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The story of an unknown hero


serbian army:
 A great humanitarian action began in September of 1940, when the heroic citizens of Sabac, Serbia saved 1300 Jews from Germany, Austria, and Hungary.These Jews were crammed onto barges sailing down the Danube River in order to escape the Nazis via the Black Sea to Palestine. After the barges were turned away from the Bulgarian border, the Jews went up the Sava River to the town of Sabac in Serbia. The Mayor of Sabac, Dr. Miodrag Petrovic, ordered the passengers to disembark. They did so and were immediately housed and cared for by Dr. Petrovic and the citizens of Sabac. A book about this great humanitarian effort and the humanity of Dr. Pertrovic and the citizens of Sabac was written by Mrs. Mara Jovanovic and was re-published by the Jewish Museum in Belgrade (Zbornik, No.4, 1979).

Article: "WIR PACKEN, WIR AUSPACKEN...." (We are packing, We are unpacking). The article was translated into Hebrew by one of the Sabac survivors, Mr. Salom David.



A group of 1300 Jewish emigrants reached the city of Sabac, Yugoslavia in September 1940. These Jews were actually emigrants from Austria, Germany, and Czechoslovakia who were trying to reach Palestine by way of the Danube River.

In October of 1939, this transport had been stopped at Kladovo as some difficulties had to be bridged in finding a ship that would take them to Palestine. Moreover, the Bulgarian authorities were unwilling to grant transit visas. The group had to spend the rough winter months in Kladovo on board the ships. When these ships had to leave Kladovo to resume normal commercial operation, the group was sheltered on barges. Sometime in the summer, these barges were towed upstream as far as Sabac. It was there that the desperate Jews would find refuge and kindness. The Mayor of Sabac, Dr. Miodrag Petrovic, who had always loved his many Jewish friends (his best friend was Dr. Alfred Bata-Koen), ordered the disembarking of the emigrants and called for preparations to be made for their housing. In Sabac, the emigrants were housed in private houses, the Hotel Paris, and an old mill and warehouse. The mill owner, Mr. Jakov Vukosavljevic, and the residents of Sabac took on the responsibility of making these locations suitable for the emigrants.

Until the arrival of the Germans and the Nazi occupation of Serbia in April of 1941, the Jews moved freely within Sabac. Some of them, physicians and carpenters for instance, were given a chance to work in their professions. Others made themselves useful by actively participating in the social and cultural life of Sabac. In the "Officer's Club," which had its catering premises in the Hotel Paris, the younger emigrants entertained the citizens of Sabac by performing shows. One of the songs of their show was"Wir Packen, Wir Auspacken�" But the respite from war and its casualties would not last long.

At the end of June 1941, the Germans established a camp near the River Sava and transported the Jewish emigrants in Sabac, by then numbering 1107, there. On August 2, 1941, the Jewish citizens of Sabac, numbering 63, were also taken to this camp. At this time, all the citizens of Sabac, Jews and Serbs alike, would become affected by the German atrocities to follow. Not only would the Germans kill indiscriminately, they would then forced the Jews to collect the corpses and hang them on street poles in Sabac for all to see.

Next, on September 24, the Germans made 5,000 citizens of Sabac and 1,100 Jews run as far as Klenak, 8 kilometers away. There they were all left without any food for two days and two nights. On September 26, the victims were forced to run another 23 kilometers, as far the township of Jarak. Those who fell during this run were simply killed. On September 30, the group was taken back to Sabac and again put in the concentration camp. On October 12 and 13, all the male Jewish emigrants, as well as all the Sabac Jews and Gypsies, were taken to Zasavica to be executed. As one eyewitness stated, only a few managed to escape. After the executions, only women and children remained in the Sabac camp. On January 26, 1942, one of the coldest winter days, the Germans forced the women and children to walk back to Klenak. They were then transported in cattle-cars via Ruma to the "Sajmiste" camp in Belgrade-Zemun. Those few who survived the treacherous, painful march and transport to the camp received no warmth or comfort there. Instead, they were put to death. By May of 1942, not one of these women or children remained alive.

One of the survivors of the atrocities committed against the emigrants and citizens of Sabac, was Salom David. It was he who translated this story into Hebrew, thus ensuring Jews and others will never forget the efforts made by people such as Dr. Miodrag Petrovic and the citizens of Sabac, Yugoslavia, under extreme hardship and constant fear for their own lives, to save the innocents of World War II.

This letter is dedicated to the memory of my late Grandfather, Dr. Miodrag "Mile" Petrovic (1894-1982). For his selfless help to the Jewish people he respected and loved, he was arrested by the Germans and interned in the Sajmiste concentration camp in Zemun. Somehow, he managed to escape: but, not for long. The Yugoslav Communists later got him and he was again arrested, only to escape them as well. He would not meet the fate that seemed to chase him every step of the way.

Following the end of WWII, Dr. Petrovic made it to Italy, then Belgium, and finally America. He first settled in Chicago then moved to Los Angeles where he remained. Before the War, he had been a lawyer, judge, and diplomat. He served the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as the Consul to Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy. He had many Jewish friends in the country he had left behind, his best friend being Dr. Bata Koen who was killed, as were many other Jews of Sabac. None believed the Nazis would kill them. They saw themselves as Serbs who were born in Sabac and didn't identify as being the Jews the Nazis were killing. The Nazis did not see them this way.

Once in America, Dr. Petrovic worked odd jobs, as he could not practice law not knowing English well enough, though he did speak perfect French and Italian. He mostly worked as an automechanic, his hobby while living in Serbia, and carpenter. He remained in America for the rest of his life. On February 11, 1982, Dr. Miodrag Petrovic passed away in Los Angeles, California and was buried at the Los Angeles Serbian Cemetery. He died as a hero to me and many others.

The Jewish Museum in Belgrade published in their journal the article telling of my Grandfather's heroism. They are also working hard to make a documentary film of the Jews protected and nearly saved in Sabac, Serbia. It is my hope that this film will tell the story of the Jews and the Serbs, friends and allies, in the name of those for whom that friendship and alliance meant everything.

Miodrag 'Mile' Nikolic, Grandson

thank you for this!!!!

A great post!

Miodrag 'Mile' Nikolic, are you saying your grandfather was one of the heroes of this action ???

serbian army:
No, it is someone else's grandfather :)


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