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Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research in Croatia

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Before the Second World War there were thirty Jewish communities with some 25,000 members in the area of the present-day Republic of Croatia, and only about 20% survivors lived to see the end of the war. Most of them perished in the concentration camps of the Independent State of Croatia (ISC), especially in the Jasenovac complex, but significant number also outside of the ISC territory, mainly in Auschwitz. Those who  survived mostly joined the partisan movement. Following from these facts three dates are tied to the commemoration of the anti-fascist movement and remembrance of the victims of fascist terror in Croatia: The International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust (27th January), the Day of Remembrance of the Breakout of Prisoners from Jasenovac Concentration Camp (22nd April) and the Anti-Fascist Struggle Day (22nd June).

Becoming a full member of IHRA in 2005, the Republic of Croatia has significantly advanced its activities in the field of research, remembrance and education about the Holocaust. Cooperation has been established between institutions in the Republic of Croatia and Yad Vashem (Israel), the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USA), Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (USA), University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education (USA), Anne Frank House (The Netherlands), and other institutions in countries that are IHRA's members. This cooperation has increased the number of realized projects and project proposals from the Republic of Croatia that apply for co-financing with IHRA.


Although pupils and students have learned about the Nazi and Ustasha regimes in History curricula in primary and secondary schools and universities since World War Two, teaching has taken a new direction with the adoption of the National Programme for Human Rights Education in 1999. It defines the aim of teaching about the Holocaust as not only to learn about and preserve the memory of the period of unprecedented suffering but also to reflect on what each individual should do to prevent antisemitism, intolerance and any crime against humanity. Holocaust education was additionally enhanced by the 2003 Decision of the Ministry of Education and Sports to establish The Day of Remembrance on Holocaust and for the Prevention of Crimes against Humanity which calls for the commemoration of 27th January  and cross-curricular teaching on the topic.  Holocaust exists as a topic in various social and humanistic studies, and recently, as a distinct subject at  Judaic studies of the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities in Zagreb.

Since 2004 continuous efforts are directed to the training of teachers. Dozens of teachers are  trained every year at national seminars, regularly positioned around 27th January, but also at regional and international seminars, including those organized in co-operation with Yad Vashem (Jerusalem), Memorial de la Shoah (France), and by the US Holocaust Museum, the Jewish Foundation of the Righteous in New York , and different organizations from the Council of Europe member states. The Ministry of Science, Education and Sports and The Education and Teacher Training Agency, in co-operation with international organizations, have developed, distributed to schools, and been made available on the Ministry's website  additional teaching materials on the topic of the Holocaust, beginning with IHRA Guidelines for Teaching about the Holocaust in 2005, and succeeded by many others (Guidelines on how to commemorate the Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem, and the OSCE, 2006,  Posters, the stories on the Righteous among the Nations: "Traits that Transcend" and the manual for teachers, (Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, New York, 2007) Lessons based on survivors' video testimonies, Shoah Foundation Visual Institute, 2008, a few sets of Teaching materials on Antisemitism,  developed with the Anne Frank's House Museum and OSCE, since 2007).


Although many sites in Croatia are related to the remembrance of the Holocaust, Jasenovac Memorial Site is the place where the main ceremony is held every year on the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. 

The permanent exhibition of the Memorial Museum, as a part of the Jasenovac Memorial Site, was  renewed in 2006, on the basis of a concept presented and agreed upon on at an international level. New forms of education and museum presentation were achieved, honoring the victims, giving them dignity and identity. The exhibition focuses on the affirmation of life and on increasing awareness among visitors, particularly among school children, about the fragility of human life against a frenzied ideology. The activities of the Memorial Museum include co-operation with survivors, and different projects, involving exhibitions and publications, as well as organization of commemorative events to honour the Jasenovac victims. Education Centre, opened in 2006, hosts school children, participants of national teacher training seminars, and other groups of visitors:  educators, students etc. The work of the Memorial Museum and Education Centre in Jasenovac has a basic scientific approach, to educate and prevent crimes against humanity, and to enable learning about the genocide committed in Jasenovac, about the Holocaust and suffering, as a starting point in acquiring knowledge in the field of human rights, non-violence, peace, cultural diversity, democracy and the rule of law.

The most recent projects of the Holocaust memorialisation are those of the revitalization and presentation of Stara Gradiška, where concentration camp also existed as a part of the Jasenovac complex, and  the renewal of the exhibition in the Auschwitz Birkenau Memorial Museum, in the former Yugoslav pavillion, which is under construction in the frames of the joint concept developed by the experts from all ex-Yugoslav succeeding states.


The most important resources for Holocaust researchers in Croatia can be consulted in the Croatian State Archives,  but also in some of the regional archives (Osijek, Rijeka, Varaždin, Zagreb), in the Research and Documentation Center for Holocaust victims and survivors (CENDO), some museums (Jasenovac Memorial Museum, Croatian History MuseumMuseum of the City of Rijeka   and other institutions. Jewish communities also have important resources. There are several research and academic institutions which have contributed to Holocaust research: Croatian State Archives,  Croatian Institute of History, several Croatian universities (e.g. Faculty of Social Science and Humanities in Zagreb), and Jewish communities, including the Jewish Community of Zagreb,  the Jewish Community Bet Israel of Croatia, and the Jewish Community of Osijek.

A number of publications in the field should be mentioned, such as: "Croatia: In Memory to Holocaust," published by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia and the Croatian State Archives in 2000, with review of the most important archival resources,  monograph Holocaust in Zagreb, published in 2001, written by professor I. Goldstein, in co-operation with S. Goldstein, which explains the wider context and course of the Holocaust in the Independent State of Croatia, Jews in Croatia - Jewish communities, published in 2004 (1st ed. 1997), by M. Švob, in co-operation with Z. Mirković, which contains the lists of Jews who perished in WWII, catalogue "Jasenovac Memorial Site", published in 2006, on the occasion of the opening of the new permanent exhibition in the Jasenovac Memorial Museum, also containing relevant information on the Ustasha regime in the Independent State of Croatia, and contributing to a broader knowledge on the period,  List of Individual Victims of Jasenovac Concentration Camp 1941-45", published in 2007 by the Jasenovac Memorial Site, etc. As well as a few doctoral  thesis have been finalized and published, or are works in progress, e.g. B. Zuckerman's thesis, with analysis of the anti-Jewish propaganda in the ISC  and Serbia 1941-1945 ( published in 2011), or N. M. Brandl's, related to the status of Jewish community in Croatia from 1944 till 1952.