International Seminar

The Killing Sites - The First Stage of the Holocaust in Serbia and Croatia International Seminar

Gallery of the Jewish Community of Belgrade, 22 - 23 February 2017, and a visit to the Topovske supe former concentration camp and Jabuka killing site.

Belgrade - Pancevo - Jabuka, on 24 February 2017

The seminar was opened by Dr Ruben Fuks, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Serbia and Bruno Boyer, Head of International Relations at the Memorial de la Shoah. Their speeches highlighted the importance of the topic for the Jewish community in Serbia and the region, but also for the general culture of remembrance in both Serbia and in Croatia, especially at a time in which the memory of the Holocaust seems underrepresented, particularly in the educational system. The attention was also drawn to the role of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and to the efforts to map the killing sites in Europe. Milovan Pisarri, PhD, from the Centre for Public History (Belgrade) then presented the project and its activities, as well as the programme and the objective of the seminar.

The first panel was dedicated to contexts, that is, to the issue of the early stage of the Holocaust in Europe. The panel was facilitated by Olga Manojlovic Pintar, PhD, from the Institute for Recent History of Serbia (Belgrade), and the panellists were: Natasa Matausic, PhD, from the Croatian History Museum (Zagreb), who spoke about the origins of the Holocaust in the Independent State of Croatia, with special emphasis on the role of Dijana Budisavljevic in rescuing children from the camps, Sofija Grandakovska, Saul Kagan post-doctoral fellow, who spoke about the Advanced Holocaust Studies (Skopje), focusing on the suffering of the Jewish community in Macedonia, and Nikola Radic from the Center for Holocaust Research and Education (Belgrade) who spoke about the killing sites in Serbia.

The first day of the seminar ended with the screening of a short documentary entitled "11 December 1941" about the shooting of Roma in Leskovac on that day. The screening was followed by the discussion with its author Dragan Marinkovic.

The second day began with a panel on Serbia. It was facilitated by Nikola Radic, and the participants were Sanela Schmidt, PhD from the Humboldt University (Berlin), who spoke about Serbia in the European context in 1941, Milan Koljanin, PhD from the Institute for Contemporary History (Belgrade), with the presentation on the Jewish victims in Serbia, and Sanja Petrovic Todosijevic, PhD, who presented a case study on the killing of Jews in Sabac.

The third panel focused on Croatia. The facilitator was Natasa Matausic, PhD, and the panellists were Dragan Cvetkovic, PhD from the Museum of the Genocide Victims (Belgrade) with the presentation on the Holocaust and genocide against Serbs and Roma in the Independent State of Croatia, Bishop Jovan Ćulibrk from the Jasenovac Committee and the Staro Sajmiste (Belgrade) Committee who spoke about the efforts to build a memorial centre at Sajmiste and a research and documentation centre in Jasenovac, and Renato Stankovic from the Faculty of Philosophy in Rijeka, who spoke about the mapping of the killing sites in Croatia.

Afternoon sessions were dedicated to the preservation, the culture of remembrance and education. The fourth panel, which was facilitated by Professor Vjeran Pavlakovic from the Faculty of Philosophy in Rijeka (Rijeka), was attended by: Olga Manojlovic Pintar, PhD, with a presentation on the monument culture in Yugoslavia with special reference to the monuments to the Holocaust, Nenad Lajbensperger from the Institute for the Heritage Protection of the Republic of Serbia (Belgrade), who spoke about this institution’s role in the preservation of the Holocaust monuments in Serbia as well as the current state of these monuments, and David Montijas, President of the Jewish Community in Pancevo, who spoke about the efforts to preserve the memorial complex in Jabuka.

The last panel was facilitated by Sanela Schmidt, PhD and the panellists were: professor Vjeran Pavlakovic who spoke about the culture of remembrance of World War II in Croatia, James May (Belgrade), who presented the Portraits and Memories of the Jewish Community in Serbia before the Holocaust project, Milan Bogdanovic from the Heinrich  Böll Foundation (Belgrade), with the presentation about the conference dedicated to the camp at Sajmiste, its impact on developing a responsible culture of remembrance of this camp, and Biljana Stojanovic from the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Serbia (Belgrade) who spoke about the curricula of the trainings that the Ministry regularly organizes for primary and secondary schools.

The day’s programme ended with the screening of a short documentary about the Jabuka killing site, followed by a discussion with its author David Montijas.

The third day of the seminar comprised an organised visit to the site of the Topovske supe camp in Belgrade and the killing site in Jabuka. During the visit, the participants were received by the Mayor of Pancevo who spoke about plans to restore the memorial complex in Jabuka. The visit also included locations in the town of Pancevo which was home to the Svilara camp and a Gestapo prison during World War II.