Old Jewish cemetery of Sarajevo


The OId Jewish Cemetery in Sarajevon is located on the slopes of Trebević mountain, in the south-western part of the city. It’s the largest Jewish cemetery in Southeast Europe and was in use for approximately four hundred years from the beginning of the 16th or 17th century until 1966.

Though it was established by Sephardic Jews during the Ottoman period, it also became the burial ground for Ashkenazi Jews after they arrived in Sarajevo with the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 19th century. It contains more than 3850 tombstones and covers an area of 31,160 square meters. It has four monuments dedicated to the victims of fascism: a Sephardi one designed by Jahiel Finci and erected in 1952, two Ashkenazi ones, and one dedicated to the victims of Ustasha militants.

The Jewish Cemetery was on the front line during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and was used as an artillery position by Bosnian Serbs. It was thus severely damaged by bullets and fire caused by explosions. It was also heavily mined but was completely cleared in 1996.

Notable people buried in the cemetery include Rabbi Samuel Baruh (first rabbi of Sarajevo from 1630 to 1650; his grave is believed to be the oldest in the cemetery), Rabbi Isak Pardo (rabbi from 1781 to 1810), Rabbi Avraham Abinun (Grand Rabbi from 1856 to 1858), Moshe ben Rafael Attias (1845 – 1916), Laura Levi Papo LaBohoreta (writer of the early 20th century), and Isak Samokovlija.

Separate vault or “grave” for damaged books known as a Genizah, is located in the southeastern part of the cemetery, with the first burial taking place on 3 July 1916. It is assumed that some 14 chests of holy books were buried in the second burial ceremony, so currently exhumation of Geniza is under way to determine its content.

Image attribution: Julian Nyča, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons