Quite often whilst writing ‘Schicksal’, I regretted not having asked questions when my parents were still alive. This seems logical now but the trauma of war silenced them. I grew up very aware of the fact that insensitive probing would open wounds deep and barely healing. So their silence silenced me also.
The skeleton of my novel stood like a marionette, loosely hinged, far from self supporting. To do the story justice my role included creating a credible stage upon which to play each scene.
Rewriting history with its complexities wasn’t my intent. In fact an interest in history eluded me completely. I preferred maths puzzling out an equation or philosophy tossing about eventualities. The interwar years and WWII the setting for ‘Schicksal’ demanded that I address my short comings. So I began.
War of course is complicated and reports can at times be inaccurate. Yes the Royal Yugoslav Army was quickly defeated by the Wehrmacht, eleven days from invasion to defeat. The country was partitioned between Germany, Italy,Hungary and Bulgaria, and subsequently occupied. I had two facts; my father was an enlisted member of the Royal Yugoslav Army and he became a German POW in 1943. From his recitations he supported neither the Chetniks nor the Partisans.
I felt as if I continually ran into brick walls.
Initially he fought in Belgrade, his family in Dala were under Hungarian occupation. The country was a blood bath and on the verge of civil war. As I can understand it the Chetniks collaborated with the Italians initially and then with the German forces and Ustase. The Jewish population sent to concentration camps and ethnic cleansing was rife among many minority groups.
The Croatian Ustase committed genocide against Serbs and Roma, Chetniks against Muslims and Croats whilst Italian troops pursued Slovenes. As the Partisans spread out from the larger cities rural folk fought in an attempt to retain their land. Serb fought Serb disrupting public order. A major Wehrmacht crackdown resulted in the imprisonment of many Yugoslav national.
As best as I could ascertain dad made his way back home illegally. When local skirmishes with the Partisans escalated the German reprisal swift and severe, imprisoned my father. The Stalag, Stalag 325 was a real place and indeed it moved several times in the harsh sub zero conditions of winter. My depiction of the deportations and conditions are based on true accounts from people who have shared the information as well as my father’s stories.