Raid on Mala Mlinska

The Partisan Raid on Mlinska on 10. Sep. 1942
By Jakob Benz

Translated by Henry Fischer
Submitted by Ron Berg-Iverson

The German settlements in western Slavonia and Croatia in the vicinity of mountains and surrounded by huge forests, were soon the target and goal of incursions and raids by the Partisans.  Besides, there were things of value to get there.  Both Djulaves and Bastaji had already been attacked.  The German men who had offered resistance, had been kidnapped and then brutally murdered.  Mlinska appealed to the leaders of the Volkgroup in Essegg for help and assistance.  Some of the men no longer felt safe in sleeping in their homes.  The continuing threat and the carrying out of the beastly murders by the Partisans in other communities simply added to the apprehension and the fear all of Mlinska experienced.

I was called upon to defend Mlinska with fifty-five men from the eastern Slavonian and Syrmien region.  We had one light weight machine gun, a machine pistol, old rifles from the First World War, a chest of hand-grenades and another chest of ammunition.  I had take one of the rifles to the local Serbian blacksmith to put it back into shape.  Because we were only too well aware of our precarious position, I requested that the Domobrani, (Henry’s Note.  The local Croatian militia) in Garnesnica, who were called upon to defend the regional capital, should also provide support for us. 

A few days before the raid on Mlinska, the Partisans had attacked Goila which was defended by German troops stationed there because of the oil derricks there, which were totally destroyed, and these troops were much better equipped then we were.

 On the night of September 10th 1942, the Partisans marched on Mlinska from all sides.
Their major attack was directed along the road that led to Vinograd.  They sneaked through the barnyards towards our chief defensive position, the school.  From along the bridge across the Mlinska Creek in the direction of Vinograd, there sounded the ear piercing cries and screams of women and children.  Because our machine gun was useless, and the Partisans were armed with machine pistols and numerous machine guns that far outnumbered our rifles, there was no alternative for me and the few men I had around me but to break through the encirclement and head to Garesnica, in order to get help.  At the heights before Klein Pasijan the Partisans had strung a chain in our way along the road.  As a result one of our men was severely wounded.  A dum-dum bullet blew away part of his hip.  We dragged him along with us to Gross Paskujan, and one of our countrymen brought him in a wagon from there to Garnesnica.  As I stood on the heights above both of the Pasijan villages, I looked back at Mlinska and the school was already burning, and shortly afterwards our reserve ammunition which we had hidden under the school exploded and blew the building apart.

  No help was available from the Domobrani troops in Garnesnica.  The Partisans must have known about our breakout, because they now undertook an attack on Garnesnica.  As we came into Garnesnica, we met a terrified horde of “Homeland Defenders” (which is a literal translation of Domobrani), and the commander asked me to place my men on sentry duty during the night to personally protect him.  He had no confidence in his own Domobranis.

 There were many instances in which Domobrani were unable to provide any defence for the Croatian population, because many of their officers turned traitor and worked closely with the Partisans.  Such a state could hardly be tolerated.  The Germans alone could not protect him.

 There were nineteen men from the local defence troops who lost their lives in the attack on Mlinska, and three men from the village were murdered.  They were the last to be buried in the Mlinska cemetery.

The school and several houses were burned to the ground.

 The wounded man, that I brought to the hospital in Bjelovar died there.

  After the raid, it was clear, that our homeland would be lost to us.  Following the expulsion of the Turks from the area there had been no military activity, but now, through the activities and goals of the Partisans it became a virtual battlefield.  The Germans, who in the main part were defenceless became the major target of both the nationalist and communist elements among the Partisan brigades.  The time was fast approaching when their properties and homes would be easy take over without too much effort.  For after all everyone knew the Germans had been given the best land.

The Court Proceedings of the Partisans

  After the raid on Mlinska, there was a court proceeding that was held up in the forest, in Bukvik, dealing with the captured and accused men they had apprehended in Mlinska.

 Our fellow villager, Johann Ferber, who was also captured and taken by the Partisans , later shared with us the following:

  “During the raid, the following fellow villagers were accused and taken away:

 Stefan Frey was accused of having led a Partisan officer into a trap, resulting in him being severely wounded.

 As a matter of fact, two soldiers had entrenched themselves in his house, in order to defend themselves against the Partisans.  They had sought refuge in his house.  They had done so to defend his house from further destruction and further gunfire, but he attempted to convince the soldiers to give themselves up.  But they insisted on dealing with a Partisan officer.  Stefan Frey proceeded to notify one of the Partisan officers, and as a result one of the Partisan officers approached the house to negotiate with the soldiers.  As he approached them, one of the soldiers shot him in the shoulder.  This was looked upon as a hostile act on Stefan Frey’s part, and it was because of that he was being put on trial.

  Johann Hoffmann and one of the officers of the regional security forces were captured while in uniform.

 Heinrich Hosser was the local leader of the German Folkgroup organization.

 The Partisans found a rifle in our yard, that one of the fleeing soldiers had somehow hidden.  At that time I had sought safety in our cellar and I knew nothing about a gun at all.  The Partisans were afraid that there were soldiers hiding in my barn and stalls, so that they shot wildly and managed to hit one of my horses in the foot.

  The Partisans who carried out the trial were also our accusers.  They had to give the grounds for the reason for putting us on trial.  The Partisans sat in a circle all around us.  Each one of us was assigned a defender.  It was simply a show trial held to entertain the screaming and boisterous attackers, who screamed the loudest when the death sentence was passed on one of the men.

  Stefan Frey, Johann Hoffmann and the officer were sentenced to death.  They were led away by a special unit and butchered in the forest nearby.

  Stefan Frey had twenty-seven stab wounds on his body, and each of his fingers were cut open, so that they could make him suffer as long as possible.  Johann Hoffmann was stabbed through his ear and into his brain, and had his throat cut.  The officer and a Ustasi soldier, whom they had kidnapped in Vinograd, where likewise butchered.  The Partisans were jubilant and ecstatic over the screams and moans of the martyred men.

  When it was discovered that Heinrich Hosser was not the wanted Johann Schüssler who was the local leader of the German Folkgroup Organization, they let him return home.

  I was fortunate that one of the Partisans was a Slovenian who was studying with the same master craftsman I was.  He spoke up for me, but with the warning that I could not reveal the fact that I had seen him among the Partisans.  He also played a leading role among the Partisans.  Through him my life was spared and I was able to tell the families of the murdered men where they could find their bodies.

   The Partisans had totally plundered all of the houses of Mlinska.  All of the drawers were emptied of their contents, all of the bedding, pillows, mattresses and covers were taken, and even the towels hanging in the kitchen.  They also took all the money they could find.  They loaded everything on wagons and drove off.

The Great Leave Taking

  After the raid, resulting in the beastly murder of Stefan Frey and Johann Hoffmann, and David Turban’s death after the attack on the village of  Jaras of Popovac, where he was shot, and with the school and many houses in Mlinska in flames, it was clear to everyone that we could no longer remain here.  There was fear every night, and they spent long and sleepless nights.  The village was completely defenceless, and many of the men no longer slept in their homes at night.
  How long could one live with all of this uncertainty and the constant fear of the loss of life all around them?

  The crops that had not yet been taken in were quickly harvested, but no new crops were planted.  But some still prepared for the next year, but only enough to see them through.

  Appeals were sent to the Folk Group leadership in Essegg, to make every effort to resettle the population of Mlinska and remove them from this dangerous situation in which they found themselves.  There were already plans to resettle the Germans of Bosnia to safety in the German Reich, and they desired to join this evacuation.

  In the Treaty between the German Reich and the Independent State of Croatia of 30.09.1942 the resettlement of the Bosnia Germans had been approved.  This item in the Treaty was now extended to also include those Germans in Croatia.

     The agreement included:

  A forced resettlement would not be undertaken.  The right to resettle was extended to all Germans, including also those men serving in the Croatian or German armies, or had joined the Waffen-SS.  This also applied to those who were already in the Reich who had gone there to work.  In cases of mixed marriages with non-Germans, if they were half-Germans they would be accepted.

  The following items could be taken by those who were being resettled:  clothes, bedding, dishes and tableware, linens, food and other provisions.  All livestock, furnishings, machines and tools would have to be left behind.

   In terms of money, each person would receive 2,000 Kuna or 100 Reichs Mark.   All other money was to be presented with their documentation at the time they were registered with the Resettlement Commission.

  The representatives of the German Resettlement Commission were to meet with the representatives of the Croatian Government in order to establish an inventory of value of the homes and landholdings of the Germans to be resettled, and also to do the same in terms of the livestock and machinery.  No representative of the Croatian government ever put in an appearance.

  The chief of staff of the headquarters of the Resettlement Commission consisted of individuals who had been involved in the earlier resettlement of the Bessarabia Germans from the eastern territories.  The process was soon underway and registration began quickly.  None of the residents of Mlinska or Pasijan will ever forget the very personal nature of this darkest hour in their lives, the personal worries, grief and anxieties they endured in giving up forever their homes and the only life they had ever known.  The inner anguish was more than many could bear, as they were forced to uproot themselves with only a vague hope of what the future might hold for them.  These memories need to be preserved and acknowledged and are done so here.

  Things would be different for many of them in their personal experiences during their time in the camps after arriving in Poland.  What was in effect there was a lack of understanding and sympathy.  In their dealings with Reich officials they were met by undisguised arrogance.  These men were completely ignorant of their origins and the situation into which they had been placed by the events that had forced their resettlement.  They poured cold water on all of their hopes and dreams.  Our people had a sense of community with one another, and also with the other people around them, and were accustomed to common courtesy and kindness in their personal interactions.  The military style of life in the camps to which they were subjected was foreign to them.

 When they were registered by the Commission they were informed of what they were allowed to take with them, and packing became everyone’s full time occupation.  But as always they were prepared to help and assist one another in this task.  Chests were nailed shut and names and numbers were written on them.  Bedding was either sewed into sacks or into bundles.  Everyone wanted to take as much as they could, especially in terms of food provisions.  On many occasions they unpacked what they had already packed because they had found other items they could not do without and had to discard what they had originally chosen.  There were a whole set of different feelings around each item, and it was painful to make the choice.  None of this is written down anywhere.  But the memories remain and continue to be matters that the older people discuss among one another remembering those days.

   On October 27th 1942, four days before our major local festival to commemorate the dedication of our school, the heavily loaded wagon train, under the protection of the Wehrmacht  got under way, heading for the train station in Garesnica.

  The Croatian Army was to take over our abandoned properties.  But none of them put in an appearance so that our people had to feed the livestock before they left, leaving them unattended.  Of course there were those who attempted to alleviate the situation for their livestock.  Several filled all of the water troughs and released the livestock from the stables and let them roam in order to find food for themselves.  Others filled the mangers with hay, so that they would not starve.  There were others who could not deal with having to leave the results of the harvest behind for others who were only too glad to see them leave.  They went into their wine cellars and opened the faucets of their wine barrels and watched the wine drain onto the earth floor.

  My mother, who stayed with me and was not resettled, visited Mlinska one more time the next day, the 28th of October.  At Suputs, our next door neighbours, across the street from us, there was a table full of slaughtered chickens, and a huge crock of sour peppers in her kitchen that she had dragged in.  She was obviously exhausted from her labours, for it had been no small fete and Ljubica explained all of her efforts by saying, “My Joco really likes your sour peppers!”
  It was much like what others found as well.  There were a couple of women from Mlinska who returned early on the 28th, having walked quickly from Garesnica to come home to Mlinska.  Forever after, they claimed the pitiful bellowing of the unmilked cows rang in their ears.

  The men in Garesnica were busy with loading their belongings on the train cars.  When everything was loaded and the people were on board, the train left for Germany at three in the afternoon on October 28th 1942.  The horses remained in harness with the wagons and where simply left standing there.  There were some of the men who removed their harnesses with the hope that they might need them again some time in the future.  For if there had not been any hope like this, our leave taking would have been even more unbearable.

  Later we learned, that three days later a company of Domobrani came to Mlinska.  They soon discovered the wine cellars whose barrels had been tapped.  Using their helmets they scooped up the wine from the floor and drank it.  They were soon so drunk that two Partisans, it was said, could have captured the whole company all on their own.

 For the other nationalities, as well as the Partisans from the surrounding area, along with the Gypsies, who now took up quarters in the German homes, began to live in what for them was a fool’s paradise.

  The day after the raid on Mlinska my grandmother was standing at the gate to our yard, looking down the street in the direction of the school and wept.  A Partisan (a woman) passed by her and said, “Little grandmother, why are you crying?  Because of the houses that are in flames?  These will all be rebuilt by the industrious hardworking hands that first built Mlinska.”

 But those industrious hardworking hands were no longer there in Mlinska after the war was over, which was only too obvious to all who visited there in the following years.

In The Camps

   Along with the loss of their homeland they now also lost their independence.  They were simply numbers in a camp, in which those in charge had little understanding or any empathy for the people committed to their care.  Even less were they even able to comprehend what effect the raid on their community and their resettlement had on them.  They were often treated and dealt with as if they were there to serve the officials rather than have heir own needs met.

  Their disillusionment already began on their journey to the Kirschberg Camp, when they were unloaded at Zgierz and were deloused.  Without any consideration for modesty, all of the mothers, daughters, and little children were forced to undress and then were herded together under showerheads.  While this procedure went ahead their clothing was “deloused”.  The same happened to the men and the older sons.  They had never received treatment like this before, and were shocked to find themselves in a situation that was totally out of character for them.

  After this cold shower they were taken back to the train depot and entrained and went on to Pabianice, where they had to be loaded on board trucks, that brought them to the camp at Kirschberg.  The large pieces of their luggage were unloaded from the trucks and stored in a warehouse, while they were allowed to take their smaller pieces with them.  They arrived in Kirschberg on October 30th, 1942.

  Two to three families were ushered into each of the houses, on their arrival in Kirschberg, which had been the summer homes of rich people from Lodz.  In Camp #1 the villagers from Mlinska, Brschljanic, Paschijan, Dischnik and Popovac were billeted.  With their registration they received a ration book for food, the first steps towards a more regularized and ordered life.  From then on, they had to follow orders:  Report to receive your food allotment.”  Report for this and get in line for that, day after day, always standing in line.  Order had to prevail.  Wishes and desires were never given any consideration.  The people in charge and the administration always knew better.  Such treatment was totally repellent to them.  They had never experienced anything like this   living among foreign populations in the past.

  Being unoccupied and living in such close quarters had all kinds of adverse effects upon our people.  They had too much time on their hands, in order to grumble about what they had endured, and what they had to live with in the present.  For the women there was no problem with regard to cooking in the camp.  The food was prepared in a large kitchen, but it was not to the taste of our people.  For noon there was hot soup, which seldom included meat.  In the mornings and at evening there was a thick broth.  Small children received a quarter of a litre of milk.  Those families consisting of only adults seldom received milk or butter, because they were in short supply.  During the third year of the war as shortages became more pronounced many of our people found ways to escape from the camp and find food in the neighbourhood.  But of course there were those who were part of the camp administration who experienced no shortages at all and lived high on the hog.

   In order to improve on their meagre rations, in the winter of 1942/1943 the men from the camp were driven over to the warehouse in Pabianice to bring back some of the possessions they had brought with them.  But they could only bring back what they found there.  Most of the chest had been broken into and the contents stolen.  The disappointment and bitterness of the people reached new heights.

Daily life in the Camp:

  During the summer, all adults had to report at 7:00 in the morning, and 8:00 in the winter, and assemble at a central area for roll call just like soldiers.  The commander of the camp would give orders for the day, and the people were placed in work units.  The able bodied men were put in groups, and were set to work either in Litzmannstadt (Lodz) or in the camp.  Many of them only came home on the weekends.  Most of them worked in the armaments industry.  All of the able bodied had to work, including the women.

  Each of the camps had their own administration and commander and office workers, who also had their living quarters.  The camp commander was an SS man.  The headquarters for the whole complex was in camp V.  It was there were the large cooking kitchen, the hospital, the dental clinic, school, moviehouse, sport’s field, and youth home were to be found.  At the age of sixteen and seventeen our young boys were taken into the army.  Families, who had sons at the front, were allowed to leave the camp and were settled at Stockhof by Litzmanstadt.  There they were free citizens.

   After becoming naturalized citizens of the German Reich, the people were called up for settlement in the General Government of Poland in the areas of Lublin and Samosc.  Because the homesteads promised to them would be in Polish territory, they were hesitant in resettling there because of their experience in the past living among other nationalities.  Because of their hesitation various underhanded methods were used against them.  The pressures against them became more intense, until the spring of 1944 when several men decided to go to Berlin.  They were successful, and the Interior Ministry declared that they could not be resettled against their will.

 The offer extended to them to settle in Luxembourg or the southern Steiermark, was accepted by some of them.  The offer came at the same time that it was announced that they camp would be cleared.  At the end of 1944 the camp was quickly evacuated, as the front lines came closer and closer.

  At this point the community that had once been Mlinska was torn apart as the people were scattered far and wide and in truth this was the end of German Mlinska forever.

The Last Leaf of the Tree

  Our fellow villager, Heinrich Hosser, who was born 07.12.1893 in Somogydöröschke, and he was the last of the survivors of the generation who had left Hungary and settled in Croatia.  At first, his parents migrated to Srp. Seliste.  Here they sold their property later and moved on to Mlinska in 1917.  In 1942 the family was resettled in Kirschberg, Poland.  From here Heinrich Hosser moved on to the Steiermark.  From Steiermark he went on to the refugee camp in Salzburg.  When this camp was closed, he and his wife, along with his son and daughter-in-law and their children, moved to Neckarelz, where he lived out his final years with his son’s family.  When he made his final journey, the last leaf of the trunk of the original settlers in Mlinska fell from the tree, a mute testimony to the unforgettable story of the founding and development of what had once been Mlinska.

The End of the War

  In the last year of the war, the villagers from Mlinska and Pasijan were scattered under God’s blue heaven throughout all of Germany.  Some were in Luxembourg, others in the Steiermark, where they were settled along the frontier of Croatia.  Others were sent through Germany to the Ennstal.  The families, in the heart of the Reich who found work and a home, were much better off than the others.  Those who were settled in the west and the south east, as well as those who had remained in the camp, were all forced to flee with the coming of the advancing Allied armies.  Some found themselves on the streets and roads as the war and the front lines caught up with them.  A hard, uncertain and above all a hopeless time began for all of them.  No one knew what tomorrow might bring.  To their good fortune, the occupying powers had a better understanding of their situation as homeless and displaced persons, than many of their own German officials.  But there were also examples of the support and kindness they received from local German families.  Especially difficult was the situation of women with children without a husband or father, who had been conscripted into the army, had died or was missing, or was somewhere in a prisoner of war camp.

 Who on earth can write of all of the worries and difficulties we endured, which every family had to bear on their own.  Some were terribly afflicted.

  From the various letters and reports, I want to lift up one of them, which I especially find the most tragic.  Perhaps, it will help some other to deal with the effects of their own fate more easily.

  Elisabeth Kah, the wife of Heinrich Kah (Erdmann), whose family name was Deak, who came from Antunovac writes briefly, in simple sentences, what a human being can endure.  Here is an excerpt from her letter:

  “After the resettlement from Mlinska, by night we came to Kirschberg, in District of Litzmannstadt, in present day Poland.  It was there where our  son Horst Kah was born on 18.04.1943.
  From July 1943 until March 1944 we lived in Tomaschow.  From there I  returned to Kirschberg and on 19.05.1944 our son Gerhard was born.  In September of 1944 he was hospitalized, where we had to leave him, because at the end of October, we had to flee to Graz.  From their we had to move to Knittelfeld/Steiermark in November 1944.  On 23.02.1945, along with my two children, Horst and Elisabeth, and I were victims of an air raid. Both of the children died as a result, while I was terribly wounded. After the air raid we found shelter in the small village of Fensch, in the  vicinity of Knittelfeld.

  After my recovery I searched all across Germany for my son Gerhard, and in 1949 I received word that he was living with a family in Bad Pyrmont in Germany.  Along with a transport of other infants and children, along with wounded soldiers he was brought to Bad Pyrmont and was given to a family  that had seven children of their own.

  At the beginning of 1949, I was able to embrace my son Gerhard, who in the meantime had been baptized Peter, at the German and Austrian border, having  been brought there by a member of the family that had cared for him.  We then returned together to Fensch.

 Fourteen days before, my mother-in-law Theresia Erdmann had left to go  overseas to Brazil to join her daughter.   She had been made aware of the fact that Gerhard had been found.  On 3.11.1949 I was divorced from my husband.

 On 22.03.1950 I fled across the border between Austria and Germany along with Gerhard, having paid the last of my money to a man who would get us across so that I could join the family that had raised Gerhard. They had expressed the wish that we come and join them.  Since that time I have lived in Bad Pyrmont.

 Because of my separation from my former husband, I was unable to claim any of  the property we had lost, even though we possessed all of the papers, which was also true of countless other refugees…”

  Until now the personal losses of the Mlinska villagers, as a result of the Partisan raid and the war that we have explored were very painful, but they were not as great in comparison to what villages and their people suffered.  The greatest losses occurred after the end of the war, by those who returned home.  They believed that now that the war was over they had had enough of the uncertainties of living in Germany and later in Austria, and they wanted to go home to reclaim their homes and property.  That is what they believed assuming they had a right to do so.  But they soon found out they had no rights at all in their homeland, but were at the mercy of the new political reality that was now in place.  Many of those who returned never even saw Mlinska again, but instead were immediately thrown into extermination camps.  Most of them would remain there as victims.

     The following attempting to return home to Mlinska:

      Two Rittinger families, Jr. and Sr.
      The family of Philipp Friedrich
      The family of Philipp Ferber
      The family of Hock
      The family of Feist and Heberling
      The family of Müller and Lux
      The family of Kraus and Knies
      The family of Jakob Rohmann and Rottenbiller
      The family of Eva Beck and Henrich Beck
      The family of Eiler and daughter Birkenbach with her son

  Our countrymen, Johann Rittinger, who along with a few other of our people were able to return and reach Mlinska, describes his journey back to our hold homeland.

  “In the Steiermark around Graz there was no longer a possibility of us remaining there.  The Russians sent us home, and the Austrian officials were only to glad to be freed of us Germans.  We as Germans were now undesirable foreigners.  That is why they were in such a hurry to get rid of us.  At Wildon we were loaded on trains and they wanted to send us home across Marburg on the  Drava River.  When we arrived there the bridge had been dynamited and we were sent back to Graz.  We remained there for two days on a railway siding.  I learned that there was a Tito embassy in Graz, where one could report in order to return home to Yugoslavia.  Along the way I met a group of Yugoslavian Germans who had been robbed of everything on a transport going back to Yugoslavia and tried to talk me out of going back home.  But shortly afterwards we received official permission to return to home after finding the embassy.  When I showed the Partisan my papers, he said, “You don’t need any papers to go to Yugoslavia, because you are already inside of Yugoslavia.  Everything from here to Vienna will soon belong to Yugoslavia.”

  We then traveled across Hungary in the direction of home.  At Kotoriba our luggage was loaded on horse drawn wagons that were waiting for us.  Our luggage was divided among the wagon drivers and we were brought into a camp.  My driver was an honest man and told me, that he did not want to have our luggage.  He gave me his address, and as soon I as I was free I could come and claim them.  I was later able to do that.

  In the camp at Martijanec people were already dieing of typhus.  In a few days we were marched to the transit camp at Pettau.  Here we still received good food.  We were interrogated and at our wish we were sent to Croatia.   We arrived at the camp of Precko by Agram.  In this camp I cam down with typhus and was put in the hospital at Sv. Duh.  In Precko the last of our possessions were taken from us, as well as our papers.

  While in hospital I was visited by Dr. Koharvic, who earlier had been a physician in Garesnica.  I recognized him and he also recognized me.  He immediately went to work to attempt to have our people freed as soon as possible.  

 Two days before Christmas in 1945, my aunt Elisabeth Ferber and my brother were on our way to Mlinska.  On the road between Garnesnica and Pasijan, not far from the depot, we ran into Ljuban Vujkovic.  As we passed by one another, he recognized us and turned and asked, “Hans, is that you?  What on earth do you want in Mlinska?  You no longer have no reason to be there.  Hitler had a bullet for himself, and for you we have one too!”

  That was some greeting.  With great fear we came to Mlinska.  There I met my mother, and her granddaughter, Frieda.  They lived with Vujkovic Marko.  We were not allowed into our own homes.  This had been ordered by the local committee.  I found shelter with Frljanovic.  He encouraged us.  And told us that we could no longer think in individualistic terms in the future.  That no longer had any meaning or significance.

 Old Uncle Hock was with Anbna Prodanovic, Friedrichs were at Janos and Feist and his daughter at Madjeric.

  In Palesnik there was also a camp.  Eva Beck and her children, and her, and my brother-in-law Heinrich Beck got out of the camp and came to Mlinska.   Others also came and joined us, and we worked wherever we could.

 We found safety here and settled in.  Since we had relatives in the Krndija camp, my brother-in-law Heinrich Beck and I drove there with food and provisions.  On our way back I met a transport of prisoners at the station in Bjelovar, among whom were all of the Mlinska people who were with us, who had been assembled while we were gone and were being sent to an extermination camp.  I was warned to go into hiding, which I did without returning to Mlinska, but headed to Agram and Dr. Koharivic.  Because he could not oppose the orders of the local committee, he looked after me by placing me in the hospital and giving me work there to support myself.  I stayed there until all of the members of my family, who had survived the camps, assembled in the neighbourhood.  In 1955 we left for Germany.  It was thirteen years after we had left home in the first place and hopefully we would find a home again.


  Our fellow villagers and countrymen Johann Kohler and Johann Rittinger, Sr., have recorded their painful experiences in the form of poetry.  They said what many lived through within themselves.  When the heart is full the mouth runs over.

Photos by Harald Felder 


The Terrors of Krndia
Johann Rittinger ( married to Katharina Hock )

Upon the hill of Krndia there stands a cross above its heights,
  As often as I think of it, my heart knows so much pain.

In the cemetery of Krndia, on the path that separates,
 There lies buried my blessed wife.

She had suffered so much before she met her end,
 And made her husband a widower.

The angel of death harvested here,
 And bedded thousands in these graves.

He robbed many a mother of her child,
 And bowed the heads of many of the elderly.

Whole families he brought to an untimely end,
  And made very many little children into orphans.

He forced the aged mothers count the long days,
 And then finally at the end laid them in their graves.

He robbed many a young hopeful groom of his bride,
 And turned the hopes of a would-be bride to dust.

O, Cemetery of Krndia, you terror of the time,
 Within you lie humans from far and wide.

One from the south, the other from the east,
 The third from the north, and the fourth from the west.

Without a home now, having been driven from their house,
 That is how my loved ones were afflicted by others.

O, Acre of freedom, with a cross at the centre,
  You have become a field of crosses, with one after another.

My heart wants to break because of all of this even now,
 And I want to fly to Krndia and weep myself until I can cry no more.

Of what use is all of my weeping, of what value is my complaint,
 I cannot have my loved ones back again.

They lie here buried on the fields of Krndia
 God wanted it this way and called them out of this world.

I am abandoned by my brothers and sisters, my parents are dead,
 Have mercy upon me, Almighty God!

Today I thought of Krndia again,
 And wish my loved ones good night, one more time.