Genocide, Horror & Survival "1944-1948"
A most descriptive
first-hand account of a Banater who suffered and survived
Tito's concentration and extermination camps
from 1944 to 1948.
Published at DVHH by Jody McKim Pharr
My family lived in Mastort and
our ordeal began with the arrival of the Red
Army, followed by Tito's partisans, on October
6, 1944. At first, we were
concentrated in a few houses in Mastort but soon
were transferred to the death camp of Molidorf.
From Molidorf, we were shipped in open cattle
cars to the extermination camp of Gakowa, from
which we escaped to Hungary in September of
As part of the madness of WWII, I lost my father
and two uncles. One of my uncles (and godfather)
was tortured and hacked to death by the
Partisans at the infamous Milchhalle (milk hall)
death mill in Kikinda. My paternal
grandparents and an aunt starved to death in
Molidorf. Another aunt died of
mistreatment, starvation and disease in Gakowa.
My mother almost died from mistreatment at the
hands of armed and sadistic Partisans who forced
her and about 20 other women internees to lie in
a frozen ditch that she and the other women in a
work detail had been ordered to hack open as
part of their "punishment" for being ethnic
Germans in Yugoslavia.
To survive, we ate potato peels,
melon rinds and anything else edible we found in
the Partisans' HQ garbage dump. We ate
grass and anything that was still growing there
on the ground and on trees, scavenging for dead
hares in winter times and mother risking death
by sneaking out at night to go begging for food
and clothing from sympathetic Hungarians and
Serbs living in neighboring villages.
Fortunately, mother could speak both
Serbo-Croatian and Hungarian which she learned
in school before German became compulsory.
But she survived and managed to escape from
Gakowa with me at age 10, my seven-year-old
brother and my four-year-old sister.
My family lived in Mastort and our ordeal began
with the arrival of the Red Army, followed by
Tito's partisans, on October 6, 1944.
At first, we were concentrated in a few houses
in Mastort but soon were transferred to the
death camp of Molidorf. From
Molidorf, we were shipped in open cattle cars to
the extermination camp of Gakowa, from which we
escaped to Hungary in September of 1947.
After a few months in Hungary and almost four
years in an Austrian refugee camp (Feffernitz,
in the province of Carinthia) we emigrated to
the United States under the sponsorship of my
mother's uncle who had come to the USA as a
19-year-old in 1907, like so many other
Donauschwaben, in search of work and a better
Deutsch Zerne, my hometown, was a short distance
away from Mastort. My father's sister,
Katharina Muller, who died in Gakowa, was
married to Mathias Bockmuller from Deutsch Zerne
but they lived in Mastort. He, like
my father and godfather, perished in WWII as
conscripted ethnic German soldiers in the Prinz
Eugen Division. Sadly, this division
ostensibly was organized to defend our homeland
but the German Germans decided otherwise when
the going got tough on other fronts.
Sending our men to those war fronts left our
homeland unprotected when we needed the help of
our men the most. Many of them perished at
the same time as members of their families
suffered and died at home.
And that, as they say, is history.
John F. Mueller,
Rochester Hills, Michigan, USA
born in Mastort (Massdorf) in 1937 and lived there
until our expulsion in 1944. My wife and I
returned there in 1985 for my one and only quick
look-see visit, but nothing was the same anymore,
obviously. As they say, you really can't go home
Note: Mastort/Massdorf, just
southeast of Kikinda in the western Banat region of
what was formerly called Yugoslavia (now
Serbia-Montenegro). The eastern Banat became part of
Romania after the Banat region was divided among the
successor states of Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia