Heroic struggle and resistance: Anti-fascist spirit in Banat 1941–1945

National liberation struggle, organized resistance and courage: A look at the anti-fascist movement in Banat during the Second World War. An investigation of the geographical, political and social conditions that shaped the struggle against the Nazi occupation, with an emphasis on the role of partisan units, local cooperation and the challenges of the lack of war materials. A depiction of the heroism and sacrifices of young fighters in the fight for freedom and justice.

Echo of memories: Testimony about childhood and the anti-fascist struggle in Banat

Dejan Bošnjak provided a statement about his childhood and perspective on the antifascist struggle. He was born on September 1, 1933. He was a teacher in Zrenjanin and surrounding areas, engaged in journalism, a chronicler, and a great connoisseur of the Banat plain.

I must first tell you that Banat is very special for the Serbian and all other peoples living in it. I won't list now all the famous people born and worked in Banat. The same goes for the People's Liberation Struggle. This region produced a huge number of fighters and many true heroes. I have to say that I was small at that time and it looked different to me then, but when I grew up a bit, I put it all together and connected it. Before the start of World War II, my father, Ljubomir Bošnjak Bata, was often called for military exercises, more often than others. You see, he had a special treatment because he worked in a railway workshop with a German, a communist, Servo Mihalj (Mihael), who, like my father, was left-wing, a man of progressive thinking. The state constantly kept an eye on such people. That's why Bata decided to move from his native Melenaci to Taraš, which was secluded from all main roads, and start a windmill there. During the April war, my father was captured, but he escaped from the Topovska šupa camp, returned to us, and settled in Taraš afterward, milling grain in the mill, as before. He was informed about events, but of course, I was not. I remember that there were between thirty and sixty soldiers in Taraš and that they prevented my father from milling grain into flour, it was reserved only for the Germans. I was not aware of all the battles and events, for example, I learned about the events that took place on the Bošnjak's farm only after the war, but I remember well the terror and the terrible winter of 1941-1942. We didn't see such snowdrifts often, and the temperatures dropped unusually low. That winter, the Germans discovered and wounded Milan Stančić Uča in a brickyard in Kumanovo. He escaped to the house of a Taraš resident, was soon arrested, and handed over to the municipality. The SKOJ (League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia) members tried to save Stančić, but that attempt failed. Stančić was killed that winter. My father gave a lot of money to Špiler to save the lives of some of those SKOJ members. I remember during the arrests the Germans were in our house, my mother baked fish for them, we were all quite scared. I saw Špiler once again in 1944, but I'll tell you about that later. I would tell you an interesting story about Dobrivoje Živkov, called Dobra. He was a prominent communist, a blacksmith by profession. He knew my father from the railway workshop, and they were good friends. I remember that in 1942 he was hiding in our house. Shortly after that, Dobra was arrested and put on a train. I know that they had previously collected red aid, i.e., funds that would be used by the partisans in the fight. That's why my father went to investigate the situation and try to find out if Dobra had said anything to the Germans. Bata then boarded the train on which Dobra was being transported under guard. He traveled for a while, pretending that he was going to do business. It wasn't easy to reach Živkov because he was well guarded. However, my father caught the signal he sent him. Namely, Dobra took off his hat, lowered it toward his neck, nodded his head; he signaled to him: "I will give my head, but I will not betray you." Since this journey lasted, the train had already reached Melenaci. When the guard asked him where he was going, my father said he was going to buy a cow. Now, what happened at that time in our house? My mother was worried because my father had been gone for several days, she went to a fortune teller who told her that he was coming home and bringing something with him that went on four legs. The next day my father came home with a cow. Dobra Živkov was taken to a camp and shot in 1944. They said afterward that he could have escaped, but he didn't do it because of possible retaliation against his brother's family. I remember well the blockade of Taraš in 1944. In July, the Germans set up a machine gun on the windmill and completely blocked the village. I was still very young, I was just starting high school; that's fifth grade elementary school today. Some German soldiers who were angry with Špiler for taking them out in such heat asked me if people talked about war and politics. I pretended to be ignorant even though I read newspapers every day and looked at the map of Europe. All this happened because Žarki, Zeka, and some others attacked a group of border guards. Prominent villagers, I remember, were taken out and lined up in front of the church.
Juraj Špiler, whom I saw for the second time then, approached Father Toma and asked him loudly, "Are there any bandits in the village?" The priest replied, "Mr. Doctor, these good people are burdened because their land remained on the other side of the Tisa, they are not involved in politics. As a spiritual being, I vouch for you with my beard, and if that's not enough for you, as a man, I vouch for you with my head." Fortunately for us all, none of the many bases in Taraš were discovered. Later I learned that food for the partisans was actually coming from the windmill, and the "subašes," field guards, were responsible for its distribution. From that period, I remember the story of the young man I mentioned earlier. His name was Nedeljko Barnić, but they called him Žarki. Špiler hated him; it was said that Žarki had hit him with his last strength in the groin, so Špiler ordered the exhausted young man to be tied up and buried alive. I remember the Russian soldiers well. They were cheerful and liked to play with children, they showed us guns and let us smoke cigarettes. After the war, we moved to Zrenjanin, which got a new name in 1946. As I said, my perspective changed over the years, for example, when I was younger I thought all Germans and Hungarians became our enemies. When I matured, I realized that wasn't the case after all, many of our neighbors, Hungarians, did not betray anyone, and there were many communists among the Germans. Good examples of this are Servo Mihalj and Peter Polinger. That man never renounced the Germans. While he was in prison, he often told his guards: "Future generations of Germans will be ashamed of what you are doing now." After the war, I learned more about Žarko Zrenjanin, Koča Kolarov, and all the other young men and women who gave their lives in the People's Liberation Struggle. It was a difficult time that we must not forget.

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