views updated May 29 2018



The founding of Sarajevo, the early-twenty-first-century capital city of the sovereign state of Bosnia-Herzegovina, may be dated to 1462. In that year, Isa-beg Isaković, the Ottoman Turkish governor (Saray) of the newly conquered province of Bosnia, began building his residence and a mosque on the site of the modern city. The expansion of Ottoman dominion during the next two hundred years saw Sarajevo develop as the major center of commerce and culture in European Turkey. By 1660 the city numbered eighty to a hundred thousand inhabitants, and many foreign visitors came to marvel at the health and prosperity of the inhabitants. A contemporary Turkish traveler recorded 17,000 substantial houses, 170 mosques, 1,050 shops where artisans both made and sold their goods, and 110 fountains, testimony to the affluent and gracious lives of the citizens, both public and private. Native Bosnian Muslims, Christians, Jews, Turks, and Greeks rubbed shoulders in the famous marketplace (Baščaršija), the hub of gossip and commercial life. Sarajevo was at the summit of its power, second only to Istanbul in importance in the Balkans, and by this period was self-governing, choosing its own chief administrator. In earlier times, Bosnia was administered by officials (kapetans) appointedfrom Istanbul, but during the eighteenth century the native Bosnian Muslims made the office hereditary, displacing imperial authority. Sarajevo was their city, beyond the effective rule of the Sultan, whose viceroys (viziers) chose to reside in Travnik after about 1690.

The sacking and burning of Sarajevo by Prince Eugene of Savoy in 1697 signaled the end of the city's golden age, although the effects of the long and gradual Ottoman decline did not bite hard until the nineteenth century. In 1807 the population still stood at around sixty thousand, helped by the city's growing trading links to the north. Nemesis came when rebellions in Serbia (1804) and Greece (1821) ushered in a century of Balkan national struggles for independence, fuelled by peasant revolts against intolerable economic exactions. The Sultan introduced measures to modernize the entire Ottoman system of rule, some of them intended to ameliorate the conditions of the Sultan's Christian subjects in Bosnia, and head off trouble there. The economic privileges and religious conservatism of the native Bosnian Muslim elite drove them into armed rebellion, led by the kapetans. Istanbul responded by sending an army into Bosnia in 1850. Sarajevo was occupied and plundered; the population decreased to only twenty thousand in 1851.

Years of fighting and unrest engulfed the region, and order had to be restored by the great powers. At the Treaty of Berlin (1878) control of Bosnia-Herzegovina passed into the hands of the rival Austro-Hungarian Empire, which administered the province as a protectorate on behalf of Turkey. The change represented a leap into modernity for Sarajevo. The physical character of the city was hitherto defined by the Old City. Now a "second" city grew up, enlarging the boundaries of Sarajevo for the first time since its Ottoman heyday. By 1914 sixty major new public buildings had been built in Central European style, situated on wide boulevards, along which the first trams ran. Energetic imperial administrators forced the pace of industrialization. State monopoly enterprises producing tobacco and textiles were founded, railways and roads grew apace, and small private businesses flourished. Signs of the new times were the first iron bridge across the city's river Miljačka, replacing the earlier wooden structures, and a modern underground sewerage system.

The social structure of the city was likewise radically altered. Officials and professional people came in from other parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to staff the new schools and the municipal hospital. By 1910 the population of Sarajevo had climbed to fifty-one thousand, and was changing in ways that reflected its recent history. Religious confession, which in practice corresponded pretty exactly to ethnic allegiance, was used in compiling Austrian census returns. These statistics indicate that in 1910 Muslims made up one-third of the inhabitants, whereas in 1879 the proportion was two-thirds. Catholics accounted for another one-third (mainly imperial functionaries from outside Bosnia), compared with only 3 percent in 1879. Orthodox Christian believers (Serbs) made up 16 percent, a figure unchanged since 1879. The proportion of Jews in the city also remained constant throughout the period at about 10–12 percent.

In 1908 Austria-Hungary formally annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina, igniting Serbian nationalism. Muslims made up 32 percent of the total population of Bosnia in 1908, Orthodox (Serbs) 43 percent, and Catholics (Croats) 23 percent. Shorn of their dominant position under Ottoman rule, the Muslims adapted as best they could to their new masters, and managed to protect both their culture and their large estates, which were still worked by the sharecropping Christian peasantry, as in Ottoman times. The Croat peasants were relatively content with their prospects in a Catholic empire in which the kingdom of Croatia had a recognized if subordinate constitutional place. The Serb peasants, the largest ethnic group, had won neither land nor political recognition, and some looked for a solution in political violence. On 28 June 1914 Gavrilo Princip (1894–1918), a Bosnian Serb, fired the shots that killed the Austrian heir apparent, Archduke Francis Ferdinand (1863–1914), during an official visit to Sarajevo. A month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, precipitating the cataclysmic Great War of 1914–1918. Turkey joined the war on the side of the Central Powers against the Allies, but defeat in 1918 ended with the dismemberment of both the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.


The tide of war swept across the Balkans southeast-ward, leaving Bosnia in its rear. Sarajevo survived the fighting without major physical damage, but Austria-Hungary treated the Serbs on its territory as enemy aliens and incited ethnic hatreds between Muslim and Serbs that tore Bosnia apart. The Serbs took revenge on their Muslim neighbors after the war, unleashing a campaign of terror in which landgrabbing and racial bigotry fed each other. When the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (which would be renamed "Yugoslavia" in 1931) came into being at the Treaty of Versailles in 1921, Bosnia-Herzegovina did not appear on the map as a recognized geographical entity. The new state was organized politically along ethnic lines during the interwar years and the Muslims were not granted the status of a founding people. The population of Sarajevo was sixty-six thousand in 1921, rising to seventy-eight thousand in 1931. It was still a major city in a country that contained only three urban centers with a population of more than one hundred thousand, but Belgrade and Zagreb grew by two-thirds in the same period, to about two hundred thousand inhabitants. Patterns of trade and commerce had shifted decisively northward. Even the main city of Slovenia, Ljubljana, although smaller than Sarajevo, far outstripped it in economic dynamism and civic independence.

Lacking the status of a regional administrative capital and isolated from the main flows of economic advance, Sarajevo became something of a backwater, but the bare statistics do not capture the essential life of the city. In 1931 Muslims made up 38 percent of the population, Catholics and Orthodox Christians about a quarter each. Remarkably, despite the inter-ethnic violence that had so disfigured the very recent past, Sarajevans managed to preserve a sense of community that echoed the early centuries of Ottoman rule. In 1927 an American writer reflected on the mingling of the faiths in peaceful activity and mused on tolerance as the greatest of virtues as he watched an Orthodox peasant give alms to a blind Muslim street musician. Sarajevans loved their city for its beauty and its glorious natural setting, for its cafélife, forits distinctive Turkish-influenced musical tradition, including the sevdalinka, romantic songs of love and yearning. One of them speaks of "Sarajevo, breath of my breath," and it is a quintessentially Bosnian sentiment—not Muslim, Serb, or Catholic. Sarajevans shared a centuries-old civic culture, and spoke a common language, a dialect of Serbo-Croatian not found in Croatia and Serbia. Sarajevo was also a city associated with liberal political currents aimed at reducing the sway of the Serbs within Yugoslavia. Intellectuals and public servants held two major national congresses in Sarajevo and Zagreb in 1922 to promote reform and introduce federal government and in 1929 Sarajevo became briefly the headquarters of Yugoslavia's main Croatian opposition party, until the introduction of royal dictatorship ended parliamentary politics in 1929.

The brief peace was blown away by the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941. A Croatian fascist (Ustaše) puppet state was created, the Independent State of Croatia, which administered most of Bosnia, but not Sarajevo, which was left in the German zone of occupation. The ancient community of Sephardic Jews in Sarajevo was an immediate casualty, together with their Ashkenazi brethren elsewhere. Between them, the Germans and the Ustaša regime slaughtered four out of five (fifty-seven thousand) of Yugoslavia's prewar Jewish population, and one-third (eighteen thousand) of the Gypsies (Roma). The Croatian fascists also set about the genocide of Serbs on their territory. More than a million Serbs perished in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Many Serbs fled to join Tito's communist partisans operating in Bosnia, and Sarajevo was virtually emptied of Serbs. They returned after 1945 to a city ruled by the iron hand of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.

Bosnia-Herzegovina was established constitutionally as a constituent republic of a federal Yugoslavia under Tito (Josip Broz, 1892–1980), but power was in practice monopolized by the Communist Party. It was in its origins a harsh, Stalinist regime, but it did at least give Bosnia and its capital city forty-five years of peace, the longest period free from wars and invasion since 1878. The policy of forced industrialization, and of equalizing conditions in the six republics, worked to the benefit of Bosnia. Major investments in industry, including defense industries located in Bosnia for strategic reasons, brought rising standards of living and the movement of peasants to urban centers. The population of Sarajevo was 115,000 in 1945; by 1971 it had more than doubled, to 359,000; and by 1991 it stood at 527,000. The increase occurred mainly in the municipalities around the Old City, which drew in mainly ethnic Serbs from the countryside to work in the new factories, creating a new stratum of peasant-workers.

In keeping with Marxist doctrine, and mindful of the bloody history of Yugoslavia's peoples, the party stamped down hard on all signs of nationalist and religious deviations. The government of Sarajevo was entrusted to a republican party leadership that operated on a strict quota basis, with all the top jobs rotated in turn among Serbs, Muslims, and Croats. Bosnia was held up as a model of socialist "brother-hood and unity" (the party watchwords), and the 1981 census revealed Sarajevo as the most "Yugoslav" of cities. One in five Sarajevans chose to identify themselves as "Yugoslav," compared with about 5 percent nationally. As the gradual liberalization of Yugoslavia took hold, this sense of belonging to a community not defined by narrow ethnic ties bred an increasing cosmopolitanism in creative life. Sarajevo's intelligentsia was at the forefront of the flowering of the arts in Yugoslavia in the 1970s and 1980s that brought films, poetry, plays, and music to a national audience. Tourism opened a door to the wider world as well. The communists might anathematize religion, but they restored historic monuments in the quest for hard currency, and visitors from all over the world flocked to admire Sarajevo's unique cultural legacy. The growing status of Sarajevo as an international European city was confirmed in 1984 when the city was chosen to host the Winter Olympics.

The site where athletes competed before the world's cameras is derelict in the early twenty-first century. Changes in the international economy and security situation left Yugoslavia beggared within a few years, and nationalist conflicts destroyed Tito's Yugoslavia. In a final effort to retrieve its fortunes, the party called its Fourteenth Congress in January 1990 but the Croatian and Slovenian delegates walked out early in the proceedings. The chairman of the meeting called for a recess, from which the delegates never returned. The Communist Party of Yugoslavia disappeared during a coffee break.


There followed two years of political vacuum, at the end of which the European Union and the United States recognized Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina as independent states (December 1991–April 1992). Sarajevans among all ethnic communities saw what was coming. They tried to assert the values of civilized society through mass demonstrations and avert war. In August 1991 one hundred thousand peace activists staged a rally in the city, and in September thousands formed a human chain linking places of worship of all the faiths—mosques, churches, and synagogues. Sadly, they failed in their efforts. The Bosnian Serbs, led by Radovan Karadžić (b. 1945), rejected the authority of the Sarajevo government, and proclaimed the Republika Srpska (Serb Republic) as an independent entity. A Bosnian Serb Army (BSA), fifty to eighty thousand strong, commanded by General Ratko Mladić (b. 1943), was formed out of purportedly Bosnian Serb personnel of the Yugoslav People's Army, and immediately laid siege to Sarajevo on 5 April 1992. The BSA inherited the immense firepower of the Yugoslav military machine, but lacked the manpower to take the city from its determined defenders, and the siege was not lifted until 29 February 1995.

From a strategic and military point of view Sarajevo had little significance for the Serbs compared with Banja Luka and Knin in northern Bosnia, but its symbolic and political importance was huge. By 2 May 1992 the noose had tightened around the city. Of the half-million or so inhabitants of Sarajevo, four hundred thousand were trapped, frequently near to starvation, and in constant fear of snipers. Queuing for water or going to market meant death for many. In two notorious incidents involving mortar-fire (5 February 1994 and 28 August 1995) 111 people were killed and hundreds injured. Artillery barrages from the heights surrounding Sarajevo also inflicted heavy casualties, although that was a random, impersonal danger. Shells rained down on the city at the rate of 329 for every day of the siege, with no other purpose than to destroy cultural monuments and civic infrastructure and so break the spirit of the city. Mosques were favored targets and the priceless treasures of the National Library went up in flames. By the time the siege was lifted, it is estimated that twelve thousand people had lost their lives, with another fifty thousand wounded, and thirty-five thousand buildings had been destroyed completely.

The first fourteen months were the worst. There was heavy fighting between ethnic factions within the city, as some Serbs tried to link up with the besiegers in the suburbs, and the sympathies of Western publics were not matched by the effective action of their governments. Matters improved after mid-1993, when the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR)managed to open an overland supply route for humanitarian aid through Split, via Kupres and Vitez, and the United Nations contrived from time to time to secure the opening of the Sarajevo airport to airlifts. Crucially, engineers of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina carried out the remarkable feat of digging a tunnel under the airport, with a light railway along which goods and people could be transported. Even so, the situation in Sarajevo remained dire. The plethora of memoirs and histories of the siege record all the range of human responses to extreme conditions. In the absence of a civil administration, gangsters carved up the city, and there were many instances of murder, rape, and looting as rival groups fought for supremacy. The gangsters had their uses, however: they helped to buy weapons through their criminal connections outside, while the Western embargo on arms to the Bosnian government was maintained. There are also many tales to tell of neighborliness, black humor, despair, and self-sacrifice—all of them stories of the sheer will to survive and to preserve the semblance of normal life. One witness recalls how crosses taken from the cemeteries were burnt for fuel in the bitter winter months; those so minded might find a pleasing symbolism here, connected with the reversal of the cycle of life and death.

During 1994–1995, military developments, and the greater activity of Western governments acting militarily through NATO, forced the Bosnian Serb Army back. The massacre of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica (July 1995) brought to a head steadily growing demands for the international community to put an end to the fighting, and the Dayton Accords, in December, finally allowed Bosnia-Herzegovina to sink into a sullen and exhausted peace. By this time the population of Sarajevo had been halved (250,000), but grew to an estimated 400,000 by 2002, as refugees poured back to their homes. In the Sarajevo canton (district), the biggest ethnic group by far (80 percent) in the early twenty-first century is the Bosniaks, the Bosnian Muslims, who have adopted this appellation as the distinctive name to express their ethnic identity, and in the Old City they account for virtually the entire population. The Serb presence in the canton is 11 percent, and Croats total 7 percent. Claims that 150,000 Serbs were the victims of ethnic cleansing are extremely improbable. They were allowed to leave by the Bosnian Serb Army at the beginning of the siege, and the most likely explanation is that they have chosen not to return, preferring to remain in Republika Srpska. Sarajevo is now a Bosniak city, its multiethnic past a memory.

Sarajevo is now the capital of an independent Bosnia-Herzegovina for the first time in its history, but sovereign power is limited by the overriding mandate of the United Nations' High Representative. Dayton created a federal Muslim-Croat entity in one half of the country, with the Republika Srpska comprising the other half. Taxation, defense, and internal security, the hallmarks of all state authority, are not under the control of the Sarajevo government, but divided in a complicated formula among three sources of authority. Bosnia is the poorest country in Europe, dependent on massive Western subventions, and only a quarter of Sarajevans have jobs. The physical damage to Sarajevo has been repaired as far as possible, but the problem of state-building is another matter altogether, and the future of the city is uncertain.

See alsoBosnia-Herzegovina; Karadžić, Radovan; Milošević, Slobodan; Mladić, Ratko; Tito (Josip Broz); World War I; Yugoslavia.


Benson, Leslie. Yugoslavia: A Concise History. Rev. and updated ed. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, U.K., and New York, 2004.

Kapić, Suada. The Siege of Sarajevo, 1992–1996. Sarajevo, 2000.

Malcolm, Noel. Bosnia: A Short History. New York, 1994.

Nedzad, Kurto. Sarajevo 1462–1992. Sarajevo, 1997.

Leslie Benson


views updated May 14 2018


SARAJEVO (Serajevo ; Turk. Bosna-Serai ; Heb. שראי־בוסנה),city and capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The first Jews came to Sarajevo in the middle of the 16th century, spreading from there to smaller towns of Bosnia, e.g., *Travnik, Bugojno, Zenica, Tuzla, *Banja-Luka, and Mostar, capital of the twin province of Herzegovina. Although some earlier tombstones (in horizontal trunk form) were discovered in the Old Sephardi cemetery at Borak (western periphery of Sarajevo), the first documents attesting Jewish presence date from 1565.

Spanish refugees came from Salonika, but some of them may also have come directly by sea. Despite a different language (Ladino) and divergent customs, the newcomers were quickly accepted as useful city dwellers; they were mostly artisans and some were merchants. Jews were known as the early pharmacists of the region, as well as hatchims (from the Arabic-Turkish Ḥakīm, "doctor"). Muslim fanatics tried at first to prevent the settlement of Jews, forcing a few families to flee to Dubrovnik and Hungary. However, these were isolated cases which did not interfere with the good relations that developed between Muslims and Jews. There is evidence from the end of the 16th century in the so-called sijille (court records) that Jews appeared before the shariʿa (Muslim religious tribunals) in civil cases.

A special Jewish quarter with a synagogue, near the main market of Sarajevo, was erected in 1577, authorization having been obtained from the pasha Siavush. Known to the population as tchifut-khan, the Jews themselves called it either mahalla judia (Jewish quarters) or cortijo (the communal yard). Later, as the community grew, Jews resided elsewhere as there were no legal restrictions. The first synagogue (constructed in 1581) was named, in the Spanish tradition, Il Cal grande, but it was destroyed by fire and restored or rebuilt several times.

Trade Activities

Jewish merchants used both main trade routes: from east to west (Sofia, Serbia, and Sarajevo to Dubrovnik, *Split, Zadar, and/or Venice and Trieste) and from south to north (i.e., Constantinople, Salonika via *Skoplje, Sjenica to Sarajevo, from where a lateral route went to Travnik, Kostajnica, Dalmatia, and Italy). Many Jews worked as blacksmiths, tailors, shoemakers, butchers, and joiners, and later as metal workers; they also operated the first sawmill and traded in iron, wood, and chemicals, in addition to articles such as textiles, furs, glass, and dyes. In Sarajevo, and in Bosnia as a whole, there were many indigent families and a Jewish proletariat.

The general situation of the Jews during the Ottoman era was good. They had their religious and juridical independence in all personal matters and civil cases, and broad autonomy in community affairs. The Ottoman authorities enforced rabbinical court sentences when they were requested to do so. However, the Jews had to pay the poll tax (kharaj) and were subject to various extortions and briberies. In the 17th century Ashkenazi families came to Sarajevo, fleeing European persecutions. They founded their own community, which had a separate existence until the Holocaust.

Historical Developments

During the siege and the Austrian conquest of Sarajevo by Prince Eugene of Savoy in 1679, Jews suffered along with the general population, the Jewish quarter, with its synagogue, being destroyed. About that time new settlers came from Rumelia, Bulgaria, and Serbia, as well as from Padua and Venice. The evolution of the community during the 18th century was generally undisturbed and was led by rabbis who organized a talmud torah and cared for the spiritual needs of the Jews, whose numbers reached 1,000 by 1800. During the first half of the 19th century further growth occurred, and official recognition of the community was granted by the Ottoman sultan. The rabbi of Sarajevo, Moses Pereira, was named by imperial firman Ḥakham bashi for Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1840. Some acts of ransom and discriminatory orders were decreed, but the various revolts against Ottoman rule and the influence of the European powers in Constantinople helped cause the Tanzimāt (reforms) program of 1840 and 1856, assuring equality for non-Turks before the law. In the face of occasional defamation, Sarajevo Jewry had to make donations in kind or money. Nevertheless, they largely maintained their cultural and religious life without outside interference, taking on new crafts and professions, as well as adding copper, zinc, glass, and dyes to their exports. By the middle of the 19th century all doctors in Sarajevo and Bosnia were Jews.

The Austrian annexation of the city in 1878 brought a new wave of Ashkenazim, who were officials, experts, and entrepreneurs. The new masters immediately demanded 100,000 ducats from the Jewish community, which was paid in several installments. On the other hand, the Austrians introduced new industries and made capital investments which created new employment and trade opportunities, largely directed toward Vienna, Prague, and Budapest. The earlier rivals – Ragusans and Venetians – were replaced by local and foreign Serbs who gradually became dominant in foreign trade, thus limiting the field of Jewish traders or pushing them out. Some Jews consequently changed their vocation, thereby contributing to the developments and modernization of the country as pioneers in optics, watchmaking, fine mechanics, printing (the first printing press belonged to Daniel Kajon), etc. The Jewish community numbered about 10,000 persons by the end of the 19th century.

After World War i the Yugoslav era began, the Jews enjoying freedom and equal treatment; their diverse economic, religious, cultural, and artistic activities continued unhindered, even though the Jewish population of 14,000 represented less than 1% of the general population of Bosnia. In 1927–31 the Sephardi synagogue, the largest in the Balkans, was constructed, only to be desecrated and plundered by the Croatian Fascists and the Germans not more than ten years later, and after the war it became a theater hall. The old Sephardi synagogue became a Jewish museum.

Rabbis and Jewish Learning

The first rabbis known to have led their community in the 17th century were Zebulun, Maẓli'aḥ Muchacho (earlier of Salonika), Samuel Baruch, Ḥayyim Shabbetai, Judah Lerma, and the famous R. Ẓevi *Ashkenazi, who was from Ofen (Buda) and known as "Ḥakham Ẓevi." The latter lived in Sarajevo from 1686 to 1697 and combated Nehemiah Ḥayon's Shabbatean views. The protocols (pinkasim) were kept in Hebrew and a bet din was set up. Very few of the documents are extant. Among later rabbis the most prominent was R. David Pardo "Morenu," author of the rabbinical commentaries: La-Menaẓẓeaḥ le-David, Ḥasdei David, and Mizmor le-David, and responsa. He founded a rabbinical dynasty (an exceptional phenomenon among Yugoslav Jewry), and his son Isaac and grandson Jacob succeeded him in office. Nineteenth century rabbis of note included Moses Danon; Moses Pereira, also known as Musa effendi; Meir Danon; Eliezer Shem Tov Papo; and Isaac Papo, a prolific author who wrote not only in Hebrew but also in Ladino (Bet Tefillah, Tikkun Moda'ah). The last rabbi under the Ottomans was Joseph Finzi, whose work Va-Yelakket Yosef was printed in Belgrade.

In 1928 a theological seminary was opened in Sarajevo by the federation of the Jewish communities, offering a secondary school education. The seminary's first rector, Rabbi Moritz Levi, author of the first historical study on the Sephardim in Bosnia, died in the Holocaust. Another prominent teacher and translator from Hebrew to Serbo-Croat was Jacob Maestro, who was known as "Morenu."

Jewish Life before the Holocaust

Apart from the religious field, Sarajevo Jewry had a wide range of social and cultural organizations and a thriving Jewish press. Among the institutions the senior was La Benevolencia, a mutual aid society founded in 1894; two bodies, Melacha and Geula, helped artisans and economic activities, and in 1901 a choir, Lyra-sociedad de cantar do los judíos-españoles, was established. There was a Jewish worker's union, La Matatja. The first newspaper published in Sarajevo was La Alborada (Aurora), a literary weekly which appeared from 1898 to 1902. The weeklies Židovska Svijest, Jevrejska Tribuna, Narodna židovska svijest, and Jevrejski Glas, with a section printed in Ladino, were published during 1928–41. Several memorial volumes were also published.

Zionist organizations were active between the two world wars. The youth movement, Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, was well established and during the Holocaust provided, together with Matatja, a considerable number of partisans, fighters, and leaders of the resistance movement. An organization with Sephardi separatist tendencies was linked to de Picciotto's World Sephardi Union.

Jews in Literature and Arts

Isak (Isaac) Samokovlija (d. 1955), a forceful writer, lived in Sarajevo until his death. He vividly described Bosnian Jewish life, especially the problems of the porters, peddlers, beggars, and artisans. Daniel Ozmo, who did mostly woodcuts, Daniel Kabiljo-Danilus, and Yosif (Joseph) Levi-Monsino, all of whom perished during the Ustashi-Artuković era, were well-known painters. The illuminated Sarajevo Haggadah is kept in the National Museum of Sarajevo; it was acquired by the Museum (then, the Landesmuseum) in 1895 for 100 florins. Its origin, however, was in Spain and has nothing to do with Sarajevo (see *Haggadah).

Jews in Politics

The first European-educated physician in Bosnia, Isaac Shalom, better known as Isaac effendi, was the first (appointed) Jewish member of the provincial Majlis Idaret (assembly). His son Salomon "effendi" Shalom succeeded him. Javer (Xaver) "effendi" Baruch was elected as a deputy to the Ottoman parliament in 1876. During the Austrian and Yugoslav periods Jews generally abstained from active participation in politics. In the 1930s – when the economic situation deteriorated – a number of younger Jews turned to the illegal Communist Party, some of them gaining prominence in the party's ranks during the subsequent struggle against the occupiers and quislings.

Holocaust and After

Between the two world wars Sarajevo was the third-largest Jewish center of Yugoslavia (after Zagreb and Belgrade). In 1935 there were 8,318 Jews; in 1941, 10,500.

The Germans arrived on April 15, 1941, and the following day wrecked the Sephardi synagogue, which was the largest in the Balkans. This was followed by requisitions, expropriations, execution of hostages for acts of sabotage, individual arrests, and mass deportations of Jews. Members of the Jewish community were deported between September and November 1941, mostly to Jasenovac, Loborgrad (women), and Djakovo. Extermination took place in these Ustashi (Croatian) concentration camps. Only a small number of Jews survived the first wave of killings and they were later dispatched to the Auschwitz gas chambers. A limited number of Jews survived either by joining partisan units or by reaching Italy. Several scores of army officers and soldiers mobilized by the Yugoslav army upon the German invasion spent the war years in German POW camps, protected by the Geneva Convention, and thus returned to Sarajevo after the Holocaust. In all, over 9,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis.

After the Holocaust, the community was reconstituted, but most of the survivors chose to immigrate to Israel in the years 1948–49. Religious services were organized in the Ashkenazi synagogue (which had remained more or less intact) by R. Menahem Romano, and some social and cultural activities were renewed. A monument to "the fighters and martyrs" was erected in the Jewish cemetery at Kovačica, and a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Jews in Bosnia and Herzegovina was held in 1970, with participation of delegates from abroad, including the U.S. and Israel. On this occasion a memorial volume was published. In 1971 the community numbered 1,000.

During the Bosnian War (1992–1994) the old Jewish cemetery was badly damaged. Nine hundred Jews were evacuated in buses to Pirovac, to the former Yugoslav summer camp near *Split, and 150 by air to *Belgrade. In 2002 the centennial of the Ashkenazi synagogue was commemorated with a stamp issued by the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2004 there were 700 Jews living in Sarajevo, including some refugees who returned home.


M. Levy, Die Sephardim in Bosnien (1911); A. Hananel and E. Eškenazi, Fontes hebraici…, 2 (1960), 87–88, 234–5, 258–66, 334–5, 391–3; Jevrejski Almanah (1954–67), passim; Omanut (Zagreb, 1935–41), passim; Spomenica povodom 400 godina od dolaska Jevreja u Bosnu i Hercegovinu (1970); Savez Jevrejskih Opstina Jugoslavije, Spomenica "50," 19191959 (1969).

[Zvi Loker]


views updated Jun 27 2018

Sarajevo Capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, on the River Miljacka. It fell to the Turks in 1429, and became a flourishing commercial centre in the Ottoman Empire. Passing to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1878, the city was a centre of Serb and Bosnian resistance to Austrian rule. On June 28, 1914, a Serbian nationalist assassinated the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in the city, an act that helped to precipitate World War I. In 1991, Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia, and a bloody civil war ensued among Croatian, Bosnian, and Serbian forces. Sarajevo became the focal point of the war between Bosnian-Serb troops and Bosnian government forces. The city lay under prolonged siege, often without water, electricity, or basic medical supplies. After the 1995 peace agreement (the Dayton Accord), it in effect became a Bosnian city, with the 1991 population figure of 526,000 drastically reduced as many Serbs fled. Pop. (2002 est.) 434,000.


views updated May 18 2018

Sarajevo the capital of Bosnia–Herzegovina, which was taken by the Austro-Hungarians in 1878, and which became a centre of Slav opposition to Austrian rule. It was the scene in June 1914 of the assassination by a Bosnian Serb named Gavrilo Princip of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863–1914), the heir to the Austrian throne, an event which triggered the outbreak of the First World War.