Documents of the history of Slovene Jewry in the Eventov Collection and the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP)
By Chaim Pekovic
The Association of Immigrants from the former Yugoslavia was founded in 1935 and its archive in 1954. The archive was founded by Yakir Eventov (Drago Steiner) and his wife Etelka, an archivist by profession.
The original archive was divided into four main fonds: A. The Association’s archive and files including personal information about their members; B. Files about communities, Zionist activities in Yugoslavia, Jewish organizations, antisemitism, Holocaust, WWII, and immigration; C. Publications; D. Photographs.
Later, thanks to the enthusiastic work of several members of the Historical Committee including Zvi Loker, Dr. Cvi Rotem (Rothmüller), Dr. Branko Gossmann, Dr. Joseph (Joža) Milhofer and others, the collection was enriched by historical and statistic data about Yugoslav Jewry. The archive still keeps drafts and materials that were used for writing historical books about Yugoslav Jews and invaluable data about each Jewish community in the former Yugoslavia that was published in the Pinkas Qehiloth (Register of Communities).
Currently, the library contains more than 1500 books and publications of Jewish communities from Yugoslavia. New added materials were not classified and preserved according to archival standards.
The Eventov Archive was transferred to the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People but remains distinct to the rest of the Archives’ holdings. It is managed jointly by the CAHJP and the Association of Immigrants from the former Yugoslavia.
Unfortunately, the Eventov Collection is not well known enough to a wide circle of researchers. Although some researchers have used and benefited from material in this collection, no one today actually knows what the collection exactly contains.
The CAHJP was founded in 1939 and specializes in storing and preserving archives of numerous Jewish communities, organizations and private collections.
Owing to the former Yugoslavia’s diverse cultural background, the Eventov Collection contains material in Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, Macedonian, Ladino, English, German, French, Italian, Hungarian and Russian. In spite of the relatively small amount of files concerning Slovene Jewry in the Eventov Collection, there are documents in all these languages except for Ladino and Macedonian. In the CAHJP, there is material in German, Italian and French.
There are bibliographies, books, catalogues, correspondence, historical data about communities, photographs, guides, historical research, journals, letters, postcards, records and newspaper articles from the following places: Ljubljana, Maribor, Murska Sobota, Celje, Bled, Koper, Piran, Ptuj, Lendava, Kranj, Lesno Brdo, Bukovnica, Postojna and Nova Gorica.
Detailed historical and statistic data helpful to potential researchers can be find about the two largest Jewish communities: in the capital LJubljana and in the second largest city Maribor.
Some data about communities in Nova Gorica, Celje and Prekmurje are also available in the collection and records of the religious community in Postojna are avalaible in the CAHJP.
The earliest period covered in the Eventov Collection is from the 14th to 16th centuries. These studies describe the legal, economic and personal status of Jews in these communities.
Items that can be interesting for researchers and historians are the study by Božo Otorepec about Jewish marriages between 1327 and 1515 and a transcription of Emperor Maximilian’s order dating from 01.01.1515 expelling Jews from Ljubljana. The above items are in German as is the essay by Dr. Lepold Moses “Die Juden in Slowenien” (The Jews in Slovenia) that can be found in the CAHJP.
After the expulsion in 1515, Jews only returned to Ljubljana in the second half of the 19th century. This explains why the remaining materials are from the late 19th century until today.
These files contain statistics about the Jewish population including their numbers during the various periods and their occupations.
Zvi Loker wrote a large amount of valuable historical data about the communities of the former Yugoslavia that was published in the Pinkas Qehiloth (Register of Communities) and his review about Slovenian Jews during the Holocaust is also stored in the Eventov Collection. Helpful information can be also found in the bibliography published about Slovenian Jews by Maren Freidenberg. Correspondence and newspaper articles in 2003 about renewing the synagogue and Jewish activities in Ljubljana and the 1996 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of Jews from Maribor are also preserved in the Eventov Collection.
The Italian historian Angelo Vivian wrote several works in Italian concerning Jewish heritage in Slovenia including studies of Hebrew manuscripts found in archives in Maribor and Ljubljana, parts of Torah scrolls, fragments from various tractates from the Babylonian Talmud, mezuzas, inscriptions, seals and kabalistic writings.
In these studies of Vivian, the history of Maribor’s Jewish community can be traced. It is most likely is that the Jews originated in Italy, migrated to Maribor and were expelled from the city in the 15th century by the order of Emperor Maximilian. Researchers studying Jewish genealogy will discover that Jews from Maribor who arrived in Split are named Morpurgo after the city’s ancient name in German, Marburg. The Slovene pronunciation was Marprog, while the Italian pronounciation was Marburgo.
Material about the remains of Jewish tombstones found in Ptuj and Maribor is presently kept in the District Museum in Ptuj and in the Maribor Museum. The Eventov Collection possesses a letter sent in 1960 by the curator of the museum in Ptuj explaining that the tombs date from the 14th century. The collection also has Angelo Vivian’s study about these monuments including transcriptions from the tombs.
Studies about synagogue architecture in Maribor and Murska Sobota can be helpful to art and architecture researchers. The synagogue in Maribor was constructed in the 13th century and the synagogue in Murska Sobota from 1908 was built in the Art Nouveau style.
The Eventov Photograph Collection contains photographs of synagogues from Maribor, Murska Sobota and Lendava, a picture from Piran’s ghetto and photographs of Jewish monuments in Maribor. Researchers interested in recording and preserving Jewish cemeteries can find a rare photograph taken in 1957 of a Jewish cemetery in Lendava. The photograph is now in the CAHJP collection.
Owing to their small size, Jewish communities in Slovenia did not have their own periodicals and publications, but some information about Slovene Jewry can be found in publications of the Association of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia and other Jewish communities from the former Yugoslavia. For example, in the Jewish Almanah from 1929-30 there is historical study by Dr. Hinko Shulsinger about Jewish religious and cultural life in the 14th and 15th centuries on the territory of today’s Slovenia. In Zagreb’s Jewish community’s publications (Omanut, New Omanut and Ha-Kol) articles about Slovenian Jews were published as well as in Jevrejski Pregled (Jewish Review) published in Belgrade. Here in Israel, Dr, Branko Grossmann wrote about his memories from Ljubljana during 1942-1943 in Bilten, published by the Association of Yugoslav Immigrants.
In various files containing Delasem lists and correspondence, the fate of individual refugees from Slovenia in the Italian occupation zone during the Holocaust can be traced even though these documents contains mostly information about Croatia. Delasem documents can be found also in CAHJP: correspondence and records concerning Slovene refuges and the children’s refuge house in Lesno Brdo from 1942. In the Eventov Collection there is correspondence from 1941-1942 concerning this children house that can be used to complete and complement the material already preserved in CAHJP.
In the library, there are Slovene and English books about the Holocaust in Prekmurje, about Italian camps for Slovenes during the occupation in WWII in English, personal testimony and documentary books written by Slovene women imprisoned in Rab camp in Slovene, about Jews in Lendava in Slovene, about Jews in medieval Slovenia in English, Oto Luthar’s History of Slovenia in English and several more books and catalogs in Slovene on various topics.
We can see that the Eventov and CAHJP collections possess helpful sources of information to potential researchers of Slovene Jewry specifically, and former Yugoslav Jewry generally, in various research fields.
While material in the CAHJP is well organized and its records are available on the Israel National Library’s database, the Eventov Collection’s future is very questionable in spite of its rich content – many of the materials added over the past few decades are not stored and classified according to accepted archival standards and the vast majority of the metadata is still found on handwritten cards.
Only 20% of its data is typed in an Excel file in a form that can be absorbed by the Israel National Library database system.
With the passing of time less people are able to deal with both Cyrillic script and Serbo-Croatian handwriting. Those born in the former Yugoslav states in the last 35 years are not familiar with the history and geography, and in some cases, with the script and dialects of other former Yugoslav countries. This significantly reduces the accessibility of this collection.
In my opinion, only a serious and immediate project to reconstruct the collection according to archival standards and current technological demands can save it from being forgotten and useless.