Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University


Freedom Fighters or Terrorists? Collaboration, Resistance, and Retribution as Illustrated by the Incidents at Oradour in France, Via Rasella in Rome, and Ujvidék/Novi Sad in Hungary/Yugoslavia  
FSI Stanford, The Europe Center Seminar

Date and Time
December 2, 2008
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

RSVP Required by 5PM November 30

Istvan Deak - Seth Low Professor Emeritus at Columbia University

10:30 AM: Film screening - Hideg Napok [Cold Days]

12:00: Seminar


My purpose is to discuss three cases of violent resistance attacks followed by harsh reprisals in three different countries during World War II. Through their admittedly complicated stories, these bloody events should shed light on the legal, moral, and political dilemmas of military occupation, resistance, reprisal, and postwar retribution in Europe. I am referring here

  1. to maquis attacks on the German forces during the Normandy invasion and the massacres SS soldiers perpetrated in reprisal at Oradour-sur-Glane in central-western France;
  2. Communist partisan attack on German military policemen in Via Rasella in Rome, and the subsequent execution by the SS of 335 Italian hostages at the Ardeatine Cave; and
  3. Serbian Chetnik attacks, early in 1942 on the Hungarian military who, in alliance with Germany, had occupied and re-annexed a part of northern Yugoslavia.

I will discuss as well the retaliatory massacres that Hungarian soldiers and gendarmes committed in or near the city of Novi Sad.

The events at Oradour and at Via Rasella/Ardeatine Cave are impeccably described in their Wikipedia internet entries. Further readings are Sarah Farmer, “Postwar Justice in France: Bordeaux 1953,” in István Deák, Jan T. Gross, and Tony Judt, eds., The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and Its Aftermath (Princeton U. Press, 2000, pp.194-211) and, by the same author, Martyred Village: Commemorating the 1944 Massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane (U. of California Press, 1999). On the events in Italy, see Alessandro Portelli, The Order Has Been Carried Out: History, Memory, and Meaning of a Nazi Massacre in Rome (Macmillan, 2003). Literature on the Ujvidék/Novi Sad events is extremely skimpy even in Serbian and Hungarian. However, just before the seminar meeting, I will be showing the 1966 Hungarian film, Hideg napok [Cold days], a semi-fictional documentary whose main characters are Hungarian officers awaiting their extradition to Yugoslavia for crimes they had committed during the war in the Novi Sad region.

Although this talk maintains an awareness of the issues surrounding the legality and morality of war, particularly in reference to these three events, its focus is primarily description of the incidents.

Prof. Deak aims to engage in the problems of legality and morality of war when answering questions. In the discussion session, Prof. Deak particularly explores the massacres in villages in northern Italy with much emphasis on how the memories of such events have played out since. Prof. Deak also explores how pro-Nazi eastern European countries dealt with the end of the war and the fall of the Nazi regime.

Encina Ground Floor Conference Room
Encina Hall
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Laura Seaman