Mausoleum in Jindřichovice
358 01 Jindřichovice, Czech Republic
PoW camp Heinrichsgrün
Between 1915 and 1918 Jindřichovice (German: Heinrichsgrün, Bohemia) was the location of one of the largest prisoner-of-war camps in the territory of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I, where about 40,000 prisoners-of-war passed. The camp held Italians, Russians, but mostly Serbs – both soldiers and civilians – captured by the Austro-Hungarian army during the Serbia campaign and transported by rail to the camp. The prisoners were from all parts of Serbia, but mostly from the Šumadija and Kolubara districts of Western Serbia.
Testimonies regarding the circumstances in the camp can be found in Henri Habert’s book “Entre les fils barbelés: D’après les récits des évadés Serbes” (Amsterdam, 1919), for which he interviewed Serbs who were repatriated via Netherlands in 1919. 28-year-old private Gvozden Andrić from Duškovci (Užice district) who served in the X regiment infantry, IV company, IV battalion, was taken prisoner in October 1915: “I managed to escape into the mountains, but the Austrians discovered me, and captured me. They brought me to Heinrichsgrün, where I stayed for 4 months. The camp held 25-30,000 men, among which 5-600 of our officers”. Borisav Nastasović, soldier in the medical service of the VII regiment infantry, who was born in Braničevo near Požarevac adds: “Life was extremely difficult, the food as bad as one can imagine, a piece of bread, watery soup, we couldn’t move our feet or maltreatment would follow. The Hungarians were the worst, as far as beating is concerned.” Also Jerotije Župac, a 38-year-old sergeant in the XII regiment infantry, I company, IV battalion Šumadija-division, who originates from Novo Selo near Kruševac, and who was taken prisoner by the Austrians in November 1915 complains about the treatment: “the food that was issued was: in the morning one liter of ersatz coffee (black water, no sugar), in the afternoon: a portion of beetroot or cabbage, in the evening: a portion of flour soup (possibly made from acorns)”. 24-year-old soldier Sava Rajčić from Petrovac served in the IX regiment infantry, IV company, II battalion, Drina division when he was captured by the enemy near Glavica on 16 October 1915. He ended up in Heinrichsgrün, where he would stay 5-6 months: “The food was very bad, we would get ½ a loaf of bread for 2 days. We would not get clothes nor shoes, most of us were walking around in rags and barefooted. One barrack would hold 150-200 of us. The winter was very severe: in every barrack there were two stoves, which were almost never lit. One can imagine how terribly cold it was, if one thinks of large wooden barracks, where the wind would roar through the cracks, causing us to be cold all night and not even able to sleep. The guards were treating us inhumanely, they thought of us as beasts of burden, and would mercilessly beat us up for the slightest peccadillo. Many of our soldiers died from their wounds, or have become mutilated. The Hungarian guards beat me with their rifle butts on the head, the back and arms, because I had said that we were not conquered, and that our king was still leading his army. As a result of the caning I became permanently handicapped on my right arm”.
The PoWs were forced to work in harsh conditions: they built a water reservoir for the camp, worked in a quarry, constructed roads and bridges, and built a chemical plant in Falkenau (Sokolov), a town at about 20 km. to which they were marched and back every day.
Conditions in the camp were harsh, cold and disease ravaged, killing up to 40 people per day. Every day at 3 PM a sad procession of the dead went to a nearby common grave, where the remains of the victims of all ages were reposed.
Construction, exhumations and opening
Right after the war an inventory was made of the Serbian soldiers who lost their lives. On the territory of the Czech and Moravian lands, which had become the nuclei of the Czechoslovak Republic that emerged from WWI, alone there were some 33,500 graves of Serb who had died in Austrian concentration camps of malnutrition and maltreatment.
In 1921 the Serbian graves in what is now named Jindřichovice were localised, and from 1924 concrete plans were made to concentrate the remains of the Serbian victims into a mausoleum. To this end in spring 1926 the Kingdom of SHS purchased two plots of land (a total surface of 2,490 m²) from Karl Lößl, Heinrichsgrün Nr. 14, to construct a mausoleum where the victims would be reburied. The land was the location of the water reservoir that was constructed by the forced labourers – mainly from Serbia and Russia.
Between 1926 and 1932 the bodies of 7,100 Serbian and 189 Russian soldiers were exhumed from cemeteries at the former camp Heinrichsgrün in Jindřichovice, Cheb (Eger) and Planá u Mariánských Lázní (Plan), put in wooden ossuaries and brought to the mausoleum.
The Serbian military cemetery (mausoleum) at Jindřichovice was consecrated on 8 July 1932 under the auspices of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, President of Czechoslovakia, and King Alexander I of Yugoslavia.
By 1937 a total of 7,570 ossuaries had been reburied in the mausoleum, 7,381 Serbs and 189 Russians.
In May 1938 the remains of 88 Serbian soldiers who died in Netherlands were exhumed, laid in metal ossuaries and transported via Germany to the mausoleum in Jindřichovice, which would become their last resting place. This brought the total number of victims resting there by 1940 to 7,659.
From Habert’s book it can be concluded that Heinrichsgrün, together with Braunau (Broumov) was one of the two major Austrian camps through which the Serbian soldiers arrived in Germany. Ironically, some of the 88 soldiers have returned to the camp where they had survived the hardships during the war, only to die from the Spanish flu in the Netherlands after the war had ended. They have now been reunited with their brothers-in-arms with whom they spent the winter of 1915-1916 in Heinrichsgrün.
Victims who rest in Jindřichovice
|47||Vukadinović||Milentije||25/45||[Male / Velike] Pčelice|
|51||Karadžić||Milojko||30||[Donji/ Gornji Dubac|
|*||Martinović||Petar||–||Vrešnica / Brešnica|
* one of the lead boxes numbered 45, 61-65, or 67-89 that were exhumed in Garderen