16 March 2021 Time to read: 4 mins

“We forgive, but we do not forget”: Commemorating the 78th anniversary of the Day of Deportation of Macedonian Jews

11 March marks the day 7,144 Macedonian Jews were deported to the death camp Treblinka in 1943. In commemoration, numerous events and activities were held throughout the Republic of North Macedonia, including in Skopje, Bitola and Shtip on 10 and 11 March 2021.

Online commemorations for the victims and survivors of the Holocaust

The main commemorative online ceremony was organized jointly by the Jewish Community in North Macedonia and the Embassy of Italy in Skopje with addresses by the President of the Republic of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski, the President of the Jewish Community Berta Romano – Nikolik and the Italian Ambassador Andrea Silvestri.

President Pendarovski underlined that “The Holocaust is a logical consequence of the moral vacuum in which everything was allowed, including the devaluation of human life and its inherent dignity. This absolute evil must be condemned absolutely. We must not allow the truth about the Holocaust to be relativized and forgotten. It is our duty to remember so that it never happens again.”

The event included conversation with E. Merlo, director of the Italian documentary film “70072: la bambina che non sapeva odiara” and the main film protagonist Lidia Maksymowitz, a Holocaust survivor from Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Planting seedlings in commemoration

President Pendarovski, prior to this event, planted a Macedonian oak tree and inaugurated a memorial plaque with the message “We forgive, but we do not forget” in the Presidential Office garden. At the same time, on his behalf, and in cooperation with the Embassy of Israel, a tree was planted in Jerusalem, in the Peace Forest Amandav.

President Pendarovski emphasized that the seedlings are an expression of respect for the small but extremely important Jewish community in North Macedonia that for centuries has been a fruitful tree on Macedonian soil.

Joining in commemoration – both online and offline

Prime Minister of the Republic of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev posted via his Facebook account that the Holocaust was the largest crime in contemporary history and that remembrance would remain our eternal duty. He noted it served as a warning and a lesson that calls upon us to prevent all forms of evil and danger that may be a threat to our common future and to the building of an equal society for all.

Government delegations led by the Minister of Justice Bojan Maricic and the Minister of Culture Irena Stefoska, representatives of the Assembly, of the Cabinet of the President of the Republic and the local authorities laid flowers and wreaths in front of the Monument of the deported Macedonian Jews in the former “Monopol” tobacco factory, at the Skopje and Shtip Jewish Cemeteries.

In memory of the Bitola Holocaust Jews victims, city Mayor Natasha Petrovska addressed the commemorative event held in front of the Holocaust memorial where a tree was planted and flowers placed. Israeli Ambassador to North Macedonia Dan Oryan joined the event with an online address. The NGO ARHAN also planted trees in nine kindergartens as part of the international action “Plant a tree for each of our citizens who perished in the Holocaust fires.”

The commemorative events also included the promotion of two books: the trilingual (Macedonian, Albanian and English) “The Basic Antisemitic Legislation of the Kingdom of Bulgaria” in Skopje and “The last album, guardian of the memories of the Bitola Jewish religious municipality,” as well as the opening of the exhibition “Testimonies of Bitola Jews in the photography work of the Brothers Manaki” in Bitola.

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