November 11, 2015

Memento mori: The best among us has gone

Zoran Mandlbaum was born on 9 September 1946 in Mostar. He earned his degree at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Mostar and served as Technical Director of the Soko Factory. During the war he was President of the Mostar Jewish Municipality. He worked in the Federal Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Crafts. He lived in Mostar.

I will no longer be running into Zoran Mandelbaum, forever in bright spiriits, always with a smile, a man of Mostar, of Bosnia, of Herzegovina, a citizen of the world brimming with positive energy, on the streets of his native town, he will no longer greet me, arms spread wide, on the island of Hvar, in Sarajevo, wherever we used to meet.

He has gone to a world that is surely better than this one which did not deserve him. He left swiftly, in a flash, as he lived. He lived for moments of beauty, moments of humanity, which he made eternal with ease. He understood the past which he bore deep in his heart, he fought tooth and nail against a present steeped in scorn, and with his life showed that one can truly pledge for the future.

Five years ago at this time I penned the reasoning for the international jury for the Duško Kondor Award for Civil Courage of the Gariwo NGO which was "given to Zoran Mandlbaum from Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, because he risked his own life every day expressing his civil courage from 1992 to 1995, by:

o Intervening for dozens of citizens who were imprisoned in the Heliodrom and Dretelj camps, negotiating release for some.

o As President of the Mostar Jewish Municipality, he issued more than 200 confirmation receipts with which people, whose lives were in danger because of their ethnicity, were able to travel to Croatia and beyond, to other countries, saving themselves from persecution, torture, even death.

o As President of Mostar Jewish Municipality he issued confirmation receipts to Bosniak families whose lives were in danger, at least five families of whom found shelter in Israel.

o Helping dozens of mixed marriages in the war by secretly reuniting the future spouses in divided Mostar at the time so that they could meet and marry.

o In periods of great famine and medicine shortages, he brought convoys of humanitarian aid to what is known as East Mostar. There was an attempt to assassinate him with explosive that were put under his car in West Mostar in which he lived.

This evening with deep sorrow I write these lines for those who already knew, to remind them once again, as well as for those who did not know, to let them know that one of the best among us has gone. He leaves us a shining trail of humanity for which his children, grandchildren, and future generations can be proud.

Thank you, Zoran, for being and remaining a teacher of humanity for all times! Eternal glory to you!!!

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Who bears the most blame for the lack of civil courage?


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