gouged out, ears and noses were cut off, their sexual organs were also cut off and there were countless knife and stab wounds covering their bodies.  They were without clothes.  There was also a man named Fink from Neu-Pasua was among them and had lived on Weber Street who we buried later here at home.  The General is in Weisskirchen.  On his return he will report on the seriousness of the situation.  The Russians are moving on Orschawa and the pass to the north and are attempting to reach the Great Hungarian Plains around Temesvár. 


  Sunday, September 10, 1944 Senior pastor, Dörnmann who often visits at the parsonage and originates in Velbert preached today.  He portrayed our situation as being very serious. 


  Tuesday, September 12, 1944 Lieutenant Glindmeier talked to me about his hometown.  We heard the 8.8 artillery batteries firing that drove the Partisans away from the railway lines. 


  Wednesday, September 13, 1944 An English fighter aircraft crashed in a cornfield near Alt Banovci.  The pilot was captured by the German unit stationed in our village.  I drove out with Lieutenant Pabst to see the prisoner.  Poor fellow! 


  Sunday, September 17, 1944:  I preached on 1 Peter 5:7:  “Cast all your worries on Him because He cares for you.“  In the afternoon the Folk Group Führer Altgayer spoke to the men in Pasua reassuringly.  The situation is certainly serious but it needs to be waited out and must not be handled in an unauthorized way.  To those who held leadership positions he said that no horses could be sold and wagons needed to be kept in good repair.  The plan for an evacuation was completely worked out and would be put into effect at the first sign of any emergency.  Altgayer, District Head Sutor and the local Folk Group leader went to see the General who approved of the proposed measures that would be taken.  It was then that Hellermann informed me of the details of the evacuation.  Rumour has it that the war is moving into the upper Banat, the Bolsheviks are standing at the Iron Gates and have set their sights on Serbia.  We are packing several suitcases for any contingencies that may occur.  The people are always asking me for advice.  But I am unable to say anything with certainty because I don’t know myself whether a departure will really be necessary.  But I always point out how serious the situation is and that I would rather seriously prepare for an evacuation than to be reckless and rash and do nothing.  Mittermayr continues his efforts with the Party leadership in Semlin to transfer the orphans to Rummelsberg.  Clärli and the children would also leave on this transport.  The soldiers Glindmeier, Dörnmann, Staats and others sternly warn us to seek safety before it is too late.  But we can’t believe it will come to that.  I conveyed what the Folk Group Führer had said to my father who lives on Uhr Street and asked him to have his horses and a wagon ready.  He was terribly upset.


  Monday, September 18, 1944:  Battles are raging on the Serbian and Bulgarian borders led by Bulgarian tank attacks.  The Fascist leader of Croatia is visiting the Führer.  


  Friday, September 22, 1944:  Lieutenant Glindmeier took leave of us today.  He has been ordered to the Eastern Front. 


  Sunday, September 24, 1944 Today I preached on 2 Timothy 1:10:  “But it has now been revealed to us through the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.  He has ended the power of death and through the gospel has revealed eternal life.” 


  Monday, September 25, 1944We are planning diligently for an evacuation even though we do not want to believe it will happen.  The local community leaders, the school and congregation were advised to take stock and provide a census and inventory.  The purpose is to ascertain how many people would need to be evacuated and how many transport vehicles both wagons and bicycles were available.  We agreed that the enumeration would take place immediately the next morning.  I developed a form for that purpose and had numerous copies made in the church office to hand out to the enumerators in the morning. 


  Tuesday, September 26, 1944:  We carried out the enumeration.  The results were still being tabulated late at night.  I worked long into the night until I added all of the pages and had all of the results, street by street.  It resulted in the following information: 

Inhabitants

6, 170   Men 16 to 55 years 706

Soldiers

832   Men over 55 years 188

Children over 12 years

311   Households 1,179

Women

1,492   Families without a man 510

Children under two years

226   Horses 917

Children up to twelve

1,561   Wagons 802

Elderly and shut-ins

136   Bicycles 456

Evacuees in Neu-Pasua from other communities:

Detsch 114
Georgshof 256
Zigenka 170
Bastaji 200
Sopj. Ada 110
Johannes F. 36
Grubischno P. 77
Others 60

   I informed the congregation and local leadership of the results.  I kept the page with the final results with me and I will take it with me during the evacuation. 


  Wednesday, September 27, 1944 I am at Captain Staats who wants permission to take the Matriculation (Church Records) with him to Berlin.  I am unable to comply because I have not received an answer from the Bishop and Dean to whom I wrote about the whole matter.  Hellermann received a circular letter from the District Office regarding what kind of workers are to be recruited for labour service in the Reich.  On the basis of a personal conversation with the District official all of those who are able bodied will be allowed to leave for the Reich.  The District officer instructed me to help lead in carrying out this recruitment along with Hellermann. 


  Thursday, September 28, 1944The Russians are now stationed on both sides of the Iron Gates and thus they are also on Serbian soil.  We are beginning to register labour volunteers to work in the Reich.  But only a very few have reported to us.  The District officials informed me by telephone that women with children and the elderly could also leave and ten wagons were available every day just standing by and waiting for them.  For me this meant the beginning of the evacuation.  The Croatian government was creating difficulties and would not permit us to leave and for that reason I knew we would have to attempt it on our own.  I encouraged people often and advised them to prepare themselves for any emergency. 


  Friday, September 29, 1944Our recruiting of workers for the Reich continues.  But there are only a few who decided to do so.  Malicious people advise against it:  Who wants to go to harvest sugar beets in the Reich? 


  Sunday, October 1, 1944 I preached on Matthew 9:1-6.  I spoke about the connection between Jesus’ forgiveness of our transgressions, God’s love and our love for others in the midst of the insanity of our present situation in that light.  But we will have to deal with that in both realms of our life.  Following the worship service I spoke to the Inspector, the Church Elders and several Presbyters regarding the situation with our Church Records.  They are all in agreement, and since I had asked the Bishop’s office and the Dean for permission they urged above all that the books must arrive in Germany safely.  In the afternoon I drove to India by motorcycle to see the District representative.  He advised that as many people as possible should leave.  A wagon trek coming out of the Banat will pass through Belgrade –Semlin and Pasua.  Clärli is in the church for the children’s service.  She is convinced that this is the last service that there will ever be.  I just don’t believe it. 


  Monday, October 2, 1944 Battles still rage at the Iron Gates where enemy pressure is becoming stronger.  After a telephone conversation with the National Youth Führer Schöner on Saturday I drove to Franztal by motorcycle in order to speak with him personally.  On the telephone he had said that as many peoples as possible should leave.   He has been authorized to carry out this action in the region by the Folk Group Führer.  I was no longer able to meet him in Franztal.  Pastor Haas and District Officer Krög told me disturbing things coming out of the Banat.  Weisskirchen and Werschetz have been abandoned; Mramorak is under attack; the roads from Weisskirchen towards Pantschowa   are under attack and refugees have perished.  One officer lost his wife and reported it to us personally.  Krög suggested that the beginning of the end is now upon us.  Everyone should leave. 

  Our people in Pasua have stormed our office.  Hundreds report to work in the Reich.  In Franztal I learned that we do not have enough wagons to transport so many people because everyone here also wants to leave.  The General and several of his officers have driven to the Banat.  Lieutenant Colonel Steffen of the National Socialist Community Affairs Department also accompanied them.  He had addressed the men some time ago in the high school yard which had a good effect on his listeners.  I used the speech on the occasion of orienting our people as to what lay ahead.  By using four typewriters until late into the night we listed the names of the people who wanted to leave for the Reich.  I made matters clear to the people I met on the street and said that they should keep themselves ready even though I myself did not know what would be happening.  But what I had heard in Franztal made me fear the worst.  We began to pack more earnestly than we had up until now.  I also made the situation clear to my father, mother and sister Catharine whose husband is serving in the army.  Father doesn’t want to leave and can’t seem to believe it.  Mittermayr drove to Semlin on my prompting to try to get a wagon for the orphans again from the Party officials.  He had already managed to send some of their baggage on ahead.  He had encouraged us to send some of our own along with the Reich Germans when they left.  We gratefully declined because we didn’t want to have privileges that would be denied to all of the others. 


  Tuesday, October 3, 1944 Enemy pressure at the Iron Gates continues to grow stronger.  Weisskirchen has fallen.  Battles rage west of Arad.  It is difficult to find men to assign to the defence of the community each night to act as sentries at key positions.  I myself am often on night duty and as a result I am tired during the day.  We are once again using all four typewriters listing the names of all the people who report in to us.  The District Office telephoned to say that we are unable to send out the first group because there are not sufficient numbers of wagons to take them.  I can foresee the unrest ahead because of the lack of transportation vehicles.  Mittermayr has finally been assigned a railway car for the orphanage from the Party leadership in Semlin.  Clärli and the children along with Mrs. Hudjetz and her children are also to go with them.  A freight car will also be available to take more things and belongings from the orphanage.  Impatiently we await the return of the General.  The train taking the children from the orphanage will be leaving on Thursday evening at five o’clock.  We are practically finished packing today.  The children’s knapsacks that Clärli sewed some time ago have been filled with bread and smoked bacon (Speck).  Each of them has a cord around their neck with a small card on which their name, place of origin and the address of my in laws in Basel is printed.  The children, Gertrude 1937, Hildegard 1938, Reinhard 1940, Manfred 1941 and Brigitte 1943 are all looking forward to the journey.  I am not.  There are always more and more people coming to ask for my advice.  The principal of the state school, Sketh does not believe in the seriousness of the situation.  I no longer go to the school because I have learned that the authority given to me by the District officials is now more weighty than his.  The rest of the teaching staff support me.  Hellermann does his work as leader of the local community during these disturbing times with the utmost integrity.  He discusses everything with me, we bear everything together.  The trek coming out of the Banat that is stuck between Pantschowa and Belgrade is unable to go on any farther and has not made it to Pasua.  I am gradually becoming convinced that the Croatian government does not want to allow us to leave and that is the reason that lies behind the Folk Group leadership’s ruse to recruit labourers for the Reich. 


  Wednesday, October 4, 1944 German Army reports mention battles north and northwest of Belgrade, south of the Iron Gates and west of Arad.  Where is Stalingrad and North Africa now?  In the Party leadership office it has become totally unbearable.  The people pressure and overwhelm us as everyone is now reporting and desires to go to work in the Reich.  We still have no word of any wagons but are given hope and consolation that they will be here the next morning.  Plees, the District officer in India advised us that he has been authorized to give leadership in carrying out this action for the whole District.  However, he cannot promise any wagons. 

  Mittermayr promises to take along the Albusens’ children.  How can the people who are without wagons of their own get away?  At my request Captain Beck drove to Semlin to the Party leadership to determine what we should do.  I went along with him because I heard that the District head official in Semlin had placed children from Semlin in the railway car designated for the orphanage.  This proved to be untrue.  Captain Beck was able to have his concerns dealt with by telephone.  He submitted a written request on behalf of the Weingärtners outlining their situation.  Afterwards we picked up blasting munitions and explosives from an immense ammunition dump because Beck needed them in Neu-Pasua where he was in charge of military operations.  One wonders if all of these munitions can be used up.  Dr. Schneider, who is currently on vacation, succeeded in getting permission for his family to join the orphanage transport through his efforts with the War Court Justice Minister Lehmann. While I was in India, Lieutenant Colonel Steffen urgently sought me out three times to talk about the General's instructions.  Because he was unable to reach me, he ordered the District officer, the mayor and myself to meet with the General the next morning at eight o’clock.  We finished packing.  In the evening Dörnmann and von Leukardt helped with a chest of linen and bedding and drank tea and ate cake.  Before that we packed a chest of books in my study along with my typewriter and the upper portion of the sewing machine.  Choosing what books to take was very difficult.  My sister Catharine also finished packing her things.  In much the same way the people throughout the village were packing earnestly.  No one thought of gathering the grapes or harvesting their corn.  Many of the remaining swine are still being slaughtered.  Hellermann and I went among the people as much as was possible both at the community offices and in the village itself speaking to them about the impending departure from their village while also indicating the danger and threat to those who decided to stay behind and fall into the hands of the Communist Partisans.  Our house looked desolate because much was no longer in place.  The children still slept in their beds even though the pillows and covers were packed.  Clärli and I went to bed late unable to fathom that this was the last night she would spend in Pasua.  That was due to a teletype message I received from a Roman Catholic vicar that the Divisional Headquarters of the German Army would leave the area on Friday, October 6th.  For me that meant the end of Neu-Pasua.  All day long people had come to me and asked for my advice.  I could only say, be prepared and leave any hesitations you have behind.  I still do not know if there will be sufficient conveyances for our people.  In the case of an emergency we will all have to leave on farm wagons.  Father and mother were with us one more time in the evening and they too now believe that it is serious.  I have regrets and feel sorry for them because they struggled so long not to believe in the reality of what we now have to face.  Mittermayr let us know that the freight car has arrived and we can pack our things on board in the morning. 


  Thursday, October 5, 1944Since Mittermayr was able to conclude all of the arrangements in Semlin the day before yesterday, all of our things had been packed and my father drove our things to the train station where there was a long string of freight cars in which the SS loaded their construction equipment.  Our things:  one chest with clothes and linens, another with my typewriter, sewing machine and books, and two straw mattresses in which bedding was sown inside went along with the things from the orphanage to the institution at Rummelsberg by Feucht.

  Today the Chief of Staff, Gasteiger along with Captain Zehnder from Essegg were here and said that some time on Thursday instructions would arrive for the trek out of Neu-Pasua to get underway.  Today the first people with wagons were already rolling out of Franztal, including pastor Haas from Semlin.  They would pass through our village and then go on in the direction of Alt Pasua.  Our people all began to prepare themselves.  The General called at nine o’clock to come and see him.  The District Officer was also there.  He could still not comprehend or accept what was happening.  The General told us that tomorrow (Friday) the Headquarters staff of the 20th Flak Division would be leaving.  He said that by then the village should be empty of its population.  The General promised that his last unit would only leave when all of the people were gone. 

  No further orders came from the District officer today.  Around four o’clock in the afternoon Clärli and the children left for the railway station.  The train was interminably late in arriving and I already feared it would not arrive at all.  Finally after several urgent telephone calls it arrived.  Many other people boarded the railway car meant only for the orphans and the others who had been assigned to it.  After a great deal of difficulty we got everyone and everything on board.  By then it was dark and something fell out of one of the pieces of baggage that I had lifted on board.  I picked it up and stuck it in my pocket in a hurry.  Later at home I saw that it was Clärli’s date book and planner and it brought me great joy.  In this daily planner she made notes all year long that I would now continue.  After leaving the station I had gone to my sister Catharine and had something to eat.  I had immense pain in my groin and it worried me greatly because of my hernia (at the end of April in 1945 I had to have an operation.)  When I complained of the pain, I had experienced when I was lifting suitcases onto the train Catharine, who was a nurse, suggested that I had bleeding haemorrhoids.  I am happy that you are now away because the dire struggle to save lives now begins.  How are things going to work out for you?  Will you arrive at your destination?  We hope so and plead with God for you that you do.  I went to bed in our abandoned and empty house; tired and exhausted.  I hardly slept through the whole night.  In the evening there was another regulation from the mayor to the effect that early in the morning all livestock and swine were to be driven out of the village.  Later in the evening, Jakob Falkenburger from Zottel Street who served as a security officer at the train station was hit by a tank and killed crossing Kreuz Street on his bicycle.  It is awful to have to bring a dead husband and father home to his family. 


  Friday, October 6, 1944:  The German Army report mentions battles south of the Iron Gates in the vicinity of Belgrade and west of Arad.  First thing this forenoon I presided at the funeral of yesterday’s unfortunate victim, Jakob Falkenburger.  I held the service out in the yard and did not go into the church afterwards.  The people, relatives and neighbours, have all prepared to flee and did not wear their Sunday clothes because all of their good clothes have been packed.  It was noteworthy that it somehow disturbed me that the men were wearing their Batschger (knitted slipper with a sole) while attending the funeral.  We no longer toll the church bells because it will be the signal to begin the evacuation.  I am a soldier.  Following the funeral I packed away my civilian clothes in my Japanese miniature suitcase and received a uniform from the local Defence Force: boots, rifle and hand grenades.  Ready for battle!  I nailed shut the chest that contains the Church Records.  The General assigned the order to depart to be given by Lieutenant Colonel Steffen.  The trek was to begin at one o’clock in the afternoon.  There is still no news from the District leadership.  But the District officer has been informed.  He wants to make the decision within an hour.  Because instructions were not given the people set their wagons in motion around one o’clock.  There is unbelievable confusion and disorder.  Cattle, cows and swine, bellow pitifully, clog the streets and get in the way of the wagons.  I tried to bring about some order but without much success.  A deputation from the 13th Mountain Division “Handschar” is here to take over the livestock.  We were able to drive a whole herd of cows out of the Upper Street with the help of a group of men.  But shortly afterwards outside the village behind the mill, the cows dashed to the right and the left down the streets and raced back into the centre of the village and then scattered everywhere on every street.  It was a fearsome sight.  With the General’s consent we confiscated all of the railway cars at the train station and placed the elderly and sick on board as well as those families that were without wagons.  Additional open boxcars assigned to the SS construction crew were attached to the train and were quickly filled with frightened people.  By evening we were given ten more railway cars that I personally supervised filling with desperate people still waiting to get away.  Those who had fled to our village earlier from other communities as well as the people from Banovci were the cause of more worries for us.  I was finally able to organize tractors to haul several of the horseless Banovci wagons, crowded with people, between the parsonage garden and the school and on to the railway station.  But at least we can say that the great majority of the people have left Neu-Pasua. 

  Wagons from Franztal, Surtchin and Beschania drove through our village.  Our people were all gone by the time evening arrived.  Congestion and bottlenecks.  Postponements and delays.  The General stood in front of the parsonage with a bus and his remaining staff and waited until everyone was gone.  Tears filled the eyes of many of the soldiers and the General was deeply moved.  As the sun went down we said farewell to one another and he left. 

  Shortly before darkness fell, a portion of our people returned because India could not accommodate them.  I went over to the Farmer’s Aid Office.  It was empty.  I ran into Jakob Albus who was in the store next door.  He gave me one of the bicycles that was still hanging from the rack.  It was a ladies’ bicycle and he gave Weingärtner a men’s bicycle.  Sorg and Betschl were still here as well.  On instructions from Lieutenant Colonel Bulard that evening I had the people board the train even though I had to argue with some officials who claimed they took up too much space.  In the meanwhile Sorg and Betschl drove off.  Catharine and her children left in the evening with Staats in his car after he gave up his command.  My father and Lies (my sister-in-law) had also come back.  I put up Bierer and someone else from Banovci in our beds.  I myself slept well in Betschl’s bed under a heavy thick cover and sweated like a dancing bear.  Betschl of course is gone.  A Flak artillery unit from the Banat came to our village to stay overnight.  This calmed us down and for that reason we stayed.  At eleven thirty at night very heavy and powerful artillery fire began along the Danube.  This alarmed us.  The major in charge of the Flak unit raised the alarm in the village so that the wagons that had returned began to drive out of the village.  I gave the Church Records to another unit that passed through the village addressed to the Folk Group leaders in Essegg for the Church Foreign Affairs Department in Berlin, Jebenstrasse 3. 


  Saturday, October 7, 1944:  German Army report:  The enemy has reached the banks of the Tisza River; battles are raging east of Belgrade.  The wagons will leave at midnight.  In between the wagon trek there will be columns of automobiles.  My father, Catharine and Lies (my sisters-in-law whose husbands have been called up into the army) are also leaving.  When my father drove by the parsonage I loaded my Japanese suitcase, linens, my suit, gown and my daily pastoral resources such as my Bible, hymnbook, etc. on board the wagon.  At daybreak all of the wagons left.  We managed to get the last of the Banovci people to the train station.  “Uncle Mike” Pfeiffer was kind enough to detach his own wagon from his tractor and towed several wagons of the Banovci people to the railway station.  The day begins.  We decided among ourselves to continue to remain. 

  Just before noon Lieutenant Streit arrived.  He had been in Pasua for several months with his artillery unit from Skoplje.  Tears came to his eyes as he went through the houses.  I showed him Louis Maier’s house in our neighbourhood.  The doors stood open; kitchen, rooms still as they had always been, the beds were unmade, most of the bedding, clothes and linens were still in place.  The family must have taken very few of their things with them.  The soldiers who had begun to loot and plunder the night before continued to do so as more and more new units passed through the village.  It is difficult to have to watch.  We passed the day sitting around and waiting.  We also tried to telephone to India but we were unable to make a connection.  The train with the baggage and luggage left in the evening.  There are five men left in the village:  Weingärtner, Philip Binder, Adam Hellermann, my nephew Michael Rometsch and myself.  This evening I learned that our Manz pub operator who made a flying visit to Essegg by car arrived there safely.  We will be eternally grateful that you did not have to live through these last hours here with us.  The sight of the livestock in the streets, yards and gardens!  I spoke with Aunt Katy Pfeiffer (formerly married to a Dewald) and implored her to get away.  She said she does not want to go because she has not done any injury to anyone.  Lieutenant Streit wants to take us with him because it is getting dangerous.  We were not ready to do so.  I hid my new edition of Luther’s Works and large leather bound books in a space in the outdoor bake oven close to the house and shattered the oven into pieces.  I tossed the baptismal and communion vessels in behind the kitchen chimney and dropped our silver cutlery into the well.  We will be able to find all of it later.  Only Captain Beck who is an explosive expert and Lieutenant Streit and his artillerymen are still here.  Around three o’clock this afternoon an SS officer, Ritterkreuzträger, rushed into our village with several truckloads of soldiers.  He discussed the situation with Beck and Streit and reported that the enemy had landed in Slakamen.  He was instructed to defend the bridgehead with his troops.  On the advice of Captain Beck we left the village on our bicycles.  The last conversation with Beck occurred in our living room in which all of the furniture remained and all the pictures were still on the walls.  We heard the latest news and the German Army report once more.  I told him he could take our radio set with him.  He immediately unplugged it and took it with him.  He went over to the former state school and blew up the teletype machine in a shed in the parsonage garden along with some other military equipment.  Sitting on our bicycles we watched the first explosions from the Kreuz Street and then drove down to the Ober Street.  When we went past the Revesz place we heard the second explosion and got off of our bicycles and saw the shattered pieces of the shed flying through the air.  Now we knew for certain that the situation was serious.  First we headed to Alt-Pasua and then as it was getting dark we went on to India.  While we were on our way three men on bicycles joined us and we were now eight; Hellermann and Binder remained in Alt-Pasua for awhile but came to India by evening.  I reported to Gasteiger and the District Officer with an explanation for   why we had left Pasua which they then officially sanctioned.  We met the furrier Dewald out on the street and he kindly invited us to his place where we slept like the dead in a real bed. 


  Sunday, October 8, 1944:  We are in India.  I went with Hellermann through the streets and yards in which wagons from Pasua were standing.  We noticed both the friendly and reserved attitude of the people of India towards us.  They don’t want to believe that the same is in store for them.  The trek set out in the direction of Putinzi across the detour around Kruschedol to Ruma.  Many people did not want to go on any farther.  The old people thought of the time they had fled during the First World War when they had not gone any farther than this and only thought in terms of an early return home.  The day passed by with waiting and questions.  Today we were aware that the “landing in Slankamen” was a false report like the reports on “the destruction of Alt Banovci.” 


  Monday, October 9, 1944:  More waiting in India.  Romanian prisoners of war in appalling shape were driven on foot through the village.  Soldiers arriving from Neu-Pasua tell us about the livestock in the village roaming all around the streets and going into the open barnyards where the un-milked cows bellowed pathetically.  We begin considering whether we should return.  We are receiving board and lodging from our   former villager Dewald. 


  Tuesday, October 10, 1944:  I rode back to Neu-Pasua along with Hellermann and Weingärtner.  We informed Army Headquarters in Vukovar that there was livestock available without cost in Neu-Pasua and asked for trucks.  About fifty men from our wagon trek who had received permission from the military were brought back to gather the livestock together and either hand them over to the army or butcher them and salt the meat in barrels and send them to Vienna to the National Socialist Welfare Office.  Everything was set up for the butchering in Hellermann’s assembly hall.  Barrels were taken from out of the houses and salt was found in stores and the homes.  I found two soldiers in the parsonage yard plucking the feathers of slaughtered ducks wondering why they were unable to get them clean.  They had obviously never heard of soaking them in boiling water first.  Another soldier let a large bottle of perfume drop to the centre of the kitchen floor.  Two sat on a sofa in the living room and were viewing our family photograph album we had left behind.  When they saw me they indicated that they were sorry that these pictures had been left behind and asked me if I could reveal the identity of the owners of the album.  They said they would be very glad to send the pictures to them.  When I identified myself they became very embarrassed and asked me to excuse them.  The chests stood open and the clothes, linens and bedding lay all around the floor.  The beds were being used and army blankets lay on them.  I tied all of the photo albums together with a piece of rope and wanted to take them with me on my bicycle.  (I still have the pictures to this day and they became very valuable documents of our former life.)  I dug up the new editions of Luther’s Works out of the bake oven, packed them with some other books in a chest that I handed over at the railway station to a unit that was destined for Erlangen.  (I would never hear about the chest again.) 

  Lieutenant Fritz Peper who had been stationed in the village along with his frontline battalion invited me to dine with him.  He lives at the Fink’s in the store directly across the street from the parsonage.  As I entered the room I saw several books lying on the bed that were from my library.  He noticed that and became embarrassed.  I was not offended or outraged but instead at his request I wrote the following in each of the books, “A memento for Lieutenant Peper of my forsaking of my home in Neu-Pasua, October 10, 1944 M.R.”  In this way I made each book a personal gift to him.  He sent the books to his mother in the Schwarzwald.  (After the war I learned that he had fallen in battle.  His mother sent several of the books back to me; I still have in my possession and they will be given to my children.) 

  I went along the Unter Street and passed by the Müller’s store where all kinds of wares lay strewn about.  I took two collar buttons as souvenirs.  (I still have them to this day.)  At Fink’s store I picked up some candy that was scattered here and there.  At my parent’s house on Uhr Street I scattered a basketful of corn in their yard so that the remaining fowl and cattle had something to eat.  Lonely howling dogs, bellowing cows and cowering fowl…it is frightful.  Not a single person in the yards or on the streets.  It is enough to make you wail and cry.  The church office and my study look a mess with everything in disarray.  Someone is playing the organ in the church.  It is a soldier from Cologne who is pumping the organ himself and that is why the sound drops off and seems to howl at times.  We are housing about one hundred men including some units of soldiers who are only passing through in Hellermann’s assembly hall or the guest rooms.  His family has left and I along with Hellermann sleep in their marriage bed.  An SS officer, a Transylvania Saxon had been given authority over us and has been charged with seeing to it that more livestock were being delivered.  We heard that the Croats in Neu Banovci have also had to leave, as well as the Serbs in the communities along the Danube. 


  Wednesday, October 11, 1944:  There are battles along the lower Morawa River in northern Serbia and the Tisza.  In southern Hungary the enemy is attempting to cross the Tisza.  A great tank battle is raging near Debrécen. 

  Several small military units pass through the village in the direction of Alt-Pasua.  We herd cattle together and the army comes for many of them with trucks.  Hellermann’s assembly hall and yard are like a huge slaughterhouse.  Pfeiffer’s Aunt Katy has finally   left the village.  (Later I heard that she only got as far as Alt Pasua and then returned to our village.  In November the Partisans took the old woman to an internment camp where she perished.

  Every now and then I listened to the organist.  I asked him if he would play a chorale at a worship service.  Once he consented we called together our men and the German soldiers in the village for a service of worship in the church that evening.  Along with Weingärtner he played the organ.  It was our last worship service and I will never forget it.  We sang, kept silent and prayed.  I read several Bible passages but was unable to speak as I heard many trying hard to hold back their sobs.  Overcome with my feelings I made my way to the altar.  At the end of the service we shook hands with one another row by row and left one another in silence. 


  Thursday, October 15, 1944:  The German Army report announced that the enemy has crossed the Tisza and is standing on Batschka soil.  It is our last night in Pasua and in Hellermann’s beds.  The men work relentlessly to get more cattle to the army or the National Socialist Welfare Office in Vienna.  The new army commander in the village allowed us to inform him about the village and the trek.  We did not know exactly where the trek was.  We only knew it was to go to Essegg and from there cross the bridge over   the Danube.  Following discussions with our men Hellermann, Weingärtner and I were chosen to try to accompany the trek.  We further agreed that the men should leave the village as soon as possible and find their families.  We did not experience any Partisan attacks on our village during that whole day because there were still military units in the community.  Close to evening an army truck took us and our bicycles to India and there we spent the night in an empty house because many of the inhabitants here had also already left. 


  Friday, October 13, 1944 A German army truck took the three of us along to Essegg and we were accompanied by Italian soldiers.  On our way we were overtaken by farm wagons filled with fleeing people.  We also saw prisoners of war who often charged into beet fields along the road attempting to escape because their captors mistreated them.  We never got to see one trek from Pasua.  In the German House of the Folk Group we met many of the women and children that had come here by train.  I learned that the chest containing the Church Records had arrived here.  The chest was apparently sent to Vienna.  In the Folk Group Office we met Lieutenant Keller who was in charge of the treks.  He was unable to tell us where the Pasua trek was going.  They had gone across the Danube River into the Baranya and then headed across Hungary.  Here in Essegg we parted from Hellermann who went to search for his family and then go on from there with them, while Weingärtner and I remained together because our families were also together somewhere on the orphanage transport on the way to Rummelsberg in the vicinity of Nürnberg. 


  Saturday, October 14, 1944:  We remained in Essegg the whole day because many of our people were in the German House facility.  Finally after an air raid alarm a portion of them found a place on wagons and left just as evening arrived.  We stayed overnight at the police station. 


  Sunday, October 15, 1944:  We gave up wearing our military uniforms and wore our civilian clothes.  We spoke with Lieutenant Colonel Speiser, Captain Mundwek and the office manager Rettig about the many people who had no wagon of their own.  We were told there were forty wagons available and assured us that all of them would be leaving.  At the bridge across the Danube we saw many wagons from Pasua.  The people were exhausted and could not grasp that they were to go across.  Philip Weingärtner and I crossed the bridge at 10:05 am. It was exactly the time when the worship service would have begun at home in our church. 

  Are we homeless now?  What is going to happen next?  What will become of our people and what of Neu-Pasua? 

  I will end here.  I kept making entries in my diary on an ongoing basis until October 28, 1944 and then several weeks in November.  But that does not deal with our village.  It does deal with the fifty men that were mentioned in the forgoing entries.  Military formations came and went.  There were no Partisans around Neu-Pasua.  Our men finally left our village in the last days of November.  One of the last units that were stationed in our village was Regiment 747 and 737 of the 117 Jäger Division that was assigned to the Syrmien front.  After delays and the end of all fighting our men also left the village as Partisans and non-Partisans from the surrounding Serbian communities took over our houses and everything we left behind without firing a shot. 

  This was the end of Neu-Pasua, 153 years after its founding.  From the time of the entry of the German troops up until our flight, three years, five months and twenty-five days had passed. Who would have thought that with the entry of the German troops it was really the beginning of the end for us?


[Published at DVHH.org 04 Nov 2009]

(prints 12 pages)

 

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