Learn about the history of Jasenovac and the IHRA’s involvement with safeguarding it.
Learn about the history of Jasenovac and the IHRA’s involvement with safeguarding it.
The Jasenovac concentration camp operated from August 1941 to April 1945 and was established by the authorities of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). Research conducted, at the Jasenovac Memorial to date has come up with a total number of 83,145 victims (47,627 Serbs, 16,173 Roma, 13,116 Jews, 4,255 Croats, 1,128 Bosnia and Herzegovina Muslims, 266 Slovenians and other nationalities), though this figure may not represent the conclusive number of victims, due to incomplete documentation, destruction of many documents and inaccessibility of relevant archives.
In 1941, Nazi Germany and its Axis allies invaded the Kingdom of Yugoslavia which capitulated within a few days. Meanwhile, with the support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, representatives of the Ustasha movement proclaimed the fascist puppet Independent State of Croatia (NDH) on April 10. Based on Ustasha ideology and appropriate legal framework, Jews, Roma, Serbs, Croatian political opponents, as well as many others who opposed the Ustasha regime were captured and deported to camps. The largest of them was the Jasenovac camp system in which inmates were murdered or left in conditions in which they died exhausted by forced labor, malnutrition or disease. In April 1945, the Ustasha destroyed the camp and killed the remaining prisoners. Only 101 of the inmates survived the breakout that occurred during the destruction of the Camp.
Efforts to preserve the site and commemorate the victims of the tragic events began in the 1950s. The Yugoslav authorities endorsed the design proposal of the Serbian architect Bogdan Bogdanović, whose Flower Monument was inaugurated in 1966 and the Memorial Site along with the Museum was opened in 1968. During the Serbian aggression against the Republic of Croatia in 1991 and the occupation of parts of the country, including the area of Jasenovac, the Memorial Site was heavily damaged. The archives and the preserved artefacts were seized and transferred to the city of Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina (later occupied by Serbian forces), then late in 2000, after a considerable diplomatic effort, the archives have temporarily been put under the care of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Eventually, the collections were returned to Jasenovac Memorial Site in 2001. The current permanent exhibition of the Memorial Museum was opened in 2006, and it is the third display in the history of the Jasenovac Memorial.
By properly safeguarding sites, our delegates can ensure that sites are not used to distort or falsify history. – Nina Obuljen Koržinek, Croatian Minister of Culture and Media, 26 November 2023
The IHRA has followed the developments at the Jasenovac Memorial closely, visiting the site numerous times and meeting with key stakeholders at a variety of levels. Directors of the Memorial and relevant researchers on its history have often held IHRA delegate positions. Delegates often participate in and help organize commemoration events at the Site, and the IHRA has funded numerous grant projects relating to the Site.
This interview with Swedish historian Tomislav Dulic in advance of the conference Jasenovac Past and Present: History and Memory of Institutionalized Destruction, co-funded by the IHRA, covers the significance of the site, its place in memory, and the latest developments in research.
Ambassador Karel de Beer, IHRA Chair, visits Jasenovac together with the Croatian Head of Delegation, Ms. Duška Paravić He meets with the Croatian delegation to discuss their views and ideas on and expectations of the IHRA.
Croatia is proud of the progress made in education and training in cooperation with IHRA partners. They exchange on ways to translate the ITF’s objectives to the national level. In the afternoon, he visits NGOs and the Jewish community.
IHRA delegates attend the commemoration event marking the 66th anniversary of the breakout of inmates from Jasenovac on 22 April 1945. The event includes speeches, prayers, and a wreath-laying ceremony. Duška Paravić, Head of Delegation, and Rajka Bućin, member of the Communications Working Group, lay a wreath on behalf of the Croatian Delegation. Nataša Jovičić Director of the Memorial Site of Jasenovac and a member of the Memorials and Museums Working Group, is one of the main organizers of the commemoration ceremony. The event is attended by top Croatian officials, including Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, President Ivo Josipović, and Croatian Parliament Speaker Luka Bebić.
The IHRA funds a project from the Milan Šimečka Foundation, “Discovering Roma Genocides in Central Europe,” that initiates a network for activities in central European countries to advance awareness and research of the genocide of the Roma in this region. Partner organizations include: Erinnern.at, IDEE Association, Jasenovac Memorial Site, Museum of Romani Culture, ODIHR/OSCE, Romaversitas Foundation, Stowarzyszenie Romów v Polsce.
Two partner meetings take place in 2014 and 2015 in which the researchers, educators, and policymakers with expertise on the genocide of the Roma exchange research results and discuss translating existing teaching materials. These efforts are followed by an international conference in 2016.
IHRA delegates attend a commemoration event marking the 70th anniversary of the breakout of Jasenovac inmates, which occurred on 22 April 1945.
On the initiative of the Mémorial de la Shoah from France, with financial support from the European Commission and Claims Conference, and in the co-organization of the Croatian Education and Teacher Training Agency, the Jasenovac Memorial Site and the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Serbia, a seminar for 45 teachers “Balkan, The Holocaust, and the Jews” was held in Zagreb and Jasenovac. In addition to teachers from Croatia and Serbia, the French ambassador, representatives of the European Commission, representatives of the Goethe Institute, officials of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia and the Ministry of Education of Serbia and the director of the Education Agency of the Republic of Croatia were present at the seminar.
Croatian and international experts hold workshops and lectures to exchange experiences and improve the quality of teaching in the field of Holocaust education.
The IHRA awards Documenta – Center for Dealing with the Past an IHRA Grant for their project “Holocaust Remembrance: Deepening Public debate and strengthening cooperation between Museums and Memorial Sites.” The project intends to deepen the public dialogue on the Jasenovac concentration camp in Zagreb, Belgrade, and Sarajevo by organizing public discussions or “remembrance weeks” in the cities. These public events culminate in a final conference on “Dealing with the Past,” which aims to provide a forum for support and sharing knowledge among museum curators, university professors, NGOs, and journalists.
The public events also include an installation depicting a cell room of Jasenovac Concentration camp to be shown in the center of Belgrade and Sarajevo. Furthermore, Documenta partners with the Topography of Terror in Germany to better inform their own initiatives and help the development of Topography’s next exhibition, which intends to travel through the former Yugoslav countries.
In preparation of the establishment of programs for Croatian schools to visit the Public Institution Memorial Site Jasenovac, the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education issues a recommendation to the Museum at the Public Institution Memorial Site Jasenovac to improve the existing educational program in line with IHRA teaching recommendations and recent teaching methodology.
The Croatian Ministry of Science and Education issues a recommendation to all Primary and Secondary schools to include school visits to the Public Institution Memorial Site Jasenovac in annual school curricula.
The IHRA funds a project from the Hugo Valentin Center: “Jasenovac Past and Present: History and Memory of Institutional Destruction.”
Responding to the great need to combine scholarship with high-quality education on both formal and informal levels, this IHRA Grant Project provides state-of-the-art knowledge about and supports historical accuracy around the Jasenovac Site in Croatia, to be widely disseminated in an open access publication.
A team of local and international experts work together to connect the history and memory of Jasenovac to broader European trends, and inspire discussion related to the political uses of history, distortion, and denial. Their ideas are shared during an international conference.
The Hugo Valentin Center is joined by the Faculty of Philosophy, Belgrade University; Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb; Jasenovac Memorial Site; Memorial de la Shoah; and the Topography of Terror.
The IHRA funds a Grant Project by Documenta – Center for Dealing with the Past.
Documenta is joined by the Center for Cultural Decontamination CZKD (Serbia), Coordination of Jewish Municipalities (Croatia), Jasenovac Memorial (Croatia), Memorial de la Shoah (France), Serb National Council (Croatia), TPS Topografia per la Storia (Italy), and the Topography of Terror (Germany).
Together, they promote greater government involvement in countering distortion and developing a culture of remembrance. The project combats antisemitism and xenophobia, and counters distortion of the crimes against victims of Fascist, Ustasha, and Nazi regimes in concentration camps and detention centers in Croatia, Italy, Serbia and Slovenia. It further increases public visibility and awareness of venues that may not get ample attention. The project raises public awareness, establishes effective ways of monitoring and reporting, and creates a professional development program around the investigation of hate crimes.
In 2019, three organized public events contribute to public dialogue with the participation of experts and youth. Following additional events in 2020, which also raise issues related to countering distortion of facts, scope, mechanisms or intentionality regarding crimes against the nearly forgotten victims, Documenta works towards completing and publishing its reports, including a Monitoring report in developing Holocaust Remembrance Culture linked with these victims.
IHRA Chair Ambassador Georges Santer leads an IHRA delegation to Jasenovac to address concerns raised by international experts about the incomplete exhibition at Jasenovac and the danger of revisionism. He meets with both the Croatian Minister of Culture and the Minister of Education, as well as with high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Croatian officials agree that a renewed and extended exhibition should be developed in cooperation with all victim groups and stakeholders and that more funds should be made available for school visits to Jasenovac.
In January, the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education issues a new Recommendation to all Primary and Secondary schools for visiting the Public Institution Memorial Site Jasenovac, supplemented with instructions regarding financing. Since then, the Croatian Government finances all school visits through the Ministry of Science and Education. In the form of field lessons, students are taught in accordance with the National History curriculum, strengthened by an educational program developed for this purpose by the Croatian Institute of History and the history adviser of the Education and Teacher Training Agency.
In the 2019/2020 school year, 426 students participate in field classes at the Public Institution Memorial Site Jasenovac within the framework of this program. In March 2020, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, all extracurricular classes were postponed until abolishment of the epidemiological measures.
In the 2020/2021 school year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only 14 students participate in field classes at the Public Institution Memorial Site Jasenovac.
The online conference, Jasenovac Past and Present: History and Memory of Institutionalized Destruction, co-funded by the IHRA, revisits long-standing historical controversies and presents new research findings, while also gaining a better understanding of how the memory of the camp has changed over time and how it has impacted present-day societies in Serbia, Croatia, and other parts of the former Yugoslavia.
After the COVID-19 pandemic and abolishing of epidemiological measures, in May the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education reissues the recommendation to all Primary and Secondary schools for visiting the Public Institution Memorial Site Jasenovac.
In the 2021/2022 school year, 1,381 students participate in field classes at the Public Institution Memorial Site within the framework of the program financed by the Government through the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education.
The regional seminar for 40 teachers Holocaust as a starting point is jointly organized in Belgrade by the Mémorial de la Shoah, the Croatian Education and Teacher Training Agency, the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Serbia, and EUROCLIO from Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is the eighth in a row of seminars that focus on the issue of conflicting historical narratives. One workshop and one presentation were dedicated to the Jasenovac concentration camp, its history, and recent research around it.
On the initiative of the Croatian IHRA Presidency, and upon the invitation of the Croatian Government, an informal ad hoc IHRA expert group visits Jasenovac and makes recommendations for how to better contextualize the site’s history for visitors.
Ahead of the Zagreb Plenary Meetings, IHRA delegates visit the Jasenovac Memorial Site and the Roma Memorial Center Uštica and see firsthand how safeguarding sites requires consistent effort and attention from various levels of society, from local communities to national governments, and international stakeholders.
Delegates gain valuable insight into the Croatian Action Plan for the Jasenovac Memorial Site, which aligns with IHRA expert recommendations, guided by the IHRA Charter for Safeguarding Sites. This plan not only enhances the protection of the site but also contributes to a nuanced understanding of history.
In 2023, 38 schools (1,609 students) participate in field classes at the Public Institution Memorial Site within the framework of the program financed by the Government through the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education.
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