From Ulmbach to Ingelheim am Rhein

Extractions from the Manuscript

From Ulmbach in Banat to Ingelheim am Rhein

by Anton Kraemer (1926-2010)

Translated by Rosina T. Schmidt

Edited by Cornelia R. Brandt

“With thanks to Banat Verlag Erding and Author’s Family for their generous permission

The ‘Teaching Corps’ of the German Wehrmacht

Late in the fall of 1940 the first of the ‘Teaching Corps’ arrived in our town of Ulmbach and were enthusiastically greeted. They had superb armaments, were neatly dressed, were extremely disciplined, but to our greatest surprise they were quite uninformed. They were completely uniformed about the country, or what kind of situation its Army happened to be in, and specifically they had no knowledge about us, the Teaching Corps. This disappointed us the most. They could not understand, that people who lived so far from the Heimat, who claimed to be ethnic German, spoke German between themselves, were actually so good at it, that they could not have just recently learned the language.

To us it was quite incomprehensible that so much ignorance could exist in those otherwise well educated young people. The organization of the “Volksbund fuer das Deutschtum im Ausland” (League of the Nation for the Germaneness abroad), as well as other organizations, worked for decades to establish and support contacts between us and the German educational system. Even our priest recalled that he had to first explain to the military chaplains who we were, and where we came from.

Right at the start the German ‘Teaching Corps’ removed the beating punishments in the Romanian Army, which, until that time was a normal procedure. Next they made sure that the soldiers received proper food rations a change from the daily bean soup. While in Russia the rank and file became brave and loyal compatriots, as they thankfully remembered that it was through them that they were for the very first time dealt with humanely while in the military. On the other side of the Bug River the German Wehrmacht later provisioned the Romanian Divisions, the reason why the Romanians supported the Germans and stood at their side. When later the Red Army’s break through at Stalingrad was blamed by the arrogant Wehrmacht membership on the so–called cowardice and untrustworthiness of the Romanians they felt much offended by being blamed for it.

The Company of the German Army, which in the winter of 1941 was stationed for a whole month in our village, consisted mostly of the cheerful Rheinlaenders[1], who enjoyed the overly generous hospitality offered to them. They were thrilled specifically that in our town they could celebrate their beloved Carnival. In our town you could also eat and drink excellently, even celebrate the Carnival, specifically during the wintertime, when there was no fieldwork and everyone had time for amusements. To the young soldiers it felt like a fairyland. The war was distant- one could purchase anything; nothing was rationed as it was back home. Many took the opportunity to send parcels home that were filled with delicacies. Their family members already had to go without for quite some time. The hosts generously contributed whatever their overfilled larders could offer.

The rumor started that there would be war with the Soviet Union when those soldiers departed.  But first our Heimat was almost involved in a battle. We hardly noticed that Yugoslavia also became Germany’s Allies and became aware of it only when a clique of military Officers revolted. They not only broke the one-week old agreement but also joined the other side. A military fight seamed to be inescapable and so it turned out to be.

Vienna’s Decree

The first arrival of the German troops in Romania was preceded by political events, which alarmed the ethnic Germans: both of the Vienna’s Decrees in the Fall of 1940, after which Romania had to cease the northern part of Siebenbuergen to Hungary under the pressure of the German Reich. This area was populated mainly by Hungarians and ethnic Germans. For a long time during the negotiations it became unclear, just which parts were demanded by Hungary. Quite a few of the older generations hoped, that all of the Banat would be reunited with Hungary, while us younger folks hoped for the later decision. We didn’t want to hear anything about being reunited, less so because of Hungarian language we had to learn instead the Romanian language, but more so as we knew that German-Hungarians had less rights than us ethnic Germans in Romania. Only one accountant and a railway employee with their families left for Hungary. Both sons of the railway employee went with me to school.

Our town stayed untouched by Vienna’s Decree events, excepting the departure of those two families. When in contact with the bureaucracy in the city[2] and the surrounding area one soon noticed that the Romanians pretended that those Decrees were unimportant. In reality they were resentful toward the ethnic Germans as well as the Hungarians, their arch-enemies. After the war however, they took back the areas that were taken from them five years earlier under the pressure of the German Reich. Their Hungarian ‘socialist brothers’ in turn did not forgive this to this very day. With that Romania took possession of about 2 million Hungarians who lived in those areas and the ethnic animosity between those two countries continues until our times.

One could clearly see on the television news, just how the nationalism in Romania escalated to the bloody excesses in the short revolution of 1989. The ancient animosity between Romanians and Hungarians motivated the many still living ethnic Germans in Romania to emigrate, so as not to be pulled under between those two milling stones. This dilemma was spared to the Bistriz’ Sachsen of North Siebenbuergen. They had been evacuated to the West in 1944 prior to the invasion of the Red Army.

As a soldier in the winter of 1944/45 while billeted in the Hungarian schools I noticed that the maps still presented the Hungarian territory as the borders were in 1914. A slogan embellished the map: “Nem, nem, soha!” (“No, no, never!”). The Hungarians refused to accept the Trianon Accord’s consequences – “the torment of 1919”- but they also never lost the dream of “Stephan’s-Crown Empire”. Stephan I was the first Hungarian king, who let himself being christened and was crowned by the Pope around the year 1000 AD, and brought Christianity to all of Hungary, the area roughly the size of its 1918 borders.


Home to the Empire – The Resettlement

After the Hitler-Stalin-Pact in the fall of 1939 a new resentment welled up over the taking over of Bessarabia and north of Bukovina by the Soviet Union. Already in the summer months of 1940 many Romanian refugee families arrived from that area to our town and were billeted with the farming families. That led to quite a few unpleasantries as the refugees hardly ever helped out in the households or on the host farms and were considered as exploiters by them. Hardly any one thought about their fate, much less that the same experiences would not be spared to themselves.

After the war my father reported that in September of 1944 some officers arrived also with the Russian troops, who looked for the refugees that escaped the Russians in Bessarabia in 1940. They knew exactly in which of the houses in our town the refugees were living, collected them, arrested them and took them away. Most likely not all of the imprisoned were sent to the Soviet Union. During the internment years in the Baragan-Steppe (1951-1956) between those tens of thousands of Banat’s Danube Swabians were also many of the former refugees considered by the government as ‘politically untrustworthy’.

The resettlement of the ethnic Germans started in the fall of 1940 from the Romanian areas of Bessarabia and North Bukovina that were ceded to the Soviet Union  – home to the Empire. This was the first ethnic cleansing, and Hitler led it meticulously through. Everyone else, – Yugoslavs, Poles, Czechs, and even the Romanians (!) dreamed hopefully about such possibility. Alas, we had absolutely no clue about that. It was only after the ‘revolution’ of 1989 that the archives were opened to the public. Long before the war, concrete plans were made to forcefully resettle the Romanian-Germans all over the country. The plans had the goal of ‘nationalization of the borders’, of which the Romanian news always talked about in foggy articles, but never taken seriously. At least one of those ‘nationalizations of the borders’ was achieved, the border to Yugoslavia when our people were deported to the Baragan-Steppe in 1951. The ruffle with Tito, was the excuse used. In1948 Tito went on his own way of ‘socialism’ and stepped out of the Soviet Block.

The re-settlers from Bessarabia and Bukovina had only evil things to report in that short time that they were under the Soviet’s administration. Equally so there was nothing good to hear from the resettlement agents over the Soviets, Hitler’s negotiation partners. Bessarabia is the eastern Romanian province between the rivers Pruth and Dnjestr. It was a bone of contention between the neighbouring states throughout history. Until 1918 it belonged to the Russian Czars. The older Bessarabia-Germans fought in the First World War as soldiers of the Russian Czars against Wilhelm’s German Kaiser Reich and against Austro-Hungary. In 1940 they wanted to go ‘home to the Empire’, rather than to have to live in the communist Soviet-Empire. They were considered too far from the German Empire boarders, just as the Baltic-Germans, the Dobroduscha-Germans and the Wolhyia-Germans were, to have been defended.

We were aware that the first goal of the NSDAP, the National Socialistic German Workers Party, was to reunite all the Germans[3] in a “Greater Germany Empire” and we observed how Hitler tried to implement this goal step by step. We had the feeling that we were just a figure in that chess game named Power. Just which part we were supposed to play no one could guess. After the Yugoslavia Campaign the rumor obstinately went around that a new autonomy area was in plans, which would include most of the south east Europe’s ethnic German population. It was supposed to be similar to Austria’s 1849-1861 ‘Serbian Vojvodschaft and Temescher Banat’. Our history teacher pointed out in the class that in our area too many different ethnic people lived side by side and such an undertaking was not feasible without opening the gates to a flood of other complications or bringing on the war to solve any arguments.

All those events around us did not go unnoticed by us high school students. These events sharpened our attention as well as our senses for the political changes that involved our Heimat without our consent or contributions.


The “ Folksgroup ” – and their influence

The ”Deutsche Jugend” (German Youth), which evolved from the former “Roman Catholic Youth Organization”, became in Ulmbach just as everywhere else, the only youth organization. Quite a few adults of the conservative-clerical leanings regretted it and claimed specifically after the war was lost that it was the “beginning of the end” which they could see coming. We young folks thought differently and participated full of enthusiasm.  Our upbringing taught us to have borderless love of our Folk and the proud knowledge that “being part of the great German People” determined our daily life. We became idealists for whom the slogans “you are nothing, your Folk is everything” or “common good ahead of personal good” were not just empty words. We were very glad that now there were no divisions between the youths and everyone was included. We were worried about some happenings, which the adults did not like to hear about, like the social orders in our villages, which could not have been claimed to be legal.

Hans Kappel, a youth in our neighborhood was at that time the youth guide in Ulmbach. He went out of his way to make the Heimat-evenings as well as the sport events interesting so as to be accepted and inspiring to the youths. I wonder just how much knowledge he had accumulated and how much time this volunteering work took away from his work at his parents’ farm. Most of the youth in our town learned more from him about Germany, Germany’s history, or about the ethnic Germans than we ever had to learn in the high school – and for sure more than the same-aged Germans ever learned about us.

What there was to be told about the youth organizations one could say the same about adult organizations. They engaged themselves and went with the flow more or less depending on their temperaments. They were much less exited about it than us youngsters. For them the economy was the most important event and with that their personal achievements, just as it was to their parent’s generation after the end of the First World War.

The most important goal for the older generation at that time was to restart the devastated family’s farming business that fell in disrepair during the Great War. The youth on the other hand were all exited about the ‘heritage awakening’ that has been suppressed during the Hungarian times.

It was not different during our times. What the youth were excited about at the Heimat-evening lectures or at other similar events was hardly even noticed by our elders. They held firmly to their language, their religion, their customs and ethics. This to them was never disputed. They could not understand that this alone was not sufficient for those ‘new ways’ and that they were even expected to be politically involved. To them it was normal that Baron Daniel or the Union representative Sik Sandor was voted for a five or six-year term to the Budapest’s Parliament and that they would meet those only during the ‘�ldom�s’, the free drink or better still at the free goulash. They never expected more from their parliamentarians or from politics altogether. Their workday of 16-18 hours gave them no time for it in the first place. In order to forestall the underground anti-minority movement by their own state, the younger folks felt that they should be politically involved themselves. The established minority representatives in the Romanian government were to them too ‘set’ in their ways and only interested in the preservation of the government. Everyone was ‘loyal to the state’ anyway but they also requested that the established minority rights for self-government be implemented and not constantly questioned.

There were also other unsolved problems, which were not specifically part of the ethnic German minority. Similar to other ethnic groups in Romania, there was a ‘one child’ practice.  The rapid decline of ethnic German population was due also in part to emigration to America. I was at that time still too young to grasp the problems; the first time I heard about it was during the ‘summer camp’ in our Ulmbach’s forest. A few of Ulmbach’s villagers erected this ‘summer camp’ so they could escape the village during the heat and dust of the summer and find there with their families refreshing relaxation.

Dr. Fritz Klinger transformed this summer camp into a children’s health resort to which the parents from all of the Banat could send their children to. The students of the (ethnic German) teacher’s college were responsible for the supervision of the children there. Dr. Klinger lectured to those teacher college students about ‘death of the folk’ of our Banat’s ethnic German community. He wrote about this subject already earlier in the German language newspaper as well as in the ‘Swabian Folks calendar’ as I later discovered, in order to make his countryman realize the consequences.

Just how it came about that I was present at this lecture, I no longer remember. In any case this theme made me quite upset. The conservative inclined people, like my father and his friends considered it nothing but brainwashing, and thought that it was a movement against the old establishment; Dr Klinger and his DVR followers (ethnic German folk party of Romania) had nothing else in their heads but to be against old ways, even against the religion, and fantasized only about Hitlerism and Socialism instead of doing some honest work. Dr. Klinger’s negative ideas did not include Ulmbach.

In Ulmbach there were quite a few three and four children families and one could not claim that only the rich of the Banat practiced the ‘one child’ policy, which was otherwise the norm. It looked quite differently in the more prosperous farming communities of the Banater Heide.


[1] Citizen of Rhineland-Pfalz

[2] Temeschburg

[3] Reichs-Germans and Volks-Germans