HAGGADAH IN PUBLIC // 04. 1995.
ENVER IMAMOVIC // DIRECTOR OF THE STATE MUSEUM
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

April 1995

Enver Imamovic
Director of the State Museum
HAGGADAH IN PUBLIC

‘The Haggadah is a very old document, over 700 years old and it is not written on paper, but leather. And since leather is organic material it is subject to decay, especially if it is kept in inappropriate climatic conditions. So, from time to time we went there to check the temperature, the humidity, etc. As I have explained: these are the first days of the war, shells are falling everywhere. What if a bomb explodes while we are trying to carry it out? It would disappear together with the people carrying it. Besides that, since this is a document, a book, of enormous value, and there were all kinds of spies and agents in Sarajevo in those days, it was without any doubt that many people knew about this cultural treasure. What if during the ceremony someone switches the original document with a forged one. And what info one notices it, like when you are watching a magician doing his act. You are looking at magician and he empties your pockets without you knowing it at all. No one was aware that the same thing could happen with the Haggadah. And in spite of our conclusion that it was out of the question that the Haggadah should be brought out, it was done the very next day. To everyone's astonishment, the Haggadah was brought out by some people from the Ministry of Culture and others from the City Government. As a professional figure and as Manager of the State Museum, who was responsible for the museum and everything in it, it was my duty to react. In the Sarajevo daily newspaper Oslobodjenje I announced my resignation and I resolutely accused everyone involved, no matter who they were.’

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APRIL 1995


• In London, Irma Hadzimuratovic dies, the girl shot by a sniper and evacuated to London to save her life.
• New York, April 2, 1995. The UN Security Council adopts a resolution for the existing peacekeeping force of 40,000 soldiers, known as UNPROFOR, to be divided into three separate missions. The largest UN mission will be in Croatia, under the name of UNCRO, while the third mission will have the task of precluding the spread of wider hostilities in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.


• American ambassador Viktor Jackovich leaves Sarajevo to become the ambassador in Ljubljana.
• The Youth Theatre tours in Germany and Switzerland.


• Radovan Karadzic requests 30,000 tons of petrol from Akashi for spring sowing. Akashi requests a proposal from him for the project.
• Vatican: the Pope announces that “Bosnia is a deeply unjust conflict.”


• The Serbs steal vehicles and arms from the UN.


• Boutros Boutros-Ghali receives the Onassis award for promoting the role of the UN.


• “Vivicitta”, an international marathon – the race is not held on the city’s streets, but indoors at Skenderija, because UNPROFOR cannot guarantee the race’s safety.


• Richard Holbrooke: “We are concerned about the deteriorating situation in Bosnia.”
• When asked how the Bosnian Serbs knew the “blue helmets” intentions, UNPROFOR spokesman Alexander Ivanko replies, “The UN is a transparent organization.”


• Increase in prices at the market.


• The BiH government requests that UNPROFOR respect the procedures for protecting the “safe areas.”
• Radovan Karadzic invites former American president Jimmy Carter to return to BiH to extend the so-called ceasefire. International officials no longer come to Pale for negotiations. Karadzic is morally, politically and economically isolated.
• NATO warns that it will shoot down secondary military targets if primary ones are not available.
• Russia will reestablish ties with Pale, if Pale says ‘yes’ to the Contact Group’s peace plan.
• The war criminal Arkan cannot travel to Brazil for his honeymoon because of an Interpol warrant.
• In the border area around Skadar lake 30 petrol pumps are installed to supply oil smuggled from Albania. The tanks are transported by cars with BiH registration plates that are under the control of the Bosnian Serbs.


• The world learns of another sniper victim. Maja Djokić, a young girl, is killed.
• It is agreed that for the holiday of Passover the Jewish community be provided with the original copy of the Sarajevo “Haggadah.”
• Announcement of the Civil Defense, after three years of shelling: “In response to general danger announcements citizens are required to darken their rooms. Those who disobey this order will have their electricity turned off."


• The Contact Group cannot arrive in Sarajevo because their airplane is not given permission to land. The Bosnian Serb Army Commander Ratko Mladic refuses to give them permission. The Bosnian Serbs refuse to enter into discussions on the opening of the airport. They threaten to bring down any airplane that tries to land at the airport.
• The citizens of Sarajevo are asked for reduced movement; compliance with general danger signals; the use of “alternative corridors” for traffic; to observe alarm signals and the implementation of self-defense measures.
• City markets are moved to “alternate spaces”.


• The Bosnian Serbs kidnap four French citizens who work for the organization “Doctors without Borders”.


• At a crossing in Kobiljak Bosnian Serbs seize 10,000 DM from a lead UNHCR convoy. Chris Janowski, UNHCR spokesman: “We will not go further than Kobiljace.”


• The new round of humanitarian assistance includes:1 kg. flour, 500 g. of rice, 400 g. of beans, 200 g. of oil. Children receive 2 kg. of soy flour, 3 kg. of biscuits, while cans of “Ikar” are uncertain.
• A French member of UNPROFOR is killed, at the “Holiday Inn”, while setting up an “anti-sniper” shipping container.
• French Defense Minister, François Léotard, announces that if the French conditions for its military presence is not met that France will withdraw its troops.


• Regarding the difficult situation in Sarajevo, the president of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, warns: “As long as Karadzic’s Serbs continue shelling Sarajevo without reactions from the international community, the ARBiH will break out with the help of the citizens of Sarajevo. The other option is to hand over control of the city to UNPROFOR and to establish a demilitarized zone with a range of 20 km.”
• William Eagleton, UN civilian administrator for Sarajevo: “The Bosnian Serbs will not even hear of a common structure.”


• The Pope sends an Easter message: “To the families destroyed by war, and the victims of hatred and violence in Algeria, Bosnia, Burundi, south Sudan, the church does not hesitate to repeat the Easter message of peace.”


• The Bosnian Serbs refuse to allow the flight of American ambassador Victor Jakovich. He leaves the city in a UN APC, over Igman, the most dangerous road in the world. Jackovich appeals to the UN, but they confirm the decision by the Serb liaison officer, saying there is nothing they can do.
• UNPROFOR renews its “air bridge” upon agreeing to the conditions of the Bosnian Serbs: as long as Bosnians cannot use the planes they are guaranteed their safety.


• The Contact Group plane returns, as the Bosnian Serbs do not guarantee the plane’s safety, in which there are four civilians.
• The Bosnian Serbs: 1. Close the road to the runway; 2. Keep the road over Igman under constant fire; 3. Kill inhabitants from surrounding areas.


• UNPROFOR collapses like a poorly designed building because of flaws in its foundation from 1992. They were sent to keep a peace that never was. It becomes the fourth side in the conflict. Resolution 900 on Sarajevo is adopted.
• Sarajevo communicates with the world through e-mail, thanks to a donation from the Soros Foundation; the e-mail’s system is codenamed ZAMIR-SA. 56,049 messages are exchanged with the world.


• The First Corps of the ARBiH liberates the tallest peak of Treskavica, “Djokin tower,” and re-names it “Little Caba”.
• Akashi insists on extending the ceasefire. Radovan Karadzic refuses: “We offer a lasting peace, not a partial solution.”
• Because of daylight saving time, the curfew is moved, and now lasts from 11pm to 5am.
• Akashi does not receive permission from a Serb officer for a flight to land with two Americans and a German because they do not have permission to land. These are Steiner and Frasure, members of the Contact Group. The Serbs prohibit them from entering the city, threatening to shoot them down.
• François Mitterand invites the President of the Presidency of BiH, Aliji Izetbegovic, to Paris on May 8th, to participate in a celbration of the 50th anniversary of the triumph over fascism: “The time has come for us to definitively turn a page in history, to celebrate the reconciliation between European nations and consider the new perspectives we are offered,” reads the invitation.
• Regarding the entry ban on the Contact Group to the airport in Sarajevo, Radovan Karadzic explains: “We do not accept any resolutions, even those of the Security Counil. Members of the Contact Group cannot come to hold meetings with only Muslims present.”
• The suspension of sanctions against Yugoslavia is extended to 75 days, and not 100 as before.


• If the war escalates, Russian “blue-helmets” may withdraw.


• The Serbs demand an office at the airport in order to monitor the identities of entrants.


• Regarding the extension of the ceasefire, the President of the Presidency, Alija Izetbegovic announces: “Our side will not agree to a formal extension of the ceasefire. The Serbs have not accepted a peace plan, nor has Milosevic recognized BiH.”


• A satellite link is established between Sarajevo-Barcelona and the rest of the world as a donation of the city of Barcelona to Sarajevo.

History

If you play with lines on the map of Europe, you will have to find Sarajevo. It is revealed where lines cross over the Balkans. First you draw a line from Paris, through Venice and then to Istanbul, the closest East that Europe knew for centuries. A second line starts in Northern Europe, goes between Berlin and Warsaw, through the Mediterranean, and then to Africa. These lines meet over Bosnia and Herzegovina. And, in fact, they cross over Sarajevo. Here wars were started and here they went on, while people loved and longed for love. Here merchants were selling goods from all over the world and life was close and distant to ways of the East and the West. It was Western for the East, and Oriental for the West. It was the life of Sarajevo.
Its poet, Muhamed Nerkesi (1592-1634), far from his beloved city, wrote: “Nothing comes close of my city. It is the pearl on the earth, saraj of springs and gardens unique in the world...High mountains around it, old and noble, snow-peaks covered with mist are kissing the sky...It is impossible, no doubt, to name all the beauties of this place...”

THE STATE MUSEUM

The State Museum, located across the street from the Holiday Inn, was on the front line, as the Miljacka river separated it from the occupied Grbavica territory. Its windows are still covered by UNHCR plastic sheets which has replaced the glass. The sheeting was the UN gift to the museum which is regarded as the oldest cultural and scientific institution in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Established in 1888 the museum is situated in a monumental Neo-renaissance style edifice which includes the botanical gardens, the site of precious medieval tombstones (stecci). The museum houses the departments of archeology, ethnography and natural sciences. It was impossible to protect the large number of exhibits, but in spite of the shelling they were not directly hit. The most valuable exhibits, like the famous Sarajevo Haggadah, had been removed to safer places. A part of the museum burnt down and the building was hit by more than 420 shells, according to museum statistics. In front of the museum there stood a UN transporter which was supposed to protect the citizens riding in the trams. A lot of people were killed and injured in that spot. It was in this spot that the last victims in the city were killed after the signing of the Dayton agreement when a tram was hit by a shell.

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