The resettling of the Carinthian Slovenes. With the occupation of Yugoslavia they already transferred our parishes into German parishes. We weren’t even allowed to sing Slovenian in church. We had an inn, and there we had to hang up posters: “Carinthians speak German!” You always had to look out who was at the inn – as there were spies around – whether you spoke Slovenian or German. Of course, if you knew there was nobody around, you spoke Slovenian. In 1942 they resettled five families from Ludmannsdorf. We were on the list, as well. Allegedly 16 Families of the parish were to be resettled. They stopped it then. We heard that there were so many that they didn’t know where to send them. They stopped it then.
We took on different tasks: mail, messenger service, food (that was important, too), clothes, and a very important thing: medical supplies. They were important, because there was always somebody wounded, and they had to attend to him until they had the opportunity to take him across the river Drau into the Karawanken, because there was a partisan hospital where they took the wounded.
They were very frightened – of course. They heard when one was caught and another one… We always thought: ‘hopefully that won’t happen to us’. Everybody was living with fear at this time; at home, as well. They did not know what was going to happen. In our family: my brother fell in 1942 in Russia, 1943 they enlisted the second brother, 1944 I was arrested, and in January 1945 my other brother was enlisted. Nobody knew how it would end. It was a horrible thing for the families. You had to get through it and still believe in a good ending. That was part of it.
A group of partisans, about 20 of them (a few were with us as well) went to the constabulary and the town hall and took whatever they could do with. At the constabulary they seized weapons and the type writers and stationery. The country constables were having their evening meal and unfortunately one was shot there, because he didn’t put his hands up. One hand went to the pistol - he put the other hand up - and with that he risked his life. The partisan first shouted: “Hands up!” which he didn’t do and so he was shot. That was the first dead person in our house. The field police occupied our house for 10 days, they all were regular SS men and searched the village and the forest where they assumed the partisans to be around. Of course they had already pulled back and disappeared.
I planned to join the partisans myself, if they hadn’t arrested me. I had already got two pairs of trousers made and a windbreaker. I wanted to go to the unit. But unfortunately it turned out differently. I was confident: I would join the resistance, even the armed resistance – yes. But it did not happen, because we were arrested. You were still proud of contributing so much. At least something. They said anyway, back then in Ludmannsdorf: “Lock these pests up, then we will have peace in Ludmannsdorf.” These brats – like me – they were supposed to be locked away to have peace in Ludmannsdorf. Many thought something, or guessed something, but nobody exactly knew about the Nazis. As soon as the partisans came into the village and carried out an action, somebody must have smoothed the way for them to come.
They knocked hard on the door on the 5th May at 11 o’clock in the evening: “Open up, open up!” My father opened and they asked where I was. I was lying in the living room, but I heard everything. Then two or three came in and shouted: “Get up!” “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Get up and you will see then what’s going to happen.” Of course I got up then. My family - the father, the mother, a Polish helper, and my three brothers all had to get up, as well. They all had to sit down behind the table. I was put towards the door so I could not look at the others. Then we were interrogated. One after the other, the mother first... I was interrogated last. Unfortunately they had found something and I had to confess… Because otherwise the family… I had to confess and then it was decided that they would march me off early in the morning. In the morning I asked one of the guards: “Well, what shall I put on?” He said: “You won’t have warm feet for long anyway. You won’t need anything.” At 6 am in the morning we left home. The whole village looked green because of all these soldiers and field police. Most of them were field police. We went up to where the constabulary was, at the next inn. There they showed me a map of Ludmannsdorf and I could see that everything was put on record; all the houses that we had had connections, just everything. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t work out, why. Then we drove away and went out to Bach where I saw that they had a military lorry. In it were all the others that had been arrested with me. We were 18 persons. From there we were taken to the Gestapo in the court house in Klagenfurt. The Gestapo had occupied the first and second floor. Most of the people on the second floor were either waiting for their hearing or the ones that were to be taken to the camps later on. There we were until Christmas. On the 26th December we were transferred to … On the ground floor was the court and there we waited again. One or two weeks later it was the turn for the others. Ten of them were sentenced to death and five taken to the different camps. Then it should have been our turn. The ‘Obergerichtsrat’ (high grade judge) „Freißler“, had to go to Berlin and there he died. It was said that he had been shot, or killed by a bomb. Because of that we kept waiting until the war was over. Once there was a message that we would be taken to Graz. There they almost always shot most of the people who were delivered from Klagenfurt to Graz. We were lucky again: During the night they bombarded and destroyed the railway track and again we stayed in Klagenfurt. We were eventually freed on the 6th. Then the supervisor got us to the first floor where somebody was waiting; and there I got my warrant of arrest, my records and they wished us all the best and said that we were free. But the war wasn’t over yet. I was totally happy, went out of the door and shouted for joy with all my heart: “I am free!” My cousin, who was picking me up, said: “Shut up. The war is not over, yet.” She was right. Even during the last two days SS marched a female partisan off, cross examined and shot her. That is how it worked for many. With that we were freed. At home they were still living in fear. Again and again there were reports: something else happened. There they kidnapped one or killed one or… Well, to us, thank God, that did not happen.
I was in prison as well. There was a raid. Somebody had said – that was at the end of October – we were having contacts. Once there was one, she was imprisoned as well, she always said: “If something happens, would you want to come with us?” So I asked: “Well, what’s going on? Yes.” “You will see.“ Something was given away, allegedly. There were two supervisors that had connection to the communists. Two or three busses were supposed to come and pick us up later on. That “game” was given away, and these two were taken to the prison in ‘Völkermarkter Str.’ together with some others. They didn’t search us, but everything else. All the straw mattresses were torn open and everything searched. Whatever we had with us was all piled up in a heap in the yard. They did not find anything. But as they were looking for evidence we had to line up in the corridor, 1 meter apart from each other, facing the wall. Then we had to go into the cell. There we had to get fully undressed and they searched us whether we had anything hidden. I don’t know where you can hide anything if you don’t wear anything. That was done by the Gestapo and it was another bitter experience. You were not even a human being any more, not even as good as a fly. Even them you let go occasionally so they can fly away.
Around 40 to 45 women were in one cell with 10 beds. The others had to sleep next to them, or three in one bed, or on the floor. Well, we were so many. We only had one pot for the loo, and in the morning there was everything in there, and you can imagine what it looked like then. Nobody brought in different straw mattresses. With the food it was just the same. In the morning it was a thin soup or coffee, which you couldn’t even smell – that was tea; at 10 am we got a dry piece of bread for the whole day. For dinner there was soup again, with some lentils, oats or whatever was left over from the stalks of cabbage, which you couldn’t even chew. That was our lunch. In the evening it was coffee again.
Well, after the war the partisans came to Ludmannsdorf on the 10th May after they had been in Klagenfurt and everywhere before. They billeted at Boris’, where the police, the constabulary had been, and we got the order to provide some food. All of a sudden there was enough food there. One had brought a piglet, another one brought five hens, another one brought bread, eggs… We did not know where to leave it all in the end. Afterwards everybody said: ‘It’s good that we are all Slovenians.’ But there were several people which only said they were Slovenians, for they were worried the partisans would do something to them otherwise. On the 20th came the order for the partisans to leave and retreat across the border. That was bad luck for us because we lost our support.
You always hat to stick up for yourself and you were never accepted. At the inn you were laughed at or reviled as a betrayer of your home country. My father was playing music at the neighbour’s, when somebody took his trombone and broke it. Then he said: “Go home to Laibach or wherever you belong.” Things like that happened quite often. Or once, when we were at the inn, some youngsters came and shouted: “Bugger off!” and “Betrayers, what are you doing here?” Although my husband was recognised as a partisan. Over at Maddau, when the resettled families had their annual meeting in the public cinema, it was decided to have a silent protest march up to the cathedral. Although the bishop did not allow that, we still went up there. At the police station, the police were already waiting with the fire brigade. When we got up there, there was a barrier. Some of our people jumped up and tried to clear the way. All of a sudden they pointed these hoses at us and instead of a greeting, they soaked us. On the other side the English were standing. I got so annoyed: “Oh, these are our confederates?” We laughed into their faces. Our women - our mothers were crying and screaming. At that time I said: “If I could, I would jump into his face and rip his face apart.” In this situation, Austria being liberated, we being liberated, and you still have to face things like this, made us furious. Well, up to 1955, they were able to learn German and Slovenian in school, as it was a bilingual area. All of a sudden, with the treaty, it was different again. A state treaty was around 1957. The teachers went out onto the streets with the children and protested that they couldn’t teach and learn Slovenian. Later our children had to be subscribed by their parents, if they wanted them to learn Slovenian. Only the oldest ones didn’t have to. But the lessons weren’t the same as the German ones. They had only a few lessons. That was another discrimination of the Carinthian Slovenes.
My later husband was a deserter, as well. He was on holiday and was at home in July 1944. Instead of going back, he said good bye and went to Klagenfurt. There he didn’t board the train, but went to a neighbour’s, that night, where another one already was (from the Wehrmacht as well). They made a bunker for them and that was where they stayed until January 1945. He was in the resistance, too.
Well, actually it is hard to talk about it now and to remember everything; there are so many things. It was not easy to run around at night. You always had to look out; always make sure that nobody saw you and that you managed. Or the boys who stayed at home were always in fear of being summarily executed. All the members of the armed forces who stayed at home were summarily executed. Micha told me what he saw. The first was about a train, which came into Berlin to deliver Russian prisoners to Germany. The people inside were screaming like mad, as they were without water and everything. Some threw stones into the train. Then some said: “Open the door!” so they could get some air. Micha said that the bodies had been eaten. The ones that were still alive had been eating the dead ones, because they did not have anything else. Having seen this, my husband said: “On account of this crime I will not go back.”
I don’t know whether today’s youth can imagine this situation. The war had been going on for five years already, more and more were killed, it got worse. There was no real future for us. But that made you stronger to go into the resistance and help wherever you could.
Ana Zablatnik (1923 - 2010)
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Original interview language (German)