BITOLJ (former Manastir) Print

Alternate names: Monastir (before 1913), Manastir. Southernmost city of Macedonia on the Dragor River and the western edge of the Bitola Plain, a few miles from the Greek border, Bitolj is near the Greek settlement called Heraclea Lyncestis, later a Roman city. Bitolj was invaded by Slavic tribes in the 5th and 6th centuries and then declined. The Monastery of Obitelj (still visible) was important until the city was taken by the Turks and became a thriving, cosmopolitan, commercial and military center. Of the 60 mosques in the city, 12 remain. In the Balkan Wars (1912-13), Bitola was taken by the Serbs, cutting off the city from a 500-year Muslim history. World War II saw further decline in economics as its Jewish community was exterminated. Chronology of the Monastir Jewish community. Holocaust in Macedonia. History of Jewish community.[March 2009] "Family Names of the Jews of Monastir".Many residents of Monastir emigrated to Temuco, Chile beginning around 1890. Source: Daniel Teweles' translation of Argentina JGS newsletter. [September 2002]

Cemetery: "He then took us to the cemetery, which he said had just begun to be renovated, presumably with Israeli funding. The outside gate, which was ornate, was being refurbished. Inside, it was a mess with [grave]stones strewn everywhere. About 90% had the inscriptions ground off of them and had probably been used for paving and such, but many of the others were readable. We took pictures of as many as possible." [October 2000]

Restoration of the historic Jewish cemetery in Bitola has had much discussion. This important Jewish heritage site was desecrated on  November 2000 with anti-Semitic symbols and grafitti. The nine juvenile delinquents were arrested. Their crime provoked loud public outcry. Thus, the government and Ministry of Culture restored the cemetery entranceway and designated it a national monument.  The local Association for the Restoration of the Bitola Jewish Cemetery, local authorities, and the Jewish community in Skopje are working to restore the site.The restoration work is carried out by the Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments and National Rarities at the Bitola Museum with partial funding from the Macedonian Ministry of Culture. Donations are sought. The plan entails conserving as much of the cemetery as possible including gravestones and other structures. Construction of a Holocaust memorial is plannedA small Holocaust memorial n Bitola, shaped like a stunted tree, exists. No synagogues survived. [January 2009]

Founded in 1497, the Jewish cemetery of Bitola is one of the oldest - if not the oldest - Jewish cemetery in the Balkans. Abandoned and left to rot after all Bitola's Jews were deported in 1943, only one Jew is known to live in Bitola today. A civic campaign to restore the cemetery and create a Holocaust memorial complex that began in 1997 has seen considerable work completed. The entrance gate and surrounding wall were covered with graffiti and decaying. The site was overgrown. Many of the Sephardic horizontal grave markers were vandalized.The cemetery located on a steep hill rises from 600 to 670 mabove sea level and extends over about 4.3 hectares. Fully enclosed by a wall (three sides masonry). The fourth side is front decorative iron grillework fence more than 800 m long with Mogen Davids designs. The main central Gothic arched entrance gate is flanked by two Gothic-arched windows. At the bottom of the hill, the facade's white upper portion with decorative ribs has been restored fully.

Several thousand grave markers remain. Only a few in the lower left corner from the entrance are in good condition. Most are eroded and illegible, if standing at all. These better quality gravestones with legible inscriptions date from the 17th century. Poor drainage and the steep hillside have been a major  restoration challenge. [January 2009]

photo of entrance. [March 2009]


[UPDATE] Progress at Jewish Cemetery in Bitol(a): Will be Memorial Park [December 2015]



Last Updated on Saturday, 19 December 2015 20:41