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Željko Zidarić
3rd-June-2012, 08:11 PM
Zvonko Z. Springer, Salzburg 1999.

Note: My native language is Croatian but I do communicate in English and German adequately.
My name is Zvonko - being the short form of ZVONIMIR. Most of old Croatian names are ending at "-MIR" which means peace. Thus, "Zvonimir" translated in English would mean "Bell-ringer for peace". This name belonged to one of the Croats' most prominent King Dmitar Zvonimir (1074-1089).

I was born June 1925 in Osijek, a large town on River Drava some 25 kilometers upstream of its confluence into Danube. One had celebrated the coronation millenium of Duke Tomislav who became the first King of Croatia Independent State. A young linden-tree (a sacred tree to most Slavic tribes) has been planted on this occasion. The tree grows had suffered severely during Serbs' dominance which started after the end of World War I. in 1918.

At the time of my youth was the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (King Alexander I. assassinated in Marseilles 1934) followed by the so called Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in 1941 until the end of World War II in 1945. Then it became Marshall Tito's Federal National Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ).



I was 16 years old when the German Armies attacked Yugoslavia on Apr 6th 1941. I remember the day the German Army marched through my hometown Osijek. Many people cheered and some had an armband with a 'swastika' on their upper arm. There were many citizens of German origin who lived in this region known as the "Danube Swabians". I was fascinated and mesmerized by this event too although I would learn soon what anxieties and dangers lie ahead.

I made my baccalaureate at the Male Real-Gymnasium in Osijek in summer of 1943. Few months later I was called to join Croatian Home Guard's service (Hrvatski Domobran). I went for a training to become an artillery officer and had joined a fighting unit in Osijek at end of 1944. Poglavnik Ante Pavelic who was a Nazi's Quisling ruled the Croatian State (1941-1945). Thus, Croatian Home Guard's units had fought together with the Ustasas (State's political army wing) on the site of German Army against Allied Forces in Word War II.
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I was a teenager without any life experience facing situations and conditions through all those critical years of war. What would it be like being shot and injured, mutilated or caught as a Prisoner-of-War? How one does wait for the final deathblow? How will one know when the death comes?

In the following years I've experienced primordial fears and have learned about instincts of survival. Often I have sensed death knell as the death's scythe swished over my body. Also I have survived the intentional massacres of Croatians by Tito's Yugoslav Army in 1945. The "Ethnic cleansing" - the symbol for crimes against humanity in recent years - is nothing new as it has happened before. The survivors of the Bleiburg tragedy and Croatian Death Marches had been subjugated to in 1945 already.



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Early May 1945 the Croatian Army and civilians were withdrawing westwards through Slovenia with the objective to reach the Allies' units. Many Croatian soldiers and civilians had reached to British Army units and were stopped at Bleiburg on May 13, 1945. Few days later the British Command had turned over all their Prisoners of War to Tito's military units. Following this betrayal the Croats were forced to walk onto their many death marches. The Croats were indiscriminately massacred along these many routes particularly in May and June of 1945. I might write about the Bleiburg Tragedy and Death Marches some other time.

I lost many relatives and close friends of our family who lived mostly in Croatia and few in Austria too. All of them - who were either detained for political reasons or abducted to some of the concentration camps because of their origin of faith - died sooner or later during WWII. Many thousands died in various camps and many more never could return to their homes. Tito's military and his new Yugoslav Government did not care at all for Peoples whom they fought against.



Remember that the prejudice has been part of any fascists' system but the communists' one wasn't better either. Why was this happening? Oh, how can I answer this? Better one should put such question to politicians and economists, leaders and preachers who always guide their herds of sheep to an unknown destiny and to new historical Catastrophes. Do sheep ask the shepherd where he leads them at any time?

I have buried deep in my subconscious my rather traumatic experiences of those terrible times as of war aftermath. I have forgot my happy childhood - I hardly ever talked about them to anybody. I had many nightmares too but never mentioned them even to my dearest ones. Only my wife has learned about few of my deep buried experiences. However, very rarely we had exchanged more than few sentences about those events in 1945. It was the TABOO THEME under the communists' regime of Tito's Yugoslavia.

After the Home War in 1991 Croatians had won their new freedom and sovereignty early in 1992. The Republic of Croatia is a worldwide-recognized state now. The Croatians have got the chance to rule in their own way now. This chance has come to them after 9 centuries of fighting for and domination by others.

Few times I have been asked to say in two words what did this War lead me to? My answer would be:

IRRECOVERABLE WASTE

of:
lives - youths - loves - ideal - thoughts - energies - values - valuables - natural beauties and many things more.

I believe that you have learned a little about of my life's history by now. Could you try to understand those circumstances and events that have stamped a teenager's last years? The teenager has lost more than half of his weight in a month time. He has become a human wreck when he got rescued from a marching column on his 20th birthday. Yes, I have been reborn but my traumatic experiences made me a more sensible, thoughtful and wise grayed young man.

Ernst R. Hauschka (German essayist, *1926) stated once:
ONLY AFTER SURVIVING THE DARKEST HOURS CAN WE HAVE AN INKLING OF WHAT RESURRECTION MEANS.

My spirit's determination and destiny with some of luck had been the ruling factor me returning home and to my family. There were not many colleagues or friends left after the horrors of War subsided. Only now, after more than 50 years, I've met very few with whom I could freely exchange memories and stories of our common past.




I have been raised in a burger's family and was too often ill. Since early childhood I had problems with asthma which is coming back at my old age. I had labored with dangerous angina's (throat illness) until war's times. I was a rather sensitive and not-emancipated young man of a markedly minority complex. All these certainly weren't a very constructive approach for those traumatic events of 1945.

After the POWs' General Amnesty in August 1945 we could return to our homes. Only then could I start with my first study. I had graduated at the Faculty of Civil Engineering, University of Zagreb (Croatia) early 1952. I got the diploma of a "Dipl.Ing." which corresponds about to a B.Sc./M.Sc. after 5 years of designer's and construction engineer's practice. We have married in June 1951 before my graduation and first employment. I've had 35-year long rather interesting international and rewarding engineer's profession. Some 15 years I have been lecturing first as assistant at my home Faculty in Zagreb until 1961 and later at Khartoum (Sudan) until 1964.
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I could not advance in my profession or get any promotions when I reached my 36-year age by 1961. This became evident because of my eyewitness' life history of 1945. That is why we my wife and only daughter had left Yugoslavia for good in 1961. First we lived in Khartoum where I was teaching at the Khartoum Technical Institute as Senior Lecturer on a 3-year contract. We stayed together in the Sudan from early 1962 until late 1964.

After that contract expired I got a job in a private business enterprise of the leading Cement manufacturer in Kenya. The following years in Kenya were for us the "Golden Years" until I have been transferred to Salzburg early 1967. There I have started organizing a Design Office for the same Swiss Parent Company. The Design Office "CIPAG" has specialized in the various designs for Cement Industries' requirements. During my times as the Director Civil Engineer of CIPAG we have designed and supervised construction of several new Cement Works in Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria in Africa, Brazil and Venezuela in South America and on Sumatra (Indonesia). There were many lesser projects to be dealt with like in USA, on several States on the Arabic Peninsula and on several Islands in Indian Ocean.



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We have got the Austrian citizenship and moved to our newly built house on Oak Hill in 1973. Our only daughter Vesna had finished the secondary education and continued with her studies for a BA. at the Salzburg University. Four years later she became Lecturer at the Girls' Gymnasium of St. Ursula in Salzburg - the same schools she has visited as from 1967. Vesna married her former colleague from Upper Austria. Now, Leo is co-director of a Real estate Office in Salzburg. They have two children: Christoph 17 and Maria Klara 7 years old as per 1998.

The Parent Company decided to close down CIPAG's business for good end 1987. I have experienced the fast development of computers since early 1960s during my structural engineer's times. It had started all with pocketsize computers when in 1970s the computer's architecture underwent dramatic changes with PCs' which have enabled those many uses in designs and construction works.



During my professional years I never had the time or chances of using this DEVIL's TOOL (= my synonym for "PC" created in 1993). As a "Gentleman of Leisure" I have decided to start with my second studies at grandfather's age. I got that chance in 1988 and I have started studies at the Institute of Computer science & System Analysis (COSY) of University Salzburg. Thus, I can keep my gray cells staying active.

I have had rather mixed feelings about how a "Gentleman of Leisure" should behave when he is not working or earning anymore. First of all, I do not have to true prove to myself or to anybody else what I am doing. What I do is for my own satisfaction and for my active participation in every day's life. Whether it's done for honor or for money depends entirely upon the circumstances. See now, what a "Whiz Kid over 70" has learned how to use or work with this Devil's tool.

We, the Elders, should remember that we heard our first music from shellacs disks on a "His Master's Voice" gramophone with exchangeable needles. Some of us have built radios with quartz crystals too. Through our 70+ years of life we have experienced that fantastic advancement in Information Technology (IT). There are very few of us who have our own experiences from the World War II. Now, we got the chance benefiting the Information Technology but we must have the will to and the stamina to learn how to do it. We could use it for our own activities, advantages and last not least for fun and our happiness.



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Pablo Cassals (Spanish Master of Violoncello) said once: "The dying starts the moment one starts working".

John Knittel (Author) thought about this too saying: "One gets old, when one finds more joy in the past than what would bring the future".

As the last, few words from Grillparzer (Austrian author): "I always have the need occupying myself with any matter of a study. With this knack I can steadily enjoy the after-taste of a childhood at man's age. Thus, I'd stay young, I do hope, until the last two hours of my life come".

Which do you like most? FOR ME IS THE LAST ONE THE MOST VALID.




Memories of a Croatian Soldier - Zvonko's Life Story
DISCLAIMER : On URL: http://www.cosy.sbg.ac.at/~zzspri/
published pages are originals and authorized by copyright of
Email Zvonko Springer at : zzspri@aon.at

Željko Zidarić
3rd-June-2012, 08:33 PM
Introduction


On August 15, 1945 I returned to my hometown Osijek from a POW's camp for officers of the Croatian Home Guard (Hrvatski Domobran) at Kovin at East Vojvodina (Serbia). I left Osijek as Junior Lieutenant in a Howitzer Battery on April 13, 1945, which joined in the withdrawal of Croatian Army and civilian population westward. The constant pressure of the Yugoslav Army forced the Croatians to leave their country by May 8 on the Day of Armistice. They marched onwards through Slovenia in the attempt to surrender to the Allied Forces that were in Carinthia (Austria) already. The bulk of Croatians crossed over Drava River and some surrendered to the British Army that extradited them to Tito's Army near Bleiburg by May 15, 1945. The Howitzer Battery was late to cross Drava at Dravograd so I decided as only officer left to lead remaining servicemen into captivity.

From a temporary POW's camp at nearby Slovenjgradec some 40.000 POWs started their Death March on May 17 that the majority did not end alive. I marched mostly barefoot some 500 km and reaching Osijek after 16 extremely arduous and merciless days on June 2nd loosing half my body weight. My foot soles were just a wound and the body a physically ruin but mentally I was very badly injured. As the eyewitness and survivor of the Death March I would be stigmatized for the rest of my life.

Autobiographic annotations prepared by Zvonko Springer (ZS), Anif (Salzburg), prior to writing the manuscript titled "RE-EDUCATION or Four Months in the Life of a Young Man" during 1984/5.

General Notes:
Item 1.: Author served as a Lieutenant-Junior in 1st Domobran Battery of the 1st Ustaski Zdrug stationed in Osijek (Croatia) since Christmas 1944. The 1st Battery had Czech-made four howitzers of 100-mm bore drawn by horse's teams. A heavy-armed infantry company had been attached to the 100 men strong artillery unit which had some 60 horses too.

Item 2.: Croatian place's names are written with characters without Apostrophes on so called hard consonants.

Item 3.: Since leaving Osijek on April 13, 1945 the 1st Battery was constantly moving westward and making a total marching distance of approx. 525 km

SYNOPSIS

By early April 1945, the eastern front of Croatia was under strong pressure from Tito's partisan units, now called the People's Liberation Army of Yugoslavia (NOV). The Independent State of Croatia (NDH) had a fascist government led by Poglavnik Dr. Ante Pavelic and proponents of Ustasa political regime had formed an alliance with Hitler Germany in April 1941.

North my hometown of Osijek the Russian armies were advancing through Hungary and, joined by the newly formed Bulgarian and Hungarian People's Armed forces, were on their way to Vienna in Austria already. Early April 1945 the German bridgehead on Drava River some 40 kilometers up_river from Osijek collapsed without much notice by the town's population. One was used having the actual front line along Drava River during past four months. In the morning of April 13, 1945 we learned that the 1st Domobran Battery of howitzers was ordered to ready to move out.

I had joined this Domobran unit late in December 1944 as a Junior Lieutenant and my first duty was of an advanced observer to become Officer in charge of the guns later. I did have time to call upon my parents before we moved out of Osijek. All my efforts were in vain to avoid the retreat with the battery. I had hoped either to establish a contact with the partisans in order to join them or finding a stead to hide until the war was over. Fear of endangering my family made both of possibilities unrealistic. Early evening of April 13, I left my hometown with the Battery marching south at first, but turning west and back to the front line of the Drava River the next day.


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The Franciscan Street in Fortress of Osijek
OZNA 3 Military Police's Dungeons in the ex-Franciscan Cloister

In airplane attack at Nasice my horse was mortally wounded and I had to shoot it. My only school colleague also a Junior Lieutenant in the Battery had deserted too. The Croatian Army's retreat westwards as it had been declared officially had been turning gradually into a general exodus. The traffic on roads thickened with fleeing civilians and other units of the Croatian and German Armies. Near Mali Grdjevac, about halfway between Osijek and Zagreb, the Battery was involved in a fierce night battle with an unidentified enemy. Here I have had a very close escape from my exposed observation post from which I had been directing the gunfire during that night. On another occasion near Zabno I had nearly escaped to be captured by the enemy again. I had been out at the observation post when I was very nearly cut off from Battery by the approaching partisans' unit.

Late afternoon on May 8th the Battery left Krizevci marching out on a road leading further North of Zagreb. Yugoslav Peoples' Army had liberated Zagreb the Croatian capital that same day. Soon after leaving we have learned that the war was over in Europe too. Now everyone's hope was to rush westwards in order to surrender to any Western Allies' unit rather than to Russians or Bulgarians. Thus the Croatian retreat went on into Slovenia.

At our heels from East were the Partisans including some units of Yugoslav People's Army following and pushing at us The Russians and Bulgarians were just across Drava River North of us. Some Croatian army units in particular of the Ustasas made several attempts to break through from the constantly closing trap around us. The Croatian politicians and high rank civilians followed in the general exodus hoping to get alive into American or British captivity. We heard from hearsay about massacres of Croatians who had managed crossing Drava River at Dravograd. Some British Army units at Bleiburg had sent back thousands of Croats who surrendered to them by handing them over to Tito's Army units.

The Battery's commander left without any instruction or even notice on the afternoon of May 14th. Some time afterwards I had decided to surrender to the Partisans feeling that it was our best choice under the prevailing circumstances. I hoped to be taken and treated like a Prisoner of War in accordance to the Geneva Convention after all. Tito's Peoples Army had offered safe conduct to all Domobran' POW pared to desert the fascist regime in Croatia before. I had ordered to leave behind about a hundred horses, obliterate all ammunition and dismantle the four howitzers. After the midnight I led Battery's service men back along the road we had come several hours before.

At the wee-hours I have all surrendered in pitch darkness to an almost invisible Liberator's unit well before daybreak of May 15. At dawn I put on some of civilian cloth or rather what one called "mufti", a mixture of civvies and uniform. In due course I lost almost all of my belongings including my spare boots in an enforced "exchange of goods" by several armed and shabby clothed "liberators". Later we had been marched back to Slovenjgradec arriving there in an immense orchard turned into an open-air camp. The orchard was full to the bream with thousands of Prisoners of War.

On May 17, 1945 the roughly 40.000 prisoners were ordered to leave that camp thus starting their Death March later to be known as the CRUCIFIXION WAY OF CROATS. From the very beginning we were subjected to enormous physical strain, nearly unbearable hunger and thirst. Cruel and ruthless attacks by the guards and the hostile population resulted in very many Croats' casualty on route. Whoever came through was badly broken in body and spirit. When horrors of World War II had ended in Europe the Croats had still to endure many more and even worse of horrors. Too many persons died of weakness and desperation, others were simply murdered in following days and weeks after the Piece reined in Europe already.

Near Celje I lost my riding boots in another of many forced "exchanges". Unable to find any footwear I walked over 450 kilometers in bare feet sometimes wrapped in bandages whenever I could find any suitable material. I have begged for food, for water, for a piece of cloth endlessly. I have cried and cursed my fate, cursed on all individuals in power and on the whole humanity too. At the age of barely 20 years i have seen people collapse and perish, stealing from and hurting indiscriminately weak ones, to torture and kill recklessly and cold-bloodedly.


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Zvonko pointing to a closed airvent of the
OZN3 prison's underground cell he was shut in.

I have also seen heroism, commiseration and pity in few cases. I have met people who helped me without thinking of the danger for them. I have met a group of women in Daruvar who by sheer courage and determination forced our guards allowing them to make our suffering more bearable. In a group of some twenty former Domobran officers reached Osijek on June 2, 1945 after 16 days of forced deadly march at last. We were still Prisoners of War and were told having to pass a certain RE-EDUCATION prior to become acceptable as officer in JNA. We were all considered to be War Criminals without any trials or even inquiry.


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The Watergate from inside of the Citadel fortification wall.
Engraving by J. Gojkovic 1939.

On my 20th birthday my father managed to extract me from the marching column and have me transferred into custody of OZNA 3, the military political police, for further interrogation. There I have found the luxury of a cell to myself with a dry wooden floor to sleep on. At first I was treated as a War criminal until few days later after hours of interrogation which ended me writing down my CV. Few weeks later I was told that I would be going to an unknown place for a re-education. After passing such a course I could be accepted serving as an officer of Yugoslav People's Army. After a month's imprisonment in dungeons of the Old Fort of Osijek I was transferred to a POW's camp at distant East of Serbia. In spite of weighing half of what I had been before I was slowly feeling better especially when I met few former comrades among prisoners in POW's camp at Kovin.

The time of the so-called "re-education" passed at Kovin camp fairly quickly. There i have regained some of my physical well being but in spirit I was badly wounded. Therefore I have decided to obliterate all memory of the past four months of living at the bottom rung of humanity. I was fully aware that I did survive an ethnical cleansing or genocide in 1945. On 14th August I could leave POWs' camp at Kovin following the AVNOJ's Amnesty (Antifascist Council of Peoples' Liberation of Yugoslavia) of August 3, 1945. Free at last I was on my way home but not freed of my bitter memories.


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Zvonko standing in front of the Water gate inside the Citadel of Osijek September 1999.

Forty years later, I decided to put them down in writing the manuscript titled "RE-EDUCATION or Four Months in the Life of a Young Man" in the years 1984/5. Thus freed myself of all bitterness but also with the aim of telling the following generations about war's cruelties and brutalities, which could trigger off in any person. Another fifteen years later I wrote this book in Croatian considerable changes in political and social occurred in my home country. I do hope that young Croatian generations would learn about the destinies of their grandfathers and fathers of which they never have heard or learned anything about.



CROATIAN ARMY'S WITHDRAWAL ROUTE WESTWARD in 1945


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Retreat route westward of the 1st Domobran Battery leaving OSIJEK on 13th April and arriving to Krizevci on 6th May 1945. Battery left Krizevci on 8th May 1945 continuing its march via Lepoglava and Krapina to Slovenia.
13.04.1945 FRIDAY

Begin of the Croatian Army's withdrawal from Osijek. The 1st Domobran Battery moved out of its station from its battle station at a nursery on Cepinska road in outskirts of Osijek by late afternoon. The Battery's commander is Captain Matijevic where as Ustaski Colonel Stier is C.C.O. of 1st Ustaski Zdrug. Both officers were in command until the Battery's crew surrender few kilometers short of Dravograd (Slovenia) on 15.05.1945. During the night the Battery passed Cepin - Cepinski Martinci - Poganovci - Budinci and arrived after a travel distance of:40 km

14.04.1945 SATURDAY

Short of Podgorac two howitzers were engaged in a brief fire action near the crossroad from Djakovo. March continued on road to Nasice. At 11 a.m. aircraft's attack hit hard the Battery passing through Nasice causing considerable loss of equipment, supplies and several horses. Had to kill my badly injured riding horse "Zelenko". Dispersed Battery congregated slowly on road to Donja Moticina and getting re-organized at village Fericanci. Traveled distance of: 22 km

15.04.1945 SUNDAY

Battery went into a temporary fighting station near a school in Fericanci. Lieutenant-junior Zorko Kurjakovic (school's comrade) did not return to Battery after that air-attack in Nasice of yesterday. Moved approx. distance of: 2 km

16.04.1945 MONDAY

Early morning Battery moved out from Fericanci towards Cacinci. Moving on main road passed Mikleus - Nova Bukovica and went to a new battle station in Podravska Slatina. Travelled distance of: 36 km

17.04.1945 TUESDAY

Fortifying battle station in Podravska Slatina. Moved around: 2 km

18.04.1945 WEDNESDAY

Kept the same station in Podravska Slatina. Moved approx.: 1 km

19.04.1945 THURSDAY

Moved out of the station and left Podravska Slatina late morning. Travel on main road passing Sladojevci - Cabuna and turned off it short of Suhopolje to get settled in a near-by farm of "Borovo Polje". Battery went into a new battle position close to the road Pcelic - Suhopolje. Travel distance of: 22 km

20.04.1945 FRIDAY

Fortifying battle station. Repair of equipment, replenish store and provisions. Adjunct of horse teams and yoke pairs due to occurred losses. Movements approx.: 3 km

21.04.1945 SATURDAY

Stay at same battle station of "Borovo Polje". Moved about: 2 km

22.04.1945 SUNDAY

Continue repairs and re-organizing Battery's complement. No movement.

23.04.1945 MONDAY

Morning same as day before. Preparations started for next leg of withdrawal by late afternoon. Total movements about: 4 km

24.04.1945 TUESDAY

At late afternoon Battery returned to main road and continued its march in direction to Suhopolje. Passed through town Virovitica during night traveling a distance of: 13 km

25.04.1945 WEDNESDAY

Battery continued marching through Spisic Bukovica - Lozan - Stari Gradac - Pitomaca - Kladare to stop at Klostar for a stop. Day's movements about: 20 km

26.04.1945 THURSDAY

From Klostar Battery moved onwards on main road and erred at a crossroad during night. On a village's narrow road one had to turn all heavy horse-drawn vehicles and returned to Pitomaca. From there it continued on a narrow earth-beaten road towards village Sedlarica. Battery's made a toilsome and burdensome passage over Bilogora's Hills (288 m) on rain softened earthen road during whole morning. Horse-teams got help from local oxen teams. Battery arrived in Velika Pisanica late afternoon. Moved approx.: 33 km

27.04.1945 FRIDAY

Only Battery's battle parts proceeded via Drljanovac (on brook Cesma) and Veliki Grdjevac to take into a battle station in Mali Grdjevac. ZS was ordered to an observer's outpost close at the forest's edge overlooking brook Grdjevica valley and opposite of village Velika Barna on a hill ridge. ZS was left alone, as the Battery's only officer ordering and coordinating howitzer's fire. Travel distance to village of Mali Grdjevac was: 17 km

28.04.1945 SATURDAY

During that night from 27th to 28th enemy had been attacking from direction of Velika Barna many times. Enemy's aim was crossing brook Grdjevica and to advance on Grdjevica's villages. A total of 22 enemy's attacks had been repelled until dawn when attacks had stopped. Early morning the only phone link to guns' station got lost. Observer's post had to be evacuated and four of us had a runaway from outpost to reach retreating howitzers just on time. Guns joined Battery's convoy at Veliki Grdjevac from where all marched on via Drljanovac - Severin - Prespa arriving to town Bjelovar late at night. Movements amounted to: 26 km

29.04.1945 SUNDAY

Battery had a short respite at Bjelovar. Moved about: 3 km

30.05.1945 MONDAY

Late afternoon Battery had been ordered to move out of Bjelovar and marched during night through Predavac and Rovisce arriving at day

01.05.1945 TUESDAY

to town Zabno about mid afternoon. Battery stayed here over night waiting further instructions. Marched distance: 22 km

02.05.1945 WEDNESDAY

The Battery's battle unit left Zabno at mid morning and returned to a near-by village Crikvena. A new battle position had been arranged within village's compounds. Moved about: 6 km

03.05.1945 THURSDAY

Whole day spent at the battle position in Crikvena. No movement.

04.05.1945 FRIDAY

No changes of Battery's station - waited without firing a shot!

05.05.1945 SATURDAY

During night as for the past two days nothing happened. Not clear where is the front line. At lunchtime unaccounted enemies units approached Crikvena from east. Alarmed Battery's battle unit moved out of Crikvena at once, as there were not any defending infantry units around. An aircraft flew twice over Battery on its hurried way back to Crikvena but it did not attack. Battery's unit got safely back to Zabno. Now completed Battery's convoy proceeded instantly from Zabno via Bukovje towards town Krizevci marching whole night. Total movements approximately: 30 km

06.05.1945 SUNDAY

Later in the morning Battery arrived and occupied its new battle position on a hill northwest of Krizevci overlooking its railway station there. Other Battery's convoy parts found a respite at nearby farm North of road Krizevci - Orehovac. Howitzers did some periodical firing far beyond and over Krizevci. Moved: 5 km

07.05.1945 MONDAY

Whole day Battery in battle position above Krizevci. Continued with periodical firing activity. Observed destruction of railway tracks by a locomotive pulling a special plow approaching Krizevci railway station from direction of Zagreb. No movements.

08.05.1945 TUESDAY

Continuation of erratic fires activities. There isn't any traffic going towards Zagreb anymore. Late afternoon Battery pulled out of its battle station and was joined by service outfit moving westward on road out of Krizevci. During whole night continued retreat passing through Orehovac - Vukovec - Sudovec and crossing Kalnik Mountain. Night marching distance amounted to about: 23 km

09.05.1945 WEDNESDAY

Next morning arrived to Novi Marof (bridge over river Lonja) and continued through Presecno - Kneginec towards Varazdin. However convoy turned off that road reaching Varazdinski Brijeg and continued marching to Cresnjevo - Tuzno - Straznjevci. Later crossed on a rather narrow road-bypassing mountain Ivanscica (1061 m)and proceeded through Ivanec - Lepoglava - Golubovec to Risek. In an incident had to restore using force of arms at marauding soldiers from one of howitzers team. They abused an old woman and tried to pillage her vineyard's hut. At village Radoboja returned to main road arriving to Krapina town late afternoon. Several of rioting soldiers in that incident wanted to execute me as of "cooperating with partisans" but everything settled amicably after. Battery stopped for a badly needed repose at a field west of Krapina town. General retreat of Croatian armed units and civilians is in full swing. During that longest day's march covered about: 70 km

10.05.1945 THURSDAY

Later that morning Battery continued retreating masses marching westwards from Krapine to Djurmanec and Sv.Rok (river Sutla). Here we crossed into Slovenia and continued onwards via Rogatec and Rogaska Slatina reaching village Potplat sometime at night. Made very slow progress of some: 19 km

11.05.1945 FRIDAY

Inexorable retreat continued from Potplat on main road to Smarje p.J. - Sv.Vid - Sentjur - Store za Teharje. March continued at slow pace with erratic stops in that universal mass retreat. Day's march about: 41 km

12.05.1945 SATURDAY

At dawn approached Celje town that Battery's convoy transverses during morning. Without stopping in town marched slowly onwards on main road towards Petrovac and reached Velenje at night. Entered narrow valley of brook Paka moving relentlessly to Dolic. Heard about some severe clashes in front to open road westwards. In a strenuous day's march made about: 35 km

13.05.1945 SUNDAY

Passed Smartno (place of recent heavy fighting) and passed narrow gorge of Mislinja brook reaching town Slovenjgradec later at morning. Battery's convoy stopped short of Pamece where howitzers took to their last battle station on a field. Ordered to fire indiscreetly towards North over a hill into Drava River valley. Fire's impacts couldn't be observed. Traffic on road subsidized considerably. Moved around: 15 km

14.05.1945 MONDAY

After midday Battery was ordered to return onto road, passed through Pamece to next village Bucovska Vas. Battery's convoy stopped some 3 kilometers short of Dravograd town and congregated at forest's edge south of a crossroad. Commander Captain Matijevic and Senior-Lieutenant Matijevic left for good the Battery later that afternoon. As the only officer I was left with the Battery's crew. Later at night gathered Battery's servicemen who agreed to follow me returning to Slovenjgradec. As ordered horses were roped to trees. Howitzers and their ammunition disabled. I had started walking back to Slovenjgradec at midnight. Last leg of Battery's retreat was about: 11 km



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Since leaving Osijek on April 13, 1945 the BATTERY was constantly moving westward and marched a total distance of approx. 525 km.

CROATIAN TRAGEDY OF BLEIBURG & DEATH MARCHES in 1945


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15.05.1945 TUESDAY
During darkness of the night lead Battery's servicemen back on road towards Slovenjgradec. Some time after the midnight have surrendered to an unknown unit of the Yugoslav Army (JA). I was ordered to stop, disarm and turn of road onto a meadow to rest later. At dawn realized that this meadow was same place of Battery's last station yesterday and not far from Slovenjradec. Walked through Pamece village to that meadow about 4 km.

Lost contact with anybody from Battery since my surrender for good. Changed into civilian cloth and wear but kept my ridding boots on cutting off all seams. At morning started forced "exchange"(brutal pillage and stripping of) by marauding soldiers of unknown JA's unit. Many personal items were taken away as well as all military items and my spare pair of boots. Some hours later all Prisoners of War (POW) gathered on that field had moved into a fenced orchard situated on a hill south of Slovenjgradec town. Walked to that first POW's camp about 5 km.

16.05.1945 WEDNESDAY

At orchard's POWs rally ground found those from Osijek Military district (M.D.) including several senior officers. During afternoon Camp's command ordered separation of all POWs who were in Ustasa's units. Also all POWs' aged 16-17 years had to report at Camp's Command. One estimated that POWs' number at this rally place amounted to some 40.000 persons. Did not get any food or water since enslaved. Moved around camp some 2 km.

17.05.1945 THURSDAY

At early morning first POWs moved out of camp probably who were Ustasa's servicemen and leading marching column at front. POWs from Osijek M.D. left camp at mid afternoon. Young guardsmen aged 16-18 years accompanied marching column and were positioned at column sides some 10 meters apart. Soon after leaving rally camp noticed ill treatment of all fatigued, weaker or elder ones. POWs were tortured and indiscriminately murdered whenever leaving marching column for any moment. March started from Slovenjgradec proceeding Smartno - Straze (through Mislinja's gorge at night)- Dolic - Vitanje - Strmec. Constant rifle shots devastated POW's marching column. Walked through night some 40 km.

18.05.1945 FRIDAY

At dawn POWs from Osijek M.D. turned out to be at front of marching column when reaching main road Celje - Maribor. Noticed that yesterday's column leading part (Ustasa's POWs) had turned of towards Maribor most probably since Strmec. Marched onwards to Vojnik - Skofja Vas and reached Celje early afternoon. A soldier forced me took away my boots on bridge of Drava River near Celje. From here onwards had to march BAREFOOTED. Short repose near Celje's center accounting for missing and dying ones. Late afternoon marched off and passed through Lasko and Rimske Toplice at night. March continued with short stops only passing Smarjeta and arriving in Zidani Most by midnight. During longer stop here slept on sleepers below Zidani Most railway station through night. Marched that day about 50 km of which my first barefooted 45 km.

19.05.1945 SATURDAY

At sunrise POWs' column moved out of Zidani Most onto road leading to Radece Toplice and Hotemez. Near Vrhovo without any notice accompanying watchmen disappeared after which marching column broke down. POWs from Osijek M.D. gathered at nearby river Sava's Right Bank to repose and quench thirst. Around midday guardsmen arrived and lead POWs without any stopover through places Vrhovo - Bastanj - Krsko - Leskovac (saw illuminated church Blanka) - Catez - Mokrice - Bregana arriving at Samobor at dawn. At passed night was few time subconscious and deranged and lost mind for a while but companions cared and saved me to next short stop. Day's march until next day's dawn amounted to some barefooted 68 km.

20.05.1945 SUNDAY

POWs' gather to their respective Military Districts at park of Samobor. One estimated an accumulation of some 10.000 captives. Forced pillages continued between POWs by marauding JA's soldiers. Received first food: a handful of maize flour-grit. Ate it raw. Moved around looking for some wrappings for my bare feet: 3 km.

21.05.1945 MONDAY

POWs' column left Samobor on road to Sv.Nedjelja during morning. At Sv.Nedjelja four-rowed column was squeezed between carts with soldiers to at best two-tired POW's pairs. POWs had run their "Race for life" between whips, stacks and rifle-buts thrashing at them from soldiers on carts. Reaching hilltop those who survived gathered in front of church at Sv.Nedjelja. Continued slowly marching and passed through Kerestinec - Stupnik towards south tollgate of Zagreb. Here happened one of worst beating and torture, scenes of horror and killings. Early afternoon column turned hesitantly onto road leading to Remetinec. Slowly column ploughed through Velika Mlaka - Velika Gorica - Turopolje reached Vukovina on nightfall. Nearby to village Busevac marching column disintegrated because sentinels left unexpectedly. Spent night near a brook. Since morning marched with irregular pace: 45 km.

22.05.1945 TUESDAY

POWs from Osijek M.D. found together again during night. Early morning new sentries arrived and accompanied column moving on road through Busevac - Lekenik - Duzica - Zazina. After crossing River Odra reached Sisak town early afternoon. POW's column had to "race for lives" pushed to one house's front pathway squeezed to two-tired pairs. Pairs had to skip over wires stretched across a pathway where civilians (?) kept striking and beating POWs who stumbled, staggered and fell to ground. Later were kicked and mutilated to death. Got kicked in loins and lost conscious but comrades got me somehow out of this horror. Decimated POW's column spent night at Sisak's old brickyard on bank of Sava River. Many comrades from Osijek M.D. did not make it up to here. Marched under great strain some: 45 km.

23.05.1945 WEDNESDAY

Several hundreds prisoners gathered at this old brickyard during night. There was no food for POWs but one could find water from nearby flowing river. Robberies by rummaging JA's soldiers got on despite POW's belongings were rather scarce now. Attempted healing wounds and barefooted captives look for some bandages. A day of anxiety and little rest but too many worries. Moved around compound estimated 2 km.

24.05.1945 THURSDAY

Early afternoon grouped up POWs marched in four-rank column out of Sisak and crossed Sava River by Galdovo. POW's marched inexorably forward through Struzec - Potok (over Lonja River) - Popovaca - Veliko Brdo - Repusnica and passed through Kutina during night. On route had short stops only during: 45 km.

25.05.1945 FRIDAY

Forced march continued through places Banova Jaruga - Medjuric - Poljana - Gaj and toward road Badljevinu - Podgorski Doljani. Short lasting downpours and continuous rain slowed down column's progress on steep wet road considerably. Had very short stops only but without any proper rest, food and drink. Arrived at Daruvar town early afternoon. POW's were piled up on a field bellow city's center. A rainy day full of horrors and torments. This was the longest day's march of some 100 kilometers in 24 hours. Since last night made almost: 55 km.

26.05.1945 SATURDAY

On morning Daruvar's women (AFZ) got through guardsmen and brought to starving POWs tins with soup and basketful of large loafs of bread. Rain continued for whole day turning field's soil into a quagmire. About a dozen officers from Osijek M.D. made that march up to here only. Moving around field to dry place: 3 km.

27.05.1945 SUNDAY

Women from Daruvar were allowed bringing food to POWs once daily only. All POW's officers were sorted aside from other captives. At afternoon officers from Osijek M.D. ordered to bath in Daruvar spa. What a delight - got dressed in wet and ragged clothes after! Later brought to another place. Since then officers were separated from other POWs for good. Spent night under roof of a cabin close to camp command's post. Day's movements: 5 km.

28.05.1945 MONDAY

Stayed whole day at that shabby shelter. Got some poor food from command's canteen. Complete isolation from any other group of POW's prisoner incl. Officers. Unendurable waiting and trying to cure wounds. Short walks still barefooted: 2 km.

29.05.1945 TUESDAY

Food we got was canteen's fallout. Daruvar's women were not allowed to visit isolated officer's groups. At midday an officer of JA's political commissioner - visited officers of Osijek M.D. and explained us the necessity of RE-EDUCATION (= PREODGAJANJE) of all late enemy's officers to become worthy serving in JA's units after. Nobody knew what that would be or how to understand that Politcom's narrative. In full isolation moved some: 3 km.

30.05.1945 WEDNESDAY

Our group of a dozen officers from Osijek M.D, left Daruvar's camp early afternoon and marched on passing through Donji Daruvar - Koncanica - Zdenci Veliki - Grubisno Polje (at about midnight) to Loncarica. Got some wrappings for my sore and wounded soles from an unknown woman somewhere along route. Walked through until next morning about: 55 km.

31.05. 1945 THURSDAY

Arrived to Virovitica Railway Station around mid morning. A school girlfriend - now a JA's Politcom officer - recognized me somehow. She brought me some food and wrappings with which managed to protect sore soles for a while. After a longer respite a new sentry shift of few elderly soldiers arrived for our small group. After midday left Virovitica marching on main road to Suho Polje - Podravska Slatina - Novi Senkovac - Cadjavica (arrived at night). These guardsmen were partisans since 1942 and behaved reasonably and more humanly to us than any before. Stops were more often getting food from villagers when passed-by. Marched some: 45 km.

01.06.1945 FRIDAY

Dozen officers from Osijek M.D. marched on through night passing places Moslavina and Viljevo and arrived at Donji Miholjac early afternoon. Honoring guardsmen delivered POWs to a camp situated in castle's park. Again marauding JA's soldiers took away anything they wanted. POWs subjected to constant harassment and molesting by unconstrained JA's servicemen. Since night walked some: 30 km.

02.06.1945 SATURDAY

Early morning moved out of POW's camp at Donji Miholjac. March continued on road via Sv.Djuradj - Crkovci - Valpovo (Karasica River) - Josipovac to Retfala (a suburb of Osijek) and came to my domicile town Osijek early afternoon. My soles were open wounds and walked on under greatest pains passing by Matches' factory and later through Railway Station destroyed rail's bedding. Walking between tracks' strewn gravel had to watch every footstep starting at West entry and coming out at Eastern one stumbling never ending station's 4 kilometers. Finally POW's group settled down on a football field close to silk-factory in suburb of New City. Some time passed when mother and sister got there after receiving a notice about my presence in a POW's column. With greatest effort and crawling went to meet them at field's corner. Walked that day about 55 km.

03.06.1945 SUNDAY

Got father's sandals on time before moving out from that football field. Walked with great difficulty along Vukovarska cesta to Zeleno Polje (= Green fields) at Lower City, suburb of Osijek. Came to POWs' camp situated in transportation compound next to Drava River's right embank. Wearying walk of: 7 km.

04.06.1945 MONDAY

POW's names called out to report at camp's command post where interrogations started from which some captives did not return to their shakedowns anymore. Relatives and friends were allowed to visits bringing food, cloths and medicines. My soles were wounds only, lips cracked with wobbly teeth in jaws. Affected by sever malnutrition and dehydration due to a total physical and mental agony. Hardly could move around compound say: 1 km.

05.06.1945 TUESDAY

Called to report at command post for interrogation. Later returned to my place at campsite. Told by camp's commander that I would be going for "RE-EDUCATION". Where and when - nobody knew it or would tell me? Frustrated waiting continued. Moved around camp: 2 km.

Since surrender on May 15 marched in various POW's columns some 555 kilometers since May 17 until June 2 arriving back home to Osijek. As an officer taken POW had walked barefooted from in 15 days some 495 kilometers of the total 16 days march.

06.06.1945 WEDNESDAY

By mid afternoon left camp at Zeleno Polje in a long POW's column and walked to Osijek Railway Station Donji Grad. There boarded a freight train that left station late afternoon. Traveled whole night and passed through Vinkovci Railway Station.

07.06.1945 THURSDAY

During morning train entered State prison at Sremska Mitrovica. POWs disembarked and settled down in prison's yards temporarily. Reported for medical check-up due to open wounds on soles. Ordered to a confinement cell at a barrack ground floor but door remained open at all times. Strange to free in a prison!

From 08.06.1945 FRIDAY until 11.06.1945 MONDAY

received a loaf of bread and bowl of some soup once daily. Stayed at my cell all these days spending relaxing hours outside. Luxuriated in sun and downright air. Most captives left that prison sometime nights on 8 and 9 June marching of with unknown target. Took rest most of time trying to heal wounds. By Monday evening there were few POWs left behind in prison's yards.

12.06.1945 TUESDAY

My 20th birthday! After morning roll call returned to cell. Soon after called out to report at prison commander's office. There found father waiting for me and was told to return to Osijek and report to OZNA 3 (JA's Department of military security). Got a letter of dismissal and left prison accompanied by a guardsman and father late that morning. Afternoon boarded train traveling to Vinkovci and had change to another one travelling to Osijek next morning.


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13.06.1945 WEDNESDAY
Arrived at Osijek Railway Station mid at morning. Guardsman accepted that we could divert to my home. There I had a thorough body bath but could shave due to my too long beard and entangled mane of grown hair. A balance showed my weight of 46 kg that was half of my body weight a month ago. After a light breakfast went accompanied by guardsman to OZNA 3's prison. At noon arrived at OZNA's prison which was located at old Franciscans' cloister in Osijek's Citadel (= Tvrdja) near Water Portal (= Vodena Vrata). Must enter to a confinement cell at a wet casement deep below road level. Stayed in this cell without any light alone on scarce food for two days. Easy walk through home city's streets: 4 km.

15.06.1945 FRIDAY

Called out for a roll call and ordered to go for interrogation to room of a OZNA's Politcom code named "JELEN" (= "deer" - who later became professor at Faculty of Economical Studies in Zagreb). Interrogations lasted several hours being accused to be a "War criminal" and member of Ustasa's Youth organization. At last was asked to write my autobiography and allowed using typing machine. [This document became part of my "characteristic" political documentation later.] Got a large piece of bread and some soup during hours of typing at last.
I had realized that I've got through this ordeal saving my life at the end. Could move to larger room at ground floor level in which there were a dozen other inmates. Followed more peaceful days in OZNA 3 prison where I got food regularly and could walk in inner yard sometimes. Occasionally was allowed to leave prison with a guardsman. I went out through "Water Portal" to meet mother or sister nearby Drava River's bank. Out there I would get supplementary food, cloths and medicines and always there was something for the guardsman too. I had been waiting for "re-education" but nobody could tell me knew where or when would go though.

06.07.1945 FRIDAY

Unexpectedly on a Friday again had to leave OZNA's prison with an order going to be re-educated. Accompanied by a sentry boarded a train leaving Osijek for Vinkovci and changed there to another one travelling to Stara Pazova. We got out there and slept at station waiting for a train to continue voyage next morning. That train took us via Cortanovci arriving to Petrovaradin town late afternoon at last. My sentry happily delivered a "dangerous War criminal" to another one at Military Prisons in Petrovaradin. Later Prison's commander arrived and told me to choose any free cell keeping its door open all time. He did not understand why should be here as an officer. I was not supposed going out to work. Other prison's inmates were working at docks down on Danube River harbor where they were loading tugboats with UNRRA vehicles, locomotives and wagons machines and other heavy goods in crates - all bound for Russia. For next few days I had proper food, slept well on a bed. Often had walked accompanied by prison's commander himself around Petrovaradin town and its fortress.

12.07.1945 THURSDAY

Left prison and continued travel on ferry crossing Danube River. A sentry brought me to a command post of a very large POW's compound located at an old silkworm plant at outskirts of town Novi Sad. There met several POWs from Osijek who worked as German speaking clerks and interpreters for POW's Camp command. This compound was exclusively for German Military POWs. I noticed that POWs' living conditions were the most horrible and unutterable ever imaginable. Stayed several days with clerks as my host but did not have to work at all.

18.07.1945 WEDNESDAY

At noon left POW's camp in a company of seven high ranking German Officers escorted by several heavy-armed guardsmen. Boarded train at Novi Sad Railway Station and traveled eastwards via Cenej - Titel - Alibunar - Tamis. Late afternoon arrived at Vrsac where our escort delivered German Officers to a special POW's camp for them first. Two sentries took me another camp afterwards. However, camp's clerks did not want taking on a Croatian Officer with dismissal papers from the OZNA 3. There was not any place for me to stay in Vrsac. In company of two guardsmen spent night at Vrsac Railway Station.

19.07.1945 THURSDAY

Took morning train to Kovin where my companions expected finding a camp where I would start with "re-education". Walked from Kovin station southwards out of village's boundary where we got to a fenced compound of a late silkworm plantation turned into POWs' camp recently. There I found several fellow prisoners from Zeleno Polje POWs' camp in Osijek and very few fellow marchers with whom walked from Slovenjgradec to Osijek. [One of the very few was late Dr. Franjo Paser from Osijek.]
About two weeks later learned about "General Amnesty and Pardon" published in AVNOJ's decree of August 3, 1945. Several days later camp's command started issuing "Letter of dismissal" to some 3.000 Croatian Officers who were staying in POWs' CAMP XX-B at Kovin. I got my "Letter of dismissal" No. 141-161 dated 8 August 1945 few days later which was on 12 August.

13.08.1945 MONDAY

Left Kovin POW's camp late night boarding train at Kovin Railway Station that left after midnight. Traveled via Bavaniste and Banatsko Novo Selo and arrived at Pancevo Railway Station before noon. Left behind fellow travelers which ones wanted to proceed to Beograd first by deciding to go my own way to reach Zemun town on other side of Danube River.

14.08.1945 TUESDAY

Forced my way walking through Jabucni Rit to reach Krnjaca where took a ferryboat crossing Danube River to Zemun. Boarded train at Zemun Railway Station that left towards Stara Pazova - Indjija - Ruma - Sid at late afternoon. Train arrived to Vinkovci Station late at night. Next morning took an early train to Osijek.

15.08.1945 WEDNESDAY

Arrived at Osijek Railway Station later during morning where mother was waiting for my arrival on every of past few days. I have been back to my domicile town OSIJEK. I had left it on that ominous evening 13 April 1945 retreating westwards with Croatian Army - only four months ago.

Notes:
1. This document is about author's Death March route and following stays in OZNA 3's prison and in POWs' camps. It was used to write the autobiographic report and remembrances of passed days starting on 13 April and ending on 15 August of 1945.

2. The manuscript is in English and had the working title of:

R E - E D U C A T I O N
Or
Four Months in the Life of a Young Man
The text writing was started by mid 1984 and it had been completed by end of 1985. The improvement of wording and spelling including re-typing was finished in 1986. The typed original had 255 pages of DIN A4 format.
Text's last re-edition after scanning and word-processing had been completed in 1996. Print-ready text amounts to approx. 0.7MB.

Anif, in March 1999.

Dipl.-Ing. Zvonko Springer

Željko Zidarić
3rd-June-2012, 10:21 PM
Zvonko Springer

OUTCAST WITHOUT GUILT or MY WAY OF THE CROSS (http://www.cosy.sbg.ac.at/~zzspri/web3-MyWayOfCross/01_CONTENTS-web.html)

BEZ KRIVNJE IZOPĆEN ili MOJ KRIŽNI PUT (http://www.cosy.sbg.ac.at/~zzspri/web3-MojKrizniPut/01_KAZALO-web.html)


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Hrvatskih ratni zarobljenici na cesti od Dravograda prema Mariboru u svibnju 1945

Željko Zidarić
3rd-June-2012, 10:45 PM
SNOW WHITE & SEVEN DWARFS' BAND FROM 1940 TO 1942

In fall 1940 I started in the Male Real-Gymnasium Osijek my 5th grade. [Explanation: Real-Gymnasium is a natural science oriented secondary school with 8 grades and ends with "Matura" alias a baccalaureate as the final examination.] Time came for me to learn dancing and I entered the TOPALOVIC DANCING SCHOOL holding dancing lessons at Casino's biggest hall. CASINO was the place where burghers from Osijek's Upper City met there in a café or reading rooms or card playing rooms. We learned dancing accompanied by a pianist who must be rather bored repeating the same tune so often. At the beginning I wore knickerbockers only and got my 1st dress with long trousers for the final school's dancing-party only. The coronet, as it was called, had been held at the largest hall of HRVATSKI DOM (= Croatian Home was a center for various cultural and social activities). A proper music band played for entertainment and dancing on dancing parties like the CORONET one. Parents and invited friends congregated then and all had a lot of dancing and fun altogether.

I stopped playing violin after long last some time after we moved to parents' new house in Krezmina street late 1936. My teacher was very happy about and said that World was spared of a non-enthusiastic violinist with no proper sense of hearing. However, mother insisted me playing some other instrument. She got hold of Military musician who taught accordion and started learning to encourage me too. Thus I started my band player's career on a HOHNER dark-red accordion having 84 basses but registers.

Soon I played accordion (a wind instrument) quite well. Even I contemplated composing a musical probably as a result of continuing composition tutorial at Musical school. Our neighbor's son Zdenko Kljunic had heard my accordion playing and suggested we create a band. Zdenko was 2 years older and played violin and clarinet well. Soon joined us Slavko Vanicek who was about my age but liked saxophone most. During 1940 summer holidays the band was almost complete and we had many working sessions. By fall of the same year our band got ready to go public and we offered our assistance to TOPALOVIC's dancing school too. Soon our band became quite popular and played at most dancing parties held in Osijek. We could afford buying few new instruments by saving from compensation and gratuitous payments. Slavko was our cashier and economic adviser -* he was studying economics then.



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The SNOW WHITE & SEVEN DWARFS BAND 1942 * 1944

The Band's name was SNOW WHITE AND SEVEN DWARFS - thus it had eight members. Posters on each of the 7 note-stands depicted the dwarfs from Walt Disney's movie. Peter, our piano player, had a large Snow White's poster standing on the instrument. Sometimes it collapsed when band's playing became too furious or Peter didn't fix properly its one-leg rear support. I got on a new black & white HOHNER's accordion with 108 basses and few registers (!). Sometimes I accompanied the band on a guitar or drums too. Could you guess now which dwarf's poster did I have on my note-stand?

Well, I was the dwarf named SLEEPY - despite that I was often the busiest one of all others. Our Band had been quite busy until World War Two reached into Yugoslavia on 6th April 1941. Later in autumn we came together again and offered Band's services to re-opened Dancing School first. Now, we had to watch what to play and had to make changes to our repertoire too. Lambent-walk craze was out and dancing of Swing or English Waltz was not allowed either. Instead we would play for dancing any fox trot, slow-fox, tango or waltz. Slavko or Zdenko, acted as Band's music's arrangers and were quite busy and responsible for pounding of correct rhythm at play's start. It wasn't an easy task at all because dancers asked for a faster rhythm. Band would easily go to Swing tunes that weren't allowed at all and could bring us in jeopardy of loosing our license too.

Band couldn't continue playing as a team of eight in the long run. We couldn't find a party organizer capable of paying for a big band as ours anymore. Thus Slavko relieved one the other team's member occasionally. We would play as a smaller group as required or an organizer was prepared to pay for. An accordion player can entertain and play music alone any time. Therefore, I was playing accordion or guitar in such a smaller team. It has consisted of Zdenko (violin or clarinet), Peter (piano or drums) and Slavko (saxophone or clarinet) and myself.


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Zvonko as accordion player * the Dwarf named "Sleepy"

We took orders from and went playing in suburbs and in several villages in vicinity of Osijek. We had traveled there on horse drawn carts or by railway. The dancing sessions ended late at night often so we couldn't return home the same night. We played in inns or taverns where people used to stay after agreed (paid for) dancing hours until the police closure time. Often waiting persons ordered drinks and started singing popular or native songs. The accordion player would be invited to accompany this small crowd *- after the regular time paid for expired. What to do when my companions were not invited or refused to join the party? Well, I took my accordion accompanying crowd's demands as good as I could. I got tired or didn't know tune asked to play sometimes too. There is no mercy for an accordion player and one must continue playing because he gets extra money. Do you know how an accordion player gets paid with his both hands holding the instrument? The paying person takes a money note, spits on and "glues" it on accordion player's forehead! Well, it wasn't pleasant at all being the last of band's team paid this way, believe me.

The general situation worsened as the war protracted into 1943. Snow White's band has dispersed and we didn't play anymore even in a smaller group. Zdenko and few other band's members went into Army and we younger ones were preparing for the final examination and Army service after too. The Band never came together after World War II ended * many died or disappeared forever. Slavko became a communist and entered into politics in Tito's Yugoslavia and could still living now a day. All Snow White Band's instruments bought before were gone including my black & white big HOHNER accordion. My own red HOHNER accordion survived somehow few pillages at parent's house after the "liberation" of Osijek on 14th April 1945. Looters took all items that seemed or looked like, as belongings of a War criminal like me.

At that time I was just about to surrender to the Liberator's Army some 500-km westwards near Slovenjgradec. Few days later I was marching back eastwards in a column of Prisoners of War this time. I arrived in Osijek on 2nd June after a murderous march of some 500-km barefoot in 17 days. The victorious Tito's Army didn't care a dime regarding the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War at all.


Epilogue

I played an accordion only once more. It was in OZNA 3 (Yugoslav Army's Secret Police) prison in the Citadel of Osijek. I had been kept there in custody in June and July 1945. After thorough interrogation there I was exempted of charges against me as a War Criminal. I could get out from a prison cell for a walk in prison's yard twice daily. A soldier was "torturing" an accordion trying some Partisans' tune. First, I offered some help teaching but soon I discovered that my fingers would fit the keys anymore. Playing Partisan's songs didn't go with my state of mind at that time either. We sold my red HOHNER accordion several years later we were a young couple with little of financial means. Thus, my accordion helped for our domestic needs for a while in 1952.

Željko Zidarić
3rd-June-2012, 10:48 PM
MY BICYCLE IS GONE TO WAR 1941

I got the first bicycle for my 12th birthday a year after the family moved to a house that father had bought in 1936. Our house was a single standing and two-story structure called a `villa' then. The Krezmina Street was a wide tarmac road lined by Japanese cherry-trees with pedestrian walks at both sides. At one street's side stood detached houses where as the opposite side all were built as attached ones.

The night before birthday I have crept in parent's bedroom. I heard that something `big' has been brought upstairs to that adjacent room. After I made sure that parents went down to the living room * I jumped out of bed and quietly went to their darkened room. There it was MY FIRST BICYCLE. It was covered with colored papers waiting for me to touch it at least. I did it very carefully not making any noise or change position of papers. I could hardly wait to see IT in the day light of next morning mid June 1937.

On March 27, 1941 a military Coup d'etat dismissed the Yugoslav civilian government. Military enthroned the under aged Petar II. Karadjordjevic as the King of Yugoslavia. This has happened in defiance to Hitler's Germany with whom the late government entered in `Three partite pact' few days before on 23rd only. As the consequence of it German Armies bombarded Belgrade on April 6th and subsequently occupied the country by April 10th. The Military Command announced a general mobilization by end of March. My father got a letter from the Municipality Center ordering me to report there with my bicycle immediately.

The Center was at so called TVRDJA - Citadel of Osijek - which was within medieval bastion' fortifications. I took a day of from the school and so luckily I could stay away from a class-work in Latin held by a professor I didn't like at all. On arrival at Center's office I found a crowd there including some youngsters waiting to get some orders. We had to register the bicycles and carry a cipher plate fixed to front and rear mud-breakers. After an hour of waiting I got some dozens of sheets addressed to various persons at a certain city's part. With this bunch of letters I left the Center after I had been ordered to return the undelivered ones next morning.

I have pedaled whole day delivering letters of unknown content to people living in streets or at places I never that they exists in my hometown. The person whom I have delivered this ominous looking letter had to sign a receipt. Otherwise I had to leave a notice at the address for person to call at Center in 24 hours under threat of sever punishment. The next day I have learned what letters' content are all about. Some of these were for person to report to their army units and other were for vehicles of any kind including bicycles to be delivered to certain Municipality's collection places. I worked my ways for two days and picked up my third bunch of letter of calls for that day. I was really fed up with this rather unpleasant and dispirited courier's business returning home dog-tired late afternoon that day.


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Zvonko as he was in his fore last school year 1941/42.

After my father has closed his lawyer's office he came to see me looking rather uneasy. He had a rather unhappy mien on his face when handing over to me the letter which form I have learned so well delivering in the past three days. I opened this letter and my heard stopped beating for a moment reading its content. I was ordered to deliver MY BICYCLE at Citadel's Municipality Center the next day. Oh, of all the horrors, I did not want to believe getting this letter at all.

I couldn't sleep the whole night thinking about how to prevent my bicycle to be dispossessed by the Center. I worked for the Center very hard for three days and I just couldn't believe that it wants my bicycle. Why should the Government need it and for what purpose at all? Who would ride on my bicycle * my beautiful black WANDERER touring bicycle? How could a bike be used in defending the State? On the next morning my father took me by his huge arms and pressed me sobbing at his big chest. He said: "Son, that's one of life's hardships. Soon, many more ones would fall upon us. There might be even more dramatic or tragic ones that this one which you feel so unhappy about. You go and deliver your bicycle at the Center now."

So I gave up my first bicycle one day early in April 1941. I never saw it after. Thus the bicycle went to war just two years before his owner.


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In the National Theater of Osijek Zvonko was playing "The Librarian"
in like named Moser's comedy in autumn 1942.

Željko Zidarić
3rd-June-2012, 10:52 PM
THE YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS PRIOR & DURING WW2 IN CROATIA

Yugoslav King Alexander Karadjordjevic I. proclaimed his dictatorship in 1929, which started prosecutions of Croatian nationalists. I remember the smart beige uniforms of the "Hrvatski Sokol" ("Croatian falcon") which had been a social and gymnastic society in Croatia. I was too young to become a member of this society when it was dissolved. In October 1934 I went to the 4th grade of Primary School in Osijek. Some days after King Alexander's assassination in Marseilles the door burst open and school director entered furiously calling me out in front the class.

Our teacher Knezevic was a Serb and mourned the loss of Serbs' king. I was accused of whistling in a cinema during the newsreel showing the attempt on King's life. I was loudly scolded and cried down and sent home to report my father about my vile behavior. Very frightened and weeping bitterly I explained to father what happened in the school regarding accusations against me. Bad luck for the director because my father a well-known lawyer and president of the Home & School Society. He threatened him bringing my case to the Court because I wasn't in school being sick on the day when they went visiting the cinema. Thus, all ended with few public apologies but I've had my 1st lesson of a prosecution.


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Dr. Josip Fulanovic in the uniform of an
elder of "Hrvatski Sokol" in Vinkovci (1929).

Firstly I've joined a recognized organization of the "HRVATSKI SOKOL" ("Croatian Falcon"). Their meeting ground was over our garden rear fence made of timber boards some 2-m high and I could get to this field or look at happenings there free of charge. At this sport's fields of "SOKOL" I've started my first training in gymnastics. Few years later I've joined "Hrvatski Krizari" ("Croatian Crusaders") which members met in Franciscan cloisters. The Grey Friars have been known as steadfast Croats and keepers' of religious Faith through many centuries even during medieval Turkish Occupation.

However, father found out that this organization wasn't the right one for a too young teenager so I've joined the "MARIJINA KONGREGACIJA" ("St. Mary's Congregation'). Padre Krist of the Society of Jesus was an excellent organizer of teenagers' students. Soon many students came and joined ST. Mary's Congregation that has achieved a considerable success in public too. Besides some religious duties we've had skating or volleyball grounds, could play table tennis and billiards at basement rooms, had an orchestra and amateur theater group (in which I was an important factotum). I stayed with the Congregation until my graduation in summer 1943. Parallel to my membership in the Congregation I've had some training in light-athletics at the sports club "ZRINSKI" at the sport filed just beyond our house's high wooden fence too.


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Group photograph of the "Marijina Kongregacija"
(St. Mary's Union) in Osijek (summer 1942).

In 1939 the Croatia Province ("Banovina Hrvatska") got its autonomy within Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The Peasant Party of Croatia established the "HRVATSKI JUNAK" ("Croatian Brave") as their youth's society. They had a uniform for boys and girls too topped up with blue cap. I didn't bother much about the "JUNAK" doings at all. The new-sprung regime of the Independent State of Croatia (known as "NDH") on April 10, 1941 introduced a new youth organization known as the "USTASKA MLADEZ" ("Ustasa Youth") something similar to the "Hitler's Youth". Everybody had to become a member of it and in particular all students going to school as from fall of 1941. So I became a nominal (obligatory) member of it too when the "HRVATSKI JUNAK" was converted into the "USTASKA MLADEZ" soon after 1941. I never went to any congregation held in by this fascistic oriented youth's organization.

My 3 years younger sister couldn't resist such gatherings beyond that fence and joined UM soon after me. She got her uniform and a blue cap on a day and proudly returning home met father at entrance door. Father, a big man of some 120kg (250lb), seeing his beloved daughter in her new attire smacked that cap of her head saying: "NEVER SHOULD your wear this cap here at home!" Why had it happened? On the cap there was a big letter "U" with a bomb in it * the badge of Ustasa's regime. My sister couldn't understand what was it all about and why - she would have to learn it by growing up during WW2 and later when father had to smack her again in fall 1945. That's another story!

Željko Zidarić
3rd-June-2012, 10:56 PM
MY FIRST VOLUNTARY WORK FOR A REGIME 1941

On April 10, 1941 the INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA (known under abbreviation `NDH') has been proclaimed. Six days later the new state's ruler Dr. Ante Pavelic nominated his government that had to be fully cooperative with the new USTASA (read: ustasha) regime. This autocratic regime was allied to Hitler's NAZI and Mussolini's FASCIST regimes as such. During next few months the regime started eliminating its enemies - assumed or prospective - and anybody opposing regime's intentions in general. Persons' pursue started being either of a race say Gypsy or of a religion like Jewish or Orthodox faith or of Serb nationality or just because being opponents to the regime. My father, a known lawyer in Osijek, has learned soon about many cases of police arrests, lawless abductions of many people and about disappearing of persons without any trace.

By end of June 1941 we have received the Memorial Certificates of the passed school year. I was student at the Male Real-Gymnasium School in Osijek and just completed the 6th grade (which is K9 of a Secondary school). We couldn't have any summer holidays under prevailing circumstances in summer 1941. All students aged above 15 years had to become members of Ustasa Youth Organization (named "Ustaska Mladez"). We were supposed to dedicate all our efforts in building the new State. We could either start with a paramilitary training or voluntarily join a works group. Father has decided for me to join some kind of a builder's works group. I was the youngest (just 16) in that group which counted some 40 students when we left Osijek Railway Station early in July 1941.




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Planting a tree as the voluntary work to help
building the new Independent State of Croatia.

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My father Zlatko dressed for his summer
holidays he spent in mountaineering.




At the Mikleus Railway Station we had changed into trucks and arrived at Vocin (read as Vochin) village. Our group moved into Primary School's few classrooms where the benches were pushed to walls. We got hay and dry maize leaves for make the bedding. We spread on it a bed-sheet and blanket everybody had to bring with him from home. After we got something to eat at the school's yard where a provisional kitchen has been started in a disused room. Outside of it were placed several crude benches and few rather dirty tables. The whole day as such and the new surrounding were too strange and dishearten as I never before stayed in such an environment. I grew up in burgher's family comfortable, cared after and favorable surroundings. Now, I was hungry and tired just wanting to sleep. Instantly I fell asleep on straw without washing and cleaning teeth.

Suddenly I was awakened by whistles and shouting. It was morning 6 o'clock. I never had to get up so early before. I went out dressed the same as on arrival and had learned what a roll call is about. We had breakfast of fresh-warm white bread and milk before we left our new domicile going to pick up tools and equipment needed for our day's assignment at 7 a.m. River Vocinka's source is at Papuk mountain's northern slope not so far away from Vocin village. River has a mountainous character here and its riverbed had plenty of good gravel with mixed grain sizes. Our group had to sieve gravel into 3 sizes: largest grain went for road construction and the two smaller sizes would be used for concrete works. We put three sieves of different mesh gauge in a row at riverbed's leveled place. Distance between sieves was about 3 m enabling a pair of us with shovels throwing gravel on next sieve. Others brought excavated gravel in wheelbarrows forming a hip in front of the largest gauged sieve. From there onwards we shoveled it through sieves one by one until hips formed in between to be driven up the river bank for final dispatch. This was a rather hard work lasting 7 full hours with a half-an-hour break for lunch as well as for comings and goings each way. In total day's work lasted 8 hours - very long hours, believe I, for somebody not used to it at all.

A week or so of this muscle-tearing hard works I had an accident. The pair with shovels had to synchronize their actions avoiding any accidental contact with his opposite. Suddenly, I still don't know how it had happened my opposite's shovel hit me straight into face. Blood run over my lips like me being a slaughtered hog. My nose bone was hit at its route by one stroke. Blood streamed down to mouth and I felt unconscious for a moment. Rushing in came our first-aid man (a student of medicine) Zagar who pressed gently a gauze on my nose and could stop bleeding after-a-while. Zagar carried me blood stained out the riverbed and placed me on a waiting peasant's wagon used for gravel transport. Thus ended the hard work ended for me but I had to stay in Vocin until the end. My parents were not informed about this accident either.

Several days later I felt no pain as the wound healed without any complications besides a rather visible scar there. Zagar got me in his heart and looked after me like a dear older brother. He told me also that camp's commander didn't dare to send me home earlier for some unknown reasons. He proposed me taking a duty that wouldn't ask for too much effort from me so I became camp's caterer soon after. The night guard woke me up each morning at 02.45 and by 3 o'clock a peasant with his one-horse cart arrived at gate. The horse pulled at a steady pace for about an hour with two us dozing until it stopped - we had arrived at the turning point. I never discovered where we went but coach driver woke instantly asking me to show the list of items supposed to collect on our way back. We returned stopping at one house from where a woman with candle in hand arrived carrying some milk and/or other goods ordered day before. I put milk in a 50litre can dotting down its quantity for payment later or paid other goods instantly. We were back by 5 o'clock with dawn lighting up eastern skies. Never later did I see dawn coming up so often!

After breakfast I was free for rest of the day. Some times I climbed to Vocin's ruin spending several hours talking to or listening to Zagar's lecturing. His hobby was hypnotism but he couldn't get me hypnotized. On my suggestion Zagar made an experiment of mass hypnosis one evening and some mates bit into onions `assuming' that these were apples. After our last evening meal we organized a farewell fete and Zagar performed a real show of mass hypnosis making us cheering and laughing for hours. We didn't go to sleep at all, cleared up our domicile for 6 long weeks and with our packed belongings left Vocin in an old truck. I was back at home by mid morning dirty and smelling awfully. After thorough bathing and too good mother's meal I fell asleep like a hog but woke up of some horrible odor some time later. I dirtied my clean and soft bed by vomiting all over it and myself too. I was so ashamed of myself. Nevertheless I learned something important for life: NEVER DRINK OR EAT MUCH AT ONCE after you dried out and/or starved for a longer period of time.

Notes: Many things changed during my 6 weeks absence. My mother wouldn't go out of house without wearing a yellow armband with a star. Thus, I learned about regime's persecution of Jews and of my parents a mixed marriage. Those colleagues who went for paramilitary training reported how they were helping police or Ustasa secret police arresting, abducting and transporting unfortunates to prisons or camps from which few returned alive. Father's foresight sending me working hard was too accurate.]

Željko Zidarić
3rd-June-2012, 10:58 PM
HOW DID I LEARN PLAYING BLIND CHESS

This was my last school year of 1942/43 in the Male Real-Gymnasium in Osijek and by summer of 1943 we would sit for final exams of Great Matura (baccalaureate). With these Matura's exams we would end our secondary education (K12) and to be called into army service soon after. The war (WWII) was in its third year since it started on April 6, 1941 with German's bombardment of Belgrade City. Kingdom of Yugoslavia has been partially occupied with and another state had emerged: the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). Its proclaimed ruler became Dr. Ante Pavelic who was also the leader of Ustasa's regime. The later state in liaison with Nazi Germany had a government and an army fighting mainly against Tito's partisans (later Yugoslav Army).

In fall of 1942 the partisans' activities spread into Slavonia the northern region of Croatia. This fertile region of NDH is located between the rivers Drava at North and Sava at South. The municipality of was the 3rd largest city in Croatia situated along of Drava's right side in Slavonia's eastern province. Partisans were attacking the smaller townships and traffic lines mainly the railways there already. Therefore, the army command in Osijek had ordered that all students of uppermost classes to go on security watches of rails during daylights. The rail watchers had to report one hour before their two hours patrol would start at City's Main station. We'd gather in one of station's waiting rooms where everybody was trying not to think about that what could happen to us outside. Explosives or land mines were the real danger for us walking along rails stepping from one sleeper to the other one. Did you ever walk on sleepers as they are placed at a rather unpleasant distance for a normal pace?


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Players are from Osijek Chess Club in 1942.

Several of my colleagues as myself too were members of the local chess club where we have spent many hours training hours playing this interesting game. Chess playing was our favorite past time during those gloomy war days too besides other few ones like visiting cinema or theater. Thus we have learned many game openings, played on internal tournaments often and on few inter schools or city ones. I became quite proficient playing chess and brought my pocket size game box to the station's waiting room. Playing chess even with these small figures did not make any difference to me but this was not so when my turn came to go out on the patrol.

Each patrol unit consisted of two students and one could choose its partner. Of course, my partner was always a chess mate from the club and my class. The patrols were taken out on open flat wagons pulled by a motor driven working machine. We drove out from the station to the further most point where the old patrol was picked up and the new one went walking for one hour onwards and back to its starting point for a too long hour. So each patrolmen pair walked two good hours supposedly watching for any disturbance of gravel under sleepers. Probably it would too late if you did not watch for this accurately anyway. Fortunately nothing happened to anybody of us during all our daylight patrols.


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Zvonko is ready for a shift walk along railway line outside of Osijek Station.

Soon it became obvious to us that we cannot proceed playing a started chess game keeping in hand that small game box with figures stuck in board's holes. One had to watch each step from one sleeper to the other one and to look for any possible disturbances of gravel bed. How to balance that small box in one hand, not loosing any of figures and looking at theirs placement on board to be able playing the next stride after all? The solution of our problems was rather simple: PLAYING BLIND CHESS. In time with some practice we have managed playing chess this way but don't ask me how often we'd quarreled about position on board or who was swindling about it. In most cases our game ended in a polemic forgotten as soon we've been back on that flat wagon driving back to the station and warm classroom or home.

Željko Zidarić
3rd-June-2012, 11:00 PM
A RECRUIT'S CHRISTMAS 1943

The morning of Christmas Day was gray and cold wind blew icicles over wide drill grounds. One of our colleague recruit at the JAEGER KASERNE (= Hunter's barracks) in Stockerau returned from the canteen with mugs of hot coffee for us. Four of us have been waiting for the morning call to pass soon to be relieved from our duties at the barracks two large stables. The replacement shift would arrive later in the morning after roll call was over. We have been on night duty in the stables in which some 60 horses were kept for the training of young artillery officers.

Our group of twenty young recruits of regular Croatian army known as HRVATSKI DOMOBRAN (= Home Guard) came here for the officer's training early November 1943. We have started with the riding training few weeks ago only. Since then one of the training duties was getting orders for night duty at the stables. So it happened that each of us got his turn at least once in a week. One also could get such an order as a "punishment" for any disobedience at a shorter interval too. As matter of bad luck I had spent my Christmas' Eve 1943 on the night duty in of the stables with some 40 restless horses. Horses did not have to work hard past few days and the regular evening's oats made them rather adventurous that night.



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The main entrance to the JAEGER KASERNE in Stockerau, near Vienna.

Such a stable had a central wide corridor between horse's boxes and was divided in two sections by the central main passage. The later had large sliding doors at each side providing an access wide enough to get through a pair of the biggest horses fully harnessed. These heavy horses created so called "pole pair" that was the first pair of three pulling a howitzer canon or an ammunition carrier pulled by two pairs only. At each side of the corridor were 2 x 20 horse's boxes and at the far ends were chambers for fodder, straw as well as for large boxes containing oats. One kept there the various harnesses, implements, cleaning tools and wheelbarrows too.

The straw chamber was best place to spend at night provided horses did not make too many problems. Night watcher had to keep corridors clean of any straw, dry with it an outflow of horse's urine and to collect horses' "apples" during all times of night. The Sergeant or Officer in Charge would inspect stables mostly during night's wee-hours. Being caught sleeping or with spilled straw or "apples" in the corridor would be reported immediately which resulted repeating one or more repetitions of the night watches.


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Group of recruits on New Year 1944 1st Day. I am at the middle of the 2nd row.


The morning call passed without any particularities so we returned to other stable's chores to be completed before our replacement arrives. One had to substitute straw, comb horses (a hard work, believe we), sweep clean and dust off saddles, bridles and hanged harnesses. The rest of Battery's crew visited the Christmas sermon and returned about an hour before the shift changing time. Suddenly, a comrade rushed into stable shouting: "Christmas parcel had arrived for us. Merry Christmas! Hurrah!" This was the best news since two months we had left our homes. We got red parcel-stamps few weeks ago that we have sent home with letters. We knew that every letter would be censored by a military agency and we didn't have any experience with it yet. We couldn't know whether our parcel-stamps arrived at home in time or how long it would take until a parcel would arrive here. The parcels' arrival was the best news of Christmas Day 1943.


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The Czech made howitzer with 100mm. Field training in winter early in 1944.

We handed over the stables to the next shift and run over wind swept drill grounds to the canteen for lunch. Do eat first then go to the next doing * this was one of the first axioms I have learned during my early war times. After the meal we rushed back to our room known as "Stube 21" to spend the rest of afternoon because we didn't have any other duties afterwards. My parcel was waiting still unopened for me on the common table but other comrades had opened their parcels already. The room was in a real mess: paper everywhere, it smelled of homemade food mixed with common soldiers' ones including some strong drinks' whiff too. I took my parcel and noticed that the address wasn't in my mother's handwriting. The parcel sent my aunt from Zagreb but there was none from my parents who lived in Osijek. Inside I found aunt's short note wishing me all the best and to enjoy the contents thoroughly. I wondered why there wasn't any parcel from home or at least a note from mother? However I had sent parcel stamps with letters to home only but not to Zagreb at all. Why was this parcel send from Zagreb? What's going on or happened at home?

Of course I opened my parcel carefully and investigated thoroughly its contents before deciding where to start tasting those many goodies. There were many cakes and pastries my mother used preparing for Christmas including few of quince-cheese forms, smoked sausages, a bottle of "sljivovica" (home plum brandy) fixed between woolen socks, etc. I recognized so many things as my mother's true made. I did "stole" many of Christmas' cakes from closed drawers being assisted by father sometimes too. Even the packing could be by mother only. As first to taste I picked up that `little cock' of formed quince-cheese. Mother made it especially for me -- it was MY form and part of my childhood forever. Now, a question started bothering me and it would for weeks -- why mother didn't send this parcel?

Later that afternoon I wrote two letters. First one was addressed to my aunt in Zagreb acknowledging the parcel's receipt. I asked also in a most innocent way about her other sister's doing thus not mentioning mother at all. The second one was then for my parents in which I cautiously asked about their health and mentioned the receipt of aunt's parcel. I have inquired also whether they had got the parcel-stamps I have sent to them? It bothered me profoundly why was that parcel send from Zagreb and not from Osijek?

Few weeks later I got mother's reply informing me that she made that parcel herself. Somebody took it from Osijek bringing it to my aunt in Zagreb to make sure to arrive on time for Christmas. Haven't I recognize that quince-cheese `little cock' she always kept for me for Christmas. I felt very ashamed because of my misapprehension indeed! Mother told me few years later how she felt sorry for me and was saddened by my letter written on that Christmas Day of 1943 too.


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A six horse team pulling a Czech howitzer during a field training.

Željko Zidarić
3rd-June-2012, 11:07 PM
RABBITS SERVE SENTRY ON DUTY IN 1944

I have returned home to Osijek late 1944 after I got my promotion to lieutenant-junior. I was assigned as an officer to the 1st howitzers' battery returning to Osijek in a new battle position there. Mother told me then about an exciting incident that happened at home few months ago.

Our house was in Krezmina Street No.5 in central and oldest part of Osijek called TVRDJA (= Citadel). At the eastern side of a wide street lined with two rows of Japanese cheery-trees stood individual residences. Each of these villas had a garden and a larger yard behind them. Fences between yards were of large-eyed mesh-wire spanning between concrete pillars and about 2 m high. Rear yard fences were more solid and made of boards nailed to strong beams spanning between concrete pillars too. Later height was about 2,5 m because of the adjacent sports' field behind.

Originally, we have had in our yard a solid built chicken house and large box for house and garden's offal. The later was emptied say in monthly interval at normal times. When I returned to Osijek the combat line was at the Drava River and nobody bothered about the regularities anymore. The German Army has occupied one of adjacent houses. Formerly it belonged Schmucklers, a Jewish family, who left on time before Nazis' came to power in Croatia in April 1941. Now, a German CO general resided in it and it was heavily guarded. There was a concrete flagstone footpath along the yard fence where a sentry in heavy army boots marched up and down day and night. Can you imagine what sounds make heavy boots with nailed soles on concrete flagstones during calm nights?




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Peggy licks chinchila rabbit in mother's lap.

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Our Dobermann Pintscher named "Peggy" 1939.



Mother has converted chicken's house into rabbit's pens first. Later, one attached a larger housing for rabbits made of timber where pens had a double flooring simplifying the cleaning. Mother's rabbit farm has thrived and they had enough meat during those war days without any meat supply except for very little issued on ration cards. Mother learned how to prepare rabbit's meat spicing it for good taste. Also, there were skins after adequate cleaning and treatment allowed skilled hands making needed warming utensil.

At wee-hours of a dark night there was loud banging on the main door. Father got up, took a torch (with blue pane) and went cautiously down to see what's all about that noisy hammering at his lawyer's office entrance. Seeing shadows of uniformed persons behind window's blinder asked before unlocking the door: "Who are you? What do you want?" Answer came barking loud: "Army Police -open door and come out instantly!" Slightly opening door father saw two armed helmeted police officers with the distinctive breath plate straining a light beam strait at him. Father went down the few steps followed by officers. They've readied their MPs (machine pistol) as they went around house driving father towards pens. Suddenly, several loud bangs came out from one of rabbit's pen. Officers froze to a standstill barking out at father: "What's that? Who or what makes such a racket?" Father just couldn't withhold a rugged tune in his answer saying: "There're rabbits in! Want to see?" Unbelieving officer strained light beam onto pens out which several tough bangs sounded again.




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Young brown rabbit

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Young chinchila rabbit



In the meantime mother got up and met three men back at the front door now. After father explained the cause uproar and the officer's apologies for his disturbance, mother's bewilderment has lessened. Then mother commented: "It must one of those male rabbits tapping on wooden floor. It must have been sentry whose boots sounded similarly when marching on concrete behind pens."

Željko Zidarić
3rd-June-2012, 11:10 PM
VEMP & BBC NEWS OF 20th JULY 1944




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The eldest and still functioning radio of the Radio Museum
in the Groedig Community Center (Salzburg County).

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Radio with a crystal still working. The author has
built a similar Home-radio for personal use in 1939.



The VOLKSEMPFAENGER (translation: Folks' receiver) * let call it "VEMP" - was a radio in a brown colored shell of bakelite. It was a kind of a hard plastic produced by German IG Farbenindustrie during WWII. Years later, most of electric appliances' had their shells made of this dark brown material which you get in many different colors nowadays.

Allied Forces landed on Normandy's Beaches on the "DD" 6th June 1944. We were due for our only home leave waiting in the barracks at Neusiedler See on that same day. Several days later I arrived at my hometown Osijek just before my 19th birthday. The town was badly hit hard by one of the most bad bombing by USAF two days prior to my arrival. This wasn't to be a too happy leave after at all. My father, a well-known lawyer there, somehow has managed to purchase a radio which I would carry back to the Military training camp in Stockerau near Vienna.


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Front side of the "Volksempfaenger" alias VEMP made by HORNYPHON
referred to in the story and which the author owned since 1944.

Any radio and so the VEMP too must have had a seal on its rear removal cover (hard cartoon) attesting that the Short Wave Length (SWL) had been incapacitated. One could bridge over this gap with short wire using a small splice carefully bringing in a piece of wire through vent-holes of rear cover. I've used a longer pair of nail scissors instead placing a prepared wire overcoming VEMP's incapacitation.

During WWII one wasn't allowed listening SWL at all. Anybody who was discovered or disclosed of hearing SWL transmissions like BBC or Swiss Radio Beromuenster had to expect severe punishment or even deportation (close to a death penalty). Such was the case with listening to radio news in all German controlled or occupied territories. My father had a large box of a TELEFUNKEN radio incapacitated in the same way and a bridge-over splice kept in its proper place almost through all times of WW2. He had to tune it down on the BBC's signal-call of "BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOOOOM" each time when wanting to hear it though. It was always a dangerous listening at all times.

We had to return from our leave to our barracks in Stockerau near Vienna a fortnight later. I had carried on me a large sack, a suitcase and a knapsack returning from home to ongoing training. The sack was full of various food provisions some of were for our relatives in Vienna. Mother placed VEMP somewhere at sack's middle well protected by softer provisions. At sack's top was the melted butter packaged in few parcels. [Melted butter could be preserved for a longer period.] On our travel back we had to pass through Slavonski Brod railway station and from there onwards to Zagreb and Vienna. The train had stopped short of Brod's station compound because the station was hit by an air-raid previous night. Air smelt heavy, few fires were still on, soil blackened by fire, debris and lot of ashes everywhere. We have passed several burned out railcars and tangled rails near bomb craters in between. It was a rather bad sight and experience walking over to the other station's side where another train waited for onward travelling passengers.


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Opened rears side of the VEMP with exposed interior including few radio bulbs.

We were twelve in a group from Osijek and had many parcels to carry along about a mile long track on foot. One carried 1 or 2 parcels at once stopping along at a reasonably long stretch and then returned for those ones left behind. One had managed the whole track in say 3-4 stops on that very hot noon of June 1944. Oh, it was so very hot, air smelling of burned flesh which choked breathing, everyone perspired profusely mouths went bone dry. Get me just a sip of water for a Kingdom (which one?) - I murmured to myself. Each time I lifted my sack it felt more and more soft. Did the butter at top started melting? Would it leak to VEMP and flood it? No, it didn't happen due to my mother's precautions and wrapping skills making parcels tight enough.

Some weeks later in Stockerau we were attending a lecture on military strategies. A German senior officer held it in a large room with few maps on a wall. His face was badly crippled but eyes looked at us sternly and with some sorrow. He had been explaining Allies' strategies on Normandy's peninsula regarding options they had cutting it from rest of France. Suddenly, one comrade said aloud: "It had happened already!" Dead silence followed for few seconds when the officer asked: "HOW DO YOU KNOW THIS? - OKW DID NOT REVEALED THIS!" ["OKW" means Oberkommando der Wehrmacht translated as "Supreme Army Command" - */ For more details see foot note!]

Nobody dared explaining which wasn't necessary at all - we sat there like dogs getting wetted. Later, back in our rooms VEMP's wire-bridge has been carefully removed instantly and stowed away. Fortunately there wasn't any inspection afterwards. OKW admitted German Army's defeat in Normady the same day. Soon after followed dramatic events by the unsuccessful attempt of killing Hitler and our stupidity was forgotten (or not - who could know it then?).

The end to my VEMP came several years later. I left VEMP with our relatives in Zagreb on return from Stockerau some time in October 1944. Two weeks before Christmas I became a lieutenant-junior of Croatian Army and had to join a howitzers' Battery in Osijek soon after. I was back home as a combat artillerist with bad prospects for future. The Croatian Army and the Battery started retreat west from Osijek on 13th April 1945. On early morning of 15th May I've lead the Battery's soldiers into capitulation to Tito's Yugoslav Army. After I've survived a Death March in the 2nd half of May and I came to a POW's camp in Kovin (Vojvodina) later. Most of POWs left that POW's camp after the General Amnesty and Pardon of 3rd Aug 1945 and I could return home on 15th Aug 1945 at last.

What happened to VEMP, you may ask? It served me well after for many years during my study at University of Zagreb. VEMP's speaker played me mostly classics like Bach, Beethoven et Al. Thus I could concentrate better on works as noise or rackets from outside were blanketed in my small room. Here ends the story of VEMP that definitely broke down sometime after we were married in 1951. Dear VEMP, you served me so well so I've written this story thanking you for your long services. Who knows where yours indestructible bakelite casing decays now?

Željko Zidarić
3rd-June-2012, 11:19 PM
HOMAGE TO MY HORSE IN WAR

Saturday, April 14, 1945
On the late afternoon of Friday April 13, 1945 the Croatian Army withdrew from the frontier line at Osijek without any fight with the advancing Yugoslav Army units. For several hours rode on my horse named ZELENKO during the night march leading southwards. I've dismounted my horse thus giving an example to other riders of the horse-drawn howitzers' battery. It was important to stay awake too being alert to any traffic jam or bad condition of the stone macadam road the convoy was steady moving into uncertain future.

During the rest of that balm night I'd doze for a while on the battery's officer cart being in command of the four guns. At the dawn I had to mount Zelenko again because I got an order placing two guns into firing position near Podgorac village. After a firing at enemy's machine guns early on Saturday's morning our battle detachment had to rush after the battery convoy that moved westwards on the road towards Nasice. The detachment was moving fast forward getting free room because of its horse's teams of six pulling a gun and four put to draw an ammo-carrier cart.

I tried hard to hide in Osijek yesterday but in vain as it would bring in jeopardy my family living there if didn't join the battery as ordered. Now I remembered a father's colleague Dr. Pavle who is living in Nasice and thought he may help me finding a place to hide and getting out of this idiotic war. Dr. Pavle wanted helping my uncle when he had trouble with the partisans coming to his farm - alas uncle didn't listen to him. I also remembered Dr. Pavle's house at the corner of the Market Square in Nasice and opposite of Count Pejacevic's family mansion amidst a large garden. The center of Nasice was built on the northern slope of Krndija hill, and we were approaching it on the road coming from East.

I couldn't see much of what went on ahead of me because of the dust stirred up by all the horses but I watched better the sky for that nasty Russian JAK aircraft that might come swooping down on us. There wasn't much point in speculating as it the most important thing for me was to find a chance to hide somewhere because I could feel that this retreat was going to end in a disaster.

At mid morning we entered Nasice and came to the market place in the center of town soon after. Our convoy was slowed down by a trek of civilians coming into the square from other side roads. At this moment of general confusion I looked around and stirred Zelenko off to the square's left side leaving the detachment as to find how to get forward faster. When I had found Dr. Pavle's house I dismounted Zelenko and hitched his bridle to the nearest lamppost. Unfortunately the old couple couldn't be of any help to me as they were just as helpless and frightened as I was. I just didn't want to believe that this last chance was now also bursting like a soap bubble. There was nothing but to drink out the weak Ersatz coffee and take a big sandwich Mrs. Pavle had prepared for me. I thanked the old couple for the food and left their house hoping that nobody would have noticed my absence.


http://domovod.info/zzimages/hist/zvonko34.jpg
This horse looks rather alike ZELENKO.
It is "Lucky Luck" grazing near Niederalm of Anif.

Zelenko was waiting for me near that lamppost but had noticed how nervousness he was due to all noise and commotion around. He let me mount him all right in spite of my one armed effort as I was clutching the big sandwich with my other hand. Soon, we were making our way to the other end of the square where we came upon remaining ammo-carts, wagons and the mobile kitchen creating the tail of battery's convoy. It seemed to me that all guns and their ammo-carries got through on the main road leading westwards already. The main road was quite wide and paved with large square cobblestones. At both sides of it were deep ditches sides behind which stood rows of chestnut trees and footpaths paved with bricks along house fronts. I stirred Zelenko to the footpaths at left thus expecting to get faster forward joining the guns.

In spite of all noises around me I suddenly detected an airplane's din and soon after saw it through trees' green. Within a moment, all around me was in panic as people and horses, carts and soldiers were all diving for cover. My previous experiences came rushing back into my mind now, as Zelenko eared up and started to gallop down the footpath. Somehow I managed steering him along the houses and nearer to their palisade walls. By reaching for the nearest one I hitched myself up and over, falling onto soft soil on the other side. The attack stopped as suddenly as it had started! After a while, I scrambled up and saw to my surprise that my nice, fat sandwich was still in my hand. Munching it, I walked up to the house and, to the great surprise of its owners assembled around the kitchen table, walked right by and out the front door. I had been saved this time again!

The wide road was deserted but for soldiers and few civilians who were getting out of the ditches. I started looking for Zelenko who must have panicked and run off along the descending road. As I was coming closer to the foot of the hill, I saw more and more overturned cars and people looking for their belongings. Some horses had been badly injured when the carts had collided in their downhill ride. I met the first of battery men searching for bags of flour and other supplies that had been lost during the raid at Nasice western crossroad. They told me that the ammo-carts and other wagons had not been hit and were temporarily stationed on a football field. I knew this place next to large fair grounds, and rushed forward for it hopping to find my officer's cart and Zelenko there.

I quickened my pace along the road leading towards village Donja Moticina and passed more of our gunners who were sorting out boxes of grenades lost from carts broken down or turned over. I presumed that this part of our convoy had been passing me when I jumped over the wall back in Nasice still hopping that Zelenko would have followed the same direction. There I noticed dead horses, slaughtered probably by the cart drivers because they were too badly wounded. I saw horses with the terrible wounds of shrapnel so different from bullet wounds. This meant that the air raid had been carried out using small shrapnel bombs that created havoc on the ground, possibly even a stampede.

After a while I stepped off the road and I ran into the veterinary with whom I had exchanged a few words only during his regular visits to inspect Battery's horses. Once he noticed my approach I'd ask him: "Vet, have you seen my Zelenko by any chance?" - "So sorry, I wouldn't know if I had. I am so busy with all these wounded horses here. These shrapnel wounds are terrible; we've already had to shoot quite a number of them. And there are some others with broken ankles due to the stampede. It's a terrible sight, I tell you!" - He turned to one of the riders and told him to shoot his horse, which was bleeding from many small wounds but worse than this, had a broken front leg hanging limp and useless. Just as I was looking at horse's eyes a sharp ring of shots hurled the animal forward and then slowly to one side. A few shudders went through the body - then it lay still stretched on the ground. I turned away and briskly walked on over the grassy field shocked and dismayed by what I had just seen. Still, where was Zelenko, I pondered walking on meadowland?

"Look up there, nearer to the woods. I haven't had time to go there yet!" Vet's voice came from behind me. I turned around to him but saw him examining another victim for the finishing stroke. "But the best thing would be not to waste any time trying to find your horse." carried on Vet and I thought had detected a note of warning in his voice. "Better hurry up to join the Battery. They're gone up there close to the trees' line. I've stayed behind waiting to see how many of the horses we can save."

I feeling of impending loss and anguish came over me as I walked on. On my way I met another group of our soldiers who had just about finished reloading few carts and were ready to move on the road. So far, they told me not hearing about of any casualties among soldiers but that the number of dead and wounded horses seemed alarming. They had to re-harness few horse teams as the result of the stampede cause by an air raid; the only good thing being that most of the weaker horses had died due to it.

Still, it was a miracle that none of the crates with ammunition had been hit and soon this group moved off. I turned my attention to the forest's edge and soon noticed a white figure not far in front of. I started running towards it as fast as my heavy ridding boots permitted and on the near approach called out: "Zelenko! Zelenko!" * Yes. It was a white horse I was running up to but it couldn't be Zelenko - he would certainly follow my call for sure. As I came closer I became aware that it was my horse after all. Only he looked so strange and different - something terrible must have happened to him though. I had to slow down; sweat was running down my face and body soaking my uniform.


http://domovod.info/zzimages/hist/zvonko35.jpg
The head of "Lucky Luck" resembles so much to ZELENKO's one.


Zelenko stood there as if nailed to the ground. I walked slowly up to him and only then he turned his head in answer to my calls. My horse was looking at me with such incredible pain in his eyes that my heart stopped for a moment. As my gaze slowly went down to his legs I have realized with absolute horror what had happened to him. His legs, all of them, were shorter than before. At first, I thought that the grass was so high, but that was not to be the case. All four legs of my lovely Zelenko were broken at the ankle and he was teetering on them, with all hooves bent sideways at a most unnatural angle. His pain must be unbearable, as his poor haunting eyes were telling me.

I approached him gently and caressed his for head and warm nozzle. He didn't make a sound, neither of pleased recognition nor of pain; he just followed me with his eyes as I walked round his immobile body. I unbuckled saddle's belt and carefully lifting the saddle removed it from the horse. Then slowly pulled out my heavy army pistol unlatching it drew nearer Zelenko's neck and started stroking him all the while with my left hand. I put my palm of it over his eyes as in my right I pressed the weapon's muzzle behind his ear. I pulled the trigger again and again till I'd emptied the entire magazine into his head! The noise was deafening, and the smell of explosive and burned hair struck my nostrils like a blow. Zelenko slowly fell sideways, his poor legs sticking into the air with the broken hooves dangling - like mortal bells for the dying horse.

My stomach turned, and sobbing like a child I vomited and heaved on and on till I'd thrown up all I had in me. As the spasm subsided, I was able to turn back to my dead horse and took the saddle away off him. Zelenko was dead, already his head looked quite different than that of the lively horse I'd known, I heaved the saddle on my shoulders and started walking towards the road, back to this insane routine of marching and killing and trying to avoid being killed. Reaching the road there was more traffic coming from Nasice now. Soon I was able to put the saddle on one of the passing carts and climb onto to proceed towards the unknown destination and destiny.

Željko Zidarić
3rd-June-2012, 11:24 PM
Bugs of War - How I have got used to them

In fall of 1936 my family moved in a large house in Krezmina Street in central part of Osijek City. It was a free standing dwelling with a small garden behind it. Mother bought a puppy of a black Doberman with red-brown markings in spring of 1937. The young bitch's name was PEGGY that became my nickname soon after. Thus domestic fleas moved into our house but one could keep them under control with chrysanthemum insect-powder. Also mother controlled Peggy regularly looking after any flea the very moment it started scratching itself.




http://domovod.info/zzimages/hist/zvonko36.jpg
A human or dog flea.

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Chrysanthemum flower has
strong insecticide piretrin.



Late October of 1943 I was called into army service and traveled still wearing my civilian cloth in cattle-wagons of a transport in company of some1000 recruits. The voyage lasted four nights and three days and near midnight of the fourth night the transport arrived at Stockerau railway station. There we disembarked into pitch darkness and cold northerly wind blowing fiercely driving the rain almost horizontally at us tired and miserable ones. After more than an hour walk under this harsh weather condition we reached the "Senninger Lager" situated west outside of Stockerau at last. We were there drenched throughout - what ever we had on became wet so that one had the filling wetness penetrated even the skin reaching bones. We were herded into a longish strange smelling shack but it was dry and warmer there at least. One group after the other one entered a little lit room with few tables in it. We were ordered to fully undress and to wrap all belongings into a bundle except any food staff, which was all gone during that grueling and long transport.

Stark naked and shivering we moved into another room where each one had to pass a medical examination carried out by tough looking paramedics. They checked thoroughly by pulling at hairs on heads, in armpits and at genitals. After that procedure everyone got a palm full of an awfully smelling liquid soap. Thus we passed our first check-up for body and hair lice! We had to be moving on and entered a shower room where commands blared from loudspeakers: "Soap yourself thoroughly from head to toes! You have 3 minutes do make it!" Soon after sprinklers started spraying streams of hot water engulfing us in a steam mist that made us blind. One had to close eyes anyway because soap foam was hurting too.


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White louse male at left and female one at right.

After a while sprinklers stopped and another door opened and from loudspeakers yelled: "Go there instantly!" That new room was warm and vented by dry steam so that our wet bodies were dry within few minutes. Soon we had to leave it for the next one with tables but it was much cooler here making us shivering and goose fleshing. There we waited for our bundles, which arrived with vapor still evaporated from them. We dressed into the warm clothing but our footwear remained wet as before. It was rather unpleasant to leave warm rooms of the "Entlausungsstation" (= anti-lice shack) and get out into night's coldness and wetness for a shorter walk again. In company of my comrades I entered in one of the several darkened and cold shacks. At the entrance everyone received two thin blankets and were ordered to go to the only longish room in which rows of bunk beds stood along walls. I'd selected the closest and free one with a blank straw-filled mattress in it. I took of my wet footwear of and wrapped myself into the blankets to keep cloths warmness as long as possible. Soon I was asleep in a strange bed in a very cold room in which some dozens of bodies snored already. I slept like a hog until the next day's late morning call. No wonder - we all were so very tired after four nights of sleeping on cattle-wagon's floor.


http://domovod.info/zzimages/hist/zvonko39.jpg
Grey louse at left and at right the one found at privy parts.

Several months later our group of twenty recruits was attending a lecture in a room at the "Jaeger Kaserne" (= Hunter's barracks) in Stockerau. We came here to be trained for artillery officers and had advanced to corporals already. During one of the lectures a paper was handed from hand to hand landing in front of the officer in charge. Within a pencilled round "boundary" on this paper there was something creeping around. The officers stared at it for a moment and astound shouted: "It's a louse! Lice! Who has lice in your room?" The result of this dramatic event turned into a case of emergency in the barracks. Few days later we had to bundle up all our belongings (except food staff) and marched of to the railway station. We had free wagon for us at once when few passengers there learned about the dangerous bugs we were carrying in our bundles. The "Entlausungsstation" at Vienna's West railway station was our destination where we underwent the same procedure as described before.

Before leaving we had to remove straw-filled mattresses from our beds and bringing them to the yard took out the straw filling that was burned afterwards. We left the empty mattresses in our room then after which all windows and door had been sealed off. In the room wardrobes were left open and furniture including some soldier's metal equipment remained there too. Later several rooms were disinfected with gas to get rid of bedbugs that one could be found in old buildings often. I knew about the existence of bedbugs and that sting is rather nasty as experienced during my first night duty as sergeant-in-charge.

The night duty room was next to staircase and there was just place for a bed and a table with a chair in front of the only window. An open bulb scarcely lit this ward but a large candle was on the table in case electricity failure. Next to the door was a narrow wardrobe for cloths and arms of two charges on night duty. One of them could rest on the bed but had to get up when his comrade went out on hourly rounds. With time progressing bedbugs felt the human body's heat and crept out of the many crevices in this old building.


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Bed bug or also known as house bug.

After a while it became impossible to lay on bed so both charges preferred sitting at the table. The bedbugs found the position of human radiation fast, climbed up wall and crept on ceiling to fall down straight onto the radiation source. A genius contrived a simple method how to catch the "parachuting" bugs and had put a helmet upside down, filled little water in and placed it next to the burning candle. The candle's flame attracted bedbugs to the ceiling above heat source from where they parachuted straight into the helmet. The charge's new duties were picking out bedbugs from the helmet and fry them dead on candle's flame. Had anyone smelled "fried" bedbugs ever? Bedbugs alone smell awfully but fried ones is much worse. The room disinfected with gas became more homely afterwards and demand for candles diminished too. We left the "Jaeger Kaserne" in October 1944 for good.

I was seconded to a Howitzer-gun battery as lieutenant-junior late in December 1944. Battery was at front line in Osijek and was involved in several battle engagements until it started its retreat from Osijek westwards on April 13, 1945. A week after the Armistice I led Battery's soldiers into surrender to Tito's Yugoslav army early morning of May 15th. Two days later some 40.000 of POW started the deadly march eastwards from a temporary camp at Slovenjgradec (Slovenia). I did survive it marching barefooted some 500-km despite inhuman treatment and without food and returned to Osijek on June 2nd totally physically exhausted and mentally disillusioned. I couldn't wash or clean myself for some 6 weeks and was dressed in rags only. Sure bugs invaded my body but I haven't noticed them as long as I was fighting for my bare life.

I'd notice immediately lice are creeping around most sensitive body parts when staying longer at one place say in a yard or on a grassy plane. I've wondered how can a louse find its way to my skin, which was covered with a crust of dirt cracking when moving or sweat dissolving it slightly. It was a standard daily routine checking seam in ragged cloths by scratching out everything what looked like a louse or a bug including eggs and maggots. The seams were places where all kinds of bugs had a good breeding place due to body's humidity and warmness. For me it became obsession doing this bug's extermination at any time particularly when lice retreated to their in-seam-homes at mornings. I got the first chance to have a proper bath and change clothes at home in Osijek on June 12th on my way to the prison. It was my 20th birthday and resurrection to a new life.

After some 8 weeks of living in dirt this thorough cleaning produced a short respite of bugs of war though. As I was not able to shave off fully my hair and beard so body lice had breeding places there. During next 8 weeks my unpleasant companions have returned in full splendor. The routine of cleansing cloth seams helped me through times I'd spent in various prison rooms and in open POW's campgrounds until my imprisonment ended. On August 15th 1945 I returned home for good and discarded all clothes that were burned instantly. I indulged my body to a long washing procedure, the hair was cut short and beard shaved off too. Only then I got read of the pestilence of bugs of war.

Epilogue: A year later I've volunteered for a 2 months work as member of the 1st Students shock-working brigade at the construction of a new railway line Brcko - Banovici. On arrival there I had been "treated" with several blast of DDT powder although I was very clean of bugs. Such is the life! Take care not to get the acquaintance with this pestilence.

Željko Zidarić
3rd-June-2012, 11:28 PM
It was short before midnight of June 12, 1944 and I was sleeping on a cattle-wagon's floor. In the same wagon were my comrades from officer's training school at Stockerau near Vienna. We were on our way to a military parade to be held at Zagreb, the capital of "Independent State of Croatia" (short "NDH").

Since early November 1943 our group of 20 started the training for artillery officers. Now, in June 1944 and few days after the Allied Forces landed in Normandy, we were coming home for our first (and only) leave. Before that we had to stay several days at Neusiedel (Neusiedler Lake) in eastern Austria where some 1000 of officer trainees had assembled coming from different camps. We all were recruits of "Hrvatski Domobran" (Croatian Home Guard) called into army late 1943. First we had to pass several days training of German parade marching step that is rather hard and difficult. Our small group hadn't been subjected to this training because of our heavy artillery-riding boots in whom we couldn't match the other comrades in short infantry boots.

Now a train full of young expectant officers stopped at Bregana railway station that is on the border between Slovenia and Croatia some 30 km from Zagreb only. Our train stopped between two other ones waiting to continue their journeys early next morning too. Closest to station buildings were wagons full of kerosene in barrels and several fuel-wagons too. At both ends of this train were flat wagons had mounted on "Vierlings" that anti-aircraft automatic four-barrel guns. These AAA-guns were dreaded by low flying aircraft's or attacking infantry and were manned by German soldiers. At other side of our train were ones loaded coal and some other material in open wagons. Meadows stretched beyond of few empty rail tracks at opposite of the station. The night was mild and quite - we left wagon doors open to catch some evening breeze. We didn't have any arms, as rifles would be distributed in Zagreb to those participating in the parade only.


http://domovod.info/zzimages/hist/zvonko41.jpg
NORTHROP P 61B "Black Widow". Two-tailed aircraft with a flying
of range 4500 km with max. speed of 590 km/h and a two-member crew.

Short before midnight and out of nothing machine guns opened fire followed by noisy clanks of "Vierlings". Soon sky became red of burning fuel - barrels flying into air exploding and spraying fire all around. Above all this din commands echoed "Partisan's attack", "Get out of wagons" or "Run for safety". One could hear aircraft flying at low level above the trains too. I jumped out of the wagon, squirmed under nearest one loaded with coal and looked back. The night was ablaze with dancing fires of ignited and exploding kerosene and fuel. Some coal started burning on open wagons too and our train was just amid this horrible inferno.

I scrambled out of my shelter and walked fast towards adjacent meadows. Next I was running for my life as fast as I could in those heavy boots. Suddenly I stumbled incautiously over a rail, lost balance and fell on another rail straight on my chest bone. The impact took out of me all my wits and senses for few long moments. I couldn't breathe or feel anything and just lie prostrate there like rooted. Then I saw tracer bullets of an assaulting aircraft coming straight at me! The noises were paralyzing, flames and sparks everywhere, more explosions and more bullets coming my way. Dear God, I cannot move! Soon I heard calls: "Peggy is hit" ("Peggy" was my nickname) or "Zvonko is dead". Still I couldn't move and no sound would come out of my throat. My lungs were like paralyzed. From somewhere two pals came for me, pulled me up and drew me away over remaining tracks into meadows. They deposited me there and I lied for a while until I got to my breath again. Gradually I could start speaking but with a rather strange croaking voice coming out of my aching chest.

Rest of night I spent sleeping in a barn on freshly smelling hay. At sunrise I extricated myself out of the hay and slowly returned to the station. But what havoc was there! Few coal loads were still smoldering and about half of German fuel train had burned out completely remaining a twisted ruin only. German soldiers were looking after dead comrades in burned out wagons. Never before have I seen a human body being reduced to such a small charred lump. The stench was repulsive and horrid that I would never forget. During the onslaught our train was pulled out of the station. One comrade stirred the locomotive pulling our wagons out of the dangerous neighborhood - fortunately his father taught him how to drive it. Quickly we embarked into wagons and soon were on our way to Zagreb. The parade at Zagreb was cancelled as the officer's trainees looked rather ruffled and dirty being uneasy by night's air raid too. On the arrival to Zagreb I got my travel order and could leave the capital on the first train travelling towards my hometown Osijek.


http://domovod.info/zzimages/hist/zvonko42.jpg
CONSOLIDATE B 24J "Liberator" with 4 Twin-Wasp-Star engines.
Flying range 3360 km with 2260-kg bomb's cargo and 10 to 12-member crew.

Same afternoon we arrived at Slavonski Brod railway station that is half way to Osijek. That day's morning USAF bombarded the station so we had to disembark far out of it. Station buildings got several hits; there were many craters and some fires along tracks of which certain stretches were destroyed or rail twisted. We learned about the first air raid against Osijek on the same morning too. USAF "Liberators" flew regularly to Ploesti (Rumania) important fuel refinery that had strong air-defenses. On the way back to Italy some airplanes would discharge bombs on Osijek or Brod (both towns had smaller refineries and some industries). I expected the refinery destroyed in Osijek and the Lower Town severely damaged too. I wondered what happened to my home situated in Tvrdja (medieval Fortress) that is midway between Osijek's Upper and Lower Town communities?

I reached Osijek in another train boarded at Brod station's other side late afternoon. On my way home I passed several still smoldering and damaged houses. Finally I saw Krezmina Street that trees and houses undamaged. After ringing at doorbell I entered garden's front being expected by a loud barking dog showing of its Doberman's strong teeth. Our dog "Peggy" was obviously irritated by this oddly smelling and dirty looking uniformed man. I was back home after 8 months at last but I'd have to leave it soon again returning to Stockerau and to take part in World War II tragic end several months later.


http://domovod.info/zzimages/hist/zvonko43.jpg
Teachers' Training School of Osijek at Lower Town
almost destroyed during the air raid on June 14, 1944.
Dozens of persons were killed in its shelter.

USAF "Flying Fortresses" raided targets in Austria mostly by daylight flying in from airfields in England or later from France. However British airplanes flew night air raids coming from bases in England. I was various places or close to few ones during air raids and bombardments. I was seconded few times to care for horses when air raid sirens started in time of training in Stockerau. We saddled horses fast to ride them out to nearby thickly wooded Danube's backwater channels. For a while we would continue galloping up and down the many paths there but horses had to be returned sweat-dry to the stables. Sometimes we manned machine-gun outposts around barracks and one wondered what could be achieved with light machine-gun fire against high-flying bombers too. The safest place was the communication post in barracks's basement. All such old military buildings had rather thick brick walls. Staying there underground one felt soil tremors when bombs exploded at closer Klosterneuburg or nearer to Vienna Floridsdorf. At both places refineries were targets and we could see black smoke rising at short distance when bombs struck at them.

On my free weekends I went to Vienna visiting performances in Burg Theater or in State Opera House. Often I looked to Prater's entertainment places or visited Hagenbeck's Circus housed on Praterstern Square. On a Sunday morning early autumn 1944 I walked to Schoebrunn Park ascending to "Gloriette" when veiling sirens announced anew air raid alert. I run for cover to nearest trench and I could see bombs falling out of highflying planes. First it looked like a carpet that stretched so one could recognize single bombs as they were closing nearer to ground. At same time heavy anti-aircraft artillery opened fire and soon a "rain" of fragments was falling on the park area. I remember well the thunder of explosions when ground trembled and could seen outburst of fires farther away. After a while blazing hot draughts reached trenches where one took refuge. After alert ceased I scrambled out finding that few grenade scraps caught into my uniform too. Fortunately I wasn't hurt however returned to Stockerau barracks of shaken spirits earlier that it was really needed. On the way to Vienna's Northwest station I passed through few streets where buildings were damaged or destroyed, peoples running around some of them crying or screaming. They were dazed and injured living beings like me.


http://domovod.info/zzimages/hist/zvonko44.jpg
Russian pursuit aircraft type I 16 called often as "Frog".
Single star engine with max. speed of 460 km/h and one-man crew.

The story "Homage to my horse in war" describes probably my most sadly remembrance of an air raid. I was lieutenant-junior seconded to a Howitzer battery that started its retreat from Osijek on April 13, 1945. When passing through Nasice Township next day Russian airplanes attacked Croatian army columns. My riding horse named "Zelenko" run with a stampede and I'd found it far away few hours later. All theankles were broken and my horse was waiting immobile for the mercy relieving it of pains. I had to kill my horse of war - a shock I would never forget.

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