The 1944–1945 killings in Bačka were ethnic cleansing of several tens of thousands of ethnic Hungarians in Bačka committed by members of the Yugoslav Partisan Movement after they gained control over the area between 1944 and 1945.
During World War II, in 1941, Nazi Germany invaded and occupied Yugoslavia. The Vojvodina region was divided into three occupation zones: Banat was placed under direct German control as an autonomous region within Serbia, Bačka was attached to Horthy's Hungary and Syrmia was attached to the Independent State of Croatia. Since the beginning of the occupation, the occupying powers committed numerous war crimes against the civilian population of the region, especially against Serbs and Jews. Therefore, many citizens of Vojvodina belonging to all ethnic groups joined the partisan resistance movement to fight against occupation. The victims of the Axis troops were mostly civilians, while some were the fighters of the partisan resistance movement. Bačka was a very mixed-populated region according to the official censuses.
|Year||Hungarian speakers||German speakers||Serbian speakers|
|1921||35.5%||23.65%||33.55% (including Croats)|
At the end of 1944, Axis troops were defeated by the Red Army and the whole of Vojvodina came under the control of the Yugoslav partisan forces. On 17 October 1944, by the order of Josip Broz Tito, the Banat, Bačka and Baranja regions were placed under military administration. About the establishment of this military government, Josip Broz Tito said the following: "The liberation of Bačka, Banat and Baranja requires the quickest possible return to normal life and the establishment of the people's democratic power in these territories. The specific circumstances under which these territories had to live during the occupation, and a mission to fully avert all adversities inflicted to our people by the occupying forces and foreign ethnic elements colonized here, requires that, in the beginning, we concentrate all power in order to mobilize the economy and carry on the war of liberation more successfully".
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The term "fifth column" is applied to the subversive and resistant forces and organizations left behind by a retreating enemy. The National Committee for People's Liberation and the Red Army had agreed on the necessary cooperation in due time.
Brigadier General Ivan Rukavina was appointed commander of the military administration. He was in constant and direct contact with Tito, the supreme commander. In his first decree, he ordered his troops to "protect the national future and the South Slavic character of the territories" .
In the 28 October 1944 issue of "Slobodna Vojvodina", the newspaper of the People's Liberation Front in Vojvodina, one member of the Regional Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia summarized the intentions suggested from above, with the obvious aim to raise spirit for revenge by exaggerations and distortions:
Although we destroyed the occupying German and Hungarian hordes and drove them back to the west, we have not yet eradicated the roots of the poisonous weeds planted by them... The hundreds of thousands of foreigners who were settled on the territories where our ancestors had cleared the forests, drained the swamps, and created the conditions necessary for civilized life. These foreigners still kept shooting at our soldiers and the Soviet soldiers from the dark. They do everything they can to prevent the return to normal life, preparing, in the midst of this difficult situation, to stab us in the back again at the appropriate moment... The people feel that determined, energetic steps are needed to ensure the Yugoslav character of Bačka.
The vengeance on the Hungarians, the idea of the vendetta, was in the minds of the partisan commissars who were in constant touch with their commander, General Rukavina. During the war, families of many members of the partisan army were victims of Hungarian troops, thus, the idea was often seen among them as a personal revenge for the lost members of their families. The personal revenge here meant the killing of innocent Hungarian population (women, children) just because the same happened to Serb people in 1942 by Hungarian army. Rukavina in turn had to inform Marshal Tito about all his decisions and all the military achievements of his subordinates.
The Yugoslav government, as soon as it got in touch with the new temporary democratic Hungarian government, declared its demand for a population exchange. They offered forty thousand Hungarians living in Bačka for the same number of South Slavs who were to move there in their place. The killings were motivated both by revenge, and by the wish to lessen the number of Hungarians in their homeland, where all their ancestors used to live for centuries.
Bezdan (Bezdán) 3 November 1944. The Hungarian male inhabitants of the village in the age of between 16 and 50 years were driven to a sports ground. 118 men were shot down by machine pistol to the Danube. 2830 Serbian communist partisans who made the murder belonged to the udarna brigade No. 12 in the division No. 51. It is strange but the Soviet officers were also horrified at the massacre because they were who stopped swearing further executions.
Controversy about number of victims
Various sources provide very different numbers of people killed. Yugoslavian document "The Book of Evidence of Killed War Criminals in 1944/1945" state that a total of 1686 were killed in Bačka, approximately 1000 of which were presumed to be Hungarians. The historian Kasaš estimates that 5000 Hungarians were killed.
According to some sources, the most probable number of people killed is between 20,000 and 25,000, while others claim that the most probable number is about 35,000 (Cseres Tibor gives an exact estimate of 34,491 persons killed).
- Fifty thousand Hungarian martyrs report about the Hungarian Holocaust in Jugoslavia, 1944–1992 – ed. István Nyárádi, 1992
- Márton Matuska: Days of the revenge. Forum Publisher, Novi Sad, 1991
- Tibor Cseres: Serbian Vendetta in Bacska
- Zvonimir Golubović, Racija u Južnoj Bačkoj, 1942. godine, Novi Sad, 1991.
- Milorad Grujić, Vodič kroz Novi Sad i okolinu, Novi Sad, 2004.
- Slobodan Ćurčić, Broj stanovnika Vojvodine, Novi Sad, 1996.
- Jelena Popov, Vojvodina i Srbija, Veternik, 2001.
- Janjetović, Zoran (2006). "Proterivanje nemačkog i mađarskog življa iz Vojvodine na kraju drugog svetskog rata" (in Serbian). Hereticus 1. http://www.komunikacija.org.rs/komunikacija/casopisi/Hereticus/V_1/06/download_ser_lat.
- Michael Portmann, Communist Retaliation and Persecution on Yugoslav Territory During and After WWII (1943–50)
- Dimitrije Boarov, Politička istorija Vojvodine, Novi Sad, 2001.
- Memorial site of the victims
- Dragomir Jankov, Vojvodina – propadanje jednog regiona, Novi Sad, 2004.
- Cseres Tibor (1993). Serbian Vendetta in Bacska. Buffalo: Hunyadi Publishing. p. 141. http://www.hungarian-history.hu/lib/cseres/index.htm. Retrieved 2010-10-14..
- Kasaš, Aleksandar: Mađari u Vojvodini 1941–1946. (Novi Sad, 1996) Filozofski fakultet u Novom Sadu, Odsek za istoriju.
- Kasaš, Aleksandar: Mađari u Vojvodini 1941–1946. (Novi Sad, 1996)
- Karapandžić, Borivoje: Jugoslovensko krvavo proleće 1945. Titovi Katini i Gulagi. (Beograd 1990: Mladost).
- Titoist Atrocities in Vojvodina 1944–1945
- Memorial site of the victims
- Cseres Tibor's book on the web
- Short documentary with English subtitles