|Tibor Cseres: Serbian Vendetta in Bacska|
"In 1941, when the Hungarian troops marched in to Kanizsa, the Bagi lads and Lajos Barta beat up about twelve Serbian prisoners at the Town Hall. Bato Knazsavity was beaten so black and blue that I could hardly recognize him, but he survived to take his revenge on 300 Hungarians in in 1944.
It is said that some Serbians were executed during the war in 1941. It is possible, but I know only of the one executed at the Town Hall. He was the lame tailor who had shouted idiotically that he wanted to eat a meal of the flesh of Hungarians. However it is possible that this man should have been taken to the Mental Hospital rather than executed. It's also true that most of the partisans would have deserved the same.
The Russian troops crossing the Tisza marched into Kanizsa on October 7, 1944. There was neither a battle nor a massacre, but every woman was raped despite the fact that most of them could speak Serbian. Murderous partisans from Banat also came with the Russian troops, their leaders were Niklo Radovics and Szvetozar Knezevics Bacsa. It was announced that if a Russian or Serbian person were to be hurt and subsequently die, a hundred Hungarians would meet the same fate. After a number of days, a Serbian soldier did happen to be shot in Pal Manyi's bar. Fortunately, before he died, he admitted that he had been shot by Dusan Tatics, a fellow Serb.
At the end of October or the beginning of November, people began to be picked up one by one on the basis of a list. Whoever was able to do so fled to Szeged. We could not sleep for weeks. I put my bed underneath the kitchen window leaving a small opening, so that if they came, I could jump through the window, and run away to Martonos or even farther away. Those rounded up were put in the Town Hall prison and knocked about on the basis of whatever pretext came into their interrogators' minds. For example, "Have you ever been a levente?" "Sure, I have." There was a powerful punch to the chin. "You also have been a levente, and you are a Serbian!" There were harder punches and kicks to the body of the poor Hungarian.
Most of those taken were beaten to death in the cellar of the Town Hall. The dead bodies were driven by carts to the Island at night. There the corpses were laid out unburied and covered with lime for days. Then the partisans gathered some people to
dig ditches, pits, lug corpses and bury them any old way, it was all the same to them. Finally some of them were also shot dead."
It is characteristic of the work these unlucky men were forced to undertake. Decayed parts of human bodies were dug up by stray dogs near the park as late as 1975.
Some of those were not beaten to death in the cellar of the Town Hall, were shot near the pathway leading to the Tisza, others into the river, or on its bank near the dike. They were also buried there. There are two mass-graves razed to the ground in this area. Later on relatives put crosses on the two graves, but these were removed by the authorities. One of the common graves was next to the path, while the other was near the bank of the Tisza, 150-200 metres to the south between the Tisza and the dike. No one has the courage to dig up the graves overgrown with weeds and bushes to rebury the bodies decently.
Most of the murderers were Serbians who had lived in Kanizsa before 1941. Besides those mentioned above, Alexander Oluski nicknamed Saco and Dusan Ugranov, nicknamed Dusko were also involved in the massacre there. The wife of Ugranov was Dragice Kardevan who was the secretary of the commander of OZNA. They were the ones who asked the younger prisoners if they wanted to join the Petofi-brigade. When everyone of them accepted this offer just to save their lives, the Serbian Kanizsa people beat them to death with even greater pleasure. The gesture and the comment made by Dusko as a protest, when he saw the three-hundredth corpse, were not contrary, "Comrades, let's finish it, if we kill every Hungarian, who will work for us?" A real humanitarian...
It made no difference for those who had been marked for execution, whether they had been fighters in the class struggle or members of any political party whatever, what mattered was their ethnic origin.
In the first few days, a few illusory personal touches characterised the events. Female relatives (wives, mothers, sisters) of the prisoners attempted to carry some food to them. It was passed on to the prisoners by the executioner's assistants and so it wasn't possible to see anyone personally. The most "honorable" action of the Serbian partisans was that they gave back the food which had been brought for men who had been beaten to death. They said that the relative had been transported somewhere else.
The third wave of executions, which demanded only 22 dead, came on November 22nd. It was a Yugoslavian holiday. Dusko and his friends celebrated the holiday with the humorous idea, as they thought of executing 22 Hungarians to fit the date.
Only one man, Antal Dobo (Toni), who had been a member of the party, dared to protest against this terrible idea. After he had failed to prevent the "ceremony", he and another strong fellow buried those executed to save their bodies from the pigs of the forester.
Saco Oluski, together with the partisans of Adorjan were held responsible for the three hundred victims. He is said to have been condemned to death, but the sentence was never carried out.
We might also mention the case of Dusan Ugranov, he had lived with a guilty conscience since 1944. He had a nervous breakdown and as a psychiatric patient he would shout, "Help! Save me! The Hungarians will come and execute me!" He had a persecution complex and a clouded mind, he died in 1970.
The OZNA officer, who exhumed a mass-grave of 60 corpses in 1946, blew out his own brains because of the shock and under the weight of responsibility.
The cruellest killers had already moved to other parts of the country at the time of the first legal action taken in relation to these crimes.
Under the influence of articles which have been published recently, the less important killers are moving south, while the administrative positions in Kanizsa are being occupied by "reliable" non-Hungarians from Serbia in the name of "reconciliation".
The long list of the Hungarian dead in Kanizsa has not yet been completed.
If we ask the Hungarians living in Obecse, what happened there in October and November 1944 almost everyone will remember the terrible torture and killing of the priest first, and only then the torture and disappearance of their relatives. The number of murdered Hungarians is put at 600 by the villagers. The full list has not yet been compiled.
The cruelty of the massacres indicated personal revenge. In most cases there was no direct relationship between the killers and their victims.
When the Hungarians reoccupied this area in 1941, seven Serbians from Obecse died. Another died when a gendarme was searching for hidden fugitives in the loft of Ragacs the lumber merchant. A hiding Serbian shot him in the forehead. He had to
pay for this along with the others living in the same house.
Forty people including three engineers were arrested by counter-intelligence. A transmitter had been found with each of the engineers. They said that during the raid 206 Serbian villagers from Obecse died. (The information came from Yugoslavia in 1946). Probably some of these people died because of their Serbian nationalist feelings. Csurog and Zsablya Becse were rarely mentioned.
In 1944, revenge started against Hungarians, who didn't show any resistance, with the slogan: "Two Hungarians were to die for every Serbian." The Serbians were not interested in finding the guilty, nor did they initiate proper legal action.
The locations of the massacres were the Central Coffee House and the multi-story hotel building. No one who entered the building left alive. Even in December, the massacre was still continuing. Anyone left alive at the Central was taken to the cellar of the music school, they showed no signs of life any more.
Hungarians living on farms were also gathered and many men were shot. Many conflicting estimates have been given concerning the number of the dead ranging from 100 to 600. It was enough to be Hungarian or to speak out in any way against communism or the Serbians to be considered guilty, a war criminal, and to die for it.
Abbot Ferenc Petranyi was taken away from his home on October 9, by young partisan women. On the way to the Central, they beat the 65-year-old priest. He was forced to make a "confession" of alleged wrong doings against the Serbians, but he felt not even a glimmer of hatred towards them. Every part of his body and face were beaten black and blue and his jaw was smashed. A partisan woman named Zorka from Zombor was the cruelest of all. The naked priest was fastened to a board, then they jumped on his belly, chest and genitals from a table in hobnailed boots, he was practically disembowelled. When he died from his wounds on October 14, he was thrown out of an upstairs window onto the cobbled court, the cause of death was given as suicide. (But what need was there for justification?)
One of the partisan women was said to have been burdened by the memory of his murder throughout her life. She became neurotic and she would frequently mention the priest's name in her nightmares. Those who believe in divine justice should know that the other four partisan girls, but especially Zorka, died in a very unfortunate manner.
The niece of the priest, whose husband was an engineer and a soldier during the war, lived with her two year old son, her
mother and the priest's sister. In a five room residence. The niece, who was then 38, remembers the events&
"As if my Uncle Ferenc Petranyi had felt the oncoming danger, he was working at his desk that night. He had already felt the shadow of his death the same evening. The partisan women called for him at half past three. My son, whom my uncle loved very much was still sleeping, my uncle wasn't even allowed to kiss his forehead in farewell. He was seen no more. We heard that he was being kept under arrest in the town hall or at the Central.
We enquired whether or not we could send some food to him. The following day we sent some food in a small basket with our maid. I put a white handkerchief under the plate. The maid waited for the empty basket outside the Central. The handkerchief was in it, but it was all bloody. We thought that his nose had been bleeding as usual.
We sent the maid to take his lunch next day, too. Then I put a big, white table-cloth under the plates. Then the maid came back with the basket and we looked at the table-cloth. There was the mark of a tortured, bloody face on it, it was just like Veronica's veil.
After that we could not send any more food to my uncle. We heard that he had jumped out of the window and died at once. We were asked to send a coffin with one of the undertaker's assistants. We did so, but we weren't allowed to go there. The only thing we were allowed to do was to accompany the hearse with the closed coffin on it, they would not let us see my uncle's body.
We stopped for a brief prayer in front of the church. My mother didn't come, just the maid and us, along with an armed partisan with the driver.
With the help of the parishioners of Becse, my mother, a Yugoslavian citizen, could stay in the village. She had a nice marble tombstone placed on the grave of my uncle and a moving poem engraved on it. My mother would have remembered the lines of the poem if she were still alive, because now it cannot be read. The whole poem was chiselled off the tomb.
My little son and I were taken to the silk factory with orphaned Szekely children from a near-by village. They didn't know what had happened to their parents."
"My father was drafted as a Hungarian soldier from Becse on Sunday, September 16 1944. My mother was left with her sons,
17 year old Karoly and 8 year old Gyula. They lived on a rented farm not far away from the Bogdany farm in Hatarjaras. They had been living there for a long time and had a very good relationship with the owner, Mr. Cseszak. Cseszak, a clerk. He took up this post after the arrival of the Hungarians. He lived on Zoldfas Street, near the entrance to the market, he was divorced and lived with his son. He was considered to be a very good man in Becse.
When my father, Jozsef Kovacs, was drafted, he hired a couple to help my mother cut the hay. It was September 18th, at eight o'clock in the evening, and they had just gone to bed. My mother and her sons were frightened when someone began knocking on the door. They thought that the couple living in the stable wanted to break into the house. My mother picked up her smallest son who was still sleeping and carried him with her. The older boy went ahead of her through the next room. The boy jumped out of the window, but came back immediately and shouted:
"Mum, there are a lot of people here." At that precise moment he was shot through the heart and died at once. My mother was shot at five times, three of the shots hit the boy in her arms. One bullet grazed her just beside the ear and the other next to her eye.
Then the shooting stopped and the partisans came to my mother and asked her where Cseszak was. My mother answered that he was living in the town.
"We're looking for him", they told her. My mother said that we were living here now. The wagon in the yard had a small registration plate on it, with my father's name on it. The Serbian partisans numbered a hundred or more, a lot of guns with them. According to my mother, all of them had fine, smooth hands. They were not peasants or workers but clerks and other white collar workers, young and middle-aged. There was a Hungarian woman among them who asked my mother,
"Do you know who we are?" My mother said that she did not. "We are the troops of liberation. In two weeks the Russians will arrive and we will liberate Becse." "I don't care, I would just like one thing, please, bring my sons into the house", she said, as she looked at her dead sons lying on the ground.
"Not there", they were pointing at the house from which my mother and her sons had come."Take them in there then", my mother said, pointing to the summer kitchen. They took the dead bodies there.
Meanwhile they went into the house and took everything we had away with them. The curtains were torn away, clothes and bedding were wrapped in other bedding, so they could be taken away more easily. Some days later one of these packs was found
in the nearby corn field.
The only dress left for my mother was the one she wore and she had to borrow one from her mother, so that she could go to the funeral. The sons' best clothes were at my father's grandparents' in Becse, so they were buried in the clothes they had been wearing when they were murdered. The partisans were there for a while and told my mother that she shouldn't go into the house before morning. My mother did not notice that she had been robbed in the meanwhile.
Then the partisans set off through the corn field towards another farm, where Cseszak lived. There were three Cseszak farms in the countryside and ours was the first the partisans visited. That evening they broke into another Cseszak farm and there they castrated another Cseszak who died on the spot.
They took someone with them as a hostage and he told me all this (later he hid under the leafes of a big pumpkin in the corn field and managed to escape that way).
The partisan who shot my brothers regretted it later saying, "Why did I kill them when I knew their father and grandfather." Another partisan tried to comfort him by saying, "Don't regret it, two Hungarians less!" The murderer lived some distance from our grandparents' house. Later we lived there too, in one of the houses on Marshal Tito Street. Later on he married a Hungarian woman. Once, when he got drunk in the bar, he also showed some regret: "Everyone who we killed deserved it except the two boys!" The bar owner told my father. I knew that he was living near us, but I did not know him, because he worked at the court in Novi Sad and he spent little time in Becse. I knew his wife, she was always looking out of the window.
Once, in the mid sixties when my sister and I went to the artesian well for some water. A Serbian man said that he was very much distressed. He asked us whose children we are and how old. My sister a university student then, spoke to him and I was still in secondary school. He was surprised at our ages and talked to us in a very quiet voice. He asked "Aren't you grown up yet?" He asked my sister to visit him at the Court in Novi Sad. He wanted to get a scholarship for her. We didn't visit him.
Returning to the day of the massacre, September 18, 1944, my mother was left alone on the farm. Later one of our neighbors came to see her and stayed with her until the next morning. The news of the tragedy had spread very quickly. Having heard the news, Cseszak came over early in the morning. He cried and said again and again: "They were very good children." Cseszak left for Hungary, from the farm that morning and died there. His son
died in Becse a few years ago.
My father was taken to Verbasz. September 18 he and another man were told to go home. He had a bad feeling at once, why? His friend's house was blown up and his family died there. My father came from Verbasz to Becse by train. He heard on the train about the two boys who had been murdered in Becse the previous night, they were children. As they talked about it more, he started to recognize the place. He asked who they were and was told. They also said that the mother and father-in-law were in the next railway car, so he could go and ask them. My grandparents lived in Szenttamas and had gotten on the train there. My father went to them and they gave the same news. When my father arrived in Becse, he went to purchase two coffins which he took to the farm. There was an air raid alarm during the funeral so the mourners had to take cover somewhere as quickly as they could, they ran in every direction. My mother couldn't go anywhere, she fainted and was left at the grave. Karoly and Gyula Kovacs are buried near the church in the Central Cemetery. If you stand opposite the church, it is on your right.
This story was written by Terez Kovacs who lived in Hungary from 1986. I was born in 1949.Please let me know about any events organized in the memory of the murdered innocent people. I would like to do something to help."
FROM SZENTFULOP TO THE GAKOVA CAMP
The next tragic story tells of the woes of the innocent Germans of Bacska. Who stayed in Bacska (Vojvodina), after the withdrawal of the German or Hungarian forces, the Germans and Hungarians alike, were totally innocent people. The few war criminals were smart enough to escape in time.
"If you are writing about the massacres in Yugoslavia, I want tell you my story because I could have been a victim of the bloody events. Although this particular tragedy affected Swabians (i.e. Germans) not Hungarians, but in my opinion, their fate also belongs to the real history of the "liberation" of Bacska. You may have heard about it, but in 46 years I have never met anyone who has. No one I've told about it would believe me or they thought that I was exaggerating. My husband, a reservist, served in the army several times in the fifties. On these occasions, he was usually questioned about his relatives. When answering, he also talked about my relatives and parents. Once he told the real story. Despite the opposition between Tito's regime and our party and government, he was told off in a very rude way: "Don't keep talking about that! It's not true, it's a big lie! The Yugoslavian comrades never committed those crimes!" That's the reason I'm writing about the history of my family and village from the fall of 1944 to the spring of 1946.
Our family lived in Szentfulop in the county of Hodsag in Bacska. Szentfulop was a village of 5000 people. Its name was Filipovo during the Serbian regime and presently it is called Grasac. Szentfulop was an ancient village in the early Middle Ages but Turkish troops destroyed the whole countryside. Maria Theresa settled mostly Bavarian Germans here. As I remember, only German speaking people were living here when I was a child.
By the fall of 1944, many families which were compromised had fled along with a number of Volksbundists (German ethnic organisation led by Nazis).
As far as I can remember, the new Serbian regime commenced on November 25, 1944. (This was the date of the liberation.) It was announced that all men over 18 and under 60 had to gather on the church square. Homes were searched by the soldiers. In the afternoon during the shouting and shooting, the women and children were sent back to their houses. They were also prohibited to look out of the windows onto the street.
Standing behind the shutters, we saw that the men were leaving the village accompanied by the soldiers. I saw my father and several other relatives among them It was the last time we ever saw them.
We had no news from them for several weeks and every one of us guessed that there was something wrong. The news spread that they had been taken away for forced labor. A heap of spades, picks and shovels were taken after them in carts. It was also said that they had been herded into cattle cars and that the whole group had been taken away to the USSR.
Meanwhile, it turned out that some people had been released. I knew a young man who was among those captured and who was released because his name was Serbian. As far as I remember, he was called Jurisics. I talked to him, but he couldn't or wouldn't tell me anything about the others. I felt that he knew a lot more than he let on. The village priest was also released.
Rumors began to become more and more widespread that a big pit had been dug in a field, into which the men had been shot . There was a farm not far from there where firing and cries could be heard all night. A few years later, I learned that there had been a man who had managed to escape in the darkness and who had been a witness of the whole massacre. He said that the lucky ones had been shot, while the rest had been put to death by means of bayonets and cudgels. We didn't know for a long time how many people had been killed there.
In West Germany organizations, action groups were formed in relation to this affair, one of which was called the Association of the Survivors of Szentfulop. They organized meetings and also issued a number of publications. According to them, 212 men were killed there that night.
The place of the massacre was surrounded by soldiers. The villagers were not allowed anywhere near. But this wasn't the end of the suffering of the people of Szentfulop. In the next few weeks, Serbian families were settled into almost every house. They came from somewhere, probably the hills of Bosnia or Montenegro.
The spring of 1945 on Easter Saturday, when there were only old men, women and children left in the village, it was announced that all Swabs had to pack up their things. After the villagers had been gathered together, the march commenced to the railway station where they spent the night. Next day after "mustering", all the packages and personal items were taken away from the poor people. Special care was taken to collect jewelry. People were told that if they couldn't pull the rings from their fingers, they would be cut off. Then they were brutally and cruelly herded into
wagons and transferred to Gakova. There were several thousand Swabs huddled together in the sheds and barns or empty apartments under close and armed confinement. I wasn't there at this time only my mother and 11-year old sister. I had been transported for agricultural work, despite the fact that I was only 14. We were also well guarded. The fellows and I harvested the corn first. It was very cold, the work had been left unfinished that fall. It was only after a number of weeks, that I came to the camp of Gakova.
As far as we knew, there were about 15,000-20,000 of us in Gakova. We were sleeping on our sides, because there was very little room. When more and more people began to die, there were more and more free places. Sometimes we had nothing to eat at all. Many starved to death, and others were frozen, but as I remember, many died of typhoid fever. Almost every one was ill.
The attitude of the guards was really cruel and they showed horrifying examples every once in a while to impress their power over us so that we would live in fear. One family made an attempt to escape, but they were caught. They had to carry a board around the camp saying: "This will happen to you if you try to escape." They made them dig their own graves, shot and pushed them into the graves with the whole camp watching. Physical abuse was frequent also. Though they didn't hit me or my sister, they once beat up my mother when she was sent to pick apples with other adults and she tried to hide some for her children.
The number of the dead was increasing all the time. First the corpses were buried separately, in fact they even made coffins for the very first ones. Later on they threw them all in one big pit.
My mother died on January 4, 1946. When it happened, my sister was mostly unconscious with fever and I couldn't go to the funeral either, because I was so ill myself that I couldn't even stand up. Through the window I could see them taking her to the cemetery: many were placed into the same grave that day.
In the spring of 1946, the guarding of the camp was not as strict as before. We even heard of successful escapes. People were fleeing to Hungary, because Gakova was only seven miles from the Hungarian border. A young man who managed to cross the border, after a successful escape from the camp, met one of my uncles who was living in Kalocsa. He told my uncle that my sister and I were alive. He managed to persuade the man to return secretly to the camp and rescue us. this brave young man took the risk. One night my Sister and I managed to get out of the
camp with him and cross the fields to Hungary. it was cold and foggy. It was quite dangerous, because we could hardly walk, and I was coughing and could be heard a distance.
Uncle was waiting for us with a wagon at the border. The rest of the way to Kalocsa was much easier.
We were surprised to see that life in Hungary was about the same. Students went to school, and farmers started working in the fields. There was going to be a wedding at one of my relatives. They didn't know that a few miles away from their home, corpses were thrown into pits by the dozen.
In the massacre of November 25, 1944, my father and four brothers died. In the camp of Gakova my mother, two of my grandparents, an aunt, a niece and her three daughters died. these were my close relatives. Ten to fifteen thousand people died in Gakova.
If the Serbian "heroes" who ordered or committed these terrible massacres are still alive, they probably have high retirement pensions and a lot of medals and badges on their chest.
I've heard about a book published in Germany by Wendelin Gruber. "In den Fangen des Roten Drachen ("In the Claws of the Red Dragon", Miriam Verlag, Munich) . I haven't read it, but I know that the details are more exact in this book. The author talked to many eye witnesses. listened to them carefully, and spent a lot of time writing the book.
I don't know how long the camp in Gakova stayed open after our escape. It was obvious that the purpose was to kill as many people as possible and in not to provide communal work. I saw a man in a white coat who may have been a physician, but he didn't take care of us nor give us medicine.
The Serbians solved the ethnic question once and for all over that one and a half year period. On a tourist trip in 1968 we travelled through Szentfulop and saw the town mayor whose chest was fully decorated with medals. It were obvious that the village was very poor. Before the massacres the village had been prosperous and tidy, with hard working people. The villagers from this earlier period could not be found. The yards were without flowers, a lot of weeds. unpainted and shaky fences, unpainted houses with broken windows. The newcomers didn't feel that it was their village.
Every vault in the cemetery was destroyed. We found the top of our family tomb half pulled away. We could see the bottom of the vault, where there were bones and pieces of coffins everywhere. The marble stones beside the tombs with inscriptions on them had been taken away. Ours were there, but in broken pieces on the
ground. we were able to read the lines on the marble. The newcomers' burial places provided the greatest possible contrast. every tomb had its own marble headstone.
This letter became a very long one. I had never told this story from beginning to end, not even to my grandchildren.
a Bavarian-Swabian "girl" who feels she has a Hungarian heart."
|Tibor Cseres: Serbian Vendetta in Bacska|