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Danube Swabian Orphans

Botschar, Banat
Altmeiyer Orphans
Contributed by Roland Müller

At Christmas 1944 Margarete Müller, nee Szabo, together with both of the children of her daughter Regina Altmeiyer, nee Müller, was abducted and sent to Tito’s starvation camp in Rudolfsgnad. At the same time Regina was deported to the Stalin’s slave labour mine in the Soviet Union.

Any scraps of food Margarete was able to gather in Rudolfsgnad she gave to her grandchildren. So they would not starve, one night she crept out of the concentration camp and reached the other side of the River Tisa at the village of Titel, where she begged for food at her relative’s homes. Returning with food to the camp, she was discovered, brutally beaten and the 64 year old was fined to stand for two days in cold water of the chilly April’s season. One hour after she was pulled out of the water, Margarete died.

Both children, Elsa, at age 3 and Regina, at age of 10, ended up in orphanages. Elsa in Prilep, Macedonia while Regina was lucky to be sent to Kotor on the Adriatic Sea, as the orphanage administrator there was sympathetic to the Danube Swabian children.

Regina, the mother of the children, became gravely ill in Stalin’s slave labour mine, was released and sent to East Germany in 1946. There she learned about the murder of her mother Margarete, yet there were no traces of her children Elsa and Regina. The Red Cross was not able to help, as actually mom Regina was legally able to return to Yugoslavia. The communist would have loved to send her also to the starvation camp.

It was only in 1949, after the brutal concentration camps were closed, that mom Regina dared to return to Yugoslavia and search for her children. She settled down in Betschgrek (today Zrenjanin) and soon discovered the whereabouts of her older daughter Regina but it took another year to find Elsa. Little Elsa, then 8 years old, spoke only Macedonian, while her sister Regina was fluent in Dalmatian and luckily could understand still some German.

It took mother Regina another 3 years to earn the necessary funds to buy the permission for leaving Yugoslavia behind for freedom of West Germany.

Today Elsa lives in Germany and her sister Regina in Canada.

April 2011