VUKOVAR Print

Alternate names: Vukovar [Croa], Vukovár [Hun], Wukowar [Ger]. Вуковар. 45°21' N, 19°00' E, in E Croatia, 20 miles SE of Osijek (Eszek), on the Serbian border. Largest Croatian town and river port on the Danube -- at the confluence of the Vuka river and the Danube. 1900 Jewish population: about 200.

  • Encyclopedia of Jewish Life (2001), p. 1417, "Vukovar".
  • Pinkas HaKehilot, Yugoslavia (1988), p. 118: "Vukovar"

City of Vukovar
32000 Vukovar
Olajnica b.b.
Croatia
(+385 32) 55-748 (+385 32) 41-566
Vukovar-Srijem, County (16).

town image {February 2009]

Vukovar is a town near Novi Sad, Serbia. The town was damaged badly during the 1991-92 Serbian conflict. The Jewish community was established in 1837 with the first synagogue consecrated in 1845. Vukovar has a long Jewish presence.  Evidence suggests that the first Jews came to the area with the Romans. Jews were present during the Turks' occupation of the area in the 17th and 18th centuries. The primary Jewish presence was the 19th and  first half of the 20th century under the Austro-Hungarian Empire until WWII, when Vukovar was the Upper Rabbinate for a radius of 150 km, nearly to Belgrade.  During WWII, all Jewish property was confiscated and the Jews sent to Auschwitz. Few returned. Today, one foreign Jew and several people of Jewish ancestry live in Vukovar. The Ustasha puppet regime during the WWII was popular. Anti-Semitic remained strong during the Communist period. In the early 1990s, Ustasha rhetoric, symbols, and gestures revived and still strong today. The paradixical situation in Vukovar since before WWII, Jews were highly respected as philanthropists, merchants, and purveyors of culture.[February 2009]

Synagogues treasures saved, now lost: Film records search for treasures saved from synagogue, and now lost By Vlasta Kovac

ZAGREB, Croatia, Oct. 30, 2002 (JTA) -- "The Vukovar synagogue may have a new lease on the future, but it also has a mysterious past.

A Story from Vukovar, a documentary film made last year, chronicles the search for treasures from the Vukovar synagogue that were buried in a cellar dug out of the hillside clay just before the German army arrived in 1941. Alfred Pal, 80, and Jelka Malevich, 91, are two witnesses who remember the treasure being buried in two boxes in the cellar, which in the meantime has been covered up with earth. The cellar belonged to Pal's aunt. Malevich was the close relative of the two young men who actually buried the boxes. In October 2001, with the support of Croatia's Ministry of Culture, an excavation was begun into the stone-hard clay. The filmmakers recorded the dig, but nothing was found. "It's difficult to say who could have taken the boxes with the treasure -- the Torahs, prayer books, candelabra, documents etc. -- and whether it happened in 1941, 1945 or later," said Pal, who initiated the search for the hidden treasure. "But somebody must have found it and has kept silent about it. Anyway, I didn't want to take this story with me to the grave." Many people ask why he kept silent about the treasure for so long and why he didn't try to look for it himself. "I simply was never able to consider it," he said. "In the first place, after the war I was not in a hurry to return to Vukovar. Of all my family I was the only survivor." In addition, he said, "This cellar belonged to my aunt, but the house was empty and I didn't go into the cellar, so as not to raise suspicions that something might be there. If I had gone in, someone might have followed me. I thought that as it was buried, it should stay so, if need be even for 500 years, as the people to whom it all belonged were in any case no longer among the living," he continued. ``Besides, in the postwar situation, I would have immediately been arrested if it were known that I was looking for buried treasure.'' [February 2008]

"Old Synagogue was built in 1857, sold in 1888, and is used as Evangelical Church. New Synagogue, built in 1888, was damaged in 1941, sold in 1950 and demolished. Jewish Community was established in 18th /19th century and ended in 1941." Jewish Population: 1925/26-600; 1931-336; 1937/38-289; 1947-24; 1994-0. See: Gruber, Ruth Ellen. Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to East-Central Europe. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1992. (Page 244) [1999]

The "new synagogue," designed by Viennese architect Ludwig Schone and consected in either 1894 or 1889, was the first domed synagogue in Croatia. Partially destroyed in 1941, in 1958, the Federation of Jewish Communities had it demolished and sold it for scrap. [See postcard of synagogue]  In late 1941, the 500 member Jewish community was deported to various camps, primarily Jasenovac. The synagogue was sold and demolished in 1958.[January 2009]

Professional survey of cemetery. [February 2009]

Old Cemetery: Used 1830-1850

New Cemetery: Address: N/A; Established in 1850; Exists today: yes;  [Land Registry: Folder No: ? Plot No.: 4874 & 4875] Source: Srdjan Matic, MD, 40 West 95th Street, Apt. 1-B, New York, NY 10025. (212) 222-7783. [1999]

The Jewish cemetery in a suburb of the town is well maintained by the city's public works. The 75 to 100 monuments have inscriptions in Hebrew, Hungarian, German, and Croatian. A fence with no gate surrounds the cite. The large and imposing ceremonial hall was heavily damaged in the 1990s when war destroyed much of the town.[January 2009]

Last Updated on Monday, 18 January 2010 00:07