NOVI SAD -- Serbian Orthodox Christian and Jewish religious leaders, guests
and more than 10,000 citizens gathered in Novi Sad to mark
70 years since a WW2 massacre.
Serb, Jewish and Roma civilians were rounded up for several days in January 1942
by the occupying fascist Hungarian forces,
to be executed on the banks of the Danube,
their bodies thrown under the ice of the frozen
The commemoration ceremony on Monday was attended by Serbian Orthodox Patriarch
Irinej, Serbian Chief Rabbi Isak Asijel, and
Jerusalem-based Simon Wiesenthal Center Director
Efraim Zuroff, among others.
Irinej told the gathering that his message
to those who committed the horrible crime
against innocent people simply because they
were of different ethnicity or religion was
that "as Christians we forgive, but must not forget".
patriarch said a similar message was sent
by one of his predecessors, Patriarch German,
in Jasenovac - a WW2 death camp set up by
Croat fascist authorities to imprison and
murder Serbs, Jews and Roma.
crimes that took place in the town of Novi
Sad and in the southern Bačka region in northern
Serbia "represent man's deepest fall, which qualifies him lower than blood-thirsty beasts", said Irinej, and called for "a new spirit of time to rule after such times of evil".
address, Efraim Zuroff focused on the acquittal
last year in Hungary of now deceased Sandor
Kepiro, who took part in the raid as a member
of the Hungarian forces.
ruling to set him free was politicized, said
Zuroff, and added that justice and remembrance
were "two acceptable ways to react to such horrible crimes".
Varga admitted that Kepiro was not innocent,
but after rejecting all documentation and
testimonies in an astonishing manner, he ruled
that the prosecution failed to prove the guilt," he stated.
this reason, Zuroff told those gathered, we
are left with remembrance:
is why there is this joint attendance of a
large number of people in a place where crimes
were committed. A loud and clear message must
be sent that no politicized verdict can change
facts or the guilt of perpetrators."
event on Monday was marred by a controversy,
when Novi Sad Assembly President Aleksandar
Jovanović accused the memorial's organizers,
the Serbian Orthodox Church, and "its security",of physically preventing him, and other provincial officials and ambassadors
SPC Eparchy of Bačka, however, rejected these
accusations, saying that the assembly president
and Novi Sad mayor and their entourage "tried to take part in the official program, outside of the protocol and without
an invitation from the organizers".
to official data available at this point,
in the town of Novi Sad itself, 1,246 people
were murdered in the space of three days.
The Hungarian forces rounded up and killed
people indiscriminately, 415 women and 165
children among them.
raids were also carried out in the wider Šajkačka
region. The Racija 1942 Memorial Society has
data that shows at least 4,000 people were
killed, while the final number remains the
to be determined.
organization quoted Hungarian military sources
who stated during the war that the raids in
the Bačka District resulted in at least 12,763