From the late 19th ct. till 1941 Osijek had 2 very prosperous Jewish Communities – the Upper Town and the Lower Town community (Osijek lies on the Drava river coast, streched 9 km in length so these city parts are far away). Therefore there were 2 cemeteries and 2 synagogues. Unfortunately, the Upper Town synagogue was burnt down in 1941 and the remains removed by the communist authorities in early 1950es. The Lower Town synagogue remained but, due to the lack of money and very few surviving comunity members, it was sold to the Pentacostal church and turned into the Church of Joyful News, maintaining all the Jewish symbols inside and outside. Luckily, not even the Nazis dared to destroy the cemeteries.
JEWISH CEMETERY, ST. LEOPOLD BOGDAN MANDIĆ STREET – UPPER TOWN JEWISH CEMETERY
The Jewish cemetery in the Upper Town has existed since 1850, and a smaller Jewish cemetery also exists in the Lower Town.
The Jewish cemetery in the Upper Town, near the city centre, is still in use. The first Jews were buried here in 1852 (the first was Marcus Pfeiffer, then the teacher Moritz Löbl and a child named Adolf Herbst), which is also considered as the year of establishing the Funeral Society of Chevra Kadisha. It has a historicist-styled chapel with ceremonial hall (‘the little synagogue’). Its 500-600 tombs are reminders of the prosperity of the pre-war community. The gravestone architecture in the Jewish cemetery is marked by the inscriptions written in Hebrew, German, Hungarian and Croatian language, but designed with distinctive Jewish ornamental motifs linked to the traditional Jewish iconography. The curiosity of the cemetery is that all the graves face north, in the rows directed from east to west. This is a cemetery without a single wooden tombstone. In the multitude of monuments, from plain stone, over marble obelisks to marble rectangular memorial panels, the most famous is the Adler family tombstone. It was made in the form of an open book made by Osijek native and world famous sculptor Oscar Nemon for his mother’s forefathers. It is the only old cemetery, out of about ten in total in Osijek, with many available burial places, and the only one where there are no buried members of other religions. Many eminent Osijek citizens, especially doctors, lawyers, merchants and craftsmen, were buried in the cemetery. there is the grave of the Adler family, the prominent Osijek industrialists, pioneers of Osijek chemical industry. The grave was created by a world-famous artist Oscar Nemon, born as Oskar Neuman in Osijek, who later moved to Vienna and Belgium, finally having settled in the United Kingdom, where he created his famous series of Winston Churchill bustes and sculptures and also of the entire British royal family. The Adlers were his mothers’ family so he sculpted the gravestone in the form of a book for his grandfather Leopold (Lavoslav) Adler, whose greatest passion was reading. Later, Oscar’s sister Bella was buried here. Almost his entire family, both the Adlers and the Neumanns, were killed in the Holocaust, which was, tragically, the typical fate of almost all Osijek Jews.
The Lower Town Jewish cemetery in Osijek was founded in 1888 and is still in use. It is located in the south-eastern outskirts of the city. The base of its ground plan is a rectangle of elongated shape. There is a wire fence with a gate around the cemetery. The main entrance, located on the northern part of the plot, makes access to the main longitudinal communication line – an earthy and grassy path, surrounded by a cypress alley ending on the south side in front of the ceremonial hall building dating from 1927. Behind the ceremonial hall, on the south side, there is a cemetery. The positioning pattern of individual graves reflects the planning approach of the space organisation. The small cemetery chapel was slightly damaged during the 1990s war, but it has been repaired. The cemetery contains around 150 mostly well-preserved and around 30 hardly readable remains of graves, with the inscriptions in Hebrew, German, Hungarian and Croatian.
It is, unfortunately, also in rather bad condition and hard to access because it is not open for visitors. There is only 1 active grave there, the one of once very prominent Osijek Jewish family – the Herman(n)s.