Virovitica Old Jewish Cemetery
Virovitica is situated near the Hungarian border on the River Drava in Slavonia. It is the capital of the Virovitica-Podravina County. The earliest record of Virovitica dates back to 1234. During the 13th century, Virovitica was famous for having summer palaces for the royal family. Virovitica also had a castle, but it was destroyed during the Ottoman invasion in 1552. The Ottoman Empire ruled over Virovitica for 120 years and in 1684, the town was liberated from Turkish rule. At the end of the 18th century, Virovitica became the center of the region. In 1910, there were 8140 inhabitants. Virovitica became the big trading and industrial hub in Slavonia and had a very multi-cultural population of Croatians, Germans, Hungarians and Serbs.
The first Jews came to Virovitica in the 18th century from Hungary. The formal Jewish community, however, was established only in the middle of the 19th century. The synagogue was built in 1863, one of the first in Slavonia. The majority of the Jewish community members were businessmen and well-standing individuals. The synagogue members were known to have purchased seats for 300 forints each (a large amount in those days). The Jews in Virovitica were involved in trading operations, industry, and some free professions. In 1875, the Jewish community built a school where there were lessons in both German and Hebrew. At the end of the 19th century, there were 2854 Jews in the whole area.
After the end of the First World War, the Jewish community suffered from the riots of ex-soldiers of the Austrian army. The economic crisis of the 1920s-1930s was also very hard on the Jews of Virovitica. By 1940, there were only 350 Jews living in town. During the Holocaust, more than 160 Jews were killed and many others were deported to concentration camps. In 1942, Croatian nationalists destroyed the synagogue. After the end of the Second World War, only 21 Jews lived in Virovitica. They didn’t renew community activities. In 1969, Virovitica counted about 34 Jews. Only 16 Jews remained in the town in 1996.
The famous Croatian and Jewish writer, Miroslav Feldman (1899-1976), was born in Virovitica. He wrote a psychological drama with elements of grotesque and many works with a strong social critique, in which he satirically spoke of different occurrences in the province and life of the higher society of Virovitica.
The first Jewish cemetery of Virovitica (Old cemetery) was built in 1830 in the nearby village of Antunovac. It operated until 1870 when the Jewish community built a new cemetery in Virovitica. Some of the graves were transferred to the new cemetery. Later the site of the old cemetery was completely abandoned and demolished.