Lesson Plan: The Relationship Between Religion and the State. The Jews in Bosnia & Herzegovina

December 23, 2018


As one writer said, Jews are people who have probably experienced everything and who remember everything quite well. At a time of historical revisionism, every moment of Bosnia’s past is a sign that holding onto memories is about the preservation of its historical being. The story of Bosnian-Herzegovinian Jewry is a story about a special country in Europe and a nation that is part of its history.

This lesson plan will discuss the position of Jews during the period of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s development as a state. The first part will refer to the Second World War period (1941 – 1945), accenting the position of Jews after the outbreak of war. The destruction of Jewish property started with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s entry into the Independent State of Croatia. With the formation of the new state, the unorganized forms of robbery became organized and took on a systematic form, becoming legal. The accent will be on anti-Semitic propaganda, legal regulations, individuals’ fates, the dispossession of property, deportation, and suffering that only a few survived. The years of Yugoslavia’s Nazi occupation were years of horror and suffering for the Jewish communities, but they also provided the evidence of the region’s determination to oppose Nazism in the struggle for self-preservation. Before the occupation, Jewish communities concentrated on cultural, educational and religious work. In the years of occupation, life in the Jewish communities turned into a struggle just for survival. They provided care to individuals, accepted refugees, held detainees in concentration camps and protected thousands of men, women and children from certain death.

The second part will discuss the Jews’ position after the Second World War. The Union of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia was founded after the end of the Second World War to coordinate the Jewish communities in post-war federal Yugoslavia (SFRY). The Jewish community in each of the republics was held by the Union of Jewish communities of Yugoslavia. A special part will be dedicated to the everyday life of Jews after Second World War, including the freedom to celebrate holidays and religious gatherings. The aim is to show that the position of the Jewish community did not differ from other religious communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the Second World War, the position of Jews in Yugoslavia is marked by development and recovery in all segments of existence.  We will also discuss the abolition of national societies. The activities of Preporod and other national societies officially ceased with the decision of Ministry of Internal Affairs of NRBiH on November 10th, 1949. All of their property was transferred to the newly formed Union of Cultural and Educational associations of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In literature, the abolition of cultural and educational societies is presented as one the forms of repression of the system. During the closing remarks, students will compare the position of Jews in two different periods and two different systems (1941-1945 and the period after 1945). This way they will acquire a wider knowledge of the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina and of the different systems of government. It is important for students to understand that the history of Jewish people in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not important only to one nation, but that it is common determinant of all the people living in the same area. Thus, students will get a clear picture of what repression, the Holocaust, and the totalitarian system all are.