The Holocaust in German-occupied Serbia was the Nazi German genocide against Serbs, Jews and Romani during World War II in the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia[Note 1] Serbia today includes areas outside the Military Commander of Serbia's Territory in 1941 to 1945: especially the northern Serbian province Vojvodina then made up of the Hungarian Delvidek with its major city of Novi Sad, Serbian Banat, and Serbian Srem (Syrmia). The main perpetrator of the crimes was the Nazi German Wehrmacht stationed in German-occupied Serbia, which carried out the operations with the assistance of Dimitrije Ljotić's Yugoslav fascist movement Zbor and the quisling regime of Milan Nedić.
Yugoslav Foreign Secretary Anton Korošec, who was Roman Catholic priest and leader of Slovenian conservatives, stated in September 1938, that "Jewish issue did not exist in Yugoslavia…. Jewish refugees from the Nazi Germany are not welcome here." In December 1938 Rabbi Isaac Alkalai, the only Jewish member of government was dismissed from the government.
On 25 March 1941, Prince Paul of Yugoslavia signed the Tripartite Pact, allying the Kingdom of Yugoslavia with the Axis powers. The Pact was extremely unpopular, particularly in Serbia and Montenegro, and demonstrations broke out. On 27 March, Serb military officers overthrew Prince Paul. The new government withdrew its support for the Axis, but did not repudiate the Tripartite Pact. Nevertheless, Axis forces, led by Nazi Germany invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941.
In central Serbia the Germans occupiers established the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia (Gebiet des Militärbefehlshabers in Serbien), the only area of partitioned Yugoslavia under direct German military government, with the day-to-day administration of the territory controlled by the German Chief of the Military Administration. The German Military Commander in Serbia appointed a Serbian civil puppet government to carry out administrative tasks in accordance with German direction and supervision. The police and army of the puppet government were placed under German commanders.
In July 1941, a major uprising began in Serbia against the German occupiers, which included the establishment of the Republic of Užice, the first liberated territory in World War II Europe. To assist in quelling the rebellion the German occupiers in August 1941 put in place the puppet government of Milan Nedić, which was also given responsibility for many Holocaust-related activities, including the registration and arrest of Jews and joint control over the Banjica concentration camp in Belgrade.
On 13 April 1941, before the Royal Yugoslav Army formally capitulated, Wilhelm Fuchs – Chief of the Einsatzgruppen based in Belgrade – ordered the registration of the city's Jews. His order stated that all those who did not register, will be shot. Shortly after, Field Commander Colonel von Keisenberg, issued a decree which limited their freedom of movement. On 29 April 1941, the Chief of the German Military Administration in Serbia, Harald Turner issued the order to register all Jews and Gypsies throughout German-occupied Serbia. The order prescribed the wearing of yellow armbands, introduced forced labor and curfew, limited access to food and other provisions and banned the use of public transport.
On 30 May, the German Military Commander in Serbia, Helmuth Förster, issued the main race laws - The Regulation Concerning Jews and Gypsies (Verordnung Betreffend Die Juden Und Zigeuner), which defined who is considered Jewish and Gypsy. The law excluded Jews and Roma from public and economic life, their property was seized, they were obliged to register in special lists (Judenregister and Zigeunerlisten) and for forced labor. In addition, the order prescribed the obligatory wearing of yellow tape for Jews and Roma, prohibited them from work in public institutions and professions as lawyers, doctors, dentists, veterinarians and pharmacists, as well as visits to cinemas, theaters, entertainment venues, public baths, sports fields and markets.
The destruction of Serbian Jews by the Nazi Germans was carried out in 2 distinct phases. The first, which lasted between July and November 1941 involved the murder of Jewish men, who were shot as part of retaliatory executions carried out by German forces in response to the rising anti-Nazi, partisan insurgency in Serbia. In October 1941. the German general, Franz Böhme, ordered the execution of 100 civilians for every German soldier killed and 50 for every wounded. Böhme's order stated that hostages are to be drawn from "all Communists, people suspected of being Communists, all Jews, and a given number of nationalist and democratically minded inhabitants". Altogether some 30.000 people were executed by the Nazi's during the first 2 months of this policy, including nearly all Serbian Jewish males, as well as tens of thousands of Serbs. After executing tens of thousands of Jewish men, the Wehrmacht in Belgrade refused to kill women and children because that would be "dishonourable".
The second genocidal attempt between December 1941 and May 1942 involved the incarceration of the women and children at the Semlin concentration camp and former fairgrounds in Belgrade and their gassing in a mobile gas van called a Sauerwagen. The German concentration camp, the old fairgrounds or Stare Sajmište, near Zemun was established across the Sava river from Belgrade, on the territory of the Independent State of Croatia, to process and eliminate the captured Jews, Serbs, Roma, and others. Some 7,000 to 10,000 Jews are estimated to have been exterminated by the Nazis in the Semlin concentration camp alone, along with more than 10,600 Serbs and uncounted Romani (see Sajmište concentration camp)
The SS-commander Harald Turner, Chief of the German military administration in Serbia described how the Nazis carried out the genocide of Serbian Jews:
Already some months ago, I shot dead all the Jews I could get my hands on in this area, concentrated all the Jewish women and children in a camp and with the help of the SD (i.e. Sicherheitsdienst – Nazi Security Services) got my hands on a "delousing van," that in about 14 days to 4 weeks will have brought about the definitive clearing out of the camp...— Dr. Harold Turner's letter to Karl Wolff, dated April 11, 1942.
While the Germans were exclusively responsible for attempted extermination the Jews of Serbia proper, they were assisted by local quislings in the Nedić government and others, who helped round up the Jews, Romani and Serbs who opposed the German occupation. Dimitrije Ljotić founded a pan-Serbian, pro-Nazi and Fascist party Zbor. It was very active organization that published a large number extreme anti-Semitic literature.
Emanuel Schäfer, commander of the Security Police and Gestapo in Serbia, convicted in Germany in 1953 for the death van killings of 6.000 Serbian Jews at Sajmiste, famously cabled Berlin after last Jews were killed in May 1942:
Similarly Harald Turner of the SS, later executed in Belgrade for his war crimes, stated in 1942 that:
Serbia is the only country in which the Jewish question and the Gypsy question has been solved.
By the time Serbia and eastern parts of Yugoslavia were liberated in 1944, most of the Serbian Jewry had been murdered. Of the 82,500 Jews of Yugoslavia alive in 1941, only 14,000 (17%) survived the Holocaust. Of the Serbian Jewish population of 16,000, the Nazis murdered approximately 14,500.
Historian Christopher Browning who attended the conference on the subject of Holocaust and Serbian involvement stated:
Serbia was the only country outside Poland and the Soviet Union where all Jewish victims were killed on the spot without deportation, and was the first country after Estonia to be declared 'Judenfrei,'" a term used by the Nazis during the Holocaust to denote an area free of all Jews.
Unlike Serbia proper, which was under German occupation, control of the Serbian province of Vojvodina was divided between Hungary (Bačka/Batschka), local ethnic German Danube Swabian or Shwovish authorities (in Banat), and the Croatia authorities in Srem/Syrmia, all of whom helped carry out the Jewish genocide in those areas.
In January 1942 Hungarian military units under Shwovish leadership conducted a Razzia/police raid nominally against a communist insurgency. This occurred in several villages of the Vojvodina and the literature is replete with varying estimates of the number of victims. In Novi Sad alone one estimate offers a total of 600 Jews and 2,500 Serbs, ostensibly in retaliation for an act of sabotage. One expert of the Holocaust in Hungarian-occupied Yugoslav territories, Ralph L. Braham estimates 3,309 victims (2,550 Serbs and 700 Jews). After the Germans occupied Hungary in March 1944, and then the Hungarian Arrow Cross fascists overthrew the Horthy government in October, Hungarian gendarmerie units rounded up some 16,000 Jews from the Bačka area of Vojvodina and nearby Baranja (then a part of Hungary), deported them into the custody of German police, who transported them to Auschwitz, where the majority died in the gas chambers. and to the Austrian concentration and work camp of Strasshof where 70% or so survived.
Approximately 4,000 to 10,000 Jews from the Serbian Banat were deported to the German military authorities in Serbia by the local ethnic German authorities under Sepp Janko to be killed in German concentration camps (Semlin and others – see Axis occupation of Vojvodina). Jews in Croatian Ustashe-occupied Syrmia, were sent to concentration camps in the Croatia, such as Jasenovac where approximately 17,000 of a total population of 20,000 in Croatia were likewise killed.
Although the Wehrmacht, after the war, stated that it took no part in the genocidal programmes, General Böhme and his men planned and executed the slaughter of over 20,000 Jews and Gypsies without any signal from Berlin.
Of the Jewish population of 16,000 in Serbia Proper, the Nazi Germans murdered approximately 14,500.
Serbian civilians were involved in saving thousands of Serbian Jews during this period. Miriam Steiner-Aviezer, a researcher into Yugoslavian Jewry and a member of Yad Vashem's Righteous Gentiles committee states: "The Serbs saved many Jews. Contrary to their present image in the world, the Serbs are a friendly, loyal people who will not abandon their neighbors." As of 2019, Yad Vashem recognizes 139 Serbians as Righteous Among the Nations, the highest of any Balkan country.
Serbia is the first country in Europe which adopted a law for restitution of properties of Jewish heirless victims of Holocaust. According to this law, besides this restitution, Serbia will make 950,000 EUR annual payment from its budget to the Union of Jewish Municipalities starting from 2017. The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) praised adoption of this law while its chair of operations invited other countries to follow Serbias example. The Embassy of Israel in Serbia issued a release welcoming the adoption of this law and emphasizing that Serbia should be an example for other countries in Europe. The release of Embassy of Israel concluded: "The new law is a noble act of a great country that will breathe new life into the small Jewish community that it is today."
During the 1990s, the role Nedić and Ljotić played in the extermination of Serbia's Jews was downplayed by a number of Serbian historians. In 1993, the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts listed Nedić among The 100 most prominent Serbs.
Following the breakup of Yugoslavia, local councillors in Smederevo campaigned to have the town's largest square named after Ljotić. The councillors defended Ljotić's wartime record and justified the initiative by stating that "[collaboration] ... is what the biological survival of the Serbian people demanded" during World War II. Later, the Serbian magazine Pogledi published a series of articles attempting to exonerate Ljotić. In 1996, future Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica praised Ljotić in a public statement. Koštunica and his Democratic Party of Serbia (Demokratska stranka Srbije, DSS) actively campaigned to rehabilitate figures such as Ljotić and Nedić following the overthrow of Slobodan Milošević and his socialist government in October 2000.
Srbija je prva država u Evropi koja je donela zakon o vraćanju imovine Jevreja ubijenih u Holokaustu koji nemaju naslednike. Profesor Filozofskog fakulteta Nikola Samardžić kaže da je suočavanje sa Holokaustom ozbiljno i da je Srbija lider u Evropi po ovom zakonu.
August Edler von Meyszner (3 August 1886 – 24 January 1947) was an Austrian Gendarmerie officer, right-wing politician, and senior Ordnungspolizei (order police) officer who held the post of Higher SS and Police Leader in the German-occupied territory of Serbia from January 1942 to March 1944, during World War II. He has been described as one of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler's most brutal subordinates.
Meyszner began his career as an officer in the Gendarmerie, served on the Italian Front during World War I and reached the rank of Major der Polizei by 1921. He joined the Austrian Nazi Party in September 1925 and became a right-wing parliamentary deputy and provincial minister in the Austrian province of Styria in 1930. Due to his involvement with the Nazis, Meyszner was forcibly retired in 1933 and arrested in February 1934, but released after three months at the Wöllersdorf concentration camp. That July, he was rearrested following an attempted coup, but escaped police custody and fled to Nazi Germany, where he joined the Ordnungspolizei (Orpo) and then the Allgemeine SS. After police postings in Austria, Germany and occupied Norway, Himmler appointed Meyszner as Higher SS and Police Leader in Serbia in early 1942. He was one of few Orpo officers to be appointed to such a role.
Meyszner's time in Belgrade was characterised by friction and competition with German military, economic and foreign affairs officials, and by his visceral hatred and distrust of Serbs. During his tenure, he oversaw regular reprisal killings and sent tens of thousands of forced labourers to the Reich and occupied Norway. His Gestapo detachment used a gas van to kill 8,000 Jewish women and children who had been detained at the Sajmište concentration camp. In April 1944, his outspoken complaints about a reduction in reprisals against civilians allowed his enemies within the German occupation regime in Serbia to have him removed. Himmler transferred him to Berlin with the task of establishing a Europe-wide Gendarmerie. After the war, he fell into the hands of the Allies and was interrogated by the United States Chief Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality. Extradited to Yugoslavia, he was tried for war crimes, along with many of his staff from his time in Serbia. He was found guilty by a Yugoslav military court and executed by hanging in January 1947.History of the Jews in Serbia
The history of the Jewish community in what is today Serbia is some two thousand years old, and predates the arrival of the Serbs. The Jews first arrived in the region during Roman times. The Jewish communities of the Balkans remained small until the late 15th century, when Jews fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions found refuge in the Ottoman-ruled areas, including Serbia.
The community flourished and reached a peak of 33,000 before World War II (of which almost 90% were living in Belgrade and Vojvodina). About two-thirds of Serbian Jews perished in the Holocaust, having been particularly targeted as Hitler sought to punish both ethnic Serbs and Jews for German defeat in World War I. After the war, a great part of the remaining Jewish Serbian population emigrated, chiefly into Israel. In the 2011 census only 787 people declared themselves as Jewish. Today, the Belgrade Synagogue and the Subotica Synagogue, once the fourth largest synagogue building in Europe, are the two in-service synagogues, while the Novi Sad Synagogue has been converted into a cultural art space. The very name of the City of Subotica gives away its Jewish heritage – "Shabbat" is "Subota" in the Serbo-Croatian language.Ilija Fonlamov Francisković
Ilija Fonlamov Francisković (Niš, February 16, 1996) is a Serbian painter, known for his official painting of Celebration of 1700 years of the Edict of Milan - The Emperor's edict.Jasenovac – istina
Jasenovac – istina (English: Jasenovac – The Truth) is a 2016 documentary film by Croatian filmmaker Jakov Sedlar. The film contends that the extent of The Holocaust in Croatia and the World War II-era genocide of the country's Serb population was exaggerated through post-war communist propaganda. It focuses primarily on Jasenovac, a concentration camp run by Croatia's wartime fascist Ustaše government where an estimated 100,000 are believed to have perished, and suggests that the actual death toll never exceeded 18,000. The film also argues that Jasenovac continued being used as a concentration camp by Yugoslavia's communist authorities well after World War II, and that more inmates perished when it was run by the communists than when it was run by the Ustaše.
The film premiered in Tel Aviv in February 2016 and in Zagreb two months later. Its Croatian premiere was attended by Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegović, who is alleged to have made a number of pro-fascist statements in the past. The film was panned by scholars, journalists and politicians from the Croatian left, who accused the filmmakers of minimizing and relativizing Ustaše atrocities. It was also alleged that the filmmakers had fabricated or misrepresented a number of photographs, correspondences and newspaper reports seen in the film, as well as that they had manipulated videotaped survivor testimony through selective editing. The Israeli ambassador to Croatia, who attended the Zagreb premiere, strongly criticized the film and accused the filmmakers of historical revisionism, as did representatives of the Croatian Serb and Croatian Jewish communities.
Jasenovac – istina has been shown as an educational feature in a number of Croatian schools, causing further controversy. Sedlar has said that he intends to screen the film at Holocaust museums and Jewish community centres, and indicated that copies will be donated to university libraries in Europe and North America. In July 2016, a non-governmental organization called the Anti-Fascist League of Croatia filed a lawsuit against Sedlar alleging the film incited ethnic intolerance and promoted Holocaust denial.Philip J. Cohen
Philip J. Cohen (born 1953) is a former United Nations advisor on Bosnia and Herzegovina who has written several works on the history of the former Yugoslavia, most notably Serbia’s Secret War: Propaganda and the Deceit of History, first published in 1996 by Texas A&M University Press to mixed reviews. He followed this in 1997 with the publishing of The World War II and contemporary Chetniks: Their historico-political continuity and implications for stability in the Balkans by Ceres. In 1998, he received an award from Franjo Tuđman the President of Croatia for his "contribution in spreading the truth about the aggression against Croatia" and "exposing Great Serb and anti-Croat propaganda" through his books.Serbian genocide
Serbian genocide may refer to several different events:
The Holocaust in Serbia, Nazi genocide against Jews and Romani during World War II
Croatia–Serbia genocide case, a 1999–2015 suit before the International Court of Justice
The Holocaust in Europe
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