During the night of March 11th, 1943, around 7200 Jews from Macedonia (from Skopje, Bitola and Stip) or more than 98% of the total Jewish population in …
The Jewish Quarters in Skopje, settled far back in the 15th century, was located on the left side of the River Vardar, between the Stone Bridge and the Fortress (‘Kale’). Until the deportation of its residents, on that disastrous day of 11 March 1943, it was a vital settlement participating significantly in the economic, educational and cultural life of Skopje.
Therefore, locating the structure of the Memorial Holocaust Center of the Jews from Macedonia in the core of the former Jewish Quarters has an outstanding symbolism not only for the holocaust victims, on the property of which it will be spread, but also for Skopje and Macedonia, which by building this Center shall pay an everlasting respect to their deported fellow citizens from Bitola and Stip, as well.
The idea for such a memorial for the holocaust in Macedonia arises from the great erudite, scientist and humanist, Academy-member Ivan Dejanov, former president of the first Macedonian-Israeli Association of Friendship. This idea received big support and it has evolved conceptually. The concept of the Memorial Center began to become reality after the Law on Denationalization was enacted, which is the legal basis for the Holocaust Fund of the Jews from Macedonia, established on 23 April 2002 by a Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia.
The Fund exists as a unique legal solution in Europe for protection of property rights of deported Jews who have no living heirs. In parallel with material memory, the Memorial Center shall carry out a long-term mission in presenting, educating and researching multiethnic societies, freeing them from any kind of danger from intolerance, chauvinism, anti-Semitism, aiming to build a society in which ethnic and religious diversity will present a civilization asset and a basis for further prosperity.
Neither hatred, nor oblivion! Nobel Prize recipient Eli Vizel, with his idea: “Hatred brings nothing good, and oblivion is treachery and ungratefulness towards those who paid with their lives”, reflects the essence of the activememory of the destruction of human behavior, from which the future mission of the Memorial Center has been derived.
Location and project program of Memorial Center
The urban matrix of Skopje, more precisely that of the Jewish Quarters, was destroyed completely by the 1963 earthquake and also by the urbanization of the left coast of the River Vardar, in the subsequent process of reconstruction of Skopje. The new Detailed Urban Plan creates a new urban matrix on our location, with new contents in the form of a complex composed of a building for culture, a business facility and a hotel, in the vicinity of the St. Dimitrija Church. On the opposite side, along the Vardar Quay, the Urban Plan anticipates locations for a theatre and a business facility (building).
The building of culture has acquired the role of the Memorial Holocaust Home of the Jews from Macedonia whereas the Business facility shall be a multi-purpose art-center with exhibition space.
Out of the old matrix, the toponyms which are deeply impressed in the memory of the city population, such as David Street and the Synagogue, are part of the story, integrated into the general staging of the Memorial Center project.
The Memorial Center is divided into 4 (four) functional units reflecting theevents preceding the disastrous night of the deportation of the Jewsfrom Macedonia to concentration camp Treblinka.
Part I: Main entrance with multipurpose hall and permanent exhibition, asan introduction to the events, followed by documentary materials andthe names of the victims.
Part II: Connecting the memory of the toponym of David Street in peacetime,then painful expectations, the disastrous night and the silence;short stay at the Skopje Tobacco factory and transport to the camp ofdeath! In this part, the history and culture of the Jews from Macedoniawill be presented as an exhibition, through archaeological, ethnologicaland other kinds of museum exhibits.
Part III: People is an indestructible category! Survivors of the JewishCommunity with great optimism and strong will involved themselvesinto the resistance movement until evil was conquered. The third part,placed at the third level, is a space for research, scientific analysis andeducation.
Part IV: Office entrance with premises for administration and commonuse, through the three levels of the building (from the South).
Treblinka was a camp for extermination of people by Nazi Germany in the occupied Poland, during the Second World War. More than 750,000 Jews, Roma and other victims of the Holocaust were murdered in Treblinka between July 1942 and October 1943. The camp was located 100 km north-east from Warsaw, 2.5 km away from the location Treblinka. The camp was organized in two parts: Treblinka I and Treblinka II.
Treblinka was one of the people extermination camps, created within the frames of the Operation Reinhard, meant for a complete extermination of the Jews in Poland. The other three camps in that operation were Belzec, Sobibor and Majdanek. The operation was directly managed by Heinrich Himmler. Before the Operation Reinhard, the Jews were collected in ghettos and were murdered, mostly by SS units. However, it became clear that the plan for a complete extermination of the Jews could not be executed in that manner. That is why the Operation Reinhard was invented and 4 camps for extermination of the Jews from the ghettos were founded. Treblinka was ready on July 24th 1945. In only two months, since its opening until October 3rd, 1942, more than 310,000 Jews were brought to Treblinka from the Warsaw ghetto.
On March 22nd, 1943, the Jews from Macedonia, about 7200 of them, were violently taken by the Bulgarian occupation forces from their homes and collected at the Skopje Monopoly. They were taken to Treblinka from there, and all of them were killed. In August 1943, the prisoners in Treblinka complained, reached the guards’ weapons and burned the camp. The Germans frustrated the riot bloodily: out of 1500 prisoners, only 40 remained alive. Soon the camp stopped functioning, and until then, its mission was accomplished: almost all Jews from Poland and throughout Europe were murdered. The Operation Reinhard ended and all four camps were closed in October 1943
Bitola is a city in the south western part of Macedonia. Bitola is an administrative, cultural, economic, industrial, educational, scientific as well as a diplomatic centre, as a result of which it is known as the city of consuls. Bitola is the second largest city in the Republic of Macedonia according to the number of inhabitants, while it is the third according to its surface. During the time of Yugoslavia, it was one of the cultural centres, both during the time of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the time of SFR Yugoslavia. The father of the Turkish nation Kemal Ata Turk graduated from the Officer School in Bitola. Some of his belongings are now preserved at the Bitola Peoples Museum.
Bitola was inhabited by Jews, who escaped from Spain during the Church inquisition by the Queen Isabella of Castile. The majority of those Jews moved to the Balkan, to the cities with greater significance and developed trade, among others to Bitola. Here they assisted the development of the city with good trade relations. On March 11th, 1943, the entire Jewish population from Bitola (3,011 Jews) was deported to the Treblinka camp in Poland by the Bulgarian fascists.
Rafael Mose Kamhi is a Macedonia Jew from Bitola, a distinguished activist of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO). He was a participant at the Founding Congress of TMORO in 1896 in Thessaloniki, as well as in the negotiations about the ransom of the kidnapped American missionary Miss Stone. Under the name of Duke Skenderbeg, he participated at the Ilinden uprising. He was a close collaborator of Gorce Petrov, Dame Gruev, Goce Delcev and Dimo Hadzi Dimov. He supported the left wing of the Macedonian National Liberation Movement. He is a witness of the great sufferings of the Jews from Thessaloniki. A precious chronicle writer of his time.
Mimoza Sumkovska Veljanovska
http://www.gk1world.com [Gawad Kalinga, tagalog for "to give care"]