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the forced labour, imprisonment, expulsion, and emigration of the Germans of Yugoslavia

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HOW TO CITE THIS SCHOLARLY ESSAY: Institute for Research of Expelled Germans. "The forced labour, imprisonment, expulsion, and emigration of the Germans of Yugoslavia." http://expelledgermans.org/danubegermans.htm (accessed D-M-Y).

The IREG flags of the Banat and Vojvodina Swabians of Serbia, Croatia, Romania, and Hungary (shield symbolising Ottoman mosques by Hans Diplic)

Included German minourity groups in this region: Banat Swabians, Danube Swabians, Vojvodina Germans, Gotscheers

Total population change resulting from expulsion and displacement: from nearly 500,000 to ~7,302, 98.5% loss


History of Settlement, Culture, and Adaptation of Nationality
The Nazi period, and the Yugoslav confiscations, forced labour, imprisonment, and emigration of Germans
Population Statistics
Famous Persons
Suggested Websites and Organisations

History of Settlement and Culture, and Adaptation of Nationality

Ethnic German pioneer settlement in the Balkans and Central Europe occurred gradually over many centuries since the 11th century, and in response to numerous political and historical stimuli. Small populations of German farmers were first invited into Serbia, eastern Bosnia, and Hungary by the Hungarian sovereign Géza II in the 12th century and the Serbian Tsar Dušan the Mighty in the 14th century (Singleton 1985, 41). However, full-scale German immigration into Hungary and the lands that formerly comprised Yugoslavia – especially Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia – began comparatively late, throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

At this time, most of the entire region was dominated by the German Habsburg Empire centred around modern Austria. After the defeat of Hungarian king Lajós at the Battle of Mohács by the invading Ottoman Muslim legions in 1526, the Habsburgs incorporated the lands of the Hungarian Crown that were yet unconquered by the Muslims, including the northern portions of Hungary and its subordinate territories of Croatia-Slavonia and Bohemia. By the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718, the once-respledent Ottoman Empire was crushed by the Habsburgs and sent tumbling towards its gradual collapse. The Habsburgs rapidly grew to incorporate all of Hungary, Croatia, Transylvania (today northwest Romania), and the northern portions of Ottoman Serbia called the Vojvodina and Banat that today straddle Hungary, Romania, and Serbia. Bosnia and Serbia remained under Ottoman hegemony until 1878, and Serbia proper was never absorbed into the Habsburg orbit. What is now Slovenia had long been under Habsburg authority. It was under this geopolitical context that the German Habsburg monarchy, in overwhemingly disproportionate ethnic control of this massive empire, subsidised ethnic German settlement throughout its dominion and into the lands of what would later become Yugoslavia.

There were many provocations for Habsburg government sponsourship for ethnic German immigration. Hungary and the frontier steppe lands had been decimated and incinerated during the wars against Muslim invasion, leaving previous economic and agricultural centres in ruin. Buda and Pest (later Budapest) were almost completely depopulated, and huge Christian Serb and Hungarian populations had fled northward from the Ottoman janissaries. This left huge swathes of the newly-expanded Habsburg orbit ripe for resettlement as a means of generating agricultural and material output. Equally salient was the irascible ethnic situation in the highly diverse Habsburg Empire, which included an unequally powerful German elite and Hungarian, Serb, Romanian, Croat, Slovene, Czech, and Slovak subjects with diminished linguistic, cultural, and political rights. The Hungarians, who constituted the second most powerful ethnic group in the empire's nascent developing dual monarchy system, bitterly struggled to gain equal franchise with the ethnic Germans. In its efforts to subsume the influence of the rival Hungarian nobility, the Germans encouraged the settlement of non-Hungarian minourities in the Hungarian half of the empire. The immigration of Slovaks and other Slavic peoples was also encouraged alongside Germans to offset Hungarian influence. Sponsouring the immigration of ethnic German communities into the empire and what would later become Yugoslavia therefore ultimately strengthened the interests and monopoly of the German economic and political elite. Lastly, the Habsburgs encouraged immigration into the northern portions of modern Yugoslavia (especially the Banat and Serbian Vojvodina) as a means of militia defence against feared Ottoman aggression in the southerly fortifications known as the Military Frontier (Militärgrenze).

Under these circumstances, the Habsburg sovereigns (especially Leopold II and Maria Theresa) formalised the Colonial Commission after 1766, encouraging and subsidising the immigration of German farmers and entrepreneurs from the predominately Catholic states of southern Germany. This sponsourship remained to a declining degree until the fall of the empire in 1918. Most of these German immigrants originated in the regions of Baden, Schwaben (Swabia), Würrtemburg, Bavaria, Hessen, Luxemburg, and Elsaß (Alsace) in France. They retained a variety of local Germanic traditions, a strong Catholic faith as was largely compulsory during this timeframe in the Habsburg Empire, and spoke a number of local German dialects including Swabian (Schwäbisch), Franconian (Fränkisch), and Alemannisch. Despite these minute local distinctions, the German immigrants into the lands of the Habsburg Hungarian Crown and what became Yugoslavia were collectively called Danube Swabians (Donauschwaben), since most settled along the Danube river. The Danube Swabians who settled in the Banat and Vojvodina regions straddling Serbia, Romania, and Hungary became known as Banat Swabians. The main loci of German pioneer settlement in the later Yugoslavia were in today's Serbia and Croatia. Significant German-populated towns and cities, today almost completely bereft of Germans following the displacement of 98.5% of Yugoslavia's Germans, included Apatin, Hodschag (today Odžaci), Knićanin (Rudolfsgnad), Novi Sad (Neusatz) in the Vojvodina, Katschfeld (Jagodnjak), Gakovo, Kruschiwl (Kruševlje), Vukovar, and Esseg (Osijek).

A partial map of German towns developed during Habsburg immigration sponsourship. CLICK TO ENLARGE. (Scanned from the book Casualty of War: A Childhood Remembered, by Luisa Lang Owen)

Upon settlement, the German families were given safe passage to protected agricultural lands with auspicious tax exemptions and incentives, free livestock, equipment and seeds, and housing (Kann 1979, 200). With the German immigrants enjoying exorbitant government subsidy and now a sizable minourity in the significant urban centres of Pest, Buda, Novi Sad, and Bratislava, the disproportionate ethnic rights of the Germans of Austria were extended to the new ethnic German immigrants (Kann 1979, 460). As a result, the Danube Swabians became quite wealthy and politically influential despite being a small ethnic minourity. Most German settler villages and cities developed a very Germanic architectural and cultural appearance, whilst the commercial and cultural language of towns settled by German minourities rapidly shifted from Slavic ones to German. These factors were sources of enduring inter-ethnic tension, as Slavs and Hungarians increasingly rallied for self-determination against the Germans. So too, in areas primarily populated by Orthodox Serbs or Calvinist Hungarians, the presence of Catholic priests or churches became synonymous with what was perceived as the encroaching presence of German imperialism.

In the 19th century alone, over 150,000 German immigrants arrived in the southern marches of Hungary (Prokle 2003,22). 160,000 arrived in Croatia-Slavonia alone (Lumans 1993, 117). The Vojvodina – the northern region of Serbia ruled by the Habsburgs – had over 285,920 Germans by 1880, or 24.4%(Kocsis 2), The Banat region altogether had as many as 388,000, at 24.5% (Zentrum gegen Vertreibung), and 325,000 by 1910, or 21.4% (Jelavic 1983, 316). In all of the lands of the Hungarian Crown, the total population of Germans (primarily Danube Swabian immigrants) was 1,200,000 by 1843, 1,955,250 in 1880 (12.5% of the Hungarian dominion), and 2,046,828 by 1910, or 9.8% (Kann 1979, 605-8). After the gradual Habsburg occupation of hitherto-Ottoman Bosnia in 1878, the Habsburg government extended small-scale ethnic German and Slovak immigration into Bosnia and Herzegovina, totaling over 10,000, and of those at least 2,000 Swabians in the first phase (Malcolm 1996, 143). Bosnian nationalists immediately responded to this subsidised ethnic caste with parliamentary petitions and complaints to Vienna as part of the empire's enduring ethnic friction (Ibid). Modern Slovenia, which was integrally attached to the Habsburg Empire for centuries, possessed an inordinately powerful German economic, intellectual, and political caste that was largely unaffected until the fall of the empire. There were as many as 38,631 Germans in Slovenia by 1921 (Wolff 2002, 147).

Country life and subsidised settlement of the Danube Swabians in the lands of the Habsburg Hungarian crown (paintings from the excellent artist Stefan Jäger at www.stefan-jaeger.net)

The largest German population in the former Yugoslavia was in the Habsburg Banat and Vojvodina, two adjacent territories that are today split between Croatia, Romania, Hungary, and especially Serbia. The drastic ethnic diversity of the region meant that it became a battleground for each group's aspirations for autonomy, irredentism, or total discord. The Danube Swabians in what would become Yugoslavia were thus often forced to adapt their nationality in response to contast political changes and especially the eventual fall of the Habsburg Empire and the establishment of independent Yugoslavia in 1918. The Serbian and Hungarian revolutions of 1848 against the German Habsburgs for bolstered political and national franchise turned the German-populated regions into a warzone of competing political maxims, rife with bloody massacres between Hungarians, Serbs, Ashkenazi Jews, and Swabians (Glenny 1999, 51). After Serbian nationalists failed to establish an independent Serbia in the Vojvodina, Vienna acquiesced in 1860 to the bitter contumacy in the region by establishing the superficially autonomous German crown land of the Voivodeship of Serbia and the Banat of Temeschwar. Its governor, a German, was directly appointed by the emperor, marking a continued legacy of struggle between the German elite and the Slavic majourity. This ephemeral shift in nationality for the Danube Swabians in the future Yugoslavia shifted again after the Hungarian nationalist triumph of 1867, which established a dual monarchy of perfunctory ethnic equality between Germans and Hungarians. The Serbs and Germans of the Vojvodina were subsequently directly obeisant to a highly nationalistic Hungary, which began a programme of intensive cultural and linguistic assimilation called Magyarisation (Kann 1979, 320). Most Swabians responded with topical assimilation by learning Hungarian and displaying Hungarian culture, whilst retaining their German identity in private. The Croats, Slovenes, and Bosnians of the Habsburg Empire were unable to organise an effective national revolt prior to the empire's expiration. As a result, the dominant position of the small Swabian minourities in these regions was often unaffected overall by nationalist ferment.

A map of the Vojvodina, where most Germans of the future Yugoslavia settled and lived until their displacement. The Banat region (see below) is adjacent to the east. During the Habsburg era when Germans were invited for subsidised immigration, the Vojvodina acted as a military buffer against the Muslim Turks ruling Serbia proper (source: map.primorye.ru)

The Banat region is highlighted at centre. The Banat and Vojvodina were historically exchanged between Serbia, Hungary, and Romania. (source: birda.de)

The Danube Swabians responded to the crisis of nationalism and political franchise by petitioning their sponsours in Vienna for an autonomous Danube Swabian polity in the Banat in order to propitiate the increasing dominance of the Serbian and Hungarian nationalists. Ultimately, the interests of the Danube Swabian minourity were subdued by Hungarian national aspirations. Germans within the Hungarian orbit (Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary, and Transylvania) were subject to the Magyarisation process until the fall of the empire in 1918. Partly in response to this ethno-political conflict, over 79,500 Germans emigrated out of the Vojvodina and Banat by 1913 (Kocsis 2001, 146). Despite this loss of cultural autonomy for Germans and the cessation of direct subsidy by Vienna, Swabians in Hungary and the future Yugoslavia adaptively represented their independent interests through an array of approaches. Among these mechanisms were the formation of political parties (especially the Hungarian German People's Party), newspapers, academic circles, and political manifestos that retained a separate German ethnic identity even during compulsory assimilation. (See Expelled Germans of Hungary under Magyarisation for more analysis).

The ethnic and geopolitical situation, as well as the nationality status of the Germans of what would become Yugoslavia changed cataclysmically with the fall of the Habsburg Empire after its defeat of World War I in 1918. Seizing the long-sought opportunity for self-determination and the dismantlement of the 500-year German minourity caste, Slavic nationalists in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Monenegro, Serbia, and the Vojvodina declared the merger of these lands into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in 1918 (later Yugoslavia). Disproportionately ruled by the Serbs and a Serbian monarchy based in Belgrade, Yugoslavia was a limited confederacy of each South Slavic minourity group. The smaller non-Slavic populations, including the Swabians and Hungarians, now found their previous dominance destroyed. German and Hungarian nationalists under the Swabian Otto Roth in the Banat and Vojvodina responded by declaring the establishment of an independent Banat Republic (Banater-Republik) in 1918. This ephemeral state was immediately crushed by the Yugoslav army, and the Vojvodina altogether was annexed into Yugoslav Serbia along with its Swabian and Hungarian minourities. Danube Swabians – long supported by Vienna's hegemony over the region – were now ethnic minourities in independent nations that no longer catered to the German or Hungarian communities. The Swabians of Yugoslavia henceforth became known as Yugoslav Germans (Jugoslawiendeutsche). According to 1921 statistics, the German minourity population of the new Yugoslavia included 513,412 total in Yugoslavia altogether (4.21%), and of that 328,173 in the Serbian Banat and Vojvodina, 122,836 in Slavonia (Croatia), and 38,631 in Slovenia (Wolff 2002, 147). Most Germans of Yugoslavia, until their displacement after World War II, lived in the northern region of the Serbian Banat and Vojvodina.

The German minourity experience under Yugoslav rule (1918-1941) was erratic. Historiographic polemics that depict a period of anti-German oppression by the Slavs, which forced them towards Nazification, are highly exaggerated. The Germans at only 4.21% were naturally afforded the diminshed political franchise and influence of any minourity in Yugoslavia. As Yugoslavia gravitated towards a highly-centralised dictatorship of the Serbian monarchy, the Belgrade government instituted a continuous programme of land and property confiscations, nationalisation, and limited redistribution. With the dissolution of the German Habsburg regime, independent Yugoslavia experienced a glaring problem of an inordinately wealthy ethnic German landowner class and a poor Slavic peasant majourity. Although the confiscations did not discriminate on racial grounds and targeted both Slav and German alike, the higher station of the Swabians meant that they were particularly affected by the government's incursions against the nobility. These factors, combined with the worsening dimunition of the cultural and personal autonomy of the Swabians under the centralising Belgrade monarchy, further pressuring Swabians to attach themselves to racialist political currents that directly addressed their independent cultural interests.

Despite these estate confiscations, the small Swabian minourity continued to exert powerful influence in early Yugoslavia prior to the establishment of a dictatorial monarchy under King Aleksandr by 1929. The Swabian Georg Weifert (1850-1937), one of Yugoslavia's most important industrialists, economists, and the president of the Serbian parliament, exemplified the fact that the German minourity was not subjected to systematic discrimination, and contributed greatly to the economic and political evolution of early Yugoslav society. Ethnic Germans remained unusually wealthy in proportion to their small population. In the Vojvodina – the breadbasket of Yugoslavia where most Germans and Hungarians resided – Germans were only 1/4 of the population (Hrvatski Informativni Centar), but dominated over 50% of the economy. 80% of products and material exported out of the region originated from businesses owned by German families (Wolff 2002, 150). As such an influential minourity in Yugoslavia's commercial centres in Vojvodina, this gave the Germans an auspicious position during the first period of Yugoslav statehood.

Georg Weifert, president of the Serbian parliament and one of Yugoslavia's most important early industrialists and economists, exemplifies the auspicious position the German minourity enjoyed in early Yugoslavia (source: djordje-vajfert.org)

The autonomous cultural, linguistic, academic, and political interests of the German minourity were successfully represented via a variety of state and community mechanisms. The German Party (Partei der Deutschen), founded in 1922 with state recognition, consistently attained between 5 and 8 seats in the national Yugoslav parliament, giving them a commensurate influence on the government and its jurisprudence (Sretenovic 2002, 48). A plethora of other political and academic organs addressed German community interests, including the German Economic Party, the Kočevje Peasants' Party (Gottscher Bauerpartei), the Swabian German Cultural Union, the Kulturbund (Culture Federation), the German Association of Women, and the Association of German Medical Doctors. Ethnic German communities, especially around Novi Sad (Neusatz), Apatin, and Rudolfsgnad (Knićanin) had a total of 258 schools with both German and Serbocroatian instruction, 400 cultural and agriculture associations and unions, a separate German-language printing house, over 30 periodicals and magazines of their own, and one daily newspaper called the Deutsches Volksblatt (Ibid., 50).

As is apparent, the experience of Swabians in the early phase of Yugoslav independence was not one of oppression or subjugation. The Danube Swabians had remarkably adapted their nationality to several political transitions since their settlement in the region in the 18th century, including rule by the Habsburgs, the Serbian voivodes, the Hungarian nationalists, and finally that of the independent Yugoslavs. They operated as an integral actor in the Yugoslav economy, statecraft, industry, pedagogy, and the intelligentsia. There is no evidence of any marked inter-ethnic contumacy between the Slavic majourity and the German minourity prior to the dictatorship of the Belgrade monarchy in 1929. A variety of ideological, social, and cultural factors were necessary to eventually cause the Germans to gravitate towards racialism and National Socialism (Nazism) prior to the invasion of the Third Reich in 1941 and the eventual displacement of 98.5% of Yugoslavia's German community thereafter.




The Nazi period, and the Yugoslav confiscations, forced labour, imprisonment, and emigration of Germans

Gradually throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the Danube Swabian minourity in Yugoslavia rapidly shifted towards various manifestations of pan-Germanic nationalism, Nazism, racialism, and irredentism. The political and social motivations for this digression were manifold. Apologetic historiographic sources explain the radicalisation of the Yugoslav Germans by exaggerating a systematic oppression of the German and Hungarian minourities by the Slavs. The other side, as maintained after the war by the vengeance-seeking Yugoslav Communists regime, was that the German minourity was guilty of a longstanding conspiracy of the extreme right for total independence from Yugoslavia and the subjugation of the other Slavic groups within Yugoslavia. Both interpretations are exaggerated and limited, and ignore the diverse reasons why Germans shifted towards Germanic nationalist movements.

When the hitherto ceremonial monarchy in Belgrade under King Aleksandr began asserting itself as a dictatorship over Yugoslavia in 1929, the nation's many ethnic groups now found their previous autonomous ethnic and community franchise rights significantly obstructed. Germans, Hungarians, and Slavs alike were no longer able to address their local affairs through political and legal means due to Belgrade's dominance. The German Party was banned completely, as was the nationalist Kulturbund even before it became Nazified. Although this abolition was later lifted, the social division had already been inflicted. The diminished franchise of non-Serbian minourity groups was further exacerbated by what was perceived as their increasing subservience to the Serbs and the Serbian sovereign. The imposition of Serbocroatian as the bolstered official language to the detriment of other minourity languages further inhibited the desire for non-Serbian groups to profess loyalty to the Yugoslav state. It was the transition of Yugoslavia from a system of multi-ethnic political confederation to a system of Serbian hegemony that pushed minourity groups toward radicalism and discord. The Danube Swabians, like the Croats and Hungarians, rapidly began to separate themselves from integration with Yugoslavia and joined political movements that directly addressed their greatly stymied cultural interests. Like the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia, radical pro-German movements that espoused German nationalism became far more relevant to Yugoslavia's Germans than subservience to a highly alienating Serbian monarchy. It was this process, rather than any malevolent desire for genocide or racial mass murder, that caused the Germans to rapidly affiliate with Nazism. Despite the inauspicious situation of the ethnic Germans within Yugoslavia under Aleksandr I, the king strengthened Yugoslavia's warming relations with Germany and other Axis countries by formally joining the Tripartite Pact in 1941, an economic and political partnership between Fascist-leaning nations. The pact was not a military partnership; Yugoslavia remained a neutral nation whose borders were protected from Axis nations' troop movements.

King Aleksandr I of Yugoslavia, who after 1929 consolidated the federalised nation into a monarchical dictatorship and greatly polarised minourity groups' aspirations for self-determination (source: royalfamily.org)

The main representative organs of Yugoslavia's Germans in the 1920's were the German Party (Partei der Deutschen) and the Schwäbisch-Deutscher Kulturbund (Swabian German Culture Federation). The Kulturbund was identified after the war by the Communists as a criminal organisation and all of its members (most of the German population) were therefore excoriated as pro-Nazi traitors. Although the Kulturbund eventually became a vehicle for National Socialism (Nazism) that enjoyed the support of most Yugoslav Germans and the Third Reich, it initially began as a moderate, integrated German cultural association. Founded in 1920 by Johann Keks, Stefan Kraft, Peter Heinrich, and Georg Grassel, the movement did not call for a discord from Yugoslavia, a union with Germany, or advocate any violence. Using the mantra "Staatstreu und Volkstreu" (Loyalty to the State and Loyalty to the [German] People), the Kulturbund promoted the representation of the German culture and ethnic identity, but in active cooperation with the Yugoslav government and the Slavic ethnic majourity.

This initial moderation was gradually transformed under the firebrand polemics of pan-Germanic nationalists like Branimir Altgayer, Dr. Jakob Anwender, and Dr. Sepp Janko in response to the increasing hegemony of the Serbian dictatorship over the German community and other minourities. Various ideological currents competed in town hall and academic debates between liberals, radicals, and conservatives. The ascension of the National Socialists in Germany under Adolf Hitler and the proliferation of pan-Germanic rhetoric greatly influenced the political evolution of the Yugoslav Germans. The image of pan-Germanic unity and collective vision of the Nazis in Germany inspired many Swabians who were increasingly angered by their diminution of autonomy under King Aleksandr. Land and property redistributions, although quite often exaggerated and equally imposed on Slavs and Germans alike, continued to pressure this divergence away from integration with Belgrade. So too, the declaration by the Romanian Fascist government that National Socialism was the sole representative voice of the Transylvania Saxons contributed to the radicalisation of the Yugoslav Swabians. The Kulturbund was, like most German diaspora groups, sponsoured and even subsidised by the Volksbund für das Deutschtum im Ausland (People's Federation for Germandom Abroad) and the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle, two cultural and academic organisations in the Third Reich devoted to promoting pan-Germanic ideology. Eventually, the two nationalist doctors succeeded in exploiting these geopolitical circumstances and guiding the Kulturbund and other German associations towards German nationalism and racial pride by the mid-1930's under a movement called the National Socialist Renewal Movement (nationalsozialistische Erneuerungsbewegung). Despite extolling ethnic nationalism and cultural solidarity, the Kulturbund maintained at least topical affiliation and cooperation with the Yugoslav state; it did not call for total independence, revolution, or promote any genocide.

By 1939, the Nazified Kulturbund had become the most salient political representative of the German minourity in Yugoslavia. By the time of the Axis invasion, there were over 300,000 Kulturbund members, or over 60% of the total Yugoslav German population (Sretenovic 2002, 50). In 1939, the Kulturbund was absorbed into the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle network of Heinrich Himmler, the director of the SS and the prime architect of the Holocaust. As a result, the Yugoslav Germans were subsequently represented, organised, and subsidised by the Third Reich and the SS. Dr. Sepp Janko of the Kulturbund became the "Führer" of the Yugoslav Swabians prior to the Axis invasion. The broad membership of the Swabians in Nazi movements contributed to the exaggerated post-war identification of Swabians as being universally involved in the Nazi atrocities committed by the foreign Axis armies. Despite the fact that the Kulturbund and most Germans adopted pan-Germanic and even racist rhetoric, the universalised assumption by the Yugoslavs that the entire German ethnicity was collectively guilty of genocide and should therefore be imprisoned was vastly exaggerated.

Dr. Jakob Anwender in an SS-style uniform at left meeting Croatian Nazi leader Ante Pavelic. Anwender, along with Sepp Janko and other polemics, helped transform the hitherto moderate Kulturbund into a racialist and pan-Germanic organisation (source: mymilitaria.it)



The Axis invasion and the atrocities of the war

In March of 1941, the geopolitical position of Yugoslavia became precarious. King Aleksandr I, the dictator of Yugoslavia and a partial political and economic partner of the Third Reich under the Tripartite Pact, was overthrown in a coup by King Petar II with British support. The Western Allies, along with significant segments of the Yugoslav government, sought to reverse Yugoslavia's relationship with Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy. Yielding to pressure, Petar and the government finally chose to maintain adherence to the Tripartite Pact with the Axis and to support Germany's expansionist claims under the Vienna Agreement (Glenny 1999, 476). However, Hitler petulently answered the problem of Belgrade's uncertain relationship with Germany by declaring war on Yugoslavia. Most historians argue that Germany was relegated and reluctant to invade Yugoslavia in order to assuage Italian military failures in neighbouring Greece, and was greatly pressured by intensifying claims on Yugoslav land by Axis Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania. The incredibly sudden invasion of Yugoslavia and the last-minute coup by King Petar against the pro-Axis King Aleksandr greatly challenges the post-war Yugoslav myth that the Danube Swabians had been planning a longstanding conspiracy of Nazi invasion. So too, few Swabians (or Yugoslavs for that matter) could predict that Germany would destroy a crucial economic and political trading partner in the Tripartite Pact.

The former Yugoslavia was occupied and carved up between the Axis belligerents from 1941 to late 1944. King Petar II was thrown into exile. Bulgaria seized Macedonia; Italy annexed Slovenia, Montenegro, and the coastline of Bosnia and Croatia (Dalmatia); and Germany occupied Serbia proper. The Banat and Vojvodina regions of northern Serbia, where most Yugoslav Germans lived, were absorbed into Axis Hungary. Under Germany's orchestration, towns and municipalities in the Banat with German majourities were elevated to the status of an autonomous administrative exclave within the Third Reich, despite Germans being only 20% of the Banat's population (Hrvatski Informativni Centar). A puppet protectorate regime was set up under German direction in Belgrade under the Serb nationalist Milan Nedić. Croatian ultranationalists of the Ustaše movement broke from Yugoslavia, merged with Bosnia, and organised an extreme-right state supported by Italy and Germany called the Independent State of Croatia under Ante Pavelić. The leading position of Germany in the domination of the Yugoslavs, as well as their close affiliation with the Yugoslav Swabians, contributed to their universal identification as a criminal ethnic group by the vengeance-seeking socialists after the war.

What followed was a tragic fracas of ethnic cleansings and genocide committed by each ethnic group of the dismantled Yugoslavia, as each identity violently seized the opportunity to struggle for the independence and cultural franchise that were increasingly denied to them by the Serb-dominated Yugoslav monarchy. Serbs, Albanians, Croats, Bosnians, Muslims, Orthodox, Catholics, Swabians, Hungarians, Communists, monarchist Četnik militias, and Nazis all participated in a maelstrom of some of the bloodiest atrocities of World War II. Dormant ethnic hatred between Croats and Serbs decimated the Balkans, whilst Communist brigades and Serb nationalists engaged in mutual massacres all across the despoiled Yugoslav territories. The Swabian Germans and Croats, however, were blamed for all of them after the war and subjected to great reprisal and universal imprisonment.

Croatian Nazi leader Ante Pavelic at right shaking hands with Adolf Hitler. Many Swabians were actively involved with the Croatian-German partnership and its concomitant brutality against Serbs, Jews, and other victims (source: axishistory.com)

It was at this time that the first phase of 'evacuation' and removal of the Yugoslav Germans occurred, not by vengeful Communists, but by the Third Reich itself. The small German populations outside of allied Croatia and the autonomous German region of the Banat were considered by Germany to be at risk of losing their 'pure' ethnic identity through assimilation or being killed by Communist partisan raids. It was believed by the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle under Heinrich Himmler that disparate German minourities in Slovenia, rural Bosnia, and Serbia proper would also enjoy greater representation and fiscal opportunities if they were transferred 'back home' to Germany, the home that their ancestors had not seen for two centuries. As a result of this policy, the entire German population of Bosnia-Herzegovina (then part of Nazi Croatia) was forcibly escorted to Belgrade, where they were gathered on trains and trucks and shipped northward to Axis Hungary, the Third Reich, or German-occupied Poland. In all, some 18,000 German civilians were relocated out of Bosnia in this fashion (Lumans 1993, 176). Most of the German community in Italian-ruled Slovenia known as the Gotschee Germans, previously totaling 33,000, were also 'evacuated' (Sretenovic 2004, 53), (Prokle 2003, 155). Some Germans did remain in Slovenia (until the socialists removed them after 1944), but Bosnia was completely depopulated of Germans by Germany. At least 1,925 Swabian civilians were removed from the rest of Yugoslavia (especially Serbia), ostensibly as a means of 'protection' against Yugoslav partisan assaults against German villages. Interestingly, many of these 'evacuations' were performed by the German army and the SS without the approval of the evacuated Swabian Germans. In some cases, it was even reported that ethnic Germans attacked SS escorts when they approached them for compulsory removal (Lumans 1993, 176). Like the Baltic Germans and many Germans of Romania, most of Bosnia's and Slovenia's Germans had disappeared as a result of Germany's foreign policy and its pan-Germanic ideology. However, this involuntary displacement was only a fraction of that performed by the Yugoslav socialist regime after the war against the German ethnicity altogether.

It is crucial to emphasise the complicity of each group in committing various forms of ethnic genocide in order to debunk the popular post-war myth that only the Germans were involved in atrocities and war crimes. Rather than the Axis powers causing the genocides, their destruction of the Belgrade monarchy spawned an almost inevitable civil war and a vacuum of power and ethnic violence. Nazi rule only ignited an already-dormant powder keg of violent cleansing. Yugoslavia endured some of the most casualties of the entire war. Over 900,000 died as a result of the Yugoslav civil war altogether. Most of this resulted not from genocide performed by the Swabian minourity, but from general skrimishes and massacres between rival Serb nationalists, Croats, monarchists, Nazi soldiers, and Communist partisans (Burleigh 2001, 421). Most of the Jews and Serbs of Bulgarian-occupied Macedonia were killed or expelled by Bulgaria, and in one event alone Hungarian soldiers in occupied Vojvodina executed over 4,000 civilians (mostly Jews and Serbs) in Novi Sad in 1942 (Yahil 2000, 503). The war crimes of the Croats are particularly important in relation to the fate of the Swabians because both of the two were depicted after the war as complicit Nazi belligerents. The Croatian nationalists, who adopted their own rendition of racialism and 'Aryan' identity, independently persecuted or murdered a higher percentage of its population in mob killings and Croatian concentration camps like Jasenovac than any other Axis country (Glenny 1999, 501). It has been estimated that 1/3 of the 2,000,000 Serbs in Croatia's southeastern region of Krajina and in eastern Bosnia were executed, 1/3 were forcbily assimilated and converted to Croatian Catholicism, and 1/3 were expelled (Ibid., 498). 75% of Croatia's Jews, or 30-40,000, died during the war (Cox 2002, 94). The atrocities of the Croats were so drastic that even the SS was supposedly 'shocked', and pressured the Croatian nationalists to slow down so as not to further radicalise the bellicose Communist partisans (Singleton 1985, 178). The Croats and Swabians of Yugoslavia hoped to expel as many as 50,000 Serbs from the Banat and Vojvodina, but Berlin allegedly refused for the same reason (Wolff 2002, 151).

However, the SS legions active in Yugoslavia that conscripted local Yugoslav Swabians did participate in many of the worst crimes performed by the Third Reich in any occupied nation. Following the Axis invasion, the German government organised the formation of volunteer militia, army (Wehrmacht), and Waffen-SS units. All recruits among Danube Swabians in the former Yugoslavia were placed under SS-Division Prinz Eugen led by the Transylvania Saxon Artur Phleps, one of the most barbaric and brutal of all SS units. The German administration issued a decree that for every ethnic German civilian or soldier killed by Yugoslav partisans, as many as 100 Slavic civilians would be shot in reprisals (Glenny 1999, 485). As a result of this policy, Slavic towns like Sutjeska, Nikšić, Kaljevo, and Neretva were virtually burnt to the ground and nearly all their inhabitants were executed. Over 20,000 Serbs were shot between Septembre 1941 and February 1942 alone, officially in reprisals (Burleigh 2001, 433). Thousands of Jewish and especially non-Jewish Slovene partisans, nationalists, and Communists were gassed or shot by German, volunteer, and Italian officers in the little-known concentration camp of Risiera di San Sabba in Trieste after 1943 in cooperation between Benito Mussolini and the Third Reich. The Germans (including Swabians and German soldiers), Croats, and Četnik Serbs killed 94% of Serbia's Jews, or 15-16,000 persons (Cox 2002, 92). Zrenjanin's Jews were almost completely vanquished. According to the official Croatian statistics bureau (Državni Zavod za Statistiku), the total Jewish population in Croatia dropped from about 20,000 to only 413 between 1931 and 1953, although this was primarily carried out by the Croats.

The Transylvania Saxon Artur Phleps, commander of SS-Division Prinz Eugen, which recruited Swabians in Yugoslavia and committed many of the worst atrocities of the war against the civilians and partisans.



The degree of Yugoslav German civilians' involvement in war-time brutality

It is undeniable that the Third Reich committed and either encouraged or apathetically allowed brutal racial genocide, but it is very difficult to accurately assess the degree to which the average ethnic German civilian in occupied Yugoslavia was involved in the atrocities performed by the German army or other Axis powers. Sources that depict an entirely innocent Yugoslav German population that was subjected to mass persecution or 'extermination' by the Communists are exaggerated, as are arguments that portray the Swabians as 'Kulturbundists' who were universally involved in National Socialism, SS killing squads, or genocidal war crimes. Nonetheless, after 1944, the triumphant socialists universally proscribed the Germans and Hungarians with collective guilt as a 'Fifth Column' of traitors who uniformly cooperated with the invading Fascists.

The vast majourity of Swabians in Yugoslavia actively supported the Kulturbund, which espoused a pan-Germanic, nationalist, racialist, and pro-Hitler ideology prior to the Axis invasion in 1941. There were at least 300,000 registered members of the Kulturbund when Axis troops arrived (Sretenovic 2002, 50). At this time, there were over 500,000 total ethnic Germans within Yugoslav borders, meaning that some 60% of Swabians officially endorsed Kulturbundist ideology (Stupar). This does not include the unregistered number of Germans who sympathised with Nazi doctrines or pan-Germanic tendencies but did not officially join the party. However, like the Sudeten Germans of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia's Germans attached themselves to ethnic German nationalist movements because they were believed to best address their cultural and political interests. After King Aleksandr's dictatorship largely blocked Yugoslavia's minourity groups from actively maintaining their local autonomy and political franchise, this further encouraged Swabians to join German nationalist groups. Pro-German parties, even those adopting Nazi slogans, were far more relevant and appealing to the German minourity than the national Slavic parties that supported the monarchy that already stymied their cultural agency and political autonomy. Thus, the fact that most Swabians in Yugoslavia were 'Nazis' and members of the Kulturbund did not automatically equate to the attributes of Nazi barbarism and genocide with which we are unfortunately familiar today.

After the war, the Yugoslav socialists justified the proscription of the Yugoslav Germans by accusing them and the Kulturbund of a longstanding conspiracy with the Third Reich to orchestrate the invasion of Yugoslavia and subjugate the Slavs under the authority of the Swabian minourity (Portmann, 62). This allegation is presumptuous and largely baseless. As yet, no evidence has been located in historiography to indicate any conspiratorial collusion between the Kulturbund or Swabian groups with Nazi Germany prior to the invasion. The Kulturbund continuously espoused a programme of cooperation and membership within Yugoslavia, rather than any call for irredentism or independence. So too, as noted above, Yugoslavia and Germany were in close political and economic partnership under the Tripartite Pact. Yugoslavia was highly dependent upon the German economy and German investors (Singleton 1985, 156). 65% of Yugoslavia's imported products and machinery came from Germany, often at reduced rates. Few Swabians could have predicted that Berlin would obliterate such a positive economic and political union, which was maintained under the Tripartite Pact even until the invasion began. So too, few Swabians (or even Yugoslavs or Germans) could have predicted the last-minute coup against King Aleksandr in March of 1941 by the anti-Pact Petar II, or the incredibly impromptu declaration of war on Belgrade by Hitler in response to the monarchy's sudden uncertainty in political behaviour. Even after Petar II took power, he ultimately chose to maintain the ties with Germany (Glenny 1999, 476). There was insufficient time for the Yugoslav Swabians to plot a longstanding conspiracy with Hitler to destroy Yugoslavia. There was no enduring conspiracy for invasion and genocide against the Yugoslavs between the Swabians and the Third Reich, as the socialists claimed after the war when they began the imprisonment of the entire German community. Yugoslavia was just as much home to the Swabians as the Germany that their ancestors left some two centuries prior.

There were also a number of reported cases of resistance among Swabian Catholic priests and church circles against atrocities committed by the Wehrmacht, the SS, and other Danube Swabians against the Yugoslavs. Reports by the SS reveal that some Swabians in Serbia and Bosnia who were planned for evacuation to Germany without their approval even attacked their SS escorts (Lumans 1993, 176). So too, several liberal academic and civil associations expressed great resistance to the Nazification of the Swabian Germans, and strongly excoriated the violence committed by the Axis troops in occupied Yugoslavia. The liberal newspaper periodical 'Die Donau' (the Danube) represented an ideological current present among Danube Swabians that greatly challenges the post-war myth of a universal adherence of Yugoslavia's Germans to racialist Nazis extremism and perfidy. When the German and Hungarian troops arrived in the Serbian Vojvodina, churches and newspapers with a liberal or reactionary leaning among Hungarian and Swabian communities were banned, and many of their editors and priests were arrested or obliged into exile. Despite the diverse political and ideological beliefs of the Swabians, which further fragmented as the war turned against Germany, the Yugoslav socialists proceeded to persecute and gaol the entire ethnic group regardless.

It is certain that large numbers of Danube Swabian men openly welcomed and supported the Third Reich and even Nazi atrocities during the period of occupation. Most were very unlikely to reject the tremendous subsidy and support they received from Germany in contrast to the impediment to their cultural franchise they experienced under the Yugoslav monarchy after 1929. SS-Division Prinz Eugen, which operated in Yugoslavia and drew from local Swabian conscripts and volunteers, was one of the most truculent of all SS units in its rampant executions of Slavic civilian populations and the incineration of civilian villages. 93,000 Swabians served in either the army, military police, or SS units of Germany, Croatia, or Hungary during the war, totaling nearly 20% of the Swabian population (Prokle 2003, 31). 18,538 Swabians in Croatia joined the infamous killing squads of the Croatian Ustaše or the German SS, or nearly 18% of the total German population there (Lumans 1993, 238). These are unusually high percentages for civilian populations volunteering or being conscripted into occupying army units. These statistics also do not consider the unofficial methods by which Swabian civilians contributed to the German war effort. However, the number of Swabians who 'volunteered' or were recruited is with a sincere desire to support the Nazi occupation and genocides is also debatable. All Swabian men in occupied Yugoslavia and especially the Banat were compulsorily required to serve the Third Reich in some fashion, either by joining SS-Prinz Eugen, the Wehrmacht, or by providing another service (Sper, Darko), (Lumans 1993, 235). Regardless of their diverse political beliefs and their varied levels of approval for Nazism, Yugoslavia's German civilians were effectively forced to become what Yugoslavs would later identify as traitors and a pro-Fascist irredentist 'Fifth Column'. Therefore, even when Swabians participated in the SS killing squads, the German minourity's level of personal approval of the Nazi occupation or their betrayal of Yugoslavia remained questionable. Quite simply, it is uncertain in historiography as to what percentage of the Swabian population was involved in the Axis war crimes that would warrant their experience of persecution by the Yugoslavs after the war. The socialists under Tito would resolve this question by universally criminalising the German ethnic identity altogether. The fact that only men were allowed to join the SS meant that most of the women and children who were forced into prison camps or expelled by the socialists after the war were innocent of any direct involvement in wartime atrocities, not to mention the uncertain number of men with political ideologies opposed to Nazism or those who grew increasingly rejecting of the brutality of the German army in Yugoslavia by the end of the war. So too, it has been argued that most of the Swabian civilians who were actively involved in criminal activity fled Yugoslavia with the German and Hungarian armies after 1944, meaning that most of those who stayed home in Yugoslavia (and most of those who were persecuted and gaoled) were innocent and did not expect reprisals by the Yugoslavs.



The disappearance of 98.5% of the Yugoslav Germans through expulsion, forced labour, and mass emigration

By Octobre of 1944, the crumbling Third Reich was in retreat from occupied Yugoslavia, and the socialist partisans led by Jozip Broz 'Tito' were victorious over the Swabian and Croatian Fascists and the Serb Četnik militias. Initially enjoying the close military and political sponsourship of the Soviet Red Army, the new Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia proceeded to arrest segments of the population that were accused of promoting un-socialist 'bourgeois' ideology, supporting reactionary or pro-monarchist movements, or collaborating with the Axis belligerents. The entire Hungarian and German minourities of the reunified Yugoslavia, as well as a large number of Croats, were universally proscribed with suspicion and accused of universally supporting the invading German and Hungarian armies as subversive elements. The near entirety of the Swabian population of Yugoslavia was ordered to be either expelled to occupied Germany or Austria, or interned in prison or forced labour camps. The leading proponents of the Fascist movements among the minourities were, understandably, to be executed outright. Only those cited for conspicious resistance to Fascism or in close affiliation with the socialist partisans would be excluded from the internment camps. The elderly, the young, the infirm, and the women of the Swabian minourity were also subjected to the Yugoslav imprisonment programme, portrayed as enemies of the people and collaborators.

Jozip Broz 'Tito', revolutionary socialist leader and the first and greatest president of Yugoslavia

It is difficult to determine the total number of German civilians who were subjected to the Yugoslav imprisonment or relegated to emigrate because of Yugoslav discrimination after the war. Very few ethnic Germans were directly expelled because Allied-occupied Germany and Austria denied them asylum, overburdened by more than 10,000,000 other resettled German expellees. Instead, the vast majourity chose to flee in reaction to the universalised discrimination that the Swabians received in early socialist Yugoslavia due to their accused association with genocide and Fascism. It can properly be assumed that a large proportion of those who fled before the end of the war were guilty of atrocities or direct contribution to the Nazi war effort. This also implies that a vast percentage of those who stayed home in Yugoslavia believed they would not be punished because they were not guilty of Nazi war crimes. Yugoslavia was as much their home as the Germany their ancestors had not seen in two centuries. There were at least 500,000 ethnic Germans in all of Yugoslavia prior to the Axis invasion of 1941 (Stupar), with some statistics citing as many as 541,000 (Prokle 2003, 155), others 520,000 (Los Angeles Times), and others 513,412 (Wolff 2002, 147), at about 4.21% of the total population of Yugoslavia. There were over 98,990 Swabians in Yugoslav Croatia, or 2.9% (Državni Zavod za Statistiku). The Banat and Vojvodina region, formed as an autonomous region of northern Serbia, had over 328,000 Germans (Wolff 2002, 147). Large numbers of Germans fled Yugoslavia at the end of the war, either out of a desire to immigrate to Germany or to escape the inevitable Yugoslav retaliation for Germany's war crimes. This further complicates calculating the exact number of ethnic Germans who were affected by the Yugoslav collective imprisonment policy after the war. The SS and SS-Division Prinz Eugen unsuccessfully organised evacuation contingencies after the war with the desire to relocate the Swabians to the Third Reich. As many as 70,000 Swabians are estimated to have fled the Banat when the Red Army arrived in late 1944 (Zentrum gegen Vertreibung). As many as 16.8% of the Germans in Yugoslavia may have died during the war (Sretenovic 2004, 57). One estimate projects that 10% of the highly-Nazified Banat fled before the end of the war, and 20,000 fled with the Croatian Nazis to Austria (Sretenovic 2004, 54). Official statistics estimate that there were at least 200,000 Germans in Yugoslavia after the war, a reduction of over half the population due to fleeing, retaliatory killings by Yugoslavs, and expulsions (Wehler 1980, 79), (Wengert). The total number of Germans affected by the Yugoslav imprisonment and forced labour programmes therefore encompassed a minimum of 200,000 persons. The vast decrease in the ethnic German population through emigration and fleeing makes it difficult to calculate how many died in Yugoslav camps. So too, it has been argued that as many as 70,000 ethnic Germans and Hungarians concealed their ethnic identity on statistics by masqueraded as Serbs or Croats in order to escape a feared status of discrimination (Ibid., 155). Nearly all of these superficially assimilated Germans would emigrate with the rest of the Swabian community. As a result, statistics may often prove deficient in fully reflecting the morose experience of the former German community of Yugoslavia.

Ultimately, the total German population of Yugoslavia would drop from over 500,000 in 1941 to only about 7,302 combined in the independent Yugoslav republics today, equating to a total loss of 98.5% of the Yugoslav Swabian community through fleeing, expulsion, and especially relegated emigration as an effort to alleviate their status of discrimination, imprisonment, ethnicity-based persecution, and suspicion.

The immediate response of the Yugoslav socialist army in Octobre of 1944 was to execute the leaders of Swabian Nazi and nationalist associations, especially the Kulturbund. Dr. Sepp Janko, the leader of the Kulturbund and the 'Führer' of the Danube Swabians as recognised by Heinrich Himmler, attained an asylum visa out of Yugoslavia from the Red Cross and, under the pseudonym Jose Petri, fled to Nazi-sympathetic Argentina. After being shot by firing squad or hanged in a show trial orchestrated by the Anti-Fascist Council of People's Liberation or the Department for the Protection of the People (Tito's equivalent of the Soviet NKVD), at least 7,000 persons were officially executed immediately, with a disproportionate share among non-Slavic minourities (Portmann, 59). Many dubious and nationalist-leaning sources refer to the period between August and October as 'Bloody Autumn', with thousands being butchered and piled in mass graves they dug for themselves before being shot. These claims are largely inaccurate and overstated. Nonetheless, official executions were followed by rampant personal and mob reprisals against a minourity ethnic group that was perceived as having oppressed the Yugoslavs so brutally during the war. As many as 100,000 Croats, Serb monarchists, Hungarians, and Swabians were killed by rogue pogroms and show trials immediately after the war (Burleigh 2001, 802). Many Yugoslavs exploited the opportunity to take personal private interest in the confiscation or execution of 'enemies of the people' because they could eliminate personal or commercial competitors. Accusations like 'Fascist' and 'enemy of the people' were universal terms that were readily tossed around and even applied to fervent anti-Fascist and liberal Swabians and Croats, a charge that in the early phases was addressed with almost certain execution or imprisonment (Ibid.). As many as 50,000 Croatian Nazi soldiers and 30,000 civilians from Croatia (including Swabian volunteers) were force marched at gunpoint by the Yugoslavs to the forest or the border of occupied Austria, either for execution or expulsion (Glenny 1999, 530). It is unknown in historiography exactly how many Serbs, Germans, and Croats were killed in the maelstrom of civil conflict that befell Yugoslavia after the war.

When the Red Army arrived, the Soviet Union inflicted its own devastation upon the Yugoslav German minourity, ostensibly as an act of punishment for Germany's atrocities against the USSR during the war. Many sources and personal accounts depict rampant murders, theft, and acts of rape and sexual abuse committed against the German and Hungarian women whilst Soviet commanders looked the other way, although they tend to be unverified and prone to exaggeration. Non-Slavic ethnic groups were particularly targeted as elements of revolt or treason (Burleigh 2001, 786). The Red Army also compounded the Yugoslav imprisonment policy by demanding that Yugoslavia participate in the Soviet directive to deport thousands of 'pro-Axis' minourities to the USSR for forced labour. As was inveighed upon the Transylvania Saxons of Romania, the Soviets ordered the ethnic German minourities in Eastern Europe either be expelled or deported to labour camps and quarry mines in the Soviet Union as part of the reconstruction effort. Many Germans were deported on the same trains that the Croats and Germans had used to deport Yugoslavia's Jews and other victims to Auschwitz and Croatian death camps (Wolff 2002, 153). At least 27,000 ethnic Germans in socialist Yugoslavia were forcibly escorted by the Red Army or the Yugoslavs and shipped to the Ukrainian SSR for compulsory labour (Wasserstein). At least 16% thereof died as a result of exhaustion, freezing, malnutrition, and disease (Sretenovic 2004, 54-55). Other sources cite far higher proportions ranging as high as 10,000 deaths, or about 37% (Lukan 2006, 278n).

Yugoslav partisans escorting German (and Swabian) prisoners -- many of them civilians who were forced to join the German war effort -- either to POW camps or to trial (source: ww2incolor.com)

A smaller number of Swabians, especially those in border regions accused of irredentist activity, were force marched or expelled by train to the border of occupied Austria. The great majourity of these expelled Germans were denied entry by the Allies, as they were already overwhelmed by the resettlement of over 10,000,000 ethnic Germans expelled from Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe. As a result, most of the freight trains used to expel the Germans turned back and transferred their passengers to the imprisonment and labour camps with the remainder of the German minourity. Many Germans were able to escape when near the border, and were seldom deterred by the Yugoslav guards who intended to were previously ordered to expel them anyway. Hunger, hypothermia, and disease tolled many deaths on the long journey (Wengert). Those Germans who remained in Slovenia after the Nazi resettlement campaign (see above) were either expelled to nearby Austria or relocated to camps in Serbia and the Vojvodina (Wolff 2002, 154).

A massive government programme of land, livestock, and property confiscation was initiated in the interests of forging a socialist society with a protected proletariat and a dismantled landowning class. Under the redistribution programme, a maximum of 10 hectares of arable land were allotted to each family (Crkvenčić, 36). Although this policy applied to all Yugoslavs regardless of ethnicity, the more affluent German minourity in the north was inordinately affected because of their integral role in the economy as a majour class of business owners and commercial entrepreneurs in the Vojvodina, Yugoslavia's bread basket. Before the war, 80% of industrial material exported from the Vojvodina was controlled by German families (Wolff 2002, 150). Predictably, as a minourity group with disproportionate control of the economy and the labour force, the Germans were bound to be a target of the socialist redistribution campaign. As nearly all of the German population was removed from their homes and transported to internment camps, their property, businesses, and depopulated land were nationalised and often resold or transferred to relocated Yugoslav farmers, especially Serbs, Croats, Montenegrins, and Greeks (Crkvenčić, 36) . Property was seized without compensation to the German minourity, as it was derided with suspicion as a dangerous population for Axis war atrocities. An official government order read, '...a lot of Germans and Hungarians...were hostile towards the Slavic population and committed crimes organized by the occupation forces. Especially the domestic Swabians acted barbarically towards the Serbs and others of our nations. Thus it is necessary to thoroughly retaliate upon all Germans and upon those Hungarians who have committed war crimes...Further it is necessary to take care of abandoned and enemy property' (Portmann, 62). More than 1,647,305 hectares were confiscated in total, and more than 38% (~637,939 ha) were seized from ethnic German families, despite being less than 4% of the population (Portmann, 56). After being released from Yugoslav custody by 1948, most Swabians returning to their homes found them to be occupied by new owners, with their previous livelihood, businesses, and livestock lost to the property confiscations.

The remainder of Yugoslavia's Germans who did not flee at the end of the war or were not deported were forcibly transported to rural prison or labour camps on trains and convoys. Many families recalled that they were allotted only 15 minutes by armed Yugoslav guards to gather whatevere property and clothes they could carry. What was left behind was forfeit. Many, including those saturated by rain and mud from being forced to work in fields, would not change their clothes for over a year (Wengert). The citizenship of ethnic Germans, with exceptions only in conspicious cases of anti-Fascist resistance, was revoked, and their civil rights in the new Yugoslavia were vastly diminshed (Belgrade 92 News). The German language was banned from all instruction and excoriated in public use in favour of Serbocroatian, although this was gradually assuaged by 1947. In general, all men who were physically able to work were separated from their wives, elders, and children, and sent to separate camps for compulsory labour, especially around farms and agricultural plots. Children, the sick, women, the infirm, and the elderly were shipped to separate internment camps and were not forced to work, but were unable to leave and were provided limited rations and medicine. Upon reaching maturity, male children previously confined to internment with their mothers and elders were transferred to the labour camps, separated from those not physically able. In total, there were over 40 camps that held some 200,000 German civilians (nearly the entire ethnic group) until 1948 (Portmann, 64). Several fortifications that were formerly used as death camps for Jews and other victims by the Germans and Croats during the war were redesigned for Swabian prisoners and labour (Glenny 1991, 531). Most internment camps were located in Serbia. Some of the most salient camps in Yugoslavia for German prisoners were located in Sremska Mitrovica, Svilara, Gakovo, Valpovo (Croatia), Molin, Jarak, Kruševlje, and Hesna. Many formerly German towns dating back to the subsidy of the Habsburg era, such as Knićanin (Rudolfsgnad) and Apatin, were completely repopulated by Yugoslavs, with the German population removed to nearby prison camps, transforming the architectural and demographic character of much of Yugoslavia and the Vojvodina from that of the Germans to the Slavic majourity.

Danube Swabians being escorted from their confiscated property to labour or imprisonment camps (source: stefan-jaeger.net)

The conditions and experience of the German prisoners in Yugoslav camps were miserable and pernicious, although many sources and accounts are arguably prone to exaggeration. Swabian prisoners were not systematically starved or tortured, nor are claims of rampant ethnic brutality and rape by Yugoslav guards against German prisoners reliable. Some Serbs retort that the suffering of Swabians paled in comparison to that of Serbs during Axis occupation. However, the Yugoslav army and government were apathetic as to the phyical and material well-being of the German minourity, since it was depicted as a dangerous subversive ethnic group that cooperated with the Fascists and an enemy of the popular socialist revolution. In such restrictive quarters, disease was rampant, and was exacerbated by the malnourishment suffered by prisoners due to the low food rations provided by the government. In the imprisonment camps that held the elderly and young children, this famine extenuated the rate of mortality. For adult males in the labour camps, low rations and physical exhaustion further increased the death toll and the propensity for disease and infection. Overcrowded, unsanitary, and unheated wooden bunk quarters were filled with lice. Only 150 grams of bread and a small quantity of a watery soup derived from peas were provided to labourers, with survivor accounts deriding the irregular distribution of food (Wengert). The poor conditions endured by ethnic German prisoners was eschewed by the International Red Cross and the United States, the latter sending observers to the Yugoslav camps to supply the prisoners with better rations, medicine, and supplies that the Yugoslavs were criticised for intentionally not providing (Sper, Darko). American shipments of pesticides, especially DDT, gradually helped partly inhibit the spread of disease and infection in the sleeping quarters and labour farms (Stretenovic 2004, 56).

Many prisoners attempted to flee. Interestingly, guards were often reported as being passive to the departure of children from the internment camps, but inevitably maintained far greater control over the economically and agriculturally important prisoners in the male labour camps. Prisoners caught escaping were rarely punished or executed, exemplifying the fact that the Yugoslav treatment of the German minourity was more intended to contain and discriminate against what was perceived as a dangerous population rather than function as a programme of extermination as many dubious sources claim (Sper, Darko). Many survivors recall that when they successfully escaped, they struggled with further intensified starvation and exhaustion whilst they hid from Yugoslav soldiers or citizens who may have reported them to the authorities. Many fleeing children and adults drowned in nearby rivers and lakes. Hungry children escaped through barbed wire and begged for foods on the streets. Children devised an adaptive system of security, in which they placed white pebbles on the door steps of homes of citizens who were known to be beneficent to escaped German prisoners, and black pebbles in front of homes whose inhabitants were accused of beating them or escorting them to the guards of the prison camps (Los Angeles Times).

One phenomenon deeply ingrained in the historical memory of survivors and polemical sources was that of 'mass graves' that held deceased or killed German prisoners. In the so-called 'Bloody Autumn' that occurred at the end of the war, active members of Nazi movements or the SS, as well as civilians killed by mob pogroms simply because of their German ethnicity, were killed in an imbroglio of civil conflict and often forced to dig their own trench graves before being shot and buried. However, the large mass graves and anonymous headstones that dotted the countryside outside of Yugoslav labour camps for German prisoners were not a result of murder or ethnic cleansing, but of the rampant deaths from the poor conditions, hypothermia, exhaustion, and disease suffered in the camps. Some erudite documents assert a 50% death rate in the hardest Yugoslav camps, especially those intended for collective labour (Sretenovic 2004, 56). Upon death, German prisoners were simply discarded to the local cemetary, forest, or nearby field in anonymous individual or mass graves without headstones and without ceremonies. Survivors who recently returned to the former Yugoslavia to find the graves of their relatives from the labour camps have been unable to locate them. The Teletschka fields outside of the expansive prisoner camp at Rudolfsgnad (Knićanin) contain mass graves that are believed to hold as many as 12,500 deceased prisoners who, either from disease or exhaustion, died in Yugoslav camps to which they were confined simply because of their ethnic identity. Other sources correct that estimate down to a mass grave capacity of 9,000 at Teletschka (Hutterer). When rivers flooded from the heavy Serbian rain season, it was reported that corpses were occasionally unearthed from the mass graves by the torrent and deposited into nearby streams, which carried the bodies of German and Hungarian prisoners into nearby villages. Heads and limbs, including those of children, were seen protruding from the soil of the anonymous burial grounds (Sper, Darko).

Unmarked anonymous graves outside the labour camp of Valpovo. (source: Veronika Wengert and eurasisches Magazin)

Another unmarked mass graveyard outside the Yugoslav forced labour camp of Valpovo. (source: Veronika Wengert and eurasisches Magazin)

Calculating the total number of Swabians who died or starved in Yugoslav camps is difficult. It is uncertain what proportion of the total died as a result of forced labour, disease, or infirmity, and thus which deaths and grievances can be directly attributed to the Yugoslav government. The conditions in the camps, including malnutrition and disease, surely exacerbated this rate of death that many would not have otherwise endured. As most of the prisoners in the labour camps were physically-able adults, presumptions of death from 'natural causes' are unrealistic. Official West German government estimates from 1958 absurdly claimed that 523,000 were expelled and 135,000 died, meaning that more Germans were expelled than even lived in Yugoslavia in 1945 (SBD 1958). Well-researched sources estimate that at least 46,000 German prisoners from the Serbian Vojvodina alone died between Autumn of 944 and Spring of 1948 (Portmann, 64). Others calculate 48,447 total deaths recorded. At least 1,994 suffered an uncertain fate, having been removed from Yugoslav camps and shipped to the Soviet Union for labour in the Ukrainian SSR (Sretenovic 2004, 57). Over a third of the at least 3,000 men imprisoned in Valpovo (Croatia) alone for forced labour died from exersion (Wengert). Other estimates range as high as 52,000 (Los Angeles Times). Others even cite as many as 85,399 deaths, although this includes the war-time mutual ethnic brutality between Yugoslavia's ethnic groups from 1941 until 1948 (Wolff 2002, 154).

By 1947, the prison camps were so overfilled to capacity that Belgrade was relegated to grant a small percentage of Swabian prisoners amnesty (Glenny 1999, 531). All prison camps devoted to interning ethnic minourity groups were disbanded by the end of 1948. The government's perception of the German and Hungarian populations as inherently perfidious and dangerous was gradually replaced by a process of inter-ethnic political federalisation in Yugoslavia. The illegality of the German language in public and in academia was revoked, and the citizenship of the German minourity was superficially renewed. German families, having been separated into labour camps for adult males and prison camps for women and children, were now able to be reunited after almost four years. Some camps, like the heavy labour camp in Valpovo (Croatia), was closed down as early as late 1946. Ordered to return home, many released inmates found that their homes, businesses, and farmlands had been repopulated by Yugoslav families after government nationalisation, and were largely financially unable to purchase new homes due to the confiscation of property they endured at the end of the war. The Yugoslav government often orchestrated contractual agreements with Yugoslav citizens to house former German prisoners for menial services with promises of tax incentives (Sper, Darko). Some former prisoners even joined the Yugoslav army or even occasionally intermarried with Slavic ethnic groups, hoping to regain a position of stability and protection in the new socialist country in which they lived. As a result of the poverty inflicted on the Swabians by the Yugoslav government, many were relegated to perform menial labour and transient oddjobs for Yugoslav families as servants and on farms for several more years even after the internment camps were disbanded in order to earn enough money for a visa to flee Yugoslavia for Germany. In order to obtain an exit pass, a released German prisoner had to pay roughly 3 months worth of salary in order to renounce his citizenship and leave for Germany (Sretenovic 2004, 56).

Despite the fact that the German population was now able to enter Yugoslav society, very few German families were anxious to inject themselves into a nation that had subjected them to systematic ethnic discrimination and imprisonment for years and seized nearly all of their property. Despite the official detente between Belgrade and the Swabian population, inter-ethnic contumacy endured in general Yugoslav society for the German minourity that was now typified by its alleged criminal nature and its proscribed guilt for Nazi atrocities. So too, the previous economic dominance that the German minourity enjoyed in the Vojvodina had been dismantled by the Yugoslav confiscations. The hopes of the displaced German population to receive property and financial restitution from the Yugoslav government were shattered when West Germany and Yugoslavia agreed that the worth of property that was confiscated from Swabians would be deducted from the overall war reparations given to Belgrade by Germany for Nazi atrocities (Los Angeles Times). The once-wealthy German minourity was now destitute, and was effectively expected to simply forget the suffering of the previous four years and assimilate into the new socialist Yugoslavia. Many Germans also spoke little to no Serbocroatian, the federal official language that was largely compulsory for fiscal or social recrudescence. Now that the Swabians were free from the internment camps, they were also free to leave Yugoslavia, provided they possessed the financial means to make the journey. The West German government's policy of the 'Law of Return' (Rückkehrgesetz), vastly subsidised by conservative governments from the 1950s until reunification, encouraged German communities settled abroad to escape discrimination and 'return' to the Germany that their ancestors had not seen for nearly 200 years. The West German economy, in tandem with subsidised housing for expelled or displaced ethnic German immigrants, was a far more auspicious place to built a new life than the indolent economy of Yugoslavia.

Over the next several decades, what remained of the Swabian community after two centuries of settlement almost entirely disappeared through voluntary emigration from Yugoslavia to Germany and Austria. The German population in Croatia dropped from 98,990 (2.9%) in 1931 to only 10,144 (0.3%) in 1948, down to only 2,719 by 1971 (~0.1%) (Crkvenčić, 34). The German population in the Serbian Vojvodina region (where most Swabians had lived) dropped from 318,259 (19.4%) in 1941 to only 28,869 (1.8%) after the camps were closed, and down to only 7,243 (0.4%) by 1971 (Kocsis 2), (Ludanyi 1979, 234). The Banat region in Serbia dropped from 120,541 Germans in 1931 (20.58%) to only 17,522 in 1948 (2.91%), and only about 165 in 1971 (Hrvatski Informativni Centar). Yugoslavia altogether fell from having some 500,000 ethnic Germans before the war, to at least 200,000 immediately after the war (primarily due to fleeing and evacuation), and down to only 82,000 by 1950 as a result of the Yugoslav treatment of its German minourity (Overy 1996, 144). The total Swabian population further fell to only 54,000 by 1953. The German community disappeared so rapidly to the point that the minourity, once boasting over 500,000, was now so insignificant it was often not even listed on the 1971 census as an ethnic option (Ludanyi 1971, 233).


The status of the surviving German minourity in the former Yugoslav republics today

Today (according to the most recent censuses in 2001), following the dissolution of Yugoslavia after 1991, independent Croatia has 2,902 ethnic Germans at 0.1% of the population (Državni Zavod za Statistiku). Slovenia has only 499, having lost more than 6,000 Germans to Himmler's relocation after 1941 and Tito's expulsions after 1944 (Statistični urad Republike Slovenije). There are only 3,901 Germans in all of truncated Serbia (Belgrade 92 News), with 3,154 thereof living in the Serbian Vojvodina region (Etnikai-Nemzeti Kisebbségkatató Intézet). From the combined total of more than 500,000 ethnic Germans in all of Yugoslavia in 1941, this marks a total loss of 98.5% of the Danube Swabian community from the Balkans. The surviving expatriats and their descendents now live in Germany, Austria, and Hungary. As most of the young and mobile Swabians emigrated to the north, the vast majourity of the Swabians who remain in Yugoslavia are the elderly who exceed the age of reproduction, presaging a progressive decline of the already-lost Danube Swabian identity.

Several cities and states in Germany today officially sponsour the displaced Banat and Danube Swabian community, especially Leutenbach in Baden-Württemberg. Several influential figures in German society and local politics espouse the interests and legacy of the lost Swabian community, including the Archbishop of Freiburg Robert Zollitsch, who was confined to a prison camp with his mother in Gakovo after his brother was shot. Even Pope Benedict XVI has extended his commemorative hand to the majourity-Catholic Swabian community, having met with German minourity cultural associations in Austria and excoriated the malnutrition and denial of freedom of German prisoners inflicted by the Yugoslav government (Ellmer 2006). The Pope also criticised the concept of collective guilt that was adopted by Belgrade, in which the entire German community was automatically deemed guilty of criminal activity because of its ethnic heritage.

Pope Benedict XVI meets with Anton Ellmer, director of the Landsmannschaft der Donauschwaben in Oberösterreich in support of the Danube Swabians and their experience under Yugoslav custody (source: Ellmer)

There are a number of international and local expellee interest groups emanating from Danube Swabian diaspora communities, particularly in Germany, Canada, and the United States. The Association of the Danube Swabians in the USA, the United Donauschwaben of Milwaukee, the Danube Cultural Society, and other groups actively emphasize the history of expulsions in their frequent assemblies and cultural gatherings at universities, college campuses, local clubs, and in newspapers. In February of 2010, hundreds of scholars, survivors, researchers, donators, human rights representatives, and even diplomats and figures from the United Nations gathered for the first international assembly commemorating the expulsion of Germans (especially Danube Swabians) at the Community College of Meramec in St. Louis, Missouri. Called "The Forgotten Genocide," the two-day conference included a large art gallery, press interviews, roundtable academic discussions, survivors' recollections, and dozens of speakers from diverse fields and motivations. The Institute for Research of Expelled Germans was also represented, delivering a speech on the destroyed Volga German community. See speech videos on our YouTube Channel. The unique event even caught the attention of newspapers and forums in Poland and Germany, with both critical and positive commentary.

(article continues below)

Survivor and expellee Adam Martini speaks at an academic conference in St. Louis, Missouri (see our YouTube Channel HERE for the remaining video segments and more)

Survivor, writer, and artist Elizabeth Walter speaks at an academic conference in St. Louis, Missouri (see our YouTube Channel HERE for the remaining video segments and more)

Writer, historian, and former Croatian diplomat Tomislav Sunić speaks on the history of Germans in Yugoslavia at an academic conference in St. Louis, Missouri (see our YouTube Channel HERE for the remaining video segments and more)

The art gallery of "The Forgotten Genocide" conference in St. Louis, Missouri, February 2010 (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Another wall of "The Forgotten Genocide" conference (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

The status of the few remaining ethnic Germans in the modern republics of the former Yugoslavia is erratic. The German minourities in Croatia and Slovenia today enjoy notable activity in the national economies as an affluent business-owning community that is engaged in political discourse. Croatia's Germans (Kroaten-Deutsche) are represented by a number of cultural and minourity associations that are acknowledged by the Croatian government. These organisations actively correspond between Germany, Austria, Serbia, and Croatia, including the National Association of the Danube Swabians in Croatia and the Croatian-Austrian Society. The Swabians are even represented in the Croatian parliament (Sabor) by minourity political parties, especially the German People's Union (deutsche Volksunion). Minourity affairs are addressed, with cooperation by Croats, in annual symposia and university lectures in Zagreb and Osijek. The city of Osijek represents its large German constituent with several German-language private schools and a cultural foundation. The Croats have been some of the most outspoken proponents of commemoration for the disastrous experience of the Germans in Yugoslav custody after the war, primarily resulting from a desire to gain closer relations with wealthy Germany, with aspirations for entry into the European Union, and as a desire to pass blame for Yugoslav human rights violations onto the bitterly-hated Serbs. Recently, former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanadar shocked foreign diplomats and EU representatives when he encouraged Serbia, the Czech Republic, and other governments to pay German families property restitution for their expulsion of over 10,000,000 German civilians after the war (Šoštarić). In 1996, Germany and Croatia finalised an agreement allowing cooperative funding for memorials and commemoration of war crimes committed by the Yugoslavs against Germans and Croats during and after the war (Veleposlanstvo Republike Hrvatske u Njemačkoj). Slovenia has expressed similar commemoration of the displaced Swabian minourity, even having awarded €7,000 to one Justin Stanovnik for the time he spent in a labour camp in Slovenia under Tito's authority. This move towards commemoration may increasingly damage diplomatic relations between western EU member states and Serbia, the Czech Republic, and Poland, which are unwilling to commemorate their expulsion of their Germans, fearing the tremendous capital burden that restitution would have on their economies. Others criticise the Croats for not having paid restitution for the war crimes committed by Croats against Jews and Serbs during the war, and their popular evolution of Croatian nationalists to the status of cultural icons today.

The status of the remaining ethnic German minourity in Serbia is far more irascible. Croats and Germans, having cooperated throughout the Axis period, felt little cultural antagonism and have therefore maintained healthy relations. The Serbs, however, still embroiled in a strong sense of nostalgic Yugoslav nationalism and a longstanding anger for the atrocities committed against Serbs by the Nazis, have been reticent to extend a beneficent hand to their former Swabian minourity. Belgrade has not officially acknowledged the experience of the Swabians in Yugoslav custody – including that of the elderly and children – and instead retains the argument that the German population was a criminal 'Fifth Column' complicit in Axis atrocities. Despite the effete position of the Serbian government and Serbian society towards what remains of the German community, a number of cultural associations have been formed by Swabians in the Vojvodina, attempting to encourage Belgrade to commemorate the experience of their displaced Germans and to grant indemnity to Swabian families for the seizure of their property after 1944. In the important Vojvodina city of Novi Sad, Andreas Birgermajer, Rudolf Vajs, and Anton Bek have established the Society for Serbian-German Cooperation (Gesellschaft für Serbisch-Deutsche Zusammenarbeit). Writing in both Serbian and German, the GfSDZ espouses a platform of active inclusion in the Serbian republic as a recognised ethnic minourity, hoping to discard the image of the subversive Swabian minourity, arguing that the formation of German cultural associations '...confirms our existence here. It will now be easier to advance our language, culture and customs, as the state will assist us in this. We have now been given the status of an ethnic minourity and all the rights that the law and constitution provide' (Belgrade 92 News). A plethora of other small German movements exist in the Serbian Vojvodina, including the German Natonal Alliance of Subotica, the German Alliance of Hodschag (Odžaci), the German Alliance of Adam Berenc in Apatin, and the humanitarian union 'St. Gerhardt'. The Hungarians, who constitute 14.28% of the Vojvodina despite having been inveighed with the same discrimination and imprisonment by the Yugoslavs as the Swabians, similarly rallies for cultural and political autonomy (Izvršno Veće). A group of former German residents of the city of Odžaci (Hodschag) have sponsoured the reconstruction of the Catholic church in the city that was destroyed at the end of the war, with a planned memorial inside the chapel of the supposed 955 residents of the city who were forced from their homes to the local camp. Sources of dubious nationalist sympathies insist that the church was intentionally ravaged by atheist Yugoslavs who sought to eradicate all traces of the Germans and Croatian nationalists (including their Catholicism). Most historians, however, have agreed that the church collapsed due to entropy and war-time aerial bombings that may have even been dropped on the church on accident by the Axis or the Germans themselves.

Despite these political movements, the Swabians of Serbia have as yet failed to receive direct government commemoration for the forced labour, attempted expulsion, and relegated emigration of an entire ethnic group. Sponsoured by the Society for Serbian-German Cooperation, one of the few monuments in Serbia acknowledging the disappearance of this integral society from the former Yugoslavia is a small and quite controversial plaque in a field outside of the former concentration camp of Knićanin/Rudolfsgnad (see photograph below). Occasionally adorned by Catholic candles placed by returning Swabian survivors, the plaque (written in both German and Serbian) commemorates the destruction of a 200-year-old ethnic community that was universally proscribed despite its only limited affiliation with Nazi barbarism, bearing a morose epitaph:

'Here lie our fellow residents of German [national/ethnic] affiliation, who died of hunger, sickness, and freezing in the [labour/concentration] camp Rudolfsgnad between 1946-1948. They would like to rest in peace'.

A commemorative sign outside of Rudolfsgnad (Knićanin) in Serbia for the deaths and imprisonments of German civilians in Yugoslavia. The translation in German reads, "Here lie our fellow residents of German [national/ethnic] affiilation, who died of hunger, sickness, and freezing in the [labour/concentration] camp Rudolfsgnad between 1946-1948. They would like to rest in peace. Association for Serbian-German Cooperation, Belgrade, 1998." The photograph, found online, is free of copyright. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)



Burleigh, Michael. The Third Reich: A New History. Hill and Wang, 2001.

B92 News (Belgrade 92 News). "Serbia's Germans form national council." http://www.b92.net/eng/news/society-article.php?yyyy=2007&mm=12&dd=16&nav_id=46226.

Cox, John K. The History of Serbia. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.

Crkvenčić, Ivan. "Emigration of Italians and Germans during and immediately after the Second World War."
Geografski Odsjek PMF-A.

Ellmer, Anton. "Papst Benedikt XVI bittet für die Donauschwaben Oberösterreichs um ,,Gottes beständigen Schutz und treues Geleit." Mitteilungen der Landsmannschaft der Donauschwaben in Oberösterreich, Jahrgang 39, Jän-März, 2006.

Etnikai-Nemzeti Kisebbségkatató Intézet. "Tartomány: Vajdaság, Vojvodina." http://adatbazis.mtaki.hu/?mtaki_id=300001&settlement_name=.

Glenny, Misha. The Balkans. New York: Penguin Group, 1999.

Hrvatski Informativni Centar. "Medjunarodni znanstveni skup
'Jugoistocna Europa 1918.-1995.'" http://www.hic.hr/books/jugoistocna-europa/02tablice.htm.

Hutterer, Franz. "Rudolfsgnad/Wojwodina: Massengräber für Deutsche, Signale des Umdenkens aus Jugoslawien." http://www.webarchiv-server.de/pin/archiv00/4700ob16.htm.

Izvršno Veće. "Get aquainted with Vojvodina." Autonomne Pokrajine Vojvodine. http://www.vojvodina.gov.rs/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=174&Itemid=83

Jelavic, Barbara. History of the Balkans: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1983.

Kann, Robert. A History of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1974.

Kocsis, Karoly and Kocsis-Hodosi, Eszter. Ethnic Geography of the Hungarian Minorities in the Carpathian Basin.
Washington, D.C.: Simon Publications LLC, 2001.

Kocsis, Karoly and Kocsis-Hodosi, Eszter. "Hungarian Minorities in the Carpathian Basin." Corvinus Library. http://www.hungarian-history.hu/lib/hmcb/Tab21.htm.

Los Angeles Times. "Serbian site sheds light on Germans' postwar ordeal." http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jun/28/world/fg-camp29.

Ludanyi, Andrew. "Titoist Integration of Yugoslavia: The Partisan Myth & the Hungarians of the Vojvodina, 1945-1975." Polity, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Winter, 1979): 225-252.

Lukan, Walter and Trgovcevic, Ljubinka. Serbien und Montenegro: Raum und Bevölkerung. LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster, 2006.

Lumans, Valdis. Himmler's Auxiliaries: the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle and the German National Minorities of Europe, 1933-1945. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.

Marrus, Michael Robert. The Unwanted: European Refugees from the First World War through the Cold War.
Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2002.

Malcolm, Noel. Bosnia: A Short History. New York: NYU Press, 1996.

Overy, Richard. The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Third Reich. New York: Penguin Group, 1996.

Owen, Luisa Lang. Casualty of War: A Childhood Remembered. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2003.

Portmann, Michael. "Communist retaliation and persecution on Yugoslav territory during and after World War II (1943-1945)." Central and Eastern European Online Library. http://www.ceeol.com/aspx/getdocument.aspx?logid=5&id=3dc841b5be864aa3bd1f9ebd503c8638.

Prokle, Herbert. Genocide of the ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia, 1944-1948. Donauschwäbische Kulturstiftung, 2003.

Republicki Zavod za Statistiku (Serbian Institute of Statistics). "Становништва према старости, полу и националног или етничког порекла - 2002."

Scobel, Albert. Geographisches Handbuch zu Andrees Handatlas. Bielefeld: Velhagen, 1899.

Singleton, Frederick Bernard. A Short History of the Yugoslav Peoples. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Šoštarić, Eduard. "Diplomate razbjesnio povrat imovine Austrijancima." Nacional, No. 525, 6 June, 2005.

Sper, Darko. "Vojvodina Germans seek moral and cultural rehabilitation." http://www.media-diversity.org/beta%20articles/Vojvodina%20Germans.htm.

Sretenovic, Stanislav and Prauser, Steffen. "The 'expulsion' of the German-speaking minority from Yugoslavia." From the publication "The expulsion of the 'German' communities from Eastern Europe at the End of the Second World War." Published for the European University Institute, Florence, Italy, 2004.

Stupar, D. "Nemci traže da im država vrati oduzetu imovinu." Građanski List. http://www.gradjanski.rs/navigacija.php?vest=13601.

Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschlands (SBD). "Die deutschen Vertriebungsverluste" (1958).

Veleposlanstvo Republike Hrvatske u Njemačkoj. "Zbirka međunarodnih ugovora." http://de.mvp.hr/?mh=160&mv=925.

Wasserstein, Bernard. "European refugee movements after World War II." http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/refugees_02.shtml.

Wehler, Hans Ulrich. Nationalitätenpolitik in Jugoslawien. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1980.

Wengert, Veronika. "Kollektiv schuldig - das Nachkriegsschicksal der Jugoslawiendetusche." Eurasisches Magazin. http://www.eurasischesmagazin.de/artikel/?artikelID=20050817.

Wolff, Stefan. German Minorities in Europe: Ethnic Identity and Cultural Belonging. New York: Berghahn Books, 2002.

Yahil, Leni. The Holocaust. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Zentrum gegen Vertreibung. "History of the German expellees and their homelands."


Suggested Readings: Wildmann, Georg. Verbrechen an den Deutschen in Jugoslawien 1944-1948: die Stationen eines Völkermords. München: Donauschwäbisches Archiv/Arbeitskreis Dokumentation, 1998.

Janjetović, Zoran. Between Hitler and Tito: The Disappearance of the Vojvodina Germans. S.N., 2005.

Geiger, Vladimir. "The Disappearance of Yugoslav Ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche)." Hrvatski Informativni Centar. http://www.hic.hr/books/seeurope/016e-geiger.htm.

Glenny, Misha. The Balkans. New York: Penguin Group, 1999.         - a crucial historical overview of the evolution and fall of Yugoslavia and its breakaway states (among other nations). It is important to understand the brutal recalcitrance and ethnic genocide committed by each ethnic group in the region (Germans, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Serbs, Croats, etc.).

Casagrande, Thomas. Die volksdeutsche SS-Division "Prinz Eugen": die Banater Schwaben und die nationalsozialisten Kriebsverbrechen. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2003.        - important for understanding the active participation of many Banat Swabians in the Waffen-SS that contributed to their post-war expulsion and discrimination.

Owen, Luisa Lang. Casualty of War: A Childhood Remembered. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2003.        
- a personal account of an ethnic German girl who suffered in Yugoslav prison camps, and documents ethnic murders and atrocities on both sides.

"Jewish History of Yugoslavia', a directory documenting the history of the Jewish minourity in the regions of the former Yugoslavia and their near-total disappearance at the hands of the Germans, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Serbs, & Croats.

'Unpunished Crimes against Germans by Serbs', from a rather inflammatory but interesting Croatian perspective (in Croatian, use translator) - click here for original.




Population Statistics

1843- 1,200,000 ethnic Germans (mostly Danube Swabians) in all lands of the Hungarian Habsburg crown lands (Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia). As of 1851, Vojvodina region between Serbia and Hungary had 325,000 Swabians.

1880- 1,955,250 Germans and Danube Swabians within the Hungarian half of the Austria-Hungarian Empire (12.5%). 285,920 in Vojvodina region (24.4%).

1910- 2,046,828 total Germans in Habsburg Hungarian crown lands (9.8%). 324,017 in Vojvodina (21.4%). 115,966 Swabians in Hungarian Croatia-Slavonia.

1921- 335,898 Germans in Yugoslavian Vojvodina and Banat. 5,969 Germans in the rest of Serbia. 513,412 Germans in all of independent Yugoslavia (4.21% of total).

1931- 98,990 Swabians in Croatian region of Yugoslavia (2.9%). 496,000 Germans in all Yugoslavia. At least 18,000 Germans in Yugoslav Bosnia-Herzegovina.

1941- by the beginning of the Axis invasion, at least 500,000 Swabians in all Yugoslavia. 318,259 Germans in occupied Vojvodina and Banat (19.4%). 18,000 Swabians relocated by Himmler from Bosnia to Germany or occupied Poland along with all of the Germans in the Italian portion of occupied Slovenia. 33,000 Germans in Slovenia total.

1944- by war's end, at least 36,000 Germans evacuated by Himmler from occupied Yugoslavia, 20,000 from Croatian Slavonia alone, 50% from Batschka, and 10% of the Banat. Mass fleeing with Nazi troops, dropping total German population to at least 200,000. At least 5,800 German civilians shot or executed immediately by the Yugoslav Communist regime. Over 30,000 Germans deported to USSR for forced labour, with 16% dying from starvation or exhaustion. All Germans in Yugoslavia (at least 200,000) shipped to rural labour or internment camps, or expelled on trains to occupied Austria. 50% death rate estimated in the hardest labour camps.

1948- 10,144 Germans in Croatian Yugoslav Republic (0.3%), down from 98,990 in 1931. Germans in Serbian Vojvodina drop from 318,259 in 1941 to 28,869 (1.8%). Banat drops to 17,522 Germans (2.91%). 321,821 Germans in all of socialist Yugoslavia.

1961- ~53,000 Germans in Yugoslavia. Mass emigration to West Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Austria.

1971- 2,719 in Croatian Yugoslav Republic (0.1%). 7,243 in Serbian Vojvodina (0.4%), less than 10,000 in all Serbia.

1981- 3,808 Germans in Yugoslavia altogether.

1991- 3,873 Germans in Yugoslavia (reduced to Serbia-Montenegro and Vojvodina). 2,635 in independent Croatia.

Today- as of 2002 stats, 3,901 Germans in Serbia (including Vojvodina). 3,154 in Serbian Vojvodina itself (0.15%). 2,902 in Croatia (0.1%). 499 permanent German residents in Slovenia.

...total change: over 500,000 at height in all Yugoslavia in 1941, down to a combined total of ~7,302 in independent Slovenia, Serbia, and Croatia today (98.5% lost).


Sources- [1] [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], Kann 1979, 605-8; Overy 1996, 144; Jelavic 1983; Prokle 2003, 21; Marrus 2002, 224; Wolf 2002, 156-7; Sretenovic 53-56; Ludanyi 1979 233; Crkvenčić 34; official Croatian statistics (Državni Zavod za Statistiku); official Serbian statistics (Republicki Zavod za Statistiku); and official Slovene statistics (Statistični urad Republike Slovenije).



Famous Danube Swabians from Yugoslav territories

Heinrich Knirr (1862-1944)- famous ethnic German painter from Serbia who studied in the Habsburg Empire

Georg Weifert (1850-1937)- significant and respected industrialist, politician, and economist in Serbia and early Yugoslavia. He was the president of the Serbian and Yugoslav parliaments, and set a majour influence on the Serbian economy and the regulation of the Dinar currency.

Rubert Zollitsch (1938-..)- born in Yugoslavia, he was a significant archbishop of Freiburg and a representative of the German Bishopric Conference. His brother was shot by the Yugoslav Communists after the war. He and his grandmother were imprisoned in the Yugoslav labour camp in Gakovo before fleeing to Germany.

Johann Keks- founding proponent of the Kulturbund in Vojvodina during its early, pan-Germanic yet non-Nazi phase

Georg Grassel- colleague of Johann Keks and founding member of the Kulturbund

Elizabeth Walter- writer, emotional artist, and survivor who wrote Barefoot in the Rubble

Stefan Kraft- founding member of the Kulturbund

Peter Heinrich- founding member of the Kulturbund

Henrik Werth (1881-1952)- general of Swabian origin who served in the Hungarian Habsburg army

Dr. Jakob Anweder- ethnic German ultranationalist in the early Kulturbund who helped excite the Kulturbund movement towards the extreme right before being outmanoeuvred by Sepp Janko. Leader of the Kameradschaft für die Erneuerungsbewegung (Comeradeship for the [National Socialist] Renewal Movement).

Branimir Algayer- colleague of Jakob Anweder who led the Kultur- und Wohlfahrtsvereingung der Deutschen (Culture and Welfare Union of Germans) and worked to make the Kulturbund gravitate to the extreme right.

Sepp Janko (1905-1980)- final president of the Kulturbund nationalists in Yugoslavia and subsequently the representative of all Banat Swabians and Germans of Yugoslavia under Heinrich Himmler. After the war, he fled execution by the Yugoslavs and, supported by a pass from the Red Cross, escaped to Argentina under the name Jose Petri.

Andreas Birgermajer- chairman of the Society for Serbian-German Cooperation and a majour organiser of German cultural and community interests in Serbia today

Rudolf Vajs- secondary deputy of the Society for Serbian-German Cooperation, and a leading pundit for representing German interests abroad in interviews and news reports. Several of his relatives died in the Yugoslav labour camp of Rudolfsgnad/Knićanin.



Suggested Websites and Organisations

Hungarian documents archive - Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security - click here.

Landesverband der Donauschwaben, USA (Association of the Danube Swabians in USA, English and German)- click here.

StefanJaeger.net, an artist depicting the history and expulsion of Danube Swabians - click here.

Gesellschaft für Serbisch-Deutsche Zusammenarbeit (Society for Serbian-German Cooperation) - click here.

Landsmannschaft der Banater Schwaben (Community of Banat Swabians in Bavaria) - click here.

Kroatisch-Österreichische Gesellschaft/ Hrvatsko-Austrijsko Društvo - click here.

Deutscher Verein ,,Kikinda" in Croatia - click here.

United Donauschwaben [Danube Swabians] of Milwaukee - click here.

Heimatsortgemeinschaft Tscheb (Hometown Community of Tscheb, for Danube Swabians in general) - click here.

Danube Cultural Society (English) - click here.

Donaudreieck: a community for all Danube Swabians; in Hungarian, German, Serbian, Croatian, English - click here.

Austrian Culture Forum in Croatia (Austrijski Kulturni Forum) - click here.

Heimatbuch Molidorf, a collection of memoirs about Molin(dorf) in Serbia and its labour camp - click here.

[Personalised] Homepage of Rudofsgnad/Knićanin and its German heritage - click here.

'Unpunished Crimes against Germans by Serbs', from a rather inflammatory but interesting Croatian perspective (in Croatian, use translator) - click here for original.

Paulus, Susanne, Pesic, Vesna and Cvejic, Marko. O podunavskim Shvabama/Ueber die Donauschwaben/About the Danube Swabians. Mandragora Films and "Kikinda" Deutscher Verein, 2014.

Cvejic, Marko. "The Silent One." DVD, Mandragora Films, 2011. Order here: http://www.mandragorafilm.com/#/en/naruci

Cvejic, Marko. " Danube Swabians." DVD, Mandragora Films, 2011. Order here: http://www.mandragorafilm.com/#/en/naruci

Mandragora Films, a Serbian-led initiative to document the Danube Swabian lost legacy -- click here.