Verbrechen An Den Deutschen In Jugoslawien 1944-1948: Stationen Eines Völkermords
The period between 1944 and 1948 was a dark time for the German population in Yugoslavia. The end of World War II saw the expulsion and marginalization of Donauschwäbian Germans who had lived in the region for centuries. Their fate was largely ignored in the aftermath of the war, and it took decades before their plight was fully recognized. The Donauschwäbisches Archiv played a crucial role in preserving and documenting the atrocities committed during this period, ensuring that the victims would not be forgotten.
In 1944, Yugoslavia was embroiled in a bloody civil war. Hitler's troops had occupied the country since 1941, and were now being pushed back by Tito's communist partisans. As the tide of war began to turn against the Germans, Hitler ordered the evacuation of ethnic Germans from the region. This decision had disastrous consequences for the Donauschwäbian community.
Between September and December 1944, an estimated 350,000 Donauschwäbian Germans were forcibly evacuated from their homes in Yugoslavia. The majority were women, children, and elderly people. Many were herded onto trains and transported to camps in Germany, where they were held in appalling conditions. Others were simply left to fend for themselves in foreign lands.
As the communist partisans gained ground, they began to take revenge on the German population. Between 1944 and 1948, tens of thousands of Donauschwäbian Germans were murdered, often in horrific ways. The "stations of genocide" – the places where these crimes were committed – included detention camps, prisons, and mass graves.
One of the most notorious events of this period was the Bleiburg Massacre. In May 1945, thousands of Croatian quislings and members of the Ustaše fascist movement surrendered to British forces in Austria. They were handed over to the Yugoslav Partisans, who proceeded to execute them en masse. Many Donauschwäbian Germans were caught up in the massacre, either because they were mistaken for Croatians or simply because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Another key event was the forced labor of Donauschwäbian women and children in Yugoslav mines. Historian Ingrid Hudabiunigg estimates that around 10,000 women and children were sent to these mines, where they were subjected to grueling and often deadly work. Many of the children were subjected to physical and sexual abuse.
Impact on the German Population
The impact of these events on the Donauschwäbian community was devastating. Many died during the evacuation, in transit, or in the camps. Those who survived faced discrimination, hardship, and violence in the years that followed. For many, the trauma of this period would last a lifetime.
Role of the Donauschwäbisches Archiv
The Donauschwäbisches Archiv was established in 1951 to document the history and culture of the Donauschwäbian Germans. In the years that followed, it became clear that the archive had another important role to play – that of preserving the memory of the genocide that had been committed against the German population in Yugoslavia.
The archive holds a wealth of information about the events of this period. It includes eyewitness accounts, photographs, and other documents that attest to the suffering that took place. The archive has played a key role in ensuring that the victims are not forgotten, and that their plight is recognized by the wider world.
The genocide committed against the Donauschwäbian Germans in Yugoslavia between 1944 and 1948 was a tragic and brutal chapter in European history. The forced evacuation, mass murder, and forced labor of the German population left scars that are still felt today. The Donauschwäbisches Archiv has played an important role in preserving the memory of these events, ensuring that the victims are not forgotten. As we move forward, it is vital that we continue to remember the atrocities that took place, and to learn from them, so that such events can never be repeated.