Niš is a town and important communications center in Serbia. Jews lived in Niš apparently from Roman times but there are no documents to confirm their presence before the 17th century. The disappearance of Jacob, a wool trader, was noted in 1651. Visits by shadarim (emissaries from Palestine) are on record for the second half of the 18th century.
The Jews were engaged mainly in the textile trade and in moneychanging; some were artisans, while a few were manual laborers. A prayer house was built in 1695 and a synagogue in 1909. Local spiritual leaders consulted the rabbis of Belgrade on halakhic matters. The Jews of Niš participated in Serbia’s wars and suffered casualties in them.
In 1939, Yugoslav Prime Minister Cvetkovic, a native of the town, offered to arrange exit visas to Turkey for the Jews of Niš, but the Jews chose to remain despite the danger signs. In 1940, they numbered 430, increasing to 970 in 1941 with the arrival of refugees from Germany, Austria and Poland, The Germans arrived in April 1941. In October, the Jewish men were imprisoned in Crveni Krst concentration camp at Bubanj. In February 1942, several inmates escaped from the camp after attacking the guards, and in retaliation several prisoners, most of them Jews, were shot. Two days later, more Jews were shot. In the spring of 1942 all women and children were arrested and, after a few days in the camp they were sent to the Sajmiste (Semlin Judenlager) death camp.
In 1952, there were 25 Jews in the city. The community was not renewed. The synagogue was used as a concert hall.
Bulletin de l'Alliance Israélite Universelle, 28 (1963), 147–8; Zločini fašističkih okupatora … u Jugoslaviji (1952), 38–40. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Z. Loker (ed.), Pinkas ha-Kehillot – Yugoslavia (1988); Ž. Lebl, Do "konačnog rešenja" – Jevreji u Srbiji, Belgrade, 2003, 65–119; Dva stoljeća židovske povijesti i kulture u Zagrebu i Hrvatskoj (1998), issued by Zagreb Jewish community.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.