Surviving the Bosnian Genocide

Surviving the Bosnian Genocide

The Women of Srebrenica Speak
Selma Leydesdorff, translated by Kay Richardson and Selma Leydesdorff
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 03/06/2015
Format: Paperback 3 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-01804-5
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In July 1995, the Army of the Serbian Republic killed some 8,000 Bosnian men and boys in and around the town of Srebrenica—the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II. Surviving the Bosnian Genocide is based on the testimonies of 60 female survivors of the massacre who were interviewed by Dutch historian Selma Leydesdorff. The women, many of whom still live in refugee camps, talk about their lives before the Bosnian war, the events of the massacre, and the ways they have tried to cope with their fate. Though fragmented by trauma, the women tell of life and survival under extreme conditions, while recalling a time before the war when Muslims, Croats, and Serbs lived together peaceably. By giving them a voice, this book looks beyond the rapes, murders, and atrocities of that dark time to show the agency of these women during and after the war and their fight to uncover the truth of what happened at Srebrenica and why.

Author Bio

Selma Leydesdorff is Professor of Oral History and Culture at the University of Amsterdam. She is author of We Lived with Dignity: The Jewish Proletariat of Amsterdam, 1900–1940 and editor (with Nanci Adler, Mary Chamberlain, and Leyla Neyzi) of Memories of Mass Repression: Narrating Life Stories in the Aftermath of Atrocity.

Kay Richardson is a retired editor with 30 years of experience in international scholarly publishing. During her 13 years of residence in the Netherlands, she gained fluency in Dutch and developed an abiding interest in Dutch history and culture.


“This searing account of the largest mass murder in Europe since WWII draws on the memories of 60 female survivors of the July 1995 Bosnian massacre. Telling of life and survival under extreme conditions, the women recall a time before the war when Muslims, Croats, and Serbs lived together peaceably.”

“An important contribution to the scholarship on the experiences, memories, and traumas of genocide and on the wars in Bosnia. . . . Leydesdorff is one of the best oral historians of women's lives and their memories and experiences of genocide.”
 — Melissa K. Bokovoy, University of New Mexico

“With sensitivity and compassion, Leydesdorff . . . interviews about 50 female survivors of the Srebrenica massacre . . . in this valuable oral history. 6/21/2011”
 — Publishers Weekly

“Surviving the Bosnian Genocide provides a clear, concise analysis of conditions in Srebrenica and the genocidal massacre in Potocari. As an author, Leydesdorff manages to organize excerpts from dozens of interviewees in a manner that allows their words to carry the weight of the experience, while interjecting herself only to provide the necessary historical perspective to maintain its readability. Ultimately, this collection of experiences succeeds at placing the human toll of mass atrocities in the forefront of the historical discussion in a way that preserves the emotional scars such events leave in their wake. ”
 — Oral History Review

“Leydesdorff's book focuses on the notorious selective massacre in July 1995 of 8,100 disarmed Bosnian Muslim men by Serb nationalist forces under the comand of General Ratko Mladic, in the area around the town of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia . . . The women speak of the shock, in the early days of the war, of seeing trusted Serb neighbors turn into rapists and murderers; of their own fathers, husbands, and sons forced to take up arms; of weeks spent living rough with their children in the forests to avoid slaughter; of hunger, homelssness, and virtual imprisonment in the enclave; and of the bitter moment of escape that was simultaneously the moment of loss, the last glimpse of a husband or son. They also spoke (reluctantly and elliptically) of rape and described surviving brutal attacks by Serb men. The memories of these victimized women are the 'little' sorrows of war, Leydesdorff says, seldom deemed worth listening to, neglected in the political histories.Jan. 2012”
 — Women's Review of Books

“A book of remarkable integrity that gives the victims voices, faces, families, and lives. . . . The author succeeds in creating an honest and sensitive picture from the jumble of stories, emotions, and reminiscences. . . . A work of great social relevance.”
 — Internationale Spectator

“Surviving the Bosnian Genocide . . . meaningfully adds to an endless bibliography on the war, cultural trauma, and genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina through a gendered perspective. To this end, both cultural literacy and sensitivity interpenetrate this study admirably.”
 — Human Rights Quarterly

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Table of Contents

On the Publication of the English Edition
List of abbreviations
Preface: What Happened Before

Sabaheta’s Story
1. Farewell: The Desolation, the Women
2. An Orphaned World: Life before the War
3. War is Coming
4. Living on the Run, Living in Danger
5. A Human Shooting Gallery—Srebrenica 1992-1995
6. Violence
7. Departure without Arrival


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