Croatian Schooling ‘Leaves Pupils Ill-Informed’ About WWII Regime

Hits: 484

Many Croatian schoolchildren know little about crimes committed under the country’s World War II-era fascist regime – but experts claim that the revisionist political environment is more to blame than the education system.

The former Jasenovac concentration camp, one of the most important World War II historical sites in the former Yugoslavia, is around 110 kilometres from Croatia’s capital Zagreb – an hour and a half by bus.

But no schools in Zagreb sent their pupils on trips to the Jasenovac Memorial Site last year.

Out of a total of 909 primary schools in Croatia, only seven of them organised visits for pupils to Jasenovac in 2018, while only eight of the country’s 401 high schools did so.

As the trend towards historical revisionism continues in Croatia and the crimes committed by the country’s WWII fascist Ustasa regime are often publicly downplayed, children in Croatian primary and secondary schools do not have many opportunities to become familiar with what happened under Ustasa rule from 1941 to 1945.

Miljenko Hajdarovic, a high school teacher from the town of Cakovec, told BIRN that teachers are only obliged to devote a minimum of one school period (45 minutes) each year to the topic of the Ustasa-led WWII-era Independent State of Croatia, NDH, which established the Jasenovac concentration camp – although individual teachers can devote more time to the subject if they wish, as Hajdarovic does.

Pupils’ knowledge of the period is patchy, experts believe. According to research conducted by Croatian NGOs led by the GOOD initiative in 2015, 48 per cent of senior secondary-school students were not sure if the NDH was a fascist creation, and about 22 per cent thought it was not.

Anja Gvozdanovic, one of the authors of the research, told BIRN that this uncertainty largely stems from the post-war socio-political context in which the students have grown up and been educated.

“Since the 1990s, the state leadership has opened the door wide to Ustasa-ism in the form of rhetoric, symbols and even cultural elements, and the unquestionable public condemnation of the NDH period has more often than not been absent,” she said.

Textbooks identify dictatorship

According to the Jasenovac Memorial Site, the Ustasa killed over 83,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists at the camp between 1941 and 1945, when the NDH government lost power.

BIRN analysed four separate textbooks for schoolchildren at primary and secondary schools and found that they all presented the historical facts related to the NDH in a similar way. All of them pointed out that NDH was an unrecognised, dictatorial state which was dependent for leadership on Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.

“Even though it was called ‘independent’, in nearly all the important issues from the beginning to the end of its existence, it depended on Italy and Germany,” says the textbook for the 4th grade of secondary school, written by Hrvoje Petric and Jaksa Raguz.

The textbooks explain the racial policies of the Ustasa movement and mention the official number of victims at Jasenovac, although some of them say that Serbia tried to inflate the death toll “to create a myth of the genocidal [character] of Croats”, according to the Petric and Raguz textbook.

A primary school textbook by Kresimir Erdelja and Igor Stojakovic notes however that “on the Croatian side, there were attempts to reduce the number of victims or even claims that there were no crimes in the [Ustasa-run] camps, but that the only victims were those who died a natural death”.

Teachers who spoke to BIRN said however that textbooks are not the major problem with teaching on WWII history.

Hajdarovic said that another serious issue was insufficient knowledge among history teachers themselves, as well as outdated teaching methods such as learning by rote.

“Official documents such as curricula or textbooks are the least of our problems. A much bigger problem is how the Ustasa and the NDH are taught in numerous [university] history departments, or what teachers actually teach in the classroom,” he said.

“We are still focused on what information the students will learn by heart, and will forget before the end of the same grade, instead of focusing on the development of historical thinking, researching and critical thinking,” he added.

In the coming weeks, a new history curriculum is to be introduced, and experts have already expressed fears that it will be worse that what exists now – less autonomy will be given to teachers, and students will be more burdened by the obligation to memorise facts. There has also been speculation that lessons on the 1990s ‘Homeland War’ will take up a third of the lessons dedicated to the 20th Century.

In terms of the deficiencies of teaching on WWII, Hajdarovic suggested that it was significant that the Education and Teacher Training Agency, a public institution, organizes an annual meeting with teachers on the topic of the Holocaust which is limited to just 50 participants.

“If only history teachers come to this seminar, it would take more than 30 years for everyone to go through that education. But since various subject teachers are involved, it seems that we will need at least a double that, or at least a century,” Hajdarovic said.

Students and teachers alike are only superficially acquainted with the suffering of the Roma people in the Ustasa camps; only recently was the first handbook on the issue for teachers published.

The handbook, entitled ‘Roma in the Second World War and in the Independent State of Croatia, 1941-1945’, was produced after an exhibition about the Roma was displayed at five schools in Croatia.

“Teachers and students’ reactions to the exhibition were positive, we had calls to set it up in other schools, but unfortunately there was no money [to fund it],” Ivo Pejakovic, the director of the Jasenovac Memorial Site, who was one of the authors, told a presentation of the handbook in Zagreb this month.

Students surprised by brutality

Pejakovic said that there are so few school trips to the Jasenovac Memorial Site because there is no ministerial funding on offer, unlike school trips to Vukovar, the scene of a devastating 1990s siege by Belgrade’s forces, which are funded by the Veterans’ Ministry.

A two-day visit to the town of Vukovar has been compulsory for eighth-grade pupils as part of the school curriculum since 2016.

“So [the organisation of trips to Jasenovac] is all about the enthusiasm of some professors and teachers working in schools,” Pejakovic said.

One of the teachers who has such enthusiasm is Hajdarovic, who often takes students on excursions to Jasenovac because he sees field trips as a unique opportunity for learning. “I use field trips to Jasenovac [as a basis to teach] the whole story about the events during the Second World War in Croatia,” he explained.

In the spring of 1945, after became evident that the Nazi Germany and the Ustasa would be defeated, the camp and the village of Jasenovac were demolished and burnt to the ground in order to cover up the traces of the crimes committed.

That means the memorial area at Jasenovac is not like the biggest Nazi camp, Auschwitz in Poland, where visitors can see barracks, gas chambers, crematoria, prisoners’ rooms and other original or partially-reconstructed buildings.

The Jasenovac memorial complex has a huge monument to the victims, while the original sites of buildings and execution sites within the former camp itself are marked by earth mounds and hollows.

But Jasenovac does have a museum and education centre, and assistant curators work with visiting school groups. At the education centre, children are told how, for example, renowned inventor Nikola Tesla’s cousin was killed at Jasenovac, so that the pupils can relate to someone whose name they know.

“Students are usually surprised by the brutality of events and it is difficult for them to imagine that something like that was possible. The most common questions were how the perpetrators could engage in a crime, what the detainees did wrong, and whether they provided resistance,” said Hajdarovic.

Igor Despot, a teacher from one of Zagreb’s primary schools, expressed regret that he has never taken his pupils on a school trip to Jasenovac.

“I never tried it because I assumed that there would be resistance in school and in the local community. Unfortunately, in most of Croatia, there is no possibility of ‘real teaching’ because publicly-supported revisionists have done their job. I accept part of the responsibility,” Despot told BIRN.

Role models outside school

Teachers and campaigners also suggest that children’s views of Croatia’s WWII history are affected by what they see and hear outside school – including the open public use of Ustasa symbols and slogan by role models like footballers.

“A good example is [Croatian football star] Josip Simunic who shouted [Ustasa slogan] ‘Za dom spremni’ after a match on the microphone, as well as [right-wing pop star Marko Perkovic] Thompson, with whom Ustasa iconography is frequently linked, who performed at a reception for the [Croatian national football] team after the World Cup,” Nikola Puharic, a historian and a member of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights NGO, told BIRN.

Some young Croatians revere the Ustasa regime and use hate speech targeting minorities, particularly Serbs; some also display their nationalist views on T-shirts with right-wing messages.

In May last year, some pupils from a Zagreb high school wore T-shirts with the slogan “Za dΩ [the symbol for ‘ohm’] spremni” – a reference to Ustasa salute ‘Za dom spremni’ – during a graduation celebration.

There has also been a series of books published in recent years that deny or downplay crimes committed by the Ustasa regime; their authors are often featured by Croatian media.

“We live in times that are really marked by the concepts of alternative truth or ‘post-truth’ in society and politics. Children live in such a society; such materials are available in news, the on [state television channel] HRT, and on websites,” Hajdarovic said.

Pejakovic believes that these works have a negative influence on the whole of society, and that this trickles down to schoolchildren.

“One should not forget the importance of what students learn about different interpretations of history at home, because a family member – a father, a mother, a grandparent – may sometimes be a greater authority for a child than a history teacher,” he explained.


Originally published on 2019-01-31

Author: Anja Vladisavljevic

Source: Balkan Insight

Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

 
READ MORE!
What America’s Coup in Ukraine Did
On March 23rd, Gallup headlined “South Sudan, Haiti and Ukraine Lead World in Suffering”, and the Ukrainian part of that can unquestionably be laid at the feet of U.S. President Barack Obama, who in February 2014 imposed upon Ukraine a very bloody coup (see it here), which he and his press misrepresented (and still misrepresent) as being (and still represent as having been) a ‘democratic revolution’, but was nothing of the sort, and actually was instead the start of the Ukrainian dictatorship and the hell that has since destroyed that country, and brought the people there into such misery, it’s now by far ...
READ MORE
The Croatian National Revival Movement (1830–1847) and the Serbs (II)
A Greater Croatia according to the advocates of Illyrian Movement's ideologyPart IThe Illyrian  Movement until the creation of political parties (1841)Certainly, publishing of Lj. Gaj’s Kratka osnova horvatsko-slavenskoga pravopisanja/Die Kleine Kroatische-Slavischen Orthographie in 1830 marked the beginning of the Croatian national revival movement and made Ljudevit Gaj to be a leading figure of it. The essential political-national value of the book was that Gaj proposed the creation of one literal language for all Croats. It was a revolutionary act at that time, which was done, according to Gaj and other leaders of the movement, for the ultimate political-national purpose to ...
READ MORE
The European Union and Common Pan-European Identity
PrefaceThe article deals with relations between on the one hand the supporters of pan-European identity, which has to take the place of the particular national ones, and on the other hand the proponents of maintaining specific national identities as the top priority within the European Union (the EU). Certainly, the European Union continues to expand its borders, individual national currencies are becoming unified into the common EU currency - Euro (€), and the political and economic climates are gravitating towards pan-continental unification. However, what does this unification process mean in terms of identity? The crucial question is: Will the success ...
READ MORE
Serbia: Parliamentary Elections for the NATO/EU’s Membership
Author’s note: a draft version of the article was originally written at the end of December 2015 and published in March 2016. This is the extended article’s version.On April 24th, 2016 Serbia faced three-level elections: for the national parliament, local municipalities and Vojvodina’s autonomous provincial administration. The elections did not cover Kosovo province as current Serbia’s pro-NATO/EU’s government already two years ago de facto recognized in its negotiations with the EU and Pristina’s government that this province is not any more an integral part of the legal and administrative system of the Republic of Serbia. Nevertheless, these elections were in ...
READ MORE
Video: The Dirty War on Syria – Prof. Tim Anderson on GRTV
Government propaganda and NGO misinformation have coloured the story of the war on Syria from its inception. Stepping in to set the record straight, Dr. Tim Anderson explores the real beginnings of the conflict, the players behind it, and their agenda in his new book, “The Dirty War on Syria: Washington, Regime Change and Resistance.”The Dirty War on Syria has relied on a level of mass disinformation not seen in living memory. In seeking ‘regime change’ the big powers sought to hide their hand, using proxy armies of ‘Islamists’, demonising the Syrian Government and constantly accusing it of atrocities. In ...
READ MORE
Democracy
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & Pinterest.Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.SaveSave
READ MORE
Netanyahu Victory Lays Bare Israel as Racist, Colonial State
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is elating after his right-wing Likud Party secured a firm victory in the Israeli elections on March 17. It was a very close race against the Zionist Union Party, led by Isaac Herzog. Our next guest, Shir Hever, in an interview he did with us last month, predicted that Prime Minister Netanyahu would win in spite of many strikes against him at the time. So, defying election polls leading up to the election, Prime Minister Netanyahu has ...
READ MORE
American Unlimited Imperialism: Syria
Historically, this latest eruption of American militarism at the start of the 21st Century is akin to that of America opening the 20th Century by means of the U.S.-instigated Spanish-American War in 1898. Then the Republican administration of President William McKinley stole their colonial empire from Spain in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines; inflicted a near genocidal war against the Filipino people; while at the same time illegally annexing the Kingdom of Hawaii and subjecting the Native Hawaiian people (who call themselves the Kanaka Maoli) to near genocidal conditions. Additionally, McKinley’s military and colonial expansion into the Pacific ...
READ MORE
The “Non-Citizens” of the Baltic States: Α European Scandal Nobody Speaks about!
The negotiations on Brexit are attracting a lot of attention. In particular, the possible erosion of the rights of around three million EU-27 citizens living in Britain is a major cause for concern.The European Parliament resolution adopted on 3 October states that “the withdrawal agreement must incorporate the full set of rights citizens currently enjoy, such that there is no material change in their position”.The main author of this text, Mr Guy Verhofstadt, the EP Brexit Coordinator, argues that such an approach – not to lower the level of citizens’ rights – is “the goal of democracy”. But why was ...
READ MORE
The Note Donald Trump Left in Israel’s Western Wall
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
READ MORE
Why America Needs War
GR Editor’s Note: This incisive article was written on April 30, 2003, by historian and political scientist Jacques Pauwels. A timely question: Why Does Hillary Want War… ? And why do people support her?  *     *     * Wars are a terrible waste of lives and resources, and for that reason most people are in principle opposed to wars. The American President, on the other hand, seems to love war. Why? Many commentators have sought the answer in psychological factors. Some opined that George W. Bush considered it his duty to finish the job started, but for some obscure reason ...
READ MORE
Importance of Russia in Global Politics
There is very bad news for the US’ policymakers: Russia is back!After the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia, both weakened and isolated, was becoming a less popular area of studying and dealing with in comparison before the end of the Cold War. Global imperialists in Washington strongly believed that after 1991 Russia was simply “finished” or, better to say, they “finished” the game with Russia as Moscow was not anymore the capital of a Great Power state which had an important influence in global politics and international relations. In other words, the American warmongers in Washington thought ...
READ MORE
China vs. USA
The 2015 dataOrigins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & Pinterest.Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.SaveSave
READ MORE
Obama Failed his Coup in Venezuela
The United States, Germany, Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom launched "Operation Jericho"Once again, the Obama administration has tried to force the change of a political regime that resists it. On February 12, an Academi (formerly Blackwater) plane disguised as an aircraft of the Venezuelan army was supposed to bomb the presidential palace and kill President Nicolas Maduro. The plotters had planned to place former MP María Corina Machado in power and have her immediately acclaimed by former Latin American presidents. President Obama had given a warning. In his new doctrine of Defence (National Security Strategy), he wrote: "We ...
READ MORE
NATO’s Illegal War Against Serbia
Facts And Truth @ YouTube: “Remember why NATO spent 78-days bombing Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999? There was the ethnic cleansing. The atrocities. The refugees chased out of Kosovo by the Serb army. The mass graves. The heaps of bodies tossed into vats of sulphuric acid at the Trepca mines. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said there were 100,000 Kosovo Albanian Muslims unaccounted for. Problem is, none of it happened.” Forensic report throws doubt on US/NATO claims of Racak “massacre” By Richard Tyler wsws.org, 12 February 2001 A forthcoming article by three Finnish pathologists throws further doubts upon official descriptions of a “massacre” in ...
READ MORE
If this Haitian was Superstitious Like the Clintons
“malè ou swete bèlmè, se manman ou li frape” – the evil you wish upon your mother-in-law strikes your mother, Haitian wisdom The other day, I saw a video excerpt of an October 2012 speech in which Bill Clinton was telling an audience in New-York how his wife, Hillary, possesses the extraordinary psychic ability to speak regularly with the dead, in particular, with the spirit of former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.* Today, some U.S. citizens who are still stunned by the election of Donald Trump may be seeking extra insights to help answer many troubling questions. However, I doubt the dead are in any way equipped to help them understand what is  happening in the so-called “land of the free and home ...
READ MORE
Two War Photographs: Bosnia vs. Vietnam
Bijeljina, Bosnia in 1992: Serb Volunteer Guard (Arkan's Tigers) led by Željko Ražnjatović Arkan after the action of "cleaning the town from the Muslim jihadists" (official Arkan's explanation). The victims are local Muslim family members. The guard was composed by volunteers of all moral kinds being independent on the front line and in fact waging its own private war. Bosnia is a neighbouring republic to Serbia with 1/3 of Serbian population. Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) and (Roman Catholic) Croats committed terrible crimes of genocide against the local (Orthodox) Serb population during the WWII (the so called Magnum Crimen) while during the ...
READ MORE
Viktor Orban Takes Battle Against Billionaire George Soros to Next Level
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban upped the ante in his political fight against George Soros, the mega-rich financier and philanthropist who reportedly just ploughed $18 billion into his “Open Society” foundation, the controversial NGO that is seldom shy about manipulating domestic policy in Western capitals.Last week, Orban commented in an interview with Kossuth Radio that he has instructed his intelligence agencies to expose Soros-backed initiatives, which include opening up EU borders to mass migration, and the Hungarian nationals who support them both in Budapest and in Brussels.“By employing the national security services, the Soros network that strives to influence European ...
READ MORE
An American Century of Carnage: Measuring Violence in a Single Superpower World
On February 17, 1941, almost 10 months before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Life magazine carried a lengthy essay by its publisher, Henry Luce, entitled “The American Century.” The son of Presbyterian missionaries, born in China in 1898 and raised there until the age of 15, Luce essentially transposed the certainty of religious dogma into the certainty of a nationalistic mission couched in the name of internationalism. Luce acknowledged that the United States could not police the whole world or attempt to impose democratic institutions on all of mankind. Nonetheless, “the world of the 20th Century,” he wrote, “if it is ...
READ MORE
Serbian Patriarchate of Peć in the Ottoman Empire: The First Phase (1557−1594)
IntroductionThe goals of this article are: 1) to investigate the role of the revived Patriarchate of Peć in Serbian and Balkan history?; and 2) to explore and present the results of investigation of the problems with respect to: a) the role of the Serbian Church during the first decades of the Ottoman occupation of Serbian lands in the process of the creation of a Serbian national identity; b) Serbian-Turkish relations in the second half of the 16th century; and c) the reasons for Serbian disloyalty towards the Ottoman government at the turn of the 17th century.The article addresses the reasons ...
READ MORE
What America’s Coup in Ukraine Did
The Croatian National Revival Movement (1830–1847) and the Serbs (II)
The European Union and Common Pan-European Identity
Serbia: Parliamentary Elections for the NATO/EU’s Membership
Video: The Dirty War on Syria – Prof. Tim Anderson on GRTV
Democracy
Netanyahu Victory Lays Bare Israel as Racist, Colonial State
American Unlimited Imperialism: Syria
The “Non-Citizens” of the Baltic States: Α European Scandal Nobody Speaks about!
The Note Donald Trump Left in Israel’s Western Wall
Why America Needs War
Importance of Russia in Global Politics
China vs. USA
Obama Failed his Coup in Venezuela
NATO’s Illegal War Against Serbia
If this Haitian was Superstitious Like the Clintons
Two War Photographs: Bosnia vs. Vietnam
Viktor Orban Takes Battle Against Billionaire George Soros to Next Level
An American Century of Carnage: Measuring Violence in a Single Superpower World
Serbian Patriarchate of Peć in the Ottoman Empire: The First Phase (1557−1594)
Policraticus

Written by Policraticus

SHORT LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The website’s owner & editor-in-chief has no official position on any issue published at this website. The views of the authors presented at this website do not necessarily coincide with the opinion of the owner & editor-in-chief of the website. The contents of all material (articles, books, photos, videos…) are of sole responsibility of the authors. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the contents of all material found on this website. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. No advertising, government or corporate funding for the functioning of this website. The owner & editor-in-chief and authors are not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the text and material found on the website www.global-politics.eu

Website: http://www.global-politics.eu