Honouring the victims of the Holocaust, Sarajevo displayed the Sarajevo Haggadah on the facade of its City Hall on Friday evening along with the words 'Never Forget', marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over fascism.
The mayor, Abdulah Skaka, said this was a message from Sarajevo’s citizens.
"The Sarajevo Haggadah survived the Inquisition, the Holocaust and the aggression on Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has been preserved as a treasure of world civilisation in Sarajevo, as proof of the victory of good over evil, life over death, freedom over repression,” said Mayor Abdulah Skaka.
The move came on the evening before a controversial Mass that will be held at the city’s Sacred Heart Cathedral to commemorate the victims of the Bleiburg massacre - the killings of pro-Nazi Ustasha supporters in 1945 which many Sarajevans see as an attempt to rehabilitate fascism.
Skaka argued that the Haggadah is very important for Sarajevo because it is proof of “coexistence and mutual respect of people of different religions and national groups.”
“Sarajevo and the Haggadah are one,” he said. “They are symbols of suffering, but also symbols of survival and victory.”
Skaka pointed out that the memory about the truth must be maintained at a time when there are still those who are trying to rehabilitate fascism and deny historical facts on war crimes, the occupation and genocide.
"The Sarajevo City Hall and the Haggadah are invaluable, they are the medium through which we, most strongly and sincerely, send a clear condemnation of evil and our support for good,” he said, adding that the City Hall had been destroyed in the past and rebuilt and that the Haggadah was preserved.
“Both of them were attacked by the same evil which we must still fight today. This way, by using the Haggadah as the symbol, Sarajevo is paying tribute to all the innocent victims of fascism,” Skaka concluded.
The Sarajevo Haggadah is a Jewish manuscript which dates back to the late 14 century and was brought to Bosnia from northern Spain by Sephardic Jews who were expelled. It represents the most valuable document that bears witness to the existence of Jews in the city and is regarded as one of the most beautiful books of this kind across the world.
The manuscript has been kept at the State Museum since 1894. Before that, it was in possession of the Jewish Sarajevo family Kohen.
The content of the Sarajevo Haggadah has been handwritten on bleached calfskin as paper was not used often at the time.
During WWII the manuscript was preserved by Dervis ef. Korkut, and it was saved by a team led by professor Enver Imamovic during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia.