Roza Sober-Dragoje and Zekira Besrević

Bosnia

The rescuers children with the Israeli Ambassador during the ceremony in SarajewoThe rescuers children with the Israeli Ambassador during the ceremony in Sarajewo
Roza Sober DragojeRoza Sober Dragoje
Zekira BesrevićZekira Besrević

On the eve of the German invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, two young women worked in the beauty parlor owned by Mordo Albahari, a Sarajevo Jew: Roza Sober, a Christian of 19, and Zekira Besrević, a Muslim of about 20. Mordo’s niece, Gracija Kamhi (later Džamonja), was an apprentice in the establishment.

Under the Ustaša regime in the Independent State of Croatia, Jews, Serbs, and Gypsies were brutally persecuted. The Jews’ plight became more severe with each passing day, as new edicts constantly undermined their legal and economic status, making them wear a yellow patch, do forced labor, and endure other humiliations. This was followed by deportations to the camps: Djakovo, Loborgrad, and the worst of all, Jasenovac, in Croatia.

One night the Kamihi family was taken. Only Gracija and her uncle, Mordo, succeeded in evading the troops by hiding in their large apartment. Hearing about the Aktion, Roza and Zekira rushed to the Albahari home to see if they could help. They saw Gracija’s family being taken away, but Gracija’s mother managed to whisper to them, “They are upstairs”. The two young women waited until the Ustaša unit had left, then ran upstairs to bring out Gracija and her uncle and take them to their home.

In the wake of a proclamation by the authorities allowing citizens to take over Jewish businesses, Zekira asked for Albahiri’s beauty parlor. Her request was approved, and she and Roza, became the establishment’s new managers. They immediately brought Gracija and her uncle to the shop. The two hid by day, but at night were free to move about the premises and partake of the food brought to them by the two young women. This arrangement lasted several months, until Mordo Albahiri obtained “Aryan” papers enabling him and his niece to move to Mostar, which was under Italian occupation. The first attempt failed, but the second was successful. From Mostar they sent false papers for Gracija’s mother and her ten-year-old brother. They all reached the island of Rab, which was under Italian control. Following the German invasion of this zone in September 1943, they joined Tito’s partisans. “Roza Sober-Dragoje did everything possible to rescue all of us,” Gracija wrote in the late 1990s. Gracija fought alongside her boyfriend, whom she later married; he too had fled Sarajevo with the assistance of Roza Sober-Dragoje.

On May 28, 2000, Yad Vashem recognized Roza Sober-Dragoje and Zekira Besrević as Righteous Among the Nations.

 

This online story was made possible with the support of:

Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany works to secure compensation and restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

Since 1951, the Claims Conference - working in partnership with the State of Israel - has negotiated for and distributed payments from Germany, Austria, other governments, and certain industry; recovered unclaimed German Jewish property; and funded programs to assist the neediest Jewish victims of Nazism.