Anna's Story; A true story of a young girl's will to survive in the Aftermath of World War II
World War II has been the subject of countless books, films, plays, magazines, lectures, and much more. History has recorded just about every minute of WWII, from beginning to end. In contrast, little is known about what happen after WWII. In particular, what were the effects of the war on the European people that survived?
The end of World War II was the beginning of the horror for many Europeans, especially the ethnic German populations of Eastern Europe. After the WWII, countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union expelled millions of ethnic Germans living within their borders as retribution for the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis against their people. These expulsions created the largest forced migration of a population in human history. It was estimated that more than 15 million ethnic Germans became refugees between 1945 and 1950. Most of them left behind everything they owned and made the long arduous journey, sometimes hundreds of kilometers, many by foot, to Austria and Germany. Many ethnic Germans died along the way from starvation and disease. As chaotic and horrible as this exodus was, these Germans were the lucky ones. The ethnic German families that decided to stay in their homes and fight for their property faced a fate far more horrific than the expulsions.
In the beginning of WWII, Yugoslavia refused to align with the Nazis, instead, fought against them. By April 1941, the Royal Yugoslav Army lost the fight and surrendered to the Nazis. The Nazi Germans immediately divided up the country between Germany, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria. The Nazis set up garrison outposts, check-points, and prison camps. The torture and murder of the Yugoslavian citizens by the Nazis instilled a deep hatred of the Germans, all Germans, including the ethnic German civilians, the farmers, tradesmen and business owners who wanted nothing to do with the war.
The occupation of Yugoslavia by Axis forces (Nazi Germany and it’s collaborators) did meet some resistance from Chetniks Rebels and Serb Partisans although fierce infighting took place between these two groups. The Serbian Partisans were unorganized and undisciplined, until the rise to power of Josip Broz, otherwise known as Tito. Born in Croatia, Tito was a Communist and a Revolutionary. As the self-appointed leader of the Partisans, Tito was very effective at organizing and waging guerrilla warfare against the occupying German Army. The Partisans of Yugoslavia adopted the Communist ideology and came to be known as Tito Communist Partisans.
By late 1944 throughout Europe, the German Wehrmacht, (War Machine), was showing signs of defeat. Taking advantage of the weakening German Army, the Communist Partisans, with the help of the advancing Russian Red Army, succeeded in driving the Nazi German Army and their collaborators out of Yugoslavia.
Starting in 1945, with permission from Yugoslavian authorities, the Communist Partisans carried out the deportation of over one million Danube Swabians. The Swabian Germans that chose not to leave voluntarily, were rounded up at gun point by the Communist Partisans and forced into ghettos. After many months of being crowded into small sections of each town, with 25 to 30 people in each house, the Swabian Germans were transported by railroad cattle cars to concentration death camps, set up and guarded by armed Communist Partisan Serbian Soldiers. Starvation and disease was the preferred method of exterminating the Swabian ethnic Germans.
Such was the fate of the Friedrich family. In 1945 Anna Friedrich was 12 years old. Her father and two brothers, Mischi and Juri had volunteered to fight for the German Army. This left Mother, 41, her oldest child Kathi, 24 with her own child Annemarie, 4, and Mother’s two youngest children, Anna, and Stefan, 14, to fend for themselves. What happens next is what this story is about. This is Anna’s story, told from her experiences and memories.