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An International Symposium
"SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE 1918-1995"


Publisher: Croatian Heritage Foundation & Croatian Information Centre
For the Publisher: Ante Beljo
Expert Counsellor: Dr. sc. Dragutin Pavlicevic
Editor: Aleksander Ravlic
Graphic Design: Gorana Benic - Hudin
Printed by: TARGA
Copies Printed: 2000
ISBN 953-6525-05-4

IMPRESSUM

CONTENTS


 

 


Ljubica Stefan
retired professor: refugee from Belgrade where she lived for 30 years, researches genocide against Albanians, anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews, as well as the behavior of Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church in World War II
Klaiceva 10
10 000 Zagreb CROATIA

ANTI-SEMITISM IN SERBIA DURING THE WORLD WAR II

There are still some significant historical facts about Serbia before and during the Second World War which remain suppressed or are even distorted with prejudice, not only in Serbia but also abroad. We believe this to be the consequence of ignorance due to the energetic, and unfortunately successful, propaganda of Yugoslavia and Serbia these past fifty years. Thus, these facts should always be pointed out in a precise and detailed manner whenever this dark period is mentioned, which is, in effect, only just one such period in a series of similar centuries-old ones in Serbian history.

Until today, Serbia has worn a hero’s halo in a land of martyrs as a member of the anti-Hitler coalition and an alleged contributor to the victory in the Second World War. This is completely untrue. Serbia was not an unfortunate occupied land subjected to German terror. During the entire war, Serbia was the most faithful ally to the Third Reich on European territory under its domination. As opposed to all the other countries of the former Yugoslavia, there was no organized, and an even less massive, armed anti-Hitler movement. When England finally ceased supporting and exalting Draza Mihajlovic, even Radio London, according to the Serbian press, had Mr. Harrison direct the following warning: "It is up to the Serbs to brighten their reputation and cleanse their blemishes. Serbs, remember! The Greater Serbian hegemony will never return. The other nations in Yugoslavia have been exploited enough by the Serbs. You are being given one more opportunity to save yourselves. There has been enough dawdling and enjoyment on the part of the Serbs while other nations have been fighting."

Serbia was a real state during World War II. It consisted of the following: a government, organized ministries, independent authorities in towns and villages, its own army which was armed by the Germans, and this Nedic’s Serbian State Guard, the Serbian Guard, the elite Ljotic’s Serbian Voluntary Corps, the Serbian Border Guard, the Serbian Country Guard, as well as numerous Cetnik units. Within the Ministry of Internal affairs there was a large, well-organized and well-trained Serbian police force, with numerous prisons, customs services and special police schools. Elementary and secondary schools were in function in the towns and villages. Many newspapers and magazines were being printed as well as a large number of books. New theaters and cinemas were being built. Museums were open. Art shows and concerts were organized. New laws and statutes passed by the Serbian government were published in the "Official Gazette". The Serbian National Bank, with a Serbian governor at its head, printed new Serbian money with an exchange rate in relation not only to the German mark but also to other significant European currency including the kuna. Ancient Serbian flags were hoisted everywhere and the national coat of arms was emphasized. Kosovo and the divine Knez Lazar were celebrated, St. Sava and the Karadjordjevic dynasty were exulted, etc. Until the very final moment, the Serbians believed that they would be rewarded with the creation of a Greater Serbia after Hitler’s victory!

Anti-Semitism was, along with the militant, conquering, genocidal Orthodoxy of St. Sava, one of the constant ideologies and politics of the Serbian Orthodox Church before, during and after the Second World War. This is in effect even today. That is to say, the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) is in fact a kind of political party. It is greater Serbian and even racist. Pastoral work has been completely neglected.

Anti-Semitism began to spread in Serbia before the Second World War. The Fascist Party "Zbor", Dimitrij Ljotic, prominent Church dignitaries, as well as the church press, were the main generators of the expansion of anti-Semitism. Ljotic roused the Serbian population with the following types of statements: "The Jewish people use the explosives in their hearts to destroy Christian communities and lead them to their ruin"; "The destructive action of the Jewish spirit may be felt in all domains of human life"; "Judaism is appearing as a cultural and national danger, which we must be free of as soon as possible". Ljotic’s model and idol was the leader of the Third Reich. He praised him in the following manner: "Hitler is the instrument of God’s providence. He is an instrument which can no longer be stopped until his assigned mission has been fully completed." A great number of Orthodox priests were very active members of "Zbor". The most prominent was the main ideologist of Orthodoxy and anti-Semitism in the Serbian church, episcopate Nikolaj Velimirovic who had been decorated by Hitler already in 1934. It was probably in gratitude that he wrote the following in his book about St. Sava in 1935: " We must regard with esteem the present German leader who, in the twentieth century, came up with the idea of St. Sava and as a layman took upon himself a task for his people as befits only a holy man, a genius and a hero." Several years later, in 1939, he publicly preached racism: " We are people of an Aryan race, which fate has given an honorary role... so that tribes of weaker races and inferior faiths will not...". In the "Glasnik Srpske pravoslavne Patrijarsije" (Gazette of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate), letters about Jewish people such as the following were common: "Jews are enemies, sly as snakes and dangerous". The same newspaper reported the following statement given by Patriarch Varnava to a German newspaper in 1937. "The Führer, is leading a battle which will benefit mankind", "God has sent the German people, a führer with foresight. We believe his truthful words". Sometime before this Varnava referred to the Soviet government as a "deceiving Jewish gang".

Germany attacked Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941, and without battle on April 12 its army had already entered Belgrade which had been abandoned by the Yugoslav Army and by all authorities since the first day of the war. The unconditional surrender was signed by the generals of the King’s Army on April 17.

On the actual day of the German arrival, Milicevic, the Governor of Belgrade, informed the citizens on a posted notice that the Serbian army was already organized and armed. Several days later, Dragi Jovanovic became the Governor (he held this title until the end of the war), the Chief of the Serbian police, and later the Chief of Serbian Security. The following statement made by SS General Harald Turner, only a month after his arrival in Belgrade, proves the unlimited power of the Serbian police: "I attempted to re-establish the activity of the police system with particular haste. Today, executive power in Serbia is carried out by the police and gendarmes who have been given weapons... internal relations are regulated by local organs without German interference." Dragi Jovanovic himself stated in a report to the Gestapo: "Occupying forces were always able to rely on the Belgrade police. Special Police forces dealt with their assignments with great enthusiasm and success, unlike any other police in any city in all of occupied Europe". In 1946, at his trial in Belgrade, he added: "These results were better and greater than the results of the Gestapo itself in Belgrade."

For the first four months, Milan Acimovic was at the head of Serbia with his Council of Commissars and then, General Milan Nedic, former Minister of the Yugoslavian Army, who had a pro-German and anti-Semitic orientation, took over the leadership in Serbia. Owing to the wholehearted cooperation of all Serbian authorities and the police with the Germans, SS-man Harald Turner, stated the following in 1942: " Serbia is a nation in which the problem of Jews and Gypsies has been solved." Franz Rademacher of the Nazi Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported: "The Jewish problem in Serbia is no longer acute. The only thing left is to solve the legal questions concerning property." The chief of the German Security Service in Serbia, A. Schafer bragged: "Belgrade - the only larger European city which is cleansed of Jews, has become ‘Judenfrei.’" Let us be reminded of the historical fact that Serbia ingloriously took first place in the genocide against the Jews in Europe just three months after the meeting of Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the German Security Service, Heinrich Muller, chief of the Gestapo and Adolf Eichmann, chief of the Special Department for Jews, which was held on January 20, 1942, at Lake Wansee by Berlin when the decision was made to approach the " final solution to the Jewish problem". Specifically, at the end of April and the beginning of May of that year, the remaining Jews were killed in the Sajmiste concentration camp...

Until now, the Holocaust in Serbia has been an unspoken topic, a taboo. Jewish and Serbian sources offer relatively little data, mostly fragmented. What really happened, nevertheless, may be seen. The following was noted: "Only seven days after their arrival in Belgrade, the Germans announced that all Jews had to register themselves at Tasmajdan (Serbian Police Headquarters). Before then, they had already formed a special police force for Jewish people, with the help of the police, that is, the Civil Government of Belgrade. Every Jew received a yellow band." Another source stated that "Jude" was written on the first bands and had the "stamp of Belgrade’s Governor". On one original preserved band (from a later time, it appears), "Jude" is written in German and "Jevrejin" is written in Cyrillic. The following data was found as well: "The Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, who always endeavored to deal with all their responsibilities on time, dealt with the Jewish problem, as well". Also: "From among local traitors, the Gestapo trained the "Special Police" to battle against Jewish-Communistic actions. The special police closely collaborated with the Gestapo and was often the initiator of joint actions. The employees of the police were paid from a fund in which Belgrade Jews were forced to pay 1,400,000 dinars. Rewards for captured or killed Jews were paid from this fund as well..." By May 1941, German authorities had already announced the order by which "Jews were to register with Serbian police authorities", "they cannot be public servants, they must immediately be eliminated by Serbian authorities", so they were further forbidden to pursue a series of independent professions, to go to the theater or cinema, etc. Serbian authorities were declared "responsible for the carrying out of the order" which they immediately set out to do with in a conscientious and thorough manner, with the wholehearted approval of the press. Along with this, they rejoiced in the newspaper at the time: "Jews will never again be doctors, pharmacists, lawyers or judges in Serbia. The Serbs have finally opened their eyes". Dragi Jovanovic, the Serbian Ministry of Justice, even the Musicians’ Associations and others, immediately proclaimed their own regulations that Jews turn in all radios and refrigerators even threatening citizens who might be hiding the property of their Jewish friends or providing them with unregistered shelter. They ordered the closing of all Jewish lawyers’ offices appointing Serbians in their places. They prohibited Jews to travel on Belgrade streetcars and refused work licenses to Jewish musicians and others. In keeping with the battle for a pure Aryan race, the newspapers started to publish employment offers which had as one of their first stipulations: "that they be of pure Aryan race, without Jewish or gypsy blood". Confirmation of this racial purity was issued by the local Serbian authorities. Nedic’s "Ministerial Council" published the following order: "Property of the Jews who were citizens of the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia on April 15, 1941, belongs to Serbia if it is on Serbian territory, without any compensation". The Serbian Council for the Management of Properties of Serbia of the National Mortgage Bank would then put the properties up for auction, placing an advertisement in the daily papers. The synagogue in Nis, which is now a part of the city museum, was among the properties listed. The Jews also had to pay a sum of 4,834,231 dinars to Belgrade’s Civil Government and a million dinars to the Belgrade municipality. According to a Jewish source, Serbians made up 33% of the buyers of Jewish properties! Some "deserving" Serbians, received, as a reward, a part of the looted Jewish money. The Gestapo Major Karl Krauss, ordered: "commencing July 1, 1941, every month until further notice, a sum of 10,000 dinars will be paid, without receipts, to Belgrade’s Police Chief and a sum of 6,000 dinars to his assistant from money collected from Jews in Belgrade". Other than this, the Gestapo rewarded approximately 30 members of the Special Police with 10 to 20,000 dinars.

The physical liquidation of Serbian Jews began immediately in the spring of 1941. Almost all the men were killed by the autumn and the women and children and the remaining men were liquidated at the end of April and the beginning of May, 1942. The exact number of people killed is not known even from Jewish sources. Historian Jasa Romano, however, has come to the conclusion that 88% of all Serbian Jews were killed. The Serbian historian Sretenije Zrokic says that of the 11,870 Belgrade Jews only 1,115 or 9% survived the war. It was not only the Germans who captured and killed the Jews in Serbia, rather it was the Serbian Police, Nedic’s volunteers and Cetniks. Most were killed in the Sajmiste and Banjica concentration camps. Not a single Jew managed to escape from the camps.

The Banjica camp in Belgrade was established in July 1941 and shut down at the end of September 1944, a month before the withdrawal of the Germans from Belgrade. At a meeting between the Serbian Police and members of the Gestapo in June 1941, it was decided that one of the barracks of the former Yugoslav Army in Belgrade’s suburbs be transformed into a concentration camp. Dragi Jovanovic signed the document to this effect and the first prisoners were brought in on May 9. Svetozar Vujkovic was appointed director of the Serbian part of the camp where there were only Serbian police. The smaller German part was directed by members of the Gestapo. The commander of the camp and along with his assistant were German. The German and Serbian parts of the camps were completely separate.

The prisoners were watched by heavily armed guards: "Machine guns and reflectors were set up on the roofs. Day and night, double guards made up of one SS-man and a gendarme from the Special Police stood watch. Later when the police gained the trust of the occupier, the German guards were withdrawn". The same Serbian source also said: "The camp management apparatus was also made up of prison wardens, headed by their commander, who had been chosen from the ranks of former gendarmes, now members of the Serbian guard."

From partially preserved documents of the Serbian part of the camp we learn that 23,697 people were registered and 3,489 were executed by a firing squad. The German and Serbian police began, at the end of 1943, to destroy the documentation and to excavate and burn the executed bodies so that it is actually not known how many victims perished, nor how many were Jews, Serbs or others. The only thing that is known for certain is: not one Jew left Banjica alive... They were killed along with the other prisoners in the camp yard, shot down in the village of Jajinci at the foot of Avala, at the Jewish and the central cemetery in Belgrade. The Gestapo, the Special Police, and the Serbian National Guard performed the executions together. All the lists found were handwritten in Cyrillic. The prisoners were sent to the camps by the Belgrade Civil Government, the heads of the Serbian municipal police, the Serbian National Guard, Ljotic’s volunteer units, Serbian court-martials, and by regional and district leaders throughout Serbia. Execution lists were drawn up by the Special Police, the camp chief, Vujkovic, the Gestapo commander and his assistant. From the few preserved lists, it can be observed that even children were executed: 22 under the age of 7; 26 under the age of 14; 76 under the age of 17; even mothers with small children in their arms. Belgrade grave-diggers recall: "Members of the Gestapo and Special Police agents would draw women out of armored cars, one by one. Two men would hold each one by the arms and the third would shoot her in the head and then push her into the grave." A Jewish source stated: " From 1942 up to September 1944, Jews, who had found refuge in some villages in Serbia, were brought to the Banjica camp after being caught by Ljotic’s and Nedic’s men, as well as by Cetniks and handed over to the Germans for which they received financial rewards."

The only surviving Jews in Serbia were those who remained unexposed in remote Serbian villages where peasants were hiding them. In a written report after the war, one of the surviving Jews said the following " Draza Mihailovic’s Cetniks, mercilessly pursued Jews in that region, especially the Cetnik units that came from Ravna Gora (Draza’s main headquarters), whom we were forced to hide from just as we had to hide from the Germans. I know that it was these Cetniks who killed several families in that region in the most appalling manner."

The majority of Serbian Jews were killed in the Sajmiste camp. There is no precise information and documentation is almost non-existent, yet it is estimated that the number of victims comes to at least 11,000. The camp was formed on the left bank of the Sava by the railway bridge at the entrance into Belgrade where the pre-war trade fair was located. This is where the name Sajmiste originated. This territory which was, at that time, deserted, uninhabited and marshy, was several kilometers from Zemun and formed a part of NDH (Independent State of Croatia) territory, so the Germans asked for it to be given to them. It is, however, completely untrue that this was an Ustasa camp which Serbian propaganda claims even today. Not one Ustasa ever entered the camp. The commander, Androfer, and his assistant, were SS-men. On Gestapo ruling, order and discipline were maintained by the Camp Council which was comprised exclusively of camp inmates who were at first solely Jews because there were no others and some agents of the Serbian police. Supplies were provided by the "Department of Social Care and Social Institutions of Belgrade’s Municipal Authorities". At the beginning of December 1941, Serbian gendarmes called upon Jews in Belgrade to report to the Special Police and to hand over their house keys. The transfer of Jews, primarily women and children, lasted from December 8 until 12. Conditions in the camp were extremely difficult - the damp and the cold, hunger and epidemics. A Jewish source says: "The food was appalling and often not even the minimal amount of food was supplied. In Nedic’s units there were people who were no better than the Germans themselves." What is almost unbelievable is that even the camp’s German commander protested against the quantity of supplies. The reply of Belgrade’s Municipal Authorities to the Germans was just as unbelievable if not insolent: "Provisions for the Jewish camp will be carried out once all other needs are met."

As camp inmates starved and froze to death, they were transferred over the frozen Sava to Belgrade where they were buried. Many (the number is unknown) were led away to be shot by firing squads in Belgrade. They were killed in the same manner, in the same place and by the same people as were the Banjica prisoners. Some were killed by the Germans in a special gas truck on their way to Belgrade and buried in Jajinci but their number is not known. A Serbian company "Obnova" purchased the clothes of those. Some were led away to camps in other countries (numbers and destination are unknown). When the number of imprisoned Jews began to decrease, Serbian prisoners and others began to arrive. One of these prisoners recalls: "The criminals were the same as those in Banjica. The commanders were also the same - Germans, Nedic’s men and other Serbian fascists". According to some data, all Jews in that camp were liquidated before May 9, 1942. Belgrade had become "Judenfrei"....

Another surviving Serbian camp inmate, wrote in his book of memoirs: "Several thousand Jews passed through the Sajmiste camp... Long lines of sad histories were written on the walls of the pavilions and in many places artistic portraits were completed. For days we returned to these final traces of thousands of people. There were surviving Serbians who told us various details about the life of the Jews in Sajmiste and who had allowed the Jews to write their final parting thoughts and vows ." Today, there is not a trace of these words at Sajmiste. Which of the "liberators" erased, destroyed and eradicated their every trace? Consequently, in the pavilions that remain today, consisting of offices and warehouses, there is not even a small plaque commemorating that this was the scene of a horrific concentration camp for Jews. On February 11, 1993, the European parliament adopted the Resolution on European and International Protection of Concentration Camps as Historical Monuments. But it seems this does not pertain to camp Sajmiste. Sajmiste, the largest Jewish execution camp in Serbia, is not even listed among the names of the 22 largest camps for Jews in Europe in the Memorial Center Jad Vashem in the Hall of Memoirs in Jerusalem. Of all the camps in the former Yugoslavia, Jasenovac is the only name listed! Does this intentionally imply that all Serbian Jews were apparently killed in the NDH in Jasenovac?

* * *

Finally, how did the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) act during World War II? Not one word of condemnation of the genocide, the yellow bands, the concentration camps or the racism was ever heard from them. Immediately upon the arrival of the Germans, representatives of the Holy Synod paid homage to the German military commander and stated, first in print and then in person: " The Holy Orthodox Synod will loyally carry out the laws and commands of the occupying and territorial authorities and will, through its organs, endeavour to effect the complete abidance of order, peace and obedience." The synod remained loyal to their promise until the end and it never violated its promise given to the "father of Serbia" General Milan Nedic that "the Serbian Orthodox Church will, in the spirit of St. Sava’s Orthodox tradition, continue to fight on his side". There are no known cases of any Serbian Orthodox priest saving the life or attempting to save the life of one Jew, although some of them often openly expressed anti-Semitic attitudes in their sermons, instigating their congregation against Jews. Metropolitan Josif, as the head of the Serbian church during war time, signed orders that Jews be forbidden to transfer to the Orthodox faith, even though this would have saved them. Three episcopates were the first to sign the "Appeal to the Serbian people" of August 1941, in which over 500 of the intellectual elite of Serbia publicly expressed their support of the occupiers and quislings, which was a unique case in war-affected Europe.

* * *

One clear manifestation of Serbian anti-Semitism was the anti-Masonic, specifically the anti-Jewish exhibition which opened in Belgrade on October 22, 1941 and which was to support and justify the genocide against the Jews in Serbia and in Europe. Apart from the exhibits at the show, an overwhelming amount of propaganda material was prepared (over 200,000 various brochures, 60,000 posters, 100,000 leaflets, 108,000 copies of nine different post cards, 176 various cinema advertisements, four types of postal stamps, etc.). The organizers boasted: "Such a conceived exhibition will be unique, not only in Serbia but in the Balkans as well, not only in south-eastern Europe and Europe, but in the world". The press awakened the national pride of the people: "The success of the Belgrade exhibition has surpassed Serbia’s borders and received deserved recognition by the press in entire Europe". The pride of the organizers was directed to a truly unique occurrence in Europe during the war, this being the anti-Jewish stamps which showed abominable racist drawings, and which were to, according to requests by Serbian anti-Semites, "in the entire world, for all time, serve as the most convincing evidence of how one nation awakened when faced with the danger of disappearing(?)". Milan Nedic expressed "his complete gratitude to the organizers and believes that the exhibition will have a great educational impact, because it systematically displays, in a clear manner, the work of the enemy of the nation and the people".

* * *

Much time has passed since what has been described in Serbia, but anti-Semitism in Serbia, like the vampire, does not die. In 1985, the Serbian eparchy in Western Germany printed a book in Serbian and in Cyrillic written by the already deceased episcopate, Nikolai Velimirovic, supposedly in 1945 in the Dachau camp. The fact that this is completely untrue is another theme. The book preaches to the Serbian Orthodox people: "Today, Europe is primarily the battlefield of the Jews and the father of the Jewish devil. Europe is not aware of this and in this lies the dark tragedy of its peoples. Europeans, Christians and the anointed, have completely surrendered themselves to the Jews. They think as the Jewish people do, they have adopted Jewish programs, accepted Jewish lies as the truth, they travel the same paths as Jews and they serve Jewish goals". There was no reaction from either side. In 1991, the Serbian Orthodox Church organized the spectacular transfer to Serbia of the remains of this anti-Semitic ideologist. The newsletter of the Serbian patriarchy "Pravoslavlje" printed an article in January 1992 by their correspondent in Israel "Jews Crucify Christ Once More", with the following allegations: "Many Israelis are sick with hatred for the Christians. The hatred is open among the ordinary people. Politicians are perfidious and work in secret.", etc. etc... Two weeks later, the Holy Orthodox Synod announced that the text " sounds anti-Semitic, things are carelessly reported" and at the same time claimed: "the phenomenon of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism is completely alien to the tradition and history of the Serbian Orthodox Church". In February 1992, the Belgrade "Borba" wrote that at the entrance to the Jewish cemetery, someone had written: "Death to Jews and all Jewish p....", but the whole affair was covered up. The "Tanjug" news agency announced a few days later that "the Jewish lobby had arranged the diplomatic recognition of Croatia and Slovenia by Russia". One of Seselj’s commanders stated in Subotica that the property of Jews (and Croats) should be confiscated. In August 1993, the president of the Jewish community in Belgrade, commenting on their relations with the Orthodox Church, stated in a conversation with Zagreb Jews that the Orthodox Church "still preaches deicide and is still streaked with anti-Semitism". Two months ago, in an Israeli newspaper, we learn that "a member of the Serbian parliament has accused the Jews of stabbing Serbia in the back".

It seems as if the "Borba" journalist was correct when he concludes his article with the following words: " Propagandistic platitudes on the non-existence of anti-Semitism in Serbia do not correspond to reality: there has always been anti-Semitism in Serbia".

It is true, history does not repeat itself in Serbia, it merely continues in a uninterrupted series...

As do certain statements made by Serbian intellectuals, for instance: "it is a propaganda lie that Serbians liquidated Jews during the Second World War and that anti-Semitism was present in Serbia before the war and is present now!" This statement was made by Dr. Ljubo Tadic’s, a professor of the Faculty of Arts in Belgrade and a Serb, and Dr. Andrija Gams, professor at the Faculty of Law, sadly, a Serbian Jew.

Count Nikolai Tolstoy: The Bleiburg Massacres


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