A third of the Jewish population in Banat was settled in Zrenjanin (in the past it was called Petrovgrad and Veliki Bečkerek), an impoeranr administrative and industrial hub. In addition to the Jewish municipality and the magnificent synagogue, built in the late 19th century, the Jewish community in Zrenjanin had a number of cultural, sports and humanitarian organisations. Before World War II, 1267 Jews lived in Zrenjanin.
Shortly after the defeat of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in the brief April war, Zrenjanin
became the center of the German occupation region in Banat, while the actual power was given
to the native Germans. Immediately after the first Volksdeutsche (native Germans) entered the
town, on 14 April 1941, a discriminatory policy against the Jews took effect. On this occasion,
arrests were made of predominantly wealthy men of Jewish descent and a small number of
women, after which they were detained in a camp located in the basement of the Central Primary
School and a part of the former Torontal county seat. At that place, which is now the building of
the Nikola Tesla Electrical and Civil Engineering School, there is no mark indicating that there
used to be a camp there. The prisoners gave away considerable sums of money and valuables in
the hope of being released, but still remained in captivity, forced to engage in hard and degrading
labor. Soon after, like in the other German occupation zones, announcements were made of the
impending registration of all Jews and of a series of anti-Semitic measures, while the Jewish
synagogue was demolished.
In May 1941, the interned Jews were transferred to a new camp located at the site of the
former Honved barracks, today housing the Agricultural School in Zrenjanin, In addition to this,
mass arrests of the remaining Zrenjanin Jews, even women and children, started. The arrests and
seizure of Jewish property were managed by the German army units, as well as local
detachments of armed ethnic Volksdeutsche – the Deutsche Manschaft. The living conditions in
the aforementioned camp were characterized by poor nutrition, poor hygiene, being tortured by
guards and forced to engage in hard labor.
After about 1350 Jews from central Banat were concentrated in the camp in Zrenjanin, they were
transferred to Belgrade on 18 August 1941. They were transported to Belgrade in two groups
with only the essential personal belongings. As in the case of Jews from other parts of Banat, the
men were interned at the Topovske Šupe camp and were soon shot, while the women and
children were taken care of thanks to the activities of the Belgrade Jewish Municipality. They
remained temporarily free only until December 1941, after which they were interned at the
newly established Staro Sajmište camp and were killed in gas vans already at the beginning of
the following year. According to the first post-war census of 1947, the Jewish community in
Zrenjanin had only 92 members.
Literature: Aleksandar Stanojlović, „Tragedija banatskih Jevreja za vreme Drugog
svetskog rata“ (“The Tragedy of the Banat Jews during World War II“), Jevrejski almanah (The
Jewish Alamanc)1959-1960, Belgrade 1960, Teodor Kovač, „Banatski Nemci i Jevreji“ („The
Germans and the Jews of Banat“), Zbornik 9, The Jewish History Museum Belgrade 2009,
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, Pavle Šosberger, Jevreji u Vojvodini: kratak pregled istorije
vojvođanskih Jevreja (Jews in Vojvodina. A Brief Overview of the History of the Jews from Vojvodina),
Novi Sad 1998. Photograph source: The Jewish History Museum, k-24-3-2/2-3.