Vukovar New Jewish Cemetery
The Jewish cemetery of Vukovar was established in 1850 in a suburb of the town. In 2009, there were approximately 75 to 100 monuments remaining. The tombstones have inscriptions in Hebrew, Hungarian, German and Croatian. The oldest tombstone dates back to 1858 and the latest to 1948. The Ceremonial Hall, one of the largest in the region, was built there in 1928 and was used for funeral ceremonies. It was created in accordance to the designs of F. Funtak and is characterized by a combination of the art deco style with Moorish elements. The central façade is accentuated by a mansard roof in the shape of a broken pyramid with a dome on the top. The walls had half-pilasters, cartouches and symbolic details like the Star of David. The Ceremonial Hall of Vukovar was heavily damaged during the civil war of the 1990s, but later it was included in the list of the Cultural Heritage of Croatia.
Vukovar is the city in the Vukovar-Syrmia County located at the confluence of the Vuka and the Danube Rivers. Serb and Croat tribes came to the region during the 6th and 7th centuries, Vukovar was only first mentioned in 1231. In 1345, the city received the privilege to organize a big economic fair once a year. Beginning in 1526, the surrounding area and city were under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The population of Vukovar numbered 3,000 inhabitants, most of them Muslims. Vukovar was a vibrant trading center for the whole region. After the victory against the Ottoman Empire in 1687, Vukovar was almost completely depopulated. There were only 50 Serbian and Croatian families in the town and the local economy was decimated.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, many foreign migrants came to Vukovar and turned it into a booming multicultural town. In the 19th century, the town was famous for being a center of agricultural production, an important river port and for having a railway station. In 1910, there were 10,359 people, most of them Croats, Germans, Serbs and Hungarians. Jews came to the Vukovar at the start of the 19th century. In 1815, there were 27 Jews in Vukovar. They were Ashkenazi Jews from Austria who were engaged in petty trades and crafts. The Jewish community was established in 1837. The first prayer house was built in 1841 and the first synagogue in 1876. In 1910, the synagogue was sold to be used as an Evangelical Church. The Central Synagogue was erected in 1889 by architect Ludwig Schöne; it was the first domed synagogue in Croatia. A Hebrew school, the “Talmud Tora,” with 20 pupils was opened near the synagogue during those years.
In 1921, the Jewish population numbered 453 people, yet before the Second World War, there were only 213 Jews in Vukovar. The relationship of the Jewish community to other inhabitants of Vukovar was friendly. The Jews were highly respected as philanthropists, merchants and the purveyors of local culture before the war. Yet during the conflict, Croatian nationalists sent the local Jewish population to the Jasenovac concentration camp. The entire Jewish community of Vukovar, including the rabbi of the city, R. Izrael Scheer, and his wife, perished in the Holocaust. In 1947, there were only 24 Jews in Vukovar. he Central Synagogue building was sold to the local municipality and ruined in 1958.