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Serbia: First Reactions to Acquittal of Sandor Kepiro

On Monday July 18, 2011, a court in Budapest acquitted 97-year-old Sandor Kepiro, a Second World War Hungarian police captain who served in occupied Serbia and, until recently, was “the most wanted Nazi.” He was charged with war crimes against Serbs, Jews and Roma during the Novi Sad Raid – a massacre perpetrated by Hungarians in January 1942.

Serbian B92 news portal published an article about it. It reports:

According to the indictment, he participated in the crime that took place in Novi Sad and surrounding locations. At least 1,200 Serbs, Jews and Roma were thrown in the river between January 21 and 23, 1942.
At the end of the war, Kepiro was sentenced to 10 and 14 years in prison for those crimes, but he avoided prison by fleeing to Austria and then Argentina in the summer of 1948.
He returned to Hungary in 1996 to spend his remaining days in his home country.

Monument to the victims of the 1942 Novi Sad massacre. Image by Zoran Jevtovic.

Monument to the victims of the 1942 Novi Sad massacre. Image by Zoran Jevtovic.

Not only members of victims’ families but also Serbian society on the whole have been shocked by the news. The court decision caused many reactions in both mainstream and social media.

Bruno Vekaric, Serbia’s deputy war crimes prosecutor, reportedy said to TANJUG news agency:

This is a first-degree verdict and we can not comment on it. Of course, we are not happy with it and expect the Hungarian prosecutor to appeal it.

He added that it was important to deliver justice to the victims.

Efraim Zurof, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said [sr] to Radio Free Europe:

I expected that he would be sentenced by the court… the only question was: whether and how he would be punished. That is what I expected, and I think they who support him expected the same. The acquittal was a total shock! That is a travesty of justice and a terrible result that will leave a stain on the Hungarian court. There is no doubt the verdict is an insult to the victims of the Raid

Ivan Ivanji, a Jewish novelist who lost many family members during World War II and who personally survived Holocaust, said [sr]:

…He will die in prison, in hospital or as a free man… maybe I surprise you, but I don't care about him at all. The road taken by our neighbor, Hungary, a member country of the European Union, is a much more serious problem.

Ana Frenkel a member of the Jewish Community of Novi Sad described how Kepiro committed the crime. She said, to the same media source:

He organized, and was going from house to house with his units, where he was personally killing and destroying the population… but, unfortunately, there is not a living eyewitness who would be able to recognize Šandor Kepiro from that time. We have him, but they unfortunately died.

Blogger Velimir Mladenovic in his B92 blog quoted [sr] some pieces from the books of Aleksandar Veljic, a man who was researching the terrible massacre in Novi Sad and published a lot of irrefutable evidence, such as official documents from archives, photos and lists of victims’ names, their home addresses etc, that point to the fact that Sandor Kepiro participated in and committed the crime.

Below are some comments on Mladenovic's post.

Sesili says:

[…] I just heard it on the news that people in the courtroom were applauding when the acquittal was pronounced. But I was freezing this hot summer day reading the list of people who were killed…

kraljmajmuna asked a question:

Is it known why he is formally acquitted? […]

yugaya responded to kraljmajmuna:

[…] During the trial, most objections were raised on objectivity and “quality” of expert witnesses provided by the prosecutor’s office, as well as on the lack of evidence that would point to individual blame of the perpetrators, inadequate translations and lost documentation in regard to preliminary verdicts pronounced to Kepiro in Hungary, and according to them, he was sentenced [to 10 and 14 years] for the crimes.

apacherosepeacock says:

[…] It means, he had been convicted, ran away, [and then] returned [to Hungary] even 15 years ago, and?
If someone's sentence was in effect, and then he avoided prison running away [from the country], why was he not arrested when he came back?
Since the country of Serbia belongs to the “invertebrates” species, I trust Israel to make some protest.

Thumbnail image shows the 1942 Novi Sad Raid memorial, where 1,300 Jews, Roma and other minorities were drowned in the River Danube by the Hungarian police. Image by Flickr user iLikeSpoons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

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