“Novi Sad”
Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities: Yugoslavia
(Serbia)

45°15' / 19°50' E

Translation of “Novi Sad” chapter
from Pinkas ha-kehilot Yugoslavia

Edited by Zvi Loker

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1988


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Acknowledgments

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Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas ha-kehilot; entsiklopediya shel ha-yishuvim
le-min hivasdam ve-ad le-aher shoat milhemet ha-olam ha-sheniya: Yugoslavia

Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities: Yugoslavia,
Edited by Zvi Loker, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1988. (Pages 178-192)


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[Pages 178]

Novi Sad

Serbia
(in German, Neusatz; in Hungarian, Ujvidék)

Baèka Region, in the autonomous province of Vojvodina.

Translated by Amy Samin

Year General
population
Jews
(families)
Jews
(individuals)
% of
(individuals)
% of
(population)
1698 1,000 3 13    
1717   3 13    
1727   7 ?    
1736   15 56    
1743 – 44 4,620 26 100 2  
1746     144    
1769   50 250    
1781 5,619   174 3  
1785 – 87     235    
1804 13,000   213    
1816 16,311   360 2  
1830 – 35 17,332   727    
1844     1,136    
1848 – 49 30,000   1,320 6  
1869 – 70 19,301   1,003 5  
1890 – 91 22,224   1,507 6  
1921 39,122   2,663    
1927 40,000   4,000 6.6  
1931 63,985   3,135    
1940 – 41 68,500   4,300    
1944 – 45 40,163   953    
1952 78,956   275    

 

From the Roman Period to the Migration Period

Novy Sad is a city and port on the banks of the Danube, on the Pannonian Plain, 80 kilometers from Belgrade, the capital. Since its founding by the Romans, who called it Neoplanta (meaning, new plantation) it served as the center for the Baèka Region (which extended from the Danube to the Tisa), and for the Vojvodina province as well, which included the Banat and Baranja regions, and in the past also included the Srem region, which was on the right bank of the river. The presence of the Romans there at the beginning of the Common Era is confirmed not only by the name of the city, but by the ruins of the fortress or, “the Roman digs,” which are located within the city. It is reasonable to assume that along the entire length of the limes, in the army camps and the system of services at their disposal, there were also Jews, although no confirmation of that has yet been found. Various items (in particular menorahs and coal pans, found on top of ceramic items) presumably give testimony to the presence of Jews in the seventh and eighth centuries, when Mongolian tribes (Avars) were camped along the Danube. The new finds were discovered at the digs which took place in Èelarevo (in the Hungarian period, Chieb), where there once was a cemetery (necropolis) of Avars of high status. At the time of this writing, the Jewish items are located in the municipal museum in Novi Sad, and have already been exhibited at the Jewish Museum in Belgrade. In addition, a small exhibition was arranged at the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv. From a historical standpoint, it was a major discovery – the presence of Jews in the northern Balkans, at the gateway to central Europe, from the Roman Age to the New Era was unknown until then. Whether these are findings that remain from the Roman Period, which once belonged to Jewish artisans and merchants who migrated in the path of the Mongols, or perhaps belonged to converts to Judaism, is still in question. There is still no formal solution, and Èelarevo remains a question mark to this day. Meanwhile, the manner of working and the materials used show signs of openness to an outside influence, a result of the ability to persevere and survive on the one hand, while adhering to traditional Jewish symbols on the other hand. Close to the time period of the findings, the Slavic peoples replaced the Mongol tribes and the Germanic peoples throughout the Balkans.

Therefore, there is no doubt that there were Jews there during the Middle Ages, most likely the Jewish settlements were assimilated into the later waves of immigration by Slavs, Magyars, and other Turko-Mongolian groups. The new settlers, from the tenth century on, were mostly Hungarians and Serbs, and a few of them were Croatian (Bunjevci from northern Baèka), and Swabi-Germans in the new era. We have no information about the late Middle Ages; in any event, only in the new era, from the end of the seventeenth century onwards, did Jews settle in significant numbers in this mercantile and transportation center. We will discuss this period below.

 

Pioneers of the Jewish Settlement

The first Jews established their homes on the right bank of the Danube, near the Petrovaradin fortress. They came there as suppliers to the Austrian army. In documents dating from the middle of the eighteenth century, a Jew named Judah Lev Kalledey is mentioned. In 1694, on the other side of the big river was first established the village, then later the city Raitzenstadt (Raitzendorf – literally, Serb City); these were the earliest settlements there. There the city was built, and with the passage of time, came to include the area of the fortress and its settlements (in our time, known as Liman IV) as part of the municipality of Novi Sad. Another Jew who lived in the city during the seventeenth century was Phillip Marcus, who made his living distilling and selling liquor, and was considered the head of the first organized community (1693 – 1727).

The first Jewish cemetery was founded in 1717, and the earliest Jewish organization was the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society), which was established in 1729. The existence of kosher ritual slaughtering is definitely known to have existed from 1736.

Among the first Jewish families the following are mentioned: Hershel, Lebel,

[Pages 179]

Almosnino, Cohen, Wolff, Shechter, Falsh, Pollack, Solomon, Deutsch, Shussberg, and Belgrader.

In the year 1701 the military administration of Petrovaradin was established. Only a few Jews were permitted to live in the area and then only for a limited amount of time. With the passage of time, more families crept into the area, and worked as either craftsmen or merchants, on both sides of the Danube. In spite of various limitations, the number of Jews rose steadily, and by the end of the eighteenth century, there was an established community. At its head was a “judge” (Judex judeorum). In the documents there appears the name of a surgeon, Isaac “Judaeus”, who apparently was the first doctor in that place. Members of this family served as community leaders on and off for about one hundred years, and will be mentioned again later on.

One of the first residents near the fortress was a medic named Abraham “the 'Feldisher.'” In 1719 Cardinal Leopold Kolonich of Vienna sent an instruction to the city, calling for the gradual removal of the pestilent Jews, or, in the formal Austrian language of the time, “dieses schädliche genus humanum.” This instruction was not implemented, but in its place other limitations were imposed on various professions in relation to the Jewish residents, such as a prohibition on jewelry making (1755), a prohibition on all kinds of crafts unless working on a commission from a nobleman (1760), et cetera.

After the Ottomans regained control of Belgrade in 1739, Sephardi Jews came to Novi Sad as refugees, either because they preferred to remain under the governance of the Austrians, as they had been since 1717, or because they had been expelled from their property by Ottoman Turks seeking revenge. Among those fleeing the Ottoman Turks were Serbs, Greeks, Romanians and others. The growth in population and rise in importance of the city as a crossroads for the exchange of merchandise brought in 1748 an edict proclaiming the city to be a “free royal city” and providing it with certain rights.

Beforehand, in 1743, Empress Maria Theresa had imposed a special tax on the Jews of the city. This tax was called “Queen's Money” (malken gelt) by the Jews.

In 1747, the leader of the community was one Joseph Cohen. Most of the Jewish settlers came from the northern Hapsburg Empire, and especially from Moravia (Nikolsburg, today known as Mikulov), from Slovakia, Burgenland and Hungary.

 

Leaders and Rabbis of the Jews from the Eighteenth Century On

From 1743 – 1755, the leader of the Jews was Wolff Lipman, who also taught religion. He was followed by Phillip Marcus and Joseph Cohen, who led the community until the middle of the eighteenth century. After them came Jacob Hershel, who held the title of “judge” for some twenty years. Afterwards, Isaac Solomon and Simon Hershel were the leaders. In the year 1759, Samuel Moses is mentioned.

During the 1780s Joseph Isaac Konicher is mentioned, but there is no information about him. Such is also the case with Joseph Lebel, who served as leader before him.

Apparently, the first certified rabbi to serve in Novi Sad was Jacob Shalom Freier (1861 – 1880). Before him, Reb Lebel Rozensweig served as the religious leader. Similarly, Pinhas Leib Monk of the yeshiva of Moses Schreiber (also known as Moses Sofer or Hatam Sofer) and Haim Herman Hirshfeld. Secondary to the rabbis and mohelim (ritual circumcisers or circumcisor theologus) were Samuel Epstein (1808 – 1812), N. Greenberger (1854) and Mordechai (Marcus) Zilbard. In 1843 – 44, Reb Zvi Isaac Hirshfeld served, and after him Y.L. Kalledey served for many years, then temporarily Samuel Frankel.

At the time of the Hungarian Revolution – and shortly thereafter – those who served as rabbis were M.L. Weber and B.L. Zinger (for a short time only), Rabbi Samuel Hershfeld and M.H. Zonnenshein (from 1855 to 1861).

From 1881 until the end of the First World War, Rabbi Dr. Zis-Papp served as the spiritual leader. Afterwards, Armin Klein (who would later become the community leader until the Holocaust) gave religious instruction, and Dr. Haim Heinrick (Heinko) Kish, who beforehand had been the assistant of Rabbi Papp, served from then until the Holocaust as the community rabbi.

 

The Synagogue in the City

Apparently, the first house of worship existed from the start of the eighteenth century (1717). The “second” synagogue (in actuality, the first structure) stood from 1749 – 1780 on Futoska Street (facing the village of Futog), which was a Jewish neighborhood from the middle of the eighteenth century on. The third synagogue existed from 1780 – 1826, and the fourth from 1826 until 1859, when it underwent renovations. The building did not last long, however, and a new building was required. The architect Lipót-Leopold Baumhorn designed the new structure and it was built from 1905 – 1909. The same architect also designed the outer structures of the synagogue of Zrenjanin (formerly Beèkerek) and Rijeka (formerly Fiume). Since 1966, due to the lack of worshippers (an insufficient number for a minyan) the building has been used as an auditorium for concerts and lectures.

 

Settlements and Occupations

The settlement and naturalization of the Jews in the city was a gradual process during which they overcame various administrative and legal obstacles. Permission to remain in the city was granted with priority given to professionals in certain desirable fields, including leatherworkers, bookbinders, and doctors; only later were merchants also allowed; for example: Joseph Deutsch, who in 1767 operated in the traditional Jewish field of trade in used clothing. The central government did not encourage Jewish immigration, in fact just the opposite.

[Pages 180]


The Novi Sad Synagogue (Baèka)

From time to time the government would check the number of Jews. The Jews who had the right to live and work were known by the nickname “protected Jewish merchant” (Schutz u.Handelsjude). The Hapsburg Court imposed severe restrictions on the Jews and hindered the growth of the Jewish community in the city, to prevent it from developing more than they would wish. Broader rights were given only in 1840 by the Hungarian Parliament in Pozsony (known today as Bratislava). In the 1840s the limitations on purchase of land and working in certain professions were lifted; this change facilitated the growth and development of the community, in conjunction with the increased prosperity and development of the city as a whole.

 

Levies, Taxes and Professions

By proclamation of the emperor in 1843 the Jews were forced to pay an annual “tolerance tax” (Toleranztaxe), whose rate was determined periodically according to an evaluation of the financial situation of the Jewish residents. For the purpose of illustration, two examples are provided: in 1843 approximately 1,000 Jews living in the city paid 7,300 florins, and in 1844 they paid to the Emperor's coffers 7,740 florins. This was only one tax among many, including a tax on the sale of meat, and another on beverages, property tax, and municipal tax. It is worth noting that at the end of the nineteenth century, about half of the Jewish wage earners were either craftsmen or daily wage earners. Gradually the process of deproletarianization and the transition to lower middle class, service providers and small merchants began – with the first signs of initiative towards industry and banking. This process continued from the end of the nineteenth century until the beginning of the twentieth century. Among the more humble professions in which Jews were engaged were shoemakers, carters, dealers in used clothing, and stamp makers (apparently, the first people to deal in this profession in the city). Also, the establishment of the first printing house in the city, through the partnership between Herschenhauser and Fleisher, is worthy of mention. Among the professions dealing in production, mention is made of leatherworkers, painters, jewelers, furriers, tailors, glaziers, brush makers and soap makers. In addition, there was the medic “Abraham Feldisher” (a medical nurse who is mentioned in documents dating from 1744), as well as doctors – among whom there were holders of official positions such as the deputy doctor of the municipality – pharmacists, surgeons, and other free professions; there were also Jewish peddlers, leather traders, tailors, windmill owners and more.

 

The Age of Hungarian Rule

With gradual naturalization and the continual opening of professions to the Jews, there developed a linguistic assimilation to bilingualism in German and Hungarian (among the Jews, who had previously spoken only one language, and whose mother tongue was Yiddish or one or the other of those languages), and from unilingualsim to the language and culture of the Magyars (among Jews who were raised within the German culture).

The first, most remarkable revelation of the general feeling that beat in the hearts of the Jewish people was their patriotic participation in the Hungarian uprising of 1848, at the price of many lives. In addition, they suffered repression at the hands of the Austrians who, after the rebellion was suppressed, acted on harsh orders from Vienna. This participation in the Hungarian uprising provides a background against which can be understood the Serbian hatred of Jews, which was plainly visible in the hostile style of writing seen in the second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century; this will be further addressed later. In 1850 the community was forced to pay a fine for their support of the nationalistic aspirations on the part of the Hungarians during 1848 – 1849. The indirect results of the war of 1848 – 1849 were the revenge taken by the Austrians on, and the hatred of the Serbs for, the Jews of the city.

The first recognized Jewish institution was, as has been stated, the “Chevra

[Pages 181]

Kadisha,” (Burial Society) which was founded in 1729, when the community was still centralized on the right bank of the Danube, in Petrovaradin (in German, Peterwaradein). A ruling was made, written in Hebrew and consisting of 34 sections, and which was translated into Hungarian in 1845 by Rabbi H. Hershfeld. It should be emphasized that one of the first sections of the ruling imposed the mitzvah of visiting the sick upon the leaders of the community, in addition to the mitzvah of burying the dead. Therefore, the Society hired doctors (for a fee of 24 florins per year) for this purpose, such as Dr. Leopold Zapert, and after him Dr. Jacob Roth. Similarly, the Society was responsible for ensuring that the Midnight Service (Tikkun Chatzot) prayers would be said, but this practice did not last very long. The leadership of the community was comprised of ten elders and a treasurer. The first treasurer registered in the documents was Avigdor Gross, a tailor by profession. In 1836 a disagreement broke out in the Society, and it was suggested that the Society be disbanded; this was not accepted, and the Society was reorganized in 1851. From 1866 on the minutes of meetings were written in proper German (previously they had been written in Yiddish using the Hebrew alphabet). The chairman at that time was Bernat Spitzer, and his vice president was Joseph Pelis. The Society's physician was Dr. Mor Ofner.

 

The Foundation of the Community and the Establishment of Its Institutions

The community was established at the beginning of the 1740s. The Jews of the “Serb City” (Raitzenstadt) were officially recognized as an ethnic group in 1748. In the Latin documents of that period, they were called “Communitas Judeorum.” The head of the community was styled the 'judge” as has been mentioned; he represented the community to the government. The government would approach him on any matter in reference to the Jews, whether public or private. In 1769, reference is made to a petition made to the “Jewish elders,” apparently in regard to the organization of a community council. Little is known about the leaders of the community in the eighteenth century, aside from the fact that the members of the Hershel family (from 1753 on) completely dominated the position. From time to time attempts to change that were made, for example in 1767 when Joseph Toitesh, a used clothing merchant and representative of the poor, led the opposition, but the involvement of the government on behalf of the traditional leaders ensured that the status quo was maintained.

At the start of the nineteenth century other institutions were added: in 1801 – a medical clinic (which was given the rather pretentious title “the Jewish Hospital”); in 1802 – a community elementary school. An enormous amount of money for the time was invested in the first institution: 600 florins. The building for the clinic was constructed on the initiative of the community's leader, Simon Hershel. That building burned to the ground during the bombing of the city in 1849. It appears to have been rebuilt, because in 1855 it had eight beds. It should be mentioned that this institution symbolized a change in the health industry and municipal sanitation, while the school, which existed for 120 years, was under the supervision of the community. The first teachers were August-Aaron Mittler, and later on Abraham Konigstetler.

Among the “judges” who served in the court in the nineteenth century were Aaron Fristadt, Israel and Peretz Horowitz, Belgrader, Jacob Walsh, Simon Hershel, and Joseph Solomon Deutsch. In 1801 Joseph Deutsch was elected head of the community, but the mayor intervened, invalidating the results and nominating instead Adam-Aaron Fristadt, whose loyalties belonged to the Herschel family. Deutsch retained his position on the committee.

In 1836 the committee was accused of changing their protocols, and the city attorney was brought in to investigate the matter. The following members of the opposition discovered the change: Doshinski, Shveibach, Horowitz, and Almosnino. The appearance from time to time of an opposition within the community reveals an important social dynamic, and it is unfortunate that the subjects of the dispute and its resolution are unknown.

In 1841 a dispute broke out in the community regarding the election of a judge, and the municipality once again intervened in favor of the wealthy.

The documentation of the events of the first half of the nineteenth century is incomplete. There was a kosher restaurant in the city from at least 1840. In the same year, the municipality confiscated the kosher wine of one of the Jews.

At the time of the Hungarian Revolution, in the bombing that took place in 1849, most of the homes of the Jews were destroyed, as well as the synagogue and the school.

Just before and during the Hungarian Revolution, the leaders of the community were Wolff Shussberg, Jacob Offner, and Jacob Weigenfeld.

In 1851, Emmanuel Roth was elected head of the community, and in 1856 Moritz Löwy held the post. Until 1867 Gersh Reitzer was the leader, and after him Dr. Gabriel Pressberger filled the position.

In 1876 the Aid Society was founded by 53 righteous women. This organization operated without ceasing until the Holocaust. Another indication of the extent of the activity of mutual assistance and aid can be found in the fact that in 1879 the idea was raised to establish a home for the aged in the Jewish community, although for a variety of reasons it did not come to fruition until 1931.

 

External Conditions

The Austro-Hungarian agreement of 1867 brought about widespread social and political change. It strengthened the Magyar rule over the city and the entire Vojvodina province, after promising a form of religious and ethnic autonomy to the Serbs who were adherents of the Serbian Orthodox Church. From then on, the bond between the Jews and the Hungarians strengthened, as did the Jews' cultural integration, and they became more and more assimilated. This tendency reached its peak during the period of Jewish emancipation; in other words, during the period they enjoyed equal individual legal rights just like any other citizen of the Hapsburg Empire. In 1895 the communities were also recognized as religious bodies,

[Pages 182]

and given official status equal to other religious groups. At the same time, there was also rapid settlement of the area by Hungarians from the north.

From the second half of the eighteenth century the national administration began moving away from the use of Latin for official documents and began using German. There also arose the aspiration for unification. In May of 1781, the emperor Joseph II ordered that Hebrew would be allowed only for use in religious rites. In 1784, citizens were obligated to use German as the language of their public lives.

The rights of the Jews at that time were summed up in the “De Judeis” law of December 1790, which remained in effect until 1840. Vienna and Budapest reached a compromise about their mutual authority; through frequent crises and tension, a struggle broke out in Novi Sad between the Hungarians and the Serbs over control of the city. The Jewish minority found itself in a delicate on-going situation, on the one hand blamed by the Serbian nationalists for its consistent and frequent support of the Hungarians, while on the other hand the Hungarians came more and more to disagree with the Jews; the result was an increase in anti-Semitism. This phenomenon was caused, at least partially, by the increasing assimilation of the Jews into Hungarian culture (the extent of acculturation was considered too high), and from the resulting rivalries.

 

Co-Existence in Novi Sad, Capital of Vojvodina

It is appropriate to explain here the term “Vojvodina,” the literal translation of which is “duchy.” Basically, it is a geographical-historical concept, which includes the regions of Baèka, Banat, Baranja and Srem. Since 1851, at the end of the Hungarian Revolution and its aftermath, the term was used to convey a limited administrative autonomy that was given to the Serbs and their church according to their demands, and also as a counter balance to the aspirations for independence of the Hungarians. According to the Austro-Hungarian agreement, from 1867 on this autonomy was drained of its substance, while the geographic term took root and remains in use even today. It must be emphasized that in the new era there developed a national cultural center of the Serbs, around the institution “Metiza Sarfaska” and based on that, the Serbs called the place the “Serbian Athens.”

As has been mentioned, in 1748 the city was awarded the title “free royal city.” Its rights were expanded, and it was granted a certain amount of independence from the centers of Posen and Vienna. There was a concealed danger to the Jews inherent in this change, because the centers of the Hapsburg Empire would occasionally defend the Jews depending on the needs of the emperor, while on the local level competition and hatred of foreigners were at work. Ironically, in this case the decrees came from the court of the Empress Maria Theresa, while the Jews got along well enough with the municipality; this revealed an understanding by the city government of the Jews' special regarding what was profitable to the city. It should be remembered that peaceful co-existence in this city was in many ways inevitable, and Jews like the Schwabs (German immigrants), who came later to the city, enjoyed a greater degree of tolerance.

Another barrier new settlers faced was the fact that the city and its surroundings were declared a military zone by the Austro-Hungarian army, a fact that resulted in a two-fold government authority and various limitations. This double administration was partially disbanded in 1802, and that change was an extremely important factor in the growth of the population, including that of the Jews, and to the rapid development of the city in the nineteenth century.

 

The Community in the New Era

The Jews of Novi Sad entered the twentieth century in a stable position with regard to their institutions and strong in numbers, but the fundamental problem of being a minority between two competing peoples in close proximity remained. Added to this problem were economic crises that needed to be dealt with.

With resourcefulness and mutual help, the community overcame most of the difficulties they faced and continued to develop their public life.

At the start of the twentieth century the community's most ambitious project to date was planned and implemented: the construction of the Great Synagogue, between 1905 – 1909, together with a building for the community administration, a school, and homes for the religious leaders and their families (on either side of the synagogue).

Two of the community leaders at the time of the construction were Karol Kobny and Joseph Ernst. The last, Rabbi Doctor Ignatz Papp, dedicated the new building on Rosh Hashanah, September 8, 1909.

At the start of the twentieth century, Michael Borush took the place of Ernst Ipoli as the principal of the Jewish school. In 1910 Armin Klein became the secretary of the community; he held that position until the Holocaust (at first he also taught religious principles to the children). At that time, the head of the community was Dr. Armin Kassovitch; his vice president was Heinrich Fisher. Afterwards, Dr. Bruno Leitner served in that position.

In 1911 a dispute broke out regarding kosher slaughtering. No details are available, but it seems that the dispute was not of a social nature and was settled quickly.

During the First World War, the community suffered a loss of lives and activities came to a stop, in addition to the usual shortages and suffering caused by war.

 

The Economic and Social Condition of the Jews

Ever since the emancipation and the reforms of Emperor Joseph II, the Jews in Novi Sad had prospered and become established both economically and socially. Religious, aid, sport and cultural institutions

[Pages 183]

expanded their activities into new areas, and recruited activists in ever-growing numbers. All of the historic changes had, of course, a profound effect on Jewish life, but the Jews generally continued to carry out their holy work and the building of their institutions without much turmoil until the Holocaust. There was, however, no shortage of trouble. Immediately following the First World War, the “green cadres” (deserters and released soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian army) harassed Jews, especially those who lived in small towns; many people were robbed and there were even a few murders. Many of the refugees of those attacks abandoned their homes and moved to Novi Sad. In particular, the residents of the Srem region suffered; some returned to their towns and others remained in the city and found new livelihoods.

Some farmers lost their property following an agrarian reform (incidentally, the reform was only partial and was not terribly successful from an economic and social point of view) and were forced to change their professions. Banks and insurance companies were harmed by the world crisis, and a number of Jews went bankrupt and were also forced to find new ways to earn a living. The children of agents and merchants were forced to find salaried employment, and thus the number of self-employed people diminished.

It is, however, worth mentioning that within a relatively short amount of time, the Jews of the city and surrounding areas had made a recovery. The economic situation continued to be difficult, but the conditions of the Jews remained reasonably good, or at least less insufferable, and those who looked for work were able to find it.

The Yugoslavian government, both regional and local (the municipality) was tolerant and usually didn't interfere with the internal lives of the Jewish community. Most enjoyed equal rights, and very few were vulnerable or discriminated against. It was not easy for the Jews to penetrate the ranks of civil servants or the standing army, and in fact there weren't many who chose such employment. Discrimination was felt regarding taxation and the tuition in the high schools; further, extortion and exploitation were not lacking, to the detriment of the self-confidence of the minority. A few Jews with foreign citizenship were expelled temporarily after the establishment of the Yugoslavian regime. Regarding others – the decisive majority – matters were settled by obtaining citizenship or by the extension of residential permits for an unlimited time, for example.

The military dictatorship under the leadership of the Serbs, who at the start of 1929 replaced the quasi-legal parliamentary regime, did not change the situation; certainly not for the Jews of the area, which in any event was controlled by the Serbian government, as was Vojvodina.

 

The Jews in Their New Surroundings

The changes in the state government in 1918 were tied to, among other things, the changes in language and in the cultural infrastructure. The younger generation, which grew up under the monarchy, adapted relatively quickly and was able to establish good social relationships with the Serbs. The adult and elderly generations found themselves at a turning point, and in the process of a certain gradual disengagement from the origins and customs which had been accepted up until then. The times brought about a halt to production in journalism and literature; however no real upheaval occurred, at least not regarding matters touching the general public.

The most extensive ramifications were to be found in the education of the children. In the community's elementary school – four classes – there was a transition in the language of instruction from Hungarian to Serbian. It was implemented in 1921 and made for an excellent preparation for the Serbian gymnasia (eight years of schooling, up to the matriculation exams). A German gymnasia also existed in the city, although in typical fashion, no Jew sent his children to that institution, although it would have been the easy and natural thing to do. The Jews preferred that the younger generation adapt to the new language and be educated in the same public institution as most of the other children. The relationship of the Serbs towards the Jews was free of the stereotypical hatred associated with the Church (which the Jews had experienced particularly at the hands of the Catholic Hungarians). The use of pejoratives such as “filthy Jew” was quite frequent at this time, especially by Hungarian youth.

One cannot conclude, however that there was no revulsion on the part of the Serbs towards the Jews. The expression “chipot” (yehudon, the Turkish word originally used to refer to pigs) was occasionally used to refer to Jews. It was a traditional folk expression which was not used in violent way. In spite of that, in the local Serbian newspapers, written in Cyrillic, frequent, sometimes venomous attacks on the Jews as a group were published because of the supposed control they held over the pro-Hungarian, anti-Serb newspapers in Vienna and Budapest. To tell the truth, this verbal anti-Semitism occurred, in the main, even before the Yugoslavian period; in other words at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries (incidentally, in a different alphabet [Latin] these accusations also became identified with the Jews in the Croatian newspapers at that time).

Therefore, the Jews in Vojvodina were caught between the hammer (the Serbs) and the anvil (the Hungarians). The hostility of the latter was historic and of long standing. The cooperation of the Jews with the majority, which held the reins of the government, only inflamed the antagonism of the opposition. On the other hand, it appears that the deep and abiding nationalist tension prevented the turning of rage against the Jews, whose limited number meant that they were not strong competitors in the economic arena, or in other words, in the reality of daily life.

The sporadic appearance of anti-Semitism on the part of the Serbs was focused on sabotaging the people who held the power. Only in June of 1921, when a Serbian communist tried (unsuccessfully) to assassinate the Regent Alexander, the Serbian newspapers – “Zastava” (the flag) and “Jedinstvo” (Unity) – accused the Jews of being responsible.

[Pages 184]

The Hungarian daily “Délre Baèka” (South Baèka) also joined in the chorus of blame.

And when that same ruler, then King Alexander I of the house of Karaðorðeviæ, was killed in Marseilles, France in October of 1934, there arose an anti-Hungarian and anti-foreign atmosphere. In its wake, a number of Jews who were foreign citizens were expelled.

On the part of the Hungarians there was a long-held tradition of a hostile and disagreeable approach towards the Jews. From the second half of the nineteenth century on, there was an official anti-Semitic party in the Hungarian parliament, under the leadership of Istóczy, one of the first politicians in Western Europe who established a party on the foundation of an anti-Semitic platform. At the end of World War I in response to the Communist regime of Béla Kun (who was overthrown within three months by the Allies), there came the “White Terror” of the man who eventually became prime minister, Gömbös, who organized pogroms in the villages. The Jews of Novi Sad were fortunate, for they were beyond the reach of the ravening Hungarians. A certain echo of the great blood libel in Tisa-Eslar in Hungary reached the Baèka region. It happened in 1928, when an attempt was made to incite the people of Baèko Petrovo-Selo to violence. Although that was an isolated incident with no victims, nevertheless it served as an awakening of the Jewish public, not only in Novi Sad but in the country as a whole.

An account of the events spread from Novi Sad, thereby revealing the different approaches of the different Zionist institutions. One group (led locally by Dr. Meir Waltman-Tobel and with centers in Belgrade and Zagreb), favored immediate, yet restrained, action. The other group, with Dr. Julye Dohan at its head, favored agitation. From a historical viewpoint, it appears the first group was correct in its approach, because the matter was resolved quickly by the involvement of the police, while Dr. Dohan had attempted to inflate the event beyond its actual proportion.

On the part of the Serbs, some of their leaders such as Sweterzer Miletic and particularly Jasa Tomic occasionally voiced and wrote attacks on the Jews, blaming them for their own difficulties and failures. It's worth pointing out that the Serbian newspapers, particularly the journal Zastava (mentioned above), published scurrilous and unrestrained attacks against the Jews, who seemed to them to be the central element of the Magyar culture and were involved in an effort to dominate all of the minorities. While it is true that Jews held some of the key positions in the Hungarian press, and that overall the Hungarian attitude towards other peoples, especially intellectuals, in the country was open and welcoming, on the other hand the Hungarians were condescending towards foreign national cultures in general. This anti-Semitism remained, as has been said, verbal rather than physical, a situation which can be explained by two basic facts: 1) the fact that the Serbs of the city, like the Hungarians before them, were busy trying to impose their way of life on the city, and were engaged in mutual disputes with the Hungarians and also amongst themselves; and 2) the relatively small number of the Jews and their lack of economic conspicuousness (the lack of millionaires or business tycoons).

From the middle of the 1930s the echoes of Nazi domination could be heard from Germany, then later from Austria and Czechoslovakia. On the local level, the German minority (the Schwabs) with whom the Jews had had, until then, a good relationship (for example, the Jewish painter and sculptor Michael Kara prepared the statue and decorations for their community center), later formed themselves into the local branch of the Nazi party, and a center for spying and infiltration against the country's government. In addition, the national and local press became more and more hostile towards the Jews.

In general, between the two World Wars there was peaceful co-existence amongst the various ethnic groups and peoples of the city, and the Jews were able to live their lives as they wished without interference.

 

A Jewish Political Party

In local politics the position of the Jews was not recognized until the municipal elections of 1927 when, to the surprise of many, the Zionists organized a “Jewish list” which won five seats (out of 80) on the city council; in other words, 6.2% - almost the same as the percentage of Jews in the general population.

The list of candidates was composed thus: at the head was Dr. Ferdinand Lustig, the community leader (a non-Zionist); also in fourth place was a non-Zionist: Joseph Julye Cohen; in second, third and fifth place were the Zionist leaders: Dr. Matya Satler, the popular physician who also received more than a few votes from the Serbs; Wilhelm-William Loker one of the first Zionists of the city and a beadle in the synagogue; and Dr. Oscar Chipris, an attorney. The composition of the list formed a sort of Jewish Agency before such an institution existed.

The appearance of the Jews as a national group in the municipality brought honor to the community and helped provide an understanding of the special and unique position of the Jews in society. It also strengthened the sense of identity and belonging of the Jewish people of the community.

There is no doubt that the local Jewish political party was a resounding success which represented the zenith of the dissemination of the idea and the reality of Zionism in the city and the province as a whole.

Two other Jews were also elected from other lists: Dr. Bodoj Kovacs, an attorney active in the Hungarian cultural club, from the Hungarian list; and Vertish, of the trade union, from the Social-Democrat list. This phenomenon of Jewish political involvement was isolated; the vast majority of the Jews of Novi Sad were indifferent to the general election. However, in the middle of the 1930s there was a strong leftist tendency among young Jews. This increased the number of activists in the Vojvodina Movement, in the Red Aid, and the remaining institutions that operated with communism as their inspiration, as well as Skoi,

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a Communist youth organization. This, however, involved only a minority of the Jewish youth; the majority either belonged to such groups as Hashomer Hatzair (the Young Guard) or Ivriya (Hebrew Woman), or did not belong to any movement.

 

The Beginnings of the Local Zionist Movement

In the calm following the battles of the First World War, the prisoners of war returned to their homes from Russia. Among them were Dr. Zigmund Hendler, Judah Leib Brandeis, Emil Almosnino and Oscar Neiman who, while they were prisoners of war, became familiar with Russian Jewry. They, together with immigrants who settled in the city, brought home with them the Zionist idea. It was they who formed the core around which the Zionist activity of the city and the entire province of Vojvodina was organized. It was the ideal moment, around the time of the Balfour Declaration and the declaration of Serbian support (the Vesnitch Letter, which was sent to Dr. David Albala) which followed the Balfour Declaration. It was also the ideal time because one could see a certain sober awareness of the realities of Hungarian nationalism, learned through the loss of life and the humiliation suffered in active service in the army during the war, which brought about a bitter disappointment among many of the soldiers and their families. In this fertile soil was planted the Zionist movement in the city. The Jewish affirmation as an independent national factor – and not only a religious one – was well-received by the new rulers, namely the Serbs and, surprisingly, by other groups within the community. The National Jewish Association (Jüdischer National Verband) was founded in March of 1919 as an organizational expression of this change. The Association immediately founded a Zionist Club and began to spread propaganda in favor of the nationalist idea; in addition, it published a weekly newspaper in the German language called Jüdisches Volksblatt (1920 – 1925).

In 1921, the Association attempted to establish a regional Zionist administration that would operate in the suburban towns throughout the province, and in 1922 Mrs. Jenny Veig established Pro-Palestina, the first women's Zionist association. Among the founders of the nationalist association were: Dr. Mattya Satler (who, together with his wife and daughter, was killed in the Razzia (Great Raid) which was organized by the Hungarian occupational government in January 1942; see below), Willis Loker, Dr. Z. Hendler, Beno Hershenhauser and Mattya Levy.

 

The “Occupation” of the Community

In 1919 Dr. Satler was elected to the community leadership committee, becoming the first member to be an active Zionist. His election was a sign of things to come, for the Zionists gradually “took over” the committee and become the majority. In 1921 four Zionists were elected, and by 1925 there were 18 Zionists on the 43-member council. During the 1930s, the Zionists held half or more of the seats on the council, which was managed in a fruitful cooperation between the nationalists and the assimilated, or those with a purely religious approach.

Among the outstanding Zionist activists of the community in 1930s were: Betzalel First, a native of Senta and a man of great culture, both general and Jewish; Adolph “Adi” Schreiber; Rabbi Dr. Lazar Roth (who was not a resident of the place but was a frequent visitor); and Oscar Mérö. Other Zionist activists in the community were Oygan Shussberger, Jeno Herd, and Ludwig Korody.

 

Zionist Associations

After early successes, Zionist activity lost momentum and dissention was discovered in the movement's ranks. Disagreements and misunderstandings took place between the members of the National Association, or the Austrian school of thought, and the younger generation, who spoke the national language and were loyal to the Zionist leadership in Zagreb. The latter founded an additional association named for Theodor Herzl, whose leaders were Ludwig Korody and Dr. Meir Waltman-Tobel. The National Association established cultural ties and mutual visits with the Zionist centers in Vienna and Berlin, and refused to be subordinate to the National Zionist Union in Zagreb, whose instructions were written in Croatian, a language foreign to them. The generation gap found expression, and prevented the achievement of full organizational unity.

From 1923 – 1925 a Cultural Association operated under the leadership of Pnina Sheinfeld (later Jacobi), a Hebrew teacher from Poland who moved to Eretz Yisrael at the end of 1925. Hebrew instruction came to a halt, and was restored within the framework of Ivriya by the school principal, M. Borush. From the middle of the 1930s, Hebrew instruction was provided by teacher Eliezer Deutsch (later the rabbi of Rika-Soshek), and the rabbi's assistant, Dr. Mordechai Zilber (one of the refugees from Poland – he was killed in the Holocaust).

At the start of the 1930s a local chapter of a Zionist group known by the acronym M.C.O. was founded. Included among the membership were some of the members of the Theodore Herzl group, but not all of them. With the passage of time, the level of activity in Theodore Herzl declined, and the majority of the activity was focused in the organization mentioned above.

At the same time, some of the veteran members of Theodore Herzl, who demanded an openly-declared and active political Zionism but without abandoning the unity among the World Zionist Organization, attempted to take part in the Staatspartei which was founded by Meir Grossman and Vienna native Robert Shticker, who had left the Jabotinsky camp. This step, which was a reaction to revisionist pressure, was not successful. Some of the members of Theodore Herzl, whose leaders were among the most conservative, found their way into the revisionist faction.

The revisionist faction was brought to Novi Sad by Dr. Y. Dohan, a native of Transylvania (who was elected several times to be one of the deputy chairmen of the National Zionist Organization), and from there it spread

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to other cities. The center remained in Novi Sad, and the international leader of the Revisionist Zionists - Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky - visited and lectured in the city several times; (his visits were taken as opportunities to organize rallies in Zagreb and other cities). The appearance of the revisionists divided the Zionist movement, and thus resources and vigor were wasted on both sides in internal squabbles and struggles. In that way, the previous mutual understanding and serenity between the General Zionists and the League for a Working Eretz Yisrael was destroyed; in addition, the dispute between the youth movements Hashomer Hatzair and Beitar worsened. It is possible that this was the price the Yugoslavian Zionists were forced to pay in order to obtain integration and greater involvement in the world movement. Those struggles, which involved only some of the Jews (wherever there were revisionist activists) and continued from 1934 until the Holocaust, were used as a convenient excuse for their lack of involvement by those who were still not organized into the Zionist camp.

 

Zionist and General Community Achievements

Following the growth of the Zionist influence, the allocation for national foundations grew substantially, (the community of Novi Sad was one of the biggest contributors in the country). Parallel to that, there was an increase in the amount of cultural activity, and mutual aid and assistance enterprises were strengthened and became more firmly established. It is possible to see a kind of division of labor between the Zionist activists and the non-Zionist community activists. The latter focused more on charitable and aid enterprises, and did excellent work.

As a matter of fact, in all fields of public works, the momentum began at the start of the 1930s. This activity reached its peak with the establishment of the House of the Jewish People, a magnificent enterprise undertaken by all of the Jews of the city which was inaugurated in January 1935.

The modern, two-story building cost $40,000 at the time, and can be considered a fabulous achievement for a community of less than 1,000 households. All of the public institutions of the Jews were housed in this building, including a kosher restaurant, an auditorium for lectures, a gymnasium, a preschool, and offices for the various different movements and institutions. One of the noteworthy offices was the regional bureau – for the Vojvodina province – of the National Zionist Organization. That bureau represented the second attempt to spread Zionism out from the center of Novi Sad in order to strengthen the existing Zionist branches and establish new ones.

The people in charge of the bureau were: attorney Dr. Meir Waltman (later Tobel), and engineer Vladislav Wertheim (killed in the Holocaust). In the role of regional secretary was held by Zvi Loker, and later by Nikola Fuchs.

The House of the Jewish People was the crowing glory and a source of great pride for the Jews of Novi Sad. Their bitter fate meant that they were only able to use the building for six years (it is now used as a municipal professional school). This fate will be dealt with in more depth in a separate chapter of this work.

 

Youth Movements

In 1919 the first youth organization, named for Yehuda Halevi, was founded by Sarah-Sari Cohen (who moved to Eretz Yisrael in the 1920s and lived in Jerusalem, later joining and becoming one of the leaders of the world-wide organization Hadassah), Bar Giora Brandeis and Asio Weinfeld.

A short time later that youth organization was merged with Ivriya, which was founded in 1923, and immediately joined the United Jewish Youth which had its center in Zagreb. The head of that organization was Leo Fisher (who was killed in the Holocaust). Among the Zionist youth counselors were Dr. Otto Mandel and Dr. Meir Waltman-Tobel (both of whom moved to Eretz Yisrael).

In 1927 an original attempt was made to establish a local Jewish scouting movement called Hashomer (The Guard) on the initiative and actions of a student named Rudolph Freedman, nicknamed Rogatz (later he became a pharmacist and was killed by the Hungarian occupiers in 1941). Freedman's innovation was in the merging of scouting and the love of nature with Jewish nationalist education. This activity provided a comfortable background for the foundation of a chapter of Hashomer Hatzair in 1931. Among the founders were Alexander “Saya” Eckstein, Zvi Loker and Oygan Guttman. Hashomer and Ivriya merged even before this.

When the youth of Ivriya grew up, yet wanted to continue coming to meetings, Kadima (Onward) was created. From an ideological point of view, it was connected to Hashomer Hazair and to the League for a Working Eretz Yisrael. In the period of transition from Ivriya to Hashomer Hatzair there also existed, for a short time, Ivriya Hatzaira (Young Hebrew).

At the end of the 1930s Beitar (an acronym for The Covenant of Joseph Trumpeldor) was also established. This movement embraced many of those young people who up to that point had not been part of an organization, many from among the clerks, service providers, and merchants who worked on salary. Since the leadership of the revisionists was in the city, it was natural that the leaders (or commanders, as they were called) of this movement would be natives of the city. The commissioners (nationals) of the Yugoslavian Beitar movement were: Victor Stark, Frania Ofner, and Waldo Guttman (all of whom moved to Eretz Yisrael).

In the late 1930s the competition over the Jewish youth was quite fierce, and there was a great deal of tension between Hashomer Hatzair and the supporters of Beitar. Matters escalated to threats, informing, and occasionally even fisticuffs.

 

The Jewish Pre-school

In the House of the Jewish People a new educational institution was founded: a pre-school for Jewish children. The preschool was founded and managed by Mrs. Paula Shussberger (who became a victim of the Hungarian Razzia).

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The work of educating the children was turned over to Hannah Shimerling. Between thirty and forty children were enrolled in the preschool.

 

Religion and Ritual

From a religious standpoint, the community belonged to the Neolog stream of Judaism which is sometimes compared, albeit somewhat inaccurately, to Reform Judaism. In truth, it is closer to the Conservative stream of Judaism in the United States of the mid-twentieth century. An organ was placed in the synagogue, and there was a choir comprised of both men and women, with frequent solos by women who accompanied the cantor in the singing of prayers. The community leadership was particularly assiduous in providing the community not only with excellent cantors, but a pleasant experience in the singing of religious songs and psalms. During holidays, the synagogue was adorned in festive decorations and ablaze with light. The community employed a relatively large staff for the provision of religious services, included an assistant rabbi, ritual slaughterers and inspectors, choirmaster, three assistant cantors, and two beadles. Most of the members of the group were housed in a building owned by the community and located next to the synagogue. The magnificent, festive, traditional meals of “Hatan Torah” and “Hatan Bereshit” were enjoyed by most of the community.

 

Community Leaders

At that time, Beno Leiter, Barnet Ernest, Dr. Armin Kassovitch, Julye Frank and Dr. Ferdinand Lustig were the leaders of the community. The beadles – those men in charge of religious matters – were Leopold Waltman and Wilhelm-William Loker. Starting in 1921, the rabbi was Dr. Heinrik Henko-Kish. During the late 1930s he was assisted by Dr. Mordechai Zilber, who has already been mentioned, a Polish refugee who also served as a teacher of the Hebrew language.

 

Cantors and Their Helpers

Among the early cantors of the community mentioned in documents are: Menachem Sha'an (1902); Joseph Simon; and Phillip Schön (1845 – 1902).

In the new era among those who held this position were: Israel Shecter, Mauricio Bernstein, and in the later years leading up to the Holocaust – Leopold Mandel.

The cantor's assistants, the slaughterers and instructors, and the prayer leaders for the community were: Weizenfeld, Weisborg-Belogorski, Simon Fleishman (who was also a mohel – ritual circumcisor – and tutor for bar mitzvah students) Katzav and Grossifais.

 

The Orthodox Minyan

In the 1930s, an Orthodox minyan was organized. In the beginning they prayed in a rented house, and later were given a space in one of the community buildings, in a community to which they belonged and paid taxes. They employed their own ritual slaughterer and inspector, who was supervised by Rabbi Bailok. Jacob Hochberg, Kahan, Zoltan Weiser and Emil Weber were active in this group.

Passover Matzah – The bakeries of Hollander and Gaza Adler provided quality matzahs to the community and the Jews of the surrounding area. Certain families ordered matzahs especially from Eretz Yisrael.

 

Jewish Orphanage and Home for the Aged

The idea for the establishment of a Home for the Aged is credited to Karl Levinger, then head of the Chevra Kadisha, who conceived it at the end of the nineteenth century. Construction began at the start of the twentieth century, and in 1904 a modest sized building was dedicated. Only in 1931 was a two-story building erected, suitable for the housing and proper treatment of about fifty residents. In 1936 an orphanage was built next door, which could house thirty orphans. The guiding spirit behind the orphanage was Julia Hiyush. It is worth noting that the aged and the orphans of the community were accepted into these institutions first although they were national organizations. For example, fourteen orphans from the Bitola community in Macedonia were accepted into the orphanage.

 

B'nai B'rith (Sons of the Covenant)

At the start of the 1930s in the city of Luja a branch of Bnai Brith named for Dr. Shmuel Alkalai was established. Among its members was a selection of community leaders, businessmen and wealthy intellectuals, as well as Zionist activists such as Liorbit Korody who served as chairman of the organization. In addition to its social and cultural work on behalf of its members, the organization also supported various Jewish cultural and aid societies in the greater community.

 

Property – Savings and Loan

In 1932 a Jewish cooperative bank was founded for the purposes of providing mutual aid. Among the founders was Pavla Weber, a clerk by profession. The first chairman was Mattya Levy; he was followed by Alfred Stern, Joseph Neiman and Alexander Rosenbaum. Other managers included: Zoltan Weiser, Maxim Bader and Isaac Krishaber. The cooperative provided loans with comfortable terms, especially to artisans and small merchants, though occasionally its services were also required by wholesalers and industrialists. The bank existed until the Holocaust, and was closed twice: in 1942 it was closed by the Hungarian occupiers, and in 1948 the bank was nationalized together with other private banks, by the government of the new Yugoslavia.

 

Social Institutions Outside of the Jewish Community

One outstanding example of activity for the benefit of the entire community, organized by a number of Jews, was a youth hostel called A Meal and Bed.

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In the 1920s a special aid society was founded for the treatment of orphans and the children of the poor neighborhoods of the city. The organization was founded on the initiative of Mrs. Elena Cohen (Kone), who managed it until the Holocaust (she and her husband were murdered during the Hungarian occupation). In that hostel almost one hundred children were educated, and it employed a principal, cook, teacher and two social workers. This institution earned a name for being one of the most advanced such places in the field of social work. Among its benefactors were a number of Jews. There is no doubt that among general population it was considered a Jewish organization.

 

Women's Organizations:

 

The Society of Righteous Women

The Society of Righteous Women, which was mentioned above, continued its blessed activity until the Holocaust. In 1926 the society published a booklet commemorating its fiftieth anniversary (unfortunately, the booklet cannot be found today). Between the years 1920 – 1930, the society was managed by Mrs. Biro, Mrs. Deutsch, and Malvina Han-Ernst. From 1930 on Mrs. Elisheva Reiner and Fanny Lustig were the administrators.

 

Zionist Women (WIZO)

This local pro-Palestine organization was incorporated into the chapter of WIZO (the Women's International Zionist Organization). In the 1920s the leader was Yerka Lederer. Although she was not a native of the area, the local women were very fond of her. She performed a great deal of Zionist work, including fundraising for the WIZO organization in Eretz Yisrael, and Jewish nationalist education.

 

Revisionist Women

At the end of the 1930s, and following the succession of the revisionists from the National Zionist Union, and also from the local chapter (MZAO), the revisionist women also formed a separate organization, a branch of the World Society of Revisionist Women (WEREF, an acronym in either Yiddish or German). The chapter president was Mrs. Yuja Laslow (Levinger).

 

Jewish Sport

Another Zionist initiative during the 1920s was the sports organization Yehuda Hamaccabee. The first chairman was the M. Levy referred to above; the secretary was Bar-Giora Brandeis. There were several main branches of sport: wrestling (from 1921 – 1923 the outstanding wrestlers were Vilmush Cohen, Jacob Hoffman, and Wizniker); soccer (in 1925, together with the Vojvodina team, a field was purchased, something that contributed to the further development of the sport; under the management of the gymnastics teacher Terush Unger). Over time, the society added new branches, for example, track and field. Sports instructors from Germany, with credentials in physical fitness and gymnastics, were employed, and Maestro Torichelli of Italy was in charge of this branch.

The gymnastics branch gained momentum with the construction of the Beit Ha'am (House of the Jewish People) at the start of 1935. The instructors were: Jana Eichwald, Bela Marberger, Oygan Guttman and Yoven Steinitz (the last two were murdered in the Holocaust).

The soccer team played for a while in the second league but most of the time, thanks to the contribution of players from outside the city, held a position in the premier league. During the 1920s, the team hosted the Hacoah (Strength) team from Vienna; in the mid-1930s they welcomed the team Hapoel (Worker) Tel Aviv, which played two games in the city.

The outstanding players were Oygan Ketzef (Katsav) and Emil Shussberger (“Patch”), who played on the municipal team; the latter was even a candidate to play on the national team.

In the table tennis branch, the top athletes were Franya Roth, Carlo Klauber, Misha Hazanovitch and Emil Shussberger, who has already been mentioned above. They received prizes in area-wide competitions

Among the chairmen of the society were: Joseph Mayor, Mebro Iritch, Nikola Sheiber, “Fredo” Lustig (mentioned above) and Dr. Peter Schwartz (who himself was an expert fencer). The society was also involved with entertainment and culture. Chanukah balls were a pleasant event which also served as a main source of income for the society's coffers, which were usually in difficulty if not altogether empty.

 

Choirs

In 1923 a 36-member choir was founded by Alexander Rosenbaum and Aleksa Klein (in those days the general secretary of the Zagreb community). The conductor was Leopold Weissberg, the assistant cantor in the synagogue. In November 1925 the choir disbanded. The Jewish choir was reorganized under the name Hashira (The Song). This society was the second of its kind in the city. It was established in 1935 and had more than sixty active members. Its leaders were Ladislav Wertheim, Leorbit Smetana and G. Kimmerling. Among the founders was Dr. Tibor (Tuvia) Kaiser. The choir was helped by the cantors of the community, and appeared at Jewish events and at their own concerts.

 

Jewish Musicians

In the 1930s the composer Richard (“Dundo”) Shwartz was the principal of the Baitch music academy. Also well-known

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were the composer Joe Hayosh and the singer Gaza Shenberger (who used the stage name “Sasha Grigor”). There were also gifted Jewish pianists and soloists in the city. The composer of light music Joseph (Joe) Hayosh enjoyed success in Europe, moved to Paris and disappeared there, while the remainder of his family was slaughtered in the Razzia of January 1942.

 

Local and General Jewish Journalism

At the end of the First World War, with the change in the regime, connection was lost with the journalism (weeklies) of the Hungarian Jews insofar as it had ever existed. Only the art monthly Past and Future (Mult és Jövö), under the editorship of Dr. Joseph Patai, not only survived, but added to the number of its subscribers thanks to its Zionist slant and its fine literary and artistic content.

However, local journalism with a Zionist slant quickly developed, as has already been mentioned. In 1920 a weekly newspaper in the German language named Jewish People's Journal (Jüdisches Volksblatt) began publication under the editorship of Betzalel First, Adolph Schreiber, Lazar Roth and others. The weekly persevered for five years, spreading Zionist knowledge until it fell into financial difficulties and ceased publication. One of the reasons for its downfall was the fact that some of its editors left. This newspaper provided a reliable expression of the national awakening that gripped the Jews in the cities and the villages of Vojvodina during the decisive years of the establishment of the Zionist movement in an area where indifference and assimilation ruled and the echoes of the nationalist movement arrived a generation behind.

In 1923 an interesting linguistic-cultural experiment was made by attorney Dr. Sigmund-Ziga Handler. He published a monthly magazine called The Hebrew (“Ha'Ivri” in Hebrew, Zsidó havi folyoirat). Dr. Handler, a Zionist, was an intellectual raised in Hungarian culture who aimed to deliver to his readers Zionist propaganda and Jewish information in the guise of fine literature; however, his experiment was not successful. Only three issues were published. The monthly emphasized art and literature, with each issue being twenty-four pages in length. The editor himself illustrated the magazine with woodcuttings, and he signed his works in Hebrew. The Zionist rabbis Dr. Lazar Roth and Dr. Herman Schweiger, as well as community leaders Dr. Y. Dohan, Adolph Schreiber and the editor himself participated in this venture. An article by Dr. Joshua Tahun was published, as were excerpts from the latest Hebrew literature. As was mentioned, the magazine did not have a long life, and at the time of the Razzia the gifted editor was murdered. This act clearly emphasized the difficulties brought about by the change in regime, and illustrated the problem of linguistic adjustment that was a stumbling block to more than a few educated people, making it difficult to disseminate Zionist propaganda by way of the written word.

The goal of reaching the older generation in the community was attempted by the city's Zionists by publishing a weekly newspaper in Hungarian in 1928 by the name Zsidó Élet (Jewish Life). However, only one issue was published, on February 23, 1928. The reason for this is unclear, but it is possible to assume that at that time it was not convenient to publish a newspaper in the language of the large Hungarian minority. Its editor was Martin Komalush.

After a seven-year hiatus, in 1935 a bilingual weekly newspaper called Jevrejske Novine – Jüdische Zeitung (Jewish Newspaper) was founded; it remained in publication until the Holocaust. The main articles and the organizational announcements were published in Serbian, while news from Eretz Yisrael and the Jewish communities around the world were printed in German. The editors of the newspaper were Dr. Ernst Friedman, Dr. M. Waltman, Zvi Loker, Dr. Emil Konigstettler and Nikola Fuchs.

The sports organization Maccabi published a weekly newspaper of its own, first Juda Makabi (Judah the Maccabee), printed in Hungarian (1926 – 1927), and later Makabi Sport, from 1929 – 1930, published in Serbian. Both weeklies were edited by Nandor “Fredo” Lustig (one of the victims of the Razzia of January 1942).

In 1935 there appeared the Jugoslawische Jüdische Rundschau (the Yugoslavian Jewish Study), printed in German, and edited by Ernst Fodor with the involvement of Rabbi Dr. Lazar Roth. Only three issues were published. No specific details of the character and purpose of the newspaper are known.

 

Journal of the Revisionist Party

The weekly newspaper Malchut Jisrael (Monarchy of Israel) was published in Serbian from 1934 – 1939, and was the official mouthpiece of the Vladimir Jabotinsky Revisionist Zionist Organization. The editor-in-chief was the chairman of the aforementioned organization, Dr. Julye Dohan. Among the editors were: Victor Stark, Averel Friedman, and Vladimir Krause. The journal was transferred to Zagreb and continued publication there, under the name Jabreska Tribona until March of 1941.

On the eve of the community elections in 1937, this party published an eight-page magazine called Jevrejski opštinar (Member of the Jewish Community). Only one issue of this magazine was ever published.

Another one-time publication, called Šlahmones (Purim Basket), written in Serbian with portions in German and ten pages in length, was produced just before Purim 1936. In addition, two monthly magazines for youth were published by Beitar; the first was Ever Hajarden (Beyond the Jordan River), which was published in Serbian from 1934 – 1937. Its editor was Vladislav Gutman.

Following the above came Tagar (The Trader), whose subtitle was

[Pages 190]

“The Newspaper for Nationalist Jewish Youth.” It was edited by Joseph “Carlo” Levinger.

 

Struggle and Destruction

The peace of the Jews of the capital of Vojvodina was disrupted in 1938 - 1939, and not just temporarily, following the arrival of refugees from Austria, Czechoslovakia and Germany, many of whom arrived openly by way of the Danube. The community took part in raising funds and resources to provide for them. Overall, that first wave of immigration went smoothly, though perhaps less so for the refugees themselves. The community imposed additional taxes, and no more.

The first direct blow fell upon all of the Jews of Yugoslavia in the autumn of 1940 with the passage of the discrimination laws (the limitation of the number of Jewish students to be accepted to high schools and colleges) and restrictions (forbidding Jews from working in certain areas of business). Those laws were a result of pressure from the Axis (Germany, Italy, and Japan), and the fruitless attempt of the government in Belgrade to delay the inevitable, that is, the invasion of the Fascist forces. That ominous portent was not sufficient to shock the people of the community to cause them to emigrate, though by then the real possibility of leaving the country was limited and extremely costly. A few of the wealthy members of the community realized the danger and were able to leave through that narrow window of opportunity. The Cvetkoviæ-Maèek government maneuvered itself into a neutral position which supported the Axis, in order to protect the sovereignty of Yugoslavia and delay for a while the inevitable end.

When the government joined the Axis powers on March 25, 1941 the leadership in Belgrade still hoped to prevent the invasion. The people's revolt which broke out two days after the signing of the treaty in Vienna on March 27, although well-received by the people around the country, decided their fate. Although people joined up voluntarily and implemented hasty measures for defense, the country was already rotten from within, as a result of the subversion of the fifth column, which was operated by the Germans systematically and on a wide scale for many months. The war that was imposed on Yugoslavia, without being officially declared, prevented the Yugoslavian army from facing the Nazi war machine and its satellite states.

Thus the Hungarian army units entered the city on April 12 without firing a shot and the Baèka Region was delivered to the Hungarians, who saw that as an opportunity to return to land that should have been theirs (a return of the southern area under the crown of St. Stephanus). Another region, the Banat, the Nazis took for themselves. It should be mentioned that although a “permanent” treaty of friendship was signed between Hungary and Yugoslavia in 1941, in the framework of the policy of Yugoslavian prevention and neutrality, that “permanence” lasted for less than one year.

It should be noted that he Hungarian and German populations of the city


Cemetery Entrance, Novi Sad

(40% - 50%) welcomed the invaders – “the liberators” – with open arms and cries of joy. In spite of that, the Hungarian soldiers immediately began terrorizing the Serbian Jewish population. In the absence of any real opposition, the occupiers themselves fabricated it in order to justify their frightening activities, the imprisonment of suspects and the execution of hundreds of residents, including a number of Jews.

One of the first steps of the military government was the confiscation of Jewish and Serbian property. In addition, the community was fined 50 million dinar, payable in cash and valuables. Jews who were not permanent residents of the city, and were therefore foreign residents, and Croatians, were driven out to areas under the control of the Ustaše – the Croatian Fascists who immediately performed a complete extermination of the Jews who fell into their hands.

More than a few Jews were suspected of belonging to the “freedom fighters” or to the Chetniks, a national Serbian group, and were interrogated under torture and sentenced to prison sentences of various lengths. In addition, radio receivers and other communications equipment were confiscated from the homes of many Jews.

 

The Labor Corps

Men between the ages of 16 and 65 were forced into the Labor Corps and endured horrible living conditions, required to perform public works that in the main lacked any real purpose. After the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June of the same year, those units were sent to the eastern front,

[Pages 191]

mostly to the Ukraine, where they cleared minefields and ultimately met their deaths.

 

The First to Fall

Among the few who are known to have opposed and sabotaged the army or Hungarian property from the beginning of the occupation, the Jews were particularly noteworthy; especially the Zionist youth in Subotica, and in Novi Sad and the surrounding area. While performing various acts of sabotage and fighting the gendarmerie, two sons of Novi Sad fell: Milan Kom and George Mikash (who killed two policemen and succeeded in killing himself with a gun before he could be captured). Today there is a street in the city named after him.

 

The Razzia (The Great Raid)

Following the discovery and destruction of small underground groups in the area of Sajkaška oblašt a “purification” throughout Baèka was performed by the combined forces of the gendarmerie and various units of the army. After a campaign of slaughter in the villages of Sajkaška, Novi Sad's turn finally came. For full three days, from January 21 – January 23, 1942, with the city under curfew and completely surrounded and isolated from the rest of the country, Horthy's soldiers committed horrific acts. At that time it was terribly cold (-20°) and the entire city was blanketed in snow. The companies of the murderers dragged their victims from their homes, taking them to a pre-selected location and killing them there. However, most of the people were killed on the banks of the Danube at the Strand, a popular place for swimming, and people both alive and dead were thrown into the frozen water, under the ice which had been broken up beforehand by engineering units of the army specifically for this purpose.

During this massacre, which was called Razzia (raid), 500 Serbs and more than 800 Jews were murdered – all of them law-abiding, unarmed citizens, including women, the elderly and small children.

The raid of Novi Sad awakened negative reaction in the general populace and the Hungarian parliament because of the indiscriminate, cruel slaughter; it was a massive pogrom the likes of which had never before been seen in Central Europe. Even the headquarters in Budapest called for a cessation of the exterminations, most likely by order of the prime minister.

This incident caused profound fear and shock and as a result many Jews fled to Budapest.

 

The Arrow Cross Party

After the Razzia there was a slight relief in the oppression, and the Jews who remained alive were able to make a living under the supervision of Hungarian commissars. The situation continued until the fall of the Horthy government which was followed by the Germans taking control of the local Fascists of the Arrow Cross party (headed by the then-prime minister Szállasy) in Budapest and replacing the local army with their own. The Second Occupation by Nazi units occurred in March 1944, and by April of the same year all of the Jews (approximately 1,600 in number) had been gathered and taken by way of the Baèka, Topole and Baja camps in Hungary to their final destination, reached in transport trains: Auschwitz. Only a few of the young men and women who were sent to work in German war factories returned.

 

Forced Labor in the Bor Mine in Serbia

About 6,000 Jews from Hungary, from Novi Sad, and Sobmor itself were drafted in March of 1943 to work in the lead mine in Bor in northeastern Serbia, approximately 200 kilometers from Belgrade. Only a few succeeded in running away from there, and joining the freedom fighters. In addition to the hardships and tribulations the forced laborers endured, the evacuation of the camp in the autumn of 1943 was carried out in a fever of murder, starvation and interminable forced marches; as in the Razzia, these acts were carried out as a clear expression of the characteristic cruelty and hatred of the Hungarians. More than 2,000 young Jews were murdered on their way home, especially in the village of Crvenka in Baèka.

 

As a Group or as Individuals?

A short time after the entrance of the Hungarian army into the city, the graduates of the youth movement Hashomer Hatzair presented themselves as a group to the underground with the intention of joining in the fight against the occupiers. Inasmuch as the strength and the leadership of the opposition, and the rebellion, were in the hands of the communists, the youth turned to them and asked to be included into the ranks of fighters as a separate unit. They even suggested one group of fighters and a second of medics (both men and women). There were negotiations with the young people, with the communist party authorizing Liviya (Leah) Böhm, a former member of the movement, to represent them. During the negotiations she revealed the clear and inflexible bottom line: the youth were obligated to join as individuals only; the attempt to enlist as a group, a Jewish unit, was rejected. Pleas and explanations were of no help. The party's position was firm, almost certainly because of the instructions it received. And so the experiment failed, but it deserves mention on its own merits. There is no doubt that most of the organized Zionist youth took part in the anti-Fascist underground.

A short while after the Razzia, young Jews in the underground attempted to renew their rebellious activities under difficult external conditions and unclear instructions from the leadership; to perform acts of sabotage in granaries, military factories

[Pages 192]

and so on. On the other hand, attempts to bring about an armed revolt failed because both the proper national and topographical conditions were lacking.

 

The Subjugation and Its Victims

The response of the Hungarian government to these acts was extremely harsh. Thousands of suspects were imprisoned and interrogated under torture, and many were murdered during interrogation. The secret police exposed and destroyed various underground cells. Dozens of prisoners were sentenced to death by military field courts. About a third of those murdered, with or without a trial, including one minor, were Jews. Many others were sentenced to long terms in prison or were taken to concentration camps. Among the prisoners in the Hungarian jails, only a few were able to escape and join the ranks of the partisans and the underground in the city. Indeed, at the time of the pro-Nazi revolution in March of 1944, most were given over to the Nazis and were put to death where they were, or in Auschwitz.

Among the fighters who were tried by the military court and whose lives were cut short, we recall the following: the aforementioned[1] Liviya (Leah) Böhm, Zoltan Timar, Andrea (Bandi) Ledor, Pernia Kardosh and Otto Blam. Those victims were not the only fighters. Altogether about 140 Jewish youths participated in the fighting in the ranks of the partisans – in addition to those mentioned – and of those ten fell in battle. Six Jews were decorated with the Partizanska Spomenica (a commemorative medal), and three army doctors reached the ranks of colonel or general (among them Dr. Andrei Diek, who reconstructed the violent actions of the Razzia of Novi Sad in a book which was published in Serbian and German; an edition of which is listed in the bibliography).

 

Liberation and Rehabilitation

The city was liberated on October 23, 1944 by the combined forces of the partisans and the Red Army. The community was rebuilt by prisoners of war, those freed from the camps, and by partisan fighters only in 1945, after the final victory over Germany.

The remnants that remained numbered only about 1,000 souls; of those approximately 700 moved to Israel in 1948 – 1949. Thus came to an end a vigorous and effervescent people who had lived and flourished for almost 300 years before being stricken with disaster.

A statue honoring the memory of the 4,000 Jewish victims of Fascism was erected in the Jewish cemetery. This monument was made of four columns carved of white stone, each one symbolizing 1,000 victims. A dedication ceremony was held in November of 1952, attended by groups of Jews from abroad (especially Israel) and a representative of the Israeli legation in Belgrade.

In 1971 a statue was erected on the promenade along the banks of the Danube, commemorating those murdered and drowned during the Razzia.

There are streets in the city named after Jewish fighters, the main one being Pavla Papa Street, in honor of the man called Hero of the Nation and who was a leader of the Communist movement. He was captured and executed by the Italians in Dalmatia.

The rehabilitation of the rescued embers and the preservation of property was faithfully carried out by the leaders of the community following the destruction; they appear here according to the year of their election: 1944 – Nando Komlish; 1945 – Pavla Lempel (moved to Eretz Yisrael); 1949, 1961 – Dr. Prenya Fisher; 1952 – Dr. Peter Shwartz; 1962 – Dr. Andrei Zador; 1964 – Dr. Karlo Fishel; 1966, 1968, 1971 – Pavla Shossberger; 1974 – Bruno Hoffman; 1978 – Agon Stark.

In conclusion it must be noted that this tiny community has made efforts to observe the holidays of Israel, and is working to establish women's and youth departments.[2]

Appendix A
Teachers and Rabbis of the Sacred Community of Novi Sad

Name Years of Service Remarks
Wolff Lipman 1743 - 1755 The first rabbi? Or community leader?
Rabbi Joseph Lebel 1766 – 1770  
Rabbi Isaac Joseph Konitzer 1782 – 1805  
Lebel Rozentzveib 1807 – 1808  
Rabbi Judah Leib Kalledey Start of the 19th century Was not a permanent resident
Rabbi Pinchas Leib Monk 1834 – 1848 From the school of the Hatam Sofer, Pressburg
Rabbi Zvi Isaac (Herman) Herschfeld 1843? – 1861  
Rabbi M.L. Weber    
Rabbi B.L. Zinger 1855  
Rabbi H.M. Sonnenschein 1855 – 1861  
Rabbi Jacob Shalom Freyer 1862 – 1879 The first certified rabbi in 1868; member of city council
Rabbi Dr. Ignatz-Zis Papp 1881 – 1916  
Armin Klein 1917 – 1920 Teacher of religion; later secretary general of the community
Dr. Chaim-Henko Kish 1921 – 1948  
Dr. Mordechai Zilber 1935 – 1941 Refugee from Poland – assistant rabbi: murdered in the Holocaust

Appendix B
List of Leaders of the Sacred Community of Novi Sad (until the Holocaust)

Name Years of Service Remarks
Phillip Marcus 1693 – 1727  
Joseph Cohen 1743 – 1754  
Wolff Lipman 1743 – 1755 Rabbi? He was also a spiritual leader of his community.
Jacob Hershel 1753, 1766, 1776  
Isaac Hershel 1761, 1780  
Solomon Hershel 1786, 1789  
Simon Hershel 1790 – 1801
1804 – 1813
 
Joseph Deutsch 1801 – 1802 “Judge of the Jews”
Pearl Horowitz 1813 – 1814  
Jacob Mentzel 1843 “Judge”
Israel Horowitz 1847  
Herman Ben-Simon Hirsch 1844 – 1861  
David Grubi (Gruber?) 1862 – 1864  
Morris Hirsch 1865  
Gershon Heitzer 1867 – 1869, 1872  
Yovan (Yanush) Ernst 1876 – 1879  
Dr. Gabor Persburger 1874 – 1875
1882 – 1886
 
Dr. Carlo Cohen-Cobini 1896, 1898
1902 – 1906
 
Joseph Ernst 1907 – 1909  
Dr. Armin Kassovitch 1910 – 1912, 1925  
Dr. Beno Leitner 1913, 1920  
Barnet Ernst 1921 – 1924  
Julye Frank 1931 – 1937  
Dr. Ferdinand Lustig 1925 - 1930
1937 - 1944
 

 

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J.P., 1961, no. 11-12 1968, no. 5-6, pp.7-15; 1971, no 1-2, pp 2-8; 1972, no. 1-2, p. 62; 1974, no. 9-10, p. 15; 1975, no. 5-6, p. 20; 1979, no. 3-4, p. 17; 1980, no 1-2, p. 5; 1980, no. 9-10, p.24; 1980, no. 11-12, p. 37; ; 1981, no. 1-2, p. 5; 1981, no. 3-4, pp. 9-14;
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Eventov, see pages 172 – 270.
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Natan Ketzburg, Anti-Semitism in Hungary 1867 – 1914, Tel Aviv (1969).
Op cit., The History of the Jews of Hungary, Pinkas HaKehillot Hungary, Yad V'Shem 1975, pages 36 – 64.
Shalmo Shanz, The Yugoslavian People, Sociology Department, University of Haifa 1975.
L. Randolph Braham, The Kamenets Podolsk and Délvidék Massacres: Prelude to the Holocaust in Hungary, Yad Vashem Studies, vol. IX, Jerusalem 1973, pp. 133 – 156.
János Buzasi, Az ujvidéki Razzia, Budapest, 1963.
M. Cobanski-Goluboviæ-Kuzmanov, Novi Sad u ratu I revoluciji, Novi Sad, 1976.
Andreja Deak, Razzia in Novi Sad, Zürich, 1967.
Nathan Eek, The March of Death from Serbia to Hungary (Sept. 1944) and the Slaughter of the Cservenka, Yad Vashem Studies, vol. II, 1958, pp. 255 – 295.
Harriet Pass Freidenreich, The Jews of Yugoslavia – A Quest for Community, Philadelphia 1979.
Arthur Geyer, Az 1942 évi ujvidéki Razzia, in “Uj Élet Naptár,” M.I.O.K., Budapest,1959, pp. 39 – 51.
Zvonimir Goluboviæ, 'Racija januara 1942 godine u južnoj Baèkoj' Zbornik za druœtvene nauke, Sv. 35, 1963.
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Duœan Jeliæ, Prilog izuèavanju uèešæa haèkih Jevreja u NOR-u, Zbornik no. 3 Beograd, 1975, pp. 53 – 212.
Dr. Teodor Kovaè, Neka seæanja na Hašomer Hacair prvih meseci okupacije u Novom Sadu, Zbornik no. 3 Beograd, 1975, pp. 213 – 222.
Erik Koœ, Novosadski Pokolj, Beograd, 1961.
Jakov Löwinger, XV Moaca arcit, “Iton hatnua,” VI, Zagreb, 1940.
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Idem, Istorija novosadskih Jevreja, (Enlarged edition), Tel Aviv, 1972.
Jaša Romano, Jevreji zdravstveni radnici Jugoslavije 1941 – 45, Zbornik no. 3 Beograd, 1973, pp. 91, 107 – 08, 149 – 220.
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Translator's Footnotes

  1. Sarah, Leah's eldest sister, together with her daughter and her mother, was taken to Auschwitz and burned to death there; Rivka, her younger sister, was able to jump off of and run away from the transport train, and joined the partisans, where she remained until the Liberation. Until she was captured, Leah Biham worked actively performing various revolutionary acts, which gave her a position of power and prestige in the underground. That family serves as a remarkable symbol of the Holocaust as a whole, both the suffering and the resistance. Return
  2. Most of the data mentioned in this book was prepared and provided, to the best of the editor's knowledge, by Mr. Pavla Shussberger of Novi Sad, to whom we give our thanks for his friendly and productive cooperation. Return


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