Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Ethnic German Human Loses during WWII and Thereafter
Dr. Vladimir Geiger
Translated by Rosina T. Schmidt
In Germany the congress was irrevocably divided. Faced with rapid growth and increased activity of the renewing movement, which promoted its views through the gazette Volksruf, the central Kulturbund delivered in 1936 the decision to exclude itself from the Reformed Kulturbund. Conflict with management of the Kulturbund was transferred to local organizations. After lengthy tactics and political maneuvering during 1939 there was a preponderance of supporters of the Reformers in Kulturbund and withdrawal of the old leadership, who were loyal to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Activity in the Kulturbund and in the Reformer movement in the areas where the German minority was in the process of national assimilation with the majority of population, had a cultural obligation, and after the appearance of National Socialism also the political task of gathering the ethnic Germans and prevent denationalization the ethnic German minority.
One cannot, however, deny that the major impact of ‘institutions for the advancement of nations abroad’, which several existed in the German Reich. In particular, the distinct activity on the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle, the institutions established in the German Reich in 1936 to coordinate the work of the German ethnic minorities abroad and that their activities were largely determined in accordance with the current policy of the German Reich.
Ethnic Germans in the Kingdom of SHS / Yugoslavia, on Bosnia-Herzegovina territory were predominantly in the cities and districts of Banja Luka, Bosanska Dubica, Bosanska Gradiska, Bijeljina, Brcko, Derventa, Gradacac, Mostar, Tesli?, Travnik, Prijedor, Prnjavor, Sarajevo, Tuzla, Visoko, Zenica, Zvornik and Zepce. As per the cenus in 1921 (criteria native language) 16,399 / 16,471, ethnic Germans lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in 1931 14,988 / 15,500 / 15,600, according to various calculations. (Table 1 and 2). However, many were of the opinion that the results of the 1921st and 1931st census do not indicate the real number of ethnic Germans in the Kingdom of SHS / Yugoslavia, because some of them were for various reasons, especially economic and political, marked as Slovenes, Croats, Hungarians, Serbs, and others. Although in the Kingdom of SHS / Yugoslavia followed a period of decline of the natural growth of the ethnic German population, those that were assimilated prior to the beginning of the Second World War again were classified as ethnic Germans, which was linked to the actions of the Kulturbund and the Nazis, but also a major change in the domestic and international political relations.*
After the Nazi German’s attack on Kingdom of Yugoslavia in April 1941 completely new and changed circumstances developed for the members of the ethnic German minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ethnic Germans in the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA were grouped in the ethnic German national groups (Die Deutsche Volksgruppe) strictly on military style leadership principles (Führerprinzip), as well as military and paramilitary organizations modeled on the German Reich. Members of the ethnic German national group in INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA were legally guaranteed equality with the Croatian people.
At the beginning of World War II the ethnic Germans in Bosnia and Herzegovina were mostly settled in the cities and districts of Bosanska Gradiska, Sarajevo, Bijeljina, Prnjavor, Derventa, Banja Luka, Zenica, Zepce, Brcko, Tuzla, Doboj, Teslic, Prijedor, Gradacac, Zvornik and Jajce. There are different, even contradictory, statistics about the number of ethnic Germans in the Independent State of Croatia, and on the number of ethnic Germans in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1941, actually during the Second World War. The number of ethnic Germans in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been specified in the wide range of 16,000-23,000. At the beginning of World War II, according to the ethnic German folk group, in INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA towards the late 1941, there were in Bosnia and Herzegovina 23,267 ethnic Germans (Table 3); a figure of 23,000 ethnic Germans in Bosnia and Herzegovina was mentioned in reports by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the German Reich and the embassy of the German Reich in Zagreb in the summer in 1942.
However according to the historian W. Sattler, who in 1943 called for details on the ethnic German folk group in the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA , at the end of 1941 there were 19,900 ethnic Germans in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The post WWII statistics about the number of ethnic Germans differ also. According to L. Schumacher, whose calculations / estimations rely on census results of 1931, there were about 16,000 ethnic Germans in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the years between 1941 and 1944. The Historian V. Oberkersch, however, rounded up the number of ethnic Germans in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1941 to 20,000 and according to F. Hoffmann there were between 1942 and 1944 18,367 ethnic Germans, and according to K. Weber in 1941 there were 21,000 Germans in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, the estimate of 21,000 ethnic Germans in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Second World War is largely accepted and cited in the ethnic German / folksdoj?erskoj historiography and journalism. (Table 5 and 7).
As to just how many human losses of the ethnic German population in Bosnia and Herzegovina actuallywere in 1941, the calculations significantly differ in Serbian and Croatian literature in Yugoslavia during World War II. At the beginning of World War II in 1941 the population of the ethnic Germans in Bosnia and Herzegovina was to calculate / estimate B. Ko?ovi? to 18,000, and according to the calculation / evaluation V. Žerjavi?a there were 16,000. (Table 10 and 11).
However, L. Schumacher, B. Kozovic and V. Žerjavic did ignore the assumption that the results of the 1931 census were not the real numbers of the ethnic Germans in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to estimate the actual number of ethnic Germans in 1941, because some of them for various reasons, especially economic and political “assimilated” themselves or otherwise did not express their true heritage. However, by the beginning of the Second World War some of them again acknowledged to be ethnic Germans, which then linked them to the actions of the Kulturbund and the Nazis, during the thirties of the 20th century, as well as to the major changes in the domestic and international political agenda. In addition, the censuses of the Kingdom of SHS / Yugoslavia, especially the one in 1931 are to be accepted only with a grain of salt, because they most likely 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 Žerjavic’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)