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Library of Congress screens film about Bosniak Muslims and Jews rescuing each other in Sarajevo

Zineba Hardaga, a Muslim woman who saved a Jewish family from the Nazis in Sarajevo.
Zineba Hardaga, a Muslim woman who saved a Jewish family from the Nazis in Sarajevo.
Courtesy Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum

The Library of Congress today screened “The Woman From Sarajevo”, a poignant, powerful documentary about a Muslim family who saved a Jewish family from the Nazis, and 50 years later was rescued by the Jewish family during the Bosnian war.

Zineba Hardaga became the first of only two Muslims to be honored by Israel as “Righteous Among the Nations,” recognizing non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews. She is the only Muslim to be buried in an Israeli Jewish cemetery.

During the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, the Jewish Kabilio family helped the Hardaga family escape to Israel.

The Hardaga’s daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter converted to Judaism. The daughter, Sara, now works at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust History Museum. Yad Vashem has six drawers of records, and one photograph, of the stirring Kabilio-Hardaga case.

The documentary begins with Sara entering Yad Vashem through an archway inscribed with “You shall live again, and I will set you upon your own soil” (Ezekiel). That is the perfect metaphor for the extremely moving story, told with natural eloquence by members of both families in the fascinating film by Israeli documentary maker and writer Ella Alterman.

Somehow, bathos, pathos, and sentimentality are avoided. Modest heroism, humility, and humanity illuminate every moment of the 65-minute documentary.

The film is interspersed seamlessly with archival footage of Nazis invading Sarajevo in World War Two, Hardaga's “Righteous” award ceremony in 1985, and neighbors shooting at neighbors during the bloody Yugoslavian civil war.

Sara, who even keeps kosher, and her daughter Stella, who was an officer in the Israeli Air Force, talk about their family's rescuing wounded during the Bosnian war, and moving from cellar to cellar, never going outside. “We were afraid of everybody.”

The film “proves the victory of the spirit of humanity,” Alterman told the audience, which included representatives of the embassies of Israel and Bosnia and Herzegovina . “Never in life do we know when we will be saviors, and when we will be survivors.”

She is working now on a film about a Jewish hospital in World War Two Berlin protected by Adolf Eichmann, the architect of Hitler's so-called “Final Solution” — the Holocaust.

Alterman's other films include “A Fence in the Middle of the Sitting Room,” the story of a Syrian village divided between two nations, and “With Strong Hand,” about orthodox Jews who are also masters of Asian martial arts.

She is especially interested in exploring the lives of women who demonstrate the courage to forge their own paths, like these inspiring women from Sarajevo.

For more info: “The Woman from Sarajevo” and other Ella Alterman films are available through Ruth Diskin Marketing & Distribution, www.ruthfilms.com.



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