Published by the Danube Swabian Association of the USA
Summary of Contents
History of the Danube Swabians in the USA and Canada
Ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia
The Tito Regime - Executor of the Genocide
Central Civilian Internment and Labor Camps
Deportation of Laborers to the Soviet Union
The Liquidation Camps
Crimes Committed Against Children
The Suffering and Dying of German Clergy
Size of the Ethnic Population of Yugoslavia as of October 1944
Documentation of Human Casualties
Danube Swabian Chronology
Chapter 13, Appendix 1:
Explanation and Notes
Chapter 13, Appendix 2:
United Nations Convention on War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity
These words of the first United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, José Ayala Lasso (Ecuador), were spoken at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt/Main on 28. May 1995 on the occasion of the solemn ceremony to remember 50 years since the expulsion of 15 million Germans from Eastern and Central Europe, including the Danube Swabians of Yugoslavia.
There is no question that in international law mass expulsions are doubly illegal - giving rise to State responsibility and to personal criminal liability. The expulsions by Germany's national socialist government of one million Poles from the Warthegau 1939/40 and of the 105,000 Frenchmen from Alsace 1940 were listed in the Nürnberg indictment as "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity." The Nürnberg judgment held several Nazi leaders guilty of having committed these crimes.
It is an anomaly that in spite of this clear condemnation of mass expulsions, the Allies themselves carried out even greater expulsions in the last few months of the Second World War and in the years that followed. Article XIII of the Potsdam Protocol attempts to throw a mantle of legality over the expulsions carried out by Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland. Nothing is said about the expulsions from other countries like Yugoslavia and Romania. However, the victorious Allies at Potsdam were not above international law and thus could not legalize criminal acts by common agreement. There is no doubt that the mass expulsion of Germans from their homelands in East Prussia, Pomerania, Silesia, East Brandenburg, Sudetenland, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia constituted "war crimes," to the extent that they occurred during wartime, and "crimes against humanity" whether committed during war or in peacetime.
Moreover, the slave labor imposed on persons of German ethnic origin as "reparations in kind," which was agreed by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at the Yalta Conference,  also constituted a particularly heinous crime, which led to hundreds of thousands of deaths during the deportation to slave labor, during the years of hard work with little food, and as sequel of this inhuman and degrading treatment.
American and British historians have not given the flight and expulsion of fifteen million Germans, in the process of which more than two million perished, the attention that this enormously important and tragic phenomenon deserves. Nor has the American and British press fulfilled its responsibility to inform the general public about these events. On the contrary, the issue has been largely ignored and subject to taboos, even to this day. Only the occurrence of the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia during the last decade of the 20th century  allowed obvious parallels to be drawn, and some discussion on the subject of the Germans as victims has finally ensued. Much more is necessary.
Whereas some studies about the expulsion of the Germans by Poland and the former Czechoslovakia have been published, there is relatively little information available concerning the fate of the Germans from the former Yugoslavia. That is why the publication of this book must be welcomed, and its dissemination among the press and in the schools should follow. Testimonies of survivors of this "ethnic cleansing" of Germans should be recorded in video and on paper for future generations. Survivors of this awful crime against humanity should also speak to students in high schools and universities.
Let us remember the words of the noted British publisher and human rights activist, Victor Gollancz, one of the first courageous voices to recognize the moral implications and thus condemn the mass expulsion and spoliation of the Germans:
"If the conscience of men ever again becomes sensitive, these expulsions will be remembered to the undying shame of all who committed or connived at them ... The Germans were expelled, not just with an absence of over-nice consideration, but with the very maximum of brutality."
But in order that the conscience of mankind become sensitive, it is necessary to have full information, open discussion without taboos - i.e. freedom of expression. Let us hope that this book will help us understand that all victims of "ethnic cleansing" are deserving of our attention and of our compassion.
Alfred M. de Zayas, J.D. (Harvard), Ph. D. (Göttingen) Senior Fellow, International Human Rights Law Institute, Chicago Member, International P.E.N. Club
Author of Nemesis at Potsdam, 1998, Picton Press, Rockport, Maine
A Terrible Revenge, 1994, St. Martin's Press, New York
The Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, 2000, Picton Press, Rockport, Maine
Reference Notes  The complete text in German was published in Bonn, 1995, in Dieter Blumenwitz, ed., Dokumentation der Gedenkstunde in der Paulskirche zu Frankfurt/Main am 28. Mai 1995; 50 Jahre Flucht, Deportation, Vertreibung, p. 4. Excerpts from the English original are quoted in A. de Zayas "The Right to One's Homeland, Ethnic Cleansing, and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia", Criminal Law Forum, Vol. 6 (1995), p. 257-314 and 291-292.
 A.M. de Zayas, A Terrible Revenge. The ethnic cleansing of the East European Germans 1944-1950, St. Martins Press, New York, 1994, p. 81
 The Nato Bombing of Kosovo in 1999
 Victor Gollancz, Our Threatened Values, London, 1946, p. 96
The current political events involving Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Kosovo focus the spotlight on Yugoslavia's attempted ethnic cleansing of Albanians, Bosnians and Croats, causing the United Nations and NATO to intervene. The genocide of the ethnic German population of Yugoslavia at the end of World War II and during the period of 1944-1948 has been, however, largely suppressed or ignored and needs to be recognized.
At the beginning of World War II about 540,000 people whose mother-tongue was German lived within the national boundaries of the then Yugoslav kingdom. About 510,000 belonged to the ethnic group of Danube Swabians, which comprise the ethnic Germans of the West Banat, Batschka, Belgrade, Serbia, Syrmia, Baranja Triangle, Slavonia, Croatia and Bosnia. Additional groups were the Germans (formerly Austrians) of Slovenia, mainly the German Untersteirer, German Oberkrainer and the Gottscheer.
This publication is a condensed version of the German language series of five volumes Verbrechen an den Deutschen in Jugoslawien 1944-1948 (Crimes against the ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia 1944-1948) documenting the genocide of, and atrocities committed against, the ethnic Germans of Yugoslavian nationality by the Communist Titoregime at the end of World War II and the years 1944-1948. For almost 300 years these ethnic Germans have lived peacefully in, and contributed to, the prosperity of the entire region, adapting themselves to all subsequent changes of sovereignty.
Numerous eyewitnesses were interviewed and their personal experiences recorded in order to document the crimes of genocide and ethnic cleansing so they can be included in the historical records of that era. These volumes were published by the Donauschwäbische Kulturstiftung, München, Germany. To make the world aware of these tragic events the Danube Swabian Association of the USA, in cooperation with the Donauschwäbische Kulturstiftung (Danube Swabian Cultural Foundation) München, Germany, has issued this English-language edition. It is also a historical document for the Danube Swabians scattered throughout the world.
In the title, and throughout this publication, the authors have used the term "genocide" to describe the atrocities committed against the ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia.
The United Nations "Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide" Article II and III give the following definition of genocide:
a. Killing members of the group;
a. Genocide;The complete copy of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is included in the Appendix section of this publication.
The reader will undoubtedly come to the conclusion, as the authors have, that the crimes committed and described here come under the definition of "genocide" as determined by the United Nations Convention.
While ethnic German minorities in Hungary and Romania also were persecuted and expelled as an aftermath of World War II, it was in Yugoslavia where the most gruesome atrocities were committed against this entire ethnic group.
Between 1698 and 1782 these ethnic Germans, known collectively as "Donauschwaben" (Danube Swabians), were recruited by the territorial rulers to resettle and help rebuild the devastated areas which were liberated from Turkish invaders. At that time these territories were part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. For about 300 years they cohabited with other ethnic groups as loyal and respected citizens in their adopted homelands.
During World War II they were caught up in the political and military power struggles, particularly when German troops occupied Yugoslavia. At the end of World War II Southeastern Europe came under Communist control and the tragic fate of the ethnic Germans was sealed.
Most of those who managed to escape or were expelled and the survivors of the death camps settled in nearby Austria and Germany or emigrated to America, Canada, Australia and South America. In the United States and Canada they migrated mainly to larger communities where they were able to stay together and establish their cultural societies which foster Danube Swabian culture and traditions. They and their descendents have again become loyal and respected citizens in their new homelands but the world needs to know of their tragic history.
The Ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia
It is, therefore, not surprising that after 50 years the likelihood that this crime will be forgotten is great and the false Yugoslav history version could prevail.
At the beginning of World War II, about 540,000 people whose mothertongue was German lived within the national boundaries of the then Yugoslav kingdom. About 510,000 belonged to the ethnic group of Danube Swabians, which comprise the ethnic Germans of the West Banat, Batschka, Belgrade, Serbia, Syrmia, Baranja Triangle, Slavonia, Croatia and Bosnia. Additional groups were the Germans (formerly Austrians) of Slovenia, mainly the German Untersteierer, German Oberkrainer and the Gottscheer.
Vienna proved to be not only a bastion against the expansion of the Turk military might, but also a launching pad for the political, cultural and economic reconstruction of the Hungarian region. Already in 1689 the Habsburg decree called for the resettlement of the depopulated Hungarian Kingdom. In the years 1722 to 1723 the Hungarian representatives to the national assembly (Landtag) at Pressburg demanded that "people of all walks of life be recruited and exempted from all public taxation for a period of 6 years."
The Monarch Karl VI was requested to issue appropriate decrees in the entire Roman Empire and neighboring countries. The colonization was carried out in a peaceful manner and with the consent of the landowners. Among the settlers from several countries, those of Germanic origin were an important and preferred group.
During the 18th century over 150,000 immigrants arrived from various German and Austrian areas and settled in the then historic Hungarian boundaries. Since many of the settlers and their descendants were of Swabian origin, historians later (1922) referred to them collectively as Danube Swabians ("Donauschwaben").
The immigration which took place throughout the 18th century reached three peak periods: 1723 to 1726, 1764 to 1771 and 1784 to 1787. They were called the Swabian treks ("Schwabenzüge"). Instead of the "Promised Land," touted by the recruiters, they encountered, particularly during the earlier phases of the colonization, harsh living conditions in the swampy lowlands and mines of the mountain regions causing hardships, epidemics, diseases and many casualties over several generations.
Fittingly, this led them to coin the phrase "The first encountered death, the second distress and only the third bread." ("Den ersten der Tod, den zweiten die Not, erst den dritten das Brot.")
It was due to a well programmed settlement policy which led to the creation of many new, attractive villages, substantial increases in agricultural, commercial and industrial production and growth of national prosperity. Thus, the Pannonian lowlands developed, with considerable contributions by the settlers of the 18th century and their descendants, into the "breadbasket of the Danube Monarchy."
The Austrian settlement program must not be interpreted as a tendency of Germanization, as some adversaries argue. It was the principles of practicality, trade and national interests which called for the recruitment of colonists, merchants, artisans and skilled laborers from the German and Austrian territories.
Most of the immigrants in the Banat mining district were miners, foundry workers, charcoal burners and forest workers who, shortly after the retreat of the Turks, were recruited to reactivate the abandoned copper, silver and iron mines. It was their efforts, which, in the 19th century, established the basis for the largest mining and industrial region of Southeast Europe.
The Danube Swabian poet Stefan Augsburger-Roney aptly characterized his countrymen's achievements with the words: "Conquered not by the sword, but by the plow, children of peace, heroes of labor." ("Nicht mit dem Schwert, mit dem Pflugschar erobert, Kinder des Friedens, Helden der Arbeit.")
The 19th century was highlighted by positive economic growth of the rural communities. However, adverse circumstances prevented the Danube Swabians from developing their individualistic intellectual strata, since the strengthening Magyar (Hungarian) society attracted and assimilated the intellectual forces emerging from the rural peasantry.
As an ethnic entity and "a people in three fatherlands" it was difficult for them to find their common identity. They had to make do and go their own way in their respective new nations. According to their individual interests they formed their own different cultural, political and economic organizations.
The majority of the Danube Swabians, their mother tongue German, became involuntary Yugoslav national citizens and lived in Westbanat, Batschka and Baranja, which was collectively termed Wojwodina. This province never before belonged to a South-Slavic nation. It's population was multi-ethnic and none of its segments had an absolute majority. The composition of the Westbanat, for example was: 39% Serbs, 33% Germans, 13% Romanians, 9.5% Hungarians and 5.5% other minorities. In relation to Yugoslavia as a nation, the Germans, Romanians and Hungarians were a relatively small minority. Such comparisons, however, are misleading since in their former home territory they represented considerable ethnic groups.
The restrictive school policy of Belgrade - it was only in 1940 that Belgrade permitted the first German-language full grade high school (Vollgymnasium) - the prohibition of German societies and other restrictive measures considerably impaired the ethnic-political situation of the German community.
New restrictive property legislation made the purchase of real estate within 50 km of the national border subject to governmental approval. The purpose was to stop the acquisition of real property by foreigners. However, this legislation was quickly used to also make it impossible for Germans of Yugoslav citizenship to acquire property. This measure was devised to further limit the economic base of the ethnic Germans. The situation of the Germans in Yugoslavia began to improve only in the thirties after Germany began to strengthen its political posture.
Dr. Sepp Janko, its leader, was elected in 1939 upon strong pressure brought about by the German government Office for Germans Living Abroad (Auslandsdeutsche). For him the principal idea of "Nationalsozialismus" was the total unity of the ethnic group, rooted in the same blood. He was convinced that the blood relationship with the German Nationals (Reichsdeutsche) necessarily united them all. The destiny of Germany would also become the destiny of the Danube Swabians.
Similar developments took place in Hungary as well, where in 1938 the "Volksbund der Deutschen in Ungarn" ("Alliance of the Ethnic Germans in Hungary") was established.
An opposition against the Renewal Movement was started by a Catholic Action (Katholische Aktion) under the leadership of the priest Pfarrer Adam Brenz. From 1935 to 1944 he conducted an intense ideological battle against the anti-Christian excesses and abuse in his weekly periodical "Die Donau" (The Danube).
The ethnic German group leaders (Volksgruppenführer) began adopting organizational and image models, patterned after those of Germany. Thus, after the "April War" of 1941 which led to the first partition of Yugoslavia, organizations such as "Deutsche Mannschaft" (German Team), "Deutsche Jugend" (German Youth), and "Deutsche Frauenschaft" (German Women's Group) became established. In the independent Croatia, "Arbeitsdienst" (Work Team Service) and "Winterhilfswerk" (Winter Aid Society) were also founded.
The group leaders had idealistic conceptions of Germany's "Nationalsozialismus." They had great hopes such joint common cultural and socially strengthened groups together with the interchange of the larger Germanic cultural community could give them a real chance to ensure a continuation of their own identity in this multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Southeastern Europe. Until well into the course of the war they held those idealistic notions of the Nationalsozialismus and the merits of the fight against Bolshevism of which the German propaganda projected a dramatic image.
There was another opposition group to the Nationalsozialismus which was rooted in political, ideological and religious doctrines. It included mainly the Catholics and Protestans of the middle and western Batschka and had the belief that one could also be a good German if you had other role models other than the national socialistic one. The majority of the Danube Swabians were, in general, non-political. The renewed strength of Germany after 1933 increased her esteem in middle-eastern Europe. It kindled the hope of the Danube Swabians that Germany's influence would bring an end to the discrimination of the German-speaking people in Yugoslavia and give them a cultural autonomy.
The pact was signed on March 25, 1941. However, two days later, a military coup in Belgrade, led by General Dusan Simovic toppled the Cvetkovic government and thus prevented the ratifications of the pact. Anti-German slogans and an agreement with Russia indicated a change of Yugoslavia's political direction. The participants of the coup were mainly members of the Serbian general staff. Documents of their secret negotiations with the Allies fell into German hands during her war with France.
The reasons for Hitler's quick decision to attack Yugoslavia was his concern of the creation of a southern front by the Allies and his desire to protect his flanks during the planned attack on Russia. The simultaneous attack on Greece was to support the Italian army which became bogged down. The Yugoslav war began on April 6, 1941 and ended on April 18 with the unconditional surrender of the entire Yugoslav army.
Contrary to some reports, the conduct of the ethnic Germans was that of loyalty to their home country Yugoslavia. Eighty to ninety percent of those subject to draft followed the call, compared to only sixty to seventy percent of the Slavic population. Accusations that members of the ethnic German group acted as a "Fifth Column" against their home country are without merit.
The partitioning of Yugoslavia created complex international and constitutional situations. In addition, the infighting among the Tschetnics, Communist partisans, and Croatian Ustaschas was leading to civil war-like conditions. The German and Italian occupation forces and Hungarian government were further power factors in the former kingdom. On July 8, 1941 Germany and Italy declared that Yugoslavia had ceased to be a nation due to its unconditional surrender, even though the exiled king and his government-in-exile, which had fled to London, claimed the continuation of the country's existence.
Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and the newly created independent nation Croatia (USK) which had joined the Axis powers adopted the same position. The legal consequences were that the inhabitants of the annexed areas, including the Danube Swabians, became national citizens of these countries, subject to their laws and compulsory military service. It was beyond their political understanding that they could, therefore, be considered traitors to the kingdom or the terroristic partisans "liberation" movement.
a) The liberation of the country, re-establishing Yugoslavia's former governmental, legal and social structure with a strong Great-Serbian, centralistic domination.
When Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Komintern (International Communist Committee) called upon all Communist parties of Europe to rise up. As a national section of the Komintern the KPJ also did its duty in the service of the "world revolution." On the same day the central committee of the KPJ issued a proclamation calling for the Proletariat of Yugoslavia to come to the defense of the Soviet Union, "the beloved socialistic Fatherland." On July 4, Tito, as Josip Broz now called himself, issued the call for the KPJ to rise up against the occupational forces. The same month German officers and soldiers were ambushed and killed, the railline Belgrade-Agram sabotaged and Communists were liberated from prisons, including Alexander Rankovic, who later became Tito's Minister of the Interior and chief of the notorious secret police OZNA.
The assigned tasks of the KPJ were:
a) Tying up as many enemy divisions as possible on the secondary Balkan front.
The ambush and murder of German soldiers, which started on July 7, 1941 led on August 11 to a new appeal in the Serbian newspapers by the German military to cooperate with the occupying forces. The same appeal was made in public posters. The disregard of these appeals by the partisans led to the notorious order #888/41 of the German Army Command (OKW) of September 16, 1941 which ordered the execution of 100 hostages for each murdered German soldier and 50 hostages for each wounded soldier. The express purpose was of deterrent nature. This action was purposefully provoked by the partisans as admitted by Serbian historians. The German retribution, however, far exceeded the principle of "adequate numbers," as provided by the Convention.
The strategy of the partisans, however, was to provoke the occupation forces to retaliatory actions against the civilian population and threatened summary executions of hostages. It induced many to seek refuge with the partisans in the forests.
During the course of the civil war, the creation of a Communist Yugoslavia became an increasingly greater objective of the Communist Party's central committee. For tactical reasons, however, it was necessary to expand the war and not make it appear to be a fight of the unpopular and, by the government-in-exile, unrecognized Communist party but a national "Revolutionary War" of the Yugoslav people, for the liberation from the Fascist occupiers and their collaborators. Hence the slogan "Death to Fascism - Freedom to the People." This slogan became the "signature" of the Tito-movement. This popular-front image was the concept for the realization of a Communistic Yugoslavia in order not to scare away non-Communists but rather to induce them to join and fight with them.
Aside from the obvious genocidal intentions, the partisans also jeopardized public safety and order, which an occupying force, according to the International Law on the Conduct of War, was obligated to uphold regardless whether such occupation of a country was legal or not. According to this international law, partisans can be executed.
As the terror actions of the partisans increased, the group leadership decided to organize a home guard regiment, named Prinz Eugen, consisting of Banat citizens, for the sole purpose of the defense of the Banat. This was entirely legal according to the Haag Convention on the Conduct of War (HLKO). In April 1942, however, Hitler ordered the formation of the "SS-Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen" instead of the home guard regiment. The service became compulsory for all ethnic Germans since there were only very few volunteers. The Division had a German-national leadership, German-national officers, and, against the original intent of the ethnic German leadership, was deployed against the Communist Tito partisans outside of the Banat.
Sepp Janko, leader of the ethnic German group was concerned about this turn of events and argued with the SS headquarters that such deployment of Banat Germans was against the laws of the HLKO. However, he had to yield to the SS pressure. Based on this fact, the Danube Swabians had to reject the later accusations of treason.
This Waffen-SS division (SS = acronym for "Schutz Staffel," was a German military organization parallel to but independent of the main army called "Wehrmacht"), however, did not cooperate with the Ustascha units (Croatian military units) which tried to exterminate the orthodox Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia.
At the Vienna meeting, on August 30, 1940, the German and Hungarian governments, without the participation of the ethnic Germans, agreed upon the following status of the ethnic German group in Hungary:
a) Member of the group is a person who professes to be of German heritage and is accepted by the leadership of the Ethnic Alliance.The Vienna agreement, however, did not grant the Alliance a legal status. Nevertheless, it succeeded to establish 300 local chapters with about 50,000 members. After the second Vienna agreement, following the incorporation of North Transylvania and Sathmar into Hungary, the membership increased to 97,000 and the incorporation of the Batschka and Baranja, as a result of Yugoslavia's partition, added another 100,000.
The leadership of the German army and lawyers of the German State Department took the position that according to the Haag Convention, the German army could not legally recruit soldiers in the allied nations Hungary, Romania and Slovakia and let them fight outside their own borders. Thus, the ethnic Germans in the Banat should not have been deployed outside their home territory.
The SS leadership, however, and its leader Heinrich Himmler insisted on the overriding concept of "Volksrecht" (Right of the People) and the "blood brotherhood." - "Same ethnicity same people," as it was called at that time, meant the same destiny and the same obligation of military service, regardless of nationality. Therefore, Himmler considered his actions in the Banat justified.
After the start of Germany's war against the Soviet Union, the Waffen-SS needed additional soldiers to make up for its losses. Himmler saw in the ethnic Southeast Germans a welcome human resource and decreed in summer, 1942 that, while there was no legal requirement for the ethnic Germans living outside of Germany to fulfill military service in the German armed forces, there was a moral requirement based on ethnicity. The governments of Hungary, Croatia and Romania were put under pressure to enter into an agreement with Germany and allow Germany to draft their able-bodied ethnic Germans into the German Army, preferably into the Waffen-SS.
To stay within international law, the SS leadership declared the recruitment to be of a voluntary nature. Furthermore, the drafted ethnics serving in German military forces automatically received the German citizenship. This made them German soldiers, in accordance with the HLKO Convention.
The agreements which served as the legal basis for the drafting of able-bodied Germans were made without participation of the respective ethnic German leadership. However, the task to direct the draftees to the induction centers was given to the ethnic organizations, thus absolving the respective governments from taking legal actions against those not complying with the draft notices.
In the third agreement regarding the Waffen-SS action, the Hungarian government transferred the military service jurisdiction over its ethnic Germans to Germany and required them to serve their military service in Germany's armed forces. Simultaneously it reversed its earlier cancellation of the Hungarian citizenship of the German-Hungarians, serving in the German armed forces. Therefore, the German-Hungarians drafted in 1944 into the Waffen-SS were neither volunteers nor formal German citizens.
During WWII, about 93,000 Danube Swabians of the former Yugoslavia served as soldiers in various national armies. One in four, 26,000, did not return. There are no records of any war crime trials of ethnic Germans of Yugoslavia, serving in the Waffen-SS.
The "German Croatians" led by Branimir Altgayer, were given legal status of ethnic citizens and enjoyed considerable cultural autonomy. As members of a recognized ethnic group, they enjoyed equal rights in education. The central issue of cultural autonomy was schooling in its mother-tongue to a degree not imaginable in the former kingdom of Yugoslavia.
The Tito-partisans were operating mainly in Krajina, Bosnia, Syrmia and Slavonia, areas which belonged since the April war of 1941 to the now independent nation Croatia. The Croatian Ustascha regime was allied with Germany and persecuted the Serbs living within its territory. This caused many of them to join the Tito-partisans who fought a cruel and bitter war against the Croats and to some extent against the Muslims as well. For the National-Fascist Ustascha it was an ethnic-motivated civil war. For the Tito-partisans it was primarily a war leading to the Communist take-over. Thus, the partisans considered the Danube Swabians of Croatia also their enemies.
In view of the growing hatred and cruel actions of the Tito-partisans against everything German, the leadership of the ethnic Germans considered their own fate inadvertently and unavoidably intertwined with that of Germany. This led the leadership and majority of the Danube Swabians to conclude that their survival as an ethnic entity was only guaranteed by a peace favorable to Germany.
In 1943, the situation in Slavonia became increasingly critical due to the frequent partisan raids on the scattered German settlements, particularly in West-Slavonia. It was therefore decided to resettle the German inhabitants of fifty communities. They were moved to the area between Essegg, Vinkovci and Vukovar. In total 20,206 persons had to leave their homes.
However, when Croatian or German forces were further away, regular partisan units settled down in the conquered villages and coordinated their activities with the night-partisans. "Settling the score" with non-Communists, particularly government-loyal Croats and Germans were daily occurrences.
Major reasons for this tragic evacuation delay were the tactical and political dilemma of Germany's leadership. The evacuation of the Danube Swabians was tantamount to admitting that large areas of Hungary and Croatia were considered lost, risking that the Hungarians would immediately capitulate and the Croats lose their willingness to continue the fight. On the other hand, if one did not evacuate the ethnic Germans, one risked the loss of "German blood" which again was contrary to the philosophy of Germany's Nationalism. It is known that Colonel General Alexander Löhr (equivalent to a US 4-star general) pleaded for a timely evacuation. A few days after Romania's capitulation (August 23, 1944) in a meeting with ethnic German leaders at Belgrade he said: "If you want to save German blood in this region, we have to do it immediately."
Beginning October 1944, the German military began a systematic evacuation of the Danube Swabians in Croatia, mostly by rail and horse-drawn wagons. The evacuees, loaded onto open railroad cars tried to protect themselves from rain and cold with wooden boards and tarps. The horse-drawn wagons were traveling for weeks. The search for fodder for the horses and lodging for the nights were daily struggles. Some of them had to travel over 1,000 km (621.4 miles) to reach their allocated destinations.
By fall 1944 almost 225,000 Danube Swabians fled or were evacuated. Several thousands returned to Yugoslavia under great difficulties and were immediately forced into internment camps. Between October 1944 and May 1945 weIl over 200,000 civilians, whose mother-tongue was German, fell into the hands of the partisans.
The escapees and surviving Danube Swabian prisoners who could not go back totalled about 300,000. Thus, Yugoslavia achieved a first "ethnic cleansing" of more than half of its 540,000 citizens of German decent.
For hundreds of years they were dominant in cultural life, trade, industry and mining. At the peace treaty of St. Germain, the Lower Styria was separated from the Styria which belonged to Austria and was made part of the newly created Slovenia which in turn was incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians (renamed Yugoslavia in 1929). After the partitioning of Yugoslavia (1941) the Untersteiermark was joined with the old Steiermark and both were attached to Germany.
"By Hitler's orders," the entire historic Steiermark was to be "Germanized." All 10,000 South-Slavs who immigrated into the Untersteiermark after 1918, and about 20,000 Slovenians, who openly opposed the Germanization, were expelled. The former were moved to what was left of Serbia and the latter to the "German Reich."
In their place the Gottscheer and the resettled ethnic Germans from Bukovina and South Tyrol were transferred to the southeast of the historic Steiermark, which now belonged to the "German Reich."
It is not surprising that these measures disappointed not only the Slovenes who had put their trust into the Germans but also incited the hatred of the Slovenian Nationalists which led to the partisan uprising. The "Slovenian Liberation Movement" was created April 27, 1941. Initially, it consisted mainly of Communists and radical Nationalists who soon were joined by desperate citizens. The partisans' actions were brutal. Resorting to executions and torching farms, they forced the farmers to feed and support them. German countermeasures were equally brutal but could no longer contain the fire they had ignited.
Understandably, the Deutsch-Untersteier were initially enthusiastic about their incorporation into the "German Reich." However, their disappointment came rather quickly as they found out that they had no voice whatsoever in the administration of the territory. Many warned against the expulsions, executions of hostages and forced political re-education; but they were told that the nature of the war required such measures and were given glorious post-war promises.
Since their fate was intertwined with that of Germany, they had no choice but to support the German administration.
Even as the course of the war tumed more menacing and eventually hopeless, with few exceptions, people were not permitted to leave. About 4,300 ethnic German-Slovenian civilians perished as a result of the partisan war, mostly by executions, torture and starvation in the camps at the end of the war; adding about 1,000 Gottschee civilians, a total of about 3,300 Deutsch-Untersteierer became victims of the genocide. Approximately 90% of the surviving Deutsch-Untersteierer found a new home in Austria. Since 1948 they are organized in a "Hilfsverein" (an Aid Society) with its headquarters in Graz.
After the collapse and partitioning of Yugoslavia in 1941, Gottschee became Italian territory and the Gottscheer (about 11,200), were moved to the Southeast Untersteiermark (Lower Styria). Like the Germans in Slovenia, they too initially were forbidden to leave when the Russians approached. The order to evacuate was issued only beginning May 1945, which for most was too late. While the exact number of those who perished during the flight or in camps is not known, estimates of the casualties including those of soldiers, run around 1,000. A large number of Gottscheer found a new home in Austria; however, other significant groups emigrated to the USA and Canada.
The Tito Regime -
A careful examination of the events and review of the Tito partisans own statements lead to varying reasons which induced the annihilation of the ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia. The causes are of ethnic, national, ideological, poweroriented and personal nature.
In 1942 the Tito partisans infiltrated the autonomous Westbanat, administered by the ethnic German Group. The "Volksgruppe's" leadership wanted to organize a battalion, called "Prinz Eugen," consisting of Banat ethnic Germans for protection, a form of home guard, considered legal by international conventions, and turned to the German occupation forces for weapons.
Himmler, head of the SS, however, had other plans. In order to circumvent the "Haag Convention on Conduct of Warfare," he declared the recruitment as "volunteer actions." The originally intended Banat home guard battalion "Prinz Eugen" became the "SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen." Against the wishes of the ethnic German leadership the division was used in the war against the partisans outside of the Banat. For the Tito partisans, this was reason enough to identify the Danube Swabians with their main enemy: Hitler's Germany.
In its November 1943 meeting, the Anti-Fascist Council for the Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ), an interim ruling commission declared: "Whoever served in the enemy's armed forces, whoever supported the occupation forces, is a traitor, will lose citizenship rights, be court-martialed and indicted for treason, which carries the threat of the death penalty."
This resolution could be used as a pretext for the murder of all soldiers of the former Yugoslavia who fought against the Communists, including the Germans, Croats, Slovenes and Serbs under the leadership of Nedic or Mihajlovic.
The resolution also outlined the federative structure of the future "People's Republic." Ethnic German citizens were not included in the ethnic nationalities with equal rights. It was obvious the purpose was to punish not only the soldiers who were drafted mainly into the German units but to establish a collective guilt of the entire ethnic German population by designating them "Enemies of the People," "Collaborators" and "Fascists." These were the preparations for the annihilation of all Germans and they were no longer considered part of the future Yugoslavia.
This patriotic approach was used in the interest of the Communist power grab and to mobilize many patriots who loved their own country - while Tito had greater Yugoslavian aspirations. He succeeded to maintain this national patriotism, if not by conviction, then by force.
After Tito's death the individual Serbian, Croation, Slovenian, Macedonian, Bosnian, Kosovo-Albanian Patriotisms suddenly resurfaced. We all have witnessed the horrible consequences of the unraveling of Yugoslavia since 1990.
The genocide of the ethnic German population, branded as Fascists, proved to be an important factor in stabilizing the Communist's power since it was an effective intimidating factor against the national-conservative forces and loyal monarchists. At the same time the annihilation of the Germans suited the Communist concept in removing a segment of the population which, in a Communist society, would have been the greatest source of resistance.
The intent of the Yugoslav government to effectively cleanse the country of her ethnic Germans is also evident in Yugoslavia's approach to the Western Allies in an Aide-memoire on January 19, 1946 asking to agree to a collective transfer to Germany of the 110,000 ethnic Germans that survived the first persecution year. It repeated this request on May 16, 1946; however, it did not receive any reply.
At a January 1947 London meeting of the Deputy Foreign Ministers in preparation of a peace treaty with Germany, the Yugoslav delegate Dr. Mladen Ivecovic again raised this request, however, it was not considered.
In spring 1946 the US government intervened at the Yugoslav government on behalf of American citizens of Yugoslav heritage and protested repeatedly against their internment in forced labor camps.
On October 18, 1946 the US ambassador at Belgrade delivered a note of protest to the Yugoslav government in which the actions of the Yugoslav government were declared a violation of the human rights of American citizens of ethnic German heritage, who were interned without any judicial process.
Exempt were only those married to other nationals or active fighters belonging to or supporters of Tito's Communist "Peoples' Liberation Movement." To give this action a semblance of legal justification the decree had to be made by an ex-judicial process. This meant that they did not lose their citizenship but were deprived of civic rights.
Thus, the ethnic Germans could, without providing any reason, be expelled from their homes, coerced into forced labor, put into labor camps or camps for children or liquidation camps for sick persons.
Among the criteria for genocide the UNO Convention of December 9, 1948 specifies: "Genocide means: Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."
The AVNOJ decrees provided exactly these conditions and are the basis and justification for the planned and government-sanctioned genocide of the Danube Swabians.
The Serbs were only a minority in the Banat, Batschka and Syrmia (now called Wojwodina) which were part of the Hungarian kingdom. These areas, which for about 1,000 years belonged to Hungary and historically never to Serbia, were given to Serbia after World War I at the 1920 peace treaty of Trianon. The strongest ethnic groups which suddenly came under Serbian domination were the Germans and Magyars (Hungarians). In spite of immediate Serb colonization efforts, in 1941 the Serbs still did not represent more then 37% of Wojwodina's total population, in the Batschka only 23%.
The Secretary of War of the Government-in-Exile and leader of the Tschetniks, General Oraza Mihajlovic intended to expel all Germans, Magyars and Romanians after the hoped for victory of his Tschetniks. After the renewed recent break-up of Yugoslavia the resurrected Tschetniks retained their radical nationalistic Great-Serbian course. Fifty years later, during the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, their paramilitary units committed bloody massacres.
Even General Milan Nedic, the Prime Minister of German-occupied Serbia and installed by the Germans in 1941, did not want to have any national minorities in a future post-war Serbia. In 1944, the Communist party of Yugoslavia, however, became the executor of the elimination plans.
The conclusion of those who cite Great-Serbian Nationalism as a major reason for the expulsion and annihilation of Yugoslavia's ethnic Germans is the following: The three leading Serbian, respectively Serb-dominated groups, the Tschetniks, partisans and Nedic-followers, who were fighting each other during World War II, towards the end of 1942 all agreed on the elimination of the Germans from a future Yugoslavia. At the very least, the intent was to make them disappear as an ethnic group by integrating them into the Slavic ethnic sections.
1. The AVNOJ (Serbian acronym for Anti-Fascist Council of Yugoslav People's Liberation) of the partisans was dominated by Communists. The decisive motivation for the decision of the AVNOJ to expel and annihilate the Germans was that the Germans did not join the "Volksbefreiungskampf' (liberation struggle) of the partisans and that they defended themselves against the guerilla attacks on their villages.2. Alexander Rankovic, although being a Serb but a radical Communist and since 1944 chief of the OZNA (Yugoslav secret police), controlled the leadership policies and issued the instructions to the OZNA chiefs of the country's regions, as well as to the other members of the political leadership. He was considered the "executor of the political suppression and annihilation of all real or suspected enemies of the regime." Therefore, the policy of political terror was Communist motivated.Final comment by Herbert Prokle, another Danube Swabian eye witness: "Even if Great-Serbian Nationalism did not provide the impulse for the crime, it certainly facilitated it. The execution of the indescribably fiendish genocide between 1944 and 1948 on such a national scale required a large number of participants, not all of whom were Communists. Furthermore, there was a large segment of the Serbian population that, while not wanting to 'dirty their hands,' were quite in agreement with the annihilation of the Germans. The pathologically extreme Nationalism of a part of the Serbs may very well be responsible for it."