Varazdin Jewish Cemetery
The Jewish cemetery of Varaždin was established in 1806 but was later nationalized in 1958. In 2009, there were about 600 tombstones and the Ceremonial Hall that have survived. The oldest tombstone dates back to 1854 and the latest to 1952. Many of the older monuments have both German and Hebrew inscriptions. Newer monuments have inscriptions in Croatian and some are in Hungarian. There have been no burials for approximately 50 years. A Holocaust memorial exists but its condition is poor. The Ceremonial Hall was built in 1927 and is now designated as a Monument of Culture.
Varaždin is the center of the Varaždin County and is located near the Drava River. The area was inhabited during the Roman period but Varaždin was only first mentioned in 1181. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the place was under the rule of the Croatian and Hungarian nobility. It was an important trading center for the whole region until the occupation of the area by the Turkish army in 1532. The city was not conquered, however, and turned into a huge fortress in the struggle against the Ottoman army. In the 16-17 centuries, Varaždin’s development was stinted because of the constant military activity in the region. During Maria Theresa’s rule in the 18th century, the city was the capital of Croatia (1767-1776). Numerous palaces and civil buildings were erected in the city before a large fire completely ruined Varaždin in 1776. That year Zagreb became the capitol city of the Austrian Empire. During the 19th century, the city was reconstructed and turned into a big industrial and transport center for the whole country. The main outputs of the local industry were metal, textile, agricultural, silk and brick production. In 1910, there were 13,398 inhabitants, most of them Croats, Germans and Hungarians.
The first Jews came to the city in the mid-18th century from Moravia, Hungary and Austria. In the 18th century, the local government tried to issue a decree to expel the Jews from Varaždin five times, but each attempt failed. The Jewish community was officially established only in 1807 and the “Hevra Kadisha” in 1802. The Jewish school was opened in 1826-it was the first Jewish school in Croatia. At that time, there were 29 Jewish families in the city. In 1861-62, the Great Synagogue was erected by the architects V. Morandini and L. Deutsch in a Neo-Romanesque style. It was a magnificent building. Its central section was built with an arched top, above there was a small rose window flanked by two side towers and the entire section was topped with onion-shaped domes. In 1921, there were 565 Jews in Varaždin. Most of them worked in trade, business and in the free professions. The Jewish community had positive relations with the other inhabitants of the city. When the country was occupied by the Germans in 1941, the Croatian nationalists came to power. The Jewish community, some 515 people in 1940, was decimated. They were deported to concentration camps where they perished. Only a few members of the former Varaždin Jewish community remained in the city after the war. The synagogue was damaged during the Second World War, but it still exists, albeit in a rather poor condition. It was confiscated in 1951 and used as a cinema in postwar.