Monastir (Bitola), Southern Serbia, Yugoslavia (today Macedonia)
"An ancient Jewish town with no Jews – the fires of Treblinka consumed them all..." Shlomo Alboher
On the eve of the German invasion of Yugoslavia, 810 Jewish families – 3,351 people – lived in Monastir (Bitola), a vibrant, ancient Sephardic-Jewish community with a flourishing Zionist movement in the interwar period.
On 11 March 1943 (4 Adar Bet, 5703) the Jews of Monastir, together with the entire Jewish population of Macedonia (some 7,350 people in total), were taken by soldiers, police and Bulgarian officials to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, where they were held at the local “Monopol” tobacco factory under the most terrible conditions.
After a week-and-a-half, on Shushan Purim, 22 March 1943 (15 Adar Bet), cattle cars left Monastir. Inside was the first transport of Macedonian Jews from “Monopol,” bound for the Treblinka death camp in Poland. In the days that followed, on 25 and 29 March, additional transports departed all for the same destination – Treblinka.
From the 3,276 Jews of Monastir held at “Monopol,” all of them Yugoslav citizens, only five managed to escape. In addition, three Jews were released by the Bulgarians. A number of Jews had fled before 11 March to Greece in the hope of being rescued, but almost all of them died at Auschwitz. A few dozen young Jewish men and women from Monastir joined the partisans and fought in the different units; some of them were killed in battle, few survived.
This is the story of the community of Monastir.