|Administrative unit of the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia|
Territory of the Military
Commander in Serbia (darker green).
|Capital||Veliki Bečkerek (Petrovgrad)a|
|Historical era||World War II|
|•||1931||9,300 km2 (3,591 sq mi)|
|Density||63 /km2 (163.1 /sq mi)|
The Banat was a political entity established in 1941 after the occupation and partition of Yugoslavia by the Axis Powers in the historical Banat region. It was formally under the control of the German puppet Government of National Salvation in Belgrade, which theoretically had limited jurisdiction over all of the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia,[Note 1] but all power within the Banat was in the hands of the local minority of ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche). The regional civilian commissioner and head of the ethnic German minority was Josef Lapp. Following the ousting of Axis forces in 1944, this German-ruled region was dissolved and most of its territory was included into Vojvodina, one of the two autonomous provinces of Serbia within the new SFR Yugoslavia.
German plans for the future
The local German population agitated for the German government to establish a large German state in the Danube and Tisza valleys, expressing annoyance that the Bačka and Syrmia regions in the west were awarded to Hungary and Croatia respectively after the collapse of Yugoslavia. In spite of repeated personal appeals to Hitler, they were rebuffed in this objective. In the interest of maintaining close political ties with the Hungarian and Romanian regimes Berlin preferred to retain the Banat as a potential bargaining chip with these countries, both of which desired to annex the area (see also Greater Hungary and Greater Romania). In order to avoid offending either ally it was placed within the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia. Because this theoretically placed the Banat under the control of the puppet Nedić government, the Germans ordered the puppet government to proclaim it a separate administrative area under an ethnic-German vice-governor (Vice-Banus), who was to have sole administrative authority of the region.
The Banat Germans subsequently used every means at their disposal to strengthen their position compared to that of other nationalities, and to foster the development of German national feeling through the establishment of youth and adult organizations, and setting up its own school system. These attempts were made to convince the Nazi authorities of the desirability of creating a new Gau in the Danube area and parts of Transylvania (Siebenbürgen) which they tentatively called the Prinz-Eugen Gau, a goal never officially supported by the war-time German government.
Nazi plans for the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia as a whole however intended for the country to remain under some form of permanent German control. This was believed necessary to ensure German dominion over the Danubian basin of South-Eastern Europe, an economically vital area in consideration of Germany’s wartime goals for the eastern territories that it expected to conquer in the Soviet Union. German plans did call for re-making the strategically located city of Belgrade as a "fortress-city of the Reich" (Reichsfestung Belgrad) to ensure control over the Iron Gate, populated only by Germans. The city's possible renaming to Prinz-Eugen-Stadt was also discussed.
War crimes against Serbs, Jews and Roma
The region was ruled by the German army. The Germans instituted anti-Jewish measures immediately after the German invasion and occupation of Yugoslavia. The Jewish population of the city of Zrenjanin was rounded up and sent to the Tašmajdan concentration camp near Belgrade where they were executed. In September 1941, there was a mass hanging of Serb and Jewish civilians. Jews were also forced into labor battalions to do forced work for the German occupation authorities. In August 1942, German officials announced that the area was judenrein, i.e. "clean of Jews". Between 1941 to 1944, at a Stratište locality near Jabuka village in Banat, more than 10,000 Serbs, Jews and Roma were killed by German forces.
SS Division Prinz Eugen
After the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia had been established, the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen was formed from Yugoslav Germans (Volksdeutsche). The backbone of the division was made up of ethnic Germans from Banat itself, many of whom had been former officers and NCOs in either the Royal Yugoslav Army or even the Habsburg army. The core of the Division was made up of the SS controlled Protection Force or Selbstschutz consisting of Volksdeutsche from the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia.
"After the initial rush of Volksdeutsche to join, voluntary enlistments tapered off, and the new unit did not reach division size. Therefore, in August 1941, the SS discarded the voluntary approach, and after a favourable judgement from the SS court in Belgrade, imposed a mandatory military obligation on all Volksdeutsche in Serbia-Banat, the first of its kind for non-Reich Germans."
Consequently, over 21,500 ethnic Germans from the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia were conscripted into the Waffen SS.
The staff of the Prinz Eugen Division was based in the city of Pančevo in Banat. The division was formed between April and October, 1942 and was commanded by the Romanian Volksdeutsche SS Gruppenfuehrer and General-lieutenant of the Waffen SS, Artur Phleps. By December 31, 1941, the division was made up of 21,102 men. The Prinz Eugen SS Division was deployed throughout the former Yugoslavia to put down the Yugoslav Partisans, but was largely unsuccessful. During the campaigns it became infamous for reprisals and atrocities against innocent Yugoslav civilians of all faiths but particularly Serbs. The division was formally accused of committing atrocities against POWs and civilians during World War II at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.
Post-war fate of ethnic Germans
After the defeat of Axis Powers, in 1944, most of the ethnic Germans left the region, together with defeated German army. The antifascist council for the liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ) declared the remaining German population as public enemies. They were sent to one of several villages turned into prison camps, mainly Knićanin and Sremska Mitrovica, where some of them died from disease and malnutrition. After prison camps were dissolved (in 1948), the remaining German population left Yugoslavia because of economic reasons.
According to the 1931 census, the population of the region numbered 585,579 people, including:
- Serbs = 261,123 (44.59%)
- Germans = 120,541 (20.58%)
- Hungarians = 95,867 (16.37%)
- Romanians = 62,365 (10.65%)
- Slovaks = 17,900 (3.06%)
- Croats = 12,546 (2.14%)
By religion, the population included (1931 data):
- Orthodox Christians = 321,262 (56.71%)
- Roman Catholics = 196,087 (34.62%)
- Protestants = 37,179 (6.56%)
- others = 11,932 (2.11%)
Number of victims
During the war, German Axis troops killed 7,513 inhabitants of Banat, including:
- 2,211 people who were killed directly
- 1,294 people who were sent to concentration camps and killed there
- 1,498 people who were sent to forced labour and killed there
- 152 people who were mobilized and later killed
- 2,358 killed members of the resistance movement
Of the total number of the victims (excluding members of the resistance movement), 4,010 were men, 631 were women, 243 were elderly people, and 271 were children.
Note: This list includes only native inhabitants of Banat who fell as victims of Axis occupation. Civilians who were brought from other parts of occupied Yugoslavia and killed in Banat by German forces are not counted in this list.
- Hungarian occupation of Yugoslav territories
- 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen
- History of Vojvodina
- History of Serbia
- Hehn (1971), pp. 344-373
- Pavlowitch (2002), p. 141
- Böhm, Johann. Die deutsche Volksgruppe in Jugoslawien 1918-1941. p. 25.
- Rich, Norman (1974). Hitler's War Aims: the Establishment of the New Order W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., pp 294-295.
- Manoschek, Walter (1995). "Serbien ist judenfrei": militärische Besatzungspolitik und Judenvernichtung in Serbien 1941/42. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, p. 27.
- Rich (1974), p. 316
- Rich (1974), p. 311-313
- http://www.danas.rs/vesti/dijalog/opasno_neznanje_ili_nesto_vise.46.html?news_id=145464 DANAS.rs Opasno neznanje ili nešto više; Autor: Aleksandar Lebl
- John K. Cox (2002). The history of Serbia. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-313-31290-8.
- Valdis O. Lumans, Himmler's Auxiliaries: The Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle and the German National minorities of Europe, 1939-1945 (University of North Carolina Press, 1993), page.235.
- Slobodan Ćurčić, Broj stanovnika Vojvodine, Novi Sad, 1996. (pages 42, 43)
- Hehn, Paul N. (1977). "Serbia, Croatia and Germany 1941-1945: Civil War and Revolution in the Balkans". Canadian Slavonic Papers (University of Alberta) 13 (4): 344–373. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
- Pavlowitch, Stevan K. (2002). Serbia: the History behind the Name. London: C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. ISBN 978-1-85065-476-6.
- Jelena Popov, Vojvodina i Srbija, Veternik, 2001.
- Dimitrije Boarov, Politička istorija Vojvodine, Novi Sad, 2001.
- Slobodan Ćurčić, Broj stanovnika Vojvodine, Novi Sad, 1996.
- History of Europe, The Times, London, 2001.
- Richard Overy, History of the 20th century, The Times, London, 2003.
- Valdis O. Lumans, Himmler's Auxiliaries: The Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle and the German National minorities of Europe, 1939-1945 (University of North Carolina Press, 1993)
- Jewish history of Yugoslavia — Serbia and the Banat
- Holocaustchronicle.org: 1941—Mass Murder
- "Prinz Eugen" SS Division, 1941-1945
- Partition of Yugoslavia in 1941 - Quotes from Encyclopædia Britannica, edition 1971, Volume 23, pages 921,922 entry: Yugoslavia, 6. WWII
- Cinematography in Serbia during the Second World War 1941-1945