Serbia

1 Recognition of the Genocide

1.1 Recognition, official texts

In 2007, the date of 16th December was designated as a day of Commemoration of the Roma and Sinti genocide.

Serbia also observes 27th January as a Memorial Day dedicated to Holocaust victims. The day was chosen to coincide with the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. The Government of the Republic of Serbia proclaimed the Memorial Day, which has been observed since 2006.

1.2 Data (camps locations, Remembrance places, measures etc.)

Staro sajmište concentration camp - Judenlager Semlin
On 31st May 1941, a decree regarding Jews and Gypsies is issued. It defined who was to be regarded a Jew or a Gypsy. The decree excluded Jews and Gypsies from public life and economic activities. Their property is effectively confiscated, they were made to have their names entered in special registers (Judenregister and Zigeunerlisten) and were subjected to forced labour. Moreover, the decree imposed mandatory wearing of yellow armbands for Jews and Roma, forbade them to work in public institutions and in the professions of law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine  or pharmacy. They were also forbidden to go to cinemas, theatres, places of entertainment, public bathrooms, sports grounds and open-air markets.
From July to the beginning of December 1941, the German Wehrmacht starts carrying out mass executions of Jewish and Roma men mostly interned in the Topovske šupe camp in Autokomanda. They were hostages destined for a firing squad, to be killed in reprisal for the uprising in Serbia. The remaining members of their families, women, children and the elderly were interned in the Sajmište concentration camp that was called Judenlager Semlin (Jewish Camp Zemun) at the time.
On 8th December 1941, the camp on the Belgrade Fair Grounds is established. It was run by the Gestapo in Serbia and under the command of SS officers. After executing their men, the first Jewish and Roma families, mainly women, children and the elderly were taken to Jewish Camp in Zemun. A total of 6 400 Jewish and around 600 Roma women were interned.
From January until late March 1941, the majority of Roma were released from the camp. The follow-up instruction to the Decree on Jews and Roma specified that that measure applied only to Roma without a permanent residence. After submitting a proof of permanent residence, interned Roma families were allowed to apply for release from the camp. Jewish nurse Matilda, who was appointed guardian of the Roma camp, organised the drawing up of applications and submitted them to the command of the camp. The fate of the group who could not produce a proof of permanent residence has not been fully investigated.

Crveni Krst Concentration Camp
The concentration camp located in the district of Crveni Krst (Red Cross) is one of the few fully preserved fascist camps in Europe. Even today, it provides authentic testimony to the perils of the Serbian, Romani, and Jewish population, communists, numerous supporters of the liberation movement and partisans, who were incarcerated here during the German occupation of Serbia (1941-1945). It is not known exactly how many people passed through the Crveni Krst concentration camp in Niš. It is estimated that about 30 000 prisoners were held at the camp between 1941 and 1944. Approximately 237 of the Roma held at Crveni Krst died there. Up to 2 000 prisoners were shot on the Bubanj hill, some records even state 10 000 or 12 000 victims. There was a massive escape of prisoners on 12th February 1942; out of 147 inmates who attempted to flee, 105 managed to escape whilst 82 died along the way. In reaction to the break-out, SS and police units carried out mass shootings of prisoners on the nearby Bubanj hill in February 1942. That month alone some 850 prisoners were shot, amongst them all male Jewish prisoners and many Roma. On 12th February 1967, the twenty five anniversary of the prisoner escape, the camp was turned into the “12th February” memorial museum.

Memorial Park "Kragujevački Oktobar"
The commanding general in Serbia, Franz Böhme, issued an order on 10th October 1941, by which civilians were to be »punished« for attacks on German soldiers. From then on, one hundred civilians were shot for every killed German; every injured soldier prompted the killing of fifty civilians. In mid-October 1941, partisan units attacked a German battalion near Kragujevac, killing ten soldiers, injuring 26 more. In order to meet Böhme's demands of 2 300 killed civilians, Wehrmacht soldiers began to arbitrarily arrest Serbian men. The soldiers also broke into schools and rounded up the pupils and teachers. About 3 000 of those arrested were held in the barracks courtyard. On the morning of 21st October 1941, the soldiers started shooting men and young boys on the city outskirts, stopping only once the number of victims reached 2 300. Wehrmacht soldiers shot about 2 000 residents of Kragujevac. Among the victims were many children and youths aged between 12 and 18. About 200 Roma, who happened to be in Kragujevac at the time of the shooting, were also killed.

The Novi Sad raid of 1942 was one of the largest mass crimes committed against civilians, including Jews, Serbs and Roma, on Serbian soil during World War II. Therefore, every year between 21st and 23rd January, an unofficial commemoration takes place at a monument dedicated to the victims of the Novi Sad raid.

On 22nd April Serbia commemorates “National Holocaust, Genocide and Victims of Fascism Remembrance Day” which was established under the Law on Founding the Genocide Victims Museum, passed by the national parliament in 1992.

Every year, the Government of the Republic of Serbia organises numerous commemorative ceremonies as well as educational, scientific and artistic public events to commemorate those killed in the Holocaust, in co-operation with the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Serbia and numerous educational, artistic and scientific institutions. Commemorations are held, in particular, at the locations of the World War II killing sites or concentration camps (Staro Sajmiste in Belgrade, Sabac, Nis). Observances traditionally include a wreath laying ceremony, an official address and artistic, scientific or educational programmes. The most senior government officials, including the President, Prime Minister and other ministers, attend the central State commemorative ceremony or other programmes on both 27th January and 22nd April.

1.3 Specialised institution, commission, research centre etc., dealing with this issue

According to the available information, there is no specialised institution, commission or research centre specifically dealing with the issue of the Genocide of the Roma.

National Council of the Roma National Minority
Vitomir Mihajlović, President
Masarikova 5/13, Beograd
Telefon :+381 11 3061603
Fax: +381 11 3061548
E-mail: info@romskinacionalnisavet.org.rs 

Specialised Library "Trifun Dimic"
8. Ulica No 10
21000 Novi Sad
Serbia
Tel: +381 (021) 661 6951

National Library of Serbia
Skerlićeva 1
11000 Belgrade, Serbia

1.4 Official initiatives (campaigns, actions, projects, commemoration days, museums)

In 2008, the Ministry of Education and Science sent a letter to schools throughout Serbia instructing them to devote to the Holocaust, anti-fascism and anti-Semitism the first school class on 27th January, 22nd April and 9th November (the anniversary of Kristallnacht).

In 2007, the date of 16th December was designated as a day of commemoration of the Roma and Sinti genocide. Ceremonies are held at the sites of World War II killings or concentration camps. The ceremony includes wreath laying, speeches and artistic or educational programmes. The events are organised by the Government, in co-operation with the National Council of the Roma National Minority and numerous educational, artistic and scientific institutions. Government representatives at the ministerial level participate in the commemoration. The media and other institutions publicise and promote 16th December as a day to remember Roma victims of the Holocaust.

Museum of Roma culture
ul. Husinskih rudara 31a
11000 Beograd, Srbija
Tel: +381 (0)69 22 80 075
E-mail: bgkrlo@hotmail.com
 

Roma Art Gallery
43 Ruzveltova Street
Belgrade
Tel: 381 11 63 280 075

“12 February” memorial museum
Bulevar 12. februar
Niš
Serbia
Tel: +381 18 588 889

Desankin venac b.b.
34000 Kragujevac
Serbia
Tel: +381 335 607, 336 110
2 Teaching about the Genocide of the Roma

2.1 Inclusion of the topic in the school curriculum

There are special units in the school curriculum devoted to the Holocaust and to Roma genocide issues.

2.2 Inclusion of the topic in the school textbooks

History of Roma is studied in primary schools in Serbia (from 5th to 8th grade), namely in Vojvodina, through the subject “Roma language and culture”. However, there is no textbook for this course, so knowledge and involvement of the teachers is very important.

2.3 Training of teachers and education professionals

Project “Days of Remembrance” - new tools and methodologies for the Holocaust education in Serbia and the Region. The project “Dani sećanja” ("Days of Remembrance") is developed through cooperation between partners from Serbia, The Netherlands and Sweden.

During 2014 and 2015, the expert team has been developing new educational tool based on five sets of "Memorial Day Lesson Plans" specifically produced for five particular memorial days in Serbia, one of them being a National Remembrance Day of the Roma Genocide in World War II. The "Memorial Days Lesson Plans" will consist of guides for teachers and librarians as well as manuals for workshops and additional materials for students of ages 12 to 14 and 15 to 16. All these resources will be available online in downloadable and printable formats. This cooperation between the Anne Frank House, National Library of Serbia, Terraforming and other Serbian experts will bring a new pedagogical format for libraries to contribute to the Holocaust education thus giving the original pedagogical content to the memorial day commemorations. Using the Holocaust as a starting point, this teaching method will also deal with issues such as tolerance, democracy and human rights.

2.4 Particular activities undertaken at the level of education institutions

All Serbian schools (primary and secondary alike) hold one class devoted to the Kristallnacht (9 November). Every teacher talks to her or his class about this historical event. Some teachers and students also prepare exhibitions dedicated to this event.

2.5 Remembrance day

On 16th December wreaths are laid at the memorial site in Topovske šume area in Belgrade to commemorate Roma victims.

3 Official contacts and resource persons

3.1 Responsible person in the Ministry of Education

According to the available information, there is no designated responsible person in the Ministry of Education.

Ministarstvo prosvete, nauke i tehnološkog razvoja Republike Srbije
Nemanjina 22-26
11000 Beograd
Serbia

3.2 Resource persons - list of experts and historians

Dragoljub Acković, PhD, Director of the Museum of Roma Culture in Belgrade, Serbia

Ljuan Koka, expert advisor, member of the National Council of Roma in Serbia, well known Roma  journalist, author and activist in the field of national and ethnic minorities’ rights

Sanja Petrović Todosijević, historian, researcher and author at the Institute for Recent History in Belgrade;

Milovan Pisarri, PhD,  historian, researcher and author, focusing on the Holocaust in Serbia and the genocide of the Roma during the WWII; author of the book “The Suffering of the Roma in Serbia during the Holocaust“, one of the most important substantial studies devoted to genocide against the Roma,  Co-founder of the Centre for Research and Holocaust Education in Belgrade;

Monja Milinković Jović, literature expert, editor at Eduka Publishing House, author and co-author of several textbooks for students of elementary schools

Aleksandar Todosijević, historian, history teacher at the primary school “Branko Radičević” in Batajnica, author of the history textbook and the exercise book for the fifth grade students of elementary schools, author and editor in chief of a history-teaching website "The History Classroom" (Učionica istorije) for primary school students

Nevena Bajalica, expert advisor, researcher and writer, Regional expert for Serbia at the International Department of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, member of Serbian delegation to the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance)

Miško Stanišić, pedagogue and new media expert, educational concept and teaching tools developer with focus on Holocaust education and use of new media in combating anti-Semitism, anti-Gypsyisim, discrimination and hate-speech, co-founder of the Terraforming network, member of the steering board at the Swedish Centre Against Racism

4 Initiatives of the civil society

4.1 Relevant projects having a real impact on the people and/or the wide public

All events, programmes and ceremonies receive significant media coverage, reflecting continued, major interest among the electronic and print media in Holocaust education, remembrance and research. Through the contribution of numerous articles, stories and special television and radio programmes, media provide an opportunity to the majority of people in the Republic of Serbia to recall the horrors of the Holocaust, as well as the suffering of Jews during World War II.

In April 2014, an exhibition "Forgotten Holocaust", dealing with the sufferings of the Roma in the Second World War when hundreds of thousands of Roma were killed by Nazi occupation forces and their local allies in Serbia, was opened at the Roma Art Gallery in Belgrade by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić.

5 Point of view of the Roma community - including survivors' testimonies

Remzedin Durmišević, Roma survivor, was born in 1923 in Niš, southern Serbia where his family lived in the Roma neighbourhood. His father worked in the railway workshop, his mother stayed at home raising the four children. When the German army occupied Serbia in 1941, most Roma men from Niš were taken to Crveni Krst concentration camp, where some of them were murdered, whilst others, including Remzedin, were made to work for the Germans. They had to wear yellow armbands identifying them as Roma. In 1942, Remzedin was deported to Germany for forced labour, together with his 14-year-old brother, and was made to work in a factory in Osnabrück, north-west Germany. He managed to escape in 1943 with a forged vacation pass and secretly returned to Niš where he found his mother and remaining brother and sister hiding in the ruins of the old Roma settlement. Remzedin joined the communist Partisans fighting against both German troops and the Serbian nationalist Četnik militias. He felt the Partisans did not discriminate against Roma and did not use the term ‘Gypsy’. See more