Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Ethnic German Human Loses during WWII and Thereafter
Dr. Vladimir Geiger
Translated by Rosina T. Schmidt
Continuation from Part Three:
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 seen to Germany as soon as the favourable 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 homes, and those who were coming from different parts with the intention to return to their homes, were to be sent to labor camps, as well as those who are still arriving. ”
At the Potsdam Conference (July 17th to August 2, 1945) the Allied powers who won the war, it was concluded (XIII: “Orderly resettlement of the German population”) that the remaining German population from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary must relocate to the area of ??Germany. Resettlement (ethnic cleansing) was legalized as a lasting and satisfactory solution that should be carried out in an “organized and in a humane way.” The States that were not part of the Potsdam Conference, solved the problem of ethnic Germans cleansing in even more drastic ways, especially Yugoslavia.
For Austria it was a major economic, social and political problem in regards to the DPs (Displaced Persons), especially in regards to the largest group the ethnic Germans at the end of World War II and post-war period. From the middle of 1945 the problem of displaced persons in Austria began to intensify greatly. Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia began during that time expelling the ethnic Germans in masses. The Austrian government has protested to the Allies and insisted that they immediately shut the Austrian border. The British, American and Soviet occupation authorities in Austria, not only encouraged the return of ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia, but they expressed opposition to the Yugoslav efforts to deny the return of refugees / displaced persons, and especially opposed Yugoslavia’s efforts to expel ethnic Germans from Yugoslavia.
Because of the closure of the borders with Austria, Italy and Hungary by the Allied occupation authorities in mid-July 1945 the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Yugoslavia became impossible and for the remaining Yugoslav ethnic Germans what followed were the camps and forced labor.
The question in regards of ethnic German property in Yugoslavia was resolved without compromise. There was no difference between the property of the German government and private property of the ethnic German who were actually Yugoslav citizens; the properties of ethnic Germans were fully equal to the Germans of the German Reich and all were declared enemies of the Yugoslav peoples.
During the preparation for agrarian reform and colonization the question arose as to whether the decision of the Presidency AVNOJ on 21 November 1944t in regards to the property of Austrians, Austrian citizens who expressed to be Yugoslav nationals would also apply, the Presidency of the Ministerial Council DF Yugoslavia took the view on the 26th October 1945 that the decision by AVNOJ should also apply to assets of the Austrians.
Thus, the assets of the Trappist Monastery of Mary Star, as well as asset of the ASC convent were confiscated in the immediate post-war period, and their long-time charitable, educational, cultural and economic work as well as the credit for the progress of Bosnia and Herzegovina was suppressed and forgotten.
In Yugoslavia, a total of about 100,000 ethnic German properties were confiscated, an area of 637,939 hectares. Bosnia and Herzegovina took possession of 3,523 properties of a total of 12,733 surface hectares. The procedure of confiscation only required to establish that a particular asset was entered on the date the Decision of the Presidency of AVNOJ on 21st of November 1944 was made and that it belonged to persons of German nationality or ethnic German minority.
It is estimated that approximately 500,000 Yugoslav ethnic Germans were able to escape by the end of World War II, and that’s not counting members of the military and paramilitary troops. But about 200,000 ethnic German civilians were not able to escape and fell under communist dictatorship in Yugoslavia. Out of that 25% died in the internment camps between 1944 and the beginning of 1948, while the rest disappeared during the ethnic cleansing.
The structure of the Yugoslav ethnic Germans inmates was most vividly describe by the Ministry of Interior of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on 18th of January 1946. (Tabular overview of interned and not interned ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia), which states that in Yugoslavia’s camps were 117,485 ethnic Germans, of which 34,214 were men, 58,821 were women and 24,422 were children, and that 12,897 ethnic Germans were not interned. According to this report, on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina 1,117 ethnic Germans were in the camps, of whom 469 were men, 222 were women and 426 were children, and fnot interned were 4 persons of German nationality (1 man, 1 woman and 2 children). (Table 13)
This shows that the esimates were too low and that in the post-war period in Yugoslavia acctually
580 German / folksdoj?erske were interned in the camps and that not interned were actually 70 Bosnian-Herzegovinian ethnic Germans. (Table 7)
In the post-war period the Bosnia-Herzegovina’s ethnic Germans were interned in camps for ethnic Germans in the regions of Slavonia. To the camps were sent entire ethnic German families, mostly elderly, women with children, regardless of age. However, the inmates who were able to work were forced to slave labour, usually to a physical labour.
In 1948 the first post-war census 55,337 ethnic Germans were recorded in Yugoslavia (in Bosnia and Herzegovina 1174), (the Austrians listed in 1948 census due to the negligible number of their members were grouped under “Other”), which most vividly testifies to their fate. (Table 1)
After 1951 the conditions for the ethnic German minority in Yugoslavia slightly improved. FNR Yugoslavia abolished the status of “the state of war” with Austria and Germany. Until then the emigration of ethnic Germans from Yugoslavia was still possible only through the Red Cross as part of family reunification. After the agreement between Yugoslav and German governments in 1952, the remaining Donauschwaben were able to relocate to Germany, and individual emigration was approved. After the 1953 and 1954 with signing of an agreement between the Austrian and Yugoslav government’s the remeining ethnic Germans were dismissed of the Yugoslav citizenships and had the opportunity to acquire the Austrian citizenship, and as of 1955 the emigration of German and Austrian minorities of Yugoslavia was considerably simplified. Therefore, the population censuses in Yugoslavia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to show significant reduction in the number of ethnic Germans (and Austrians). (Table 1)