VORWORT Homepage Bulkes
PREDGOVOR Homepage Bulkes
You are my God!
My time is in your hands.
Save me from the hand of my enemy
And from those who pursue me.
We have heard about fleeing, pursuing, and saving from enemies since the Old Testament of mankind's history.
My enemies, who I fled from in our time during World War II, 1939-1945, were the enemies of the Bulkes people, the Russians and above all the Tito Partisans.
How could two people with a long Christian tradition come to be mortal enemies in another chapter? In the following eyewitness report deals with my own individual personal fate. The report is indeed basically symptomatic of the flight of the Bulkes people and the other Donauschwaben from the Batschka.
The German history was to end here.
Beginning in October 1944,
in the next to last, fifth year of World War II the German armed forces also pulled back before the Russian superiority from the Batschka into present day northern Serbia. The Russians were supported by the Tito partisans who came from woods in lands occupied by German troops at the time. Since 1941 this region between the Danube and Theiß Rivers belonged to the southern part of Hungary (see chapter "BATSCHKA"). For Bulkes a threatening problem developed now - like all other German settled villages n the area. Flee or not to flee, that was now the question: If it is better to endure the enemy marching in or to leave everything in a lurch and to make one's way on an uncertain, dangerous path?
I was still underage at the time, 16 years old, my sister (Elizabeth) was 12 years old. The first 158 years were past, since our FOREFATHERS=
together with 900 German colonists had established Bulkes in Austro-Hungary. And now my parents, 37 and 34 years, old decided to flee, that is everything, that generations had saved and obtained, must stand and remain lying, to save one's skin.
What was also painful was to prove they were right in the end.
A long way stood before us.
It began when my father got us (my mother, my sister, my aunt, and cousin and me) from Bulkes. Just in time I came with many other young people from Palanka back from a cancelled children's evacuation with a Danube ship. It was on a Monday afternoon, the 9th of October 1944. The wagon stood in the backyard and was packed. Then they left on the last street out in the direction of Silbasch. Neighbors, Ritzmanns and others, stood in the doorways and silently watched us go - no greeting, no waves, depressingly silent. Only the wagon creaked and groaned. I saw behind us in the
), the legs dangling down there, my father's Czechoslovakian carbine laying on my knees, - I glanced back motionlessly.
We took a shortcut on the country road through Hoffmann-Jakobs Salasch, which drove by the Tscharda to Silbasch. The Slovakian Salasch people raced towards us as they saw us coming, clutched the goalposts, and cried loudly, as if they wanted to warn us. They feared a blood bath - because the property was already occupied by the Partisans?
Unbothered we drove further over Silbasch to Paraput, about 15 km north of Bulkes to my father's Batschka division. He was in his soldier's uniform accompanied by a Slovakian farmer from Paraput, who drove his requisitioned horse harness himself, and on another day he stayed back in his homeland village of Paraput while we moved on before sunrise with his harness. Two days before I heard in the German armed forces report that the Russian tank front had reached the mouth of the Theiß River, about 50 km southeast of Bulkes.
It was high time.
The people of Bulkes fleeing (Source: Bulkes homeland book).
Our wagon was the first which left. It was followed: on the 10th and 11th of October 1944 53 people with Jakob Engel and
Karl Baner, on the 12th of October 1944 about 11 with Valentin Beck and on the same day another 264 people with Peter Thuro.
On their own and without relatives about 10 - 15 of my school comrades joined the withdrawing German troops. Of the over
2600 inhabitants who lived in Bulkes before the war therefore only about 350 civilians (13%) of the village left. In other
villages nearly 100% fled.
I was not sad.
I was not sad. It was different for my mother who all day long along the way lamented because we did not take the
"Beckers-Motter" (the mother of my mother, 60 years old, see
) and the "Engels-Motter" (the grandmother of my mother, 78 years old) with us. For me on the other hand the flight with horse and wagon, overnights in the open air, feeding the horses, with rain, wet feet, and the thunder of guns from the eastern direction as an exciting Karl May adventure. What was there for a young fellow in auto free Bulkes to experience than to guide two horses and to drive the wagon overland?
Away out there in the world.
I wanted to get away anyway.
Since the conclusion of my public school in April 1944 I was in the mood to start and search for the further possibility of education in Germany. As Heinrich Sander (19 years old), who studied in Mittweide, Saxony as a person from Bulkes and wrote to me how the admission conditions went: "Everything was not eaten as hot as cooked." First I needed a travel pass. For this reason I drove to Sombor several times in the summertime to the "so beloved" Hungarian authorities. Everything was in vain. Each time I greased one or the other official with so many packets of butter, but I still didn't obtain any exit permit.
The Hungarians held on to me.
And now the Russians came!
For once the departure went much easier and quicker than planned. After we drove overnight in Parabut - me as the only "man" guiding the reins on the wagon - continuing without my father, who stayed back as writer in the battalion staff.
However, which trek should we, the only people from Bulkes follow? The fleeing columns moved into village communities. Through mediation from my father we were allowed to drive with the "Sentiwanern?" at the tail end. The road was an endless line of fleeing wagons without any plans. Everyone pushed to the northwest in the direction of Sombor, Apatin, Baja, or Bezdan, coming as quickly as possible over the Danube.
No bicycle was allowed to break, no horse made tired.
Over the Danube to the west, that is what everyone wanted.
Also the withdrawing defenders of the Batschka! So they formed a kilometer long conjestion by the crossings to Bezdan and Baja. Therefore it diverted us along the eastern Danube shore again north to Dunaföldvar. The following day and night drive was a race because the Russians pursued the same goal. We were, however, quicker. Fortunately we were guided on the 13th of October, 1944, after 4 days, over all sorts of Danube bridges guarded by German guns. At the same time, not even 10 meters from the road, we suddenly overtook a slow moving freight train full of refugees. That gained for me an unexpected short reunion with my chemistry professor, Dr. Feimer, from the Neusatz public school. He sat waving and with his feet dangling in the open door of a cattle car.
He smoked with pleasure.
In the protection of the wide Danube,
on the safe western side we recuperated for 8 days in the German village of Kimling by the friendly, helpful families of Vinzenz Platt and Johann Nachtmann. We were not very enthusiastic about being there. The Bulkes lady Margaretha Bernhardt became friendly to us. She had been in Bezdan with her man and could not go back to her house anymore. As a pastime and because usually there were no men in the farmhouse, Ms. Nachtmann sent me to the field to the field hands. Good that it looked exactly to me like our couple of yokes by the "Elickerspatt" (Johann Elicher, soda maker, house no. 204) or by the "Binderhansepatt" (Philipp Neber, house no. 194a) that our two "Drittelbauern" (third farmers?) plowed through. Now I may show what I had learned. It was fun to me. Suddenly high flying quick machines buzzed by. That could only be the feared double fuselage hunters, the Lightnings (Lockheed P-38's), the Yanks, - so nothing got in our way as the horses were unharnessed and we raced up under the next tree for cover which was more important than farming. But apparently they only had eyes for the Danube bridges, which certainly were assured well against deep attacks by German quadruplet anti-aircraft guns. It's a shame that I was caught up in the air battle.
My infantile lust for war was still with me.
Actually we wanted to drive home again,
after days of recuperation during which the German troops liberated the Batschka and back to Bulkes. But the relationships were not so. The Russians came nearer and nearer. We were long past our "point of no return", still nobody wanted to believe it. We were now separated from our home for 10 days and already we were homesick! "Where are the Bulkes people?" and "Have you seen the Bulkes trek?" were our daily questions as we were underway in Hungary until every person was in place in Germany, who looked after refugees. It was disappointing that nobody had met a Bulkes wagon along the way. But they must still be somewhere, why did we not find them, we asked again and again. And still we met two Bulkes soldiers between the Danube and the Lake Balaton at the edge of the road. They guarded a prisoner's transport: men, emaciated, half-starved, sunken-cheeked - stared at us with wide open eyes. As we went further a very tall person from Bulkes pounded on his pistol holster meaningfully: "We have lived a long time with it!" He replied, this war has lasted long, or should that be, that with the war connected responsibility for the prisoner transport they will not hang on to its long life any more?
That went through my head for a long time.
We celebrated my 16th birthday on the 31st of October, 1944 in Szala, between Lake Balaton and the Danube.
The "banquet" consisted of steamed noodles. On another day we drove further with the Sentivan column to the west around the north side of Lake Balaton, from there through the Bakony Forest and below Sopron (Hungary) and over the German (today Austrian) border near Klingenbach. In the next village, in Zemendorf, we rested for a day.
We were now in Germany!
Our hearts stood still.
Although we no longer had any fear after the Danube crossing, we now felt a secret feeling of complete safety and security. However here just like all over the world it was the same, we noticed again and again. Disillusionment was great as we saw dung heaps next to the street by the house entrance. We had compassion and regrets for the farmers, the cows harnessed instead of the horse and trudging on their narrow fields. In Silesia even gray oxen were used.
Just like in backwards Serbia!
"First Christmas at home in the Empire",
wrote a Silesian newspaper, as we arrived on the 20th of December 1944, past Vienna and Brünn up to Glatz with the horses and then further with the state railway to Liegnitz, in the Gohlsdorf / Haynau area. Josef Stefan from Batsch faxed to me three years ago for this report that all in all 85,000 Germans with 10,000 farm wagons and 17,000 horses over a stretch of more than 1000 km (for us it was 1029 km from Bulkes to Glatz) to come to Lower Silesia. We were quartered with the horses in the black man's yard.
After 3 days I met my day-book:
"Yesterday afternoon Niedhöfers came from Schlegel from there with all of their possessions. They remained here. Yesterday I telegraphed my father at the new field post number 41036A."
Jan. 13, 1945: "A while ago the "Christian Mayerspatt" (Note: Christian Weber, house number 199bMayerspatt = Mayer - uncle) was here and brought us the news that we had to go to school in Reichenberg (Sudetengau). That was very good news because afterwards a farmer's wife came and wanted to take one us with her as a farm hand. The writing from "Mayerspatt" excused us.
Jan. 25, 1945: "Jakob received a card from Reichenberg (Sudetengau) from Bader Hans (our school comrade). He wrote that they are all there and not in the military fitness camp. He reported to the Marines and Niklos (Nikolaus / Klaus Weber) to the Air Force. From Lothar (from Bielefeld) we have received two letters. He wrote that they heard as the V1 and V2 rockets were started and when it is light, one can even see."
So young gullible people and other crazy people hope for a good war's end.
On the large farmyard we came in the mill of Hitler's master race and inferior people business. Quarters were assigned to us next to the servants by the Polish forced workers. Obviously we were a welcome reinforcement for the property owners. However this employment changed suddenly after a couple days when my cousin Philipp Frank arrived from the eastern front near Budapest in the uniform of the SS on a short vacation.
[How did the Donauschwabens come - "das Gezocks" - said a former Hamburg SS soldier 60 years later, still not always free from his elite conceit in a documentary program of ZDF by Guido Knopp - voluntarily to the SS? In addition one must know that this so-called volunteering came under conditions of pressure from Germany and was sealed in the state's rights agreement between Germany and Hungary (see "VOLUNTEERS"-campaigns.]
We were in contact with Philipp and my father since the end of October through the mail which didn't stop until the last war days. With Philipp's appearance our respect rose. Still we moved on the same day to the second floor of the black people. Finally we knew the village group leader and butcher who in the meantime kept one of our horses in his stable, an empty standing little house of a DRK sister (see the following picture). There we had the greatest peace in a cozy situation with the Niedhofers.
Unfortunately for us it only lasted the Silesian winter of 1944-45 with the first attempt at skiing, hunting, and riding in the snow for a short time.
Families from Bulkes: Stephan, Frank, and Neidhofer in Schlesien, Gohlsdorf near Haynau, January 1945, in front of their accommodations: house of a DRK - sister, who used the front part.
Small picture from left to right:
NIEDHÖFER, Christine, house no. 180a (born HARFMANN);
DIENER, CHRISTINE (Christina in Saxony) house no. 180a (born NIEDHÖFER)
Katharina, house no. 180a
House no. 260 (born BECKER);
House no. 260.
Standing in front:
NIEDHÖFER, Richard, house no. 180a;
House no. 260 (born STEPHAN).
NEIDHÖFER Richard HNR. 180a; WEIMAR Elisabeth HNR. 260 (geb. STEPHAN).
Large picture from left to right:
FRANK Katharina HNR. 324 (geb. BECKER); WEIMAR Elisabeth HNR. 260 (geb. STEPHAN); NEIDHÖFER Richard HNR.
180a; STEPHAN Margarete HNR. 260 (geb. BECKER); HARFMANN Katharina
(Sachse-Got) HNR. 180a (geb. Harfmann).
BRUNNER Elisabeth HNR. 324 (geb. FRANK); BECKER Jakob HNR. 421.
Birth Certificate of my Father:
With it he came to the German capitulation in May 1945 in civilian clothing from the Silesian east front unbothered through Czechoslovakia into the west Sudetenland to my mother and my sister.
Exit permission of the Czechoslovakian People's Council of Vernerove: "I acknowledge that Mr. Stefan Heinrich, Ms. Stefan Margaretha, and 1 child can depart in their homeland in Bulkes, Hungary / Yugoslavia. Vernerov, on this day of the 17th of May 1945. For the Czechoslovakian National Council. signed Wilhelm Flauger"
With this permission to travel my parents and my sister came up to Subotica in Yugoslavia. There they were at first interned in a silk factory. It was better that they could not pass as Germans in Yugoslavia at the time. Like other countrymen they found a Hungarian border village hiding place and worked with a farmer until one day at the end of 1945 they went to Mecklemburgin the DDR (German Democratic Republic) to the settlement in the framework of basic reform on an expropriated large estate near Güstrow - which was being disposed of. But at the next opportunity they fled, which was still easy at the time, from Germany in the west above Kiel and Hamburg to Passau. There they hoped to find me since they had already received a letter from me from Passau a month before.
How was that possible?
The German and international post
functional even over the "Iron
Curtain" and the many zones borders
in Germany and Austria?
No, what functioned were "letter carriers" as border patrollers (walkers), black market dealers, and smugglers between the east and west. One such encounter from Kischker (in the Batschka) I met by chance in an overfilled passenger train in the summer 1945 near Regensburg in the direction of Passau to the Bulkes people. He spoke pompously from there as I had the impression at the time- that he "goes" to Hungary, that he should be a voluntarily returning person from the Batschka, perhaps also a detained person from Bulkes, when I gave him a letter to take with him, he wanted to look around on the way to my parents. I had long forgotten the letter when it actually reached its goal.
The joy was certainly great,
especially since it had been spoken about that in May 1945 in Prague and around there many Germans are always "disappearing"!
In Passau with a group of other people from Bulkes (Siegrfried Binders family, Wohlhüters, Zeh, and others) we could not stay put. Passau was overcrowded, and Catholic which did not please us since Bulkes was always confirmed Protestant.
12 million driven from their homes and
Where and how they should be put up in
the war torn, destroyed, poor, and hungry
The budding state united with
The occupying powers for a distribution
and integration to scenic points of view:
Sudeten Germans in Bavaria, Silesa and East Prussia in the upper half of the Mainlininie in the former Prussia, and the Donauschwaben in southwest Germany.
Retur to the origins. Through arrangements by the Evangelical church the last stage of our flight was still further westward in Baden took place with the train (Binders still had the horses and wagon from Bulkes with them).
On the 16th of June 1946 we arrived after almost two years of the all around madness in central and eastern Europe in the transient camp's artillery barracks in our new homeland in Karlsruhe. The city structure looked like we had again landed in Baroque times.
Karlsruhe, the Baroque fan-like city, was established in 1715 after a prefabricated plan, while Bulkes, the square village also pre-planned on the drawing board, was settled only 71 years after that.
The friendly, modest people of Baden, with our related dialect and the Batschka's similar topography were the best assumptions for our new beginning in this "Ländle" spoiled by the sun in the Rhine plain, almost in center of original region of our forefathers, which in the 18th century followed the call of the Hapsburgs and the German Emperor Josef II and who emigrated to the region freed of Turks in the deep Pannonian plain.
(Heinrich Stephan, Translation: Bradley Schwebler)
Elisabeth Klein, our "American mother" in Cleveland
With her help we could more easily settle in Karlsruhe and
prepare to build our own first home in 1949.