|Tibor Cseres: Serbian Vendetta in Bacska|
The raid could have spared Lok, but at the end of 1941, a few partisans rowed over the Danube and shot three sentries. It was on Easter Sunday that the Hungarian soldiers executed Serbians said to have sympathized with the partisans. The parish priest desperately tried to explain to the lieutenant lodged at the parish, that the captives still waiting to be executed were innocent. The new group to be executed had just been lined up in front of the firing-line when the parish priest, Janos Gertner, arrived and
prevented the act. The lieutenant was relieved to see that the Hungarian militiamen were glad to put an end to the massacres.
Fifty-three Serbians had to suffer, for the most part innocently, for the " heroic exploit" of the "visiting" partisans.
This is the village where the number of people killed by the partisans remained below that of the victims of the raid. "Altogether" there were twenty-eight innocent Hungarians executed. Those who, under the direction of the militiamen, took part in the massacres of 1942, had fled.
The relatively few captives were not treated very well here, either. Those who did not want to admit even a slight degree of guilt or did not want to deny their nationality, were shot in the mouth or were hanged from the window-knob (strangled by a cord) and were then transported to the knacker's yard.
Most of the inhabitants of Sajka destined for execution in return for the humanity of the Catholic parson were saved by the Orthodox priest. Special gratitude was owed in a matter involving the iconostasis. It had happened that in 1941, the "connoisseurs" among the militiamen took down the icons of the Orthodox church, and with the purpose of enriching the Catholic church, took them to the parish office and handed them over to the curate Fabian Quintus. He, with an inventory, graciously accepted them from the soldiers and when the generous battalion passed on, he took the whole set back to the Orthodox church with apologies. The majority of Hungarians and the Catholic church were then left unharmed.
Nevertheless we cannot forget about the executed victims:
1. Peter Pasztor, forester
2. Antal Csorba, owner of a threshing-machine
3. Istvan Konrat, policeman
4. Sandor Milanovics, pubkeeper
5. Karoly Milanovics, Sandor's son
6. Janos Krizsan, farmer
7. Andras Krizsan, Janos's father, farmer
8. Ferenc Varga, farmer
9. Istvan Tokos, shopkeeper
10. Istvan Tokos, the shopkeeper's son
11. Gyorgy Zorad, owner of a threshing machine
12. Sandor Kiss, policeman
13. Mihaly Kormos, fisherman
14. Ferenc Varga II, farmer
15. Istvan Nagy
16. Janos Paska
17. Istvan Kasza
18. Ferenc Hegedus, farmer
19. Jozsef Halasz
2o. Janos Bagi, policeman
21. Antal Toth, the first to be shot
22. Sava Radosaljevics and
23. Janos Kalapati,Levente-instructors,
24. Antal Dujmovics, policeman
25. Pal Dujmovics, a twelve-year old boy
26. Mihaly Ternovac
27. Janos Bozso
28. Antal Csuka
From Dunagardony (Gardinovce) and Sajkasszentivan (Sajkas) we have no data about the massacre of Hungarians in 1944 of these two sparsely populated settlements. They were practically defenseless and the 1981 census counted seven Hungarians in one village, eighteen in the other. The bloody reprisal was inevitable, because the 1946 registry book records thirty-eight and seventeen Serbians, respectively, who fell victim to the Hungarian raid.
In Tiszakalmanfalva (Budisava) the partisans regularly blew up trains. Because of this, the raiding Hungarian Corps rounded up the peasants from the Serbian farms that surrounded the railway. After lining up the first group at the wall of the Village Hall, prepared to execute twenty people. The Hungarians living on these farms, who had been living in peace with their neighbors all along, rushed to the scene and surrounded the victims pleading for their innocence, prevented the reprisal. The militiamen did not shoot.
The partisans entering in the fall of 1944, were not informed of the humanitarian act of the Hungarian peasants. On October 20, they rounded up some thirty of them who never came back. They were said to have been transported to Zsablya and were exterminated.
In Tunderes (Vilova) there was no one to protect the Serbians picked out as victims for the raid. The Yugoslavian registers record sixty-three victims. The reprisal of the returning partisans was inevitable and it mostly afflicted the Hungarians who had just
come over from the Szeremseg. The rest of them were destined to be driven to the Jarek camp in January 1945. Eighty people tried to defend their new houses, where many died on their porches.
The two thousand inhabitants of Titel diminished to one-third of their original number, just because of their native language. Fifty-two Hungarian males from Titel paid for the execution of fifty-two people suspected of being partisans or of being their accomplices.
The geographical features of Mosorin were favorable for large scale partisan activities. The Hungarian frontier guardsmen had to face and reckon with the presense of partisans since the summer of 1941, also in the form of actual combat causing significant losses at times. The raids, lasting for several weeks, often combed the farms on the floodplain of the Tisza hunting for suspects and partisan-accomplices. According to a Yugoslavian publication from Novi Sad one hundred and seventy-nine people from Mosorin were found guilty.
The partisans took revenge on the five hundred Hungarian inhabitants of the village for their own losses. On November 2, 1944, after a series of tortures (tearing off nails, smashing testicles, ripping abdomens) sixty Hungarian males were shot or beaten to death. Some of them were thrown into mass graves, others were tossed into the Tisza river. The ripping-open of abdomens was inflicted on dead bodies as well, so that the water would not cast them bloated, before due time. Those who remained alive were driven, with the exception of two families, to the Jarek Camp with the threat that if they returned they would surely be killed. Only the Jakubetz and the Szekeres families were allowed to stay home. Twenty-one Hungarians were found in the village in 1981.
Special attention should be given to the very sad story of the Catholic priest:
The Rev. Istvan Koves had good reason to escape with the militiamen. The priest, a shame to his brethren, had not been able to resist the temptations of this world for several years. He was generally known for his avarice by his own congregation. He reported rich Serbian and Jewish families to the police, accusing them of seditious crimes. Some members of the accused families were executed, and others were carried off by force. Their valuables, jewels and money, were appropriated by Koves.
The Serbians kept in mind the priests crimes and apart from physical reprisal, they had an eye on the jewels. In a few weeks they managed to detect the fact that Istvan Koves had fled to
Janoshalma in Hungary. The war and the mobility of the Soviet army still made the borders merely technical. It was not too difficult to send an armed partisan group to the place of refuge. They did not care too much about the lawfulness of the deed, they dragged the priest, together with his midwife-housekeeper and her mother, back to Mozsor. All three of them were tortured to extract from them the hiding place of the jewels. First the midwife, then the priest admitted that the jewels were hoarded in a safe place under the altar.
The church, already desecrated, was completely demolished by the Serbians, and the Roman Catholic cemetery was also destroyed. The Rev. Koves, like St. Lawrence, was burned alive, but without the possibility of future sainthood. At the same time the midwife, raped, was strangled and having deserved a lesser torture her mother was slaughtered too. The number of victims in Mozsor thus rose to seventy-two.
In 1941, the Hungarian troops of the Pecs Corps reoccupied Zombor The first night the chetniks, having hidden in the attics, caused long street battles and extensive fires. There must have been forty of them against the garrison of one thousand firing away aimlessly. That day and the following morning the poorly trained and disorganized Hungarian troops made themselves ridiculous, because they were unable to capture, either alive or dead, any of the fighting chetniks. Six Hungarian militiamen died in the street-fighting , sometimes hit by a Hungarian bullet. In the next few months, the Hungarian counter-intelligence found eleven people in Zombor with its Serbian majority, who could be accused of seditious crimes.
Compared to all this, the reprisal initiated by the returning Serbian military authorities was gigantic.
In the last moments of the "Hungarian era" on October 20th, the counter-intelligence happened to find, on the captured Serbian leader, Patarcsics, the black list of those Hungarians of Zombor who were to be executed at the first opportunity by the entering partisan militia. Out of a sense of duty, the counter-intelligence warned those on the list to get away. Most of them left with the last retreating Hungarian troops. Surprisingly, first mentioned on the list were two Carmelite Friars, Gellert Sztancsics and Illes Hollos. Their most serious crime was obviously their patriotic sermons.
Many who did not get notice of their imminent death or simply felt innocent, chose to stay but they "got on the hook" when the Russian and partisan troops entered. Some literally got on the hook; they were hanged.
Rounding up Hungarians destined for death was not confined to the town. The Hungarian males of the surrounding villages were taken to the Kronich Palace by force. From Bezdan, some five hundred men were taken. Here they were beaten all day, and there were some bloodthirsty, sadistic, partisan women who were especially active. In different corners of the apartment halls, their activities were being watched by their fellows with guns pointed, ready to fire if one or another of the tortured men attacked or resisted the strikes of the gun-butts. This would give them sufficient reason for a massacre.
It is from the survivors of Bezdan, that we know of the horrible
weeks spent starving, laying on straw full of lice and blood in the Kronich Palace. Here everyone believed themselves condemned to death, as they did not know who would be the next ones to be loaded on trucks heading for the Danube or the Ferenc Canal.
There were also bound prisoners, taken by force to the race track where they found common graves waiting for them. The partisans did rather a rough and ready job on the executions. Not all the victims were hit mortally, these too were rolled into the grave. From beneath the layers of half-buried bodies, one could still hear moaning of the people still alive several hours later. 2,500 people were executed in the Race Course alone
More than once, the tortured ones were forced to run over hot embers barefoot, before being driven in front of the firing-line. It is said that the platform of the recently finished bus terminal is the marker over a huge mass grave. The other "depot", the barracks, was only used as temporary quarters that November. There "only" two hundred people were shot at most.
A young Serbian butcher from Monostorszeg, who was taken into the ranks of the partisans because of his butchering skills, boasted sometime later that he took part in the execution of at least three thousand people.
According to some brave parish priests of ours who collected information in the neighborhood of Zombor, 5,650 innocent Hungarians fell victim to the vendetta till the middle of November. Drawing up a final list, if only for their remembrance, seems impossible.
Let us remember one person, however, the Judge Istvan Sugar, who went to buy some bread one day and never returned.
The Hungarians remaining in the richest village of Bacska remember that three hundred and fifty people disappeared from among them. The murderers forced them to dig their mass grave in the cemetery.
There were burials in the vicinity of the hemp-processing factory of Overbasz. To make things easier, the murderers also threw dead bodies and some that were still alive, into wells.
The memory of the Germans who were driven away and executed is fostered by the Hungarians in Verbasz.
"Hearing you," a letter reads, "is as if the graves that hide our dead, ages 14-60, were suddenly in front of me. There is one grave in the cemetery of Verbasz, where there are one hundred
and one bodies. (The list of names can be found in a book published in West Germany.) These are the victims of the notorious investigations of November. They were usually taken away three times; first they were allowed to go home without being in any way injured; the second time they were driven home completely naked; then the third time they were headed for the cemetery.
In 1967, I went to the Cemetery with my family. My aunt only dared to show me the grave with her back to it. In it lay my war-disabled uncle, the headmaster and teachers of the local Hungarian grammar school, and the Germans who had sympathized with the Hungarians and who had stayed behind in their naivete.
In the spring of 1945 came the suffering in the Gajdobra Labor Camp for several months. My aunt was taken there with her four children and also her parents (the Transylvanian writer Karoly Molter's brother and niece). Insufficient food, saltless gruel and unripe ears of corn took lives. Only a seven and a one-and-a-half year old child survived it, because they were released at the request of my aunt, whose husband had been killed.
I remember that the local Serbians once sent a petition to my father, he was the local doctor, asking us to stay because life had to go on and they would guarantee our safety. My parents did not want any more of a minority life and decided to leave.
The most horrible things were not done by the inhabitants of the village, but by Tito's partisans with the help of a few local villains. These were: Gyakula Pero, Sijadcki Vlado, and one named Marko who was familiar with the local circumstances.
Please be discreet with these rather personal comments, because one can never be careful enough and I have grandchildren living there and I would like to go home from time to time."
At Pacser sixteen Serbians fell in the shootings in 1941. Two hundred Hungarians had to suffer death for it. It was the butcher, Ivo Jovkovics, who organized the administration of "justice" and the death-ceremony on the road leading to Bajmok, where three big mass graves were dug with the help of the Third Battalion of the Eighth Brigade of Vojvodina. They picked a district inhabited by Hungarians and those who were found there were all driven to their graves.
The Rev. Jozsef Kovacs was seized separately. In the course of an inspection, an officer of the brigade recognized Kovacs as an old schoolmate. It was not easy for him to save the priest, as his accuser, since a church going Catholic Serb insisted that the priest was a great enemy of the Serbs. He had often been heard glorifying the Virgin Mary, protector of the Hungarians. The priest, no longer under threat of death, tried to save the villagers already rounded up, but the partisans of the Third Battalion preferred to follow the butcher, Ivo Jovkovics. Even the old schoolmate supported his efforts, but the two hundred Hungarians had to die anyway. On their grave, the dissembling, careful, Serbian generations planted wisteria, to cover the crimes of their fathers.
The local Hungarian Counter Intelligence Group took thirty-five Serbians to concentration camps, although the burgomaster pleaded their innocence with his peasant naivete.
In the middle of October 1944, the Russian troops occupied Bajmok, and the partisans appeared on their heels with people who had been released from captivity by the Counter Intelligence Agency. They brought with them an ardent desire for action, which was a desire for reprisal. On the first night of their arrival they rounded up seventy-eight Hungarians and two Germans. They tortured them for days at the Village Hall; pretending they were selecting some. One or two friends were saved by some Serbians through a side door of the movie house, where the people to be executed were kept. That is where the Pharmacist, Erno Jeszenszki, the owner of the pharmacy called "Guardian Angel" was held. He was known for his willingness to help anybody who came for help. Apart from being a Hungarian, he
was found guilty of being knighted by Regent Miklos Horthy in 1941 for his heroism in World War I. This was considered by Titoist and Stalinist standards, equal to being a Fascist.
After long tortures, the partisans took their captives to the clay pits near the railway bridge, where they shot their victims by the hundreds. The bloody work was easier since they did not have to dig, just dump soil on the bodies. The owner of the previously mentioned pharmacy was thrown on the heap too.
The males of the village fled to the edge of the village where they spent the night in the cornfield so they would not be found. Those who joined the workers in the field during the day had done so in wain, since the the partisans herded the villagers into the moviehouse, the anteroom of hell, together with their hired workers. The number of victims slowly rose to one hundred and fifty. Later on new pits had to be dug at the railway bridge, the old ones now being full. The newly arrived, foreseeing their destiny in the dead bodies laying there, first covered their fellows with soil, then made room for themselves before they surrendered, half naked, to the machine guns. The inhabitants of the nearby farms had to listen in horror to the constant rattling of guns and the cries "Help, Hungarians!"
The murderers left no burial mound. If there was a mound they stamped it into the ground, singing and dancing triumphantly.
The following spring, when the farmers horses went to plough, they sensed that the field no longer supported life. The horses reared, snorting, when they approached the field. That field, consecrated by Hungarian bodies, remained unplowed due to the homage paid to it by these horses. The people who were left behind kept coming back to pick up a rag, a cap, or a shoe, which were useless to the executioners.
The fate of the Judge Karoly Czimbell deserves special notice. We have already mentioned him - anonymously - as one who did his best to save his Serbian fellows. The retreating gendarmes warned him to get away because he would be the number one enemy of the partisans, since he was in a responsible position. He did not ignore the warning, although he believed that he was innocent. He went along in painful march with the gendarmes as far as Baja, but there he got on a cart going to Bajmok and returned to his family after a few days absence. He did not even have time to take a bath before the partisans came to get him. They kept in mind his suspicious though short absence. After a short beating they skinned Czimbell Karoly alive before putting him on a truck and throwing him into the mass grave without his skin; he was still breathing.
|Tibor Cseres: Serbian Vendetta in Bacska|