Gottschee County

Gottschee County

Gottschee County (German: "Graftschaft Gottschee", Slovenian: "Kočevsko") refers to the former German speaking region in the Duchy of Carniola (German "Krain"), a crownland of the Habsburg Empire, located in modern day Slovenia.

The German speaking population first colonized the area around 1330 and the area remained a German "Sprachinsel" [language island] within the Slovenian Lands until World War II, when the area came under Italian control in accordance with a secret pact between the Third Reich and Italy. Those living in Gottschee were allowed to determine their fate in a referendum in which about 97 percent opted for relocating. That marked the end of Gottschee as a German language island.

The Resettlement of the Germans from Gottschee

After the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Yugoslavia initially remained neutral, but after a coup in 1941 adopted a staunch anti-Axis position. This led to a German and Italian invasion and occupation of the Kingdom. The Gottscheer were in the Italian occupation zone after Yugoslavia's surrender, which Hitler could not abide. Nazi racial policy dictated that these Germans had to be brought back into the Reich and the Slovenian "Untermenschen" had to be removed. The Nazis established a branch of the Resettlement Administration (Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle, or "VoMi") at Maribor (German, "Marburg") for this purpose.

While some of the Gottscheer community leaders had embraced National Socialism and agitated for "assistance" and "repatriation" to the Reich before the German invasion in 1941, most Gotschee had no interest in reuniting with Greater Germany or joining the NazisFact|date=February 2007. They had been integrated into society with their Slovenian neighbours, often intermarrying among Slovenians and becoming bilingual while maintaining their Germanic language and customs since their arrival in the region in the late 1300s. However, propaganda and Nazi ideology prevailed, and The VoMi began planning the Gottschee "resettlement" (forced expulsion) from Kočevje which was in the Italian occupation zone to the "Ranner Dreieck" or Rann Triangle, a region between the confluences of the Krka, Kolpa, and Sava Rivers.

To achieve that goal, accommodation had to be made for the Gottschee "settlers" and some 46,000 Slovenians in the Rann Triangle region were forcibly deported to Eastern Germany for potential Germanization or forced labour beginning in November 1941. Shortly before that time, a largely transparent propaganda effort was aimed toward both the Gottscheer and the Slovenians, promising the latter equivalent farmland in Germany for the land relinquished in Lower Styria. The Gottscheer were given Reich passports and transportation to the Rann area just after the forced departure of the Slovenians. Most Gottschee left their homes because of coercion and threats since the VoMi had a deadline of December 31, 1941 for the mass movement of both groups. Though many Gotschee did receive farmland and households, these were of lesser quality as their own, and many were in disarray from the hasty forced expulsion of the SloveniansFact|date=February 2007.

From the time of their arrival to the end of the war, Gottschee farmers were harassed and sometimes killed by Tito's partisans. The attempt to resettle the Gottscheer was a costly failure for the Nazi regime, since extra manpower was required to protect the farmers from the partisans.

The deported Slovenians were taken to several camps in Saxony, where they were forced to work on German farms or in factories run by German industries from 1941-1945. The forced labourers were not always kept in formal concentration camps, but often just vacant buildings where they slept until the next day's labour took them outside these quarters. Toward the close of the war, these camps were liberated by American and Red Army troops, and later repatriated refugees returned to Yugoslavia to find their homes in shambles.

The fate of the resettled Gottschee was not much better, and in some cases much worse. At the end of the war the Nazi regime in the region evaporated as soldiers and administrators fled. Many Gottschee were killed by partisans in their attempts to escape northward. Large group of these refugees who had crossed the border into Austria were forcibly returned to Yugoslavia by British occupation troops and later executed by Yugoslav partisans as traitors. Both the Slovenians in the Rann Triangle region and the Gottschee of Kočevje suffered greatly as a result of Nazi racial and "resettlement" policies.

ee also

*See related article at Slovenians for source materials.
*Peter Kozler


*Thomas F. Bencin. Gottschee: A History of a German Community in Slovenia from the Fourteenth to the Twentieth Century. Master's Thesis 1995. Lousville, CO. : Gottscheer Research and Genealogy Assn. 2003.

*Joseph Erker. Jubiläums-Festbuch der Gottscheer 600-Jahrfeier : aus Anlaß des 600-jährigen Bestandes des Gottscheer Landes. Gottschee : Pavlicek, 1930.

*Mitja Ferenc. Kočevska : izgubljena kulturna dediščina kočevskih Nemcev ; = Gottschee: Das verlorene Kulturerbe der Gottscheer Deutschen. Ljubljana: Zavod Republike Slovenije za varstvo naravne in kulturne dediščine, 1993.

*Herber Otterstädt. Gottschee, verlorene Heimat deutscher Waldbauern, 1962.

*Erich Petschauer. Das Jahrhundertbuch der Gottscheer, 1980.

*Karl Schemitisch. Das war This was Gottschee, 1976. Translated into English by Edith Herold.

External links

* [] Website der Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Gottscheer Landsmannschaften
* [] Umfangreiche Website über das Thema KoĿevje / Gottschee - viele Hintergrundinformationen über die tragische Umsiedlung der Gottscheer und die Absiedlung / Deportation der Slowenen aus ihrer angestammten Heimat in der Untersteiermark.
* [] Website with audio folklore samples from Gottscheers in the United States.
* [ Gottscheer Heritage and Genealogy Association (GHGA) website] " founded in 1992 to preserve the culture, history, and genealogical records of Gottscheers and Gottschee (1330-1941)"

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