December 16, 2010 -  Šumarice for the Righteous

On December 16th, inst., the book “Righteous among the Nations – Serbia” was presented in the Memorial Museum “21st October” in Šumarice. The Šumarice Memorial Museum, an indisputable symbol of the calamity that befell the citizens of Serbia during World War Two, was host to book: co-authors, historians Dr Milan Ristović and Dr Milan Koljanin, the Jewish Communities in Serbia Federation president, Mr. Aleksandar Nećak and JC Zemun president, Mr. Nenad Fogel. Special guest at the promotion was drama actor Mr. Goran Sultanović. The book is dedicated to the citizens of Serbia, the unarmed heroes, who as the writer of life-stories Mr. Milan Fogel puts, under threat of death during World War Two, saved Jews, more often than not, completely unknown to them. To allow better understanding of the courage of the Righteous the book section written by Prof. Dr. Milan Ristović, speaks of the historical conditions under which rescue operations were undertaken in the territory of Serbia. In his section historian Dr. Milan Koljanin gives a comprehensive outlook of the conditions Jews lived in inside Serbia and the state of Yugoslavia up to 1941. The book is also dedicated to the destiny of the Jewish population persecuted in Serbia during World War Two and their bare survival. The first months of the war saw the incarceration of Jews in the Topovske šupe camp. Once inside the camp Jews became an “undying” source for hostage executions in reprisal operations carried out by the Nazis. The mass execution of hostages by firing squad that took place in Kragujevac on October 21, 1941 established that Serbs were not exempted from oppressive hostilities undertaken by the German occupation administration. The number of killed hostages, 2794, clearly shows how the occupation authorities victimized Serbs and Jews alike. The horrific destiny that bonds the two peoples was once again proven when at the close of the promotion the Head of the Kragujevac Museum invited us to be their guests in Kragujevac next spring. Apparently book presentations undertaken by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia, JC Zemun, as well as, book authors, can be ”read” as groundwork for a lasting memorial to the good people of Serbia.

October 28th 2010. - A night brimming with emotions

Sinagoga Beit Daniel u Tel AvivuThe premiere presentation in Israel of the book “Righteous among the Nations – Serbia” was held in Tel Aviv on October 28, 2010. The book promotion in the Beit Daniel synagogue was opened by Nenad Fogel who at the very start stated: “I have great pleasure in being here with you tonight and in the company of three authors, three Milan’s: Milan Ristović, Milan Koljanin and Milan Fogel. Above all I would like to express my gratitude to the President of the Hitahdut oley ex Yugoslavia, Mr. Ben Shahar for his kind invitation. My special thanks to Mr. Josef Žamboki without whose generous donation we would not have been able to present today the book about the Righteous among Nations – Serbia, published by the Zemun Jewish Community.” (see the whole speech) He then expressed his gratitude to associate Miriam Aviezer Steiner, who assisted in the acquiring of relevant material which proved to be of great importance to the author Milan Fogel in writing the authentic life-stories of the Righteous. On the other hand Milan Fogel made every effort to maintain a logical thread by perfecting each story detail. The fact that he lives in Israel helped him to get in contact with many survivour Jews who immigrated to Israel upon World War Two. Before he began writing the stories Milan Fogel came to Belgrade to study material archived in Belgrade’s Jewish Historical Museum. As a result of this copious, two-year preparatory research work over 60 stories about the Righteous of Serbia came to life. Beside the mentioned authors and the book editor present at the promotion were English translator Olivera Polajnar and proofreader Ida Dobrijević. Photos illustrating this text were taken by the book’s technical editor Jugoslav Rakita.

Olivera Polajnar i Ida Dobrijevic u publiciPublikaObracanje urednika knjige Nenada FogelaNenad Fogel urednik knjige, Daniel Fogel moderator promocije i prevodilac, Milan Fogel autor prica, Prof. dr Milan Ristovic autor, dr Milan Koljanin autorNext to address the guests was the story writer Milan Fogel who at the very start of his speech pointed out how the engagement of two eminent historians Milan Ristović and Milan Koljanin and their input rendered an additional perspective to the book and enhanced its value. He also expressed his views that the book is an important contribution to the battle against anti-Semitism both in Serbia and globally. In his address to the public he pointed out that he intimately re-lived the individual destinies of the people he was writing about in the stories since he too was a child of a saved Jew. The scale of his emotional involvement at times affected his writing skills making it hard for him to distance himself from the theme of his stories; the thought that what he was writing about had actually happened, never left him throughout the period of story writing. His closing words expressed his hope that he had managed to portray the significance of the Righteous of Serbia as well as their struggle to preserve the lives of Jews who were more often than not completely unknown to them. Speaking to the audience Professor Milan Ristović pointed out: “… a feeling of pleasure, deep inside, to be here with you all this evening. The possibility of sitting in front of a public of whom many are part of the history a historian is involved in, generates a rare feeling of satisfaction.” Professor Ristović maintains the view that there are always two sides to a story, i.e. history. One that studies human destinies from afar and thus loses sight of the so-called ordinary people. Although an inherent part of history, their presence in such studies is obscured. The other history attempts to deal with the very people it studies and to discern the core of human destiny. Further on Professor Ristović spoke of the prevailing conditions in Serbia during World War Two, how its territory was divided into five occupation zones with different forms of administration. In conditions when all who helped to rescue Jews were exposed to a fate equal to theirs, the fate of the persecuted victim, there were still people in Serbia who took the destitute into their homes. The fundamental idea, of selflessness, humanity became the most efficient weapon to undermine a horrendous system that governed over Serbia during the war. His speech ended with stressing once again his hope that the book shall represent a monument to those who helped people in need as well as to those whose lives were saved. Dr. Koljanin began his address by noting: “I had the privilege to be one of the authors of the book that now stands before you. Primarily I would like to stress the one thing, which I am certain, is its principal message, i.e., that in the direst circumstances there is always the possibility of deciding whether to help someone who is in mortal danger or to turn one’s head away. Taking into consideration how saving Jewish lives during World War Two dictated serious repercussions and life threatening risks not only to those who gave shelter but to their entire families too, it becomes clear that not everyone is capable of deciding to go down such a road. However, those who were prepared to help the persecuted showed such courageousness that they inadvertently became heroes; heroes of a special kind, different from those traditionally acclaimed in times of war.” Further on in his address Dr. Koljanin pointed out: “Instead of masses of anonymous people, numbers, great battles, portrays of mass destruction and desolation the reader of the book is faced with the individual, a human being with all his fears, dilemmas, weaknesses but a also with his determination, wish to help, to express his protest against evil, against occupation and against all who personify such circumstances.” Continuing on he also explained to the audience that his task was to present the Jewish Community of Serbia and later on Yugoslavia. This long period begins with the Karadjordje uprising and the reign of Miloš Obrenović. His segment of the book ends with the demise of the Yugoslav state after the attack of the Axis forces on Yugoslavia in 1941. His final words were dedicated to the important role Jews played in the liberation of the country: “Despite all the adversity they were exposed to members of the Jewish Community took part in the battle against anti-Fascism in large numbers and uncompromisingly showed their determinedness to defeat the enemy. Such resoluteness also notably marked their Jewish identity.”

Miriam Aviezer SteinerIng. Josef ZambokiMoshe ben SaharOtpravnik poslova ambasade Srbije u Izraelu g. Milutin StanojevicPosetioci promocije u obracanju publiciThe president of the Jewish Community in Zemun, Mr. Nenad Fogel presented sets of the edition about the Righteous of Serbia to Mrs. Miriam Aviezer Steiner, Mr. Ben Shahar, the President of the Hitahdut oley ex Yugoslavia and to Mr. Josef Žamboki, as well as, to the charge d’affair of the Embassy of Serbia in Israel, Mr. Milutin Stanojević. In expressing his gratitude Mr. Stanojević said: “I am grateful to the authors and the publisher for bringing to life this exceptional work which is a contribution to the repute of both the country of Serbia and Serbs, as well as a confirmation of the battle of the Serbian people against Fascism.” He especially thanked the Zemun Jewish Community, as well as the Jewish Community in Serbia, maintaining the view that such events contribute to building and maintaining ties among the two people and are of significance for future coming together of both countries in other fields of activity. At the end of his speech he pointed to the broader moral significance of the book from its historical aspect, as well as to its aspect of envisaging a future that lies in wait for us all.

Next on the program was the viewing of the documentary film about the Righteous. The film script was written by Nenad Fogel. Mr. Rakita was film and sound editor. It was the final event of the presentation of the book about the Righteous from Serbia.

October 22, 2010 - In Salute of the Citizens of Serbia

The State Hall of Belgrade’s Municipality was too small to receive all those who wanted to express their respect and gratitude to the true heroes of World War Two. By publishing the book “Righteous among the Nations – Serbia” written by Milan Fogel, Milan Ristovic and Milan Koljanin, the Zemun Jewish Community brought back to life the deeds, and the unprecedented courage, shown by citizens of Serbia in their attempt to save their Jewish cohabitants from certain death. The introductory speech to the presentation was made by publication editor Nenad Fogel who among other stated: “I have great pleasure in announcing the presentation of the book “Righteous among the Nations – Serbia”, published by the Jewish Community in Zemun. The book we release today pays tribute to the brave people of Serbia, who during World War Two, to cite the writer of the life-stories, Milan Fogel, under threat of death, dared to rescue people of Jewish descent who were, more often than not, completely unknown to them. See the whole speech

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Second to address the audience was Professor Filip David who spoke of the section of the book containing the life-stories about the rescue and the fates of both saviours, the Righteous, and Jews saved. He noted how Jews in pre-war Yugoslavia were practically assimilated, many seeing themselves as Serbs of the faith of Moses. However, the sense of belonging to the Serbian people and state could not help them stay alive during the Nazi occupation. He specifically stated that the Jewish Community cannot accept the fact that in Serbia today those that were responsible for the extinction of over 90% of the Jewish population of Serbia are being rehabilitated.
By reading the incredible stories of the destinies of the Righteous Dr. Milislav Stojadinović who during the occupation held the post of Belgrade mayor for a short time before the Germans replaced him, dissatisfied with his engagement in the war effort, and that of Hayria Imeri Mihaljić, a Roma from Kosovo, our renowned actors Marijana Petrović and Predrag Ejdus helped our guests get acquainted with the content of the book. The heartbreaking story of Hayria and little Stela brought the audience to tears.
In his succinct speech Professor Milan Ristović once again stressed the amazing courage of those individuals who exposed themselves and their entire families to danger, fully aware of the death threat to all, if found out. Pronouncement of the death penalty was legalized by the collaborationist government of Milan Nedić, together with other racist legislation imposed by the German occupier.
In his speech Dr. Koljanin acquainted the public with the section of the book in which he portrayed the status and life of Jews from the time of the decline of the Ottoman Empire and re-instatement of the Serbian State, up to the foundation of Yugoslavia, as well as of the years of living in Yugoslavia during the period between the two wars.
Dozens of descendants of the Serbian Righteous came to Belgrade to attend the book presentation gathering. All of them received a set of the publication: the book about the Righteous in Serbian, its English version and the multimedia CD with the film about the Righteous, as a small token in honor of the event.
Among the guest attending the presentation was Mr. Robert Sabadoš, Deputy President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia. Representing Belgrade City administration was Mr. Zoran Alimpić, Municipality Deputy President. Dignitaries of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Islamic Community and the Catholic Church were also among the event’s guests.

The choir of the Serbian-Jewish Singing Society, led by maestro Djordje Stanković opened the event by performing the Israeli and Serbian national anthems. The presentation ended with the choir singing the song, L’Dor Vador – from generation to generation, truly befitting the theme of the event.