Belgrade

Brief Details:

Name: Monument to Jewish Victims of Fascism at the Belgrade's Sephardic Jewish Cemetery

Location: Jewish Cemetery at Belgrade, Serbia

Year completed: 1952

Designer: Bogdan Bogdanović [profile page]

Coordinates: N44°48'42.4", E20°29'07.5"

Dimensions: Two 10m tall wings

Materials used: stone and metal

Condition: Good

(Београд)

History:

This memorial work which is located in Belgrade's Sephardic Jewish cemetery, known as the Monument to the Jewish Victims of Fascism and Fallen Fighters, commemorates the many thousands of members of Belgrade's Jewish community who perished during WWII, both as civilians and as fighters against fascism.

World War II

As war in Europe began to spread across the continent during the spring of 1941, the government Kingdom of Yugoslavia desperately wished to avoid becoming embroiled in the conflict. As a result, the kingdom's prime minister, Dragiša Cvetković, signed the Tripartite Pact, which entered Yugoslavia into an alliance with the Axis forces and allowed Axis troops to cross Yugoslav soil.

There was significant anger and protests in Belgrade among many groups as a result of the signing of the pact. Consequently, Air Force commander General Dušan Simović led a coup just two days after the pact's signing where Prince Paul was deposed and the young 17 year old King Peter II was declared 'of age' to rule. The new government immediately reneged on all agreements with Axis powers. As a result, on April 6th, 1941, Germany's Luftwaffe began an aerial bombing campaign of Belgrade (Photo 1). The Yugoslav Royal Airforce attempted to combat the attack, but to no avail. After six days of aerial assaults, Axis ground troops marched into the city and took control of Belgrade. The Yugoslav Royal army capitulated soon thereafter. Over 24,000 people died during this bombing campaign. The area of old Belgrade came under the control of the Nazi regime, who used the city as the center of a new puppet government in Serbia called the "Government of National Salvation", presided over by collaborator Milan Nedić. The area presently known as 'New Belgrade' was handed over to the newly created fascist-run Independent State of Croatia.

Photo 1: A view of damage to Belgrade after 1941 Luftwaffe bombing, 1941

Photo 2: An executed person hanging from street lamp in Belgrade at Terazije, 1941

As soon as German troops marched into Belgrade, the planning for resistance efforts began almost immediately. Such resistance efforts were primarily coordinated by Belgrade underground Yugoslav Communist Party (with some coordination with the Ravna Gora resistance movement of Chetnik royalists). However, it was not until the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22nd that the communists began to make calls for the people of Yugoslavia to take up arms against the occupiers. Five days later, the Communist Party leadership, still in hiding in Belgrade, appointed Josip Broz Tito as commander of their communist Partisan resistance army. A week later on July 4th, 1941, the Tito and the Communist Party leadership made the definitive proclamation for all-out armed uprising from a secret location in Belgrade's Dedinje neighborhood. As a result, this led to many people in Belgrade waging attacks against German troops and local collaborating police forces through 1941. Consequently, the German troops began conducting reprisal arrests and attacks against the local population of Belgrade. For those resistance fighters who were caught, German commanders would often stage grisly public executions as a means of trying to sufficiently scare the public from resisting occupation (Photo 2). Many were also sent to concentration camps set up around Belgrade, such as the Sajmište camp along the Sava River, as well as the Banjica camp at the military school in Dedinje (among others) [see this page for more info]. Resisting Serbs, and especially civilian Jews, were heavily targeted for arrest and reprisal attacks by the German occupiers, with many thousands perishing in the process.

Not only were Jews targeted in reprisal attacks, but the Nazi occupiers made overt efforts to eliminate all Jews from Belgrade (as well as all of Serbia). The majority of Belgrade's Jewish community lived in the Dorćol neighborhood, numbering about roughly 12,000 at the time just before the start of WWII. However, by the end of WWII, roughly 80% of Belgrade's Jews had either been executed, deported to camps or fled the city. Not only were Jews specifically targeted for removal in Belgrade, but their synagogues were also targeted for destruction. For example, the famous Sephardic synagogue, unveiled 1905 and built in a unique Moorish-revival style of architecture, was completely destroyed in 1941. Belgrade holds the infamous distinction of being the first major European city during WWII that the Nazis declared "Judenfrei" or "free of Jews".

Photo 3: Red Army tanks entering Belgrade, 1944

Despite the harsh treatment and fierce retaliatory actions that the people of Belgrade endured during Axis occupation, there were still considerable efforts put forward by the people to stand up against oppression. Not only did people join Partisan resistance efforts as fighters, but many in Belgrade also contributed towards funding the movement, sourcing supplies, operated illegal radio stations, as well as an illegal printing press that printed Partisan newspapers and political pamphlets. In fact, the main Communist Party printing press in Belgrade operated almost right up until the end of the war in 1944. Also in 1944 was the start of Allied bombing campaigns against Belgrade which were intended to take out strategic German military positions. However, through the process of Allied bombings taking out several hundred Axis troops (which did weaken the hold on the city considerably), over 3,000 Belgrade civilians were killed as well. By the fall of 1944, German occupational forces were beginning to retreat from the city, which allowed Belgrade to be finally liberated from occupation on October 20th, 1944 when a joint offensive of Partisan fighters and Soviet Red Army troops marched into the city (Photo 3). Estimates set civilian death tolls for Belgrade during WWII well over 10,000 people, while many thousands of Belgrade also perished fighting through the course of the war.

Spomenik Construction

In the years following the end of WWII, the remaining Jews of Belgrade (who numbered roughly 1,000 at this point) still did not have a significant memorial site to honor the city's many Jewish Holocaust victims. As a result, in the early 1950s the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia organized a design competition for the creation of a monumental sculpture for them within the Belgrade's Sephardic Jewish cemetery. The competition was a 'closed' one, meaning that it was by invitation only, for which five young Belgrade architects were asked to submit proposals. After all the entries were evaluated, the commission to build the work was awarded to Belgrade architect Bogdan Bogdanović, with this being his first-ever undertaking of a monument project.

In a 1990s interview, Bogdanović explained that his surrealistic and avant-garde approach to design and architecture were incompatible with Yugoslavia's architecture school of thought in the early 1950s and, as a result, he felt that perhaps monumental architecture might be a more fitting way for him to express himself artistically, though he admitted: "I never dreamt of making memorials and I was not particularly thrilled. But then, a whole series of events began to reshape my destiny." In this last statement, Bogdanović is alluding to the fact that his creation of this Jewish cemetery monument would be the start of a life-long pursuit of creating monuments across the Yugoslav landscape, many of which would become to the most admired and beloved monuments in the entire country. The selection jury for the Sephardic Jewish cemetery monument commended Bogdanović's strong use of symbolism and his restraint in not employing over-wrought visuals, both of which would become traits characteristic of his work for decades to come. Furthermore, the jury also appreciated that Bogdanović omitted any overt Yugoslav political symbols (stars, hammers, etc) which were standard in most WWII monuments of the era.

Photo 4: Aerial layout sketch by Bogdanović

Photo 5: An early sketch of the Jewish cemetery monument by Bogdanović

In his preparations for building his Jewish cemetery monument, Bogdanović went to great lengths to learn as much as he could about Jewish culture, even going as far as studying Jewish symbolism and ancient traditions such as Kaballah. Then, as Bogdanović began to construct his memorial sculpture at the Jewish cemetery in 1951, he initially planned to construct the facade of his monument in bare concrete. However, the Jewish community objected and insisted that it be created in stone. However, the work being completed in stone exceeded the project's provided budget. As a result, he became resourceful and asked the city of Belgrade for permission to scavenge pieces of stone building rubble and debris leftover from the WWII destruction of the neighborhood of Dorćol (Belgrade's main Jewish settlement), most of which was pushed onto the banks of the Danube River. The city agreed and Bogdanović began to integrate these forgotten pieces of Belgrade's history into his memorial work.

In addition to using building rubble in the monument's construction, numerous sources relate that Bogdanović also used remnant pieces of shattered Jewish gravestones from the former Jewish cemetery that was in the Palilula neighborhood of Belgrade... which too was destroyed during WWII (Photo 6).

Bogdanović's monument was unveiled to the public during a large well-attended ceremony on September 4th, 1952. This spomenik complex is composed of three main elements: 1.) a linear stone-paved pathway flanked on both sides by a 1m tall stone block wall, 2.) two triangle-shaped symmetrical 10.5m tall stone walls perpendicularly situated on either side of the pathway (in a gateway type fashion), and 3.) a pedestal at the end of the pathway atop which sits a roughly 1m tall iron menorah sculpture (Photo 7). Meanwhile, attached to each face of the two walls are iron decorations. On the front left is a Star of David symbol, while on the front right is a Hebrew inscription. Then, looking at the rear side of the walls, on the left wall is a relief sculpture of two hands meant to depict the "Priestly Blessing", aka "Nesiat Kapayim", while on the right wall is a relief sculpture of a pitcher, which is a Hebrew symbol for their Levitical Priest Line. Beneath the monument is a mass tomb that holds the remains of 197 Jewish victims, which exists as a symbolic marker for the WWII suffering of all jews in Serbia. For his work on this monument, Bogdanović was awarded the October Award of the City of Belgrade.

Photo 6: A broken Jewish gravestone in the monument's pathway

Photo 7: A photo of the menorah sculpture at the Jewish cemetery monument

The Sephardic Jewish cemetery monument complex is unique for the time period in that it did not force itself upon the setting, but instead, the monument is built within and among the graves of the cemetery and along pre-existing pathways, thus giving the impression of it being a much more ancient structure than it actually is. In a 1990s interview, Bogdanović recounts how critics were not immediately accepting of this work and it would be another 8 years before he would make his next monument at Sremska Mitrovica. This is not entirely surprising, as the work was very avant-garde for its time. In fact, many consider this work to be the very first 'abstract' monument to be built in socialist Yugoslavia. The political schism between Yugoslav President Tito and the USSR's Stalin in 1948 (just four years before the unveiling of Bogdanović's Jewish cemetery monument) led to Yugoslavia spurning the previously embraced Soviet-style of memorial architecture called "Socialist Realism" monument construction. Thus, Bogdanović is often considered to be the first one to step outside of the hegemony of Soviet architectural thought to create a completely new form of monument. Bogdanović's bold pushing of the envelope into the realm of abstract and heavily symbolic memorial architecture was slow to catch on, but as it began to be embraced by sculptors and architects across the country in the beginning of the early 1960s it would come to completely dominate Yugoslav design aesthetics.

Finally, it is important to note that this was not the only monument created by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia which was unveiled in 1952. In fact, Bogdanović's Sephardic Jewish cemetery monument here in Belgrade was just one of a mass construction effort by the Federation to unveil Jewish WWII remembrance monuments across Yugoslavia that year. The additional sites unveiled in 1952 as part of this Jewish memorial network include the Monument to Jewish Victims at Zagreb's Mirogoj Cemetery (created by Antun Augustinčić), the Holocaust Monument in Sarajevo's Old Jewish Cemetery (created by Jahiel Finci), as well as a monument at Novi Sad and at Đakovo, Croatia. This was among the largest commemoration efforts of WWII's Jewish victims up until this point.

Present-Day

Since the end of the Yugoslav-era, Bogdanović's Sephardic Jewish cemetery monument has remained in relatively good condition. Over the last 30 years there have been a few minor instances of vandalism that have afflicted the site, but, on the whole, the monument complex has not sustained any major damage. Meanwhile, the local Jewish community puts forward significant effort to keep the complex well manicured and maintained. While this site is not widely known to tourists visiting Belgrade nor promoted by the city's tourism groups, the site does see small numbers of visitors coming to the cemetery specifically to visit this monument. This includes not only members of the Jewish community, but also foreign tourists, as a result of Bogdanović's architectural legacy gaining greater international attention in recent years. There are even future plans to integrate this Jewish cemetery monument into a cultural route planned around the WWII monuments of the former Yugoslavia. Furthermore, in 2018, the Belgrade government met with members of the city's Jewish community in order to discuss the idea about potential future expansion and restoration projects for the cemetery and the monuments within it.

Photo 8: Bogdan & Kesenija

Finally, there is one interesting addition made to the Jewish cemetery monument in recent times that is important to mention. When the monument's author, Bogdan Bogdanović's passed away in 2010, he was subsequently interred here at the Jewish cemetery at the base of the monument he created. Miroslav Greenwald, a leader in Belgrade's Jewish community, explains his burial at the cemetery in the following terms: "This place houses Bogdanovic's urn, which was transferred in 2011 from Vienna to here in Belgrade. His last wish, though he was not Jewish, was to have his remains buried here at the Sephardic Cemetery, which our community approved." A modest gravestone marker was installed near the foot of one of the monument's two large walls, with the stone bearing an engraving of his distinctive signature. When his wife Kesenija also passed away in 2017, she was interred alongside him.

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

Bogdanović's monument here at Belgrade's Sephardic Jewish cemetery contains several elements bearing inscriptions and engravings. Firstly, the most conspicuous example of an inscription is on the front of the set of 10m tall walls, on the right side (Slide 1). The inscription composed of a five Hebrew letters made of cast-iron attached to the stone wall. The letters are "ת.נ.צ.ב.״ה", which stand as an abbreviation for a famous line from the Old Testament in 1 Samuel 25:29. In English, this phrase would read as, "The soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life", as taken from the King James translation. Meanwhile, located at the base of the meeting point of the two stone walls are two engraved black stone panels, with one in Hebrew and the other in Serbian (Slides 2 & 3). They bear the same message, reaching rough in English as: "To the Jewish victims of fascism and the fallen fighters of the People’s Republic of Serbia, 1941-1945".

Slideshow

Interestingly, the plaque seen here in Slide 2 is the only object in this entire monument complex that bears any Yugoslav symbols, existing here as a small engraved Yugoslav star. Nearly all WWII monuments of this era contained numerous Yugoslav or communist symbols, however, at this site, the symbols used were nearly all Jewish in origin. However, in this plaque's inscription, the terms "victims of fascism" and "fallen fighters" are used, which are both explicitly inclusive Yugoslav remembrance phrases indicating the diversity and multicultural nature of WWII's victims in Yugoslavia. As a paper by academic researcher Alyssa Frances Ilich explains: "the Jewish community was allowed to explicitly recognize Jewish victims, but had to do so within the framework provided by the regime, which implicitly acknowledged that all groups had suffered in the fight against fascism, no group more so than any other."

Next, located along the rear side of the left-hand wall is an engraved white stone panel set within the structure which bears an inscription written in Serbian (Slides 4). The message on the panel roughly translates into English as:

"This monument was raised by the Jewish Community of Belgrade in 1952 with the help of the government of the People’s Republic of Serbia and the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia and through the contributions of its members and friends."

Also visible in Slide 4 is another panel near the ground. This panel operates as a grave marker for the monument's author, Bogdan Bogdanović, who was interred at this site upon his passing in 2010. Up until 2018, the marker was as it appeared in this photo, with Bogdanović's name inscribed in the fashion of his personal signature, which was a very distinctive unique script (Slide 5). However, upon the passing of Bogdanović's wife Kesenija in 2017, she was also interred at this site along with her husband and a new grave marker was added which was in a more conventional style (Slide 6).

Finally, just beside the monument is one last engraved white stone panel set into a stone grave bearing an inscription written in Serbia (Slide 7). The message on this stone reads roughly in English as:

"Here are buried the bones of 197 Jewish victims of fascism that were found and gathered at this cemetery, they are a symbol of all our victims in the area of the People’s Republic of Serbia, where there are over thirty thousand who were buried in mass graves and whose locations remain unknown"

Symbolism:

Bogdanović's monument here at Belgrade's Sephardic Jewish cemetery is a work that is heavily laden with symbolism. Firstly, the most obvious symbolic elements to evaluate at this site are the most overt ones, which are the various traditional Jewish symbols installed within and around the monument. The most visible one is the menorah sculpture at the center of the complex. The menorah is unquestionably one of the two most recognizable symbols for Judaism, with sources relating that it represents the "ideal of universal enlightenment". The second most recognizable Judaic symbol is the Star of David, which a depiction of is also found on the front wall of the monument.

On the backside of the monument can be found large representations of much lesser-known Jewish symbols. The first of these symbols is the outline of a pair of open hands with the four fingers spread apart in pairs of two, which is called the "Priestly Blessing", aka "Nesiat Kapayim" (Photo 9). This ancient hand symbol, which forms a likeness of the Hebrew letter "ש" or "shin", the sign for "Shaddai" (God Almighty), represents the blessings of God being transferred by a Levitical priest (or "Cohen") to a person via the laying of hands in this fashion. The final symbol, also being Levitical in origin, is the Levite Pitcher (Photo 10). This symbol refers to the traditional duties during Biblical times of the Levitical priests of the Levites (one of the original 12 tribes of Israel), whose job it was to clean the hands of the Temple priest before religious services began. This symbol has been used on the graves of Levite descendants for hundreds of years. These two symbols interestingly center around the idea of hands and blessings, no doubt an attempt by Bogdanović to communicate that the Jewish victims within this communal grave would be sanctified on their journey to heaven. Interestingly, this monument, the very first in a long series of monuments Bogdanović would create over several decades, would be the only one to ever contain any overt religious symbolism.

Photo 9: The Priestly Hands

Photo 10: The Levite Pitcher

The next element to explore the symbolism of is the two large 10m tall triangle stone walls. For these, their symbolic context can be interpreted in many different ways, with academic sources postulating a myriad of ways which they might be understood, for example, as wings (be it angel wings, wings of victory, etc), as symbols for Belgrade's two Jewish communities (Sephardic and Ashkenazi), as medieval 'stećci' gravestones, as depictions of Greek columns in the form's negative space, as the two tablets upon which Moses wrote the 10 Commandments (an integral symbol in Jewish tradition), as the parting of the Red Sea (through which the Jews escaped to freedom), or as a sort of gateway or portal into the realm of eternity. It is this last idea of the walls being viewed as a gateway which Bogdanović himself dwells upon. In his 2001 book "Glib i krv", Bogdanović explains a conversation he had with a colleague during his design process for the work:

"Do you rememberthat alley of catalpa trees at the Sephardic cemetery, that confluence which creates a false perspective... from here I am going to create an anti-perspective over it." And to clarify what this nonsense means, I further explain: "There in the depths, in the depth of the depths, two pillars draw a sort of the gate that denotes the end of the road."

Photo 11: A depiction of the "anti-perspective" created by the monument

In his use of the term "anti-perspective", what Bogdanović means is that he intended to use the lines of the monument itself to create a "forced perspective" upon how the scene is interpreted by the viewer, in other words, a perspective counter to the natural perspective (Photo 11). So, instead of the vanishing-point of the scene being far in the distance (as it naturally would be), this new constructed false-vanishing-point resides at the foot of the menorah shrine. This is achieved not only through diagonal lines of the stone "gates" but also by the downward sloping shape of the two pathway walls, which creates the illusion of narrowing cooridor even though they are both parallel. In doing this, Bogdanović is further able to reinforce the feeling and atmosphere of the two walls as a terminal "gate" or "portal", which, as you pass through them, transports you to another realm to the foot of the menorah shine, as if itself was the conduit in which eternity could be reached.  As such, the whole scene plays out like a drama where Bogdanović subconsciously leads you through his work on a journey into the afterlife in such a way that mirrors that of the Jewish victims who are buried here.

In the numerous memorial works that Bogdanović would go on to create through the subsequent decades of the Yugoslav-era, this "anti-perspective" approach of using manufactured vanishing-points to lead the viewer through the scene is something he would use over and over again, with the Jewish cemetery monument here at Belgrade being the genesis of the idea. Also, in his 2001 book "Glib i krv", when Bogdanović remarks upon his discovery of the "anti-perspective" method, he states: "This is how out of one word my profession was born". However, it is important to note that Bogdanović did not overtly want viewers to interpret his monuments in any one specific way and he never himself clearly stated or prescribed his symbolic meaning for any of his work. He very much wanted them to be open to interpretation, where each viewer could understand the work in their own personal way... as academic writer Vladimir Vuković said on the subject: "the answers to the meaning of symbols must be sought in ourselves".

Status and Condition:

The Monument to the Jewish Victims of Fascism and Fallen Fighters at the Sephardic Jewish cemetery in Belgrade presently exists in a good condition. The grounds around this spomenik complex are well maintained, free of trash, while all grass and vegetation at the site are kept in a well-maintained state. Furthermore, there are no signs of graffiti or other sorts of vandalism present on or around the monument. While the monument is in good condition, the complex contains no informational or educational placards or signs which might communicate the history or heritage of this site to visitors or tourists. In addition, there are also no signs or directional markers which point visitors to this site from the main road or that promote the monument as an attraction or point of interest. While I was not able to find any official promotion of this monument (or the Jewish cemetery itself) in any official Belgrade tourism publications, the site is mentioned as a historical site on the English language website for the Belgrade Jewish Community. In addition, the Jewish victims monument is listed as an attraction in the "Hidden Belgrade" series put out by the local Belgrade online cultural magazine "The Nutshell Times".

Photo 12: Belgrade gov't reps & Jewish leaders surveying the cemetery [source]

While the promotion of the monument is minimal, the monument here at the Jewish cemetery does see occasional tourists and visitors, in addition to the many from the local Jewish community who patronize the site. Increased tourist visitation is most likely the result of the fact that architectural and monument-building legacy of Bogdan Bogdanović has been steadily increasing in recent years, especially after his work was featured at the 2018 MoMA exhibition on Yugoslav architecture in New York City. Meanwhile, the local Jewish community continues to host regular commemorative events and ceremonies at this site. In 2018, representatives from the City of Belgrade and the local Jewish community (Photo 12) announced that plans were being put into motion to expand and rehabilitate the Jewish cemetery, which will include work on Bogdanović's monument.

Additional Sites in the Belgrade Area:

This section explores additional Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites in and around the area of Belgrade that might be of interest to those studying the monumental, sculptural or architectural heritage of the former Yugoslavia. The sites examined here will be the Flaming Menorah on the Danube waterfront at Dorćol, the Kladovo Transport monument at the Jewish cemetery, as well as the Cemetery of the Liberators of Belgrade, just next to the Jewish cemetery.

The Menorah in Flames Monument:

Located on the banks of the Danube River in Belgrade's Dorćol neighborhood is the 'Menorah in Flames' Monument (Menora u plamenu) (Photo 13). Unveiled in 1990 and created by Yugoslav sculptor Nandor Glid, this bronze memorial work is composed of a roughly 4-5m tall menorah shape made out of flame-like tendrils, with human arms and heads protruding from the sculpture. At the base of the monument is a mental plaque which contains an inscription in three languages, Serbian, English and Hebrew, with the inscription reading as: "To Jewish victims of Nazi genocide in Belgrade and Serbia, 1941-1944. People of Serbia, City of Belgrade, Municipality of Stari Grad & the Jewish Community." In terms of the toll the Holocaust took in Belgrade, there were roughly 12,000 Jews in the city before the war, and as few as 1,000 by its end. The Nazis were so confident about their elimination of the Jews in Belgrade that this was the first major European city which they declared to be "Judenfrei" or "free of Jews". This monument is dedicated to those lost lives.

Photo 13: The Flaming Menorah Monument

Interestingly, a near-identical version of Nandor Glid's Belgrade menorah sculpture was erected in Thessaloniki, Greece in 1997 just after Glid's passing, with the work being done by Nandor Glid's two artist sons Gabriel and Daniel. Glid himself was a Holocaust survivor (while much of his family was not), so a large part of his life was spent creating Holocaust memorials across Europe. The exact coordinates for the "Menorah in Flames" Monument in Belgrade are N44°49'49.6", E20°27'26.7".

The Liberators of Belgrade Cemetery:

Located directly next to the Sephardic Jewish Cemetery is the Cemetery to the 1944 Liberators of Belgrade, which honors and contains the mortal remains of Yugoslav Partisans and Soviet Red Army soldiers who fought and fell together while liberating Belgrade from German occupation in October of 1944. This memorial cemetery complex which is dedicated to those fallen fighters was unveiled on the 10th anniversary of Belgrade's liberation on October 20th, 1954 and was among the first large-scale memorial works in Belgrade after WWII. The first element of the cemetery is its wide stone gate entrance, which was the work of architect Branko Bon. Meanwhile, the white stone sculptural reliefs flanking either side of this gate were created by sculptor Rade Stanković. These reliefs depict both Partisan and Red Army troops fighting for the liberation of Belgrade. Meanwhile, the long narrow cemetery complex, with its beautiful tree-lined pathways and gardens, was laid out by landscape architect Aleksandar Kostić.

Photo 14: Cemetery to the Liberators of Belgrade [source]

Finally, in the very northern-most part of the cemetery is the centerpiece of the complex, a white stone sculpture of a Red Army soldier created by famous Croatian sculptor Antun Augustinčić. On the main stone entrance gate to the cemetery (which has a large banner text on its front reading "The Liberation of Belgrade, 1944") (Photo 14), there are also two sets of raised letter inscriptions in Serbian on its rear side. These two inscriptions roughly read, when translated into English, as:

[Southwest Wall]: For the liberation of Belgrade from fascist occupation, 2,953 fighters of the People's Liberation Army of Yugoslavia and 976 Red Army fighters gave their lives. In this cemetery were buried 1,395 fighters of the People's Liberation Army of Yugoslavia and 818 Red Amy fighters.

[Northeast Wall]: During the liberation of Belgrade in October of 1944, the participants were the 1st Proletariat [Brigade], the 6th Proletariat Lika [Division], the 21st & 23rd Serbian Impact [Divisions], the 5th & 11th Krajina [Divisions], the 16th & 36th Vojvodina [Divisions], and the 28th Slavonia Division of the People's Liberation Army and citizens of Belgrade. They were reinforced by the 4th Guard Mechanized Corps, the 73rd & 109th Shooting Guard, the 19th, 74th, 233rd & 236th Shooting Divisions, units & formations of the 17th Air Army, and the Danube War Flotilla of the Red Army.

Meanwhile, scattered around the cemetery park are numerous engraved stones recognizing individual fighters and groups who distinguished themselves in bravery during Belgrade's liberation. The final element to be installed at this Liberator Cemetery is a large 3m tall white stone sculpture titled "The Partisan on Eternal Watch", which can be seen in Photo 14. This work was unveiled in 1988 and created by sculptor Rade Stanković. The cemetery complex is in good shape and continues to host regular commemorative events, notable on October 20th (Belgrade Liberation Day) and May 9th (Victory Against Fascism Day). The exact coordinates for the cemetery's entrance are N44°48'38.5", E20°29'07.7".

Memorial to the Kladovo Transport:

On the northeast edge of the Sephardic Jewish cemetery is a memorial space dedicated to the many hundreds of Jews from the Kladovo Transport who perished in Serbia during WWII (Photo 15). The Kladovo Transport was a group of roughly 1,200 mostly Austrian Jews who had disembarked from Vienna on a ship attempting to navigate down the Danube River to the Black Sea and onwards to Israel. However, because of river ice and Romanian officials denying their passage, the transport was forced to disembark at Kladovo, Serbia, where they lived for several months. In 1941, the group was relocated by Serbian authorities to an internment camp at Šabac, Serbia. In October of 1941, the men of the Kladovo Transport were executed at the camp by Nazi troops as part of reprisals for Partisan attacks. In January of 1942, the remaining women and children of the transport were forced to march through the snow to Sajmište Concentration Camp in Belgrade. Sources report that those who did not die along the way were later killed at the camp in gas vans.

Photo 15: Memorial to the Kladovo Transport

A memorial to the victims of the Kladovo Transport was established at the Sephardic Jewish Cemetery in 1959 and created by Anri Meshulam. The central element of the monument is a grey stone wall adorned with a menorah sculpture and well as an inscription written in Hebrew, Serbian and German. The inscription roughly translates into English as: "Here rest eight hundred Jews from Austria who were murdered on the way to the Holy Land by Nazis in Šabac on October 25, 1941. Never forget!" The memorial is in good shape and commemorative events continue to be held here. The exact coordinates for this site are N44°48'42.1", E20°29'09.8".

 

And Additional Sites of Interest:

  • The Alley of the Executed Patriots: Just across the street from the Sephardic Jewish cemetery is Belgrade's largest graveyard site called the "New Cemetery" (Novo Groblje). Within this cemetery is a section named the "Alley of the Executed Patriots" is a memorial work that is built on the site where many WWII victims of fascist mass killings of both civilians and Partisan fighters were all buried in Nov. of 1944. This work, which was created in 1959 by the architect team of Svetislav Ličina & Bogdan Bogdanović, consists of several memorial elements. The central element is a 3-4m tall burial mound topped with a 1m tall flower-like metal abstract sculpture (a prelude to the monument Bogdanović would later make at Jasenovac). Just north of the mound are a set of five metal pillars that are meant to represent the lamp posts that five civilians were hanged from on August 17th, 1941 at the Terazije neighborhood of Belgrade. These were originally made of the 1941 lamp posts, however, they were stolen in 2004 and these are replacements. Meanwhile, around the space are hundreds of square stone markers bearing the names of victims whose remains are interred here. On three sides of the complex are distinctive concrete gateways, standing as a unique synthesis of both Bogdanović's & Ličina's architectural styles. The exact coordinates for this site are N44°48'28.6", E20°29'14.4".

Photo 16: Gate into the Alley of Executed Patriots

Photo 17: Image of the Monument to Hanged Patriots

  • The Monument to Hanged Patriots: In the Belgrade neighborhood of Terazije, just in front of Igman's Palace, is a memorial work (Photo 17) dedicated to the five innocent civilians who were executed at this spot by German Gestapo troops on August 17th, 1941. These five victims were killed by having their necks strung up from atop lamp posts along the street and left to hang to death, at which point they were displayed in this fashion for several days as warnings to the public. An image of this grisly scene can be seen in Photo 2. In 1983, a monument was unveiled in Terazija near the execution site which was created by sculptor Nikola Janković. The monument is composed of a bronze pillar, roughly 5m tall, around which are images depicted in relief of the victims who were killed here. There is also an engraved inscription on the monument by Serbian poet Vasko Popa which roughly translates into English as "Tell the land thieves not to plant the seed of death underneath this star of ours, for they shall be eaten by them. -V. Popa". While the monument has suffered issues from vandalism over the years, it presently sits in good condition. Its exact coordinates are N44°48'44.5", E20°27'41.9".

Directions:

The Monument to the Jewish Victims of Fascism and Fallen Fighters is located at the Sephardic Jewish cemetery, which itself is located along Mije Kovačevića just across from Belgrade's large New Cemetery complex. The gate into the Sephardic Jewish cemetery is open to the public during normal business hours during the day every day except Saturday. The cemetery is closed every Saturday. Parking can be made in front of the Belgrade Liberators cemetery (with the coordinates for this location being N44°48'38.0", E20°29'08.3"), but if these spaces are full, then general street parking is available around the area.

Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Slideshow

Selected Sources and More Information:

-Serbian Wiki article: "Београд у Народноослободилачкој борби"

-English Wiki article: "Invasion of Yugoslavia"

-Historical Archives of Belgrade: "Еxhibition Jews in Belgrade-Life and Holocaust"

-Information Portal on European Sites of Remembrance: "Memorial to the Victims of Nazism at the Jewish Cemetery of Belgrade"

-Andrew Lawler paper: "The Memorial works of Bogdan Bogdanović: Their condition and situation as of 2012."

-Barbara Panić paper: "SPOMENIČKO – MEMORIJALNI KOMPLEKS JEVREJSKOG GROBLJA U BEOGRADU" [PDF]

-Vladana Putnik Prica paper: "From Socialist Realism to Socialist Aestheticism: Three Contrasting Examples of State Architects in Yugoslavia " [PDF]

-SAJ article: "Interview with Bogdan Bogdanović" [PDF]

-Makabijada article: "PREMINUO BOGDAN BOGDANOVIC"

-Makabijada article: "Bogdan Bogdanović: Iz intervjua koji je vodila Ida Labudović"

-You Tube video: "JEVREJSKA GROBLJA U BEOGRADU"

-Alyssa Frances Ilich paper: "A Hushed Whisper and a Resounding Silence: A Comparative Study of Holocaust Memorialization in Serbia and Croatia" [PDF]

-Vladimir Vuković paper: "Architektura sećanja - Memorijali Bogdana Bogdanovića" [PDF]

-Ivan Ristić article: "BOGDAN BOGDANOVIĆ – The practice of architecture under changing political regimes in Yugoslavia"

-Serbian Wiki article: "Јеврејска гробља у Београду"

-Politika article: "Споменик историје и кул­туре под отвореним небом"

-Friedrich Achleitner book: "A Flower for the Dead: the Memorials of Bogdan Bogdanović"

-Information Portal on European Sites of Remembrance: "»Menorah in Flames« Holocaust Memorial"

-Serbian Wiki article: "Гробље ослободилаца Београда 1944."

-Serbian Wiki article: "Aleja streljanih rodoljuba 1941—1944. na Novom groblju u Beogradu"

-Serbian Wiki article: "Споменик обешенима на Теразијама"

Comments:

Please feel free to leave a message if you have any comments, if you have any questions, if you have corrections or if you have any additional information or insight you feel might be appropriate or pertinent to this spomenik's profile page.

© Spomenik Database - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Connect to Us