Yad Vashem hosts first parley on Serbian side of Holocaust

Israel has learned a lot over the years about what took place during the Second World War in countries such as Austria and Germany, but there is still a lot to be discovered about events in the Balkans. From what is known, people in the region suffered rape, murder and mass executions by partisan fighters, Chetnik rebels and German troops - in addition to the atrocities perpetrated against Jews. In order to learn more about the horrific events of the war, the first Israeli-Serbian symposium on the Holocaust began at Yad Vashem Thursday and will wrap up Tuesday evening. Leading academics in the field are attending, joining the new Serbian Ambassador to Israel, Miodrag Isakov, who addressed the opening session. The symposium is entitled "An Academic Exchange with Serbian Scholars" and should be mutually beneficial for both Israelis and Serbians, said Professor David Bankier, head of the Institute for International Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem. "We have had workshops with different countries in Europe over the past six years or more, and the time came to do one with Serbia," said Bankier. "This will increase [Israeli scholars'] knowledge of the Balkans during the Second World War and it will increase their knowledge of what we do here in Israel with our research." Scheduled to speak at the event are Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority; representatives from the Serbian Ministry of Culture; professors specializing in Holocaust studies and historiography from various universities; and speakers from several museums. Bankier said symposiums like these are held so research bodies can be brought up to date on current developments that might otherwise not be accessible to them. "The Serbs write in a language that is not easily accessible to us," he said. "But this symposium will be in English, so we will be able to learn their current research on the topic [of the Holocaust]. This is also beneficial for them because they do not know Hebrew."