In a narrower sense, the history of the Second World War and the Shoah are not topics that play a direct role in the Future Center for German Unity and European Transformation. From the perspective of remembrance culture as well as remembrance politics, however, we cannot ignore the work on memorial sites in Eastern and Central Europe. This is particularly evident in the Balkans, whose long history of conflict continues to have an impact today. And so it is only logical that we visit the Jasenovac Memorial on our way through Croatia.
The Jasenovac concentration camp was the largest camp built by the Ustasha regime during World War II and operated independently of Germany on the territory of Independent Croatia. The deportees mostly belonged to the Serbian population, but there were also Rom:nja, Jewish people and other minorities, and occasionally Bosnian and Croatian opponents of the regime were deported to Jasenovac. By 1945, more than 80,000 people had lost their lives in the concentration camp.
Between 1959 and 1966, an imposing monument in the form of a gigantic lotus flower was erected on the site by the sculptor Bogdan Bogdanović. Two years later, a museum opened here. Since then, the memorial has been collecting material, taking care of monuments of other Ustasha camps and working with young people in the field of historical-political education.
The memorial work connects people at the numerous sites of the Shoah in Eastern and Central Europe. And it shows what lessons must be learned from the past in order to make the findings useful for shaping our democracies.
Text und Photos: Christian Faludi