Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bosnia’s Jewish community

The Jewish Cemetery in Sarajevo, one of the oldest of its kind in Europe, dating back to the 16th century, was unlucky enough to lie on the front line [of the recent war], taking “direct hits from artillery projectiles and bullets”.

The chief glory of the cemetery was the gravestones, erected in a style found nowhere else expect Spain – the land from which many Bosnian Jews's ancestors came, after being expelled by the ultra-Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella.

Before the beginning of the Second World War, Bosnia and Herzegovina was home to about 14,000 Jews, about 12,000 of whom lived in Sarajevo, making up about one-eighth of the city’s population at the time.

More than 10,000 were killed in the Second World War by the Nazi German occupation forces and their local allies, the Croatian Fascist Ustashe. About half the surviving 4,000 then moved to Israel over the next few years.

Today, the community in Sarajevo numbers about 800 members, with much smaller groups living in Tuzla, Mostar and Zenica. In Republika Srpska, the Jewish Community consists of about 200 members, of whom about 100 live in Doboj and the same number in Banja Luka. (Source: Balkan Insight)

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