Jewish Heritage Europe

Heritage & Heritage Sites

GENERAL

The web site El Mundo Sefarad has extensive lists of sites, information, photos and videos of Jewish heritage sites in Serbia and other countries of the former Yugoslavia

Photographs (Historic & Contemporary) of Synagogues in Serbia 

International Jewish Cemetery Project Pages for Serbia

BELGRADE

The earliest Jewish settlers in Belgrade were Ashkenazi refugees from central Europe; there was a Jewish settlement here in the medieval period. A large Sephardic community also developed after the Turks conquered the city in 1521. On the eve of World War II the city was home to more than 12,000 Jews, most of them Sephardi. Little more than a year after the Nazi occupation of the city in April 1941, it was claimed that Belgrade was the first large city in Europe to be entirely cleared of Jews. Today, Belgrade has a Jewish population of about 2,000

Synagogue Sukkat Shalom

 ulica Marsala Birjuzova 19

Before World War II, Belgrade had three synagogues; only one remains. This is an imposing but simple Ashkenazic synagogue, designed by Milan Schlang and dedicated in 1925 behind a gated wall in a good-sized yard. It was used as a military brothel by the Nazis. Today it is well maintained and used for regular services.

The synagogue web site (which has Serbian and English versions) has extensive information, photo galleries, etc.

Further photo documentation of the Synagogue in Belgrade

Former Jewish Quarter

Belgrade’s Jewish quarter was in the historic Dorcol neighbourhood, near the Danube. Its main street, Jevrejska Ulica (Jewish Street), still exists, though there is little specifically Jewish about the area today. A Moorish style synagogue was built there in 1908, designed by Milan Kapetanovic. (King Peter I of Serbia had laid the foundation stone, attesting to the stature of the Jewish community at that time.) It was torched in 1941, and today the site is occupied by the Fresco Gallery, which bears a memorial plaque.

Jewish cemeteries

Belgrade’s two surviving Jewish cemeteries are located across the street from each other at Mije Kovacevica Street 1, near the city’s municipal cemetery.

The Sephardic cemetery is by far the larger of the two. It is well maintained and has many fine tombs, some of which display photos of the deceased. Gravestones bear inscriptions in several languages – Serbian, German, Hebrew, Ladino, Hungarian – testimony to the diversity of Serbian Jewry. There is an impressive Holocaust monument, erected in 1952 and designed by Bogdan Bogdanovic (who also designed the memorial at Jasenovic, Croatia), as well as earlier memorials to Jewish victims of the various Balkan Wars and the First World War. There is also a Shemos plot (buried cache of used sacred books) marked with a distinctive tombstone in a prominent place in the cemetery.

The Ashkenazi cemetery, on the other side of the street, is much smaller, with about 200 gravestones.

Database of names of those buried in both the Sephardic and the Ashkenazic cemeteries

Two videos on the history of the Jewish cemeteries in Belgrade (on YouTube)

ZEMUN

Zemun today is an outlying district of Belgrade, but from the 18th century the town was the last outpost of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the Serbian border. It has a small but active Jewish community with a history of its own.

Synagogue

ulica Rabin Alkalaj 5

The Jewish community in Zemun has been attempting to obtain restitution of the Zemun synagogue, a neo-Romanesque structure built in 1850, which is now owned by the municipality on long-term lease and used as a restaurant. (The municipality’s lease on the building ends in September 2018 and it is expected that the Jewish community will take it over.)

Read BalkanInsight article about the history of the synagogue

Jewish cemetery

Cara Dusana 32

Established in 1747, the cemetery contains 250-300 graves, include those of  some of the family of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, who were from Zemun. The cemetery has a ceremonial hall and two memorials to Jewish victims of the Holocaust and of World War II. The cemetery has a brick wall with a gate. Tomb inscriptions are in Hebrew, German and Serbian.

Zemun Jewish Cemetery web site

The site in includes maps and other details — NOTE: there are Serbian and English language versions, but not all the links work from the English site

Video documentary on the Jewish cemetery in Zemun:

 

VOJVODINA

Most Jewish heritage sites in Serbia are in Vojvodina, the region north of Belgrade that long formed part of Hungary and the Austro-Hungarian Empire and where Jewish cemeteries and/or synagogues existed in as many as 80 locations before World War II. Today, some of the synagogue buildings that remain – such as the grand structures at Novi Sad and Subotica – are protected monuments.

In addition to the individual sites listed below,  there are known to be Jewish cemeteries, some overgrown but some fairly well maintained, in:

Backo Gradiste (No tombs remain. But there is a Holocaust memorial); Backo Petrovo Selo (Surrounded by a brick wall with a gate. It has some 50-75 monuments and a memorial to the Holocaust); Becej  (Located on Milorada ulica and well maintained. It has about 200 monuments, about one third of which are broken, possibly vandalized. The site is surrounded by the brick wall with a wooden gate); Cantavir  (Located outside of the village. Relatively well maintained, with 110 mainly vertical tombstones dating from the end of 19th century till 1941. Only a couple of them are dated post-1945, and they are mainly memorials (without actual tombs) for people killed in the Holocaust. Tomb inscriptions are in Hebrew, Hungarian and German. The cemetery is surrounded by a fence); Kanjiza (250 tombs, located together with cemeteries of other denominations. Little or no vandalism or other damage); Kikinda (well maintained; there is a small active Jewish community); Mokrin;  Ruma (Located outside town, close to the Orthodox cemetery and partly surrounded by a fence with no gate. There are about 100-150 tombs. The oldest monument is from 1873. Tombstone inscriptions are in Hebrew, German and Serbian); Sremska Mitrovica  (Founded in 1874, located on a small plot, and, although it has a gate, it is not physically separated from a neighboring private estate. There are some 60 preserved gravestones, with the names of the deceased that are mostly easily legible written in German and Hebrew); Stanisic (About 60-70 tombstones, unfenced. Tomb inscriptions are in Hebrew and Hungarian); Stara Moravica (Located outside the village. The wire fence has a gate. Older inscriptions are written in Hebrew, some are both in Hebrew and Hungarian and the most recent are only in Hungarian); Temerin  (About 80 tombstones in a corner of  the Catholic cemetery. The inscriptions are in Hungarian.)

There are also believed to be abandoned Jewish cemeteries in various states of disrepair in Backi Monostor, Bezdan, Conoplja, Debeljaca, Jasa Tomic, Kisac, Kupusina, Pecinci, Ridjica, Sid, Srpski Miletic, Stara Pazova, Svetozar Miletic

APATIN

Apatin’s community of about 60 Jews was annihilated in the Holocaust. Their simple Romanesque/Rundbogenstil synagogue,  built in 1885,  was used as a Baptist church in the 1950s. Long vacant, the structure is noteworthy for the large painting on its ceiling, in which the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) is revealed beneath a radiant sunburst in an otherwise cloud-filled sky. The Hebrew text of the commandments is painted in reverse, perhaps indicating that the artist used a mirror or a reverse-transfer technique to create the image. Local television reported in October 2017 that work to restore the synagogue was commencing.

A rabbi’s house survives near the synagogue; there is also a cemetery dating from 1780, which includes a ceremonial hall.

Pictures of the exterior & interior of the synagogue, including the mural

 

CELAREVO  [Čelarevo]

Archaeological excavations in 1972 at a large late 8th- and early 9th-century necropolis about 20 miles west of Novi Sad unearthed hundreds of brick fragments, some inscribed with menorot, Hebrew letters and other Jewish symbols. What this tells us about the individuals commemorated is unclear, but several hypotheses have been put forward to explain the site, which dates from the period during which the area was dominated by the Avars, a nomadic people who entered Europe in the 6th century CE. It has been suggested that those buried in the cemetery were from a Central Asian tribe newly migrated into the region, or that the culture of the Crimean Khazars, whose leaders converted to Judaism in the 8th century, influenced those who created it. There were many points of contact between Asian tribes and Central Asian Jews, so the possibilities are varied.

Click to see photographs of the artifacts

NOVI SAD Ujvidek [Újvidék] (Hungarian); Neusatz (German)

Located on the banks of the Danube, Novi Sad, the capital of the Vojvodina, was founded in 1694 by the Austrians to protect a key bridge across the Danube from the Turks. Jewish presence here is first recorded in 1699. By the eve of World War II, more than 4,000 Jews lived in the city. About 1,200 survived and today the city has the second lagest Jewish comunity in Serbia.

Synagogue

11 Jevrejska ulica/Trg slobode 1

The synagogue in Novi Sad was designed by the Budapest architect Lipot Baumhorn (1860-1932), Europe’s most prolific twentieth-century designer of synagogues. Built between 1906 and 1909, it is part of a complex that includes both private flats and the offices and function rooms of the city’s Jewish community. The eclectic design combines medieval elements with those borrowed from Hungarian folk culture. The three-aisled main sanctuary space is topped by a 130-foot high Renaissance-inspired dome with stained glass in its cupola. Two fanciful towers flank the grandiose entrance façade, which features a large rose window under an arch. In the 1940s Jews from Novi Sad were imprisoned in the synagogue before their deportation to Nazi death camps. The building was also used as a storehouse for furniture and other possessions left behind by the city’s Jews. The synagogue underwent renovation in the early 1990s and is currently used for concerts and performances as well as for the celebration of major Jewish holidays.

Article on Novi Sad Synagogue on Bet Hatfutsot web site

(Unofficial ) Facebook page of synagogue, with many pictures

Jewish cemetery

Novi Sad’s large Jewish cemetery dates back to 1717; the 19th- and early20th-century monuments in the cemetery are comparable to those in Hungary. There is a Ceremonial Hall, built in 1905. Next to it stands a Holocaust memorial.  This video was produced in 2009 — it mentions plans to create a museum at the cemetery, but this has not materialized.

Holocaust memorial on Danube

A monument to civilian victims of  World War II stands on the Danube riverbank. The monument particularly commemorates the 1,246 citizens of Novi Sad – men, women, and children – who were murdered by the combined Hungarian gendarmerie and army on January 23, 1942. This was one of a series of executions of Jews, Serbs and Roma in the Vojvodina district, annexed by Hungary as a result of its capitulation to Nazi Germany. Most of those murdered were thrown into the Danube, whose ice had been broken by  gunfire.

SUBOTICA

Synagogue (and Jewish complex)

Jakab and Komor Square

The Synagogue in Subotica is one of the most impressive Art Nouveau synagogues  in central Europe and forms part of the Art Nouveau complex of the town center and outlying Palic park. Built in 1902, it was designed by the Budapest-based architects Marcel Komor and Dezso Jakab who originally submitted a similar design as their entry in the competition for the Great Synagogue in nearby Szeged, Hungary (the competition was won by Lipot Baumhorn). The synagogue underwent fitful restoration beginning in the 1970s — and after many setbacks was finally rededicated in March 2018.

The World Monuments Fund listed it on its Watch List in 1996, and in the 2010s it became the focus of a continuing WMF preservation priority project. There is a Holocaust memorial on it grounds, dedicated in 1994 on the 50th anniversary of the deportation of Subotica Jews.

There is considerable documentation, online and in books, about the Synagogue (see the Publications section.)

See JHE Coordinator’s report, with many photos and architectural description, on her visit to the synagogue in February.

Read the article by Vikotrija Aladžić detailed restoration efforts since 1974

Click to access an online exhibition about the synagogue by the WMF

Click to see some of our previous articles about the synagogue

360 degree Panoramic View of the Subotica Synagogue (before restoration of the interior)

Jewish Cemetery

Majevička street

The Jewish cemetery,  large and well-maintained, was founded soon after the establishment of the Subotica Jewish community was established in 1780. It contains both Ceremonial Hall and a Holocaust memorial.  The cemetery also includes gravestones moved there in 2000 from the disused cemetery at Mali Iđoš.

The cemetery web site has fully searchable lists of burials and photographs of gravestones, as well as a map, a video of the cemetery, and other information.

ZRENJANIN

The grand Moorish-style synagogue,  designed by Lipót Baumhorn and dedicated in 1896, was demolished by the Nazis in 1941. There is a well maintained Jewish cemetery.

See photos of the destroyed synagogue here

360 degree panorama video of the Jewish cemetery

ELSEWHERE IN SERBIA

In addition to the individual sites listed below, there are known to be Jewish cemeteries in various states of neglect in Novi Pazar (partly fenced, with no gate. There are 50-70 tombs, all damaged and visibly vandalized); Pozarevac (a couple Jewish tombs in the Catholic cemetery);  Sabac  (restored by the Serbian-Jewish friendship society; with 136 tombs and surrounded by stone wall, one meter high. Tomb inscriptions are in Hebrew, German and Serbian), Smederevo

LESKOVAC

The  Jewish cemetery, on a steep slope, was almost totally destroyed by the construction of a road and, in recent years, threatened with total destruction after a landslide. Thanks to the efforts of Jasna Ciric, the grave stones were rescued and used to create a striking  Holocaust memorial at the site. It was dedicated in 2010.

NIŠ

Former synagogue

This synagogue was built in 1924-25, to replace an earlier synagogue. Its façade is an interesting design in a geometrically patterned Modernism. Today, the buildin is a protected historical monument and houses an art gallery.

See article on history of the synagogue on web site of National Museum

See article  from 2003 on history of the synagogue by Jewish community president Jasna Ciric

Jewish cemetery

Ivana Milutinovica street (behind the Princ Restaurant)

The Jewish cemetery is located on the northwestern outskirts of the city, near the former cattle market. According to oral reports, the cemetery contains the remains of over 1,000 Jews, primarily Sephardim from Niš and nearby Prokuplje. It also serves as a resting place for the approximately 1,100 Jews of Niš who perished in World War II.  As is common Sephardi practice, the gravestones in the cemetery are either shaped like sarcophagi – though the burials are actually below ground – or are horizontal stone slabs (many monolithic), many with stylized decorations, often symbols apparently connected to the Kabbalah: semi-spheres, snakes, geometric forms. Most of the older stone have no epitaphs or other verbal inscriptions.

The cemetery is thought to date from the 17th or 18th century, but due to widespread deterioration and desecration, it is difficult to pinpoint its exact age; the oldest gravestones appear to date from the 18th century. Overall, the cemetery represents, in addition to its powerful visual qualities and significance as a memorial, a valuable record of several centuries of Jewish presence in Niš. It was declared a national cultural monument in 2007.

The cemetery was taken over by the Communist authorities in 1948 and closed to new burials after 1965. It was neglected for decades. Part of the cemetery has been for many years the site of an illegal Roma settlement, or Mahala,  in which gravestones have been used as house foundations, for paving, and even as domestic furniture. On the opposite side of the graveyard, the illegal erection of a four-meter wall destroyed a large number of tombstones, and industry and commerce has encroached, making access difficult.

In 2004, the Federation of Jewish Communities, the City Assembly of Niš and private donors assisted by the US-based Joint Distribution Committee worked together to restore the site,  clearing it of tons of rubbish. The Niš authorities  agreed to provide improved sanitation for the Roma settlement, which has been fenced off from the cleared area of the cemetery. But in December 2011, the Federation of Jewish communities again raised an alarm, describing conditions at the cemetery as “catastrophic” and calling on the authorities to take action.

See the report on a visit in 2012 by the JHE Coordinator, with pictures.

Jewish Funerary Monuments from Niš: A Comparative Analysis of Form and Iconography. 

Article by Jelena Erdeljan in El Prezente: Studies in Sephardic Culture, vol. 4, December 2010, 213-232

Holocaust memorial on Bubanj hill

Three large sculptures shaped like raised fists commemorate the site where more than 10,000 people, including over 1,100 Jews from Niš and surrounding areas, were executed during the Second World War. The monument is the work of sculptor Ivan Sabolic and was erected in 1963. It symbolizes the resistance of the people during the Second World War.

Lengthy article and pictures on the “Spomenik Database” web site

PIROT

Few physical traces of the pre-war Jewish community remain. There is a long-abandoned mikveh — believed to be the only mikveh from the Ottoman period still standing in the Balkans. The small, free-standing building — which may date back centuries — has the remains of floor and wall heating, and the interior was lined with marble slabs. There are also specific decorative features, such as a decorative panel. Restoration of the building began in 2014.

There are also a house or two on the former Jewish street. Here, municipal authorities erected a Holocaust memorial, which was dedicated in March 2012. It is in the shape of a Star of David sinking into the earth, and it incorporates a plaque originally placed in 1988 commemorating the 178 Jews deported by the Bulgarian occupiers on March 12-13, 1943. The Jewish cemetery in Pirot was destroyed soon after World War II, but one tombstone remains preserved in the local museum.

See report on a visit by the JHE Coordinator, April 11, 2012, with pictures. 

ŠABAC

Synagogue

The small, former Sephardic synagogue was purchased by the city in 2015  from the owners who had possessed it since the end of World War II and then carried out a renovation for the building as a cultural space that was inaugurated in November 2017. It is to be developed for future use as a museum telling the history of the local Jewish community, which was destroyed in the Holocaust.

The museum will also include material on the so-called Kladovo Transport — around 1,200 Jews from central Europe attempting to escape down the Danube to British Palestine in 1939 who were halted at the Yugoslav Danube port of Kladovo when Romanian authorities refused them passage. They were later sent to Šabac and were killed along with local Jews in 1941.

See our JHE story, with pictures

DESTROYED SYNAGOGUES

Many synagogues built in the 19th and early 20th centuries were destroyed during and after World War II. The following places had a synagogue (the year of construction and year of destruction are given in brackets). The web site Vojvodina Cafe ran an article in 2009 about some of these places (in Serbian).

Bac [Bač] (1750 – 1980) Baroque-style. Surviving photos show it with an arched loggia facing the street.
Backa Palanka [Bačka Palanka] (1806 – 1956) The impressive synagogue was notable for its interior galleries and large two-level Ark.
Backi Brestovac [Bački Brestovac] (1880 – 1948)
Backo Gradiste [Bačko Gradište] (1890 – 1955) Large two storey, two-towered synagogue. There was also a large Jewish school in the town.
Backi Petrovac [Bački Petrovac] (Labata Ulica 4) (1905 – 1962)
Backo Petrovo Selo [Bačko Petrovo Selo] (1: 1854 – 1950); (2: 1905 – 1951)
Bajmok (1896 – 1948)
Banatsko Arandelovo [Banatsko Aranđelovo] (1880 – 1948)
Begejci (1870 – 1941)
Bela Crkva (1848 – 1950)
Beodra (1880 – 1941)
Bezdan (1807 – 1948)
Coka [Čoka] (1900 – 1941)
Conoplja [Čonoplja] (1763 – 1948)
Crvenka (d. 1948)
Curug [Čurug] (1880 – 1950)
Debeljaca [Debeljača] (1895 – 1941)
Durdevo [Ðurđevo] (1900 – 1948)
Ecka [Ečka] (1870 – 1941)
Feketic [Feketić] (1900 – 1948)
Gospodinci [Gospođinci] (1900 – 1948)
Horgos [Horgoš] (1910 – 1948)
Indija [Inđija] (1903 – 1943)
Kanjiza [Kanjiža] (1861, remodeled 1900, d. 1948) Two-storey synagogue. A commemorative plaque was placed at the site on Dože Derda Ulica in April 1994.
Kikinda (1880 – 1955)
Kula (1861 – 1948)
Martonos [Martonoš] (1800 – 1949)
Mokrin (1876 – 1941)
Mol (1877 – 1960)
Novi Becej [Novi Bečej] (1865 – 1947)
Novi Knezevac [Novi Kneževac] (1910 – 1948)
Pacir [Pačir] (1850 – 1948)
Padej (1880 – 1947)
Pancevo [Pančevo] (1902 – 1954)
Pivnice (1900 – 1944)
Prigrevica (1880, ca. 1948) The cemetery and Ohel have also been destroyed.
Ratkovo Parabuc [Parabuć] (1870 – 1948)
Ruma (1935 – 1943) An unusual Modernist synagogue
Ridica [Riđica] (1900 – 1948)
Sid [Šid] (1900 – 1942)
Silbas [Silbaš] (1900 – 1948)
Sivac (1878 – 1948)
Sonta (1900 – 1948)
Srbobran (1900 – 1956)
Sremska Mitrovica (1904 – 1942)
Stanisic [Stanišić] (1870 – 1950)
Stara Pazova (1903 – 1942)
Stari Becej [Stari Bečej] (1883 – 1962)
Temerin (1878 – 1947)
Titel (1900 – 1950)
Tovarisevo [Tovariševo] (1900 – 1948)
Vrbas (1914 – 1948)
Vrsac [Vršac] (1828 – 1966)
Zabalj [Žabalj] (1904 – 1950)
Zrenjanin (1896 – 1941) The grand, Moorish style synagogue was designed by Lipót Baumhorn and demolished by the Nazis.