Novi Sad Razzia (Raid) is a genocide committed in January 1942, by occupation Hungarian forces in the Serbian city of Novi Sad.  Serbs and Jews were the primary target of the genocide.  In a three day massacre, over 4,000 Novi Sad victims were tossed into the freezing Danube by Horthy’s army and gendarmerie.


Following is an excerpt from Marianne Biro’s interview given on October 4, 2011 in Leura, Australia.  Marianne was interviewed by Lucy Chipkin and Jacqui Wasilewsky.  Here are the details in the interview as related to Novi Sad Razzia 1942.


Q: You have told us that you have already done a Shoa interview and we are basically, for the purpose of this interview, going to be talking about the Razzia that occurred in Novi Sad on the 23rd of January 1942.  Before we get there, I just want to ask you about how big was the Jewish community in Novi Sad?

A: Not enormous, no.


Q: Did you grow up with a sense of being Jewish?

A: Yes, yes.


Q: Did you mix with people who weren’t Jewish?

A:  Yes.


Q: So your life wasn’t just living within the Jewish community?

A: No, definitely not.


Q: You said your parents were divorced when you were a baby and then you were brought up by your father’s parents in Novi Sad?

A: Yes.


Q: So you lived with them.  Did your father live with them also?

A: No, he was a bachelor.  He lived on his own.


Q: Then he was remarried and had two more children.  Did you live with that fmily then when he was remarried?

A: Yes.


Q: And your mother moved back to Budapest.  So you would see her family on school holidays when you went to Budapest?

A: Yes, she used to come down to Novi Sad and we used to go, when I was bigger, for holidays together.


Q: What are some of your early memories of growing up in Novi Sad?

A: I don’t think about it that much, but it was nice; pleasant, peaceful.


Q: It was a peaceful town?

A: Yes.


Q: And peaceful relationship between the Jews and non-Jews?

A: Oh yes, definitely.


Q: So you didn’t feel…

A: Ostracized?  No, no, definitely not.


Q: So how old were you when the war broke out?

A: I was maybe 14, I think.


Q: Let’s then move on to what we are going to talk about today, which was the Razzia, the raid that happened.  The first raid, I think, was on the 21st of January 1942.  Did you know the reasons for the raid?

A: Yes, somewhere in one of the smaller villages or something there was a clash between the Partisans and the Hungarians, and the Partisans have killed I don’t know how many Hungarian soldiers and that was after Reprisal.  It wasn’t only for Jewish people, it was Serbians and I think it was a willy-nilly thing; they went into streets and demolished streets.  My aunt and her husband and her daughter; and living in the same house was her daughter and son-in-law who was Hungarian, I would say a Nazi in a way, but they took them to the Strand and they shot them, all of them.


Q: What were their names?

A: He was Gelb.  Bela and Josephine and Mira, that was my younger cousin, and Lily was the older one, married to Jerome.


Q: And they took all of them, including the Nazi sympathiser?

A: Yes.


Q: Was that on the same day that you were taken?

A: No, it must have been the day – I don’t know, we were living apart and when we were taken my father was a fairly prominent businessman and they came actually to pick us up.


Q: Who came to pick you up?

A: A car and a driver and a soldier and they just came into the unit where we were living and to take us by name and actually my stepmother’s mother was living with us and they wanted to take her too, but my father said that she’s our housekeeper, so they left her behind.  So they took my step-mother, my father, me and Paul  was only two or three years old, I don’t remember exactly how old.


Q: They took you in the car?

A: They took us in the car and they took us down to the Strand, to the Danube, and there were millions of people, rows, and they took us to the front of the row and they left us there and then they took us inside already and we saw what was happening there, and then a plane came and we were the last to sort of stay, and then when they took us out again we had the fear that they were going to kill us because we saw what was happening.  But they didn’t, they collected us all and took us back into the city, into the hall, one of the government halls, and they left us there and in the end they said because we behaved very well and we were good, we were at liberty to go home.

As it happened, whoever stopped the plane, Colonel Barta was his name, and they were here in Australia, became very good friends with the daughter and the father and she had a brother.  They were in Canberra actually.  But (Barta) was my friend and he ws the one who stopped the killing.


Q: And he was a Hungarian politician?

A: Colonel.  No, he was an Army man.


Q: And he stopped the killing?

A: Well his group, they stopped the killing and Zoldessy, who was the instigator who did it – I saw him hanging actually – ordered the killing. (Marianne is referring to Marton Zoldy, the military commander of the massacre).


Q: When you were taken by the driver and the soldier to the Danube, what did they tell you?

A: They didn’t tell us anything.  They just said that they had instructions to bring us to a certain spot, but we had no idea.  I mean, we knew for two days already because no one was allowed to go out, so we knew that things are happening and they were collecting Serbians, Jews, whoever, indiscriminately and they took them but obviously a few people like us – they had orders to take us.


Q: They were the regular Hungarian soldiers who were taking people?

A: Well, yeah.  Well, whatever the – I don’t know what you call regular, but…


Q: They were the Hungarian Army soldiers?

A: The Army, yeah.


Q: When they took you to the Danube, what did you see there?  You said there were lots of people there.

A: We were taken inside and there was a cubicle where, in normal times, like a kiosk-type thing with lots of clothes and things there.  We heard shooting and that’s all that we saw, but it was pretty obvious what was happening.


Q: And that is when the action was stopped?

A: Yes, when all the people who were in the queue there, they were stopped.  But we didn’t know then that my aunty and cousins were taken.  We only found that out the following day.


Q: Did you see any people being shot?

A: No, we just heard shots, but…

Q: And then you were taken from the kiosk back to town?

A: It wasn’t the town hall, it was more like a sports hall.  We were there sitting on the floors and it was bitterly cold.  It was very unpleasant few hours, not knowing what’s going to happen.


Q: How many of you were there?

A: Oh, hundreds.  Whoever wasn’t shot but was taken there.


Q: And you were all mixed?  There were Jews and there were non-Jews.

A: Yes.


Q: Can you remember how you felt at this time?  Were you in shock?

A: Yes.  Scared more than anything and not knowing what’s going to happen.


Q: What were your parents saying to you to make you feel better?

A: Well, no, they didn’t know themselves.  I remember in that car going down, it was a really small car and my step-mother had boots on and one of the soldier’s bayonettes or something went into her boot and she said, „It’s very uncomfortable“ and he said, „Don’t worry, it won’t be long.“


Q: What did you understand from that?

A: Nothing.  We had no idea what’s going to happen.  It’s only when we got to the Strand and we saw that long queue of people there, then it sort of dawned on us what’s happening.


Q: And you went back home?

A: Yes, we went back to the apartment and, of course, my stepmother’s mother was there.  But we didn’t know actually until the next day who is alive and who isn’t and my mother at that time was in Novi Sad and funnily enough she was in the same street where our apartment was, with another quite prominent family but they didn’t harm them, they didn’t do anything to them.  So she didn’t know whether we’re going to be alright or not.


Q: Did she know that you’d been taken?

A: No, not until the following day.


Q: Then what happened to you after that?

A: We actually left, then we went to Hungary for a while and stayed in Budapest.  It was 1942, and then we went back to Novi Sad again and then we left again permanently.


Q: In Novi Sad, were you feeling unsafe?  Is that why you went to Budapest?  Did you think yu would be safer in Budapest?

A: Of course, yes.


Q: That man you saw hanging, where did you see him hanging?

A: In Novi Sad.


Q: So that was at the end of the war, there was  trial held and he was…

A: Yes.


Q: Was he the only person who was hanged for that?

A: No, there were others too.  I don’t remember their names…  We went back (to Novi Sad) in 1945 and we sort of stayed there for a little while and then, because my father was born where he was born, that became Hungary, we sort of repatriated to Hungary and went to live in Budapest.  Well, I emigrated from there and they just stayed.  They went back (to Novi Sad) eventually.


Q: Can I just ask you one question, which is going back?  The next day after the massacre when you were home and you started to find out what had been happening, what was the feeling of the people in your area – the people that you knew?  Were they very afraid?  Were they very…

A: Well, it was an apprehension because no one knows what’s going to follow.  It was pretty quiet to a certain extent.  It’s like after a storm.  Sort of we didn’t really know what’s going to happen.


Q: Did you know why it stopped?

A: It was, I think, the higher ranking didn’t actually know to what extent, or what was happening, and that’s why this Colonel Barta and his group were then told by probably the higher people to stop it because – I don’t know why they stopped it…