Jews in Croatia
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|Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Sephardi Jews, Serbian Jews|
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The Jewish community of Croatia dates back to at least the 3rd century AD, although little is known of the community until the 10th and 15th centuries. The community, over 20,000 strong on the eve of World War II, was almost entirely destroyed in The Holocaust. After the World War II half of the survivors choose to settle in Israel while some 2,500 live today in Croatia. That number is an estimate and it is believed that the number of Croatian Jews is larger because more than 80 percent of the 1,500 members of Zagreb's Jewish community were either born in mixed marriages or are married to a non-Jew. Many grandchildren of Holocaust survivors have just one Jewish grandparent.
- 1 History of the community
- 2 Today
- 3 Regional communities
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
- 7 External links
History of the community
Jews led by Kerri first arrived in what is now northern Croatia in the first centuries of the Common Era, when Roman law allowed free movement throughout the Roman Empire. The Jews arrived as traders and merchants. Archaeological excavations in Osijek show a synagogue dating from the 3rd century AD, and while there are occasional references to Jews, little is known of the Jewish communities of Croatia until the 13th century. The archaeological excavation in Solin (Salona, Roman capital of Dalmatia) show a Jewish graves from the 3rd century and the artefacts are stored in the Archaeological museum in Split. So we know that the emergence of the community in Split is from the Roman times - 3rd century. The Jews came to the Diocletian's palace after Salona was overrun by the Avars in 7th century, and they are still there. Split synagogue was built in the 16th Century into the western wall of Diocletian's palace.
Early Middle Ages
One of the oldest written source, which could indicate the presence of the Jews on Croatian territory, comes from the letter of the vizier Hasdai ibn Shaprut, which was sent to the King Joseph of the Khazars. This letter from the 10th century refers to the "King of the Gebalims - Slavs", see the article Miholjanec, whose country borders the country of the Hungarians. The King sent a delegation, which included "Mar (Aramaic: Lord) Shaul and Mar Joseph", to the Caliph Abd-ar-Rahman III of Córdoba. Delegates reported that mar Hisdai Amram came to the Khazar king's palace from the country where lived "Gebalims". In Hebrew "gebal" means in English "mountain". Hungarian sources reported, that a vineyard near Miholjanec was named "master of the mountain". Croatia is represented as a country of Gebalims also in a letter of Bishop Gauderich addressed to Anastasius as a co-author of the legend of Cherson in the 9th century. 
Late Middle Ages
This ended in 1456, when Jews, along with most non-Catholic Croats, were forced out. There followed 200 years where there are no records of Jews in Croatia. In those 200 years Jews from Croatia were usually on diplomatic missions to Bosnia on behalf of the Republic of Venice.
Arrival of the Spanish Refugees
The 15th century saw increasing persecution of Jews in areas of Spain retaken in the Reconquista. From 1492 onward, Jewish refugees fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions arrived in Ottoman territories, including the Balkan provinces of Macedonia and Bosnia. Some of these refugees found their way to Croatia, in particular to Split and Dubrovnik, on the Dalmatian coast.
In the 17th century, Jews were still not permitted to settle in northern Croatia. Jews traveled to Croatia as travelling merchants, mostly from neighboring Hungary. They were generally permitted to stay only a few days. In the early part of the century, the Sabor (parliament) confirmed its ban on permanent settlement when a Jewish family attempted to settle in Durdevac.
In 1753, although still officially banned, Jews were allowed to settle in Bjelovar, Koprivnica and Varaždin, by the military commander of the Varaždin region, General Beck. In order to streamline the treatment of Jews in Croatia, Count Franjo Patacic, by order of the Royal Office in Varaždin, wrote a comprehensive report advocating Jewish permanent residence in Croatia on the basis that "most of them are merchants, and trade makes towns flourish".
The prohibition against Jewish settlement in northern Croatia lasted until 1783, when effect was given to the 1782 Edict of Tolerance issued by the Habsburg Monarch Emperor Joseph II. Jews were allowed to settle in Croatia, but were not allowed to own land or engage in any trade protected by a guild, and were not allowed to work in agriculture. Despite these measures, Jews settled in Zagreb and Varaždin.
In 1840 the Sabor (parliament) voted to "gradually" allow full equality for the Jews, and over the next 33 years there was gradual progress.
|1843||Range of occupations open to Jews extended|
|1846||Possibility to buy freedom through payment of a "tolerance tax"|
|1859||Jews allowed to buy houses and land|
|1873||Full legal equality|
In 1867 a new Great Synagogue was inaugurated in Zagreb and Rabbi Dr. Hosea Jacobi became Chief Rabbi of Zagreb. In 1873, Ivan Mažuranić signed the decree allowing for the full legal equality of Jews and, as with other faiths, state funds were made available for community institutions.
By 1880, there were 13,488 Jews in Croatia, rising to 20,032 in 1900. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 21 Jewish communities in Croatia, the largest being in Zagreb (3,000 people) and Osijek (3,000 people). The Jewish community of Croatia became highly successful and integrated. By 1900, 54% of Zagreb Jews and 35% of all Croatian Jews spoke Croatian as their mother tongue. Despite their small numbers, Jews were disproportionately represented in industrial and wholesale business in Croatia, and in the timber and food industries. Several Jewish families were amongst Croatia's wealthiest families. Despite the apparent wealth, most Jews were middle class, and many second generation Croatian Jews were attracted to the fields of law and medicine.
World War I
World War I brought about the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and upheaval for the Jewish communities of the region. After the war, Croatia joined with Slovenia, Serbia (which included Vardar Macedonia and Montenegro), and Bosnia and Herzegovina to form the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Prior to World War II, the Croatian, and especially the Zagreb Jewish community, was the pre-eminent community of Yugoslavia. In 1940 there were about 11,000 Jews living in Zagreb: about 76% Ashkenaz, 5% Sephardi, 17% unaffiliated and the remainder being Religious.
On 25 March 1941, Prince Paul of Yugoslavia, an ethnic Serb, signed Yugoslavia's alliance with the Axis Powers under the Tripartite Pact. The decision was unpopular amongst the Serbian population, and massive demonstrations took place in the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade. Prince Paul was overthrown, and a new anti-German government under Peter II and Dušan Simović took power. The new government withdrew its support for the Axis, but did not repudiate the Tripartite Pact. Nevertheless, Axis forces, led by Nazi Germans, invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941.
The Nazi invasion was the doom of Croatian Jewry. Under the Germans, Croatian ultra-nationalists, the Croatian Ustaše movement came to power. Croatian fascists established a state called the Independent State of Croatia. The Ustaše were notoriously anti-Semitic, and wasted little time in instituting anti-Jewish legislation and persecuting the Jews under their control. Indeed, the then NDH Croatian Interior Minister Andrija Artuković, a member of the Ustaše, said "The Government of NDH Croatia shall solve the Jewish question in the same way as the German Government did".
The Ustaše set up concentration camps at Kerestinec prison, Jadovno, Metajna and Slana. The most notorious, were heinous crimes and cruel torture perpetrated against Jewish and Serbian prisoners, were at Pag and Jasenovac. At Jasenovac alone, 20,000 Jews were murdered.
Only 5,000 Croatian Jews survived the war, most as soldiers in Tito's National Liberation Army (Yugoslav Partisans) or as exiles in the Italian-occupied zone. After Italy capitulated to the Axis Powers, the surviving Jews lived in free Partisan territory.
When Yugoslavia was liberated in 1945, Croatia became part of the new Yugoslav federation, which eventually became the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
After 1945, atheism became the official policy of Yugoslavia and Croatia, and because of this there were no rabbis in Croatia until the mid-1990s. Most Croatian Jews identified as Yugoslavs, or as Serbs or Croats. After the founding of Israel, about half of the survivors renounced their Yugoslav citizenship as a prerequisite for leaving the country and acquiring the Israeli citizenship. Those who opted for Israel signed a document by which they left all property, land, and other unmovable property to Yugoslavia.
The post-war Jewish community of Croatia became highly assimilated, with 80% of Zagreb's 1,500 Jews either born into mixed marriages, or married to a non-Jew. In 1991, there were approximately 2,000 Jews in Croatia.
The Jewish community in Croatia is organized into ten Jewish "municipalities" (Croatian: Židovska općina) in the cities of Čakovec, Daruvar, Dubrovnik, Koprivnica, Osijek, Rijeka, Slavonski Brod, Split, Virovitica, Zagreb. Since 2005, Zagreb also has a separate Jewish organization named "Bet Israel", formed by a splinter group in the original organization led by Ivo Goldstein and others. A minor Chabad organization is also registered in Zagreb.
Jews are officially recognized as an autochthonous national minority, and as such, they elect a special representative to the Croatian Parliament, shared with members of eleven other national minorities.
The Jewish communities of the Croatian coast of Dalmatia date back to the 14th century AD. A letter from 1326 refers to a Jewish doctor in Dubrovnik. The community remained small throughout the years (100-330 members), although the community distinguished itself in trade and medicine. The community was augmented from 1421 by refugees fleeing increasing persecution in Spain, and then from 1492 as Jews fled the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions. The Jewish synagogue in Split is more than 500 years old and is the third oldest active synagogue in Europe. Except for a brief period during WW2 the synagogue has been in continuous use since it was established. Although there is no rabbi in Split, the 100 member strong community conducts regular Friday evening shabat services and a kosher meal is prepared and served to all who come. The synagogue is open every day from 9 til around 2 pm for tours. Although the interior of the synagogue was restored in 1996 the interior is from the 18th and 19thC.
Anti-Semitism, based on the attitudes of the Catholic Church and on Venetian law (which applied at the time), was a constant issue for the community, which lived in ghettos in Dubrovnik and Split. When Dalmatia was occupied by Napoleonic forces, the Jews attained legal equality for the first time. In 1814, when the Austrian Empire annexed Dalmatia, legal equality was again withdrawn. Jews were granted legal equality under Croatian law in the mid 19th century.
- American Jewish Year Book. "The Jewish Population of the World (2010)". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
- European Jewish Congress -Croatia
- Croatia's census forces Jews to confront identity crisis
- Excerpts from Jews in Yugoslavia - Part III
- Synagogues Without Jews - Serbia and Croatia
- Excerpts from Jews in Yugoslavia - Part III (Osijek)
- Jewish Travellers, Volume 12 of Broadway travellers, Elkan Nathan Adler, Routledge, 2004. ISBN 978-0-415-34466-1
- Ivanko Vlašićek iz 1923.
- The Spirit of the English magazines, str. 398, Monroe and Francis, 1826.
- Jewish Virtual Library (Croatia)
- Jadranska Hrvatska u povijesti staroga europskog bankarstva, Ivan Pederin, Književni krug, 1996.
- Jewish Encyclopedia - Croatia
- Stephen A. Hart. "Partisans: War in the Balkans 1941 - 1945". BBC. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
- Jews of Yugoslavia 1941–1945 Victims of Genocide and Freedom Fighters, Jasa Romano
- Jews of Yugoslavia 1941–1945 Victims of Genocide and Freedom Fighters, Jasa Romano, p7
- Jewish Virtual Library - Croatia
- Time to confront Croatia’s hidden Holocaust, Jerusalem Post
- Excerpts from Jews in Yugoslavia - Part III
- Croatia's census forces Jews to confront identity crisis, Vlasta Kovac
- Population by Religion, by Towns/Municipalities, Census 2001
- "Pravo pripadnika nacionalnih manjina u Republici Hrvatskoj na zastupljenost u Hrvatskom saboru". Zakon o izborima zastupnika u Hrvatski sabor (in Croatian). Croatian Parliament. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
- Excerpts from Jews in Yugoslavia - Part I
- "Excerpts from Jews in Yugoslavia - Part III", Centropa Reports 
- "The Virtual Jewish History Tour - Croatia", Stephanie Persin, Jewish Virtual Library 
- Yahil, Leni (1987). The Holocaust: the Fate of European Jewry, 1932-1945. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Judaism in Croatia.|
- Jewish Community of Osijek
- Jewish Community of Zagreb
- Jewish Community Bet Israel of Croatia
- Croatian Jewish Network - Chronology (Croatian)
- PDF (470 KB)
- PDF (9.9 MB)
- Digital Preservation Project of Jewish Heritage in Osijek