A few years ago, the Commission for the Preservation of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)registered the Jewish Cemetery in Sarajevo as a national monument. Today, whoever visits this cemetery will be amazed at the negligence of the authorities towards the second largest Jewish cemetery in Europe.
A photojournalist visited the famous Jewish cemetery located above the city center and found, to put it mildly, shameful scenes. Neglect of cultural heritage in our country is nothing new, and this place has long been a target of vandals.
The cemetery is neglected, numerous monuments broken and scattered over the overgrown grass and underbrush. In other words, nobody cares about this national monument of BiH. And it’s been like that for years, even though everyone often brags about the Jewish heritage in our area.
Namely, the Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo is the second largest Jewish cemetery in Europe, right after the one in Prague. The year 1630 is recorded as the year the cemetery was opened, and there are about 3.500 tombstones on this area, although no one knows exactly how many Jews were buried there. The reason for this is that many of them perished in the Holocaust, and family members sometimes, in honor of the memory of their loved ones, erected only a monument, even though no one lies beneath it.
The striking, beautifully crafted large gate with the Star of David on top and the symbol of the seven-pointed candlestick is the entrance to the world of the dead, but also a kind of open-air museum – specimens of old grave monuments covered with the patina of time, stone formations of an unusual shape, unique in the world, fascinate every visitor. Hebrew inscriptions on them as a trace of those who left part of their lives in the Sarajevo basin – for a moment it seems as if you can hear their whispers.
In the last war, the Jewish cemetery was the first battle line when it suffered heavy damage from constant bombing, and its area was completely mined. After the end of the war, it was necessary to solve this very issue first, and only then enter into the process of reconstruction.
The first rabbi of Sarajevo, Samuel Baruch, was buried there around 1640, and his monument is specific becauseit has a handprint on it.
Four years ago, the State Commission for BiH Cooperation with UNESCO adopted the nomination document of the Jewish Cemetery for inclusion in the UNESCO Tentative List. Unfortunately, today’s scenes show that is just a dead letter on paper.
Bosnian Sephardic tombstones differ in shape and motifs from Jewish monuments in other parts of the world.