What is your opinion on Casagrand Savoye

Eastern Europe Institute

Review number 16 from May 6th, 2004


Reviewed by: Carl Bethke (Berlin)


The title of the Frankfurt dissertation takes up catch-words that focus on German sensitivities. The debates about “two kinds of downfall” (Andreas Hillgruber) and the causality of the Holocaust and Nazi crimes on the one hand, and expulsion and communist crimes on the other, have shaped the identity of the “opinion camps” - including the dispute over the “center against expulsion”. Casagrande, himself the son of an SS veteran from South Tyrol, goes one step further: Using the Swabians from the Serbian Banat, he tries to explain how the ethno-national mobilization of the 1930s, and especially the war crimes of 1941-1945, made the expulsion "understandable" (P. 349). For the German side, the investigation is almost (1) still a novelty: so far, “ethnic Germans” have appeared primarily as victims, while their involvement in war crimes has hardly been investigated.

Casagrande's work comes from political science; it does not necessarily belong to the “new research on perpetrators”. First of all, it contains a (constructivist) lecture on the theory of ethnic conflicts and then a detailed historical introduction - when listing the division, the author only comes to page 187. The explanatory pattern “the own and the foreign” runs like a red thread through the work, which was introduced in 1992 by the psychologist Mario Erdheim with a view to early childhood experiences (!) And, as is well known, later popularized by the VW Foundation. The holdings of the Political Archives of the Foreign Office, the Federal Archives, the Military Archives and the Military History Archives in Prague were evaluated. On the basis of the files, the apologetic justification character of the memoirs of the ethnic group leader Sepp Janko and the division commander Otto Kumm, two exposed actors, can be exposed. In general, dealing with the historiography of the Danube Swabian “experience generation” is a leitmotif. In two cases (Johann Wüscht, Franz Hamm) Casagrande can evidently prove the denunciation of Jews in the Batschka by later expellee functionaries (p. 164). Serbian sources and literature as well as letters from the field post etc. were not used, and Ekkehard Völkl's work on the West Banat 1941-1944 (2) was not taken into account. The information about the military and social war events in the Balkans comes from the correspondence of the division's management level with Berlin offices.




During the Second World War, the Banat was part of occupied Serbia with a certain regional special status. Since the planners from the Reich only had a secondary interest in this area, the local exercise of power was in the hands of the Nazi "ethnic group". At the same time, the Banat was one of the first regions in Europe in which the Holocaust was perpetrated. The role of ethnic Germans, which has only been dealt with in passing, would have to be dealt with separately, even if the occupation apparatus (Wehrmacht and SD) was responsible for the physical execution. Nevertheless, as the author shows, the organization of the ethnic groups (and not just individuals) was one of the beneficiaries of the Aryanization that followed (p. 176ff).

Himmler saw the establishment of a Volksdeutsche division of the Waffen-SS in 1942 as a consequence of "the iron law of Volkstum"; in the book this can be deciphered as the intersection of several diverging interests: firstly, the German armed forces' growing need for replacement after the defeat in Moscow, secondly The Foreign Office's concerns about declaring non-German citizens compulsory for military service (p. 191), thirdly, the efforts of the SS to increase their weight in the Nazi regime by increasing the number of troops. Formally, entry into the Waffen SS was voluntary. In fact, however, the ethnic Germans were drafted under threat of punishment - in one case also against local resistance (p. 196). In 1943, Himmler said: "If an ethnic group is run reasonably well, then everyone volunteers and those who do not volunteer get their houses smashed." (P. 267) But you should, as Casagrande writes , do not be misled into the assumption that “conscripts generally identify less with their tasks and goals” than volunteers (p. 306). Himmler had domestic political goals: “The ethnic Germans very much need an ideological and political education. This is guaranteed within the framework of the 'Prinz Eugen' division. However, it is in no way guaranteed if the ethnic Germans are included in the security divisions and similar parts of the armed forces which, as is known, have no officer corps active in the National Socialist ”. The division was set up from March 1, 1942, later ethnic Germans from Croatia and Romania were also incorporated into it. The name Prinz Eugen was chosen as part of a comprehensive Prinz Eugen cult, Himmler himself used Prince Eugen's birthday to visit (p. 233). SS men from the Reich, including notorious criminals such as Viktor Brack, contributed to the radicalization. Outsiders could "hardly imagine what it means to make SS men out of completely Serbized, mostly overaged people", he said in 1943 (p. 255). The division was deployed in Serbia from October 1942, and at the end of 1942 it was moved to Croatia, where it took part in the major “White” offensive against the Tito partisans. In March 1943, the Prinz Eugen was merged with the Bosniak Handžar division to form the V SS Army Corps under Arthur Phleps. The division also took part in Operation “Black” a little later in Montenegro, otherwise it was responsible for securing the bauxite deposits near Mostar. Later she was involved in the disarming of the Italians, operations against partisans in Dalmatia, Bosnia and the Lika as well as in securing the retreat of Army Group E.




During the deployment phase, Commander Phleps had specified in a paper dated April 21, 1942 “tactical principles for conducting small wars”: “A fanatical population, especially of Serbian nationality, cannot tolerate any tolerant treatment influenced by humanity drudgery. She only respects the brutal violence ”. Borrowings from social Darwinist ideologues become visible: It is important to "combine the fighting with the hunting", appeals were made to the "martial life" and the "sporting zeal". It also says: "If the population takes part in the gang fight, they must be completely crushed without sparing." (P. 225ff.) Casagrande's investigation confirms that ethnic and political front positions were intertwined in the partisan war: except in the case of the Jews, leave Among the victims as well as the allies of the Prinz Eugen there are members of all ethnic groups, including those ethnic German partisans to whom Casagrande dedicates his work (p. 351). Casagrande, however, sees plausible calls for the "annihilation of the hostile civilian population" in the divisional orders (p. 258). In doing so, the author takes up an observation or thesis made by Hannes Heer, which was lost in the political hype surrounding the military machine exhibition. (3) The differences in the loss figures were so high - e.g. For example, in Operation “Schwarz” in May / June 1943, 465 fallen Germans (according to the High Command of the Wehrmacht) versus 10,000 fallen partisans - it can be assumed that the partisans' losses “are largely due to the civilian population being killed "(P. 254). The source of the practice behind the obfuscation can best be found where there were “breakdowns” (p. 260). Commander Carl von Oberkamp used this to describe the murder of 40 Muslim men, women and children in the village of Kosutica on July 12, 1943. (4) Only in such cases, i. H. Police investigations or even diplomatic correspondence could take place where the Croatian and Bosniaks were murdered. These documents were important pieces of evidence in Nuremberg. (5) For example the Otok case on March 28, 1944 in the municipality of Slunj, where the Prinz Eugen people had organized a "mass slaughter" - without any military reason, as the German envoy Siegfried Kasche, in connection with protests by the Croatian government (pp. 277-281). Mind you: In most of the similar “actions”, the victims were probably Serbs (or Roma), and these cases were rarely put on the German side. A report that Obergruppenführer Friedrich Krüger wrote to Heinrich Himmler in March 1944 after a trip to the Prinz Eugen is telling: According to this, the operations were similar to his "operations" in the General Government - but these were related to the murder of the Jews and the expulsion from Poland (p . 271). Regarding the Otok case, Casagrande unfortunately imprecisely reproduces a “rumor” according to which the massacre was connected with plans to relocate the local population to Slavonia, namely to German villages that were “evacuated” in December 1943 (p. 282). Such resettlements had already taken place in Bosnia in 1941/42. The reasons overlapped the long-term goals of the Nazis, the partisans' attacks on the German civilian population, which was little protected by the drafts into the SS, and, as Casagrande shows, the concern about the destruction of the “spirit and military strength” of the ethnic Germans by the “gang leadership”. In fact, in this ethnically mixed part of Croatia in 1943/44 - as in 1936/37 (6) - the communists tried to “induce parts of the German population to join the anti-fascist organizations”. (7) That of all places in this area during attacks Hundreds of ad hoc mobilized village guards and civilians were killed in German villages (see p. 205), shows how the conditions of political-ethnonational warfare fell back on the German population. (8) In this sense, the author also interprets “the end of the German ethnic group in Yugoslavia ”- with the hint that“ it is precisely those Danube Swabians who individually had less reason to fear the revenge of the partisans who hesitated to leave their homeland ”. The consequences of the crime - internment and forced labor - were undoubtedly hit harder than many other Germans.




The derivation and conclusions of Casagrande can be criticized in part: The author uncritically "appreciates" the exceptions defined in the AVNOJ resolutions of October 21, 1944, for example (p. 299 and 321). Because people of “German descent” (sic!) Were only exempted from internment and forced labor if they a) actively supported the communists - which leveled out the resistance (“blacks” and “whites”) that was quite relevant in the Batschka, or b ) Relatives of so-called "mixed marriages" were - a criterion that exposes political guilt and is dubious. (9) Whether the author went on excursions into the 1990s (it is so significant that Karadžić came from a Četnik family, p. 352) that, given the fatal role of the “Socialist Party of Serbia”, they are not more of an own goal, let it be said.




Casagrande's work is a good, important book that breaks new ground and encourages further research. If a European center against displacement, whoever it is, wants to document “the expulsions in Europe in the 20th century in their various causes, contexts and consequences”, it will deal with such dark pages in the history of ethnic Germans have to deal intensively.


Carl Bethke

Email: [email protected]


Editor: Heiko Hänsel

Email: [email protected]



(1) Jansen, Christian and Arno Weckbecker: The “Volksdeutsche Selbstschutz” in Poland 1939/40. Munich 1992.


(2) Völkl, Ekkehard: Der Westbanat 1941-1944. The German, the Hungarian and other ethnic groups. Munich 1991; see Manoschek, Walter: “Serbia is free of Jews”. Military occupation policy and the extermination of Jews in Serbia 1941/42. Munich 1993.


(3) Heer, Hannes: The logic of the war of extermination. Wehrmacht and partisan struggle. In: Ders and Klaus Naumann (eds.): War of destruction. Crimes of the Wehrmacht 1941-1944. Hamburg 1995, p. 57ff.


(4) The "Prinz Eugen" had apparently also acquired a relevant reputation within the SS. SS-Oberführer Werner Fromm replied: "Since you got here, only breakdowns have happened here."


(5) The trial of the main war criminals before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, vol. 20. Nuremberg 1949, p. 409.


(6) Cf. Bethke, Carl: The image of the German resistance in ex-Yugoslavia. In: Ueberschär, Gerd R. (Ed.): The German resistance against Hitler. Perception and valuation in Europe and the USA. Darmstadt 2002, p. 120.


(7) see Kühnrich, Heinz and Franz-Karl Wärme: Deutsche bei Titos Partisanen 1941–1945. The fortunes of the war in the Balkans in eyewitness reports and documents. Schkeuditz 1997.


(8) See the Polish Archives of the Foreign Office (PAAA) Inl. IIg 217, 1471/44. Casagrande also refers to an interesting collection, namely letters from ethnic German women from Croatia to their husbands in 1943. See Military Archives Prague 18 SS Division Horst Wessel, Kt. 4.


(9) Odluka o prelazu u državno vlašništvo neprijatelske imovine, o državno upravi nad imovinom neprijatelskih osoba io sekvestru nad imovinom koju su okupatorske vlasti prisilno otudile Confiscation of property that the occupying powers have forcibly alienated]. In: Službeni List I No. 2. from 02/06/1945, 13f. See also Wehler, Hans-Ulrich: Nationalities Policy in Yugoslavia. The German minority 1918-1978. Göttingen 1980.