Novi Sad raid
|Also known as||1942 raid in southern Bačka|
|Participants||Hungarian occupying troops|
|Deaths||3,000 to 4,000|
The Novi Sad raid (Serbian: Новосадска рација / Novosadska racija) or the Újvidék massacre was a series of attacks by Hungarian troops against civilians in Hungarian occupied Bačka on January 1942, after the Axis invasion and partition of Yugoslavia. The raids were conducted in several places in southern Bačka region, including Novi Sad, villages and towns in Šajkaška, as well as the towns of Temerin, Srbobran and Bečej. An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 civilian hostages, mostly of Serbs, and Jews, were rounded up and then killed.
The cause of the raids is disputed. The Hungarians characterized the raid as a reprisal for resistance activities, although others believe that the real aim was the liquidation of "unwanted elements". The massacre is considered one of the most notable war crimes in the history of Serbia.[by whom?]
Using minor local Partisan activity as an explanation, Hungarian forces assembled 240 patrols in southeastern Bačka, around Novi Sad, to conduct anti-Partisan raids. The patrols rounded up and executed civilians allegedly suspected of aiding local resistance fighters. As by the end of 1941 the resistance in Bačka had been largely defeated some believe that the real aim of the raids was ethnic cleansing against minority groups, their murders, and the robbery of their property. Already in 1941, about 2,500 Serbs had been killed and about 65,000 expelled from Bačka by the Hungarian authorities.
The raid started on January 6 in the town of Čurug with suspected partisans, including women and children, being removed to barns, storage buildings, and municipal buildings. Although some suspects were released between 500 to 1,000 people were killed. Their bodies were stripped of all valuables. The raid moved onto other local settlements such as Gospođinci and Titel on the same and next day. During the next three days, 7 to 9 January, further killings occurred in the towns of Temerin and Žabalj.
On 23 January Hungarian troops and gendarmes surrounded the city of Novi Sad, then known by its Hungarian name of Újvidék, and cut the phone and telegraph lines from it. Hostages were taken, and locals were interrogated about supposed local partisan activity. Many died during their interrogation. The Hungarians drove 550 Jews and 292 Serbs onto the frozen river Danube and shelled the ice until it broke up and their victims drowned. Their corpses washed up on the river banks for months afterwards. Other victims were thrown into the holes in the ice or lined up and shot, some though escaped death because those conducting the massacre were ordered to stop before reaching them. The massacre only ceased four days later after the local Leó Deák complained to his superiors.
According to historian Zvonimir Golubović, the total number of civilians killed in the raid is estimated at 3,809. Other sources estimated the death toll at 4,116 (2,842 Serbs, 1,250 Jews, 11 Hungarians, and 13 Russians) or 4,211. The victims were killed in Novi Sad and in several nearby settlements, including Bečej, Vilovo, Gardinovci, Gospođinci, Đurđevo, Žabalj, Lok, Mošorin, Srbobran, Temerin, Titel, Čurug and Šajkaš. The victims included 2,842 Serbs, 1,250 Jews, 64 Roma, 31 Rusyns, 13 Russians and 11 ethnic Hungarians. Civilians were rounded up at random and taken from their homes and businesses during their workday and while they were engaged in regular activities, even weddings.
Table that show victims of 1942 raid by gender, age and ethnicity (according to historian Zvonimir Golubović):
Causes and initiators
The raid was performed because, about 40 Yugoslav partisans (of the Šajkaška Partisan detachment) were found hiding at the farm of Gavra Pustajić near the town of Žabalj by a Hungarian patrol on January 4, 1942. Due to the weak condition of the resistance movement in Bačka at the end of 1941, this was the only Partisan detachment in Bačka and it had not performed any recent actions. During the clash between the Partisans and the Hungarian patrol, 10 members of the patrol and 7 partisans were killed. The remainder of the Partisan detachment were murdered over the next several days. Therefore, from the point of view of military and state security, this particular partisan resistance was finished on the same day it started and, as such, there was no legitimate reason for the raid. According to historian Zvonimir Golubović, it was planned much earlier and the attack on the partisans in Šajkaška was just an excuse for the implementation of a planned genocide. The raid in Šajkaška began on January 4 (the same day as the Hungarian patrol clashed with the partisans near Žabalj).
Raids were carried out in Šajkaška from January 4 to January 19, 1942; in Novi Sad from January 21 to January 23; and in Bečej from January 25 to January 29. The raids were ordered by Lieutenant General Ferenc Feketehalmy-Czeydner, Major General József Grassy, Colonel László Deák and gendarmerie Captain Márton Zöldy, but, according to historian Zvonimir Golubović, they were planned by the highest military and civil officials of Hungary, including Chief of Staff Ferenc Szombathelyi, Minister of Internal Affairs Ferenc Keresztes-Fischer, Minister of People's Defense Károly Bartha, President of the Hungarian government László Bárdossy, and Regent Miklós Horthy himself.
In 1943 the Hungarian leader Admiral Horthy ordered an investigation into the massacres and charges were brought against some of those that had conducted them. Those charged fled to Nazi Germany and returned only after German forces occupied Hungary in 1944. Horthy used the investigation as a method of distinguishing his regime from that of Nazi Germany.
Some Serbian historians claim that Horthy himself was aware of the raids and approved them being carried out. Horthy was a witness at the Nuremberg Trials after World War II but despite strong demands from Yugoslavia was not charged as the Americans and the Soviets favored dropping any charges.
After questions were raised in the Hungarian parliament the prime minister László Bárdossy sent a commission of inquiry to investigate. That investigation supported the story that the army had been battling partisans. A further investigation by Bárdossy's successor Miklós Kállay came to similar conclusions.
In 1943 Hungary organized a trial of several officers who were among those responsible for the raids leading to four death sentences. Four of those charged escaped to Germany before their sentencing. After the war, some of the individuals responsible for the raids were tried again by the new communist government of Hungary (which sentenced them to death or to life in prison) and again in Yugoslavia, where they were sentenced to death again, and executed. Miklos Horthy who was, according to Yugoslav/Serbian historians, among those responsible for the raids, was never brought to trial.
In September 2006, Efraim Zuroff of the Wiesenthal Center made public copies of a 1944 court verdict finding Sándor Képíró and 14 other Hungarian Army and police officers of taking part in 1942 raid in Novi Sad. In 1948, the government of Hungary retried him in absentia and sentenced him to 14 years. This verdict was based upon the testimony of János Nagy, a former Hungarian soldier of Képíró's platoon. However, the testimony was given after the communist secret service tortured Nagy. Képíró, however, stated that as a police officer, his participation was limited merely to arresting civilians, and he did not take part in the executions or any other illegal activity. War crimes charges were subsequently brought against Képíró in a federal court in Budapest, for murders of civilians committed under his command during the January 1942 raids. His trial on those charges commenced in May 2011. In July 2011, the Hungarian court ruled that Képíró was not guilty of participation in the raids. Képíró died in September 2011.
In June 2013, Hungarian President János Áder apologised in Serbia’s national parliament for crimes Hungarians committed against innocent Serbs in Vojvodina during WW2. Some days earlier the Serbian lawmakers adopted a declaration, which condemned the massacre in Vojvodina in 1944-45 and resolutions made under the principle of collective guilt during the war.
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- Partial list of victims of the raid in Novi Sad, in the area that was under command of Sandor Kepiro (in Serbian)
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