Holocaust Identification Cards (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Project Overview

Emphasizing the importance of remembrance by snatching from oblivion the stories of five victims from Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Identifying the Problem

The Holocaust Identification Cards, which are given at the entrance of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHHM), served as a stimulus for this project. These documents, resembling passports, preserve the story of a real person who lived during the Holocaust. This perspective, which focuses on an individual, broadens the apprehension of suffering and loss. When introduced to even basic personal information, the person reading the ID card realizes how the death of each individual cast a net of anguish around family and friends. Singling out the importance of a single victim significantly enhances the reader’s ability to better understand and relate to the universal concept of loss.

Inspired by such a simple yet highly effective document, Inga browsed the USHMM Holocaust Encyclopedia in search of the stories from victims originating from the Western Balkans. She was surprised to find that there were very few stories available from the region. Inga then decided to conduct research in her hometown of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in order to gather information about Holocaust victims from the town.

Inga discovered that during the Holocaust, more than 1,500 Jews fleeing from the southern parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina found shelter in the city of Mostar. Unfortunately, despite the citizens' tremendous efforts, 138 Jews were taken away and killed in the concentration camps of the Independent State of Croatia. The idea for this project arose from the fact that none of these 138 victims’ stories was recorded and included in the Holocaust Encyclopedia. Inga's ultimate goal was to discover information about Mostar’s Holocaust victims and present the stories of those individuals in the form of an ID Card, which would serve both as a contribution to the USHMM Holocaust Encyclopedia and as a tribute to the citizens of Mostar who lost their lives during World War II.

Creating A Solution

Inga began by learning more about the overall concept of Holocaust Identification Cards. She then spent a considerable amount of time browsing the existing USHMM database in order to verify that it contained the stories of only seven victims from Bosnia and Herzegovina. After carrying out this initial investigation, Inga conducted research in Mostar to determine whether she would be able to obtain the necessary information from sources in the town. Inga consulted with Dr. Rebeka Kotlo at the Human Rights Center in Mostar about developing the most effective research methodology for this project. Inga then visited the Herzegovina Archive, the Museum of Herzegovina, the library of University Džemal Bijedić, and the People's Library, in order to browse their archives.

Inga’s research also included several interviews. She interviewed two members of Mostar’s Jewish community, which has dwindled to only 34 people. She also spoke with several colleagues from the history department at University Džemal Bijedić, as well as Karlo Drago Miletić, a historical researcher, archivist, and author of Jews in Mostar (2008). Inga’s conversations with Mr. Miletić proved extremely valuable, as their exploration of his archives helped to shape the plan for Inga’s project.

Over the course of her research, Inga discovered the stories of five Holocaust victims from Mostar. “These stories were snatched from oblivion in order to raise awareness and emphasize the importance of remembrance and learning from the past,” she says. Once she had gathered enough material to document these five stories, she started the process of selecting, editing and translating the text so that the ID Cards would be available in Bosnian and English. Inga then worked on designing and, finally, printing the Holocaust Identification Cards.

Lessons Learned

Because archives in Mostar were partially destroyed during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was quite challenging and time-consuming for Inga to gather the necessary material for her project. Many of the relevant documents were incomplete or no longer in the archives. She advises others in similar situations to remain patient and persistent.  

Inga would be happy to provide more details about her work to anyone interested in doing a similar project, and she believes that the increase in Holocaust Identification Cards about victims from all over Europe would significantly contribute to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Funding

Inga’s project is currently in its final phase: promotion. She hopes that advertising the Holocaust ID Cards she has created will result in a number of partnerships with individuals, organizations and institutions interested in the project. So far, Inga has paid for all of the project-related expenses, and she is looking for funding. If you have any information regarding institutions or organizations that may be interested in supporting this project, or advice on where to apply for grants, Inga would greatly appreciate it if you would contact her directly.

Awards & Recognition

"Holocaust Identification Cards (Bosnia and Herzegovina)" was one of the winners of Humanity in Action's 2013 Senior Fellow Grants Competition. The project was also recognized as an extraordinary Senior Fellow project at the Third Annual Humanity in Action International Conference, held in Sarajevo.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Denmark Denmark 2009

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