The Destruction of Macedonian Jewry in 1943
Jews probably lived in Macedonia in Greek and Roman times. At the time of the Spanish Inquisition many fled to Salonika, travelled inland and settled mainly in the larger towns. Until the rise of Fascism in Europe during the 1930’s the Jews lived in peace with the other Yugoslav nationalities. However, in 1935 fascism spread to Yugoslavia and in 1939 restrictive legislation was instituted and many Jews left for Palestine or were banished. Until the outbreak of World War II, 75,000-80,000 Jews lived in Yugoslavia; only 12,000 survived. Ten percent of Jews in pre-war Yugoslavia lived in Macedonia. In April 1941, Germany invaded Yugoslavia and began destroying Jewish commerce and industry in Macedonia. Bulgarian troops took over Macedonia and a network of anti-Jewish organs was established in Bulgaria and Macedonia headed by the Bulgarian Commissar for Jewish Affairs Alexander Belev. Extensive economic destruction of the Jews, who were considered enemies of the State, was the first step taken by Belev. Jewish property was confiscated, heavy taxes were levied, refugee emigrants were forbidden to withdraw their bank savings and homes were seized. Severe political restrictions were imposed, including non-recognition of Macedonian Jews as Bulgarian subjects. Foreign Jews were permitted to emigrate. The Germans demanded transfer of 20,000 Jews in the first instance to German camps. All 8,000 Macedonian Jews were included in the transports of March 11, 1943 to a concentration camp in Skopje, from where they were deported to the Treblinka death camp. None of the deportees survived. After the deportations, all Jewish property in Macedonia was liquidated.