80 years ago, in March 1943, 7,144 Macedonian Jews were deported to the Treblinka death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. 98 percent of Macedonian Jews would be murdered – only 200 would survive the war. This month, in honor of the victims and survivors of this deportation, the authorities of the Republic of North Macedonia, the Jewish community in the country, and the Holocaust Fund, hosted commemoration events on 9, 10, and 12 March in Bitola, Shtip, and Skopje.
Under the auspices of the Minister of Culture, solemn events were held in honor of the Macedonian Jews in Bitola and Shtip.
In Shtip, a book about the Jews of Shtip was promoted in the presence of Rashela (Shela), the only surviving Jewish girl from the city, who now lives in Israel. Her life story has a special place in the book.
Rashela joined the commemoration events in Shtip and Skopje alongside her nephews. A documentary about her life and what she had suffering was screened at the Macedonian Opera and Ballet.
In Skopje, on 12 March, a march of the living began in the early hours of the morning from the old railway station – today’s Museum of the City of Skopje – to Monopol – the former name of the tobacco factory from which Macedonian Jews were deported after having being forced from their homes.
The march was led by the President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, with participation of high governmental officials, members of the diplomatic corps, former politicians, leaders of parties, parliamentarians, intellectuals, representatives of the World Jewish Congress and the European Jewish Congress, members of the Jewish community, and other citizens.
In front of the monument to the deported Jews President Pendarovski held a solemn speech underlining that we live in a critical time when the number of surviving witnesses of the Holocaust is decreasing, and antisemitism is increasing. He reminded all of our moral obligation to remember and not to forget, so that we never allow, he said, the forces of evil to get a chance to repeat the crime.
The Memorial Center of the Holocaust of the Macedonian Jews, in cooperation with the Institute of National History, opened an exhibition to visitors entitled “Macedonia Remembers – Never Again!”, using materials from the state archive.
In the evening, at the Macedonian Opera and Ballet, a commemorative concert was held under the auspices of the Prime Minister of the country, Dimitar Kovacevski. He emphasized: “To ensure a safe future for the generation after ours, we must all show today that we have learned lessons from the past. And we will do that only if we stand resolutely against extreme nationalist and populist ideologies, which lead to fanaticism. Indifference to extremism is complicity and is unacceptable. These truths, in particular, must not be subject to revisionism. That is a recipe for the repetition of terrible tragedies like the Holocaust.”
At the commemorative events of the 80th anniversary of the deportation of the Macedonian Jews, we were honored by the presence of representatives of the Knesset from Israel, the non-resident ambassador of Israel to North Macedonia, as well as by representatives of the World Jewish Congress and the European Jewish Congress.