Nomination for UNESCO: Monuments of the Jewish Cemetery, sleeping Lions guarding Sarajevo

Ivo Andric called these stone gravestones guarding lions of Sarajevo, the other linked them with medieval stecak tombstones. They are the oldest part of the Jewish cemetery, which occupies more than 30 000 square meters on the slopes of the capital city, which is keeping almost all generations of Jews who came to Sarajevo. The process of its nomination for entering on the World Heritage List of UNESCO started due to the specific look of the tombstones and their beauty, and they are dating back from the 17th century.

It is a series of inter-state nominations of Jewish cemeteries in Europe, and the initiative for this came from ICOMOS of Germany and the Jewish Community of Germany, and it was supported by the State Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO of BiH.

The Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo is the oldest one on the territory in BiH and after the one in Prague, the largest one in Europe. The first monument is dating back from 1640, and there are about 3,500 tombstones on its surface, although no one knows exactly how many Jewish people were buried there. The reason for this was that many of them were killed in the Holocaust, and members of their family raised only a tombstone, in honor of their beloved ones, even though no one laid below it.

President of the Jewish Community of BiH Jakob Finci reminded that the idea to protect this cemetery is dating from before the war. A detailed study was conducted by Professor Snjezana Mutapcic back then, and a large cemetery exhibition was opened in March 1992. Everything was ready to apply for the World Heritage List of UNESCO. However, this process was stopped by the war.

“The specifics of this cemetery are monuments that unbelievably resemble stecak tombstones and which you cannot see in any other Jewish cemetery in Europe or in the Middle East. Most probably, the Jews came to BiH and found the stecak tombstone here and started making monuments that resemble them,” noted Finci.

“Tombstones of Bosnian Sephardic Jews differ in shape and motifs from all other Jewish monuments in other parts of the world. The Ministry of Civil Affairs considers that the entry of another good on the World Heritage List of UNESCO would have a great impact at the promotion of cultural heritage of our country and the capital city itself,” said Secretary-General of the State Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO and Assistant of Minister for Science and Culture in the Ministry of Civil Affairs of BiH, Biljana Camur Veselinovic.


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