The Memorial Site Near the Mass Graves in Jarek Has Been Dedicated.
Translated by Sieghart Rein
On May 6, 2017 the memorial site near the mass graves in Ba?ki-Jarak (Jarek) was finally dedicated with great public participation in the presence of Prime Minister Aleksander Vu?i?, members of the Vojvodina government, the German ambassador in Serbia and representatives of the Danube Swabian organizations in Serbia and Germany. The Federal Association of Danube Swabians had strived for this for fourteen years, and only after the intervention of German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel by Serbian Prime Minister Aleksander Vu?i? during the last year permission was suddenly granted.
Almost all of the 2,000 inhabitants of the Danube-Swabian Community of Jarek in the Batschka (Ba?ka) left the village on October 7th and 8th, 1944 in 420 horse-drawn wagons. Their last mayor, Nikolaus Schurr, succeeded in persuading the inhabitants to flee, since they, as Danube Swabians, all had, indeed, been disowned and collectively declared “war criminals” and “enemies of the people” by the AVNOJ Laws. The entire harvest of the communal district of approximately 4,500 hectares, as well as the livestock in the stables and the entire inventory of the houses remained. [(see :”the flight from Jarek in October 1944”)] In the following weeks, the village was completely emptied by the native inhabitants of the surrounding villages, and already on December 4th the first Danube Swabians who had not fled were driven from their villages in the South-Batschka to Jarek and placed in the empty houses on sheaves of straw (up to 30 persons in a room). The village was one of the worst starvation camps for the aged, the sick and the children. They received hardly anything to eat and suffered indescribable agonies. [(see: Lager Jarek (Internment camp)] Until the closing of the camp on Easter 1946 (one year the end of the war) ca. 17,000 people passed through it. Approximately 7,000 people lost their lives during that time due to hunger, illnesses, mistreatment and shootings; among them nearly 1,000 children. At first the dead were put into the tombs of the cemetery and after that hastily buried in mass graves of seven rows behind the cemetery. In the extermination camps in the Batschka, in the Banat and in Syrmia ca. 50,000 Danube Swabians lost their lives from 1944 to 1948. There has been dead silence by all Yugoslav and Serbian governments about the camps and disenfranchisements. Of the former 550,000 Danube Swabians only 4,000 are living in the country today. The AVNOJ Laws have never been revoked. The dedication of the Jarek-Camp Memorial Site, which is located in the proximity of the former mass graves, was regarded only as gesture by the Serbian government for reconciliation and conflict with the previous taboo issue. Approximately 300 Danube Swabians, survivors of the camp, and the descendants of the deceased had traveled to bestow the final honor to their loved ones. Eighteen of us Jarekers took part. Also a great number of Serbians from Ba?ki-Jarak and vicinity, as well as many supporters of Prime Minister Vu?i? came in buses.
The memorial ceremony for the deceased, all of whom certainly had been buried without being blessed by the church, was conducted by the retired Freiburg Archbishop Dr. Robert Zolitsch from Filippowa and the Lutheran Pastor Jakob Stehle from Mramorak in the Banat, both of whom had survived other camps. The solemn worship service was framed with German hymns, sung by a choir of the high school and a brass choir. The President of the Federal Association of Danube Swabians, Hans Supritz, who had strived for 14 years for the erection of the memorial site, had reconciliatory words. Among other things, he said: “The text on the panels is to remind future generations that various nations lived together in peace until they were separated by national blindness with great sacrifices.” The German Ambassador in Belgrade, Axel Dittmann, emphasized in his speech that Angela Merkel attributes great significance to the memorial and that Germany strongly supports Serbia’s path into the EU. Prime Minister Aleksander Vu?i? said: “Only by the respect and deference of foreign victims will we have the right to also demand respect and deference for our victims.” Subsequently to the ceremony the representatives of the organizations present and the descendants of the victims set down numerous wreaths and bouquets of flowers. All Serbian television stations and print media and also many German media reported extensively about the event. You can watch the entire commemoration on youtube at: