Bosnia and 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 the South Slavic state 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 2,323,555 inhabitants (according to the 1931 census). Approximately 14,000 of them were Jews (1940) and the largest community of some 10,000 people lived in Sarajevo. Along with Serbs, Roma and communists, the Jews became the target of an extermination campaign waged by the leaders of the Independent State of Croatia, which set up a number of camps. In September 1941 deportations of Jews began. Most Bosnian Jews were deported to concentration camps in Croatia or, from 1942 onwards, to Auschwitz. About 10,000 members of the pre-war Bosnian Jewish population were murdered by 1945.

Archival Situation

The Archives of Bosnia and Herzegovina were established by decision nr. 1061 of the government of the Yugoslav Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 12 December 1947. Renamed the National Archives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, they keep, protect, 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 and the Historical Archive of Sarajevo. The National Archives of Bosnia and Herzegovina are not to be confounded with the Archive of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Arhiv Federacije Bosne i Hercegovine), which was established in 1994 and is located in Sarajevo and Banja Luka. To the best of EHRI’s current knowledge, however, they do not contain Holocaust-relevant collections. 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 disturbances. 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. For a general assessment of damage done to the Bosnian archival landscape during the 1990s, see: András Riedlmayer, "Erasing the Past: The Destruction of Libraries and Archives in Bosnia-Herzegovina", in:

  • Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, vol. 29, No. 1 (July 1995), pp. 7-11.

Furthermore, the National Archives of Bosnia were affected by recent protests: 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, have been partially destroyed.

EHRI Research (Summary)

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, EHRI has identified a helpful guide, consisting of a book and a CD-ROM, which contains general information about Bosnian archives:

  • Bakaršić, Kemal, Fragmenti kulturne historije Bosne i Hercegovine (Sarajevo: Magistrat, 2005). There is currently no English translation available.

More importantly, EHRI has identified six repositories relevant for Holocaust research, and described four collections in this country. The National Archives of Bosnia and Herzegovina can be considered the most important institution to hold Holocaust-relevant material, as they hold a vast collection from the Second World War period and from the Research Commission of Crimes Committed by the Occupant. 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 the Bosniak Institute in Sarajevo, the Adil Zulfikarpasić Foundation and the State Agency for Economical Revival.

Outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatian archives may have further relevant material, e.g. the Croatian State Archive in Osijek. In Serbia, the Jewish Historical Museum (Jevrejski istorijski muzej) in Belgrade probably holds some material pertaining to the Holocaust period on Bosnian territory. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) offers a number of oral history interviews, and repositories in Germany and Italy are very likely to have collections pertaining to Bosnia and Herzegovina. EHRI has yet to determine which archival institutions and collections in other countries are relevant to Holocaust research on Bosnia and Herzegovina.