Jewish Osijek Virtual Tour
This virtual tour is based on the Jewish Osijek Memorial Route created by Tomislav Vuković and the research results of the Rediscover project. It includes sites significant for the history of the Jewish community, and most of them are located in the city center. At each of the sites, visitors will be informed about Jewish heritage, but also about specific personal or family stories and destinies related to the Holocaust. The goal is to raise awareness of the significance of the Jewish community for the development and prosperity of Osijek, and also to show that the Holocaust did not only happen in Germany or in Auschwitz, but, unfortunately, also on the streets of our city, in the places we pass by every day. The emphasis is therefore less on architecture and more on human stories.If you follow this memorial route, you will find out, among other things, why Osijek Jews mostly have surnames that sound German, what is the importance of Jews in the economic development of Osijek and who were prominent Jews such as Lav Mirski, Julius Miskolczy or Slavko Hirsch.
Fifteen localities form a separate unit that can be easily visited on foot as well, and the Upper Town Jewish cemetery is close to the city centre. Lav Mirski Square was chosen for the introductory part, and the Mother and Child monument towards the end, representing a kind of message of hope. Places can, of course, be visited in a different order. The remaining sites are located outside the city center, so it should be noted that access to some of them is not suitable for larger groups or it is not possible to reach them on foot.
The first two Jewish families, with the Hirschl surname, were recorded in Osijek in the middle of the 18th century, during the Habsburg Monarchy. After long periods of discrimination and persecution, their position had slowly begun to improve since the time of Emperor Joseph II (1780-1790). He softened his attitude toward the Jews by passing the Edict of Tolerance. However, the Edict banned documents written in Hebrew and Yiddish at the same time. Therefore, since then Jews had to write all the documents in Latin, German, or Hungarian. Likewise, Jews then had to take new surnames instead of being named after their father or place of birth. Some simply translated earlier surnames, some described their external features, but the result is that Jewish surnames in Croatia since then usually sound like German.
In the middle of the 19th century, after the Hungarian Parliament allowed the Jews to establish factories, crafts and shops, and to buy real estate in free and royal cities, they started to immigrate much more to Osijek. Jews also inhabited the surrounding villages, and their numbers grew steadily until World War II. Almost exclusively Ashkenazi Jews immigrated to Slavonia from different areas of the Habsburg Monarchy.
Most of the Jews of Osijek were engaged in trade and crafts, and from 1880 they became lawyers, doctors, bankers, professors, teachers and industrialists. The influence of the Jews of Osijek was also significant for the launch of some factories, out of which even presently well-known brands on the Croatian market developed.