Janez Kramberger

His Experience During the Second World War,

always with Branko Kramberger, his second cousin

Interview by Jim Dangel with assistance of Janez's son in law, Srdan Mohorič in February 2002 in Podvinci

Janez Kramberger died in Ptuj 22 October 2004, aged 78.

This is his last photograph with his wife Ljudmila.

        In 1943, Janez (born 24.11.1925) and Branko (born 9.1.1925) Kramberger, at the age of about 17, when Štajerska was Lower Styria, (because Hitler had incorporated the area into the Third Reich in 1941) were too young for the German Army, so they were sent to Slovakia as young boys to prepare for the army. They were promised after three months they could go home and be finished with training. Of course instead they were mobilized and sent to a barracks in Austria near the Swiss border on the Bodensee (Lake Konstanz or Kostansaus Bode Se). They were there three months and received no special training. They were then relocated to France at Épinal on the Moselle in Lorraine. There they were trained in a big exercise for three months as ordinary soldiers. After they were sent to Brest in Brittany. There they awaited the invasion of the allies for several months. At the invasion on 6 June 1944 they were near Brest.

        Members of the division had bicycles. Their job was to go to the front where they were for two weeks. He and Branko slept together. Branko was first gunner and Janez was second gunner with the same machine gun -- a two person model.

        After two weeks in bad conditions and afraid of always present death, they decided, with Ivo Kajžnik from Ptuj, to escape. They did not know where was the front. They were careful to keep their plans secret. They prepared a plan to escape at the front at a point where both lines were close. At dawn when more soldiers were asleep. They started to run, in one moment all around them (the three of them) were English soldiers, they held up their hands with a white flag, then laid down on the ground and they smiled because they knew they were saved. Immediately when caught by the English a Jeep came and the soldier in charge removed them behind the lines some kilometers.

        There was no propaganda to suggest surrendering. They decided themselves it was best to surrender.

        After they were removed they were interrogated about weapon positions, number of soldiers, everything okay, more wanted to surrender, etc.

        They waited for transport and could move freely, they were not in jail or barracks -- for 14 days. Many more captured and surrendered joined them; same treatment for captured or surrendered. After two weeks a ship came and transported them to England and then they were sent to Scotland, to a guarded camp in Edinburgh.

        The food was good but small in quantity. The British asked for volunteers to help harvest potatoes and other farm work. The farmers gave them food and cigarettes but not all farmers.

        In November of 1944 came soldiers from the Yugoslavia Army and to explain they could become members of the Yugoslavian army from King Peter; also, after came officers from the Partisan army (communist). The kings officers explained that it was important that Yugoslavia be free and enemies to go out of their territory. Partisan officers said the food was better in Scotland but if they decided to come home and fight the life would be difficult (no mention of communism). The King's navy was in Alexandria, Egypt, so they would have to go there for the Yugoslav army. So instead they chose the Partisans because they would go home to Yugoslavia immediately. They new nothing of the policies or politics. Each party came only once and they decided alone. All three of them and most others chose the Partisans. They had to sign which way they decided.

        After, they were taken out of the camp and into private houses to wait for about two weeks for a ship. They were in empty houses and were given new uniforms and coupons for food. It was an excellent life for dress and food. They were transported in a large ship in a convoy to the Italian front. The convoy ended at Calabria at the toe of Italy (south). They were seated on trains going east in Italy till they joined the Partisans in a town on the Adriatic coast where there were lots of wounded soldiers. There was a short wait for a small boat going to Split, in the south of Croatia or Dalmatia. In Split there were lots of army and they were organized into battalions and given direction what to do. They were sent in the direction of Gospič in Croatia in the hills near Velenit. Around Gospič they had a hard battle not with the Germans but with the Ustache (Croatian army supported by Germans). They finished there and were send in the direction of Slovenia. They entered in under the river Kolpa at Vinica na Kolpu and had a hard battle with the Belo Guarda (White Guards -- also supported by the Germans). On the 9th of May they finished with all battles; it was the German capitulation. Janez was sent in the direction of Ljubljana and Branko to Trst (Trieste, now Italy).

        In Split their unit was named 5. Primoroska brigada -- people who came from the other side of the sea and there were four brigades before them.

        Janez did not see Branko again until they were in Ptuj. The third friend, Ivo Kajžnik from Ptuj, was also in Ljubljana where they were in barracks and were sent out into the surrounding area. Janez was in Ljubljana as a soldier from the capitulation until April 1947. He could not go home to Ptuj but could write -- from England or anywhere he could write.

        His parents stayed in the home in Podvinci near Ptuj in the same house he is living in now, despite the worry of retaliation. The post from Scotland arrived before their home was liberated from the Germans. The Germans were still there a year and of course the mail was read by the German authorities, and they and their families were worried, but nothing was done to their families.

        Branko came back a different time, maybe later, and Janez and Branko had a lot of contact after they returned home. Angela Tement said her brother Branko and Janez looked alike when they were young, and Janez agrees they looked alike.

        The house of Janez at Podvinci 6 (now 99) belonged to his father and grandfather Josef Kramberger, because it was the family home of his grandmother Treza BRUNČIČ.

        Jim needs to interview or ask questions of Anica about her husband Branko, also of Angela about Branko and her other brothers, especially the one in the SS. Janez heard of German authorities coming to the barracks and ordering individuals to come with them to the SS.
Normandy map

        Anica said Branko had surrendered in 1944 to the British at St. Lô (which is between Brest in Brittany and southwest of Le Havre in Normandy, or just east of the Channel Islands). Anica and Branko intended to go there after the war but did not. That location had been very dangerous because it was saturation bombed during the liberation of France. They were very lucky to have survived.

St. Lo

Pictures from the book Liberation World War II, by Martin Blumenson,
Time-Life Books series. (In Sitka 940.5421)

        At the Aluminum company Kidričevo, Janez, Branko, and Feliks Kramberger all worked. Janez and Feliks did not determine a family connection when they talked about it. The same as from the papers Jim got from Feliks, Feliks did not know andy relationship. Yet Janez and Branko knew they were cousins, and Branko and Feliks must have known they were cousins because Angela took Jim the first visit to meet both Feliks and Janez.

Kramberger Relationships

3.3.1829, Janežovci 13 -- 18.1.1889, Rogoznica 2, age: 59

| 20.1.1857, Rogoznica 2 -- 2.8.1917, Niš, Serbia, age: 60
| | 5.5.1888, Podvinci 6 -- 1947, Podvinci 6, age: 58
Great Grandson
| | | Janez KRAMBERGER
| | | 24.11.1925, Podvinci 6 -- 22.10.2004, Ptuj, age:78

| Franciscus KRAMBERGER Franc
| 6.3.1866, Rogoznica 2 -- 20.12.1925, Rogoznica 2, age: 59
| | 7.2.1891, Rogoznica 2 -- 17.7.1972, Rogoznica 2, age: 81
Great Grandson
| | | Franc KRAMBERGER Branko
| | | 9.11925, Rogoznica 37 (2) -- 8.8.1991, Ptuj, age: 66
So Janez and Branko have fathers with the same name that were first cousins and therefore they are second cousins. Their fathers were first cousins of Jim's grandmother and Feliks Kramberger.

| Gertrud KRAMBERGER Jera
| 20.3.1870, Rogoznica 2 -- 4.6.1896, Dayton, Ohio, age: 26
| | Josephine (Marie) VERSIC
| | 3.3.1896, Dayton, Ohio -- 20.5.1993, Lakeport, Calif., age: 97

| Mihael KRAMBERGER Miha
| 30.9.1875, Rogoznica 2 -- 29.12.1965, Rogoznica 19, age: 90
| | Feliks Mihael KRAMBERGER Srečko
| | 21.5.1909, Mitterdorf, Austria -- 5.5.1998, Ptuj, age: 88

The above are just selected descendants as there are many.

James R. Dangel
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