|Tibor Cseres: Serbian Vendetta in Bacska|
After 1919, new rows of houses were built behind the outer row of houses and the cemetery. 2000 Serbian settlers came to live here the "Dobrovoljacs" (in direct violation of the Trianon Peace Treaty, of 1920, which forbade the mass-transfer of population from other territories). By 1941, many of them had learned Hungarian. In 1941, when the Hungarians marched in,
some of the Dobrovoljacs thought they would have to defend Yugoslavia in this part of the town. Fifty-two of them paid with their lives for their inopportune assessment of the situation (Serbian data from 1946.)
Nandor Burany, a Zenta born writer, gives the following account in his book "Collapse" of the days and weeks when partisan units occupied the town in the wake of the Red Army:
"Now that's exactly what we needed most," the people kept saying, referring to the events in 1941. "It would have been better, if they had not come at all. we used to get on so well. Revenge frightens the innocent as well. revenge is not choosy about its victims...
On October 8th, not more than two hours could have passed when they saw the Soviet troops coming from the river and heading towards the opposite border of the town. Words get stuck in the mouth, perhaps the breath does too. They were walking in small groups or in twos with machine guns on their shoulders. They looked mild-tempered. There was a a reassuring sight, as if they were at home. A bunch of people went to the ferry to meet them with flowers...The first impressions were extremely pleasant. There is no truth in the propaganda spread about the Red Army. The air of hope infiltrated the tense atmosphere.
In the morning, the rumors spread about whose homes were broken into, and whose wife was raped. Pointing a gun at the man, they threw the women on the ground, and laid in the clean beds with their muddy boots on. They took the linen, the clocks, and the better horses from the carriage. Your father carefully smooted away the ruts at the main gate...
The prison under the town hall was filled with "war criminals" . One of your uncles from Tompa was in the prison. You took him lunch. The wife and fifteen year old daughter of a runaway murderer were summoned by the authorities, they were questioned a couple of times, then both of them hanged themselves ... One day the lunch was sent back. The prison was empty and the captives have disappeared.
Later you learn that your relative is all alive and asks you to go on bringing lunch. He and two other persons stayed alive by accident. It was a dreadful night. From the cellar they were led up to the office, were they were registered. They awere undressed and beaten relentlessly, with their hands tied at the back with wire, and they were bound to each other. Rumor has it that the town crier and the notary were the most ferocious...Three prisoners from Tompa side by side. One felt the pliers cutting the wire off
his hands. The drunken guards did not notice it. They were thrown out on the pitch dark street. They unbinded each other, and three men run naked in the blind night in the sleet covered street. One run to his friend's houss, covered himself with rags, then climbs over fences, and hides in a hen-house until morning comes. He was nearly frozen to death when he called at the house. They go and get a policeman...
A few months later. Soldiers, prisoners of war and civilians were working on a railway causeway north of the town leading up to the bridge.
They were building a pontoon bridge and a lower causeway leading to it. There is a trench stretching north of the bridge, that was dug by Leventes, when they were expecting to defend the town. The bridge builders are struck by the terrible suspicion that there are corpses lying here, "the hand of one, the foot of the other was left uncovered when the trench was filled up". (Nandor Burany : "Collapse", Novi Sad, Forum 1968, p 135)
Burany's text needs elaboration at only two points. The first is the fact that at the flowery reception at the ferry, the Russian officer who took the bunch of flowers from the charming girl speaking Serbian, managed, with the same light movement, to unbuckle the watch on her wrist.
The second amendment: the 64 arrested and tortured captives, were escorted to the pier of the bridge on the dawn of November 10th. Several were shot into the river, and perhaps half of them got stuck under the bridge and were then buried in the trenches.
The 8th Partisan Shock Brigade of Vojvodina arrived at Zenta before the military administration. They declared that the Germans had to be expelled. It is not possible to live in the same country with the Germans after their crimes. The issue of the Hungarians was not yet decided. The same stand, as with the Germans, is likely to be taken again: Thus Hungarians cannot be members of the National Committee for People's Liberation (NCPL). the public use of the Hungarian language is declared prohibited. and the issue of deporting Hungarians is raised.
About a hundred people were arrested as war-criminals. If there happened to be a brave, influential man not restricted in his movement who could vouch for a captive or two, they could be freed.
On November 9, a summary court consisting mostly of self-appointed members, sentenced 64 residents of Zenta to death.
A unit of soldiers arrived from Becse that day by order of OZNA, led by Petar Relic to carry out the executions according to
the summary sentences. It is likely that some members of the local militia joined the firing squad, and they may have known their victims.
K. S., eyewitness from Zenta: "They were led to the bath-house under the bridge. Knee-deep in the water, they were mowed down by machine-gun fire. They kept on firing until no one moved."
It was by accident that the illegal court which judged the so called war criminals, left a document detailing its blood thirsty decision. The unorganized shelves of the archives contain the deadly way-bill of sixty-five innocent citizens
1 Matyas Fur, Zenta, 59 years
2 Imre Szabo, Zenta, 1913
3 Peter Dudas, Zenta, 1889
4 Istvan Kovacs, Zenta, 1900
5 Erno Ilovszki, Zenta, 1911
6 Dr Lajos Sas, Csoka, 1910
7 Andras Czeles, Zenta, 1905
8 Albert Dome, Zenta, 1910
9 Gabor Hagymas, Zenta, 1880
10 Aladar Janek, Obecse, 1911
11 Sandor Guelmino, Zenta, 1890
12 Dr Antal Ferenci, Zenta, 1882
13 Kalman Johanis, Zenta, 1905
14 Sandor Keserling, Modos, 1897
15 Istvan Polyakovics, Zenta, 1886
16 Karoly Lukacs, Zenta, 1915
17 Sandor Halasz, Zenta, 1892
18 Maria Puskas, Zenta, 1900
19 Kalman Hangya, Zenta, 1872
20 Pal Boka, Zenta, 1897
21 Lajos Vecseri, Zenta, 1902
22 Istvan Barati, Zenta, 1900
23 Tamas Dome, Zenta, 1904
24 Janos Nagy, Zenta, 1901
25 Istvan Piszar, Zenta, 1915
26 Illes Varga, Zenta, 1899
27 Janos Bokros, Zenta, 1903
28 Pal Berkes, Zenta, 1899
29 Istvan Kuklis, Zenta, 1908
30 Peter Kovacs, Zenta, 1891
31 Dr Andras Felsohegyi, Zenta, 1886
32 Dr Karoly Balogh, Zenta, 1880
33 Jozsef Hesz, Csantaver, 1890
34 Gyorgy Mihalesz, Zenta, 1906
35 Miklos Toth, Zenta, 1881
36 Mihaly Toth, Zenta, 1872
37 Mihaly Toth, Jr, Zenta, 1910
38 Illes Nagy Porge, Zenta, 1886
39 Janos Toldi, Zenta, 1898
40 Balint Huszar, Zenta, 1886
41 Nandor Vass, Zenta, 1892
42 Illes Toth Katona, Zenta, 1884
43 Marton Franja, Zenta, 1905
44 Jeno Sandor, Zenta, 1886
45 Jeno Halasz, Zenta, 1912
46 Gusztav Lakatos, Zenta, 1910
47 Elek Motynek, Zenta, 1910
48 Peter Toth Szegedi, Zenta, 1914
49 Lenard Sic, Rumania, 1902
50 Karoly Hadvany, Zenta, 1883
51 Ferenc Imre, Szeged, 1909
52 Geza Boros, Zenta, 1915
53 Istvan Nagyabonyi, Zenta, 1906
54 Gabor Bela Molnar, Zenta, 1900
55 Vasiliye Meskanov, Harkov, 1898
56 Pal Zsiga, Zenta, 1896
57 Janos Magyar, Hodmezovasarhely, 1912
58 Lajos Bencsik, Zenta, 1904
59 Istvan Kalamar, Zenta, 1890
60 Pal Vass, Zenta, 1896
61 Imre Lalics, Zenta, 1890
62 Vince Lakatos, Zenta, 1908
63 Peter Piszar, Zenta, 1903
64 Janos Szollar, Zenta, 1899
65 Lukacs Dukai, Zenta, 1883
Members of the committee of war crimes and criminals: (signed) Aleksander and Dusan Milicev
The following witnessed the signing of the document: (signed) Petar S. Senic L.S. Zenta, NCPL
ADA - THE BRIDGE OF LIFE
After the withdrawal of Hungarian soldiers and gendarmes, the Serbs organized to take revenge in memory of the 17 Serbian snipers who lost their lives in 1941. They pondered whether to take at least ten times as many Hungarian lives. Prior to the arrival of the Russians, sixteen persons were executed from among the captives whose number almost reached two hundred, while the rest were driven to yearn for the other world by simple starvation and unique tortures.
It came to Parson Vince Gere's ears that further lists were compiled by the fanatic Serbs of Ada. The arrival of Russian troops protected the Hungarians from further bloody acts. The Parson even divined a method for preventing any further bloodshed. He noticed that in order to reestablish the lines of communication with Banat, the Russians wanted to build a permanent bridge over the Tisza near the old bridge which was blown up by Serbian sappers during their withdrawal in the war of 1941.
This withdrawal did not make much sense from a military point of view, since it could not cause any damage or disadvantage to the Hungarian authorities who had no control over Banat. Thanks to the idea of Parson Vince Gere, the ruins of the bridge proved a great help in those days.
Parson Gere offered the responsible French-speaking Russian General, who was short of material, and workmen, two thousand Hungarians from Ada. These men would build a more reliable bridge than that made of pontoons that would survive even a possible ice drift, provided the Russian command guaranteed the lives and possessions of the Hungarians of Ada. Fortunately, the Parson could negotiate with the advice of three Hungarian engineers who had taken shelter in the village. The Russian commander readily accepted the practical and very inexpensive offer, since all he had to do in return was "simply" block any murderous thoughts in the souls of the newly self appointed proletarian leaders of the Serb populace.By the time the bridge was built (from several rows of logs) and the Russians moved on, milder days had arrived and there was less potential for slaughter.
The prestige and popularity of the Parson was recovered as well.
He had established, during the short Hungarian rule a certain degree of respect in the lower level of society by setting up a soup kitchen under the aegis of the parish of St Theresa. He did not exclude the needy Serbian families from the benefit of a regular meal. The Hungarian population of Ada was saved from mortal danger and potential harassment.
If we consider the Serb Orthodox clergy's deep rooted animosity and hatred of the Hungarian Roman Catholic priests in neighboring villages, the contrast is very clear.
The agrarian reform of 1920 greatly decreased the landless populace of several thousand in this small predominantly Hungarian town. The Serbian paupers were all granted land, while only the few Hungarian families that were willing to convert to the Orthodox faith were given the same benefit.
There would have been enough land for the destitute, local Hungarians too, since the authorities organized three farming villages near Mohol for the Serbian settlers from Montenegro or Crna Gora.
When the Hungarian army arrived at Mohol in April 1941, the inhabitants of these three Crna-Gorean "Dobrovoljac" settlements, Nyegoshevo, Miltchevo and Svetitchevo were so far from wanting to shoot at the Hungarian soldiers, that they decorated their lapels with palm size red, white, and green Hungarian rosettes for reasons they deemed appropriate. The Hungarian soldiers returned this amicable and peaceful reception with appropriate friendliness.
A few days later, however, the Hungarian gendarmes who replaced the army and began work were ordered to evacuate the Serbian settlers from their homes, and to put them in a train with their scanty luggage. They had to be sent back to their native land via Topolya.
The Hungarian paupers of Mohol thought the time had come to satisfy their old hunger for land, and quickly occupied the three deserted settlements. They did so partly for the reason that the livestock that had been left behind due to the rush had to be fed and watered.
The Hungarians from Mohol were to face a shocking disappointment a few days later. Under new orders, the gendarmes expelled them from their barely warmed abodes with their usual strictness and firmness and moved them back to their humble hovels at Mohol-Ujtelep. This moving in and out involved much more violence than the removal of the Dobrovoljacs with
their Hungarian rosettes. The Hungarian villagers' illegal seizure of land was reversed, because the authorities wanted to make room for the Csango-Szekelys coming from Bukovina, Rumania. Nyegoshevo was then inhabited by Szekelys from Istensegits ("God Help"), who christened their village Istenaldasa ("God' Blessing"), on account of their old village and the rich soil.
In the course of the next three and a half years, there was much quarreling and violence between the Hungarian poor of Mohol and the Hungarian gendarmerie, or the ruling power in general. As a consequence, when Szalasi's Fascist agitators (called Arrow Cross Men) arrived at Mohol and learned about the pain and the disillusionment of the local poor, they promised them land provided they join the Arrow Cross Party which they called the Hungarian Movement. These destitute people did nothing more than sign up and they thought this was about the same as the former conversion of their countrymen to Orthodoxy.
Were they ever wrong! What in 1944 they were given was not land but death. It was child's play for the local Serbs to get hold of the list of the members of the Arrow Cross Party. Supported by the rage of the returning Dobrovoljacs, they made these ignorant men and their families victims of the revenge for land.
The extermination of Hungarians proceeded in an organized way in October and November 1944. A Brain Trust was formed to search for documents and causes for vengeance. They had meetings and made decisions. There was an executive team of younger and more energetic intellectual and craftsmen organizers, whose hands were not stained with blood. The basic work of collecting, beating and torturing people was left to greedy Serbian looters with base and cruel inclinations. More than eight hundred men were gathered.
The Summary Court worked in the barracks of the fire brigade. The victims were cited, dragged to court and accused of fictitious or real crimes. Those who had a match broken over their head, in imitation of the ancient custom of the breaking of a staff, were sentenced to death. they were taken to School No. 3 which served as a kind of death row before execution. Seven hundred and sixty matches were snapped over the head of the poor in the Fire Hall.
It was not only Arrow Cross men who were sentenced to death, but everybody who had an adversary or enemy or whose possessions were coveted by one of the "judges".
The captives had to undergo a long torment before the execution. In the course of the several week long torture, the warders could find time to cut straps from their enemies' backs. Joska Hambalgo witnessed this bloody, inhumane method of torture. The death
sentence was not confined to men. Young girls 16-20 received the death sentence if their names were found on the lists. Only the sickest, sexual male deviate could invent the horrors of what these girls were subjected to in their last hours.
A curious, almost incomprehensible decision was born in the head of the judges on one of the days of mass execution. the people under sentence had to be shaved. What was this? Inducement of vain hope in the condemned or a gesture of hygiene for the next world? They gathered all six local barbers with their apprentices, if they still had any, and their tools. These men were lathering and shaving the week old beards all day. Sometimes, in the rush, they cut and caused pain to their free customers before death. While shaving that day, the barbers of Mohol counted more than six hundred men .These newly shaved men were then driven to the Tisza at twilight and were shot into the river. A part of the firing squad felt annihilation was more secure on firm ground. The sand pit of Osztrova seemed appropriate for this.
Burying the corpse also promised less work in the sandy soil. The fact that the river often floods the lower part of the sand pit was not given much attention. Those who were undressed in the deadly procession did not have much chance to escape, but there were two or three young men who, freeing themselves from their bondage, were able to run away nude in the darkness of the night. One of these brave and lucky runaways was Jozsef Hambalgo, from whose back three straps were cut. He managed to escape and had someone photograph his slashed back.
There is a common opinion among the surviving Hungarians, that Director Constantin Zaumovic is responsible for forcing and passing the death sentences. Two local attorneys, Premislav Radovic and Karakas, took an active share in these sentences as volunteer judges. They were the ones who again and again decided that the Hungarians should be tortured as long as possible before their execution.
The tragedy of Parson Lajos Varga deserves special remembrance. He was charged, while a match was broken above his head, with greeting the arriving Hungarian troops with flowers, and delivering patriotic speeches at the memorial of the heroic Hungarian soldiers on Hungarian state holidays. Allegedly, the Serbian intelligentsia had to participate in these festivals for their own good in order to preserve their jobs, at least they believed so. Parson Lajos Varga was not interested in politics and was free of any racial discrimination including racism against Serbs. He was arrested and tormented because his Hungarian nationality. Among other tortures, all his twenty nails were ripped
off with red-hot pliers.
His mother managed, with the help of an influential Serbian acquaintance, to arrange a meeting with her son in the parsonage before his execution. He took an hour to crawl, supported by other men, from the school to the parsonage, which was otherwise a ten minute walk. He had to go barefoot, since his toes were bleeding. His face and head were black and blue.
After his "trip" to see his mother. the guards trod on Parson Lajos Varga and killed him by ripping his stomach open. His body was carried on a wheelbarrow to the sand pit by other people sentenced to death.
Having received belated instructions to take flight, the Szekelys of Istenaldasa set forth. Some of them met their fate on the way, some in the internment camp of Jarek. There was no one to record their sufferings and their death.
|Tibor Cseres: Serbian Vendetta in Bacska|