Academic journal article Trames

The Extermination of Jewish Population and Heritage in Backa Region of AP Vojvodina (Serbia)

Academic journal article Trames

The Extermination of Jewish Population and Heritage in Backa Region of AP Vojvodina (Serbia)

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The tragic history of Jews in Europe is well known. However, even 50 years after the Holocaust there is no exact evidence about these events. The lack of information, deliberate concealment of evidence or political reasons led to the fact that this important part of history remains incomplete. This is especially the case with the former Yugoslav countries, to be precise, Republic of Serbia and AP Vojvodina in particular. This study examines the history of Jewish people who inhabited the Backa region, which had the largest Jewish community in Vojvodina.

The Jewish population inhabited the territory of today's Serbia a long time ago, but their number was significantly increased in the 16th century. When in Ottoman Empire (that included the Balkans) a significant number of Jews evicted from Spain and Portugal (1492 and 1496),were inhabitated. At the beginning of the 18th century the Habsburg court made a decision to populate the area of desolate and abandoned Backa with new nations. Finding prospects in such an environment, for establishing family and survive, the Jews arrived individually. This was radically different from other ethnic groups who moved in groups. However, while other nations arriving in Backa region had numerous benefits ensured, the Jews were discriminated and had different conditions and numerous impediments. Jewish people who inhabited Vojvodina during the 18th century originated from northern parts of Hungary, Moravia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. Apart from other parts of Vojvodina, Jewish refugees from Belgrade, after the defeat in 1738, and the re-establishment of Turkish rule in Belgrade, did not reach Backa region. This was the reason why the Jewish population in Backa region was genuine Ashkenazim. The organization of Jewish communities developed slowly in Backa region. The first community was established in Apatin, and then in Neoplanta (Novi Sad). The main function of those communities was mutual help and cooperation in solving the common issues vital to the life of the Jewish community of Backa (gatherings, education, religious services, apprentices, etc.).

The main goal of the research is examination of the executions of Jewish residents of Backa region of AP Vojvodina in 1941-1948. The aim is to show the extent of military and civil governmental actions during and after the war that lead to mass executions, forced labour in concentration camps, punishments, banishment, taking and destroying properties and lives of citizens who did not belong to any military formation. It is about innocent people who died and were penalized because of the ethnicity or membership of a political party, religion or culture. They were robbed of any property that could be of any use to the ruling powers of war or politics. After the war, in the newly created Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians (Yugoslavia) the first census that was done showed no data on ethnicity, so it is impossible to say for certain how many Jews remained in Yugoslavia, Serbia or Vojvodina.

The destruction of Jewish heritage in World War II was a daily occurrence, but the destruction continued in the post-war period. On Vojvodina territory there were many synagogues, religious sites with religious schools (they were built rather modestly, with baroque and classicist elements) and the most representative ones were built in the 19th century in Novi Sad, Sremska Mitrovica, Subotica, Zrenjanin, Pancevo, Ada, Senta, Bela Crkva and other towns. From the total of 76 synagogues and religious centres in Vojvodina in pre-war period, most were destroyed during and after the war. Only three synagogues in Vojvodina have survived (in Subotica, Novi Sad and Apatin). Today, the only evidence of Jewish presence in Vojvodina are abandoned and devastated Jewish cemeteries and a few synagogues, names carved in gravestones and the stories about their customs and holocaust tragedies.

The tragic destiny of Jews in Europe, Serbia and Vojvodina in particular, that occurred during World War II, wiped out all evidence of their existence on this territory. …

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