Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo, 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 complex of the Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

The National Monument is located on cadastral plot nos. 65, 171, 225, 523, cadastral municipality Sarajevo, CXXXV,  Municipality Centar, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

            The provisions relating to protection and rehabilitation 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, display and rehabilitate the National Monument.

            The Government of the Federation shall be responsible for providing the resources needed to draw up and implement the necessary technical documentation for the rehabilitation of 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:

            On the site  defined in Clause 1 para. 2 of this Decision, on which the National Monument is located, the following protection measures shall apply:

Ÿ  all works are prohibited on the buildings and structures or parts thereof constituting the burial ground complex, other than research and conservation and restoration works, including those designed to display the 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 (hereinafter: the heritage protection authority),

Ÿ  the construction of buildings and the erection of temporary or permanent structures not designed solely for the protection and presentation of the National Monument are prohibited,

Ÿ  all works of any kind that could have the effect of altering the landscape are prohibited,

Ÿ  no works on the infrastructure shall be permitted other than in exceptional cases with the approval of the Federation Ministry responsible for regional planning and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority,

Ÿ  the monument shall be open to the public and may be used for educational purposes,

Ÿ  the dumping of waste is prohibited.


            To ensure the on-going protection of the National Monument, a protective zone consisting of a strip 20 m wide from the borders of the protected area defined in Clause 1 para. 2 of this Decision is hereby established.

            In this protective zone the following protection measures are stipulated:

Ÿ  new building is prohibited,

Ÿ  all works on the infrastructure are prohibited other than in exceptional cases with the approval of the Federation Ministry responsible for regional planning and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority,

Ÿ  the dumping of waste is prohibited.


            The Government of the Federation shall be responsible for implementing the following urgent measures to protect the National Monument:

1.       conduct works to install a drainage system throughout the complex in order to allow for the drainage of underground water and prevent the tombstones from subsiding further into the ground,

2.       take special steps to prevent landslides associated with unchecked building,

3.       dismantle, stabilize the underpinnings and reinstall the main entrance gate,

4.       conduct repair works to the entire retaining wall system in the cemetery,

5.       clear the cemetery of self-sown vegetation.


            The Government of the Federation shall be responsible in particular for implementing the following measures:

  1. conducting a survey of the current condition of the monument, recording all damage and drawing up an accurate geodetic survey of the site with the position of each tombstone accurately marked,
  2. drawing up a rehabilitation project to cover all the works on the National Monument.


            The rehabilitation project must meet the following conditions:

  1. all original fragments and parts of tombstones found on the site must be built in once again.  Until such time as they are so reintegrated they shall be properly preserved.
  2. fragments or parts of tombstones that are too badly damaged to be reintegrated shal be conserved and displayed appropriately within the complex,
  3. damage dating from the pre-war period shall be made good – setting tilted tombstones upright, restoring tombstones to their original positions,
  4. damage caused during the war shall be made good, with badly damaged or destroyed parts of tombstones reconstructed,
  5. damage to the access paths and steps through the cemetery shall be made good,
  6. the tombstones  shall be cleaned to remove dirt, oil paint and microorganisms,
  7. a plan for the landscaping of the cemetery, to include making good the area around the cemetery, shall be drawn up
  8. the cemetery shall be floodlit in line with an appropriate design project
  9. the means by which the National Monument may be  displayed shall be identified.




            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 preservation and rehabilitation 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.




            On the date of adoption of this Decision, the National Monument shall be deleted from the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of BiH no. 33/02, Official Gazette of Republika Srpska no. 79/02, Official Gazette of the Federation of BiH no. 59/02, and Official Gazette of Brčko District BiH no. 4/03), where it featured under serial no. 508.




            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.



                                                                        Chair of the Commission

Dubravko Lovrenović


No. 07.2-02-201/04-4

30 August 2004




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.

            In its previous complement, the Commission issued a Decision to add the Old Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo to the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, under serial no. 508.

            Pursuant to the provisions of the law, 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:

Ÿ  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.

Ÿ  Documentation on the location and current owner and user of the property (copy of cadastral plan and copy of land registry entry, Municipality Centar)

Ÿ  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 old Jewish cemetery is in the south-western quarter of Sarajevo, in the part of town known as Kovačići - Debelo Brdo.  It stands above the recently built ring-road.  The oldest part of the cemetery is thought to be the part which took shape by the mediaeval necropolis of stećak tombstones in Borak, above Terezije street (formerly Mićo Sokolović street).  This part of the cemetery was destroyed when the area was built up and the narrow-gauge Sarajevo-Višegrad line was built (Mutapčić p. 323).

            The National Monument is located on a site consisting of cadastral plot nos. 65, 171, 225, 523, cadastral municipality Sarajevo, CXXXV,  Municipality Centar, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Historical information

            The expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian peninsula was a major turning-point in the history of the Jewish people.  Fleeing from Spain (in 1492) and Portugal (in 1496), the Sephardi Jews escaping the persecution of the Reconquista found refuge in the countries of the Ottoman Empire(1). Sultan Bayezit II issued orders to the governors of his European provinces not to send the refugees back, but to give them a warm welcome.  Sultan Bayezit II and his successors gave the Jews the same freedoms as those enjoyed by the Armenians and Greeks in the Ottoman Empire (Levy, 1996, p. 9).

            Jews began to settle in Sarajevo in the early 16th century, at a time when the city was beginning to experience rapid development(2). The earliest documentary source referring to their presence is a document in the sijill of the Sarajevo court dating from 1557, which records that on the death of a scribe, katib Jusuf, he left a debt of 1,852 akčas, which the deceased owed to a house-painter, Hasan, and a Jew.  This suggests that the Jew in question was probably engaged in banking, and that he provided loans (GHB, Sijill no.1) . Another surviving Sarajevo sijill dating from the 16th century, 1565 to be exact, refers to Jews as trading in fine cloth (3) and sahtijan (4) (GHB, Sijill no. 2 ) 

            The first Jews to settle in Sarajevo lived in Sagrakči Hajji Mahmud’s mahala, better known to the locals as Ulomljenica, which included part of Sagrđije, Ulomljenica and part of present-day Toroman street.  In the late 16th century, Grand Vizier Sijavuš-paša(5) built the large han known as Sijavus-paša’s daira, which the Jews called Kortiž, and the other inhabitants of the town called Velika avlija (Great Courtyard).  This edifice was built as a vakuf associated with Sijavus-paša’s endowment and his descendants in Istanbul, and was gifted to the Jews so that they could live there.  It was located close to the Sarajevo čaršija, and somewhat later the old Jewish synagogue was built alongside it(6).The first known Sarajevo rabbi was Samuel Baruh, a native of Salonika, a city where a larger number of Jews lived.  Sijavuš-paša’s han, although initially the place with the greatest concentration of Jews, never became a ghetto of the kind typical in the west.  The gates of the Great Courtyard were never locked, and Jewish merchants had shops in the Sarajevo čaršija and belonged to various esnafs or craft guilds.  These Jewish lodgings, like many buildings in Sarajevo, were frequently damaged by fire, and were burned to the ground on 8 August 1879 in the great fire that swept through the Sarajevo čaršija and its surroundings.  According to contemporary accounts, just before this occurred the building had 46 rooms.  It was the first example of collective housing in Sarajevo (Zlatar, p. 58).

            After settling in these parts, the Jews merged into the already established system of trade, bringing to it their property and, in particular, their business ability.  They played a particularly important part in foreign trade, given that the Jews had links with other Jewish settlements and individuals both throughout the Ottoman Empire and beyond.  The Jews conducted most of their business via Dubrovnik, but from the late 16th century, when the Split ferry began operating, most of Sarajevo’s merchants, Muslims and Jews alike, turned their attention to trade with Venice and other Italian cities via Split.

            On arriving in the Balkans, the Jews made a significant contribution to the development of commercial activities, particularly in the shape of a new way of organizing business, introducing new forms and methods of commerce(7). The legal and social standing of the Jews in Sarajevo was no different from that of Jews living in other cities in the Ottoman Empire(8).They dealt with their family, marital, inheritance and other legal affairs concerning property through their religious leader, but were accountable solely to the kadi (judge) in agrarian legal matters.  Ottoman sources show that from their very arrival in Bosnia the Jews were free to worship according to their own religion.  In some of Sarajevo’s hamams (those of Gazi Husrev-beg, Firuz-beg, Isa-beg) there were pools for tevilla, the Jewish ritual ablutions, in separate premises that no one other than Jews was permitted to enter.  The tevilla pool in the women’s section of the Gazi Husrev-beg hamam remained in existence right up until 1939.

            Travelling through Sarajevo in 1659, the famous travel chronicler Evliya Çelebi noted that the Jews lived in two mahalas in Sarajevo (Çelebi, 1954, p. 117).  At the end of the 17th century, there were more than 50 Jewish households in Sarajevo (Istanbul, Maliyeden mudewer defter No 1439).

            In the first half of the 19th century, 182 Jewish families were recorded in Sarajevo, living in several of the city's mahalas: the Ferhadija, Gazi Husrev-beg, Jagdži-zade (Niže banje), Havadže Kemaludin, Pehlivan Oručova, Buzadži Hadži Hasan mahalas.  These details are to be found in a document known as a kefilemi – a record of mutual liabilities of the male inhabitants of Sarajevo over the age of 18, drawn up by the Sarajevan Mehmed Mestvica in 1841 - 42 (A. Bejtić, p. 27). In addition to listing the numbers and places of residence of Sarajevo's Jews, the document also provides interesting information about their families, the occupations of their members, and their wealth.

            Following the Austro-Hungarian occupation, Ashkenazi Jews too moved into Sarajevo, and a year later, in 1879, had already decided to found their own community and build a synagogue (Zlatar, p. 62). The first Jewish families of this second influx came to Sarajevo from Budim and various other places in Pannonia.  Among these new incomers was the haham(9)  Cevi Eškinazi, an extremely scholarly man, who became a rabbi in Sarajevo (Skarić, p. 108).

            The old Jewish cemetery in Kovačići is the second largest Jewish sepulchral complex in Europe after the one in Prague.  It is also one of the most significant memorial complexes in the world, recording in a specific manner a significant and compelling element of the chronicle of the Jews from the mid 16th century right up to the time when the cemetery was closed to further burials, in 1965 (Mutapčić p. 323) . 

            The oldest part of the cemetery is thought to be the part which took shape by the mediaeval necropolis of stećak tombstones in Borak.  However, this part of the cemetery was destroyed when the area was built up and the narrow-gauge Sarajevo-Višegrad line was built (Mutapčić p. 323) (10).  

            There is no sound documentary evidence of the origins and development of the cemetery prior to the 16th century, but it may be safely deduced from information derived from the records of the Jewish community that it was founded in 1630. The basic sources for a study of the cemetery were looted and destroyed, particularly in a fire in 1941 when the "book of the dead" that had been painstakingly kept over forty years by Moše Altarac, better known by the nickname "Moše di la kancelarija", secretary of the Sephardi community and of the "Hevra kadiša" burial society(11), was set on fire in the ruins of the great Sephardi synagogue(12) in Sarajevo.

            Historiographic information suggests that the Sephardim settled in Sarajevo in stages during the 16th century, and that the first Jewish community was established by about 1550.  Shortly after this, in 1558, the "Hevra kadiša" burial society was set up.  "The Jewish cemetery was opened in the city in 1545.  The seven committee members who set it up lie there together, under the same grave-mound, surrounding the body of their Grand Rabbi, Baruh. " Rabbi Samuel Baruh, a native of Salonika, was Rabbi of Sarajevo from 1623 to 1640. Moritz Levy(13)   writes as follows: "Tradition has it that Samuel Baruh's tombstone is the oldest in the cemetery.  The stone is on a hillock in the south-western part [of the cemetery], about 800 paces from the southernmost row of stones.  Around it are another five large tombstones, which tradition has it mark the last resting places of the God-fearing leaders of his day.  Baruh's tombstone is the only one on which, albeit with great difficulty, one can decipher the following epitaph in Hebrew: Tombstone of the righteous Samuel Baruh. At the centre of the cemetery is one tombstone, of no great height and which is already much sunken into the ground, which is supposedly the last resting place of Machah Mučačon, a contemporary of Samuel Baruh. The epitaph is already completely illegible. These two tombstones are the oldest in the entire cemetery". Jakov Maestro provides the information that the elders of Sarajevo's Jewish community secured the land for the cemetery from the  Vakuf and that they stipulated in their wills that they should be buried at the top of the cemetery, or in other words that the upper part of the cemetery was reserved for the hahams and other prominent figures.

            The earliest information concerning the division of the cemetery into plots dates from 1901, when the site was divided into plots in two sections, of which the smaller, to the south as seen from the railway line, was left cut off and neglected.

            Between 1919 and 1930 the cemetery was landscaped, divided into plots and  walled.  It was at this time that the making-good of the steps and path was completed and benches were installed.  In 1923/24, a chapel was built in the north-western part of the cemetery.  In this year, too, the entrance gate was erected.

            In 1952 a monument to the victims of fascism was erected in the cemetery, the work of the architect Jahiel Finci(14). The cemetery also contains a large Ashkanazi mausoleum designed by the architect Zlatko Ugljen, dating from 1962 and erected following the exhumation of the old and new Ashkenazi cemeteries in 1950.  The cemetery was closed to further burials in 1966.

            The Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo has been vandalized on several occasion:

Ÿ  in 1967, 15 tombstones were knocked over;

Ÿ  on 24. 11. 1970, 16 graves were damaged and five tombstones vandalized.  In order to lay the foundations for a high-voltage electricity pylon, another 11 graves were destroyed without exhuming the bodies.  During these works a poplar tree was felled, damaging 15 tombstones and the stone wall surrounding the cemetery over a length of 8-10 metres.  In all, 200 metres of wall were damaged;

Ÿ  in 1971, about 100 tombstones of recent date were overturned;

Ÿ  on 21. 11. 1975, about 200 tombstones were damaged on the plots of the «Hevra Kadiša» burial society;

Ÿ  on 13. 02. 1983 there was further vandalism to the cemetery;

Ÿ  in 1985 an improvised playground was made within the cemetery, when several tombstones and the chapel were damaged, benches broken, etc;

Ÿ  in 1987, unskilled tree felling carried out without the approval of the heritage protection authority led to several tombstones being damaged;

Ÿ  during the 1992-1995 war the cemetery was on the front line. Large areas of the cemetery were mined at that time, and many tombstones and later monuments were damaged in the course of battle.  The cemetery chapel, entrance gate and every other feature of the composition were also damaged during the war;

Ÿ  In November 2000, tombstones were demolished, with a total of 36 being overturned and damaged.


2. Description of the property

            Sarajevo has a large number of cemeteries that are complex spiritual symbols of the past and of the passage of time.  As elements in the urban spatial culture, in which tradition and culture, and a centuries' long presence, are reflected, these cemeteries have acquired the standing of monuments of sepulchral art (Stara sarajevska groblja, p. 5).

            Jews regard their cemeteries as sacred places, calling them a house of tombs, a house of life, a house of eternity.  The deceased are laid with their heads to the east, towards Jerusalem and Mount Zion.  It is the custom for cemeteries to be walled, and for the graves of leading or important figures to be marked, provided that ten members of the community have already been buried there.  Tombstones are erected on expiry of Shiva (seven days), Sheloshim (thirty days) or twelve months after the death of the person buried there.  It is also typical of the Jews to "bury" damaged books and records in a separate vault known as a Geniza, as is the case with this cemetery, too.  There is a formal ceremony on this occasion, with traditional music (Jedan lijepi jevrejski običaj" (Povodom ovogodišnje genize), potpis P. Jevrejski život no. 154, Sarajevo, 1927, s.2)).

            Sarajevo's Jewish cemetery is in effect a document of certain features of the life of the Sephardim, and later of the Ashkenazim, in the city(15). 

            The burial complex lies on a steep site and covers a total area of 31,160 sq.m.  There are more than 3,850 tombstones in a total of seven plots, along with four memorials erected to the victims of fascism (of which the work by architect Jahiel Finci, dating from 1952, dominates both spatially and sculpturally), and several cenotaphs(16).   Among these, the most valuable artistically is the cenotaph of Blanka Alkalaj and her family.  The talled cenotaph was erected in the years following the end of the Nazi persecution of the Jews.  The tombstone of Simon Katan, who died in 1933, bears the additional epitaph "1882-1942 unknown grave of Dona Katan". 

            There is also a large Ashkenazi mausoleum in the cemetery, the work of the architect Zlatko Ugljen, dating from 1962, and erected following the exhumation of the old and new Ashkenazi cemeteries in 1950.


Gates to the cemetery

            The cemetery has three entrance gates.  The main, monumental gate is in the north wall, facing the city, and a smaller one on the opposite, south side of the cemetery. The third gate is at the south-west corner of the cemetery.

            The main, north gate consists of three sections – a central section with a double gate, and two side sections each with a single gate.  The central gate is approx. 3.00 m wide.  The side gates are for pedestrian use, and are approx. 1.00 m wide.  The central section of the gate is used for bringing the deceased into the cemetery chapel.  The structure of the entrance gate consists of massive pillars made of seven courses of limestone with cement mortar binder.  The pillars are 1.00 m wide at the base.  The gate terminates in a round stone arch with a greatly emphasized keystone bearing an inscription recording the date it was built.   The upper surface of the gate has been coated with a layer of concrete approx. 10 cm thick to protect it from rain and snow penetration.  The railing of the gate is of stylized wrought iron with a design of a stylized menora (the upper, fixed section of the gate) and star of David.

            The south gate to the cemetery is somewhat simpler, and marked by two pillars of five horizontal courses of limestone blocks, terminating in a flattened pyramid executed in concrete.  The gate has a double-wing wrought iron gate with a design of stylized stars.  The south-western gate to the cemetery is similar in execution.



            The cemetery originated alongside the mediaeval necropolis of stećak tombstones in Borak, by the old quarry in Šatorija (17)  from which the stone was extracted for the mediaeval stećaks, as it was for the Jewish tombstones.  The Sephardim in these parts made unique tombstones, different in their house-like shape and symbolic designs from any other Jewish tombstones elsewhere in the world.

            Traditional Sephardi tombstones are simple horizontal slabs or empty sarcophagi in shape, with incised epitaphs.  Examples of this kind of tombstone dating from the 17th century are to be found in the Dubrovnik cemetery and the Split cemetery in Marjan.  These tombstones follow the model of Spanish tombstones, and have nothing in common with those of Sarajevo.  The care lavished by the Sephardim on their tombstones, even when living in exile, is evidenced by their cemeteries in Amsterdam, London, Altona and elsewhere.  These tombstones often take the form of a slab as large as the grave itself.  More highly finished examples consist of sarcophagi with gabled roof and stepped plinth.  These large, heavy pieces of stone were intended to prevent anyone from moving or desecrating the grave (Pinto, 1987, pp. 60 – 64).             During the baroque period, tombstones were decorated in similar style to the memorial plaques set in church walls. The symbols present are universal sepulchral designs: a felled tree, a broken rose, a skull, hair, a torch on its side, an hourglass, the genius of mourning, Biblical scenes and so on.  The head end of the tombstone bore the coat of arms of the Sephardi family, while the remaining surfaces might be divided into different fields, one of which consisted of the epitaph (Encyclopedia Judaica, Berlin, 1929). Bearing in mind that some Sephardi synagogues in the Iberian peninsula were characterized by the manner of burial prior to the exodus (those of Aragon, Castillo and elsewhere), it will be necessary to conduct a comparative study of the relevant features of the sepulchral tradition of the regions from which the Sephardim living in Bosnia and Herzegovina originated.  It is thought that the mystery of the unique shape of Sephardi tombstones in Sarajevo can best be interpreted as deriving from the amalgamation of the Sephardi tradition, which includes elements from the Judaism of antiquity and Roman times and of the mediaeval Arabic and Spanish civilization, with the tradition of the local environment (Mutapčić, p. 326).

            In the distinctive poetics, metaphoricality and visual aspect of these tombstones, their synchronic modelling and gradual disappearance, and the emergence of new sepulchral forms, the tombstones in this cemetery may be divided into several types based on style, shape and certain symbols:

Ÿ  horizontal monolithic slabs and chests, with or without epitaphs. These shapes are directly descended from the shape of stećak tombstones and the thread linking the Sephardi tradition of simple forms with the indigenous transitional style in the sepulchral art of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the turn of the mediaeval and Ottoman periods;

Ÿ  monolithic ridge-shaped and composite (empty) sarcophagi.  These tombstones invariably have epitaphs, which also derive from the stećak tradition and that of ancient sarcophagal forms;

Ÿ  there are also variations on the chest shape and on the sarcophagus, the upper side of which may be flat, rounded, stepped-rounded, ridged, or with a typical foreshortening in height and width from the front to the rear of the tombstone.

            The decorative motifs are usually of multiple symbolic meaning.  In content they have traditional, religious and profane connotations, with representations of figures, geometric and floral designs, and decorative carving.

            On the old tombstones, the decorative designs are executed rustically and schematically, intended to emphasize the status and occupation of individual members of the Jewish community (Cohens, Levys, rabbis and prominent people in general).  An outstretched hand is associated with the graves of Cohens, symbolizing blessing and sanctity, a book suggests a scholarly person, a staff denotes a priestly figure, and a kid or lamb symbolize the Jewish people, the Lord's chosen, redeemed people, with other items or animals standing for the various peoples with whom the Jews came into contact (more common in the case of the Ashkenazim).  An egg is a symbol of life and death, of rebirth.  Astral symbols – circle, rosette, semicircle or semi-ellipse, crescent moon – use the vocabulary of those times relating to the eternal themes of cyclical universal movement to the soul's final destination.  In some views, light is the symbol of the soul, with its association with human immortality, while the path to understanding these symbols leads through the religious and eschatological spheres and through deciphering the epitaphs themselves on the tombstones.

            Several possible sources must be borne in mind when identifying the origins of these designs:


•Islamic, and


but an elucidation of them must certainly be given in relation to local syncretic elements, the sepulchral cult itself, and their purely decorative role on the tombstone (Mutapčić, p. 327).

            The old tombstones are made to the model of the standard stonemason's treatment of the stone from nearby Šatorija.  These tombstones date from the 16th to the 18th century. More recent ones, dating from the 19th to the 20th century, display variations on the old shapes, and represent a different creative treatment of vertical and horizontal slabs, of combinations thereof, and of other forms typical of a modern urban cemetery. These new tombstones are executed in new, often expensive types of stone – marble, granite and so on  (Mutapčić, p. 327), whereas the older ones are of Sarajevo limestone.

            The epigraphs of these tombstones are of outstanding value.  They are executed in relief and incised, using square Hebrew, Italic and Roman lettering.  On the older tombstones, the epitaphs are usually on the north, front face (with or without a niche), or on the upper horizontal surface or the sides, whereas those on the new tombstones are set on the vertical surfaces of the tombstone in various styles of lettering.  In addition to the standard "here lies", they include the name of the deceased, the date of birth and death, and sometimes a short text on the deceased's life and work, and verses and quotations from the Jewish tradition (Mutapčić, p. 327).

            In addition to Rabbi Samuel Baruh, the cemetery in Kovačići also contains the mortal remains of Rabbi Isak Pardo (rabbi from 1781 to 1810) and of Rabbi Vraham Abinun (Grand Rabbi from 1856 to 1858), as well as others who have not been identified.  Among prominent figures in the cemetery are the poetess Laura Papo Bohoreta and the writer Isak Samokovlija; there is no information concerning others (Mutapčić, p. 328 ).


Cemetery chapel (Ciduk Adin)

            The chapel is on the north-western side of the cemetery.  It was built in 1923-1924 and is the work of engineer Scheiding.

            Architecturally, the chapel is typical of buildings in the spirit of historicism, as seen in the blend of disparate stylistic elements, particularly the decorative features with their roots in the tradition of the Jewish people.

            The chapel is designed above all for burial services.  It is 13.34 x 13.34 m in size, and has a complex ground plan.  Despite extensions to the south and south-west, a certain symmetry is observable, particularly in the central area.

            The chapel consists of four sections:

Ÿ  a central area, beneath the central dome. The floor of this part of the building is marked with a star of David;

Ÿ  the apsidal area of the chapel, to the west, raised by some 35 cm above the level of the central area;

Ÿ  an area to the south of the central area and at the same level, but with a separate entrance to the east through a double door; and

Ÿ  a fourth area to the south-west of the building, with a separate entrance to the south. This area is 50 cm higher than the level of the central area of the building.  The entrance is to the south via a single flight of steps and an open porch.

            The main entrance to the building is to the east, through an entrance porch raised by 35 cm.  The entrance doors to this part are 2.68 m wide.  There are a further two entrances at ground-floor level, one also to the east (with a door 1.46 m wide) and the other to the south (with a door 1.22 m wide).

            The central area of the chapel has a domed roof.  The transition from the square ground plan of the ground floor to the octagonal plan of the dome is achieved by trompes with spherical triangles to which stalactite decorations are applied.  There are three square windows [on each side?] of the upper part of the dome, with a star of David in the central window aperture.

            The side areas of the chapel have barrel vaults, while on the exterior one has a pent roof and the other a gabled roof at a lower level. The apsidal part of the building to the west has five round-arched windows approx. 57 cm wide.  The radius of the apse is 2.72 m.

            The interior walls are plastered with cement mortar and richly adorned with moulded cornices, stalactite decorations and painted designs. During one of the earlier repairs carried out to the building, hollow brick was used to level the wall surfaces, the remains of which were found during the most recent repair works.  The walls at ground-floor level vary in thickness from 0.50 to 0.63 m, and to 0.60, 0.66 and even as much as 0.90 (part of the storage area) in the basement.  The total net area of the ground floor is 107 sq.m.

            A single flight of steps outside the building to the west leads down from the ground floor to the basement.  The storeroom is entered from a landing on these steps midway between ground-floor and basement level.  This storeroom has an area of 9.00 sq.m. and has a single window to the west.

            The basement of the chapel includes a flat for the cemetery keeper.  The entrance to this flat is to the west, at ground level. There is a corridor in the entrance area, with steps to accommodate the difference in height of 70 cm.  To the east of the basement is a kitchen, to the south a bathroom, and to the north the main living room.  The bedroom is to the west.  All the rooms have natural ventilation via tall, narrow windows, with the exception of the storeroom and bathroom, which are ventilated by skylights and ducts.  The total area of the basement rooms is 92.00 sq.m.

            In height, the building measures:

Ÿ  from ground-floor level to the top of the dome – approx. 11.26 m

Ÿ  from basement level to the top of the dome – approx. 15.68 m

Ÿ  interior height of the basement – 2.80 m

Ÿ  height of the central area of the ground floor – 7.68 m

Ÿ  height of the side areas – 3.70, 3.35 and 4.91 m.

            The building is constructed of a combination of stone and Austrian-type brick.  The floor structure between the basement and the ground floor consists of bricks laid radially on iron I beams.  The vaults and arches supporting the dome are of concrete, and the other parts of the roof are of timber.  The floors of the ground floor of the chapel are of cast terazza, with the use of sanded concrete in places.  The floor of the basement consists of sanded concrete, ceramic tiles and, in part, rammed earth.

            The exterior facades are plastered with lime-cement mortar, with richly decorated cornices, portals and floral designs on the upper parts of the corners of the building.  The entrances are further emphasized by frames with stylized flowers and tympana above.  On the front facade, above the entrance to the central area of the chapel, is a decoration in the shape of an open Jewish bible.

            The chapel roof was clad with galvanized iron.


Mausoleum dating from 1952

            In form the monument is a stylized version of an old Sephardi tombstone, except that it is made of horizontal courses of finely dressed white limestone blocks, with a band of black granite at the centre on which an inscription is incised on all four sides.  To the south of the monument is a text in Roman lettering: To Bosnia and Herzegovina's fallen Jewish soldiers and victims of fascism, 1941-1945.  To the north is the same text in Hebrew script.  To the east, the text reads: JASENOVAC – STARA GRADIŠKA – ĐAKOVO - JADOVNO AND OBORGRAD – AUSCHWITZBERGEN BELSEN, and to the west is an inscription in Cyrillic: DIE GLORIOUSLY WHEN DIE YOU MUST.  NJEGOŠ.

            The monument is raised on a plinth to which steps lead on the north side.  The sarcophagus measures 3.50 x 2.00 metres in siye.


Monument to the victims of Ustasha ustaškog terror

            The monument is of granite, in the shape of a regular rectangular prism.  It stands beside the mausoleum, at a distance of 2 metres, to the south-east.


Ashkenazi mausoleum dating from 1962

            The mausoleum consists of several components – a rectangular plinth, a square prism with a carved, stylized menora, a rectangular beam with an incised text in Hebrew, and a vertical feature with a symbolic representation of Moses' tablets of stone, on which the figures 1957-1961 are incised on the east side.  The text on the west side is illegible as a result of damage incurred during the recent war in BiH.  The structure of the monument is of reinforced concrete, with a facing of limestone slabs.


Mausoleum alongside the Ashkenazi mausoleum

            This is a black granite obelish.  The names of the victims of the 1941-1945 war are incised on the north side.



            The fountain is to the east of the main, north entrance to the cemetery complex. It is built of white limestone blocks. The fountain has three pipes – to the west, north and south- from which water flows into a small stone trough.  The fountain is square in plan, approx. 70 cm wide, and terminating in a round arch on all four sides.

            To the south side of the fountain is an inscription in Hebrew and Bosnian: Installed by SALAMON R. KABILJO, 1930.  To the same side, in the round arch of the fountain, is his epitaph: HIS GRAVE IS NOT KNOWN, HE DIED IN A FASCIST CAMP IN 1943.



            The entire cemetery is surrounded by a wall of cut limestone, with the upper part terminating in a concrete balustrade.  The uprights supporting the balustrate have concrete terminals in the shape of flattened pyramids.


3. Legal status to date

            By Ruling of the National Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments and Natural Rarities of Sarajevo no. 955/51 dated 12 November 1951, the cemetery was placed under state protection.

            Pursuant to opinion SM-234/90 dated 3 April 1991, the Urban Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Sarajevo listed the cemetery complex as a category I monument.

            The Regional Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina to 2002 lists the Sephardi cemetery in Sarajevo under serial no. 42 as a category I structure.

The Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo is on the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina under serial number 508.


4. Research and conservation and restoration works

Ÿ  the first activities to make good the cemetery complex were carried out in 1919.  The organizer was Grand Rabbi Moritz Levy, through the Committee for the Regulation and Care of the Sephardi Cemetery;

Ÿ  in 1923/24 the Ciduk Adin cemetery chapel was built on the north-western side of the complex;

Ÿ  between 1926 and 1930 a stone wall was built surrounding the complex.  At the same time, entrance gates were erected to the north and south, and the tombstones were repaired;

Ÿ  in 1953/54 an inventory of all the tombstones was made, with basic details of the deceased, and the chapel was made [? typo for set in order – trans].  From then on, the cemetery was cleared and set in order every two years;

Ÿ   in 1970 repair works were carried out to the stone wall around the cemetery. The costs were met by the municipal services of SO Centar, Sarajevo;

Ÿ  in 1974, SO Centar issued a notification under ref. no. 05-ML-624-1/74 that a programme to set all the closed cemeteries in the municipality in order had been adopted, including the Jewish cemetery, and that projects to carry out these works were being drawn up for some of these cemeteries;

Ÿ  in 1975, Mr Maltarić drew up a project to landscape the cemetery, which provided for its transformation into a park-like area;

Ÿ  in 1978 the Urban Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Sarajevo and the Gorana organization cleared the cemetery;

Ÿ  in 1982 there was a call for funds to carry out works on the graves;

Ÿ  in 1983, with a letter ref. 260/83 from the Jewish community, an initiative was launched to reach agreement on the status of the cemetery;

Ÿ  in 1983 information was drawn up on the state of the Sephardi cemetery in Sarajevo and the possibilities for its long-term maintenance with the adoption of planned time-lines for essential works on the cemetery with the aim of transforming it into a part-cemetery;

Ÿ  in 1983, works in relation to the preservation, protection and maintenance of the cemetery were entrusted to the public funerals company Pokop of Sarajevo;

Ÿ  in 1983 the chapel in the cemetery was restored, on the basis of an agreement entered into by the Jewish community and Pokop, the repair and reconstruction of the cemetery wall began, the fountain was repaired and once again in use, and about 2/3 of the area of the cemetery was cleared of self-sown vegetation;

Ÿ  in 1983-1990, repairs to the surrounding wall of the cemetery were effected over a length of about 100 metres;

Ÿ  intensive work to set the cemetery in order was carried out during 1983 and 1984, prior to the start of the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo;

Ÿ  from 1985 to 1988 considerable reaches of the surrounding wall were made good;

Ÿ  in 1987, the original wrought iron gate was restored to the south (upper) gate in the surrounding wall;

Ÿ  in 1987 the mausoleum was repaired;

Ÿ  in 1992 the Urban Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Sarajevo (architect M. Buljina and art historian Snježana Mutapčić) drew up a programme to protect the old Jewish cemetery in  Borak, Kovačići.  To this end the damage to each individual tombstone was recorded.  A total of 626 damaged tombstones were listed.  Accompanying photographic documentation was drawn up;

Ÿ  works are in hand on the repair, reconstruction and revitalization of the cemetery chapel;

Ÿ  technical documentation for the works has been prepared;

Ÿ  the entire cemetery complex has been demined;

Ÿ  following the most recent vandalization of the cemetery, in 2000, when 36 tombstones were overturned and damaged, a survey of the existing condition and position of the damaged tombstones was carried out. A site plan was drawn up with the locations of the tombstones.  In the case of the majority of stele tombstones that had fallen forwards, their weight made  it impossible to conduct a full survey of the extent of the damage.  A report with photograph and description of the damage was made for each individual damaged tombstone;

Ÿ  an on site inspection has been made by the Secretariat of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments of BiH.


5. Current condition of the site

            Over the centuries during which the cemetery has been in existence, considerable damage to individual tombstones is evident.  The reasons for this are multiple, and mainly related to failure to take steps to protect them and to human factors, i.e. deliberate damage.

            By 1992, when a comprehensive programme for the protection of the cemetery in Borak was drawn up by the Urban Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Sarajevo and the degree of preservation of the cemetery was analyzed, in all 70% of the tombstones (a total of 626) in the cemetery had been damaged.

            Since the Jewish cemetery was on the front line during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was further damaged. There was serious damage to the tombstones as a result of direct hits by artillery fire and bullets, as well as frequent fires caused by explosions.

            Following the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the most recent deliberate vandalism, which took place in 2000, based on an inspection and analysis conducted by the Secretariat of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments of BiH, the conclusion was reached that about 95% of the tombstones in the cemetery are now damaged.

            What is plain to see is that:

Ÿ  the most common damage is the result of the forcible toppling of the upright components of tombstones, on which the epitaphs are incised.  The horizontal slabs of the tombstones have suffered less damage.  Many components, both horizontal and upright, have been damaged by direct strikes by artillery projectiles and rifle bullets;

Ÿ  damage to the horizontal components of the graves has been caused by gunfire and smashing the covering slabs;

Ÿ  most of the damage resulting from war action was recorded on the more recent tombstones dating from the 19th and 20th centuries;

Ÿ  natural factors affecting the condition of the cemetery are reflected in the appearance of landslides which have had the effect of shifting tombstones from their positions, causing some tombstones to tilt, subsidence of individual tombstones or groups thereof, destabilizing the structure of the graves, and finally serious structural damage to some parts of the complex;

Ÿ  subsidence has disturbed the stability of some tombstones and caused the structure of the graves to split apart;

Ÿ  in some places, the roots of self-sown vegetation are damaging the stone structure of tombstones;

Ÿ  the concrete steps leading through the complex are dilapidated and damaged;

Ÿ  almost the whole of the cemetery is overgrown.  During the most recent inspection Pokop workers were observed clearing the overgrowth;

Ÿ  the upper gate has subsided and is at risk from the poor condition of the south wall of the complex; because of the overgrowth in this part of the cemetery, which has not yet been cleared, the state of the site beneath the south wall is not known;

Ÿ  on the plot to the south of the cemetery chapel, where there are tombstones erected during the 20th century, damage to the upright components of the tombstones was observed;

Ÿ  the wall separating the plateau where the chapel stands from the burial plots is at risk from landslide;

Ÿ  on the plot located alongside the central path and steps leading towards the mausoleum and containing 19th and 20th century tombstones, a great many tombstones were observed to have been damaged by being overturned and deliberately vandalized.  In this plot there was extensive damage to the tombstones during the recent war;

Ÿ  the stone steps to the east of the main gate are also damaged, as is the stone retaining wall of the steps;

Ÿ  the main gate is leaning dangerous towards the north;

Ÿ  damage to the surface layers of tombstones or of minor details, caused either by force or by natural processes, was observed;

Ÿ  in several places, some of the stone was noted to have fallen from the surrounding wall, particularly on the east and west sides of the complex;

Ÿ  damage was noted to the retaining wall as a result of landslides and other tectonic movements;

Ÿ  it is noticeable that the current number of tombstones does not correspond with the number surveyed in 1975. A large number of tombstones (at least 76) are now missing;

Ÿ  it is noticeable that the entire complex of the Jewish cemetery is at risk from unchecked building, particular of new buildings to the south and east of the complex;

Ÿ  works are in hand on the repair, reconstruction and alteration of the chapel, which was badly damaged during the recent war.

Ÿ  Most of the works on the cemetery chapel have been completed.  The following works have been carried out on the building:

1.       The roof had been repaired previously (new roof structure installed, damp-proofing, and cladding with sheet copper)

2.       Repairs to the damage to the structural elements of the building – walls, floor joists, floors;

3.       Drainage has been installed around the building with the purpose of piping away from the building the large quantity of water noticed on the interior walls of the basement.  In August 2004, during an on site inspection, despite the high outside temperature, a large quantity of underground water was observed in the drainage pipes;

4.       Works are in hand on the interior to set the central area in order – the decorations and level surfaces;

5.       In the basement, repairs to the flat for the cemetery keeper have been completed; this was done using modern building materials;

6.       Preparatory works are in hand on the plateau outside the chapel to make good the balustrade, the uprights supporting the concrete elements, and the retaining wall.


            In the light of the above, and of the need to take urgent steps to protect it, the burial complex of the Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo should be added to the list of endangered national monuments of BiH.



            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

C.  Artistic and aesthetic value

C. i. quality of workmanship

C.ii. quality of materials

C.iii. proportions

C.iv. composition

C. v. value of details

C.vi. value of construction

D. Clarity

D.i. material evidence of a lesser known historical era

D.ii. evidence of historical change

D.iii. work of a major artist or builder

D. iv. evidence of a particular type, style or regional manner

D. v. evidence of a typical way of life at a specific period

E. Symbolic value

E.iii. traditional value

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

F. Townscape/ Landscape value

G. Authenticity

G.v. location and setting

H. Rarity and representativity

I. Completeness

I.i. physical coherence

I.ii. homogeneity

I.iii. completeness


            The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

-         Copy of cadastral plan

-         Copy of land register entry and proof of title;

-         Photodocumentation;

-         Site plan



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


1927     "Jedan lijepi jevrejski običaj" (Povodom ovogodišnje genize) (A fine Jewish custom [ On the occasion of this year's Geniza]), signed P. Jevrejski život no. 154, Sarajevo, 1927, p.2.


1929.    Encyclopedia Judaica, Berlin, 1929.


1936.    Maestro, Jakov, "Sefardsko groblje u Sarajevu" (The Sephardi cemetery in Sarajevo, Jevrejski glas, 30.10.1936.


1937.    Tadić, J. , Jevreji u Dubrovniku (Jews in Dubrovnik), Sarajevo 1937, p. 156


1953.    Hadžibegić. "Džizja ili harač" (Jiziya or harj). Contributions to oriental philology, III - IV, Sarajevo 1953, pp. 93,100,107.


1954.    Čelebi, Evlija. Putopis, Sarajevo 1954, p. 117 (Bosnian translation of E Çelebi’s travelogue)


 1966.   Tadić, J. , "Doprinos Jevreja trgovini sa dalmatinskim primorjem u XVI i XVII vijeku", Spomenica 400 godina od dolaska Jevreja u B i H (Contribution of the Jews to trade with the Dalmatian coast in the 16th and 17th centuries, Commemoration of the quadricentenary of the arrival of the Jews in BiH) Sarajevo 1966, p. 40.


1966.    Bejtić, Alija, "Jevrejske nastanbe u Sarajevu" (Jewish lodgings in Sarajevo), ibid, p. 27.


1966.    Kamhi, dr Haim, "Sarajevski rabini" (Sarajevo's rabbis), ibid, pp. 273-278.


1966.   Taubman, Ivan,  "Sefardsko groblje na Borku" (The Sephardi cemetery in Borak), ibid, pp. 127-129,


1966.    Sučeska, A. "Položaj Jevreja u Bosni i Hercegovini za vrijeme Turaka" (Position of the Jews in BiH in the time of the  Turks), ibid, pp. 47-49.


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


1982.    Bešlagić, Šefik, Stećci - kultura i umjetnost (Stećak tombstones – culture and art), Sarajevo, 1982, 561 - 563.


1984.    "Stvaralaštvo Jevreja u kulturnoj baštini i razvoju Bosne i Hercegovine" (Jewish creativity in the cultural heritage and development of BiH), Sveske, Institute for the Study of Ethnic Relations, Sarajevo, 1984, no. 7-8;


1984.    Mutapčić, Snježana, Staro jevrejsko groblje na Borku u Kovačićima (The old Jewiswh cemetery in Borak, Kovačići), ibid, no. 7-8, Sarajevo, 1984, pp. 89-95.


1987.    Pinto, Avram, Jevreji Sarajeva i Bosne i Hercegovine (The Jews of Sarajevo and BiH), Sarajevo, 1987, pp. 60 - 64,


1988.    Exhibition catalogue "Židovi na tlu Jugoslavije" (Jews in Yugoslavia), Zagreb, 1988,


1991.    H. Kreševljaković, Banje u Bosni i Hercegovini (1462 - 1916) (Baths in BiH [1462-1916]), Selected works bk. III, Sarajevo 1991. p. 32.


1992.    Nezirović, Muhamed Jevrejsko - španjolska književnost (Judaeo-Spanish literature), Sarajevo, 1992, pp. 34-35;


1992.    Exhibition catalogue "Staro jevrejsko groblje u Kovačićima" (Old Jewish cemetery in Kovačići), designers and authors of the exhibition, catalogue and visual exhibits: Snježana Mutapčić and Munib Buljina, photographs: Zoran Dragoljević, Sarajevo, 1992.


1992.    Zlatar, dr. Behija, "Dolazak Jevreja u Sarajevo" (Arrival of the Jews in Sarajevo), Collected papers SEFARAD, Sarajevo 1992. pp. 57 – 64


1992.    Mutapčić, Snježana, Staro jevrejsko groblje u Kovačićima (Old Jewish cemetery in Kovačići), Collected papers SEFARAD, Sarajevo, 1992


1992.    Mutapčić, Snježana, Buljina Munib, Programme for the protection of the old Jewish cemetery in Borak, Kovačići, City Institute for the Protection and Use of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo, Sarajevo, 1992


1998.    "Stara sarajevska groblja" (Old Sarajevo cemeteries), exhibition catalogue, Cantonal Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo, Sarajevo, 1998



Archive documentation:

Gazi Husrev-beg library (GHB), Sijill no. A

Gazi Husrev-beg library (GHB), Sijill no. 2

Istanbul, Maliyeden mudewer defter No 1439. p. 8.

Ankara, Tapu ve kadastro No 477 fo 33.   

Historical archives in Dubrovnik, Diversa Cancelariae, CLVIII124- 125.


Technical documentation from:

•Cantonal Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo,



•Jewish Community of Sarajevo


Photographic documentation from:

•Cantonal Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo,

•Jewish Community of Sarajevo

•Commission to Preserve National Monuments of BiH



(1) The Jews were welcomed in the following cities: Izmir, Bursa, Istanbul, Salonika, Jedrene, Sofia, Ruščuk, Plovdiv, Samokov, Bucharest, Istib-Štip, Monastir-Bitolj, Eskopia-Skopje, Niš, Belgrade, and Sarajevo, where they began peacefully and industriously to work for the general good of the entire population.  They also made their way in the opposite direction towards another Islamic country, Morocco.  Immediately following the 1492 expuslion, about 30,000 Sephardi Jews went there, joining the indigenous Moroccan Jews.  These Jews called the Sephardim "Mogarachim", meaning expelled in Hebrew.  The Sephardim settled in Fez, Rabat,  Meknes, Tétouan, Larache, and Alcazarquivir (Ksar el Kebir), or in other words in all the major cities of this northern African country (Nezirović, p. 19).

(2) The number of mahalas or residential quarters in the city is the best indicator of the extent to which an oriental city has evolved.  At the end of the 15th century, Sarajevo had just three Muslim mahalas, a Christian congregation and a Dubrovnik community, but by the end of the 16th century it had 91 Muslim mahalas, two Christian congregations and a Jewish congregation.  There were more than 100 mosques, six hamams, three bezistans (covered markets), several medresas (Islamic high schools), numerous hans and caravanserais (hostels), and an extensive čaršija with more than 80 different crafts and trades. It was a city full of greenery, gardens, drinking fountains and covered fountains.  The 16th century was a time of general prosperity for Sarajevo (Zlatar, p-. 57).

(3)  Known in Bosnian as ćoha

(4) Sahtijan – tanned leather.

(5) Sijavuš-paša's biography records that he was a native of these parts, was for a time the beglerbeg of Rumelia, and then became Grand Vizier.  He died in Istanbul in 1602.

(6) This, the Sarajevo Jews' first religious building, was also known as "II Kal Grandi". Its design is reminiscent of those of distant Spain.

 (7)  In the 16th century Sarajevo was a major commercial and trade centre, the most important in Bosnia and one of the largest in the Balkans.  Caravans laden with a variety of goods came to the city from both east and west to meet the needs of the diverse urban population.  The Venetians and the people of Dubrovnik, too, sought to win over Jewish merchants.  Once the Split ferry opened for business, Sarajevo's Jews conducted significantly more business via this port than via Dubrovnik, which they had previously used.  A petition by Sarajevo merchants interested in trade via Split, signed by 21 Muslim and 18 Jewish merchants, has been preserved.  Among the Jewish merchants living in Sarajevo in the 16th century, the names of Mojsije Kuzino, Haim Menahem and Josip Lukelo are mentioned.  Trade between Sarajevo and Ancona was carried out by Dubrovnik Jews Salamon Oef and David and Josip Koen, along with David’s son Aron and their trade association.

(8) As non-Muslims, the Jews were required to pay the poll tax or jiziya-harj and ispendža for exemption from military service and security of property.  In the 16th century the Jews paid a jiziya of 25 akčas a year, raised to 35 in the 17th century.  Those who collected the jiziya were responsible for entering in a separate defter (record, file), not only the name but also the father's name, place of residence (mahala) and a personal description of the person paying the jiziya.  In the late 17th century it was decreed that the jiziya be levied throughout the Ottoman Empire on the basis of wealth, of three classes.  In the outlying vilayets, which included Bosnia, the lowest rate was payable (H. Hadžibegić. Džizja ili harač. Prilozi za orijentalnu filologiju, III - IV, Sarajevo 1953, pp. 93,100,107.)

(9) Hebrew: sage, rabbi

 (10) Our work on site in the cemetery to date has not resulted in our identifying these oldest tombstones nor the place where the Jews were first buried.  We assume that in the 16th and 17th centuries, with the evolution of their community, the Jews buried their dead here in Borak in Kovačići, although there is no specific information to this effect other than the tombstones themselves, the epitaphs on which we have been unable either to read or to translate.  We therefore resorted to a formal and stylistic analysis of the tombstones to reach the conclusion that the oldest tombstones are in the southern and central areas of the cemetery, where they stand between more recent ones, as well as, albeit to a much lesser extent, in the other parts [of the cemetery], with the exception of plots nos. 1 and 7.  The northern part of the cemetery is of more recent date, with a chapel, typical graves and an mausoleum (Jakov Maestro "Sefardsko groblje u Sarajevu", Jevrejski glas, 30.10.1936.)

(11) Hevra Kadisha -- a "Holy Society" which prepares the remains for burial traditionally supervises funerals in Jewish communities, consisting of volunteers who aid the bereaved and ensure that appropriate practices are followed. In some communities this is carried out by local cemetery societies or by funeral homes which observe Jewish customs and traditions. The preparation and burial of the body are highly valued mitzvot. It is a Khesed Shel Emet -- an act of kindness performed without ulterior motive, for the dead cannot repay this service. When a member of a community dies, it is the community’s responsibility to lovingly assist the deceased’s family in this final act.

(12)Veliki hram – the Great Synagogue or new Jewish synagogue – building commenced 1927 and was completed in 1931.  Built in the pseudo-Moorish expression, it was the largest synagogue in the Balkans. It had a very wide dome resting on a colonnade of stone pillars linked by horseshoe arches.  The dome was clad with thick copper sheeting. The interior of the synagogue was richly decorated with stylized floral and foliage designs.  Alongside the synagogue stood the Jewish council room, archives and library.

In 1941, a few days after fascist troops entered Sarajevo, the synagogue was looted and vandalized. The entire interior was destroyed, the copper roof cladding was stripped off, and all the archive documents and books in the library were burned.  That same year, a professor from Leipzig of world renown took the old chronicle of the community, Pinkes, from the premises, removing it to Germany (Spomenica, p. 229).  After the war what remained of the synagogue was altered into multipurposes premises, the so-called Workers' University; it now houses the Bosnian Cultural Centre.

(13)Born in Sarajevo on 27. 02. 1879. Studied in Vienna, where he gained his doctorate in 1906.  After returning to Sarajevo, worked in several schools – gymnasium high schools.  Held the post of Grand Rabbi from 1917 to 1941.  Following the occupation of Sarajevo, he was taken to a concentration camp, where he died.

(14) Jahiel Finci – academician, full professor of the Faculty of Architecture in Sarajevo.

(15) The Nobel prize winning author Ivo Andrić wrote about the Jewish cemetery, differentiating the tombstones on the basis of their appearance and of the epitaphs incised on them:

·          large, rough-cut stone blocks, higher at the front, which in some ways bring to mind a lion couchant, head raised; epitaphs on the front. These are typical of the older tombstones, dating from before the beginning of the 20th century; and

·          tombstones that more closely resemble Christian tombstones in shape, and which date from the beginning of the 20th century.

(16) cenotaph, an empty memorial tomb with the names of people who died elsewhere and the location of whose graves, as a rule, is not known.

(17) Snježana Mutapčić "Staro jevrejsko groblje na Borku u Kovačićima", Sveske no. 7-8, Sarajevo, 1984, pp. 89-95.


Jewish cemetery in SarajevoMap of the Jewish cemetery Cemetery Chapel (Ciduk Adin)Cemetery Chapel (Ciduk Adin) after 1995
Sephardi tombstones Jewish cemetery, photo from Austro-Hungarian period Jewish cemetery, photo from 2004View of the city from the old Jewish Cemetery – old tombstones in the foreground
Monument to fallen Jewish soldiers and victims of fascism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, designed by Jahiel FinciEntrance gateNorthern, lower part of the cemetery with more recent tombstonesDamage in the cemetery – tombstones displaced by landslides

BiH jezici 
Commision to preserve national monuments © 2003. Design & Dev.: