Macedonian Holocaust Center: A Remarkable Achievement by a Remarkable Community
Last week I had the pleasure of traveling to Skopje, Macedonia, to attend the opening of a Holocaust Memorial Center and address a round table discussion with young leaders in the country. What led to a Jewish community of 100-200 achieving the opening of this center, one of the biggest in all Europe, is something we can all take inspiration from.When I happily accepted an invitation to this event, it was impossible to envisage the incredible scenes I would have the privilege of witnessing. To walk behind three Macedonian soldiers, as we marched together through the central streets of Skopje, carrying the urns of those 7,148 Macedonian Jews brutally rounded up and deported to Treblinka by Bulgarian soldiers was a humbling experience.Perhaps the greatest surprise was that the Macedonian Government, rather than quietly allow the center to open, led by example and ensured every person in Skopje that day would recognize the tragic events that saw 98% of the countries Jews murdered. The procession was headed by a military band, before ending up at the entrance of the new center where the country’s Prime Minister and President praised the contribution of Jews to Macedonia’s history.This grand opening followed days of events arranged by the Jewish community of Macedonia to mark the historic event, including a round table discussion on collaboration between non-Jewish and Jewish leaders, an exhibition at the Museum of Skopje and a night of opera held to mark the opening of the center, and hosted by the President of Macedonia, and attended by dignitaries from over 50 countries. The Jewish community of Macedonia, though tiny in number, achieved something truly special in bringing their Jews home.