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RIJEKA (It. Fiume ), Adriatic port in Croatia, until 1918 in Austro-Hungary; after World War i until 1945 in Italy. There were some Jews in Fiume during the 16th century under Austrian rule. Fiume was declared a free port in 1717 and attracted more Jews. When in 1776 it became attached to Hungary as its port, Jews from Hungary began to settle there, but until the mid-19th century the majority of Jews were Sephardim from *Split and *Dubrovnik, who followed the minhag Ispalatto (Spalato, "Split"). After 1848 with the influx of Hungarian, German, Bohemian, and Italian Jews, Italian and German rites were also used. A ḥevra kaddisha was founded in 1885; there were three cemeteries and a modern style synagogue was built in 1902. In 1900 there were 2,000 Jews in Rijeka. The congregation remained the only independent Orthodox one in Italy after the 1930 reforms. Children were sent to public schools – German, Hungarian, Italian, or Croatian ones – due to the heterogeneous composition of the population. The sermons were also delivered in German or Italian. In 1920 there were 1,300 Jews in Rijeka and in nearby Abbazia (Opatija), dropping to just 136 on the eve of the war.

Holocaust Period

In 1938 the racial laws of Fascist Italy were promulgated; Jews with Italian citizenship were subject to discrimination, and foreign Jews were to be interned in camps. Giovanni Palatucci, head of the foreigners' section of the Fiuman police, procured "Aryan" papers for Jews and sent many Jews to his uncle, a bishop in southern Italy, and later to institutions for people rendered mentally incompetent by the war. After the conquest of Yugoslavia by the Germans in April 1941, the Italian Second Army occupied Dalmatia and some other parts of the quisling "Independent Croatian State." Some Italian officers collaborated with Palatucci and his group, sending to him some 500 Jewish refugees from Croatia who were thus saved. When Italy capitulated to the Allies in September 1943 and Germans occupied all Italian territories, Palatucci remained at his post, destroyed his files, and warned the Jews of their imminent arrest. Most of them survived. Palatucci was arrested in September 1944 and died in Dachau in 1945.

Contemporary Period

When Rijeka became part of Yugoslavia in 1945, many Italian-speaking Jews left for Trieste and Italy; in 1947 there were some 170 Jews in Rijeka and the surrounding area. The community numbered 99 in 1969. Following the evacuation of Bosnian Jews from the war zone in 1992, around 60 families reconstituted the community, but many subsequently left for Zagreb and other localities in northern Croatia, leaving fewer than 100 Jews in 2004.


Roth, Italy, 133, 176. add. bibliography: T. Morgani, Ebrei in Fiume ed in Abbazia 14411945 (1979).

[Zvi Loker (2nd ed.)]

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