Kosovo was incorporated into Serbia in 1913 and became a part of Yugoslavia between the world wars. In April 1941, Germany’s twelve-day campaign against Yugoslavia led to its partition between the Axis powers and their allies. Most of Kosovo, including the cities of Prishtina and Prizren, was attached to Italy’s Albanian protectorate. Other parts of the province, including the city of Mitrovica, went to the German Military Administration of Serbia. When Italy withdrew from the war in September 1943, Germany extended its occupation to Kosovo and Albania. When Germany retreated from the Balkans in 1944, Kosovo remained a part of Yugoslavia. The “Republic of Kosovo” was first proclaimed in 1992 and it declared independence in 2008. As of July 2014, it has received diplomatic recognition by a majority of the United Nations member states and by most European Union member states.

According to the 1931 census, Kosovo had 552,064 inhabitants, including the oldest Jewish community of Yugoslavia. There were some 400 Jews living in Prishtina, 113 more in Kosovska Mitrovica, and a handful in Prizren. Many Jews from the Yugoslavian Jewish communities (especially from Belgrade) fled to Italian/Albanian Kosovo. The Jewish community grew significantly when refugees from Germany and Poland tried to find their way to Palestine via Kosovo. In August 1941, the Germans arrested all Jewish men in Mitrovica and sent the women to daily forced labour. In February 1942, women and children were also detained. 25 out of the 113 Jews from Mitrovica survived by escaping to the Italian occupation zone. In the city of Prishtina, an internment camp for Jewish refugees from Serbia was created in 1942 by the Italian police force (carabinieri). In March 1942, the police arrested the internees and some of them were handed over to the German authorities of Serbia, while others were interned in Kavajë, Albania. By July 1942, the Italian police had arrested and interned many of the remaining men of the Jewish community left in Prishtina. When the Italian Army collapsed in September 1943, the region came under German military control. In May 1944, SS-Division Skanderbeg arrested about 280 Jews, who were taken to Bergen-Belsen. More than 200 Kosovo Jews died during the Holocaust.

Archival Situation

During the Kosovo war in 1999, the Kosovo State Archives and the Archives of the Institute of History were apparently either evacuated to Serbia or burned in situ. The only regional archive known to have been destroyed during the war was the archive for the district of Decani, located in the town of Junik.

EHRI Research (Summary)

While a number of archives and institutions in Kosovo are likely to be relevant for Holocaust research, EHRI has yet to determine the exact nature and importance of their holdings. In the EHRI Portal, Kosovo is covered by several archival institutions, including USHMM, Yad Vashem and the Arolsen Archives.