The president of the Executive Board of Niš City Assembly, Toplica Đorđević, with his associates and representatives of the Alliance of Jewish Municipalities in Serbia and Montenegro, visited the Jewish cemetery in Niš this morning.

"We are shocked and distressed by the conditions of the centuries old Jewish cemetery in Niš. Incomprehensible neglect and uncivilized attitude towards the ashes of long gone citizens deeply disturbed and upset us. We are ashamed and ask all member of the Jewish Allience of SCG and the world to accept our apologies", said president Đorđević at the beginning of the meeting with representatives of the Allience, Mr. Davor Salom, secretary of the Allience, architect Aleksandar Nećak and Ms. Jasmina Ćirić, president of the Jewish community in Niš.

The intention of the City is to solve this problem once and for all. At the short but productive meeting, possible directions of activities were defined, to be undertaken immediately. The representatives of JASCG stated their view of the problem, proposed several constructive solutions and offered their support. We are very grateful for that.

Mr. Đorđević informed the guests about measures which the City of Niš is implementing at present and which are part of the City Development Program for 2004. As soon as possible, the City Executive Board will form an expert work group which will make the plan for the restoration of the Jewish Cemetery, in close cooperation with experts from JASCG. The public will be informed in detail and timely about finally defined direction and dinamics of the activities planned to solve this problem.

In Niš, December 18th, 2003.

New York Forward wrote: 

GLAS JAVNOSTI, Wednesday December 17, 2003




Nish – Architect Ivan Cseresznyes from the Center of Jewish Art at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem witnessed in May the sad and unsightly condition of the Jewish Cemetery of Nish , which is situated by the gypsy settlement, has been razed, dug up and covered with debris and waste.

The authorities of Nish had assured Mr. Cseresznyes that a solution to the Jewish Cemetery would be found perhaps in keeping with the ideas of the Jewish Community, itself, that suggested moving the remaining graves and monuments to a more adequate site and burying human remains into a mausoleum.

Instead, as also the Glas of December 2 informed in their report titled ''Tons of Debris on Gravesites'', since then the Jewish Cemetery has been additionally covered with garbage and industrial waste from the adjacent firms. At the same time a letter by Mr. Cseresznyes addressed to the highest authorities of Nish arrived and states:

''I have visited more than 400 Jewish cemeteries in the world, but none is equal to the catastrophic condition of the cemetery in Nish. This is not unknown to the Jewish scientific circles. When I visited it lst time in April, I almost got sick from what I saw. I cannot put the exclusive blame upon the gypsies, because the blame and the shame goes also to the town of Nish, where Jews have lived more than 300 years and in which considerable Jewish property was confiscated after WWII,''

This letter stirred to awareness both the town-fathers and the urban planners, who have announced to Ms. Jasmina Ciric, president of the Jewish Community in Nish, that they would invite her in a couple of days to jointly visit the remaining gravesites and then consider what must be done. The Glas representative expressed her regret that it took such a harshly toned letter to compel authorities to take some steps.


Before closing his letter, Cseresznyes muses, ''Should all of us Jews of Nish , Serbia and the Jewish Diaspora finally understand that neither our dead are welcome in Nish ?''  Then, he asks another relevant question. Based upon what principles do Serbs complain about their historical, cultural and religious monuments being destroyed in countries where they constitute a minority, when they perform similar acts in their own country against those who should be granted protection and respect according to all existing laws?

D. Doderovic




DANAS, Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Ivan Cseresznyes from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem


NishDanas has learned that Ivan Cseresznyes, who is involved in exploratory work related to Jewish heritage and its documentation in countries that constituted Yugoslavia, addressed a stringent demarche from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to the Serbian secretary of religious affairs and to the Nish municipal authorities. In it he protested the devastating condition of the Jewish cemetery in Nish .

Not one cemetery and I reiterate not a single one in any of the regions I have visited, and I visited some 400 Jewish cemeteries, is in such a catastrophic state as the Jewish cemetery in Nish . Although Nish is not a world metropolis, still neither this town nor the condition of the Jewish Cemetery in it went by unnoticed in the scientific circles of the Jewish world, where it caused disbelief and consternation. I wonder if also Nish joined those cities where a feeling that the holocaust ended too soon prevails, and where an attempt is made to correct and supplement that which Germans, Bulgarians and their local supporters had missed doing and left incomplete after 1945. Without expecting to be answered but in hope that, at least, the question would provoke you to consider, I wonder on what grounds Serbs complain about annihilation of their historic, cultural and religious monuments in countries they constitute the minority, when in their own country they are responsible for such acts against those who should have been protected by any law. All this and more has been quoted in Mr. Cseresznyes’s letter to the Secretary of religious affairs and to the authorities of Nish with an additional remark that older memorial monuments can be found at the Jewish Cemetery of Nish than anywhere else and that by their aesthetic value and yet unexplained symbols they are unique in Balkans. 

Still I found most shattering of all when in May this year I found newly dug up graves and witnessed that the bones of the Jewish martyrs were scattered in mud and human waste. Also before this, the graves were disinterred, broken and vandalized. Many of them were built into the gypsy homes and cesspools. I also suppose that remains of the monuments are buried under layers of debris next to the private enterprises. I, then, thought to myself, what kind of people must be living in Nish ! Until a couple of days ago the fifty-member strong Jewish Community fought to salvage the remains of the three-century old Jewish Cemetery in spite of wholehearted attempts of the town Nish to prevent them at that. Finally, today this struggle lost any sense, it is quoted in the letter with a remark that the Jews of Nish , Serbia , Israel , and from the Jewish Diaspora have realized that in Nish they are not welcome.


Cseresznyes makes it clear that he does not blame gypsies as the only culprits. One third of the Jewish Cemetery was whelmed by the gypsy settlement, another third was without scruples annihilated by the nearby private enterprises, while the last third was destroyed by the invading jungle and mounds of rubbish and waste. He says that he came across tethered horses and animal corpses at the cemetery and that in one part the monuments were used to build a pigsty. He further warns that a couple of weeks ago the Jewish cemetery was fenced in by a three-meter high wall, while its part that still resembled a cemetery was then covered with garbage and waste up to two meter high. Through the oldest and most significant part of the cemetery a sewage system was built.

Zorica Miladinovic

Politika, Tuesday, December 16, 2003



Grave marker tablets built into the foundations of gypsy homes

The chapel at the Jewish Cemetery in Nish , below which the Rabbi was interred, was deeded to the Jewish Community of Nish as its rightful owner. Nevertheless, to the gypsies Ljubinka and Djemo and their five children it became their second home. When they discovered it, it was dilapidated. After they had whitewashed the walls and laid a cement floor, they decided to move in. The sarcophagus of the late Rabbi Rahamim Naftalija Gedalia, which was below the chapel, found a new use as the patio table to store things on and to dry laundry on a string above it.

The inhabitants of the Gypsy settlement at the Stock Square , who have for decades illegally settled the Jewish cemetery, live with the deceased in harmony. Some of them believe that they might get lucky if they clean up one of the tomb tablets that bears the star of King David.

The members of the Jewish Community of Nish, on the other hand, think that their cemetery that dates back to 17th century has become the eyesore of Nish and have recently requested the Republic’s Secretariat for Religions to intervene in the matter.

Two alternatives

According to the information supplied by the Jewish Communities of Serbia and Montenegro , in Serbia there are 110 Jewish cemeteries that are in serious decay. It is particularly true of small places in Vojvodina, in which Jews lived in the past. The Jewish cemetery of Nish is the worst case of all.

''In this city 1100 Jews lived before the war. Just one survived it and returned after the war. At this time, forty Jews, members of the Jewish Community, live in Nish and practically have not got their cemetery,'' says Davor Salom, the secretary of the Jewish Communities of Serbia and Montenegro.

''When somebody dies, he or she must be buried at the Serbian cemetery. The Jewish is closed because Gypsies built their settlement in it. By its title deed the entire acreage of the cemetery belongs to the Jewish Community of Nish . One part of the cemetery, which had not been in use, was bequeathed to the Community of Nish in the sixties. The Gypsies then came and illegally built their settlement, which has spread since. The settlement is not made up of shanties made of cardboard or planks, but they are solidly built homes situated within the cemetery and on top of the grave makers. The inhabitants of this community live as they can without sanitary facilities. This site became the eyesore and shame of Nish . As members of the township, the gypsies now ask for help. Not long ago the representatives of the World Bank came to the city and with the town’s councilmen visited also this locality. The Nish Gazette published an article stating that the people from the gypsy settlement at Stock Square asked the representatives of the World Bank to help their effort to legalize their settlement and to have the sewage and water main installed in it,'' says Salom.

The Jewish Community requires from the Town Management of Nish to solve the problem of the Jewish Cemetery of Nish, the options being either to move the gypsy settlement from the cemetery or to move the cemetery to an adequate other location.

''To legalize a settlement at the cemetery is out of question. Moving the cemetery is strictly against the religious laws. Should it take place in spite of it, it would be a painful occurrence,'' said the Secretary of Jewish Communities of Serbia and Montenegro .

''We hoped that we would be able to restore the cemetery to its previous state. However, it is not feasible because of the buildings that were built there leaving the cemetery inaccessible,'' says Mirjana Pesic, the manager of the Planning and Programs Department of the Building Management in Nish .

''The Jewish Cemetery was neglected after the Second World War. Since Jews were almost completely exterminated from Nish , there was no one to take care of the cemetery. The gypsies settled it illegally. I am aware that a delegation visited from Israel and requested that this problem be solved. Since homes have been built at this site, only some markers remained. There is an initiative to find a new location for the memorial center. Markers scattered on these lots, turned meadows, and in the yards of the industrial plants should be somehow collected and displayed in a memorial park. We requested the Institute for Urban Building to find such a location and since we plan to change the General Urban Plan next year, it is likely that all this will be thought through and solved,'' explained Mirjana Pesic.

From the original document

'' Enterprises ''Metalac'' and ''Nisplant'' have usurped a part of the Jewish Cemetery on its northwest side before and ''Technomarket'' does it today. On the eastern side the commercial enterprise ''Otpad'' from Zrenjanin wedged itself in. These enterprises also covered the cemetery with tons of their waste materials. The gypsy settlement is also on the eastern side,'' explains Jasna Ciric, president of the Jewish Community of Nish .

All tablets of the grave markers are engraved with long Hebrew texts. A smaller number has texts in plastic lettering. A small number of tablets has also the Serbian translation of the Hebrew text, mainly those dating back to 20th century, while others from 19th century neither bear the year nor the Serbian translation. The ornamentation is scarce on the tablet markers.

''It is impossible to see, examine or photograph the Jewish Cemetery today, because it is completely neglected and overgrown by grass and reeds, covered by tons of debris, human waste and industrial waste. Weeds and grass cover the tomb markers and the brush grows two meters high. Many gypsy homes were built with grave tablets from this cemetery in their foundation. Others have them as interior inventory. These tablets pave the alley passages between homes, while others have found use in the stables of the gypsy settlement. Some of the tablets panel the walls of underground sewers. And I stress once more that tons of debris cover all, so that the Jewish Cemetery became today a garbage disposal and dump,'' says the representative of the Jewish Community of Nish .

Ljiljana Milisavljevic