After our visit to the Museum of Yugoslavia, we explore Belgrade. The traces of the NATO bombing in 1999 still characterize the cityscape today. It was NATO’s first deployment without a UN mandate and the first combat deployment of German troops since 1945.
We come across the building of the General Staff at that time, which was deliberately left in the destroyed state after its bombing. On its facade is hung a gigantic banner advertising the Serbian army. At the intersection in front of it is another banner that reads (loosely translated), “Serbia without Kosovo is like a man without a heart.”
The airstrikes – which took place in response to crimes committed by the Serbian army in Kosovo and Albania – hit military targets; however, they also killed approximately 500 civilians. Far more were injured and/or traumatized. To this day, the operation remains controversial. The images of the attack are part of the collective memory – but much has not yet been reappraised. A Future Center for German Unity and European Transformation in Jena must also address this period of European history – which to this day determines not only political relations with partners in Southeastern Europe, but also the biographies of people here and throughout Europe. In Jena, we would like to address the topic, even if it is difficult and causes deep wounds especially in the affected countries of the Balkans until today – which will become even more obvious at our next stop in Srebrenica.
Text: Tobias Schwessinger & Christian Faludi
Photos: Christian Faludi