Tribute to Liberty

January 19th, 2012
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We don’t as a rule write about our charitable donations here, but readers may want to know more about the very worthwhile charity, Tribute to Liberty. Its aim is to build a monument to the victims of Communism in Ottawa. The charity has made significant progress, as you can read here, but still needs a lot of help. Donors will have their own dedication or story posted on the Tribute website.  We encourage all our readers to consider supporting this very worthwhile cause.

The dedication of my 2011 donation to TTL is in memory of the inhabitants of the village of Varsad, Hungary that were deported for slave labour and perished in the Soviet Union at the end of WWII.  This is the story:

At the start of World War II, approximately 10% of Hungary’s population were ethnic Germans.  Most of these had lived in Hungary for over 250 years, having been settled there by the Austrian Crown to reclaim the land devastated by the Turkish occupation of over 150 years.  Varsad – pronounced “Vashad” by the locals, “Varshad” in Magyar – was a German village with about 1000 inhabitants in southwest Hungary.

In late 1944 the battle-front, in the form of advancing Soviet troops, was moving into the region.  Only two individuals – my grandmother and her neighbour, taking what they could carry – had accepted the offer from the German authorities to be evacuated west, earlier in the year.  Most people who owned property didn’t want to leave it or could not imagine that, despite a likely Soviet occupation, all would not turn out for the best.  They were mistaken.

Soviet troops entered Varsad on December 1st, 1944, unleashing several weeks of rape and pillage common across eastern Europe at the time.  My father’s cousin and a score of other women and girls were able to seek refuge in the Russian command post, where they were protected by a sympathetic officer.

On December 26th, all women aged 18 to 30 and men aged 17 to 45 were to report to the commandant.  There were few of the latter because most had been drafted.  At first, many claimed to be Magyars (ethnic Hungarians) to avoid an as yet unknown fate.  Later it became clear to the Russians that all were in fact Germans and that they would therefore be deported for slave labour in the Soviet Union.

After some weeks in railway cattle-cars, with little food or drink, they arrived in the Donbas coal region, where most would be put to work in the mines.  Rations were below survival level and many died, particularly those from (previously) richer farm families who were not used to hard physical labour.

The cousin of my father’s, mentioned above, was 21 years old when she reached Bavaria, which was occupied by the Americans.  She had survived 18 months in the mines and weighed only 37 kilos, so she was released due to “ill health”.  Her sister died in one of the camps.

It is estimated that up to 35,000 ethnic German civilians, and 30,000 P.O.W.s were deported from Hungary for slave labour in the Soviet Union.  Of these approximately 6000 perished.  A further 250,000 German-Hungarians were expelled to western Germany and Austria by order of the Soviet occupiers, losing their property and livelihood.  Over 50,000 are thought to have lost their lives during the expulsion.

To the horrible toll of World War II were added these innocent lives.  They were victims of totalitarianism, of Communism.


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By John Weissenberger