NATIONAL LIBRARY BURNS// 08. 1992. • HUSO CESKO// FIREMAN
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
NATIONAL LIBRARY BURNS
‘We were completely without water then. The Sarajevo Brewery had dried up and we had great difficulty in putting out fires. In addition 2 or 4 of our firemen were wounded. It was about 9 o’clock when the town hall began to burn. That night about 200 shells had fallen all round it and on it. The only way we could try to control the fire was from the inside. But the whole building, from the roof, between floors, the fire spread with terrible speed wherever we couldn’t get to it from outside, we tried to stop it from spreading to the archives and library, but we couldn’t get there, so that a lot was lost there too. But it was really because of the shortage of water. We helped to save the archives and some of the valuable things in the National library. We even took some of the things to the fire station. We saved whatever could be saved.’
The monumental City Hall was built during the period of the Austro-Hungarian rule in 1894. It was built in a pseudo-Moorish style with many decorative elements on its facade, in its central hall, on the staircase and in the ceremonial halls. In 1945 the building regarded by many as the most beautiful building in Sarajevo, was turned into the National Library which contained more than 1 million books, a great number of domestic and foreign periodicals and a collection of rare books. On August 25, 1992, exactly one hundred years after its building had begun, the shelling of the City Hall stared from the Trebevic and other mountains. It was hit by 50 shells and it started to burn a short time before midnight. The uncontainable fire destroyed the whole building, including most of the books. The Sarajevans remember the day by the ashes of books flying above the city. The destroyed City Hall building, the symbol of the besieged city and the barbarity of the aggressor, became the place where concerts and art exhibitions by local and foreign artists were held. The City Hall building is also the place where foreign cameramen keep bumping into each other and where they always start by shooting the glass construction of the City Hall roof turning beneath it in circles.