Gerényes in Baranya County
Presented by Henry Fischer
Published at dvhh.org by Jody McKim Pharr
The experiences of
a teen age girl from the village of Gerényes in Baranya County in Swabian Turkey, who
desires to remain anonymous. Her story is very much like those from the Batschka and
the Banat but with a different twist because it occurred in Hungary.
Gerényes is a small village of
with some one hundred and twenty houses, the majority of which were occupied by Swabian
Lutheran families numbering 380 persons while the minority were Roman Catholic Magyars.
The two nationalities took turns in electing a Richter. Each group maintained
their own language and customs.
October 1944 large numbers of refugee treks passed through the village consisting
primarily of Danube Swabians from the Batschka in Yugoslavia. Some remained for up to
two weeks because there was enough room for them and their horses. They helped us with
the harvest and then were told to move on. They wept as they left and told their hosts
to remain at home and not take to the roads as they had done because it was something
they now regretted. Little did anyone know what was heading directly toward the village
and now just over the horizon.
leave taking was sad and the local people no longer considered flight ourselves. But
there were a few of the villagers who joined the evacuation because they were afraid to
risk staying behind. Some of the youth of the village were taken to Komlö to work in
the coalmines. In this way they were able to avoid recruitment into the Waffen-SS and
after the occupation of Komlö by the Russians they were sent home in December.
Russians came to the village because it was off of the beaten track. The village Richter brought any news of the outside world to the villager’s attention.
Accompanied by the Klein Richter they went about the village streets to
the beating of drums to make his announcement and get everyone’s attention.
When drumbeats were heard on the day after Christmas everyone realized that it must be
something important to interrupt the Christmas celebrations. All women born in the
years from 1914-1926 and all men born from 1900-1927 were ordered to report and register
for labour in Sásd. Some were immediately taken by wagon to the town that was nine
kilometres distant. Rumours spread that they were being taken to Pécs for fourteen days
to build an airstrip. Some, however, smelled a rat and went into hiding (including the
writer and her brother.) They hid in an old abandoned cellar about half an hour away
from the village. Their mother came to them by night and told them that if they did not
report and register their house and barn would be put to the torch. Both of them
refused to go home. On the third morning their mother arrived breathless and in tears.
She reported that their father had been taken in their place and she had to look after
the cattle and farm all by herself. Her brother said they should return in order to
release their father who was an old man and they were younger and stronger.
they arrived at the place of assembly, their father and all women who were pregnant or
had a child under the age of three were released along with the village schoolmaster and
worship leader of the Lutheran congregation Johann Neubauer, although his daughter was
kept back with the others.
the same day, it was December 27, 1944, at 7:00 pm all of the assembled people left the
village on foot. They marched four in a row with Russians guards behind and beside
them. Bundles with feather ticks, clothes and food were brought by wagon. They marched
all night until 4:00 am. They finally rested outside of Pécs, which meant they had
marched for 36 kilometres without a rest. After an hour’s rest they marched on to
Lakiscsalaktanya. There they were imprisoned in a stable. Straw was spread on the
frozen manure and the men and women were packed together there for several days. There
were about three hundred in all. It was the assembly camp for the entire area. They
received no food. Families and friends came and brought them food and drink. They
remained there for thirteen days but were not required to do any work. That surprised
Each day they were called up for roll call in groups of 40 persons. The guards had
noted that there had been some who had escaped and as a result relatives were no longer
allowed to visit or contact them.
January 10th they were taken to the railway station in Pécs. The cattle cars
were standing waiting for their cargo. This was goodbye for some forever. There were
only Swabians in the group. No Magyar civilians were deported with them. The author’s
mother had come to bring more supplies but she was prevented from doing so. The guards
would not allow anyone near the prisoners or the cattle cars. Most had to return home
still bearing the provisions they had brought. To this day many of the survivors thank
God for those women who managed to get by the guards and handed provisions to those in
the cattle cars. Some bribed the soldiers, but most had to stand back and see their
loved ones from a distance and for the last time.
woman fainted on board the cattle car and was removed and able to remain behind. Only
later would the others discover that a good friend had given her a cigarette, which had
led to her fainting spell.
Thirty-six persons were packed into each cattle car. The train passed through Vasarosdombo in the vicinity of Gerényes and the deportees saw it speed by through the
small high windows in the cattle car. They dropped notes out of the window hoping that
their families would get them. None ever did.
In Dombovár the train halted for the first time. The man in charge of the car was a good
man and left the door open and said, “When the train starts up it will go slowly jump
off here and head for home.” No one dared to do it. They travelled on to Baja. The
women were taken across the Danube by ferry and the men remained behind. They had
already separated the men and women from Gerényes. They all spent the cold night out of
doors on both sides of the Danube.
There were numerous Russian soldiers all around them. They were able to start a fire to
warm themselves. One told them to escape but most of the women were concerned about
male members of their family on the other bank of the Danube. The night was so cold
that the fire did not last and the soldiers took shelter in their quarters. By morning
the women’s dresses were frozen. They huddled together with one another and their
bundles and backpacks. Early in the morning the men were ferried across the river.
They were then taken to the railway station in Baja and loaded in cattle cars again.
They were packed like herring. On one end of the car were the women and teenage girls
from Gerényes and on the other were those from Jagolak. The women and girls from
Gerényes felt fortunate that they were able to remain together. There were fifteen of
them in all. In the centre of the car a hole had been drilled to serve as a toilet.
There was also a small stove to take the bite off of the cold. They could no longer
leave the car. At night the train went faster and they were afraid that the stove
propped on rocks would tip over and start a fire. During the day the train would often
stand on a siding for hours and the deportees hoped the Russians would get frustrated
and turn around and take them home.
They did not want to believe that the war was lost and that somehow the German army
would rescue them. Their hopes were to be dashed. On the journey, one or two men or
women were allowed to get water at stops along the way but always accompanied by
guards. The food they were given was meagre and badly prepared. People began to share
their remaining provisions with one another. They were separated from the men from
Gerényes and had no idea of where they were in terms of the long line of cattle cars.
The train passed through Romania and when it stood at sidings, the local Transylvania
Saxon populations would sneak food to the prisoners. They knew where they were going
because their own young people had already been taken a week before.
transport arrived in Russia on February 2, 1945 crossing the border at Nepropetrovskie.
The train then went on to Dombas in Ukraine and reached their ultimate destination there
on February 4, 1945.
They were placed in barracks that were warm and empty. They made up beds on the floor
with their feather ticks as they had on the train. They were relieved that the trip was
finally over and they could rest.
There were six large barracks surrounded by a wire fence. The first barrack was the
hospital. Next to it was a women’s barrack, men were in the third and fourth and then
the kitchen and another women’s barrack. Every barrack had an officer and interpreter.
women had Anna Müller from Csikostöttös as their interpreter. The officer was Jerilow
and spoke some German. He suffered from a head wound and was often “not there.” The
prisoners were not mistreated or abused. So everyone anticipated passing through this
“episode” in their lives.
Their first task was to build bunk beds in all of the barracks with two above and two
below. The Gerényes people bunked together and pooled all of their food and Anna Zarth
did the cooking and all of the others called her “mother” because she was the oldest.
The food from the camp kitchen offered little nourishment. Only three of the men from
Gerényes were in the camp. The others were somewhere else including the writer’s
April 15th they all reported for work detail, most of the men and women were sent to
work in the mines. Others from Gerényes worked in a saw mill. They unloaded the
timber, had to cut it and had to drag the filled wagons of logs into the mine. Constant
heavy work with little nourishment became to take its toll. They worked in three
shifts, seven days a week. Every ten days shifts were changed. When loads of logs
arrived all of them had to unload them if it was their shift or not. On the whole the
Russians were not bad to them and encouraged them that they would be going home soon.
months became years. Rations were poor and in 1946 there was famine in all of Russia.
Then came typhus and the pests of lice, bedbugs etc. Many died of hunger and typhus.
Married women became frightened when their menstrual flow ceased, but the young teenage
girls found the same thing happening to them.
May 1946 some of the Gerényes people were assigned to collective farms and other outside
work. The writer was separated from her brother again and he was just getting over
having typhus. She asked for permission to say goodbye to her brother and after their
tearful farewell she was allowed to remain at the camp.
There was no mail from home. It was only on June 2, 1946 that they heard from their
parents for the first time. The author’s barrack was next to the hospital and she saw
the countless numbers of dead being taken out for burial.
first group of those who were being released was finally organized. Only those who were
sick and starving were eligible. Two of the three teenage boys from Gerényes were
included: the März and Schleier boy. In 1947 the food provisions were somewhat
improved and there were fewer deaths.
a letter one of the deportees received on August 23, 1946 the survivors from Gerényes
learned of their family’s plight at home: the confiscation of all of their property
making them homeless and a loss of citizenship and in constant fear of deportation to
Russia themselves. Gerényes was no longer their home. There were strangers there now.
February 1947 the second transport of sick deportees left Russia including one of the
married women from Gerényes. Many sent letters home with her but she had to leave her
sister behind. They had just learned that their father had fallen in the war.
Meanwhile the writer’s brother was in hospital again. He could not survive the journey
back home. By now TB had set in and there simply no medication available. He died on
May 16, 1947 and was buried on the same day.
the end of 1947 those who had survived were simply skin and bones and had no strength
following June another a transport of those unable to work was put together. Four
married women and one teenage girl from Gerényes were included.
May 11, 1948 the vast majority of the Swabian population of Gerényes was expelled from
Hungary. The author’s parents were included. The first news she heard was in October
1948 from Germany where her parents awaited her…some day. At least she had an address.
1948 all of those from among the longest surviving prisoners were released including
those who were sick. Three married women from Gerényes were released at this time.
When they arrived in Germany all three women discovered that their husbands had died as
prisoners of war in Russia. Only two of the men from Gerényes in the other camp had
survived and were released. One of the mothers who remained in the camp died in a
mining accident and unknown to her at the time, her husband had been killed at the
1949 the camp was dismantled and the inmates were sent to work in various places. Soon
at the end of another year, with most of the Gerényes people gone home the days and
nights became longer and longer for those still left in Russia. The young author was
sent to the camp in Gorlowka and here she met a married woman from Gerényes who worked
in the kitchen with her.
Five weeks later they were taken to the assembly camp at Stalino. Cattle cars were
stuffed with people and sent across Romania to Hungary. The married woman was in one of
writer now reports, “In the end, on the 11th of November 1950 all of us who had
requested to be sent to Germany now had their turn. We were loaded on board cattle cars
and crossed over Poland and entered the Russian Zone of Germany. We arrived during
night of November 19/20 in Frankfurt-an-Oder. All of the bells of the churches in the
city began to ring to announce to the city that some more late arrivals from Russia had
arrived. All kinds of people came to the train station to meet us. The Red Cross was
there to assist us. Finally we received our release documents along with 50 East
Marks. Now each person was free to try to find their family and we did.”
author requested to remain anonymous.