Jewish presence in Macedonia dates back to the first century, B.C.E., where the ruins of an ancient synaogue can be seen in the city of Stobi and ended following an order by Bulgarian authorities to arrest all Jews in Macedonia on the night of March 10 and put them in the temporary camp in Skopje. According to registers, 7,148 Jews were arrested, i.e. 98% of the total Jewish population in Macedonia in 1943. Largest number of Jews immigrating to Macedonia occurred during the Ottoman period after expulsion from Spain and Portugal in 1492. Cities like Bitola, Skopje and Stip were the main Jewish centers in the period of Ottoman rule. Macedonian Jews prospered in trade, banking, medicine, and law. Just before WWII, nearly 8000 Jews lived in Bitola (Monastir), and some 3000 Jews in Skopje. The abandoned pre-war synagogue in Skopje stood until 1963 when it and most of the city was destroyed in an earthquake. Rebuilt and modern Skopje has a few old structures, including an arched bridge. Bet Yaakov Synagogue opened on the top floor of the Jewish community centre at Ul. Borka Taleski 24, 91000 Skopje in March 2000 hosting the first Jewish services held in Macedonia since 1951. Today, 190 Jews remain in 52 families, mostly in Skopje, the capital, but also a handful of Jews in Stip. Some 200 to 300 unaffiliated Jews live elsewhere in Macedonia.
Old Jewish cemetery: Location is unknown. It was either destroyed during or shortly afterward the Holocaust or in the earthquake of 1963 and presumably has been built over.
Jewish Cemetery: Jews are now buried in the city's municipal cemetery. A section contains a Holocaust memorial whose ground is paved with fragments of broken tombstones rescued from the old Jewish cemetery after World War II and laid by local Jews similar to the memorial walls common in Poland, but laid horizontally like Sephardic horizontal gravestones. 2004 photos [March 2009]
Holocaust Memorial Center and Museum: September 2005 marked the start of construction of a Holocaust Memorial Centre. The memorial will include a Holocaust museum and an institute for Jewish and multi-ethnic studies. Completion is planned for late 2006 or in 2007.
Monopol Concentration Camp: A transit camp was established in 1943 at a government tobacco warehouse at Monopol in Skopje. Jews from Macedonia were imprisoned prior to deportation to Treblinka on 22, 25 and 29 March. 7,341 people, approximately 2,000 of whom were children, were packed into 30 rooms. A doctor from Bitolj has described conditions as 'In one room there were over 500 persons... We and the Jews from Štip were kept locked in during the whole of the day because the plundering search of the Jews from Skopje was still in progress... When some of us tried to peep through the windows, a policeman fired in the air... On 13 March, they opened the door for the first time and allowed us to go to the latrines... They let out the 500 that were in our room and gave us half an hour, whereupon they locked us up again so that more than half the people never managed to relieve themselves or to get water... The food was distributed once daily and it consisted of 250 grammes of bread and usually a watery dish of beans or rice... They gave us smoked meat from time to time, but it was so foul that we could not eat it in spite of our hunger... Under the pretext of searching us for hidden money, gold or foreign currency, they forced us sadistically to undress completely... Sometimes they would even take away baby diapers....'
Museum of the City of Skopje (Muzej na Grad Skopje): The once beautiful railway station was partly destroyed by the earthquake of 1963. The history of Macedonian Jews within the local and national history is stressed including exhibitions: The Genesis of the Jewish Community in Macedonia; Jews from Macedonia in the concentration camp of Treblinka - Poland and For peace and inter-ethnic coexistence in the Balkans. bul Mito Hadzivasilev bb, 1000 Skopje
|Last Updated on Thursday, 19 March 2009 02:05|