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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Yugoslavia 03: Holocaust 1941-1944

Deprivations - concentration camps - deportations - massacres - Italian zone without massacres - German occupation of Italian zone and deportations - partisan units

Map of Yugoslavia with the indication of the
                  Jewish communities of 1931 and 1969. Courtesy
                  Federaton of Jewish Communitites in Yugoslavia,
                  Belgrade
Map of Yugoslavia with the indication of the Jewish communities of 1931 and 1969.
Courtesy Federaton of Jewish Communitites in Yugoslavia, Belgrade

from: Yugoslavia; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 16

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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<Holocaust Period. [Partition of Yugoslavia in April 1941]

In April 1941, Yugoslavia was occupied by German,Hungarian, Italian, and Bulgarian troops. It was divided into several parts:

-- Serbia and the Banat came under direct German military administration
-- Hungary reoccupied some of the areas it had ceded to newly formed Yugoslavia after World War I
-- Bulgaria took over Macedonia
-- and Italy extended its rule over Dalmatia and Montenegro.

Most of the remaining territory - Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina - was formed into a new "Independent State of Croatia".

SERBIA AND THE BANAT. [German occupation]

The Ashkenazi synagogue in Belgrade, restored
                    after World War II by the Yugoslav government and
                    the American Joint Distribution Committee. Courtesy
                    Federation of Jewish Communities in Yugoslavia,
                    Belgrade
The Ashkenazi synagogue in Belgrade, restored after World War II by the Yugoslav government and the American Joint
Distribution Committee. Courtesy Federation of Jewish Communities in Yugoslavia, Belgrade


On the day after the occupation of Belgrade (April 13, 1941), German troops, assisted by "Volksdeutsche" (local Germans), ransacked the Jewish shops. Within a week, the Jews were ordered to register with the police, and eventually 9,145 Jews, out of a total prewar population of about 12,000, were registered. The Jews were removed from public service. The yellow *badge was introduced, and Jews were drafted into forced labor. About 3,500 to 4,000 males from the age of 14 to 60 were forced to clear the buildings that had been razed by the bombardment, while women aged 16 to 40 were given menial tasks in the German military installations.

A special police detachment was formed to deal with the Jewish population. A "Jewish Organization" (Jevrejska Zajednica) was created to attend to the needs of the Jewish population. The Nazis forced the organization to collect contributions from the Jews and provide hostages to ensure Jewish compliance with their orders.

After the German invasion of the U.S.S.R. [[with the collaborators]], the occupation regime became even harsher. In one incident alone, at the end of July, 120 Jewish hostages were shot to death (in the village of Jajinci, near Belgrade).

In the Banat, which had a large German minority, the situation was worse. After robbing the Jews of (col. 874)

all their property and belongings, the Nazis [[and their collaborators, e.g. of the local population]] placed them in camps and a few weeks later (in September 1941) deported them to Belgrade, adding another 2,500 people to its destitute Jewish population. By the end of September, all Jewish men aged 16 and above were put into a concentration camp, situated in Topovske Supe (¦upe), a Belgrade suburb.

[Massacre on Jews of the Topovske Supe (¦upe) camp in September 1941: Jajinci region on the Danube - further massacres in Zasavica - gassing by gas lorry]

Felix Benzler, German consul in Belgrade, and Edmund Veesenmayer, from the German Foreign Office, demanded the concentration of "at least" 8,000 men on an island in the Danube delta and their liquidation there and asked for appropriate pressure on the German military authorities. Adolf *Eichmann was consulted on the matter and proposed the immediate execution of the Jews. He dispatched Franz Rademacher to Belgrade who discovered that of the 8,000 Jewish men, 2,000 had already been shot and there were only about 4,000-5,000 left. He arranged for their execution "by the end of the week" (October 1941). Between Aug. 25 and Oct. 18, 1941, all Jewish men in Nazi hands - those who had been put on forced labor (about 3,000), the deportees from the Banat, and any others that the Nazis had succeeded in apprehending - were concentrated in the Topovske Supe (¦upe) camp and in the nearby Banjica camp.

The massacre began in the early part of September. Day by day, groups of Jews, ranging from 100 to 300, were taken out of the two camps, ostensibly for work in the fields. In fact a total of 4,500 were shot to death, the scene of the crime being either Jajinci or some other site on the opposite bank of the Danube. (col. 875)

A group of Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia who had been on their way to Palestine in September 1940 had been stranded on the Danube for lack of a seaworthy boat to continue their voyage. They had found temporary refuge in the Yugoslav town of Sabac (¦abac), but when the Nazis occupied the country they were all interned (together with 63 local Jews). Originally their number was 1,300, but 200 refugees, mostly children, had received immigration certificates to Palestine and had departed. In October 1941, all the men were taken to the Danube village of Zasavica and shot; the women and children were deported to the Sajmiste (Sajmi¨te) camp in Zemun near Belgrade. IN February 1942 they were loaded into closed trucks and were gassed while en route to Jajinci. Not a single person escaped from this camp, and the fate of its inmates was reported by a few Jewish women, wives of gentiles, whom the Nazis had released. In August 1942 a German report stated that the "problem of Jews and gypsies had been solved; Serbia is the only country where this problem no longer exists."

THE INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA. [Ustase terror with anti-Jewish law and depriving property - fines and destroyed Jewish cemeteries - concentration camps and extermination camp near Jasenovac in Croatia]

The new Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was headed by Ante *Pavelic (Pavelič), leader of the Ustase (Usta¨e) movement, who had been in exile in Italy and Germany and had developed relations with the Nazis. For the Jews, the four years of his rule in Croatia were marked by savage cruelty and terror. Within a few days of the occupation of Zagreb, the Germans, the local Nazis, and the Ustase (Usta¨e) combined to deprive the Jews of (col. 876)

their property and their status. Nuremberg-style laws were enacted as early as April 30, 1941, followed by the removal of Jews from all public posts and the introduction of the yellow badge. On August 27, a decree was issued expropriating all Jewish-owned real estate, and two months later the Jews were ordered to hand over all other valuables in their possession. In Osijek, a levy of 20,000,000 dinars was imposed upon the Jews within three days of the occupation of the city; in Zagreb, the Ustase (Usta¨e) arrested the wealthy Jews in May and kept them hostage until a ransom equivalent to 100 kilograms of gold was provided for their release. Synagogues, cultural institutions, and even Jewish cemeteries were razed by the Ustase (Usta¨e) as soon as it came to power.

Early in May 1941, the first concentration camp was established in the Danica factory, in the village of Drinja, near Koprivnica. Mass arrests of Jews were stepped up after the outbreak of the German-Soviet war (June 1941), and a number of additional concentration camps were established in Jasenovac, Stara Gradiska (Gradi¨ka), Loborgrad, and Djakovo. A temporary camp, at Jadovna near Gospic (Gospič), served as one of the early extermination camps.

By July 1941 all the inmates of the Danica camp had been murdered, and by August the inmates at the Jadovna camp had suffered the same fate. The main, and most notorious, of the Croatian concentration camps was situated near Jasenovac, a town on the Zagreb-Belgrade railroad. This camp remained in existence throughout the period of Croatian "independence", and tens of thousands of people were murdered there, among them about 20,000 Jews. It was to these camps that the Jews of Croatia proper were deported. Exact figures are not available, but it is estimated that by the end of 1942, 5,000 Jews had been deported. Further deportations took place as late as 1944.

The Jewish communities continued to exist, although they were now largely made up of persons with only one Jewish parent, who were protected by law; Jewish partners of mixed marriages were also saved from deportation due to the efforts of the Catholic Church, and especially the papal nuncio. (About 1,000 such persons survived in Croatia).

Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were incorporated into "independent" Croatia, had a prewar Jewish population of about 14,000. When the Germans occupied Sarajevo (April 17, 1941), one of their first acts was to set fire to the Sephardi synagogue in the city, the finest structure of its kind in the Balkan countries. They were assisted in this act of vandalism by local Muslims, who, under the influence of their spiritual leaders, were generally hostile to the Jews and willingly collaborated with the Nazis.

[Bosnian Muslim division "Handjar" (Sword)]

Hajj Amin al-Husseini (Hājj Amīn al-Husseini), the ex-mufti of Jerusalem, went especially from Berlin to Sarajevo in order to give his blessing to the Bosnian Muslim division named "Handjar" (Sword), which was among the Croatian puppet state's contributions to the German war machine. This division effectively fought on the eastern front against the Soviet Union, incorporated in the ranks of the Wehrmacht.

[Deportations, massacres, and flights]

In the wake of an act of sabotage that occurred at the end of July, nine of the leading Jews of Sarajevo and 12 prominent Serbs were arrested, and within a few days the police announced their execution by a firing squad. Mass deportations began on September 3, when 500 Jews were dispatched to a camp at Kruscica (Kru¨čica) near Travnik; a second transport to the same location took place a few days later. On Oct. 19, 1941, in celebration of "Germany Day", 1,400 Jews were arrested in Sarajevo. Although the community commissars (a Serb and a Muslim) succeeded in getting a few of the Jews released, the community as a whole was panic-stricken and made strenuous efforts to escape. About 1,600 made their way to Italian-occupied Mostar. The largest roundup of Jews was organized by the Germans on Nov. 15-16, 1941, when 3,000 (col. 877)

Jews were deported to Jasenovac. Women and children from Bosnia and Herzegovina were taken to the Loborgrad and Djakovo camps. By the end of August 1942, some 9,000 Jews had been deported, and lony 120 were left. In the fall of 1941 the Kruscica (Kru¨čica) camp was liquidated, the men being sent to Jasenovac and the women to Loborgrad. A year later, the Loborgrad camp suffered a similar fate, and those who had survived the first year were now dispatched to the Auschwitz death camp [[and from there probably to the tunnel systems with high death rates]].

The Jewish community of Osijek had been tricked by the Ustase (Usta¨e) into building its own ghetto in a factory near the village of Tenje. When the job was completed, the Jews of Osijek and the surrounding area were crowded into the factory, where they lived for a period of two months. In August 1942, the surviving inmates were transported to Jasenovac and Auschwitz [[and from there probably to the tunnel systems with high death rates]].

By April 1945, only a little over 1,000 Serbs and Jews were still alive in the Jasenovac camp. On April 22 they were all crowded into a single factory building to await their death. In a final desperate effort, some 600 of the prisoners broke the gates and attacked the Ustase (Usta¨e) guard; for most of the, the effort was in vain, and only 80 saved their lives, among them 20 Jews. The Stara Gradiska (Gradi¨ka) camp, a "branch" of Jasenovac, "specialized" in women and children, and no less than 6,000-7,000 children, according to one report, were put to death there. The German consul in Zagreb, Siegfried Kasche, and police attaché Hans Helm reported to Berlin on April 18, 1944 that "Croatia is one of the countries in which the Jewish problem has been solved".

VOJVODINA (BACKA (BAČKA) AND BARANJA). [Concentrations camps and labor battalions - deportations and flight]

The synagogue of Pancevo in Banat, Vojvodina,
                  north Serbia. Courtesy Federation of Jewish
                  Communities in Yugoslavia, Belgrade.
The synagogue of Pancevo in Banat, Vojvodina, north Serbia. Courtesy Federation
of Jewish Communities in Yugoslavia, Belgrade.


In Vojvodina, occupied by Hungarian troops, the fate of the Jews (and, to a certain degree, the local Serbs) was no different. In Subotica, the main city in Backa (Bačka), 250 persons were killed in (col. 878)

the first days of the occupation. In Novi Sad, the first slaughter took place on the third day of the occupation, when 500 people, both Jews and Serbs, were murdered. The Jewish community was threatened with deportation to Croatia unless it made an immediate payment of 50,000,000 dinars; after great efforts, 34,000,000 were raised. Altogether, about 3,500 people were killed in Vojvodina in the initial stage, among them 150-200 Jews. Concentration camps were established in various places (Subotica, Stari Becej (Bečej), Ada, Odzaci (Od¸aci), Backa (Bačka) Topola), and some 2,000 Jews passed through these camps in the first two months of the occupation. In January 19442, a clash between resistance fighters and a Hungarian troop detachment caused the death of four Hungarian soldiers, and in reprisal 1,000 men, women, and children  were rounded up and shot to death. Among the victims of this slaughter were 100 Jews. A few weeks later, a similar action took place at Novi Sad, where 870 Jews - almost a fifth of the total Jewish population of the city - in addition to 430 Serbs were murdered. Thousands more were brought to the banks of the Danube to suffer the same fate when a dispatch from the Hungarian military authorities arrived to put an end to the mass killing.

In 1942 the Hungarians ordered the formation of forced labor battalions into which all Jews and Serbs between the ages of 21 and 48 were drafted. Some 4,000 Jew from Backa (Bačka) and Baranja were conscripted into the Battalions, 1,500 were sent to the Ukraine, near the front, where they succumbed to disease and starvation or were murdered. Only 20 of the entire group survived the ordeal. The others were sent to Hungary and Serbia, where they were put to work in copper mines and on the railroads, together with about 6,000 Hungarian Jews.

In spite of the harsh conditions to which they were exposed, they managed to survive for a while. The end came in March 1944, when Hungary was taken over by German forces. On September 17, a transport of 3,600 Jews from the Bor mines (where the labor battalions were concentrated) was dispatched in the direction of Belgrade; about 1,300 prisoners were murdered or died en route and the rest were deported to Germany. A short while later a second transport of 2,500 Jews, which included a large contingent of Vojvodina Jews, was organized. Some of these managed to escape, and several hundred were liberated by Tito's partisans, finding refuge with the population in Serbia and the Banat. The rest of the Jews from Backa (Bačka) and Baranja were deported on April 25-26, 1944. About 4,000 Jews from the area of Novi Sad (col. 879)

were interned at Subotica, while the Jews from the eastern part of Backa (Bačka) were dispatched to a camp in Baja (Hungary); in May 1944, the group from Subotica were also sent to Baja. Eventually all the inmates of the Baja camp (as well as those of the Backa (Bačka) Topola camp) were deported to Auschwitz [[and from there probably to the tunnel systems with high death rates]].

MACEDONIA. [Deprivation of property - concentration camps - deportations]

The majority of Macedonian Jews were concentrated in three cities:

-- in Skoplje (3,795 Jews, including 300 refugees from Belgrade)
-- Bitolj (Monastir; 3,350)
- and Stip (¦tip) (550).

Direct control of the area was in Bulgarian hands, and for the first 18 months persecution of the Jews did not go beyond confiscation of property, forced contributions, and personal insults. In August 1942, a group of 50 refugees from Belgrade were handed over to the Gestapo, which deported them to the Banjica camp; on Dec. 3, 1942, they were put to death in Jajinci. At the beginning of January 1943, further restrictions were imposed on the Jews, and two months later all of the Jewish population of Macedonia was placed in a temporary concentration camp in the "Monopol" tobacco factory near Skoplje.

On March 21 a transport of 2,334 Jews was dispatched to the death camps in Poland [[and from there probably to the tunnel systems with high death rates]], followed a week later by two more transports, numbering 2,399 and 3,398 people. Only about 100 Jews returned to Macedonia from these transports. About 150-200 Sephardi Jews were recognized by the Spanish government as Spanish nationals and were not deported; about 120 Jews fled to Albania, and some joined the partisans.

ITALIAN-OCCUPIED AREAS. [Jewish refugees from Bosnia, Croatia, Herzegovina - refugee camps in Kupari, Kraljevica, island of Korcula (Korčula), Ferramonti in Italy, island of Rab - deportations and massacres after German occupation since September 1943]

Compared to the other parts of occupied Yugoslavia, the area under Italian control was a haven for the Jews. In spite of constant pressure by German diplomats - including Kasche, the German consul at Zagreb - the Italians refused to accede to demands to deport Jews and, for a while at least, regarded any measure discriminating against the Jews as incompatible with the honor of the Italian army. Originally there were a small number of Jews in this area, but soon it became a refuge for Jews from Bosnia and Croatia.

In August 1941, according to a German estimate, there were between 4,000 and 5,000 Jews in Dubrovnik and Mostar. By November 1941, the Italians went as far as establishing camps for the Jewish refugees, interning refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina in Kupari (near Dubrovnik) and Jews from Croatia in Kraljevica. In Split there were 2,000 refugees, in addition to 415 local Jews; 500 were sent to the island of Korcula (Korčula) and 1,100 to Italy (mostly to Ferramonti internees camp). In June 1943, 2,650 Jewish inmates of camps in Dalmatia were deported to the island of Rab. In all the camps, the Italians extended humane treatment to the Jews.

In September 1943, after the Italian capitulation, Tito's partisan army evacuated 2,000 refugees from Rab, ablebodied men joined the partisans, while the old men, women, and children found refuge in northern Dalmatia. About 300 people - the old and sick, women and their small children - remained on the island, and when the Germans invaded it, in March 1944, they were deported to Auschwitz [[and from there probably to the tunnel systems with high death rate]]. A similar fate overtook the Jews in Split. On Sept. 28, 1943, all adult men were interned, and after a while they were deported to Sajmiste (Sajmi¨te), where they were all murdered. In March 1944 300 women and children were deported from Split to Jasenovac where they died.

JEWISH PARTISANS. [Secret radio - heavy losses in the fight]

Yugoslav Jews took an active part in the fight against the Nazis and played a leading role among the organizers of Tito's revolt. Ten Jews were named as national heroes of the resistance. No exact figures are available for the number of Jews who fought with the partisans, because they did not enlist as Jews, and in the early stage no family names were recorded. With one exception, there were no Jewish units. After the war, (col. 880)

however, the Federation of Yugoslav Jewish Communities was able to identify 2,000 Jewish names among the members of Tito's formations.

[[Many Jews also changed their names and could not be found by name any more]].

Shortly after the occupation of Belgrade, *Ha-Shomer ha-Za'ir put itself at the disposal of the Communist Party and helped organize the resistance. The first secret radio in Zagreb was operated by two Jewish brothers and the first act of sabotage in Vojvodina was carried out by youngsters of the Jewish youth movement. Individual Jews committed acts of sabotage, and in August 1942 the first group joined the partisans. A Jewish partisan unit was formed in the fall of 1943 from among the Jews evacuated from the Italian camp on the island of Rab. Composed of 250 men, the unit suffered heavy losses in the fighting against the Germans; its ranks were decimated, and the survivors were incorporated into other units. The most prominent Jewish resistance fighter was Mosa (Mo¨a) *Pijade, who became one of Tito's four vice-presidents after the liberation.

[ED.]> (col. 881)

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Sources
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Yugoslavia, vol.
                    16, col. 873-874
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Yugoslavia, vol. 16, col. 873-874
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Yugoslavia, vol.
                    16, col. 875-876
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Yugoslavia, vol. 16, col. 875-876
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Yugoslavia, vol.
                    16, col. 877-878
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Yugoslavia, vol. 16, col. 877-878
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Yugoslavia, vol.
                    16, col. 879-880
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Yugoslavia, vol. 16, col. 879-880
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Yugoslavia, vol.
                    16, col. 881-882
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Yugoslavia, vol. 16, col. 881-882




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