Theresia Hoenisch, born Reder, born Feb. 27, 1902 in Filipovo, wife of Valentin Hoenisch, resident of Filipovo, Kralja Petra 87, at this time in Endersbach, in the region of Waiblingen.
As of the fall of 1944, my hometown was occupied by Hungarian and German troops, and I declined to follow an evacuation order and stayed at home with my children Paul (born Nov. 4, 1933) and Rosalia (born Dec. 12, 1940). My husband was taken on
September 15, 1944, with other men from my town, to work. I was forced to stay alone with my children during the Partisan occupation (from 15 thru 17 of October, 1944). On November 1, 1944, with the beat of a drum, it was announced that all men and women from the age of 16 through 65, report with horse and wagon, shovels and rakes, to work at the airport by Odzaci. Older men, such as my 67 year old father-in-law, also had to report. We were directed to build a runway. Later, in December, I had to go to Sombor, to work on the airport there. In all kinds of weather, even in heavy rain, I had to lift crushed stone and dirt. In the middle of December 1944, I came back to Filipovo, but after 2 days, with a threat to my life, I had to report for work. I had to again go back to the airport near Sombor, and did not return until the night of December 24, 1944.
In the meantime, 240 men from my hometown were hauled away, and were never seen again. On Dec. 26, 1944, all girls and women, between the ages of 18 and 30, and the men between 18 and 35 who had remained in town, had to report to city hall. They were told they would have to go away to work for 15 days. They were assembled together, approximately 100 persons, and under guard were hauled to Russia. We who were left behind, were fearful for our lives every day. Constantly, as we were forced to work, we feared for our lives. During the night of March, 12, 1945, the drum sounded that all persons from the ages of 15 to 55, should report to city hall. In the middle of the night, I also reported to city hall. Drunken Partisans, who stole liquor from my neighbors, told us to report at 6 a.m., to work in the corn fields in Backi-Brestovac for 3 days. Approximately 600 persons from my town, myself included, were brought to a camp. All barracks were filled to capacity with people of german descent. My mother and my in-laws, with my children, stayed at home. From Sombor, 470 persons (approx. 66 from my town), were placed in a work camp in Kolut. Here I was put to work in different work assignments for 11 months. We had very poor care; in the first 3 months there was no salt in the food. I did not even have the necessary clothes, since we were initially told that we would only be gone for 3 days. During Easter in 1945, the remaining people of german descent in the Batschka region, including the old, sick and children, were driven away from their homes, and taken to the concentration camp in Gakova. Also included were my mother, my in-laws, my children and countless relatives. Those that did not leave were simply shot, such as my fellow countrymen Franz Pertschi and Jakob Amend.
In the autumn of 1945, I became sick with typhus, because I was undernourished. In the meantime, my children found out where I was, and escaped from Gakova. Shortly afterwards, my mother and mother-in-law died from starvation. My children came to where I was in Kolut. Here I became sick again in December 1945. When I was well enough to travel, I was chased, with my children, in the snow, towards Gakovo. There, everything we begged for in Kolut, the Partisans stole from us. Also, my earrings and my wedding band were taken from me. In the camp were thousands of people of german descent from the whole region of Batschka. They were mostly old, sick, those unable to work. We laid on the floors, with little straw. Those in the camp, including children and older people, were punished for any small infractions. In many cases, they were shot as they tried to escape. Once, my neighbor, Katharina Wurtzki, did not go to work as we were being assembled, and she shot in the open. My fellow countryman, Martin Rack, who wanted to bring food to his wife and 5 children, so that they would not starve, was captured and shot in the street. His…..??? There were also many suicides that occurred in the camp. My neighbor Rosalia Harjung and Anna Schmidt jumped into the well. Children who were caught begging for food, were locked in the basement without food and were beaten. Only twice a day were we given water soup, and once cornbread. I did not have any bread.
During the time I was in the camp (January – February 1946), approximately 50-60 people died daily. They were put into a mass grave, without a Christian burial, along with hundreds of others. The wooden crossed in the cemetery were taken and used to heat the kitchen in the camp. Even though there were harsh punishments, many people escaped, in order to save their lives. Many, who tried to escape, froze to death. Others, who were captured, were severely punished, and some were shot to death.
On Feb. 12, 1946, my husband came from Hungary during the night across the border to the camp. The next night he succeeded in taking us out of the camp, and into Hungary. My old father-in-law, who was not well enough to travel, on bended knee begged us to take him along. He begged us to return to pick him up when he would be able to travel. We couldn’t fulfill his wishes, since shortly after that he died. My husband was able to get us on our feet again, and it was possible for us to leave with a transport of Hungarian germans, in the end of May 1946 to escape to Germany.
I swear under oath, that everything in this report is true.
Stuttgart, May 16, 1947