1956 and the Collapse of Stalinist Politics of History: Forgetting and Remembering the 1942 Újvidék/Novi Sad Massacre and the 1944/45 Partisan Retaliations in Hungary and Yugoslavia (1950s–1960s)*
Árpád von Klimó
The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC
Two acts of mass violence that occurred during World War II have strained relations between Hungarians and Serbs for decades: the murder of several thousand civilians in Novi Sad (Újvidék) and the surrounding villages in January 1942, committed by the Hungarian army and gendarmerie, and Tito’s partisan army’s mass killings and incarceration of tens of thousands civilians, most of them Hungarians, at the end of the war. Remembering these atrocities has always been difficult and strongly politicized, but this was particularly the case when the Communist regimes in Hungary and Yugoslavia based the legitimation of their authority on anti-Fascist narratives and interpretations of the war. The conflict between Stalin and Tito, and the anti-Stalinist revolution of 1956 made it even more difficult to propagate the original Stalinist narrative about the war, which stood in ever starker contrast to everyday realities. When Kádár began to revise the political justification of his regime with a narrative that was both anti-Fascist and (moderately) critical of Stalinism in the 1960s, the remembrance of the 1942 massacre changed. In Yugoslavia, the weakening of the central government in the 1960s contributed to a local re-appropriation of the memory of 1942, while the 1944 killings remained a strict taboo until 1989.