The Resettlement of the Germans from Gottschee and Ljubljana 1941-42 and of the Scattered Ethnic Germans from Bosnia and Other Regions 1942-43

The Resettlement of the Ethnic Germans from Gottschee and Ljubljana at the end of 1941; Preparations, organization, and technical execution of the undertaking.

The Resettlement of the Germans from Gottschee and Ljubljana 1941-42 and of the Scattered Ethnic Germans from Bosnia and Other Regions 1942-43

Report of Dr. Heinrich Wollert, formerly German official in charge of resettlement in the Province of Ljubljana.
Original, March 27, 1958.

The Resettlement of the Ethnic Germans from Gottschee and Ljubljana at the end of 1941; Preparations, organization, and technical execution of the undertaking.

The "Auswärtige Amt" (office for foreign affairs) in conjunction with the "Deutschen Umsiedlungs-Treuhand GmbH," (German Resettlement Trust Co.,), Berlin (DUT), put me in charge of the resettlement of the ethnic Germans in Ljubljana and Gottschee. My primary task was to ascertain what properties the resettlers from these two regions had left behind, to estimate what compensation they should receive for it based on the value on September 1,
1939, that is before the war, and then - as far as it was possible - to administer and dispose of it. My second task was to accept the resettlement option, which was taken care of in conjunction with the Gabinetto Emigrazione Tedeschi per l'Alto Commissariato per la Provincia di Lubiana. My third task was to prepare and execute the purely technical organization of the resettlement, namely the transportation, above all of the Gottscheer farmers, to the preselected resettlement region of Rann, the so-called Ranner Triangle. Prior to these tasks, I was to participate in the negotiations in Rome for the preparation of executing the resettlement insofar as they dealt with the clarification and adjustments of economic questions according to the terms of the treaty. Political tasks such as propaganda for the resettlement, selection of resettlers according to certain guide lines, as well as all questions connected with the ethnic policies of the Third Reich, were not within the jurisdiction of the German official in charge of the resettlement. These were taken care of by the EWZ (I believe "Einwandererzentrale" - central
office for immigrants), which was set up for this purpose and carried out these tasks completely independently of the other. The EWZ staff travelled to the resettlement region in a train that was outfitted as its office and there carried out the so-called "Vor- und Durchschleusung" (pre- and final processing) of those who had opted to resettle.

After several statements about the whereabouts of the files of the office of the German official in charge of resettlement the writer continues:

The resettlement of the Gottscheers was discussed for the first time after Hitler made an appeal for such a resettlement in a speech in Graz in April 1941. The idea was to resettle the German ethnic group that lived in Gottschee in an area of approximately 800 sq. km. from this region to southern Styria. In my opinion, this resettlement was initiated because the Slovenian region, that is, the region around Ljubljana and Gottschee, was occupied by the Italians at the beginning of 1941 and was also to be under some sort of Italian jurisdiction in
the future. As I recollect, the Italians were at first very hesitant about this resettlement issue, apparently because they realized that this region was heavily settled by ethnic Germans and the Italians had reason to fear that the resettlement could create a vacuum. There were already at that time indications of a Yugoslavian partisan movement and the Italians probably feared that these partisans could establish themselves in a vacated region like Gottschee and thus create military and political problems for the Italian occupation forces.

The German ethnic group was organized in Gottschee. Their representatives supported the resettlement idea of the German side and developed also within the ethnic group a certain
propaganda for the resettlement. The opposition to the resettlement that was also heard in Gottschee was countered with two decisive arguments, namely: (1) that a fertile farmland region had been designated for the resettlement region, and (2) that those who remained behind after the majority had resettled would find themselves in an empty region which in the future would most likely be settled by non-Germans. Thus, they would become extinct as a German ethnic group whose special rights had been respected until then. This argument of political isolation was probably the reason why the ethnic group in Gottschee opted to and finally did resettle in a rather united group. The ethnic Germans in Ljubljana were less unified and hence there was much less propaganda for a resettlement in the city region and the indecisiveness
about resettling was much greater.

After preliminary talks between the German and Italian offices for foreign affairs, negotiations were started in the middle of July 1941 in Rome. A state secretary from the Italian foreign office and a special representative from the German foreign office headed the negotiations. Both sides had a larger number of experts on hand. Thus the ministry of finance and the DUT was represented on the German side. As I recollect, the German ethnic group was not present at these negotiations.

The aim of these negotiations in Rome was to establish the basis for the option, that is, above all to take care of the political prerequisites of the emigration/immigration and beyond that to come to an agreement about the administration of the property that was left behind. Whereas the first task could be dealt with according to the basic tenet, the negotiations concerning the property were halted in the preliminary stages. Neither the German nor the Italian side had enough information on hand about the property that was to be dealt with. One did not even know precisely how many resettlers there were, so that one also did not know how much farm and timberland or city property, how many or what kind of businesses were to be included in the resettlement. The experts that were sent to the resettlement region did not provide any statistics and records that could have been used in the negotiations.

In the course of the negotiations, the Italian side proposed that a private and not a government agency deal with the planned takeover of properties. The Societa Generale Immobiliare, represented by its director, Dr. Aldo Samaritani, appeared for this purpose before the commission in Rome.

The negotiations in Rome concerning the properties were finally concluded in August after the political questions concerning the resettlement had been resolved and October of 1941 had been agreed upon as the time in which the option was to be executed. All other questions that had to do with the property issue were to be dealt with in the negotiations between the Societa Generale Immobiliare and its subsidiary, the EMONA, which was set up for this purpose and whose headquarters were in Ljubljana, and the German official in charge of the resettlement, also headquartered in Ljubljana.

Thus the resettlement began on October 20, 1941 with the execution of the option. Notices, in two languages, German and Italian, were posted in the city of Ljubljana as well as in Gottschee. They admonished the ethnic Germans to submit their resettlement declarations, also written in German and Italian, to the pre-established collection sites. This option declaration was to contain an intent to opt as well as list the property - arranged according to type - that the resettler owned. One copy of this declaration was submitted to the Italian central agency in Ljubljana, namely the above-mentioned Gabinetto Emigrazione Tedeschi per l'Alto Commissariato per la Provincia di Lubiana, and another copy was sent to the office of the German official in charge of the resettlement. Neither the Italian nor the German offices were allowed to make propaganda for the resettlement.

In the allotted option period, 1,844 option declarations were submitted for the region of Ljubljana, particularly for the city region. As was to be expected, the question of whether to resettle or not was eagerly discussed within the ethnic group during this option period. Ethnic German option-takers also came to the office of the German official in charge of the resettlement to get information about the option prospects and to get general advice. Frequently, submitted option declarations were withdrawn during the option period and some again re-submitted.
Since the property compensation and also the question concerning the settling in the new region, particularly of the ethnic Germans living in the city of Ljubljana, were not unequivocally settled, the option-takers had many doubts. In order to deal with these as well, an unannounced
agreement was reached with the Italian option site to extend the option period within which an additional 1,013 option declarations were then submitted. Later, partly for property and partly for family reasons, 177 of these were again withdrawn. All in all, there were 2,680 option-takers in the city of Ljubljana as opposed to the estimate of 1,070 ethnic Germans in the ethnic group Ljubljana.

South Carinthia/Carniola, which was very close to Ljubljana, was designated as the new settlement region for the German ethnic resettlers from Ljubljana. The proximity of the resettlement region later led some of those who had opted to resettle to return to Ljubljana. This movement, however, remained unknown to the official agencies.

The resettlers from the region of Gottschee were faced with much clearer option conditions for the reasons that were given at the beginning. Here altogether 12,104 finally decided to take the option and were allowed to resettle by the EWZ.

The transportation of the resettlers began in the middle of November 1941 and, according to the agreement, was to be completed by December 31, 1941.

For those resettlers living in Ljubljana transportation was not a major problem since the normal railroad and automobile routes sufficed to carry out the transport of persons and their moveable possessions.

The transporting of the ethnic group from Gottschee was much more difficult. The settlement staffs in southern Styria had issued the order that the resettlement transport was to consist of mixed transports made up of people and their moveable possessions, including livestock. This was to make the settling of those concerned easier. The removal, however, was made more difficult by this order because in five or six departure stations trains had to be put together so as to include wagons for people, for livestock, and for equipment and furniture. This organizational problem was solved through agreements between the German and Italian railroads. A special transportation staff of the German official in charge of the resettlement, which at the height of the activity included 400, mostly ethnic Germans, saw to the smooth and punctual departure of the trains.

Much more difficult still than putting together and dispatching the trains was the transporting of the resettlers from the villages, often located high in the mountains to the departure stations. Originally trucks were to transport them to these stations. The agency for resettlement in Germany allocated seventy trucks, some of which were driven by Dutch truck-drivers. There were some problems since the Dutch truck-drivers did not want to drive through the forests in the region which was, as was mentioned at the outset, already occupied by partisans. At the end of November when the transportation was to begin, heavy snow fell in the heavily wooded, quite hilly, in part also mountainous region, making an automobile transport impossible. In addition, this original plan also failed because the promised gasoline allotments were not delivered. Thus the transporting staff was forced to shift the entire plan from automobile to horse-drawn wagons and sleds. Despite these considerable technical difficulties, those who had
opted for resettlement were transported smoothly and without considerable losses according to schedule.

There were considerable problems in assessing the properties in the rural regions of Gottschee. There was a special office of the German official in charge of the resettlement in Gottschee at which the property declarations were collected, checked, and examined by a large number of people. On-site inspections had to be carried out and, where necessary, administrators had to be found. Since all of the moveable property and also the livestock had been removed, only the vacant houses, stables, and structures belonging to them had to be administered.

The assessment was much simpler in the region of the city of Ljubljana with its mostly urban property and homes. Only very few businesses in Ljubljana had to be administered by the resettlement office. Here the resettlers took care of the necessary steps themselves. The rural regions were particularly problematic since the extent of the rural properties had to be determined as accurately as possible. One had to distinguish between farmland and timberland properties. In addition, there were the so-called secondary businesses, such as sawmills, horticultural
nurseries, mills, and so forth. Besides determining these property values, one had to estimate their value according to a certain value scale as of September 1, 1939. In addition, an administration which had to prevent the destruction of these properties through natural causes had to be established.

The EMONA established itself in Ljubljana in 1942. With a relatively large staff of Italian and Slovenian workers, it then contacted the office of the German official in charge of the resettlement in order to take over the properties. In very lengthy negotiations which began in Ljubljana but were then concluded in Rome, it was determined that the farm property that was subject to the resettlement procedure amounted to about 40,000 hectares. An agreement
was reached with the Italian agency which set the price of each hectare at about 3,000 lire (approximate exchange rate: RM 1 = 60-70 lire). Global prices were also determined for the city properties in Ljubljana and Gottschee by means of individual assessments. Likewise, debts which were outstanding on the rural and urban properties were estimated, so that the total price for the entire resettlement property was fixed at 150 million lire in 1943. Since the successive take-over of the property by the EMONA was originally set for ten years beginning
in 1942, but since all those involved wanted to have the payments for these properties that were to be taken over made as soon as possible and in cash, a discount was granted for cash payment of this value of 150 million lire. Hence, the total amount that the EMONA was to pay was fixed at 127.4 million lire at the beginning of 1943. As I recall, the EMONA did make partial payments of this cash purchasing price.

Due to the political difficulties in the region of Gottschee, caused particularly by the increasing activity of the partisans, the EMONA could no longer take possession of the properties. In addition, the Italians left the Slovenian region at the end of 1943, the beginning of 1944. The region became an occupation zone and was placed under the jurisdiction of German military personnel. As a result, the German official in charge of the resettlement, with the consent of the EMONA and with the confirmation of the German military authorities, again became the administrator of the property, and this time as a trustee. Since the rural regions in Gottschee could no longer be administered, his administrative duties after this time were mainly concerned with paying the debts and claims that the settlers had left behind. The local agencies understandably attached great importance to this.

About February 1945 the German official in charge of the resettlement liquidated his office by dismissing the Slovenian employees in an entirely orderly way, taking the files to Velden/Wörthersee, and appointing a local trustee in the person of an attorney from the region for the property remaining in Ljubljana, particularly for the cash and bank accounts. The trustee was instructed to hand over these values to the agency which was legally entitled to them. It was necessary to take these measures at that time because Ljubljana was about to be
occupied by the partisans.