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Excerpts on the crimes of genocide committed against the Jews of Kosovo and Metohije during the Holocaust in Yugoslavia, detailing Albanian collaboration with the Nazi and Italian fascist forces (with additional information on the Holocaust in Albania)

from

Jaša Romano

THE JEWS OF YUGOSLAVIA 1941–1945: VICTIMS OF GENOCIDE AND PARTICIPANTS IN THE WAR OF NATIONAL LIBERATION

Published by

THE JEWISH HISTORICAL MUSEUM The Union of the Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia
Belgrade, 1980.
(591 pages)

Based on a new translation by

Milo Yelesiyevich,
Director, Jasenovac Research Institute

© Milo Yelesiyevich, 2004.



(Excerpt from pages 152-154)

4 — The Territory of Kosovo and Metohija

Until the Second World War, Jews resided in two places: Kosovska Mitrovica and Priština. One hundred and thirteen lived in Kosovska Mitrovica, while about 400 Jews lived in Priština. Their fates were different, taking into consideration the fact that the Germans administered Kosovska Mitrovica (with the aim of exploiting the Trepča Mines), while Priština was occupied by the Italians.

Kosovska Mitrovica — Twenty-five Jews fled to Priština with the arrival of the Germans in Kosovska Mitrovica. The remaining eighty-six were subjected to various humiliations as well as the plunder and theft of their property from the first day of the Germans’ arrival. They put signs on Jewish shops that read "Jüdischen Geschäft," and Jews had to wear a yellow armband that read "Jude." Along with the Gestapo, the members of the fascist Albanian Committee (Albanski komitet) participated in the mistreatment of Jews and in the plunder and theft of their property. The Gestapo handed over the administration of Kosovska Mitrovica to the Albanian Committee. The President of the municipality, Džafer Deva, ordered the confiscation of Jewish property on May 20, 1941, while commissars, members of the aforementioned Committee, were assigned to Jewish shops. The following Gestapo collaborators were prominent among those pillaging Jewish property: Perijuc Mamut, Ramiz Mulić, and Osman Ibraimović, who was the chief of the Commissariat of Jewish Property. The synagogue was demolished by his direct orders, and its library and archival documents were destroyed.

The occupiers introduced strict controls on the movement of Jews in order to make it impossible for them to escape. In January 1942, they caught Matilda Ruben, who had tried to flee to Priština by disguised herself in traditional Muslim folk costume. They executed her. Five Jews who had been brought from Duga Poljana were executed at the same time.

August 1941. The Germans interned Jewish males in a camp in Kosovska Mitrovica, while the women were taken into custody and assigned to forced labor in a hospital. However, in mid-February 1942, the women and children were transferred to the camp.

March 1942. All the Jews from Kosovska Mitrovica, in other words, the ones held in the camp there, were taken to Zemun and detained at the "Sajmište" camp. They were then sent to Bergen-Belsen shortly afterwards, where they all perished. Of all the Jews of Kosovska Mitrovica, only those twenty-five who fled to Priština survived. During the transfer of Jews from Kosovska Mitrovica to the "Sajmište" camp, one young man managed to escape and hide, but the Gestapo found him later and executed him in Kosovska Mitrovica.[1]

Priština — It has already been noted that some four hundred Jews lived in Priština during the Second World War. After the capitulation of Yugoslavia, twenty-five Jews from Kosovska Mitrovica fled to Priština, where they were joined by 200 Jews from Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia. In addition to these people, the Germans brought to Priština forty-five Jewish refugees from Poland and Austria, who had been confined in Kuršumlijska banja until the outbreak of the war. The Jewish community of Priština was responsible for their food and lodging.

Over the course of two months, the length of time the Germans stayed in Priština, the succeeded in carrying out a large number of anti-Jewish measures. They plundered and confiscated Jewish property, starting with Jewish shops, where signs reading "Jüdischen Geschäft" had to be posted. Jews were ordered to wear a yellow armband and the men were put to work as forced laborers in a quarry. The Kvesture — an official organ of the Albanian administration — and the aforementioned Albanian Committee participated in the plunder of Jewish property as well as in the mistreatment of Jews. These men included Maljuš Kosova (president of the Albanian Committee), Džemal beg Ismail Kanli (the chief of police), Rašid Memedali (president of the municipality),Rifat Šukri Ramadan, Mahmud Šaban Pašić, Jahja šeh Asan (members of the Albanian Committee) and others.

After the departure of the Germans, Italian Fascist authorities took over the administration of Priština, but the situation in which the Jews found themselves did not improve significantly because the representatives of the Kvesture continued to have the last word, as well as the aforementioned Albanian Committee. The Italian military command also participated in the plunder of Jewish property, but it singled out Jewish refugees from Serbia for blackmail. The Italian military command interned these refugees in the Priština prison, promising that they would not turn them over to the Germans. However, on March 14, 1942, despite having made such promises, the Italian military command handed over 51 of the internees in the Banjici camp to the Germans, who executed them. The Italians authorities transferred the remaining refugees to Albania and interned them in camps in Šijaka, Kavaji and Krnj.

The Italian military command interned the permanent Jewish residents of Priština in a camp, also in Priština, which was moved to the building that housed the elementary school, and not long afterwards, following an order from the Prefecture, all males from the ages of fifteen to sixty-five years of age were transferred to Albania and interned in a camp in Berat. Their fate will be discussed later (see The Prison Camp in Berat).

After Italy’s capitulation, the Germans once again arrived in Priština. This resulted in the renewed plunder and theft of Jewish property, and the mistreatment and humiliation of Jews. The arrival of the Germans put the final stamp on the fate of Priština Jews who were still to be found there, and they were chiefly women, children and the elderly. Acting on orders from the Gestapo, the municipality made a list of all Jews on the basis of those who were arrested in May 14, 1944. They were interned in barracks in Priština. Upon their arrival in the barracks, the Jews were finally robbed of everything they had, and afterwards they were taken to Zemun, where they were interned in the Sajmište camp. After a month, they were sent to Bergen-Belsen, where 177 Jews died. The Gestapo executed two men before the Jews were expelled from Priština.

Two hundred and ten Jews from Kosovo-Metohija were killed. [2]

The Italian Fascists’ Relations with the Jews in the Occupied Areas of Yugoslavia that Were Annexed to Italy

On the territories that, after Yugoslavia’s capitulation, were annexed by Fascist Italy, as well as in those areas that were occupied by Italy, the methods of exterminating Jews were the same, i.e., genocide. Italy had instituted anti-Jewish measures that were economic and psychological in nature. This relates to the period April 1941 to September 1943, i.e., until Italy’s capitulation.

Even though Fascist Italy did not directly participate in the genocide conducted by the Germans and the Ustaše, it nevertheless did, to a certain indirect extent, participate in these crimes, which can be seen from the following facts:

― Italy made it impossible for Jewish refugees to be granted safe passage through territories it had annexed or occupied, and Italy returned a certain number of refugees to territories under the administration of the Ustaše, allowing them to become victims of genocide;

― The Italian military command in Paga permitted the mass murder of Serbs and Jews in camps that the Ustaše established on the island, even though it was obliged by international law to prevent such mass murder;

― The questor in Sušak, by perfidious and deceitful means, arrested about two hundred Jewish refugees from Western Europe, and handed them over to the Ustaše, who killed them all;

― The Italian military command in Priština handed over a group of Jewish refugees from Belgrade to the Germans, who sent them to the concentration camp in Banjici and killed them there;

― The Italian military command in Dubrovnik did not prevent the deportation of twenty-seven Jews from Dubrovnik from the Ustaše, who killed them all.


(Excerpt from pg. 166)

a) Camps in Albania

These camps were collection centers that had already been built by Fascist Italy in 1941. Jews, who fled Yugoslavia after the capitulation to the Montenegrin coast were interned in these camps just as Jewish males from Priština had been, as well as groups of Jewish refugees from Serbia who sought refuge in Priština. The Italians handed over the administration of these camps to the Albanian Fascist authorities, whose official organs gave free rein to the mistreatment of Jews. These camps were dismantled after the Italy’s capitulation.

The Camp in Berat ― was created at the beginning of May 1942. The first detainees were Jewish males from Priština, who were brought there on May 6, 1942. Along with the Priština Jews, twenty-five Jewish refugees who had fled from Kosovska Mitrovica to Priština, as well as one hundred and fifty Jewish refugees from Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia who had fled to Priština after the capitulation. All tolled, about four hundred Jews were sent to the camp.

The conditions of life in the camp were extremely difficult, especially with respect to housing and hygiene. Besides that, the Albanian Fascists, to whom the administration of the camp had been entrusted, mercilessly plundered the detainees. Mistreatment was a daily affair. The organizer of all of the crimes in the camp was the Albanian Fascist Džafer Dava from Kosovska Mitrovica, who allowed two Jewish detainees to be killed.

After the capitulation, the Italians dismantled the camp, and the Jewish detainees left for Drač, Tirana, Skadar and various Albanian villages. Wherever they went, they were more or less subject to robbery and plunder by the Balists. The Jews who took up residence in Skadar were subjected to exceptional mistreatment and robbery. They were arrested in groups and mistreated in jail by Balists and the Gestapo, until they had paid the amount demanded. Captain Firer Hoffman, the Chief of the Gestapo in Skadar, excelled in blackmailing Jews. On May 29, 1944, he threatened to execute all the Jews unless they paid 25,000 Albanian napoleons or 1,000 napoleons in gold. The Jews were able to scrape together only 5,000 Albanian napoleons, but promised to pay the remaining 20,000 once their property in Priština was sold. Hoffman released them from prison and let them go to Priština. However, once they were released from prison, the Jews from Skadar fled in all directions and vanished in the Albanian countryside.[3]


Translated by Milo Yelesiyevich.




[1] Report by the Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes Committed by the Occupier and Their Collaborators, No. 14900, in the Jewish Historical Museum, Belgrade, K-22, 1a—3/9, reg. No. 3728.

[2] Documents in the Jewish Historical Museum in Belgrade, 2a-2/5, reg. No. 3727.

[3] Documents in the Jewish Historical Museum, Belgrade, K-22, 1a-3/9, reg. No. 3728 and K-22 2a 2/5, reg. No. 3727.