A Place of Remembrance and Commemoration of the Mass Shooting of Civilians at Štrand

Локација: Градска плажа – Штранд

The Novi Sad city beach area Štrand represents a location where a large amount of civilians were killed and thrown under the ice during the raid, whereby the executions carried out on the third day had a particularly brutal characteristic to it. This location, as well as the rest of the Danube shoreline (Quay of the Victims of the Raid and the Belgrade Quay) when referring to commemoration, represents a key place or more specifically an area as a whole which is connected to the Novi Sad Raid. The Štrand's distance as well as its partial seclusion enabled the Hungarian fascists to implement the most well organized executions and the large scale disposal of bodies of murdered victims on this location with the least amount of witnesses around. Still, as later investigations determined, people living in Ribnjak, which is located across the Štrand, gave a significant amount of testimonies that were compiled into records which gives an important framework concerning the monstrous characteristic of the way in which the civilians were killed by the gendarmerie and members of the Hungarian occupation troops on this location.

 

 

Прва стрељања цивила спроведена у оквиру Новосадске рације извршена су управо на простору Штранда на обали Дунава у ноћи између 21. и 22. јануара када је стрељано петнаест особа. Након стрељања, тела погубљених цивила међу којима су биле и жене, убачена су у реку кроз претходно припремљене отворе у залеђеном Дунаву. Жртве овог стрељања доведене су из Дома Левенте где су претходно приведене и вероватно саслушаване.

According to eyewitness testimony of the event, during the second day of the raid  the 22nd of January, and after the first shooting the night before, other executions took place whereby, multiple times, somewhere between 40 and 50 people were shot, after which the remains were also thrown in the Danube.

 

 

Трећи дан рације, изузетно хладни 23. јануар, на простору Штранда је имао посебно наглашену бруталну димензију која би се могла означити сликовитим термином „масакр“. Тог дана су према изјавама сведока стрељања на овој локацији трајала од око девет часова ујутру до шеснаест часова после подне, када је рација престала. Жртве су довођене камионима и пешице у групама из Дома културе где су претходно испитиване, као и из различитих делова града где су претходно окупљане на тзв. сабирним местима. Војници су  грађане, који су најчешће до Штранда довођени у већим групама, распоређивали у  мање групе од по четири особе испред улаза у Штранд, а затим су те групице једну по једну уводили на ограђен унутрашњи простор градске плаже. Претпоставља се да је испред улаза у Штранд практично у сваком тренутку на своје погубљење чекало између 400 и 500 особа, будући да су из различитих делова града до улаза у Штранд тзв. Путем за Штранд, new groups of citizens were constantly arriving. After they were brought in to the area of the city beach in small groups, the citizens were taken by the soldiers to the Danube shoreline where they were killed. The victims were at first shot while being fully clothed, but around 11 o'clock a new order came in which said that the citizens should be stripped of any valuable clothing and which was piled up and then they would be shot. Seeing as how the air temperature that day fell at one point to -25 degrees Celsius, one can only imagine what the victims went through before finally being shot. Judging by reports by eyewitnesses compiled in records by the Survey Committee for Bačka and Baranja, the victims, after they were stripped, walked on planks which were placed over the frozen Danube to a part of the river which had a large hole in it where the citizens were shot individually or in small groups. Their bodies would fall directly into the hole in the frozen river, over which the planks were placed, or were thrown into it. According to eyewitness reports, people could hear cries, screams and the sound of gun fire the entire time. Because of the severe cold a large number of citizens, who previously had their clothes removed and were completely naked, literally asked to be shot as soon as possible. Some were shot because they resisted when they were asked to remove their clothes, while witnesses claim that some citizens were thrown alive under the icy river. According to a report by one eyewitness who was watching the executions with a group of people from Ribnjak, around fifteen people were killed in only one minute. A few dozen children were also executed, usually together with their families. According to reports by the leader of the Novi Sad Port Authorities, the soldiers would cut off the fingers of a large number of the victims after their execution in order to more easily retrieve their rings. All eyewitnesses report around several hundred corpses being located on Štrand. According to their testimonies, the shootings practically didn't stop since its beginning at around 9 AM up until 4 PM when an officer arrived at Štrand by car and gave an order to stop the executions. Likewise, bodies of citizens executed in other parts of the city were often brought to Štrand by trucks, which were then thrown into the Danube and pushed under the ice with hooks. The entire ordeal which took place on Štrand on the 23rd of January was, as one survivor of the raid said, an ''unprecedented slaughter''.

 

 

When the executions stopped around 4 PM, a large group of citizens (over 400), that were waiting at the entrance to Štrand to be shot, were taken by the soldiers to the great hall of the Dom Levente (Cultural Center). After spending some time in the center's halls, they were identified (registered) again around 7 PM, which was done now in smaller groups by a special committee, after which the citizens were send home around 10 PM. The military commander of Novi Sad then held a short speech, after the citizens were identified while being held in the halls surrounded by gendarmerie, where he said that they were ''saved and that they can thank the Mayor and Hungarian military troops''. In other words, before the group was sent home, according to reports by people who were part of the group, the military commander of the city told them that, as a sign of gratitude for being saved, they should be ''better citizens of Hungary, than they were up until that point''.

 

 

Even though the exact number of civilians killed on this location is not precisely determined, one can with certainty conclude that the largest number of citizens who were executed, and thrown under the ice, were at Štrand. It is estimated that, on this location, the number of shot or thrown under the ice was at least a few hundred people even though some researchers note a much higher number. Still, regardless of this fact, the Štrand area, unlike Raid Victims Quay and Belgrade Quay, was not marked with any memorial until 2013 when, not too far from the entrance to the city beach, a small memorial monolith in the form of a black granite cube was put up with the following text engraved in Serbian, Hebrew and English:

''Here, on their favorite beach, citizens of Novi Sad were thrown under the ice of the Danube by the fascist occupying forces during the Novi Sad Raid. For most of the victims, their only crime was that they were born as Serbs of Jews.''

Under the text, the date of the raid was engraved, while the text is titled ''Novi Sad remembers''. The placing of this memorial should be viewed in the sense of a partial affirmation of the place of remembrance and commemoration which can be seen in the official city policy in the last period.

 

Author: Kristijan Obšust

 

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