The Jews of Belgrade were largely exterminated by the Nazis and their local accomplices between October 1941 and May 1942. The Nazis declared the city Judenfrei by August of 1942. Of course, as elsewhere in Serbia and throughout Europe, this was seldom entirely true – individual Jews managed to go in to hiding, or were concealed and protected by kind neighbours, or left Belgrade for the relative safety of an obscure village in the countryside, or fled while there was still time with view to returning later. Nevertheless, the great majority of the pre-War Jewish population of Belgrade was destroyed. 

The Jews of Belgrade were both Ashkenazic and Sephardic, with the latter in the majority (as tended to be the case throughout the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans), forming approximately 80% of the overall community. Before the Shoah there were four functioning Sephardic synagogues and prayer houses in Belgrade. However, families were not necessarily religious – the Jews of Serbia were usually assimilated and often upwardly mobile and, as well as merchants and craftsmen, there were many shop salesmen and clerks, professionals and intellectuals. 

Although the community was destroyed in 1942, there are excellent surviving records covering the period from the turn of the century up to the Holocaust. These are not online but in some cases have been digitised and can be interrogated locally. Other and frequently more informative paper files have to be called up in the traditional way in the municipal archives. If an individual or a family was established in the city, especially in the Stari Grad (“old town”) neighbourhoods such as Dorćol, we can usually find a very good paper trail for the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s up to 1941/42, detailing dates of vital events, occupations, residential addresses and so on. Such records often indicate connections elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia or abroad – a sojourn in Croatia perhaps, a wife born in another city with a thriving Sephardic community, or a parent from Sofia in Bulgaria. 

If you are interested in Jewish family history research in Belgrade, Bluebird Research would be delighted to assist – please email us for an assessment and estimate of costs.

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