Big problems preserving remains of the Nish Jewish cemetery

Press reported Jasna's text  

Cemetery photographs April 2003

Gypsy live at this cemetery and use stones as their toilets, even the toilet paper is permanently hanging on the branches for their convenience.

Horses are eating and polluting this sacral place.

Below, a sarcophagus from the  XVIII century with horse ding.

Rabi grave is part of a Gypsy house now.

At the end, even the bones are thrown out of the grave.


APRIL 2003

No response from the city government to many requests for action (relocation of Gypsies or the cemetery) by the Jewish Community of Nis.


Continuation, November 2003 :

The cemetery was completely filled with garbage:

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On the other side, bulldozers level everything, and there is no more cemetery in Nish.

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27. Novembar 2003


The today’s Jewish cemetery in Nish is the third one in this town. The first was situated in the town’s center where the Jewish ghetto skirted it. The Second Jewish cemetery was near St. Panthaleimon’s Church.

The remnants of the Jewish cemetery today are in the city section called the Stock Square, prevalently settled by Gypsies. The Jewish cemetery dates back to 17th century. It could, however, be even older. Among the other tomb markers there is also the memorial tablet of the famous rabbi Rahamim Naftali Gedalia. A great number of Jews from Nish, but also from the neighboring towns were buried at this cemetery. There are records stating that also the Prokuplje Jews, whose community was small and, therefore, had no cemetery or synagogue of its own, were taken to the Nish cemetery for interment.

The monuments at the today’s Jewish cemetery of Nish are sarcophagus shaped and are laid out in diagonal long rows one sarcophagus next to the other on a surface of thirty-two hundred square meters. A pertinent remark would be that the Association of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia bequeathed 50 hundred square meters of the cemetery’s unused surface to the township of Nish in the fifties of the past century. All memorial tablets are engraved with long Hebrew texts. A smaller number bear Hebrew inscriptions done in plastic lettering. A small number of tablets are also inscribed with the Serbian translation of the Hebrew text. These date back to 1913, 1915, 1935 and 1936, while the other much older inscriptions that surely date back to 19th century bear neither a date nor the Serbian translation. There is little ornamentation on the monuments. A few hemispheres of smaller size, placed in groups of four, embellish each corner of the tablet. The Jewish Scriptures existed once. Rabbi Abraham Daniti wrote in 1939 that some Jews demonstrated such zeal and haste at ''burying'' information, notebooks, and books that the Jewish Association of Nish was left without any important piece of information except for some notebooks that were kept when first the Association was formed.


Burials were performed at this cemetery until the beginning of WWII. In 1948 the cemetery was expropriated. In 1965 the Assembly of the County of Nish prohibits burials at the Jewish Cemetery. In the following years many Jewish families had disinterred their dead to take them and bury them at the Jewish Cemetery of Belgrade. The Jewish Cemetery in Nish today cannot be seen, examined, or photographed. It is overgrown by grass, reeds and covered by tons of debris, excrement and rubbish. The memorial stone tablets are overgrown by grass and weeds. The brush is some two meters high. The way it looks, the cemetery has become the sore spot of the town. Many Gypsy homes have memorial slabs from this cemetery for foundation, while other tablets make the inventory of the homes’ interior. Additional uses of the memorial slabs were to pave the passages between the homes, to cover the sod in the sties of this Gypsy settlement, to panel the walls of the underground sewers. On top of all this space there are tons of trash, so that calling the Jewish Cemetery of today huge garbage disposal is no misnomer.

With the exception of some twenty tablets on the eastern side of the cemetery, the other memorial stones cannot be seen and all are greatly damaged, that is, broken, displaced and ruined. There is also a chapel at this cemetery. According to the title documents it belongs to the Jewish Community of Nish. In front of the chapel is the rabbi’s grave. Inside the chapel seven members of a Gypsy family have domicile.

One should also say that one part of the Jewish Cemetery on its north-west side has been usurped by firms ''Metalac'' and ''Niplast'' before and by ''Tehnomarket'' today, while on the eastern side is the commercial firm ''Otpad'' from Zrenjanin. Also these firms have covered the cemetery with tons of waste materials, making it impossible to see or examine the gravesites. The Gypsy settlement is also on the cemetery’s east side.

Just before WWII 360 Jews lived in Nish. During the war 1100 were killed. The war has claimed all Jews of Nish. Their graves are not marked. Entire families were killed. No relatives survived so that nobody remembers them. In Nish there is no memorial plaque to inform about their suffering, about the doom that befell our neighbors who no longer live.

In April the Jewish Community of Nish submitted their request that the Cemetery be moved to another location to the Department for City Planning in Nish.

On April 27, the Jewish Cemetery was burned down. It was newly covered with human waste and garbage. Two graves were dug up and the bones were scattered around. The incident was reported to the police, who investigated the case, but the culprit remained at large, most probably.

This December 2003 the story of the Jewish Cemetery is finished. There is no longer a Jewish Cemetery in Nish. It has been razed and buried under tons of garbage and waste. ''Tehnomarket'' built illegally a wall, 50-70 m long and 3-4m high all along the side of the cemetery. Tons of garbage are thrown over the wall. Where the Gypsy settlement is, fences were built around the homes, so that neither from that side is the cemetery accessible.

Vandalism, negligence and indifference are words that best explain this story.

The general urban plan for the period from 1995 to 2010 will, I hope, protect the space of the Jewish Cemetery. This space will be preserved as the memorial Site of the Jewish Community, which was once of significance

in Nish. The Institute for urban Planning of Nish prepared the general urban plan.

We must hope and wait for the realization of this plan or some other one.

Dec. 5, 2003  Nish                                                Jasna Ciric

President of the
Jewish Community of Nish
E-mail: jasnacir@eunet.yu