37 monuments in 30 days, and what I learned along the way.
Friday 10 November 2017
The Stone Flower monument at Jasenovac in Croatia, far from abandoned, is today as active as it ever was in offering a space for remembrance. It is part of a memorial park, built on the site of a former WWII concentration camp operated by the fascist Ustaše regime. The Jasenovac camp was one of the largest of its kind in Europe, and would later be dubbed the ‘Auschwitz of the Balkans’ – a BBC article claims that “even the Nazis were shocked by what happened here.”
“Victims of the camp were typically Serbs, Roma and Jews, though it also claimed the lives of Croatian dissidents, those who resisted their country’s swing towards fascism. A 1964 Yugoslav report suggested that a total of 59,188 people had been killed in the camp; although other estimates have ranged from 20,000 to 1.4 million victims, and the precise figure is still a matter of heated debate.
“Today, the old buildings are destroyed. A novel system of memorialisation places mounds of earth around the forest clearing to mark the location of former camp facilities; a building near the entrance has become a museum and education centre; a transport train stands rusting on the tracks, while the ‘Stone Flower’ itself – a 1966 monument designed by Bogdan Bogdanović – rises as a solemn focal point at the heart of the former camp.”
From my article: Myth & Memory in the Balkans: The ‘Spomeniks’ of Former Yugoslavia
The following photographs were taken at Jasenovac on 22nd April 2017 – the anniversary of the camp’s 1944 liberation by Yugoslav partisans. The monument was designed as a site for community gatherings and remembrance and today, it still serves that function.
The Croat victims of the Jasenovac camp gather for a memorial service on one day, the Jewish community meets here on a different date. I saw the monument on Serbian remembrance day – which featured speeches by local politicians, an Orthodox mass inside the base of the concrete structure, and was attended by many hundreds of ethnic Serbs.
The monument may have been designed as a symbol of Yugoslav ‘Brotherhood and Unity,’ but now, living on in the divided social landscape of a post-Yugoslav Balkan region, it seems it has to fulfil its design for different ethnic groups on different days.
Jasenovac Memorial Park
Bogdan Bogdanović & The Stone Flower
Jasenovac Liberation Day
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