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Olga Alkalaj

Olga Alkalaj (1907-1942), lawyer and partisan, born in Belgrade, Serbia. She adhered to the Communist movement while attending the high school and then she joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPY) in 1923 while she was a student at the Law School of the University of Belgrade. During the 1930s she was active in Women’s Movement in Belgrade and a member of the Commission for Work with Women at the Provincial Committee of the KPY for Serbia. She became secretary of the Communist party of the Fifth District of the city of Belgrade and a member of the editorial office of the newspaper Žena danas (“Today’s Woman”). At the same time, as a lawyer she defended fellow members of the illegal Communist party in court.

After Yugoslavia was invaded by Nazi Germany and its allies in 1941, Alkalaj continued her activities under false identities. In September 1941 she was appointed a member of the Provisional Local Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party in Belgrade. She was arrested by the Gestapo in November 1941 and tortured in order to obtain information on other members of the Yugoslav resistance. Since she did not disclose any details, she was transferred to the Banjica camp and the to Sajmište concentration camp for Jews. Because of the severe injures suffered during interrogation in Banjica, she was hospitalized in the Jewish hospital. The Communist party organized her escape, but Alkalaj refused to be rescued since her escape would trigger reprisals against the other patients in the hospital. On March 15, 1942, she was taken from the hospital in a Gaswagen (a truck equipped as a mobile gas chamber) and along with other Jews she was murdered by gassing in Jajinci.   

Date of birth:
1907
Date of death:
1942
ID Number:
20673583
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:
Related items:
ALQALI, ELQALI, EL-KALAI, ELKALI, ALKALAY, ELKALAY, KALAI

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

The surnames in this group are based on the Arabic Alqal'a which means "fortress/stronghold". Several towns in Spain and North Africa that developed from fortresses and military camps are still called Alcala, among them Alcala of Henares in Spain, Alcala of Guadaira, Alcala de Los Gazules; Kalat Ahmed near Fez, Morocco, and Kalat Sraghna near Marrakech, Morocco. Most related Jewish family names derive from the town of Alcala De Herares Kal'at Ahmed. Both were important Jewish centers in the Middle Ages. Other related surnames, recorded in medieval Spanish documents, include Chaly, Calay, Alcalay. The name (and variants) is recorded as a Jewish family name in the following cases: in the 11th century, Abraham Alqali was a rabbi in Kalat Ahmed, Morocco; the poet Joseph Ben Jacob Kalai lived in the 13th century; rabbi and author Samuel Ben Joseph Kalai (circa 1500-1582), also known as Al-Kalai, lived in Italy; the talmudist and author Mordechai Ben Solomon Kalai (1556-1646) lived in Greece; the early 18th century Crimean Karaite scholar and commentator Samuel Ben Joseph Kalai. Don Abraham Calay attended a meeting in the great synagogue of Alcala of Henares, Spain, on August 7, 1395. Moshe Ben David Alkalay, Judeo-Spanish translator and Hebrew writer, was born in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1834. David Alkalay was the head of the Hevra Kadisha of the Sephardim in Jerusalem in about 1900.
ALKALAJ

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

Alkalaj belongs to a group of surnames based on the Arabic Alqal'a which means "fortress/stronghold". Many towns in Spain and North Africa that developed from fortresses and military camps are still called Alcala. Most related Jewish family names such as alqali, Elqali, El-Kalai, Alkalay and Elkalay derive from the town of Alcala De Herares in Spain or Qal'at Ahmed near Fez, Morocco. Both were important Jewish centers in the Middle Ages. In the 20th century Alkalaj is recorded as a Jewish surname with nine Yugoslav soldiers who were captured by the Germans during World War II.

Belgrade

Serbian: Beograd

The capital of Serbia

Belgrade is the largest city in Serbia. It is located where the Sava and Danube Rivers meet, as well as where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. Belgrade was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1521 an often changed hands between the Ottomans and the Habsburgs. After World War I (1918) Belgrade became the capital of Yugoslavia until the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Belgrade has been the capital of Serbia since the establishment of the independent Republic of Serbia in 2006.

The Belgrade Jewish community has an active community center, located in the Ashkenazi synagogue that was originally consecrated in 1925, and used as a brothel by the Nazis during World War II. The community center houses the Federation of Jewish Communities of Serbia, the Jewish Historical Museum, and the Sukkat Shalom Synagogue, the only active synagogue remaining in Belgrade. Services are held regularly on Friday nights and Jewish holidays and are led by Rabbi Isak Asiel, the Chief Rabbi of Serbia. The Belgrade Jewish community offers a number of programs and services for Serbian Jews of all ages. Activities and programs have included Hebrew classes, youth groups, a choir, a theater troupe, and a kosher kitchen (established in 2005). Communal organizations include a Women's League, and a chevra kaddisha.

Belgrade's two Jewish cemeteries are located across the street from each other, at 1 Mije Kovacevica Street. The Sephardic cemetery, which has remained active, is the larger cemetery. It includes a Holocaust memorial, which was erected in 1952, as well as memorials to the Jewish victims of the Balkan Wars and World War I. Another monument marks the location where sacred books and texts are buried (shemos). The Ashkenazi cemetery includes approximately 200 tombstones.

The Fresco Gallery has a memorial plaque commemorating Belgrade's Jewish community. It stands where the Moorish-style synagogue once stood, from when it was built in 1908 until it was destroyed in 1941. The building that once housed the Oneg Shabbat organization has remained standing in what was once the Jewish Quarter, and Stars of David can still be seen on the building's exterior. The building currently houses the Cinema Rex.

HISTORY

Several Jews from Italy and Hungary settled in Belgrade during the 13th and 14th centuries. They were joined by Sephardi Jews, who arrived after the Turkish conquest in 1521. Most lived in the Jewish mahala ("quarter") near the citadel, and worked as physicians, blacksmiths, tanners, and merchants. Additionally, the community enjoyed a degree of judicial autonomy.

In 1663 there were 800 Jews living in Belgrade. Between 1642 and 1688, the yeshiva of Belgrade became more widely known, and operated under the tutelage of Rabbis Judah Lerma, Simchah b. Gershon Kohen, and Joseph Almosnino.

With the decline of the Turkish Empire beginning in the late 17th century, a series of tragedies befell the Jews of Belgrade. In 1688, as the Austrians approached the city, Turkish troops plundered and burned the Jewish Quarter. Once the Austrians captured the city, soldiers burned, looted, and killed both the Turkish and Jewish population. The community was totally destroyed; some Jews managed to flee to Bulgaria but the majority were taken prisoner and deported to Austria to be sold as slaves or offered to Jewish communities to be ransomed.

A number of Jews returned to the city shortly thereafter and rebuilt the synagogue. However, because Belgrade was the key fortress against the Turks, there were restrictions placed on the number of Jews permitted to live in the city. Belgrade was retaken by the Turks in 1739. A series of rebellions by the Serbs against the local Ottoman authorities began in 1803, continuing intermittently for nearly 30 years. Belgrade changed hands many times. In 1807 the Serbs expelled the Jews from Belgrade; it was only after Russian intervention that the anti-Jewish measures were revoked. Some returned between 1811 and 1813 but were forced to leave yet again when a failed rebellion broke out in 1813.

The situation of Belgrade's Jews improved in 1815, when Milosh Obrenovich became the ruler of Serbia. The Serbian state press that he founded in 1837 was also published in Hebrew. However, the freedoms that the Jews of Belgrade enjoyed under Obrenovich would not last. Milosh's successor Alexander Karageorgevich (1842-1858) introduced a series of economic and residence restrictions on Belgrade's Jews. Nonetheless, the Jewish community managed to establish a number of cultural and religious institutions, including a Hebrew school, which was founded during the 1850s.

In 1777 there were 800 Jews living in Belgrade. By 1831 there were approximately 1,300 Jews (200 of whom were Ashkenazim) in the city.

The Jews of Belgrade, as well as those throughout Serbia were granted full civil rights by the Serbian parliament in 1889. Subsequently, the community's wealthier Jews began to integrate into Serbian society. They spoke Serbian, their children went to state schools and universities, and many were able to study and work as physicians and civil servants, among other professions previously barred to them. Nonetheless, most Jews lived in the mahala until World War I, when it was partially destroyed. The community had its own press; the Ladino journal El Amigo del Pueblo began publishing in 1888 and appeared in Belgrade throughout the 1890s. In 1907 they built a new Sephardi synagogue, Bet Yisrael, in the upper town.

After World War I, when Belgrade became the capital of the independent Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the younger generation gradually left the mahala to take advantage of a wider range of economic opportunities. Many worked as physicians, bankers, and in the stock exchange and garment industry.

THE HOLOCAUST

There were 12,000 Jews living in Belgrade when the Germans invaded in April 1941. The invasion, coupled with the collaboration on the part of the city's Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) residents, ushered in a period of discrimination and violence against the city's Jews. Jews were evicted from their homes and their property was confiscated. The Ashkenazi synagogue was turned into a brothel; Bet Yisrael became a storehouse for looted Jewish property and was eventually blown up before the German retreat. All communal activities were forbidden, but the Vertretung (Representation) appointed by the Germans, organized public kitchens, medical services, and other forms of aid for the local Jewish community, as well as for the 2,500 Jews from the Banat region who were expelled to Belgrade.

All men between the ages of 14 and 60 and all women between the ages of 14 and 40 were compelled to work as forced laborers, and were not provided with money or food in exchange for their labor. When the Serbians started a campaign of armed resistance against the Nazis, the Germans began executing hostages, many of whom were Jews. The first mass execution took place on July 29, 1941 when 122 Communists and Jews were shot.

Between August and October, 1941 approximately 5,000 Jewish men were arrested. After being imprisoned they were taken in groups of 150 to 400 to the nearby forests and shot. The remaining 6,000 Jewish women and children were arrested in December 1941 and transported to the Saymishte camp, a former commercial fairground on the left bank of the Sava River. Food was scarce, and many froze to death in the winter of 1941-1942. Those who had remained alive were killed in gas vans between February and May 1942. Patients in the Jewish hospital in the mahala were also killed in 1942. Some Jews, primarily those who had participated in the Zionist youth movement HaShomer HaTzair, joined the resistance movement. They worked as saboteurs, disseminated propaganda, and collected funds and medical supplies.

About 95% of Serbia's Jewish population was killed during the war. Of the 12,000 living in Belgrade before the Nazi occupation, 1,115 survived.

POSTWAR

On October 22, 1944, two weeks after the liberation of Belgrade, the Jewish community began to resume its activities. Survivors opened a soup kitchen, a center to serve those who returned after the war, and provided medical services. The Ashkenazi synagogue was reconsecrated on December 2nd 1944 by Rabbi Albert Altarac; the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi communities merged. In 1947 the community had 2,271 members, half of whom emigrated to Israel shortly after. A monument to fallen Jewish fighters and victims of fascism was erected after the war in the central cemetery of Belgrade.

In 1969 there were 1,602 Jews in Belgrade. The community center ran an internationally known choir, a youth club, and a kindergarten. It also housed the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia.

In 1995 a sculpture by Nandor Glid, titled "Menorah in Flames," was erected where the Jewish Quarter once stood.
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Olga Alkalaj

Olga Alkalaj (1907-1942), lawyer and partisan, born in Belgrade, Serbia. She adhered to the Communist movement while attending the high school and then she joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPY) in 1923 while she was a student at the Law School of the University of Belgrade. During the 1930s she was active in Women’s Movement in Belgrade and a member of the Commission for Work with Women at the Provincial Committee of the KPY for Serbia. She became secretary of the Communist party of the Fifth District of the city of Belgrade and a member of the editorial office of the newspaper Žena danas (“Today’s Woman”). At the same time, as a lawyer she defended fellow members of the illegal Communist party in court.

After Yugoslavia was invaded by Nazi Germany and its allies in 1941, Alkalaj continued her activities under false identities. In September 1941 she was appointed a member of the Provisional Local Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party in Belgrade. She was arrested by the Gestapo in November 1941 and tortured in order to obtain information on other members of the Yugoslav resistance. Since she did not disclose any details, she was transferred to the Banjica camp and the to Sajmište concentration camp for Jews. Because of the severe injures suffered during interrogation in Banjica, she was hospitalized in the Jewish hospital. The Communist party organized her escape, but Alkalaj refused to be rescued since her escape would trigger reprisals against the other patients in the hospital. On March 15, 1942, she was taken from the hospital in a Gaswagen (a truck equipped as a mobile gas chamber) and along with other Jews she was murdered by gassing in Jajinci.   

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

Belgrade
Belgrade

Serbian: Beograd

The capital of Serbia

Belgrade is the largest city in Serbia. It is located where the Sava and Danube Rivers meet, as well as where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. Belgrade was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1521 an often changed hands between the Ottomans and the Habsburgs. After World War I (1918) Belgrade became the capital of Yugoslavia until the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Belgrade has been the capital of Serbia since the establishment of the independent Republic of Serbia in 2006.

The Belgrade Jewish community has an active community center, located in the Ashkenazi synagogue that was originally consecrated in 1925, and used as a brothel by the Nazis during World War II. The community center houses the Federation of Jewish Communities of Serbia, the Jewish Historical Museum, and the Sukkat Shalom Synagogue, the only active synagogue remaining in Belgrade. Services are held regularly on Friday nights and Jewish holidays and are led by Rabbi Isak Asiel, the Chief Rabbi of Serbia. The Belgrade Jewish community offers a number of programs and services for Serbian Jews of all ages. Activities and programs have included Hebrew classes, youth groups, a choir, a theater troupe, and a kosher kitchen (established in 2005). Communal organizations include a Women's League, and a chevra kaddisha.

Belgrade's two Jewish cemeteries are located across the street from each other, at 1 Mije Kovacevica Street. The Sephardic cemetery, which has remained active, is the larger cemetery. It includes a Holocaust memorial, which was erected in 1952, as well as memorials to the Jewish victims of the Balkan Wars and World War I. Another monument marks the location where sacred books and texts are buried (shemos). The Ashkenazi cemetery includes approximately 200 tombstones.

The Fresco Gallery has a memorial plaque commemorating Belgrade's Jewish community. It stands where the Moorish-style synagogue once stood, from when it was built in 1908 until it was destroyed in 1941. The building that once housed the Oneg Shabbat organization has remained standing in what was once the Jewish Quarter, and Stars of David can still be seen on the building's exterior. The building currently houses the Cinema Rex.

HISTORY

Several Jews from Italy and Hungary settled in Belgrade during the 13th and 14th centuries. They were joined by Sephardi Jews, who arrived after the Turkish conquest in 1521. Most lived in the Jewish mahala ("quarter") near the citadel, and worked as physicians, blacksmiths, tanners, and merchants. Additionally, the community enjoyed a degree of judicial autonomy.

In 1663 there were 800 Jews living in Belgrade. Between 1642 and 1688, the yeshiva of Belgrade became more widely known, and operated under the tutelage of Rabbis Judah Lerma, Simchah b. Gershon Kohen, and Joseph Almosnino.

With the decline of the Turkish Empire beginning in the late 17th century, a series of tragedies befell the Jews of Belgrade. In 1688, as the Austrians approached the city, Turkish troops plundered and burned the Jewish Quarter. Once the Austrians captured the city, soldiers burned, looted, and killed both the Turkish and Jewish population. The community was totally destroyed; some Jews managed to flee to Bulgaria but the majority were taken prisoner and deported to Austria to be sold as slaves or offered to Jewish communities to be ransomed.

A number of Jews returned to the city shortly thereafter and rebuilt the synagogue. However, because Belgrade was the key fortress against the Turks, there were restrictions placed on the number of Jews permitted to live in the city. Belgrade was retaken by the Turks in 1739. A series of rebellions by the Serbs against the local Ottoman authorities began in 1803, continuing intermittently for nearly 30 years. Belgrade changed hands many times. In 1807 the Serbs expelled the Jews from Belgrade; it was only after Russian intervention that the anti-Jewish measures were revoked. Some returned between 1811 and 1813 but were forced to leave yet again when a failed rebellion broke out in 1813.

The situation of Belgrade's Jews improved in 1815, when Milosh Obrenovich became the ruler of Serbia. The Serbian state press that he founded in 1837 was also published in Hebrew. However, the freedoms that the Jews of Belgrade enjoyed under Obrenovich would not last. Milosh's successor Alexander Karageorgevich (1842-1858) introduced a series of economic and residence restrictions on Belgrade's Jews. Nonetheless, the Jewish community managed to establish a number of cultural and religious institutions, including a Hebrew school, which was founded during the 1850s.

In 1777 there were 800 Jews living in Belgrade. By 1831 there were approximately 1,300 Jews (200 of whom were Ashkenazim) in the city.

The Jews of Belgrade, as well as those throughout Serbia were granted full civil rights by the Serbian parliament in 1889. Subsequently, the community's wealthier Jews began to integrate into Serbian society. They spoke Serbian, their children went to state schools and universities, and many were able to study and work as physicians and civil servants, among other professions previously barred to them. Nonetheless, most Jews lived in the mahala until World War I, when it was partially destroyed. The community had its own press; the Ladino journal El Amigo del Pueblo began publishing in 1888 and appeared in Belgrade throughout the 1890s. In 1907 they built a new Sephardi synagogue, Bet Yisrael, in the upper town.

After World War I, when Belgrade became the capital of the independent Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the younger generation gradually left the mahala to take advantage of a wider range of economic opportunities. Many worked as physicians, bankers, and in the stock exchange and garment industry.

THE HOLOCAUST

There were 12,000 Jews living in Belgrade when the Germans invaded in April 1941. The invasion, coupled with the collaboration on the part of the city's Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) residents, ushered in a period of discrimination and violence against the city's Jews. Jews were evicted from their homes and their property was confiscated. The Ashkenazi synagogue was turned into a brothel; Bet Yisrael became a storehouse for looted Jewish property and was eventually blown up before the German retreat. All communal activities were forbidden, but the Vertretung (Representation) appointed by the Germans, organized public kitchens, medical services, and other forms of aid for the local Jewish community, as well as for the 2,500 Jews from the Banat region who were expelled to Belgrade.

All men between the ages of 14 and 60 and all women between the ages of 14 and 40 were compelled to work as forced laborers, and were not provided with money or food in exchange for their labor. When the Serbians started a campaign of armed resistance against the Nazis, the Germans began executing hostages, many of whom were Jews. The first mass execution took place on July 29, 1941 when 122 Communists and Jews were shot.

Between August and October, 1941 approximately 5,000 Jewish men were arrested. After being imprisoned they were taken in groups of 150 to 400 to the nearby forests and shot. The remaining 6,000 Jewish women and children were arrested in December 1941 and transported to the Saymishte camp, a former commercial fairground on the left bank of the Sava River. Food was scarce, and many froze to death in the winter of 1941-1942. Those who had remained alive were killed in gas vans between February and May 1942. Patients in the Jewish hospital in the mahala were also killed in 1942. Some Jews, primarily those who had participated in the Zionist youth movement HaShomer HaTzair, joined the resistance movement. They worked as saboteurs, disseminated propaganda, and collected funds and medical supplies.

About 95% of Serbia's Jewish population was killed during the war. Of the 12,000 living in Belgrade before the Nazi occupation, 1,115 survived.

POSTWAR

On October 22, 1944, two weeks after the liberation of Belgrade, the Jewish community began to resume its activities. Survivors opened a soup kitchen, a center to serve those who returned after the war, and provided medical services. The Ashkenazi synagogue was reconsecrated on December 2nd 1944 by Rabbi Albert Altarac; the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi communities merged. In 1947 the community had 2,271 members, half of whom emigrated to Israel shortly after. A monument to fallen Jewish fighters and victims of fascism was erected after the war in the central cemetery of Belgrade.

In 1969 there were 1,602 Jews in Belgrade. The community center ran an internationally known choir, a youth club, and a kindergarten. It also housed the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia.

In 1995 a sculpture by Nandor Glid, titled "Menorah in Flames," was erected where the Jewish Quarter once stood.
ALKALAJ
ALKALAY
ALKALAJ

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

Alkalaj belongs to a group of surnames based on the Arabic Alqal'a which means "fortress/stronghold". Many towns in Spain and North Africa that developed from fortresses and military camps are still called Alcala. Most related Jewish family names such as alqali, Elqali, El-Kalai, Alkalay and Elkalay derive from the town of Alcala De Herares in Spain or Qal'at Ahmed near Fez, Morocco. Both were important Jewish centers in the Middle Ages. In the 20th century Alkalaj is recorded as a Jewish surname with nine Yugoslav soldiers who were captured by the Germans during World War II.
ALQALI, ELQALI, EL-KALAI, ELKALI, ALKALAY, ELKALAY, KALAI

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

The surnames in this group are based on the Arabic Alqal'a which means "fortress/stronghold". Several towns in Spain and North Africa that developed from fortresses and military camps are still called Alcala, among them Alcala of Henares in Spain, Alcala of Guadaira, Alcala de Los Gazules; Kalat Ahmed near Fez, Morocco, and Kalat Sraghna near Marrakech, Morocco. Most related Jewish family names derive from the town of Alcala De Herares Kal'at Ahmed. Both were important Jewish centers in the Middle Ages. Other related surnames, recorded in medieval Spanish documents, include Chaly, Calay, Alcalay. The name (and variants) is recorded as a Jewish family name in the following cases: in the 11th century, Abraham Alqali was a rabbi in Kalat Ahmed, Morocco; the poet Joseph Ben Jacob Kalai lived in the 13th century; rabbi and author Samuel Ben Joseph Kalai (circa 1500-1582), also known as Al-Kalai, lived in Italy; the talmudist and author Mordechai Ben Solomon Kalai (1556-1646) lived in Greece; the early 18th century Crimean Karaite scholar and commentator Samuel Ben Joseph Kalai. Don Abraham Calay attended a meeting in the great synagogue of Alcala of Henares, Spain, on August 7, 1395. Moshe Ben David Alkalay, Judeo-Spanish translator and Hebrew writer, was born in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1834. David Alkalay was the head of the Hevra Kadisha of the Sephardim in Jerusalem in about 1900.