There are a few countries where Centropa had difficulty working, and regrettably, all of ex Yugoslavia falls into this category. No small part of the problem lies with the region's dire economic straits during the early 2000s in the wake of the four separate wars of the 1990s. Many of the younger Jews we trained left Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia as soon as employment opportunities abroad availed themselves. Things are decidedly better, economically, today, but we are no longer conducting interviews.
Around 87,000 Jews lived in pre-Holocaust Yugoslavia. The vast majority were murdered. Some 6,500 were living in the country in the 1980s, and as mentioned above, starting in 1991 they began fleeing the country for Israel, England and North America.
As in other central European countries, however, Jews in former Yugoslavia still play an outsized role. In the 1990s, the Serbian Vice Premier was Jewish (Zarko Korac) and in 2007 the Bosnian government appointed a Jewish foreign minister (Sven Alkalaj) and a Jewish ambassador to Switzerland (Jakob Finci).
We have indeed been lucky to work with Rachel Chanin in Serbia. An American who speaks excellent Serbian, Rachel is married to Yitzhak Asiel, Serbia's chief rabbi. Aside from Rachel's extensive social welfare and cultural activities, she has been conducting interviews for us in Serbia and in Macedonia. Over the years, we have also managed to pick up a handful of interviews in Croatia and Bosnia.
In Croatia, Silvia Heim and Lea Siljak conducted two excellent interviews for us in Zagreb. We would also like to call your attention to a book published in 2013 called 1941: The Year That Keeps Returning, by Slavko Goldstein. Professor Goldstein is a publisher, Jewish community activist and writer. His memoirs are considered by many to be one of the finest personal stories published on the Holocaust in the past ten years.