JEWISH COMMUNITIES IN MACEDONIA* PRIOR TO 1941
Žamila Kolonomos, D-r Vera Veskovik-Vangeli
The development of the Jewish Communities in Macedonia until the end of the 19th century
- This research refers only to the territory of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia.
In order to make a clear presentation of the Jewish Communities in Macedonia, it is necessary that we review their situation prior to 1941. As the aim of this research is to present the most recent history of the Jewish Communities, we shall turn only briefly to the early period of their life in this territory.
The Balkan Jews have an ancient history. Extant documents prove that Jews had lived in many Mediterranean cities even at the time when Palestine was their nation state. Economic interests drove them, deeper into the Balkan territory. Records of their presence in Salonica and other larger Mediterranean cities date from as early as the first century AD.
Archeological excavations have produced evidence of the earliest Jewish settlements, and the finds at Stobi situated 80 kms south of the city of Skopje, have proved the existence of a Jewish synagogue on that site in the 4th century AD. Travel literature also contains ample in¬formation about the locations inhabited by Jewish families or whole communities, about their synagogues and leaders.
During Byzantine rule the Jews accepted the Greek language and customs. In the mid-10th century they inhabited Serdica (now Sofia) and erected a synagogue there, later called Cal di los gregos. The Jews that were now settling in the cities along the main Balkan communi¬cations were the Ashkenazim (Germans). They had fled Northern Europe before the Crusaders and their migration is believed to have continued until the 17th century. In 1360 they built a synagogue in Sofia, which existed until not long ago.
A turning point in the life of the Balkan Jews is marked by the arrival of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the 15th cen¬tury. On March 31st, 1492, the catholic royal couple Isabella and Fer¬dinand signed a decree by which all Jews who refused to convert to the Christian religion were to be banished from Spain. A great number of Jews were then forced to leave their fatherland without being allow¬ed to take any of the wealth they had acquired. In 1496 the Jews were also banished from Portugal and soon the same destiny was met by ail who had accepted the Christian religion by force, called Marans.
The Jews originating in Spain are called Sephardi after the Hebrew word Sepharadh meaning Spain.
Authors disagree as to the number of Jews banished from the Iberian Peninsula; nonetheless, most of them agree that there must have been about 200,000 refugees. The majority of these refugees set¬tled in the territory of the Ottoman Empire, mainly in the Balkan Pe¬ninsula. A small number fled to France, Italy, Holland, Hungary, Mo¬rocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and America.
At the time the Turkish Empire spread over certain Yugoslav ter¬ritories, such as Macedonia, Bosnia and Hercegovina and parts of Ser¬bia, Croatia and Montenegro. A fact worth noting is that the main in¬flux of refugees into Macedonia, .Serbia and Bosnia travelled via the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas, Romania and Hungary.
A document containing the 1512 census of the Jewish community in Shtip states that the city had at the time 38 Jewish families which had arrived from Salonica. Information on the settling of Jews in the city of Skopje can be found in various documents. Thus, a document dated from Dubrovnik, May 1502, states that a Samuel Rikoma had signed a contract with Hercegovian guides for the transportation of his people and their luggage, loaded on 46 horses, to Skopje. Another document, from 1544, states that Skopje was inhabited by 32 Jewish fa¬milies and 6 Jewish bachelors.
The city of Bitola was also inhabited by Jews from Spain and Portugal. A document from the 16th century evidences the existence of two Jewish communities with synagogues named Aragon and Portu-gal, in memory of the lands the Jews had come from. Together with the Portuguese Jews a number of Marans — Jews forced into Chris¬tianity — arrived in Bitola.
In the 16th and 17 th centuries Jews were also to be found in the city of Kratovo. There is evidence of a dispute between the rabbis of Kratovo and Skopje over a widow living in Kratovo1. A document from 1647 refers to a Jew from Kratovo who, fearing murder, fled to Skop¬je. Another document evidences the marriage between a Jewish man from Kratovo and a Jewish woman from Sofia.
The Sephardi Jews brought with them the culture and the know¬ledge they had acquired during their long stay in Spain and Portugal, in whose social life and economy they had played an important role. Their part in the cultural life had been just as significant, which comes from their good knowledge of languages such as Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish. Among the new refugees there were distinguished scientists, philosophers and doctors, who continued their work in the new country and shared their knowledge with the Jews already settled there. The Jewish communities accepted the life and the language of the new¬comers and so a new Hebrew-Spanish language come to be spoken by all Sephardi Jews.
All through the 16th and 17th centuries the Jewish communities kept growing in the cities of Salonica, Skopje, Bitola and Shtip. These places had strong Jewish communities with all the necessary cultural and social institutions, schools and synagogues. The Salonica, Istanbul and Izmir Jewish communities exerted great influence over the Jewish population of Macedonia, spreading their cultural and economic rela¬tions with many other countries. Thus, the rabbis from the 16th and 17th centuries have left documents in the form of questions and answers, called responzi. These contain information about all spheres of life of the Jewish communities. From them we learn about family relation¬ships and customs, financial and trade relations, taxation and other government dues, various disputes among merchants, etc. Here we find evidence of the first merchants' guilds and the initial stages of inter¬national trade, inter-city trade, the appearance of new trades, the de¬velopment of textile and leather manufacture, mining, etc. The responzi discuss the prohibition on competition among Jewish merchants, the housing problem, poverty, punishments, murders, fires, thefts, the un¬safe roads, terrorization by the Turkish administration, rebellions, wars, peace treaties, reforms and so on.
The Jewish communities were headed by rabbis who had great authority. Each community was autonomous, there was no joint leader¬ship, which enabled each one of them to live and develop independent¬ly. The rabbis acted as judges, too; they settled all disputes in the com¬munity and strongly disapproved of their compatriots appealing to Mus¬lim law-courts.
Rabbi Joseph Ben Lev, born in Bitola in 1502, wrote four books in which he described Jewish customs, trade and crafts in the first half of the 16th century. These books went through several editions in Istanbul, Venice and Amsterdam.
Shelomo Abram Akoen, rabbi of Bitola in 1535, left a document dated May 2nd, 1588, containing information about the guild of the Jewish merchants of that city.
The rabbinical protocol of the 16th century contains details about the guild of the Jewish merchants from Skopje and their trade with Western Europe. A number of documents from the same period refer to trade among Jews from Salonica, Sofia. Bitola and Skopje. In these sources we also find information about trade among Jews from Saraje¬vo, Skopje and Salonica.
A document from 1674 states that in Skopje there was a Founda¬tion of the Jewish community and a charitable society called Hebra Kadisha. One of the protocols makes mention of the sale of a Founda-tion piece of land to an individual.
The protocol of August 12th, 1558 states that Mordehai de Buton, a merchant, was murdered while making a journey to Bitola and then dumped into the River Vardar. Another protocol mentions the murder of two Jews from Strumitsa, and a third claims that merchants from Salonica and Bitola were often robbed and murdered by the men of the Turkish Pasha.
The rabbis have left copious information on the wars between
Turkey and Austria, the Austrian conquest of Skopje, the sufferings of the local population, the killing of Jews, on arson and robbery. A document from 1697 describes Austrian soldiers destroying the Jewish ghetto in Skopje. Further, we learn that the Jews asked the rabbi for permission to sell the holy silver objects to get money to restore the synagogue, the school and the fortifying walls of the ghetto. The document also contains plentiful information on the fall of Skopje and the Jewish victims in these wars.
Facts about the situation of the Jews in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries are also given in documents of Turkish origin. Various edicts, decrees, court sentences, inventories and other documents prove that the Jewish communities met with a lot of opposition which they had to fight in order to secure their existence. Both Jews and Christians were expected to pay a lot of money in various taxes. Apart from that they had to give the Empire a certain percentage of their crops, a number of sheep, cattle, horses, hides, some meat and fabrics to satisfy the requirements of the large Turkish army.
A number of documents prove that the economic situation of most Jews in Bitola at the beginning of the 19th century was difficult. Thus, when a proposal was made to change the market day from Sunday to Saturday, the kadia (judge) of Bitola addressed a letter dated Fe¬bruary 28th, 1832, to the valia (district governor) of Rumelia, saying: "… This day, however, is a Jewish holiday; and the Jews from Bitola are very poor, most of them porters, and depend greatly on the market day for work …". The market day was then changed to Monday.
One also learns from extant documents that many Jews were obliged to ask for a postponement of the payment of their taxes and debts.
The geographical position of the cities of Bitola, Skopje and Shtip and the connections of the respective Jewish communities with Salo¬nica, Sofia, Istanbul, many Mediterranean cities and places in France and Italy helped Macedonia to establish good relations with many parts of Europe. The Jewish population also contributed towards the intro¬duction of modern technology and the development of the economy and culture in the Balkans. The construction of the Skopje—Salonica and Bitola—Salonica railways in 1873 and 1894 respectively increased trade among many cities. Salonica became an important economic and cultu¬ral centre for all Jewish communities in the Balkans.
According to the 1890 census carried out in the districts of Salo¬nica, Bitola (its Turkish name being Monastery) and Kosovo, Bitola was inhabited by 4,000 Jews, Veles by 220, Dojran by 223, Prilep by 100, Ohrid by 50, Skopje by 1,200 and Shtip by 350 . It is to be noted that this census listed separately the Serbs, Wallachs, Bulgarians and the Jews of Moslem religion. The last were members of the Dorme sect, followers of Messiah Shabetaj Tsvi (1626—1676) who had converted to the Moslem religion. The census listed 5.000 Mohammedan Jews in Sa¬lonica, who were elsewhere listed as Moses-Jews. At the time of the highest point of its economic growth, in 1903, Bitola had 8,200 Jews, i.e, 10 per cent of its total population.
The development and welfare of the Jewish communities depend¬ed on the development of the wider community. So the Jews shared the hard destiny of the Macedonian people and the other minorities, took part in the wars and uprisings, struggled together with the others against economic difficulties and bad weather conditions. They always support¬ed the Macedonian liberation movements to the best of their ability and knowledge.
In 1903 the Jews took an active part in the great Ilinden Uprising. Thus, [[Raphael Kamhi]] (1870—1969) from Bitola maintained close con¬tact with the leaders of the Uprising and, therefore, was able to hand down important information about that period. His memoirs (hand¬written) give evidence of his participation in the preparations for the Uprising and his personal contacts with its leaders Gjorche Petrov, Dame Gruev, Pere Toshev and Gotse Delchev. As he was particularly close to Gjorche Petrov, he enrolled in his company and was charged with the collection of funds, guns and ammunition.
All Jewish communities in Macedonia had a bias towards the Uprising and contributed to it in one way or another. For example, Mentesh Kamhi supplied it with weapons, the brothers Mush on and Abram Nisan, milkmen from Bitola, often transported guns and othei necessities; Santo Aruesti collected money and Peris provided the com¬panies with guns and medical supplies. The Uprising was also support¬ed by Jews from other cities, the greatest help coming from the Sa¬lonica Jews.
Furthermore, the Jews contributed greatly to the development of the labour and socialist movement in Macedonia, plentiful evidence of which can be found in the Memoirs of Dimitar Vlahov, published in 1970.
The Jewish Communities between the two World Wars
The Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 impoverished the people of Ma¬cedonia. The following economic crisis forced many Jews who lost their trade or whose existence was threatened to leave Macedonia. Most of them emigrated to other European countries, to America and to Pa¬lestine. Another blow to the economy of the Jewish communities came with the Bucharest Peace Treaty of 1913. which divided Macedonia be¬tween Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. The trade between Salonica and the other towns decreased. For this reason the Jews strongly opposed the Peace Treaty.
The First World War started one year later and it was inevitable that its military operations should spread over the territory of Mace¬donia. Numerous armies arrived and their maintenance added to the ruin of the poor economy of the country.
Such a situation increased the migration of the Macedonian Jews to the larger economic centres in Yugoslavia and abroad. Many workerb moved to Belgrade and Zagreb where they found temporary or even permanent employment. Whole families emigrated to France, the USA, Chile, Venezuela, Palestine, Argentina, Brazil and some other countries, which brought about a substantial decrease in the Jewish population of Bitola and Shtip. On the other hand, the number of Jews in Skopje showed an upward trend, as the city became the administrative and economic centre of the newly established Vardar Province, which speed¬ed the development of industry and provided many new posts.
Rabbi Abram Romano from Bitola has left valuable information about the social status of the Jewish population in 1940, three years before the holocaust of the Jews from Macedonia.
In 1931 Bitola had 757 Jewish families with 3,751 people. In 1940 429 people emigrated to Palestine, so that early in the same year the city had 737 Jewish families with 3,246 people. During 1940 394 fa-milies applied to the Jewish Council for financial support, which means that over 50 per cent of the total number of Jewish families were underprivileged, unable to provide the basic means for their existence.
The poverty of the Jewish population of Bitola can be better per¬ceived through a look at their jobs and occupations. It must be empha¬sised that the male head of the family was most often its sole sup¬porter.
The Jewish community in Shtip in 1940 had 140 families with 550 people, who were mainly rather poor. With the exception of a few merchants, the majority supported themselves in various jobs and trad¬es; some were apprentices, labourers, servants and porters.
The article "The Composition and Structure of the Jewish Com¬munity in Shtip" by Elagoja Tsvetkovski reviews the occupations of the Jews in Shtip. This problem in Skopje, Veles, Strumitsa and Kumanovo, however, has not been studied.
Despite the difficult political and economic situation during the two world wars, the Jewish communities in Macedonia made an effort not only to survive but also to organize a rich social life.
===[[The social and cultural life of the Jewish communities in Macedonia prior to 1941]]===
Regulations demanded that all Jews should be registered with the Jewish Councils. Besides their religious activities, the councils kept records of all births, marriages and deaths. They looked after the in¬terests and protected the rights of their members with the government institutions. Each council had several bodies which were charged with specific duties. Thus Hebra Kadisha was in charge of burials, Ozer Da-lim provided medical help for the poor, Matanot Leevionim supplied poor schoolchildren with clothes. There were also special funds used to help the very poor, to pay the school fees of poor pupils, to provide dowries for poor girls, there were also funds for the council admini¬stration and for the maintenance of schools, synagogues and cemeteries. In Bitola there were several synagogues, such as Kal Aragon, Kal Por¬tugal, Kal di la Habra, Kal Ozer Dalim and Kal Salamon Levi. The synagogue Kal Portugal was burnt down in 1917. In 1943 Kal Aragon was looted by the Bulgarian Fascists and then turned into a slaughter¬house for pigs; in 1947 it was pulled down. In Skopje there used to be two synagogues, turned into warehouses during the Fascist occupation and destroyed by the 1963 earthquake. In Shtip there used to be only one synagogue and that does not exist any more.
In 1895 the association Alliance Israelite Universelle established a school in Bitola which existed until 1916 and which played a large part in educating the Jews and popularizing the French language and culture among them.
In Bitola there were two Jewish schools with 8 classes and 245 pupils. Skopje had 5 Jewish schools with 10 classes and 342 pupils. In Shtip there was only one Jewish school. All these were primary schools.
The Jewish population in Macedonia, particularly its young people, had organized various national charitable cultural, singing and sport associations. The Jewish communities in Skopje, Bitola and Shtip had their own local Zionist organizations, whose aim was spreading the Jewish culture and history, organizing courses where the Hebrew lan¬guage was taught and helping the Jews who wanted to emigrate to Palestine. The leader of all Jewish activities in Bitola was Leon Kamhi. Being the pioneer of the Zionist organization and left-wing, during the Fascist occupation he took an active part in the National Liberation Movement. Right-wing Zionist organizations found Macedonian Jews an unfavourable medium. Most schoolchildren and young workers were members of the local Zionist cultural associations, such as Hashomer Hatsair, Tehelet Laban, Atehia and Maccabee. The largest and richest of all was Hashomer Hatsair. The Zionist organizations in all three cities were established at the same time and had the same programme. The Bitola association, however, has left us the most detailed and most ample documentation.
In 1930 the Bitola Jews established their Hashomer Hatsair, which numbered 400 members, mainly pupils and young workers. It was the largest and most active Marxist-oriented Jewish association and planned detailed programmes for young people and children. The main task of the association was educating the Jews through various activities from the Jewish tradition. It maintained regular evening classes where Heb¬rew was taught; it organized shows and performances, exhibitions, sport competitions, excursions (often together with Macedonian young people). Each Hashomer Hatsair club had a large library which, besides fiction and scientific books, also had books on philosophy, political economy and historical and dialectical materialism.
The aim of the association was also to prepare its members for collective life in the kibbutzin which began to be established in Pa¬lestine.
In 1933 another Zionist association, Tehelet Laban, was founded in Bitola, with about 300 members of all ages and occupations — workers, craftsmen, shopkeepers, tinsmiths, street-cleaners, servants, fruit-farmers and others. For this reason efforts were being made to raise the general education of the members as well as to teach them modern farming, trade and economy. This association carried out the same Zionist programme and was left-wing.
The women had their own WIZO45 association whose task was to emancipate the woman and whose activities had a wide scope from teaching women to read and write to giving housewives useful hints. It also cared for poor girls, paid their school fees, helped them select a career, establish their own family or emigrate to Palestine. It was fi¬nanced through various lotteries, charity contributions and from the sale of goods made by its members. In 1936 the women were engaged in collecting funds to help the Spanish Liberation Army.
The activities of the Jewish youth, however, were far broader; the young people were also active where they lived, worked and studi¬ed. They kept close contacts with the Macedonians and the other mi¬norities at work and at school — particularly in the French schools, in the sport and students' associations and in the libraries, so that they took an active part in all city events.
The leadership of the Jewish youth organizations was in the hands of Marxist and anti-Fascist-oriented young people, so that in 1941 im¬mediately after the German, Italian and Bulgarian Fascists occupied the country, all members of these organizations joined the underground and supported the struggle of the National Liberation Movement against Fascism.
Besides the rich cultural activities of the above-mentioned orga¬nizations, Skopje, Bitola and Shtip also had various clubs, choirs, music societies, chamber music and drama groups which performed on ho¬lidays and at special celebrations. Research carried out by Morits Ro¬mano has shown that there were frequent concerts, operettas, short theatrical performances and literary readings. The operetta A Jewish Girl by Halevi was performed three times in Skopje in 1937. In Skopje alone there were 14 talented musicians of Jewish origin. A number of books and newspapers published in Salonica were distributed in Bitola, Skopje and Shtip.
In the period between the two World Wars the Jewish population become aware of the need for a fight against Fascism, so that when the Second World War started the young Jews were prepared to take an active part in the resistance.
=[[THE JEWISH COMMUNITIES IN MACEDONIA UNDER GERMAN, BULGARIAN AND ITALIAN FASCIST OCCUPATION]]=
The Fascist occupation of Macedonia
On April 6th, 1941, Germany attacked Yugoslavia without previously declaring war and in a very short time occupied its whole ter¬ritory. On April 15th, 1941, the Bulgarian government broke off diplo¬matic relations with Yugoslavia. On April 17th Yugoslavia signed the capitulation in Belgrade and hereupon Hitler gave permission to Bul¬garian troops to enter Macedonia and Thrace.
At the Vienna meeting of April 22nd, 1941, the fascist governments of Germany, Italy and Bulgaria divided Macedonia into three parts, the largest being given to Bulgaria. On April 18th General Mihov, commander of the 5th Bulgarian army, which included the 1st fast cavalry and the 6th and 7th infantry divisions, began the occupation of the territories allotted to Bulgaria and completed his task later in the month. Western Macedonia, i.e. parts of the districts of Struga, De¬bar, Kichevo, Gostivar, Tetovo and Prespa, was joined to the Italian Protectorate under the name of Great Albania.
Before the end of April 1941, Macedonia was occupied by Bulga¬ria; the troops taking part in the invasion were named the "liberation army". In this way the dream of the Bulgarian rulers for a Greater Bulgaria had come true. Germany was also happy as its troops, replaced here by Bulgarian forces, were free to continue their military cam¬paigns in Greece and in other countries, including the Soviet Union.
The Bulgarian conqueror set all its propaganda media to work to accomplish its goal of denationalization, which was also supported by some cultural organizations, including the church. Macedonian was de¬clared a Bulgarian dialect and teachers were brought in from Bulgaria to teach the local population Bulgarian.
Immediately after the invasion, the annexed territories received a civilian government and a legal system modeled on the Bulgarian state apparatus. All officials and directors of government institutions and bodies were brought in from Bulgaria.
The new government began to develop a single system of Fascist youth organizations, various clubs and societies, again modeled on those already existing in Bulgaria. By the end of 1941 organizations such as Branik, Otets Paisij, Ilindentsi, many women's clubs and professional societies had already been founded in the whole territory of Macedo¬nia. At this time the police in Skopje had 41 organizations registered. Though the activities of them all were directed and closely watched by the police, their main purpose, namely to help the realization of the policy of the Bulgarian government, was not fulfilled.
Fascist repressive anti-Semitic measures started early in April, 1941: Jewish properties, shops in particular, were looted and destroyed. The German Fascists stole from Jewish homes anything that took their fancy; Jews were forced to accommodate German officers in their homes. Certain shops in Bitola and Skopje put up notices that Jews, Gypsies and dogs were not admitted. The number of anti-Semitic measures grew with each day. The Bulgarian government closely followed the legisla¬tive system and the propaganda of the other Fascist regimes in Europe.
On May 24th, the same year, the first number of Tselokupna Bul¬garia came out. Despite its strongly pro-Fascist and anti-Semitic cha¬racter, this newspaper failed in its intention to isolate the Jews from the rest of the population. The front page of the first number carried an article by Petar Grabovski, Minister for Home Affairs, saying that "there is a lot of work to be done to meet the requirements of the liberated Bulgarians". The article ended with the words: "One people, one country, one tsar". The Bulgarian Fascists acknowledged no other nations, no minorities but Bulgarians: they denied the existence of Ma-cedonians, Serbs, Greeks, Jews, Turks, Wallachs, Albanians and Ro¬manies.
Being well acquainted with the fate of their compatriots in Europe, the Jews, the young in particular joined the anti-Fascist movement and believed that only active resistance of all progressive forces could bring liberation from the Fascist occupation and equality with the other nations and minorities of Yugoslavia. Although even the old Yugoslav government fostered the animosities among the nations, the Jews were not rejected. With great enthusiasm they joined the Macedonian people and the other minorities in their struggle against the Fascist conque¬rors, knowing that that was the only way to achieving their liberation, equality and social justice. In fact, the destiny of the Jews was no dif¬ferent from that of the Macedonian people, and neither were their ideals. So, together with the other people of Yugoslavia, they began preparations for a national liberation war.
Laws, orders, regulations and measures against the Jews in Macedonia
With the introduction of Bulgarian legislation in occupied Mace¬donia, the Law for the Protection of the Nation, issued on January 21st, 1941, came into effect in this territory as well. The second part of this Law stipulated strict measures and restrictions against the Jews. Furthermore, it clearly stated which inhabitants were considered of Jewish origin and these were denied Bulgarian citizenship, and they could not become members of any organization or society. Jewish offi¬cials were deprived of all their functions. Jews could no longer be elect¬ed to any government bodies, nor become trade representatives. Jewish boys were not allowed to serve in the army, but they did do some ser¬vice in special labour groups and were obliged to pay army taxes. The Law also forbade Jews to marry or indulge in illicit relations with a person of Bulgarian origin or to keep a Bulgarian servant. Schools en-rolled only a limited number of Jewish pupils, provided that there were any vacancies. If a Jew wanted to change his place of residence, he was obliged to obtain a special permit from the police. Jews could not be landowners. The Law also restricted their work in industry, trade, crafts and self-employment. Any Jewish real and personal estate had to be registered with the Bulgarian National Bank. People of Jewish origin could not be owners or share-holders of any enterprise, includ¬ing theatres, cinemas, publishing houses, film and gramophone record companies, hotels, restaurants, pharmacies, shops specializing in selling medical supplies, etc. In February 1941, the Government passed the Or¬dinance for the application of the Law for National Protection, which contained detailed interpretation of some parts of the Law, so that there, "should be no misunderstanding". A number of orders were also issued, insisting on the strict application of certain parts of the Law. Many other regulations dealt with strict adherence to this Law, which, in fact, aimed at restricting the political, economic and social rights of the Jews in Macedonia.
On July 26th, 1941, Petar Gabrovski issued the following Order: "Jews are forbidden to pass information, to raise political and social questions, to be out in the streets or visit public places between 9 p.m.. and 6 a.m…" This measure was explained by the claim that "lately many people of Jewish origin have been spreading disturbing and false rumours with the purpose of destroying the national unity and the spirit of the Bulgarian people”.
The Law for the special single tax payable on all Jewish property was passed on July 13th, 19415. One month later an Order was issued for the application of this Law.
This Law stipulated that any property owned by a person of Jewish origin was to be taxed twice. This was a special tax, paid only once,, in addition to the regular tax paid by all property-owners and it amounted to 20 or 25 per cent of the net value of the property, both real and personal, inheritances, expected receipts, policies, loans and invoices. Any property not declared within the stated time was to be confiscated by the state and the owner was, nonetheless, obliged to pay the tax multiplied by three. In addition, the owner of a non-declar¬ed property was to be imprisoned for 5 years and to pay a fine of 3,000,000 leva (Bulgarian currency). The time limit for submitting the declarations was August 14th, 1941, and special forms for this purpose were issued by the Ministry of Finance. The same Law allowed persons of Jewish origin to sell their property only with a special government permit. For any late tax payments there was to be interest of 1 per cent a month to be paid with the next installment. 50 per cent of the tax amount was to be paid within 30 days of the date of the tax order, the remaining amount within 6 months of the first payment. People of Jewish origin could not cross the borders of the Kingdom if they had not paid the total amount.
A special commission appointed by the Minister of Finance check¬ed all documents and fixed the fines and punishments. The Available documents show that there were a lot of problems in collecting the pay-ments of this special tax. On September 2nd. 1941, D. Bozhilov, Mi¬nister of Finance, confirmed that thousands of requests had been receiv¬ed in which Jews asked for the postponement of the tax payments, all of which were refused owing to the increasing budgetary needs of the country.
The Bulgarian administration was plied with requests in connec¬tion with the special tax which it was unable to solve on time, despite the constant urging of Minister Bozhilov. The District Commissioner of Skopje informed Sofia on September 23rd, 1941, that he had receiv¬ed 1,560 duly completed tax forms, but as the personnel were inexpe¬rienced people "from the newly acquired territories", he needed more employees as he could not do all the work himself.
The tax offices also appointed the trade federations to help them with the taxing of the citizens of Jewish origin.
A number of documents refer to suits against those who did not pay the special tax and state the consequent penalties. The confiscation of non-declared properties or of those on which the special tax was not paid was ordered personally by the Minister of Finance.
From the prolific correspondence between the tax offices in Ma¬cedonia and the Ministry of Finance in Sofia, it can be seen that ener¬getic measures had to be administered in the collection of the special tax, and that the tax collectors were constantly being urged to speed up the work and collect as much money as possible.
When the Bulgarian Fascists occupied Macedonia, all banks were closed down and all their funds were transferred to the Bulgarian Na¬tional Bank. All Jewish accounts were frozen and the owners could no longer avail themselves of the money. People kept sending requests that the money from their bank accounts be used in payment of their taxes or that the accounts of those not bound to pay the special tax should be unfrozen. All such requests were usually turned down.
The banks were obliged to inform all tax offices of the accounts and shares of all Jewish people. In this way, the Jews were robbed of all their money as there were no means of withdrawning it from the bank.
A special order demanded an immediate declaration of all Jewish property. On November 7th, 1942, the Jewish Council in Skopje inform¬ed the Ministry of Home Affairs and Public Health that they had sent 918 declarations on residential houses and flats, as well as details about the families owning them.
A letter dated May 24th, 1942 and sent by the Jewish Council in Skopje to that in Bitola stated that in Skopje all Jewish shops had closed down by February 28th, 1942. Their owners were instructed by the Bulgarian National Bank that the money received at the clos¬ing-down sale was to be deposited in the Bank. Certain other documents evidence that a number of shops were confiscated by the state.
On August 26th, 1942, the Cabinet in Sofia ratified in its Decree No 4567 the establishment of a Department for Jewish Affairs as a sec¬tion of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Public Health. All Jewish problems had to be referred to this Department; all decisions in this matter had to be approved by the Secretary, who was appointed and given wide prerogatives by the Cabinet. In this way the application of all anti-Semitic laws and regulations became even more rigid65. The Secretary had authority over all other state bodies where Jewish mat¬ters were concerned. All expenditure of the Department was reimbursed from the Jewish Council Fund. This fund received a portion of the money from the frozen Jewish accounts as well as all the income of the synagogues, Jewish schools, councils and societies, including the taxes collected by the Jewish councils. The money from this fund was spent in accordance with the regulations issued by the Secretary for Jewish Affairs himself.
The Ministry of Home Affairs and Public Health, i.e. its Department for Jewish Affairs, issued Decree Ns 32 which compelled all Jews to wear a special badge as of September 29th, 1942. The Decree gave a detailed description of the badge: it was to be a six-pointed, bright yellow star and was to be worn on the left sleeve. All clothes, even those kept at home, had to have a yellow star. It could be obtained from the Jewish councils at the price of 20 leva each. The Skopje Jewish Council, for example, had received 3,120 badges and requested another 5,0008S. Only children under 10 years of age did not wear badges. Every¬one else wore them until the day of their deportation. Non-Jews, how¬ever, were prohibited to wear badges under heavy penalties.
A further confirmation of the rigidity of the anti-Semitic mea¬sures is found in Decree N° 2, dated September 11th, 1942. It ordered that from September 15th the same year all Jewish homes were to bear a "Jewish Residence" notice on the front door and all Jewish shops and offices were to put up a "Jewish Business" notice.
The Department also ordered all people regarded as Jews accord¬ing to the current laws and regulations to make their origin publicly known. They were forbidden to have Bulgarian names or surnames ending in one of the typically Bulgarian suffixes -ov, -ev, -ich and -ski. A Jew could only have one of the names contained in the list prepared by the Department.
Side by side with the repressive economic measures, steps were also undertaken to restrict the freedom and the rights of the Jewish people. Thus, further to the Law for the Urgent Solution of Pressing Matters in the Liberated Territories, the Ministry of Justice issued a Decree about citizenship in these territories, according to which all former Yugoslav and Greek citizens could receive Bulgarian citizen¬ship. Item 4 of this Decree, however, stated that this stipulation did not apply to people of Jewish origin. A special police order instructed all Jewish people who were former Yugoslav citizens and living in the 'newly liberated territories" to register with the nearest police station, as they were not allowed to have Bulgarian citizenship. In this way, all Macedonian Jews were considered foreign citizens and were obliged to pay police taxes, which was an extra burden on their already ex¬hausted income.
Decree N° 5 of the Department for Jewish Affairs, dated September 8th. 1942, forbade people of Jewish origin to keep at home any cash or objects of value, such as gold — and silver-ware, jewellery, precious stones, objects of cultural, economic, historic or archeological interest, valuable carpets, paintings, china, crystal glass, postage stamps, etc. All such objects, except wedding rings, had to be deposited in the bank.
Decree No 8, which dealt with renting houses, stated that a non-Jewish tenant could annul the rent-agreement of his own accord, pro¬vided the landlord was a Jew. A number of documents evidence that in consequence of this Decree many non-Jewish landlords asked their Jewish tenants to vacate the house or flat, which further aggravated the already difficult housing problem of the Jews.
By an Order of the Cabinet dated October 17th, 1942, Jews could no longer occupy large living quarters. Jewish houses had to be shared by several families. All confiscated flats and houses were allotted to Bulgarian government employees sent over as a reinforcement of the new police and administrative apparatus. The Department decided which residential areas were to be freed from Jews as well as the conditions under which and the time by which all Jews v/ere to move out of these areas. Needless to say, the penalties for non-obedience were heavy. Various Fascist institutions and organizations took for their offices any Jewish buildings that seemed to satisfy their needs. Thereupon, the police received a great many requests from the Jewish owners of such houses for a postponement of the confiscation until the following spring, so that they could spend that winter at least in their homes.
In Bitola all Jews living in the city centre, i.e. on the right bank of the River Dragor, were dispossessed of their homes and left to find new lodgings themselves. Now all Jews in Bitola came to live on the left bank of the Dragor. The newly created ghetto made the work of the Bulgarian Fascists with respect to the deportation of the Jews much easier.
Jews could not live in houses or stay in hotels where there were people of Bulgarian origin, unless a special permit was obtained from the Department. Jews were also forbidden to possess cars, radios (these had been confiscated by the Germans in 1941), telephones, or to leave their permanent place of residence.
Additional regulations and measures were aimed at putting an end to Jewish trade and crafts. The final date by which all Jewish bu¬sinesses had to close down was February 25th, 1943. The delegates from the Jewish Councils were expected to report on the matter77. The liqui¬dation of all businesses was carried out under the direct control of the Department for Jewish Affairs, while all money collected was deposited in the Bulgarian National Bank.
The Department also demanded that all employees of Jewish origin should be dismissed.
The confiscation of Jewish property continued into the first months of 194379. A law-suit about the confiscation of their property was brought against 11 Jews directly before their deportation.
As a result of the prohibition on running a business, the confiscation of all real and personal estate and the heavy taxation, the Jewish popu¬lation of Macedonia was so impoverished that its bare existence was at stake. The desperate situation and the numerous Jewish requests forced Ivan Zachariev, delegate of the Department for Jewish Affairs in Skopje, to ask the Ministry of Home Affairs and Public Health and the Department to permit the Jews to have some small businesses. No positive answer arrived.
The number of decrees and regulations kept increasing, and so did the work of the delegates to the Jewish Councils. Thus, Ivan Zachariev sent a request to the Department in Sofia asking for an increase in the budget of the Council, which had been limited to 2,000 leva. He explained that Skopje had over 4,000 Jews, that the work in the Council took up all his time and that the delegates in the "newly liberated territories" were a lot busier than those in the "old territories". All requests, dec¬rees and orders went through the delegates and they had to see that all orders were obeyed and often to make decisions or give advice them¬selves.
With constant and systematic new orders and regulations, the oc¬cupation authorities robbed the Jewish population to complete paupe¬rization. The Jewish Councils were forced to take steps to help their members; these, however, had little effect. The Jewish Council in Skopje, for example, requested the Bulgarian National Bank to allow the holders of bank accounts to withdraw certain amounts so as to be able to settle their tax bills. Owing to the liquidation of all Jewish businesses and the prohibition on Jews practising their trade, a great number of Je¬wish people had no income at all and lived on the social security they received from the Jewish Council.
The fact that all young working Jews were summoned into so-called "trudovachki druzhini" (labour groups) worsened still further the financial situation of the Jewish population. Here is what an article in the newspaper Naroden Glas (People's voice) N° 6 of May 12th, 1942 said on this matter: "… First the Turks, the Gypsies, the Greeks and the Jews were summoned … Then the authorities also started summon¬ing the poor, but honest Macedonians … Why did they summon the mi¬norities to be "trudovatsi" (labourers)? The Turks and the other mino¬rities make up a large group dissatisfied both economically and poli¬tically … All minorities will readily join the resistance against the con¬querors, for the liberation of Macedonia. When they are summoned away, the imminent revolution will be weakened …"
The most numerous among the labourers were men between 20 and 40 years of age. They were distributed in labour camps through¬out Macedonia and Bulgaria. About 50 people from Shtip together with a large group of Jews from Skopje constructed the road on Mount Vodno near Skopje. Several Jewish groups from Bitola were sent to work in Bulgaria. The periods of forced labour lasted for 3 to 6 months and the same person was sent to a work camp several times. The Jewish labourers were given the hardest work. They lived in dirty, delapidated barracks and the food they received was so poor that the Jewish counc¬ils nearest to the work camp had to help. Many Jews left the camps with ruined health.
The Bulgarian Fascists continued their anti-Semitic measures and, in order to break the power of the Jewish councils in Macedonia, in¬terned a number of distinguished and influential Jews in Bulgaria. Among the internees from Bitola were Leon Kamhi, who was highly respected both by old and young Jews; Aron Levi, whose children joined the National Liberation Movement; and Vida and Albert Ruso, whose son Beno Ruso joined the partisans. Some internees were brought back to their homes shortly before the deportation, others were sent directly to the temporary concentration camp in the state tobacco factory in Skopje.
The position and activities of the Jewish councils in occupied Macedonia
For a very long period the Jewish councils were independent and led by distinguished Jews. For the first time a delegate was imposed on them from outside during the Bulgarian Fascist occupation. The Depart¬ment for Jewish Affairs issued a regulation in October 1942 by which the existing Jewish councils in Skopje, Bitola and Shtip were annulled and new ones were established. The presidents and all the administra¬tion were appointed by the Department and could be recalled by the Secretary at any time, but they themselves could not resign. Any change in the work had to be approved by the Secretary. Each council had a delegate, whose orders were binding on all members. Extant documents evidence the complete subordination of the leaders and their inability to solve the most elementary problems of their members. The president was obliged to see that the orders of the Department were carried out to the full. All decisions of the council, however, were in fact made by the delegate.
The delegate was present at and took an active part in all meetings, supervised the planning of the budget and checked all reports. Thus, the minutes of the meeting of the Skopje Council held on No-vember 9th, 1942, show clearly that the delegate had the final word.
In the towns where there were few Jewish inhabitants, such as Kumanovo, Gevgelija, Veles and Kriva Palanka, no councils were estab¬lished and the Skopje Council, i.e. its delegate, was in charge of those people. There is evidence that the Bitola Council frequently referred to the Skopje Council for clarification of some orders.
The delegates insisted on the collection of all taxes, even the araha, for which heavy penalties were levied if it was not paid or if forms were not filled in and handed in on time.
The mistreatment of Jews continued until the very moment of their deportation. The Jewish Councils of Skopje, Bitola and Shtip kept send¬ing petitions, requests and memoranda on behalf of the whole Jewish population asking for some improvement in the Jewish situation.
All Jewish charity organizations, societies and foundations ceased to exist and their money was transferred to the new Jewish Council Fund.
New regulations were introduced, governing the activities of the synagogues. They could exist and perform their duties only if the congregation numbered at least 150 people. No new synagogues could be opened. The appointment of new synagogue officials had to be approved by the delegate, and that of rabbis and hazans by the Depart¬ment. During special holiday services the synagogues were overcrowded. Therefore, if a large congregation was expected, the police were to be notified in advance so that they could send two policemen to maintain order. The Jewish Council of Skopje informed the rabbis of Midrash Kadosh that no-one was allowed to speak inside the synagogue without a special permit.
Numerous documents show that the Central Jewish Consistory in Sofia was in constant touch with all Jewish councils in the Bulgarian Kingdom. The dependence of the Skopje Council on the Central Con¬sistory is evident, as it was obliged to ask the latter for permission to introduce even a small change in its work. There was an intensive cor¬respondence between the Skopje Council and the Consistory, which presents further proof of the hopeless situation of the Jewish councils under Bulgarian Fascist rule. The Central Jewish Consistory, like all Jewish Councils, was completely controlled by the Department for Jewish Affairs and the Bulgarian Fascist delegate. This can easily be seen from the letters sent by the Department and the Ministry for Home Affairs and Public Health to all delegates to the Jewish councils in Bulgaria and the occupied territories. The Consistory in Sofia sent out a circular letter, written under the supervision of the delegate, to all Jewish councils in the Bulgarian Kingaom, instructing them not to take any steps with the local authorities and to be patient, as the Consistory would always intervene when the moment was ripe.
On a number of occasions the Consistory addressed all councils in Bulgaria and the occupied territories, demanding of the Jewish popu¬lation extreme caution, as they were looked on with distrust, and insist¬ing on strict obedience to all government regulations and orders90. For their part, the Jewish councils often asked their members to follow orders, to avoid conflicts with the authorities, to remain indoors during curfew hours, not to leave their place of permanent residence without a special permit, not to spread rumours, not to eat meat on meatless days and not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary — to do the daily shopping or to see a doctor.
In April, 1942, the Consistory informed all Jewish councils that eight Jews had been fined and moved to new lodgings for a period of three months because they had broken the order for meatless days. This proves how rigid the penalties were even for a slight breach of regu¬lations.
The Bulgarian Fascist government insisted that the collection of all dues and taxes should go through the Central Jewish Consistory, including the taxes on various certificates, the religious tax o.raha, wedding and circumcision taxes, the tax on the purchase of a place in a synagogue and the sale of paschal flour, on the ritual slaughter of domestic fowl and cattle, etc.
The Consistory urged the councils to speed up the declaration of all real and personal estate93. Council property, including cemetery .buildings, was also to be declared. On July 25th, 1942, the Cabinet passed the Law for the Prevention of Speculation in Real Estate, which divested all councils of all possessions that brought income, thus mak¬ing their financial situation grave.
Censuses of the Jewish population and inventories of their pro¬perty were carried out frequently. The correspondence between the -Councils and the Department shows that all Jewish persons over 15 years of age were obliged to submit property declarations, whether they possessed any property or not9. On the one hand, the taxes and dues levied on the Jewish population were extremely heavy and, on the other, the Jews were denied the right to practise their trade; therefore, they were forced to sell one by one everything that was left to them. The councils appealed to the Consistory to intervene with the Govern¬ment to make the payment of the monthly police taxes easier at least for the poorer Jews.
Jews who had lived and worked in other parts of Yugoslavia be¬fore the war presented a special problem for the Jewish councils. They had fled before the advancing German Fascist troops to the territories occupied by Bulgarian Fascists, expecting the latter to be less severe .and hoping to find security under their rule. In fact, all they sought was to escape with their lives.
The annual police report stated that Skopje had at the time 3,500 Jews registered as former Yugoslav subjects, 270 foreign subjects and .263 Jews registered simply as foreigners. In June 1941, 87 Jewish fa¬milies, newly arrived in Skopje, were forced to migrate.
In November 1941, all newcomers were called to register with the police "for statistical purposes". The 48 people who submitted registra¬tion forms were immediately arrested and on November 27th handed over to the Germans. The Jews were taken to Belgrade and executed in the concentration camp in Jajintse on December 3rd the same year.
The newly arriving workers, intellectuals, merchants and students enlarged the Jewish communities in Skopje, Bitola and Shtip. Some of these people were members of the National Liberation Movement. In Skopje alone there were about 1,000 newcomers who, escaping from the Gestapo terror, arrived without any possessions or means of living. The Jewish Council turned to the Consistory in Sofia for help, empha¬sizing the hopeless situation of these people who had lost all their property and had no means even to buy their food. Most of those pe¬ople had been born in Macedonia, but there were also 40 families that came from other parts of Yugoslavia. The latter were registered as immigrants and lived entirely on the charity they received from the Jewish councils". Although the financial situation of the councils was very bad, the level of national solidarity was high. Many local Jews took the pauperized newcomers into their homes. The latter did not even receive bread coupons, as they were registered only with the Jewish Council and not with the City Registration Office as well.
Even after Macedonia had been occupied by Fascist Bulgaria, all-pensioners continued to receive their pensions, except for the Jews. With no advance notice the Jews had their pensions cut off. In this way 15 Jewish families remained without any means of living and depended entirely on the help they received from the Council.
About 50 Jewish men arriving from Serbia were banished from Bulgaria. Their wives and children, however, remained penniless in Skopje, not knowing what had become of them. 12 other men were believed to have been banished to Italy, but their families remained, having no money to pay for the journey104. It was later discovered that all banished Jews had been handed over to the Germans, who execut¬ed them.
A certain number of Jews who had relatives abroad and wanted to leave Bulgaria or the newly occupied territories asked the Depart¬ment for Jewish Affairs and the police for permission to emigrate. The emigration procedure was extreme complex and the answers to these requests took long to arrive.
The number of Jewish requests for removal from one place to another within Bulgaria also increased. Permission was immediately granted in the case of Jews coming from "the old territories" and want¬ing to migrate to "the newly liberated towns". On the other hand, most of the requests to move from Macedonia to "the old territories" were refused.
Early in 1943 all Jewish removals within the occupied territories, were stopped. So, a number of Jewish families from Skopje were denied permission to move to Bitola, Pirot or Preshevo107. Permission was still granted, however, to those families wanting to leave Bulgaria and settle in the towns of the occupied territories. In cases where a Jew needed to make an emergency journey — death, illness and the like, he could obtain permission only from the Police Headquarters.
The Jewish councils in Macedonia did a great deal of charity work in order to help their poor members. Thus, early in 1942 a kitchen was opened which prepared 350 free meals each day. The kitchen was maintained by various contributions and the social dues which better-off Jews were obliged to pay. As food, such as flour, rice, oil, salt, beans and meat, was extremely difficult to provide even with special food coupons, the Jewish Council plied the Food Distribution Head Office with requests for extra food supplies. The occupation authorities, how¬ever, either took no notice of the requests or, occasionally, answered that the ware houses were empty of these products. The people in charge of the kitchen were aware of the fact that an eventual closing of the kitchen would deprive the poorest Jews of the only meal they were getting109. In such difficult circumstances they managed to keep the kitchen working until February 15th, 1943, when the Council order¬ed it to close down.
Being unable to provide social security funds, the Jewish Council founded the Youth Commission for Social Care on May 5th, 1942, its main concern being collecting money for the help of the poorest fami-lies. Some of the young people on the Commission also belonged to the National Liberation Movement and they transferred some of the money collected to the Movement's funds in Bitola and Skopje. Thus, the Commission soon went beyond its competence and, therefore, in its meeting of June 7th, 1942, the leaders of the Skopje Jewish Council decided to send the Commission a warning letter demanding that the latter perform only the duties assigned to it by the Council. The councils constantly appealed to the membership for contributions, since the number of people who depended on social security kept growing.
Besides the regular actions of solidarity, in January 1943, the Jewish Council organized an additional winter action for the collection of money and clothes to help its poor members. Various documents show that the Jewish Council in Skopje received a large number of requests for food, shoes, fuel, medical help, medicines, baby necessi¬ties, etc.
The lists of poor Jews needing help became longer and longer. We are now in possession of parts of the list of poor Jews from Skopje which contain the forename, surname and permanent address of the head of the family as well as the number of members of the family. In December 1941, there were 224 registered poor Jews who were heads of families116. In its meeting of December 18th, 1942, looking into the problem of helping poor Jews, the Council leaders made a list of 178 poor families with a total of 609 members. Soon, another 35 families with 87 members were added to the list. The Council re-ceived many requests for various kinds of help, which had to be refused because the Council was short of funds. Even the requests of poor Jews to be freed from the obligation of paying a special tax on "foreign sub¬jects" were denied.
As a large number of young Jews were out of work, the Jewish councils asked for permission to organize for them courses for dental technicians, electricians, for the study of Hebrew and Jewish history, and so on. 57 young Jews over 18 years of age applied for these courses which were to have started on January 15th, 1943. Unfortu¬nately, the events that followed impeded all endeavours to help young Jewish people out of this difficult situation.
Extant documentation evidences that all steps, measures and the total anti-Semitic policy of the Bulgarian and German occupation autho¬rities were aimed at the complete extermination of the Macedonian Jews. The hardships, however, made the Jewish resistance against Fascism grow stronger and stronger and they joined the other Yugo¬slav people in their fight against the common enemy.
=[[Il THE MACEDONIAN JEWS IN THE NATIONAL LIBERATION MOVEMENT AND THE REVOLUTION]]=
The National Liberation Movement in 1941 and 1942 and the role of the Jews in it
The German and Bulgarian occupation of Macedonia brought hard times for the whole population. The situation was as difficult for the Macedonian people as for the minorities living in Macedonia. Despite its endeavours to present itself as "the liberator", Fascist Bulgaria could not hide its true character as a conqueror. All illusions about its benevolent intentions were shattered when Bulgaria revealed its po¬licy of punishment, denationalization, requisition, looting and exploita¬tion of the people and the country. All inhabitants of Macedonia soon learnt that their lives were in danger.
The long struggle for survival had taught the Macedonian people that national and social freedom could be achieved only through, the unity of the workers, the peasants and the intelligentsia. Even in the pre-war period, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia gave full support to the struggle of all peoples of Yugoslavia for national freedom and social progress. It was only natural, therefore, that the Macedonian pe¬ople should join their fight for national recognition and a better future with that of the other peoples of Yugoslavia.
Early in 1941 the Communist Party of Yugoslavia made procla¬mations calling on all peoples and minorities of the country, as citizens with equal rights, to join the anti-Fascist front and fight against the conquerors, for the liberation of the country. These proclamations also gave courage and hope to the Jewish population123. The whole of Macedonia responded to the appeal for resistance and revolution against the Fascist occupation and throughout the country partisan detachments were founded as nuclei of the armed forces.
Immediately after the German and Bulgarian occupation, the young Jews stood on the side of the Liberation Movement as they realized that only through fighting Fascism would they find a way out of the difficult situation. The Jewish Councils in Bitola, Skopje and Shtip made valuable contributions to the 1941—1945 National Liberation War.
Many Jewish people took an active part in the anti-Fascist strug¬gle even before 1941. Raphael Batino, a communist and labour leader, a member of the Communist Party of Mexico, returned to his native Bitola in 1934. Soon he gained employment in Skopje and in 1935 took part in the strikes organized by the workers' trade unions. In 1936, together with Mino Minovski, Zhivko Ivanovski and Vasil Antevski, Raphael Batino formed party cells in Skopje12'1. On September 15th, however, he was arrested by the police and sentenced to 5 years' impri¬sonment. During his prison years in Sremska Mitrovitsa, he was engag¬ed in various activities for the improvement of prison life. For this reason, he was brought before the court several times and his impri¬sonment was extended. The frequent prison tortures damaged his leg, so that his mobility was hampered. In prison, supported by Mosha Pijade and other veteran revolutionaries, Raphael Batino became pro¬fessor at the prison's "Red University". He was also involved in the translation of Karl Marx's Das Kapital and made an attempt at writing a grammar of the Macedonian language. In 1941 he managed to escape from prison together with a group of political prisoners, whereupon he joined the Posavski Partisan Detachment". The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia for Serbia sent Raphael Batino on a mission to Nova Varosh, where he later became Secretary of the Sandzhak District Committee. In July 1942, the treacherous Chetniks betrayed him to the Italian Fascists, who executed him in Vuchja Kleka together with a group of partisans.
In September 1939 a group of young communist leaders, among them Sarina Peso, a Jewess, were arrested for their progressive ideas and activities. In 1940 Sarina Peso became a member of the Party's Bitola Town Committee. Other Jewish Party members in 1940 were Pepo Kamhi, Elijao Baruh and Isaac Sarphati. The first two were, at the same time, leaders of the Hashomer Hatsair Jewish youth organi-zation.
In 1941, David Sadikario, a member of the Communist Party since 1939, returned from Belgrade to Bitola. Chaim Sadikario, a na¬tive of Bitola, a member of the Party from 1939 and labour activist in Belgrade, joined the Posavski Partisan Detachment in Serbia. Gjorgi Blaer, a dentist from Skopje, a Party member from 1937 and a distin¬guished trade union leader, fought in the War for National Liberation from 1941. Isaac Sion, born in Shtip, took part in the actions of the progressive bank employees in Ljubljana in 1939. In 1940 he became a Party member and on his return to Shtip in 1941 joined the National Liberation movement.
In May 1941, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia held a consultation on the situation in Yugoslavia under the quadruple (German, Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian) Fascist occupa-tion and discussed the possibility of beginning a war against the con¬querors. The Party stood firm against any hatred among the nations and the minorities of Yugoslavia and gave full support to the spread¬ing of fraternity and equality.
In May 1941, Yugoslav patriots started collecting arms for the needs of the future partisan detachments. In the same month the Germans mustered a number of young Jews in the premises of the Bi¬tola Council and ordered them to transport weapons and ammunition from the ex-Yugoslav army stores to a place called Tumbe Kafe near the railway station. The work lasted for days and many of the young men hid packets and boxes of guns and ammunition in the nearby ditches and bushes intending them for the future partisans. Later, the same young people were sent to Bulgaria and around Skopje to hard labour camps.
The Party's Town Committee in Bitola undertook to expose the black policy of the occupying power in Macedonia and instructed Party members to provide arms and to find employment in government offices. In this way, about a hundred guns were collected — some bought; those that needed repair were taken to Beno Ruso's workshop.
At the end of July 1942, the Communist Party invited the Ma¬cedonian people and the minorities to join in the celebration of the anniversary of the great Ilinden Uprising and to demonstrate against the occupation forces. So, on August 2nd the streets of Skopje and Bitola were full of people — students, workers, communists and sup¬porters of the National Liberation Movement. The police arrested about 10 people in Skopje and as many in Bitola. For the first time the slogan Long Live Free Macedonia was heard. Among the demonstra¬tors there were numerous Jews.
These Ilinden demonstrations indicated clearly that the Macedo¬nian people and the minorities regarded Bulgaria as a conqueror and not the liberator it claimed to be. And soon, indeed, it showed its real face. On August 7th, 1941, the Chief of Police in Skopje issued infor¬mation on the internment of certain people to distant places and on the introduction of hard labour as a punishment.
The discontent of the inhabitants of Macedonia is also mentioned in the letter of the Croation military attache in Sofia, Adam Petrovich, written on October 21st, 1941: "…the situation in the part of Mace-donia now belonging to Bulgaria is rather confusing. The Macedonian people show a certain discontent with the new regime in Bulgaria … Serbian and Jewish merchants are to sell off all their merchandise and close down within three months. The Serbs are later to be deported from Bulgaria … In all probability, in Bulgarian Macedonia there is a great desire for liberation and the establishment of independent Ma¬cedonia …"
A great many documents from the period of the National Libera¬tion War confirm that the Communist Party of Yugoslavia succeeded in organizing the Macedonian people and the minorities in the common struggle against the conquerors. Despite many difficulties, the Party's Regional Committee for Macedonia succeeded in interesting the people in their cause; many Party leaflets and pamphlets explained clearly the aims and goals of the revolution. Most documents, letters and pro¬clamations were addressed to the workers, young people and women, and many of them laid special emphasis on the role of the minorities. These letters and proclamations, which were particularly plentiful during 1942, had a strong impact on the Jewish population. They reflect the just policy of the National Liberation Movement in the treatment of the minorities at a time when Fascism was spreading in Europe. That policy won the Movement the trust and support of the under-privileged masses. For this reason, numerous Jews — commu¬nists and non-Party members alike — gave the Movement their whole¬hearted support.
The Party's Regional Committee for Macedonia addressed the fol¬lowing proclamation to the Jews in February, 1942. The new con¬querors have deprived you more than the Macedonian people of all rights. It is you who have been denied work and who are considered people of a lower rank … Immediately on their arrival, the Fascists started prosecuting you as never before. Having robbed and destroyed you, they deport you to certain death … All of you — Turks, freedom-loving Albanians, Wallachs and Jews — join hands with the Macedo¬nian people to overthrow the Fascist tyranny and liberate Macedonia — the country you all share …"
The bulletins issued by the Regional Committee during 1942 con¬tained a number of articles with which the leadership pointed out to the minorities the injustice and the terror the Fascists exerted on them139. One of the articles stated: "The Jews, Turks, Albanians, Wallachs, Greeks, Serbs and other minorities are considered inhabitants of a lower rank and are prevented from living like people. The Jews may buy food only after all others have satisfied their requirements. Con¬sidering the fact that there is hardly any food left for them, it becomes evident that the Jews are left to starve to death for the sole reason that they are Jews … And Macedonia is rich enough to feed all its inhabitants, regardless of their religion and race …" This article came as a response to the Decree of the Bulgarian Cabinet, Item 19, dated August 26th, 1942, which forbade Jews to visit shops and market places before 10 a.m. on all days.
The proclamation by the Party's District Committee in Bitola in July 1942, reads as follows: "Brothers — Macedonians, Turks, Wallachs, Jews and Albanians! Join the national partisan detachments so that our fight can the sooner grow into a revolution, as that alone can rid us of this slavery …".
Particularly significant for the minorities was the proclamation of the Party's Regional Committee for Macedonia issued on May 1st, 1942 — International Labour Day, which during the war years grew into the day of solidarity of all conquered peoples.
In September 1942, the Regional Committee printed detailed in¬structions for political work with the masses in which the unfavourable situation of the minorities was stressed. "Our minorities are victims of the worst racial policy, great exploitation and tyranny … Victims of the Fascist terror are communists, workers, anti-Fascists, youths, the minorities 'without origin' — in a word the whole population…" Everybody suffered from the terror; the occupation forces prosecuted anyone who resisted them or fought for his rights, anyone who disobey¬ed the orders of the Fascists. People were found guilty simply because they were born Jews or Wallachs.
Despite the treacherous and ruthless denationalization and racial, policies, however, the conqueror failed to create hatred between the Macedonian people and the minorities. On the contrary, the latter were present in all leading bodies of the Movement, the people's government and the partisan detachments and units of the National Liberation Army.
Towards the middle of 1941, the Party developed many activities among the Jewish population to organize Party cells, to form groups of young communists and supporters of the Movement, groups of women and a "People's Help" committee. There were many attempts to hamper the activities of the Communist Party and the Union of Young Commu¬nists of Yugoslavia (SKOJ) among the Jews in Macedonia, but to no avail.
The following Jewish communists from Bitola were extremely active in the course of 1941 and 1942; Isaac Sarfati, Sarina Peso, Elijao Baruch, Pepo Kamhi, Beno Ruso, Marcel Demajo, Simo Kalderon, Abram Sadikario, Morits Shami, Mirjam Popadich, Victor Pardo, Rosa Kamhi, Micki Alba, Solomon Sadikario, Victor Meshulam, Murdo Todolanu, Mordechai Nahmijas, Ovadja Estreja, Zhamila Kolonomos, Adela Fa-radhi, Pepo Hason, Berto Ruso, Stela Kamhi, Aaron Testa, Aaron Aruesti. Jaques Sion adn Gabi Nahmijas.
Isaac Sion, Pepo Levi and Chaim Levi were the Jewish commu¬nists from Shtip.
In the same period, the following Jews from Skopje were Party members: Gjorgi Blaer, Elazar Shalom, David — a member of the Party cell at the Radusha mines, Jack — a member of the SKOJ Town Committee, and Joseph Sigmund Gross — an engineer at the Skopje railways. This is by no means a complete list of the Jewish Party members; many names have been forgotten and documents have been lost, which leaves gaps in this presentation of the role of the Skopje. Jews in the National Liberation Movement. Each Party member was the leader of a group or groups of young communists, of candidates for membership, of supporters, of women and girls.
The friendship established between Macedonians and Jews in the Party cells contributed towards the further activating of Jewish young people and their inclusion in the struggle piloted by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. In the period from 1940 to 1943, Jewish commu¬nists were on the Town Committee in Bitola. In 1940 it was Sarina. Peso; in 1941 Isaac Sarfati was on the Party Town Committee and Beno Ruso on the SKOJ Town Committee; in 1942 Isaac Sarfati was on both the District and the Town Party Committees and Beno Ruso on the Party Town Committee; in 1943 Rosa Kamhi was on the Party Town Committee and Adela Faradzhi on the SKOJ Town Committee. In 1942 Isaac Sion was a member of the Town Committee in Shtip and a young man called Jack on the SKOJ Committee in Skopje.
Endeavours were being made to win over as many young workers and pupils as possible. In Bitola, Nisim Alba, Simo Kalderon and Mar¬cel Demajo were leaders of three groups consisting of three to four young workers each. Abram Sadikario was in charge of a Party cell and two groups of young communists.
The young communists Albert Aruesti and Natan Hason were members of the SKOJ group whose secretary was Gjoko Tapandzhioski. Many of the Jewish pupils of the Bitola high school were members of SKOJ; moreover, Berto Kasorla and Nato Hason were leaders of the fifth graders and Eli Levi of the seventh149. Draga Chalovska and Rosa Kamhi were each charged with several SKOJ groups of Jewish girls, Zhamila Kolonomos was the leader of three such groups each having 14 members, of one educational group consisting of 5 members, and one group of 4 women-candidates. Morits Shami was the leader of several SKOJ groups and Tome Dimitrovski was in charge of a Jewish party cell. We are in possession of a partly damaged list of participants in the National Liberation War in 1942 on which only the following names are legible: Gjoko Beakar, Murdo — a tailor, Dabi Kalderon, Salvo Cohen, Salamon Sadikario, Gjoko Kalderon, Isaac Faradzhi, Sharlo Isaac, Isaac 1, Isaac 2, Anriko Israel, Israel Iso, Ishah Isaac, Hazan Gjoko, Karsorla Abram, Daviko — a tailor, Mois — a tailor, Sharlo Shami, Salamon Cohen and a few others.
The following Jews were members of SKOJ groups: Jacques Cohen, Mati Ruso, Albert Ruso, Murdo Cohen 1, Murdo Cohen 2, Esther Aruti, Victoria Kamhi, Lina Kalderon, Albert Alba, Salomon Cohen, Victor Kamhi, Salamon Meshulam, Mato Hason, Eliko Levi, Victor Meshulam, Pepo Peso, Sharlo Shami, Anriko Ruso, Anriko Albahari, Albert Levi, Mentesh Ishah. Nisim Albahar, Morits Romano, Bato Anaf, Samuel Kalderon, Fana Sion, Sheli Cohen, Solchi Kasorla, Luna Ishah, Stela Levi, Alegra Shami, Aiegra Nahmijas, Nina Levi and a few others.
A collection of documents entitled The Macedonian Women in the National Liberation War o/nd the Revolution from 1941 to 1945 contains the biographies of 60 Jewish girls and women — members of the Com¬munist Party of Yugoslavia and SKOJ and participants in the Natio¬nal Liberation Movement.
After the occupation of Macedonia the authorities did everything to hinder the normal schooling of young Jews. Only a limited number of Jewish children were admitted to the schools. Parents, worried about the future of their children, decided that they had better give them any occupation rather than none at all. So a lot of former pupils be¬came craftsmen and the number of shoe repairers' shops grew. These soon became underground centres of the work of Party and SKOJ members, of meetings, as well as hiding-places for those wanted by the police, storage of various material that the Movement needed, etc. Various workshops became meeting-places of young people; here they exchanged ideas, passed information, and learnt how to resist the occu¬pation. On the other hand, almost all Jewish pupils who had managed to remain in the High School or in the Trgovska akademija (Commer¬cial school) were organized in the school SKOJ cells.
In Bitola there were over 30 Jewish members of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, over 150 SKOJ members and over 650 participants in the National Liberation Movement, all of them engaged in collecting "People's Help", such as: money, clothes, wool, leather, food, paper, medical supplies and other things needed for the Movement. There was almost no family that was not in some way involved in the struggle against the occupation. The difficult financial and legal situation of the Jews added to the growth of the Jewish resistance against the occupa¬tion. Young Jews felt particularly proud to be able to contribute to the common cause. There was a kind of competition among group leaders to enlarge the groups and to collect more "People's Help" than others. Those happy moments and the feeling that they were part of the suc¬cesses and failures of the National Liberation War gave the Jews strength and hope to live through all the hardships.
The merit for including the Jewish population in the Resistance Movement goes to National Hero Stevan Naumov-Stiv, at that time Secretary of the Party Town Committee in Bitola. He had many friends among young Jews, both workers and students, and was in constant touch with them. Orde Chopela, a member of the same Committee, declared at one of the Committee meetings that the Jewish "People's Help" Committee, consisting of Morits Shami, Leon Ishah, Perets Ruso. Leon Franko and Dario Aruesti. was one of the most active in the town and that it had collected two thirds of all funds collected by the Bitola branch of the National Liberation Movement154.
Through the endeavours of Isaac Sarfati. Mois Mose, Leon Ishah and some others, about a hundred well-to-do Jews were persuaded to make regular contributions, some contributing 1,000 leva each month. It was no secret that the children often "pilfered" from their parents, the latter pretending not to notice, because they knew the "loot" went to the "People's Help" fund. Morits Shami, Rachel Levi and Alegra Nahmijas alone managed to procure over 200 gold napoleons. The com¬munists and the SKOJ members organized several collections among the Jewish population for the benefit of the poor Jewish families; some of the money collected was transferred into the "People's Help" fund. Apart from money, flour, sugar, rice, beans and cheese were also col¬lected. Goga Georgievski, a communist from Bitola, states that at the end of 1942 60 items of clothing were made from cloth donated by Jewish merchants. A large quantity of paper used for the printing of a variety of illegal propaganda material was donated by Santo Aruesti.
The SKOJ and educational groups and the groups of women sup¬porters of the National Liberation War were commissioned to provide clothes, pullovers, socks, gloves, hats, shirts, shoes, cartridge-belts, rucksacks, etc., a task which they performed with great success. Storing the collected goods became a problem, which was solved by distribut¬ing the goods for safe keeping in the houses of Isaac Sarfati, Morits Shami, Pepo Hason, David Kalderon, Adela Faradzhi, Rosa Kamhi, Beno Ruso, Leon Kamhi, Isaac Israel, Solomon Karsola and others.
A special concern and obligation of the communists and the SKOJ members was the safety, nursing and feeding of the underground ac¬tivists working at the moment in Bitola, which was a difficult and risky task. Jewish homes offered many underground activists and par¬tisans a safe shelter. Thus National Heroes Stevan Naumov-Stiv, Vera Atseva, Petso Bozhinovski (a partisan who was wounded at the time) and Vera Tsiriviri took refuge in the home of Murdo Nahmijas-Lazo. Adela Faradzhi gave protection to National Hero Vancho Prke, Dimche Milevski-Dobri and Anka Obuchina for a whole month. Beno Ruso, Ste¬van Naumov-Stiv and Vera Atseva also stayed once with Samuel Kal¬deron. At various times Vera Atseva, Vera Tsiriviri, partisan Murdo Todolanu, Kiril Krstevski-Platnik, Kirkov and Strahil Beginov stayed in the home of Rosa Kamhi. Vangel Nechevski and Murdo Todolanu-Spiro often hid in Gabi's shoe-repair shop. Beno Ruso's home also gave shelter to Vera Atseva and Stevan Naumov. Isaac Israel's tailor's shop was often the place of refuge for many underground activists. Leon Kamhi's home and Salomon Kasorla's flour-mill were safe hiding-places for many a wanted member of the Movement.
On a number of occasions, Jewish doctors Mir jam Popadich and Hellena Ishah organized secret first aid courses which were attended by a great many girls.
For several months during 1942, the party printing-press was ope¬rated in the home of Pepo Hason, himself a veteran of 1941.
Meetings of the Town Committees, Party cells and individuals were often held in Jewish town quarters. We would mention here the names of only some Jews who offered their homes for important secret meetings: Murdo Nahmijas, Beno Ruso, Rosa Kamhi, Pepo Hason, Adela Faradzhi, Zhamila Kolonomos, Victor Pardo, Stela Kamhi, Morits Shami, Rika Sadikario, Simo Kalderon, David Kalderon, Isaac Israel. Nisim Alba and Estreja Levi.
As the Jewish quarters were densely populated, the streets v/ere always full of local people and it was easy to notice the presence of a stranger, a policeman or an agent, in which case agreed signals were immediately given. Furthermore, for the Jewish members of the Mo¬vement it was easier to attend a meeting in their ghetto, as the yellow Star of David outside the ghetto always drew the attention of the police.
Even in 1941, the Bulgarian police tried to suborn Jews to collaborate with the Bulgarian occupation forces, but not one Jew respond¬ed to these attempts.
Item 3 of the Order issued by Simeonov, Chief of the Skopje District Police, on October 2nd, 1941, states: "… Every policeman is to find one or more secret collaborator and informer, both among those who are favourable to the authorities and among the doubiful …'' The police succeeded in engaging only a number of Bulgarophiles to help the occupation authorities and provide them with a variety of information.
After the Ilinden demonstrations the police arrested Isaac Levi, a Jewish student, and tried by torture to make an informant of him; this undertaking, however, proved a failure. The police tried the same with Geron Israel, a student, and Solomon Nahmijas, a worker, but without any result. The Bitola Party Organization issued a leaflet to this effect, saying: "… Every conqueror needs spies and informants and he finds them. No Jew, however, has ever been a spy or an in¬formant. A nation that has not borne a spy and has not bred an in¬formant deserves the respect of every honest man. The Jewish people deserve our respect and our love, too . . ,"
The Jewish Party and SKOJ organizations in Bitola were not even once betrayed and there were very few arrests of its members during 1942. The only time the Bulgarian police raided the organiza¬tion was in April 1942- Victor Pardo, Morits Shami, Morits Romano, Bato Anaf and Eli Faradzhi were then arrested, tortured and sentenced to hard labour. Despite the torture, the arrested men did not betray their comrades, which enabled the National Liberation Movement to continue its activities. Beno Ruso was also arrested on suspicion of being a member of the Communist Party, but owing to lack of evidence he was released from prison after 20 days. The police arrested the workers Salomon Nahmijas and Nisim Sarfati, too, but could not keep them, also for lack of evidence. In 1943 Rosa Kamhi was captured while going to join the partisans. She was tried by the Skopje military court and sentenced to long imprisonment.
The dangerous conditions during the occupation did not prevent the young workers and students from Skopje from taking an active part in the National Liberation Movement, either. In. her publication on the National Liberation Movement in Skopje, Slavka Fidanova writes: "… The interest of the Jewish population of Skopje in the Na¬tional Liberation Movement was remarkable. Many Jews were members of the Communist Party and SKOJ; they had their educational groups and groups of women activists. Many Jews supported the Movement and, despite their unfavourable financial situation, contributed towards the "People's Help". Although the police kept a constant eye on them, the Jews readily sheltered in their homes underground activists and organized various secret meetings. In the schools the Jewish youngsters were members of mixed groups with Macedonian pupils; the SKOJ groups in the residential areas were separate and the Jewish quarter had 2 such groups with 9 Jewish members each …"
Most young people were organized in the groups in the First and the Second Boy's High School, the Girls' High School and the Commer¬cial School. These groups often came into conflict with the young members of the Fascist organizations Branik and Otets Paisij. Many SKOJ groups comprised only Jewish members. Branko Fritshand, a Jew, was Secretary of the second graders. The Jews Sarah Serveja, Sarina Bahar, Isidora Altaras, Zlata Fritshand, Aaron Bahar, Mois Bahar and Sami Mizrahi made up one group. Members of two other SKOJ groups were Milka Cohen, Chairn Talvi, Nino Marocco, Jole Ruben, Joshko, Fintsi and others. Some of these SKOJ members had just re¬turned from Belgrade as underground activists161. The following Jews also contributed to the National Liberation War in some way: Chaim Sentov, Aseo Manuel, Jacques Nusbaum, Hannah Melamed, Irma Kastro, Victoria Bahar, Abram Bahar, Biljo Mizrahi-Tsaif, Esperansa Talvi, Elmo Cohen, Mois Sason and some others. Gjorgi Blaer was the leader of a group in the Jewish residential area.
The printers' Party cell, formed in 1940 and functioning until 1942, comprised 9 members, one of whom was the Jew Shalom. Elazar.
Gjorgi Blaer, a dentist, was one of the most active Jews in the National Liberation Movement in Skopje. His greatest contribution was in the treatment of sick and wounded underground activists and par¬tisans. As early as 1941, his surgery became the place where medical help was offered to all underground activists and where secret messages were exchanged. He supplied activists with false papers, collected me¬dication and guns and was the contact between the underground in Skopje and the partisan detachment in the village of Shtrbats in Ko¬sovo. He also played an important part in the escape of political prisoners from Idrizovo prison in Skopje on August 28th, 1944, which was made possible through the assault of the 3rd Macedonian Bri¬gade.
One of the Skopje police agents was the notorious Mane Machkov. In August 1942, the Communist Party Town Committee of Skopje form¬ed a diversionary group, consisting of Angele Mihailovski, Kocho Bitoljanu, Trpe Jakovlevski and the Jew Branko Fritshand; their orders were to assassinate the agent. The task was successfully accom¬plished, but the police learnt the names of many Party and SKOJ members and made many arrests. Being under age, Branko Fritshand was sentenced only to 15 years' imprisonment.
The homes of the Jews Sarah Servila, Aaron Behar, Gjoko Blaer and some others were used to store the "People's Help". The Jews col¬lected money among themselves, bought a machine-gun and presented it to the National Liberation Movement.
Lena Blaer often took food and medication to activists serving a .sentence in the Skopje prison. Aaron Suri, a chemist, contributed to the "People's Help" large quantities of medical supplies such as: band¬ages, cottonwool, iodine, syringes, various drugs, etc. Chaim Cohen-Habish, a member of the National Liberation Movement from 1941, fought in the First Vranje Detachment in July 1941. Owing to illness, however, he was later transferred to the underground in the towns of Gnjilane and Dechani. In January 1942, a number of Jewish SKOJ members came to Skopje from Belgrade and they stimulated the acti¬vities of the Jewish population. Apart from the usual "People's Help" contributions, they also managed to collect gold coins and jewellery, which was sold and the proceeds donated to the Movement.
The underground activists Kole Chashule, Veselinka Malinska, Siavka Fidanova and members of the Regional Committee, including Bane Andreev, often took refuge in Jewish homes. The Skopje Town Committee of the Communist Party held a meeting with a dozen distin¬guished Jewish communists and SKOJ members in the Jewish living quarters, advising them to be patient, to wait "a little longer" and not to "provoke" the occupation authorities, particularly after the intro¬duction of special anti-Semitic measures (wearing the yellow star, the curfew for the Jews. etc.). These measures, however, had little effect on the work of the young Jews. Late in February 1943, they formed a group of 17 young Jews who were to join the partisan detachments. They arrived on the Skopska Crna Gora Mountain and waited for their contact for a few days.
Unfortunately, the courier who was to come and take them to their destination had misunderstood the location of the meeting-place and did not meet the group. The young Jews re¬turned to town and a little later were all deported.
The Jewish community in Shtip, though much smaller, joined the Resistance Movement right from its start. Although the Jews here were rather poor, they made significant financial contributions to the United Front. Early in 1942, Vasil Dogandzhiski, Secretary of the Shtip Town Committee of the Communist Party, led the Party educational group, whose members were the Jews Isaac Levi, Abram Sion and Mois Sion. Later, Isaac Sion became leader of the group and each of them was the leader of a SKOJ group consisting of 4 to 6 members. Chaim Levi had two SKOJ groups with 12 members all together and Pepo Levi one with 5 members. 36 Jews from Shtip were activists in the National Liberation Movement. Here are the names of some of them: Menahem Sabetaj Nata, an unemployed tailor, Matilda Baruch Sion, a secondary school graduate and assistant in the Balvanliski chemist's shop, Pinhas Mordechai Bonano, just returned with a group of Mace¬donians from captivity in Germany, Adela Chelebon Levi, a housewife, Jacques David Sion, a schoolboy, Anna Mordo Jakar, a housewife, Isaac Santo Levi, a shoe-repairer, Pava Chaim Levi, a schoolgirl, Besaleh Chaim Levi, a waiter, Julie Mordo Jakar, a housewife, Mois Chaim Levi, a schoolboy, Pepo Mordo Jakar, a merchant, Pepo Chelebon Levi, a young activist, Biria Mordechai Bonano, a shop assistant, Samuel Jacob Cohen, a secondary school graduate, Isaac Mois Levi, assistant in Todor Hristov's chemist's shop, Chaim David Bonano, a tailor, Anri David Sion, a shop assistant, David Chaim Levi, a tailor, Baruch Mois Levi,, a shoe-repairer's apprentice, Vital Mushon Sion, a tailor's apprentice, Biria Mushon Sion, a shop assistant, David Samuel Sion, a labourer. David Mushon Sion, a tailor, Albert Isaac Levi, a schoolboy, Isaac David Sion, a shoe-repairer's apprentice, Pepo Jacob Cohen, a schoolboy,. Baruch David Sion, a labourer, and many others. They were all orga¬nized in groups and exerted great influence on the Jewish population in preparing the masses for revolution. The "People's Help" these acti¬vists collected greatly improved the financial situation of the Natio¬nal Liberation Movement in Shtip. At the same time it manifested the solidarity and the common goals of the Macedonian people and the minorities in Shtip.
In October 1942, Chaim Judas Levi, a member of the Communist Party, was discovered by the police and sent to the prison in Skopje. He was tried together with other activists of the Movement in Mace-donia, and sent to a concentration camp near the village of Jeni in Greece, which already contained 1,200 political prisoners. A little later he escaped from the camp and fled to Bulgaria, where he contacted the National Liberation Movement. The end of the War in 1945 saw him Head of the Personnel Department of the Shtip Army District.
On March 11th, 1943, while the Jews from Shtip were being marched to Skopje, Isaac Sion, a member of the Town Committee, was the only one who managed to escape from the line. He took refuge in the home of Firuz Demir, a Turk.
Prior to their deportation, all Jews from Macedonia were assembl¬ed in the state tobacco factory in Skopje. Vasil Zlatev, a member of the Shtip Town Committee of the Communist Party, was sent to Skopje as a courier. He managed to get into the tobacco factory and establish contact with Pepo Levi. The latter informed him that a number of Jewish activists from Shtip had hidden gold and jewellery in their homes, which was to be donated to the "People's Help". Acting on this information, Isaac Sion discovered five jars full of gold coins and jewel¬lery, which he handed over to the Shtip Town Committee. This was the last contribution of the brave Jewish Party and SKOJ members from Shtip, whose lives ended in the notorious camp in Treblinka. Young Vital Samuel Sion and Isaac Chaim Levi joined the partisan detachments in Dalmatia in 1943. Leon Kapuano spent some time in several Italian concentration camps. In the end, he managed to escape to Switzerland, from where he continued his support for the National Liberation War in Yugoslavia. The only witnesses of the 1941—1943 Jewish tragedy in Shtip who survived the war were Isaac Sion and Chaim Levi. After 1943 they took an active part in the National Libe¬ration War.
=[[Ill THE FIRST PARTISAN DETACHMENTS AND THE JEWISH PARTICIPATION IN THE NATIONAL LIBERATION WAR]]=
The revolution against the Fascist occupation forces in Macedo¬nia started in specific and rather difficult conditions. In view of the geographical position of Macedonia and the strategic importance of the River Vardar, large Italian, Fascist Albanian and, most of all, Bulga¬rian troops were stationed in this area. At the same time, numerous offensive German forces were constantly on the move in Macedonia. The purpose of the concentration of such large enemy military and po¬lice forces was to break the resistance of the Macedonian people against the conqueror before it had expanded. These attempts, however, proved abortive, as the National Liberation Movement in Macedonia continued to grow with extensive preparations for a revolution against the op¬pressors.
A turning point in the development of the Movement was the formation of the First Bitola Partisan Detachment, called Pelister, on Mount Pelister on April 22nd, 1942. Apart from its political activities, the detachment had a few clashes with the Bulgarian police and mili¬tary forces outside the village of Oreovo in May, but was outnumbered and overcome by the enemy. This failure, however, did not disillusion the young people. On the contrary, the heroism and bravery of the partisans acted as a stimulus, so that in July 1942, the Damjan Gruev Detachment, comprising people from Bitola and Prespa, was formed. In the autumn of the same year the Jane Sandanski Detachment was formed near the village of Lavtsi.
In the course of 1942, 9 young Jews joined these detachments. Victor Meshulam. Pepi Peso and Murdo Todolanu were in the Damjan Gruev Detachment. The first remained with the partisans until the end of the war. The second was captured in the battle near the village of Kazhani; the Bulgarian police tortured and later killed him, without learning any secrets. The third suffered a nervous breakdown and spent some time in Bitola in hiding. Later in 1942 he rejoined the Detachment and was killed in battle. Mordechai Nahmias-Lazo, Aaron Aruesti, Beno Ruso, Nisim Alba, Lazar and Joseph went to the Jane Sandanski De¬tachment. The first later became Political Liaison officer of a battalion of the 3rd Macedonian offensive brigade, and in 1944 was killed in a clash with the Bulgarian forces on Mount Kajmakchalan. The second was killed during a fight with the Bulgarian police in the village of Lera in 1942. Beno Ruso and Nisim Alba were in the partisan forces until the end of the war. For a time, they were sent back to Bitola to work in the underground. The news about the victims and the successes of the partisans were further incertives for the Jewish population to strengthen their resistance.
On October 2nd, 1942, the Bulgarian government issued a direc¬tive to destroy the partisans, as it had come into possession of evidence about the activities of the National Liberation Movement. The Bulga-rian occupation policy was so ruthless that on October 6th, 1941, Ge¬neral Bojdev issued an Order for the complete extermination of the partisan detachments, pointing out that the Geneva Convention had no validity when fighting partisans.
The Bulgarian occupation forces started a large-scale offensive against the partisan detachments and the peaceful city and village in¬habitants in the autumn of 1942. The people will remember the follow¬ing winter for the terror and the cruelty of the Bulgarian police and army. Driven by the terror and the bitterly cold winter, a part of the Damjan Gruev and the whole of the Jane Sandanski Detachments went south to Aegean Macedonia, which was under German and Italian occupation.
Bulgarian propaganda denied the existence of the Resistance Mo¬vement of the Macedonian people, or, at least, that the Macedonians had anything to do with it. Thus, Vladimir Zhidovec, Croatian amba-sador in Sofia, stated in his report to his government: "The communist units in Macedonia consist of Serbophiles, Albanians and an insignifi¬cant number of Macedonian communists, some Jews among them …”
November 27th, 1942, was the day of the First Session of the Anti-Fascist Council of the National Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ),. which had a strong impact on the people. The Regional Committee of the Communist Party for Macedonia and the Headquarters of the Na¬tional Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Macedonia increas¬ed their activities in the outumn of 1943 in order to muster more men and form new partisan detachments178. The directive of the Macedonian Party Regional Committee issued in December 1942 stated: "There is to be no end to the endeavours to muster as many partisans as pos¬sible in the immediate future …" A leaflet was distributed which called on the people of Macedonia, regardless of nationality, religion and political convictions, to join the common United Front.
The news of the advance of the Red Army and of the military successes of the Allied Powers filled the people with new fervour and hope. The Germans and the other Fascist governments in Europe, how-ever, introduced extremely harsh anti-Semitic measures aiming at the extermination of the Jews. In this connection, on December 20th, 1942, Kuzman Josifovski-Pitu, a communist leader, wrote to his comrade Blagoja Talevski as follows: "… the governments of the Anglo-Soviet-American Coalition and their allies recently issued a declaration on the responsibility of the Fascist bandits for their crimes towards the Jews in occupied Europe. This declaration will stimulate the Jews to streng¬then their fight against the enemy … Jewish men are to be sent to hard labour or to camps …*'181 It was expected, then, that able ana strong Jewish men would be sent off to hard phj'sical labour.
The situation in the partisan detachments shortly before the deportation of the Jews
Disturbing rumours were spreading among the Jewish population, which made them turn even more to their only ally — the National Liberation Movement. The Communist Party and SKOJ became very popular and many young Jews volunteered for the SKOJ and educa¬tional groups. The adults were active in the supporters' groups and in the "People's Help". All orders and demands of the National Libe¬ration Movement were readily and speedily fulfilled. Parents did not prevent their children from performing various tasks, despite the great, dangers.
Until the eve of the deportation, i.e. until 9th and 10th March, 1943, meetings were being held in Jewish homes. The question arose about what was to be done with the young Jews who had prepared and had, for some time, wanted to join the partisans. The directive of the Bitola Town Committee was that all Jews capable of carrying a gun were to be transferred to Greece or Albania, in groups or indivi¬dually; they were to leave addresses so that they could later be con¬tacted and connected with the partisan detachments.
These days, however, were equally tragic for the Jewish popula¬tion, for the partisan detachments and for the Party Organizations of Bitola, Skopje and Shtip. This can be seen in the correspondence be-tween the various party committees, from the letters sent by Svetozar Vukmanovich-Tempo, delegate of the Central Committee of the Yugo¬slav Communist Party to Macedonia during February 1943, and from numerous other documents.
Shortly before the deportation of the Macedonian Jews, i.e. on March 9th, 1943, Strahil Beginov, Secretary of the District Party Com¬mittee in Bitola, wrote to the Jane Sandanski Detachment as follows: "The information that you are unable to take in any new partisans has been passed to the Headquarters of the Regional Committee. Their answer is that all newly arriving partisans, whether they come in or-ganized groups or individually, have to be received. In the meantime you are to make the necessary preparations and to procure new pro¬visions; always be on the alert for newcomers from the towns; further¬more, a large number of Jews are expected to be interned and, in all likelihood, many of them will decide to join the partisans. Be ready, do not lose any new soldiers. Here we are unable to offer them refuge. We expect your opinion in this matter. But bear in mind that there is a great emergency and do not say that you are not yet ready to take in new people, as in that case you will only be doing a service to the enemy …"
Evidence of the endeavours of the Party leaders to consolidate the situation of the partisan detachments early in 1943 can be found in the letter of Kiril Krstevski, dated March 1st, 1943, to the leader¬ship of the Jane Sandanski Detachment, reading as follows: "… Until March 14th couriers must be stationed in several villages to serve as contacts for the newdy arriving partisans … If you are in any way prevented from observing the given time limit, as for example if you cannot all get together for a meeting, get in touch with the town (Bi¬tola) …" The Order given by Svetozar Vukmanovich-Tempo dated March 16th, 1943, confirms the difficult position of the partisan de¬tachments and the Party organization. The reports of Blagoja Talevski, Secretary of the Party's District Committee, sent to the Macedo¬nian Central Committee speak to the same effect. Thus the report sent from Bitola on April 23rd, 1943, states: "… On my arrival here I found the situation to be very confusing. No contact with the detachment existed, the situation of the Party organizations in the villages was not known and the town organization was in disorder; there was no Town Committee; all the work was done by one man who is now in prison. One of the main problems is that these comrades have lost contact with the detachment, so that no new people can be sent there… Another reason for this situation is the disorder in the town organi¬zation . . ," So the Party Organization in Bitola had no contact with the detachments, which, due to the fascist terror and the cold winter had split into small groups and gone south to the districts of Lerin and Kostur (today called Fiorina and Kastoria) in Aegean Macedonia. This made it almost impossible to dispatch young communists, SKOJ members and Jewish supporters to the partisan detachments. The situa¬tion in Shtip and Skopje was much the same.
Furthermore, there was a lack of hide-outs to shelter the young people until contact with the detachments was established.
Owing to the growing resistance of the Macedonian people and the minorities against the occupation forces, the Bulgarian army and police took harsh measirres against all the population. There were nu-merous arrests, internments, banishments, mobilizations, check-ups and blockades. The party leadership was in a difficult position. All this had a negative effect on the despatch of young Jews to the woods to join the partisans, which would have saved them from being deported.
Immediately before the blockades in Skopje and Bitola, in the early evening hours of March 10th, 1943, a number of Jews managed to go into hiding. The only Jew from Shtip who escaped deportation, as described earlier in the text, was Isaac Sion.
Several families and individuals from Skopje escaped to Albania, among them the brothers Mois, Mentesh and Niko Kolonomos. The brothers Aaron and Mois Bahar, Mentesh Nahmijas and Shurna Josip, members of the Movement from 1941, joined the partisan detachments. Emanuel Kamhi and Luisa Kamhi, also in the Movement from 1941, took refuge with some SKOJ members and later joined the partisans; Jack, a member of the SKOJ Town Committee, was also sheltered by a SKOJ member. Several Jews were hidden in the shop of Krstoljub Budimovski. Three Jewish families hid in the surgery of Dr Garabet and Moni Kario found protection in the home of Dimitar Kjostarov, an artist of the town's theatre189. The family of Mois Francez, all 5 of them, were sheltered by Dr Hadzhimitkov and by the Ribarev family. Benvenuti Titi, a little girl, was hidden and brought up by Aleksandar and Blaga Todorov. We have mentioned earlier the group of 17 young Jews who, owing to a misunderstanding, failed to get through to the partisans and were all later deported.
In Bitola, a small group of Party and SKOJ members, consisting of Rosa Kamhi, Estreja Ovadia, Stela Levi, Zhamila Kolonomos and Adela Faradzhi, were sheltered in the small shop of Blagoja Siljanovski. Despite their extremely difficult and dangerous position, they re¬mained there until 7th April, when they were transferred to the Damjan Gruev Detachment. During the transfer, however, Rosa Kamhi was captured by the Bulgarian police. Several groups of SKOJ and Party members crossed the Greek and x^lbanian borders on their own initia¬tive. The group consisting of Samuel Kalderon, David Kalderon, Marcel Demajo, Pepo Hason, Mentesh Ishah, Pepo Ishah, Luna Ishah and Ja¬cob Kalderon arrived in Greece and a little later established contact with the Macedonian and Greek partisan detachments.
A baker named Temelko managed to transfer the SKOJ members Jusef Aruesti, Mois Kasorla and Shimon Aruesti to Albania.
Boro Altiparmak hid in his house Salomon Sadikario-Mo, Samuel Sadikario, Albert Ruso and Albert Kasorla and later transferred them to the Damjan Gruev Detachment.
Rika Sadikario, Salamon Sadikario and Rachel Nahmijas, helped by the Albanian Consulate, fled to Albania. Sarina Peso, Leon Franko, Leon Pardo, Esperansa Pardo, Elijao Baruch, Joseph Kamhi and a few others also managed in various ways to escape to Albania.
Pepo Nahmijas, Dora Nahmijas and Alegra Shami fled to Greece, but were captured by the Germans and deported to the camp in Auschwitz.
Izako Faradzhi hid for a time in a house, but, when trying tc establish contact with the Movement, was captured and killed by the Bulgarian police. Niko Pardo, Alegra Aruesti, Albert Sarfati, Joseph Kamhi and a few others escaped from the camp in the tobacco factory in Skopje and then fled to Albania.
A number of young Jews who had escaped the deportation joined the National Liberation Movement in Macedonia or the Partisan De¬tachments in Greece and Albania.
Many reports of the Army and Partisan Headquarters contain names of Jewish soldiers and army and political activists. From the same documents we learn that on July 14th, 1943, the Gotse Delchev Detachment numbered "a total of 44 partisans and 4 senior officers, among them 1 Wallach, 3 Jews and 39 Christians (meaning Macedo¬nians). 9 of them are townsmen and 39 peasants coming from 8 villages in the Bitola district". The report on the Drimkol Detachment dated September 10th, 1943, states: "… It has 20 partisans, among them 1 Jew, 7 Macedonians and the rest Albanians and Turks …”
This was a time of rapid growth in the partisan detachments and before long regular army units were established, capable of fighting battles on a large scale. Consequently, vast territories were freed. The first bodies of people's government were established. Preparations were being made for the first session of the Anti-Fascist Council of the Na¬tional Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM), which was to be the legi¬timate body of representatives of the Macedonian people and to con¬stitute the legal government of Macedonia within New Yugoslavia.
The first unit of the National. Liberation Army (NOV) and the Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia (POJ) was the First Battalion, named Mirche Atsev, formed on August 18th, 1943. The Headquarters of the Second Zone of Operations appointed the following three Jews as senior officers: Beno Ruso — political liaison officer of a company, Salamon Sadikario — political liaison officer of a company and Zhamila Kolonomos — deputy political liaison officer.
1943 and 1944 reports show that many Jewish soldiers were given senior military and political posts in companies, battalions, brigades and divisions.
The following Jews were killed in battles against German, Ita¬lian, Bulgarian and Ballist (Albanian Fascist) military units: Estreja Ovadja-Mara, later proclaimed National Hero of Yugoslavia, was killed, on Mount Kajmakchalan in 1944 in a battle against the Bulgarian Fascist army; at that time she held the post of Deputy Liaison Officer of a battalion. Mordechai Nahmijas-Lazo died a hero's death on Mount Kajmakchalan in 1944 as Liaison Officer of a battalion of the Third Macedonian Offensive Brigade. Raphael Batino, Secretary of the Party's District Committee for Sandzhak, was shot by the Italian Fascists in Vuchja Kleka. Isaac Sarfati, member of the Party's Town and District. Committees in Bitola was in absentia sentenced to death in 1942 by a Bulgarian military court; while hiding in Aegean Macedonia he was captured and shot by the Germans. Salamon Sadikario-Mo was killed in a battle with the Bulgarian Fascists near the town of Kumanovo in 1944, as political liaison officer of a battalion of the Third Macedonian Offensive Brigade. Samuel Sadikario was killed on the Srem Front in 1945 as a political liaison officer of an. artillery battalion. Marcel De-majo was killed while fighting against the German forces in Aegean Macedonia in 1944. Jako Bitolchanec, a shop assisstant in Bihach (a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina), a member of the Movement from
1941, was killed in 1943 as a soldier of the First Proletarian Brigade. Aaron Aruesti was killed in 1942 as a partisan in the Damjan Gruev Detachment. Leon Faradzhi was shot by the Germans in Aegean Ma-cedonia in 1943. Izako Faradzhi was shot by the Bulgarian police in Bitola in March 1943. Murdo Todolanu was killed in 1942 as a partisan in the Damjan Gruev Detachment, Pepo Peso was captured as a par¬tisan and shot in prison. Lazar and Joseph, partisans from 1942, were captured by the police and deported. Anaf Bato was shot by the Bul¬garian Fascists in Sofia in 1945. All these were citizens of Bitola.
Jews from Skopje also fought in the war and many of them lost their lives. Mois Bahar, a member of the Movement from 1941, was killed in a battle against German and Ballist forces in the village of Klenoets in 1943. Joseph Shurna-Skipo, member of the agitprop (com¬mittee for agitation and propaganda) of the First Kosovo-Macedonian Brigade, was killed in 1944. David Navaro lost his life on the Srem. Front in 1945. Tuli (a young boy whose full name is not known), a soldier in the Stiv Naumov Battalion, was wounded in February 1944 and left to the attendance of the villagers of Pekljam in the district of Kochani; betrayed to the Bulgarian police, he was captured and soon afterwards executed. Emanuel Kamhi and Luisa Kamhi died in battle on Kosovo. Nikola Shpaj, a clerk in the town of Tetovo, was killed by the Ballist bands in 1944. Bukitsa Konfino, who had come from Bel¬grade and joined the Movement in 1942, lost her life on the Skopska Crna Gora Mountain in 1943. Dezi Menahem joined the partisans in
1942, but the time and place of his death have remained unknown.
There are many other Jews who were killed as partisans between from 1941, used to procure arms from Bulgarian soldiers; Rebecca Sason, SKOJ member from 1942; Rachel Sason and Bela Sason, also SKOJ members from 1942; Duka Vajshpaj, a dressmaker, in the Mo¬vement from 1942; Isidor Altaras, called the Red Tailor, an activist in the textile workers' union before the war and in the Movement from. 1941. Unfortunately, the names of many Jews whose blood was shed by the conquerors, have remained and will probably always remain unknown.
The following Jews from Bitola, members of the Movement, par¬tisans and, later, soldiers survived the war: Beno Ruso, political liaison officer of the 15th Corps: Chaim Sadikario, partisan in the Posavski Detachment in Serbia; Victor Meshulam, a major, commander of a bat¬talion; Zhamila Kolonomos, deputy political liaison officer of the 42nd division; Nisim Alba, lieutenant-colonel, a quartermaster of the 2nd Macedonian Offensive Brigade; Lazar Ishah, partisan in the Slovenian Detachments from 1942; Adela Faradzhi, political liaison officer of a company of the 2nd Brigade; Estreja Levi-Lena, a soldier in the 2nd Macedonian Offensive Brigade; Mara Gadol, a soldier in the Kosovo-Macedonian Offensive Brigade; Albert Kasorla, intelligence officer in the 2nd Brigade; Samuel Kalderon, a soldier; David Kalderon, deputy sanitary officer in the 2nd Brigade; Pepo Hason, deputy quartermaster in the 42nd Division; Mentesh Ishah, commander of a battalion; Luna Ishah, a soldier; Pinhas Ishah, quartermaster of a battalion; Jacob Kal¬deron, a soldier; Dr Mir jam Popadich, chief of the sanitary department of the Headquarters of NOV and POJ; Albert Ruso, security officer of a brigade. Some Jewish political prisoners joined the Movement on their escape from prison in Fascist Bulgaria. Of those, the following Jews survived the war: Morits Shami, head of the Office for the Pro¬tection and Defence of the People (OZNA) in the 6th Brigade; Morits Romano, Secretary of the Party's District Committee in Radovish; Eli Kamhi, a soldier; Rosa Kamhi, a member of the Party's District Com¬mittee in Resen.
On returning from internment in Bulgaria, the following Jews rejoined the Movement: Abram Sadikario, a doctor in Kumanovo; Isaac Levi, in charge of the printing-office in Strumitsa; Salvator Levi, a doctor in the 53rd Division.
Jews from Shtip, members of the Movement, and partisans, who survived the War are: Isaac Sion, a soldier of the Shar Detachment and later Deputy Liaison Officer of a battalion of the 3rd Macedonian Offen¬sive Brigade, also a member of ASNOM and Secretary of the Party's District Committee in Strumitsa; Chaim Levi, a member of the Mo¬vement from 1941 and later colonel, of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA); Samuel Vital Sion, Isaac Chaim Levi and Leon Kapuano.
Other Jews from Skopje who fought in the National Liberation War and survived are: Aaron Bahar-Milan, commander of a company m the 1st Kosovo-Macedonian Offensive Brigade; Gjorgi Blaer, sani¬tary officer of a division; Aleksandar Fritzhand, in the Movement from 1941; Sami Mizdrahi, soldier in the 10th Brigade of the 22nd Di¬vision: Joseph Polak, in the war from 1943 as a soldier in the motoriz¬ed regiment accompanying the Headquarters of Macedonia; Dr Abram Nisam, in the war from 1944 as a sanitary officer in Pirot (in Serbia): Dr Chaim Abravanel, in charge of the hospital in Skopje; Jacob Biti, a pharmaceutical student, doing various jobs in several sanitary de¬partments; Deborah Kaserto, a dressmaker, who after spending some time in the concentration camp on the island of Rab, joined the army in 1943; Alfred Menachem. in charge of the sanitary department in the Jablanitsa Detachment and later transferred to the Albanian Bri¬gade; Chaim Mose; Dr Bora Varon, working in the partisan hospital situated in St Nikola Monastery in the village of Ljubantsi near Skopje.
The Macedonian army units were also joined by Jews coming from other parts of the country, such as: Harry Gadol, from Belgrade, a commander of the company accompanying the Headquarters of Ma-cedonia; Benjamin Samokovlija, born in Sarajevo, in the Movement from 1941, later a soldier in the 10th Macedonian Brigade; Dr Jacob Sarafich, born in Banja Luka (Bosnia and Herzegovina), a partisan in the 1st Skopje Detachment, captured and interned by the Bulgarians and later head of the Sanitary Department of a division of the Head Office of the People's Defence of Yugoslavia (KNOJ) and member of ASNOM.
At the beginning of the war in Yugoslavia, in the so-called April War of 1941, the advancing German troops met with strong armed re¬sistance by the old Yugoslav army in certain areas. In these battles many Yugoslav patriots performed real heroic deeds. Among those he¬roes there were also Jews, most of whom were captured and sent to German concentration camps. Such was the destiny of Alfred Melamed, who, once in camp, took part in all anti-Fascist activities193. Other Jews who were also involved in anti-Fascist demonstrations in various camps were: Albert Kamhi, Samuel Melamed, Pepo Sion, Raka Chaim Beraha and others194.
A name worth including here is that of Dr Elena Etinger-Kavaeva (1893—1982), born in Poland. She was a family friend and collaborator of Vladimir Ilich Lenin and took part in the Russian October Revo¬lution. Together with her husband, Vladimir Kavaev, she arrived in the town of Ohrid in Macedonia in 1922. In 1941 she and her daughter were prosecuted by the Bulgarian police, but through the intercession of the citizens of Ohrid she escaped being deported to a concentration camp. In the days of the occupation, her home and surgery were the scene of many a secret meeting. She also attended to many sick and wounded underground activists and partisans. After the war she was made Citizen of Honour of the town of Ohrid.
Many of the Jews who took an active part in the war were award¬ed high decorations and medals and the following twelve are recipients of the Certificate of Service in the Partisan Forces from 1941: Beno Ruso, Morits Shami, Rosa Kamhi, Berto Ruso, Victor Meshulam, Nisim Alba, Zhamila Kolonomos, Chaim Sadikario, Isaac Sion, Chaim Levi, Gjorgi Blaer and Aleksandar Fritshand.
Estreja Ovadja-Mara was posthumously proclaimed National Hero of Yugoslavia.
=[[IV THE DEPORTATION OF THE JEWS FROM MACEDONIA]]=
Soon after the arrival of the occupation forces, harsh anti-Semitic measures were introduced in Macedonia. At the end of 1942 the Bul¬garian Fascist and the German Nazi governments entered into talks whose purpose was "a complete solution to the Jewish question", which in fact meant extermination of the Jewish population of Bulgaria and of the territories it had occupied. The report of the Ministry for Fore¬ign Affairs dated November 12th, 1942, sent to the German mission in Sofia, was to this effect. The Bulgarian Government announced with exultation that the solution to the Jewish question was finally in sight. The Government promised to make every effort to rid the country of Jews. Germany was asked to supply Bulgaria with detailed plans for the deportation of the Jews from Romania, so that they could follow the same procedure. The Bulgarian Government agreed to allow Ger-many a certain amount of money in payment of the expenses involved, but maintained that the sum asked, 250 reichsmark per Jew, was too high.
The preparations started with fervour. The Department for Jewish Affairs carried out a census of the Jewish population in Macedonia, which contained details such as first name, family name, age, sex, occupation and permanent address. The census was to be completed within a few days' time. Apart from carrying out the census in his town, the delegate to the Skopje Jewish Council was charged with making detailed lists of the Jews living in places where, owing to the small number of families, there were no Jewish councils, such as the towns of Veies, Kumanovo, Preshevo, Udovo, Gevgelija, Kriva Palanka and Bujanovats. The census showed that Skopje had 1,181 Jewish fa¬milies with 3,795 members, Bitola 810 families with 3,351 members, Shtip 140 families with 551 members, Kumanovo 7 families with 11 members, Veles 2 families with 8 members, Kriva Palanka 1 family with 5 members and all other places 6 families in all with 28 members. The total number of Jewish families in Macedonia was 2,150 with 7,762 members. In the meantime, Jews from other parts of Yugoslavia kept arriving so that the total number amounted to about 8,000 Jews.
The top secret talks between the governments of Bulgaria and Germany went on for some time and on February 22nd, 1943, an agree¬ment was signed in Sofia for the deportation of the first contingent of 20,000 Jews from the territories occupied by Bulgaria, i.e. from Thrace and Macedonia, into the eastern regions of Germany. The agree¬ment was signed by Aleksandar Belev, Secretary of the Department for Jewish Affairs in Sofia, and the German plenipotentiary, SS Haupt-sturmfuhrer Theodor Daneker, and was ratified by the Bulgarian Ca¬binet. The deportation was to be made by rail as follows:
from Skopje railway station, 5 trains with 5,000 people,
from Bitola railway station, 3 trains with 3,000 people,
from Gorna Dzhumaja railway station, 3 trains with 3,000 people,
from Pirot railway station, 2 trains with 2,000 people,
from Dupnitsa railway station, 3 trains with 3,000 people,
from Radomir railway station, 4 trains with 4,000 people.
The agreement stipulated all the details about the deportation. Petar Gabrovski, Minister of Home Affairs and Public Health, report¬ed to the Cabinet that, in accordance with the agreement between Bul¬garia and Germany, 20,000 people of Jewish origin, former inhabitants of the "newly liberated territories" and now placed in camps in Skopje, Pirot, Gorna Dzhumaja, Dupnitsa and Radomir, were to be deported from Bulgaria. The Cabinet immediately authorized the Department for Jewish Affairs to start putting the agreement into effect. Berkele, a German minister accredited to Bulgaria, had written to his Ministry of Foreign Affairs on January 22nd, 1943, informing them of his talks with the Bulgarian Foreign Minister on the "solution to the Jewish problem" and confirming that one of the first anti-Semitic measures would have to be the deportation of the Jews from the "newly liberated territories". And indeed, a month later the agreement for the depor¬tation of 20,000 Jews into the German eastern camps was signed. The question of the deportation of the Jews from Bulgaria was raised in all talks between the Bulgarian Fascist and the German Nazi Governments. Thus, the telegram sent by Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister, to the German mission in Sofia on April 4th, 1943, concerning his talks wdth the Bulgarian King Boris on the Jewish question, stated: "… The King declares that he has given consent for the deportation to European camps of the Jews from Macedonia and Thrace only. As for the Jews from Bulgaria itself, he would like to deport only a small number of bolshevik and communist Jews. He would gather the remaining 25,000 Jews in concentration camps within the country, as he needs labour for road construction. I did not discuss this point in detail with the King, but 1 emphasized that only radical treatment could bring a de¬finite solution to the Jewish question …"
The agreement was followed by Cabinet Protocol N° 32, dated March 2nd, 1943, which contained details about the organization of the deportation of 20,000 Jews from both "the new" and "the old" Bul-garian territories and the confiscation of Jewish property.
The Railroad Head Office was instructed to prepare special trains for the transportation of the Jews from Macedonia and the Aegean coastal belt to destinations to be determined by the Department for Jewish Affairs. The railroad was to receive no payment for its services. Special requisition committees were formed and they were given orders to find and requisition suitable buildings in the towns chosen by the Department, which would be used as temporary camps for the Jews, before they were despatched further. A number of civilians were en¬gaged to take care of the Jewish estates until they were disposed of. The caretakers were to be paid from the Jewish Council Fund. All real estate belonging to deported Jews was to be confiscated by the state. All personal estate was to be sold by the Department for Jewish Affairs, and the money received was to go into the Jewish Council Fund. The Secretary for Jewish Affairs was ordered to see that the deportation of 20,000 Jews was carried out as stipulated in the agreement with the. German Government.
The Secretary issued Regulations for the organization and the running of the temporary concentration camps. The treatment of the Jews was to be void of all humanity. Thus, for example, Item 7 stipu¬lated that people could go to the lavatories only in groups accompanied by a guard. Item 10 allowed no fire in the stoves or braziers, which meant no heating, although the winter of 1943 was extremely cold. Item 13 allowed each person a blanket or a quilt, clothes and food;, all other personal possessions were to be taken away. Item 18 forbade people to look out of the windows or even to open them, to write letters and to read newspapers. Item 25 allowed only two meals a day; only children under 10 years of age could have three204. On special orders some civilians were appointed to perform various jobs in the camp beginning on March 9th and these were to receive different wages.
The most suitable building for a temporary concentration camp proved to be the state tobacco factory, in Skopje, situated close to the: railway line, which was convenient for the further transportation of the Jews. The camp was ready to take in the first deportees. Unrest was felt among the Jewish population as, although all preparations had been carried out in utter secrecy, there were leaks and some Move-ment and Party activists had learnt that something big was afoot. Un¬fortunately, they only had a vague idea of the coming anti-Semitic measures. They had not discovered the extent of the new action nor whether the Jews would be taken to Bulgaria or somewhere else. It was believed that only able young men would be taken as labourers. No-one had heard of the existence of the death camps. The Fascist press and propaganda only announced that the Jews were being taken away to labour camps.
For a few nights before the deportation all lights in all Jewish homes were on. Bags and rucksacks were being sewn, old clothes and shoes were being mended; just in case anyone needed them. People went to bed in their clothes, too scared to change; they prayed the worst would not come.
On March 10th a Jewish delegation from Bitola was received by the Orthodox Archbishop, who generously promised that he would not allow anything evil to happen to the Jews. Every Jew rejoiced at this piece of good news. But the joy did not last long.
On the night of the 10th and 11th March 1943, the towns of Skopje, Bitola and Shtip were blocaded and the Jewish ghettoes sur¬rounded by Bulgarian array and police forces. In the early morning hours of March 11th the collecting of the Jews started. Armed poli¬cemen, agents and soldiers went from house to house banging on doors to wake the people — women, children, sick people, who were soon afterwards loaded onto lorries or horse-carts. The people were order¬ed to take all their valuables and money as "they would need them in Bulgaria where they were being taken". Needless to say, the looting started even at this point, before the people had left their doorsteps. It continued at the railway stations in Bitola and Shtip and in the camp in the tobacco factory in Skopje.
The ample documentation enables us to follow closely the whole course of the deportation — from March 11th. the day when all Jews from Macedonia were gathered in the temporary camp in Skopje, through the weeks of their stay in it until the moment they were put into German hands.
The reports of the Yugoslav Federal Commission for War Crimes which refer to the genocide of the Macedonian Jews and the statement of some Jewish survivors confirm that everybody, i.e. Bulgarian police agents, soldiers, clerks, guards, those who searched the Jews and those who kept written records, treated the deportees with equal cruelty. Particularly brutal was the treatment of the desperate mothers, children, the old and the sick. In the camp in Skopje the Jews were robbed of almost all their possessions: money, rings, watches, medication, soap, blankets, coats — anything that took the fancy of the Fascist agents. The people were placed 300 to 500 to a room, on dirty bare boards, deprived of bed-clothes and heating in the cold winter. For four days they received no food. Drinking water was scarce; washing became a great luxury. The sick received no medical help as there was no me¬dication. The Red Cross, however, did not bother even to visit the camp, let alone try to provide any help. The living conditions lacked even the most basic hygiene. The deportees were let out only once a day, for only half-an-hour's walk, one roomful at a time. The sick and the invalids could not climb down the stairs and were forced to stay in all the time. Among the 7,215 Jews brought into the warehouses of the tobacco factory, there were:
539 children under 3 years of age,
602 children from 3 to 10 years of age,
1,172 children from 10 to 16 years of age,
865 old people over 60 years of age,
250 bed-ridden people,
4 pregnant women who gave birth in the camp and
4 people who died immediately on arrival.
These data show that more than one third of the deportees were com¬pletely helpless.
A little later 198 Jews who were foreign subjects, and 67 doctors, chemists and their families were released from the camp. The foreign subjects were released through the intervention of their embassies, whereas the others were released because Bulgaria was badly in need of doctors and chemists.
The deportation of the Jews from Macedonia was carried out in three stages. The first stage, which included the Jews from Skopje started on March 22nd. In the second stage, which started on March 25th, all the Jews from Shtip and some from Skopje and Bitola were transported. The remaining about 2,500 Jews were transported in the third stage, which started on March 29th. All trains were accompanied by Bulgarian police, the second also by the Gestapo.
Extant documents of the German police squadron in Nishka Ba-nja, which accompanied the trains on their way, give details of the further fate of the deported Jews. Besides giving the names of the places, the time and the date of all the stops the trains made, these documents also state that the final destination of each train was Treblinka. The first groups arrived in Treblinka on March 28th, 1943, at 7 a.m. and was immediately delivered to the commander of the camp. The second group arrived at its destination on March 31st at 6.30 p.m. Twenty carriages were unloaded immediately and the rest on April 1st at 6.30 a.m. The third group reached Treblinka on April 5th at 7 a.m. and the unloading took place between 9 and 11 a.m. The documents also give details of the people, mainly old people and children, who died on the way.
As for the number of deported Jews from Macedonia, one finds different figures in different documents. The report of the German mission in Sofia to the Royal Head Office for Security and for the Deportation of the Jews from Bulgaria states that 7,122 Jews were deported from Macedonia, but that this figure was definitely inaccura¬te208. There are, in fact, two different list of the Macedonian Jews made in the camp in Skopje directly before the deportation. The first, made by the Bulgarian police, states that in the camp there were 1,702 fa¬milies consisting of 7,056 people; the second, made by the German po¬lice, shows 1,828 families with 7,162 people. A. Vite, the German Con¬sul in Skopje, indicated in his confidential letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin, dated March 18th, 1943, that the number of deported Jews was 7,240, which is 10% less than the number given in official Bulgarian documents. The number of people in the camp in Skopje changed all the time. Besides the released foreign subjects and doctors, several people managed to escape, such as: Albert Aruesti and another whose name is not known, both from Skopje; Joseph Kamhi, Albert Sarfati, Alegra Aruesti and Niko Pardo, all from Bitola. Rachel Cohen, Konorte Sason, Baruch Bivas and Joseph Angel were lecaptured in the village of Grupchin, near Tetovo; all their valuables were confiscated and they were returned to the camp210. There also exists a list of escaped Jews who "could not be brought to camp". In a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Public Health, I. Zahariev, delegate of the Department for Jewish Affairs, indicated that the lists of Jews deported from Skopje were made in a great rush; therefore, they were incomplete and checks were impossible. Besides, names were penciled in later. Zahariev stated further that the follow¬ing people had been released from camp: Hanagna Biti, a Spanish ci¬tizen, Mary Modiano, an Italian citizen, Leon Adizhes, an Albanian ci¬tizen, Matilda Konorti, married to the Spanish citizen Noah Miho. The following fugitives were recaptured and brought to the camp: Abram Ruben, Victor Kolonomos, Cohen Biti, Cohen Levi, Mois Aser, Mushon Ergas, Samuel Sason, Chaim Anzhel and Jacob Talvi. The following had disappeared a few days before the Jews were gathered in the temporary camp: Ana Alaluf, Benko Kolonomos, Victor Aroesti, Dario Ergas, Adzhisto Ergas, Edzhisto Aroesti, Matilda Aroesti, Nisim Roma¬no, Rachel Kolonomos, Sabetaj Gerhon and Salomon Aroesti. Many Jews sent in requests to be treated as foreign citizens. Thus, a number of Jews born in Prishtina (then under Italian occupation) but living in Skopje requested to be included in the list of Italian citizens. They were Samuel Asael and his family of 3; Abram Kalderon and his fa¬mily of 4; Mair Cohen and his family of 4; Joseph Ruben and his fa¬mily of 2; Isaac Ruben and his family of 3; Ruben Abram and his fa¬mily of 2; Rahamim Asael and his family of 4; Manuel Ruben and his family of 3; Joseph Ruben and his family of 5. From Zahariev's letter we also learn that 33 foreign and 17 local families were released .from the camp and that another 100 declaration forms were needed.
For the various reasons mentioned above the number of deportees in the camp kept changing. It is believed that 7,320 people passed through the camp in Skopje.
All Macedonian Jews were deported to the Treblinka camp in Poland and all were gassed. Not even one survived the horrors of the camp, not even one returned to tell of the murder of the Jews from Macedonia. Only the documents speak of the terrible fate of a whole nation, of the inhuman element in man, of the criminal deeds of the Fascists and their utter lack of humanity which degraded them so much that they did not hesitate to throw innocent adults and children into the blazes of the crematoria.
Even when the last Jew had left the camp in Skopje, letters from many parts of Europe continued to arrive inquiring about the fate of friends and relatives. Many of them asked about the fate of foreign citizens. In most cases the answer was that they had been deported on one of the trains.
Another document giving evidence about the character of the Bulgarian Fascist Government is the report of the German mission in Sofia to the Royal Head Office for Security and for the Deportation of the Jews from Bulgaria, dated April 4th, 1943, which states that, by that date, 11,343 Jews had been deported, i.e. 4,221 Thracian Jews, transported by boat from the Danubian port of Lom to Vienna, and 7,122 Macedonian Jews, trasported by train from Skopje. The boats were accompanied by Bulgarian police and two German policemen,, whereas the trains were accompanied by German policemen.
The report also shows that the Bulgarian Government was eager to deport the Jews from the newly annexed territories of Macedonia and Thrace. The original estimates amounted to 14,000 people. A. Belev, Secretary for Jewish Affairs and a determined anti-Semitist — as the report emphasized — had counted on gathering another 6,000-Jews from the "old territories of Bulgaria", especially from the large cities. Minister P. Gabrovski had agreed to this plan, which was later also approved by the Cabinet. The agreement on the deportation of the Jews had been signed on February 22nd, 1943, by A. Belev, plenipoten¬tiary of the Bulgarian Minister for Home Affairs, and SS Hauptsturmführer Daneker, plenipotentiary of the Head Security Office in the Reich.
Item 4 of the report states that only the Swiss and Spanish accre¬dited ministers and the Catholic Bishop of Skopje intervened with the authorities and tried to protect the Jews.
Item 6 expresses pleasure at the deportation of 11,343 Jews, which is 56°/o of the originally planned 20,000, and a hope that there will soon be further deportations. The report was approved by SS Hauptsturmführer A. Bekerle and. signed by A. Hoffman, adviser to the Po¬litical Attache at the German mission in Sofia.
After the deportation was over, the specialized Offices for Jewish Affairs were faced with the question of solving the problem of Jews with foreign citizenship and the doctors and chemists released from the camp in Skopje. The delegates of the Jewish councils continued their work. The foreign citizens were given special identity papers and ordered to leave the territory of Bulgaria. Trouble arose when they made claims on their property, both real and personal. In fact, Jewish real estate was distributed immediately after the Jews were taken to the temporary camp in Skopje, and it was difficult to return a proper¬ty to its original owner. The doctors and chemists were sent to work in small places in the country. The Skopje District Police issued Order Ns 339 by which a commission was appointed to make an estimate of the damage caused by the Jews to the state tobacco factory, while it was being used as a temporary concentration camp219. There were a number of demands for payment of bills for food220, medication221 and other products consumed by the Jews. The main concern of the occu¬pation authorities, however, was the distribution of the real and per¬sonal estate of the deported Jews.
=[[V THE LOOTING OF JEWISH PROPERTY]]=
Even before all Macedonian Jews were gathered in the temporary camp in Skopje, the Cabinet of the Bulgarian Fascist Government issued Decree Ns 126, dated March 2nd, 1942, stipulating that all real and per¬sonal estate of Jews who emigrated from Bulgaria was to be confiscated by the state. Soon afterwards the Department for Jewish Affairs in Sofia issued Order No 865, dated March 13th, 1943, to the same effect. Copies of the Decree and the Order were sent urgently to the delegates to the Jewish regional councils of Bitola, the Aegean coast and Skopje, as well as to the regional directors in Bitola, Ksanti and Skopje.
The authorities of the Strumitsa district and the tax office of the city of Veles requested and received additional instructions regard¬ing the confiscation of all Jewish property in their territories.
The Order was made public only two days after the Jews had been collected in the temporary camp. The Jews were still officially property owners, they still had not been handed over into Nazi German hands, when all they possessed was taken away from them.
The Decree gave precise detailed instructions about the manner in which the liquidation of all personal estate was to take place. Special commissions were formed consisting of the delegate of the Department and representatives of the local councils and tax offices. As all Jewish houses were sealed up as soon as their inhabitants were removed, the first thing the commissions had to do was to unseal them and make inventories of all objects. All money and valuables were deposited in the Bulgarian National Bank and quite nefariously put into the account of the owner who, in fact, no longer existed. If the ownership could not be determined, the object was sold and the money received deposited in the Jewish Council Fund. Civilians were mobilized to guard Jewish property and were paid from the same Fund. When a Jewish house was stripped of all its furniture and ornaments, it was locked, the keys were sent to the Secretary and the house was considered state property. The Order also stated that the members of the commission were to be paid for their help in the liquidation of Jewish property. The delegates of the Department to the Jewish Councils in the regions of Bitola, Skopje, the Aegean coast and in the town of Pirot were instructed to have the possessions of the Jews who had "emigrated" from Bulgaria sold in the shortest possible time. Furthermore, they were obliged to submit re¬ports on the progress of the sale and on the money received every 1st, 10th, 20th and 30th of the month. The reports were not to be posted,, but taken to Sofia by a special police agent. The Secretary for Jewish Affairs also ordered that Jewish property could be sold only to Bul¬garian and by no means to foreign citizens (the Macedonians being considered Bulgarian citizens, too). The sale was advertised in various ways. Thus, T.Z. Dzhambazov, delegate to the Jewish Council in Bitola, informed the mayors of Bitola, Prilep, Krushevo, Brod, Ohrid and Resen on March 24th that the auction of Jewish property was to start on March 26th and was to take place every day except Saturdays and Sundays.
As there was a great deal of corruption and theft during the sale, the Skopje District Police issued Order N° 595 stating that all people caught reselling goods bought in the auction would be treated as specu¬lators and severely punished. The District Police received an ano¬nymous letter saying that during an auction of Jewish property the people on the Commission were seen to take half of the money for themselves, which was disgraceful in government officers.
Delegate I. Zahariev informed the District Chief of Police about a number of thefts and demanded investigation. His letters stated that a certain person had entered a Jewish home at 239th Street N° 1 several times and on leaving the house every time he carried a bagfull of. goods. In the house at 81st Street Ne 15 the seals of the rooms containing Jewish property had been broken and some of the items re¬moved. One night, goods from the same house had been loaded onto a cart and taken away. The commission auctioning the possessions from the Jewish flat at Adolf Hitler Street N° 65 had sold a few objects after closing time, without an auction and in the presence of the guards.
The Department for Jewish Affairs and the Ministry for Home Affairs and Public Health in Sofia demanded an explanation from their delegate to the Skopje Jewish Council as to why not a single lev from the sale of the personal property of the ''emigrated" Jews had been paid into post office account N° 544. Furthermore, the money collected from the Jews in the temporary camp had not been deposited anywhere, either.
As a number of state institutions made demands for a share of the Jewish property, the delegate sent out a circular letter informing all institutions that all property was to be sold, not given away, and that the price was to be decided by a special commission. The delegate also demanded to be informed whether the institutions had funds for the purchase of such goods237. Dimitar Raev, District Chief of Police, issued Order N° 813 by which the appointed a commission, composed of Ivan Zahariev, delegate of the Secretary for Jewish Affairs, Simeon Kasov, district Chief of the special tax office and Hristo Zografov, head¬master of the 1st Boys' High School, whose task it was to investigate the claims of the government and municipal institutions and then distri¬bute part of the property among those that really had a need for it.
Available documentation shows that a number of government of¬fices, schools and cultural and scientific institutions requested a share in the distribution. Many of the written requests also contained detailed reports on the financial resources of the institution. Here are some of the institutions that had no scruples in demanding a share of the loot: the Skopje District Police, the Skopje District Court, the Prilep District Court, the Gevgelija Police Headquarters, the Staff of a cavalry brigade, the University of Skopje and the State National Library, The Municipal Office of Tsarevo Selo, the Municipal Of¬fice of Vrbani near Kachanik, the Monastery of St Pantelejmon near Kochani, Bulgarsko Dslo published in Bitola, the vineyard of Saraj near Skopje, the District Farming Collective, the Natural Science Museum in Skopje, the Reading Room in Veles, the National The¬atre, the Macedonian Branik Organization, the Tennis Club, the Chemical Laboratory of the Customs Office, the Bulgarian National Gymnastics Union, the financial inspectors, the Music Society, the Charitable Society for the Protection of Widows and Orphans, the German school, the Ekaterina Simitchieva Girls' vocational school in Skopje, the Knez Simeon Trnovski school, the Reserve Division Council, the Otets Paisij primary school in Skopje, and many others The objects requested were granted free of charge or against payment as decided by the special commissions. Some institutions sent requests to several commissions and received what they had asked for from them all. Some Jewish personal property was sold in the market places. In this way, all the property of the Macedonian Jews, the Fruits of the hard work of many generations, was disposed of in a very short time. The Bulgarian occupation authorities knew for sure that not a single owner would come back to claim his property. It is not surprising, therefore, that those who were supposed to look after the property, i.e. the government officers, the guards, the police, the agents and the com¬missions, took whatever articles pleased them and sent them out of Macedonia for safe-keeping.
The office of the delegate to Skopje was not closed even at this point, because it was pretended that the Jewish Council continued to exist. Furthermore, the Council was allowed a supplement to its budget on April 2nd, 1943. In fact, the delegate still had plenty of work to attend to. He had to fill in "family cards" for the few remaining Jews, i.e. the doctors, chemists and foreign subjects. To do this he needed precise de¬tails of births and deaths, marriages and divorces, and so on.
The details from the cards were then entered in the special list of the Jews released from the temporary camp in Skopje, which contained the names of 27 families with 81 members, plus 6 families with 21 members — foreign citizens, who had left Bulgaria. The latter were allowed to leave Bulgaria and the occupied territories only with a special permit issued by the Department. Such a permit could be obtained after all debts, i.e. taxes and dues, had been settled; and, these were usually so high that the Jews had to give up all their real and personal property to gather the required sum of money269. Before leaving Bulgarian terri¬tory, every person went through a detailed search and if any non-declared money or valuables were discovered, the permit for emigra¬tion was withheld. Foreign subjects were also engaged in lawsuits to recover property which had been looted immediately they had left their homes. The Jews with Spanish citizenship, however, were order¬ed to leave the territory of Bulgaria by the end of August 1943, at the latest, regardless of whether their legal claims had been settled or not. Claims for payment of various debts of already deported Jews kept com¬ing in and for their settlement many a Jewish property was confis¬cated. The expenses of all suits, whatever their character, were charg¬ed on the few remaining Jews or, sometimes, even on those who did not exist any more.
The delegate of the Department for Jewish Affairs informed the Ministry of Home Affairs and Public Health in Sofia that the sale of Jewish property ended in Veles on July 31st275 and in Strumitsa on September 25th, 1943276 and that the money received had been deposited in the Bulgarian National Bank.
Before the end of 1943 all Jewish pro¬perty had been liquidated.
=[[VI THE LIBERATION OF MACEDONIA AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF
This tragic episode in the history of the Macedonian Jews, which started on April 6th, 1941, when Fascist Germany and its allies attacked Yugoslavia, was gradually coming to an end. The war, which caused a lot. of suffering to the nation and the minorities of Macedonia, turned into a fight against German Naziism and its supporters, thanks only to the unity of all anti-Fascist forces in the world.
On September 9th, 1944, the Bulgarian Fascist government capi¬tulated and all its bodies in the occupied territories stopped functioning.
The Fascist German armies were defeated on many fronts.
The National Liberation War of the nations and the minorities of Yugoslavia proved victorious and parts of the country had already been liberated.
The units of the National Liberation Army were also successful in foreign the enemy out of Macedonian territory. Macedonian mili¬tary units formed the 15th Corps, which fought at the Srem Front until the very end of the war.
At the end of November, Macedonia was free. Bitola was liberat¬ed on November 4th, Shtip on November 8th and Skopje on November 13th, 1944. Macedonia got its first people's government.
From the 8,000 Jews living in Macedonia prior to 1941, only about 200 survived the genocide. The survivors were returning home from the National Liberation Army, from Bulgarian prisons and internment, from the German concentration camps, from the underground in Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and Italy. Most of them settled in Skopje and Bi¬tola. Though few in number, they continued their long tradition and set to work establishing Jewish Councils.
In 1945, the Bitola Jewish religious council was established with Joseph Kamhi as its head, but owing to the emigration of its members it closed in 1946.
In Shtip the Council was not reestablished as none of its former members returned.
In Skopje a National Liberation Council of the Macedonian Jews was formed which at its first session on December 26th, 1944, estab¬lished the Council of the Macedonian Jews. Present at this session were Gjorgi Blaer, Benjamin Kolonomos, Leon Alagen, Dr Bora Varon? Eng Gros, Elena Blaer and Bertha Noah.
Gjorgi Blaer was elected President, Bertha Noah Secretary and Benjamin Kolonomos Treasurer. The first thing the new leadership asked for was to be given back the building of the former Jewish club, which they planned to turn into offices for the council administration. This being done, a census was taken of the returned and returning Jews. All Jews, including those with Spanish citizenship who had not done their national service, were advised to register with the appro¬priate office of the Skopje People's Council. As Jewish refugees were constantly coming back from Albania and other places without any means of supporting themselves, it was decided that the Council should set up an Immediate Assistance Fund.
The synagogue was to be cleaned, repaired and restored to a house of prayer.
The Religious Council of the Macedonian Jews informed the Skopje Town National Liberation Council, in a letter dated December 27th, 1944, of the reestablishment of the Jewish Religious Council. The second session of the Skopje Jewish Council took place on De¬cember 30th, 1944. Then, a commission consisting of Bertha Noah, Da¬vid Amarilio and Alaluf, the former council secretary, was given the task of putting the Council archives in order. Thanks to the work of this commission we have now been able to avail ourselves of a large number of documents. All members were summoned on December 31st to fill in the census forms and to offer their help to the National Liberation Front. A proposal was made to establish a kitchen and a hostel as a first shelter for the returning Jews. The future sessions of the Council were burdened with many social problems which were solved to the best of their ability. At times when the whole country suffered the consequences of the war which still had not finished, many problems were impossible to solve.
An article in the Nova Makedonija of January 25th, 1945, inform¬ed the public about the session of the Jewish Council. It was presided over by Gjorgi Blaer and attended, among others, by Bane Andreev, representative of the Main Council of the National Liberation Front, Isaac Francez, representative of the Central Jewish Consistory in So¬fia, and Mancho Rahaminov, Secretary in charge of the liquidation of the Department for Jewish Affairs and Public Prosecutor at the Su¬preme Court of Bulgaria. The assembly was addressed by Bane Andreev, Isaac Francez, Dr Bora Varon and by Branko Frizhand, a representa¬tive of Jewish young people.
The Jewish Council on the liberated Yugoslav territories soon got reorganized and developed lively intercommunication and mutual help. Thus, on March 17th, 1945, the Religious Council of the Serbian Jews sent immediate assistance of 300,000 dinars for the Jews in Macedo¬nia. In Belgrade a Board for the Assistance of Yugoslav Jews was formed, which collected information about children and old people incapable of earning their own living.
Although still suffering from the shock of the catastrophe that had befallen them, the Jews joined the endeavours made in the whole country for its restoration and reconstruction. Though themselves in need, they managed to take small presents to the soldiers of the Aegean brigade on May 16th, 1945.
When the Yugoslav Federal Commission for the Investigation of Second World War Crimes was established, all Jews offered to help and started to collect evidence about the victims and about those who had collaborated with the enemy, and to obtain statements from those re¬turning from camps and internment282. They also gathered information about the participation of the Jews in the National Liberation War.
In this same period, Dimche Zografski, President of the Skopje National Liberation Council, procured evidence about the sale of Jewish property. By May 19th, 1944, the Council had received 1,226 documents on the sale of Jewish personal property from other towns in Mace¬donia.
The main concern of the Jewish Council, however, remained help¬ing the returning Jews to start a new life.
When Israel, the new Jewish state, was established in May 1948, the majority of the Jews from Macedonia decided to emigrate. But, even after their emigration they kept in touch with the old country and with each other. Thus, on March 11th every year all Jews of Yu¬goslav origin gather in one large synagogue in Jerusalem to commemo¬rate the victims of Fascism. The Forest of the Martyrs in Israel also contains the names of the Macedonian Jews.
Today in Bitola there is not a single Jew, in each of Shtip and Gevgelija there is only one. The Skopje Jewish Council counts 85 members, of whom only about 20 are among the Jews formerly living in Skopje and Bitola.
Each year all the people of Macedonia, the Socialist Alliance of the Working People of Macedonia, the Veterans Union of Macedonia, together with the surviving Jews, commemorate the Day of the De-portation — March 11th. Besides the surviving Jews, many other ci¬tizens of Bitola, Skopje and Shtip gather to pay tribute to the memory of their victimized Jewish compatriots.
Monuments to the Jewish victims of Fascism have been erected in Bitola. Shtip and Skopje. There is also a memorial plaque in the to¬bacco factory in Skopje. In Bitola, in the centre of the former Jewish quarter, a bust of National Hero Estreja Ovadja has been put up and in the park, among the busts of other national heroes and war vete¬rans, there is also one of Murdo Nahmijas. The spot on Mount Kaj-makchalan near Bitola where Estreja Ovadja was killed has also been marked with a memorial plaque. Another plaque was put up on the new building of the Jewish Council in Skopje. In honour of March 11th, the Day of the Deportation, two permanent exhibitions have been estab¬lished — one in Skopje and one in Bitola. Two documentary films have been made — one on the life of Estreja Ovadja and one on the deportation of the Jews, called The Last Train. Three books treat the life of the Jews. They are: Istorija na Evreite od Makedonija (The His¬tory of the Jews of Macedonia) by Aleksandar Matkovski; Estreja Ovad¬ja, a monograph by Stojanovski and Poslovitse, izreke i priche sephard-skih Jevreja Makedonije (Proverbs, Sayings and Stories of the Sephardi Jews of Macedonia) by Zhamila Kolonomos. A street in Skopje has been named 11th March and a kindergarten in Bitola is called Estreja Ovadja. Pupils from the Brakja Ribar Primary School in Skopje visit the Monument of the Jewish victims in their town on March 11th every year.
Finally, we would like to express our duty and desire to devote this publication to the memory of our compatriots — the victims of Fascism and the veterans of the National Liberation War of Macedonia.
Evreite vo Makedonija vo Vtorata svetska vojna
Araha — a tax or levy (usually religious)
Atehija — revival, rebirth
Ashkenazi, pi. -nazim — a central or eastern European Jew; a German Jew B'rit mila — circumcision
Hebra kadisha — a holy society (performing various religious duties)
Hashomer hatsair — a Young Sentry (the name given to a youth organization with Marxist ideology)
Hazan — a synagogue official of low rank
Yom Kippur — a Jewish holiday (in the tenth month of the Jewish lunar ca¬lendar)
Kal — a temple
Kal di los Gregos — a synagogue of the Greek Jews
Kibbutz, pi. -butzim — a collective farm or settlement in modern Israel
Maccabees — a Jewish dynasty of patriots, high priests and kings of the 2nd and 1st centuries B. C. (Judas Maccabeus)
Maran — a Spanish Jew forcibly converted to Christianity
Matanot leevionim — Gifts for the Poor (the name of a charitable organization) Mehes — customs duty
Midrash Kadosh — the holy scroll; a school where the holy scroll is studied
Ozer dalim — Help for the Sick (the name of a charitable organization)
Passover (also pesach, pesah) — a Jewish festival beginning on the 14th Nisan and traditionally celebrated for eight days; it commemorates the escape of the Jews from Egypt
Responza — rabbis' letters written in response to a question
Rosh hashana — New Year's Day according to the Jewish lunar calendar
Savana — a sheet, a cloth (used to wrap a corpse in)
Sephardi, pi. -dim — a Spanish or Portugese Jew
Shalom — peace; used as a greeting or farewell
Thelet lavan — pale blue and white (Jewish national colours); the name of a Zionist youth organization with socialist ideology