The paper first describes the Jewish community in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which consists of the two federal units of Serbia and Montenegro. There is no Jewish community in Montenegro; only a few Jews have ever lived there. In Serbia there are only 3,500 Jews in nine local communities affiliated with the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia. Jewish identity is a voluntary ethnic self-identification; some members of these communities are not of Jewish origin, but have integrated into the community through their marriage ties.
The paper then focuses on the heritage of antisemitism in Serbia. After 1945, i.e., from the time Communists came into power until the final disintegration of the Yugoslav state, one may distinguish three stages: 1945–1967, a period characterized by no public display of antisemitism; 1967–1988, in which antisemitism disguised as anti-Zionism; and 1988–1991, which saw the process of "republicanization" and functionalization of Jews. The paper describes the re-emergence of traditional antisemitism in Serbia since 1991, and the misuse of Jews for the Serbian nationalistic agenda as part of the post-communist development in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
It can be concluded that antisemitism in post-communist Yugoslavia, although peripheral, is a constant phenomenon.
Under the former Yugoslav state (the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, SFRY, until 1991), the Jews of Yugoslavia were organized through the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia (FJCJ). One was a member of the particular community of one's place of residence. There were thirty communities directly represented in the Federation with a total membership of 5472 in 1989 (the total number of the Jewish ethnic population was estimated at around 7,500). Jewish communities were located in five of the six republics of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Slovenia. After January 1992, the former republics of Yugoslavia became internationally recognized sovereign states. Eventually, in 1993 Serbia and Montenegro formed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), known as rump-Yugoslavia, or Serbia and Montenegro, which claimed to be the only legitimate successor of the former Yugoslav Federation (SFRY). This state is the main subject of this study.
After the breakdown of the state in June 1992, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia followed a similar fate to that of the Yugoslav state. Thus, in 1997 we now find six separate Jewish organizations in the former republics of Yugoslavia: in Bosnia and Herzegovina there are two—one in Sarajevo under Bosnian government control; and the other in parts of Bosnia under Bosnian Serb rule. In Slovenia (only in Ljubljana) there were 83 members in1989; in Croatia, the Association of Croatian Jewish Communities (Cakovec, Daruvar, Dubrovnik, Osijek, Rijeka, Slavonski Brod, Split, Virovitica and Zagreb) listed 1,600 members in 1989, of whom 1,065 were living in Zagreb. In the Republic of Macedonia (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) approximately 200 Jews were living, most of them in the capital, Skopje.
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) is made up of two former federal units, the Republic of Serbia (with a population of 10 million), and the Republic of Montenegro (population approximately 650,000). There are 3,350 Jewish members in nine communities, who live in Serbia (historically, there has never been a Jewish community in Montenegro):
1 June 1989
1 Sept. 1994
31 Dec. 1995
|Country||# of emigrants|
The most serious indirect harm to the Jewish community is due to the fragmentation of the state. Whereas formerly, the Jewish community of 6,000–7,000 could be served by a single home for the aged in Zagreb, a holiday site in Pirovac, Croatia, and a central community administration in Belgrade, the community now finds it necessary to redevelop the infrastructure to provide such servic es within each newly-defined area. In addition, because of the severe economic strain on the middle class (to which most Jews belong) there are now even fewer resources for funding social services than five years ago. With only 3,500 Jews now in Serbia, it is a challenge to organize cultural activities, provide for Jewish education and youth gatherings, as well as arranging vacations for selected age groups. Last but not least, Jews, like everyone else in Bosnia and Herzegovina suffered property losses and other consequences of the war.
One feature of Jewish life in former Yugoslavia and contemporary Serbia as well is that not all the members of the local Jewish communities are ethnically Jewish. According to the 1985 demographic survey, 12% of the members of the Jewish communities in former Yugoslavia were not of Jewish origin, since spouses became community members through their marriage ties. It is reasonable to estimate that the proportion of those in this category is basically the same in contemporary Serbia as it was in the former Yugoslavia, since Jewish identity is a voluntary ethnic self-identification not necessarily in collision with the identification with the broader political community.
In this respect, nothing changed with the destruction of the Yugoslav state. This explains why it is that the number of those who declared themselves Jews in the census has been and continues to be much smaller than the membership in the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia (FJCY). On the 1981 census of all Yugoslavia, only 1,384 persons declared themselves to be ethnically Jewish. According to the population census of 1991 in Serbia, less than 700 people declared themselves to be Jews in the ethnic sense and even fewer to be observant. At the same time, the number of Jewish community members was around 5,000, with estimates of as many as 7,000–7,500 Jews living in the former Yugoslavia (SFRY). According to the data from an unpublished internal membership census from 1985, the vast majority of Jews lived in mixed marriages. Based on a survey of 70–75% of the membership ofthe Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia conducted in 1993–1994, its Social Commission found that only around 20% of community members claimed that both parents were of Jewish origin. In recent years, mixed marriages have been the rule.
As noted above, at present there are nine local Jewish communities in Serbia in the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia. The largest is in the state capital of Belgrade (Beograd), with 2,050 members, half of whom are Ashkenazi and the remainder of Sefardic origin. In the northern province of Vojvodina, with almost exclusively Ashkenazim membership, the two largest communities are those of Novi Sad and Subotica, with much smaller communities in Sombor and Zrenjanin, with a total membership around 1,000. Two smaller communities, Pancevo (administratively part of Vojvodina) and Zemun are two suburbs of Belgrade. Two other small communities are Nis and Priština. Nis is the biggest town in South Serbia, and Priština is the center of Kosovo province, with 90% ethnic Albanians. According to the data of the Social Commission, the present membership of the Federation is mostly urban, with no significant stratification (including educational differences) vis-à-vis the general population. One alarming issue is the age of the population: around 65–70% of the total membership is above the age of 65. In Belgrade alone, there are 150 Holocaust survivors.
Jewish communities in Serbia lost less than 10% of members by emigration. After 1992, approximately 300 members left the country: 200 emigrated to Israel; and some 100 (mainly young and well educated) emigrated to other countries, mainly to Canada. In order to be able to emigrate to Israel or elsewhere, one needed to register with the administration of the Federation or in one's local community, due to the restrictions that were part of United Nations sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. I was able to obtain reliable data on those who returned, but not on those who did not settle permanently in Israel or abroad. Also, I was not able to find databases on which eventually I might be able to build a reliable matrix to research possible stratification differences concerning immigration to Israel.
Above, I mentioned the loss in membership caused by emigration in the period 1992–1995, but not the much higher number of newcomers to the community. There is a rebirth of Jewishness and Judaism in Serbia. Due to the relatively large increase in membership, in both small Jewish communities and in the large center of Belgrade, all kinds of activities are flourishing. The issue is much more complex than merely the statistical increase in membership.
One should pay special attention to the concept of ethnicity or “nationality” as it was and still is practiced in Yugoslavia. In East-Central Europe emphasis on one's ethnic identity has been central since the second half of the nineteenth century. “Nationality” was something determined by birth, race, religion, or culture—not by citizenship, as in Western Europe.
In multi-confessional and multi-ethnic states like Yugoslavia, ethnicity was always the predominant factor of identity. The idea of the Yugoslav nation was never state policy in the post–World War II period. For Yugoslav Jewry it meant having a double or even hyphenated identity. In the 1960s and 1970s, they regarded themselves as Jews and Yugoslavs, or as Yugoslav Jews. Eventually, this hyphenated identity altered to the point that the identity binding toward a particular south Slavic nation (Serb, Croat, Bosnian, etc.) strengthened at the cost of Yugoslav identity, as I concluded in interpreting a survey which I conducted in 1990–1991 on a sample of 300 mostly young, active community members. This process was a reflection of the ongoing process of disintegration of the Yugoslav political community, which ended in June 1991 with the downfall of the state and civil war. In that very moment, identification with the Yugoslav nation became senseless, and in Serbia not only were bonds to the Serb nation strengthened, but also the purely Jewish ethnic identification. At the same time, ethno-nationalism became the most important fact of social life. The most natural reaction in such a situation is to look to one's own heritage, origin, and ethnicity. This is what brings people to the Jewish community and what gives the impetus for the rebirth of Jewish life in small communities and the flourishing of all kinds of activities in the three larger cities. The whole enterprise is much advanced by the liberal practice of acceptance for membership. If one has even one Jewish parent than the regulation from the old Statute of the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia (1954) is automatically implemented: “A Jew is anyone who declares himself or herself as being of Jewish origin and is not a member of any other congregation.”
Assimilation is not on the agenda in Serbia, in the sense of community membership and ethnic identity. This may seem strange if one considers high percentage of mixed marriages. However, the liberal practice of acceptance, whereby membership in the community includes all of one's family, allows that children from earliest childhood are linked to the community and participate in age-appropriate activities. So far, this was the best policy for preventing assimilation through maintenance of Jewish identity as the dominant—or at least the secondary—identity in mixed marriages. There is no reason to believe that this policy, which successfully maintained Jewishness in former Yugoslavia in the past fifty years, will not be fruitful in the future as well. With regard to Judaism, however, the situation is different. In communist Yugoslavia all religious activities were socially marginalized. In a survey in 1986, 20% of community members declared themselves as observant in broadest sense (with elderly people leading). In my research of 1990–1991, I found a similar percentage of members following something of the tradition. In Serbia, with the collapse of the communist system, the Orthodox Church became (at least symbolically) a significant political factor. At the same time, a very loose religious practice became a factor of social life, and this was apparent with regard to the practice of Judaism as well: the number of observant community members increased. In Belgrade, for example, it is no longer a problem to obtain a minyan for Shabbat, unlike in former years when the synagogues were attended only for the major holidays. In Subotica, Sombor, and Novi Sad as well, there are services on a more or less regular basis. In Belgrade, the study of Judaism for children, youth, and students under the guidance of Rabbi Ichak Assiel is also something new.
There appears to be a viable future for the Serbian (i.e., Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) Jewish community. Although in the past there was constant assimilation in this part of Balkans, we are recently witnessing the opposite process. In short, there are prospects for a profound change for the good in the amount and quality of Jewish education and we may be optimistic about the future of Jewish life in general.
There is a heritage of antisemitism
in Serbia similar to that of other Balkan countries. In Yugoslavia from
1945 to 1991 (i. e., from the time Communists came to power until the final
disintegration of the Yugoslav state), one may distinguish four stages:
A second period began in 1967 when Yugoslavia, together with member states of the Warsaw Pact, broke off diplomatic relations with Israel following the Six-Day War. Moreover, it became the leading advocate of anti-Zionism in the non-aligned movement and was practically the loudest critic of Israel outside the Arab-Muslim world. Actual antisemitism under the guise of “anti-Zionism” was in fact of limited importance. Despite the fact that anti-Israelism nearly gained the status of state ideology at the time when this policy was at its peak, efforts were regularly made to express reservation toward antisemitism. Unlike the situation in other Warsaw Pact countries, local Jewish communities and its Federation maintained open relations with Israel and Jewish organizations. Occasionally, however, there were problems with local authorities about group visits to Israel. In addition, some individuals did experience certain problems due their pro-Israel or “pro-Zionist” stance. On the other hand, antisemitic articles in the Yugoslav press under the guise of criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism did not reflect the official standpoint—as was stressed by state officials in oral communications with the representatives of the Jewish community. During this period, it may be noted, no criminal charges against persons or institutions which expressed antisemitism were brought to the courts.
The main feature of the official
anti-Israelism launched by the press was that although it had all the elements
of Communist authoritarianism, efforts were made at the same time to avoid
triggering anti-Jewish feelings. Unlike elsewhere in Eastern Europe, there
were relatively few antisemitic texts being published, and there is nothing
to suggest a coordinated plan of action, and there was also a critical
public reaction to these articles by readers and in other newspapers. In
addition, the entire Yugoslav press, including the official gazette of
the Communist Party, Komunist, and professional associations unanimously
condemned the antisemitic campaign in Poland in 1968. The government newspaper
Borba (26 February 1969) came out against Bosnian Muslim representatives
who claimed to involve Yugoslav Muslims in Arab anti-Jewish propaganda.
In short, occasionally one found the usual stereotypes and prejudice against
Jews, but the articles had no deeper political connotation. While until
1991 in Eastern European communist states, antisemitism was a public and
state-sponsored phenomenon, in Yugoslavia it was more or less a private
and individual matter.
The disintegration of Yugoslavia began in the second half of the 1980s. The entire sphere of political activity was reduced to aggressive and chauvinist national interest, while the federal units (i.e., republics) began acting as individual states. As a sovereign state and united political community, Yugoslavia ceased to exist long before its formal disintegration in June 1991. In the bloody process of civil war, antisemitism emerged once again throughout former Yugoslavia. At the same time, one became aware of an entirely new phenomenon, i.e., the misuse of Jews and Jewish symbols for the nationalistic agendas of the nations that made up the former Yugoslavia.
The first manifestation of this emerged in Slovenia at a rally held in Cankarjev Dom in February 1989, at which the Star of David was misused as a symbol to promote the nationalistic coalition. In the anti-Yugoslav and anti-Serbian campaign, it was claimed that the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, together with Slovenians, were suffering the historical fate of the Jews. The Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia brought charges against the organizers for the misuse of this Jewish symbol, and issued a public protest as well. Criminal charges were dismissed against Jož e Š koljè , president of the official youth organization (which later evolved into the recently ruling Liberal Democratic Party), who was the formal organizer of the gathering. In its March 10, 1989 issue, the magazine Mladina, which has ties to his organization, commented on the Federation’s protest by asking: “Why have the Jews pressed criminal charges? Why, they want money, of course.” Later, another youth magazine announced that in Slovenia the “closed season” on antisemitism was over; after all, antisemitism was once a component of Slovenian nationalism. Ljubljana's University magazine Tribuna (financed from the republic's budget) between August 1988 to March 1989 published The Protocols of the Elders of Zion for the very first time in the Slovenian language, and there was no way to have its publication suspended. This was the first open publication of the Protocols in Yugoslavia since 1945. Nobody in Slovenia protested, and this has not tarnished the democratic image of the leading secessionist republic of the (former) Yugoslavia.
Before World War II and during the existence of the Fascist Independent State of Croatia, this former Yugoslav republic was distinctly the most antisemitic region in Yugoslavia. However, since 1945 and up until the election campaign in 1990, Croatia was quiet in this respect. It is not a coincidence that the re-emergence of Croatian separatist nationalism coincided with the beginning of inter-ethnic tensions with Serbs and the emergence of antisemitism, since these have always been elements of Croatian nationalism.
On the eve of the election campaign, the leading Croatian cultural institution, Matica Hrvatska, published Franjo Tudjman's book The Wasteland of Historic Reality. Tudjman became president of the Croatian republic (at that time still a federal unit of Yugoslavia) in 1990, and a year later was a “founding father of Croatian independence.” In his book, the leader of the Croatian secession portrayed Jews imprisoned during World War II in the Jasenovac concentration camp as assistants to the Ustasha, in charge of “selecting prisoners for execution and, sometimes, even carried out those executions themselves.” In another chapter, he writes that “there is a small historic step from Nazi Fascism to Judeo-Nazism,” having in mind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During the election campaign, the three leading figures of the winning Croatian Democratic Community made antisemitic statements in the broader context in which the main object of their attacks were the Serbs: Franjo Tudjman (“My wife is, fortunately, neither Serbian nor Jewish”), Vladimir Šeks (“Evil Jews”), and Šime Djodan (“Serbs and Jews are conducting a campaign against Croatia abroad”). The interview given by Ivo Omraè in during the election campaign was also expressly antisemitic. (During the period of the Ustasha government, Omraè in was chargé d’affaires in Berlin). Among other things, he accused Jews of crimes committed by the Ustasha. Ignoring the fact that Jasenovac was among the few concentration camps in Europe that were not run by Germans, claimed that the mass executithat took place there of hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Gypsies, and Jews, were invented by Jews. He also accused Jews of spreading Bolshevik propaganda and poisoning everything around them. Criminal charges were pressed against Omraè in by the Jewish Community in Zagreb and by the Jewish Federation, but in vain. At the same time, vandals once again desecrated the Jewish cemetery in Split.
After the election victory, Franjo Tudjman attempted to assure Jewish leaders from abroad that antisemitism would not be tolerated in Croatia. Nevertheless, Ustasha propaganda literature against Serbs and Jews is being distributed in Zagreb's central square. In August 1991, the most serious incident in Yugoslavia since World War II took place: the Jewish Community building and Jewish cemetery in Zagreb were blown up in an undercover operation by the ex-Yugoslav secret service. This act was publicly condemned by all.
Unlike in Serbia, when the Croatian civil war of secession broke out, the crisis headquarters of the Jewish Communities of Croatia was set up to become part of the Croatian propaganda machine.
The disintegration of the Yugoslav state in June 1991 was a crucial turning point for both Jewish identity and for antisemitism in Serbia and Montenegro (FR Yugoslavia). Before discussing the revival of the Protocols and other antisemitic publications, the press, and antisemitic actions in the post-communist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, we will examine the other side of the Janus-like face of antisemitism in Serbia: the Serbian-Jewish Friendship Society (SJFS).
With the founding the Serbian-Jewish
Friendship Society in 1988 a “functionalization” of Jews—that is, the use
of Jews, Jewish symbols, and the Holocaust for political manipulation—took
place. The society was established by a group of Serbian nationalistic
intellectuals and a few members of the Jewish community. Financially supported
directly and indirectly by the government, the society became part of the
propaganda machine of the internal wars in Yugoslavia. During propaganda
trips to Israel and the United States, an enormous quantity of public statements
were made in support of Karadziæ and Serb paramilitary groups in
Bosnia and Croatia. Especially in attempts to legitimize Serbian ethno-nationalism,
the speakers of the society compared themselves to the Jews in terms of
being internationally isolated and enduring sanctions against the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia. The society's activities were never supported by
any Jewish institution in Serbia. In public appearances between 1991–1995,
speakers from the society presented a rosy view of the past, according
to which there had never been any antisemitism in Serbia or among the Serbs
but only eternal love and a special relationship and friendship between
the Serbian nation and Jewish people at all times and everywhere. Speakers
for the society made the general impression that support for the Serbian
nationalistic agenda was being made in the name of the Jews of Serbia.
The targets of SJFS harassment were public figures in Serbia, including
some Jewish intellectuals critical of Serbian nationalism and the role
played by Serbia in the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In early 1971, for the first time after thirty years, the bible of antisemitism, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion appeared in Yugoslavia. Aleksandar Lonè ar's article “Regarding New Attempts to Publish the Complete Works of Louis-Ferdinand Céline” published in Titograd (now Podgorica, capital of Montenegro) by the literary magazine Ovdje claims that “ Jewish power” was the main reason for the “unfortunate” fate of two great antisemitic authors, Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Ezra Pound. Lonè ar speaks of the “high documentary value of the facts presented in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The famous Montenegran Jewish writer Danilo Kiš reacted very critically to this article in the same journal, with an open letter to the editor. Lonè ar was not the only one to promote the Protocols: he was followed by Radoš Kalajiæ in the Belgrade literary magazine Delo, claiming that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are the authentic documentary source for evaluating the Jewish religion. Author and painter Miro Glavurtiæ also belongs to this circle. In 1978 he privately published his book Satan in which he paraphrased the Protocols. This book was critically reviewed on February 8, 1979 in the main Serbian daily Politika by M. Stanisavac. The Jewish Federation pressed criminal charges but in vain. Four years later, Glavurtiæ launched another private publication, Hounds, in which he wrote about the Jews in the same manner. This time it was attacked by Igor Mandiæ in the weekly NIN of August 8, 1982. Once again, the attempt of the Federation to press charges was futile. At the same time, the journalist N. Viš njiæ advertised the Protocols on television news, suggesting that the “Elders” are a council of five rabbis seated in New York. The Belgrade television station later apologized for this incident. Over the course of six weeks in December 1983–January 1984, Belgrade's Ilustrovana Politika published M. Popovski's Tajanstveni svet masona (The mysterious world of Masons), whose text incorporated parts of the Protocols claiming that this represented “truth about Jews.” After much haggling, arguing, and political intervention, further publication of the work was suspended by the editorial board. However, in 1984, a book of the same title was published by Nova knjiga in Belgrade. It was banned after a year, but eventually appeared in Macedonian, and was again prohibited. In the late 1980s, the original version was seen again in Belgrade bookshops and was banned for the third time, but without effect.
In 1989, a photo-reprint of the 1934 Serbo-Croat edition of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion appeared in the bookstores without any indication of who published it. At the Jewish Federation's request, all copies found were confiscated, but no serious investigation was ever made about the publisher's identity. Four years later, in fall 1993 (now under Yugoslavia's “democratic multiparty system”) the widely-read commercial weekly Oglasi advertised the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but not under that title. A few weeks later, one could again purchase the Protocols under the original title in bookstores and at newspaper stands in downtown Belgrade. This was a reprint of the 1934 Serbian edition. On March 22, 1994, the Board of the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia (FJCY) asked the attorney general to prohibit the book under the Serbian press law, and to initiate a lawsuit against the publisher. A protest by the Board was widely circulated in the Serbian press, but the state prosecutor did not ban the book or sue the publisher; there was no official reaction at all. Even the largest daily, Politika, published an advertisement for this edition of the Protocols.
The single exceptional case of legal intervention occurred in May 1994, when the Protocols were published as a supplement to the biweekly Velika Srbija (Great Serbia), the official publication of the extremist right-wing populist Serbian Radical Party. Belgrade police confiscated all copies of the newspaper and that issue of Velika Srbija was eventually banned. A proof that the ban was intended against the Radical Party and not against circulation of the Protocols occurred only two months after this affair. The newly-established journal Kruna (The crown) published the Protocols together with an introduction in which Moš a Pijade (d. 1954), a leading partisan and communist of Jewish origin, was attacked (due to his ethnic origin, of course). As in the previous cases, no legal consequences accrued to the editor, the journal, or the author.
In October 1994, the followers of Dimitrije Ljotiæ , the pre-World War II Serbian fascist leader, republished part of the Protocols in their review, Nova Iskra. The Velvet publishing house—previously charged without successby the Federation for publishing and distributing the Protocols—reissued an edition of it from the time of the German occupation under the title, The Jewish Conspiracy. In December 1994, this publisher distributed a catalog offering a variety of photocopied antisemitic literature, all originally published by the Quisling regime of General Nediæ in 1941. The following year, a bookstore on the main shopping street of Belgrade offered a new photocopied edition of the Serbian edition of the Protocols originally published in 1939, but now with the title The New World Order and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, freely sold together with the reprint of an antisemitic booklet by a Serbian politician from Vojvodina (then part of Hungary). In March 1996 a new reprint of the Protocols reappeared in Belgrade under the title Rulanski rukopisi (Rulanean manuscripts).
In that year as well, with financial support from a private (Jewish) fund, an excellent Serbian translation of Norman Cohn's Warrant for Genocide appeared. It was widely reviewed and discussed in the scholarly community.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is the source of ideas expressed in the pamphlets and articles of a dozen authors, especially (but not exclusively) extreme Right intellectuals. A couple from the University of the Arts claims to be the ideologists of the “new Serbian right.” They connect “Jewish power” with Bolshevism. A member of this circle is the painter and journalist Radoš Kalaiæ (see note 23), a regular columnist for the bi-weekly Duga. He writes about a Jewish-Freemanson conspiracy against Russia and the Serbs (particularly Bosnian Serbs) in the context of the post-communist period in Russia, and he has interviewed a number of notorious antisemites, such as Radmila Marojeviæ of the Faculty of Letters at Belgrade University. In an interview for the daily Bosnian Serb newspaper Glas srpski, or Marojevic underlined the “existence, in Serbian culture and science of a ‘fifth column’ which is working for the Jewish-Freemason project of the new world order.” Momir Vojvodiæ , a right-wing politician from Montenegro, in the weekly Javnost (under Karadž iæ control) claimed that Lenin was a Zionist agent with the task of destroying everything Orthodox and national. The Zionist aim was to build a “new Jewish Palestine” on Russian territory, and from the remainder of the Russian kingdom to create a colonial puppet-state for Jewish capital, but Stalin successfully stopped that project. Eventually, in the 1980s the Jewish Mafia once again came to power in Moscow with the goal of returning the Khazar state to Russian soil. To that end, the destruction of Yugoslavia served as an experiment and that is the main reason why the international community (the Jewish-Freemason world power) is trying to prevent the establishment of a United Serbian state on all the Serbian ethnic territory of the former Yugoslavia.
Similar accusations appeared at the peak of the Yugoslav crisis. Š arenac, the Moscow correspondent of the official Yugoslav news agency Tanjug, commented that diplomatic recognition of Croatia and Slovenia by Russia in February 1992 was the consequence of “activity of the Jewish lobby in the highest echelons of Russian diplomacy.” A government-controlled provincial daily published an article in which the explanation for the disintegration of the former Yugoslav state was to be found “in the Jewish-Freemason conspiracy.” In 1992–1994, the nationalist press and state-controlled television as well were very sympathetic towards “the patriotic coalition” in Russia. From time to time, the Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros was subjected to press attacks in which his Jewish origin was mentioned in a very negative way.
Ratibor Djurdejeviæ is a former member of the fascist Ljotiæ group and served in General Nediæ ’s regime in Serbia during the German occupation of World War II. He emigrated to the United States and returned to Serbia in 1990. Since then he has continuously promoted antisemitic propaganda based on the Protocols. He published a book about “Jewish power” in the United States, and how the Jews and Freemasons rule the world through manipulation and betrayal.
Another post-communist weekly, the extreme nationalist Argumenti, in 1994 published a series of interviews with Djurdjeviæ . Since mid-1996, each issue has contained articles about an anti-Serbian conspiracy of the Vatican, the Commintern and the Jewish-Freemasons world power. Djurdjeviæ 's book received a positive review not only in this sensationalist weekly, but in the mainstream press as well. The evening newspaper close to the ruling Socialist party, Politika ekspress, in an editorial entitled “A Conspiracy Against Christianity” paid tribute to the author and recommended the Djurdjeviæ 's book “as a source of truth.” In the following issue, an entire page was devoted to selected quotations from the book and a new commentary from the journalist Vukotiæ under title “In the Mad-house While He Knew Too Much.”
The Federation of Jewish Communities sued the publisher of Djurdjeviæ 's book and asked that the state prosecutor act against the author, this latter request was met by silence. The lawsuit was accompanied by a public statement issued on October 16, 1995) about the antisemitic character of the book. Two days later, both the main pro-government daily Politika, and the main opposition daily Naš a Borba reacted to the Federation's public statement by noting that the book represented only one case in a series of recent manifestations of antisemitism in Serbia. Next day, Politika published an interview with Federation President Aca Singer, who expressed concern about the emerging antisemitism in Serbia. However, four days later, the largest-selling newspaper in FR Yugoslavia, Veè ernje novosti, published a long editorial by a staff member in which the author supported Djurdjeviæ 's main ideas. In addition, he accused the Jewish community of remaining silent and neutral during the interethnic war in Yugoslavia. On October 24, 1995 the highest decision-making body of the Serbian Orthodox Church issued a public statement condemning Djurdjeviæ 's book.
In autumn 1996 Djurdjeviæ published a new book with the same publisher, entitled About the Nonsense of Antisemitism and Anti-Antisemitism in which he repeats his ideas. Again, the Federation failed in its attempt to sue, but a columnist of the daily Naš a Borba, Ivan È oloviæ , condemned the book and the wave of antisemitism in Serbia. The same daily published a statement from the Jewish Federation President on the subject in the following weekend edition.
As elsewhere in Europe, press
freedom in Serbia is accompanied by manifestations of antisemitism, especially
in populist and nationalistic newspapers.
To this day, the Serbian Orthodox Church continues to accuse the Jews of the murder of Christ. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the magazine Pravoslavni misionar published a series of articles by Nikola Antiæ on this theme. In February 1992, the official organ of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Pravoslavlje, published an article entitled “Jews are Crucifying Christ Again.” Following the intervention of the Jewish community, the editor-in-chief was dismissed and Patriarch (Archbishop) Pavle publicly apologized to the Jewish community.
In 1991, the remains of Bishop Velimiroviæ were brought from abroad to Serbia, an event marked by paying him respect worthy of a saint. The prominent theologian and anti-Communist supporter of the Serbian fascist Ljotiæ , Velimiroviæ was a notorious antisemite, as is obvious from his Collected Works published in 1991, and especially noted in his book Words to the Serbian People written during his internment in Dachau. His ideas are very influential within the Church, which is silent about his antisemitism. Since publication of his Collected Works, his antisemitism has been mentioned in the general public only twice (in liberal publications).
Not only has the Serbian Patriarch celebrated Holy Mass for the war criminals Ljotiæ and Nediæ , but from timeto time Velimiroviæ 's antisemitism reappears in church publications. For example, in December 1994, Logos, the review of the students of the Serbian Orthodox seminary in Belgrade, published a notorious antisemitic text written by the journal editors. Quoting Bishop Velimiroviæ and the Protocols, they wrote about “Jewish power” and a “world-wide Jewish conspiracy against Orthodox Christianity, primarily against the Serbian and Russian peoples.” When it became known, there was a very strong public reaction against the article's antisemitism, including a petition signed by leading nationalist and Orthodox intellectuals that was published in the largest daily newspaper, Politika.
In post-communist FR Yugoslavia,
the Serbian Orthodox Church actively supports attempts to rehabilitate
war criminals like the fascist leader Ljotiæ , as well as the head
of the Serbian administration under the German occupation, General Nediæ
, and the Chetnik leader General Draž a Mihajloviæ . All
of them, as well as bishop Velimiroviæ to different degree, were
active antisemites. Ljotiæ was not only an antisemitic writer, but
his troops actively aided the Germans during the Holocaust (as well as
in other repressive measures against the Serbian population). The Serbian
quisling, Milan Nediæ , legitimized deportation of the Jewish population
(as well as repression against the Serbs), and helped the Germans to deport
Serbian Jewry to German-run camps in 1941–1942. Velimiroviæ was an
antisemitic propagandist, and Chetnik leader Mihajloviæ treated Jews
as Communist agents. The link between restoration of the old symbols and
myths of ethno-nationalism, in which the antisemitism of the “hero” is
irrelevant is typical not only of Serbian nationalism but of all recent
extreme-Right ethno-nationalisms in Eastern Europe.
One February morning in 1992, graffiti “Death to the Jews” and “Jewish cunt” appeared in Belgrade's Jewish cemetery. The incident was hushed up. Several such incidents have occurred, four of them within the last five years: September 1995, in downtown Belgrade on the wall of the Faculty of Philosophy; on October 22, 1995 on the wall of the Jewish Community building in downtown Belgrade; on January 22 at the Jewish cemetery. The most recent incident occurred in July 1997 with the devastation of Jewish cemetery in Zemun, a suburb of Belgrade. Only in the last case did the police take action to find the perpetrators. In March and May 1993, the self-proclaimed Chetnic leader, Siniš a Vuè iniæ publicly accused Serbian Jews for the bankruptcy resulting from state-sponsored pyramid schemes. The Jewish Federation requested legal intervention, but without result. Indeed, Vuè iniæ resumed his accusations in an interview a year later. Another legal request remained unanswered. Eventually, in 1996, Vuè iniæ became head of a splinter group of the Serbian Radical Party which was part of the government coalition in the Serbian parliament.
It is possible to see a link between the vehement pro-Serbian nationalist propaganda of the Serbian-Jewish Friendship Society and the antisemitic propaganda in the press, in the reissue of the Protocols, and in the anti-Jewish acts, as well as the passivity of the legal system.
In an antisemitic incident in Bijelo Polje, Montenegro in 1995, all these features of Yugoslav politics found a common expression.
No Jewish community existed
in Montenegro in modern times, and few persons of Jewish origin live there.
In Bijelo Polje, a small town on the Montenegran-Serbian-Bosnian triangle,
no Jews ever lived; the town's population are Muslims of Montenegran ethnic
origin. In summer 1993, the town was under siege by paramilitary units
of the Serbian Radical Party. A minor non-parliamentary extreme nationalist
party, Srpska narodna odbrana (Serbian National Defense), had a local organization
there. Appearing in the July 1994 issue of their local newsletter was an
article entitled “The Jewish Vampire Ball.” The author begins by mentioning
“Muslim pigs,” and goes on to echo the Protocols by accusing the
Jews of being responsible for everything wrong on earth, from the death
of Jesus to ritual murder and AIDS. Jews are accused of supplying arms
to Bosnian government troops, of being allied with Muslims and Protestants,
and attempting to gain influence in Serbia. Two weeks later the Montenegran
opposition biweekly Monitor reacted by criticizing the Montenegran
administration for not taking action against the author and editor. The
following week the article was re-published in Belgrade's opposition weekly
Vreme, and the Jewish Federation informed Montenegan and Federal
authorities about it on August 5, 1994. On August 11, they also brought
it to the attention of the Serbian Patriarch and the Orthodox Bishop of
Montenegro. The main opposition daily, Borba, published the
Federation's reaction on August 18, while Politika published the
Federation's reaction on August 22, but interviewed the Secretary of the
Serbian-Jewish Friendship Society as well. Other critical reactions in
the press included a statement from Patriarch Pavle in a letter to the
Jewish Federation published in the Church's official newspaper, Pravoslavlje.
Even the leader of the Serbian National Defense party personally apologized
for the article in its newsletter, whose editor was subjected to legal
procedures but was eventually granted amnesty by the Montenegran president
together with those who organized the siege of Bijelo Polje in 1993.
Graffiti in Belgrade echoed the main propaganda of the Serbian-Jewish Friendship Society: the notion that Serbian Jewry should grant total support for Serbian ethno-nationalism. Because international Jewish organizations condemned ethnic cleansing and atrocities committed against civilians by the Bosnian Serb army and paramilitary groups and the neutrality of the domestic official Jewish institutions, some part of Serbian public opinion expressed their belief that "we Serbs are evaded [neglected, L.S.] by the Jews (again)" or “the whole world is against the Serbs, including the ungrateful Jews.” Such opinions appeared in letters to the editor in Politika, in an interview in a minor illustrated monthly, and in many articles and interviews by members of the SJFS governing committee—which very early became identical with the Society in general—with references to the “mondialist” Jews and Serbs.
To understand to what degree the Jews were used as a tool in the midst of the brutal ethno-nationalist conflict in post-communist Serbia and Montenegro, and how deep this impact is in Serbia and Montenegro, would require a sophisticated and elaborate empirical study which has not yet been carried out.
But there is one very optimistic indicator. In December 1994 at the margin of one public opinion study, there was a question concerning attitudes toward the Jews. In Serbia (not including Kosovo) 46.4% had a positive one, 20.8% negative, and 32.8% no opinion at all. In Montenegro, respectively 37.5%; 15%, and 47.5%. That almost half of the population of Montenegro and one third of Serbians have no opinion about Jews reflects the reality of life: no Jews live in Montenegro, and the public presence of the SJFS was limited to the media in Serbia only. If one would carry out the same research now, I assume that the percentage of people in Serbia with no opinion about Jews would be much higher due to the limited presence of the SJFS in the media since 1995.
Antisemitism is a litmus test for nationalistic chauvinism. Independently of the political will of the protagonists, antisemitism emanates even when unwanted, owing to external reasons. Antisemitism was not of major importance in the former Yugoslavia, unlike the case of Poland, the former Soviet Union, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. Yet, since the former Yugoslavia is marked by a high degree of irrational nationalism and chauvinist hatred, there exists a latent danger from antisemitism. All chauvinists, populists, and ethno-nationalists have an additional need for hatred; as is known, this need has usually been supplemented with that of theJews throughout history.
The main problem with antisemitism in Serbia and Montenegro is that there is no real legal intervention—and no consequences—for those who commit anti-Jewish acts or those who finance or publish anti-Jewish writings. Indeed:
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