|Tibor Cseres: Serbian Vendetta in Bacska|
The town, which inaugurated its new Major, Andor Rokk, on January 19, 1942, was spared by the raid of the partisan hunters. Serbian data from 1946 says that during the days when the Hungarians came in, one hundred and forty-seven Serbians fell victim to the change of regime in April 1941. They never mentioned the number of Hungarian deaths. The Hungarians of Szabadka had to pay a high price for this in the fall of 1944.
The town was occupied by the Russians and the partisans on October 10. After a few days orientation, they started to round up the Hungarians. At dawn they drove their jeeps to get those who they had singled out. There was always a Russian soldier with them, accompanied by partisans wearing machine guns. To keep things moving along smoothly, they kept saying that the person summoned as a witness at this early hour was to be taken in only to give a statement. These witnesses, who were never interrogated, were either taken to the barracks on Palicsi Street or to the yellow house in Agnes Lane, to the much feared Counter Intelligence Center of the Home Affairs Authorities. After being severely tortured, the only place for them to go was the cemetery.
Here, without any trial, verdict, or even an explanation of any kind they were shot and dumped into the pit. Beyond the seedy buildings of the old hospital (now a factory) on a clearly outlined piece of land, there are three rows of mass graves of twenty by twenty meters each. They must have been dug by those who followed, when the enormous pit was full. The partisans tried to mask the noise of the guns and the death cries by sounding the air raid siren. Without guns, it was impossible for the Hungarians to help their family and friends or fellow Hungarians. The neighborhood counts five mass grave sites.
According to some, there were two thousand Hungarians from Szabadka to have been interred beside the old hospital. According to the Priest as many as seven thousand were slain.
It is generally known in Szabadka that the executions were led by Strazsakovics Blasko. He is responsible for the death of those massacred innocently.
The writer Karoly Dudas and the film maker Zoltan Siflis asked Strazsakovics Blasko to be interviewed before a camera. Blasko, to mitigate his past crimes, was willing to show his face and answer questions directly.
Many still believe that he was at the time the military commander in Szabadka, master of life and death. In fact he was the commissar of the police that had just come into being. As a commissar, he was subordinate to the police commander and his deputy. It is true that his word always decided matters.
Eugene Nyaradi the police commander, had a Rusyn conscience despite his Hungarian name. His deputy was Tomilica. As a member of the committee for the liberation of the people, he was charged with the task directly by General Ivan Rukovina and Major Pavle Gerencsevics. Their headquarters were the previously mentioned hated and much feared Yellow House.
Strazsakovics held the OZNA responsible for the unlawful acts. He, the political commissar of the local police said that he was uninformed of the activities of the OZNA. He said that he did not even know the names of the people involved.
Strazsakovics gives the following explanation of his last knowledge of the mass death of the Hungarians:
"One morning I was going to my office, and I heard loud noise in the building. The guard saluted and I asked him why all the noise. He said the arrested people were being noisy. I made him open the door of the hall. As the door opened, the people began to swarm towards me shouting; "Blasko, Blasko, Balazs, help."; all of them wanted to talk to me at once. I knew many of them, and many of them knew me. There and then I let all go free without asking the commanders for permission. Later Eugene Nyaradi came up to me saying, "Blasko, why did you let those people go?" I said to him "They committed no political crime. There was among the released Hungarians Anti Odor, commander of a Battalion under the Hungarian Commune. in 1919. You were not from here, you can't know these people." He was younger than me, hardly twenty two; I was thirty at the time. "Most these people would have said in 1941 'you bloody Serb' or 'stop kidding me you lingo tongue' as some said such things to me too. We were not to deal with such people.
Not much later the town commander, Milos Tadijin, sent for me; he had a colonel called Jovanovics with him. They asked me why I let the enemy go free, when there were some among them who had been bemedaled by the Hungarians in World War I. "What do you want", I said, "you could get such medals for a sip of whisky. My father had a sackful of them up in the attic."
"I must have let about seventy people go. Who rounded up these people? A student called Mile, who arbitrarily named himself police commander of a district. He went from house to house,
questioned people, and arrested some. Well, I punished this student.
"Now, about the executions. It happened just before the introduction of the military administration. One night I was going home to my parents' house. It was dark, like inside a sack. When I got to the second district, in front of the church, a truck drove past. The only thing I could make out was that there were people on it. At the corner I also saw that they were accompanied by others wearing guns. As I got home and opened the gate I heard tratratratratratra...and I heard the moaning. I was horrified and said to myself, excuse the word, "you mother fuckers, you murderers."
"The following day I met the deputy of the military commander, Matija Poljakovics, and I told him what I had seen. He told me that was the way things are, that there were a lot of people arrested and there still would be."
"Now a few words about how they rounded up the people. There was a Serb here called Franje Pujindzsics, we only called him Farsa. He was a nice, liberal thinking man. He was sincerely happy about the fall of Fascism and the liberation. At the time, I was already the commissar of the military command. Poljakovics was telling me that Farsa's wife was desperately looking for her husband, she wondered if we had sent him somewhere. I made inquiries and sent her to Lajos Jaramazovics, president of the local liberating committee. Jaramazovics came to me with her, said I was on the military staff, but we could get no information. I made inquiries with the officers of OZNA, who I only knew by the names Milos, Uros, Vanja and Csapo. At last Poljakovics got the information that Farsa had information about a Croat. He reported that he hobnobbed too much with the Croatian Fascists. This man reported Farsa, so there would not be any witnesses and Farsa was eliminated".
"I do not know how severe the reprisal was, but I am sorry it happened. I am sorry we did the same as Horthy's Fascists. I am sorry it was a reprisal, although the military court already existed and it should have happened through those channels. Many became victims; there were surely some who were guilty but not so much as to deserve death. Those who survived these first months, later got away with a few months in prison."
"The OZNA kept twenty-five workers here; these were mostly privates from the country. The people from Szabadka knew me and thought that I was fully involved. I only put one person to death, because he had killed and robbed a lonely woman. The victim happened to be a Hungarian the criminal a Serbian. The
woman hid this Serbian, who was an army deserter.
"It is not a secret that, behind the cemetery, where the Mackovics brick factory once stood, there is a mass grave. We used to organize sports events there, later it was closed. After the war, Tito visited Szabadka. He gave a long speech here and in the introduction he said something hardly anyone understood; I understood. He said:
"You have done some cleaning up here; now you'll have to go on working."
"I understood that through the OZNA, he had exact information about the nature of the cleaning. If there had been but a few war criminals killed, he would not even have been informed. I can only estimate the proportions the massacre took, and that rather without responsibility, I should say. On the whole territory of Szabadka including the Germans that were executed here when the partisan brigade left, some three hundred and fifty people were executed. To me it is just as much reprehensible as what the Hungarians had done some time before."
Let us add to the statement, which tries to mitigate and deny the responsibility of the officer, the recollections of two young people who managed to survive.
"I passed my final exam in the grammar school of Szabadka in 1942. In my class there were three or four Serbians, three or four Bunjevaces (a small Slavic ethnic group, related to the Serbs) and one or two Jews (Francois Bondy, for example, the literary expert living in Switzerland) besides the Hungarians. Our relationship was characterized by true friendship and by the tolerance characteristic of the people living in Vojvodina. The people who taught Hungarian literature were Jozsef Bogner and Laszlo Erdelyi. They were people of great erudition and eloquence, we were very fond of them. Both were executed by the partisans.
Jozsef Bogner was for a while headmaster of the students' dorm. He became a teacher after the town was reattached to Hungary and later became the Mayor of the town. His elder sister was a nun called Margit Bogner. Her suit for beatification is in progress now.
After the fighting, there were three students from the grammar school who were leaders of the occupying partisan groups: Radak Milos, Jelics Dusan and Dezso Pinter (his father was Hungarian, his mother Serbian but he declared himself a Serb). As far as we know, the week before the executions they had Jozsef Bognar repair all the clocks of the partisans,since he also had a
watchmaker's certificate. At early dawn, he was executed together with Laszlo Erdelyi. It is said that their judge and the executor of the verdict was Dezso Pinter."
"Several days after they arrived, news began to spread that so and so was taken away and killed. On a November night we were wakened by a loud pounding. Peeping through the slits in the shutters, we heard that our neighbors were directing the armed men to the house at the corner. That was when I saw men and women pressed together on a peasant horse cart. The cart stopped in front of our house. Holding our breath, we were wondering what was to happen since my father was leader of the Turan Hunters in Szabadka. He had been imprisoned once for two years for the Hungarian cause in Serbian times, for which he also got the Hungarian National Defence Cross after 1941. People were killed for lesser "crimes" than that . It was on this night that Devavari was taken from next door, then the shoemaker Elizak from the other end of the street. It was also this night that the Kiss brothers and Janos Csiszar disappeared; they never came back. It was one of those days that the wholesale merchant Geza Nojcsek, president of the Hungarian Readers Circle, was killed.
They also killed our teacher of Hungarian, Laszlo Erdelyi, who had just come home as a Reserve Lance Sergeant. He was wounded in the arm during a shooting at the station. His old Serbian students took him to the first aid station, then took him home; they assured him he was safe. Unfortunately, as word spread around town, one student, who the teacher had failed, hired a thirteen-year old lad to take him away. He was never seen alive again.
What could Istvan Kuden have done? He was a Czech, who did not speak perfect Hungarian and served art as a double-bass player in the theater orchestra of the Hungarian Readers Circle. It might have been since living on Parhuzamos Street, in the ghetto area and being a hobby gardener, he refused someone a lettuce.
During the first elections at the courthouse, one could look at the list of people who were eliminated. I did not dare to look at the list, but my mother went ti see if my father and my brother would be on it. Some one thousand names were listed, but the list was rather inaccurate and our people were not on it. The list was hung in three rooms each labelled "enemies of the people", "traitors" or "Fascists". Where this list is or whether it still exists at all, no one knows."
In 1948, one could inquire about those who had disappeared. It
was Istvan Vukovics, later president of the Supreme Court of Vojvodina who, in 1944, announced that all those who had "disappeared" were dead. The authorities were willing to certify the innocence of those who had been certifiably executed wrongly. During the first days of the distribution of the certificates there was such an onslaught of relatives at the court that the president, fearing rebellion, stopped the distribution of rehabilitation papers. Those who did not get one then, would regret it later. Many, out of hatred for the murderers, did not ask for papers testifying to the innocence of their relatives. Many of them paid for it, since they could not prove the innocence of those who had been executed, they were deprived of all their belongings.
Among the executed people, there were many in transit; these people were seized at the station. Those who could not certify themselves were promptly executed. It was chiefly the Hungarian soldiers or deserters from the army that fell victim to their desire for freedom.
In Apatin would have been no reason for reprisals since no one was killed when the Hungarians came in, yet some three hundred people were killed by the partisans. Some of them on the spot, but the majority were taken to Zombor to the notorious Kronich Palace, where a favorite means of torture was making captives run on hot coals; the name of the chief torturer was not forgotten, Zika Laszics. Those who were burnt in this way knew that the next day they would be shot either by the Danube or on the race course. Those who were not taken to Zombor were taken to prison camps by the hundreds. There they died of hunger or of different diseases. Some survived, only to die from the greasy feast in their honor; when they returned to their home, their stomach just could not take it. That is how the number rose to three hundred.
In 1941, a big celebration was held on the main square of Kula. The parish priest came with his curate. When the chief spokesman began to abuse the Serbians, the priest left the square in protest and hardly veiled disapproval; his curate joined him. The incident was not forgotten by the Serbians present who on December 11 and 13, during the days of the Kula massacres; they took the priest under their protection. They executed more than five hundred Hungarians at the time, chiefly intellectuals but also
the wealthy craftsmen, merchants and farmers (class enemies?!).
Some farms were robbed and ruined. Some mass graves keep the secrets of those bloody days.
In Bajsa the honest, benevolent Serbians and the more common types were at variance with one another. The mob was getting ready for a large scale massacre of the Hungarians. In the first place, they wanted to execute Bela Nemeth the parish priest, with long preparations. They had already had him dig his grave at the end of the village. The grave was not a very honorable one, and the armed men were still argued whether it would be deep or wide enough. When the more sober Serbians arrived, they wrenched the rifles out of the hands of the vulgar rabble. Once the priest was released, they reminded the others of 1941, when the Hungarians stood up for their Serbian fellows.
Kispiac could see a spectacular change in the behavior of a man full of hatred. The Serbians of Kispiac District also gathered to agree on the extermination of Hungarians. The spokesman for the extremists was a widely known enemy of the Hungarians, Milosev Zivo. Everyone knew that he had already caused them much bitterness in Royal Yugoslavia. For such sedition, he had been arrested and detained in Martonos in 1941. Pal Galgoczi, a Hungarian who he had hurt, attacked him with a knife and wounded him in the neck, but they were separated in time to save Zivo's life. Galgoczi apologized, and Milosev was very much moved by this; he who had recourse to physical violence on the man in the arrogance of his power. Galgoczi asked the Hungarian Court to release his old enemy. This mutual reconciliation persisted between them from 41 to 44, when the Serbians of Kispiac flocked to massacre the Hungarians. Under the influence of their changed leader, they ended by executing no one. They did not even torture a single person among the rounded-up Hungarians.
Nemes Miletics (Svetozar Miletics), was famous for the fact that there was peace between the Serbians and the Hungarians. In 1941, it was the Hungarians who dissuaded the gendarmes from implementing their more severe plans, and in 1944 it was the Serbians who persuaded their partisans that there was no need in Miletics to massacre Hungarians.
The situation of the Bukovina Szekelys had become critical in October 1944, while scattered to twenty-five villages of Bacska. The authorities did not warn the people of the impending danger. Although there were fires burning from time to time on farms, as well as the criminal attempts of the Dobrovoljacs in 1941, warned the Szekelys that their quiet farming life would not last very long.
Adam Sebestyen writes the following in his memoir entitled "Flight of the People of Andrasfalva from Bacska."
"Towards the end of September, the situation had become chaotic; the partisans started to endanger the life of the peaceful peasants. Fear spread because of the night raids on the village volks; the leaders disguised the real situation.
The Andrasmezo people were preparing for a fair on October 8th. They kept cooking and baking, expecting guests. Those headed for the houses of their friends received the horrible news; they had to run!
Orders to evacuate their homes came late; there was hardly any time to pack. There was an enormous pell-mell confusion; they had but two or three hours to think. People did not know what to pack for the family in their haste; they had to decide between food, clothes, or furniture. Many of them were not able to leave until the next morning. They had to leave things behind, just when they had become a bit better off; when the barns were full of corn, the lofts full of wheat and other grains. The sties were full of pigs weighing between one hundred and fifty and two hundred kilos. Some farmers left behind as many as fifteen or twenty pigs; a small fortune for them.
They had no idea where they were going to sleep the following day. On the roads, with the German army retreating, cart after cart fled from the Soviet army, together with cars and tanks obstructing one another. They had frequent air raids and the army was trying to force the poor families off the road. A lot of women bore their children on the road, many labored on corn hills. They were even robbed by malevolent people. On a pitch dark night, even the coffin of one grandfather was stolen. Only at dawn did the son find the coffin cast on the edge of a ditch with the body of the father.
The escapees of Andrasfalva, who could not cross the Danube on the ferry because of the tumult, were sent by the army to Paks and Dunafoldvar. During the air raids that came, when they were crossing a lot of children lost their parents and could only find
them weeks later. They fled towards Dombovar, but they did not accept Szalasi's advice to go to Germany."
Many people hastily killed and cut up a pig to provide the family with food on the road. They could not prepare the meat anywhere so it rotted in the cart and they threw the pork into the Danube.
When the partisans met the packed carts they made good use of these opportunities by robbing the wretched people of their meager belongings. After robbing the people, they drove them to camps or let them go with the shirts on their backs." The losses of the Szekelys of the twenty-five villages have not been counted to this day. We could only count and list the victims of the people of Hadikliget. Sandor Sara made a film of their struggle to get north, entitled "At the Crossroads." interviewing widows, and other survivors. Gabor Albert also wrote about them in his book "Head Up."
A man from Hadikliget, Titusz Varda, had rare luck in surviving his fellows:
"We set off from Hadikliget on October 8, 1944, Our deceitful, half-Serbian leader took us to Szabadka instead of Zombor. At the cemetery of Szabadka we were stopped by the partisans. They told us to take the cows, cart, horses to the Palics barracks. We had to leave all our valuable possessions and were taken into custody. A few days later, they rounded up some five hundred of us in a pub. The pubkeeper was beaten up, thrown out and the partisans drank everything while they kept themselves busy with the Szekelys. From there, they took the women and children to the mill, where they had to sit on the cold concrete, and the males were taken to the prison of Szabadka.
They kept on asking me what I was doing for a living. I said I was a hired man. I was showing them my hands, but they were by no means nice to me. I really did not have land at the time, thank God. I was given the classification number 2, while forty-three received the number 1. What it actually meant we did not know until the others were hoarded on a truck. All of them were executed, as far as we know, and were buried in the knacker's yard of Szabadka. The previous day we had seen a large pit there. In thirty minutes the truck came back empty. It was the partisans who had taken them, there were no Russians. They had put a machine gun on this truck. They lined us up and were shooting away above our heads. There were some who wet their pants in fear.
While the women were cooking, the children stood by very hungry. A partisan came up and defecated into the pot. A big-
bellied man, Fazekas, was made to stand up, and was tossed about until he collapsed. They accused him of having grown fat on the Serbians' blood.
Once I was questioned by a partisan woman. She was laying on her back asking questions. She asked me if I was related to Tito since my name is Titusz. I did not protest as she laughed. They gave me a paper saying I was free to go where I wanted to in Szabadka, since I had the number two and my name is Titusz. Not much later, we were put on a train to Baja. The list of Szekelys from Hadikliget who were murdered at Szabadka is as follows:
|Tibor Cseres: Serbian Vendetta in Bacska|