Note: I was using the interview from an email that someone had sent me back in 2007, but I’ve just found it online, at Srpska-Mreza.

**********SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM**********

In looking for something else, I stumbled upon the following excerpt from a 1997 interview between Belgrade-based journalist Jasa Almuli, a Jewish WWII survivor, and Professor Enriko Josif, one of then Yugoslavia’s top Jewish intellectuals. Among other, bigger things, the interview corroborates what I try to explain to people when they perceive or attempt to paint Serbs as anti-Semitic. In countering that charge, I’ve often explained to people that there may have been an increase in that phenomenon in the past 15 years, after Bosnia and Kosovo, during which prominent American Jews were at the forefront of calls to bomb the Serbs (though they were by no means alone). But, continues my explanation, this new grudge was not something that had ever been endemic to the Serb people historically.

This is also why attempts to conflate Serbs with Russians gets under my skin, even though the two Orthodox nations are understandably allying more closely in this unforeseeable era of the most unholy alliances by America. Two sentences in the interview are: “[I]n Serbia, I never felt what it means to be a Jew in its bad meaning…to live in one Serbia and not to feel a burden of being a Jew is something that happened in no other place in pre-Hitler Europe.” The opposite has always been true of Russia.

Similar Destiny

Translation: Petar Makara
Editors: Jasa Almuli, Professor Wanda Schindley

In the conversation we had on May 4, 1997 our renowned composer and Academician Enriko Josif explained how his family and himself were saved from Germans, thanks to help Italians provided to Jewish refugees. Delving deep into the Old Testament, he explained just how and why he concludes that Jews and Serbs are peoples close in destiny.

He then sent an emotional message to the leaders of American Jews not to participate in “the American media Auschwitz against the Serbs.”

We also talked about his music compositions as well as his work as an educator at the Music Academy in Belgrade. Until his retirement, he was Professor of Composition at that institution.

Excerpts from the interview

I was born on May 1, 1924, in Belgrade. With exception of the time during the war years, I have never left the city. At that time, guided only by destiny, my mother, brother and I left the city, unaware that by doing so we avoided possible death. I came back to the city, with my mother and brother right after the war.

What may explain my statements to the reader is my relationship, my shared living with the Serbian people; the people I regard as truly exceptional. I want to say that just after Jews, the Serbs belong to the most eschatological people in this 20th century. [Eschatological: millennial/apocalyptic/eternal/prophetic/parabolic/cautionary]

I will try to prove it using some arguments from the Bible.

Before that war, I spent my childhood and my early youth — I can tell it for sure — as if in a paradise. In this country, in Serbia, I never felt what it means to be a Jew in its bad meaning. Quite the contrary. Literally, I felt as it is said in the Bible: “Love the one who is with you — a stranger — as you love [thyself].” I was shielded in that fashion, and I had great relationships. Later on, I learned what a great thing it was and that there was no other such place. Nowhere was it so good. Deep down in my heart, I am grateful to God that I was born in this extraordinary country that was so benevolent toward the Jews. Of course, there are always individual exceptions but taken as a whole Serbia always looked at the Jews in this special way. This must be because of our similar destiny. This is especially true in this — 20th — century when our common destiny was that we will be pointed to as culprits. This was done to such a scale that, during Hitler’s time, the fingers would point to us, and we would be called monsters — guilty for everything!

Interviewer: Could you tell more about your family?

My father’s name was Mosha Josif. He was a merchant representative of the Italian company “Snia Viskosa.” That is how I got the name Enriko. He was also representing the well known German car industry of BMW.

That horrible war came, but my father died before it. He was one of the rare Jews, though, who used to say “Let us all go to Australia. The arrival of Hitler means the end of Europe. It is our end, too.” Of course, our people did not believe him.

Then, only days before the Germans’ attack on Yugoslavia, my mother’s instinct was telling her that we should leave Belgrade. I did not want to hear of it. She then took her little pistol and said, “If you do not decide to leave, I will kill myself right here.” This is how we left toward Dubrovnik and the Adriatic coast. We spent some time there and then — miracle: The Italians (it was them who took over Dubrovnik first) tell us, “Run out of Dubrovnik. Germans and Ustashas [Croat Nazis] will take over the city in few days.”

They even gave us some passes. So we left toward Split, which is also on the Adriatic coast but under their [Italians’] control.

To make this part of my testimony shorter — we were first transported to the [Adriatic] island of Korchula and then to “free confinement” in Italy itself. At the end of 1943 when the Italian government capitulated and the Germans took over the entire Northern Italy, we succeeded in crossing the border into Switzerland.

I was 19 years old then. In Switzerland we lived with my grandfather. There, in Switzerland, I experienced the turmoil in my soul. There, for the first time, through [the] Bible which I did not know of before, I grasped the tragedy that befell my people: the Jews. It was a tremendous inner change. Suddenly, somehow as if through the genes or through denka as they call it today I understood why our destiny is the way it is and why I am.

I read the entire Old and New Testament…I have no prejudice about the difference between the Old and New Testament. I see them as a magnificent, indivisible bridge. Of course, later, theologists split this bridge, substituting it with unbridgeable horror that ended in the holocaust.

The message to American Jews

I have to tell you now why I agreed to participate in this interview. Usually, I try to avoid public appearances, but I accepted this conversation so I can address my people — the American Jews. I want to tell them something from my long experiences. It is up to them to understand it as they want.

[A]t this very moment, all those prophecies are becoming an astonishing truth. They are not part of some mysticism but a call of reality stronger than any mysticism.

What Prophet Zacharias said about the destiny of Jerusalem is quite up to date — exactly as now. He said, “All peoples of the world stood against you — because of Jerusalem”. And that is what is happening today. Literally. Out of 180 member nations of the United Nations, 160 criticize Israel for building suburbs in Jerusalem. This is what literally happens today but what was uttered more than 2,500 years ago! So, it is not something one can joke about. This is not something one can only accept as mere symbolism or something which is aside from history. This symbolism, this historical statements above, were uttered in an eschatological manner — some 2,000 years ago, and they are becoming historical reality.

In light of all of this, let us get back to Isaiah and his prophesy which dates from even before 2,500 years ago. In his prophesies we find a very important analogy. He said, “As I chose David to be the King and leader of peoples — so that people that you did not know you will know and that people that did not know you will flock to you”.

Please — the thing is terribly clear. We are soul-mates of the Serbs as two eschatological peoples and as two peoples of terribly similar destinies. Something eschatologically miraculous is happening with the Serbian people as it was happening yesterday above Israel. This is why it is a holy duty of every Jew to understand that. Jasenovac for the Serbs is exactly the same as Dachau was for us. It is even kept as a secret from you — but you have to get to know it. If you did, then you, the American Jews, would get to understand the events in our country [of Yugoslavia] in quite a different, more truthful way.

I beg you then — do not participate in persecution, in verbal attack, on the Serbian people because the Serbs are our brothers in soul, our eschatological brothers.

Second, to live in one Serbia and not to feel a burden of being a Jew is something that happened in no other place in pre-Hitler Europe. But it was so natural here. The Serbs are simply unbelievable people. I call them hugging people. These are the kind of people who would hug a stranger more than their own. They have a feeling for strangers and are extremely honest and brother-like to them. This is the reason why Serbia is so divided, butchered, today. The Serbs never though of themselves as anything special. They always had full respect for everyone who lived with them and, of course, wished Serbia no harm. This is an exceptional people, and it is horrible what was done to them. All of what was premeditated.

I will repeat: a true media genocide, a media Auschwitz, was perpetrated on the Serbian people! The Serbs were dehumanized and portrayed as monsters exactly as the Jews were portrayed through centuries, and in particular with Goebbels and his propaganda.

I watched this cartoonish show of horror. I saw the Serbs labelled the same way Hitler labelled the Jews — as cripples, devils and Satans. That is mind-boggling! It is horrible. How can anyone fathom it? I understand that someone could profit from it and that profit is a strong incentive, but this is truly un-Godly profit. This un-Godly benefit, and invented strategic reasons are absurdities that can not stand in front of a living God. I tremble thinking of the destiny of the perpetrators of this horrifying genocide, the media crime perpetrated against the Serbs. I am afraid to talk about it or to guess what would happen to those who did it. This is not my concern any more. God will decide…

Please understand: The way you were informed was one-sided. It is inexcusable, and please do not participate in persecution of the Serbs by signing demands that they should be bombed or like activities. [I think this is a reference to the New York Times ads taken out by prominent American Jews, calling for military action against Serbia during the Bosnia conflict, which happened again during Kosovo.] You are unaware that you are participating in murder of a brother. Brother in soul. By signing it, you are simply endorsing Auschwitz, and you are giving full justification to what was done only yesterday by German National Socialists.

Please, I beg you. I wrote to the head Rabbi of France to address the believers, at least the believers, not to participate in this maddening lynch mob. What we have here is true medieval exorcistic mob hunting the Serbian people. The Serbs are exceptional people — exceptional in their embrace and love of other peoples. We are not talking here just about people who were your allies in the First and Second World War but well before the two wars. These are the people who were devoted to the ideas of great America, the ideas of once democratic but now failed Europe.

So, this is the only reason why I agreed to talk about this. But let me tell you the exegete meaning of what Isaiah said. He said, “A people you did not know but will call upon.” Is that not a clear proof? You know who the Serbs are but are so horrifyingly against them in following the current trends. When Isaiah says “that people will flock to you” that simply marks our destiny of people who were haunted, persecuted only yesterday. They came to us. They now have our destiny…That is the Truth, and it would be wonderful if you get an ear for it, if you could relate to it. So, do not listen to those who keep repeating that this poor people are guilty for everything, that they are nothing but a people of murderers. Of course the Serbs have murderers — every nation has them, but Serbs are the people — the soul of the world. They are hugging, all embracing, wonderful, rare to find on this otherwise horrible, crippled Earth.

Here. That was my all encompassing wish to tell — to say it without putting blame on anyone. But be aware that you are not informed. Unfortunately, you are not.

If you do not want to trust me, you could trust Mr. [Abraham] Rosenthal, renowned American journalist. He is well informed and feels that something is wrong. He was here. I know him personally. He is an exceptional human being, a brave man. Here I see that in The New York Times he managed to publish his views about the Serbian people.

I keep repeating: The Serbs are our soul brothers. Nowhere else were you allowed to feel this much a Jew other than in this wonderful Serbia. But here is where the prophecy becomes true: People you did not know — you will get to know. Today, through some exceptional Jews we got to know this “people that did not know you but will flock to you.” This also means “This people did not know your destiny but now got to live your destiny”. Let us embrace them. Let us not participate when some of our people, in ignorance, raise their voices against this wonderful people.

Biblical Punishment

I returned from Switzerland as a believer. I felt a huge change in my soul. There are many Jews for whom the Holocaust made them leave God. They would say: “If that horror happened and one whole people got massacred, then there is no God”.

Even Moses told us what will happen. That’s the thing. He says, but actually God himself says: “Israel, I will spill you across the globe. I will mix you with other peoples. You will go insane from what will happen to you. And because you abandoned me.”

Our forefathers from Israel abandoned God and wanted to be like other people, but the punishment was foretold.

This is what kept faith alive in me.

Already in the fifth book of Moses it is all foretold, and it says: “Across burning furnace” — and that is the Holocaust — “I will return you to the Promised Land.” That is exactly how it happened. After burning furnaces, we…moved back to the lands that was once Israel.

Then it says, “Only tenth out of tenth of you will remain, but out of those a new people will form.” In Isaiah it says, “Where did you hear that in a single day I will declare you a nation”? In a single day the United Nations declared us a nation-state. That never happened before. There existed nations that suffered under colonial empires and then their rights would be recognized. But we had no holy site left standing, and we had no land, but still we were declared a nation in a day.

So, for me, these are crystal clear truths. If you love Truth, then there is no metaphysical escape in saying that this is only a symbolism or a random event…Clearly no escape. […]

********************UPDATE: FLASHBACK*********************

Israel Uneasily Wrestles With ‘Genocide’ in Kosovo
By Lee Hockstader
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 1, 1999; Page A12

JERUSALEM – When the West employs the term “genocide” and compares Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic with Adolf Hitler, many Israelis perk up their ears. As victims, or relatives of victims, of the 20th century’s deadliest genocide, Jews here feel a special moral resonance in atrocities committed against ethnic minorities in Europe.

…While the suffering and persecution of the ethnic Albanians is universally condemned, some Israelis are nevertheless deeply uneasy with the West’s bombing campaign against the Serbs.

For its part, the Israeli government at first balked at criticizing the Serbs directly and has refused to explicitly support NATO’s airstrikes. Only after several days of sustained criticism in the Israeli press did Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Tuesday condemn massacres by “the Serbs or any other group . . . both from the point of view of our history and our moral sense.”

The Jewish state, which is fond of boasting that its standard of living has soared nearly to Western European levels, has so far decided to send just $100,000 worth of medicine, tents and clothing to the Kosovo Albanian refugees in Albania, a relative pittance compared with the West’s donations, or Taiwan’s, even in per capita terms.

When Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon was asked whether he supports the NATO bombing, he replied: “We were not asked . . . It is not our job to comment on this.” Other Israeli cabinet ministers agreed.

Israel’s lukewarm official stance has enraged many Israelis who believe Jews have a unique historical and moral obligation to speak out for persecuted minorities who face massacres and possible genocide.

“As representatives of the Jewish nation, which went through a terrible process of complete annihilation, we are obligated because of our past to act and offer them assistance,” Yehuda Bautzer, head of the International Foundation for Holocaust Research, wrote in the newspaper Maariv.

For these Israelis, the exhortation “Never again!” applies broadly, not only to the specter of another holocaust against the Jews but to genocidal wars elsewhere, particularly in Europe.

But there is another strain in Israeli public opinion, for whom “never again” has a more limited application, principally to Jews. That the victims in Kosovo are Muslims who Sharon said were in league with the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, or Party of God – which is fighting Israeli army in southern Lebanon – further complicates matters.

History-minded Israelis know that the Serbs, alongside other Yugoslav partisans under Tito, stood up against the Nazis and eventually beat them back, at great cost in blood. The Serbs were also on generally good terms with the Jews who lived among them, and instances of Serbian antisemitism, or collaboration with the Nazis in the extermination of Serbia’s Jews, were relatively rare.

The Kosovo Albanians, by contrast, joined a German SS division toward the end of the war and fought the partisans.

“If a Jewish dimension comes up in this, it calls for sympathy for [the Serbs],” said Yehoshua Porath, a retired history professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

To [some] observers, who tend to be on the right wing edges of public opinion, the plight of the Kosovo Albanians bears just enough resemblance to that of the Palestinians, or Israel’s own million-strong Arab minority, to be unsettling.

Like Israeli Arabs, the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo are a Muslim minority in a sovereign state. Like the Palestinians, they aspire to create an independent state on land they regard as their birthright….to some Israelis, a dangerous precedent is being set.

“In the future, if we refuse to give [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat Jerusalem, will the bombing, or at least economic sanctions, begin?” asked Elyakim Haetzni in the daily Yedioth Aharonoth.

Despite such views, the persecution of Kosovo’s Albanians – the wrenching images of refugees and reports of horrific massacres – have struck a chord in Israel as they have elsewhere. Many Israelis who have followed the crisis – perhaps a majority – see in the Albanians’ plight distinct echoes of the Holocaust. [Precisely the desired result.] They note that NATO’s’ response is exactly what Jews wanted, and were refused, by the Allies in World War II.

“Dear Europe,” wrote Uri Avneri, a columnist for Maariv. “I was happy about your decision to use force to guarantee peace in Kosovo. You learned a lesson. Sixty years ago, when the Nazis abused the German Jews and threatened to eliminate all the Jews of Europe, you did not lift a finger.”

[As always, the “learned lesson” was inverted.]