Continuity and Memory in Opatija

After liberation, Bernard Nathan returned to Opatija together with other survivors. In the meantime, the city had been occupied by Tito’s army since early May 1945. In 1947, Opatija was ceded to Yugoslavia following the Peace Treaty with Italy.


[News from the Jewish community of Opatija]
Source: Da Abbazia, in "Israel", XXXI, 21-22, 14 February 1946, p. 5

The Jewish community of Opatija had come under the jurisdiction of the Rijeka Jewish community, and after the war the few surviving members wished to revive the activities of their community. However, they were forced to sell Villa Zora and the land surrounding it in 1950. Today Villa Zora hosts the Zora Cultural Center.

Although the synagogue furnishings were destroyed and looted during the war, a few archival documents and prayer books that had not been burned were found scattered around Villa Zora. The synagogue with the Trieste Torah ark was closed down and some wooden and marble materials, including parts of the Torah ark, were thrown into the villa’s courtyard as worthless construction debris. Many pieces were smashed and came to form a pile of marble fragments. Bernard Nathan decided to select the still-functional pieces of marble and use them to build a monument paying a tribute to the 51 Opatija Jewish people who had been killed in the Holocaust extermination camps.


The Torah ark reused as a Holocaust memorial in the Jewish cemetery of Opatija
© Courtesy of Comunità ebraica di Trieste

The Holocaust memorial, located in the Jewish cemetery of Opatija, was unveiled on 1 May 1955 during a ceremony attended by local authorities, delegates from Jewish institutions, and members of the Jewish community of Rijeka. The central plague of the memorial surrounded by the Torah ark columns was engraved with the 51 names of the Opatija victims of Nazism.