THE FOUNDATION AND OPERATION OF JASENOVAC MEMORIAL SITE UP TO 1991
The Nazi camps which were scattered throughout Europe during the Second World War have mostly either been preserved in their original condition, or the camp buildings have been subsequently reconstructed.
The Ustasha concentration camp in Jasenovac was shelled, burned and destroyed. The remains of camp buildings were taken away to build houses, so that the camp location became completely overgrown with weeds and undergrowth.
In the late 1950’s, the first steps were taken to mark the area of the former camp. In the Report of the Conservation Institute of the National Republic of Croatia of 15 April 1956, it was stated that there were still traces of barracks and other buildings (foundations and parts of the walls), and that the Brickworks had been largely preserved, as had the camp railway track and the foundations of the camp wall. Measures to protect the remains of the buildings and to mark and re-order the mass graves were proposed. While the foundations of the camp wall were being investigated, a wire fence was erected and the camp buildings were marked with signs bearing inscriptions.
In September 1960 the Central Committee of the Federation of War Veterans’ Organisations of Yugoslavia invited architects Zdenko Kolacije and Bogdan Bogdanović to present proposals for commemorating Jasenovac Concentration Camp. Bogdanović’s proposal was adopted: a Flower Memorial – “a sign of eternal renewal – an edifice as a superstructure facing two ways – with a crypt looking towards the victims, in whom its roots and crown are planted, and a kind of inverse cupola – looking towards the light and the sun. Symbolically, towards life and freedom…”
The locations of the camp buildings were marked by hollows in the ground in the shape of shallow, inverse pyramids, and the graves and torture sites by shallow cones of packed earth.
The memorial was officially unveiled on 4 July 1966.
The area of the former Ustasha Krapje Camp was re-ordered in 1967. Three mass graves were marked and a memorial to all the victims of this camp erected. The author of the memorial was the architect Ninoslav Janković.
In Mlaka, where one of the camp farms operated, two mass graves were marked in 1969, and a memorial erected in the village centre to the innocent victims killed on the camp farm and to the villagers of Mlaka killed in the Ustasha terror.
In the Tannery building, which was part of the camp located in Jasenovac, a memorial plaque was erected.
In the centre of Jasenovac village, a memorial entitled “Mother and Child”, by the sculptor Stanko Jančić, was erected to the 367 villagers who died.
In Uštica, mass graves were marked and a memorial plaque placed in the Roma cemetery.
In Donja Gradina, nine burial areas were re-ordered, containing 105 mass graves.
The author of the design project for the Memorial Museum building was Petar Vovk, while the author of the design project for the interior of the exhibition hall was Đuka Kavurić. The first exhibition was prepared by the Museum of the Croatian People’s Revolution, from Zagreb, and the author of the design concept for this was Ksenija Dešković. A sculpture entitled “Relief Dedicated to the Victims of Fascism in Jasenovac”, by the sculptor Dušan Džamonja, was placed on the wall opposite the doors in the exhibition hall.
By 1971 all the buildings and the landscaping of the environment had been completed. During the years which followed, other burial sites were marked (Limani, Mlaka, Uštica, Krapje and Donja Gradina) and new offices added. In 1983 all the locations of the former Jasenovac Concentration Camp were incorporated into Jasenovac Memorial Site: the area of Camp III (Brickworks), the Tannery in Jasenovac village, Donja Gradina, Uštica, Krapje, Bročice, Mlaka, Jablanac, Dubičke Krečane, Bistrica and Stara Gradiška Camp.
The activities of Jasenovac Memorial Site included independent publishing; primarily the in-house journal, Poruke (Messages), then a library of the same name. Lectures, scientific meetings, various literary events (“Youth Encounters” and “Fraternity of songs and rivers”) radio amateur meetings and projections of documentary films were organised. Jasenovac Memorial Site produced four documentary films about the camp: “Jasenovac 1945” (1966, Bogdan Žižić), “Evanđelje zla” (Gospel of Evil) (1973, Đorđe Kastratović), “Krv i pepeo Jasenovca” (Blood and Ashes of Jasenovac) (1894, Lordan Zafranović) and “Kula smrti” (Tower of Death), (1988, Vladimir Tadej). Picture postcards were printed, badges and pendants produced and the number of people who visited Jasenovac Memorial Museum exceeded the numbers visiting virtually all other museums in the country.