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Virtual Jewish World: Novi Sad, Serbia

Novi Sad, is a city on the Danube in Vojvodina, Serbia. Some Jews from Belgrade seem to have settled at the foot of the later Petroraradin fortress in the 16th century. Under Ottoman rule (16th–17th centuries) they were treated well and engaged in trade on the Danube. During the Austro-Turkish war of 1683–99, Ashkenazim were known to have lived in Novi Sad; however, there were Jews were among the contractors to the Austrian army. When the region passed under Austrian rule in 1699, it was devastated and depopulated. Jews were therefore exceptionally authorized to settle in the new town of Neusatz opposite the fortress but were not allowed to form a recognized community. Austrian archives mention Salomon Hirschl, probably the first rosh kehillah of Novi Sad. At the beginning of the 18th century three Jewish families probably more, as only owners of real estate were registered. Most Jews came from Nikolsburg in Moravia. All Jews had to pay the Jewish tax (until the end of the 18th century). They were subject to limitations, such as the interdiction of acquiring real estate; as only the eldest son of each family could marry in the same town (see Familiants Laws ), others had to leave and settle elsewhere. The ḥevra kaddisha was founded in 1729 as a "Holy Welfare Society." Under Joseph II the teaching of German or Hungarian became obligatory, and in order to open a business or marry, Jews had to have some formal education. A Jewish school was built in Novi Sad in 1802 and a synagogue in 1829. During the Hungarian revolution of 1848–49 all Jewish property was destroyed, but in 1851 the synagogue was rebuilt, and a new, monumental one was built in 1901 (still standing in the 1970s). Previously all Vojvodina belonged to Hungary (within Austria-Hungary); however, in 1918, when Vojvodina became a part of the new Yugoslav kingdom, it formed a province closely linked with Serbia.

Between the two world wars, communal life was intensive and diversified. There was a Jewish school, a home for the aged, a modern community center, widespread Zionist activities, and Jewish newspapers were published (Juedisches Volksblatt, later Juedische Zeitung Jevreyske Novine).

Until the Holocaust, in 1941, there were 4,000 Jews in Novi Sad, out of a total population of 80,000. The extermination of the Jews of Novi Sad was carried out in successive waves, initially under the Hungarian occupation and later by German troops. It began with individual arrests, torture, and murders. On Jan. 21–23, 1942, a small rebellion near Novi Sad served as a pretext for the so-called "razzia," when total curfew was ordered and Jewish homes were searched and plundered while their occupants were murdered in the streets. On January 23 more than 1,400 Jews were marched to the Danube and lined up in four rows. The ice in the frozen river was broken and throughout the day Jews, including women and children, were shot in the back, disappearing in the waters, which carried corpses down to Belgrade and beyond for weeks. Among the victims were also some 400–500 Serbs. The "razzia" caused an upheaval even in Hungarian circles, and cabled orders arrived from Budapest to stop the massacre on the evening of January 23. Several hundred survivors, half frozen and frightened to death, were released. The extermination policy continued, however. During 1942 all male Jews between the ages of 18 and 45 were gathered into "labor battalions," maltreated, and starved (first in Hungary), and then sent to the Ukrainian front, where they perished. The last phase came with the German occupation in March 1944. With the aid of Hungarians, the Germans sought out all remaining Jews and transported about 1,600 to Auschwitz in April 1944. Jewish property was plundered completely, except for personal and worthless items, which were gathered in the synagogue. About 1,000 Jews survived the Holocaust; 700 left for Israel and about 200 remained in Novi Sad in 1970, most of them survivors of POW camps. Subsequently, the community grew to around 630 with the addition of former residents returning from abroad and Jews arriving from places depleted of their Jewish inhabitants. Restoration of the synagogue and of community offices was undertaken and legal proceedings were initiated for the return of Jewish public buildings like the community center and the Jewish orphanage. The chapel of the cemetery was also renovated. The pre-Holocaust choir was reconstituted and an art club was set up in addition to regular cultural gatherings. The synagogue was used only for holiday services.

The presidents of the community were Pavle Šosberger, Prof. Theodore Kovać, and Tihomir Ungar.


Radó and J. Major, A noviszádi zsidók története (1930); Magyar Zsidó Lexikon (1929), S.V. Ujvidék; Zločini fašističkih okupatora i njihovih pomagača protiv Jevreja u Jugoslaviji (1952, 19572 with Eng. text, pp. 1–43), ch. 5; J. Buzási, Az ujvidéki "razzia" (1963). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: I. Radó and J. Major, Istorija novoasadskih Jevreja (1930; enlarged ed., Tel Aviv, 1972); Z. Loker (ed.), Yehudei Vojvodina be-Et he-Ḥadashah (1994), with Eng. summary; P. Šosberger, Novosadski Jevreji (1988); idem, Jevreji Vojvodine (2001).

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.