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The Holocaust in Yugoslavia


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Report of the Communist Party Committee in the Jewish Camp at Rab

Camp Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia for the Jewish Rab Camp, report 1943
Courtesy of the Jewish Historical Museum, Belgrade
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tags: activism community health & hygiene liberation

type: Report

Italian forces fully occupied the Italian zone of the Independent State of Croatia in summer 1941 in order to suppress a popular uprising against the Croatian fascist Ustaše regime. In spring 1943, Italian authorities transferred all Jews interned in the Italian-occupied Yugoslav Dalmatia—some 3,000 Yugoslav Jews—to a camp already housing around 6,500 Slovenian prisoners on the island of Rab in the Adriatic Sea.1

Although conditions were still difficult, life in the Jewish part of the Rab camp was relatively tolerable. This was not the case in the Slovenian part of the camp, where prisoners were tortured, starved, and forced to work under harsh conditions. Many died. In the Jewish part of the camp there was no forced labor, food rations were more frequent and more substantial, and the threat of death was far more removed.2

The featured document was created by the Jewish communist group at the camp at Rab. Both the Slovenian and the Jewish parts of the camp had communist cells that maintained contact with the Yugoslav partisan movement on the mainland. According to the date of the document, it was written the very day that the armistice between Italy and the Allied powers had been announced.3 The exact dating of the document is unclear. It appears likely that the report might actually have been written a month earlier than the purported date and smuggled out of the camp.

The first sentence reveals that the featured report was written in response to a question from the mainland organization about the Slovenian section of the camp. Why might the Jewish communist cell have responded to this question with information about the Jewish section of the camp? Whatever the reason for writing, the report provides insight into how the camp's Jewish communist cell viewed the situation at Rab—or how they wished to present it. The propaganda work listed in the report had probably taken place, but it is likely that both its extent and impact were exaggerated in the report.

For more about the camp at Rab, see the related Experiencing History items, Diary of Elvira Kohn and Letter of Adolf Renert to the National Anti-Fascist Committee for the National Liberation of Croatia

To learn more about the camp at Rab and the communist operation that followed the Italian collapse, see Emil Kerenji, "'Your Salvation is the Struggle Against Fascism': Yugoslav Communists and the Rescue of Jews, 1941–1945," Contemporary European History 25:1 (February 2016): 57-74. For more on the larger Italian policy of occupation in the Adriatic and Dalmatia and conditions in the Slovenian part of the camp, see Davide Rodogno, Fascism's European Empire: Italian Occupation During the Second World War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

For the timeline of the Italian surrender, and the general history of World War II, see Gerhard Weinberg, A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft ("Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science"), widely known as Anti-Dühring was written by Friedrich Engels and published in 1878. It is a classic text of Marxist scholarship. "An Introduction to Dialectical Materialism" sounds like a collection of Marxist writings, probably by various authors.

NOF is the acronym for Narodnooslobodilački front, the Front of National Liberation. This was the umbrella organization of resistance groups in Yugoslavia, dominated by the communists.

NOO are Narodnooslobodilački odbori, or Councils of National Liberation. These were proto-government communist cells that the communists formed in camps and in liberated territory.

AFŽ is Antifašistički front žena, or the Anti-Fascist Front of Women. This was the main communist women's organization.

SKOJ is the acronym for Savez komunističke omladine Jugoslavije, the Union of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia. This was the main communist youth organization.

NOV is the acronym for Narodnooslobodilačka vojska, the Army of National Liberation. This was the offical name of the partisan army, the armed forces of Yugoslav resistance, dominated by the communists.

This was the communist greeting: Smrt fašizmu—sloboda narodu, meaning "Death to Fascism—Freedom to the People."

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Camp committee
C[ommunist] P[arty] for camps II and III [i.e., for Jewish sub-camps]
Rab, September 8, 1943

 

To the comradely Committee of [the] C[ommunist] P[arty of] C[roatia] Pag-Rab

Velebit.

 

Dear comrades!

In response to your inquiry to the comradely Committee of Slov[enian] int[ernees] in Rab, we submit to you the state of organization in Jewish camps II and III.

There are about 2,500 persons interned in both camps, among them large numbers children, women, and the elderly.

One party unit comprised of 4 members coordinates the entire work in both camps. Work is being carried out in closest coordination with the comradely Slov. Committee, and is thus organized according to the same principles as in other unliberated places. It is being carried out in the following directions.

1/ Work on the party line. Regular meetings of leadership and groups are being held where individuals are introduced to the basics of Marxism-Leninism (we have a copy of Anti-Dühring, An Introduction to Dialectical Materialism, and several brochures), their class consciousness and fighting spirit are raised.1 The work encompasses 77 people. We note that the majority of those work in the organization of NOF mentioned below, in order to introduce the fighting spirit into it and put through the correct line.2

2/ The organization of NOF. The work is organized on the basis of groups of between 3 and 5 people. The ideology of NOF and partisan struggle are being popularized, [people] are informed about daily events and the traitorous role of the London government [the Yugoslav Government-in-Exile] and its followers. Popular aid is being collected. We informed the L[ocal] C[ommittee] in Rab about it, asking for directions about what to do with it; since we received no instructions, we used a smaller part to [support the] poor and [treat] sick comrades. Physician comrades give medical courses, and medical material is being collected. Weekly reports feature commentary on the political situation and ideological articles. At the same time, NOO is guiding the public life in the camp.3 This work encompasses 190 men.

3/ AFŽ.4 The work is identical to the work under point 2. Female comrades [drugarice] are being educated as medical workers, and this organization encompasses 78 women and girls.

4/ SKOJ.5 The work of SKOJ consists of a forum with 3 subgroups. The youth is being educated ideologically on the basis of the materials at our disposal, and papers that we produce ourselves. It encompasses 105 male and female youths.

5/ The entire work is focused on preparing the fighters for NOV.6 We have one unit of about 150 fighters, formed into subunits with commanders, sergeants, and corporals (those are comrades with military training). Apart from that, a medical unit that can support a battalion (600 people). The unit has its own staff, including a commander, a political commissar, a quartermaster, a medic, and a technician.

For secretarial services, we have at our disposal typewriters, a hectograph, and some paper.

There are two more groupings in the camp, animated by an explicitly četnik [Serbian nationalist] spirit, without a connection to the outer world, and with no internal organization. The groupings are founded on personal connections. The strength of those is about 50 persons. They are not developing any particular activity, neither in the sense of propaganda.

For further successful work, we would urgently need revolutionary literature, especially the history of the C[ommunist] P[arty], and, if possible, a political economy. We are also asking that you deliver regularly the fresh reports of partisan struggle as well as party propaganda material. This is especially important since the morale and resilience of the people due to long internment and disconnection from everyday events is falling rapidly.

We hold that in this way we have submitted to you a detailed report of our work and organization, and we emphasize that we stand at NOF’s disposal and that all of us want to join the ranks of active fighters as soon as possible.

 

With a comradely greeting, S.F – S. N.7

[Camp Committee of the Communist Party] for camps II and III

Secretary

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Courtesy of the Jewish Historical Museum, Belgrade
RG Number 49.007M
Date Created
August 1943 to September 1943
Publisher
Camp Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia for the Jewish Rab Camp
Language(s)
Bosnian
Croatian
Serbian
Location
Rab, Croatia
Arbe, Italy (historical)
Document Type Report
How to Cite Museum Materials

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