JASENOVAC MEMORIAL SITE – FROM THE RETURN OF THE MUSEUM INVENTORY TO THE PRESENT DAY
“In the Jasenovac Flower I denoted life – the crime that happened in Jasenovac was terrible, but it is also important to show will happen next.”
The return of the museum and archive inventory to Jasenovac Memorial Site in December 2001 led to intensive museum activities. By February 2004 the revision of the museum inventory had been completed, which meant work could begin in earnest on preparing a new permanent exhibition for the Memorial Museum. The basic idea behind the new exhibition was to restore human dignity to the Jasenovac victims, those killed and those who survived, to preserve the memory of them as individuals, and through their personal tragedies, to present each visitor with the truth about one of the most terrible places of execution in Croatian history – the Jasenovac Ustasha Concentration Camp - and to spread the message that all forms of violence must be eradicated.
The third permanent exhibition of the Jasenovac Memorial Museum of the was opened, along with the Education Centre, on 27 November 2006.
In the Memorial Museum, human suffering and resistance to evil are personal, but the collective historical horrors and Ustasha crimes committed against children, women, men, Serbs, Roma, Jews, Croats, Slovenes, Muslims and those of other nations, religions or ideologies are in no way generalised. Instead, these things are made specific and real.
In the Jasenovac Memorial Site Memorial Museum, on the original locations of the former Ustasha camp and execution sites, and in the Education Centre, visitors are made aware of the consequences of denying human dignity, and a special programme for younger generations teaches them about non-violence, democracy and human rights.
Since the opening of the new museum exhibition, there has been a rise in the number of visitors, particular organised groups. In 2007 Jasenovac Memorial Site was visited by around 750 primary and secondary school pupils and students, organised in 25 groups. Mixed national groups of students arrived from all directions, from Croatia, America, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia. Through talking to them and listening to their thoughts, since the spring of 2008 a message of peace has been being sent out from the Education Centre.
Forty years after its foundation, Jasenovac Memorial Site, with its specifically designed museum exhibition and Flower Memorial, is a place for contemplation, learning and research.
In 2005 the Republic of Croatia became a full member of the ITF – the International Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. Jasenovac Memorial Site was selected by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia to represent Croatia in the areas of culture and education, through educational projects on the Holocaust, genocide and the fate of Anti-Fascists. In order to realise this project, Jasenovac Memorial Site co-operates successfully with the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Science, Education and Sport and with the Education and Teacher Training Agency. In co-operation with these bodies, every year Jasenovac Memorial Site organises international seminars for teachers on how to teach topics like genocide, the Holocaust and the fate of Anti-Fascists during the Second World War.
During this period, Jasenovac Memorial Site has returned to publishing activities and has published books in the “Stone Flower” and “Banality of Evil” series.
Schoolchildren, students, researchers, publicists and journalists have all made use of the expert knowledge of the curators, the museum and document inventory, and the Jasenovac Memorial Site specialist library, in preparing discussion papers, reference works, doctoral theses, new books, and newspaper, radio or television reports.
All those who are interested in examining and using the museum and document inventory kept at Jasenovac Memorial Site are welcome to do so, in accordance with the Republic of Croatia’s museum regulations.
It has become common for items from the Jasenovac Memorial Site inventory to be exhibited in other museums and institutions (museum activities), while teaching on the topics of genocide, the Holocaust and the fate of Anti-Fascists during the Second World War (educational activities), participating in seminars and the work of the ITF, the publication of the List of Individual Names of the Victims of Jasenovac Concentration Camp and the re-ordering and maintenance of the remembrance sites and memorial to the former Ustasha Jasenovac Concentration Camp are recognised at home and abroad.
Bogdan Bogdanović, the author of the Flower Memorial and designer of Jasenovac Memorial Site, was awarded the “Carlo Scarpa” international prize in 2007 for the best architectural, artistic creation of a space for preserving memories.
This is what the Republic of Croatia’s former Minister for Culture Božo Biškupić, wrote in the introduction to the Catalogue, produced for the opening of Jasenovac Memorial Site’s new museum exhibition in the Memorial Museum and the Education Centre: “Is it possible, more than half a century later, to establish a civilisational distance in time, which would cause history to become semantics, or a symbol which would not be self-effacing, disputing all that really took place, but rather spread its wings over the historical tragedy in an artistic gesture, a message for the benefit of all? Generational differences, pluralism and variety in Croatian culture do not offer a unified response to this question. But voices from another perspective allow us to see that the Jasenovac Memorial Site, with the Memorial Museum and the Education Centre, is a place of creation and interpretation of different ways, forms and values; a place which opens up not only new artistic, but communicative relationships, in the Croatian political and cultural context and also on the international level… This memorial site is a place of examination and research, but most of all a place of learning for new generations, of expressing our commitment to further professional and scientifically founded research into the crimes committed in and the victims of the Ustasha Jasenovac Concentration Camp.”