Who is Commemorated?
Jewish victims of Fascism and fallen fighters from the People’s Republic of Serbia
The inscription in Serbo-Croatian reads:
Translation: To the Jewish Victims of Fascism and Fallen Fighters from the People’s Republic of Serbia, 1941-1945
The inscription in Hebrew reads:
Translation: To the Jews Victims of Fascism and Fallen Fighters in the People’s Republic of Serbia, 5701-5705 [=1941- 1945]
The Jewish Community of Beograd and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia
The inauguration of this monument was part of a larger action by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia to unveil central monuments to the victims in Sarajevo, Belgrade, Zagreb, Novi Sad, and Đakovo in September and October 1952.
Emil Kerenji wrote about the messages that these monuments conveyed:
The dedication ceremonies and the monuments themselves reflected the dual goals of the [Jewish] Federation—the commemoration of specifically Jewish victims of the war in the context of confirmation of the officially revered legacies of the “struggle for national liberation” (narodnooslobodilačka borba) and “brotherhood and unity” (bratstvojedinstvo). Monuments were thus meant to commemorate both the “Jewish victims of Fascism” and “Jewish fallen fighters,” in accordance with the ritual mode of commemoration of World War II that was being established in Yugoslavia at the time [...].
The monuments did, however, feature Jewish motifs that were immediately recognizable to Jews, and that invoked cultural connotations that were of an entirely different order than those provided by the discourses of “victims of Fascism” and “fallen fighters.” [...] The monuments thus simultaneously conveyed two different cultural contexts—one compatible with the reigning ideological mode of commemoration of World War II, fully and literally translatable into Hebrew, the language of the new Jewish culture; and one more elusive, and accessible only to those familiar with Jewish culture and tradition.
One important caveat regarding the monuments in Yugoslavia ... is that they were located in the Jewish cemeteries. They were thus removed from the full view of the general Yugoslav public. They were located at the periphery. Monuments to general, unnamed “victims of Fascism” and “fallen fighters” were being built across Yugoslavia, in central locations in cities, towns, and villages. Monuments to Jewish victims, however, because they commemorated a specific ethnic group, could not vie for those locations. But since their primary importance for the Jewish communities in Yugoslavia lay in their potential to rally the remaining Jews in the country around a new basis for Jewish identification, their placement at Jewish cemeteries was not a drawback; on the contrary, ritual commemorations that developed over the years around these monuments only confirmed their Jewish character.
The dedication ceremonies, however, contrary to the later annual commemorations, were very visible to the general Yugoslav public. They were widely covered by the press across Yugoslavia. The numerous articles stressed: [...] Jews finally felt free and equal in the new Yugoslavia, in which the national question was solved; numerous international Jewish delegations in attendance testified to this fact, as did the presence of state representatives and the general public at the ceremonies.
[Kerenji, 2008, pp. 211-216]
The plaques with individual names of victims were added subsequently, starting in the 1980s