Bosnia & Herzegovina


Annexed by Austria-Hungary in 1908, Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of Yugoslavia between the world wars. In April 1941, when Germany’s twelve-day campaign against Yugoslavia led to its partition between the Axis powers and their allies, Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH), founded on 10 April 1941. While the Ustaše movement and its leader (Poglavnik), Ante Pavelić, assumed authority, the new state depended on German and Italian support. The Independent State of Croatia effectively ceased to exist in May 1945. Bosnia and Herzegovina became one of the six republics within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It declared independence in 1992.

Before the Second World War, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a total population of 2.5 million inhabitants. Of this population, about 14,500 were Jews spread throughout some 20 Jewish communities. Between 1933 and 1940, this number greatly increased as some 55,000 Jews from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia fled through the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Only 4,000 of these Jews remained in April 1941. The Ustaše movement implemented a policy of discrimination, expropriation and mass murder against with Serbs, Roma, communists, and Jews. The Independent State of Croatia established a number of camps. In 1941, deportation of Jews began to concentration camps in Gospić, Jadovno, Jasenovac, Stara Gradiška, Đakovo, Loborgrad and others, and in 1942, to Auschwitz. Concentration camps claimed the lives of almost 80 % of Jews from Bosnia and Herzegovina. About 10,000 members of the pre-war Bosnian Jewish population had been murdered by 1945.

Archival Situation

The Archives of Bosnia and Herzegovina were established by decision number 1061 of the government of the Yugoslav Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 12 December 1947. Renamed the Archives of Bosnia-Herzegovina, they hold, conserve, process and enable the use of archives and current records of state bodies, state and public institutions as well as enterprises and corporate bodies, families and persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The main branch is in Sarajevo; there are also district (canton/county) archives located in several major administrative centers around the country: Sarajevo, Brčko, Bihać, Travnik, Tuzla, Goražde, Široki Brijeg and Mostar. The Archives of Bosnia-Herzegovina are not to be confused with the Archive of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Arhiv Federacije Bosne i Hercegovine), which was established in 1994 (also located in Sarajevo) and currently does not contain Holocaust-relevant collections. The Archive of Republika Srpska (Arhiv Republike Srpske) is another entity-level archival institution, located in Banja Luka (with several departments, located in Doboj, Foča, Trebinje and Zvornik). The country’s archival holdings have suffered, to a certain extent, from the war fought on its territory between 1991 and 1995, but also from recent events. For instance, the National and University Library, housed by Sarajevo's City Hall since 1949/50, was bombed and the resulting fire destroyed an estimated 80 percent of the Library’s collections. Meanwhile, the building has been restored and recently reopened. Furthermore, the National Archives of Bosnia were affected by riots; in 2014 collections of the so-called Depot 1, which contain, among other materials, sources on the investigation of war crimes committed on Bosnian territory during the Second World War, were partially damaged or destroyed.

EHRI Research (Summary)

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, EHRI has identified a helpful guide which contains general information about Bosnian archives:

  • Bakaršić, Kemal, Fragmenti kulturne historije Bosne i Hercegovine (Sarajevo: Magistrat, 2005)

Several archival institutions in the country have guides offering details about their collections but they are rarely available in English. More importantly, EHRI has identified several repositories relevant for Holocaust research, and described over 60 collections in this country. The Archives of Bosnia-Herzegovina can be considered the most important institution to hold Holocaust-relevant material in the country, as they have a vast collection from the Second World War period and from the Research Commission of Crimes Committed by Occupying Forces. Furthermore, the Jewish Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Muzej Jevreja Bosne i Hercegovine), which is a branch of the Museum of Sarajevo (Muzej Sarajevo), and the Historical Archives Sarajevo (Historijski arhiv Sarajevo) have documents concerning the Holocaust. Other archives and institutions in the country which are likely to be relevant for Holocaust research are the Jewish Community of Sarajevo, the Tuzla County Archives (Arhiv Tuzlanskog kantona) and Archives of Republika Srpska, among others.

Outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina, certain Croatian archives, such as the Croatian State Archive in Zagreb and Osijek, may have further relevant material. In Serbia, the Jewish Historical Museum (Jevrejski istorijski muzej) in Belgrade holds significant amount of material pertaining to the Holocaust period in Bosnia. Furthermore, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) offers a number of relevant oral history interviews, and repositories in Germany and Italy are very likely to have collections pertaining to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

EHRI Research (Extensive)

A. EHRI approach to Bosnia-Herzegovina: Pre-existing research, available archival guides, expert support

Research conducted on the subject of the Holocaust in Bosnia and Herzegovina is still under development. In the last decade there has been some increase in research and interest in Holocaust-relevant sources, but mainly from outside the country (studies produced were either funded by the European Union or conducted by researchers from abroad). Sources that were particularly relevant to EHRI’s survey work include the following monographs: Anisa Hasanhnodžić, Rifet Rustemović, After the traces of our neighbours: Jews in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Holocaust (Sarajevo: Institut za istoriju, 2015); Rusmir Agačević, Snovopriče o Sefardima i Aškenazima travničkim (Zagreb, 2013); Jakov Danon, Verica M. Stošić, Memoari na holokaust Jevreja Bosanske krajine (Banja Luka, Arhiv Republike Srpske, 2009); Aleksandar Gaon (ed.), Mi smo preživeli…: Jevreji o holokaustu (Beograd, 2001-2007); Avram Pinto, Jevreji Sarajeva i Bosne i Hercegovine (Sarajevo:Veselin Masleša, 1987); Jaša Romano, Jevreji Jugoslavije 1941-1945. Žrtve genocida i učesnici Narodnooslobodilačkog rata (Belgrade, Jevrejski istorijski muzej, 1980); Eli Tauber, Kako se sporovodio holokaust u Bosni i Hercegovini (Sarajevo, 2012), Eli Tauber, When neighbours were real human beings (Sarajevo, Jevrejska zajednica, 2010). EHRI also relied on dozens of written articles published in several journals ((Most, Baština sjeveroistočne Bosne, Jevrejski pregled, Jevrejski glas, Sefarad 92, etc.), memoirs and previously conducted surveys and copies of relevant documentation performed by third parties, mainly by the USHMM, are also useful. EHRI has also identified a helpful guide which contains general information about Bosnian archives:

  • Bakaršić, Kemal, Fragmenti kulturne historije Bosne i Hercegovine (Sarajevo: Magistrat, 2005).

B. Characteristics of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s archival system

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a heavily decentralized political structure that is reflected in its archival system as well. The central archival institution, the Archives of Bosnia-Herzegovina, is located in Sarajevo, the capital city. The majority of relevant records for Holocaust research are stored there, but the institution has no control over other archives in the country. There are two provincial (entity’s) archives, the “Archive of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina”, which does not currently hold Holocaust-related material, and “Archive of Republika Srpska,” which operate in their respective political entities, which were formed by the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. Besides them, there is an archive in the District of Brčko. As with the Archive of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Brčko archives does not currently hold Holocaust-related material. The Archive of Republika Srpska has several branches, but it operates as a centralized institution, with headquarters in Banja Luka. Moreover, the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, besides having its archival institution, also has cantonal (county) archives. These archives operate in most of cantons (Travnik, Široki Brijeg, Bihać, Mostar, Tuzla, Goražde, Sarajevo). However, these institutions are independent and work under their own, cantonal laws. This heavily decentralized archival system can sometimes be a hindrance to efficient research. It is also worth noting that most of the archives are still in development, which can further delay research and availability of records.

C. EHRI identification and description results on Bosnia and Herzegovina

C.I. In Bosnia and Herzegovina

EHRI has identified a number of archival institutions and other types of organisations which hold Holocaust-relevant documents and has described over 60 collections. The Archives of Bosnia-Herzegovina are the most important institution in possession of Holocaust-relevant material as they hold a vast collection from the Second World War period and from the Research Commission of Crimes Committed by Occupying Forces. Furthermore, the Jewish Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Muzej Jevreja Bosne i Hercegovine), which is a branch of the Museum of Sarajevo (Muzej Sarajevo), the Historical Archives Sarajevo (Historijski arhiv Sarajevo) and the archives of Jewish communities (Sarajevo, Doboj, Mostar and others) have documents that are relevant for Holocaust research. The collections and fonds of these institutions cover a broad range of documentation, but they mostly contain administrative, political and judicial documentation created by authorities (local or higher levels), organizations, military structures, etc.

C.II. In other countries

Outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina, EHRI was able to identify a significant number of Holocaust-related collections at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, which holds selected records from several Bosnian archives (Travnik, Tuzla, Sarajevo), individuals and communities. Relevant material can also be found in other former Yugoslav countries, namely, Serbia and Croatia. The Jewish Museum in Belgrade (Serbia) and the Croatian State Archives (in Zagreb) contain numerous collections related to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Jews and the Holocaust.