Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family – Part 11

A Gruesome History Lesson

No Photos Here – Let The Words Suffice

In response to the wartime atrocities committed by the Nazis, the partisans stilled their thirst for revenge first on members of the Waffen-SS. According to a report, on Pentecost Sunday, 450 soldiers were shot near Reichenberg, their arms tied together with telegraph wire in groups of six, all shot in the back. At the capture of Krusevac, 2,000 soldiers of the “Prinz Eugen” division were murdered. In Reichenegg, the partisans forced POWs into a bunker and dynamited it. When the stench became too intense, survivors had to cover the bunker with dirt. At Susegrad, partisans undressed 90 soldiers and chased them into the Sava River. Whenever possible the inmates buried the dead and marked the graves with stones or wooden crosses. In 1948, after the last POWs had left the provisional camps, locals dispersed the rocks, gathered the crosses and burned them.
Most of these former regular Wehrmacht troops perished in postwar Yugoslavia in three stages. As already mentioned above, during the first stage more than 7,000 captured German troops died in Communist-organized “atonement marches” stretching 1200 km from the southern border of Austria to the northern border of Greece. During the second phase, in late summer 1945, many German soldiers in captivity were summarily executed or thrown alive into large karst pits along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. In the third stage, 1945-1955, an additional 50,000 perished as forced labourers due to malnutrition and exhaustion.
The total number of German losses in Yugoslav captivity after the end of the war including ethnic “Danube German” civilians and soldiers, and “Reich” Germans, may therefore be conservatively estimated at 120,000 killed, starved, worked to death, or missing. One may wonder why I would go to such length to describe the gruesome details of past events in an area of seemingly minor importance to us. There are two reasons. Firstly, I noticed so many similarities in the brutal treatment of the German civilian populations in East Prussia and Pomerania, where my parents and grandparents had their roots, and Yugoslavia, where Biene’s Papa spent most of the war years. I found it appalling that so little can be found in today’s historical literature about these events.

Additional information on the treatment of other ethnic groups in Yugoslavia:

20 thoughts on “Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family – Part 11

  1. It is appalling. Both that it happened and that so little is known about it. I never knew about these atrociities. It’s incredible what human beings can be capable of doing to each other.

    I think that the world was so horrified by what the Nazis did to Jews and gypsies and gay people and the mentally ill and political dissidents that there was (and still is) too much anger and hatred and an inability to see anyone in a German uniform as human. To be honest, I know many people who even today won’t buy a German car or visit Germany because of the Holocaust. I have been to Germany and met so many people born after the war who share the same horror about what Germans did during the war so I know better than to continue to hate. But in 1945, I think many people were too filled with anger and disgust—and I think that’s understandable. Not the murders, but the anger and disgust and hatred were justified.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The sadest part of war and its aftermath is that it is always the common people who suffer the most and bear the brunt of all the violence on our planet. Nothing has changed very much in this regard. Thank you for taking the time and effort to respond with such a detailed and thought-provoking comment, Amy!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think somehow people thought if they do these atrocities to nazis it is justified (all Germans were nazis then). What they were not aware of is, that they with their cruelty were putting themselves on the same level as them.
    By coincidence, in the shape of a book, I learned that in Czechoslovakia they went after the German immigrants and killed them off, men, women and children, although they had been living there for generations and didn’t have anything to do with the nazis. That is nowhere to be found in any history book.
    Terrible things also happened in Denmark, where collaborators were tortured and some where killed, also the women who had German boyfriends, and also here, children.
    The people who were doing this were not any better than the Germans. I can understand that they wanted revenge, but their actions were just as bad, and they should not come and claim that this was justice or that they are people of a higher morale than the nazis.
    The Americans put their Japanese citizens into camps after Pearl Harbour, people who had lived in America for generations. That was not justifiable, they had nothing to do with the Japanese attack, but at least they did not torture and kill them.
    I have no right to claim to be a better person than somebody else, if I show the same bad behaviour

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Two wrongs do not make things right. When good people fail to speak up and let tyrants rule, much disaster ensues. There must have been much hate towards the ethnic Germans for what the Nazis had done. The communists were wanting to take over these countries and were trying to create a chaotic vacuum so they could rule in these places. If we do not learn from history, we will repeat it. The riots and burning of police stations and lawlessness last summer in the USA was not much different.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. These events were not covered in the history courses I took in high school and college. Do you know why the British in Austria refused to accept the German surrender, thereby forcing them to surrender to Tito’s forces?


  5. It is amazing what is swept under the rug, and appalling as well. The worst thing we can do in response to cruelty is to return it, and it sounds as if that’s exactly what happened. You’re right, none of this is covered in history books and it’s certainly not taught in schools. And yet it’s a valuable lesson: if we respond to cruelty with more cruelty, then we have become our enemy. And they win. Sadly, we still see this thirst for revenge today….I think it is one of the darker aspects of human nature.

    Liked by 1 person

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