Roberto Venturini on measures against Macedonian Jews in 1943
Re: Measures against the Israelites of Macedonia.
At 12 midnight of the 10th inst., while troops were blocking the streets of Skopje, groups of policemen began to knock at the door of the homes of Israelite families asking them to pack a limited amount of baggage as they were to be taken to a concentration camp set up in the warehouses of the tobacco depository and in the surrounding, fenced-in land. At 6 pm on the 11th the street blockade was lifted and 5,000 Jews had already been taken to the concentration camp, while the hunt for the few who had managed to hide or who were roaming the countryside intending to cross into Albania was continuing. Other similar police operations were under way at the same time in Bitola and in other Macedonian towns, leading to the Israelite there being taken to Skopje, where the number of concentrated people has now risen to over 9,000. The lengthy examination of their documents and of their baggage and the painstaking body searches will be followed, reportedly within a few days, by deportation to a far-away Country, that it is believed will be Poland for the majority and for some perhaps Belgium or Germany.
It has been a blanket action both as regards people and as regards property: even Jews of extremely advanced age or with a serious health condition have been forced to leave their homes and were taken to the camp on rough carts, while their homes with all their contents were declared State property and even what little they had been allowed to take with them was later further restricted. They have each been left with only the oldest garment and the oldest shoes
Added to the worries about their entirely uncertain future and to the pain for the total loss of all property, the 9,000 people about to be deported face absolutely unnecessary hardships that are inflicted on them due to lack of foresight or to mere brutality. The most basic sanitary facilities, which at first were lacking almost entirely, are only now beginning to work but still only inadequately, food is very scarce and unsuitable (during the first days they gave out, even to babies only a few months old, some thin bean slops without any bread), the guards seize on any pretext to use with sadistic force the whips they carry, while the crowding of all sorts of people within a cramped space renders rest all but impossible. The tragic but logical consequence of all this are suicides – as far as I know there have been at least three so far – and, particularly among women, instances of hysterical agitation bordering on insanity.
According to what Bulgarians are saying, the total elimination of Israelite from Macedonia has been requested by Germany for military reasons: there can be no doubt, however, that they have made excellent, huge gains out of it, and that in carrying it out the have displayed the most total disregard for even the most basic humanitarian principles. I do not hesitate to claim that there are very few people who, being present in Skopje on 11th March and having seen the manner in which the Israelite families were being taken to the concentration camp and having then heard how they were being treated, have not felt a sense of pity for those thus stricken and of deep condemnation of the Bulgarian authorities responsible for this and for their agents.
As for the Italian Israelite Modiano family]and the families of Israelites who are Albanian nationals in Skopje and have been taken to the concentration camp, presumably 9 families with approx. 25 members, I have already reported with telegram no. 409/88 of the 14th March inst. and I intend to report further.
The R. Consul Roberto Venturini
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