EurActiv - Letters to the Editor


Regarding ‘Serbia, Croatia to stop ‘looking back at the past‘:

To address these issues properly it is essential to delve into history prior to the 1990s. Surely you know that the real history of genocide goes back to 1940s Yugoslavia and WWII. That is when Christian Serbs, Jews and Gypsies were massacred simply for not being Roman Catholic Croats.

Hundreds of thousands of Serbs and tens of thousands of Jews and Gypsies were killed in what amounts to genocide. What happened in WWII is precisely why there was so much upheavel in the 1990s as Yugoslavia was torn apart. Again the Croats were ably assisted by their WWII allies Germany and the Vatican, while NATO and the USA obliged by taking care of a whole lot of dirty work.

Has Croatia ever apologised for the dirty deeds of its bloodthirsty forefathers? If not, I recommend that they take a good, hard look at their pathetic past. And apologise. And apologise. And apologise. Surely, their WWII victims deserve no less.

Liz Milano

Private citizen

Author :


  1. Allow me to greet You and ask <you how You are. If family, health, and love are all right, then everything is very good.
    Respected Mr. Zuroff, surfing around the Internet I have found Your letter addressed to the Croatian soldier and singer Marko Perkovic Thompson. My name is Stjepan Tokic, Croatian officer from the Homeland War. In the war I lost a house in Dubrovnik, in which I lived, and from whivh I lived too, giving it up to the tourists during the summer holidays, where usually many from Europe and the world come for their vacations, but I also lost my boat, my car and my health(?!)
    Why did I as a humanist have to be drafted, whay did I defend my Croatian nation and country, why didn’t I ran away leaving the others to die? But for Your fellow-countrymen and my friends died many Croats, who weren’t any partizans or communists, and they were HOS members in 1991. Yes, Mr Zuroff, in a French small town croats were the first to raise a mutiny against the great Germany and Hitler. They were the first to oppose to the SS brigades, who then shot Jews as the others, who didn’t agree with Hitler and his criminal organization. A whole military unit of 900 Croats (with some Moslems too), Croatians officers, noncoms and many younger or older soldiers died only in three days, how long the fights lasted, enabling to the Jews and French people to escape in then greater England and then to America; maybe You were in such a group of the escaped?
    Mr Zuroff, You may easily check my story in France, where the survived erected a monument to the Croatian units from 1941. Has anyboda ever mentioned them and their courage and gave then an innocent medal? But they were lined among some criminals, although they were the first to organize a rising in then occupied Europe and the world. I condemn both fashism and communism, as two evils, which killed or closed millions of honest and working people, women and children in their youth flower. Jews were killed by criminals, malfactors, as well as hundreds of disarmed NDH army, as well as several hundreds of Croatian civilians were killed in a regardless, without any court trial and justice, in a army mixed up with some criminal malfactors – and ounishment was the same for all of them, – and in the same way it happened to us in 1991 and on.
    Do you probably know how many Jews escaped from Serbia, Monenegro, BiH to Croatia, A COUNTRY WHICH HAD OWN REFUGIES. Do You know how many Croatian civilians suffered pains and damages in this war, (counting hundred thousands). What did the same Europe do or tried to do to stop the new executioner. What did you do, Mr. Zuroff? Nothing! And when we defeated the third Euroean army force, Yugoslav armade,which attacked Slovenia, Croatia and BiH, which did the same crimes, maybe much worse ever done, and to it witniss: Vukovar, Aljmaš, Dalj, Vo?in, Borovo Erdut, Antin, Škabrnja, Biograd at sea, Šibenik, Zadar, Dubrovnik, Ravno… Only 10 people appeared at court of the accused for the war crime, only Miloševi? naturally died in prison, while his Karadžii? and Šešelj are being pocessed, and how many Croats, who defended their homeland, defending their families and friends. What a world cynism and injustice! Because we were the victorious side and today we respond for crimes we didn’t do, because the war was waged on the teritory of Croatia. Today this victorious side is egualed with the aggresor side, what I as a Croatian offier, a wounded one I couldn’t accept. All of you came to us, when all danger for you was away to tell that we shoudn’t have done it, that we should be sensible and smart as you are. What a shame! So I condemn every criminal and crime, as well as done from the Croatian side- ustashes. But Thompson partook in the units fighting against the new Hitler Milosevic, while S.Mesic was the President of the Presidency, as well as commanding in-chief of the third greatest European army force. Are we Croats then some sheep fo to be killed and slaughtered, forbidding even our right for freely uttered words?
    Thanks, with best wishes, what we all need, don’t we? God bless you.

  2. A Nazi-backed puppet government in Serbia participated in the Holocaust of Jews during World War II. Serbian Chetniks collaborated with Nazi fascists and committed horrendous genocide against Jews and Bosnian Muslims. Here is a full report about Serbia’s fascist legacy published by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia. Will Serbia ever acknowledge its involvement in the extermination of Jews and Bosnian Muslims? Will the Government of Serbia ever apologize?

    Ouster of Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000 did not lead to a complete break with the legacy of his regime. Aside from a continuing formal-legal framework and mechanism of power, the persisting legacy is mirrored in non-relinquishment of the (defeated) Greater Serbia Project, nationalism, denial of recent crimes and atrocities, and reluctance to face up to recent wartime responsibility. Absence of repression, as the last defence line of the former regime (it was practically the only important change on the domestic plane) encouraged far-right organisations (notably still unidentified “Orao”), groups and individuals to step up their public activities. Ideological profile of current authorities, self-styled “democratic nationalism” is just a cover for makeover of ethnic nationalism and slide of society into clericalism, traditionalism, anti-globalisation, xenophobia. In the political and social arena, which failed to articulate options and forces bent on fundamental reformation of society and re-definition of general social goals in direction of modernisation and acceptance of existing European and international civilisational standards, criteria, old ideas are again gaining an upper hand. In such a general context, escalating anti-Semitism is more than an accompanying phenomenon, and merits special attention.
    Pre-WW1 period
    In his book “Yugoslavia and the Jewish Problem” (1938) E.B. Gajic maintained that in Yugoslavia there was no formal or genuine discrimination of Jews. He furthermore argued that all forms of anti-Semitism are “alien to the Yugoslav, and notably Serb mind-set and people.” Historical sources maintain otherwise.
    When in 1806-1807 Belgrade was liberated from Turks many Jews were killed and vilified, and even outlawed. Majority of surviving Jews was killed in 1813 on the eve of the new Turkish conquest of Belgrade because of economic competition and plundering. Until the 1878 Berlin Congress Jews had reasons to regret the fact that they were no longer under the Turkish occupation, for the Empire was religiously tolerant.
    Primitive milieu of the Dukedom of Serbia was hostile towards foreigners, including domestic Jews. In a series of discriminating actions the authorities as early as in 1845 banned Jews to settle in the interior. That is why about 2,000 Jews moved to Belgrade 1, although the nature of their professions and crafts linked them to villages/ hamlets and small towns.
    During the reign of Duke Mihailo in 1860 the authorities issued a decree on banishment of 60 families from the interior of the dukedom, but under pressure of big powers repealed it. The British sources in the second half of the 19th century spoke about stringent measures taken against the Jews in Serbia.
    1 Laslo Sekelj, Vreme 31 August 1992
    A month after publication of a series of stridently anti-Jewish articles in paper “Svetovod,” in 1865, in Sabac two Jews were killed, and in a local church a forcible conversion of a 11-year old Jewish girl was effected. Those events caused outrage and resistance of the Jewish community, whose prominent members wrote a series of protest letters. But publishing of those letters was banned by the government. In 1867, in a response to the appeal of Sabac Jews, the British MPs discussed the status of Jews in Serbia. They told the Belgrade government to comply with obligations stemming from the 1856 Paris Agreement, under which the big powers guaranteed autonomy of Serbia, if it “shows respect for full freedom of exercise of religion.” But the British MPs assessed that “the Orthodox Serbs understood as freedom of religion only the exercise of religion by the majority people.” Hence they demanded a permanent diplomatic pressure on Belgrade, in order to compel Serbia to comply with its international obligations. Despite that pressure and parliamentary interpellations in 187O, anti-Semitic laws from 1856 and 1861 remained in force. Because of those laws a large number of Jews left Serbia. From Sabac, Smederevo and Pozarevac Jews were expelled. Only three years later, in 1876, 11 Jewish families were driven out of Smederevo.
    The Berlin Treaty set as a condition for independence of Serbia: repeal of anti-Semitic decrees from the 1869 Constitution. Only the 1888 Constitution provisions in full met with obligations of the Treaty. As a consequence the legal status of Jews was improved, but they still represented “an alien body” in society. They were sidelined in the social sphere until early 20th century, when 6 Jews became members of government.
    According to the 1890 census 3,600 Jews ( 2,600 in Belgrade) lived in Serbia. In 1884 the Serb-Jewish Association of Singers was founded in 1884.
    Period between the two wars and the WW2
    In the territory of the newly-emerged Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes there were several hundred Jewish communities, while in 1919 the Alliance of Religious Communities was set up. Those Jewish communities are still operational.
    According to the 1939 census there were 71,000 Jews in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and they were registered ad members of the Jewish religious denomination. Before the outbreak of the WW1 many Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria and other Nazi-ruled countries found refuge in Yugoslavia. According to the data of the Federation of Jewish Communities in 1939-1941 period 55,000 emigrants came to Yugoslavia. And part of them shared the fate of domestic Jewish population.
    Lazar Prokic writes that “among Serbs an autochthonous anti-Semitic movement emerged, which Jews, before 6 April 1941, sometimes by diplomatic and sometimes by forcible means repressed, as thanks to the their financial might they were able to influence governments as much as they wanted. That anti-Semitism was not related to the German occupation. Jews were guilty of that original Serb anti-Semitism. Serbs do not want to feel solidarity for Jews, for the latter declined to show solidarity for the former in 1804, 1862 and 1875.”

  3. Anti-Semitism as the official policy of Kingdom of Yugoslavia
    Yugoslav Foreign Secretary, Anton Korosec, stated in September 1938, that “Jewish issue did not exist in Yugoslavia…. Jewish refugees from the Nazi Germany are not welcome here.” Three months later, the only Jewish member of government, Rabbi Isaac Alkalai was dismissed from the government at the express request of Prime Minister Milan Stojadinovic. The peak of anti-Semitism, elevated to the level of the official policy of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, were anti-Semitic acts of Cvetkovic-Macek government, enforced as of 5 October 1940. Decree on Registration of Persons of Jewish Descent introduced a numerus clausus of 0.5%, which meant that the number of Jews admitted to secondary school and universities could not be superior to their % share in total population. Under the second anti-Semitic law Jews were banned from performing certain professions (wholesale trade in foodstuffs), and under the third one they were excluded from some military branches, could not pass officers’ exams and could not be promoted.
    Anti-Semitism in the publishing activity
    Prime movers of anti-Semitism between the two World Wars were publishers. Protocols of the Zion Elders were for the first time translated and published in 1929, in Split, under title Real Basis or Protocols of Zion Elders, signed M. Tomic. The next edition, titled, Protocols of Assembly of Zion Elders was published in 1934 in Belgrade by certain Patriciousus. The Public Prosecutor in March 1935 banned distribution of both editions. Despite the ban the second edition was published again in 1936. In 1933-40 more than 10 anti-Semitic brochures were published. On the eve of the war more than 10 anti-Semitic brochures came out and 6 as a response to anti-Semitic attacks. Ljotic’s Zbor published most editions with anti-Semitic contents. Intense anti-Semitic campaign was conducted by newspapers like Obnova, Novo Vreme, Srpski narod and Nasa Borba 3, promoters of the Fascist ideology, several years before the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia. Those papers urged retributive actions against Jews 4, vilified Jews as ancient enemies of Serbs 5, and stressed that “the final settlement of the Jewish issue” could be effected without Germany. Zbor published a brochure titled Serb People in Claws of Jews, penned
    2 Lazar Prokic, “Our problems: Jews in Serbia,” Obnova, 15 November 1941
    3 Founder of Nasa Borba is Dimitrije Ljotic. The paper was modelled on Mein Campf.
    4 In line with principles of conspiracy theory.
    5 Obnova and Nasa Borba
    … by Milorad Mojic. He advocated “a swift and energetic liquidation of Jewry unless we want to witness destruction of the Christian civilisation.” 6 In 1941-45 period 51 anti-Semitic brochure were published.
    A leading Yugoslav exponent of Nazi ideology, Dimitrije Ljotic, founded Zbor, a pan-Serbian, pro-Nazi and Fascist party in 1935. It was a small but very active organisation which published a large number of papers, books and brochures, including most extreme anti-Semitic literature. In Vojvodina, an ethnically mixed milieu, boasting a community of about 500,000 volskdeutchers, Zbor published newspapers in German language Die Erwache (Awakening), and in Serbian language, Nas put. Both publications instigated war against Jews. Association of Jewish Communities in 1936 filed a libel lawsuit against publisher of the paper, but the court dropped the charges.
    Serb Orthodox Church
    Patriarch (Petar Rosic) Varnava in 1937 showed “live interest in Hitler and his policy which serves the whole mankind.” In May 1937 the SOC in its official publication indicated that “Jews are a force hiding behind the Free Masonry, Capitalism and Communism, the three biggest evils of the world.”7
    Jews, representatives of Free Masonry, Jews, representatives of capitalism, and Jews, representatives of proletariat revolution have all similar view on the world. They are just Jews and nothing else…Therefore enemy is as sly as a snake and appears in several shapes. That is why it is dangerous.”8
    Anti-Masonic Exhibition
    On 22 November 1941 a major anti-Masonic exhibition was opened. It was widely promoted by the media. Exhibition was funded by city authorities, at proposal of DJordje Peric, Head of Nesic’s state propaganda, while its directors, Lazar Prokic and Lazar Kljujic, also members of the state propaganda department, were firebrands of Zbor. Representatives of German authorities attended the opening ceremony. According to first information exhibit was seen by 10,000 Serbs and General Nedic. The press hyped up the message of the exhibit: “Jews deserved their fate, for interests of the Jewish internationalists never coincided with those of Serbs.” 9 In early 1942 a series of stamps …
    6 Milorad Mojic, Secretary of Zbor, 1941, page 40
    7 Foreign Review; “Patriarch Varnava urges fight against Communism,” Gazette of the SOC Patriarchy, Belgrade, 1 and 2 February 1937.
    8 Through the church press; Three spectres, Gazette of the SOC, 12 May 1937
    9 Major anti-Masonic exhibit. Obnova, 27 November 1941
    … promoted that exhibit.
    World War 2

  4. Serbia was the first area in Europe which according to proud German claims in summer 1942, was “Judenrein” (cleansed of Jews) Milan Nedic and his national salvation army10, Ljotic Movement members, gendermerie, and special police helped Germans and volksdeutchers effect that cleansing. 11 But some Jews were killed by the Chetnik Movement of Draza Mihajlovic.
    First repressive measures against Jews were implemented in Serbia and Banat: arrests, looting, harassment, passing of anti-Semitic decrees, forcible contributions, desecration and demolition of cemeteries, sinagogues and other Jewish institutions. On 19 April 1941 all Jews were ordered to wear a yellow armband and to register. Several hostages had been shot down before October 1941 when mass liquidations of Jews began.12 Jews were taken to Toposka suma detention centre in Belgrade, and kept as hostages there. Imprisoned Jews (and Romany) were used to fill up quotas for the German policy of retaliation, that is, killing of 100 persons for one assassinated German soldier. By the end of 1941 most male Jews were shot down by Vermacht firing squads. In November 1941 German authorities ordered construction of a detention centre Sajmiste (Fair grounds) for remaining Jewish women and children. Over 5,000 Jews were transported to Sajmiste in December 1941 and in the following months most of them died of hunger and cold.
    In the WW2 four fifths of Jews in Yugoslavia were killed. Among the survivors were those who had fled to the Italian-occupied territory, those who had joined the Partisan units, or had gone into hiding. Of 59 Jewish municipalities in the pre-war period, only 15 with small memberships resumed their activities after 1945.
    10 Nedic’s contribution to elimination of Jews was historically confirmed. Milan Nedic and his government of national salvation took on the task of “cleansing Serbia of Jews, renegades, and Gypsies.” Nedic personally used anti-Semitic rhetoric to discredit partisans, whom he labelled “Criminal Jewish-Communist gang.”
    11 According to historical sources even a military part of Zbor renowned as the Serbian Voluntary Guard acted as a reliable ally of Gestapo in elimination of Jews. They searched flats, kept in custody detained communists and Jews and fought against partisans.
    12 On 27 July 1941 in retaliation for attempted torching of a German vehicle by a Jewish boy, 122 persons were shot down by firing squads.
    The post-WW2 period
    In the post-WW2 period new wave of assimilation of Jews began. 13 The number of Jews declaring themselves as members of that nation and participating in the work of Jewish communities dwindled.
    Creation of the state of Israel created a new dilemma of the stay- or- emigrate kind for many Jews. Under a decree of the Yugoslav authorities Jews who opted for emigration were allowed to take with them only movable possessions, while they had to renounce their real estate to the benefit of the state. Property of big Jewish landowners and capitalists (owners of plants) was nationalised or impounded through agrarian reform. In 1948-1951 period about 9,000, almost half of survivors, emigrated.
    In the pre-WW2 period Jews fostered their identity and traditions within the family fold. Membership of the Jewish community played a central role in their life too. Large communities had a sinagogue, and rabbi, other priests and a teacher were involved in religious education classes imparted in sinagogues and Jewish communities. In the post -WW2 period that role was taken on by municipalities, which also organised cultural activities. Jewish communities also kept in touch with Israel and international Jewish organisations.
    Anti-Semitic incidents have gradually increased since 1967, after severance of diplomatic ties between the SFRY and Israel. But then they were only a marginal phenomenon 14, for the state decried them. “Anti-Israeli publications bore all the hallmarks of the Communist, political authoritarianism, but in a stark contrast to similar incidents Europe-wide, anti-Semitism was consciously avoided. Very small number of anti-Semitic texts and critical reactions to them, attests to the aforementioned. 15
    In the Seventies anti-Semitic texts came out occasionally. Their linchpin was the book Protocols of Zion Elders. In 1971 a Titograd-based literary magazine Ovjde ran a text by Aleksandar Loncar which inter alia16 alleged a high documentary value of facts presented in the Protocols of Zion Elders. In a literary magazine Delo, Dragos Kalajic made a similar claim, that is, maintained that Protocols was an authentic, documentary source for making judgement about the character of the Jewish religion. 17 Milo Glavurtic paraphrased Protocols in his private edition Satan in 1978. Alliance of Jewish Communities filed a lawsuit against Glavurtic, but did not win the case. Ilustrovana Politika ran a feature of Mihailo Popovski Secret World of Masonry which included excerpts from Protocol. After several political interventions the magazine stopped running the feature. The book with the same title was published in 1984 by Nova Knjiga.
    13 In that period the party membership and not national descent counted most. Religion was not an important factor. A larger number of war veterans were not demobilised after the war. Mixed marriages were commonplace.
    14 Laslo Sekelj, Vreme bescasca, Belgrade, 1995
    15 Idem, page 76
    16 The same author wrote in the same text about “power of Jews” as a cause of “a sad fate of two major authors, Celine and Ezra Pound.”
    17 Dragos Kalajic, Delo, 1970, page 677
    Despite the ban the Macedonian version came out in 1985, and in the late Eighties it again appeared in Belgrade bookstores.
    Beginning of the SFRY disintegration
    According to the data of the Jewish community of Belgrade, 177 Jews, mostly from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia emigrated since the beginning of the Yugoslav crisis. “The figures speak of a small-scale emigration,” said Jasa Almuli, the then President of the Belgrade Jewish Community. 18 But according to the official data, 1,800 Jews left Yugoslavia, from 1991-1998. Those data can be considered controversial, unless one takes into account the fact that many Jews declared themselves as members of other ethnic nations. Hence it is difficult to establish the exact number of emigrants.
    Jewish organisations in Croatia and Slovenia followed in the footsteps of their ‘domicile’ countries. Vice President of the Jewish Community in Croatia, Srdjan Matic, thus commented their move: “We obviously regret our breakaway move, but it was imposed by clashing realities in Yugoslavia….We are disappointed by conduct of national (Jewish) Federation in Belgrade…It has not condemned the bombing of Dubrovnik during which the old sinagogue was also damaged. Furthermore it also declined to take part in the meeting of religious communities in Sarajevo several months ago, which compelled us to stay away from the meeting too”19 Matic also criticised the Jewish Federation in Belgrade for a mild response to a bomb-planting in downtown area and in the Jewish cemetery in Zagreb, on 19 August 1992.
    David Albahari, writer and President of the Jewish Community in Belgrade, who tried to save the Jewish Federation, regrets the rift, but admits its inevitability: “Before the joint meeting in Sarajevo, Jewish communities in Slovenia and Croatia declared unilateral secession. We thought that it was done under the pressure of their governments.” Albahari rejected allegations that the Belgrade seat of the Jewish Federation did not condemn the bombing of Dubrovnik sinagogue. “Sinanogue was not shelled. One shell fell in its proximity, and several windows were broken. Under such circumstances one could easily condemn the Serb government, as our brothers in Croatia demanded.”20.
    In a bid to explain different stands of Jewish communities on developments in the former Yugoslavia and underscore manipulation of Jews by political actions, David Albahari says: “Initially Jewish communities reacted as they were told, by accepting incoming information at face-value. Despite our demands that the Jewish communities should stay away from the conflict, some moves were made without considering objective picture of developments. It took us almost a year to persuade them that our best …
    18 Almuli, Intervju, 7 February 1992
    19 Vecernje Novosti, 19 April 1992
    20 Idem
    position as an organised grouping was to continue to sit on the fence, in political terms. 21
    Jews in Serbia
    3,000 strong Jewish community, composed mostly of Sephardic Jews lives in Serbia (first Sephardic Jews fled from the Spanish Inquisition and settled in the Ottoman Empire countries, including Serbia.)
    The principal generator of anti-Semitism in Serbia is the new Serbian Right, made of so-called left-wing and right wing parties in the political scene of Serbia, parts of the Serbian Orthodox Church and intellectual elite, or all those who advocate the idea of the international conspiracy against Serbia and oppose the new world order. Misa Levi, President of the Jewish Community in Belgrade draws attention to escalating anti-Semitism and ties between Serbia and Russia, both on the state and church level. Added to that quite a number of public media and prominent public figures constantly espouses the thesis of existence of the unique Jewish opinion in the world, decisive influence of Jews on creation of the US policy, and anti-Serb stance of the international Jewish institutions and renowned Jewish intellectuals. Publicist and analyst of religion Mirko DJordjevic says that the current wave of anti-Semitism is not caused by Jews: “It is a very belated historical response of certain circles to all things foreign and different.”
    Anti-Semitism Monitoring Commission of the FJCY, in qualifying anti-Semitism, often resorts to euphemisms: “it is a contained, low-level anti-Semitism. Hence we did not suggest special measures to the Executive Board of the FJCY, barring our complaints and protests in writing to certain religious and political factors.” 23 The Jewish community stressed that it was always sensitive to equalisation of religion and nation, and even more so to identification between the majority nation and the state. The FJCY communique stresses: “It is not disputable that Jews in Serbia are under the law equal to other nations. But is it so in practice? Does this state, in every public discussion observe the fact that all its nationals are equal, irrespective of nationality, religion and other features of identity?”
    At the same time ambivalent position on Jews is expressed through another extreme-equalisation of tragic fates of the two peoples.
    For example, writer Vuk Draskovic, in 1985 described Serbs as Jews of the late Twentieth Century: “Each inch of Kosovo is Jerusalem for Serbs: there is no difference between suffering of Serbs and Jews. Serbs are the thirteenth lost and most unfortunate tribe of Israel.” In the first years of war, Jews were not seen as opponents. On the contrary the authorities tried to win them over for the “Serb cause.” Frequent were comparisons between “identical, tragic fates of Jews and Serbs as heavenly and innocent peoples, victims of genocide.” In that period Serbian authorities were “inclined” to Jews-…
    21 Borba, 8 December 1993
    22 Radio B92, 20 February 2001
    23 Jewish Review, Bulletin of Federation of the Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia (FJCY), January 2000

  5. … the media ran information about their activities, texts and features on friendly relations between Serbs and Jews, and evenings of Jewish poetry were organised.24 Federation of Jewish Municipalities was promised that it would be given back one of the most beautiful sinagogues in Serbia, the one in Nis (but that promise has never been fulfilled). At the same time the media increasingly reported on desecration of Jewish cemeteries in Serbia, notably in Zemun and Pancevo, 25 and decried those incidents.
    Society of the Serb-Jewish Friendship was registered on 21 November 1988, while the founding assembly was held on 4 March 1989. According to the proclamation the society was tasked with bringing together the two peoples, “frequently accused of being different.”26 Soon the Society’s branch office was set up in Kosovo, and later another thirty branch offices emerged Serbia-wide. Abortive attempts to set up such a society were registered even in the former Yugoslavia, during the one-party system. 27
    Founding of the said Society, obviously tasked with abusing Jews for political purposes, was criticised and disapproved of by many Jewish intellectuals. Writer Filip David stated that at the founding meeting he notice “many wise heads, members of the Serbian Academy of Sciences, several prominent Serbian nationalists, and several elderly Jews, self-styled ‘Serbs of Moses faith.’ The idea of the founders was to help Serbia by enlisting our Jews to shore up support for the Serbian cause in the United States, through their, allegedly important connections. Early on I tried to say that the story about a conspiratorial world Jewish centre, dictating the entire world policy, was a sheer nonsense, and that the idea originated from the notorious Protocols of Zion Elders.” David went on to note: “This type of association was nonsensical, for there was not need for Jews, as Serbian citizens, to set up the Society of the Serb-Jewish Friendship.”28 Filip David realised that behind the project were indeed “nationalistic hot-heads” after his meeting with Ljubomir Tadic. Namely David, after the founding meeting, in his letter to Tadic, requested a meeting with him and expressed his negative opinion of the very Society.
    At the first convention of the Society, in May 1990, the SJSF Secretary Klara Mandic stated that “the Society must persist in making public the names of all Serbs, victims of genocide, for their names are absent from the genocide-related books. Another …
    24 Politika, 7 July 1991
    25 Vecernje Novosti, 25 April 1991
    26 Politika, 3 July 1990
    27 Socialist Alliance of Working People of Yugoslavia was against formation of the said Society on the following grounds: “There is no need to establish any association resting on close national or nationalities ties, in the SFRY territory.” Later Jews also opposed the existence of such a society, and maintained that it was legitimate to forge closer ties only between Serbia and Israel.”
    28 Interview with Filip David.
    … important task of the society was “sending of pertinent publications to 15,000 influential people and politicians in Europe, America and Canada.”29 FJCY repeatedly protested against some communiques of the Society and distanced itself from the latter’s actions.
    But the leading Serbian politicians started emulating the society by propagating identical historical fate of Jews and Serbs, and preservation of friendly relations between the two peoples ( according to the Society, Serbs stood more to gain from the latter). Author Brana Crncevic said that “only friendship with Jews can save Serbhood,” 30 while Enriko Josif argued that “Serbs and Jews are very old friends, and shall remain friends, for they have not betrayed the most glorious pillars of their history-Kosovo and Jerusalem.” Dobrica Cosic stressed “the historical fate, which made Serbs and Jews very similar” and ” Jews are European people from whom Serbs can learn most.”
    In 1991 Captain Dragan, later a leader of the Serb paramilitary units, wore the Star of David around his neck during a Studio B interview. At the same time members of the Serb-Jewish society, including the leading Serb nationalists, reiterated “Our fate is similar to the fate of Jews.”
    In 1993 the Federation of Jewish Communities set up an Anti-Semitism Monitoring Committee, and its President Aca Singer warned: “Whenever and wherever there are turmoils in the world Jews are affected by them.” 31 An ever-increasing number of anti-Semitic incidents were condemned by a narrow circle of liberal public figures, and also by the regime’s satellites. The authorities tried to minimise the effects of anti-Semitic incidents by not responding to protests and complaints lodged by the Jewish Municipality of Belgrade and the Jewish Federation. But those incidents increased the fear or feeling of insecurity among the Jews and non-Serbs. On the other hand they were adroitly used by the authorities as a form of “soft ethnic-cleansing.”
    The world was outraged by wars in the territories of former Yugoslavia, and condemned actions of Bosnian Serbs. Those condemnations became increasingly sharp and both “domestic” and foreign Jews joined in the chorus of international protests. This placed domestic Jews in a very delicate position. Hence the following statement of Jasa Almuli: “anyone may exercise his democratic right to criticise the regime in place, but such criticism should be voiced as a purely personal opinion. Jewish community would appreciate very much if some individuals stopped using its name in political showdowns, and stopped making up stories about emigration.” It was a response to objections of official Belgrade that Jews were siding with “the Serb enemies”, namely criticism of international Jews who condemned aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  6. Jews were accused of being “murderers and criminals,” “the biggest evil of the world history,” and “instigators of all failures of modern history, starting from the October Revolution, WW1 and WW2, to bombardment of Yugoslavia. According to TV Palma Jews should apologise for actions taken by US Administration against Yugoslavia. Many guests and Vujovic himself frequently mentioned “Jewish conspiracy” against Serbs or entire mankind, negative character traits and mind-set of Jews, and their hate of Serbs. Such messages were intended for Jews living abroad, notably in the US. ‘Domestic’ Jews were criticised for not having persuaded their fellow-nationals to change their stance on Serbs, for not having done anything to eliminate negative image of Serbs. Unfortunately other TVs also disseminated similar, Jew-bashing propaganda. Similar messages were voiced on other channels, notably Radio Television Serbia, which occasionally re-broadcast the old, wartime, programs about the international, and Jewish world conspiracy against Serbs.
    45 Interview with Helsinki Committee
    46 “Borba”, “Obraz” Manipulated by Remote Control, 20 March 2001
    47 “Politika,” “Obraz” Fights ‘Enemies of Serbhood”, 22 March 2001
    In a program of Radio Yugoslav Airlines on 17 May 2000 Dejan Lucic accused Jews of having staged a military and state coup on 27 March 1941, when the Trilateral Pact was rejected, and later a military uprising in Montenegro. Lucic also held them accountable for attacks on Belgrade and attempts to revive civil war. According to Lucic “they are assisted in their endeavours by the British and US intelligence services.” He divided Jews into “two subversive groups, Jews and Khazars…they are quite similar, but still different: Jews shall do their utmost to help Israel, and Khazars to amass -money.”
    Anti-Semitic slogan Death to Jews with Nazi swastikas was drawn twice on the central building of Belgrade University in September 1995. The same slogan was written on the wall of the hall of the Jewish Municipality building in Belgrade on 22 October 1995.
    On 27 October 1995 the Jewish Community sent a memo on incident to the Stari Grad police and requested it to launch a pertinent investigation. Three days later, on 30 October a police patrol scouted the building, and later slogans were removed.
    On 24 October 1995 the Assembly of Belgrade sharply condemned the graffiti on the building of the Philological Faculty. Only after repeated interventions of the Jewish Federation, the Republican Public Prosecutor on 19 December 1995 informed the Federation that the graffiti case would be handled by the District Public Prosecutor in Belgrade.
    On the fence of the Jewish Cemetery on 21 and 22 January three graffiti appeared: Out with Masonic-Jewish Serb-Haters, We don’t want the Dayton Pax Judaica. Jews, You are a Minority in Serbia. The Jewish Federation on 25 January informed Slobodan Pavlovic, Vice President of the Belgrade Assembly and the police of the incident and asked them to intervene. It also filed charges against unknown perpetrators on 16 February 1996.
    Graffiti Death to Filthy Jews, Skinheads, White Power, the Racist Movement of Belgrade, crosses and slogan Serbia to Serbs were drawn in the hall of the building housing the Jewish Federation, the Jewish Community of Belgrade and the Jewish Historical Museum on 11 February 1997.
    On 26 September 1996 leaflets with the scull and slogan “Jewish lethal vaccine kills Muslim children” were distributed in Novi Pazar. In the text parents were told to boycott vaccine against children’s paralysis….”for it aims to impair health of Muslim children…”
    On two occasions, in December 2000 and January 2001 Nazi swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans in English, notably “Jews Hate Your Freedom of Speech,” were drawn on all Jewish institutions in Belgrade, the sinagogue, Jewish cemetery, the Jewish Municipality building.
    Desecration of monuments and religious institutions
    Plaque with inscription was removed from the monument “Menorah in Flames” by Nandor Glid in the 15th -21st May week . Glid’s monument in Belgrade has been on repeated occasions the target of vandals (several days after wreaths had been laid on the monument in 1999 they were torn and thrown around). Police never found perpetrators of that vandal act, nor the ones who drew graffiti on Jewish institutions and cemetery and threw Molotov cocktails into the yard of sinagogues in Belgrade and Novi Sad.
    In recent years singagogues have been frequently targeted by anti-Semites. The Zemun sinagogue, a protected municipal institution, was converted into a restaurant by the Radical Party-led municipal authorities in the face of the city authorities ban and protests of the Jewish Community. The then President of the Municipal Assembly and the Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj and director of the Business Space Tomislav Nikolic met with the Federation’s delegation on 7 March 1997 and promised not to lease that institution. Just a months later, on 30 March, the sinagogue was leased and converted into a restaurant.
    “That sinagogue is very important for us, but we did not want to hype up the case and make a too vocal demand,” said Aca Singer. He added: “It is very important for Jews as in that sinagogue Rabbi Alkalai was the first to mention the return of Jews to their Holy Land. He had done it before Theodore Herzl, who is considered the founder of a modern Zionist Movement.” Singer then went on to explain the long history of the embattled Zemun sinagogue: “Until 1962 the Jewish Community was compelled to lease the sinagogue due to lack of upkeep funds and an ever-dwindling number of Jews. After that the sinagogue was forcibly sold to the then authorities for a negligible amount of money. The money we got from the lease was given to socially vulnerable categories of Jews. We had a deal with the previous Socialist authorities. Namely the sinagogue was to be used for cultural purposes only. But when the Radical Party took the municipal reins in 1997 the deal fell through. That sinagogue had been built in 1850 on foundations of the old, Eightieth Century sinagagoue, which was badly ruined after the WW2. It bears stressing that it has served many purposes, but was never used as restaurant. It is very important institution for us, because it was saved by miracle from destructive hands of Ustashi in the WW2.”
    Subotica sinagogue met with a different fate. Story about Subotica Jews is a specific one, and it marked Subotica history from the mid 18th century. Before the opening of central sinagogue rites were officiated in the Sremska street sinagogue. But when the Subotica Jews became economically strong 48 they decided to erect “the temple of temples.” New sinagogue had a tent-like dome. It was possessed of a unique beauty in terms of design and construction. “It is owned by the city and under the World Heritage Fund document it is protected as one of the 100 key world sinagogues.” 49 In Mid-Eighties theatre director Ljubisa Ristic 50 came to work in Subotica in order to “shake up a sleepy milieu.” In late Eighties Ristic staged big spectacles with his numerous ensemble in the singagoue. In a play a horse and a horseman both peed in the sinagogue. Restored …
    48 30 Jews counted among 184 richest residents of Subotica in early 20th century.
    49 Jozef Kasa, Mayor of Subotica
    50 In Milosevic era Ristic was one of the most influential leaders of the AYL, the SPS coalition partner.
    … dome was also again badly impaired by fumes from stoves, while the lawn around the sinagogue was trampled upon by buses ferrying spectators to performances.
    Although the Jewish Community in Serbia is very small, anti-Semitism tenaciously persists as a part of a specific social phenomenology. Under the current circumstances it relies on ideological roots of the Serbian conservative, right-wing factions (Priest Nikolaj Velimirovic, Dimitrije Ljotic) and feeds itself on social and economic frustration stemming from a defeated Greater Serbia idea. Anti-Semitism in Serbia also draws on belief that the influential, international Jewish community, notably (its prominent representatives Madeleine Albright, Richard Holbrooke, Wesley Clark and Robert Gelbrand) has contributed to misfortune of Serbs, notably after the NATO air strikes. In parallel many intellectuals espoused the idea of identical fates of Serbs and Jews in the past decade. Within the context of the syndrome of victim, cherished in Serbia, Serbs are equalised with Jews (Vuk Draskovic: Kosovo is our Jerusalem). One should take into consideration that ambivalent position on the Jewish ethnic community in any future (and necessary) public debate on Anti-Semitism.


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