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Jews Face No Special Peril in Yugoslavia’s Civil War

Small enclaves of Jews have been caught in the cross fire of Yugoslavia’s civil war in Croatia, Slovenia and elsewhere in the strife-torn Balkan nation.

Yet for the time being, Jews seem in no greater peril than the general population, according to a spokesperson for the community.

“The situation for Jews is the same as the situation for everyone — bad, particularly in Croatia,” Luci Petrovic, secretary of the Yugoslav Federation of Jewish Communities, said in a telephone call from Belgrade on Thursday.

Belgrade, the national capital, is calm but tense, Petrovic said. “We are working normally. You don’t feel the violence directly, but you see it in the news,” she said.

In Zagreb, capital of Croatia, Jews are still stunned by the two bomb blasts early on Aug. 19 that severely damaged the community headquarters building in the center of town and the Jewish section of the municipal cemetery.

No one was hurt but the psychological effects were devastating. The perpetrators remain at large despite an intensive police investigation, Petrovic reported.

There have been no other direct attacks on Jews. But security precautions have been taken around Jewish sites. There is a round-the-clock guard at the Jewish home for the aged in Zagreb.

So far, the violence has affected Jews directly only in Croatia and, to some extent, in Slovenia, where there was some brief fighting earlier this summer.

The fiercest fighting now is in Croatia, where the republic’s bid for independence is opposed by the Yugoslav army and Serbian guerrillas.

About 200 Jews live in and around Osijek, in eastern Croatia, where the fighting has been intense in the past two days. There is an impressive monument to Holocaust victims outside Jewish community headquarters in Osijek.

A few dozen Jews are scattered in the nearby towns of Vukovar and Borovo.

Petrovic said at least one Jewish family is known to have joined the growing exodus of refugees from the area. But the federation does not have “precise information” on the situation of every Jew there.

The civil strife has forced closure of the Jewish summer camp at Pirovac on the Dalmatian coast, Petrovic said.

“There was too much risk. Also, it would have been difficult for young people from all over Yugoslavia to get there,” she said.

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