Völkermord der Tito-Partisanen
Für Kärnten und Steiermark
Genocide Carried out by the Tito Partisans
There were approximately one half of a
million persons of German origin living in Yugoslavia before the Second World
War according to the census of March 31, 1931. These figures however only
include those individuals who claimed German as their mother tongue. Those of
German origin actually numbered more than that, and historians suggest that
they numbered in the neighborhood of 600,000.
German speaking population of Yugoslavia the vast majority of them can be
counted as the descendants of those commonly known as the Danube Swabians.
German colonists who had been settled by the Hapsburg Monarchy some two
centuries before in the area that lay between the Danube, Tisza, Drava, Sava
and Morash Rivers after the expulsion of the Turks who left an unpopulated
wilderness and wasteland behind them.
to them, there were also the Germans in Lower Steiermark, the descendants of
Bavarian and Franconian colonists who migrated in the 9th century
to resettle the unpopulated area left after the Avars were driven out. There
were also the Gottscheer Germans, who were the descendants of Franconian,
Swabian, Tyrolian and Carinthian peasant farmers who were settled in the area
and were subsequently scattered from there. Above all, many of them moved
into the towns and were known as ethnic Germans in Croatia and Slovenia.
Swabians to a great degree originated in the hereditary Hapsburg lands, from
Alsace and Lorraine and the Palatinate, and a portion from Austria as well and
many others from the south-western German principalities. With the
dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the Danube Swabian settlement
areas and populations found themselves divided up into the various successor
states of Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia. As a result, some 600,000 now
belonged to Yugoslavia. The major settlement areas in Yugoslavia were the
Batschka, where one third of them resided, in addition to a portion of the
Banat, plus Syrmien (Srem), Slavonia and Lower Baranya.
Steiermark was annexed to the new Yugoslavian state after the First World War.
Second World War Yugoslavia was occupied by the German Army and their allies.
As the German Army and their allies in Yugoslavia began to retreat, a portion
of the German speaking population was evacuated. But about one half of the
German population, who had lived in peace and friendship with their various
Slavic neighbors for almost two centuries were not prepared to abandon what
for them was their homeland and remained behind.
beginning of October 1944 the first Russian troops entered Yugoslavia and in a
few day’s time they first occupied the Banat, and then the Batschka, and
completed the occupation of Syrmien and Slavonia by the war’s end. In those
areas occupied by the Russian troops, the Military Governments of the Serbian
Partisans were quickly installed in every region, and were in power until the
third of March of the following year. Attempts by their political opponents,
other nationalists and royalists to share in government were denied and they
were eventually liquidated.
with the setting up of Military Government by Tito’s Partisans a systematic
program of liquidation of the remaining German-speaking population was put
into effect. It was a field day for individual revenge and sadism. The vast
majority of the survivors of Tito’s death camps managed to escape to West
Germany in the 1950s, while a few thousand remained in Yugoslavia scattered
throughout the country and who no longer constitute a “German minority”.
the numbers of Danube Swabians in Yugoslavia who were victims of mass
shootings, starvation, and the diseases which raged in the camps and other
causes, have been set at about 175,000 persons, which is 32.7% of the
population reported in 1939. Included in that number are men killed or
missing in action in the military, some 40,000 who constitute 7.5% of the
population, which indicates that 135,800 civilians lost their lives (25.3%).
The vast majority of the civilian casualties occurred after the occupation by
the Red Army, during the reign of the Partisan’s “military government”. There
were mass shootings and executions, but also a planned systematic liquidation
program in effect.
digress about variations in the estimated numbers and are not included)
of this documentation is not simply to put blame or guilt on individuals who
were involved, but to raise our voices in condemnation over what occurred, and
how it occurred. These are the crimes of Tito and his henchmen, which are
centred on the following charges and issues:
The November 21, 1944 “National Decree” that
all persons of German origin were outside of the law with no legal recourse
or standing and were to be dispossessed of all property and possessions.
The systematic mass shootings of men in all
areas and districts.
The carrying off of all able bodied men and
younger women for slave labor in Russia.
The internment of all other civilians
regardless of age or sex into concentration camps where massive numbers died
from beatings, malnutrition, epidemics, cold and brutality.
Those released from the camps had to provide
three years of slave labor.
The “kidnapping” of children without parents
from the internment camps and their placement in state children’s homes to
be made to forget their identities and be raised as Communists and speak
these complaints not only against individual Partisans but also many who were
not Partisans who committed crimes against innocent people, killed, tortured,
murdered, beat and sexually abused them. We know only too well, that these
kinds of acts were not looked upon as crimes because they were done to Danube
Swabians who were outside of the law and there could be no consequences for
the perpetrator. Nor could the Danube Swabians call upon any of the state
institutions to plead their case. These acts were not crimes, for there was
no law against them nor was it forbidden to do, and no court would have
engage in questions of complex legal considerations and niceties. In its
place I offer this summary that capsulate the situation in which the Danube
Swabian civilian population would find itself)
All persons of German origin living in Yugoslavia
automatically lose their Yugoslavian citizenship and rights, privileges and
protection of such citizenship.
The entire property of all persons of German
origin can be confiscated by the state and claim ownership of it.
All persons of German origin cannot appeal to
their rights of citizenship in the courts or state institutions, nor could
they seek legal defense.
With this law
in effect the 250,000 Danube Swabians were robbed of their property and
possessions and declared to be outlaws. Confiscation meant more than loss of
property or money. It meant the very clothes on your back. Everything now
belonged to the State, even their lives and their bodies. Danube Swabian
labor was only for the benefit of the State. No one had a right to live with
their family nor any rights to their children who were taken away from them.
No right to come and go anywhere on one’s own. The Danube Swabian had no
rights but that of a beast of burden. They were in effect reduced to slavery.
There is no
question now that the liquidation program that followed was systematic and
planned from the top. Tito and his Partisan leadership were at the helm and
in control throughout. There were three basic methods and phases of the
Mass liquidations through execution and mass
Deportations of the able bodied to Russia
Mass liquidation through starvation and slave
labor in the concentration camps and the labor camps
All three of
these methods were already set in motion prior to November 21st,
but not entirely everywhere at the time. But from this point onward the three
methods would affect all persons of German origin and would eventually lead to
The Mass Liquidations
These mass shootings and massacres
were not the result of the decree but occurred along with the arrival of the
Red Army and the setting up of the Military Governments by the Partisans who
quickly followed on their heels. The bestial nature of these actions is hard
to describe and was subject to the local situation. The final destiny of
thousands of men and women from the Danube Swabian communities is still
unknown and has not seen the light day, and eye witnesses are no longer alive
in the terms of the perpetrators of the genocide program while the testimony
of the survivors could fill volumes.
Most of the
mass liquidation operations occurred prior to January of 1945, and only small
groups and individuals met their deaths in this way after that date. In these
later actions it was a matter of sadism rather than official policy. A beast
had been unleashed in search of victims. Part of the process was always
terror and torture.
comments: “The Tito Partisans thought up various ways and methods, which in
their eyes were appropriate for the extermination of their victims to maximize
their suffering. For instance there was the Schichttorten-Effect. For this
purpose old and abandoned wells and mine shafts were used. They threw in a
group of men in the shaft or well and then tossed in hand grenades after
them. Then another group of men were thrown in and the process repeated
itself, until the last layer, who were left wounded with no way of getting
back up to the top.”
Deportations to Russia
The first mass deportations were carried out on Christmas
Eve in 1944. The choice of date was hardly accidental, which would make
thousands upon thousands of children virtual orphans.
In all areas
and communities of the Batschka and the Banat, all Danube Swabians men from 18
to 40 years of age, and all women from 18 to 30 had to report to an assembly
area where they were examined physically to determine if they were able bodied
for labor by a Russian commission. They were then packed into cattle cars and
transported to a destination that was unknown to the victims. Only pregnant
women and nursing mothers were exempt, but for many of them their fate would
be even worse.
were not satisfied with the numbers they had apprehended and a second so
called “recruitment” was undertaken, in which the age for women was raised to
35 years, and some mothers of infants were also taken. At the time of this
second deportation the Partisans also occupied parts of southwestern Hungary
and carried out the deportations there as well. In Slavonia and Syrmien, only
isolated actions associated with the deportation were carried out. There were
some 40,000 persons involved in these deportations, including 2,400 persons
from Apatin alone. It was only in the summer of 1945 that their destination
and destiny became known. Few families were left intact.
Only the aged
and the children were left behind, and only a few of the children had one of
their parents with them to face what the future would hold for them. Most of
the children were with grandparents, or under the care of a teen-age brother
or sister or relative. In many cases small children were left alone in their
houses and had to fend for themselves. One old man in Filipovo gathered
twenty-eight of his grandchildren in his house because all of their parents
had been deported to Russia.
now detour into an examination of what they perceive to be the reasons behind
the liquidation of the Danube Swabian population, and I offer a precise.)
for the liquidation of the Danube Swabian population had several sources. But
at no time were they accused of going over to or supporting National
Socialism. At least no Yugoslavian government has ever accused them of such!
It was a well-known fact among their Slavic neighbors that the vast majority
of the Swabians did not support the Nazis. During the occupation by the
German Wehrmacht (Army) there were numerous instances where the local Danube
Swabian populations offered protection to the Serbians among whom they lived
and many of the Danube Swabian men had served in the Yugoslavian Army during
the German and Hungarian invasion in 1941. This was also well known in
government circles. Nor was membership in the Swabian Folk Group Union before
the war seen as anti-Yugoslavian, but primarily pro-German in terms of
language and culture. The government never took action against the
organization or saw it in any way subversive. None of these issues were
reasons for the persecution that was unleashed against them.
behind the liquidation of the Danube Swabians at its simplest was racist. The
Partisans, like the Nazis saw assimilated families (inter-marriage with
Hungarians, Serbs, Croats, Slovaks) to be the source for “contamination” of
the “race”, and they were as brutal, bestial and sadistic as any of those
involved in the Final Solution of the Jewish population during the reign of
the Third Reich.
of the local Slavic populations also played a role and through the support and
help of many of the different nationalities, some 20,000 to 25,000 Danube
Swabians escaped from the camps, and some 15,000 to 20,000 of them were able
to flee to Austria and Germany. That some 42,000 survived in the
extermination camps after three and one half years of inhuman treatment was
due to the assistance of thousands of Serbs, Croats, Hungarians, Slovaks and
Ukrainians. These people put their lives and the lives of their families on
the line in assisting the Danube Swabians in any way they could. This puts a
lie to the claim that the Danube Swabians had lorded it over their neighbors
during the Nazi occupation.
issue, as always, was economic. The Danube Swabians property, homes, assets
and savings were confiscated. Nor were the bestial reprisals against them a
result of any of their actions taken during the Nazi occupation. The Roman
Catholic priesthood, and the Lutheran and Reformed Danube Swabian pastors
always sided with their Slavic neighbors against any Nazi attacks or actions
taken against them. In effect, the clergy in sense were the only anti-Nazi
force that was active during the occupation. It is ironic that such a large
number of the anti-Nazi clergy were included in the mass shootings and
executions. They had three strikes against them. They belonged to the German
racial group. Religion and Communism were enemies. They were often the
leading intellectuals in the Danube Swabian communities.
in the Batschka there were forty-eight priests who were persecuted by the
Partisans in some of the most bizarre cruel manner representing both German
and mixed parishes. Eighteen of them were killed. Four were taken in the
deportation to Russia. Seventeen were interned in the camps and nine were
large elements of the population in the Batschka who were able to evacuate
prior to the coming of the Russian Army and the Partisan Military Governments
that followed. While in Slavonia and Syrmien there had been well organized
mass evacuations of almost the entire Danube Swabian population, but in the
Banat most of the attempts at flight were thwarted by Folk Group officials and
the local populations were trapped in stalled treks and had to return home and
to death and destruction, along with thousands of other Danube Swabians
fleeing from the Romanian Banat who had sought to cross the Danube passing
through Yugoslavia and make it to safety in Hungary but shared in the fate of
the Danube Swabians of Yugoslavia instead.
The imprisonment of the Danube Swabians
in internment camps began in December of 1944 and was completed by April
1945. There were three kinds of camps:
Zentralarbeitslager “Central Labor Camp”
Ortslager “Regional or District Camp”
Konzentrationslager fuer Arbeitsunfaehige
“Concentration Camp For Those Unable to Work”
Central Labor Camps most of the inmates were men who were put into work groups
and put to hard labor. In the District or Regional Camps, the local Danube
Swabian population was interned, often in their own villages as a stopgap
method. The Concentration Camps were for women, children and older men unable
to work. But in some cases, mothers were separated from their children and
teen-agers were later taken to the Labor Camps with them as well.
The Forced Labor
As soon as
the Russians occupied an area and the Partisans “set up shop”, various forms
of the slave labor were demanded of the Danube Swabian population. They were
always given the hardest and most difficult tasks, but their food and
accommodation were at the bare minimum. They worked from 4:00 am to dark and
received a piece of bread and watery soup at each meal. In many instances
work parties would be replaced and they themselves were then released to go
home. This was the general rule for work parties under the command of the
Russian military at the airport in Sombor. This never happened to those who
were under the jurisdiction of the Partisans. There was no release, except
death or flight. Those released by the Russians were invariably picked up by
the Partisans and put back into labor battalions.
Swabian slave labor battalions were made available to the railways, sanitation
departments and such. To be more available for work, local labor camps were
set up in old factories, schools, and former homes of Danube Swabians that
were converted into guarded compounds. Prisoners were shifted from camp to
camp and were marched on foot over long distances during the night to be
available for work the next day at the new site. The Partisans command was in
charge and in control of this action and placement.
laborers included both men and women and their life in the camps was
miserable. Torture and beatings were “normal”. Many died because of this
constant abuse and mistreatment. They could not keep up with the marching
column going to work and would be beaten and driven to the work place. Many
such laborers did not last for more than a week at the labor camp.
those who were in the labor camps had no contact or any information about
their family members. Often mothers had to leave their children in the care
of the oldest child or turned them over to a relative or friend or simply left
them to fend for themselves without knowing if they would ever meet again.
Often those who took in other children would be interned in a camp and had to
provide for them. It was against the law for “Germans” to send our receive
mail and mothers had no way of letting their children know where they were.
Nor did the mothers know of the situation or whereabouts of their children.
As early as
the fall of 1944, each district where the Danube Swabians lived had a large
central Forced Labor Camp. When the Military Government was abolished on
March 3, 1945 these camps came under the command and direction of various
state “enterprises”. The worste feature of these forced labor camps was the
practice of gathering groups of them for mass shootings or individual
executions. Many of those who were sick and too weak to work were the victims
of these shootings. But one could work hard and dutifully all day, only to be
return to camp and face a gruesome death to entertain the guards. It was
during the time when the Partisans were in control that the mass shootings
took place, later everyone lived in fear of individual execution.
was better for those slave laborers who worked and were lodged at their work
place away from the District Camp. These facilities were not well guarded.
There were no barbed wire compounds and it was easier to leave at night and
scrounge for food. Often the officials of such camps had too much heart to
let the inmates starve and increased their rations. If a person were unable
to be assigned to such a camp, he/she would weaken to such a degree that they
would be sent to a concentration camp. The situation of the forced laborers
simply got worse as they were moved from one work place to another.
Everything they had was taken away from them. Their garments became rags.
Camps were guarded by the military and a sentry accompanied all work groups on
the way to their work place. The guard’s task at the camp was to keep the
inmates inside and prevent all outside contact.
introduction of a civilian government on March 3, 1945 the forced laborers
could be purchased for work at the rate of 50 to 110 Dinar per day and the
purchaser would have to provide accommodations and food. The slave labor
“market” proved to be the salvation of many as former neighbors, friends,
acquaintances of the other nationalities purchased them and assisted them back
to health and well being and made contacts and traced the whereabouts and
fates of their family members.
Concentration Camps were introduced in the Banat, when all the remaining
Danube Swabian population was driven from their home communities to a central
camp. This was carried out in Werschetz on November 18, 1944 and then
preceded to be carried out everywhere. In the Batschka it began on November
29, 1944 in the southern districts in Palanka and several of the villages
around Neusatz. In a planned approach all of the rest of the Batschka
followed suit, with Stanischitsch the last to be effected in August 1945.
This community had a large Serbian population that spoke out against the
expulsions of the Danube Swabian population. At the same time the actions
were also begun in Syrmien and Slavonia, so that by September 1945 no person
of “German origin” was at liberty anywhere in Yugoslavia.
In every district there was at least one Forced Labor
Camp. But those unable to work were driven into the concentration and
internment Camps that in effect were designed to be extermination camps and
often served several districts. These extermination camps were located at:
Karlsdorf (Banatski Karlovac)
Brestowatz (Banatski Brestovac)
one rule and order in these camps was that no inmate could leave except in the
company of a guard. All outside contacts were forbidden and to go out begging
for food was punishable by death. The Partisans themselves called the camps,
“extermination centers” and they were mills grinding out death.
fashion in both the forced labor and concentration camps all of the
possessions of the inmates were taken away from them except what would be
necessary to clothe their naked bodies at burial. Food was practically
non-existent and as a result thousands would die of malnutrition, disease,
cold and starvation.
receive soup two times a day, usually with a sprinkling of beans, peas, oats,
barely or wheat cooked along with the clear water. There was a daily bread
ration, but not always, a small piece the size of two matchboxes. Both the
bread and soup contained no salt and the soup was without lard. The rate of
death was horrific. Every day a hole the size of a room in a house was dug
and the bodies of the dead were sewn into rags in their clothes or naked and
were thrown into it the next day. Some mothers accompanied all of their
children to one of these mass graves, while more often a child would be forced
to toss the body of their mother and other siblings into one of these graves,
only to end up in another one themselves. For the Danube Swabians victims
there was no cemetery or funeral of any kind.
Closing of the Camps
In the summer
of 1948 all of the camps in Yugoslavia were shut down. Those able to work had
to take on jobs. Those unable to work could rejoin their families and find
work there in order to support themselves. Others who were unable to find
somewhere to live were sent to what was called, “The Old Folks’ Home” in
Karlsdorf-Rankovice. This was hardly any different than the camps they had
survived. Since 1948 Karlsdorf bears the name of Rankoviecvo in honor of the
head of the OZNA who was personally responsible for the carrying out of the
liquidation of the Danube Swabians from the fall of 1944. Karlsdorf is the
last station of the cross of the Danube Swabian minority in Yugoslavia of what
was planned to be the total extermination of all persons of German origin in
the country …genocide.