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The Jewish Community of Banja Luka

Banja Luka

In Serbian: Бања Лука / Banya Luka

The second largest city in Bosnia-Herzegovina, formerly in Yugoslavia.


The earliest reference to a Jewish community dates from 1713, when Jewish merchants of Banja Luka appealed to the French government to appoint one of them French mercantile consul in the town. The community had both a Sephardi and an Ashkenazi synagogue and numbered 226 persons in 1875, 336 in 1895, and 457 in 1927. The Israeli parachutists Hannah Szenes and Yoel Palgi were dropped in Banja Luka on March 13, 1944, en route to Hungary. The community was exterminated by the Nazis and no trace remains.

Jews came to live in Banja Luka after the war and a small community was established.

Place Type:
Town
ID Number:
126576
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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Hannah Szenes (1921-1944), poet and underground fighter, born in Budapest, Hungary. She immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1939 and studied at the Nahalal agricultural school. In 1941 she joined Kibbutz Sdot Yam. At the end of 1942 she joined a specially trained parachutists’ unit organized by the Haganah to rescue Allied prisoners of war and to organize Jewish resistance against the Nazis. In March 1944 she was parachuted over Yugoslavia, where she lived among Tito’s partisans. In June she moved to Hungary and was arrested by the local police. Szenes was cruelly tortured and executed by the Nazis after their takeover in Hungary.
Szenes is author of, among others, the poems Halikha le-Keisarya (Walking to Caesarea, written in Kibbutz Sdot Yam) and Ashrei ha-Gafrur (Blessed is the Match, written in Srdice, Yugoslavia, 1944), the latter becoming a hymn of the Jewish underground fighters. From 1934 till 1944 she kept up a diary, which was published in 1971.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Also known as: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bosnia
Bosna i Hercegovina / Босна и Херцеговина

A country in southeastern Europe in the Balkan peninsula, until 1992 part of Yugoslavia. 

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 500 out of 3,500,000.  Main Jewish organization:

La Benevolencija - The Jewish Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Phone: 387 33 229 666
Fax: 387 33 229 667
Email: la_bene@open.net.ba