Last week in Novi Sad, Serbia, in a city that is preparing its candidacy for the European capital of culture 2020, was marked by numerous events dedicated to the commemoration of the Novi Sad Raid, a crime that took place from 21st until 23rd of January, 1942 and during which the occupiers shot and threw under the icy Danube waters many citizens of Novi Sad of Jewish, Serbian and Roma nationality.
Within the program Freezing Silence – commemoration of the victims of the Novi Sad Raid in 1942, which was organised by the Cultural Centre of Novi Sad under the patronage of the City of Novi Sad, all the employees of this institution, together with numerous citizens of Novi Sad, wrote the names of the Raid victims for days, for the commemoration performance for the victims that was organized on Tuesday, 23rd of January, on the Liberty Square. From 10am until 4pm, stones with the names of people murdered during those cold January days of 1942, were displayed on the Square, allowing the citizens of Novi Sad to pay their respect to all the victims of the most painful crime in the history of the city.
‘It is important to cultivate cultural memory, because the victims deserve this. Due to that, here, on the Liberty square, stones are displayed with the names of the victims of the Novi Sad raid: Jewish, Serbian, and Roma people. According to a Jewish tradition, a stone is left on the cemetery in memory of the dead, because a stone lasts forever, while flowers wither. Just like the stones last forever, we want our memory to be eternal as well. Again this year, the Cultural Center of Novi Sad has joined the commemoration of this date, one of the most tragic in the history of our city. We organized the event “Freezing silence”, within which we hosted book promotions, movie screenings, and exhibitions in three of our galleries. The pupils from the Novi Sad schools were able to see and hear the testimonies of the survivors for the first time. In the end, we organized this symbolic commemoration on the Square. I am very pleased that the Israeli embassy recognized our effort to foster the culture of memory, and I am thankful to Mr Yossef Levy for being with us today’ – said dr Andrej Fajgelj, director of the Cultural Centre of Novi Sad. After showing the multimedia exhibition in the Cultural Center of Novi Sad to the ambassador, Mr Fajgelj arrived to the Liberty Square together with Mr Levy, where the citizens of Novi Sad were coming from early morning to pay their respect to the victims of the Raid.
Mr Yossef Levy said that this date is very important for all the citizens of Novi Sad, as well as to the citizens of Israel and Serbia. ‘This is a terrible crime committed by the Germans, or – in this case – their war allies, the Hungarians. This day is closely related to the cultural identity of the Jewish people, and it is very important to mark it in a dignified manner. The Novi Sad Raid connects the fates of the Jewish, Serbian, and Roma people who were murdered in Novi Sad. I have visited the Cultural Centre of Novi Sad, Mr Andrej Fajgelj was my guide, and I saw the young people who came to learn and see what was going on in Novi Sad on this day. I believe that it is crucial that a crime like this is never forgotten and that this day is commemorated’ said Mr Levy and stressed that ‘it is important that the representatives of diplomacy, not only from Israel, but from other countries as well, come to commemorate this date, because it is an important date in the history of Holocaust in ex-Yugoslavia. I am thankful to the church for being a part of the commemoration, because it represents connection with the Jewish community.’
This commemoration, organised by the Cultural Centre of Novi Sad, showed that Novi Sad remembers each individual that is known to have perished in the Raid, and Novi Sad is still looking for names of each victim lost during those cold January days 72 years ago. Names of victims were written and impressed in stones that were set on the main square in Novi Sad yesterday and thereby in our memory as well. The commemoration showed that Novi Sad did forgive, but does not forget.