User:Ehrlich91/The Jewish neighbourhood in Skopje

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The Jewish neighbourhood in Skopje, located on the very bank of the Vardar river. The neighbourhood was one of the poorest and the most conservative districts in Skopje, which remained so until the 19th century. At the beginning of the 19th c., as its inhabitants became richer, plenty of larger and more beautiful houses began to be built, with European architectural elements, which began to change its appearance, especially along the bank of the Vardar river. An example of this trend is the National Theatre, whose construction lasted from 1921-1927, as well as the building of the Skopje Municipality, which was destroyed in the 1963 earthquake.

The neighbourhood started to lose its Jewish character with the deportation of its inhabitants in the concentration camp in Treblinka in March 1943. After the earthquake in 1963 this neighbourhood was tore down and streets and a bus station were built in its place. Today, the Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia stands in their place.

History

European travellers mention Jews already in the Middle Ages and consider them one of the oldest settlers in Skopje from non-Balkan immigrants. The neighbourhood represented an older ethnical colony in this region. The Turks called it “Jahudi- Hane”. The location of the neighbourhood was not always the same. The location of the synagogue and the protective wall mentioned in 1689 cannot be ascertained with confidence. After numerous fires, floods, earthquakes and wars, the inhabitants moved to other areas.

Through archaeological digs done between the two World Wars up until 1963, many pillars were found. It is worth mentioning that the neighbourhood was not a ghetto. Jews could choose to live outside its boundary. However, there were no non-Jews who lived in it. The rabbi literature tells us that Jewish neighbourhoods in the Ottoman Empire were built on the initiative of the Jews themselves, not by order of the religious authorities. During the Ottoman occupation of the Balkans, the Jewish neighbourhood was protected by walls and gates, mostly for preventing Turks to enter it. We learn from Hebrew sources that the neighbourhood in Skopje had one main street from which many other smaller streets developed. There were many small houses with no yards, however, this changed in the course of time. In the period between the two World Wars there were many lavish houses as well as several bistros with gardens. The life in the neighbourhood was interrupted on the 11th March 1942 when the Bulgarian authorities occupied it and deported its inhabitants. After the devastating earthquake in Skopje the neighbourhood disappeared completely.