Death and Rebirth of the Sarajevo National Library

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The first incendiary shells hit the Sarajevo Library 10 years ago. Fluttering dreadfully from the fire, scorched shreds of pages lit upon cars and streets across the city. People called them black butterflies.

The library was an early target, but the attack numbingly foreshadowed the worst of the ethnic cleansing to come. In languages from Persian to Arabic to Croatian, the multi-ethnic history of Sarajevo and Yugoslavia had been carefully catalogued and stored on the shelves. It was virtually all destroyed.

Since those days in late August of 1992, librarians and philanthropists have worked to restore not just the documents, the manuscripts and the books, but the memory that was attacked at that time. Physically, psychologically and spiritually re-stocking the shelves of Sarajevo.


Enes Kujundzic, director, National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo

Andras Riedlmayer, bibliographer, Fine Arts Library, Harvard University

Azra Alimajstorovic Roberts, Bosnia Desk, Voice of America

Nicholas Basbanes, author of “A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books”