poppy image   Burden Of Crime: On a Journey To Molidorf poppy image

"And the evil, it is true,
and certain:
the evil exists".
(J. R.R. Tolkien)

One of the working meetings of the group tasked with commemorating mass graves of civilians killed in the WW2, was recently held in Kikinda, in premises of the local Evangelical Church. Ðurica Savkov, President of the Banat Forum, Father Jacob Pfeiffer, a catholic priest from Subotica and Rudolf Weiss, President of the German Popular Alliance from Subotica briefed the journalists about initiative to find and commemorate mass graves of German civilian population killed in the wake of WW2. The initiative was jointly launched by the Banat Forum, the German Popular Alliance and the three churches the Orthodox, Evangelical and Catholic Church. It received an official blessing by the Banat Episcope, Hrizostom. Thus NGO's are uncovering crimes committed in the 1945-1950 period. There are too many unanswered questions: how come that entire German population of the village Knicani vanished without trace? How come that Molidorf, or Molin, as Serbs call it (located in the Banat municipality of Žitište) stopped existing. Instead of the village boasting a church and school now there is only a grave, according to a local legend full of bodies of killed German? Why the exact number of Banat Germans killed in villages or in detention camps has not been disclosed? Why the suffering of German inmates in detention camps has been hushed up? Why were German graves in Banat, a region which once boasted a large German population, robbed, mined and re-tilled, and the biggest Catholic church in former Charleville (the present-day Banatsko Veliko Selo) was torn to pieces? And the rumour has it (corroborated by stories of some very old witnesses) that Germans offered liberators huge quantities of gold to leave the church intact. Anyway, the gold has vanished without trace too, for it has never been returned to its owners, whose fates are also unknown. "It was the war-time" was the run-of-the-mill justification for the wrongdoing. And that justification did not do honour to the victors.

But the war ended long time ago, and compensatory damage claims filed by German families are still pending. Moreover they were made public: in a lengthy interview to the Kikinda-based media Rudolf Weiss, or the Banat Forum, in 1997 posed that question openly. Weiss stressed that plunder always remains plunder, for the local German minority had a lot of cattle, land and many houses. And Germans were above all very hard-working. But the liberators put an end to that all. Some Germans were lucky; those who managed to survive the war and later re-settle in Germany. The others were killed immediately. Many died in special detention camps.

"We do not accuse the people for all this, it was done by a criminal regime, which has its name: the communist regime. We ask Serbs never again to let another criminal regime, the SCUM, to take power," Rudolf Weiss told journalists at a meeting in the Kikinda Evangelical church.

Thanks to Siniša Jakonic, correspondent of daily "Danas" and activists of city committee of the Banat Forum, assertions of the German Popular Alliance (headquartered in Subotica) were proved: namely there are two mass graves in the area of the inner city of Kikinda, the first one is in the vicinity of the PIK plant, and the other in the Šumice picnic spot. In those two spots German locals were tortured and killed, mostly the elderly, women and children. Stories are still circulating about German children who had to dig graves for their parents and of gang rapes of German women and girls (liberators openly bragged to the media about 'such exploits.') The Banat Forum wants to put plaques on those two spots, but there are ropes for the laundry-drying there! Moreover tenants of that housing block strongly oppose that idea.

Reactions of readers to the media coverage of the story about Banat Germans (Krauts or Volksdeutchers), were negative. When in the late March Kikindske novine ran an interview with Rudolf Weiss and excerpts from the book "Confessions of Danube Kraut women," editorial office of the paper was swamped with readers' letters vexed with "so much attention dedicated to KRAUTS." Many letters were very long, and all mentioned crimes committed by the "Prince Eugene division." Not a single letter mentioned that German civilians were guilty of crimes of the German army. Not a single letter showed any sign of compassion towards German civilians who perished in the camps. Favourite historian of the once SPS-run daily Komuna stressed in his articles that the Yugoslav Germans after WW2 massively left for Germany. Members of Banat Forum were vilified: "they are foreign mercenaries," "they should be photographed together with Goebbels". "if they dare put up a plaque commemorating our much hated enemy, that plaque shall be broken into pieces." But despite all detractors Kikindske novine continued to run excerpts from "Confessions of the Danube Kraut women" and historical texts of Vladislav Vujin, depicting cohabitation in Banat, before the WW2, when Germans and Jews lived there. Compensatory damage claims met with serious difficulties, namely houses, land and other property of Germans were given to colonists, who were settled in Vojvodina in the late Forties. The elderly locals, descendants of those locals who knew that Germans were good neighbours, now tell their neighbours, descendants of colonists, that they will have to return houses to Krauts, to pay rent in arrears, and compensation for not having even whitewashed German houses for 50 years!" And descendants of colonists believe them! And the fear of 'potential German returnees' spreads and akin rumours are rife...all of which creates a climate unpropitious for putting of plaques. Ideas of civilised treatment of remains of innocent victims are countered by paranoid gossip and speculations. "Why is Banat Forum launching such and initiative? Why do they want to dig out old graves? Why do we have to dig out our past once again? Why do they remind us of Germans, when we have forgotten them?"- these are questions which are currently troubling many citizens of Kikinda. In the meantime an initiative for founding of a branch office of "Donauclub", headquartered in Novi Sad, was launched in Kikinda. This association wants to rally the remaining Germans and to help them preserve their culture.

Conclusion: not only so-called population at large is not ready to embark upon a civilised dialogue on crimes and responsibility for crimes committed in the Nineties, but is even less ready to face up to the consequences of the WW2. Such an oblivion-prone climate permeates all strata of the society. Which responsibility, which co-operation with the Hague Tribunal, which de-nazification, which take-over of civilised values, WE CANNOT DO THAT?! We are not able to face the facts after 50 years, let alone admit more recent crimes, we are not able to assume responsibility, we are not able to apologise to the other side, we cannot change our tack, we ARE NOT ABLE TO DO ANYTHING! If we don't get the role of "good guys" in all Cowboy versus Indians games, then we won't play! We could stick to such an attitude of ours for a long time, but in a normal world such behaviour is not tolerated, it is corrected consistently, and pedagogically. That lesson is yet to be learnt by our prime movers, for they continue to use cheap tricks in their bid to avoid responsibility, and they stubbornly stick to their story "we are not guilty, we have never been guilty, and we don't want to change." It seems that the world is losing interest in us, it has decided to let us torture each other with our cheap games, in which people can get hurt at will, while all the wrongdoing is immediately forgotten. Ugly memories and apologies are not allowed! And under such conditions some people expect that the state starts behaving normally and co-operating with institutions whose authority it has recognised. Forget it! We still have not used all our delay tactics! Many more games can be played. We can still avoid payment of those compensations, we can still dodge any apology...; we have had Germans and Jews under embargo for such a long time...we can do the same thing with the most recent victims. In actual fact we face a similar situation: victims are dead, physical evidence is destroyed, witnesses terrified, investigation is stalled. To put it briefly: for a court of law-nothing, for executioners- a sheer paradise.

But perhaps this time things will take a different turn? Perhaps executioners and their associates shall not feel so safe. Story about volksdeutchers emerged after half a century, after so much hushing up and intimidation. Sooner or later the same thing shall happen to the most recent crimes. All roads leading to village Molidorf have been covered by thick vegetation of oblivion. Some say that many people don't sleep well ...pangs of conscience are sharp...but they will not suffice to bring criminals to justice...we need more organised reminders.

Gordana Perunović Fijat

Reprinted with permission from the author.

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