The River Danube as a Holocaust Landscape
: Journey of the Kladovo Transport

  • Vesna Lukic

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This practice-as-research study traces the journey of the Kladovo transport through documentary film Two Emperors and a Queen and written thesis. The Kladovo transport refers to the group of about 1200 Jewish refugees from central Europe who, in late 1939, attempted to flee Nazi persecutions through an organised illegal escape voyage down the river Danube. However, instead of reaching the Romanian Black Sea coast, from where they were hoping to board an overseas boat to Palestine, their ill-fated river journey never got further than Serbia. Without the overseas boat waiting for them in Romania, the little fleet of Jewish passengers was forced to moor in Kladovo, a Serbian town on the Danube. After months of frustrated immobility, the group finally left Kladovo in September 1940, but only to be moved upstream to another Serbian town – Šabac. This is where their persecutors caught up with them after the Second World War reached Yugoslavia in April 1941. Most of the men from the group were shot in October 1941 in Zasavica near Šabac; women and children were sent to Belgrade, to the Judenlager Semlin and were killed in a gas van during the spring 1942. Apart from several independent escapes that were successful, survivors included a group of about 200 youths who were granted legal certificates for Palestine and left Yugoslavia just before the outbreak of war.
The journey of the Kladovo transport is charged with striking relationships to time, like the long periods of stasis spent on the Danube waters. I explore this failed escape attempt as a multi-temporal event, with the camera as my main research tool. I argue for the potential of the audio-visual media to communicate the layering of multiple temporalities inherent in this historical narrative, linking the past with the ‘now’ when my research takes place.
Date of Award25 Sept 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorAngela Piccini (Supervisor) & Tim Cole (Supervisor)

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