Niš, Serbia

Ниш, Србиjа

Nisch [German], Niş [Turkish], Naissos [Greek]

Lat: 43° 19´ N, Long: 21° 54´ E

Jewish Niš

Sephardic Jews first arrived in Niš in the seventeenth century. Little is known about the community until the nineteenth century, a period when the Jews of Niš lived through an economic decline. As a result of this economic stress, the Jewish community established organizations to help the needy.

By the last quarter of the nineteenth century the Jewish population reached nine-hundred people, seven percent of the total population; this would be the maximum number of Jews ever to be permanent residents of Niš. To sustain the Jewish community's religious needs, a synagogue was constructed in 1801; a second shul was built more than one-hundred-twenty years later, in 1924. In the early twentieth century, Zionism had also made its influence felt.

To politically perceptive people it was becoming clear, by the late 1930's, that war was coming. Influential Serbian leaders warned Jews that it would be wise to leave Niš for Turkey; however, many Jews declined to heed the warnings (there were four-hundred-thirty Jews in Niš in 1940). The year 1941 saw an influx of five-hundred-forty refugees (more than doubling the Jewish population of Niš), many from Germany, Austria, and Poland.

Early in April 1941, saw the arrival of a plague – the Nazis. Immediately, the repression of the Jews began. Property was stolen, free movement was restricted, forced labor was imposed, and concentration camps became the place of residence. Less than a year later, by February 1942, all the Jews of Niš, including refugees, together with Jews from surrounding regions, had been murdered in accordance with German eugenic principles.

A small Jewish community was reestablished after the war.

(source: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life, Before and During the Holocaust)

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