War crimes in Voivodina. Hungarian troops throw the bodies of the victims of a massacre into the Danube.



After the fall of Benito Mussolini no substantial changes occurred in the areas under the Hungarian occupation. Hungarian officers, three high-ranking and several lower ones, responsible for war crimes against the Serbs and Jews, were court-martialled in December 1943. It happened soon after the Allies had announced that war criminals would be punished. The defendants were duly sentenced, but found no obstacles to escape abroad. After March 1944 they came back to German-occupied Hungary and demanded a retrial in the court, which eventually vindicated them and restored to the previous military ranks.

After the German occupation of Hungary (19 March 1944), treatment of the population in the occupied Yugoslav territories worsened; the Serbs were subdued to new reprisals, economical services, and forced labour in place or in exile. Effectively, there was established a two-layer occupation system, in which German authorities constituted the controlling layer, and the Hungarians - the executive one. Under the German supervision were carried out deportations of the Jews, and massive confiscations. Also there German liaison officers were introduced to the army and police commands. The action of recruiting local Germans for the Waffen-SS, allowed on the whole Hungarian territory in 1942 but subsequently sabotaged, was reanimated, only this time it was conducted by Hungarian authorities, not German organizations as before. In Novi Sad SD operated along the Hungarian police and gendarmerie. Also, there was a substantial purge of the civil administration officials, who were replaced by supporters of the fascist Party of Hungarian Renewal (Magyar Élet Pártja) founded in 1940 by the former prime-minister Béla Imrédy. Also the Association of Comrades of the Eastern Front (Keleti Arcvonal Bajtársi Szövetség) enjoyed a considerable influence.

Under the government of Gen. Géza Lakatos situation did not change dramatically, unlike under the government of the Arrow Cross Party (Nyilaskeresztes Párt), especially in Bachka, but that already coincided with the evacuation of the Hungarian administration from the occupied territories.

After Italy's capitulation Yugoslav partisans took under their control almost entire western Macedonia, and infiltrated eastern Macedonia under the Bulgarian occupation. There the rapid growth of the partisan warfare in 1944 undermined the influence of the Bulgarian communists on the Macedonian communist party. Yet, the slogan of united and independent Macedonia was still popular there. Having understood that unclear policy in that respect hampered the partisan, the II Session of the AVNOJ on 29 November 1943 adopted the proclamation of federalization of Yugoslavia. After that the control of the partisan movement gradually passed into the hands of the new leaders, who acted in the spirit of that proclamation.

The government in Sofia reacted to the fall of Mussolini with sending more troops to the occupation duties in ex-Italian zones in northern Macedonia. After Bulgaria switched sides and declared war on Germany, eastern Macedonia saw short-lived German occupation with the German military commander (Wehrmachtsbefehlshaber Mazedonien), Gen. Heinz Scheuerlen. Yet, the Germans failed to recruit local collaborationists. All attempts of the representatives of the Foreign Office and SD to create a local administration ended in fiasco during a swift military campaign.