Before the Austrian-Hungarian
invasion of 1102, the area of present-day
Croatia included the auonomous regions of
Slavonia and Dalmatia. Jews had been living
in the area since the seventh century, C.E.
While there are documents indicating the
existence of Jewish communities in the area,
little information is actually known about
the Jews of Croatia until the 13th century.
Documentation of laws against Jewish mercantilism
have been found in the area dating back to
this period. Jews were not allowed to settle
or trade in the area because they were competition
for the non-Jewish merchants.
In the 13th and 14th centuries,
the Jewish communities in Zagreb and Sava
(two cities within the region) were able
to rule themselves with a leader called a "magistratus
Judaeorum." The Jews enjoyed economic
prosperity and peaceful relations with the
non-Jewish Croats. The rest of the country
also prospered from the Jewish presence,
and the wealth of the region increased. The
Jewish population increased in Croatia for
a century and a half. In 1456, it was decided
that the number of Jews was too large, and
they were terrorized and then finally expelled.
After 1526, and for the next 200 years, there
are no records of Jewish existence in Croatia.
In the 1700s, Jews began
to immigrate back to Croatia. The influx
was very gradual until 1782, when Emperor
Joseph II published "Toleranzpatent." The
document called for equal treatment of all
citizens. After its publication, many more
Jews began to immigrate to the area. Jews
were granted residence in 1791, but they
were not given full citizen rights until
From 1879 to 1900, the
Jewish population in Croatia increased from
869 persons to 20,000. More than twenty-one
Jewish communities had been established throughout
the area. In the beginning of the 20th century,
conflict erupted between the Zionist and
Assimilationist Jewish groups in Croatia.
While the Zionists wanted to maintain their
Jewish identity and promote ties with Israel,
the Assimilationists identified with their
non-Jewish counterparts. The Zionists maintained
political power until World War II, and they
were fueled by persecution on the part of
By the beginning of the Nazi occupation
in Croatia, more than 25,000 Jews lived in
Croatia. Many Jews had immigrated to the
United States and Israel to avoid rampant anti-Semitism.
The Jews that remained in Croatia were extremely
prosperous, causing even more hatred to fall
upon them. Still, Jews continued to build synagogues and
Jewish businesses. Many Jewish children attended
universities and art academies. In 1941,
the Nazi regime began to attack the intellectual
Jewish community. Many of the Jews fled for
neighboring regions and others were deported.
The Israel Temple
in Vukovar, Croatia
Croatia appeased the Germans
throughout the war, sending many of its Jews
camps. The majority of those Jews who
remained in Croatia were taken to Auschwitz in 1943. Only 5,000 of the 25,000 Croatian
Jews survived the Holocaust.
In 1991, Yugoslavia's republics
began their violent breakup. While the entire
region was negatively affected by the breakup,
Jews, in particular, were thrown into the
middle of the situation. Anti-Semitism was
not blatant during the 1990s, but rather,
it was used as a way to win Jewish favor.
Both the Croatians and the Serbs would accuse
each other of anti-Semitism, hoping to bring
Jews to their own side.
Today, approximately 1,700 Jews live
in Croatia. They continue
to suffer from sporadic anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial is especially prevalent as the most common method of anti-Semitism.
In 1997, the head of state,
Franjo Tudjman, apologized to the Jewish
people for country-wide Holocaust denial.
The Jewish community has
become assimilated into Croatian society
since the end of World
War II. Many Jews are now government
officials, doctors, lawyers, and judges.
Recently, however, members of the Christian
Church have begun to align their corporations
so as to hurt Jewish businesses. The separate
Jewish communities are not connected by a
stronger Croatian Jewish organization. For
this reason, they have had difficulty combating
anti-Semitism in their cities.
Today there remain synagogues
in many of the major Croatian cities. The
city of Dubrovnik is home to the second oldest
synagogue in the world. In July 2013, the Jewish community in Zagreb announced plans to rebuild the Prague Street Synagogue on the same site as the old building which had been destroyed by the Ustasha fascist regime in 1942. Designed by the architect Franjo Klein, the Prague Street synagogue originally opened in 1867 and debate over whether to rebuild the synagogue has been ongoing since at least 1991.
Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Jewish Heritage Report, Vol. II, nos 3-4
JTA (July 26, 2013)
Grant Travel Photography
Victor - Judaica Philatelic
Map from: CIA