|Tibor Cseres: Serbian Vendetta in Bacska|
In the autumn of 1946, a short press report announced that the Hungarian government delivered Generals Ferenc Szombathelyi, Grassy, Feketehalmy-Zeidner, Captain Marton Zoldy and Nagy, the late mayor, as war criminals to Yugoslavia. We were convinced that they would not be content with their simple execution. In the Autumn of 1946, the population was informed in newspapers and through the radio, that the trials of the war criminals delivered to Yugoslavia will be organized in the theatre-hall of the "Dom Kultura", the late Cultural Centre. There was an open trial to which everyone would gain free admittance until the theatre hall was filled.
By the time the trial started, the group of the accused was enlarged. It was joined by Popovic, the Representative of the National Assembly in Bacska and Perepatic, merchant from Novi Sad, whose nickname was "cheap", which he was given for his advertisements displayed in the movies" stated Gyorgy Szigeti in his memoirs.
"While the Hungarian officers were questioned about the raid, Popovic and Perepatic had to give account of their collaboration with the "Fascists during the occupation". They wanted to confiscate the huge property of the merchant
The late Lord Lieutenant, Peter Fernbach, was missing from the group of the accused, though everyone knew that the partisans had caught him. According to the spreading news, he was tortured to death in prison.
The judges assembling as a military court wore the uniform of the Titoist Army. The Public Prosecutor of Vojvodina, Dr. Gyetvai, the hangman of Hungarians levelled the charges.
Everyone was aware from the beginning, that the trial would end in a bloody comedy. They have to die whatever happens, because the court is not after the truth, but declares a death sentence prepared in advance. The only one who did not expect execution throughout the whole procedure was Perepatic, the merchant. It did not occur to him that his chief crime is his property.
The appointed public defense attorney acted as prosecutor. The accused were thrown prey to the Serb population of Curog and Zabalj, who supported the partisans. The Hungarians who had
fled; who had survived the partisans revenge could not participate in the trial due to their innocence. The atmosphere of the trial grew dense from anti-Hungarian hatred. According to the practice of communist jurisprudence, not the prosecutor who was to prove the guilt of the accused, but the latter has to prove his innocence.
The district and the hall was full of militiamen and OZNA agents. During the trial the encouraging shout echoed in every fifth minute: "Na vesab snjima! Hang them!"
After a one week trial, the accused were all sentenced to death in the name of the people. Szombathelyi, Feketehalmy, Grassy and Zoldy were hanged, Popovic, Perepatic and Nagy were were shot. Execution by hanging was to be public. Szombathelyi and Zoldy were hanged in front of the Serb Cemetery at Novi Sad, called "Almaska Groblje". Feketehalmy was executed in Curog, Grassy in Zabalj."
The new Vajdasagi Magyar Szo relates the statement of Ferenc Szombathelyi made by the right of the last word: "I do not feel guilty; my conscience is clear!" In spite of this the verdict pronounced on October 31, on the stage of the Cultural Centre was death for all the accused. Feketehalmy and Grassy scolded each other, Zoldy limped, which he had not done in the people's court of Budapest. According to the report of the Hungarian daily, Grassy and Zoldy were considered deserving of being hanged, and Szombathelyi of being shot. It seems as if the newspaper had forgotten about Feketehalmy-Czeydner.
There is some difference in the place and way of execution in the oral account we have. Grassy and Zoldy were hanged publicly in the end of Kiszacsi Street. The executions by shooting, including Szombathelyi's, according to the Vajdasagi Magyar Szo - were carried out without an audience in the Fort of Petervarad.
There are only unconfirmed reports today of the three generals execution; there were no known witnesses. These reports have been included in the memoirs of General Geza Lakatos, too. According to them, Ferenc Szombathelyi was impaled at Novi Sad. Feketehalmy at Curog and Grassy at Zabalj were buried in the ground alive up to the ears, and made even with the ground by a tank.
The Hungarian Department of Justice had delivered their guilty citizens to the Yugoslavians, on condition that the new sentence imposed on the condemned would not exceed the previous one in severity. This promise could have defended Szombathelyi, since his Hungarian sentence was only life imprisonment.
The Hungarian judicial authorities did not protest the "announcement" of the execution of their citizens.
Officially they did not even seem to have realized that the war criminals who had been extradited from the Western Allied Authorities the previous year or before had slipped from their province of authority of administering justice.
The People's Court of Budapest justified in a decree on February 25, 1947, that it accepts the definitive verdicts passed by the National People's Court and declared them enforceable. This means that it orders the beginning of life imprisonment for Szombathelyi.
Constantinus Porphyrogenitus wrote in the third part of his work: The Governing of the Empire, about the Southern Slavs: Xenophobia; hatred towards strangers is a general characteristic of their attitude. Are we justified in stating that even in the era of Porphirogenitus, the Hungarian conquerors had felt and behaved just the opposite? If our standard is in accordance with St. Stephen's "Admonitions", we might be.
At the time of the Turkish army's advance to Esztergom, if not before, the Hungarians had learned the source of fear (often of horror). It is unlikely that all those bloody crimes described in previous chapters of this book, could be explained by some kind of mutual xenophobia. Political and military history can give a more general reason for such or genocide.
The Paris Peace Treaty that was forced on the country after the great defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in World War I, has increased the Hungarian's fear and antipathy of all neighboring nations. The atmosphere of hatred and the knowing of being hated had been first of all due to the incredible injustice of one and a half million Hungarians who remained just outside the borders. In all of the bordering countries, the succession states had no need for them nor the two and a half million Hungarians further away from the new borders.
These countries in the course of seventy years have plainly made all-out efforts to clear the Hungarian dominated borderland of the Hungarians with all devices at their disposal peacefull or criminal..
Let us be content with Bacska this time. In comparison with the population of 1918, the number of Hungarians in the South has decreased by 170,000, while the so called "dominant population" (i.e. the Serbs) has doubled or tripled.
The Hungarian population of Bacska continues decreasing
nowadays as well. The last decade brought fewer births than deaths. In this respect, Bacska follows the trend of Hungary and even surpasses it in a way.
The sad habit of suicide surpasses the Fatherland.The number of "invited deaths" of the Hungarian minority exceeds the Yugoslavian average by a margin of 5 to 1 or 6 to 1. In Hungary the dark paradise of suicides are Csongrad and Bacs-Kiskun counties. The Hungarians in the neighboring Szabadka exercise this kind of death at double that rate .
The whole Hungarian nation suffers in its heart from the wounds of the great defeats of the century. It not only feels defeated, but also cast to the mercy of its neighbors. These wounds are even fresher in the souls of Hungarians in Bacska.
During the last forty years the general attitude of the Hungarians in Bacska has been on the defensive and dominated by suffering; they live in fear, feel homeless. They feel they can not be the masters of their own fate; they are secondary citizens. Sooner or later they will be forced to give up their national identity, because the Serbian authority will not consider them as political factors.
When the intelligentsia speaks up as Hungarians, they are denounced as chauvinists, traitors. The severest form of oppression is the prohibition to speak about the last months of 1944. There is prohibition of commemoration and mourning, even though there is no manifestation of the intention of revenge by the Hungarians.
The crosses, the markers, the garlands, the flowers have all disappeared from the common graves. The tombs are used as garbage dumps, because the Balcanic pride of the governing Serb nation is unable to face the facts, that in the name of the "Yugoslavian nation" some blood thirsty criminals could have committed such abominable crimes.
In 1941, the illegally settled Serb Dobrovoljacs, Serb Royalist Chetniks and Tito's Serb Partizans started the killings in Voivodina. Whoever starts guerilla warfare has to bear the responsibility and accept the consequences. However, the victors are never prosecuted the loosers are.
Since the Vietnam war, we all know how the partisan forces are organized in any country, where the terrain is suitable for hit and run operations and provides good sanctuaries:
The Partisans start with a few tough guys, who have the killer instinct and originated from the village they are about to organize. They slip in during the night, wake up some men and tell them, that from now on they are part of the partisan unit and have to obey orders or else, few will resist. Those who do are killed on the spot, sometimes with the whole family watching. The word spreads fast about the punishment. From then on, nobody in his right mind would resist the "call to arms". During the day, most of them work in the fields like any other law-abiding citizen. At nightfall, they dig up their submachine guns and do what was ordered.
First they order a local boy to kill a sentry of the occupying force, a policeman or a village elder, on a dark, overcast night. They usually mutilate the body to make sure that the unfortunate victim's buddies get really mad at the unseen foe.
At this point, the commander of the occupying force orders an investigation. His angry men, out to avenge the gruesome death of their buddy, grab someone, who under duress, will confess to the heinous crime or accuse somebody else. In either case the fingered man either "resists arrest" and killed or "hangs himself". In "retaliation" the partisans get bolder and with local help, whole police detachments are annihilated.
From then on all hell breaks loose. The general fear and distrust takes over. In racially mixed villages, after living together in relative peace for hundreds of years, the animosity grows by the day. Eventually the situation gets out of hand, a junior officer or his men will start the indiscriminate killing.
This is the only reason for the partisan organization. The military effect of them in a densely inhabited, civilized country is negligible. A well placed, unarmed saboteur could inflict more
damage on a military or industrial target than a ragtag partisan army ever could.
As a fighting force, Tito's partisans were totally ineffective when they came down from the mountains and were forced into the role of the infantry.
When the war ended, that was a different matter. They were set upon the unarmed civilians or disarmed soldiers. That is when the indiscriminate killing started on a truly wholesale and gruesome basis. They massacred Hungarians, Croatians, Germans and the Chetniks of General Mihailovits, their own kin, with equal abandon. They were true to their national character and communist indoctrination.
In Vietnam, the situation was different, but only to a certain extent. The terrain was excellent for hiding, booby trapping and ambushes. The populace was mostly homogeneous. The leadership of the Viet Kong knew that in "set piece battles", they didn't have a chance. So they followed the teachings of Mao ruthlessly and to the letter. The poor peasants had no choice, they were either killed by the Americans, or if they did not obey, by the Viet Kong. Most of the 58,000 U.S. men killed in action were murdered by the peasants, who neither had the desire to kill nor to be killed. They would rather have lived in peace.....
The real war criminals were not the Hungarian Sergeant Kovacs in Vojvodina or the American Lieutenant Calley at My Lai, although nobody can condone the hideous crimes they have committed. We should not forget what they had to endure for months on end, not only the threat of instant death, which would have been salvatione but the very real possibility of being maimed for life, blinded or mutilated by a peasant girl who was forced in this mess by the horrible circumstances.
The real war criminals were not our fathers, brothers, sons, but Mao, Ho Si Minh, Stalin, Tito, and their henchmen, who coldly, premeditatedly forced this aberration on the human race.
C R E D I T S
Albert, Gabor: Emelt fovel. (With Head High)
A. Sajti, Eniko: Delvidek (Vojvodina)
Bajcsi-Zsilinszky E.: Helyunk es sorsunk Europaban (Our Place and Fate in Europe)
Baky F.- Vebel L.: A Petofi Brigad (The Petofi Brigade.)
Brindza, Karoly: Mondd el helyettem, elvtars (Tell it for Me, Comrade.)
Buranyi, Nandor: Osszeroppanas (Collapse)
Buzasi, Janos: Az ujvideki "razzia" (The Novi Sad "Raid")
Illes, Sandor: Sirato (Wailing)
Dalibor M. Krno: A bekerol targyaltunk Magyarorszaggal ( We Negotiated Peace with Hungary)
Matuska, Marton: 45 nap 44-ben. (45 Days in 44) Essays in the Magyar Szo, Novi Sad.
Sebestyen, Adam: Andrasfalviak menekulese Bacskabol ( The Flight of the People of Andrasfalva from Vojvodina)
Sara, Sandor: Keresztuton (On Crossroads)
Szigethy, Gyorgy: Szemtanuja voltam Tito delvideki verengzeseinek. (I was an eyewitness of Tito's Bloodshed in Vojvodina).
Szombathelyi, Ferenc: Visszaemlekezesei l945 (Remembrances, 1945)
Szocs M. - Kovacs J.: Halottak hallgatasa (Silence of the Dead)
Jovan Veselinov Zsarko: Az autonom Vajdasag szuletese (The Birth of the Autonomous Vojvodina)
Rudolf Kiszliong: "The Croaten: Der Schicksalsweg eines Suedslawenvolkes", Graz-Koeln, 1956
John Pecola and Stanko Guldescu; "Operation Slaughterhouse: Eyewitness Accounts of Postwar Massacres in Yugoslavia". Philladelphia, 1970
Andre Ott; "Dangers Serbes sur la Croatie", Paris, 1982
Nicolai Tolstoy; "The Minister and the Massacres", London, 1986
Joseph Hecimovic; "In Titoas Death Marches", New York, 1992
Wendelin Gruber: "In den Faengen des Roten Drachen" Miriam Verlag, Munich.
|Tibor Cseres: Serbian Vendetta in Bacska|