Name: Monument to Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Fascism (Spomenik palim borcima i žrtvama fašizma)
Location: Titel, Vojvodina, Serbia
Year completed: 1974
Designer: Jovan Soldatović [profile page]
Coordinates: N45°12'18.4", E20°18'42.8"
Dimensions: ~9m tall
Materials used: Concrete
This monument in Titel, Serbia commemorates the many local fighters who perished during the National Liberation War (WWII), while also honoring the region's many citizens who died at the hands of Axis occupiers, most notably during the January 1942 raids.
World War II
On April 13th of 1941 the Axis-aligned Hungarian Army entered the village of Titel during the takeover of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. This northern region of Serbia where Titel resides, called Bačka, was completely occupied and control by Hungarian forces. These Hungarian military forces, called Honvédség, were extremely brutal against the local population in Titel, especially the ethnic Serb and Jewish peoples. As a result of this oppression, many in Titel began to join anti-Axis resistance groups, especially the communist-led rebel group known as the "Partisans". As the Partisan rebels began an armed resistance against Hungarian occupation in July of 1941, the Honvédség began to formulate retaliatory actions against the local population for joining and aiding the Partisans.
Photo 1: People being forced onto the Titel River during the Raids, 1942
Starting on January 8th, the second day of the Orthodox Christmas, Honvédség forces entered Titel and began a series of raids where they randomly rounded up and arrested dozens of ethnic Serb and Jewish town's people. After these dozens of people were arrested, the Honvédség began to force the group out onto the frozen Tisa River (Photo 1), which the town is situated upon. At that point, the Honvédség fired their artillery at the river ice in order to break it, causing the victims to fall through the ice into the frozen water to their deaths. It is estimated that somewhere between 60-80 local Titel residents died during these raids. Similar raids and executions occurred across the Hungarian occupied Bačka, notably in the towns of Novi Sad, Gospođinci, Žabalj, Mošorin and Temerin, which all ultimately resulted in the deaths of between 3,000 to 4,000 people. While the most of the casualties in these massacres were ethnic Serbs, several hundred Jews, Roma and other anti-fascist disidents were also among the dead.
In the early 1970s, a series of monuments were constructed across the Bačka region to commemorate those who died during the 1942 Christmas raids. During this commemoration initiative, one of these monuments was constructed at the site at the Titel massacre in 1974. Created by Jovan Soldatović [profile page], a local Novi Sad sculptor, the memorial complex was situated right on the west banks of the Tisa River, right near where the 1942 massacre of Titel town's people occurred. The central memorial element of the site is a roughly 9m tall claw-shaped concrete sculpture which consists of three curved sharply pointed spires each constructed of four slightly offset stacked blocks. These three spires appear to all meet at the apex of the sculpture, however they do not actually physically touch one another. This sculpture is located atop the levy along the river just next to the promenade that runs along it. In addition a small concrete stage overlooking the river is situated directly to the south of the monument.
Currently the monument complex resides in a fairly well taken care of state. Honorific ceremonies and remembrance events continue to be held at the site, however, graffiti and spray paint defacement is a continual problem for the memorial's central sculptural element. The town of Titel clearly has made efforts in the past to remove incidents of defacement when they occur, but removal of graffiti generally is responded to by vandals with more graffiti. Meanwhile, the small stage next to the monument is has been decorated with various murals and colorful paintings.
Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:
There is one primary inscribed element located here at the Titel memorial complex which is situated just inside of the inner sanctuary of the sculpture (Slides 1 & 2). The plaque is a bronze trapezoid-shaped plate embossed with a raised letter inscription. This inscription reads, when translated from Serbian to English, as:
"Fighters of the National Liberation War and Victims of Fascism"
There may have been additional inscribed elements at this site in the past, but this bronze plaque is the only that that exists at this time. There is also several instances of graffiti still visible on this central memorial sculpture (Slide 3). However, none of it appears to be overtly political or notable.
The seemingly overt claw-form which this monument takes on would appear to be fully intentional and direct symbolic effort. However, what significance or representation this claw-form might be referencing is not immediately apparent. Being that the primary incident at this location is the drowning of town's people in the icy waters of the Tisa River, perhaps the claw could refer to the 'clutches of death' or possibly even the indiscriminate fashion in which the Hungarian authorities snatched up people from across the Bačka during the 1942 Christmas raids. In addition, it seems pertinent to point out that while the clutches of this claw appear from a distance to be clamped tight and shut, they are however not touching at all, being actually situated in free-standing positions, arranged mere centimeters away from one another. This may be representative of the idea that Axis forces in the region were able to exert such a stranglehold and oppressive grasp on the people of the region but were ultimately unsuccessful and defeated in this effort.
Status and Condition:
The present state this the memorial complex in Titel, Serbia could be described as fair to good. Firstly, the grounds, bushes and vegetation around the complex are kept in a well managed state while the grass is regularly mowed and maintained. The structure of the concrete memorial sculpture appears to be in decent shape, not showing any significant signs of cracking or deterioration. In addition, the central bronze plaque of the monument is fully intact and shows no signs of attempts at theft. However, the monument is often defaced with instances of graffiti, of which varying levels of effort are put forward by the town to remove. While some attempts to remove graffiti have certainly been made, my multiple visits to the site have shown some graffiti present on the sculpture over the course of subsequent years. Meanwhile, there is no road signage leading visitors or tourists to the site nor are there any sorts of informational or educational placards informing those visiting the site as to its historic or cultural significance, even despite its central location right on the town's riverfront.
Photo 2: A commemorative event being held at the Titel monument
Commemorative ceremonies and events are still regularly hosted at the site (Photo 2), most notably on May 9th, which is the Victory Against Fascism Day, as well as on January 8th, the day the Christmas raids occurred. Such celebrations are generally attended by notably local and regional politicians and community figures. Meanwhile, the summer stage next to the monument is still occasionally used for various community events and youth groups.
Additional Sites in the Titel Area:
In this section we will explore additional Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites in and around the greater Titel region that might be relevant to those interested in the art, architecture or heritage of the former Yugoslavia. Here, we will examine the Monument to Fallen Fighters in Titel, as well as the memorial sculpture at Vilovo.
Monument to Fallen Fighters in Titel:
Next to the post office in Titel and across the street from the Orthodox Church of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin is a bronze memorial sculpture which is dedicated to fallen fighters from WWII. This work was created in 1955 by Montenegrin sculptor Vojislav Vujisić. The sculpture is composed of a roughly 4m tall bare-chested figure standing on a 3m tall pedestal who is holding a rifle at his side in one hand, while his other hand is raised in a triumphant manner. Rectangular bronze figurative relief sculptures adorn the pedestal's two broad sides. Interestingly, this monument, as seen in its original setting in Slide 1, is not its current location. The monument was moved to its current location at the post office, seen in Slide 2, at a time and for reasons which I have not yet been able to establish (but it was most likely after the Yugoslav-era). The monument is in good condition and annual commemorative events continue to be held here (Slide 3). The exact coordinates for this monument are N45°12'15.4", E20°18'20.9".
Monument to Fallen Fighters at Titel - Slideshow
Memorial to Fallen Pilots near Vilovo:
Along the main road roughly 2km west of the village of Vilovo is a small memorial park which honors pilots of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force who fought and perished during air offensives against the invasion of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia by German air attacks in April of 1941 (an event that is often locally referred to as the April War). The monument is composed of two primary elements (Slides 1 - 4): on the right is a sculpture of two abstractly shaped figures with three heads with their arms raised, while on the left is a single abstractly shaped figure with his back arched and armed extended into the sky, almost as if he is celebrating a plane which had just taken off. A small plaque attached to the left figure seems to indicate this monument complex was created in 2004 (Slide 5), however, the artist who created the work is not indicated. The site also contains two large white rectangular blocks with four plaques. There front right & left pair (Slides 6 & 7) contain two inscriptions. They roughly read in English as:
Monument to Fallen Pilots near Vilovo - Slideshow
He flew to defend the city and his fatherland, but his plane was down and parachuted out. German criminals killed him while he was parachuting. He fell near the village of Gardinovci where he was found by the villagers still holding an empty handgun squeezed and did not give up even in his final moments.
Sunday April 6, 1941 Belgrade pilots flew to avenge a wounded city to attack German airfields near Arad [Romania]. As the result of an unequal struggle against the German fighters, these [Yugoslav airmen] died a brave death near the village of Šajkaš.
Meanwhile, the pair of plaques on the rear of the two white blocks contain a listing of the names of four airmen who perished near this location: Slavko D. Zelenika, Todor J. Radović, Blagoje M. Bakić and Vladimir Z. Gorup. Places and dates of birth are also included for each fallen airmen. Currently, the monument complex resides in a reasonably good condition, while annual commemorative events continue to be held here. The exact coordinates for this monument complex at Vilovo are N45°14'21.9", E20°07'49.4".
And Additional Sites of Interest:
Schmidtmayer Chapel Ruins on Titel Hill: Overlooking the town of Titel atop Titel Hill, on a part of the hill called Kalvarija, are the brick ruins of the historical Catholic chapel-tomb of the German family Schmidtmayer (Photo 3). Sources indicate that the chapel was built in 1892 by Titel resident Franz Schmidtmayer and his wife, Maria, as a commemorative gesture to their deceased daughter Gisela. The location where the chapel is situated is just near the former location of the Titel Fortress, which burned during an Ottoman invasion in 1716. The Schmidtmayer chapel was destroyed and ruined by the local residents in 1945 at the end of WWII, most likely out of retaliation against local German residents for the horrific events of the war. Today, the chapel ruins are a popular scenic vista, both for locals and tourists, which provide impressive views of the town of Titel, as well as the Tisa River, and can be accessed via trails on the west side of Titel Hill. The site's exact coordinates are N45°12'24.7", E20°18'36.4".
Photo 4: The Monument to Shot Patriots at Čenta, Serbia
Monument to Shot Patriots: Roughly 15km driving southeast from Titel is the small village of Čenta. On the northern outskirts of this village off the main road near the banks of the Tamiš River is a modest memorial park which honors 5 local fighters from Čenta who were shot at this location on August 19th, 1943. The central element of the memorial park is a carved stone circle standing vertical and elevated about 1m off the ground on a bronze pillar (Photo 4). Within the center of the circle is a circular bronze relief with a hole punctured in its center. On one side of this bronze relief is a scene of birds flying, while on the opposite side is a scene of several floating human figures with arms outstretched. This work was created in 1983 by sculptor Božidar Jovović. The work is in good condition and it continues to host annual commemorative events. This site also contains a short white pillar dedicated to the victims of WWI. The exact coordinates for this memorial site are N45°07'32.3", E20°23'25.0".
The monument complex here at Titel, Serbia is located right on the riverfront promenade, right at the eastern extent of where Glavna Street meets the Tisa River. Here at the end of Glavna there is a large public parking area where you can freely park, right in front of a Lukoil petrol station. From this parking area, the monument is easily seen and accessible. The exact coordinates for parking for this site are N45°12'16.9", E20°18'40.9".
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Selected Sources and More Information:
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