Auschwitz and Sarajevo siege survivor Greta Weinfeld Ferusic dies aged 97

After being lone survivor among family members deported to Nazi concentration camp in 1944, she refused to be evacuated from Bosnian city during war in 90s

Greta Weinfeld Ferusic speaks in a 1997 documentary titled GRETA. (Screenshot: Youtube)
Greta Weinfeld Ferusic speaks in a 1997 documentary titled GRETA. (Screenshot: Youtube)

SARAJEVO — A survivor of both the Auschwitz death camp and the Sarajevo siege in the 1990s has died, representatives of Bosnia’s Jewish community confirmed Tuesday.

Greta Weinfeld Ferusic died on Monday aged 97, members of Sarajevo’s Jewish community told AFP.

Born in northern Serbia in 1924, Ferusic was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 along with several family members who were later murdered at the camp in Poland. She was the lone survivor from her family.

Following the end of World War II, she returned to Serbia, studied architecture in Belgrade and later moved to the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.

She worked as a professor at the University of Sarajevo’s architecture faculty, rising through the academic ranks to become the school’s dean.

But amid the violent breakup of Yugoslavia, Ferusic was again caught in the crossfire of war.

During Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war, Ferusic refused to be evacuated as Serb forces surrounded Sarajevo in what became a years-long siege where an estimated 11,000 people, including 1,600 children, were killed.

“During World War II, all of Europe was in trouble and suffering… (while during the Bosnia war) only 100 kilometers away as the crow flies people lived normal lives unaffected by the events and not noticing what was happening here,” she later said of the siege.

“A magnificent person has left… she survived many good and horrible things,” said Haris Pasovic, who directed a documentary on Ferusic, in a message posted on Facebook.

The documentary — “Greta” — tells Ferusic’s dramatic life story and was later screened during several international film festivals following its release in 1997.

In the film, Ferusic explained her decision to stay in Sarajevo amid the siege.

“Already in my life I had been forced to leave my home. I will never leave my home willingly again,” she said.

In 2004, Ferusic was awarded the Auschwitz Cross — a Polish decoration honoring survivors of Nazi concentration camps.

The Holocaust saw the genocide of six million European Jews between 1939 and 1945 by the Nazis and their supporters.

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