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

Hits: 145

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!
NATO adds to Turkey’s Chagrin
There has long been speculation about a Turkish good-bye to NATO. The U.S. and its military proxy organization in Europe are doing their best to further such a move: The image of Atatürk was displayed as a target during the drill at NATO’s Joint Warfare Center in Stavanger, Norway held between Nov. 8 and Nov. 17, while a NATO soldier posted defamatory words about Erdoğan on the social media. Atatürk is the founder of the secular Turkey. He was designated as "target" during a desk-top drill. NATO's Joint Warfare Center is not a low level school but an elite officer training institution led ...
READ MORE
Proxy Wars: Kosovo and South Ossetia
Yada…yada…yada. The discussion on the unprovoked and planned aggression by Georgia on South Ossetia is futile and moot because Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced last week that the Russian Government would recognize the independence and freedom of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. On August 25, 2008, both houses of the Russian Parliament or Duma voted unanimously to recognize the independence of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. On August 26, 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that the government of the Russian Federation officially recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Save your rhetoric. Georgia has lost those areas permanently. Ossetians and ...
READ MORE
Kosovo and Crimea: What’s the Difference?
The only discussion of principle emerging from the debates over Kosovar and Crimean independence is that initiated by Woodrow Wilson towards the end of World War One, about whether national minorities have the right to self-determination. Can a smaller group be compelled to be part of a larger state, or should they be permitted to secede? To what extent do minority rights amount to a freedom to determine one’s own sovereignty? In June 1999 an international military force led by the United States annexed Kosovo, then a province in southern Serbia with a population of perhaps 1.6 million people. Virtually all ...
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
Mainstream News and USA’s Heroics in Vietnam: Why the Silence about the 7 Million Dead?
The amount of bombs dropped by Americans on the innocent citizens of tiny French Indochina was more than twice the amount of bombs dropped in Europe, Africa and Asia during the Second World War, and this includes bombs  dropped on the cities of Hanoi and Haiphong by American hero Senator John McCain, who proudly ran for president on his military record in spite of Nuremberg Counsel for Prosecution General Telford Taylor having said he would have been proud to have prosecuted US flyers shot down while bombing in Vietnam.[3]  What mastery of fake news, blacked out news, selected news and outrageously ...
READ MORE
September 11, 2001: The Crimes of War Committed “In the Name of 9/11″
The following text was presented at the International Conference on “9/11 Revisited – Seeking the Truth”, Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF), Kuala Lumpur, November 2012 Introduction The tragic events of September 11, 2001 constitute a fundamental landmark in American history, a decisive watershed, a breaking point. Millions of people have been misled regarding the causes and consequences of 9/11. September 11 2001 opens up an era of crisis, upheaval and militarization of American society. The post September 11, 2001 era is marked by the outright criminalization of the US State, including its judicial, foreign policy, national security and intelligence apparatus. 9/11 marks the onslaught of ...
READ MORE
America’s Allies Against Russia & Iran:  Main U.S. Allies are Saudi Arabia, UAE, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Israel, & Nazis
The public has been so brainwashed by Big Brother’s lies so that many people won’t believe this article unless they click onto the link wherever they happen to think that what it is alleging is false. Then, they will see the evidence, for themselves, and will recognize that they’ve been fooled about that matter, and those readers will learn something important that they didn’t know before — including that Big Brother is real, and what it actually is, and how it came to be the way it is. This is about reality, the reality behind the screen of lies. Today's Axis ...
READ MORE
The 1878 San Stefano Treaty and the Albanians
After the Russian military victory over the Ottoman Empire in the 1877−1878 Russo-Ottoman War it was signed the San Stefano Treaty between these two states on March 3rd, 1878. According to the treaty, a Greater “San Stefano” Bulgaria, under the direct protection by Russia, had to be established within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. However, an idea of “San Stefano Bulgaria” directly affected three Balkan nations: the Serbs, Greeks and Albanians as some of their ethnic and historical territories had to become part of a Greater Bulgaria. The “San Stefano Bulgaria” was projected by the Russian authorities to cover ...
READ MORE
How to Keep People Passive
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. Save Save
READ MORE
Ukraine could Learn from Kosovo’s Troubles
There was an interesting announcement recently that went almost entirely unnoticed in the Canadian media. On June 17, Peter Szijjarto, foreign minister of Hungary’s centre-right government, made the startling declaration that his national security forces will erect a four-metre wall along the entire 175 kilometres of shared border with Serbia. Szijjarto’s rationale for resorting to such a drastic measure results from a months-long flood of asylum seekers pouring into southern Hungary. While tens of thousands of these desperate illegal immigrants have been caught, detained and returned into Serbia, the vast majority have used the processing time for their asylum applications to simply ...
READ MORE
Independence on Nakba Day – Accountability and Healing as an Israeli Aggressor
I am an Israeli-American. I was raised in a middle-class academic ‘Liberal Zionist’ household (aligned with the Israeli Labor Party and Meretz), which is an inherent contradiction. Liberal Zionism maintains a belief in universal human rights yet it supports a Zionist ideology that endorses and promotes Israel as a Jewish state – one that has been systematically carrying out a project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinian people. Since I can remember, my birth town of Jerusalem has been highly segregated. Growing up, I never interacted with Palestinians other than Abed the soft-spoken gardener from Hebron (aka El ...
READ MORE
The Tragic Declaration: Colonial Legacies, Balfour and Israel
So much after the fact; so much in terms of opportunism gone to seed and destruction. But planned historical calamities tend to be rare. There are only absurd moments, dastardly opportunities, and tragic convergences. History is less the outcome of wise deliberation than folly dressed up as reason, occasionally tinged by a touch of malice.On November 2, 1917, the British government published the Balfour Declaration (one of “sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations”) by means of a letter written by Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild. It suggested forthcoming British assistance for the establishment of a Jewish ...
READ MORE
Here’s Why France Should Be Blamed for the Destruction in Syria
Why is France so interested in Syria? According to the Guardian, France’s policy in Syria has been “more forward than any other Western country”: “[France] was early in calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, still insists he must go, and recently joined airstrikes inside Syria against the Islamic State.” France joined the United States in bombing Syrian territory (without a U.N. mandate) even before the United Kingdom did. In 2013, France stood by Obama’s side despite the fact the United Kingdom’s parliament voted not to join Obama’s efforts to “punish” Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for crossing Obama’s imaginary red line. ...
READ MORE
Iraq Invasion – Anniversary of the Biggest Terrorist Attack in Modern History
Since terrorism’s tragedy is again in the news, it is timely to revisit perhaps one of the biggest acts of terrorism in modern history – the illegal invasion and destruction – ongoing – of Iraq. March 20th marked the thirteenth anniversary of an action resulting in the equivalent of a Paris, Brussels, London 7th July 2005, often multiple times daily in Iraq ever since. As for 11th September 2001, there has frequently been that death toll and heart break every several weeks, also ongoing. America and Britain have arguably engaged in and generated the legacy of one of the longest recorded attacks ...
READ MORE
Wartime Radio: “The Chetniks” (1942), Treasury Star Parade
Review: “The Chetniks” (1942), Treasury Star Parade Radio Play. Starring Orson Welles and Vincent Price. Treasury Department War Savings Staff Radio Recording, Program 101, Treasury Star Parade “The Chetniks” Starring Orson Welles and Vincent Price and David Broekman and his Orchestra and Chorus, 1942. G-1897-P-1 (matrix). “E.T. announcements included.” William A. Bacher, director and producer. 1 pressed radio transcription sound disc: analog, 33 1/3 rpm, mono; 16 in. Recorded on one side only. “This program for sustaining use only.” Manufactured by the Allied Record Manufacturing Company, Hollywood, California. “The Chetniks” “The Chetniks” radio play was a poignant and powerful dramatization of the resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia led ...
READ MORE
The Nato-Aggression Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999
Was Serbia attacked in 1999? To answer that question, Milica-Hänsel Radojkovic draws on period documents (including Willy Wimmer’s letter to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder). He highlights the unacceptability of the Rambouillet proposals, designed to justify a war that had already started. Fourteen years ago, after the negotiation conferences in Rambouillet and Paris between 6th and 23rd February 1999, the global media informed the general public that “the Serbian delegation did not accept the offered agreement and rather qualified it as null and void”, while indicating that allegedly the so-called Contact Group for Yugoslavia stood behind the agreement. This body consisted of ...
READ MORE
Neocon Imperialism, 9/11, and the Attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq
One way to understand the effect of 9/11, in most general terms, is to see that it allowed the agenda developed in the 1990s by neoconservatives—-often called simply “neocons”—to be implemented. There is agreement on this point across the political spectrum. From the right, for example, Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke say that 9/11 allowed the “preexisting ideological agenda” of the neoconservatives to be “taken off the shelf . . . and relabeled as the response to terror.”1 Stephen Sniegoski, writing from the left, says that “it was only the traumatic effects of the 9/11 terrorism that enabled the agenda ...
READ MORE
Russia vs. America
GR Editor’s Note Moscow is accused of doping as part of a US dirty tricks campaign to prevent Russia from participating in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. What is the record of the US with regard to doping? The main sports organizations including the NFL, MLB, and NBA have allowed unusually relaxed policies for performance-enhancing drug testing and punishment. The USADA is the US government agency responsible for the implementation in the United States of the World Anti-Doping Code, Yet, the record suggests that the USDA does not actively intervene in “big money sports” and often turns a blind eye ...
READ MORE
Washington has Found the Solution: “Let’s Divide Iraq as We Did in Yugoslavia!”
Editor’s note: This article by Michel Collon was first published by Global Research in December 2003. It outlines with foresight the strategy of the US, through covert intelligence operations, of breaking up Iraq into a number of separate states. The unleashing of a civil war with a view to deliberately breaking up Iraq was part of the US war agenda from the outset. They have found the solution! Divide Iraq into three mini-states and then pit them against one another. Does that remind you of something else? Oh, yes! It’s not the first time something like this happened…. The New York Times published ...
READ MORE
The 1967 Obsession, Trump and Trivia
I arrived in Jerusalem last night and as always during the weeks between mid-May and mid-June the media is full of romanticized memories. Within these weeks are the two most siginicfant dates in modern Palestinian history: May 1948 when Palestine was conquered and renamed Israel, and June, 1967 when the Israeli army completed the conquest of Palestine by taking East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. For Palestinians these dates bring back bitter memories, but for Israelis the memories are sweet – those were the days when we were young and brave and innocent.  Vintage photos of soldiers at the newly conquered ...
READ MORE
NATO adds to Turkey’s Chagrin
Proxy Wars: Kosovo and South Ossetia
Kosovo and Crimea: What’s the Difference?
Serbia: Parliamentary Elections for the NATO/EU’s Membership
Mainstream News and USA’s Heroics in Vietnam: Why the Silence about the 7 Million Dead?
September 11, 2001: The Crimes of War Committed “In the Name of 9/11″
America’s Allies Against Russia & Iran: Main U.S. Allies are Saudi Arabia, UAE, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Israel, & Nazis
The 1878 San Stefano Treaty and the Albanians
How to Keep People Passive
Ukraine could Learn from Kosovo’s Troubles
Independence on Nakba Day – Accountability and Healing as an Israeli Aggressor
The Tragic Declaration: Colonial Legacies, Balfour and Israel
Here’s Why France Should Be Blamed for the Destruction in Syria
Iraq Invasion – Anniversary of the Biggest Terrorist Attack in Modern History
Wartime Radio: “The Chetniks” (1942), Treasury Star Parade
The Nato-Aggression Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999
Neocon Imperialism, 9/11, and the Attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq
Russia vs. America
Washington has Found the Solution: “Let’s Divide Iraq as We Did in Yugoslavia!”
The 1967 Obsession, Trump and Trivia
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