Lazaret in Turski Bečej during World War I (1914-1918): A Chronicle of the Red Cross Branch and Dedicated Hospital Staff

Explore the significance of the Lazaret in Turski Bečej during World War I, uncovering the Red Cross branch's role and the dedicated efforts of the hospital staff. Journey through history with authentic 1915 photographs

Explore the history of a Red Cross branch in Novi Bečej in 1915. Learn about their efforts in caring for the wounded during World War I

Branch of the Red Cross in Turski Bečej in 1915.

Members of the Red Cross Association and the staff of the infirmary, dedicated to caring for the wounded and oblivious to the alternation of night and day, quietly entered the war in 1915. It began with three fatalities: Lajoš Kiš passed away on the 13th, Pal Sabadoš on the 14th, and Janoš Katona on February 22nd. The three were members of the team that built a bridge over the Tisa River in January and February. The first two were buried in the Turkish-Bečej Catholic cemetery, while the relatives of Katona Jožef transferred his mortal remains home.

In January, the chief judge of Turkish-Bečej sent 45 hospital postcards to officially inform the families of newly arrived wounded or sick individuals, with a note: "For the procurement of such postcards, the president of the Red Cross Society should henceforth promptly contact the headquarters of the Imperial and Royal 7th Corps in Temišvar." In the same month, the relocation of Turkish-Bečej soldiers from other hospitals to Turkish Bečej began, with a prior request for relocation sent to everyone, aiming to have wounded soldiers close to their families. The women's evangelical society from Lošonac relocated ten wounded soldiers from the Salatna infirmary to the Turkish-Bečej infirmary. In his discharge certificate issued on January 5, 1915, the travel route was specified: Lošonc-Budapest-Szeged-Turkish Bečej. On the same day, Alexander Glavaški arrived at the Turkish-Bečej "Royal" hospital with a document certified at the Imperial and Royal Great Kikinda auxiliary hospital. According to the announcement issued by the Solnok Red Cross hospital on February 11, it can be seen that Galetin Bogdan from Vranjevac, an infantryman, was transferred to the infirmary in Turkish Bečej on that day. On February 22, Dr. Ištvanfi Endre from the Great Bečkerek Imperial and Royal auxiliary hospital was transferred to the Turkish-Bečej infirmary. Mladen Perić was wounded on the 15th in the Carpathians. He spent 6 days in a military hospital in Nitra, after which he was treated in Budapest, and on March 3, he was transferred to the Red Cross hospital in Turkish Bečej. The infirmary in Turkish Bečej also made such transfers: Laslo Horoši was transferred to the hospital in Mako, Milivoj Stakić to Stari Bečej, Andraš Laca to Pakš, Ištvan Kardoš and Jožef Molnar to Szekszárd, Ištvan Paci to the hospital in Arad.

Order of the Local Commander (Novi Bečej) issued on December 20, 1918.Due to the misconduct of soldiers staying in the hospital, the hospital director, Artur Ambruš, was forced to send a warning letter to Baron Ignac Čavoš, the president of the court, and the command of the Turkish-Bečej gendarmerie, stating: "With respect, we kindly ask you to take measures to ensure that hospitals are under control because, otherwise, we cannot accept any responsibility for the numerous condition of the wounded." The chief of the gendarmerie and the president of the court immediately took measures, after which apparent peace was restored in the hospitals. On January 14, a house order in 18 points arrived from Veliki Bečkerek, relating to soldiers undergoing treatment, and it was personally signed by Lieutenant Rezniček. The house order detailed the obligations of individuals being treated in the hospital. The most difficult points of the house order to fulfill were: point number 13, which states, "Every patient must be in bed by 9 pm at the latest; disturbing the night's peace under any pretext is prohibited," and point number 14, which says, "Leaving the hospital without the permission of the hospital commander, i.e. without an exit permit, is prohibited." It should not be overlooked that not even a month passed since the adoption of the house order, and reports of violators of the order in the hospital were already on the desk of the commander of the Veliki Bečkerek hospital, who, in response to the Turkish-Bečej administration, wrote the following: "With respect, I inform you regarding your esteemed letter to Mr. Daniel Ferenc, that 27 wounded and sick individuals, as well as unruly convalescents from the Šoljmoš hospital, will be sent here. Regarding Jožef Tapasto, I have contacted the command of the military hospital in Herkules Spa, and I will inform you promptly about the results."

This was justified because, when seriously ill patients who could not move from their beds began to recover, they immediately started going out into the streets and to taverns. Later on, even the nurses struggled to keep them in check.

On January 27, 1915, the Presidency of the Red Cross Society received a notification from the director of the Civil School, Dr. Kencel Jožef, stating that, based on the order of the Minister of Religion and Education, heating for institutions could be used for the needs of the wounded in the gymnasium, and the military command would reimburse the school for the expenses. At the same time, the Presidency was requested to promptly take measures with the military command to transfer 260 crowns to the school treasury, which were spent on heating the wounded from November 29, 1914, to December 30, 1914. The received money would be used to purchase 4 tons of coal as more cold days were expected.

On February 22, 1915, the commander of the 2/1 People's Uprising Road Construction Unit addressed the respected infirmary administration with a request: "that after recovery, the wounded should, from now on, be recruited in Šamac, where the unit is stationed."

On February 23, the Turkish-Bečej magistrate urged the leveling of the formal inventory in the rooms of the school building in the center, which were overcrowded with beds and bedding.

On February 28, 1915, Lieutenant Rezniček ordered and entrusted retired gendarmerie sergeant Pakai Ištvan with maintaining military order and supervision at the Turkish-Bečej recovery hospital.

During the meeting of the Committee of the Turkish-Bečej branch of the Red Cross, held on March 3, 1915, Artur Ambruš presented the latest information from the Vranjevac municipality:
"The Vranjevac municipality, which offered to support 30 wounded at the beginning of the war, the sum of 2 crowns and 80 fillers per wounded per day, and which has so far fulfilled the obligation, informs us that it will suspend the offered donation at the beginning of March because it can no longer afford to pay it."
During the discussion, the opinion was formed that it should be determined whether the voluntarily undertaken obligation still obliges the Vranjevac municipality to implement the decision previously adopted at its assembly. The Committee firmly declares that it will collect the mentioned promised sum of money from the Vranjevac municipality. Whether the Society managed to collect the amount of 2 crowns and 80 fillers per soldier per day from the Vranjevčans in the following months, we did not find out, but we learned from the information provided by Emil Vlaškalić that the Vranjevac treasury was "tired." Despite all of the above, the Vranjevac municipality continued to send material for heating and lighting to the hospital.

The President of the Red Cross Society received an official letter on March 6, 1915, in which Baron Čavoši issued a statement that the examination of patients from the infirmary would be held in Melenci on the 8th of the current month at 9 am in the presence of Lieutenant Lazarević and an administrative official, and in Turkish Bečej in the afternoon at 3 pm. Patients who are not being treated in the hospital and those who are staying with their families can also come for this examination. In point A of the attached document received the next day, the hospital administration was informed that, regardless of whether the wounded or sick soldier came directly from the front to the hospital or arrived from another place, his family must be informed within 24 hours by military postcard. The purchase and sending of these postcards fall within the scope of the hospital administration's work.

A circular letter from the Red Cross Society of the Land of the Holy Hungarian Crown, dated March 8, 1915, drew the attention of the leadership of our hospital to the organization of an extraordinary "Military Health" exhibition, which was supposed to be held in Budapest in early April of that year. The exhibition would display grouped photographs of Red Cross hospitals, reserve hospitals, auxiliary hospitals, recovery patient stations, and rest houses. Given the short deadline, Dr. Farkaš Laslo, the society's secretary, and Argai Janoš, the deputy chief commissioner, on behalf of the Committee for Preparation and Management of the Societies, requested that the designated images of health institutions, their external and internal appearance, be provided as soon as possible in a raw form to the Central Office of the Society at the following address: Vár, Dísz tér
Whether this exhibition took place or not, I was unable to find information, but based on the records of Artur Ambruš, the following photographs were sent to the indicated address on March 31: a photo of the Šoljmoš hospital from the direction of the Tisa River bank, the courtyard of the Šoljmoš castle, its dining room, a hospital room; going to the State Civil School, one hospital room in it; a view of the facade of the state elementary school, one hospital room in it; a view of the facade of the "Royal" hotel and one hospital room in it. Three years ago, in 2011, I received from my friend, the painter Košut Tivadar, a photograph from this series that immortalized the view of the courtyard of the Šoljmoš hospital. In the photo, wounded soldiers, hospital staff, pastor Ambruš Artur, Mrs. Pulai Romana, and her daughter Lilika can be recognized.

On March 20, 1915, Šoljmoš Elemer closed the infirmary with 24 beds due to a reduced number of wounded, which was located in his castle. In March, the Turkish-Bečej Charity Society also collapsed, and its responsibilities were taken over by the Local branch, which entrusted its funds to a special commission dealing with providing assistance. Enthusiasm for the war noticeably waned nationwide. Faced with the possibility of defeat in a prolonged war, the authorities changed their propaganda: the slogan "punishing Serbia" was no longer emphasized, but rather "defense of the homeland."

Deputy district doctor Dr. Grin Mor, a conscientious doctor of the Red Cross auxiliary hospital, not only took care of wounded soldiers but also signed all requests for the transfer of soldiers. He placed special emphasis on the health of the hospital staff, respected and implemented the orders of the Minister of Internal Affairs, so he conducted vaccination and revaccination against smallpox in a timely manner and according to the specified instructions. The number of patients in the first months of 1915 increased to almost 200. In December of the previous year, Dr. Verteš Ižo, who had been transferred, was of great assistance to Dr. Grin, but after the number of patients decreased to 100, he had to leave our hospital. After recovery, wounded soldiers would return to the reserve hospital in Veliki Bečkerek, except for rheumatic patients who remained in Turkish Bečej for further treatment.

Due to significant price increases, Bogešić Lajoš, the hotel proprietor, could no longer adhere to the contract concluded with the infirmary administration in October 1914, which related to the nutrition of the patients, i.e., he was no longer able to compose the agreed menu for 1 crown and 60 fillers per patient. Therefore, on March 25, he requested a correction to the contract "and that the rent for each day be raised to 2 crowns and 40 fillers." Since this demand could not be met, Bogešić informed the hotel management that from April 5, they should find a new supplier. In this situation, the Presidency had no choice but to find a new supplier of food, which, of course, was not easy. Since they had only ten days available, after negotiations in early April, they concluded a contract with restaurateur Senji Mikloš. True, his offer was only 20 fillers more favorable, but the meat weight increased from 100 to 150 grams, and with the evening portion of soup and stew, an additional 50 grams of cooked meat and 1/2 liter of milk-based dish were included. After this, on April 4, 1915, a contract was signed, on one side by Baroness Čavoši Ištvana and Artur Ambruš as the president of the Red Cross Society, and on the other side by Senji Mikloš, the restaurant owner, in the presence of two witnesses, Baron Čavoši Ištvana, the chief judge, and Mrs. Andraši Režea.

The great mobilizations across the entire territory of Hungary did not bypass the military conscripts of Turkish Bečej, including Hungarians, Serbs, and Germans. Several members of the Committee went to war, including the main judge of Turkish Bečej, Dr. Tot Bela, municipal clerk Brajtkopf Kalman, treasurer Lind Đula, and as already mentioned, Halmoš Lajoš the younger. Since then, the treasury was managed by Mrs. Šafranji Ištvana.

The hospital administration made a list of nurses and daily duties every Sunday, both for lunch and dinner. On this printed list, each responsible person confirmed reading it with their signature. The duties for the last week of April were as follows: Monday - Widow Pulai Romana and Mrs. Šlezinger Isidora, noble ladies; Tuesday - Mrs. Deri Šandor and Mrs. Rihter Huga; Wednesday - Mrs. Garai Iže and Mrs. Samek Gustava; Thursday - Mrs. Bizek Dežea and Mrs. Davidović Bogdana; Friday - Mrs. Petrović Gizela and Widow Husar Janoša; Saturday - Widow Pulai Romana and Mrs. Šlezinger Isidora; Sunday - Mrs. Beron Gustava and Mrs. Rihter Huga. On May 19, 1915, a cinema day was organized nationwide, and the proceeds were shared between the Red Cross central and the August association. The charity performance at the Šen Vendela cinema in Beodra raised 84 crowns and 24 fillers, as evidenced by the money transfer receipt. I assume that the "Royal" cinema in Turkish Bečej within the "Royal" hotel also had charity performances, but I have no evidence for that. Wounded soldiers recovering from injuries not only disrupted the prescribed order but also indulged in various pleasures, particularly uncontrolled prostitution, which was challenging to manage at that time. Prostitutes took advantage of the opportunity presented by the war, pocketing soldiers' wages in exchange for their services. This led to the rapid spread of various sexually transmitted diseases among soldiers, filling hospital beds with individuals unfit for military service. In addressing this issue, the county prefect Delimanić sent several urgent notices in recent months, including to the Turkish Bečej hospital administration, urging them to put prostitution under medical control. He emphasized, "I would kindly ask the deputy prefect to reinstate strict control over prostitution in the district and take the strictest measures to suppress it, as venereal diseases have spread significantly among soldiers receiving a monthly salary and even among those stationed in military posts, to the point that they are affected in this way." Since I haven't encountered similar statements during further research, I presume that medical intervention was successful. In the spring of 1915, auxiliary hospitals operated in the Elementary School with 114 beds and in the "Royal" hotel with 240 beds. The State Red Cross Administration allocated 3 crowns for the support of each individual soldier in these hospitals, with the note that, according to the agreement with the Turkish Bečej administration, 30 soldiers were not entitled to this amount. However, based on the report of July 28, the amount of 3 crowns applied to the support of each of the 224 wounded and for each cared-for individual who had been admitted without compensation until then. The well-being of heavier wounded and sick patients was taken care of by people of goodwill. Mrs. Cvip Dežea, a member of the Association, supervised the nutrition of typhus patients. From March to the end of summer, the Red Cross administration, in addition to its established hospital operations, continuously recruited new members, collected voluntary contributions, organized health lectures, and constantly updated the relocation of Turkish Bečej residents, Vranjevac residents, and patients from surrounding areas stationed in other hospitals within the monarchy. During this time, Milivoj Marinkov returned home from the 3rd Vienna Reserve Hospital of the Red Cross "Rudolfinerhaus"; Letonai Janoš at the end of March 1915, from the Belocrkvanski stacionar for the wounded, i.e., the hospital within the K. und K. Higher Secondary School and Cavalry Cadet School; Vinceler Milan, a guard at Dolma and a member of the Association against floods and the regulation of inland waters, was released at the end of April 1915; Rada Davidović from Vranjevo - April 6, 1915; Živa Rakić - April 23; Imre Čanji and Sima Grubičin - April 24; Dušan Marčić - May 5; Bogdan Boberić - May 8; Lajoš Bergl - May 12; Zerebelјi Jožef from Vranjevo - June 14; Kumanac horse trader Zlatar Bodog - June 22; Imre Zedi from Turkish Bečej - August 4; Božidar Rajić - September 6, 1915, and about a hundred more applications were submitted for which I do not have information about their fate.

On July 23, 1915, a notice arrived from Veliki Bečkerek requesting that our hospital adhere to the following order: "Patients who no longer require hospital care, as well as those coming to auxiliary hospitals with severe tuberculosis, should be discharged and handed over to the designated commanders of K. und K. military hospitals." There are also cases where patients with healed wounds, but insufficiently rehabilitated, continue to stay in the hospital without any need. Moreover, their complete recovery regresses due to the lack of appropriate treatment, unnecessarily consuming a large quantity of medical supplies. Such patients should be promptly transferred elsewhere."

Count Čekonič Endre, on behalf of the Red Cross Society of the Land of the Holy Hungarian Crown, forwarded a confidential royal circular letter related to decorations to Turkish Bečej on July 23, 1915. Since it was a confidential agreement, he requested the president of the branch to visit him at the Royal Commission of the Red Cross Society, Dísz tér No.1, if he happened to travel to Budapest in the near future.

In the following months, in the Turkish Bečej Red Cross branch and the affiliated hospital with a reduced number of wounded and patients, no extraordinary cases occurred, as there would be written records of such events. However, by early November, a particularly beautiful and meaningful charity event took place: the Society organized an event, the organizational burden of which was taken on by Dr. Kencel Jožef. The invitation, printed by the Turkish Bečej printer Giga Jovanović, contained the text on one side and the program of the event on the other.

The branch of the Red Cross of the Land of the Holy Hungarian Crown, to assist the brave soldiers and their families in the ongoing dreadful war, organizes an event in the gymnasium of the Civil School on Sunday, November 7, 1915, at exactly five o'clock. The Association's presidency and its committee.

Ticket prices per person: 2 crowns for a seat, 1 crown for standing, 60 fillers for students and the gallery. We gratefully accept all contributions exceeding this amount for patriotic purposes and publicly issue acknowledgments for them.

Tickets can be purchased in advance from noble ladies who are members of the committee on the day of the event, at the box office, starting at three in the afternoon.


  1. a) Old Hungarian march b) "Patriot's Prayer" c) "Insurgents' Alarm" - performed by the mixed choir of the state civil school.
  2. Šreder-Barabaš: "Battle Song," recited by Tot Ilona
  3. Weber: "Jubel-Overture," piano interpretation by Haršanji Ilona and Dr. Kencel Jožef
  4. Lempert Geza "Sealed Letter" recited by Branković Ištvan a) List: Second Rhapsody b) Moskovski: Waltz in E major, performed on the piano by Davidović Milena
  5. Bekefi: "Song of the Dying," recited by Kencel Melanija
  6. "Hungarian Song," sung by Mrs. Andraši Režea with piano accompaniment by Dr. Kencel Jožef a) "Carpathian Guard" b) "Greeting Song," sung by the women's choir of the Civil School
  7. Farkaš: "Old Gypsy," recited by Ornštajn Irena, accompanied on the piano by Dr. Kencel Jožef
  8. Mendelson: Concerto, piano interpretation by Davidović Milena and Ružica a) Royal Anthem b) "Awakening on the Rhine," performed by the mixed choir of the Civil School
  9. "Rákóczi March," piano interpretation by Mrs. Marton Arpada and Ranković Mira
  10. Anthem, sung by the audience

The event was successful, raising 911 crowns and 98 fillers. From this amount, 304 crowns were allocated to the disabled, while the remaining money was deposited into the Society's account. According to the treasurer's report, the total amount of monetary contributions deposited into the Society's account during the previous year was 6326 crowns and 97 fillers. This figure included money from the municipal council, which arrived thanks to the efforts of Baron Čavoši Ignac.

In 1915, the revenue in the cash register amounted to 53,775 crowns and 70 fillers, while the expenditure was 27,734 crowns and 08 fillers. The current assets of the Society amount to 26,041 crowns and 62 fillers, held in the Turkish Bečej Savings Bank and the Turkish Bečej People's Savings Bank. As the Society has no predetermined expenses, no budget was created for the upcoming year 1916. Rent for the office, heating, lighting, and other expenses do not burden the Society. In 1915, the number of contributors was 237. According to the basic regulations, one-third of the elected members of the Board are as follows: Mrs. Dr. Davidović Bogdana, Halmoš Lajoš senior, Mrs. Dr. Bizek Dežea, Brajtkopf Kalman, Ranković Ištvan, Mrs. Dr. Samek Gustava, Svirčev Partenije, and Polak Emanuel, the Turkish Bečej rabbi. Mrs. Dr. Davidović Bogdana was elected as the vice president, and Ranković Ištvan as the treasurer. A proposal from the president regarding a burnt house in Šušanj was also discussed. It concerned the house of two residents who went to war, leaving their wives without any belongings. The treasurer and secretary were authorized to address this issue, providing evidence to the presidency to allocate adequate aid to the impoverished, affected women. After this proposal, the president closed the meeting.

Related Articles