Dr. Esther Gitman
Category: Honorary Friend of Croatia, Croatian Women of Influence Country: USA
Dr Esther Gitman is a Jewish American historian who is an expert on Jewish history in the former Yugoslavia specifically focusing on the Independent State of Croatia. She is the author of When Courage Prevailed: The Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia 1941–1945 (Paragon House, 2011, USA). The book examines the rescue and survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia during World War II and the role of then Archbishop of Zagreb, now Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, during that time. The book was made into a documentary film, by the same name authored by Jadranka Jurško-Kero, which was released in June 2011 and premiered in Croatia.
In 1999 Dr. Gitman embarked upon scientific research for her PhD dissertation dedicating her work exclusively to the courageous Croatians who saved Jews in the Independent State of Croatia and to Blessed Stepinac. Gitman had not heard about Blessed Stepinac and his contributions to saving the Jews until her dissertation work took her to the Croatian national archives in Zagreb where she uncovered numerous mislaid boxes that contained tens of thousands of unprocessed documents that pointed to his brave and daring activities during the war. Her work has attracted significant Croatian and world-wide attention.
Dr. Gitman was born to a Jewish family in Sarajevo from which she fled with her mother during 1941. After living in Israel and Montreal, Quebec, Canada she and her husband have lived in New York, USA since 1972.
Sixty one years after fleeing Sarajevo, Dr. Gitman came to Zagreb in 2002 as an American research scientist where, with a Fulbright Scholarship in hand, she spent a year studying the rescue of Jews out of the Independent State of Croatia. Such research had previously been politically unsuitable or had been deemed to be ‘forbidden’ or ‘uninteresting’ to historians of that era.
Through the lens of scientific research, proof and arguments, Gitman highlights the courageous and honourable Croatians who placed their own lives at risk in order to help the Jews of the World War II escape unspeakable horrors and outright oppose the laws of the day.
Dr. Gitman’s enduring message is that there is always hope to conquer evil if there are good and decisive people who love a human being as a human being and not for his or her racial or religious belonging.