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Historical Accounts

Dr. Vladimir Geiger
Historian at the
Croatian Historical Institute in Zagreb presented his research on

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Ethnic German Human Loses during WWII and Thereafter

Page-2

Translated by
Rosina T. Schmidt

Continuation from page-1: were manipulated so not to show the actual number of how many national ethnic minorities there were based on the criteria of the mother tongue, including how many ethnic Germans. Undoubtedly, during the time of INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA  in 1941 the number of Bosnian-Herzegovinian ethnic Germans was different and greater than Ko?ovi?’ and especially Schumacher’s and Žerjavi?’s estimations.

Because of the vulnerability and insecurity of ethnic German populace and settlements in the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA  by insurgents, partisans – the Yugoslav National Liberation Army, and the Chetniks - the Yugoslav Homeland Army, almost from the very beginning of the Second World War it came to their displacement and evictions.

The first relocation of ethnic German population in the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA  was the resettlement in 1941 and early in 1942 of the most vulnerable villages in Potkozarje, Lika, Kordun, Banovina and northwestern Bosnia, first to a safer area of ??Western Slavonia, and then early in 1942 to Syrmia. Due to the increasing vulnerability and the need for resettlements during 1942 diverse committees were formed as well as offices for resettlement of the ethnic German population in INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA .

With the cooperation of the embassy of the German Reich in Zagreb a commission was formed for resettlement of the ethnic Germans from Northwestern Bosnia
(Treuehänder für Umsiedlung der Bosnia-Deutschen). The ethnic Germans from Königsfeld/Dubrava and Karlsdorf / Vrbas near Bosanska Gradiska were the first in Bosnia and Herzegovina to be relocated in December of 1941. They moved temporarily to Stara Gradiska and in the area of Nova Gradiska.  In January of 1942 most of them were relocated to the area of Indjija. Towards the end of 1942 those Bosnia-Herzegovina’s ethnic Germans who were the most vulnerable by the effects of the partisan movement emigrated to the German Reich.

Among the first were to be moved or evicted at the end in 1942 the ethnic Germans from different places of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, on 25th September in 1942 members of the ethnic German folk group in Jajce, who were directly endangered by the partisan movement.

At the end of September in 1942 an agreement was signed by the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA  government and the German Reich on the emigration of ethnic Germans from certain areas of the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA  who were most exposed to partisan attacks (Vereinbarung zwischen der Deutschen Regierung und der Regierung des Unabhängigen Staates Kroatien über die Umsiedlung von Angehörigen des deutschen Volkstums aus bestimmten Gebieten des Unabhängigen Staates Kroatien in das Deutsche Reich, Zagreb, den 30th September 1942), almost all ethnic Germans from Bosnia and Herzegovina, except those from Windthorst and Adolfstal next to  Banja Luka, TROŠELJ next to Bosanska Gradiska and Brcko, as well as the emigration of ethnic Germans from various towns and villages in Croatia .

The numbers of ethnic Germans who emigrated from Bosnia and Herzegovina in late 1942 wary in the range between 15000 and 23000, and most sources, literature included, commonly referred to 17000-18000. According to official claim some 17,363 ethnic Germans were relocated from the Bosnian-Herzegovinian towns and villages (Bosanska Krupa, Prijedor, Karlsdorf/Vrbas, Bosanska Gradiska, Banja Luka, Prnjavor, Glogovac Teslic, Derventa, Korace, Bosanski Brod, Bosanski Samac, Gradacac, Doboj Tuzla, Bijeljina, Schönborn/Novo Selo/Peter Polje, Zavidovi?, Zenica, Jajce, Sarajevo, Mostar, etc.). The various sources and literature cited slightly higher figures, namely that after the agreement between INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA  and the German Reich in September 1942 the emigration of ethnic Germans from certain areas of INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA , mainly from Bosnia and Herzegovina, between 6th October and 22nd November 1942 three different total numbers emerged: 17,904 or 18,360 or 18,370.

Those total numbers Bosnia-Herzegovina’s ethnic German emigrants included those resettled to the German Reich and to Slavonia and Syrmia during late 1941 and early 1942 as well as the ethnic Germans evicted from the Croatia. Specifically, towards the end of 1942 about 2,500 ethnic Germans moved out from some Croatian towns and villages. After resettling in the new areas (Litzmannstadt / ?ód?) these immigrants receive citizenship of the German Reich, but also lost the right to return to their native land. (Table 6)

There are many statistics with larger numbers of ethnic Germans who emigrated from Bosnia and Herzegovina, which seam to be exaggerated. For example, according to the estimates of Siegfried Kasch, the ethnic German representative in the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA , in July of 1942 he personally encouraged as a necessary emigration around 23,000 of Bosnian-Herzegovinian ethnic Germans to relocate to the German Reich.

During World War II, members of the ethnic German national group in INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA  were [involuntary] recruited into the armed forces of the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA  (Deutschen Jägerbataillons, part of the Home Guard and Einsatzstaffel der Deutschen Mannschaft in the Ustasha army) and fought in the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA , or were recruited into armed forces of the German Reich (Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS) and fought in the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA  and the Balkans or in other European battlefields, mostly in the East.

The Bosnia-Herzegovina ethnic Germans joined the military and paramilitary troops of the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA  and the German Reich and were involved in combat operations against insurgents, guerrilla movement, and the Chetniks (primarily as members of the Deutschen Jägerbataillons and Einsatzstaffel DM, then in the 7th SS Division "Prinz Eugen"), in defense of their settlements and the increases of the rebels on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Ortsschutz, as in Heimatwacht der Deutschen Volksgruppe of the Unabhängigen Staate Kroatien).

The Bosnian-Herzegovinian ethnic German press in INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA was full of obituaries and names of the fallen soldiers and killed civilians. The overwhelming fact was that the events on battlefields especially the vulnerability and insecurity of the villages and the population in the Independent State of Croatia through the partisan movement did not guarantee the safety of lives and property of the ethnic German population.

Just how many ethnic Germans emigrated from Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1943 and by the end of 1944 wary, and could be around 2,000 to 3,000 people.

During the 1943, and especially by the end of 1944 the remaining ethnic Germans in the Independent State of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina fled and left their homeland. At the beginning of 1943 the partisan forces targeted the large number of ethnic Germans in Slavonia, and was followed by displacement of the ethnic German folk group from western and central Slavonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the surroundings of Osijek and Syrmia. According to the plans during 1943 about 5,000 ethnic Germans were to be relocated from the remaining ethnic German settlements in Bosnia. At the same time while transferring the ethnic German folk group from Central to Eastern Slavonia and Syrmia on 21st September of 1944 the rest of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s ethnic Germans from Windthorst, Adolfstal and TROŠELJ were relocated to Osijek, from where they travelled through Hungary to the German Reich. The remaining ethnic Germans from Brcko and its surroundings were forcefully emigrated at the same time as the ethnic German folk group in the districts between Sava and Danube and the areas in the eastern Syrmia districts in the fall 1944, and with that actually ended the exodus of the ethnic Germans from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

At the end of 1944 and the beginning of 1945 the National Liberation Army and Yugoslav partisan / Yugoslav Army and the newly established "national" government started systematic persecution of the remaining ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia. This has been mainly decided by the Presidency of the Antifascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia on 21st of November 1944, when it was declared that the ethnic German minority was a collective culprit . "The decision to turn the enemy's assets into state-owned assets, the state administration forcible confiscated the properties of the absent persons and the properties that were sequestered by the occupying authorities.”  The president of AVNOJ released in mid-December 1944 the decision that was reached on 21st of November 1944, which determined the position of the Yugoslav ethnic Germans.

The decision by the Presidency of AVNOJ on 21st November 1944 was not depending on establishing the truth or validity of the evidence of facilitating the occupiers, but came to attack every person of ethnic German nationality, that was not directly opposed to Nazism.

The victims of collective reprisals were not the only Yugoslav ethnic Germans who could prove their involvement in the partisan movement or their help. To others their property was confiscated, they ended in the starvation camps and were deported. 

On the basis of this decisions the Presidency AVNOJ on 21st of November 1944 implemented a series of decisions, regulations and interpretations of laws, which enabled them and which finally achieved the legal persecution of ethnic Germans. The issue of ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia was solved simple and without compromise.

The relationship of the People's Liberation Army and Yugoslav partisan / Yugoslav Army and the "folk" Yugoslav authorities, towards the Yugoslav and Bosnia and Herzegovina ethnic Germans, which were labeled by collective guilt, is a best example of ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the end of World War II and in the immediate post-war period.

As ordered by the Department of Yugoslav National Defense the units of Yugoslavian Army occupied some settlements and arrested the still remaining ethnic Germans and took them to the concentration camps, from where they were to be expelled from Yugoslavia. The few remaining Bosnian-Herzegovinian Germans were expelled and imprisoned by the Yugoslavia's communist authorities in the concentration camps, which were in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnian Aleksandrovac Bosanska Dubica, Laus, near Banja Luka, Nova Topola, Sarajevo, Zenica).

Prison camps and forced labor camps were established immediately after the partisan detachments NOV and PO of Yugoslavia established their authority in a particular area in the summer and fall of 1944, which by the end of the Second World War and in the immediate post-war period became very frequent and usual.

There were a considerable number of German soldiers prisoners in detention camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who remained as forced laborers. Those prison camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina were in: Banovici, Banja Luka, Brcko, Busovaca, Doboj, Donja Viš?a, Jablanica,Lukavac, Maglaj Modrica, Mostar, Nemila, Novo Sarajevo, Pale, Vares, Visoko, Zavidovi?, Zenica, Žep?e, Živinice, and  in Sarajevo and Doboj were prison hospitals.

The Yugoslav communists intented and succeeded to completely eradicate what they called “any traces of the enemy” in the immediate post-war period as ordered by the command of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia on 18 May 1945 by the removal of military cemeteries of the occupiers. As it was confirmed through various sources in literature and contemporary events during the post-war period Bosnia and Herzegovina systematically eliminated tombstones and graves of all of the enemy armies, and even the graves of German soldiers were destroyed and removed from the well-looked after German military cemetery (such as in Sarajevo and Banja Luka).

The long duration and intensity of World War II in the Independent State of Croatia, and particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the presence of significant strength of occupying forces of German Reich and Italy and operations by the Armed Forces of the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA, Chetniks - the Yugoslav Homeland Army and the partisans - the National Liberation Army of Yugoslav partisan division / Yugoslav Army resulted in direct conflicts of warring factions, which led to large numbers of casualties among the soldiers, and among the population. Irreconcilable ideologies and political and military interests of the opposing sides multiplied the human losses in the civil war.

The war crimes that were committed by some of the ethnic Germans and their disloyal attitude during World War II and the occupation of any part of Yugoslavia, including Bosnia-Herzegovina served as the reason, justification and excuse for the inhuman treatment of the German minority duing the late war years. The collaboration of Yugoslav ethnic Germans do not differ in any respects from the collaborations of Hungarian, Albanian, Italian or Bulgarian Yugoslav minorities. However, only the ethnic Germans were found to be the collective culprits.

The new Yugoslav authorities went out o their way to gather information and to corroborate (to prove) that the Danube Swabians were the "enemies of the people" and "war criminals". It was during this time that every ethnic German citizen of Yugoslavia was regarded to be a war criminal, unless it could be proven otherwise.

The new authorities who had the task to register the war crimes, search for the perpetrators and collect the evidence, were actually not entirely in clear what a war crime actually was. The political environment that contributed to such attitudes and actions was anything but normal.

In researching and understanding the history of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian ethnic Germans during World War II one has to acknowledge the humanitarian efforts and actions of individuals in protecting the persecuted persons by the measures of the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA’s  authorities and occupying forces of the Nazi Germany. It is not an insignificant fact that five of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Danube Swabians (Joseph and Rozika Eberhardt and Adam Till from Sarajevo and Francis and Lydia Griner from Mostar) were noted for their humanitarian works and for the protection of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Jews, and received the Order “Righteous Among the Nations”.

The new Yugoslav authorities insisted on the prohibition of the return of refugees and displaced ethnic Germans to Yugoslavia. The decision to prevent the return of the Yugoslav ethnic Germans was made at the meeting of the State Commission for repatriation in Belgrade on 22 May 1945 to which the government of the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia and the General Staff of the Yugoslav Army agreed.

Moreover, the government intended to expel from the country the remaining ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia. The Ministerial Council DF Yugoslavia, Belgrade, reported on 11 June 1945: "The government of Yugoslavia is of the view that all ethnic Germans who are within the borders of Yugoslavia are to be senth to Germany as soon as the favorable technical conditions are created."

The Ministry of Bosnia and Herzegovina DF Yugoslavia in Belgrade sent on 14 June 1945 to the Presidency of the People's Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, a letter emphasizing "After the collapse of Nazi Germany on our border with Austria some ethnic Germans emerged, who were displaced during the occupation of the territory of Bosnia. They are trying to enter our country. Even though our border authorities have given orders not to let them into the country, the information has been received that a certain number of ethnic Germans managed in some way across the border [...]. Those ethnic Germans, who returned to the their ancestral lands requested that their farms would be returned, as was the case in the Prnjavor county.
 
The National authorities did not yet have guidelines which attitude to take toward them. The Presidency of the People's Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina were asked to "take measures to investigate just how did those Germans cross the border, in order to immediately prevent the recurrence of such events». The Presidency of the Ministry of Bosnia and Herzegovina stressed that People's Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina made the decission on 14 June 1945 that Ministerial Council Yugoslavia has already released a confidential writ by which the ethnic Germans, who were able to return should not be given permission to entertheir property, but they should be interned in concentration camps ("Do not let the ethnic Germans on their property, keep them in interned in the camps and use them for labour [...] ").

The Administrative Department of the National Committee of Bosanska Gradiska reported on 21st August 1945 that the District People's Committee of Banja Luka acted on the orders which the Administrative Division of the District People's Committee Bosanska Gradiska forwarded on 10th June 1945 to the subordinated authorities of the expulsion of the ethnic Germans, Ustashe and Chetniks to the labor camps, "[...] all the ethnic Germans who remained in their... see page-3;

Note by the translator

Translator’s note: Enemy

Officially: the People’s Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia.

Usp. Eli TAUBER, Kada su komsije bili ljudi, Sarajevon 2008 (When neighbours were real human beings)