The Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia has issued a protest at what it called the “catastrophic” condition of the historic Jewish cemetery in Nis and called on the authorities to take actions.
It said that on a recent inspection visitors found “destroyed and broken monuments, scattered bones, human waste and garbage.” It said that the cemetery was at the mercy of private entrepreneurs who have destroyed one-third of the site by building factories, restaurants and warehouses, while another third of the area is inhabited by Roma families who have built a makeshift village over the graves.
Long abandoned and partially built over and destroyed, the cemetery, which dates back to the 17th century and in 2007 was listed as a national cultural monument, was cleaned up in 2004 in an effort that involved the JDC, Serbian soldiers, and the local Roma community.
Pictures taken Dec. 22 showed much of the area cleared of undergrowth and the grave markers visible.
But Jasna Ciric, the president of the Jewish community in Nis, called the situation today “a horror” and said that in some ways was worse than it was in 2004. “Grave monuments have been smashed with hammers,” she said.
She said that on a previous inspection of the cemetery in September, things had been fine and it had been cleaned up.
Now, she said, a telephone line, sewage drains and water pipes have been introduced in the midst of the cemetery.
“All the established safeguards of the Jewish cemetery in Nis, which under the Law on Cultural Property, have remained only on paper and without respect for the Jewish cemetery or the Jews who are buried there,” she said. “Our cemetery is systematically destroyed, all of our long-time efforts and the money invested toward saving this cemetery are in vain, the city authorities do not understand this issue.”