Gottschee During World War 2

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. The Nazis established a branch of the Resettlement Administration at Maribor 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 Gottscheer had no interest in reuniting with Greater Germany or joining the Nazis. They had been integrated into society with their Slovene neighbours, often intermarrying among Slovenes and becoming bilingual while maintaining their Germanic language and customs since their arrival in the region in the late 14th century.

However, propaganda and Nazi ideology prevailed, and the VoMi began planning the Gottschee “resettlement” from Kočevje, which was in the Italian occupation zone, to the Ranner Dreieck or Brežice Triangle in Lower Styria, the region now known as the Lower Sava Valley, located between the confluences of the Krka, Sotla, and Sava rivers.

In November 1941, some 46,000 Slovenians in the Brežice Triangle region were forcibly deported to Eastern Germany for potential Germanization or forced labour in order to make an accommodation for the Gottschee “resettlers”. Shortly before that time, a largely transparent propaganda effort was aimed toward both the Gottscheer and the Slovenes, promising the latter equivalent farmland in Germany for the land relinquished. The Gottscheer were given Reich passports and transportation to the Lower Sava Valley just after the forced departure of the Slovenes. 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 Gottscheer did receive farmland and households, these were of lesser quality than their own, and many were in disarray from the hasty forced expulsion of the Slovenians. Gottscheers were removed from a total of 167 settlements in 1941 and 1942.

After the war, the Gottschee area was partially resettled by Slovenians from various places, creating a mixed dialect area. Only a few hundred Gottscheers remained.

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