Belgrade (Apr. 8)
After almost four years in a German prisoner-of-war camp in Pomerania, David A. Alcalay, president of the Belgrade Jewish Community, has just returned to his post.
Still wearing his worn prisoner’s coat, he described today to a special correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency his experiences and outlined his hopes for the upbuilding of Jewish life in this Yugoslavian capital.
“There were two Jewish communities here before the war,” Mr. Alealay said. “One was the Sephardic community numbering 9,500 members, and the other was the Ashkenazi community with 2,500 members. Today we have only about 400 Jews of these two communities left. In addition, there are in Belgrade about a thousand Jewish refugees from other sections of Yugoslavia. We were virtually destroyed, but are now united in a single community and we are trying to re-establish our life. It is a most difficult job.
“We enjoy full religious freedom. Marshal Tito and government officials have shown great interest in our problems. however, we are so stripped of our resources and so weakened in numbers, that we greatly need assistance from Jews abroad, both financial and moral. We hope that our brethren in other lands will not forget us.”
(The Sofia correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports today that a delegation of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Yugoslavia has submitted a memorandum to the government urging promulgation of a law outlawing anti-Semitism and official recognition of the status of the Jewish institutions.)
The Sephardic synagogue in Belgrade, after remaining untouched during the years of Nazi occupation, was blown up by the Germans a day before they retreated from the city, last October. All that is left of the building are four crumbling walls and a pile of ashes, brick and nortar. However, on the top of the Eastern wall, silhoustted against the sky, still stand the tablets of the Ten Commandments, unsoathed, symbolising the things which Hitler’s vandalism could not destroy.