Recognition, official texts
In 2007, the date of 16th December was designated as a day of Commemoration of the Roma and Sinti genocide.
Serbia also observes 27th January as a Memorial Day dedicated to Holocaust victims. The day was chosen to coincide with the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. The Government of the Republic of Serbia proclaimed the Memorial Day, which has been observed since 2006.
In addition to 16th December and 27th January, Serbia commemorates 22nd April , "The National Holocaust, WWII Genocide and other Fascist Crimes Victims` Remembrance Day", that explicitly includes Roma victims too.
Data (camps locations, Remembrance places, measures etc.)
Staro sajmište concentration camp - Judenlager Semlin
On 31st May 1941, a decree regarding Jews and Gypsies is issued. It defined who was to be regarded a Jew or a Gypsy. The decree excluded Jews and Gypsies from public life and economic activities. Their property is effectively confiscated; they were made to have their names entered in special registers (Judenregister and Zigeunerlisten) and were subjected to forced labour. Moreover, the decree imposed mandatory wearing of yellow armbands for Jews and Roma, forbade them to work in public institutions and in the professions of law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or pharmacy. They were also forbidden to go to cinemas, theatres and places of entertainment, public bathrooms, sports grounds and open-air markets.
From July to the beginning of December 1941, the German Wehrmacht starts carrying out mass executions of Jewish and Roma men mostly interned in the Topovske šupe camp in Autokomanda. They were hostages destined for a firing squad, to be killed in reprisal for the uprising in Serbia. The remaining members of their families, women, children and the elderly were interned in the Sajmište concentration camp that was called Judenlager Semlin (Jewish Camp Zemun) at the time.
On 8th December 1941, the camp on the Belgrade Fair Grounds is established. It was run by the Gestapo in Serbia and under the command of SS officers. After executing their men, the first Jewish and Roma families, mainly women, children and the elderly were taken to Jewish Camp in Zemun. A total of 6 400 Jewish and around 600 Roma women were interned.
From January until late March 1941, the majority of Roma were released from the camp. The follow-up instruction to the Decree on Jews and Roma specified that that measure applied only to Roma without a permanent residence. After submitting a proof of permanent residence, interned Roma families were allowed to apply for release from the camp. Jewish nurse Matilda, who was appointed guardian of the Roma camp, organised the drawing up of applications and submitted them to the command of the camp. The fate of the group who could not produce a proof of permanent residence has not been fully investigated.
Crveni Krst Concentration Camp
The concentration camp located in the district of Crveni Krst (Red Cross) is one of the few fully preserved fascist camps in Europe. Even today, it provides authentic testimony to the perils of the Serbian, Romani, and Jewish population, communists, numerous supporters of the liberation movement and partisans, who were incarcerated here during the German occupation of Serbia (1941-1945). It is not known exactly how many people passed through the Crveni Krst concentration camp in Niš. It is estimated that about 30 000 prisoners were held at the camp between 1941 and 1944. Approximately 237 of the Roma held at Crveni Krst died there. Up to 2 000 prisoners were shot on the Bubanj hill, some records even state 10 000 or 12 000 victims. There was a massive escape of prisoners on 12th February 1942; out of 147 inmates who attempted to flee, 105 managed to escape whilst 82 died along the way. In reaction to the break-out, SS and police units carried out mass shootings of prisoners on the nearby Bubanj hill in February 1942. That month alone some 850 prisoners were shot, amongst them all male Jewish prisoners and many Roma. On 12th February 1967, the twenty five anniversary of the prisoner escape, the camp was turned into the “12th February” memorial museum.
Memorial Park "Kragujevački Oktobar"
The commanding general in Serbia, Franz Böhme, issued an order on 10th October 1941, by which civilians were to be »punished« for attacks on German soldiers. From then on, one hundred civilians were shot for every killed German; every injured soldier prompted the killing of fifty civilians. In mid-October 1941, partisan units attacked a German battalion near Kragujevac, killing ten soldiers, injuring 26 more. In order to meet Böhme's demands of 2 300 killed civilians, Wehrmacht soldiers began to arbitrarily arrest Serbian men. The soldiers also broke into schools and rounded up the pupils and teachers. About 3 000 of those arrested were held in the barracks courtyard. On the morning of 21st October 1941, the soldiers started shooting men and young boys on the city outskirts, stopping only once the number of victims reached 2 300. Wehrmacht soldiers shot about 2 000 residents of Kragujevac. Among the victims were many children and youths aged between 12 and 18. About 200 Roma, who happened to be in Kragujevac at the time of the shooting, were also killed.
The Novi Sad raid of 1942 was one of the largest mass crimes committed against civilians, including Jews, Serbs and Roma, on Serbian soil during World War II. Therefore, every year between 21st and 23rd January, an unofficial commemoration takes place at a monument dedicated to the victims of the Novi Sad raid.
On 22nd April Serbia commemorates “National Holocaust, Genocide and Victims of Fascism Remembrance Day” which was established under the Law on Founding the Genocide Victims Museum, passed by the national parliament in 1992.
Every year, the Government of the Republic of Serbia organises numerous commemorative ceremonies as well as educational, scientific and artistic public events to commemorate those killed in the Holocaust, in co-operation with the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Serbia and numerous educational, artistic and scientific institutions. Commemorations are held, in particular, at the locations of the World War II killing sites or concentration camps (Staro Sajmiste in Belgrade, Sabac, Nis). Observances traditionally include a wreath laying ceremony, an official address and artistic, scientific or educational programmes. The most senior government officials, including the President, Prime Minister and other ministers, attend the central State commemorative ceremony or other programmes on both 27th January and 22nd April.
Specialised institution, commission, research centre etc., dealing with this issue
According to the available information, there is no specialised institution, commission or research centre specifically dealing with the issue of the Roma Genocide.
National Council of the Roma National Minority
Vitomir Mihajlović, President
Masarikova 5/13, Beograd
Telefon :+381 11 3061603
Fax: +381 11 3061548
Specialised Library "Trifun Dimic"
8. Ulica No 10
21000 Novi Sad, Serbia
Tel: +381 (021) 661 6951
National Library of Serbia
Project "Dani Sećanja"
11000 Belgrade, Serbia
Official initiatives (campaigns, actions, projects, commemoration days, museums)
In 2007, the date of 16th December was designated as a day of commemoration of the Roma and Sinti genocide. Ceremonies are held at the sites of World War II killings or concentration camps. The ceremony includes wreath laying, speeches and artistic or educational programmes. The events are organised by the Government, in co-operation with the National Council of the Roma National Minority and numerous educational, artistic and scientific institutions. Government representatives at the ministerial level participate in the commemoration. The media and other institutions publicise and promote 16th December as a day to remember Roma victims of the Holocaust.
On 16th December wreaths are laid at the memorial site in Topovske šume area in Belgrade to commemorate Roma victims.
Inclusion of the topic in the school curriculum
There are special units in the school curriculum devoted to the Holocaust and to Roma genocide issues.
During 2017-2018, in cooperation between OSCE/ODIHR, Anne Frank House from Amsterdam, Serbian Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education, and Youth and Sport, and NGO Terraforming, "Teaching material to address Antisemitism" was developed by a group of Serbian experts. This three-book set is prepared for primary school students (12-13 yo) as well as secondary school students (14-18 yo), printed and distributed to schools around Serbia in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. Teaching material dedicates several pages to persecution of the Roma during the Second World War, in Europe, as well as in Serbia. The whole chapter entitled "Antigypsyism" in the third book is dedicated to the history of discrimination and exclusion of the Roma, the long struggle for recognition of the genocide against the Roma committed by the Nazis and their helpers, and the current challenges Roma communities are facing in Serbia and around Europe, including concrete examples and personal stories of victims of recent racist violence, as well as of successful well educated professionals. English version of the material (provided for informational purposes only) is available for download here.
Inclusion of the topic in the school textbooks
History of Roma is studied in primary schools in Serbia (from 5th to 8th grade), namely in Vojvodina, through the subject “Roma language and culture”. However, there is no textbook for this course, so knowledge and involvement of the teachers is very important.
Training of teachers and education professionals
Project “Days of Remembrance” - new tools and methodologies for the Holocaust education in Serbia and the Region. The project “Dani sećanja” ("Days of Remembrance") is developed through cooperation between partners from Serbia, The Netherlands and Sweden.
During 2014 and 2015, the expert team has been developing new educational tool based on five sets of "Memorial Day Lesson Plans" specifically produced for five particular memorial days in Serbia, one of them being a National Remembrance Day of the Roma Genocide in World War II. The "Memorial Days Lesson Plans" will consist of guides for teachers and librarians as well as manuals for workshops and additional materials for students of ages 12 to 14 and 15 to 16. All these resources will be available online in downloadable and printable formats. This cooperation between the Anne Frank House, National Library of Serbia, Terraforming and other Serbian experts will bring a new pedagogical format for libraries to contribute to the Holocaust education thus giving the original pedagogical content to the memorial day commemorations. Using the Holocaust as a starting point, this teaching method will also deal with issues such as tolerance, democracy and human rights.
One-day teacher trainings for use and implementation of "Teaching Material to Address Antisemitism" are organised around Serbia in cooperation with the Ministry of Education at regional Centres for Improvement of Education. A particular lesson is dedicated to the chapter about Antigypsyism.
Particular activities undertaken at the level of education institutions
In 2008, the Ministry of Education and Science sent a letter to schools throughout Serbia instructing them to devote to the Holocaust, anti-fascism and anti-Semitism the first school class on 27th January, 22nd April and 9th November (the anniversary of Kristallnacht).
Remzedin Durmišević, Roma survivor, was born in 1923 in Niš, southern Serbia where his family lived in the Roma neighbourhood. His father worked in the railway workshop, his mother stayed at home raising the four children. When the German army occupied Serbia in 1941, most Roma men from Niš were taken to Crveni Krst concentration camp, where some of them were murdered, whilst others, including Remzedin, were made to work for the Germans. They had to wear yellow armbands identifying them as Roma. In 1942, Remzedin was deported to Germany for forced labour, together with his 14-year-old brother, and was made to work in a factory in Osnabrück, north-west Germany. He managed to escape in 1943 with a forged vacation pass and secretly returned to Niš where he found his mother and remaining brother and sister hiding in the ruins of the old Roma settlement. Remzedin joined the communist Partisans fighting against both German troops and the Serbian nationalist Četnik militias. He felt the Partisans did not discriminate against Roma and did not use the term ‘Gypsy’. See more
In April 2014, an exhibition "Forgotten Holocaust", dealing with the sufferings of the Roma in the Second World War when hundreds of thousands of Roma were killed by Nazi occupation forces and their local allies in Serbia, was opened at the Roma Art Gallery in Belgrade by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić.
Aleksandar Todosijević, historian, history teacher at the primary school “Branko Radičević” in Batajnica, is the author of a History textbook and the exercise book for the fifth grade students of elementary schools. He has also created a history-teaching website “The History Classroom” (Učionica istorije) for primary school students. One of the lessons presented is about teaching Holocaust – "Remembering the Holocaust" (the text is in Serbian language and written in Cyrillic script).
ĐURIĆ, R. "Holocaust poem".
HALITI, B. (2003). E rroma anglal e mudarimasko duvari e Aušvicosko = Romi pred zidom smrti Aušvica. Zemun: Biograf. [Text in Romani]
HALITI, B. (2004). Poema katar e Mum Tadž Mahal = Poema o Mum Tadž Mahal = Mumtaz Mahal poem. Beograd: Memorial Roma Centre for Holocaust Studies of Serbia and Montenegro. [Text in Romani, Serbian and English]
KRASNIĆI, A. (2000). Jasenovac: antologija pesama o Jasenovcu. Kragujevac / Gnjilane: Memorijalni centar Roma za holokaust studije. [aka Jasenovac: antologija e điljenđi katar o Jasenovac] [Text in Romani and Serbian]
During this year’s Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month (2015), historian Rainer Schulze will remind us of the systematic persecution the Roma and Sinti suffered during the period of Nazi rule in Germany and in Nazi-occupied Europe. Rainer is Professor of Modern European History at the University of Essex and the programmer of the University of Essex’s annual Holocaust Memorial Week. See more
"A VISIT TO STARO SAJMIŠTE"The multimedia map on this website is a representation of the history and present of Staro sajmište (Old Fairground), in Belgrade, where the German Gestapo established a concentration camp in 1941. The map is a result of interviews with a number of individuals connected to this place and its history, and it was created after young researchers from Serbia and Germany had visited Staro sajmište in 2010.
Bajram Haliti published the book “Battle between Roma and Germans”. It is unknown the original title. For more information, click here.
The OSI (Open Society Institute) awarded Rajko Đurić in 2003 for his short-stories "A Wedding in Auschwitz" and "Ich Bin Ein Auschwitz-Deutscher", which are related to the Genocide. The former is included in the book The Roads of the Roma: A Pen Anthology of Gypsy Writers (1998).
The "The annihilation of Roma during the Second World War", whose author is Bajram Haliti, was played in Gnjilane. It is unknown the original title. For more information, click here.
Exhibition "The Speech of the Roma":
The opening exhibition of the Museum of Roma Culture in Belgrade was hold at the end of 2009. One of the exhibits was a German-Serbian-Romani dictionary which was compiled by a Roma during the Second World War, when he was imprisoned in a camp next to Belgrade.
Exhibition “Holokaust koji se ne sme zaboraviti” (Holocaust that must not be forgotten) was installed in the Belgrade Museum of Roma Culture in 2009, containing TV video clips and news articles
Permanent exhibition set in the Museum of the Banjica Concentration Camp that is dedicated to the memory of the prisoners and victims of the Nazi concentration camp from the World War II.
BULAJIĆ, M. (1996). Tudjman's "Jasenovac myth": Genocide against Serbs, Jews and Gypsies. Belgrade: Stručna knj.
CROWE D., KOLSTI J., HANCOCK I.: „The Gypsies of Eastern Europe“, 1992, Routledge
FINGS, K., LISSNER, C. and SPARING, F. (1992). “...einziges Land, in dem Judenfrage und Zigeunerfrage gelöst”: die Verfolgung der Roma im faschistisch besetzten Jugoslawien 1941-1945. Köln: Rom e.V. Köln.
HALITI, B. (2005). Contemplations on Roma issue. Beograd: Memorial Roma Centre for Holocaust Studies of Serbia and Montenegro.
JEVTIC, E. (2004). Blank pages of the Holocaust Gypsies in Yugoslavia during World War II. Thesis (M.A.), Brigham Young University.
LITUCHY, B. M. et al. (2006). Jasenovac and the Holocaust in Yugoslavia: Analyses and survivor testimonies. New York: Jasenovac Research Institute.
MANOSCHEK, W. (2007). Holokaust u Srbiji : voijna okupaciona politika i uništavanje Jevreja, 1941-1942. Beograd: Službeni list SRJ. [There is a translation into German]
MIRKOVI, D. (1993). “Victims and Perpetrators in the Yugoslav Genocide 1941-1945. Some preliminary observations” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 7 (3), pp. 317-332.
PISARRI, Milovan: "The Suffering of the Roma in Serbia during the Holocaust", 2014, Forum for Applied History, Belgrade
POLANSKY, P. (2007). One blood, one flame: The oral histories of the Yugoslav gypsies before, during and after WWII. Vol. I. Nish, Serbia: KRRF (Kosovo Roma Refugee Foundation). [with DVD]
TOMIC, Yves: “Massacres in Dismembered Yugoslavia, 1941-1945”, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence
1980: "Ko to tamo peva" ( Who's Singin' Over There?), Country: Yugoslavia. Directed by: Slobodan Šijan. Produced by: Milan Žmukić. Written by: Dušan Kovačević. Music by: Vojislav Kostić. Cinematography: Božidar "Bota" Nikolić. Edited by: Ljiljana "Lana" Vukobratović
It's th April 1941, somewhere in Serbia. A group of people, amongst them two Roma musicians, take a bus to Belgrade and that journey will change their lives forever.
2012: “Kad svane dan” (When Day Breaks) by Goran Paskaljevic, drama
Searching for the truth about himself and his origins, a retired music professor, Misha Brankov, discovers the little-known truth about Judenlager Semlin camp, one of the worst Nazi execution sites for Jews and Roma in the heart of contemporary Belgrade.
Tajsa.eu project is led by Amsterdam based CSO Radio La Benevolencija HTF. Serbian NGO Terraforming played a key role in creating the project concept, producing the video podcasts based on regional histories of persecution of the Roma and interviews with local Roma communities and experts, as well as in producing the teaching resources based on the videos. First two video podcasts in the series are produced in Serbia. Podcast episodes from Serbia available here.