Novi Sad raid
|Date||22-23 January 1942|
|Location||Bačka (including Novi Sad, Šajkaška, Temerin, Srbobran and Bečej)|
|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 22-23 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 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".
Using minor local Partisan activity as an explanation, Hungarian forces assembled 240 patrols in southeastern Bačka, around Novi Sad. 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. In 1941, about 2,500 Serbs had been killed and about 65,000 expelled from Bačka by the Hungarian authorities.
The raid began on 6 January 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 and 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, 7–9 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 Golubović):
Causes and initiators
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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 4 January 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 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 4 January (the same day as the Hungarian patrol clashed with the partisans near Žabalj). Raids were carried out in Šajkaška from 4–19 January 1942; in Novi Sad from 21–23 January; and in Bečej from 25–29 January. 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, 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. Horthy who was, according to Yugoslav/Serbian historians, among those responsible for the raids, was never indicted or tried.
In the autumn and winter of 1944-1945 the Yugoslav Partisans under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito retaliated against the civilian population of Vojvodina as part of the communist purges in Serbia in 1944–1945. In 2009, the government of Serbia formed a State Commission to investigate the secret graves and exact number of victims after 12 September 1944, and has so far managed to identify 40655 victims in Vojvodina.
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 Belgrade for the war crimes committed against civilian Serbs and Jewish people during the Hungarian occupation of Yugoslav territories. Some days earlier members of the Serbian Parliament adopted a declaration, which condemned the massacres and application of the principle of collective guilt against Hungarians in Vojvodina at the end of the Second World War.
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