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:
Our Third Trip to Jarek from May 5th to May 8th, 2017
On Thursday, May 4th, 2017, eighteen participants of our third Jarek-trip arrived in front of the counter of Air Serbia at airport in Stuttgart. We had planned this trip because we wanted to be present at the dedication of the memorial site at the mass graves in Jarek, already in the year 2015. At the time, despite all promises of the appropriate authorities, the permit was not granted in time, and so the memorial could not be built. But a ceremony took place at the temporary cross. Of the thirty participants of the last trip, many could not come along again due to their age and illnesses. We were delighted all the more that Herbert Morgenthaler from California at the age of 87 years did not dread the exertions of the long journey to Stuttgart, and had joined our group. At the airport in Belgrade, our tour guide Benny, who had accompanied us already at both previous trips, awaited us. We got to Novi Sad via the freeway in bright sunshine to our Hotel Putnik in the pedestrian zone. After a short break, we took a stroll through the pedestrian zone in downtown across the city park to the Danube. We noticed the great number of young people, who crowded the many cafés. Novi Sad is a very lively town with modern stores and many small shops in the courtyards and thoroughfares. We also saw several magnificent, recently renovated art-nouveau houses in the side streets. Unfortunately, an American textile store has now moved into the superb Dundjerski Palais. Down by the Danube a marvelous view of the fortress Peterwardein (Petrovaradin) opened up. After our supper in the hotel, we took another stroll through the illuminated inner city.
Benny picked us up Friday morning with the minibus, and with it we could drive directly to the fortress Peterwardein. Of course, we photographed the clock tower there and the Danube with the town in the background. After a short city tour, we drove to the point of the Fisher Island. A ship awaited us there that usually accompanies canoeists. We floated gently down the Danube on this catamaran in the direction of Sremski Karlovci. We sailed secluded from the main channel between small islands and were amazed how wide the Danube was here. We had left by good weather, but suddenly dark clouds approached. In order to get away from the open water surface, our captain sought protection from the approaching storm in a small bay. The rain pelted on the ship, but thunder and lightning bolts passed by quickly, and we managed to take our lunch punctually at 1 p.m. in the restaurant “Dunav” in Karlovci. Benny showed us the town and the Orthodox cathedral after that. For several participants this was their first visit to an Orthodox church, which instead of an altarpiece is ornamented with an iconostasis. In the old Serbian school, which is painted with beautiful art-nouveau ornaments, a student, with a good knowledge of German, explained the paintings in the assembly Hall and the objects in the old library. Each student learns three foreign languages yet today at this school rich in tradition. The contrast to this beautiful old building is provided by the “Heimathaus,” that we visited afterward. It is a typical colonist house from the time of Maria Theresia. It demonstrates how modestly and simply our ancestors lived. Two rooms and a small kitchen between them was all they had to live in. The low walls were tamped clay and the roof was of reeds. Mr. Seder of the “Heimathaus Foundation” has restored it with much love and opens it for visitors after registration. In as nearby wine cellar, we tasted yet the famous “Bermet,” a white wine aromatized with herbs, and also traditional wines from the region. The Romans brought wine cultivation into their province Simium, and since that time there exists a very good wine here. We drove to Novi Sad for supper to the restaurant “Aqua Doria” at the base of the fortress Peterwardein. It is situated directly under the illuminated “Rainbow Bridge”. Our travel agency had ordered the fish menu for all of us. The fish soup and the seafood platter were superb. We have seldom eaten such good fish. Also the view of the illuminated bridge and the city was exquisite.
On Saturday the dedication of the memorial site in Jarek was to take place. Our bus drove us into the village and we looked out of the windows expectantly to see what has changed in the last two years. First we stopped at the village town hall. We wanted to look at our commemorative plaque that we were able to attach in the hallway in 2010. The municipal administrator welcomed us and showed us the great hall also. We were very much surprised when we saw the walls. On all walls old photographs and pictures from former times, old views of the village, pictures of our church, of the fire department tower, riding society and also modern watercolors of the village and of the surrounding countryside. It seems as though the present community of Ba?ki-Jarak had marshaled the German past and it is being displayed to the inhabitants of the village and to visitors by theses pictures. The municipal administrator admitted to us that he has copied several pictures from our website. Also the names of the former German owners had not been removed from the recently renovated houses but had rather been painted so that they could easily be read. Unfortunately, the facade of the village town hall is very much in need of renovation, but the community lacks the funds for that.
After visiting the village hall, the bus drove us down the “Kreuzgasse” to the memorial site on the village edge. We were very astonished when we saw the crowds of people and the many automobiles that were parked left and right on the green area next to the street. Many young people got out of several buses. Our bus was permitted to drive further because its tag number had been registered. Barriers had been placed from the edge of the village to the parking area in front of the memorial site next to the recently tarred street and behind them clustered people were instructed by regulators. Many camera teams and reporters with microphones looked for an advantageous position between the still empty rows of chairs which had been set up for the guests of honor. They were filled slowly as constantly more person got out of black limousines and took their designated places. The number of spectators around us also increased so that the street was completely blocked. These precautionary measures were necessary because a great number of high-ranking guests had been announced for the ceremony, among them Prime Minister Aleksander Vu?i? and the German ambassador Axel Dittmann.
The commemoration lasted a little over an hour because all speeches were translated. It was a very impressive ceremony, for which all speakers found conciliatory words.
see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzHcNBfiiEc, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aD7hrsQhz0A)
After the commemoration, the “Konrad Adenauer Foundation” had invited all registered participants and guests of honor to lunch in the hall of a large new restaurant in the lower “Kreuzgasse”.
In the afternoon we went in groups through the village and several trip-participants were hospitably received into their former houses by the new owners. The village has changed in the last two years. Several old houses had been demolished and new ones were finished or still under construction. There are also some old very beautifully renovated houses in all streets.
In the evening we drove to Cenej to the “Salash 137” for supper. In this rustic and cozily furnished restaurant the older participants felt very comfortable, since the appointments of the rooms reminded them of earlier times.
Sunday was available for free time. Several participants drove once more in our bus to Jarek and strolled through the village and to the Fish Pond, where they watched the sport fishermen who fished there for carp. Others stayed in the city; walked to the fortress Peterwardein, strolled through the pedestrian zone, or visited the Vojvodina Museum. In the evening we met in the restaurant “Archiv” next to our hotel for a superb supper. After that it was time for packing the suitcase, for we wanted to spend the last day of our trip in Belgrade.
On Monday after breakfast we went yet briefly to the “Piaz,” the farmers market, to buy some typical produce. Then we took our leave from Novi Sad and its beautiful inner city; for most of us it was probably “goodbye’ for good. We drove through the hills of the Fruska Gora and the emerging industrial town of Indija, where several German corporations have established themselves; first to New Belgrade and then through the old city. We had a good tour guide, who showed us a great deal and who finally took us to the “eternal building site” of the Church of “Saint Sava.” The crypt there has been completed in the meantime, which we viewed. After the noon meal in the old city, the bus took us to the airport. We had to take leave from Benny, who promised to visit us in the summer. Our flight was punctual and we landed in Stuttgart at eight o’clock in the evening.
It was an eventful trip. Its climax was the dedication of the memorial site, which could take place finally after 14 years. The Serbian government has thereby acknowledged the injustice that it has committed upon the Danube Swabian civilian population. The 7,000 dead in the mass graves of Jarek can finally rest in peace.