Holocaust Survivors Unite With Victims of Bosnia Massacre in Jewish-Muslim Initiative for Genocide Prevention and Peace

Despite the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, Jews and Muslims gathered in Bosnia in a joint observation of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

A person walking among graves in Srebrenica, Bosnia, the site of the Srebrenica massacre. matsj // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
A person walking among graves in Srebrenica, Bosnia, the site of the Srebrenica massacre. (Creative Commons)

The January 27 gathering in the town of Srebrenica also focused on the only recognized genocide in Europe since the Holocaust—the massacre by Bosnian Serb forces of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims and the expulsion of more than 20,000 civilians in an act of ethnic cleansing in the final months of Bosnia’s 1992-95 ethnic war.

Both Jews and Muslims have experience persecution, and the commemoration affirmed the importance of unity in their dedication to peace.

“Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Jews are one body, our ties are intricate, forged in hard times and times of prosperity and interaction,” said Husein Kavazović, the grand mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Islamic community, to a group of survivors and descendants of those affected by the Holocaust and the genocide in Srebrenica.

Jewish and Muslim communities have endured suffering in the face of attempts to annihilate them, said Kavazović, and in the current climate, where the scourges of antisemitism and Islamophobia are on the rise globally, “we must renew our vow to be good neighbors and care for one another.”

Jacob Finci, president of the Jewish Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed his desire for the United Nations to designate July 11 as a day of remembrance for the Srebrenica massacre, just as it recognizes January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“While we here today cannot change the past, we can and we must do all in our collective power to change the future,” said Menachem Rosensaft, a professor at Cornell Law School, general counsel emeritus of the World Jewish Congress who was born to Holocaust survivors in a refugee camp in Germany.

“Today, we remember. Today, we mourn. We join together in sorrow, and our tears become prayers—prayers of remembrance, but also prayers of hope,” said Rosensaft in his speech, recounting the narratives of Bosnian Muslims who courageously risked their lives to rescue their Jewish neighbors from the Nazis during the Second World War.

Rosensaft also highlighted a later instance, about half a century on, where Bosnian Jews saved and cared for their Muslim neighbors during Bosnia’s conflict.

Bosnia became home to Jews in the 15th century, when they sought refuge from the Spanish Inquisition. Once a flourishing community, the Holocaust took a devastating toll. Today the Jewish population has dwindled to some 1,000 people.

“We must do all in our collective power to change the future, to prevent further destruction and violence, and to reject all manifestations of antisemitism, of Islamophobia, of bigotry, of xenophobia, and of hatred,” Rosensaft said. “And we must do so together.”

After the commemoration, the two community leaders signed the Srebrenica Muslim-Jewish Peace and Remembrance Initiative, pledging during challenging times to honor and memorialize victims of genocides and reject all manifestations of bigotry.


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genocide Holocaust Remembrance Day Jews Muslims Bosnian genocide