Novi Bečej

The first Jewish communities in the territory of Novi Bečej were mentioned as early as the 18th century. The traces of the establishment of the oldest Jewish organisations such as the funeral society and the Jewish municipality date back to the 19th century. A Jewish cemetery was then founded and a synagogue was built in 1865, which was demolished after World War II. About 200 members of the Jewish community lived in this town during World War II. Many of them have made a significant contribution to the economic and cultural development of Novi Bečej. 

After the German invasion of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, in the new redistribution of the territory, Novi Bečej nominally belonged to the German occupation zone, but the primary administration of the Banat was entrusted to the local Germans – the Volksdeutsche. The occupation was accompanied by the adoption of the anti-Semitic laws. Male members of the Novi Bečej Jewish community were the first to be subject to freedom restriction measures. In mid-May 1941, most of them were detained in the courtyard of the synagogue in Novi Bečej and forced to perform very degrading tasks. With the invasion of the Soviet Union by the Germans, the regime began to take on the features of increasing cruelty, and, in addition to communists and anti-fascists, all the remaining Jews were then captured and imprisoned in the synagogue. As early as July 1941, they were moved to the premises of the “Klein and Horvat” grain storage, but the spacious grain storage, located in the center of Novi Bečej, was just another temporary residence for local Jews. The following month, the arrests of the remaining Jews from the vicinity of Novi Bečej were carried out intensively. As a collective camp for Jews from the greater Kikinda, Novi Kneževac and Novi Bečej districts was to be established in this town, the premises of the “Klein and Horvat” grain storage were no longer adequate. “Leo Weiss”, also a grain storage, was designated as the new camp. Its building is now in a very poor condition and without any mark that there was once a camp at this location. Both storages were built in the period between the two wars and their permanent inmates were specifically local Jews who took over the whole grain trade from the end of the 19th century. At the beginning of September 1941, there were about 700 Jews in the storage, who suffered the torture of József Klapka, the camp commander, previously a local municipal clerk, and his eight police officers guarding the camp. They were placed in a small area, with inadequate infrastructure, hygiene and scarce food.

Unlike the middle-Banat and south-Banat Jews, who were transferred to Belgrade in mid-August 1941, the Jews who were detained in the Novi Bečej concentration camp were transported on 20 September 1941. The separation of men, women and children took place in Belgrade; the men were transferred to the Topovske Šupe camp and then taken to mass executions, while women and children were temporarily distributed in Belgrade Jewish families, after which they would meet their tragic end at the Staro Sajmište camp. During the Holocaust, almost the entire Jewish community of Novi Bečej was destroyed.


Literature: Lazar Mečkić, Novi Bečej i Vranjevo kroz istoriju (Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History), Novi Bečej 1989, Božidar Ivković, Uništenje Jevreja i pljačka njihove imovine u Banatu: 1941-1944” (“The Destruction of the Jews and Plundering of their Property in Banat: 1941-1944”), Tokovi Revolucije (The Courses of Revolution), No. 1 (1967), p. 373-403., Branislav Kiselički, Nastanak, razvoj i uništenje jevrejske zajednice u Novom Bečeju (The Beginning, Development and Destruction of the Jewish Community in Novi Bečej), Novi Sad 1992, YVDA-O.39-164