Sarajevo, 1941–1945

Sarajevo, 1941–1945: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Hitler's Europe

Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 304
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    Sarajevo, 1941–1945
    Book Description:

    On April 15, 1941, Sarajevo fell to Germany's 16th Motorized Infantry Division. The city, along with the rest of Bosnia, was incorporated into the Independent State of Croatia, one of the most brutal of Nazi satellite states run by the ultranationalist Croat Ustasha regime. The occupation posed an extraordinary set of challenges to Sarajevo's famously cosmopolitan culture and its civic consciousness; these challenges included humanitarian and political crises and tensions of national identity. As detailed for the first time in Emily Greble's book, the city's complex mosaic of confessions (Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish) and ethnicities (Croat, Serb, Jew, Bosnian Muslim, Roma, and various other national minorities) began to fracture under the Ustasha regime's violent assault on "Serbs, Jews, and Roma"-contested categories of identity in this multiconfessional space-tearing at the city's most basic traditions. Nor was there unanimity within the various ethnic and confessional groups: some Catholic Croats detested the Ustasha regime while others rode to power within it; Muslims quarreled about how best to position themselves for the postwar world, and some cast their lot with Hitler and joined the ill-fated Muslim Waffen SS. In time, these centripetal forces were complicated by the Yugoslav civil war, a multisided civil conflict fought among Communist Partisans, Chetniks (Serb nationalists), Ustashas, and a host of other smaller groups. The absence of military conflict in Sarajevo allows Greble to explore the different sides of civil conflict, shedding light on the ways that humanitarian crises contributed to civil tensions and the ways that marginalized groups sought political power within the shifting political system. There is much drama in these pages: In the late days of the war, the Ustasha leaders, realizing that their game was up, turned the city into a slaughterhouse before fleeing abroad. The arrival of the Communist Partisans in April 1945 ushered in a new revolutionary era, one met with caution by the townspeople. Greble tells this complex story with remarkable clarity. Throughout, she emphasizes the measures that the city's leaders took to preserve against staggering odds the cultural and religious pluralism that had long enabled the city's diverse populations to thrive together.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6073-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps and Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. List of Major Archives
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  7. CITY LINES: Multiculturalism and Sarajevo
    (pp. 1-28)

    Since that fateful day in June 1914 when a teenage boy shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand, setting off a chain of events that triggered the First World War and razed Europe’s empires, Sarajevo has stood for the death of the old European order. And lest the city’s importance be overshadowed by the tumultuous decades that followed, the international spotlight returned to Bosnia’s capital in the 1990s, when the siege of Sarajevo stunned the world and shattered illusions that Europe’s violent past had been laid to rest. The brutal siege, like the assassination, signaled the end of an era.

    But Sarajevo has...

    (pp. 29-53)

    “Sarajevo has a soul like a village, though it is a town,” a poet named Constantine relayed to Rebecca West during her visit in 1937. He continued,

    Here Slavs, and a very fine kind of Slav, endowed with great powers of perception and speculation, were confronted with the Turkish Empire at its most magnificent, which is to say Islam at its most magnificent, which is to say Persia at its most magnificent. Its luxury we took, its militarism and its pride, and above all its conception of love. The luxury has gone. The militarism has gone. . . . But...

  9. 2 AUTONOMY COMPROMISED: Nazi Occupation and the Ustasha Regime
    (pp. 54-87)

    German bombs struck Sarajevo on April 6, 1941. The bombardment continued sporadically for nine days, destroying several residential buildings, warehouses, and factories and killing ninety-three people.¹ During that time Sarajevo was isolated. The city’s telephone and telegraph services worked only intermittently; few newspapers arrived from outside the city. Most residents received their information from refugees and Yugoslav troops fleeing before the German army’s advance into Serbia. King Peter II issued proclamations calling on Sarajevans to stay strong and unified. But people panicked anyway. The train station was overwhelmed as Sarajevans fled the city and refugees arrived from the countryside, neither...

  10. 3 CONVERSION AND COMPLICITY: Ethnically Cleansing the Nation
    (pp. 88-118)

    The complexity of Sarajevo’s legal, cultural, and historical dynamics made it difficult, and at times impossible, for local authorities to lump city residents into the Ustasha regime’s prescribed categories of Aryan and non-Aryan, Croat and foreigner. Instead of accepting the terms of identity set out by the Ustasha and German programs—or even the kinds of identities promoted by modern ideologies in general—Sarajevo’s elite continued to conceive of their citizenry as belonging to a cultural community, which they defined by religion, and a civic community, which they defined in terms of the city. While bonds could form along one...

  11. 4 BETWEEN IDENTITIES: The Fragile Bonds of Community
    (pp. 119-147)

    As Pavelić’s regime sought to tighten its biologically based notions of identity and reinforce categories of “them”—non-Aryans, foreigners, and other non-Croats—Sarajevo’s leaders increasingly tried to modify state policies to reflect local agendas. Notions of belonging took on new meaning in the winter of 1941–42 as the armed insurgency advanced into the hills above the city, where it would remain lurking for the rest of the war. The civil conflict not only accentuated local tensions but also contributed to a growing sense among Sarajevo’s leaders that their town was not safe. A Croat army officer captured local anxieties...

  12. 5 DILEMMAS OF THE NEW EUROPEAN ORDER: The Muslim Question and the Yugoslav Civil War
    (pp. 148-178)

    In the spring of 1943, members of Sarajevo’s Muslim elite reached out to Nazi Germany and—under the direct authorization of Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler—created a Bosnian Muslim Waffen SS unit.¹ This act would cast a long shadow on the history of Bosnian Muslims, branding them as collaborators and linking their demands for political and religious autonomy to the Fascist project. With the birth of the Waffen SS Division Handžar, as it became known, Muslim leaders went from serving under the occupation to serving the occupation directly. This was by no means an easy decision. But why did...

    (pp. 179-207)

    The war took a turn in the fall of 1943 with Italy’s capitulation. The Italian withdrawal created a vacuum of power in the Balkans that invigorated the Communist rebels. Partisan units rushed to the front lines, disarming surrendering Italian divisions and emptying Italian warehouses of food and supplies.¹ Within a few weeks, they had occupied large parts of Croatia’s coast, western Bosnia, and Herzegovina, as well as several important Adriatic islands that soon became gateways to the British and American bases across the sea. Though German troops swiftly reconquered much of the region, securing a tight hold on Sarajevo, they...

  14. 7 THE FINAL MONTHS: From Total War to Communist Victory
    (pp. 208-240)

    An Ustasha police agent reported in September 1944 that Sarajevans expected the worst was yet to come.¹ He was right. As the Red Army advanced across central Europe, the survival of the NDH grew ever more unlikely, and Sarajevans panicked. One by one, Germany’s allies in southeastern Europe surrendered or switched sides—Romania in August, Bulgaria in September, Hungary and Serbia’s puppet regime in October. Only Croatia remained standing at the Third Reich’s side, an especially ignominious distinction from the postwar perspective. Driven by their ideological fervor (and lacking any real alternative), the Ustasha leaders prepared for a fight to...

  15. THE SYMPATHETIC CITY: Community and Identity in Wartime Sarajevo
    (pp. 241-256)

    In reports on her trip to Sarajevo before the war, Rebecca West witnessed and commented on a noteworthy political spectacle: at the bequest of the Yugoslav government, Turkey’s prime minister and minister of war descended on Sarajevo and publicly addressed the town. “Thousands of men with fezes and women with veils” took to the streets eagerly awaiting nostalgic speeches about their common Ottoman Muslim past. But much to the townspeople’s visible dismay, the Kemalist ministers made no reference to shared legacies of empire, nor did they hint at a brotherhood of Muslims; instead, the Turks touted the secular, liberal South...

    (pp. 257-270)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 271-276)