JEWISH HISTORICAL MUSEUM

WHERE IS IT?

Address: 71 Kralja Petra st., Belgrade, in the vicinity of the Bajrakli Mosque, the Fesco Gallery, The Theater Museum and the restaurant  Smokvica.

THE HISTORY

In the building of the Jewish Community of Belgrade, there is a unique museum space - The Jewish Historical Museum. The museum was founded in 1948. whithin the framework of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the former Yugoslavia. The museum's historical department was first formed in Zagreb, and then in 1952, the exhibition was transferred to Belgrade (to a buiding that was a Sephardic Municipality until the Second World War). The building was designed by architect Samuel Sumbul. Today there's a large inscription at the top of the building "Dom jevrejske crkveno-školske opštine" in translation "Home of the Jewish Religious School Community".
The museum is thematically specialized and its content is comlex. In addition to museum collections, it has a significant archive. The archive includes documentation, photo documentation and two electronic databases- Holocaust victims from the entire territory of the former Yugoslavia and the Jewish registry book in Belgrade.
Territorially, the museum exhibition covers the space the entire territory of the former Yugoslavia. Also, it covers the period of Jewish settlement in the second and trird centuries, the Holocaust in the Second World War and the renewal of Jewish Communities. The last period is shown at 200m2, so that the visitors in addition to history could get acquainted with the cultural and historical heritage and customs of the Jews in the former Yugoslavia.

JEWS IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE IN THE BALKANS

Jewish history on Balkans and former Yugoslavia dates back to the ancient Roman period. The Jews who were lived troughout the provinces of the Roman Empire were called Romaniots. They moved to the Balkans at the beginning of the new era. The oldest Jewish settlements in this part of the Balkans were established in Stobi in today's northern Macedonia as well as along the shores of the Adriatic Sea. The oldest preserved written monument about the existence of the Jewish Community and Rabbi Tiberius Polyharmos is an engraved inscription on the "Pillar of Polyharmos" which was found in the ruins of the synagogue in Stobi from the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th century.

JEWS IN THE MIDDLE AGES ON BALKANS SOIL

During the Middle Ages there was a continuity of the Jewish Community in the Balkans. During the fourteenth century, numerous written sources were written about the Jewish Community in the Serbian Medieval State, the Republic of Dubrovnik and the cities of the Adriatic coast, especially in Split and Zadar. During the Middle Ages migrations of Jews began throughout the former Yugoslavia. Jews from Eastern and Central Europe- Ashkenazi immigrated from the late Middle Ages while Jews from Spain- Sephardi were immigrating after expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula (1492.)

JEWS IN THE 19th CENTURY IN THE BALKANS

During the 19th century the creation of conditions for the recognition of the religious and civil rights of Jews began. This exhibition panel shows documents about recognizing the religious freedoms of citizens of the Principality of Serbia passed at the Berlin Congress (1878.) In the lower right corner is the "Announcement of the Ministry of Justice" from 1884. on the occasion of the decision of the Berlin Congress on religious freedom.

JEWS IN THE 20th CENTURY

An important event for the Jewish Community at the beginning of the 20th century was formation of the Alliance of Jewish Communities in the Kindom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1919. This alliance meant institutionalized support, and the law on the Religious Community of Jews in the Kingdom in 1929. contributed to the advancement of the status of Jewish Community. Numerous paintings of members of the Jewish Community who have left an important mark in the history of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia with treir works are exibited in the panoramas.

The social, political and cultural life of the Jews was full swing during the first half of the 20th century. Numerous associations, sport clubs and schools were places for gathering Jews. Such places enabled the full realization of religious and civil rights. All of this was interrupted by the Second World War, which almost completey physically destroyed the Jewish community.

After the Second World War, the number of Jews who survived the Holocaust was small and the political conditions in the SFRY gave Jews the same civil rights as other residents of the country. Surviving and non-emmigrant Jews continued to operate in public life, and trough their associations (the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia and later Serbia) continued to advocate for the correction of historical atrocities committed in Yugoslavia during the Second World War.

THE HOLOCAUST

It is estimated that about 82% of the Jewish population died in the Holocaust in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Entire families and even Jewish communities have disappeared. At the beginning of the Second World War 82.000 of Jews lived in Yugoslavia and 67.000 were killed. At that time 90% of Jews were killed in Belgrade and the statement that "Belgrade was cleansed of Jews" evokes tragic memories (1942). Hundreds od synagogues were destroyed, private property was confiscated and in a tragic and cruel way innocent citizens of Jewish origin were killed in camps and in dusengupkas (killing trucks specializing in gassing people, used by Nazis in the Second World War).

The collection of the Holocaust occupies a special place with many original objects from the everyday life of the Jewish population, primarily from the life in camps. The map of Yugoslavia shows occupation zones and marks of death camps (collection camps, concentracion camps, prisons and mass murder sites). There are Anti-Semitism posters, Anti-Jewish orders, photographs of Jews with yellow ribbons and many other objects testifying to the brutality to which people of Jewish origin were exposed.

JUDAICA COLLECTION

This is a collection related to religious and ritual objects that are characteristic of the daily and religious life of Jews throughout history . They originate from the territory of the former Yugoslavia from the 17th to the 20th century. In this part, stands out the open scroll of the Torah which contains the Five books of  Moses. In the display case you can see other ritual objects as Jadaim (pointer to the text), Rimonim (two ornaments for Torah holders), Keter Torah (crown for the Torah).

In this showcase are Parochet (a curtain which cover the holy wardrobe) from the 18th to the 19th century), Religious Šalovitalit-s and Closed Torah from Livorno in Italy (18th century).

Also in this showcase we can find items that are used for important Jewish holidays such as Pessach, Purim, Shabbat, Sukkot, Hanukkah.. These objects originate from Vienna, Osijek, the countries of the Austria-Hungary, eastern Europe, Italy and Serbia (period 19th-20th century).

JEWS IN BELGRADE

Durring the Ottoman Empire (18th century) there was a larger settlement of Jews in Belgrade. Sephardic Jews (from Spain) after expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula lived throughout the Mediterranean. A large number of Jews found refuge in the Ottoman Empire where they could live like the rest of the population. During the 16th century, a large number of Sephardic Jews came to Turkish Belgrade and lived  in the mahalas (Turkish name for the city quarter) on Dorćol. According to indirect data, we learn that the municipality of Sephardic Jews was founded in the 1920s. There was less number of Ashkenazic Jews and they were inhabited on the banks of the Sava river. The first synagogue in Belgrade was built during the 17th century and it's known as El Kal Vieho. It was situated on today's street Visokog Stefana 5-7. It was a single-nave building with a rectangular base (36x8m) with a semicircular apse on the south side. This synagogue was destroyed by the fire several times but it was rebuild each time. A great reconstruction followed in 1819. and from then until the destruction of the synagogue in 1945. synagogue didn't change its appearance.

The Second Dorćol synagogue "New Synagogue"- El Kal Nuevo, was built after Serbia's independence at the Berlin Congress. El Kal Nuevo, was a temple visited by the poor world. This synagogue was destroyed during the First World War, and the Jewish Community built a warehouse on that place, which has survived to this day.

The next synagogue built for the needs of the Sephardic Jewish Community was Beth Israel into the street Cara Uroša.The project of the architect Milan Kapetanović (friend of the Dorćol Jews) won the competition= got a path to realization his architectual design. The synagogue was bluilt in Moorish style and completed in 1908. It was also set on fire during the Second World War and in war in 1949., the remains of the synagogue were removed and the Gallery of Frescoes was built on that place.

With the end of the First World War, Belgrade attracted more and more Ashkenazi Jews coming from Austria- Hungary. Unlike the Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazi Jews didn't inhabit  only one part; they lived in whole "city". That is why the center of the city Kosmajska Street 51 (today's street Maršala Birjuzova) was chosen for the location of their synagogue. During the Second World War, German soliders used it as a brothel with the aim of devaluing the Jewish temple. The Synagogue Sukat Salom still serves its purpose today!

Considering that after the Second  World War Zemun also became a part of Belgrade, it is important to note that there were 2 synagogues.

Zemun Sephardic Synagogue

  1. The work of an architect Josef Marks (1871.)
  2. Damaged in the Allied bombing in 1944., there was no major damage until the end of the war.
  3. By a controversal decision of the authorities in 1947. the synagogue was demolished and on that address (23 Dubrovačka Street) a block of flats was bluit.

Zemun Ashkenazic Synagogue

  1. Built in the mid-19th century in address 5 Rabina Alkalaja.
  2. Preserved after the Second World War and in 1962. sold to the municipality of Zemun.
  3. The municipality used the synagogue for local board meeting, meetings of cultural and artistic content.
  4. At one point the synagogue was a disco, sometime later a restaurant, and today's purpose of the synagogue is controversial.

Written and translated by Iva Pešić