Branka Weil (1922-1978)

Branka Weil was born in Sarajevo. Since her mother left her immediately after birth, her upbringing was taken over by her father Fritz Weil, son of Arpad Weil from Bijeljin. Branka spent her childhood moving from family to family, as a child in temporary foster care. While her father travelled around Europe, working as an educator and philanthropist, Branka arrived in Zagreb and enrolled in the Classical Gymnasium, where her teacher and form master was Dr. Ljuba Kosar, professor of French and Croatian. In 1935, Branka, at the age of 13, was officially adopted by Dr. Kosar. Despite her Jewish background, Branka managed to survive the Independent State of Croatia thanks to Dr. Ljuba Kosar’s status. She enrolled in university to study French language and literature, as well as Serbo-Croatian language and Yugoslav literature.

In 1941, her father Fritz Weil became a victim of the Ustasha race laws in the Jasenovac concentration camp. Along with Fritz, the greater part of Branka’s Weil family were also murdered in Jasenovac. After World War II, she began working as a journalist, making the acquaintance of Ivan Furlan, also a journalist, who had just returned from the Partisan struggle. In 1948, Ivan was arrested and taken away to Goli Otok. Branka was to follow soon, solely for her relation to Ivan. Ivan was to spend two years on Goli Otok, and Branka three, allegedly for poor conduct, that is, unwillingness to take part in torturing inmates. After her release, Branka found a job in the Zagreb City Library, where she founded the Children’s Department, which she led for years. Branka became a member of numerous international juries to select the world’s best book for children. At the invitation of many libraries in Europe, Branka spent years travelling around various European cities, where she established and taught her system of cataloguing in local libraries. She received many rewards and accolades in her profession.

She died at the age of 56 of spinal cancer; her health problems having begun back on Goli Otok

*This text is taken from the web page of the artistic project ‘You betrayed the Party just when you should have helped it’. We thank the author and project leader, Andreja Kulunčić, and her colleagues, for use of the materials.