Heritage & Heritage Sites

 

NOTE: In addition to the sites listed below, there are also Jewish cemeteries in Kratovo and Prilep, and there may be abandoned ones in Ohrid, Dojran and Strumica.

 

SKOPJE

 

An abandoned pre-war synagogue stood in Skopje until 1963 when it – like most of the city – was destroyed in a devastating earthquake. Today Skopje is almost totally modernized, its buildings designed to withstand further such disasters. Only a few old structures, including an arched bridge, remain.

Jewish Community Center and Bet Yaakov Synagogue

Ul. Borka Taleski 24
1000 Skopje

 

This new synagogue was opened on the top floor of the Jewish community center in Skopje in March 2000. The  sanctuary is a simple room, decorated with modern stained-glass windows illustrating Jewish symbols. Funding for its construction and furnishings came from the Joint Distribution Committee and Congregation Beth Israel in Phoenix, Arizona (USA), which also donated a Sefer Torah. Two other Torah scrolls were presented to the community by a synagogue in Pasadena, California and by the Jewish community in Sofia, Bulgaria.

 

Jewish Cemetery

The pre-World War II Jewish cemetery was destroyed. The municipal cemetery has a Jewish section, which also contains a Holocaust memorial. The ground in front of it is paved with fragments of broken tombstones rescued from the old Jewish cemetery after World War II and laid by local Jews.

 

Holocaust Memorial Center and Museum

Samoilova 2,
1000 Skopje
Tel: +389 (0) 2 3298 025 
Fax: +389 (0) 2 3232 310
Email: info@holocaustfund.org
Web: holocaustfund.org

 

A modern Holocaust memorial and museum opened on March 10, 2011, under the auspices of the Holocaust Fund of the Jews from Macedonia. It was financed thanks to compensation money from the denationalization of the property of Jews from Macedonia who were killed in the Holocaust and don’t have legal successors.

See article in The Forward about the opening of the Museum

 

Monopol Concentration/Transit Camp

Tutunski Kombinat A. D. Skopje,
11 Oktomvri 125
1000 Skopje

 

In March 1943 Jews from Bulgarian-occupied Macedonia  were held in a transit camp  established at a Government tobacco warehouse at Monopol in Skopje before being deported to Treblinka. Conditions were terrible. Some 7,341 people, approximately 2,000 of whom were children, were packed into 30 rooms. A new monument was erected at the factory gate in 2004.

 

Museum of the City of Skopje (Muzej na Grad Skopje)

bul Mito Hadzivasilev bb
1000 Skopje

 

Situated in a former railway station, the Museum has mounted several exhibitions on Jewish history and culture.

 

BITOLA (BITOLJ; Before 1913: MONASTIR)

 

Jewish Cemetery

Founded in 1497, the Jewish cemetery of Bitola is one of the oldest – if not the oldest – Jewish cemetery in the Balkans. It was abandoned and left to ruin after the deportation of all Bitola’s Jews in 1943. A civic campaign to restore the cemetery and create a Holocaust memorial complex there began in 1997 to coincide with the 500th anniversary of its foundation. Considerable work has been carried out, including the restoration of the monumental entrance gate, declared a national historical-cultural monument, which has a central Gothic arch flanked by two Gothic-arched windows and features a facade whose upper part is decoratively ribbed.

The cemetery extends up a fairly steep hill, from 600-670 meters above sea level, and extends over about 4.3 hectares. It is fully enclosed by a wall (three sides are masonry, but part of the front is decorative iron grillework. The main gate stands at the bottom of the hill. Several thousand grave markers remain, but  most are illegible. Most of the gravestones lie flat, in the Sephardic manner. There is a small Holocaust memorial  in Bitola, shaped like a stunted tree.

In August 2015, the mayor of Bitola and Israeli ambassador to Macedonia signed a declaration  to protect and preserve the cemetery, and a project was launched to create a memorial park there.

 

Click to see a gallery of photos of the cemetery, from October 2017

Click to see information about the restoration and memorial park

Yad Vashem Online Exhibition on the Jews of Bitola/Monastir

Recollections of pre-World War II Jewish Bitola; Interview with Avram Sadikario

 

STIP [Štip]

 

There is a Jewish cemetery outside Štip, on a rugged hillside overlooking the town’s main cemetery. About 120 grave markers are  still visible; most are horizontal sarcophagus-like markers, in the Sephardic fashion. The cemetery was long abandoned, and most of the stones were vandalized and heavily damaged. See photos from 2003.

A project to restore  the cemetery was announced in  2009, and restoration was completed in 2016 by the city museum and Bureau for Preservation of Monuments in Štip.  Pictures published by the Macedonian Information Agency show a new wall around the cemetery, which occupies around 14,000 square metres. There are rows of horizontal sarcophagus-like grave markers, and paths have been laid out within the site.

Holocaust Memorial

There is a Holocaust memorial in the town, designed by Metodi Andonov.

 

STOBI

 

The Roman city of Stobi, an ancient Roman commercial center near the confluence of the Vardar and Crna rivers near the present town of Gradsko, is the largest archaeological site in Macedonia.  The site was discovered in 1861. Archeological excavations here have revealed some of the most important remains of ancient Jewish culture in the Balkans.  In 1931, seven years after systematic excavations began at the site, a column dating to the third century (and later reused in another building) was found with a long Greek inscription (32 lines) describing the construction of a synagogue by Claudius Tiberius Polycharmos. The column had been reused in the construction of a church built over the synagogue in the 4th or 5th century CE. The inscription reads as follows:

‘The year 311 [?] Claudius Tiberius Polycharmos, also named Achyrios, father [pater] of the synagogue of Stobi, having lived my whole life according to Judaism, have, in fulfilment of a vow, [given] the buildings to the holy place, and the triclinium, together with the tetrastoon, with my own means, without in the least touching the sacred [funds]. But the ownership and disposition of all the upper chambers shall be retained by me, Claudius Tiberius Polycharmos, and my heirs for life. Whoever seeks in any way to alter any of these dispositions of mine shall pay the Patriarch 250,000 denarii. For thus have I resolved. But the repair of the roof tiles of the upper chambers shall be carried out by me and my heirs.’ [Cited in Levine, Lee. The Ancient Synagogue: The First Thousand Years. New Haven, Yale University Press, 2000;  pp. 252-255]

The remains of this synagogue were also uncovered – including a well-preserved floor mosaic containing Jewish symbols, lying 1.5 meters underneath a 4th or 5th century Christian church, presumably built over the synagogue when Jewish worship was suppressed. Subsequent excavations have revealed an earlier (2nd- to 3rd-century) synagogue beneath that of the 4th century. It is not clear to which period of the synagogue the Polycharmos inscription belongs.

In addition to the synagogue remains, the site is notable for its 2nd-century amphitheatre, the Theodosia palace, and early Christian ruins with extensive and ornate mosaic floors. The small museum at the site was closed in 2009, but there are plans to build a new one. The site was put on the 2012 World Monuments Fund Watch List.