- History of the Jews in Serbia
Jews first arrived in what is now the Republic of Serbia in Roman times. The Jewish communities of the Balkansremained small until the late fifteenth century, when Jews fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions found refuge in Ottoman-ruled areas, including Serbia. Jewish communities flourished in the Balkansuntil the turmoil of World War I. The surviving communities, including that of Serbia, were almost completely destroyed in the Holocaustduring World War II. The Jewish community of Serbianow numbers fewer than 800.
History of the community
Jews first arrived in the region now known as
Serbiain Roman times, although there is little documentation prior to the tenth century AD. For the next five hundred years, documentation on the Jews of the Balkansis sketchy.
The Jewish communities of the Balkans were boosted in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by the arrival of Jewish refugees fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions.
Sultan Bayezid IIof the Ottoman Empire welcomed the Jewish refugees into his Empire. Jews became involved in trade between the various provinces in the Ottoman Empire, becoming especially important in the salt trade [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/serbia.html Virtual Jewish History Tour - Serbia and Montenegro ] ] .
With generally good relations between the Jews and
Serbs, the Jewish communities prospered, and by the nineteenth century Jewish merchants were largely responsible for the trade routes between the Ottoman Empire's northern and southern territories [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/serbia.html Virtual Jewish History Tour - Serbia and Montenegro ] ] .
1804, the Serbs began to fight the Ottoman Turks for independence. Many Jews were involved in the struggle by supplying arms to the local Serbs, and the Jewish communities faced brutal reprisal attacks from the Ottoman Turks [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/serbia.html Virtual Jewish History Tour - Serbia and Montenegro ] ] . The independence struggle lasted until 1830, when Serbia gained its independence.
The new Serbian government was not friendly toward the Jewish community, and by
1831, there were prohibitions against Jews entering some professions. Under rule of Milos Obrenovic, the Belgrade Jewish community had its own money issue. The situation of the Jews briefly improved under the rule of Prince Mihailo Obrenović (ruled 1839- 1842). The Jews were a very respected minority in Serbia after theObrenovic dynasty ended. The very first act of Serbian King Petar I was royal support for building a new synagogue in Belgrade.
With the reclamation of the Serbian throne by the Royal House of Obrenović under
Miloš Obrenovićin 1858, restrictions on Jewish merchants were again relaxed, but three years later, in 1861Mihailo III inherited the throne and reinstated anti-Jewish restrictions. [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/serbia.html Virtual Jewish History Tour - Serbia and Montenegro ] ] .
The waxing and waning of the fortunes of the Jewish community according to the ruler continued to the end of the 19th Century, when the Serbian parliament lifted all anti-Jewish restrictions in
1889. [ [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/serbia.html Virtual Jewish History Tour - Serbia and Montenegro ] ]
1912, the Jewish community of Serbia stood at 5,000. [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/serbia.html Virtual Jewish History Tour - Serbia and Montenegro ] ] .
In the aftermath of World War I,
Serbiamerged with Montenegro, and then united with State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbsto form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which was soon renamed Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Serbia's relatively small Jewish community of 13,000 (including 500 in Kosovo) ["Jews of Yugoslavia 1941 – 1945", by Jasa Romano, Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia, 1980; pp. 573-590.] , combined with the large Jewish communities of the other Yugoslav territories, numbering some 51,700. In the inter-war years ( 1919- 1939), the Jewish communities of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia flourished.
Prior to World War II, 10,000 Jews lived in
Belgrade, 80% being Ladino-speaking Sephardi Jews, and 20% being Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews[Belgrade Synagogue] .
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia had had a pro-German government since
1935with Milan Stojadinovićand had enacted anti-Jewish legislation as early as 1937.A group of nationalist generals overthrew the government of Dragiša Cvetkovićand the regent Paul on March 27, 1941under the pretense of opposing the Tripartite Pactwith Nazi Germany[Marko Attila Hoare, [http://www.henryjacksonsociety.org/stories.asp?id=297 "Adding Insult to Injury: Washington Decorates a Nazi Collaborator"] , Henry Jackson Society, 11th June 2005] , and on April 6, 1941German, Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian troops invaded Yugoslavia.
The Nazi genocide against
Serbian (and Yugoslav) Jews began in September 1941, the Jews of Banatand Belgradebeing the first to be persecuted by the German army and police with the help of the Serbian police under the orders of the Serbian Government of National Salvation. The Nazis set up two concentration camps in Belgrade with Serbian guards -- Banjicaand Sajmište-- in order to process and eliminate the Jews captured. As a consequence Emanuel Schäfer, Chief of the German police and Gestapo in Serbia, could boast as soon as 1942 that:
:"Belgrade - the only larger European city which has been cleansed of Jews, has become "judenfrei"."
Harald Turnerof the SS, stated in 1942 that:
:"Serbia is a nation in which the problem of Jews and Gypsies has been solved." [Ljubica Stefan, [http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dc2m8p62_108hcqzjqc3 "Anti-semitism in Serbia during World war II"] ]
World War II
At the beginning of World War II in Serbia in 1941, some Jews joined Yugoslav resistance forces, which consisted of two factions: the communist-led Yugoslav Partisans (or simply the "Partisans"), and the royalist
Chetniks. The Chetniks were founded as a Royalist movement, but increasingly evolved into a Serb nationalist militia. The movement was reactivated under the form of the 'Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland' by Colonel Draža Mihailovićin the Serbia's Ravna Gora province after the invasion of Yugoslavia.
Jews were also members of the "Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland" (Jugoslovenska vojska u otadžbini, JVUO)Although an overwhelming majority of its members were Serbs, the movement also included a number of JewsFact|date=September 2008, Croats,  Slovenes,  and Bosnian Muslims.   Most of the non-Serbs were monarchists and/or anti-communists. In the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), Chetniks were under the command of Momčilo Đujić, in the sp called Krajina region of modern-day Croatia, they organized themselves in response to Ustaša attacks on Serbian villages and Jews.Fact|date=September 2008
By the time
Serbiaand Yugoslavia were liberated in 1944, most of the Serbian Jewry had been murdered. Of the 82,500 Jews of Yugoslavia alive in 1941, only 14,000 (17%) survived the Holocaust[http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/serbia.html Virtual Jewish History Tour - Serbia and Montenegro ] ] . Only 4,000 Serbian Jews had survived the Holocaust[ [http://www.bh.org.il/swj/country.php?country=2&places=18 Synagogues Without Jews-Croatia and Serbia ] ] .
Federation of Jewish Communities in Yugoslaviawas formed in the aftermath of World War II to coordinate the Jewish communities of post-war Yugoslavia and to lobby for the right of Jews to immigrate to Israel[ [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Yugoslavia2.html Jews of the Former Yugoslavia After the Holocaust ] ] . The Federation was headquartered in Belgrade, the capital of the post-war Yugoslavia.
More than half of Yugoslav survivors chose to immigrate to
Israelafter World War II.
The Jewish community of
Serbia, and indeed of all constituent republics in Yugoslavia, was maintained by the unifying power of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Yugoslavia. However, this power ended with dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
While there was some anti-Semitism in
Serbiaduring the wars [ [http://www.jewishsf.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/10994/edition_id/211/format/html/displaystory.html Serb backers blame talmudic Zionist Jews] ] , the Jewish community, as with all Serbians, suffered as a result of the wars. Many Jews chose to immigrate to Israeland the United States. During the Kosovo Conflict, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Yugoslavia relocated many of Belgrade's Jewish elderly, women and children to Budapest, Hungaryfor their safety; many of them emigrated permanently [ [http://www.bh.org.il/swj/country.php?country=2&places=18 Synagogues Without Jews-Croatia and Serbia ] ] .
Prior to the conflicts of the
1990s, approximately 2,500 Jews lived in Serbia[http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/serbia.html Virtual Jewish History Tour - Serbia and Montenegro ] ] , most in Belgrade.
According to the
2002Serbian census, there were 785 Jews in Serbia. Almost all Jews (91%) in Central Serbialive in Belgrade. Forty-percent of Serbian Jews live in Vojvodina. The results of the 2002 censusare displayed below [ [http://webrzs.statserb.sr.gov.yu/axd/Zip/VJN3.pdf Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, 2002 Census Results, p12] sr icon] :
The only remaining functioning
synagoguein Serbiais the Belgrade Synagogue. There are also small numbers of Jews in Zrenjaninand Sombor, with isolated families scattered throughout the rest of Serbia.
Manifestations of Anti-Semitism in
Serbiaare relatively rare and isolated. According to the US State Department Report on Human Rights practices in Serbiafor 2006,
:"Jewish leaders in Serbia reported continued incidents of anti-Semitism, including anti-Semitic graffiti, vandalism, small circulation anti-Semitic books, and Internet postings",
and that anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise in
Serbia. [ [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78837.htm Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Serbia, 2006] ] As nationalism replaced communism as the main ideology in Serbia, there was a resurgence of anti-semitic statements, as well as a simultaneous attempt on the part of the Serbian regime to instrumentalize the supposed influence of the Jewish community abroad. [Laslo Sekelj, [http://sicsa.huji.ac.il/12sekel.html "Antisemitism and Jewish Identity in Serbia After the 1991 Collapse of the Yugoslav State"] , The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, The Hebrew Univversity of Jerusalem, "Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism", 1997 acta no. 12]
Holy Synodof the Serbian Orthodox Church"canonized" on May 19, 2003, "Vladika" Nikolaj Velimirović[Jovan Byford, [http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dc2m8p62_205g4pr48c8 "Canonizing the 'Prophet' of antisemitism: the apotheosis of bishop Nikolaj Velimirović and the legitimation of religious anti-semitism in contemporary Serbian society] , "RFE/RL Report", 18 February 2004, Volume 6, Number 4] , who had this to say about Adolf Hitlerin a public speech --"The nationalism of saint Sava", pronounced in the spring of 1935and published in 1937:
:"We must regard with esteem the present German Führer who... in the twentieth century... came up with the idea of St. Sava and as a layman took upon himself a task for his people as befits only a holy man, a genius and a hero." [ [http://sanimideg.forumup.com/about86-0.html Николај Велимировић: "Национализам Светога Саве"] ] .
Nikolaj Velimirović also boasted in an interview in 1953 [Jovan Byford, [http://sicsa.huji.ac.il/22byford.pdf "From "Traitor" to "Saint": Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović in Serbian Public Memory"] , The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem] that he had been the spiritual leader and "
éminence grise" of Dimitrije Ljotić, the founder and leader of the Serbian Nazi movement Zbor, whose "Srpski Dobrovoljački Korpus" ("Serb Volunteer Corps") was integrated into the Waffen SSorganization in November 1944 [H.L. deZeng IV, [http://www.axishistory.com/index.php?id=90 Srpski Dobrovoljački Korpus (Serbische Freiwilligenkorps)] ] .
Serbian government recognizes Judaism as one of the seven "traditional" religious communities of Serbia[ [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2005/51578.htm International Religious Freedom Report 2005, Serbia and Montenegro] (includes Kosovo) (released by US Department of State)] .
While the rest of
Serbiawas still ruled by the Ottoman Empire, Vojvodinandash an autonomous province within the Republic of Serbiandash was ruled by the Habsburg Monarchyfrom the end of the 17th century. Vojvodinatoo had previously been ruled by the Ottoman Empire, and it was under Ottoman rule that the first Jews settled in the region.
1782, Emperor Joseph II issued the Edict of Tolerance, giving Jews some measure of religious freedom. The Edict attracted Jews to many parts of the Habsburg Monarchy, including Vojvodina. The Jewish communities of Vojvodinaflourished, and by the end of the 19th Century the region had nearly 40 Jewish communities. [ [http://www.bh.org.il/swj/country.php?country=2&places=18 Synagogues Without Jews-Croatia and Serbia ] ]
1931 censuscounted 21,000 Jews in the province. The Jewish communities of Vojvodina, as in the rest of Serbia, were largely destroyed in the Holocaust, particularly in Banat, which was under direct German occupation, and in Bačka, which was under Hungarian occupation. In 1942 raid, the Hungarian troops killed many Jewish and Serb civilians in Bačka. Synagogues in Zrenjaninand Kikindawere demolished during war, while the synagogue in Pančevowas demolished after war because there were only a few Jews remaining there.
Today, 329 Jewsndash almost half of Serbian Jewryndash live in
Vojvodina, most in Subotica, Pančevo, Zrenjaninand Sombor.
Moša Pijade, politician, painter, art critic and publicist
Oskar Davičo, poet
Danilo Kiš, writer
Aleksandar Tišma, writer
David Albahari, writer
Erich Šlomovićart collector
David Albahari, writer
Filip David, Playwright and columnist
Predrag Ejdus, actor
Vanja Ejdus, actress
Notes and references
* [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/serbia.html Jewish Virtual Library, Serbia and Montenegro]
* [http://www.bh.org.il/swj/country.php?country=2&places=18 Synagogues Without Jews - Serbia and Croatia]
* [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Yugoslavia2.html Jews of the Former Yugoslavia After the Holocaust]
* [http://www.jdc.org/p_ee_serbia_history.html American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Serbia-Montenegro]
* Belgrade Synagogue
* "Jews of Yugoslavia 1941 - 1945 Victims of Genocide and Freedom Fighters", by Jasa Romano, from the English summary in the book "Jevreji Jugoslavije 1941-1945. Žrtve Genocida i učesnici Narodnooslobodilačkog Rata", Belgrade: Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia, 1980; pp. 573-590.
* [http://www.beograd.org.yu/cms/view.php?id=1408 Official city of Belgrade site about Belgrade Jews]
* [http://www.jobeograd.org Jewish community of Belgrade]
* en icon [http://www.joz.org.yu Jewish community of Zemun] ("a district in
* en icon [http://www.jim-bg.org Jewish Historical Museum in Belgrade]
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