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Memoria e Ricerca

Dalla “memoria congelata” allo scontro del ricordo: i monumenti commemorativi della seconda guerra mondiale nella Jugoslavia di Tito

di Heike Karge
in Memoria e Ricerca n.s. 21 (2006), p. 81


From ‘frozen memory’ to the encounter of remembrance:
Memorials to the Second World War in Tito’s Yugoslavia
 
 
In contemporary memory studies there seems to be a certain lack, namely one that was only recently described as understanding ‘the nexus between memory and power’[1]. With regard to Yugoslavia, the reasons for this lack are astonishing and obvious at the same time.
They are astonishing, because academic research unisonous has acknowledged that memories of the Second World War were conductive in framing political rhetorics and ideological manipulation during the conflicts of the 1990s in Yugoslavia. Paradoxically, this statement has not led so far to a profound analysis of about 40 years of practices of war commemoration in Yugoslavia. Instead, and here one comes up to the point where the lack becomes obvious, collective memories in the socialist Yugoslavia are simply described as ‘frozen’.[2] Accordingly, it was only after Titos death, at the beginning of the 80s, that a process of ‘unfreezing’ war memories finally started, a process in which then the formerly private memories got tangled up with new public nationalist versions of the past, that were to accompany the outbreaking conflicts of the 1990s.
Thereby, the ‘frozen’ memory of the ‘National Liberation War’, how the Second World War on Yugoslav territory was officially called, is generally paled with two main ‘memory actors’. The first actor is of course the political elite, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia that very strictly controlled its own official, very selective version of the past of the Second World War. This official version consisted out of two main syntagmata. At the one side there was the syntagma of “brotherhood and unity”, implying that the war has been fought in unity by all the progressive forces, that is, the Yugoslav partisans, against external enemies (“the fascist invaders”) and “internal traitors”, such as the Ustashi, Cetniks and others. Eliminated from this official version of the past were thus all those elements, which stood for a parallel war experience on the Yugoslav territories, the war of “each against everybody”,[3] the civil war.In order to legitimate the new project of a common Yugoslav state as well as to legitimate the rule of the Communist Party in the postwar era, the political elites combined this cleaned up version of the ‘war of liberation’ with another aspect, namely with having achieved during the war a social revolution as well. Accordingly, the Communist Party, leading the partisan struggle, was already during the war laying the foundations for a new, socialist society, where then all nations and nationalities happily lived together in a common state, under the leadership of the Communist Party.
As the political elite depended in its claim for political legitimacy on this selective picture of the past, it was quite naturally its intention simply to transmit this official product, to administer and decree it to ‘the people’ through the many diverse media of mass communication, popular education, and socialisation.
It is actually at this point, where the second ‘memory actor’ of the ‘frozen memory picture’ comes in: the people, or from another point of view, the recipient, the receiver of the official memory product. As official war memories had been purposefully very selective, there was clearly almost no space for individual or group war memories that might have been contrary to the official narrative. The only role foreseen in this process of communicating war memories for the ordinary people must have been obviously the role of the recipient. Though this recipient still might have been capable to reject the official version of the past by claiming in private circles: ‘I don’t belive it is true’, he was still the recipient only: though competent to adapt to or to reject the decreed product, without further possibilities to take over a more active, creative role. Scholars of the ‘frozen memory’ picture apparently admit that though there was no public space for individual memories, they nevertheless were there, ‘whispered’ in private, family circles,[4] being public rivallring memories in the worldwide emigration circles only[5], and eventually becoming visible in Yugoslavia itself with the end of the 80s.
However, this argumentation that explains collective memories of the Second World War in Yugoslavia as frozen, decreed by the Communist Party and believed or not by the people, seems to me to be too simplicistic. If one tries to understand, how and why memories of the Second World War mattered in the conflicts of the 90s, one seriously needs to take into account fourty years of actual practices of war commemoration and remembrance in Yugoslavia beyond its ‘frozen’ character. The argument that sees a one-way communication of war memories only, and in the metaphor of a frozen product a very static picture as well, proves here not very helpful. For it produces one main pitfall in contemporary historiography on collective memories, namely equating the rhetorical outlook of officially produced war narratives in Yugoslavia with the very diverse, actual practices of communicating these war memories. 
To come, on the contrary, to a closer understanding of the nexus between ‘memory and power’, I will approach the topic of collective war memories in Yugoslavia from a different angle. With the historian Jay Winter, who uses the term ‘remembrance’ instead of ‘memory’, I am defining “collective remembrance as the outcome of agency, as the product of individuals and groups who come together, not at the behest of the state or any of its subsidiary organizations, but because they have to speak out”[6]. To be clear, in Yugoslavia, people often came together at the behest of the state, but not solely, as we will see in the following. Second, while doing so, they had not always and necessarily acted as simple receivers of the state-sponsored memory narrative. Instead, and we will see this as well, they have been to a quite great degree able to transform the very essence of the official war narrative even while staying within the frames of the ‘officially allowed memory space’ that the party provided for.
The material I have looked at for this paper[7]War Veterans Union[8][9] Structured into a wide range of specialised commissions, the Union was responsible for ‚organising’ war memory in its widest sense.[10][11] These commissions organised the erection of war monuments, carried for the graves of fallen war comrades, cooperated with museums and schools and organised the writing of commemorative books and local war chronicles. Through their institutionalised activity War Veterans not only initiated and practiced remembrance to fallen comrades, but more important, they acted as a main ‘mediator’ of remembrance between the local community, the republican and the federal level. However, the organisation of commemorative activities in a more narrow sense was from the very founding of the Union always in the centre of activities, which were mainly realised through the “Commissions for ensuring and developing further the traditions of the National Liberation War and the achievements of the revolution”., founded in 1947 with the aim to unite all former partisan fighters in one organiation. As a social-political organisation on federal, Republican and local level the Union saw its primary field of activity in „ensuring, paying tribute to, and developing further the traditions of the National Liberation War”. relates to one of the main ‘memory makers’ in Yugoslavia, namely the
‘Mediation of remembrance’[12] is thereby not only a trendy catch-phrase within postmodern cultural studies. Instead, as mediation is the very essence of any kind of communication, this is just to acknowledge, that any representations of a collective past, in order to be effective, need to be communicated in arts, politics, school, the mass media, museums, and the like. They need to be communicated in a language understandable to the partaker of this communicative process – there is no tradition as artificial as it may be and as authoritarian as it may be decreed that can be invented out of nothing. Conceptualising collective war remembrance, here in the practices of the War Veterans Union, as mediated remembrance implies too that people develop an active relationship to the state decreed collective memory products, through the more passive actions of adaptation or rejection, but also through the more active practices of taking part in forming and, thus, transforming the official war narrative itself.
Mediation, to be clear at this point, does thereby not imply any normatiove qualification that converges with the notion of negotiating versions of the past. There is good reason to be sceptical about the very possibilities of certain non-party or local actors in Yugoslavia to negotiate officially decreed and highly controlled memory products. The act of negotiation implies a dialogue between two or more partners, an ‘exchange on an equal basis’ that leads to a new product. This, however, was clearly not to take place in Yugoslavia’s highly controlled official memory space. In other words: Verbally and intellectually there was not much to negotiate with the Communist elite regarding the very founding myths of the socialist Yugoslavia.[13] However, mediation of remembrance is inevitably a complex process that goes beyond the intellectual argument. Here, one instead enters a field of practices where personal grief, local practices, cultural codes, and political desiderata to commemorate the past will merge. Therefore, mediation of remembrance practices and war narratives is – instead of a constant negotiation - better to be understood in terms of an encounter of different forms and practices of remembrance. Encounter will mean here that despite the unilateral ‘control over meaning’ that was exercised by the political elite of the Communist Party only, there were still areas of remembrance practices where forms of social exchange, of communication were possible. Approaching the culture of collective war remembrance in Yugoslavia from this angle can highlight aspects of agency and creativity of certain actors who operated not really against, but often beyond political elites.
Trying to challenge, thus, the image of a frozen and static collective war memory in Yugoslavia, I have chosen two examples here which both derive from a certain practice of remembrance within the War Veterans Union, namely the erection of monuments and memorials. Referring to this, the first example considers local practices of the War Veterans Union in a more general view. The second example then is more particular one, as it deals with a certain ‘memory space’, namely with the former Concentration Camp Jasenovac in Croatia. Here one will encounter the emergence and practices of ‘fictive kinship’[14] groups who initiated remembrance at a place whose official coming into birth as a space of memory was neither provided for nor was it actually encouraged by the federal political elite.
 
 
Reading local war monuments
 
Taking a closer look at the War Veterans Unions’ practices of erecting monuments and war memorials is a profitable endeavour first of all because of their sheer numeric bulk.[15] There was hardly any village in the former Yugoslavia, that did not have its local war memorial, either in the form of the favourite figurative soldier with a weapon in his hand, a more artistic abstract solution or at least small commemorative plaques that were to commemorate certain local war events on the village’s or town’s public places. The amazing numeric enormity of these monuments was first of all the result of the many ‘commemorative campaigns’ that have been officially initiated by the federal and republican branches of the War Veterans Union with the end of the war.[16] However, though initiated by the federal and republican level, the bulk of war monuments was erected and, more important, financed by local communes. The local branchs of the War Veterans Unions financed these most commonly through voluntary contributions from the local population. Despite the very hard economic situation of the afterwar years, people apparently amply contributed to these projects. Thus, the material of the Croatian War Veterans Union, prepared for the 3rd plenum of the Central Committee of the War Veterans Union in 1954 states that
 
After liberation, and especially since 1948, the organisations of the War Veterans Union and other organisations as well have, depending on their possibilities, carried for the graves of fallen fighters, transferred their bones into common charnel-houses, erected commemorative plaques and monuments, and for this purpose funds have been collected on the basis of voluntary contributions. We don’t know exactly how much many has been spend for this, but the value of these works has been estimated as of some hundred million Dinars.[17]
 
But was this enourmous local activity that was stimulated by republican and federal initiatives, contributing in fact to what was officially intended, namely praising the two main elements of “the socialist revolution” and “brotherhood and unity”? As we have seen above, the main meaning given to the official war narrative by the ruling Communist party had been a very future-oriented one, a meaning steeming from the narrative of having successfully achieved liberation and revolution at the same time. There, in the centre of the official war narrative stood obviously a meaning of war, according to which despite the enourmous losses and pain that it had brought about the people, the war had, more important, led to a new, and better future. Thus, our question shall be: What kind of message was actually transported through the monuments that had been built with the contributions of the people? What forms of remembrance to the war and its victims were chosen on the local level, in the regions, and how did these forms and meanings related to the official narrative?
At this point, a closer look beyond the enourmous figure of locally erected monuments becomes remunerative, since it shows, first, that – at least in Serbia and Croatia – a traditional, a dolorous remembrance of the dead dominated by far the idelogically uploaded and officially propagated memories of unified liberation and the socialist revolution.
Thus a stocktaking of the Croatian War Veterans Union in 1960 shows, that of all the 2700 monuments dedicated to the commemoration of the National Liberation War about 1800 commemorative plaques were erected for the commemoration of local fighters who had fallen and of victims of fascist terror from the region.[18] That means that two third of all the memorials in Croatia had been erected, first, in the name of local remembrance, and second, in the name of mourning. Contrary to this, in the whole of Croatia only about 600 memorials had been erected at those places that presumabely had fitted more into the ideological and revolutionary aspects of commemorating the National Liberation War. Thus, only about 380 commemorative plaques had been erected at historical places where certain war events such as insurrections had taken place, only 140 commemorative plaques at birthplaces of ‘national heroes of the National Liberation War’, and a mere of 80 plaques for commemorating certain aspects from the history of the workers movement.
One would find similar figures for Serbia, were at the end of the 1950s an expert commission had investigated on the initiative of the Serbian War Veterans Union all monuments “from the pugnacious past of our country”. In addition to quantitative data, the commission’s report delivers more concrete details on the design and on the meaning of these plaques too. The report states, that among the about 3000 monuments to the National Liberation War, there had been a number of 1871 commemorative plaques, which because of their artistic composition were described as acting markedly ‘melancholic’ and ‘funereally’ instead of ‘sanguinely’ and ‘invigorating’.[19] This local tendency of practising a dolourous instead of an invigorating memory of the victims of war eventually caused harsh critiques at the 4th plenum of the Serbian War Veterans Union in 1960:
 
As a result of insufficient attention that was paid to the field of monuments we have - instead of those monuments, that first of all demonstrate the readiness to combat and a revolutionary thought - a quite great number of monuments too that is dedicated to the memory of shot people and victims of fascism. However, almost for four years on the territory of our country evolved and inflamed the strong and massive War of Liberation and the Revolution, and, thus, most of the monuments ought to express the liberating and revolutionary course of the National Liberation War and the Revolution, but not shootings.[20]
 
Obviously, any ‘optimistic’ remembering of the past that ought to be inflated with socialist visionary rhetorics of the political elites was missing in these local practices of remembrance. Instead, there prevailed a traditional, a local funereal remembrance of those who had fallen as well as of civil victims from the regions. In the centre of these local practices were the dead, and the mourning of these dead, but not any revolutionary, socialist vision, for which these dead perchance (or better consciously) have died.
Local practices questioned, however, not only the notion of commemorating the war as a happy-future-bringing socialist revolution. The Croatian stocktacking reveals quite clearly that most of these monuments focussed on the commemoration of local rather than all-Yugoslav events. We must not forget at this point, that this specific encounter of local practices and federal presettings is especially important, as the official war narrative was actually produced with the very aim to deliver a unifying narrative, one for which symptomatically stands the catch-phrase “brotherhood and unity”. However, a closer look at these local practices reveals, that the syntagma “brotherhood and unity”, though widely and most intensily stressed in school textbooks, museums, newspapers and the like, was to remain on a superficial level of official, mostly federal commemorative representations only. This is not to argue that one would’nt find at all “brotherhood and unity” enshrined in monuments. The federally financed monuments to the National Liberation War might serve as a counter-example here, which from 1954 onwards were mostly planned by a Special Board at the Central Committee of the Federal War Veterans Union. One of the most prominent, really gigantomanic projects was for instance the memorial area at Tjentiste/ Sutjeska, where during the Second World War hugh and lossy military actions had taken place. Alexander Rankovic, the president of the Federal War Veterans Union, was to claim in his opening speech at the ceremony for the inauguration of the central memorial on Tjentiste/Sutjeska in 1958:
 
All these territories surrounding Sutjeska, the villages, mountains, forests, meadows and rivers keep and remind us of the most beautiful memories of the graves of fallen soldiers, the best sons of our people, and they are at the same time monuments to a glorious past, to a heroic epic, the fight of our people, who, inspired from revolutionary spirit, gained another important victory in the great National Liberation War. Therefore, Sutjeska has grown into a symbol of moral strenght, of determinedness and of the materialisation of brotherhood and unity, this great achievement of our Revolution.[21]
 
However, federally financed major projects like this one rarely amounted up to more than a handful per republic. On the contrary there were the rather small-scalled local projects that would challenge the notion of a ‘space of memory’ united in “brotherhood and unity”. When this problem eventually was acknowledged by the War Veterans Union at the end of the 1950s, it was traced back mainly to the fact, that the local branches of the War Veterans Union simply had no idea about what historical event from their territory was actually of just local, republican or even federal importance. However, it was not only due to the ‘absence of knowledge’[22] that the message of “brotherhood and unity” was too often missing on the local memorials. Since, even without having categorised and hierarchised the National Liberation War into certain ‘gradations of meaning’, the local communities, at least theoretically, would have had the possibility to enshrine the message of a though local, but unified partisan war fare on the monuments. However, they did so rarely. This is becoming obvious in the already above mentioned Croatian stocktaking, where the author claimed under the heading “Marking brotherhood and unity of the people during the war”:
 
Only at a few places in Croatia one will find signs that point to the cooperation of military units from other republics with those from Croatia, namely just one on an object in Zumberka and one in Gorski Kotar, again one at a location between Bosnia and Croatia and on some locations that mark the breakthrough at the front of Srem and the last operations for liberating the country. However, there were great many contacts between the units […] based on the idea of brotherhood and unity and more generally the unified realisation of the National Liberation War. Yet, one can’t see this on the commemorative plaques; this cooperation based on the idea of brotherhood and unity, how it in fact had been forged and consolidated by our peoples’ masses, has nowhere been registered on these memorials.[23]
 
That finding is not restricted to Croatia, let alone to the area of war monuments. A federal report of the War Veterans Union warns at the beginning of the 60s against similar tendencies in other public media such as school textbooks,[24] belletristics, and the press in most of the Yugoslav republics.[25] “Brotherhood and unity”, the intended essence and very nature of the offical war narrative, virtually had no place in the remembrance practices of local communities, nor had it its intended central place in public communication, beyond centrally organised ritual, of course.
The encounters of local remembrance practices with the rhetorics of “brotherhood and unity” and the “socialist revolution” thus unveil, that the memory of the Second World War in Yugoslavia was not simply ‘frozen’, nor was it then with the beginning of the 80s, simply ‘defrosted’. What I find much more characteristic for understanding remembrance practices in Yugoslavia is the basic fact, that people developed an active relationship to officially allowed ‘spaces of memory’. People did not only adapt these spaces, but transformed them as well. Local actors such as the local branches of the War Veterans Union, but ordinary, non-organised people as well who co-sponsored modest war memorials for their village have been quite capable to inscribe ambiguous meanings into their ‘sides of memory’, meanings, that eventually challenged the two very main pillars of the official war narrative.
 
 
‘Fictive kinship’ groups encountering official narratives:
The former Concentration Camp Jasenovac
 
Whereby, as I have argued so far, local practices adapted and transformed officially permitted and promoted ‘memory spaces’, the following argument will deal with a ‘memory space’ whose official coming into birth was neither provided for nor was it actually encouraged by the highest political instances. Instead, it had been, what Jay Winter has given the denomination ‘fictive kinship’groups, who initiated remembrance at this historical site of enormous crime, pain, and loss. These groups were not connected by family ties, but by ties of war experience, by the experience of suffering, of dead, of mourning. They were survivors of the Jasenovac Concentration Camp and relatives of those who have died here, and they were those who first chosed this place for informal, common ceremonies, they came there together to mourn and eventually, to raise their voice for demanding a monument to the victims of the Concentration Camp.
Given the fact that thousands of monuments have been build in the country elsewhere at this time the official disregard to commemorate the victims of the former Jasenovac Concentration Camp[26] during the 1950s demands, thereby, an explanation.[27] Actually, the way the political elite dealt with that place up til the mid 60s might be called an oxymoron. On the one hand, already during the war testimonies were published in Yugoslavia that attested to the shocking atrocieties committed at Jasenovac.[28] Shortly after the war the Croatian State Commission for the investigation of crimes committed by the occupying forces and internal collaborators published a book, stating that the number of people who have died at Jasenovac, though not definable, amounts up to 500-600.000.[29] Given the officially propagated overall number of war dead in Yugoslavia, that was 1,7 million dead, this number of dead at Jasenovac thereby implied that almost one third of all the victims of the war had died at this very Concentration Camp.[30] Thus, Jasenovac was in the public acknowledged as a place of shocking atrocities, and did not belong into the otherwise broad area of taboo topics within the official war narrative. However, on the other hand, Jasenovac could for a certain reason not fit into the officially propagated narrative of “brotherhood and unity” and the “socialist revolution”. It was namely due to its very history and the way this history was handled with in the afterway years, that it remained, up til the end of Yugoslavia, and in a certain sense up til today, an unwieldy memory space.
In brief, the Jasenovac Concentration Camp was built under the Croatian fascist Ustaša government during the Second World War. When in April 1941 Yugoslavia was attacked by Germany and occupied within a few days, on the territory of Croatia and most parts of Bosnia and Hercegowina, the so called “Independent State of Croatia” was proclaimed, that existed by the grace of Germany and Italy. However, a Croatian government, led by the fascist Ustaši was installed, which then carry out a rascist policy on its own, including the building of Concentration Camps. Of all these camps, Jasenovac was sadly ‘famous’ for it “was the only camp [in the Independent State of Croatia] that existed for almost as long as the state, the largest in area, in number of prisoners who passed through it, and in number of victims who where killed in it. It was also the only camp in the Third-Reich dominated Europe in which liquidations were carried out without the immediate participation of German Nazis”, namely by the Croat Ustasa forces.[31]
Official commemoration of a place like this was clearly difficult within the frame of the established war narrative, because the very history of the camp challenged, apart from the contended number of victims, one of the most important, within the official war narrative established narrative element. Namely, for the sake of brotherhood and unity” “domestic perpetrators” in official memory accounts such as school textbooks, films, literature, exhibitions were always presented and discussed in “ethnic neutrality.”[32] ‘Guilt’ (mostly in the form of collaboration with the occupying forces) and ‘glory’ (the partisan struggle) of each nation thereby where always retrospectively uniformly distributed among the nations of Yugoslavia. For instance, if the cruelties of the Croatian fascist Ustaši had been at stake, the cruelties of the Serbian Četnici had to be mentioned as well. However, Concentration Camps of the fascist Independent State of Croatia could not be counter-balanced through the existence of other Concentration Camps in Yugoslavia. In Serbia, for instance, these were in the responsibility of the German occupying forces. How, then, to commemorate the overwhelmingly Serbian victims of Jasenovac without destroying the narrative template of “everybody is guilty in the same amount”?
In 1963, when the Federal Board of the War Veterans Union puts the officially approved monuments’ project as an order in hand to Croatia, a representative of the Federal board, who tried to explain the causes of the projects’ delay, was to express this challenge with the following words to his Croatian and Bosnian comrades:
 
In this respect there evolved the question how to find a symbol for commemorating all those things that happened there, and that this would neither become a dirge nor a commemoration of a martyrdom, for here one has to do with the problem of the conduct of the occupying forces with regard to Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav victims, who [the occupying forces] strove for the destruction of all our people. How to find the right solution out of this? Here lies the basic topic to all this.[33]
 
Here one is confronted with a kind of interpretative pattern that, from the early 60s onwards, was the way Jasenovac was mainly to be remembered in official accounts. In order to narrow down Croatian responsibility for the cruelties committed there, the perpetrators, the culprits overwhelmingly were denominated “aggressor”, “occupying force”, and “degenerated individuals” or even totally abstract, the “enemy”. If the Ustasi forces where mentioned at all, than in phrases such as the one used by Marko Belinic, the president of the Croatian War Veterans Union at the first official commemorative act at Jasenovac in July 1965. In his inaugural address he was to claim: "The horrible balance of the mass crimes committed by the German fascist occupying forces and their paid Ustasa-slayers” in Jasenovac amounts up to 700.000-800.000 victims.[34]
Apart from this interpretative challenge, that the political elite obviously was to solve somehow, there were further components that had a share in the belayed official commemoration of Jasenovac. These further components, however, where not unique to Yugoslavia, but actually must be seen in a broader European context of the immediate afterwar years. For, as in other countries, victims and survivors of the camps were not ultimately ‘functional’ in the overwhelmingly patriotic public memory, given the fact that they did not fit into the master narrative of either the glorious resistance or the as well glorious partisan fight. In Yugoslavia, as well as in the Soviet Union, these victims additionally did not only have no ‘function’ within the official narrative of the 1950s, but were considered to be suspect. This is documented for instance in a record of the mid-80s, that deals with the first forms of organisation of former camp prisoners in Yugoslavia:
 
In this flow to a more comprehensive, a faster, a better renewal the surviving inmates strove for liberating themselves from the sea, that for a long time went along with them. They tried to forget the camp, to find their peace in the overall peace, without war, and to integrate themselves into all the streams of the new life. However, they also encountered resistance, in the form of the general perception: ‘As they have survived, they must have done the fascists certain services, and who knows which ones!’ This was not proclaimed a rule, but people behaved accordingly.[35]
 
The political climate, however, was to change with the end of the 1950s, and from 1959 onwards, almost 15 years after the war, survivor organisations were found in Croatia, Serbia and other republics of Yugoslavia. At this point, these organisations will start to become main public remembrance activists fighting for a monument at Jasenovac.
However, other forms of remembrance at Jasenovac were neither to wait for official authorisation nor for these first survivor organiations. Actually, despite all the mentioned obstacles to an officially acknowledged form of commemorating the victims of Jasenovac remembrance was never to be cut off. Immediately after the war there were already small-scale, local initiatives that started to fight for a monument at Jasenovac, and that met in their endeavour both with the hesitating political elites as well as with growing public pressure that supported these initiatives. The first initiative was born at the local level in the village Jasenovac itself. Here, an ‘Initiative Board for erecting a monument to the victims of fascism at Jasenovac’ was formed at the beginning of the 1950s on initiative of the local Communist Party organisation. This board claimed in a letter directed to the Central Committee of the War Veterans Union of Croatia, to the federal government and to Tito himself, in May 1952:
 
On the inititive of the local Party organisation in Jasenovac, and together with all mass and social organisations as well as with the representatives of power in Jasenovac the following decision was taken: […] During the Second World War, Jasenovac was one of the most horrible camps in the world. There, hundret thousands citizens of our country lost their lifes for the sake of the liberation of our people. These, in our history bright victims, haven’t been given any visible monument up til today. With respect to their bright immolation, which generations must never forget, we have taken the decision to build there, on the place of the former camp a hugh monument surrounded by an international park […].[36]
 
As it was standard, the local board informed about their initiative the addressees, which was the higher-ranking branches of the War Veterans Union, and asked for the permission to start the project.  However, the next letter, sent a month later, asked already more pushing for an answer by the Republican instances, as public pressure was growing:
 
With regard to this question we would like to mention that these last years many men and women from different regions of our country came to Jasenvac. They, after having payed their respect to the victims who had fallen, leave disappointed saying: ‘Everywhere monuments are build, but in Jasenovac, where most of our people died, there is no visible monument at all, no place where one could at least lay a wreath […].[37]
 
This locally initiated project, however, was never to be realised. The only answer Belgrad was ever to give to these letters was one that finally aimed at stopping any local or other initiatives that were not under the control of the federal powers. A letter sent in August 1952 by the Croatian War Veteran Union to Jasenovac thus claimed:
 
With regard to your letter, dating from 26.6. this year, that was send to us and to the Central board of the War Veterans Union [in Belgrade] we notify you the following: The Central Board of the War Veterans Union informed us by telephone that nothing must be undertaken with the building, until the responsible authorities in Belgrad and Zagreb have’nt decided about this case, for the erection of a monument at Jasenovac is a common endeavour of all republics. We will inform you as soon as this matter is solved.[38]
 
Though declared a matter of the whole country, the following years were marked by silence, at least to the public.[39] To the people coming to Jasenovac this silence of the party must have been shocking and incomprehensible. For, if almost one third of the victims of war in Yugoslavia were said to have died there, why there was no memorial to them?
However, though the letter brought to an end the locally organised initiative to erect a monument, other remembrance practices were not to be stopped by decree. These had no institutional framework where to start from prepared from above. Rather, it had been rituals of remembrance initiated by ‘kinship groups’ of survivors and relatives who conducted common visits to the former concentration camp, lighting candles there or laying a wreth at a provisional wooden commemorative plaque. There is not too much historical evidence about these initiatives, but they have been, undoubtly, there. One of these practices was the annual coming together of survivors and relatives on July 4th, both the day of the partisan fighter and the day of the all-Yugoslav uprising. Another annual meeting took place each year at the end of April, when in 1945 last inmates of the camp had undertaken escape attempts. An additional hint to self-initiated remembrance activities comes from an archival document of the mid-80s that denounces:
 
It is really a pitty that Jasenovac was levelled [after the war, H.K.] and that nothing was undertaken until eventually a group of some thousands of mothers and children of Kozara went to Jasenovac and started to enkindle lights / in 1961/. Actually this accelerated, amongst others, the building of the memorial area Jasenovac and of Bogdan Bogdanovic’s Flower as a monument.[40]
 
Eventually, when camp survivors started to organise themselves in institutional settings, they did so also with regard to Jasenovac. Thus, at the borderline from the 50s to the 60s, a Belgrade based initiative called ‘Campaign board of the Jasenovac inmates’ started to fight for “the erection of a monument for those who had fallen at Jasenovac”.[41][43] The gathering together of 10.000 people was, thus, not only a sign for the sensitisation of the Yugoslav public. It was, the more, an activity that in higher political circles was given the attribute of a ‘public demonstration’,[44] one, which had materialised without, or rather, even beyond official incentives. Whether this campaign board actually had had any influence with regard to the final decision about the monument - a decision taken in highest political circles[42] - must be doubted on here. However, their activity was more than important in sensitising the Yugoslav public for the missing memory space Jasenovac. For, whereby in 1956 no more than 700 people joint the annual commemorations at Jasenovac, in 1963 this number had grown up to 10.000 people who took part in the informal commemorative festivity on July 4th only.
Though July 4th of 1963 was probably one of the key dates for the Yugoslav political elite to realise that survivors and their supporters had a strong, public voice demanding a solution for Jasenovac, this was not a single event. From the early 50s onwards up to the beginning of the 60s, deprecation of the official neglect of Jasenovac was constantly expressed, in letters to the War Veterans Union, written by individuals or by groups of people who went regularly to Jasenovac to commemorate their dead.[45]
These many diverse practices initiated by fictive kinship groups, from modest local forms of the 50s up to more organised and institutionalised ones in the early 60s clearly challenged the official muteness regarding the commemoration of the Jasenovac’ victims. Due to their growing public visibleness at the beginning of the 60s, when their meetings were perceived to be a ‘public demonstration’, they even have been capable to pile on pressure for accelerating a solution concerning this matter. Again, needless to say that these groups had no voice in shaping the final realisation or the specific form of the monuments artistic expression.[46]
What I am arguing to be much more important is, however, that these groups, through their practices of remembrance, created a public space that was on its initial stage not provided for nor backed by the political elite. It was a space that evolved out of the activities of locally based and survivor groups, who found themselves united in their common need to mourn the dead and to get official acknowledgement of their suffering during the war. Creating a space not only for individual but for group remembrance is undoubtly a creative activity that should not be wedged into the image of ‘frozen memory’. First of all because survivors of the camp did not regard their activity as opposing the space, that was assigned to the official war narrative. Quite the contrary, those groups saw Jasenovac as having its legitimate and glorious place in the very centre of the official war narrative. We have seen yet, that this was to happen only when the political elite had managed with the major interpretative difficulties, which evolved out from the many restrictions characteristic to the official war narrative. Survivors and relatives, however, were not passively waiting until the elite would eventually have found its solutions. They developed private and public forms of expressing a relationship to their past, which, at least from the end of the 50s onwards, dared the political elite to accelerate a solution for Jasenovac.
 
 
 
Primary sources
·   Arhiv JU.SPJ, inv. br. 92. Poseta Radne Grupe Odbora koncentracionom logoru Jasenovac, najvecem stratistu u Jugoslaviji. Izvod iz zapisnika. (Besuch des Arbeitsgruppenaussschusses im Konzentrationslager Jasenovac, der größten Richtstatt in Jugoslawien. Auszug aus der Mitschrift) . Antun Miletic: 1985a Oct 13.
·   Arhiv JU.SPJ, inv. br. b. b. O organizovanju bivsih logorasa. (Über die Organisierung ehemaliger Lagerinsassen). Huber, Cedomil: 1985b.
·   HR-HDA, 1241 2 SUBNORH RO 1951 br. 72.
·   HR-HDA, 1241 2 SUBNORH RO 1952-54 kut. 47 br. 75. 1952. Inicijativni odbor za gradnju spomenika zrtvama fasizma Jasenovac Republickom Odboru SUBNORH Zagreb. (Der Initiativausschus zum Bau eines Denkmals für die Opfer des Faschismus Jasenovac an den Republiksausschuss SUBNORH Zagreb). 1952a May 15.
·   ---. Inicijativni odbor za gradnju spomenika zrtvama fasizma Jasenovac Zemaljskom Odboru SUBNORH Zagreb. (Der Initiativausschus zum Bau eines Denkmals für die Opfer des Faschismus Jasenovac an den Landesausschuss SUBNORH Zagreb). 1952b Jun 26.
·   ---. Glavni Odbor SUBNORH Zagreb Inicijativnom odboru za gradnju spomenika zrtvama fasizma Jasenovac. (Der Hauptausschuss SUBNORH Zagreb an den Initiativausschuss zum Bau eines Denkmals für die Opfer des Faschismus Jasenovac). 1952c Aug 23.
·   HR-HDA, 1241 2 SUBNORH RO 1960 kut. 285 b. b. Podaci o spomen-objektima NOB-e i radnickog pokreta u NR Hrvatskoj. (Angaben zu Gedenkobjekten des Volksbefreiungskapmfes und der Arbeiterbewegung in der VR Kroatien). 1959.
·   ---. Informacija o danasnjem stanju biv. ustaskog logora Jasenovac i mjerama koje se preduzimaju u vezi obiljezavenjem istog. (Information über den jetzigen Zustand des ehemaligen Ustasa-Lagers Jasenovac...). Komisija za bivse politicke zatvorenike, internirce i deportirce pri udruzenju boraca BiH: 1963.
·   HR-HDA, 1241 2 SUBNORH RO 1961 kut. 287 b. b. Negovanje borbenih tradicija. I dio. Izdavacka delatnost. 1960a.
·   ---. Negovanje borbenih tradicija. IV dio. Spomenici i uredjivanje groblje i grobova. 1960b.
·   ---. O spomenicima kulture iz narodnooslobodilacke borbe. IV. Plenum Glavnog odbora SUBNORS, odrzan 12. marta 1960 god. 1960c.
·   ---. O spomenicima kulture iz narodnooslobodilacke borbe. IV. Plenum Glavnog odbora SUBNORS, odrzan 12. marta 1960 god. Izvestaj strucne komisije o stanju spomen-obelezja iz NOB-e na teritoriji Srbije. 1960d: 20-36.
·   HR-HDA, 1241 2 SUBNORH RO 1963 kut. 291 b. b. Izvod iz stenografskih biljezaka sa XV sjednice Sekretarijata Predsjednistva Saveza udruzenja boraca narodnooslobodilackog rata Hrvatske. Informacija u vezi Jasenvca. (Auszug aus den stenographischen Notizen der 15. Sitzung des Sekretariats des Präsidiums SUBNOR Kroatiens. Informationen zu Jasenovac). 1963a Nov 5.
·   ---. Zapisnik sa sastanka u vezi idejnog projekta za uredjenje Jasenovca. (Niederschrift der Sitzung ...). Predsjednistvo SUBNORH: 1963b Dec 12.
·   HR-HDA, 1241 2 SUBNORH RO 1964 kut. 294 b. b. Stenografske biljeske sa sastanka za podizanje spomenika u Jasenovcu. (Stenografische Notizen der Sitzung zur Errichtung eines Denkmals in Jasenovac). 1964 Apr 10.
·   HR-HDA, 1241 2 SUBNORH RO 1966-67 kut. 307 b. b. Osnivanje logora smrti u Jugoslaviji. (Die Gründung von Todeslagern in Jugoslawien). 1965.
·   HR-HDA, 1241 3 SUBNORH RO 1954 kut. 356 b. b. Izvjestaj o provodjenju odluke III. Plenuma Centralnog Odbora SB NORJ. 1954 Feb 19.
·   KonjhodÂ?ić, Mahmud. Sjećanja u kamen uklesena. Spomenici radničkog pokreta i narodne revolucije u Hrvatskoj. Zagreb: Ured za informacije Izvršnog vijeća Sabora NR Hrvatske; 1960.
·   Odbor za proslavu Bitke na Sutjesci. Odbor za proslavu Bitke na Sutjesci. Sutjeska. Jubilarni List Povodom Petnaestogodisnjice Bitke Na Sutjesci. 1958 Jul; (1-6).
·   Propagandni odsjek AVNOJ-a. Jasenovacki logor - iskazi zatocenika koji su pobjegli iz logora. 1942.
·   Zemaljska komisija Hrvatske za utvrdjivanje zlocina okupatora i njihovih pomagaca. Zlocini u logoru Jasenovac. Zagreb; 1946.
·   Zerjavic, Vladimir. Opsesije i megalomanije oko Jasenovca i Bleiburga. Gubici stanovništva Jugoslavije u drugome svjetskom ratu. Zagreb: Globus; 1992.
 
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·   Bet-El, Ilana R. Unimagined communities: the power of memory and the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Mueller, Jan-Werner, ed. Memory and Power in Post-War Europe. Studies in the presence of the past. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2002; pp. 206-222.
·   Biondich, Mark. 'We were defending the state': Nationalism, Myth, and Memory in Twentieth-Century Croatia. Lampe, John and Mazower, Mark, eds. Ideologies and National Identities. The Case of Twentieth-Century Southeastern Europe. Budapest, New York: Central European University Press; 2004; pp. 54-81.
·   Bogdanovic, Bogdan. Der verdammte Baumeister. Erinnerungen. München: dtv; 2000.
·   Brkljacic, Maja. Popular Culture and Communist Ideology: Folk Epics in Tito's Yugoslavia. Lampe, John and Mazower, Mark, eds. Ideologies and National Identities. The Case of Twentieth-Century Southeastern Europe. Budapest, New York: Central European University Press; 2004; pp. 180-210.
·   Glenny, Misha . The Fall of Yugoslavia: The Third Balkan War. Harmondsworth: Penguin; 1993.
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·   ---. Vergangenheitspolitik im sozialistischen Vielvoelkerstaat: Jugoslawien 1944 bis 1991. Bock, Petra and Wolfrum, Edgar, eds. Umkaempfte Vergangenheit. Geschichtsbilder, Erinnerung und Vergangenheitspolitik im internationalen Vergleich. Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht; 1999; pp. 210-243.
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·   Jovicic, Natasa. Jasenovac Concentration Camp. Exhibition about the beginning of the camp system August 1941 - February 1942. Zagreb: Javna ustanova Spomen-podrucje Jasenovac; 2002.
·   Judt, Tony. The Past is another country: Myth and Memory in Postwar Europe. Daedalus. 1992; 121(4):83-118.
·   Karge, Heike . Im Reservat der Zeit. Kriegserinnerung und Schule im sozialistischen Jugoslawien. Hoepken, Wolfgang, ed. Kriegserinnerung und Kriegsverarbeitung in Suedosteuropa. Zum kulturellen Umgang mit Gewalterfahrung auf dem Balkan. Muenchen; 2004.
·   MacDonald, David Bruce. Balkan holocausts? Serbian and Croatian victim-centred propaganda and the war in Yugoslavia. Manchester, New York: Manchester University Press; 2002. (New Approaches to Conflict Analysis.
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·   Wertsch, James V. Voices of Collective Remembering. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2002.
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·   Winter, Jay and Sivan, Emmanuel. Setting the framework. Winter, Jay and Sivan Emmanuel, eds. War and Remembrance in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1999; pp. 6-39.
 


[1] "Moerover, there have been numerous studies of cultural memory as expressed in monuments, memorials and works of art, as well as in school textbooks. But while very few would doubt that memory mattered and exercised power in the Yugoslav wars, even fewer would be able to explain precisely how it mattered. Thus, despite the intense focus on memory in history, sociology and cultural studies, the memory-power nexus remains curiously unexamined." (Mueller 2002): 2.
[2] Thus Misha Glenny explains that personal memories to the Second World War had been simply suppressed with the aim “to throw the hatred into history's deep freeze.” (Glenny 1993): 148. In the same line see also (Bet-El 2002). In this context compare also Tony Judts’, however more elaborated argument on the necessities of both Western and Eastern European societies to ‘freeze’ war memories within the context of the Cold War period (Judt 1992). How fruitful an endeavour to ‘unfreeze’ this picture may be has recently demonstrated (Brkljacic 2004), who exemplified it on the use of folksongs for communicating and thus popularising official memories of the Second World War in Yugoslavia.
[3] (Höpken 1999): 196.
[4] (Bet-El 2002).
[5] For a discussion of images of the Second World War within the Croatian emigration see (Biondich 2004). In this regard on polemics of the Serbian and Croatian emigration see also (MacDonald 2002).
[6] (Winter and Sivan 1999): 9.
[7] This work is part of my ongoing dissertation project on “War and Memory in Yugoslavia”, that will be finished presumably in 2005. The material I am using for this paper is mainly taken from fonds of the Croatian State Archive in Zagreb and from the archive of the Memorial Area Jasenovac (Croatia).
[8] Savez Udruzenja Boraca Narodnooslobodilackog Rata (SUBNOR), in the following: War Veterans Union. It was, to be clear, a Union not for all war veterans, but for former partisans and all those who supported the ‘National Liberation War’ only.
[9] (HR-HDA 51).
[10] Most of all in the first decade after the war, the Union had a strong role too in the field of ministration and social care, as it was the place where rights to a pension for demobilised soldiers and support payments for the relatives of fallen partisans were negotiated and decided.
[11] (Komisija za njegovane i razvijanje tradicija NOB i tekovina revolucije). This Commission was founded in 1948.
[12] For a detailed discussion of (collective) remembering as mediated action see (Wertsch 2002): 33ff.
[13] For this aspect on the developments in historiography see (Hoepken 1994) who argues that the institutional and republican fragmentarisation of historiography in general was hardly followed by possibilities to open up for discussing taboo topics, especially with regard to the Second World War. See recently also (Nikolic 2003): 14, who argues that the treatment of Second World War historiography in Yugoslavia was up to the beginning of the 80s bound to the dogma of ‘symmetrical historiography’.
[14] (Winter 1999): 40
[15] At the end of 1959 there were about 2700 monuments to the National Liberation War in Croatia alone. See (KonjhodÂ?iæ 1960): 310. Serbia was said to have about 3000 of those monuments at the end of 1959, a number that was specified in comparison to other monuments as ‘many times more’ than all other preserved monuments from ealier historical times. (HR-HDA 1960c): 6.
[16] This have been campaigns, that were mostly conducted on the occasion of upcoming public holidays, such as the day of the republic (29.11.), the all-yugoslav day of uprising, which had been declared since 1955 at the same time the ‘day of the fighter”, that is the official holiday of the War Veterans Union (4.7.), or republican public holidays.
[17] (HR-HDA 1954).
[18] (HR-HDA 1960b): 11/s.
[19] (HR-HDA 1960d): 24.  
[20] Contribution to the plenum’s discussion by the architect Zivo M. Djordjevic in (HR-HDA 1960c): 64.
[21] (Odbor za proslavu Bitke na Sutjesci 1958)
[22] The ‚absence of knowledge’ was last but not least caused by the fact, that there was no comprehensive historiographic monography on the history of the National Liberation War in Yugoslavia, a fact, that on the other hand speaks itself for the absence of commonly agreed theses among Yugoslav historians on this topic.
[23] (HR-HDA 1959).
[24] See (Karge 2004), forthcoming, for a discussion of ‘brotherhood and unity’ in history education.
[25] A War Veterans Union document from 1960 delivers some information with regard to these tendencies. Thus it criticises that though the very founding idea of the ‘Library Eyewitness” at the publishing house “Prosveta” in Serbia had an all-Yugoslav background, the readers of the published war memoirs were mainly restricted to the so-called ‘cyrillic area’, most of them again from Serbia alone. In Slovenia, 217 fictional works on the National Liberation War had been published until 1959. Of these, only 27 had an all-yugoslav topic, while 189 out of them were devoted to Slovene themes. Finally, the press media in Bosnia and Hercegowina was criticised in this report for not publishing any reference on works of fiction and literature with regard to the National Liberation War from the Republics of Macedonia and Slovenia. (HR-HDA 1960a)
[26] The Concentration Camp Jasenovac was actually a camp complex comprising assembly, transit, work, and concentration death camps. For its history see the recently published monography by (Matausic 2003).
[27] A monument to the victims of Jasenovac was finally inaugurated in 1966 only. The conceptual idea of the ‘Stone Flower’ by the architect Bogdan Bogdanovic was approved in February 1963 by Tito personally and was financed on the federal level. The building of the monument was financed by the Republic of Croatia.
[28] (Propagandni odsjek AVNOJ-a 1942).
[29] (Zemaljska komisija Hrvatske za utvrdjivanje zlocina okupatora i njihovih pomagaca 1946).
[30] I will not go into the discussion of this manipulated number of victims here. For a detailed discussion see (Zerjavic 1992), for the Englsih speaking public also documented in (Anzulovic 1999). For a discussion of the number of victims at Jasenovac see (Matausic 2003): 116ff.
[31] (Jovicic 2002): 11.
[32] (Hoepken 1999): 224.
[33] “Prema tome, postavljalo se pitanje, na koji nacin da se nadje simbol za obiljezavanje svega onoga sto se tu dogadjalo, a da to ne bude ni jadikovka ni obiljezavanje martirijuma, jer je to problem odnosa okupatora prema Jugoslaviji i prema jugoslavenskim zrtvama, a koji je isao za unistenjem citavog naseg stanovnistva. Kako iz svega toga naci pravo rjesenje? Tu je osnovna tema svemu tome.” (HR-HDA 1963b).
[34] (HR-HDA 1965). See also Bogdanovics’ records on the realisation of ‘his’ Stone Flower, who states: “One was reluctant to erect a monument, for its erection would have meant at the same time to confess that it had been a national death camp. In this case it was not to be expected that Willy Brandt would come across and, as a sign of exculpation, would kneel down in front of it.” (Bogdanovic 2000): 178 (translation from German by me).
[35] “U tom poletu da se obnovi sto vise, sto brze i sto bolje, prezivjeli zatocenici su nastojali da se oslobode more koja ih je jos dugo pratila. Pokusali su da zaborave logor, da nadju svoj mir u opcem miru, bez rata, i da se uklope u sva strujanja novog zivota. A nailazili su i na otpor, po onom uvezenom shvatanju: ‘Kad su prezivjeli, morali su fasistima uciniti odredjene usluge, a ko zna kakve!’ To nije bilo proklamovano kao pravilo, ali se tako postupalo.” (Arhiv JU.SPJ 1985b).
[36] „Na inicijativu Osnovne Partijske Organizacije u Jasenovcu, a u zajednici sa svim masovnim i drustvenim organizacijama, kao i predstavnicima Vlasti u Jasenovcu donesen je sljedeci zakljucak: […] Tokom drugog svijetskog rata, Jasenovac je bio jedan od najzloglasnijih logora u svijetu. U njemu su polozili zivote stotinu hiljada gradjana nase zemlje, a za stvar oslobodjenja nasih naroda. Ovim svijetlim zrtvama, u nasoj historiji, do danas nije dan neki vidan spomenik. Obzirom na njihove svijetle zrtve, koje pokoljenja nesmiju nikada zaboraviti, donijeli smo zakljucak da se na bivsem logoru izradi jedan monumentalan spomenik sa medjunarodnim parkom oko njega […]” (HR-HDA 1952a).
[37] Po tome pitanju bi Vam napomenuli i to da su ovih godina u Jasenovac dolazili mnogi ljudi i zene iz raznih krajeva nase zemlje, da odaju pocast palim zrtvama, ali su razocarani odlazili govoreci: Svagdje se grade razni spomenici, a u Jasenovcu, gdje je pale najvise naseg naroda nema nekog vidnog spomenika, gdje bi se mogli makar poloziti vijenac […]." (HR-HDA 1952b).
[38] „U vezi vaseg dopisa od 26.6. o.g. upucenog nama i Centralnom odboru Saveza boraca obavjestavamo vas slijedece: Centralni odbor nas je telefonski obavijestio, da se sa gradnjom nista ne poduzima, dok se o tome ne odluci sa nadlezne strane u Beogradu i Zagrebu, za to sto je gradnje spomenika u Jasenovcu zajednicka stvar svih republika. Cim se ta stvar rijesi mi cemo vas obavijestiti." (HR-HDA 1952c).
[39] There was some activity in close political circles regarding considerations for a monument at Jasenovac. However, these activities did not find its way to the Yugoslav public until 1963.
[40] “Zaista je steta sto je Jasenovac sravnjen sa zemljom i sto se na njemu nije radilo sve dok grupa od nekoliko hiljada kozarackih majki i dece nije stupila na tlo Jasenovca i pocela paliti svece /1961. godine/. Upravo to je, izmedju ostalog, pospesilo izgradnju Spomen podrucja Jasenovac i cveta B. Bogdanovica u vidu spomenika.” (Arhiv JU.SPJ 1985a).
[41] (Arhiv JU.SPJ 1985b).
[42] Marko Belinic, president of the Croatian War Veterans Union explained on a meeting on Jasenovac in November 1963: „Comrade Tito demanded to see the one and the other draft for […] Jasenovac. At the meeting with Tito there were the comrades: Vlado Bakaric, Zvonko Brkic, Rankovic, Kardelj and Stambolic […] Thus, Bogdanovic did not impose his project on us, but it was rather adopted in Belgrade, even by comrade Tito himself.” (HR-HDA 1963a) („Drug Tito je trazio da vidi jednu i drugi skicu za uredjenje Jasenovca. Na sastanku kod druga Tita bili su drugovi: Vlado Bakaric, Zvonko Brkic, te Rankovic, Kardelj i Stambolic […]Dakle, Bogdanovic nam nije nametnuo svoj projekat, vec je isti od drugova u Beogradu prihvacen, pa cak i od druga Tita.”).
[43] (HR-HDA 1964).
[44] (HR-HDA 1964).
[45] Thus for instance in a document of the Commission for former political prisoners from Bosnia and Hercegovina, who claimed the following after having visited the Jasenovac area in October 1963. “[…] The non-commemoration of Jasenovac, a place where the Ustasi during the Second World War murdered about 600.000 people, caused and causes deprecation not only with the surviving inmates and the families of the dead, but with the people in general. During the last years this deprecation amplified more and more, and on diverse meetings and conferences one could hear allegations why the duty towards these victims of the Ustasa crimes was forgotten. People do not grasp nor understand, why after nearly 20 years Jasenovac, as a shambles not only for patriots, but for communists as well, is not given any commemorative sign. […]”(HR-HDA 1963) („Neobiljezavanje Jasenovca kao mjesta gdje su ustase u II svjetskom ratu poubijale preko 600.000 ljudi, izazivalo je i izaziva znatno negodovanje ne samo kod prezivjelih logorasa i porodica poubijanih, nego i kod naroda uopste. Posljednjih godina ovo nezadovoljstvo se sve jace ispoljava tako da se na raznim sastancima i konferencijama cuju prigovori zasto se zaboravlja dug prema tim zrtvama ustaskih zlocinaca. Ljudi neshvataju i ne razumiju zasto se Jasenovac kao klaonica ne samo rodoljuba, nego i komunista nakon blizu 20 godina nicim nije oznacio. […]”)
[46] In March 1963 an exhibition titled „Suggestion to a monument at Jasenovac” was organised in Zagreb. However, the title was, probably not undeliberately, misleading, as Bogdanovic’s project already had been approved the month before in Belgrade.