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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03ZAGREB1193
2003-05-28 13:55:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Zagreb
Cable title:  

THE SAD STATE OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN OSIJEK

Tags:   PHUM  HR 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L ZAGREB 001193 

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/27/2013
TAGS: PHUM HR
SUBJECT: THE SAD STATE OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN OSIJEK


CLASSIFIED BY: POLOFF MITCH BENEDICT FOR REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (D)

SUMMARY
-------

C O N F I D E N T I A L ZAGREB 001193

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/27/2013
TAGS: PHUM HR
SUBJECT: THE SAD STATE OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN OSIJEK


CLASSIFIED BY: POLOFF MITCH BENEDICT FOR REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (D)

SUMMARY
--------------


1. (U) ON A RECENT VISIT TO OSIJEK WE STOPPED IN AT THE
OFFICES OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY. DOWN FROM A PRE-WORLD WAR
II POPULATION OF OVER 10,000, THERE ARE NOW ONLY 150 JEWS IN
THE REGION, AND BY STRICT DEFINITION MOST OF THOSE WOULD NOT
BE CONSIDERED JEWISH. ELDERLY, POOR IN HEALTH AND RICHES,
THE COMMUNITY FACES AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE. HOWEVER,
RESTITUTION OF PROPERTY COULD SIGNIFICANTLY IMPROVE THEIR
FINANCIAL STATUS. END SUMMARY.

THE JEWS OF EASTERN SLAVONIA
--------------


2. (U) THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF OSIJEK (JCO) IS THE
REPRESENTATIVE ORGANIZATION FOR ALL JEWS OF EASTERN SLAVONIA.
PRIOR TO WORLD WAR II, THIS REGION CONTAINED ABOUT 10,000
JEWS THAT WERE DIVIDED INTO SEVERAL COMMUNITIES. JEWS BEGAN
TO LEAVE JUST PRIOR TO THE WAR; THOSE WHO REMAINED WERE
DECIMATED BY THE HOLOCAUST. FURTHER EMIGRATION OCCURRED IN
1948-1952, WHEN THE CONSOLIDATION OF COMMUNISM AT HOME
COINCIDED WITH THE BIRTH OF ISRAEL.


3. (U) TODAY THERE ARE BARELY 150 JEWS IN THE WHOLE REGION.
DARKO FISHER, HEAD OF THE JCO, SAID THAT OUTSIDE OSIJEK AND
VUKOVAR THERE ARE ONLY SINGLE FAMILIES IN SOME OF THE LARGER
TOWNS. HOWEVER, BY STRICT CRITERIA MOST OF MEMBERS OF THE
JCO COULD NOT BE COUNTED AS JEWS. FISHER SAID AS LONG AS ONE
GRANDPARENT WAS JEWISH, AND THE INDIVIDUAL HOLDS NO OTHER
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION, THEY ARE WELCOME AS MEMBERS OF THE
JEWISH COMMUNITY.


4. (U) THERE ARE LESS THAN 10 YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY,
AND ALL OF THEM COME FROM MIXED MARRIAGES. FISHER TOLD US
THAT, GIVEN THE RESTRICTIONS PLACED ON RELIGIOUS EDUCATION,
AND THE IMPOSSIBILITY AT TIMES OF PRACTICING AND MAINTAINING
RITUALS AND TRADITIONS, NO JEW BORN IN THE AREA EVEN PRIOR TO
WORLD WAR II KNOWS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN OBSERVANT JEW. THE
PRIMARY CONCERNS OF THE JCO ARE FOR THE HEALTH AND WELFARE OF
ITS MOSTLY ELDERLY, IMPOVERISHED AND ILL MEMBERS.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION
--------------


5. (C) THE JCO SUBMITTED A LIST OF 14 CONFISCATED OR
NATIONALIZED PROPERTIES FOR WHICH THEY CLAIM RESTITUTION
PRIOR TO THE DEADLINE OF JUNE 30, 1997. TO DATE NOTHING HAS
BEEN RESTITUTED. FISHER WAS MORE THAN WILLING TO SHARE THE
BLAME FOR LACK OF PROGRESS, BUT ON THE OTHER HAND HE SAID HE
HAD NO DOUBT THERE WAS "SOME BLOCKAGE" ON THE PART OF THE
GOVERNMENT. RETURN OR COMPENSATION FOR EVEN A FEW PROPERTIES
WOULD SIGNIFICANTLY ALTER THE FINANCIAL STATUS OF THE
COMMUNITY.


6. (SBU) INCLUDED AMONG THE PROPERTIES IS THE SITE OF FORMER
OSIJEK SYNAGOGUE ON THE MAIN STREET IN THE CENTER OF OSIJEK.
THE SYNAGOGUE WAS BURNED DOWN IN 1941, AND THE REMAINS WERE
CLEARED IN 1952. AT ABOUT THE SAME TIME, THE JCO WAS GIVEN
AN ALTERNATIVE PROPERTY AS A FORM OF COMPENSATION, BUT THAT
TOO WAS CONFISCATED IN 1955. A MIXED COMMERCIAL/RESIDENTIAL
BUILDING OCCUPIES THE SITE OF THE SYNAGOGUE TODAY. THE
THIRTEEN REMAINING PROPERTIES CONSIST OF BUILDINGS AND
RESIDENCES -- THE RABBI'S HOUSE, A SCHOOL, OTHER PROPERTY
RELATED TO THE SYNAGOGUE -- EITHER PURCHASED BY THE JCO OR
WILLED TO THE JCO BY MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY.


7. (C) FISHER SAID THE COURTS DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO, AND
CONSEQUENTLY DO NOTHING. SINCE 1997 THEY HAVE RECEIVED ONLY
ONE COURT DECISION ASKING FOR FURTHER DOCUMENTATION TO PROVE
OWNERSHIP. HOWEVER, HE ASKED RHETORICALLY, IS THERE EVER
GOING TO BE A DOCUMENT THAT PROVES THE PROPERTY WAS
CONFISCATED BY THE NAZI REGIME?
ROSSIN

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