|Tibor Cseres: Serbian Vendetta in Bacska|
It is impossible to diminish the glory of military troops who won battles, even after several decades as long as the "heroes" or their followers safeguarding their memory are alive. The official communist party hack historians regarded the Petofi Brigade as a heroic contribution to the Yugoslavian liberation movement of the Tito Regime. The Hungarians of Bacska had ambivalent feelings about the creation of the brigade, in a situation of constant danger of the massacres.
Let us look back to those long years when the enthusiasm of Hungarians for the Yugoslavian cause had to be identified with the "voluntary"contribution of the Hungarian people to the Titoist State System:
The creation of the Sandor Petofi Battalion was instituted by the High Command of the Croatian Liberation Army and that of the Second Detachment of Partisan troops in Slavonia in August 1943. Some eighty Hungarians joined up in the beginning. In this and the following year the ever growing battalion fought together with the other communist detachments along the Drava River. Its chief task was the mobilization of the Hungarians of the provinces under Tito's control.
Those who, in wartime, could or would keep contact with the minuscule left-wing population of Budapest and its radical sentiments, will know and remember how fashionable it was to sympathize with the "Yugo" partisans. Among the young waiting to be enlisted or to be called up to one of the labor battalions; it was believed that it was lot smarter to cross the Drava and join the partisans, than to fight the Soviet army on the Eastern front. There were a few people who got into the rowboats and crossed over to the right bank of the river. There were also some brave people who supplied or tried to supply bandages, medicine and ammunition to the partisans over the Drava.
In November 1944 the battalion named after Sandor Petofi, the well known Hungarian poet of the 1848-49 Revolution marched into the Pecs-Siklos-Moslavina area, and was incorporated into the 16th Detachment of Vojvodina.
"In October, at the liberation of Bacska, the Vojvodinan leaders of the Communist Party announced: Everything for the front,
everyone to the front! The Party used the same slogan to recruit people of Hungarian nationality into the Yugoslavian Liberating Army. For this purpose the party organization of Bacstopolya sent two deputies to Novi Sad to see General Kosta Nadj, Commander in Chief of the Yugoslavian Liberating Army and of the staff of the Vojvodinan partisan troops. The deputies asked General Nadj to give permission to create the Hungarian Brigade in Vojvodina. They suggested that, after the example of the Slavonian Hungarian Battalion, they name it after Sandor Petofi.
The creation of the Hungarian Brigade was instituted by an order of the High Command on November 23, 1944."
It is not known whether the two party members from Topolya gave an account of the fact, that the partisans in their territory had already tortured and executed 360 Hungarians. They did say that in 1941 some seventy Serbians from Topolya lost their lives in the shootings.
Even if they admitted that it was a vendetta five times over; as a threat, they suggested to the Hungarians that they become partisans, just to give them their chance to remain alive.
In the light of these facts, can we judge the following?
"The voluntary recruiting activities of the party activists in Bacstopolya spread fast in all of Bacska. Hundreds of people volunteered from Topolya, Moravica, Csantaver, Ada, Mohol, Feketics, Zenta, Kishegyes, Bajsa, Pacser, Bajmok and some other places too. Nothing proves the "enthusiasm" better than the fact that in a few days nine hundred people volunteered.
In some cases the father volunteered with his son or daughter. From certain families two or three brothers took up arms. As an example as many as six male members from the Ovari family put their names on the list of volunteers."
We can have no reason to doubt their enthusiasm, but we are pretty well aware of the horrible circumstances. These unfortunate men understood well that they could choose of between the brigade and death.
In Topolya a small monument marks the spot, the brigade started for Zombor, but the mass grave in the swamp of the old pond, above which a tennis court has been built, remains unmarked.
The Hungarian "volunteers" of Bacska and the Slavonian Hungarian partisans met on December 20 in Felsoszentmarton. They first lined up for parade on December 31, 1944 as soldiers of the newly formed 15th.
Vojvodinan brigade named after Sandor Petofi. There were 1,200 of them some not yet equipped with guns. There were some who got disillusioned on the way and deserted. Perhaps they were afraid not only for their own lives but for their families' lives too. These people did not throw a favorable light on the brigade. When they got home they complained about the way they had been treated and about the future of the brigade.
In reaction to the alarming news spread by the escapees, the "Free Vojdovina" of Novi Sad printed the following on January 18th, 1944:
"Several hundred Hungarian males and females from Topolya entered the Petofi Brigade voluntarily to take up arms against Fascism. These Hungarian troops are fighting somewhere in Transdanubia. Some irresponsible people are spreading news that the brigade was for the most part dissolved. The United People's Front of Topolya sent out Dezso Sinkovics to meet those members of the brigade who were from Topolya and to bring letters from them to reassure their families. Sinkovics brought a letter with the signatures of all. Now from the letter:
"We want to destroy Fascism and build a new democratic state and we want to be worthy of the name of our brigade and of Marshal Tito, the most perfect partisan of peace... Let the cowards spreading false information shake in terror. Those who, by their escape and by besmirching the fair name of our brigade, support the Fascists. We will be there at the show-down, and woe to the traitors. We will wash this filth off the honour of the Hungarian nation with the blood of our traitors!"
However, the show-down with the traitors came about in a different way than promised in the letter, which must have been written by the commissar. The escapees were rounded up in several weeks' time. Led by Istvan Varga they were taken back to the corps, which was fighting in the neighborhood of Bolmany and had already suffered losses. It was in Baranya, Bolmany, that the brigade, now three times as numerous, clashed with the detachment of the well equipped retreating German Balkan Army, marching towards Transdanubia and Budapest.
The survivors created legends about their battles; evaluation is not our task:
According to General Kosta Nadj there were fifty killed and one hundred and ninety wounded. The number is small if we consider later rumors, that the Serbian generals had the brigade massacred by the German SS corps.
According to other sources, in the March battles, lasting for one week, nine tenths of the brigade was annihilated. Those who
survived were enlisted in other partisan units. Whether it happened this way or another, it is true that the remaining soldiers were sent to other corps.
At the end of 1944, and the beginning of 1945, the German Balkan Army tried to cross the Danube first, to approach the Hungarian capital through Bacska. When they failed, they assailed the Drava west of Eszek (Osiek), and they did cross temporarily to the left bank.
But remembering the alarming news spread in Topolya, we should not forget their attempts to cross the Danube in the beginning of 1945. Our correspondent enlisted with exceptional luck, as a clerk to a Serbian military workers' detachment in Szabadka.
Our platoon was stationed on the Danube cutting an acacia forest, because, they heated the wagons with wood. We were lodged in peasant houses.
One night we saw soldiers marching by, four abreast, in tattered clothes from the station. The feet of some were covered in rags speaking Hungarian. When we asked them who they were, they said they belonged to the Petofi Brigade from Topolya. When we asked them where they were going. they said they were going to the front. "Without a gun," I asked one of them in wonderment. He said, ecchoing the commissar: "The Germans have guns, we have to take them from them!"
The front line in those days was between Ilok and Sarengrad. The Germans had a powerful artillery against the Serbian trenches. In front of us, the terrain was full of landmines. The Petofi Brigade was needed to neutralize the mines. The people were driven onto the mine field at night. One could hear the sporadic explosions. At eight in the morning, a messenger came to me bringing an order that the workers' detachments should go to the Danube to pick up the casualties. No statistics were made of the people who lost their lives there..."
REPORT OF LOSSES
In addition to our extensive gathering of data, the investigations of two brave Roman Catholic Priests have offered the most reliable source of information. Marton Szucs, retired Dean of Bacsszollos, and Jozsef Kovacs, retired Parson of Martonos, had dedicated the last years of their life for gathering the data of the innocent Hungarians executed in Bacska in the autumn of 1944. They used the official registry books of the parishes of Bacska and the recollections of eyewitness parishioners.
The title of their work is "The Silence of the Dead", a requiem in memory of the innocent victims. Their own physical fear of reprisal was also included in the title. The publishing of their summary was authorized after their death.
The gathering of data took place in the greatest of possible secrecy, because of the Yugoslavian security forces and the prohibition of publishing the details of the war crimes by the authorities.
Further difficulties were caused by the fact, that in most of the villages of Bacska, the terrorized Hungarians kept an incomplete register (Csurog, Novi Sad, Zsablya, Szabadka). Although the data provided was very close to the exact figures, the data of these places are accompanied by the caveat: Appr. (approximately) on the lists.
In another column are listed those communities, where the inhabitants could recall the number of victims with an accuracy of plus or minus 1O. These are labeled with the sign: a.e. (almost exact). In the smaller villages, where the dead were remembered by name and number, they receive the sign: e. (exact).
Our headings originate from the two devout Catholic priests in their edition in the order of the Serbian village names. The register discloses the data of Serbs, Communists and Jews slain and executed between 1941 and 1944. The data had been compiled by Yugoslavian organizations; we can not vouch for their accuracy.
The data published here of the number of Hungarians executed by the partisan gangs in 1944, are the results of the research of the two Priests.
The register reveals the data of the research in eight columns. Apart from the names of the communities, a certain subjectivity cannot be excluded among the data of Columns 2 and 6.
2. The number of slain Serbian chetniks and armed resisters ooduring the reentry of Hungarian military forces in 1941 3. The number of dead during the incarceration 1941 and 1944. 4. Died at the hands of the counter intelligence of Novi Sad.
5. Executed during the raids.
6. The total sum of casualties from 1941 to 1944.
7. The number of Hungarians massacred in the 1944.
8. Qualification of the exactitude of the gathered data.
The seventh column abounds in question marks. These question marks in many cases hide the sorrow of undiscovered and unconfessed crimes. As a result of our research, we have managed to erase some of these question marks.
The list of communities includes some villages inhabited by Hungarians outside Bacska as well.
The list of the villages comes from The Silence of the Dead
Summarized register of Serbs and Jews disappeared
between 1941 and 1944:
Killed in action in 1941 876 persons
Died during deportations 219 "
Died in Counter-intell. custody 404 "
Executed in the raid of 1942 3,130 "
Total number of Serbian and Jewish dead 4,629 persons
Taken to reception camps 7,865 persons
Taken to labor camps 2,116 "
Mobilized 1,677 "
Total affected 11,658 persons
Source: Zlocini okupatora u Vojvodini, Volume I., Novi Sad, 1946.
We are obliged to disclose the total number of Yugoslavian casualties published in 1946. However, its figures do not correspond with the available Hungarian official data in every respect.
On the other hand:
The Hungarian casualties in the autumn of 1944, reach a total sum of 34,491.
If we add the thousands executed in the uninvestigated, unexamined 4O villages to our deathlist, the number will certainly exceed forty thousand.
Roman Catholic priests and friars executed in the end of 1944:
1. Antal Berger, Tavank_t
2. Balint Dupp, Curog
3. Pal Goncol, Sirig
4. Istvan Koves, Mosorin
5. Jozsef Novotny, Plevna
6. Ferenc Petrenyi, Becse
7. Ferenc Plank, Sivac
8. Denes Szabo, Totovo Selo
9. Ferenc Takacs, B. Petr. Selo.
1O. Lajos Varga, Mohol
11. Istvan Virag, Horgos
12. Mihaly Werner, Martonos
1. Krizosztom Korosztos
2. Kristof Kovacs, monastery of Novi Sad and
3. Ferenc Fleisz, monastery of Szabadka
|Tibor Cseres: Serbian Vendetta in Bacska|