Sándor Képíró, 96, charged with WWII crimes committed in Vojvodina, Serbia

by 1389 on February 15, 2011

in 1389 (blog admin), anti-Semitism, Austria, Balkans, evil, Holocaust, Jasenovac, Nazism, Orthodox Christianity, Serbia

Requiem

Let us first honor the memory of the victims of the Third Reich. This is the traditional Slavic Orthodox hymn commemorating the dead.

Vechnaya Pamyat/Вечная память (Memory Eternal)

The piece of news given below may have something personally to do with me, although I will never know for sure. My Serbian relatives arrived in the US before the First World War. They hailed from Vojvodina, which was then under the rule of Austria-Hungary, and is now part of Serbia. I would say that the only good thing about the Austro-Hungarian Empire is that it was not the Ottoman Empire. I would say that the only good thing about the Ottoman Empire is that, thanks be to the Lord, it no longer exists. But those are stories for another day.

Three decades later, my father and all of my uncles and vast numbers of the Serbian-American community served in the US military during the Second World War. Some time after that war was over, one of my father’s cousins went to Vojvodina in what was then Yugoslavia to find out what had happened to our relatives who had remained behind.

He found…absolutely nothing. No record of anyone.

Sad to say, that was to be expected. While the Nazis in northern Europe kept careful records of those whom they slaughtered, that was often not so in the Balkans. Victims were sometimes rounded up and sent to die at Jasenovac or other concentration camps, but at other times, they were slaughtered wherever they happened to be found, and their bodies simply dumped into ravines or rivers, or left to rot where they fell. Nobody cared about who the individual victims were; the object was to get rid of the Orthodox Serbs, as well as Jews and Roma, as rapidly as possible. Not only did the Nazis destroy Orthodox church property, where records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths among the Serbian population had been kept, but also they often burned entire villages after massacring all inhabitants.

Under the Tito regime, in the interests of “brotherhood” in a multicultural state under communist rule, it was taboo to mention the Nazi slaughter of Serbs, Jews, or Roma. The Serbs were forbidden to attempt to identify their dead, or even to count the number of dead.

I do not consider it a great moment in criminal justice to apprehend a perpetrator 67 years after the crime. Justice delayed is justice denied; he should have been captured decades ago. Evidence in any case has a shelf life; witnesses die or can no longer be found; memories fade; physical evidence deteriorates. Kepiro is accused of killing “only” four civilians. How many more were there? How many thousands? What were their names?

Were some of them my relatives? Or your relatives?

Sándor Képíró
Sándor Képíró

Hungarian man, 96, charged with WWII war crimes

By PABLO GORONDI
The Associated Press
updated 2/14/2011 11:31:05 AM ET

BUDAPEST, Hungary — A former Hungarian police officer has been charged with war crimes for the killing of four civilians during a 1942 mass slaughter of 1,200 people in Serbia, prosecutors said Monday.

The charges against Sandor Kepiro, 96, stem from his alleged participation in a raid by Hungarian forces on the northern Serbian town of Novi Sad in January 1942 that left more than 1,200 civilians dead, the Budapest Investigating Prosecutor’s Office said.

According to court papers, unidentified members of a patrol under Kepiro’s command killed the four during the raid on Jan. 23, 1942. One of the victims, Irene Weisz, was shot while in bed.

Kepiro, who was at the top of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s most-wanted war criminals list, returned to Hungary in 1996 after living for decades in Argentina. Hungarian authorities reopened Kepiro’s case after his whereabouts were uncovered in 2006 by Efraim Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi hunter.

“I am innocent and need to be acquitted,” Kepiro told The Associated Press by phone from his apartment in Budapest. “I am bedridden and can’t leave my home. I have nothing.”

Kepiro, who turns 97 on Friday, said he wants to return to his family in Argentina and stay there at a nursing home.

Most of those killed in the raids in the wake of the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia in World War II were Jews, Serbs and Gypsies, also known as Roma. Some 550,000 Hungarian Jews and 50,000 Roma died in the Holocaust.
[…]
Kepiro said his task in Novi Sad was to supervise the identities of those being rounded up, but he denied knowing about the killings until after they were carried out. The bodies were dumped into the Danube River.

In 1944, Kepiro was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Hungarian military court for charges stemming from the Novi Sad raids, but the verdict was later annulled in a retrial. Kepiro, at the time a gendarmerie captain, said he was a scapegoat in a show trial meant to exonerate his superiors.

According to Zuroff, Kepiro was convicted again in 1946 for his role in the raids, but Hungarian prosecutors have not been able to find records of the trial.

Hungarian officials, however, did find new documents recently in archives in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, and used those to prepare the current charges against Kepiro, said Gabriella Skoda, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor’s Office…

Read it all.

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