<i>Last Century</i> of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.
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WWI: The Shelling of Monastir

The Sephardic Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943. A web companion to a new history.

The vast brutality that enveloped Europe during the First World War wreaked havoc on Serbia and its southernmost city, Monastir. After the war a former consul to Macedonia recalled,

How beautiful was the city of Monastir, with its white houses displayed along the banks of the cool and clear river Dragor, and with its markets teeming with diverse crowds of a half-dozen nations! What a magnificent panorama formed by Pelister´s snowy summits and green forests . . . But what she was due to suffer, the city that, after Salonika, seemed destined to play a major role in Macedonia.

Bombardment of Monastir

The Bulgarian and German year-long occupation of Monastir was ended on November 19, 1916, by British, French, and Serbian forces. But the Germans and Bulgarians did not retreat very far, and from November 22, 1916, until September 25, 1918, they shelled Monastir almost every day.

During these 22 months they fired incendiary bombs that burned the city and poison-gas shells that suffocated the inhabitants. Sometimes more than 10,000 shells were fired on Monastir in a single day.

It is not known exactly when both of the Monastir Jews´ Alliance schools were destroyed, or when the great Kahal Kadosh Portugal synagogue burned, or at what point thousands of Jews became refugees and Monastir´s Jewish population -- which was 6,250 in 1914 -- sank to just 500. During the 22 months of Bulgarian and German shelling, there was no shortage of opportunities for Monastir´s Jews to be killed and Monastir´s Jewish institutions to be ruined.

Heroic Monastir!!

From March 9 to 11, 1917, poison gas shells fell in Monastir and 550 people were killed. Perhaps this was when Monastir´s 55 Jewish orphans lost their mothers and fathers. A British army doctor wrote, "I have several terrible photographs of rows of little children and their mothers lying dead among the ruins of their houses, having been asphyxiated by these shells."

Monastir endured an especially massive bombardment on December 31, 1917, when 13,415 shells hammered the city, killed 508 people, and wounded 755. This punishment was more than sufficient to destroy the 35 stores and 72 houses that the Jewish community owned in common and rented out at low rates to the Jewish poor. There were also enough shells that day to crumble the 350 Jewish homes that were lost in Monastir.

In 1925, Isac S. Nahama, president of the Jewish Community Council, wote the Alliance,

Monastir!! Heroic Monastir!! Once so prosperous and so flourishing, is now no more than a pile of ruins! She is making a supreme effort to rise up again from the ashes, but alas! she is powerless to do so.

<i>Last Century</i> of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.

Last Century of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.
by Mark Cohen

LIST PRICE: $34.95


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