As a people who suffered terribly at the hands of the Nazis and their Croatian Ustasha collaborators during World War II, Serbs feel a strong kinship with the Jewish people and the State of Israel
By Dr. EFRAIM ZUROFF and ALEKSANDAR NIKOLIC
(Courtesy of The Jerusalem Post, where first published)
In the wake of the horrendous terror rampage committed by Hamas on Israeli soil on October 7, many of the most important countries in North America and Western Europe were quick to denounce the Hamas crimes and declare their unequivocal support for Israel and our right to defend ourselves against the perpetrators of the shocking crimes committed by the Palestinian terrorists.
To their credit, the leaders of the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany even traveled to Israel personally, to express their solidarity and support. At home, cultural and political iconic buildings in these and other countries were illuminated with Israeli flags.
In the eastern parts of Europe, however, expressions of support were much slower in coming. Only 12 days after the slaughter of over 1,400 mostly Israeli civilians in the most bestial manner, including infants, young children, and the elderly, did the European Parliament pass a vote which denounced the crimes unequivocally and supported Israel’s right to defend itself by an unprecedented margin of 500 votes in favor, 21 opposed, and 24 abstentions.
There is, however, one eastern European country that has taken exceptional concrete measures to demonstrate its support for Israel, and especially for the soldiers of the IDF during these last two terrible weeks. Shortly after the news of the slaughter of so many innocent Israelis reached Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic immediately denounced the horrific crimes committed by Hamas and tied them to the painful history of the Jewish people throughout their history, especially during the Holocaust.
Needless to say, Vucic supported Israel’s right to defend itself. As the Serbian president who has done the most to commemorate the Holocaust in Serbia, and as the grandson of a victim of the Croatian Ustasha Nazi collaborators, he is well aware of the mutual suffering of Jews and Serbs (and of the Romani people) during World War II. In that respect, the history of World War II continues to resonate very strongly in Serbia, the only country in Europe in which anti-Nazi partisans (among them many Jews), by far outnumbered local Nazi collaborators.
On a more practical level, at a time when practically all the airlines from national carriers to charters and low-cost suspended their flights to and from Ben-Gurion Airport, Air Serbia, the national airline, not only continued its scheduled flights, but added special additional flights.
All four weekly flights were filled to capacity, but most important they brought home IDF soldiers living abroad, who were summoned for active service from all over Europe and North America. Air Serbia flights from New York, Chicago, and various European destinations enabled numerous soldiers to arrive “home” to join their units in a timely manner when no other options were available.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
In addition, the newly appointed Serbian ambassador to Israel, Miroljub Petrovic, is arriving with his wife to assume his post here in the coming week, despite the rocket attacks and the other dangers, instead of waiting for an end to the hostilities. This is another gesture of solidarity, and deep friendship from Serbia, at a time when such support is needed and much appreciated.
As a people who suffered terribly at the hands of the Nazis and their Croatian Ustasha collaborators during World War II, Serbs feel a strong kinship with the Jewish people and the State of Israel and have responded with empathy and understanding to our plight. Hvala (thank you) Belgrade!
About the writers
Holocaust historian Dr. Efraim Zuroff is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and director of its Israel Office and Eastern European Affairs.
Aleksandar Nikolic is the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Serbia in Israel.