Little has been written about the history of women in former Yugoslavia and even less is as yet known about the history of Jewish women in the Balkans. Before 1918 the South Slav lands of the Western Balkans did not share a common history, having been divided for centuries between Ottoman and Habsburg spheres of influence. The creation of Yugoslavia after World War I brought together in one political unit Eastern Orthodox Serbs, Macedonians, and Montenegrins; Roman Catholic Croats and Slovenes; and Muslim Bosnians, as well as many non-Slavic minorities, including Germans, Hungarians, Albanians, and two distinct groups of Jews, the Sephardim of the former Ottoman territories, and the Ashkenazim of the erstwhile Habsburg lands. The Ashkenazim, who formed roughly two-thirds of the 68,405 Jews recorded in the 1931 Yugoslav census, were concentrated mostly in the somewhat more developed northern and western parts of the country, including Croatia and the Vojvodina, whereas the Sephardim, comprising the remaining third, were situated mainly in the poorer areas of Serbia, Bosnia and Macedonia to the east and south. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia lasted from 1918 until its dismemberment after the German invasion in 1941; its Communist successor, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, was in existence from 1944 to 1991. Fewer than 15,000 Jews, scattered around the country, remained alive after the Holocaust; roughly half of these survivors made aliyah to Israel after 1948. Thus, Jews, who had never made up more than half of one percent of the population of Yugoslavia, had become only a tiny minority within a multi-national socialist state.
Jewish settlements in Macedonia and Dalmatia date back as far as Greek and Roman days, and small communities existed in Slovenia and Serbia in medieval times, but the first major wave of Jewish immigration to the South Slav lands came as a result of the expulsion of the Jews from Christian Spain in 1492. By the mid-sixteenth century, Sephardim began to establish communities in the Balkan hinterlands of the Ottoman Empire, including Belgrade in Serbia, Sarajevo in Bosnia, and Skopje and Bitola (Monastir) in Macedonia, as well as in Dubrovnik and Split on the Dalmatian coast. By contrast, the Ashkenazi communities in the Habsburg Empire were of more recent origin. Until the end of the eighteenth century, Jews had been banned from residence in Slovenia, Croatia, and the Vojvodina (formerly Military Frontier), except for Zemun. During the nineteenth century, a significant number of Jewish families from various parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire migrated to the South Slav regions under Hungarian control. Substantial Jewish communities developed in Zagreb and Osijek in Croatia-Slavonia and Novi Sad and Subotica in the Vojvodina; there were also many smaller towns with significant Jewish populations. During the interwar years, there were 114 organized Jewish communities in Yugoslavia; 38 were Sephardi; 70, Ashkenazi-Neologue; and 6, Ashkenazi-Orthodox.
Unlike the overwhelmingly peasant South Slav population, of whom more than three-quarters lived in villages in the twentieth century, the Jewish population was heavily urban and middle class, residing mainly in the larger cities and towns. By and large, Ashkenazim engaged in commerce, white-collar occupations and the professions, whereas Sephardim tended to be merchants and artisans, though some, especially in Sarajevo and Bitola, were working class.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Jewish families tended to be fairly large. Families with six or more children were not uncommon, especially among the Sephardim. However, during the twentieth century, family size decreased considerably, with one or two children becoming the norm and more than three, the exception. Among both Ashkenazim and Sephardim, girls generally married in their late teens or early twenties; most married women were homemakers although, by the mid-twentieth century, increasing numbers of women, especially single women, had also begun to work outside the home. As the century progressed, increasing numbers of women never married or remained childless.
On the whole, Sephardi women’s lives most closely resembled the pattern set by their Jewish sisters elsewhere in the former Ottoman Empire, but they were also influenced somewhat by the customs of their Serbian Orthodox or Muslim neighbors. Until the late nineteenth century, Sephardi society in the Balkans displayed an extremely traditional and patriarchal character, based on extended family circles, with several generations and often families sharing the same household. Sephardi women in major towns such as Belgrade, Sarajevo or Bitola lived within a very tight-knit Jewish society, having limited contact with the outside world and keeping their social and cultural activities confined largely within the Jewish quarter. They generally lived in one-storied houses built around large courtyards and furnished in Turkish fashion. Often groups of neighbors would gather informally of an evening, gossiping, telling stories, singing, and playing games, but young girls would remain separate and associate with one another only during the daytime. At family celebrations, especially weddings and holidays, the older women would sing romansas, epic songs from medieval Spain that formed part of their Sephardi folklore heritage. Most Sephardim in the South Slav lands continued to speak Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish, as their mother tongue until the early twentieth century. Religious piety formed an integral part of their lives and traditional Jewish customs were strictly observed. Mothers, even if illiterate, passed on to their children a love and reverence for their faith, their home and their tradition.
Sephardi women thus lived a very sheltered existence in the South Slav lands before the twentieth century. In Bosnia and Macedonia, Jewish girls, like their Eastern Orthodox and Muslim counterparts, received little or no formal education. Remaining in the home to do housework and embroider, they married early, at sixteen to eighteen years of age. Daughters were often considered a burden and not highly valued as individuals, but married women were treated with greater respect, especially if they were mothers. They were freer to move around and looked after household matters themselves. Divorced women found themselves in a difficult position and were not fully accepted.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, however, gradual changes started to take place. By the 1860s, Jewish girls in Belgrade began to meet young men at dances and some of the older women abandoned their old-fashioned dress and customs. Like their Serbian neighbors, Jewish girls started attending elementary schools, where they learned Serbian and other subjects; those from wealthy families sometimes went to private schools, where they acquired knowledge of music, foreign languages, and handicrafts. In 1864, a public elementary school for Jewish girls, alongside a separate school for boys, opened in Jalija, the Belgrade Jewish quarter, with instruction mainly in Serbian. At first, many Jewish parents were reluctant to send their daughters to this school because they did not consider education necessary for girls. Regina Jeliševa (born ca. 1860) became the first Jewish girl in the Serbian capital to attend a public higher school for girls; after her graduation in 1879, she returned to teach in the Jewish girls’ school in Jalija. Soon, other Jewish girls followed in her footsteps in acquiring secondary education, although most did not go beyond the elementary level. Poorer girls, who in the past had generally been compelled to seek employment in the households of the rich, were increasingly being taught sewing and other useful trades. In Bosnia, advanced education for girls occurred only after the turn of the century. Regina Atijas (1901–1982), the daughter of the rabbi in Bihać, was one of the first Sephardi girls in Bosnia-Herzegovina to attend a classical gymnasium; she then went on to earn a medical degree in Zagreb during the interwar years.
Ashkenazi women who lived in Croatia-Slavonia or the Vojvodina in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were generally more westernized and more highly educated than their Sephardi sisters, but were less acculturated to their South Slav environment, since most of their families were relatively recent arrivals to the area. Their lives generally resembled those of middle-class Central European Jewish women residing in small cities and towns in Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, or Germany. They were generally multi-lingual; they often spoke German or Hungarian at home, but learned Croatian or Serbian at school. By 1864, the Zagreb Jewish community had established a co-educational elementary school where most subjects were taught in Croatian; Jewish schools also existed in Osijek and Varadin, Novi Sad and Subotica. Over two-thirds of Zagreb Jewish children of both sexes attended the local Jewish school, where they received instruction in both secular and religious subjects. Elsewhere in Croatia and in the Vojvodina, Jewish girls attended both public primary schools and private schools for girls, some of which were under Catholic auspices. In 1872, the first higher girls’ school open up in Zagreb; twenty years later the first girls’ gymnasium was established; in 1901, the philosophy faculty of the University of Zagreb admitted women for the first time. Many Ashkenazi girls in Croatia and other South Slav lands continued their education in public or private middle schools and higher girls’ schools, while others chose to study in a gymnasium to prepare for more advanced education. Some of these young women went on to study at music or art academies; others attended university.
In the early twentieth century, a small group of Jewish women from South Slav lands received advanced degrees abroad, in Switzerland, Austria or Germany. During the interwar years, however, most Jewish students attended either the University of Zagreb or the University of Belgrade. By 1933, one hundred and seventy-five Jewish women comprised a quarter of the Jewish student population in Yugoslavia. Most of these women students were enrolled in either the faculty of philosophy (or liberal arts) or the faculty of medicine, while others studied law and engineering. Although increasing numbers of Ashkenazi women, and some Sephardim as well, were earning medical and other university degrees, higher education for women in Yugoslavia was still very much the exception rather than the rule.
As was the case elsewhere in Europe on the eve of World War II, only a minority of Jewish women had careers outside the home. Among those women with paid employment, many of whom were unmarried, some were teachers in either elementary or secondary schools; several taught in Jewish communal schools; others were physicians, especially pediatricians, or in other health professions. Jewish women worked as secretaries, clerks, modistes, shopkeepers, salespersons, and market vendors; others held jobs as seamstresses, textile operators, domestic servants, cosmeticians, or other types of workers. For most middle-class married Jewish women, however, their primary role was as wives and mothers, although they sometimes “helped out” in a family business. Before the mid-twentieth century, Jewish women thus generally appeared in communal and government records as either housewives or as widows. Many of these women became involved in Jewish women’s organizations and volunteered their time on behalf of the Jewish community.
Jewish women’s clubs began to spring up in Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities in Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, and the Vojvodina in the late nineteenth century, around the same time that Jewish and Christian women were creating similar organizations elsewhere in Europe. Although Jewish women were not treated as equal members of the Jewish community and were excluded from voting and participating in communal governance, women’s philanthropic organizations came to play an important role within Jewish communal life because they not only helped large numbers of needy Jews, especially women, children and the elderly, but also enhanced the communal spirit of solidarity and cooperation by holding numerous social activities and entertainments to benefit charitable causes and promote both Jewish and secular culture.
In 1874 a handful of Sephardi women formed the first women’s club in Serbia, the Jewish Women’s Society. In the beginning this organization, which aimed at helping young mothers and poor widows, had no executive board and no statutes and held no formal meetings. It recruited young wives as members; they collected money from their friends and distributed it to needy women. By the end of the century, this association had begun to keep accounts in Ladino; in 1905 Jelena Alkalaj Demajo (1876–1942), who had been a teacher in the Jewish girls’ school in Jalija until her marriage that year, became the society’s first secretary and started to take minutes of meetings in Serbian.
During the Balkan Wars and World War I, several foreign-born Jewish women physicians, including Eva Halječka, Hanna Hirszfeld, Eva Mitnick (d.1914), and Selma Eliasberg (d.1915), worked as volunteers in the Serbian Army medical corps, combating typhus and other epidemics. Members of the Jewish Women’s Society also contributed to the Serbian war effort, demonstrating their patriotism by helping the Red Cross prepare bandages and working as nurses in field hospitals. One of their leading members, Natalija (Neti) Munk (1864–1924), who had also been a volunteer nurse during the Serbian-Bulgarian War of 1885, received several royal decorations for her many years of service as a nurse at the front. The Women’s Society took upon itself the responsibility of looking after war widows and orphans, as well as helping refugees and families in distress with food and shelter.
After World War I the Jewish Women’s Society underwent extensive reorganization and, with Jelena Demajo as its president and Sofija Almuli as its vice-president, greatly expanded its membership and programs. When this society celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1924, 470 Sephardi women were counted among its ranks. One of its major projects was the creation of the School for Working Girls, which operated from 1919 to 1929, training young Jewish women as seamstresses. In 1923 a Vacation Committee began arranging for poor and sickly children to spend their holidays on the Adriatic coast. In the same year, the society inaugurated a series of popular lectures on medical subjects for women delivered by several of the local Jewish doctors. In 1937 the society erected its own building, which soon housed a day-care center that fed and cared for eighty children from seven o’clock in the morning until six in the evening. In addition, the Jewish Women’s Society continued to cooperate with various other Jewish and non-Jewish institutions in Belgrade in their programs and campaigns and to offer regular and emergency aid to needy families and individuals.
In 1924 twenty-four Jewish women’s clubs from various parts of Yugoslavia held a congress in Belgrade to form an Association of Jewish Women’s Societies for the entire kingdom; ten years later this body, which coordinated many of the charitable, educational, and cultural activities of Jewish women, had grown to forty member-clubs. At the forefront of this association was Jelena Demajo; Eliza Feldman, president of the Belgrade Ashkenazi women’s society, Dobrotvor, and Ilka Böhm, president of Sarajevo’s La Humanidad, served as its vice-presidents. Dobrotvor, founded in 1895, had as its principal aim helping the poor, especially the sick and disabled, widows and their families, and impoverished girls preparing for marriage. It offered monthly as well as emergency aid; twice a year, before Passover and before Rosh Ha-Shanah, it distributed food; around Hanukkah it provided winter supplies in the form of fuel and warm clothing. Dobrotvor, like similar associations in other communities, derived its revenues from membership dues, teas, entertainments, and gifts donated in the synagogue, as well as special contributions from benefactors. In Sarajevo during the interwar period, the Sephardi women’s society La Humanidad, which had been established in 1894, operated a day-care center as well as a holiday camp for poor children, in addition to the usual welfare contributions to new mothers, poor brides, orphans, invalids, and girls learning trades; the Sociedad de vizitar dolientes specialized in looking after the elderly and the sick. Until World War II, Sephardi and Ashkenazi women generally maintained separate organizations in Belgrade, Sarajevo and elsewhere.
Although, some Jewish women became actively involved in Croatian and Serbian women’s clubs in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, most preferred to join Jewish groups, since nearly all women’s associations in the South Slav lands were denominational. Several Jewish women’s groups developed in the Vojvodina, including the Novi Sad Israelite Charitable Society in 1876. The first Jewish women’s club in Croatia-Slavonia was founded in Vukovar in 1861; the Israelite Women’s Society Jelena Prister began its work in Zagreb in 1887; by 1908, nine more such organizations had come into existence in Croatia. The most ambitious undertaking by Zagreb Jewish women was the Israelite Vacation Colony. Between 1906 and World War I, this group of women sponsored the visits of two hundred and fifty sickly children to the seaside and sixty-three to the mountains; between 1915 and 1922, it helped an additional three hundred enjoy similar vacations. In 1923, thanks to a generous endowment from Mathilda Deutsch-Mačeljski (d.1946), a wealthy philanthropist who served as its president, the Israelite Vacation Colony was able to purchase Villa Antonia, a large home in Crkvenica on the Dalmatian coast. From 1923 to 1939 some two thousand five hundred poor or ailing children, mainly from Zagreb, took advantage of the Israelite Vacation Colony’s sponsorship and spent one month or more on the sunny Adriatic. In 1940 a new mountain home at Ravna Gora in northern Croatia temporarily opened its doors to these children. This organization not only provided services in the summer months; during the school year it supplied bread and milk to needy children attending the Jewish school and occasional help to their parents as well.
In addition to local Jewish women’s clubs in various communities around the country, the European Zionist women’s federation, WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization), established its first branch in Zagreb in 1927. By 1940, this organization, headed by Julia König of Zagreb and Reza Steindler of Belgrade, had sixty-seven local chapters in nearly every major Jewish center, with approximately five thousand members. Mirjam Weiller, a WIZO activist, Jewish educator, and writer of children’s stories, organized Zionist girls’ clubs and directed the Jewish kindergarten in Zagreb from 1923 to 1941. Other WIZO members also worked hard to improve the status of women and girls in both Yugoslavia and Palestine. In 1933 WIZO created the Central Jewish Bureau for Productive Aid, which provided Jewish girls and boys with scholarships; ran campaigns to help needy Jewish children in Bitola; and supplied aid to Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria. WIZO affiliates participated in all Zionist activities in the country, organizing hakhsharah stations to prepare prospective pioneers for life in Palestine; working to send two hundred and fifty Jewish children on Youth Aliya; and spreading Jewish nationalist culture and information about a future Jewish state. Although most of its members were Ashkenazim, WIZO differed from most other Jewish women’s groups in Yugoslavia by including many Sephardi women within its ranks.
Jewish women do not appear to have played a prominent role within Yugoslav feminist organizations, such as the Alliance of the Women’s Movement, which lobbied for women’s suffrage during the interwar years. However, Paulina Lebl Albala (1891–1967), a translator, literary critic, and professor of literature in Belgrade, helped found the Yugoslav Association of University-Educated Women in 1927 and served as its president for many years. In addition to her efforts to promote the social and professional goals of educated women, Albala, who had grown up in the Belgrade Ashkenazi community and was married to a Zionist leader who was president of the Belgrade Sephardi community, was active in Zionist youth work. Before World War II, the main sphere of involvement for adult Jewish women in Yugoslavia tended to be within the Jewish community rather than outside it.
Younger generations of Yugoslav Jewish women born after the turn of the twentieth century were more likely to join co-ed left-wing, progressive organizations, whether Zionist or Communist, than “bourgeois” girls’ clubs or women’s societies. Most Jewish youth and student organizations in the South Slav lands were formed under Zionist auspices in the early twentieth century, except for Matatja, a Sephardi association of working youth in Sarajevo. During the interwar years, women students at the University of Zagreb became involved in the Zionist student organization, Judeja, or the Sephardi student association Esperanza; many participated in the Jewish mensa or eating club. Zionist girls’ clubs, Karmel in Belgrade, B’not Zion in Zagreb, and Moriah in Sarajevo, had come into existence before World War I, but nearly all Zionist youth groups were co-ed during the interwar years, attracting a broad cross-section of Jewish young people to their ranks. The leftist scouting union Ahdut Hazofim, which later merged with the Marxist pioneering movement, Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir, became the most popular Jewish youth organization in Yugoslavia. By 1938 Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir had 132 kevuzot with 1,374 members, including 543 girls. During the 1930s some members of Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir made aliyah to Palestine, but others chose to join the Federation of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia (SKOJ) or the illegal Yugoslav Communist Party (KPJ). After the German occupation of Yugoslavia in 1941, almost the entire Belgrade ken of Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir joined Tito’s Partisans, as did many members of Sarajevo’s Matatja and other young Jewish left-wing activists.
One example of a former member of Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir who became actively involved in Communist activities in the mid–1930s is Magda Bošković (1914–1942). As a high school student, she had been active in the Zionist youth movement, wrote lyric poetry published in Jewish journals, and participated in Zionist camping; she longed to go to Palestine and work the land, but her family strongly opposed this idea. Like other students of her generation, she joined the Communist Youth Federation while studying economics at the University of Zagreb; she also became involved in the Cultural Association of Pacifist Students and the student sections of the Women’s Movement and the Society for the Education of Women, trying to infiltrate Marxist ideology into Yugoslav feminist organizations. After completing her studies, she worked within syndicalist union organizations and joined the Communist Party. Soon after the creation of the Fascist Independent State of Croatia in 1941, she was imprisoned for her Communist activities and sent to various Ustaša-run concentration camps, including Stara Gradiška, where she perished.
Another example of a Jewish woman who lost her life in the early years of World War II due to Communist activities is Olga Alkalaj (1907–1942), a lawyer who stemmed from one of the oldest and most distinguished Sephardi families in Belgrade. Alkalaj, who joined the Communist Party while in law school, sought to blend socialist and feminist agendas, helping to found the youth section of the Women’s Movement in Belgrade and serving on the editorial board of the feminist journal ena Danas (Today’s Woman). After passing the bar exam in the early 1930s, she opened a law practice in her parents’ home, defending fellow members of the illegal Communist Party in court. In late 1940 she was elected as member of the Provisional Local Committee of the Communist Party in Belgrade and also served as Party secretary for the region. As both a Communist and a Jew, she found herself in a precarious position in Nazi-occupied Serbia, but she continued her involvement in illegal work using a false identity. In December 1941, she was arrested, tortured and sent to the Banjica camp, then transferred to Sajmište, the Jewish concentration camp; soon thereafter, she was murdered in a gas van.
During World War II, women played a very important supporting role within Tito’s Partisan forces. An estimated two million Yugoslav women participated in the National Liberation Movement, roughly ten percent of them fighting with the National Liberation Army, while the rest served mainly as nurses, intelligence gatherers, couriers, telegraph operators, cooks, typists, and garment workers. The majority of women fighters were between seventeen and twenty years of age; they often volunteered straight out of school or their first jobs and received little or no military training. At first the training of women recruits, including nurses, was very brief and rudimentary, resulting in a high mortality rate for young women, but training improved somewhat during the war. Many of the early women Partisans were students, teachers and workers from the cities; later on, homemakers, office workers, peasants and others also joined the ranks. There was a severe shortage of physicians in the Partisan forces at the beginning of the war and almost no trained nurses.
Whether or not they had been Communists before the war, many Yugoslav Jews, both women and men, eventually joined the Partisans. They were warmly received and suffered no discrimination due to antisemitism. As a result, a remarkably large number of Partisan women fighters, especially within the medical corps, were Jews. Indeed, roughly half of 1,075 Jewish medical workers documented by Jaša Romano as having been actively involved in the National Liberation Movement were women. This list of Jewish Partisan women includes 384 nurses, thirty-nine physicians, nineteen medics, eighteen pharmacists, and about fifty other medical personnel; more than a hundred of these women lost their lives during the fighting. Among the Jewish women physicians who had been involved in left-wing activities before the war and joined the Partisans at the beginning of the uprising in 1941 were Roza Papo (1913–199?), Lota Ejdus (1913–1941), and Berta Bergmann (1892–1945) from Bosnia; Ružica Ripp (1914–1942) and Ružica Blau-Frančetić (b. 1914) from the Vojvodina; and Klara First (1908–1944) and Frida Guttmann (1896–1944), foreign-born women who practiced medicine in Serbia. A second group of Jewish women physicians, including Zora Goldschmid-Steiner (1902–1985), Julijana Kraus-Lederer (1893–1942), Klara Fischer-Lederer (1908–1985), Marija Schlesinger-Brand (1895–1943), Ljuba Neumann (1894–1943), and Eta Najfeld-Spitzer (b. 1916), were among the eighty-one Croatian Jewish physicians whom the Ustaša authorities sent to Bosnia to combat endemic syphilis in 1941; virtually the entire cohort of physicians later joined the Partisans. Some Jewish women, including Milica Band-Kun (1913–1943), worked as physicians in Croatian concentration camps, such as Loborgrad, a camp for women and children; others directed Partisan field hospitals. Several women physicians were promoted to officer rank and received military decorations for their war service; out of thirty-nine Jewish women physicians fighting with the Partisans, thirteen lost their lives. Among the survivors, Roza Papo became the first female major-general in the Yugoslav Army after the war; several other Jewish women Partisans also continued to serve as army physicians as well.
In addition to the many Jewish women who served in the Partisan medical corps, Jewish women from all walks of life also took part in the Yugoslav resistance movement. While some were among the “first fighters” who joined the Partisans in 1941 or 1942, many others became involved in 1943 or later. Jewish women who were fortunate enough to escape to the Italian-occupied zone within Croatia, especially those interned in camps on the island of Rab in the Adriatic, became involved in resistance activities in 1943, joining the Jewish Rab Battalion or other Partisan forces. Many of those who perished received recognition for their service to their country on various memorial plaques after the war. Estreja Ovadija (1922–1944), a young textile worker from Bitola who was active in the Communist youth movement and then the Communist Party during the war, joined the Partisans in 1943 and served as political commissar in a battalion of the Macedonian Brigade. Killed in the fighting in 1944, nine years later she became the only Jewish woman ever declared a National Hero, the highest designation for wartime bravery in Yugoslavia.
Eighty percent of Yugoslav Jewry perished during World War II. Of the approximately thirty-five thousand Jewish women in Yugoslavia when the German Army invaded in April 1941, only about seven thousand five hundred remained alive in 1945. In addition to the hundreds of Jewish women who died fighting in the Yugoslav resistance movement, some killed by the Nazis and their allies and others by the Serbian Chetniks, many thousands more Jewish women and girls were rounded up and murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators under orders from German, Croatian, Hungarian, and Bulgarian authorities. Although there was some regional variation determining the time and place of death, the systematic destruction of Jewish life occurred in every jurisdiction within former Yugoslavia, except for the Italian zone.
In German-occupied Serbia and neighboring Banat in the Vojvodina, Jewish women and children began to be rounded up and put in concentration camps in late 1941. Soon after their husbands, fathers and brothers were murdered about seven thousand women and children were brought to the Sajmište camp on the outskirts of Belgrade. In early 1942 this group was killed in gas vans driving through the streets of Belgrade to burial grounds in Jajinci. Almost all the Jews of Serbia and Banat, as well as several hundred from Kosovo and a group of Central European Jewish émigrés who had been interned in Šabac on their way to Palestine, were liquidated in this fashion.
The Jewish men, women and children in Bulgarian-annexed Macedonia were no more fortunate. Although virtually all Jewish citizens of Bulgaria survived the war relatively unharmed, nearly every Jew living in both Yugoslav and Greek Macedonia was deported to a death camp in former Poland; most died in Treblinka in 1943, while others perished in Auschwitz or other camps. Very few Macedonian Jews survived the war. In the areas of the Vojvodina annexed by Hungary, Jewish women fared slightly better, at least initially, whereas men were often sent to do forced labor. Hundreds of Jewish women perished in Hungarian raids, such as the Novi Sad “racija” in 1942; thousands more were deported to Auschwitz and other camps in 1944, after the Germans took over Hungary. Only a small number of these deportees returned after the war.
In the Independent State of Croatia, which included Croatia-Slavonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Dalmatia, the Croatian Fascist Ustaša puppet government began to issue anti-Jewish legislation almost immediately after it assumed office in 1941, but its genocidal measures were more widely enforced in German-dominated areas than in Italian-annexed regions, such as Dalmatia and Albania. Ustaša propaganda vehemently attacked Jews, along with Serbs, Communists, and Freemasons, as enemies of the Croatian people. As elsewhere in Nazi Europe, the regime deprived Jewish men and women of their civil rights; confiscated their property; and then executed them in selected groups or took them to concentration camps where they were killed or perished from torture, disease, cold, hard work, and starvation. The Ustaša later delivered many of the remaining Jews under their control to the Germans for deportation to extermination camps. The persecution and killing of Jews from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina began in May 1941 and continued until August 1942. Many thousands of Jewish women and children, along with their fathers, husbands and brothers, were rounded up and sent to Ustaša-run concentration camps, including the Stara Gradiška camp for women and children and other sub-camps of Jasenovac, as well as Loborgrad, Djakovo, and Lepoglava, where the vast majority of Croatian and Bosnian Jewry suffered and died. In August 1942, and again in April-May 1943, several thousand more Jews were deported from the Independent State of Croatia to death camps in Eastern Europe.
Some Jews in Croatia managed to survive. The Ustaša authorities protected certain privileged Jews with good connections, especially baptized and intermarried individuals, as well as some professionals and administrators. The most favored group were several hundred “honorary Aryans,” including Jews who were related to important people in the regime, wealthy Jews who had supported the Ustaša or the Croatian nationalist cause, Jewish women in mixed marriages, and some Jews who had converted to Catholicism. Fifty-four residents of the former Schwarz Home for the Aged in Zagreb also managed to survive the war. Jewish physicians of both sexes were conscripted into the army, including the eighty-one who were sent to Bosnia to combat endemic syphilis. A significant number of Jewish girls and women from Sarajevo and other towns in Bosnia and Croatia survived due to a combination of their own initiative and good fortune. While some hid in villages, at least temporarily, many more succeeded in fleeing, sometimes together with their families, from German-controlled areas of the Independent State of Croatia to the Italian zone along the Dalmatian littoral, including Split and various islands in the Adriatic Sea, such as Korčula, Hvar, and Brač, where they were often interned in Italian camps. Italian authorities transferred some of these Jews to camps in Italy, such as Ferramonte, while others managed to escape to Italy on their own. In May 1943, many of the Jewish women and girls in the Italian zone were moved to a special camp on the island of Rab, which the Partisans took over after the Italians withdrew later that year. Quite a few Yugoslav Jewish women thus succeeded in surviving the Holocaust by seeking refuge in Italian-controlled territory before 1943 and then joining forces with the Partisans.
When the war finally came to an end, only about seven thousand five hundred Jewish women remained alive on Yugoslav soil. Nearly all of them were in poor health, severely impaired both physically and emotionally by their ordeal. Very few families remained intact; having lost parents, siblings, husbands and/or children, most women had no home to return to. Although many women married or remarried soon after the war, Jewish spouses were hard to find; intermarriages became the norm, rather than the exception. Families tended to remain very small, with only one or two children who often grew up without grandparents, aunts or uncles. Some women were unable to bear children as a result of their wartime experiences.
After the war, the surviving women activists in larger centers like Belgrade, Zagreb, and Sarajevo did not immediately set up separate women’s groups, but pitched in to provide food, clothing and shelter, especially for the sick, the elderly, and the orphaned children. They worked together with other organizations, receiving help from the American Joint Distribution Committee and other international Jewish and humanitarian organizations, including the Red Cross. Members of the older generation often continued their volunteer work within the Jewish community, while younger women tended to extend their sphere of activity beyond the Jewish framework.
Instead of readjusting to life in a socialist state still recovering from the horrors of civil war, many individuals and families decided to link their fate with that of the Jewish homeland. Between 1948 and 1951, over seven thousand five hundred Yugoslav Jews, roughly half of all Holocaust survivors, made aliyah to the newly created State of Israel in four waves of migration, joining a much smaller group of Yugoslav olim who had arrived in Palestine earlier. Some Jews also emigrated to the United States, Canada or other European countries. Among the approximately three thousand Jewish women who decided to remain permanently in Yugoslavia were many younger women who had fought with the Partisans and others who had intermarried before, during or after World War II. Those with the strongest Jewish ties or Zionist convictions were the most likely to leave; those with the strongest connections to socialism and/or Yugoslavia tended to stay behind and make a new life for themselves, but not always in the same town or region where they had grown up.
An extremely high rate of intermarriage, a very low birthrate, and a steadily aging Jewish population characterized Jewish life in Communist Yugoslav during the Tito era and thereafter. Jews constituted an officially recognized national minority; Jewish communities defined themselves in national or ethnic, rather than religious terms, although synagogues continued to function, albeit minimally, in larger centers such as Belgrade, Sarajevo, and Zagreb. Affiliation with the Jewish community became entirely voluntary; anyone, including non-Jewish spouses who wished to do so, could belong to the Jewish community. But not all Jews chose to affiliate; Jewish women, including those married to non-Jewish men, were more likely to join the community than Jewish men married to non-Jewish women, children of intermarriages, and Jews, especially men, who were prominent in the League of Communists or the Yugoslav National Army. Women thus significantly outnumbered men within the remnant Jewish communities after the war.
Jewish identity became an increasingly problematic issue for members of the younger generation, both males and females, especially for those who were products of intermarriages and hence had multiple national identities. Those with Jewish surnames often had Slavic mothers, while those with Jewish mothers frequently had Slavic surnames. Although both matriarchal and patriarchal descent were equally accepted within the Jewish community, many individuals, especially those born after World War II, had very little knowledge or understanding of their Jewish heritage. Formal Jewish education was limited to kindergartens in Belgrade and Zagreb; the Zagreb pre-school, directed by Zlata Rudolf, functioned from 1946 to 1978. Local communities held special programs for Jewish holidays, such as Hanukkah celebrations and Passover communal seders. No Jewish religious education was provided outside the home. Members of the Jewish community often retained strong family and friendship ties with Israelis and some young people visited or studied in Israel, even after Yugoslavia broke off diplomatic relations after the June 1967 War, but public support for Israel was seen as risky. Little overt antisemitism existed in former Yugoslavia, yet identifying as a Jew in a meaningful fashion was not always easy, especially for those born after the Holocaust. Many members of the younger generation, both women and men, can thus be seen as “virtual” or “imaginary” Jews, retaining only a very vague sense of their Jewishness.
In an attempt to instill stronger Jewish identification, the Federation of Jewish Communities ran summer camps for young people on the Adriatic coast from 1955 to 1991 and also organized a yearly get-together called the Mala Makabijada. In the late sixties and the seventies, the Federation annually sent members of the younger generation to meetings of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) and WUJS members came to the summer camp, as did Israelis.
During the post-war years, it became increasingly common for young Jewish women born in Yugoslavia to receive higher education and to work outside the home. Many attended university, earning diplomas, masters and professional degrees, and doctorates, while others completed their training in art and music academies, whether in Yugoslavia, Israel or elsewhere. Jewish women in Yugoslavia worked as physicians and health professionals, teachers, professors, scientific researchers, social workers, art historians and curators, lawyers, engineers, civil servants and secretaries. Some also managed to earn their living as writers, journalists, publicists, and translators, as well as artists, actresses, opera singers, and dancers. Most women who made aliyah to Israel were employed in similar types of occupations, but some also found jobs as tour guides, bank directors, shop owners and flight instructors.
The status of women in public life improved significantly in socialist Yugoslavia, at least on paper. Women gained suffrage in 1944, participated in the League of Communists of Yugoslavia and its subsidiaries, and supposedly enjoyed equal opportunities in the workplace. Since women had officially received political and economic equality, most separate women’s organizations ceased to exist. Parallel trends also occurred within the Jewish community. Jewish women had gained the right to vote in communal elections on the eve of World War II, and after the war, women achieved the right to hold communal office. No woman was ever elected to any of the top leadership positions in the major Jewish communities or within the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia, although some served as vice-presidents or members of communal and Federation executive boards. Several Jewish women, including Silvana Morpurgo Mladinov (1914–1998), a lawyer in Split, Zlata Margulies (1906–1988) in Osijek, Roza Fertig-Švarc (1914–2001), a physician and retired colonel in the Yugoslav Army in Ljubljana, and Flora Pinkas Klein (1909–1982), a civil servant in Jajce, assumed the presidency of small Jewish communities, but on the whole women’s participation as communal volunteers was most visible in separate Women’s Sections created within the framework of the larger Jewish communities after 1951.
Women, however, played an increasingly active role in communal management in all but the highest levels of leadership. They assumed important professional positions as administrators, educators, archivists, curators and librarians within the organized Jewish community. Luci Mevorah Petrović (b.1925), a lawyer, served as executive secretary of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia and as editor-in-chief of its monthly journal, Jevrejski Pregled, for many years, whereas Vidosava Nedomački was among several women who have directed the Jewish Historical Museum in Belgrade. Adela Schwarz Weisz (1926–1978), a longtime Jewish activist from Križevca, headed the Švarc (formerly Schwarz) Home for the Aged in Zagreb, the only residence for Jewish senior citizens in Yugoslavia, from 1962 until shortly before her death; her successor, physician Nada Reiner, added on a small hospital wing.
Women participated in communal life much more actively than men and were no longer excluded from any activities, except within the synagogue sphere. They served alongside men on the boards of the Federation, local communities, the Jewish Historical Museum Commission, and the Švarc Home for the Aged. They also sang in the secular Jewish choirs in Belgrade and Zagreb. The separate Women’s Sections that functioned in the larger communities often formed the largest and most active bodies within these communities. Their leadership and membership tended to be drawn from among the older women, often those born before 1930, although some younger women also participated in cultural and educational activities. Like the Jewish women’s clubs before the war but on a smaller scale, the Women’s Sections took care of kindergartens and children’s programs, helped organize holiday celebrations and summer camps, and also contributed to the general social, cultural and welfare activities of the community.
Various members of the older generation of Jewish women activists born in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century received recognition for their lifelong contributions in communal service. Many of them were inscribed in the Megillah of the Federation of Jewish Communities and the registry of the Jewish National Fund. Recipients of these honors included, among others: Regina Flajšer (1889–1985), who had served as vice-president of Dobrotvor before the war and as the first president of the Women’s Section in Belgrade after the war; Diana Kalderon (1895–1989), a former WIZO activist from Bosnia who was president of the Belgrade Women’s Section; Štefa Švarc (1894–?), another WIZO activist and a founder and president of the Zagreb Women’s Section; Ruža Weinberger Gostl (1905–?), also president of the Women’s Section in Zagreb for many years and active in other local Jewish organizations; Štefica Švabenić Rosbroj (1894–1980), a former WIZO activist who was a member of the board of the Zagreb Jewish community and of the Švarc Home; Sarika Baruh Konforti (1900–1980) of the Sarajevo Women’s Section; and Kornelija Švarc (1900–1987), president of the Novi Sad Women’s Section. Other somewhat younger women who were also very involved in Jewish communal life in the latter part of the twentieth century were Vera Dojč (b.1920), a former member of Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir who served as vice-president of the Zagreb Jewish community, as well as president of its Women’s Section; Ana Šomlo-Ninić (b.1935), head of the Cultural Commission of the Federation of Jewish Communities and vice-president of the Belgrade Jewish community before her emigration to Israel; Eta Najfeld-Spitzer and Bojana Jakovljevic (1922–1999), who were both very active within the Women’s Section and served on the communal board in Belgrade; and Klara First (1908–1987), who was vice-president of the Jewish community of Subotica for many years.
Very few Jewish women born after 1930 became prominent in communal life in Yugoslavia. Among those Yugoslav Jews who made aliyah to Israel, however, a few of the younger women became actively involved in Hitahdut olej Jugoslavije, the association of émigrés from Yugoslavia, including writer Ana Šomlo-Ninić and physician Ivana Vajsbleh (b.1941), who served as its president; writer Jennie Lebel (b.1927), who edited its newsletter; and social worker and educator Miriam Steiner Aviezer (b.1935). Among the émigrés to North America, Mirjana Mladinov (b.1948) from Split, Eva Srajer-Danon (b.1948) from Subotica, and Vesna Najfeld (b.1947) from Belgrade were among the organizers of the Mala Makabijada, a get-together of younger Jews from Yugoslavia held regularly since 1984.
When Yugoslavia began to disintegrate in 1991, Jewish women once again did whatever they could to offer their assistance to those in need. Shortly after the war started in Bosnia in April 1992, Sonja Elazar (b.1946) was instrumental in re-establishing and leading a Jewish women’s group in Sarajevo, which was named “Bohoreta” in memory of Laura Levi Papo LaBohoreta, a Sephardi writer of the early twentieth century. The members of Bohoreta were involved in issuing identity cards to all remaining members of the Jewish community and their extended families, entitling them to receive humanitarian aid from the Joint Distribution Committee. They helped distribute food, clothing and medicine and also took an active role in delivering mail to the entire city under siege. They organized sewing courses, as well as special programs and treats for children hiding in basements. They visited elderly shut-ins on a regular basis and even set up a small beauty parlor in order to keep women’s spirits alive. Sonja Elazar became the first representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the International Council of Jewish Women and also the first president of the Council of Jewish Women of Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the war ended, she helped establish a Sunday school and a kindergarten for the tiny Jewish community left in Sarajevo. In Croatia, Sanja Švabenić Tabaković, a lawyer and a judge, who served as secretary of the Zagreb Jewish community in the nineties, was appointed President of the Council of National Minorities in Croatia in 2000. Despite the collapse of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the dissolution of the bonds between the regional components of the centralized Federation of Jewish Communities, during the final decade of the twentieth century, a minor resurgence of Jewish activities occurred in Zagreb, Belgrade, and elsewhere in former Yugoslavia, along with a burgeoning of interest in Jewish heritage and culture among its dwindling and fragmented Jewish population.
Due to linguistic and political barriers, as well as geographical isolation in the Balkans, it is somewhat difficult to evaluate the overall importance of the contributions of the Jewish women of former Yugoslavia to literature, scholarship and the arts. Little is known about these women’s achievements outside their own communities, whether in the various South Slav lands or in Israel. Collectively, perhaps their most significant role in the twentieth century was to serve as bridges between the communities from which they originated and the world around them.
Several Sephardi women helped to preserve their cultural heritage by writing in Judeo-Spanish or collecting Ladino folklore, songs, and sayings. Laura Levi Papo (1891–1941), who was nicknamed “La Bohoreta” (the eldest girl), was one of the most popular literary figures in interwar Sarajevo. Using Ladino with Latin orthography, she wrote poetry, short stories, and dramas dealing with the social problems of the era. She vividly described the process of pauperization of the Sephardi lower class, the petty shopkeepers, the artisans and the workers of Sarajevo in the 1930s. She also collected Sephardi folklore and composed an essay entitled “La muer sefardi de Bosna” (The Sephardi Woman of Bosnia). Laura Papo Bohoreta was one of the few Sephardi women intellectuals and the only Yugoslav writer in her day to produce a significant volume of work in Ladino. Her writings therefore have special value both as linguistic evidence and contemporary commentary.
After World War II, Jamila Kolonomos-Sadikario (b.1922), professor of Romance philology at the University of Skopje, edited collections of the Judeo-Spanish proverbs, sayings and tales of the Sephardi Jews of Macedonia and of Bosnia and Herzegovina and published articles on Judeo-Spanish dialects. Based on her own personal experiences, she also wrote about the history of Jews and women Partisan fighters in Macedonia during World War II. Jamila Kolonomos was very actively involved in Macedonian politics; she was elected member of the Macedonian Parliament and served on the Republic Council of Macedonia. She was also vice-president of the Union of War Veterans and president of the Macedonian Women’s Organization, as well as a member of the Council of Women’s Associations of Yugoslavia.
Flora Kabilio Jagoda, who was born into a musical family in Sarajevo in 1923 and emigrated to the United States in 1946, has also helped to preserve the Bosnian Sephardi folklore heritage. She has transcribed and recorded the Ladino songs she learned from her maternal grandmother, Berta Altarac of Vlasenica, Bosnia, and passed them down to her children and grandchildren. The winner of the 2002 National Heritage Fellowship of the National Endowment for the Arts, Flora Jagoda composes, arranges, and teaches Sephardi music and performs Ladino songs in concert, often with members of her family. A film about her life, The Key from Spain: the Songs and Stories of Flora Jagoda, appeared in 2000.
Several Jewish women scholars from Croatia have enhanced our understanding of the history of Croatia and of Yugoslav peasant culture. Miroslava Bliss Despot (1912–1995), a historian, university lecturer and director of a documentation center in Zagreb, was a leading authority on the history of Croatian landowners in the nineteenth century, while Mirijana (Mirjam) Gross (b.1923), professor of history at the University of Zagreb, was the author of many important textbooks and other works on Croatian social and economic history. Vera Stein-Erlich (1897–1980), professor of anthropology and sociology at the University of California at Berkeley and then the University of Zagreb, wrote a classic study, The Family in Transition, in which she analyzed peasant life in three hundred Yugoslav villages, based on data she had collected on the eve of World War II. More recently, women from former Yugoslavia, among them Eta Najfeld-Spitzer and Luci Petrović in Belgrade; Vera Beck Dojč and Melita Steiner Švob (b.1931) in Zagreb; and Jennie Lebel, Mirjam Steiner Aviezer, and Rut Lipa (b.1946) in Israel, have begun collecting and publishing historical, demographical and biographical information on Yugoslav Jews.
Yugoslav Jewish women have also written poetry and fiction, both novels and short stories, on Jewish and other themes. Some have made significant contributions as translators to and from Serbo-Croatian, German, Hungarian, and Hebrew. Others have worked as journalists and publicists in Yugoslav radio, television, and film, as well as print media. The authors include novelist and memoirist Vilma Miskolczy Vukelić (1880–1956), poet and translator Ina Jun-Broda (1899–1983) from Croatia; writer, dramatist and translator Julija Klopfer Najman (1905–1989), writer and translator Mina Kovačević (b.1920), and novelist Gordana Kuić (b.1942) from Belgrade; poet and author Judita Šalgo (1941–1996) from Novi Sad; and novelist and children’s storywriter Zlata Vokač-Medic (1926–1995) from Slovenia. The journalists, authors, and translators who emigrated to Israel include Dina Katan Ben-Zion (b.1937) from Sarajevo; Jennie Lebel from Serbia; and Ana Šomlo-Ninić (b.1935) from the Vojvodina. Among the women involved in media and communications are journalist Sonja Koen Nahman Premeru (1904–1986) and documentary filmmaker Mira Adanja Polak from Belgrade; photo editor Eva Biro (1927–1980) and Magda Bošan-Simin (b.1922), editor-in-chief of Radio Novi Sad and a former member of the Federal Parliament, both from the Vojvodina; and Klara Dušanović (1924–2001), foreign affairs editor of Croatian Radio and Mira Wolf, director of educational programming for Zagreb Television, who made numerous films and documentaries, including one entitled, A Dispersed People: The Jews.
By and large, Yugoslav, Jewish and women’s historians have neglected to study the lives and contributions of Jewish women in the South Slav lands. A preliminary survey of available data, however, leads one to the conclusion that Jewish women played supporting, rather than leading, roles in both Jewish and public spheres in former Yugoslavia and served as bridges and mediators between various cultures. Their charitable activities were most visible within their own organizations, whether the Jewish women’s clubs of the early twentieth century or the Women’s Sections of the postwar era. In times of crisis, however, such as during and after World War I, World War II, or the breakup of Yugoslavia after 1991, Jewish women did their share in trying to protect both their country and their community, generally by providing health care and welfare assistance to other Jews and their Slavic neighbors. In the past Yugoslavia’s Jews were sometimes jokingly referred to as the only “real Yugoslavs,” but today no “Yugoslavs” are left. In the twenty-first century, the miniscule Jewish communities in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Macedonia are struggling to come to terms with their past, as well as their present, situation. There does not seem to be much future in store for Jewish women in former Yugoslavia.
Aviezer, Miriam. The Soldier with the Golden Buttons. Jerusalem: 1980 (published in Slovenian, Croat, Hebrew and English);
Ben-Zion, Dina. Presence and Disappearance: Jews and Judaism in Former Yugoslavia in the Mirror of Literature. (Hebrew with English Introduction). Jerusalem: 2002;
Despot, Miroslava. Industrija i trgovina građanske Hrvatske 1873–1880. (Industry and Commerce in Civil Croatia). Zagreb: 1979;
Erlich, Vera St. Family in Transition: A Study of 300 Yugoslav Villages. Princeton: 1966;
—— Savremeno dijete (The Contemporary Child). Zagreb: 1936;
—— U društvu s čovjekom. (In the Company of Man). Zagreb: 1978;
Gross, Mirjana. Vladavina hrvatsko-Srpske koalicije 1906–1907 (The Regime of the Croat-Serb Coalition). Belgrade: 1960;
Jun-Broda, Ina. Der Dichter in der Barbarei. Vienna: 1950 (Poetry collection inspired by experiences during World War II);
—— Die schwarze Erde. 1958 (Anthology of Yugoslav Partisan poetry);
—— Pjesme (Poems), 1961 (Selection of poems of Bertold Brecht in Croatian);
Kolonomos, amila., ed. Poslovice i Izreke Sefardskih Jevreja Bosne I Hercegovine (Proverbs and Sayings of the the Sephardi Jews of Bosnia and Herzegovina). Belgrade: 1976;
Poslovice, Izreke i Priče Sefardskih Jevreja Makedonije (Proverbs, Sayings and Tales of the Sephardi Jews of Macedonia). Belgrade: 1978;
Lebl, eni. Juče, Danas: Doprinos Jevreja sa Teritorije bivše Jugoslavije Izraelu (Yesterday, today: Contribution of Jews from ex-Yugoslavia to Israel). Tel Aviv: 1999. (A brief history and biographical dictionary of Jews from Former Yugoslavia living in Israel; written in both Serbo-Croatian and Hebrew);
—— Geut va’shever/Plima i Slom (Tide and Wreck). Jerusalem: 1986 and 1990. (History of the Jews of Vardar, Macedonia, published in Hebrew and Serbo-Croatian);
Ljubičica bela (The White Violet). 1990 &
1993. (Autobiography about Yugoslav Women’s Gulag in Serbo-Croatian and in Hebrew);
Najman, Julija. Nameštanje lica (The Adjustment of Faces). 1979 (A novel based on wartime experiences);
—— Priče o Ani (The Story of Anna). 1968;
—— Šapat. 1968 (A short story collection on Jewish themes);
Šalgo, Judita. Obalom. 1962;
—— 67 minuta naglas. 1980;
—— ivot na stolu. 1986. (Poetry);
—— Trag kočenja. 1987;
—— Put u Birobidan. 1997 (Novels);
Simin, Magda. Dok višnje procvetaju (Until the Sour-Cherries Blossom). 1958 (Journal of sufferings in Nazi camps);
—— Izdanci na vetru (Sprouts on the Wind). 1964;
—— Pomračenja (Darkness). 1972;
—— San mladosti (Dream of Youth). 1983;
—— Kamen na ramenu (Stone on the Shoulder). 1988 (Novels);
—— Beleške iz Izraela (Notes from Israel). 1990 (Travellogue);
Šomlo, Ana. Lea Straser. Belgrade, 1980;
—— Milenina pisma Kafki. Novi Sad, 1980;
—— Hazari ili obnova vizantijskog romana. Belgrade, 1990. (Novels);
—— Hebrew-Serbo-Croatian and Serbo-Croatian Dictionary. Tel Aviv, 1993;
—— Ponovo u Jerusalimu (Once again in Jerusalem). Sarajevo, 1997. (Collection of short stories);
Švob, Melita. idovi u Hrvatskoj: Migracije i promjene u idovskoj populaciji (Jews in Croatia: Migration and Changes in Jewish Population). Zagreb: 1997 (A demographic study of the Jewish population of Croatia from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1990s; includes section on Jewish women’s organizations; written in Croatian with English summaries);
Vokač-Medic, Zlata. Marpurgi. 1985;
—— Knjiga sjena. 1993 (Novels about Jewish life in fifteenth century Maribor, Slovenia);
Vukelić, Vilma. Die Heimatlosen (The Homeless). Vienna, 1923. (Novel on Jewish community in Hungary before World War I);
—— Spuren der Vergangenheit/Tragovi prošlosti (Traces of the Past). Zagreb, ca.1992. (Memoir/family history);
Weiller, Mirjam, ed. Priče za idovsku mlade (Stories for Jewish Youth). 1919.
Freidenreich, Harriet Pass. The
Jews of Yugoslavia: A Quest for Community. Philadelphia: 1979.
A history of the Jewish communities of Belgrade, Zagreb and Sarajevo before World War II.
Freidenreich, Harriet Pass. “The Jewish Community of Yugoslavia.” In The
Balkan Jewish Communities: Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, edited
by Daniel J. Elazar, Harriet Pass Freidenreich, et al. Lantham, MD: 1984.
A sketch of the Jewish community post-World War II.
Aleksandar, et al., eds. Mi smo preživeli. . .: Jevreji o holokaustu
(We survived: Jews on the Holocaust). Belgrade: 2001.
A collection of brief Holocaust memoirs written by survivors in Former Yugoslavia.
Gavrilović, Vera S. Žene
Lekari u Ratovima 1876–1945 na Tlu Jugoslavije. Belgrade: 1976.
A history of women physicians during wartime in the South Slav lands, mentioning many Jewish women.
Goldstein, Ivo and Slavko Goldstein. Holokaust
u Zagrebu. Zagreb: 2001.
A general history of the impact of the Holocaust on the Jews of Zagreb.
Gordiejew, Paul Benjamin. Voices
of Yugoslav Jewry. Albany: 1999.
An anthropological study of post-World War II Yugoslav Jews and their Jewish identity.
Jancar-Webster, Barbara. Women
& Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945. Denver: 1999.
A history of Yugoslav women, especially Partisans in Croatia, in the mid-twentieth century, but not Jewish women per se.
Biennial journal published by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia, Belgrade.
Bimonthly bulletin published by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia, Belgrade.
Löwenthal, Zdenko, ed. The
Crimes of the Fascist Occupants and their Collaborators against Jews in Yugoslavia.
A history of the Holocaust in Yugoslavia, written in Serbo-Croatian with English summary.
Ramet, Sabrina P., ed. Gender
Politics in the Western Balkans: Women and Society in Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav
Success States. University Park, PA: 1999.
Articles dealing with the history of women in Former Yugoslavia, but no mention of Jewish women.
Romano, Jaša. Jevreji
Jugoslavije 1941–1945. Žrtve genocida i učesnici narodnooslobodilačkog rata
(The Jews of Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Victims of Genocide and Participants
in the National Liberation War). Belgrade: 1980.
Includes biographical sketches of Jews who participated in the Partisan movement.
“Jevreji zdravstveni radnici Jugoslavije 1941–1945: Žrtve fašističkog terora
i učenesnici u narodnooslobodilačkom ratu.” (Jewish Health Workers in Yugoslavia
1941–1945: Victims of Fascist Terror and Participants in National Liberation
2. Belgrade: Jevrejski istorijski muzej, 1973.
Lengthy article on Jewish medical workers in Yugoslavia during World War II, including brief biographical sketches of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, medical students, etc., who were actively involved in the Partisan movement.
Serotta, Edward. Survival
in Sarajevo: How a Jewish Community Came to the Aid of its City. Vienna:
A photographic study of the Jewish community of Sarjevo, especially La Benevolencija, its humanitarian aid society, during the Bosnian War of 1991–1995.
Tomasevic, Jozo. War
and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration.
A history of Yugoslavia during World War II, with a separate chapter on the destruction of its Jewish community.
Veselinovic, Jovanka. “Jevrejska žena u Beogradu od druge polovine 19. veka do drugog svetskog rata.” The Jewish Women in Belgrade from the Second Half of the nineteenth Century to the Second World War). Belgrade: 1999 (Published conference paper).
Collection of articles, archival and memoir sources on the history of Belgrade Jews, part of series published by the Jewish Historical Museum, Belgrade.
Author’s Note: I would like to thank the following individuals for the information and materials they provided which enabled me to conduct the research for this entry long distance: Eta Najfeld-Spitzer and Milica Mihailović in Belgrade; Branko Polić, Milita Švob, and Julia Kos in Zagreb; Dragica Levi and Sonja Elazar in Sarajevo; Jennie Lebel, Ana Šomlo, Dina Katan Ben-Zion, and Miriam Aviezer in Israel; Sanja Primorac and Dora Klayman in Washington; and Vesna Najfeld in New York.
How to cite this page
Freidenreich, Harriet. "Yugoslavia." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 22, 2017) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/yugoslavia>.