Memorial in Petrovaradin Dedicated to Civilian Casualties of the First World War

Location: 
Petrovaradin (FC Petrovaradin)
Chronological context: 
First World War (1914)

A memorial in the form of a stone obelisk was located today near the FC Petrovaradin stadion, at the edge of the slope of the Novi Sad – Belgrade railway, which was dedicated to the civilians from Batajnica that the Austro-Hungarian authorities shot on the 17th of September 1914, as retaliation for when the First Serbian Army entered Srem after its victory at Cer in 1914. The eleven young men that were shot on this location, in full view of their families, were buried the next day in a mass grave near the site of the shooting. Likewise, after the retreat of the Serbian Army from Srem, Austro-Hungarian soldiers deported a large number of people from Batajnica to Petrovaradin, in cattle wagons, where they were afterwards deported to the Osjek camp where they stayed practically until the end of the First World War. It is estimated that the Austro-Hungarian authorities arrested and deported around 2000 people into camps, as a sign of revenge.

Members of the Sokolsko Society (Falcon Society) Petrovaradin succeeded in finding the location of the graves in 1934, after which the building of the memorial began, which was financed by mayor of Novi Sad at the time Branislav Borota. The memorial was placed twenty years after the tragic event, whereby the task was in line with the slavophil and Yugoslav tradition of the Sokolsko movement that initiated the building of this memorial.

Originally the memorial, in the form of a stone obelisk with names of the victims engraved on it, was placed on an elevated barrow, which stood out from the rest of the plateau. In 1941 however, the Ustashe regime of ISC, which controled Srem during the occupation, damaged the stone obelisk, took it down and buried it in the ground and that way successfully destroyed any hint of the memorial's existence. It should be noted that the tendency towards destroying material remains of the past, relating to the the history of Serbs, as well as Yugoslav national ideas, represents one of the basic characteristics of the genocidal Ustashe regime of the ISC, which was a quasi-political subject under the patronage of the Third Reich. After the Second World War, the memorial was repaired but was then placed in a different location, near the bank of the railway, which resulted in it being hard to notice and likewise making it susceptible to a host of factors that could damage it because of frequent railway traffic nearby. The change of the location of the memorial, during its renovation after the Second World War, may be seen as a general trend of marginalizing a place of remembrance from the First World War period and suppressing its ideology by the communist regime, as opposed to memorials and locations connected to the events of the People's Liberation War, aka the period of the Second World War. As a consequence of such policies, this memorial has been completely neglected over time and was left surrounded by weeds, whereby it was forgotten, if we exclude the yearly ceremony of commemoration by the SUBNOR (Alliance of the Associations of Fighters of the People's Liberation War) delegation.

This monument, just like the other memorial dedicated to the civilian casualties of 1914, located at the lower plateau of the Petrovaradin fortress, was placed during the 20 year anniversary of the tragic event, as part of the activities of the Sokolsko movement of Petrovaradin. The initial context for putting up the these two monuments gives us hints about the narratives of the day, concerning tragic events, that usually appear as a result of the fact that there is a relatively short time gap between the killing of the victims and the moment when the memorial was built, as well as the fact that when the memorial was made the eyewitnesses were still alive as well as the contemporaries of the event. We shouldn't forget the fact that in that time, when the monument was being placed, the existing family narrative was still alive among the relatives of the victims, as well as the narratives that were formed in the local community where the victims originated from. Apart from the things previously mentioned, we should note that the official policy of the Kingdom of SCS (aka Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes), and later on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, mostly affirmed the remembrance culture that was connected to the events of the Great War, whereby it also succeeded to some extent to propagate the ideology of interactive Yugoslavianism. These two locations, where the crimes took place, had particular significance for the ideas that the Sokolsko movement was nurturing during the period between two world wars, by whose activities the remembrance culture, that also deals with crimes against all Slavs in the past, had a significant meaning which came primarily from the noted pacifism and patriotic character of the movement, and partially from the slavophilic tendencies

that the members of this movement propagated. There is an inscription that testifies about the view of the time towards the victims that were murdered on this location, as well as towards the symbolic meaning of their demise in the social context of the day, whereby the inscription says the following: Here lie the bones of the martyrs from Batajnica who were shot on the 17th of September 1914 (...) their names will forever shine bright; this informs the viewer about the highlighted memorial character of the location as well as martyrdom of the victims. Apart from these two memorials, in 1934 a commemorative plaque was placed on the facade of the Sokolsko Society in Petrovaradin, with the names of 37 victims that the Austro-Hungarian authorities shot near Petrovaradin.

Everthough today the narratives about these locations as a place of remembrance are practically gone, and seeing as how there aren't any more live contemporaries to these events, the greatly limited memory of this location has still remained alive in the institutional, or rather formal, sense. Still, the absence of modern narratives about these two locations, excluding the century old time distance from the moment of when the tragic events took place up until the present, should be viewed in light of the political circumstances of the past. In other words, a certain amount of marginalization of the places of remembrance that are connected to the First World War, that existed for more than four decades during the dominating ideological thought of the communist regime, greatly limited the survivability of the previously determined narratives about these locations as a place of remembrance. Apart from that, this memorial, when taking into consideration its location (and unlike the memorial located at the Petrovaradin Fortress), was almost completely forgotten, so it's questionable if we can even speak about it as an existing place of remembrance or solely as an memorial place that, because of some political and social circumstances after the Second World War, was almost completely forgotten by the city. Supporting the conclusion that it's a forgotten or former place of remembrance, is the fact that in 2013 this memorial was completely neglected, as does the fact that most of the citizens of Novi Sad only heard about it after the media reported how a certain political organization from Novi Sad repaired the monument and cleaned the area where it was located.

Personal feelings of citizens