Home » 0 Miroslav Zdravković, Istorija » Holocaust in Yugoslavia

Holocaust in Yugoslavia

Abstract

The goal of this paper is to illustrate the suffering of Jews in the Yugoslav territory during World War Two, based on a few pieces of information about each person killed.

Key words

Holocaust, Yugoslavia

Introduction

Of the 75,000 Jews living in the country before the war, about 60,000 perished in the Holocaust.[1] Excluding Germany and Russia, the relatively largest number of Jews was killed in Yugoslavia (80%), right after Poland (89.6%) and Slovakia (80.3%).

In April 1941, Yugoslavia was occupied and dismembered. The Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was created with the support from its allies Germany and Italy; Serbia and Slovenia were dismembered, and Germany, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria annexed parts of the Yugoslav territory.

In terms of chances of survival, the fate of Jews varied depending on the part of the territory of occupied Yugoslavia in which they lived.

Methodological problems

The paper relied on data from the Museum of Genocide Victims, Belgrade, the database of victims. When composing the database, a process which took almost two years, the author had an opportunity to pay close attention to each individual victim several times.

Data on each victim include one sentence stating the following: name, father’s name and surname, year of death, who the killer was (not always), where the victim was killed, place and manner of death (not always).

When examining the data on certain victims, the author realised that entries on some of the victims were duplicated when the entries were made due to one data that differed: the year of birth or death, the cause of death, the letters in the surname… We can label such errors as unintentional, occurring during the automatic approach to data processing. At the level of all data on victims, this was the case with around 10,000 entries, which is slightly more than 1% of the total number of victims.

When it comes to Jews, we may presume that the intention was to reduce the number of Jewish victims, given that the number of incorrect entries – where the nationality was incorrectly stated to be other than Jewish – was far above 1%, namely almost 10%.

These were mostly Jews in Zagreb (Croats), Belgrade (Serbs) and other major cities (Table 1).

Table 1: Jews in other nationalities

Croats 3.384
Serbs 764
Other 439
Slovenians 233
Hungarians 226
Muslims 33
Macedonians 27
Slovaks 6
Roma 4
Albanians 4
Turks 2
Total 5.122

 

It is possible (as suggested by the data on a much higher number of Jews killed than the number of Jews listed in the 1931 population census) that some of these are persons who converted from Judaism to either Catholicism or Orthodoxy. However, common liquidation sites in camps and by year suggest that this is very unlikely.

Statistical results

Data on the holocaust, based on the victims being classified under one of the possible criteria, are listed below.

Table 2 presents data on the total number of murdered Jews born in the territory of Yugoslavia. The dynamics of their suffering was dictated by the fate of Jews in occupied territories: most of the Jews from Serbia were liquidated in 1941, from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1942 (in Jasenovac and other NDH camps), from Macedonia in 1943, while Jews who were taken from Yugoslavia to Auschwitz and other German camps were killed in 1944 and 1945.

Jews also lost their lives during bombings, as well as in mass or individual shootings and in other manners for the entire duration of World War Two in Yugoslavia, as presented in Table 6.

Table 2: Statistics of Jews killed, presented by year, sex and age

By year
Male Female Total
1941 7767 4.151 11.918
1942 9365 12.297 21.662
1943 5965 5.315 11.280
1944 3761 4.342 8.103
1945 2096 1.750 3.846
Total 28954 27855 56.809
By age
Male Female Total
0 to 10 2756 2.507 5.263
11 to 20 3831 3.517 7.348
21 to 30 3701 3.406 7.107
31 to 40 4826 4.459 9.285
41 to 50 6663 6.713 13.376
51 to 60 3604 3.509 7.113
61 and over 3573 3.744 7.317

 

 

Data by age include an overestimated number of victims aged 41 to 50 and, consequently, an underestimated number of victims in all other age groups. For a large number of victims the year of birth was listed as 9999, which the author changed into 1900.

A certain number of children was rescued from Yugoslavia and sent to Israel either before the occupation or during the early period of occupation, via countries through which this could be organised. In this sense, it would be interesting to see the age composition of the 15,000 Jews from Yugoslavia who survived the war.

Table 3 shows the number of Jews killed by each occupied territory, but not by the perpetrator of the killings. Most of the murdered Jews were born in Croatia, followed by the ones born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bačka and Macedonia.

Table 3: Killed Jews by occupied territory

Killed by teritory of occupation
Croatia 18.640 Croats
Bosnia and Herzegovina 11.452 Croats
Bačka 8.934 Hungarians
Macedonia 8.605 Bulgarians
Central Serbia 4.684 Germans
Banat 1.786 Germans
Srem 1.104 Croats
Istra and Dalmatia 650 Italians
Baranja and Prekomurje 477 Hungarians
Slovenia 371 Ger/Ital
Kosovo and Metohia 89 Italians
Montenegro 17 Italians

 

The next table (4) shows the number of Jews registered in the 1931 census and the number of those liquidated in World War Two. Relative to the number in the census, a complete annihilation of Jews would have meant 10–15% more killed persons. The table lists several towns where this percentage is significantly higher.

Based on Table 4 we may conclude that the largest number of liquidated Jews was in Croatia (and Bosnia), but that almost 100% of Jews born in Macedonia were taken to Treblinka from the territory under Bulgarian occupation.

Table 4: Number of Jews according to the 1931 census, and the number of those killed in World War Two

Num.1931 Ocupation Killed % of 1931
Skoplje 2.635 Bulgarians 4.394 166,8
Niš 376 Germans 615 163,6
Daruvar 226 Croats 312 138,1
Vinkovci 647 Croats 795 122,9
Slavonski Brod 462 Croats 560 121,2
Zemun 523 Croats 577 110,3
Zagreb, grad 8.702 Croats 9.589 110,2
Sarajevo 7.726 Croats 8.476 109,7
Ilok 377 Croats 405 107,4
Zenica 235 Croats 246 104,7
Koprivnica, grad 339 Croats 338 99,7
Vukovar, grad 306 Croats 302 98,7
Novi Sad, grad 3.135 Hungarians 3.012 96,1
Osijek, grad 2.445 Croats 2.264 92,6
Bjelovar 360 Croats 331 91,9
Štip 626 Bulgarians 574 91,7
Senta, grad 1.457 Hungarians 1.324 90,9
Bitolj 3.778 Bulgarians 3.418 90,5
Travnik 344 Croats 299 86,9
Split 303 Italians 256 84,5
Karlovac, grad 347 Croats 292 84,1
Senta 511 Hungarians 430 84,1
Bijeljina 326 Croats 270 82,8
Čakovec 539 Croats 425 78,8
Našice 314 Croats 243 77,4
Kikinda 418 Germans 306 73,2
Banja Luka 368 Croats 267 72,6
Subotica 3.758 Hungarians 2.533 67,4
Bačka Palanka 318 Hungarians 212 66,7
Varaždin, grad 486 Croats 288 59,3
Zrenjanin 1.352 Germans 768 56,8
Tuzla 330 Croats 181 54,8
Vršac, grad 404 Germans 182 45,0
Stari Bečej 748 Hungarians 325 43,4
Đakovo 329 Croats 142 43,2
Beograd 7.906 Germans 3.326 42,1
Bačka Topola 632 Hungarians 262 41,5
Sombor 413 Hungarians 126 30,5
Sombor, grad 1.175 Hungarians 286 24,3
Pančevo 507 Germans 107 21,1
Priština 373 Italians 46 12,3

 

Table 5 shows how many Jews were killed in Yugoslavia during World War Two and by whom. By far the largest number of Jews was killed by Germans (48.8%) and Croats (38,2%). For 10.4% of the killed the executors could not be determined, though it is likely that this number should be added to the percentage of Jews killed by Germans and Croats given that these were liquidations in unspecified camps, or during combat or bombings, but without specifying who the combat was fought against or who performed the bombings.

Table 5: Who killed the Jews?

Germans 27.718
Croats 21.706
Hungarians 1.295
Italians 134
Serbs 10
Bulgarians 6
Allies 4
Muslims 1
Partisans 1

 

Table 6 presents information about the cause of death, as well as the sex and age of the murdered persons, and is the most detailed information about the manner of the suffering of Jews in the then Yugoslavia.

The fight against fascism took the lives of 468 Jews, which is 0.7% of the number in the 1931 census. This data is not comparable with other nationalities in Yugoslavia, because, while young members of other nationalities were for the most part conscripted and died at the end of the war (not counting Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia), most of the Jews were killed at the beginning of the war, therefore this is a much larger percentage if compared to the number of survivors (around 3% of the survivors).

Data on the number of Jews killed in combat or during bombings can be a helpful tool when attempting to imagine Jews hiding in towns. The largest number of Jews killed during the bombing was recorded in 1941 (the attack of Germany on Yugoslavia), and the smallest in 1942 (7), while between 1943 and 1945 Jews were killed during the Allied bombings of large towns in Yugoslavia and the fight for the liberation from Germans.

A total of Jews killed in direct executions – 2,141 of them – were often liquidated together with Serbs. Along with Serbs, Germans killed Jews in mass shootings in Kragujevac and Kraljevo, Hungarians performed a mass execution in Novi Sad, while Croats did mass liquidations of Serbs together with Jews (and the Roma).

Liquidations of Jews in churches, pits, rivers and camps for children indicate that they shared the fate of Serbs who were killed in mass liquidations outside camps. The number of Jews liquidated in pits (4) and rivers (2) is significantly higher than the recorded numbers given that 636 Jews were liquidated in the Jadovno camp by being thrown in the pit, while Hungarians in Novi Sad killed hundreds of Jews by throwing them in the Danube.

Of the total number of Jews killed in World War Two, as many as 92.7% were killed or died in concentration camps.

 

Table 6: How Jews were killed

 

Male Female Total
Antifasizam 1941 48 15 63
1942 57 13 70
1943 106 27 133
1944 95 31 126
1945 70 6 76
Total 376 92 468
When the fighting and bombing 1941 21 13 34
1942 3 4 7
1943 7 6 13
1944 17 15 32
1945 9 6 15
Total 57 44 101
in direct terror 1941 397 240 637
1942 533 500 1.033
1943 125 118 243
1944 83 63 146
1945 47 35 82
1.185 956 2.141
Concentration camps 1941 7.045 3.704 10.749
1942 8.554 11.651 20.205
1943 5.396 5.126 10.522
1944 3.425 4.191 7.616
1945 1.881 1.680 3.561
Total 26.301 26.352 52.653
Prisons 1941 104 65 169
1942 92 78 170
1943 33 19 52
1944 26 17 43
1945 22 4 26
Total 277 183 460
Camps for prisoners of war 1941 10 1 11
1942 7 1 8
1943 9 2 11
1944 8 2 10
1945 7 0 7
Total 41 6 47
“April war” 19 1 20
By partisans 1 0 1
Unknown 1941 102 95 197
1942 40 32 72
1943 21 10 31
1944 24 16 40
1945 30 16 46
Total 217 169 386
In church 0 1 1
Thrown into a pit 4 0 4
Thrown into a river 3 1 4
Camp for kids 8 5 13
on forced labor 1941 13 6 19
1942 65 2 67
1943 263 3 266
1944 62 3 65
1945 27 0 27
Total 430 14 444
during deportation 28 25 53
in exile 5 4 9
from illness 1 1 2

 

More Jews from the Yugoslav territory were liquidated in Jasenovac, including a number of camps in its vicinity, than in Auschwitz. The exact number and the difference between the number of liquidated in these two camps cannot be accurately determined due to the large number of persons liquidated without specifying the camp where this occurred (4,972 in Yugoslavia).

According to “The Holocaust in Zagreb of Ivo and Slavko Goldstein”, by protosingel Jovan (Ćulibrk), “50% of the Zagreb Jews were found killed in Jasenovac, 30% in Auschwitz or in some other camp outside of Yugoslavia and 20% in the NDH or somewhere else”.

According to data on killed persons, “only” 2,436 of those born in Zagreb were registered in Jasenovac and 341 in Stara Gradiška, meaning that around 2,000 persons registered under “unknown” (2,799) or “camp” (768) were in fact killed in Jasenovac. This increases the number of people killed in Jasenovac and the neighbouring camps (14,916) by around 17,000. If we include Đakovo (because surviving women from this camp were taken to Jasenovac for liquidation), the number of murdered Jews amounts to 21.700.

The stories of Jasenovac and Auschwitz should not take the focus away from other camps where monstrous crimes were also committed, including Jadovno, Pag, Zagreb, Loborgrad and other liquidation sites.

Conclusion

Jews born in Yugoslavia had one of the relatively highest rates of annihilation in the European territory. This was the consequence of (1) the occupation of Serbia and Slovenia, (2) territorial expansion of German allies (Hungary, Bulgaria, Italy and Albania) and (3) formation of the Croatian state which liquidated Jews (together with Serbs and the Roma) on its own initiative at its territory.

This paper aims to present almost all available statistics on the suffering of Jews based on only one sentence recorded about each victim.

Literature:

  • Croatian state commission for establishing crimes of occupying forces and their assistants “Crimes in the Jasenovac camp”
  • Israeli – Serbian academic exchange in Holocaust research. Collection of papers from academic conference, Jerusalem – Yad Vashem, 15-20 June 2006, Museum of genocide victims.
  • Jazbec S. “Koričan”, Topola, Donja Gradina 2017, pp 95-108.
  • Miletić Antun “The assassinated in the Jasenovac concentration camp 1941–1945”, Gambit, Jagodina
  • Museum of genocide victims, Belgrade, database of victims
  • Resultats definitifs du recensement de la population du 31 mars 1931
  • Tuleković T, Motl D. “Concentration camp Jasenovac 1941”, Memorial zone Donja Gradina
  • Vukliš V. “Završni izveštaj dr Dušana Nedeljkovića o radu Državne komisije za utvrđivanje zločina okupatora i njihovih pomagača“, Topola, Donja Gradina 2016, book 2, pp 164-247
  • Yitzhak Arad, Edit. “The pictorial history of the Holocaust”, Yad Vashem

 

Appendix table: Places with more than 10 Jews killed

Place Num.of Jews Killed by: Male Female Place Num.of Jews Killed by: Male Female
Unknown 4.170 Cro/Ger 1.943 2.227 Auschwitz 10.284 Germans 4.339 5.945
“Camp” unknown 779 Cro/Ger 324 455 Treblinjka 8.296 Germans 4.249 4.047
Jasenovac 12.239 Croats 9.250 2.989 Zemun Sajmište 2.769 Germans 564 2.205
Đakovo 4.661 Croats 196 4.465 Germany 2.063 Germans 1.157 906
Stara gradiška 2.005 Croats 490 1.515 Topovske šupe 1.657 Germans 1.655 2
Jadovno 635 Croats 588 47 Banjica 880 Germans 559 321
Zagreb 368 Croats 187 181 Crveni Krst 570 Germans 331 239
Pag 334 Croats 178 156 Dachau 193 Germans 97 96
Loborgrad 289 Croats 28 261 Mathausen 119 Germans 87 32
Osijek 166 Croats 86 80 Beograd 111 Germans 66 45
Brčko 130 Croats 65 65 Poland 106 Germans 41 65
Sarajevo 92 Croats 52 40 Bergen Belsen 104 Germans 49 55
Tenja 55 Croats 23 32 Milkinija 89 Germans 48 41
Dotrščina 53 Croats 33 20 Buchenwald 62 Germans 39 23
Danica Koprivnica 43 Croats 28 15 Kragujevac 45 Germans 39 6
Gradina kod jasenovca 42 Croats 36 6 Šabac 43 Germans 28 15
Lepoglava 41 Croats 27 14 Kosovska mitrovica 43 Germans 25 18
Banja Luka 36 Croats 19 17 Niš 34 Germans 23 11
Vlasenica 34 Croats 15 19 Skoplje 22 Germans 14 8
Hraščina 30 Croats 14 16 Russia 22 Germans 22 0
Nova gradiška 27 Croats 10 17 Jajinci 21 Germans 15 6
Križevci 26 Croats 9 17 Sachsenhausen 17 Germans 7 10
Vinkovci 20 Croats 8 12 Birkenau 17 Germans 4 13
Bijeljina 19 Croats 6 13 Majdanek 15 Germans 9 6
Vukovar 18 Croats 10 8 Flossenberg 14 Germans 10 4
Rakov Potok 18 Croats 13 5 Bor 14 Germans 14 0
Tuzla 18 Croats 9 9 Ravensbrock 14 Germans 4 10
Bihać 17 Croats 8 9 Zrenjanin 13 Germans 10 3
Bosanska Gradiška 17 Croats 8 9 Kraljevo 13 Germans 12 1
Jablanac 16 Croats 2 14 Gross Rosen 12 Germans 10 2
Sremska Mitrovica 15 Croats 9 6 Drvar 11 Germans 8 3
Kerestinec 13 Croats 13 0 Novi sad 744 Hungarians 387 357
Prijedor 12 Croats 8 4 Hungary 322 Hungarians 246 76
Travnik 12 Croats 8 4 Žabalj 57 Hungarians 30 27
Virovitica 12 Croats 8 4 Budapest 41 Hungarians 27 14
Slavonski Brod 11 Croats 5 6 Subotica 24 Hungarians 20 4
Bjelovar 11 Croats 9 2 Sombor 22 Hungarians 19 3
Sisak 10 Croats 8 2 Crvenka 17 Hungarians 16 1
Zavidovići 10 Croats 5 5 Bečej 14 Hungarians 10 4
Bugojno 10 Croats 9 1 Čurug 11 Hungarians 6 5
Otočac 10 Croats 6 4 Bačka Topola 16 Hun/Cro 12 4
Petrova Gora 10 Croats 4 6 Rab 81 Italians 38 43
Jankomir 25 Ger/Cro 8 17 Italy 47 Italians 34 13
Bosnia 21 10 11 Lika 13 9 4
Sutjeska 19 14 5 Čađavica 10 7 3
Split 16 13 3 Dubrovnik 10 9 1

 

 


[1] Yitzhak Arad, Edit. The Pictorial History of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem, page 241.

 

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