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  • The Lost Voices of Serbian Modernism:Miša Manojlović and Isak Azriel
  • Aleksandra Ilijevski

Architects Miša Manojlović (1901–41, Belgrade) and Isak Azriel (1903–?, b. Belgrade, d. Israel after 1949) were professionally very active during the interwar period. They focused on avant-garde designs, and were at the forefront of Serbian Modernism. However, their work has remained mostly marginal in scholarly research. As a member of the Sephardic Jewish community in Belgrade, Manojlović and his family were victims of the Holocaust. Azriel was a survivor, and after the war immigrated to Israel with his wife and son. This paper critically analyzes newly discovered historical sources and archival documents in order to correct problematic issues regarding the life and work of Miša Manojlović and Isak Azriel. It also provides a contribution to Holocaust studies in Serbia and cultural history of Belgrade, with the aim of uncovering additional historical data about members of the Jewish families Manojlović (Manojlovic, Manoilovitz, Manuel), Azriel (Azrijel), Munk, and de Majo (Demajo).

During the vibrant period between the Two World Wars, Serbia became part of the newly established Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, and in 1929 was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Set between modern and traditional identities, modernizing forces dominated Serbian society through rapid industrialization and urbanization. Jews from the territory of prewar Serbia considered the newly formed Kingdom a natural continuum of the former state. Many contributed greatly to the war effort, fighting alongside other Serbian citizens in the First World War.

One of the most prominent members of society was Natalija Neti Munk (Belgrade, 1864–1924), née Tajtacak, the first Serbian volunteer nurse who participated in all the wars that Serbia waged for independence, liberation, and unification, beginning in 1885, then again from 1912 to 1918. She was a decorated war hero, board member of the War Volunteers Alliance and the [End Page 121] Society of Jewish Women. Neti Munk was the wife of Gutman Munk. Their first child Regina (Rifka), was born on 19 July 1882,1 and was, as records show, married to Jakov M. Manuel on 19 July 1898 in Belgrade.2 Jakov’s and Regina’s son Moša was born on 29 January 1901.3 The birth certificate of their second son Natan, born on 4 June 1902,4 shows that the family had changed their name to Manojlović.5 These documents confirm this authors’ findings that architect Miša Manojlović (see Figure 1 in the gallery of illustrations following this article) was born in Belgrade on 29 January 1901 into a family of Sephardic Jews as Moša Manuel. His first name was not Milan, as many Serbian scholars have suggested. In fact, the change of Jewish family names by adding Serbian -ić at the end6 was a practice that had been followed since the period after the Serbian-Ottoman War (1876–78), when Jews were granted the right to higher army ranks, free movement within Serbia, and also autonomy in business transactions. After that time, the differences between Serbs and Sephardic Jews subsided in everyday life. The statistical data indicates that in 1900, 46 percent of Jews in Serbia specified Serbian as their mother tongue.7 In addition, it is often emphasized that Jews in Serbia regarded themselves as Serbs of Moses’ faith. [End Page 122]

Miša Manojlović graduated from the Technical Faculty in Belgrade in February 1928.8 As a young architect, he was promoted at the Fourth Exhibition of the Architecture Students’ Club, an annual exhibition opened by Prof. Nikola Nestorović on 19 February 1928, in one of the halls of the Technical Faculty’s new building on the Students’ Square. Among the authors were Dragan Gudović, Jovan Radenković, Rajko Tatić, Franja de Negri, Jovan Ranković, Stanislava Jovanović, Dragoljub Jovanović, and Djurdje Bošković, who also wrote an exhibition review. With respect to Manojlović’s exhibited sketches we only know that Bošković listed his work with the designs “in the Renaissance and Neoclassical form,” and referred to Manojlović as diligent.9

Public Commissions, Architectural Design Competitions, and Exhibitions

In 1931 Miša Manojlović entered the national competition for the new Railway Station in Skopje (now the capital of...


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