Jews in Serbia in the period between the First and Second World War

The Jewish community in the interwar period[1] represented one of the minor religious communities whose civil inheritance of 19th century belonged to different political, cultural and economic heritage. The Jewish population on the territory of today’s Republic of Serbia amounted to 25.000 approximately in  the first years after the war up to 33.500 before the Second World War. The Jewish communities, Sephardim and Ashkenazim, were organized within the Jewish municipalities, the institutions which  performed religious, educational, charitable and cultural activities within which the life of all Jews, members of the Jewish community, was organized. The number of the Jewish municipalities varied between the two wars and before the Second World War existed about 50 Jewish municipalities. The most numerous  Jewish municipality  was  in Belgrade. Beside Belgrade, Jewish municipalities existed in Bačka Palanka, Bačka Topola, Vrbas, Vršac, Zrenjanin, Kikinda, Kosovska Mitrovica, Leskovac, Niš, Novi Bečej, Novi Pazar, Novi Sad, Pančevo, Pirot, Priština, Ruma, Senta, Smederevo, Sombor, Stari Bečej, Subotica, Čakovac, Šabac… At the head of each Jewish municipality there was an Administrative office with appointed President of Jewish municipality and a Board, while in each Jewish community there was a Rabbi. In the first years after WWI the Association of Jewish Religious Municipalities of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia  (SJVO) was established as the common unique organization which was dealing with the most crucial problems of the Jewish population. The life of Jewish communities was running through activities of the organizations and different social, humanitarian, religious, cultural and sport associations among which the most important was the Independent Decoration Bene Berim located in Belgrade and with branches in Novi Sad and Subotica which came later. By concurrence of historical circumstances, the Jews were dominantly civil population. Their professional structure made them participate in industrial, commercial and banking affairs where they, very often, had majority and predominant influence. The most prominent Jews living in Serbia between the two wars were Rafael Finci, Solomon Alkalaj, Jakov Čelebonovic, David Albala, Semaja Demajo, Solomon Azriel, Bukic Pijade, Fridrih Pops, Mosa Pijade, Oto and Pavle Bihalji, Baruh Family, Aron Alkalaj, Avram Levic, Geca Kon, Žak Konfino, Isak Alkalaj, Bencion Buli, Viktor Elek, Julius and Adolf Minh…

Up to thirties of 20th century Anti–Semitism, as predecessor of Holocaust, was demonstrated mainly by occasional  incidents and in the sparse publications which by the volume and intensity did not reach the scale present in other European  countries. This was the crucial consequence of the Nazi party coming to power with Adolf Hitler at the head in Germany. This consequently lead to the fact that from the middle of thirties of the last century, Anti-Semitism became more organized and its acting stronger. It became more present in the press, especially in newspapers Vreme, Balkan, Male novine, Budjenje (Zrenjanin), Dan Slobode (Sombor), Sloga (Senta) as well as in publications and bulletins like Why is Germany Defending from Jews? (1933), Germany and Jews (1934), The Protocols of Sion Wisemen (1934)… The important role in spreading Anti-Semitism had the political organization Yugoslav National Movement Zbor lead by Dimitrije V. Ljotić (Drama of the Modern Man, Your Moment is Now and The Field of Darkness, 1940) and Milorad Mojić. In the process of expanding Anti-Semitism the prominent place took the organization of German national minority with their numerous publications.

On account of international political situation, Yugoslavia started to pass restricting measures because the Jewish emigrants from Europe in then beginning of 1933 began to pass or inhabit the territory of Kingdom of Yugoslavia which culminated with the Kladovo Transport. Legal measures against the Jews in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia were passed within the changed international political situation when the political interest was directed to Germany instead of France. Generally speaking, those measures were relatively mild compared to many other European countries. They were related to different limits that were not consequently performed. The Council of Ministers had acquired two Anti-Semitic provisions on October 5th 1940. The first was Provision on the Measures Related to the Jews Performing Affairs in the Field of Human Nutrition. By this regulation, the Jews were forbidden to deal with any wholesale of  food. The other regulation related to limited entrance of Jewish origin persons to the universities, high schools on university level, high, secondary, teaching-training and other special schools, so-called numerus clausus. This regulation was aimed to reduce the percentage of Jewish students to the level  equal to the percentage of Jewish population.


SHOAH, 1941-1944

Holocaust, Greek word ὁλόκαυστος – completely burnt, burnt offering to Gods or souls to the deceased with Ancient Greek and Romans – suffering of Jews in the World War II, people who Hitler considered as top enemy and wished to destroy them completely. The term SHOAH is used in the same sense from the biblical word – meaning catastrophe, big trouble, suffering. The later term is more correct because the term Holocaust is not completely adequate – neither the Nazi killed the Jews as offering to the Gods nor the Jewish victims wanted to be the one.[2]

The territory of today’s Republic of Serbia was under occupation of several different systems : Bačka was within Hungary, Srem under the control of the so called Independent State of Croatia, Banat was special administrative territory under the control of the Germans of Banat origin, Kosovo and Metohija came under the Italian occupation while the rest of the territory the German occupational authorities controlled with the help of the collaborators as ‘the territory of the military occupational region of Serbia’.

According to the data of the State Commission for Identifying War Crimes of the Occupying Power and Their Assistants at the beginning of 1941 on the territory of today’s Republic of Serbia lived approximately 39.282 Jews and the war survived approximately 4.772  of them.[3] 3 Later researches presented certain corrections to these number.  According to the latest research of Milan Koljanin, on the German occupational territory of Serbia lived approximately 16.600 Jews (including 3.700 in Banat)  whereas cca 13.600 died (81,92%).If 1.200 Jewish refuges from Middle Europe are added to that number  who were killed, that means that from 17.800 Jews who happened to be on German occupied territory of Serbia 14.800 or 83,14% died. On the Hungarian occupied region in Serbia (Bačka) lived 13.590 Jews wherefrom 10.451 or 76,9% died. In Bulgarian occupied zone in Serbia (Pirot and the surroundings) lived 189 Jews wherefrom 158 or 83,6% were victimized. In Albanian occupied zone (south part of Kosovo and Metohija) from 400 Jews 300 or 75% lost their lives. Total number of Jews living on all occupied zones in Serbia was 33.579 and 27.024 or 80,48% were victimized. If we add 1.200 refuges from Middle Europe , that means that from 34.779 Jews who lived during WWII in Serbia 28.224 or 81,15% lost their lives. This fact is approximate to the Yugoslav average according to which from 82.000 Jews, 67.000 or 81,7% lost their lives. Here it should be added 4.000 Jewish refuges from Middle Europe so that from 86.000 Jews who happened to be in Yugoslavia during the war, 71.000 or 82,56% were victimized.[4]


April War; Commands related to Jews and Gypsies

During the April War 1941, Jewish members of the active Yugoslav Army and reserve had taken part in the short  resistance  against  overpowered force of Wehrmacht. Under bombarding of Belgrade, at the beginning of the war, the Sephardic Synagogue in Cara Uroša street was damaged. Among the first victims there were the Jews. On the territory of military-occupied region of Serbia, it was German police who dealt with Jewish affairs. The Jewish affairs were under control of sub-department IV B4 of the German Security Police with untersturmführer SS Fritz Strake as it’s head in Belgrade  together with Herbert Andorfer and Edgar Enge, future commander and deputy commander of  the Jewish camp on Belgrade Fairground. The stuff of  sub-department IV B4 had directly supervised local collaborationist police, i.e. Commissariat for Jews (commissar Jovan Nikolić) within the quisling Head office of the City of Belgrade. The occupying  authorities communicated with Jews through the Mission of Jewish Community that they formed instead of the abolished Jewish communities.[5] Benjamin Flascher was appointed president of the Mission and was soon replaced by Emil Deutch while the secretary was Samuel Demajo.[6] This mechanism was applied for collecting contributions from the Jews which occupier and their Serbian assistances were taking away under the threat of shooting Jewish hostages.

Appointed by the Germans, the Administrator of the City of Belgrade, Dragi Jovanović had formed special Jewish department with Jovan Nikolić, a police inspector, as the head of it who created inventory files of Jewish population and a list of their properties.

According to the Order of the Chief of Security Police Group and SD related to the registration, beginning with April 16th 1941, a registration of Jews was performed in Fire Department in the Belgrade district of Tašmajdan just in a couple of days.[7] Police officers registered the signed up Jews giving them the yellow ribbon with a sign ‘JUDE’ and a stamp of the Commander of the City of Belgrade. Later on, these yellow ribbons were replaced by yellow star that was worn on chest and backside. In the first three days, 8.500 Jews were signed up in Belgrade and up to July 13th 1941, totally 9.435 Jews and 679 Jewish shops were registered.[8]

At the same time began the spontaneous process of robbery of Jewish belongings by German occupying force.

The first restriction of Jewish rights were issued by the Order of the Military commandant of Belgrade Related to  Restrictions of Jewish Rights on April 25th 1941. The Jews were forbidden to go out in the streets beyond the exactly defined time (7 do 17h), purchasing food up to 11 a.m, visiting public places (restaurants, cinemas, theatres), riding in the front part of the tramways  with a sigh ‘Für Juden verboten’…

At the end of April compelled work was organized for Jews. Jewish working groups were formed. Men worked on removing the ruins left after the bombing, cleaning the tramway lines and taking out the corpses from the ruins in Belgrade and Smederevo. Women were assigned to different German offices where they cleaned and washed. This kind of work was exceptionally difficult and was carried  from 8 a.m. to 16 p.m. The Jews had the right to move freely only one hour in the morning and evening, before and after the police hour. As the wages they got one kilogram of corn bread daily.

On the meeting, held May 14th 1941, in the premises of the National Parliament, representatives of Wehrmacht, SS, SD, German diplomatic mission and economic sector had reached a decision on coordinated attitude towards the Jews. Consequently, May 31st 1941, a special Decree of the Military Commander of Serbia was issued related to the Jews and the Gypsies. It defined who was to be considered Jew or Roma. This regulation prescribed exclusion of Jews and Roma from public and  economic affairs, their property was taken away, compelled work and registration was introduced. The Jews and the Roma were obliged to wear ribbons, they were forbidden to deal with public affairs and to visit public places. By the intervention of Milan Aćimović, dated July 25th 1941, some ‘extremely strictness’ of the command was removed for the permanently settled Roma people. In that way, the Jews found themselves in the most difficult situations among all ethnic communities in Serbia. Carrying out these repressive measures was in charge of Occupying authorities but the assistant role was assigned to local Serbian police.

Movable properties of the killed Jews came over to Germans who transferred real estates to State Mortgage Bank that sold or used it. Thus obtained profit was delivered to Germans as war damage. According to estimations of the State Commission for Identifying War Crimes of the occupying country and their assistants, on the territory of military occupied region of Serbia only, the State Mortgage Bank  had taken 1.223 Jewish real estates wherefrom succeeded to sell  443 properties.[9]


Hostages killing during the Uprising in Serbia in autumn 1941; Topovske šupe in Belgrade

The situation for the Jews became worse after June 22nd 1941 when Yugoslav Communist Party started on several different locations preparation for armed uprising. The first German revenge fury were experienced by the Jews.

On July 28th 1941 , after a group ofyoung people put fire on several German vehicles in Belgrade, Fritz Strake had, with the help of Commissar Nikolić, gathered Jews in fire command office, grouped them according to their profession and selected each tenth, totally 103 persons. Next morning at 4 a.m, they were transferred by trucks to Jajinci and killed. The newspapers had proclaimed that 111 Communists and Jews were shot as revenge for the damage done. The shooting was attended by the Commissar Nikolić who was ‘nervous and was asking for rum’.[10]

The shooting of the Jews as hostages had continued. The hostages were taken from Topovske šupe in the Belgrade district of Autokomanda where there was the first concentration camp with male Jewish and Roma people of Belgrade and Serbia. Immediately after the occupation, these premises were used for temporary accommodation of Serbian refuges. After that, deported Jews from Banat region were lodged there, between two and four thousand altogether.[11] From August 22nd 1941, started a massive arresting of Jewish men older than 14, first, those coming from Banat and then from Belgrade. The old and sick were taken to concentration camp and healthy and work capable to the work units.

The prisoners were accommodated in two two-story buildings, former stables, built in 1927. In that, rather small space, there were lodged at average 1.400 Jews. Beside the beds on the bare floor, there were beds made out of boards in the level of horses’ cribs. The torture of the prisoners took place in the attics of one building, in the space enclosed by barbed wire. Hanging and burning of clothes and equipment of the killed prisoners was carried out in the space between two camp buildings. Buildings where the camp was organized Germans enclosed with high wooden fence which separated the camps from the other building where there were workshops for German army, so-called HKP-533, restaurant for workers, German guard, storehouses and other auxiliary rooms. The camp had German command and guard and was under the Gestapo’s Jewish Section. The inside administration of the camp belonged to the Jews. The nourishment of the prisoners was in charge of Representative of Jewish Community. The part of cost for their nutrition was on account of the Municipality of Belgrade. The Germans would periodically take away some of the prisoners, on account of too many persons in the camp, into the camp of Banjica. Already in September 14th 1941, in the prison lists of the Banjica Concentracion Camp, there were 187 Jews from Belgrade. According to the testifimony of Stefan Celine, this group had got the name Black Rider in German files which means that they were shot. There is a possibility that this group contained more persons because just in that time in the place called Trostruki surduk, three kilometers from Bežanija toward Surčin, 240 Jews were shot. In the period between October 15th and October 20th 1941, process of internment of male Jews from Belgrade and Serbia was completed. In the camp Topovske šupe male Roma people were imprisoned by sequence of raids carried out in Belgrade (October 27th in Marinkova bara, Čubura, Jatagan mala, Bulbuder, Mirijevo and Višnjica). German attitude towards Roma people was that only ‘nomad’ Roma should be imprisoned and liquidated. Systematic plan for liquidation of Jewish and Roma population from Topovske šupe started in September 1941. The killing sites were often changed. The most massive shooting were carried out in Jajinci, on the road from Pancevo to Jabuka village, in the forest of Deliblatska Pesčara as well as in other places. In this brutal way the male Jews were very quickly liquidated by the middle of November so that remained only between 200 and 300 Jews in Topovske šupe .[12]

Jews who tried to escape from Belgrade were arrested by agents of Special Police and in the interior of the country by the Gendarmerie. Serbian police and magistrates persecuted Jewish women and children who tried to avoid bearing the ribbons.


Suffering of Jews in the city of Šabac

In the beginning of 1941, about 1037 Jews lived in Šabac, some being Yugoslav citizens, others  being refuges from European countries former occupied by Germany. A significant number of them came from Kladovo Transport – a group of the Jews from Vienna, Berlin and Gdańsk who, on account of formal conditions, (lack of transit immigrant visa) were forced to stay in Kladovo in 1940. From there they were transferred to Šabac  where they experienced a tragic destiny.[13]

The same as in Belgrade, Jews in Šabac were after the arrival of the occupator restricted in rights, robbed through contributions, tortured by forced labour and marked by yellow ribbons. From August 20th 1941, the Jews – immigrants and male Jews from local community from were imprisoned in the camp on the river Sava living under very bad conditions.

The attack of the Partisans and Chetniks on Šabac took place between September 21st and September 23rd and the same day German 342 Division marched into the city and immediately started to arrest all males and take them to camps Klenak and Jarak. Together with this group of Serbs, the Jews from the camp were taken away as well. This road was called Bloody March because the exhausted ones were killed at the spot. Later, the survived Serbs were taken to newly formed camp in the barracks on Senjak in Šabac wherefrom they had been freed, and the Jews were returned to the camp in Zasavica.

In  October  1941, German punishment expedition arrived in Šabac and shot  the Jews from the local camp. The Jewish property belonged to the occupational authorities, the corpses of the shot Jews were  robbed after killing, women and children were transferred to the Jewish camp in Zemun where they died partially on account of un-humane conditions and partly killed in the spring of 1942.[14]

German ‘Jewish Camp  – Zemun’ on Belgrade Fairgrounds[15]

On December 8th 1941, after  killing of male Jews, an order was issued that the rest of the Jews, regardless of the gender, come that day to the police station and to bring the most necessary things with them. Females were given order to bring the keys of their flats with written address on them. The first group of Jewish women, children and old men were directed  to the camp the same day at 9 a.m. On December 12th, the whole Jewish community was already in the Judenlager Semlin Concentracion Camp. The remaining Jews from Topovske šupe and Banjica were taken there, too. On January 1942, Jewish women and children from whole Serbia (Šabac, Niš, Kragujevac, Kosovska Mitrovica and Novi Pazar) were brought there as well. Beside torture, the prisoners suffered from the cold and bad nutrition. Those who were able to work were taken to work in the nearby military airport. Caused by these un-humane conditions, children and old ones started to die first.

From March to May 1942, the destiny of remaining Jews (mostly women and children)  was solved by   gas wagon (germ.: Gaswagen). They were buried in the mass graves in Jajinci in Belgrade. Between March 19th and March 22nd 1942, patients and staff of the Jewish hospital were killed.[16] The initiator of this crime was Gruppenführer Harald Turner, Chief of the Military Administration on the territory of military occupied Serbia, otherwise known by his Anti-Semitic suggestions to the General in Command of German military forces in Serbia, General Franz Böhme. Gruppenführer Turner, bears direct responsibility for building and financing the camp in Belgrade fairgrounds. Beside other things, he ordered a truck for suffocating victims by exhaustion gas. In November and December, 1941, this invention was used in the East, on the occupied Polish and Soviet regions near  the cities of Chelmno, Kiev, Poltava and Riga.

The gas wagon was described like freight vehicle on the platform of camionette Zaurer made for five to seven tons of freight with two axes and petrol engine. The specific part was the separate five meters long wagon, width and length of about two and a half meters that was ordered by representatives of the security department from the manufacturer Gaubschat Fahrzeugwerke GmBH. The wagon had  two-wing door that was almost hermetically closed, without windows. The interior was covered with zinced iron and on the floor there was wooden bar with two metal pipes under it linked with another cross section pipe. The pipes had many holes of about half centimeter in radius. From the transversal pipe in the opening on the wagon floor, a rubber pipe was installed that ended with a special ending corresponding to the spin made at the end of exhaustion pipe. After the truck was loaded with 30 to 70 men, a driver would at appropriate moment during a drive stop the vehicle and connect a rubber incoming pipe with the exhaustion pipe letting the exhaustion gas into a wagon[17]. After the vehicle left the territory of military occupied  Serbia, there were no legally present Jews in Belgrade. The small number of remaining Jews were hiding at some friends homes or found shelter with Partisans.

According to Milan Koljanin, about 6320 Jews lost their life in the Judenlager Semlin that represents the ‘most important individual location of Holocaust in Serbia’ .[18]


Jews – Captives in Other Cities of Serbia

Before the war, there were more than hundred Jewish families with about 360 souls in the city of Niš. With arrival of Germans, on April 9th 1941, the citizens, especially the Jews, found themselves in a very bad situation taking account the policy that was taken toward them in already occupied countries.

A tragic destiny of Jews from Niš started in April 1941 and ended in May the following year. This period can be divided in three phases. The first phase took place in the period from April and October 1941; during that period the Nazi had registered  individuals and their properties, marked them with yellow ribbons, restricted the freedom of movement, robbed their propertiy, introduced compelled labor. In the second phase, in October 1941, the Germans arrested  Jewish men and put them in the nearby Concentracion Camp Crveni krst. In February 1942 the shot them on the location Bubanj. In the third phase, immediately after shooting of the Jewish men, Germans interned Jewish women and children in the camp Crveni krst wherefrom they were transferred to The Jewish Camp Zemun where they were soon suffocated by gas. The last two Jews in Nis, Germans shot at the end of 1943[19].

Tragic was the destiny of sparse Jewish families in other cities military occupied Serbia. In Central Serbia (without Belgrade) the war survived only 85 from 2 019 Jews, 38 of them escaped by running away abroad, 22 Jew females married to Serbs and 8 who joined partisan, 6 as prisoners of war  while the rest of them were hiding in very different ways in far located villages to houses for old people.

Dramatic life of minor Jewish communities in Central Serbia has not been historically processed as the suffering on Belgrade fairgrounds or location Topovske šupe but it was more tragic on account of less ‘transparency’.

In the city of ČaČak, for example, in May 27th 1941, following the order given by occupying authorities, the inventory list of the Jews were made. The Jews – immigrants from other places in Serbia, due to the command dated June 18th 1941 were forced to leave their residence within 24 hours and to return to the places where they came from. The following day, City Headquarters had ordered yellow ribbons for the remaining Jews, thirty one all together[20].

The unfortunate Jews were destined to be shot in the first rows of hostages. Harold Turner had ordered to all district and command headquarters‘ generally to consider Jews and Roma people as an element of insecurity and thus a threat to public order and safety. Jewish mind was considered the cause of the war so it had to be destroyed. Roma people, according to their in and outside construction cannot be useful member of mankind. It was determined that the Jewish element had a important part in organizing gangs and that Roma people were responsible for terrifying acts and intelligence work. That is why they had to be placed at disposal of the authorities like hostages meaning all Jewish men and Roma males”.[21] During one of the most massive hostage shooting in Kragujevac, among the first victims  on October 20th in the evening  399 Jews were killed in Centralna radionica.[22]

After that the Jewish families were left without providers, excommunicated, humiliated and robbed. In January 1942, the remaining Jews both males and females in Šabac, Kragujevac and other smaller  Jewish communities in Serbia were arrested and sent to death in Judenlager Semlin.[23] In the part of Serbia near Pirot that was occupied by Bulgaria, local police arrested all Jews and in the cattle wagons  dispatched  them to the death camp of  Auschwitz  in Poland.


Anti-Semitic activities in Nedic Serbia[24]

Daily papers of Serbian collaborators Milan Nedić and Dimitrije Ljotić were full of Anti-Semitic statements. The first one used Anti-Semitism like general phraseology on ‘national labor community ‘ and common struggle of European nations against Bolshevik plutocrats and Jews, while the latter relied on pre-war tradition of the movement Zbor. The well-known was the introduction for the book written by Georgije Pavlović Grabe, the secretary of Synod of Russian emigrant church ‘Under the hexagram ‘.[25] It should be noted that a part of Russian emigrants contributed  and spread the idea of  Anti-Semitism. An especially significant contribution came from a group of Russian strip designers who during the World War II worked for Nedic and German propaganda offices on graphic preparation of the newspaper but designing the posters as well.[26] Some of them had an extreme Anti-Semitic connotation. On the other hand, Anti-Semitic oriented Serbs had prepared Anti-Masonic exhibition in Belgrade in 1941. A special visual effect had a series of propaganda postal stamps with Anti-Semitic contents that was printed in Nedić Serbia. Lazar Prokić, Djordje Perić, Milan Banić, Mihajlo Olčan, Milorad Mojić and many others were very active in Anti-Semitic propaganda.


Extermination of Jews in Banat[27]

Particularity in Banat region, a part of military occupied region of Serbia, related to the important role of local German population in the administration and control of the region but also in the crimes committed on Jews. Immediately upon arrival of occupying forces, the local German sympathizers among the members of Kulturbund started to mistreat the Jews. They did not only forced them to compelling labor but robbed and killed the prominent persons. Beside the general pressure they felt caused by legal regulations (yellow ribbons, restriction of rights and exclusion from social life) their life became unbearable especially because their former neighbors and business partners started to mistreat them in order to prove their Aryan origin. Even the Jewish graveyards became targets of attack and destruction, tombstones were destroyed, charnel-houses broke. The graveyards became the places for carrying out physiologic needs of passers by.  So it was not strange that upon forming the camp for Jews in Banat, the major part of the Jewish community was taken there, no matter of gender. Although the first camp in Banat (in todays Zrenjanin) was organized by local Germans immediately upon the arrival of Wermacht in Yugoslavia, they became active in August 1941 when the camps in Novi Bečej and Pančevo were formed. The staff and command of the camp consisted of local Germans. After a cruel and humiliating search in August and September, the Jews from Banat camps were transferred by trucks and trains to Belgrade. Men were brought to the camp Topovske šupe and women to the Judenlager Semlin. Banat region was used for shooting the prisoners from Topovske šupe. At the beginning of October some 500 people were shot in Deliblatski pesak and in November and December 1941 near the village Jabuka. In October 1942, the Jewish patients from psychiatric hospital in Kovin were shot. In March 1942, several Jews running away from the camp were caught and shot near Pančevo. The properties of the killed Jews were sold and thus collected resources were given to German occupying administration.


Extermination of Jews in Srem

In the first days and weeks of occupation, the Jews in the region Srem found themselves in a very difficult situation.  Anti-Semitic actions were taken by the authorities of newly-established Independent State of Croatia and organization of local German minority. Jewish communities in the towns of Ruma, Sremska Mitrovica, Ilok, and Beočin were subjected to compelled labor, torture of prominent persons and arbitrary robbery of movable and real estate properties. Forced labor was not only exploitation of working power but also the way of humiliation, torture and extermination of Jews. In Zemun, the measures against Jews between 16 to 60 years of age were applied already from the eight day upon the occupation. In the parts of Srem that came under administration of Independent State of Croatia , already on April 17th 1941 commissioners were located in Jewish shops that were confiscated. The cruel Anti-Semitic propaganda was started by Ustasha–oriented paper Graničar that was pressed in Zemun. The first organized actions on ‘cleansing of unsuitable elements’ were aimed at Serbs, but already on May 6th 1942 in Stara Pazova 63 Jews were taken away and on June 28th another 450 from Zemun. During the night between June 28th and 29th, Jews from Zemun were awakened by door banging and were taken in the caught state to Zonenfeld building in Masarikova street. Already at 4 in the morning Ustashas had escorted them in long lines to Zemun railway station wherefrom they were transferred by  fifteen wagons train to the camps in Jasenovac (men) and Stara Gradiska (women and children). From the cams, after the war, only one Jew returned. In July and August 1942, the same destiny met Jews from Sremska Mitrovica, Ruma, Ilok, Slankamen…


 Extermination of Jews in Bačka[28]

Three years of Hungarian occupation of region of Bačka were tragic for Jewish community whose members suffered in many false processes, working actions, forced mobilization for working units destined for East Front, decimated by famine and intentional exposure to enemy’s firing. Jewish properties were robbed after the occupation and the shops were confiscated. Special commissars were installed in Jewish firms in Bačka. During the raid in Novi Sad, Hungarian soldiers (Honved) from January 21st to 23rd 1942, commited mass murders and robbery of Serbs, Jews and Roma people in Novi Sad, Bečej, and nearby villages of Čurug, Nadalj, Gospodjinci, Šajkaš and Djurdjevo. Honved Military commandant of Novi Sad József Grassy announced a raid by placing the posters all over city, but instead of drumhead trial for those who were hiding arms or suspicious persons, several thousand innocent people were killed at the spot. Hungarian military Gendarmerie brought groups of people who were ordered to kneel down in the snow after which they were shot in the back. Not only men were killed, but women and children as well. Some corpses and deathly injured people the soldiers dragged by legs to the Danube river bank and threw them under the ice.

At the end of the war, during 1944, the situation had suddenly changed. From March 19th 1944, when Germans arrived in Hungary throughout the country and the occupied part of Vojvodina repressive actions against the Jews were rising. Jewish communities were excluded from public life and Jews were often taken to the camps. On the territory of Bačka, such camp was organized for Jewish men and  women in Bačka Topola wherefrom they were deported to Reich territory and their property confiscated. In the streets of Budapest, several Jews from Vojvodina were killed by members of Hungarian ultra-right organization The Arrow Cross Party and German Gendarmerie while trying to escape from the regime of Horthy.


Extermination of Jews in Bor mine  1943-1944

From July 12th 1943 to June 20th 1944, several transports with about 6 000 Jews from the region of Bačka, but also from other parts of ‘Great Hungary’ had arrived in Bor. The labor in the camp system of Bor’s mine was carried out under very unhuman conditions. The security of the Bor’s mine was in the hands of Hungarian soldiers and the chief of the camp – at the beginning Bali Sándor and later Mórány Ede. When the Red Army came to the Yugoslav-Romanian border in September 17th and 29th 1944, the camp had been evacuated via Belgrade and Pančevo toward Hungarian border (except about 300 sick and exhausted Jews).German and Hungarian soldiers were killing the members of the group that could slower the speed of Death march. Mass killings were done near the village Jabuka (133) and Crvenka (700). The remaining Jews were transferred to the concentration camps Buchenwald and Oranienburg.[29]

Extermination of Jews from Kosovo and Metohija

After the capitulation of Yugoslavia, the province of Kosovo and Metohija was divided between German, Italian and Bulgarian occupying forces. The major part was under Italian occupying force. The German  occupying zone that, like Banat formally was within Nedić’s Serbia, but de facto under control of local Albanian collaborators, consisted of  Kosovsko-mitrovacki, Vucitrnski and Lapski administration districts . Upon such division, each of the occupying force established its own administration center, quisling authority exactly. Thus, in June 1941, when Germans gave all power to Italians and so-called ‘Great Albania’, appeared Blackshirt groups who were torturing Jews and Serbs. The occupiers and their assistances were very cruel, they robbed Jewish properties and mistreated prominent individuals, but the regime was more tolerant than under German occupation. That is why some groups of Jews arrived from German occupying zones in other parts of Yugoslavia in Italian occupying zone in Kosovo and Metohija.

In the part of Kosovo occupied by Germans, there was 29 Jewish families with 113 members altogether before the war. As soon as Germans occupied Mitrovica all Jews were ordered to put the note Judengeschäft on the shops. All Jews were obliged to wear the ribbons with the inscription Jude on the arms. At last, in May 20th 1941, president of the municipality Kosovska Mitrovica, Xhafer Deva, had issued the order according to which all the Jewish property was given to local administration. It was under the Commissariat for Jewish Property with Osman Ibraimović ‘Solid’ on head of it. Ibraimović was very active in carrying out Anti-Semitic terror – closed the synagogue, robbed the objects of precious metal and burnt the books and archive of Jewish municipality. For all Jewish shops, following the command of Dzafer-Deva, commissars were appointed who were under control of Ibraimović. During August and September 1941, all Jews, between 16 and 60 of age, were taken to the camp in Mitrovica and all Jewish women to forced labor in the hospital in the same town. In March 1942, Germans had transported 23 Jewish families to Judenlager Semlin.  They were licvidated there. Only six Jewish families had succeeded  to escape from this terror to Priština.[30]

Suddenly in March 14th 1942, Italian Army had blocked the camp of Jews-immigrants in Priština. Carabineers selected some of the escaped Jews and transferred them to prison. All of them were delivered to Germans who imprisoned them in Judenlager Semlin and there, together with other prisoners, were suffocated during April 1942. Already on May 6th 1942, Italian occupying forces interned all the rest of the native male Jews from 16 to 60 year of age and transferred them to the concentration camps in Berat and Elbasan in Albania. After the capitulation of Italy, all the concentration camps were closed and some of the Jews succeeded to hide. But, the Jews who returned to Priština found themselves in a very difficult situation upon German arrival. On May 14th 1944, the Germans blocked the city and arrested all Jews from the list prepared by local authorities. Taking away of the Jews from their flats started in midnight and lasted until eight o’clock in the morning. Upon detailed examination, the arrested Jews were transferred to concentration camp Bergen-Belsen where only 100 people returned out of 400 arrested.[31]


Jews in National-Liberating War

The life of Jews was not so carefree even in pre-war Yugoslavia where during 1939 and 1940 a list of Anti-Semitic measures were introduced, neither in post-war mono-party state that was building up communism after Staljin’s  models.[32]  Everything that happened during the monstrous Nazi rule became history only after the defeat of the Third Reich that was in many different ways dealing with the most horrible task – trial of complete exhortation of the Jews. Some of Jewish men and women awaited the end of the Nazi regime among the partisans. According to the facts revealed by a prominent participant  of Anti-Fascist War, J. Romano, Jewish community in Serbia delivered two National Heroes, 43 bearers of Commemorative Medal of the Partisans – 1941, 197 members of National-Liberating Army of Yugoslavia (148 lost life) and 405 participators in National-Liberating Movement (243 killed).[33]


Righteous among the Nations

In the unbelievable conditions Jews found themselves during the World War II, only very small number of them survived. Only 12% Jews succeeded to survive in Serbia thanks to their cleverness and even more circumstances. The number of their murderers and criminals, from which many of them escaped  war crime trials after the end of the war, was less than the numerous non-Jewish majority who mostly without word were watching  the killing of their neighbors. But there were some who dared risk a life and take concrete measures in saving the Jews[34]. The names of such outstanding men are kept in memory. The Memorial Centre Yad Vashem  (Israel) keeps memory of the Righteous among the Nations. In Serbia, this prestigious recognition was awarded in 80 cases up to January 1st 2011 and 128 Righteous Among the Nations were proclaimed in that way.[35] And that is not accidental, because it is well known that ‘whoever preserves a single soul in Israel, Scripture ascribes to him as though he had preserved a complete world’.


[1] Кољанин, Милан, Јевреји и антисемитазам у Краљевини Југославији 1918-1941, Београд 2008; Поповић, Небојша, Јевреји у Србији 1918-1941, Београд 1997; У потрази за уточиштем : Jугословенски Јевреји у бекству од холокауста 1941–1945, Београд 1998; Лебл, Жени, До коначног решења, Јевреји у Србији, Београд 2002; Знаменити Јевреји Србије, биографски лексикон, уредник Александар Гаон, Београд 2011; Jevrejski narodni kalendar, 5701, 1940/1941, VI godište.

[2] Evans R., In Hitler’s Shadow, New York, 1989, p. 142; Rappresentare la Shoah : Milano, 24-26 gennaio 2005 / a cura di Alessandro Costazza, Milano, 2005.

[3] The Crimes of the Fascist Occupants and Their Collaborators Against Jews in Yugoslavia, Belgrade, 1957, p. XI-XIX; АЈ, ф. 110, к. 908 ” Прогон Јевреја. 1941-1945″, с. 9-14.

[4] Romano J., Jevreji Jugoslavije : 1941-1945 : žrtve genocida i učesnici NOR, Beograd, 1980; Ristović M., U potrazi za utočištem : jugoslovenski Jevreji u bekstvu od holokausta 1941.-1945., Beograd, 1998; Anderl G., Manošek V., Propalo bekstvo : jevrejski transport “Kladovo” na putu za Palestinu 1939-1942. [transl. from. Gescheiterte Flucht], Beograd, 2004; Kladovo transport : zbornik radova sa okruglog stola, Beograd, oktobar, 2002, prired. M.Mihailovic, Beograd, 2006; Fogel M., Ristović M., Koljanin M., Pravednici medu narodima: Srbija, Zemun, 2010.

[5] Romano J., Jevreji Jugoslavije : 1941-1945 : žrtve genocida i učesnici NOR, Beograd, 1980; Ristović M., U potrazi za utočištem : Jugoslovenski Jevreji u bekstvu od holokausta 1941.-1945., Beograd, 1998; Anderl G., Manošek V., Propalo bekstvo : jevrejski transport “Kladovo” na putu za Palestinu 1939-1942. [transl. from Gescheiterte Flucht], Beograd, 2004; Kladovo transport : zbornik radova sa okruglog stola, Beograd, oktobar, 2002, prired. M.Mihailovic, Beograd, 2006; Fogel M., Ristović M., Koljanin M., Pravednici medu narodima: Srbija, Zemun, 2010.

[6] ИАБ, ОГБ, Представништво јеврејске заједнице – Председнику општине града Београда.

[7] “Наредба Шефа групе полиције безбедности и СД. Београд 16.IV.1941 год.”, МИЈ.

[8] ЈИМ, к.22, f. 1A/2, dok. 1-10.

[9] ЈИМ, к.22, f. 1A/2, dok. 1-10.

[10] ЈИМ, к.22, f. 1A/2, dok. 1-10.

[11] В.Глишић, Терор и злочини нацистичке Немачке у Србији 1941–1945, Београд, 1970, с. 83.

[12] Жарковић Н., Пролазни логор Топовске Шупе, Наслеђе 2009, бр. 10, стр. 110-112.

[13] Anderl G., Manošek V., Propalo bekstvo : jevrejski transport “Kladovo” na putu za Palestinu 1939-1942. [transl. from Gescheiterte Flucht], Beograd, 2004; Kladovo transport : zbornik radova sa okruglog stola, Beograd, oktobar, 2002, prired. M.Mihailović, Beograd, 2006

[14] ЈИМ, к.22, f. 1A/2, dok. 1-10.

[15] Bajford J., Staro sajmište : mesto sećanja, zaborava i sporenja, Beograd, 2011; Staro sajmište: sajmište, stratište, utočište, budućnost. Zbornik, urednik D.Tatić, Beograd, 2008; Ivanović L., Vukomanović M., Dani smrti na Sajmištu: logor na Sajmištu 1941-1944. godine, Novi Sad, 1969.

[16] Browning C., Fateful Months: Essays on the Emergence of the Final Solution, London, 1985;.Lebl Ž., Do ‘konačnog rešenja’: Jevreji u Beogradu, 1521-1942, Belgrade, 2001; Manošek V., Holokaust u Srbiji : vojna okupaciona politika i uništavanje Jevreja 1941-1942, [transl. from  Serbien ist Judenfrei], Beograd, 2007.

[17] Beer M., Die Entwicklung der Gaswagen beim Mord an den Juden, Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 37 (3), 1987; СС в действии. Документы о преступлениях СС, Москва, 2000.

[18] Koljanin M., Nemački logor na Beogradskom sajmištu : 1941-1944, Beograd, 1992, s. 131; Bajford J., Staro sajmište : mesto sećanja, zaborava i sporenja, Beograd, 2011, с. 44

[19] ЈИМ, к.22, f. 1A/2, dok. 1-10; Милентијевић З., Логор Црвени крст, Ниш, 1980; Милентијевић З., Јевреји заточеници логора Црвени крст, [каталог изложбе], Ниш, 1978.

[20] ИАЧ, Градско поглаварство Чачак, К—54, ф.5,бр.8;  К—50, ф.4,бр.445; К—53, ф.5,бр.475.

[21] Manošek V., Holokaust u Srbiji: vojna okupaciona politika i uništavanje Jevreja 1941-1942, Beograd, 2007, p.167-168

[22] Бркић С., Име и број : Крагујевачка трагедија 1941., Крагујевац, 2007, с. 96; Lebl Ž., Do ‘konačnog rešenja’: Jevreji u Beogradu, 1521-1942, Belgrade, 2001, s.49;. 103-105.

[23] Бркић С., Минић М., Јевреји у Крагујевцу: прилог историји Јевреја у Србији, Крагујевац, 2011, с.103-107.

[24] Јовановић.Н., Антимасонска и антикомунистичка изложба у Београду 1941. године / НОР и револуција у Србији, Београд, 1972;. Milosavljevic O., Potisnuta istina : kolaboracija u Srbiji 1941-1944., Beograd, 2006.

[25] Георгије Павловић (Грабе), Под шестокраком звездом : јудизам и слободно зидарство у прошлости и садашњости. Са предговором Димитрија Љотића, Београд, “Просветна заједница а.д.”, 1943.

[26] Тимофејев А., Руси и Други светски рат у Југославији : утицај СССР-а и руских емиграната на догађаје у Југославији 1941-1945, Београд, 2011.

[27] Јовановић.Н., Антимасонска и антикомунистичка изложба у Београду 1941. године / НОР и револуција у Србији, Београд, 1972;. Milosavljevic O., Potisnuta istina : kolaboracija u Srbiji 1941-1944., Beograd, 2006.


[28]  Јовановић.Н., Антимасонска и антикомунистичка изложба у Београду 1941. године / НОР и револуција у Србији, Београд, 1972;. Milosavljevic O., Potisnuta istina : kolaboracija u Srbiji 1941-1944., Beograd, 2006.

[29] Злочини окупатора и њихових помагача у Војводини против Јевреја : (истребљење, депортација, мучење, хапшење, пљачка), приред. Д.Његован, Нови Сад, 2011; Šosberger P., Sudbina Jevreja u logorima Borskog rudnika : 1943-1944, Novi Sad, 2007.

[30] ЈИМ, к.22, f. 1A/3, dok. 9; АЈ, ф. 110, к. 908 ” Прогон Јевреја. 1941-1945″, с. 739.

[31] АЈ, ф. 110, к. 908 ” Прогон Јевреја. 1941-1945″, с. 787-793; Вавић М., Косовски Јевреји за време окупације 1941-1944 / Обележја (Приштина), 1983, бр. 5; Антонијевић Н., Холокауст на Косову и Метохији и његов контекст / Израелско-српска научна размена у проучавању холокауста, Београд, 2008; Бабић Г.,  “Testimony-Nisim Navonovic”, Documentary – the life story of one of the few surviving Jews in Pristina. .

[32] Кољанин М., Јевреји и антисемитизам у Краљевини Југославији : 1918-1941, Београд, 2008; Ivanković M., Jevreji u Jugoslaviji : (1944-1952) : kraj ili novi početak, Beograd, 2009.

[33] Romano J., Jevreji Jugoslavije : 1941-1945 : žrtve genocida i učesnici NOR, Beograd, 1980.

[34] Fogel M., Ristović M., Koljanin M., Pravednici medu narodima: Srbija, Zemun, 2010; Mi smo preživeli: Jevreji o holokaustu, knj. 1-5, Beograd, 2001-2009.

[35] http://www1.yadvashem.org/yv/en/righteous/pdf/virtial_wall/serbia.pdf.


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