Waffen SS Division,
By Walter Neuner
Translated by Hans Kopp
The justification for the German Waffen SS Prinz Eugen Division comprised of
men from the Danube Swabian areas of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Even today the member of the Waffen SS Prinz Eugen Division are still
frequently falsely accused by the Tito’s Partisans and the history writers of
former Yugoslavia as well as other countries as having betrayed their country
while fighting against the Tito’s Partisan Terrorists in Yugoslavia. These
accusations were made either on purpose by Tito propagandist to justify their
actions or in ignorance to the actual facts by history writers.
The facts as developed by the political events however; hardly a voice was
raised in justification to the relationship of the facts in honor of these
brave soldiers serving in this unit. Either Tito or the allied nations never
presented the actual facts of the political events leading to the formation of
the Prince Eugene Division and the factual justification for the members’
involvement in the war. Connections are made between the Division and the
entire ethnic German group in Kingdom of Yugoslavia and thus are collectively
accused of collaborating with the enemy.
This is the reason why the following facts of the political development are
extremely important to understand which explain the circumstances the Division
was placee in and did perform their sworn duty in the best interest of their
homeland and not as accused freighting against their homeland. This
presentation should shed a new light on the facts and why the members of the
unit acted the way they did.
Prior to these considerations one has to point out that it is untrue to claim
that the Waffen SS Prinz Eugen Division consisting of the ethnic German
citizen, also known as Danube Swabians of what later became Yugoslavia, fought
against the Kingdom of Yugoslavia during WWII. It is also untrue that the
soldiers of the ethnic Germans of Kingdom of Yugoslavia made themselves guilty
of treason during their action in Yugoslavia.
When the war between Germany and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia broke out on April
6th 1941 the Danube Swabian men fought on the side of the Royal Yugoslavian
army as Yugoslavian soldiers against Germany and many died in the Yugoslavian
uniform for Yugoslavia. On April 17th a seize fire between these countries was
reached followed by the capitulation on April 18th 1941 and the Yugoslavian
army disbanded. King Peter and his administration left the country and went
into self-exile in England.
With King Peter leaving the country a
totally new situation was created in the country. The Croatians declared their
independence; the Batschka, the territory between Theiss and Danube was
reclaimed by Hungary, Macedonia was taken by Bulgaria and Dalmatia and
Slovenia were occupied by Italy. The northern part of Slovenia the region of
Lower Styria and the Serbian Banat were placed under the administration of the
The relative unfavorable situation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was favored by
the Yugoslavian Communists whose aim was to oust the capitalistic-monarchist
government of Yugoslavia, to dissolve the Constitution, the Royal Army and
aimed to form a communistic government in the sense of the international
communist party of Moscow. After the seize-fire agreement between Germany and
Yugoslavia the communist party in Yugoslavia did not undertake any steps
against the German occupation since Germany had a non-aggression pact with
Russia at the time.
As soon as Germany invaded Russia on June 22nd 1941 the communist in
Yugoslavia on demand by Stalin began to organize the Communist Partisan Units.
The first victims of their executions in Serbia were not ethnic German
soldiers but the Royal Gendarmes, which remained loyal to the King. It must be
understood that the majority of the ethnic Germans did not wish the downfall
of the Yugoslavian Central State, since the Central State insured their rights
and saw that their rights and their economic development as a minority would
otherwise be in jeopardy.
The Yugoslavian leaders knew exactly that after the withdrawal of the German
troops they would have a difficult fight against the communist in their
country and it was for this reason that they formed units to oppose the
The Serbian General and Minister President Milan Nadic organized the Serbian
State Gendarmes, the right fascist national Tschetnik organization was
revitalized under the Royal Justice Minister Dimitrija Ljotic, which they
already had done before the war and the Royal General Draza Mihajlovic formed
troops again which were loyal to King Peter from men disbanded by the Royal
Army of Yugoslavia after the seize-fire.
Further more General Rupnik formed the so-called “White Guards” while in
Croatia the Ustascha under the leader Ante Pavelic seized power. In Bosnia the
Moslem population later formed their own SS troop unit the “Handzar” as
protection against the Communist Partisans while in Albania the “Skander Bag”
fought their ideological enemies, the Communist in their country.
The Yugoslavian Generals and patriots were convinced about their actions to
form units were necessary and in their fight against the left oriented
fascists of the communist Tito Partisans and that it would be the only way to
avoid a communist takeover of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Of course they did
not want the German troops to occupy their country since they were fighting
the Germans, Hungarians and Italians prior to the seize-fire. However, now the
communist Tito Partisans presented a greater danger to the Kingdom of
Yugoslavia and were considered the more dangerous enemy since they knew that
the Germans would leave after the war but the communist would stay put.
By 1942 the fight between the communist on one side and the royal loyal
patriots of the King had inflamed throughout the country. The German
occupational forces watched this development of the battles between the
Yugoslavian rivals for some time without getting involved. But after communist
gangs on order of Stalin began to sabotage factories of German suppliers and
transport installation in the Banat and
Batschka, they saw themselves committed to interfere and formed defensive
units to protect the Banat and recruited their men for military duty.
The action by the partisan had been extended to the Banat, Batschka and
Slovenia and as protection of the territories against Partisans and safety of
the civilians in the region the 7th SS-Volunteer Mountain Unit Prince Eugene
was formed and it was the Danube Swabian men from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia,
which were pressed into uniforms involuntarily. The Prince Eugene Division was
the first division, to which the attribute “Volunteer Unit” was attached too.
With this attribute “Volunteer” the International agreement was circumvented
which states: “that a country may not draft soldiers from another country into
their army”. The Danube Swabians from Yugoslavia were forced to serve like any
other German from the “Reich” and to refuse this order was punishable the same
way as any other nation had a right too. Certainly there were also ethnic
Germans in the unit ranks who felt compelled and committed to serve for the
cause and to protect themselves and their land from being vandalized by the
communist terrorist groups and invisible Partisan troops.
It is correct to assume that it is against the law of nations to force men
from occupied countries to participate in the defense against their own
country. However, the ethnic Germans of Yugoslavia did not fight against Royal
Yugoslavia; they were active against the communist terrorist the very same the
“Kings Loyalists” were fighting as well and it must be looked as helping their
countrymen fight a common enemy the “Communist Tito Partisans Terrorists” not
yet even recognized as the official government of the Yugoslavia.
The troops formed in Yugoslavia from Yugoslavia’s men in German uniforms
according to Article 43 of the “Haager Resolution” governing the rights of
countries during a war, saw themselves compelled in view of the attacks on
civilian installation within Yugoslavia, to reestablish law and order. In
addition according to law of nation an occupational force must provide law and
order in an occupied country regardless whether they entered the country
rightfully or not.
The position and the situation of the political developments were discussed
and explained in details at a conference in Belgrade by Major Upenkamp
military commander of the occupational force to the Serbian administrators in
which he also pointed out that the actions taken by the occupier is within the
parameters of the “Haager Resolution” and as such fully justified and work in
the support of the interest of the Serbian population loyal to the King till
the end of their occupation. It became quite clear to ethnic Germans in
Yugoslavia if the communists Tito’s Partisans would win against the Kings
Loyalists their private property would be confiscated and Russian type
“Kolkhozes” established on it.
The ethnic German recruits followed the explanation by the authorities and
were aware about the reasons presented to them. They were not acting against
the Yugoslavian Kingdom or against the interest of the King to whom they would
have been loyal too and thus would not violate any laws as outlined in the
The communist Partisans under the leadership of Josip Broz “Tito” (= Tajna
Internationalna Teroristicka Organizatcia/Secrete International Terrorist
Organization) at this time it is not identical with the later internationally
recognized “Foderativen Jugoslawischen Republik” (Federation of the
Yugoslavian Republic). The Partisan units did not represent the Kingdom
Yugoslavia at that time. The legal representation of Yugoslavia was the exiled
King in London and his administration in
Yugoslavia. The exiled administration in London did not recognize the
leadership of the partisans as the rightful representative of the country. The
King however recognized the royal General Draza Mihajlovic and named him as
Minister of War on June 18th 1943 in order to act on behalf of the King. This
situation in Yugoslavia was in effect till May 15th 1944 when the exile
government was reorganized, but even then the communist under Tito were not
recognized by the government of
Yugoslavia in exile.
The government in exile was in constant communication with the German
occupational administration and did not fight against the Germans but they
fought together with the Germans against the communist partisans their common
enemy. The Danube Swabians saw a need to support their King and the action
against the communist Partisans as fully legal and according to the laws of
the land; they were not and did not do anything, which would be punishable.
What they did was in the interest of the “Law and protection of the Country”
established in 1922, which was still in place and not that of the Tito
Partisans. Only after strong pressures from Britain, did the King during a
radio speech on September 12th 1944 taken a somewhat different position. Until
that date King Peter refused to speak to Tito or to his Partisans.
The leadership of the Partisans was aware of this and because of all their
efforts they did not receive the recognition to represent Yugoslavia from the
exiled government therefore they ousted the exile Government of Yugoslavia in
London on their second day of their “Antifasiticko Vece Narodnog Oslobodjenja
Tribunal for the Liberation of Yugoslavia”) conference in Jajce, Bosnia on
November 29th 1943 in which they forbade King Peter to return to Yugoslavia
and decided to reorganize the country into the “Federation of the Yugoslavian
Republic”. Several of the royal ministers were accused as criminals and
sentenced as such. The Royal Minister of War General Draza Mihajlovic who was
recognized as the representative of the king until May 15th 1944 was captured
and tried after the war in Belgrade as traitor and executed.
From all the facts presented the Tito Partisans were units operating as
illegal organization in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia during the war and as such
were not protected under international law nor did they recognize and observe
the international laws of wars, established under the “Haager Resolution”.
This is why the Danube Swabian men who followed the draft into the “Waffen-SS
Division Prinz Eugen” and fought against the enemy of the King did not commit
any wrongdoing against the Yugoslavian law by fighting against the Tito
Partisans. All the communist organizations were illegal in Yugoslavia
according to the “Law for the Protection of the State” from 1922 until
September 12th 1944 (speech of King Peter). There is nothing, which could
change that fact, not even the speech by Churchill of May 25th 1944 where he
was outspoken against the King’s decision not to support Tito, although
England and Russia supplied the terrorist organization with weapons so that
they could tie up the German troops in the Balkan.
When on November 21st 1944 by declaration of the AVNOJ (“Antifascist Tribunal
for the Liberation of Yugoslavia”) Resolutions by the Communist Tito Partisan,
stating that all ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia will have their citizenships
revoked, and declared every person of ethnic German decent enemies of
Yugoslavia and their property declared property of the state of Yugoslavia,
they had no right to do so. In other words the ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia
lost all their rights by this decree and thus it became legal to do what they
pleased with the ethnic Germans even murder them.
The ethnic Germans in the Prince Eugene Division had as one can see now, a
rightful duty to fight along with the Kings Loyalist against Tito Partisans,
as we saw the political situation develop. The idea of expelling all ethnic
Germans was not a new one and was often said by Tito that the ethnic Germans
should have been expelled already after WWI. As it becomes clear now Tito’s
excuse that the Danube Swabians were traitors of their country can not be
accepted, but was only a convenient excuse to disown the ethnic Germans and
settle his loyal men who stood at his side on the confiscated Danube Swabian
property and he fueled their rage with false propaganda, to make his followers
take revenge against innocent ethnic Germans.
Because of the AVNOJ Resolutions the Danube Swabians in the Prince Eugene
Division now no longer citizens of Yugoslavia, were given German citizenship
by declaration of the Third Reich and now as such came under all the rights of
the Haager War Resolutions as Germans.
The aftermath for the Danube Swabian soldiers were the same as the other
German soldiers who after May 1945 capitulated to the allied troops in the
region between Rann and Zagreb and laid down their weapons and should have had
the same rights as any other German soldiers. Without seeking their identity
the Tito Partisans
selected 3,500 soldiers and simply butchered them in the cruelest ways totally
ignoring the rights of a POW. These were war crimes, which never were
The Danube Swabian men in the 7th Waffen SS Prinz Eugen Volunteer Mountain
Division as the only Donauschwaben division ever organized drew a fate no
other military unit in the German Wehrmacht did experience. The Donauschwaben
who settled after the Turkish war in the Hungarian part of the Austrian Empire
during the three Great Swabian Migration periods served in the military units
of the Royal Imperial K&K army of Austrian Empire, which later became
Austria-Hungary, the Hungarian Honvéd, the Romanian army and the Yugoslavian
Royal Army but only once did they served as a Unit in their own cause. The
Unit marked as ‘Volunteer’ unit to circumvent the “Haager Resolution” the
governing the laws of nations during war times established at the Geneva
Convention were for the most part rubberstamped volunteers among actual
The unit comprised of farmers and craftsmen would see action in the mountains
and valleys of Bosnia, Dalmatia, the Herzegovina and Montenegro. An invisible
enemy who fought disregarding all established laws of war during the Geneva
Convention continually opposed them. The partisans in civilian clothes
attacked from ambush positions and did not take prisoner but killed their
captured soldiers by torturing them first and then literally butchering them.
A young medical student assigned to a German Medical Unit was an involuntary
eyewitness of such Partisan’s cruelties time and time again. They found
corpses with open bellies, limps and sex parts cut off. The reports of
cruelties committed by the Tito Partisans as told by this eyewitness
were committed without mercy and are a disgrace to humanity.
During the later stages of the war the unit saw action against the Red Army
moving forward from Romania and Bulgaria to cover the retreat of the German
Army in the Balkans. They sacrificed their lives and fought valiantly against
world communism much like the American GI’s in Korea and Vietnam. They were
killed in action, murdered by Tito’s Partisans and only very few of them
survived. Their homeland would be overrun by the Russians on October 2nd 1944,
then by the Tito’s Partisans who created havoc among the unprotected civilian
ethnic German populations and their relatives, rounding up many and setting up
tribunal style court hearings on open fields outside of towns torturing them
and then killing them without mercy.
One of the examples took place in the
field between the towns of Filipowa and Hodschag where 212 men found a cruel
death without mercy; one after the other was tortured and then butchered in
front of the others who had to watch the proceedings wondering who would be
next. Only one was able to escape through the firewall, which was created
around them by shear luck to tell the story. The irony however is that the
town of Filipowa was one of the most religious towns in the Donauschwaben
regions which produced an abundance of priests and nuns.
The Danube Swabian civilian population in the area had extremely difficult
times to flee across the Theiss River as a result of this, they became subject
of persecution by the Tito’s Partisans. They were expelled from their homes
and incarcerated into death camps and thousands lost their lives.
Nenad Stefanovic, a young Serbian author,
brought this to light in his book; “A people on the Danube” what was a history
distorted by the communist government after the war for over half a century.
The men from the Prince Eugene Division learned of the tragedy their family
had to face and continued their fight without hope. When the capitulation came
and the end in Carinthia, Krain and Croatia, instead of being treated as POW’s
with all of the rights they should have received they were betrayed and
murdered by the thousands by Tito’s Partisans. Some of them were driven into
ravines, ditches or had to dig their own graves prior of being executed. There
were also reports of 5-6 soldiers being tied together and thrown into the Save
River where they drowned.
Finally the so called revenge march of German POW’s who surrendered in the
regions of Cilli and Ljubljana were driven towards Belgrade some 750 o 800
kilometers away without food or water and most of them poorly dressed, some
without shoes because they were robed of their clothes and shoes by Serbian
civilian gangs. Those who fell behind because of illness or weakness were
driven on by various ways of mistreatments till they collapsed and died. The
mistreatment partly ordered by the Partisan leaders and tolerated by the
victors. Their treatments were „Criminal Acts against prisoners of war”
punishable under the war criminal acts, but they were never enforced the world
organizations in Communist Yugoslavia as they should have been.
The POW survivors from this march were taken to the coalmines of Bor in Serbia
and again they were exposed to inhumane conditions, which took more lives.
That some of them did actually survive is a miracle attributed to their
unyielding willpower and determination and will to live against all odds. Many
of the leaders among the soldiers were executed for even the smallest trumped
up charges so revenge could be taken against them. This explains the reason of
why only a few of the Division survived the ordeals placed upon them.
This ends one of the most unheralded
military units of all time who severed their country faithfully.
May we remember them in our prayers in all