Macedonia

Abstract

General historical data: A few key dates contributed to the historical, geographical, demographic, linguistic, cultural and socio-cultural constitution of Macedonia, from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day. On August 2nd, 1903, the Ilinden Uprising took place as an organized revolt for liberation of the Macedonian region from the Ottoman rule and the Declaration of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization [VMRO] to the Governments of the great powers was published; During the First Balkan War (1912) the great migration of the population living in Macedonian region occured; With the Second Balkan War (1913) and the Treaty of Bucharest, Macedonia was divided between Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Albania; During the First World War (1914-1918), Macedonia was occupied by Serbian, Bulgarian and Greek armies; In 1918, Vardar Macedonia became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians; In 1919, the Treaty of Versailles sanctioned the provisions of the Treaty of Bucharest on the division of Macedonia; In April, 1941 with the Vienna Agreement, Macedonia was divided between the fascist governments of Germany, Bulgaria and Italy; In 1944, the First Anti-Fascist Assembly of the People’s Liberation of Macedonia [ASNOM] took place in the monastery St. Prohor Pčinski, when Macedonia was declared as a state-member of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia [FNRJ], later the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [SFRY]. The standardization of the Macedonian alphabet and the Macedonian language were recognized as particular. In the period between 1945-1991, The People's Republic of Macedonia, later the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, became part of the Yugoslav federation, constituted by six independent republics and two provinces; The Macedonian Assembly in Skopje on January 15th 1991, adopted the declaration for Macedonia's independence from Yugoslavia. On September 8th 1991, through referendum, Macedonian citizens voted for the independence of the state and the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia.

History

Pre-Holocaust Period: The oldest archeological trace related to excavations in the ancient city Stobi speak of the earliest presence of the Jews in Macedonia, which points to a continuous existence (cultural, religious, linguistic and socio-economic practices) of a Jewish community on this territory from the I-V century A.D. The discovered, but still not fully processed findings under Synagogue I dated from II century A.D., refer to their origin a century earlier. In the late III or IV century A.D., above Synagogue I Synagogue II was erected, which was transformed into a basilica in the V century A.D., and the century-long continuity of the Jewish community was stopped.

After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492) and Portugal (1496), around 11, 000 Jews, mostly Sephardim, migrated in the then Ottoman Macedonia. The largest part of the Sephardic Jews settled in Skopje, Bitola and Štip, as well as in a few other smaller towns in Macedonia: in Ohrid, Dojran, Strumica and Kratovo.

Holocaust period: Under the Bulgarian occupation and the German-Bulgarian alliance, in Macedonia the Holocaust brutally took the lives of 7,144 Jews deported and murdered upon their arrival in the gas chambers of the Treblinka II death camp. The then actual fascist Bulgarian Government, lead by Bogdan Filov, adopted and implemented the Final Solution over the Jews from the Vardar Macedonia. The deportation of the Jews from the Vardar part of Macedonia, fastidiously organized by the Bulgarian politic elite, administration and police, was conducted by way of the Bulgarian Railway in three so-called Jewish transports on 22nd, 25th and 29th March, 1943, from the temporary concentration camp Monopol in Skopje to the central railway line between Warsaw and Bialystok, to the Malkinia station, where the camp Treblinka was. At this railway station the Macedonian Jews were delivered to the German authorities who immediately took them to an instant execution in the gas chambers in Treblinka II. The previously signed Agreement between Aleksandar Belev, the Head of the Commissariat for Jewish Questions and his German colleague, SS Hauptsturmführer Theodor Dannecker from 22nd February 1943, also regulated the institutional guarantee “that Bulgaria in future shall not under any circumstances demand the deported Jews back, nor shall exhibit any interest in them”. Not one deported Jew returned from Treblinka II to Macedonia.

Post-Holocaust period: The first constitutional Meeting of the Jewish community in Macedonia after the liberation (November 1944), was held on December 26th 1944 in Skopje. Georgi Blajer-Gjoko was elected for the President of the Jewish community in Skopje.The total of survived Jews from Macedonia which returned back is 196 persons. Most of them managed to save their selves hiding in Albania, by joining the Resistance movement or somehow managed to escape the deportation. The main activities in regard to the restoration of the Jewish community in Skopje, were focused to the constituting of a temporary board which would delegate the activities regarding the reorganization of the community, opening and adaptation of a synagogue, as well as ensuring help to the Jews in an invidious material state. The Jewish community in Bitola was formed in 1945. Its first and last President was Josef Kamhi. In the period of 1946-1947, the larger part of the Bitola Jews, resettled to Skopje, Zagreb, Saraevo and Belgrade, while one part managed to immigrate over the so called aliyah-bet in Palestine at that time. The Jewish community in Bitola failed to exist in the end of 1946. In Štip, there were no conditions for the establishment of the Jewish community in the liberated Macedonia, since it was totally destructed by the act of deportation of approximately 550 Jews in March 1943 and who were murdered in Treblinka.

The Jewish Community of Macedonia is one of the five religious communities (Orthodox Church, Islamic Community, the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Methodist Church) represented in the Constitution, the highest legal act that defines the state regulation of the Republic of Macedonia. Since 1991, the Skopje Jewish community acts independently from the Jewish Union of Yugoslavia. Today, around 200 Jews live in Macedonia. Synagogue services are performed in the synagogue Bet Yaakov only on great Jewish holidays, since presently there isn’t a permanent rabbi in Macedonia. Up until 2000, the synagogue service was performed by Ichaak Asiel, the chief rabbi in Belgrade (Serbia), who later resigned the duty to Avi Kozma, the first rabbi born in Macedonia. The Jewish Community in Skopje today carries out various cultural activities related to publishing, music, education and culture within its annual program.

On January 21st , 2005, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia adopted a decision with which it extended the Law on Denationalization by introducing Chapter IV on "Special Provisions". According to Article 63 the object of denationalization was the property of the Macedonian Jews, deported and murdered during the Holocaust and have no legal successors. The Holocaust Fund in the Republic of Macedonia, followed by a Government decision, was established on April 23rd , 2002 as an institutional body and a legal entity to act and meet a public interest, including the building of the Holocaust Memorial Center of the Jews from Macedonia. With the Law on Denationalization in 2007, the Holocaust Fund in December 2007, received 17 million euros from the Government of the Republic of Macedonia.

In March 2011, the Holocaust Memorial Center of the Jews from Macedonia was opened in Skopje. The idea of having such a memorial center is much older than the time of its realization, and it originates from Academician Ivan Dejanov, former President of the first Macedonian-Israeli Friendship Society. The permanent exhibition placed in the Holocaust Memorial Center, is dedicated to the Jewish presence and their civilization contribution in Macedonia and across the Balkan Peninsula. There is not an open research archive within the Holocaust Memorial Center of the Jews from Macedonia.

written by Sofija Grandakovska

Sources:

 “The Jews from Macedonia and the Holocaust: History, Theory, Culture” [Евреите од Македонија и холокаустот: историја, теорија, култура], separate bilingual (English and Macedonian) edition /chrestomathy (Skopje: Euro Balkan Press, 2011)

 “Whose Citizens Were the Jews Deported From Macedonia?”, Journal of History, no. 1, L/LI (Skopje: ZIRM, 2015/2016), pp. 239-256.

 “Only the Jews May Enter: The Three Train Transports From Skopje to Treblinka” (separate English edition), Collection of Scientific Works ‘Jews in Macedonia: History, Tradition, Language and Religion’, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the reconstitution of the Jewish Community in Macedonia after the Second World War 1944-2014“ (Skopje: Institute of National History and Jewish Community in Skopje, 2015), pp. 225-237.

Archival Situation

State Archive of the Republic of Macedonia

The network of nine archives in Macedonia, centrally managed by the State Archive of the Republic of Macedonia and functioning as Departments,dislocated organizational units of the State Archive and perform archival functions at a particular territorial area in Macedonia:

Department Bitola, is responsible for the following five municipalities: Bitola, Demir Hisar, Mogila, Novaci and Resen.

Department Veles, is responsible for the following eight municipalities: Veles, Čaška, Gradsko, Rosoman, Negotino, Kavadarci, Demir Kapija and Gevgelija.

Department Kumanovo, is competent for six municipalities: Kumanovo, Lipkovo, Staro Nagoričane, Kriva Palanka, Rankovce and Kratovo.

Department Ohrid is competent for the following municipalities: Ohrid, Debarca, Struga, Vevčani, Kičevo, Drugovo, Oslomej, Vraneštica, Zajas, Debar and Centar Župa.

Department Prilep is competent for the municipalities: Prilep, Dolneni, Krivogaštani, Kruševo, Makedonski Brod and Plašnica.

Department Skopje is competent for the following municipalities: Gazi Baba, Gjorče Petrov, Karpoš, Center, Kisela Voda, Aerodrom, Butel, Čair, Šuto Orizari, Aračinovo, Studeničani, Zelenikovo, Petrovec, Ilinden, Sopište, Saraj and Čučer-Sandevo.

Department Strumica is competent for the following municipalities: Strumica, Berovo, Novo Selo, Pehčevo, Vasilevo, Bosilovo, Valandovo, Bogdanci and Dojran.

Department Tetovo is responsible for Tetovo, Gostivar, Brvenica, Bogovinje, Želino, Jegunovce, Tearce, Vrapčište, Mavrovo and Rostuše.

Department Štip is responsible for: Štip, Sveti Nikole, Lozovo, Probištip, Kočani, Češinovo-Obleševo, Zrnovci, Vinica, Delčevo, Makedonska Kamenica, Radoviš and Konče.

Archive of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (MASA) functions as a specialized unit of the Academy.

Archive of the Jewish Community of the Republic of Macedonia

EHRI Research (Summary)

State Archive of the Republic of Macedonia, nine Departments of the State Archive that perform archival functions at a particular territorial area in Macedonia: Department Bitola, Department Veles, Department Kumanovo, Department Ohrid, Department Prilep, Department Skopje, Department Strumica, Department Tetovo and Department Štip; The Archive of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (MASA) and the Archive of the Jewish Community of the Republic of Macedonia