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Beth Olam Cemetery:

The abandoned cemetery is in the town of Jezero-Privilica, about 15 minutes from Bihac, the canton’s main city. Near Bihac in the Una-Sana canton, a mountainous northwest region that is 90% Muslim with no Jewish population. Before World War II, about 14,000 Jews lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Jewish presence there dates back to the Spanish Inquisition. During the war, the area was controlled by the pro-Nazi Croatian Ustace government. Only 4,000 Jews are believed to have survived the 1941 deportations and executions, carried out, according to some sources, with Bosnia Muslim collaborators. After the 1991 Yugoslav civil war broke out, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee airlifted more than 2,000 Jews from Bosnia to Israel, where most remained.

The site is being restored through the efforts of the local Muslim authorities and a Canadian Jewish soldier stationed there, Lt. Gabriel Granatstein. A local municipal leader, Salko Rekanovic, a Muslim, approached Canadian and other international forces about helping fix up the cemetery. All Rekanovic was asking for was 2,500 euros, or about $3,800 (Cdn). Granatstein the site described as a “trash pit” surrounded by homes. Only about a dozen monuments are clearly visible, with others probably sunken. Once enclosed by a stone wall, only a fragment is left. There is no sign. Hebrew inscriptions are on the grave markers. Jacob Finci is the president of the 500-member Bosnian Jewish community in Sarajevo, a seven-hour drive from Bihac. Granatstein's family raised $2,800. Maj. Josip Zunic and Capt. James Houlihan, his commanders, met with Hamdija Lipovaca, the mayor of Bihac, a town of less than 30,000, who agreed to match the amount that Granatstein had raised and pledged to look after the cemetery indefinitely. The money is enough to put up a basic fence and a plaque, as well as clean out the cemetery and keep the grass cut.

The Beth Olam cemetery dates from about 1800. A lot more work could be done to restore the monuments. A contractor was expected to be hired this week and work to begin shortly. Source: [February 2006]

Last Updated on Friday, 30 January 2009 02:55
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