Exhibition about the Sárvár concentration camp in the Mali likovni salon
With regard to the commemoration of 72 years since the Novi Sad Raid, an exhibition of reproduced photographs that show in detail what was happening in Sárvár the Hungarian concentration camp during the World War II was opened in the Mali likovni salon of the Cultural Centre of Novi Sad. This exhibition was organised within the programme ‘Freezing Silence’ – memory of victims of the Novi Sad Raid.
The pupils of Novi Sad’s primary schools were present at the opening, and the exhibition was opened by Milanka Brkić, the member of the City Council responsible for culture. On this occasion, she reminded everyone of the heroic endeavour of Bishop Irinej Ćirić, who was responsible, together with representatives of the Novi Sad Orthodox parish, doctor Kosta Hadži and Jovan Ćulum, for organising humanitarian action of rescuing children from the Sárvár concentration camp.
‘In spring of 1942, after Hungarian Government had approved contacts between citizens of Novi Sad and internees in Sárvár, the action for rescuing children from the camp was set in motion. Hungarian Ministry of Interior approved male children 14 years old and under, and female children 15 years old and under to leave the camp in order to be housed with Serbian families in Bačka that will raise them. Thus 2.812 children, 188 infants and 184 pregnant women were transported from Sárvár to Bačka in sixteen groups. Unfortunately, this story has been forgotten. Ordeal, heroism of camp inmates and endeavour of their saviour seem to be erased from our collective memory. This was a great deed of citizens of Novi Sad, it bounds us and it the best sign to show the path that we need to follow – the path of philanthropy and kindness.’ – said Milanka Brkić, stressing that the gathering regarding the exhibition is a remembrance of one of the most horrifying but at the same time one of the noblest stories in the history of Novi Sad.
The town of Sárvár, in which the camp officially called ‘Hungarian Royal Camp for Internment’ was built, is located west of Hungarian capital. Colonists that moved to Bačka after World War I were transferred to this camp in late June of 1941. After occupation, Hungarian authorities deported the colonists from their estates, which they had to leave within three days, to be later placed in temporary camps.
Renowned lawyer from Novi Sad, Dr. Kosta Hadži, initiated humanitarian action in order to save all innocent people from the Sárvár camp. His son, Kosta Hadži Junior, who was present at the grand opening of the exhibition in the Mali likovni salon, lent his father’s photographs that were reproduced. ‘The first humanitarian action was in 1941, when the authorities persecuted Jews, forcing them through the Pašićeva Street. My father was also there, and with a few intellectuals he quickly collected canned food and gave them to the Jews. They were temporalily deported to Sajlovo, and after that they disappeared. My father carried out the Sárvár action with the help of Bishop Irinej Ćirić, who was the member of the Hungarian Council. The action was successfully carried out, fulfilling two conditions imposed by the Hungarian authorities. The first condition was that the people who were released from the camp cannot return to their estates, because Hungarians lived there. The second condition forbade former inmates to engage in politics.” – said Kosta Hadžić Junior, whose father was awarded Order of Merit in 1970 by the President.
Academic sculptor, Ljubomir Šćepanović, on the initiative of the City of Novi Sad and Centre for development of Šajkaška, has recently made bust of doctor Kosta Hadži. The memorial was revealed in the vicinity of the ‘Karađorđe’ stadium because Dr. Kosta Hadži was one of the founders of the ‘Vojvodina’ FC. The son of the renowned lawyer and great humanitarian said that among inmates there were many smart and skilful artisans, and that one of them made a cigarette case, the back of which was decorated with the face of Miloš Obilić, while inside the name of Dr. Kosta Hadži was engraved. Below the name was the nickname that inmates gave to themselves – ‘Sárvárians’. They gave that cigarette case to Kosta Hadži.
The former mayor of Novi Sad Jovan Dejanović was also at the exhibition opening with his wife. Thanks to Milanka Brkić, several of those present found out that Mr. Dejanović was a Sárvárian and they had the privilege to hear part of his harrowing story. ‘I was scabby, full of lice, and very sick. Everyone in the camp had his own ration of 20 decagrams of bread and my mother denied herself of her share for three months and gave it to me so that I could survive – Jovan Dejanović started the story with tears in his eyes – The camp was horrifying. Only 14 year old boys could leave the camp with groups transported to Bačka. That was in May and I turned 15 in June, and no one who was 15 could leave. I was saved thanks to that difference of a month! Imagine, only life can set these circumstances: later I was the president of the Socialist Union of the Working People of Yugoslavia and in 1984 I was in the official visit to Hungary. As it was custom in diplomatic protocol, the hosts ask me, because I had the treatment of the highest level, if I would like to personally add to my schedule, would I like to visit something while I was in Hungary. I said: “My great wish is to visit Sárvár the former camp because I was incarcerated there during the war.” Hungarians granted my wish, and the entire “escort” greeted me at Sárvár. I planted a tree next to the memorial in the camp and when the hosts left me alone for the moment, ah, I released pent up emotions and cried there, by the memorial.
When I arrived to Bačka, I was housed with Mogin Mladen, who was the master in building carriages”, said Mr. Dejanović who was, in the yeast before 1984 and this visit to Hungary, mayor of Novi Sad, during whose mandate ‘Liberty’ bridge, SPENS, Serbian National Theatre were built, and Zmaj Jovina and Dunavska Streets shone with ‘colourful’ facades…