Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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Jewish cemetery in Mostar, the burial ground ensemble

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Status of monument -> National monument


Pursuant to Article V para. 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Article 39 para. 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, at a session held from 30 August to 2 September 2004 the Commission adopted a






The burial ground ensemble of the Jewish cemetery in Mostar is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 52 (new survey), corresponding to c.p. 1881 (old survey), Land Registry entry no. 2528, cadastral municipality Mostar I, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The provisions relating to protection measures set forth by the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of the Federation of  BiH nos. 2/02, 27/02 and 6/04) shall apply to the National Monument.




The Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the Government of the Federation) shall be responsible for ensuring and providing the legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary to protect, conserve, and display the National Monument.

The Commission to Preserve National Monuments (hereinafter: the Commission) shall determine the technical requirements and secure the funds for preparing and setting up signboards with the basic data on the monument and the Decision to proclaim the property a National Monument.




To ensure the on-going protection of the National Monument, the following measures are hereby stipulated:

Protection Zone I consists of the area defined in Clause 1 para. 2 of this Decision.  The following protection measures shall apply in this zone:

  • all works are prohibited other than conservation and restoration works, routine maintenance works, and works designed to present the National Monument, with the approval of the Federal Ministry responsible for regional planning and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina,
  • the dumping of waste is prohibited
  • all operations that could have an adverse effect on the National monument (air pollution, noise, vibrations) are prohibited

            Protection Zone II consists of a strip with a width of 20 metres from the borders of Protection Zone I.

  • In this zone all new construction, extensions to existing buildings, or the erection of temporary structures blocking the view of the National Monument are prohibited.



            All executive and area development planning acts not in accordance with the provisions of this Decision are hereby revoked.




Everyone, and in particular the competent authorities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Canton, and urban and municipal authorities, shall refrain from any action that might damage the National Monument or jeopardize the protection thereof.



            The Government of the Federation, the Federal Ministry responsible for regional planning, the Federation heritage protection authority, and the Municipal Authorities in charge of urban planning and land registry affairs, shall be notified of this Decision in order to carry out the measures stipulated in Articles II to V of this Decision, and the Authorized Municipal Court shall be notified for the purposes of registration in the Land Register.




            The elucidation and accompanying documentation form an integral part of this Decision, which may be viewed by interested parties on the premises or by accessing the website of the Commission (http://www.aneks8komisija.com.ba).




Pursuant to Art. V para 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, decisions of the Commission are final.




This Decision shall enter into force on the date of its adoption and shall be published in the Official Gazette of BiH.


            This Decision has been adopted by the following members of the Commission: Zeynep Ahunbay, Amra Hadžimuhamedović, Dubravko Lovrenović,  Ljiljana Ševo and Tina Wik.


No. 07.2-02-6/03-3

30 August 2004



Chair of the Commission

Dubravko Lovrenović


E l u c i d a t i o n




Pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a “National Monument” is an item of public property proclaimed by the Commission to Preserve National Monuments to be a National Monument pursuant to Articles V and VI of Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina  and property entered on the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of  BiH no. 33/02) until the Commission reaches a final decision on its status, as to which there is no time limit and regardless of whether a petition for the property in question has been submitted or not.

Pursuant to petitions submitted on 16 December 2002 and 7 January 2003 by the Jewish Community of Mostar, the Commission proceeded to carry out the procedure for reaching a final decision to designate the Property as a National Monument, pursuant to Article V of Annex 8 and Article 35 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments.




In the procedure preceding the adoption of a final decision to proclaim the property a national monument, the following documentation was inspected:

  • Documentation on the location and current owner and user of the property (copy of land registry entry, Mostar Municipality, with copy of cadastral plan)
  • Data on the current condition and use of the property, including a description and photographs, data of war damage, data on restoration or other works on the property, etc.
  • Historical, architectural and other documentary material on the property, as set out in the bibliography forming part of this Decision.

The findings based on the review of the above documentation and the condition of the site are as follows:


1. Details of the property


The Jewish cemetery is at the northern entrance to the city of Mostar on the route from Sarajevo, about 5 km from the centre of town, in the quarter known as  Sutina. It stands right beside the M17 Sarajevo-Mostar main road.

The cemetery stands on c.p. 52 (new survey), c.p. 1881 (old survey), Land Registry entry no. 2528, c.m. Mostar I, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Historical information

In the mediaeval period Mostar was a major crossroads, the intersection of the routes from Bosnia to Montenegro and Dalmatia and, via the Adriatic ports, on to Italy and other European countries. Archive records for 1570 refer to the first Jewish immigrants, Daniel Rodriguez and Mosho Coen – «Habitori» – Sephardi Jews who had been expelled from Spain, who had fled persecution by the Inquisition following the 1492 Edict of Granada and found asylum in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the 19th century, during the Austro-Hungarian period, Ashkenazi Jews also settled in the region, bringing with them western European culture, the way of life of eastern European Jews, and the Yiddish language. 

In the Jewish Almanach for 1928/29, according to statistics on the Jews of the Kingdom of Serbs Croats and Slovenes, Mostar had had a synagogue since 1889. The first synagogue was in fact a converted hay barn.  The plot on which this place of worship stood alongside former Mukić street (Šarić Brothers).  The capacity of this temporary synagogue was limited, which led to the formation of a Committee to build a new one. A record of the construction of the synagogue, with complete documentation, was drawn up on 7 June 1904.

The location of the first Jewish cemetery in Mostar is not known. The cadastral records for the city of Mostar provide the information that the plot where the present-day Jewish cemetery stands A.c.p.1881 – Bekline trešnje cemetery B-1 dated 1890, was owned by the Jewish community of Mostar, as a result of which this date is taken as the date it was established, although in 1893 the Mostar City Council had plans to locate a new cemetery for people of all religious confessions living in Mostar on the site of the present-day city swimming pool on the right bank of the river Neretva. A Resolution to this effect was adopted on 5 December 1982, but the idea never came to fruition.

A contract of sale dated 13 March 1936, notarized by the County Prefecture in Mostar, was the basis for registering the ownership rights of the «Hevra Kedoša» Jewish religious association to the said cemetery. During the reign of King Petar II, in 1936, the «Hevra Kadoša» association erected a wall around the cemetery.

In 1940 Mostar had 956 Jewish refugees from occupied Europe, to whom the city and the Jewish community of Mostar municipality, headed by David Hajon, offered temporary asylum.  By establishing good relations with the Italian authorities in Mostar, David Hajon managed to save many Jewish refugees. All Mostar's Jews were deported to Dalmatian islands on 17 November 1942, and from there to Rab island, where they still were when Italy capitulated in 1943. Most of the younger internees joined the Partisans, while those who remained were deported to concentration camps in Germany or the so-called Independent State of Croatia.

Prior to World War II Mostar had had a well-organized Jewish community, with 310 members, responsible for more than 1,500 Jews from Bosnia. During the Holocaust, 138 of Mostar's Jews were killed, with the result that 39 surnames ceased to exist.

The Jewish cemetery was set in order in 1996 with financial assistance from the European Union office in Mostar and the Mostar-based enterprises Vodovod and Komos.

In 1997, under Mayor Safet Oručević, the city of Mostar adopted an initiative to erect a Memorial to the Jews of Mostar in the Jewish cemetery. The funds were provided by the city of Mostar, The American Joint Distribution Committee New York headed by the great humanist Yechiel Bar-Chaim, Kon Mihajl and Dr. Moritz Levi, Sephardi Grand Rabbi from Switzerland. The memorial is the work of the sculptor Florijan Mićković, architects Džudža, Gutić and Atijas, and the architects' offices Arten and Čip from Mostar.


2. Description of the property

Very few monuments of material culture directly associated with the presence of the Jewish community in Bosnia and Herzegovina have survived to the present day. This is particularly the case with real property, including Jewish places of worship and cemeteries.

The Jews regard their cemeteries as sacred places, calling them houses of tombs, houses of life, houses of eternity. The deceased are always interred with their heads facing east, towards Jerusalem and Mount Sion. It is the custom for cemeteries to be fenced or walled, and for the tomb of a leading or significant figure to be designated, with the proviso that it already contains the mortal remains of ten (a minyan) members of the Jewish community (Mutapčić, p. 323).

The majority of the tombstones in the Jewish cemetery in Mostar are of the horizontal or so-called «couchant» type of tombstone which, according to certain authorities, originated in ancient Palestine.  From ancient times, such tombstones were either monolithic or consisted of several blocks. The tradition of couchant tombstones was largely continued by the Jews of the Middle East, and later by those of the Pyrenean and Apennine peninsulas, gradually bestowing new forms on them. Such tombstones may be found wherever Sephardi Jews are buried, particularly in the shape of a flattened sarcophagus or slab.  This type is not found in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It is fair to say that in this part of the world there came about a specific shape of tombstone, chest-like in form, recalling in appearance mediaeval stećak tombstones or simplified antique-era sarcophagi (Spomenica, p. 128).

Although tombstones of this type mainly have the same basic stylistic features, certain differences are to be observed, particularly in the shape both of the face and of the upper surface of the sarcophagus.  Various forms of chest or sarcophagus are common, with the upper surface flat, rounded, stepped-rounded, ridged, or with characteristic foreshortening in height and width from front to back (Mutapčić, p. 325). Sometimes a tombstone is to be found in the shape of a roof with a triangular gable, while others terminate in the shape of a pointed arch.

Particular variations are to be found as regards the way the monolithic stone block is laid on the grave.  In the case of older graves, it was common to use a basal slab, which does not appear in more recent tombstones.  Since the cemetery is located on a slight elevation, the lower surface of the tombstones is in some cases angled to adjust to the lie of the land.  The upper surface of the tombstones has a slight or steep pitch in the opposite direction.

There is no decoration on the tombstones other than a border on the face of the monument where there is an inscription. These epigraphics, worked in relief and consisting of incised square Hebrew lettering, italics or Roman lettering, are an outstanding feature of these tombstones. On old tombstones the epitaphs are usually on the north frontal face (with or without a niche), or on the upper horizontal surface or the side faces, while on new ones they may be of this type or consist of inscriptions on the vertical faces of the tombstone. As well as the standard «Here lies,» they consist of the name of the deceased, his or her date of birth and death, sometimes a brief text of the deceased's life and work, verses and quotations from Jewish tradition (Mutapčić, pp. 326-327). In the case of older tombstones, the lettering stands out in relief, while on newer ones it is incised.  Adverse weather conditions and lack of maintenance has resulted in the majority of the epitaphs in the Jewish cemetery in Mostar becoming almost completely illegible.

The oldest tombstone to have been found and deciphered in this cemetery dates from 1892. One of those on which the date can be read dates from 5656 (1895)(1). 

Many tombstones date from 1900-1915 and later; for example, the tombstone of one S. Levi, dating from 1903, and another belonging to one Salamon A. Liogi, dating from 1907.

The older tombstones are made partly of common limestone, others are of tenelija limestone, and the more recent ones are of granite or a combination of granite and concrete.  Some have a metal railing or barrier surrounding them.

The cemetery site is surrounded by a stone wall that was then plastered with cement plaster. The upper part of the wall consists of a series of concrete balustrades. It is likely that the model for this wall was that surrounding the Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo. The entrance to the cemetery is to the north-west and is marked by two stone pillars with double metal gates between.  Stone plaques have been mounted on the inside of the pillars. The plaque on the south pillar bears the following inscription:

During the reign

of His Majesty King Peter II

the Hevra Kedoša society

erected this wall

5696 – 1936

under the chairmanship

of Leon Altarac, president


Atijaas Josef

Danon Avram

Fromer Josef

Kabiljo Albert

Eng. Levi Jakob

Papo Albert

Perera David

The charter is set beneath this plaque.

The plaque on the north pillar bears the following inscription:

Benefactors of Hevra-Kedoša

for the wall

of the Jewish cemetery

in Mostar

5696 – 1936

Jewish religious community

Hajon Albert

Danon M. Zadik

Fromer David

Konforti Salamon

Hajon D. Rafael

Hajon David

Atijas Jahiel

Atijas Rafael

Danonn David

Koen David

Koen Josef

Danon Makso

Fromer Dr. Ziga

Levi Sida

Mandelbaum Leopold

Rozenfeld M and sons

Atijas Elijas.

In 1999 a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust of 1941-45 was erected in the Jewish cemetery in Mostar.


3. Legal status to date

            The property has not been subject to legal protection.


4. Research and conservation and restoration works

No conservation or restoration works have been conducted on the cemetery other than technical maintenance works.

In the 1970s the site was recorded photographically. Copies of the photographs are kept in the Archives of Herzegovina in Mostar.


5. Current condition of the property

During the 1992-95 war the cemetery suffered minor damage from artillery fire targeted at the area as a whole, when some tombstones were damaged by shrapnel. A number of tombstones are covered with lichen, and some have cracked as a result of weathering.

The only protection measures currently being carried out on the site are the removal of self-sown vegetation and mowing the grass. According to representatives of the Jewish community of Mostar, the financial measures relating to a more detailed study of the site and to the conservation and restoration of tombstones have not been resolved.




Applying the Criteria for the adoption of a decision on proclaiming an item of property a national monument (Official Gazette of BiH nos. 33/02 and 15/03), the Commission has enacted the Decision cited above.

The Decision was based on the following criteria:

A.  Time frame

B.  Historical value

E.  Symbolic value

E.iii. traditional value

E.v.  significance for the identity of a group of people


            The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

o        Copy of cadastral plan

o        Copy of land register entry and proof of title;

o        Photodocumentation;

o        Drawings



            During the procedure to designate the burial ground ensemble of the Jewish cemetery in Mostar as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina the following works were consulted:


1928/29.  Jewish Almanach, Statistics on Jews


1969.    Moric Levi, Sefardi u Bosni (The Sephardim in Bosnia), Belgrade, 1969, pp. 96-97


1984.    Snježana Mutapčić «Staro jevrejsko groblje na Borku u Kovačićima» (Old Jewish cemetery at Bork in Kovačići), nav. Vol. 7-8, Sarajevo, 1984, pp. 89-95.


1992.    SEFARAD 92 : Collected papers [of seminar], Sarajevo 11-14 September 1992/323-331


2000.    Mandlbaum, Zoran, «Veličanstven pomen nevinim» (A magnificent monument to the innocent), Most, periodical for education, science and culture, Mostar, nos. 122 – 123, 2000.


(1) The state of the tombstones themselves, and hence of the epitaphs, has deteriorated considerably from that recorded in the 1950s


Jewish cemetery in MostarJewish cemetery Group of tombstonesChild’s tombstone
MonumentJewish cemetery, archival photoTombstone in cylindrical shapeTombstone with semicircular ending
Tombstone, Levi 1903Tombstone in a form of stela  

BiH jezici 
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