Groups appeal for info on Bosnians who aided Jews in WWII

Effort is part of a broader project to record the lives of Bosnia's Muslim and Jewish communities over the past centuries.

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December 4, 2007 14:41
1 minute read.
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Leaders of Bosnia's Jewish community appealed Tuesday for help locating Bosnians who aided Jews during World War II and have not been recognized. The search is aimed at locating people who offered help and documenting their stories, said the Bosnian Jewish Community. The effort is part of a broader project to record the lives of Bosnia's Muslim and Jewish communities over the past centuries. Appearing on state TV, project leader Eli Tauber invited people to contact the Jewish Community or Bosnia's Institute for the Research of Crimes Against Humanity, which is also involved in the project. "This project is extremely important nowadays when Bosnia is full of negative examples of who hates whom. It sends a message of coexistence and we want to show to all peoples in Bosnia that the life of one nation with another is sacred and has to be preserved," said Muhamed Mesic, of the institute, on Bosnian TV. One of the best-known stories of Bosnian involvement in preserving Jewish tradition during World War II involves efforts to safeguard a 600-year-old Jewish manuscript known as the Sarajevo Haggadah. In 1492, when Spain expelled the country's Jews, a refugee brought the book to Italy. A rabbi later brought the Haggadah from Italy to Bosnia and passed it down through his family until a descendant, Joseph Kohen, sold it to the National Museum in 1894. The museum kept the treasure in a safe until World War II, when a Catholic museum director and his Muslim colleague saved the book from a Nazi officer who came to pick it up. The two men spirited the book through Nazi checkpoints and carried it to a village in the mountains above Sarajevo, where a Muslim cleric kept it hidden beneath the floor of a mosque until the war ended. It was then returned to the museum. During Bosnia's 1992-95 war, a Muslim museum director and a Serb policeman risked sniper fire to reach the museum, take the book and hide it in a National Bank safe, where it remained until the end of the war. Bosnia regards the Haggadah as its most important national treasure.

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