Macedonia commemorates deportation of thousands of Jews


Skopje (AFP)

Hundreds of people marched in Macedonia on Monday, alongside the Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and other dignitaries, to mark the 75th anniversary of a massive deportation of Jews in World War II.

More than 7,000 Jews from the cities of Skopje, Bitola and Stip -- representing almost the whole of the country's Jewish community at the time -- were gathered in tobacco factory warehouses in March 1943 and transported to the Nazi's Treblinka death camp in German-occupied Poland. They all died there.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov was among the marchers in the capital Skopje, as well as Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz and Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic.

During World War II, Macedonia was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which was invaded and occupied by Germany and its allies. The Bulgarian army later occupied nearly all of what is now modern-day Macedonia.

"This space was used to commit a big crime against our citizens," Zaev told the crowd.

"We gathered here today to remember those who died in the vortex of a crazy time... their ony crime was their existence, their culture, their tradition, their community."

Borisov also addressed the marchers: "We have the task to remember the tragedy of the Holocaust victims and make sure that these events do not happen again."

Similar marches were held at the weekend in Bitola, in the southwest, and the central town of Stip, to commemorate those who died in the death camps.

The Macedonian parliament is due to hold a commemorative session later on Monday.

Macedonia, which has a population of some two million, is now home to only around 200 Jews.