Martin Prell’s Leidensweg

Martin Prell’s Leidensweg
Contributed by Zdenka Sonnenfeld

My grandmother Katarina Prell, nee Wagner was born on November 28, 1881 in Sivac.  After WWII ended, my grandmother and parents were documented in Osijek as German minorities.  Everything was confiscated from them, they were taken out of their homes at 6:00 AM on May 11, 1945 and put into Josipovac concentration camp for a few days.  Later they were sent to various camps including Ovcara work camp.  Overall the conditions were appalling, they were undernourished and contracted typhus.  Tragically my dear grandmother was a victim.  She died from typhus in Valpovo on November 25, 1945.  My parents survived and were eventually released in May 1946.  In 1957 we immigrated to the United States and presently I live with my mother in Upstate NY.

My mother Elizabeth Sonnenfeld, nee Prell, is very grateful that you have recognized her brother Martin Prell as a victim of the horrendous partisan attacks.  She has written her account of the incident and would like for it to be added to the “Personal Recollection’s” page on your Hrastovac Eichendorf site:

“I am Martin Prell’s sister and I witnessed the outcome of the gruesome manner in which he was killed by communist partisans. I am very grateful that this acknowledgement is made which he so deserves.

He was with another soldier, whom I have forgotten his name, I think he was living in Petrejevac.  Martin’s wife Ana went to see this man (he survived the horrible attack) and found him crawling on the floor without any legs in the presence of his children. His legs were amputated because they were totally sprayed with bullets. My brother also was missing his right leg. He was mutilated beyond recognition.  The only identifying feature was his hair and the way he always combed it.  His head was very large due to gangrene and his arm was full of bullets so it was also very large due to swelling.

Martin’s fellow soldier described to Martin’s wife how the partisans caught them when they were patrolling in the forest around Bjelovar and forced them to go back to the school where their unit was stationed. The partisans ordered them to call out so that someone would open the door, but Martin and his fellow soldier refused to do this knowing that the partisans would burst in and kill everyone there. 

Because they refused the partisans shot them with machine guns, then tied them to the back of a wagon and made the horses run on the road to the end of the village where they dumped them into a ditch and left them for dead.  In the morning, dairy farmers found them all beat up lying in a pool of blood.  My brother died at a hospital in Bjelovar, Croatia, and his companion survived. The hospital notified us that he was there and that he died. My mother and I immediately traveled from Osijek, where we all lived.  We found him in a room by the yard.  He was on a table with no cover over him, the sun was shining through a window that had no curtains, and flies were flying around. I would have expected better conditions in such a hospital.

He was buried in Bjelovar with many other Croatian young men at the cemetery.  Shortly afterwards the partisans levelled all the graves so there is no trace of the cemetery. But I have a picture of the grave. 

Martin deserves this recognition because if he and his fellow soldier had opened the door, there would have been many more victims. He was among the first volunteers to give his life in 1942.”



Martin Prell, ca. 1941 and his grave in Bjelovar in 1942 prior of being razed. 
Zdenka Sonnenfeld archives.