“1. April, A Donkey Towing Paper!”
I am reading the issue of Oslobodjenje from 1 April, 2009, and in spite of, and without regard for, the fact that “nothing more can surprise us”, and especially nothing from my native Prijedor, I cannot overcome my wonder at the long article about Prijedor, Anno Domini 2009. Occupying two pages in the middle of the newspaper, the (alleged) journalist Božica Radić shares with us a wide-ranging story about this Bosnian city: “A city of renowned beauty”, reads her breathless, unoriginal heading. So, sipping his morning coffee, the uninformed reader from Trebinje, Mostar, or Prozor quickly learns the following things to augment his association of Prijedor with the old song, “Prijedor…full of my sevdah”: Prijedor has had a railroad line since 1873; it withstood a great fire in 1882; and just a year later, the Volunteer Fire Department was formed. And the first European-educated painters in Bosnia were from Prijedor; as many as fifty trained artists were born in Prijedor. Thus, says the author, Prijedor is a “city of artists”.
We further learn that people have played tennis in Prijedor since the wartime year of 1915, and that today’s tourism “has much to offer”. “In Prijedor”, she writes, “they believe that in order to attract a larger number of tourists, experience has shown that it is necessary to work more on the development of high-quality, well-conceived xafsing and presentation of touristic potential”. “It is thought”, she continues, “that Prijedor, together with its surrounding region, could develop tourism along environmental lines and in the village spas. Hunting and fishing, recreational sports, and special events could attract visitors as well. Tourism could also be based on the region’s cultural and historical heritage”.
From the mouth of the devil…
At the end of the article, there is a picture of Mayor Pavić with a sour smile and a brief selection of his most important quotes. And Marko Pavić is, true to the spirit of the article, full of optimism and -- ostensibly -- proud that Prijedor, “in the past four years, as one Ambassador noted, has been transformed from a black hole into a setting in which it is worthwhile to invest”.
Here, the interested and uninformed reader with a sharp eye would perhaps ask, “What kind of black hole is involved here? I would have thought that after the great fire of 1882, the city was rebuilt by now? And why would some Ambassador -- that is, a foreigner -- speak this way about some little town on the very northwestern fringe of Bosnia, far from Sarajevo where he otherwise resides?” However, many readers around Bosnia-Herzegovina, entertained by the daily economic problems, and each by his own local politicians, have long since lost interest. People who have been dulled by war and by life in post-Dayton Bosnia hardly wish to be so very well-informed, and certainly not by any close examination. Thus, these and similar journalistic “works” shamelessly continue to fill the pages of magazines and newspapers throughout this Bosnia-Herzegovina that belongs to no one -- or, in fact (how did Moša Pijade put it, in November, 1943?) -- to everyone.
So far, our shameful war history and the poor situation of returnees has mostly been obscured and censored in the media of the smaller -- they call it “Serb” -- entity. But there, right on 1 April, 2009, on the day of (black) humor, from the now apparently former black hole, it is the turn of the legendary Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje. So from the article about this city, the happy and smiling readers in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Prijedor itself, as well as nearby Kozarac, would not gain an inkling that beyond the borders of the country our Prijedor, aside Sarajevo, Mostar, and Srebrenica, is the most well-known city in this, our one and only Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Because in The Hague, and in Washington, London, Geneva, and Paris, they have known about Prijedor ever since 1992.
Part Two - “Unrenowned” History
They know, that is, that back in 1992 the municipality of Prijedor founded and, for months, carefully concealed, and finally brought to light three concentration camps, of which one, that at Keraterm, existed within the borders of the town itself. Suddenly three stunted, under-nourished triplets were born, the illegitimate offspring of the father Radovan of Durmitor and the Prijedoran mother, whose maiden name was the “crisis staff of the Serb municipality of Prijedor”.
Prijedor is a municipality with 3,254 civilian victims from the recent war, and to date, 63 mass graves have been discovered. The grave in Stari Kevljani, immediately next to the Omarska camp, was found in August, 2004. To that point it had carefully concealed from the light of day the remains of its population of 456, including Bosniaks, Croats, and members of other ethnicities. Many Prijedorans, including Pavić’s wartime colleague mayor Milomir Stakić, today serve their well-earned sentences meted out at The Hague, Sarajevo, and Banja Luka for crimes committed at Korićanske Stijene; in the camps of Omarska, Trnopolje and Keraterm; for the mass murders in Stari Grad (Old Town), in Kozarac, Hambarine, Briševo, Čarakovo; for the systematic, planned, and implemented expulsion and slaughter of the non-Serb inhabitants.
That is how Prijedor has become a “great Bosnian city”. Not as a city of celebrated beauty, as it was humorously represented on 1 April, 2009 by Oslobodjenje to the many and varied Bosnian readers, but as the first Bosnian Srebrenica. And just because of this “unsung” -- only in Prijedor -- history, sadly, people know of Prijedor, all the way from Finland to Brazil. Not because of any tennis in 1915, nor through tourism, and certainly not through any “special events”. That is, unless the above-mentioned touristic hunting includes the hunt for humans that took place in 1992.
Based on the number (over 30) of those accused and tried, besides being a city of artists, Prijedor is, if we follow the logic of Božice Radić , also a city of criminals.
Today there are numerous monuments in this city, such as one in front of the municipal Parliament -- a large black cross -- and the one for the fallen Serb fighters, shamelessly erected in front of the former camp at Trnopolje. They tell the broadly promoted, simple story of one ethnicity that, from Prijedor in 1992, created that black hole that Pavić mentions. Even the names of the streets have been altered. So has the name of the famous Prijedor Gymnasium, once called “Esad Midžić”, after the man who, in the thirties and forties of the previous century, together with Doctor Mladen Stojanović, ennobled this city. Today that Gymnasium bears the name “Sveti Sava”, after a man who in his (long-ago Medieval) era never set foot in Bosnia-Herzegovina, let alone Prijedor. These changes clumsily conceal the fact that in Prijedor, up until 1991, 44% of the population was Bosniak (or “muslims” with a small “m”, that is, believers, as the seemingly inarticulate Mrs. Radić calls them).
Those (often) black monuments, and these -- still, today -- black holes, hide this shameful history of the once lovely, multi-ethnic city on the green Sana River, but only from the Prijedorans themselves. They hide the fact that the sons and daughters of Prijedor; the esteemed professors of that Gymnasium; the doctors and specialists of the Prijedor hospital honored with the name of Dr. Mladen Stojanović; the businessmen, inspectors, policemen, laborers, miners, villagers, and the women and children; one by one, during that rainy summer of 1992, were tormented to death in the camps.
They hide the fact that these citizens of Prijedor were led away in groups, and then shot in the back in a cowardly fashion and scattered in pits all around the “once celebrated” Prijedor. And in this way Prijedor killed its students, Prijedor raped its girls, Prijedor expelled its inhabitants, Prijedor robbed and torched its houses, and Prijedor, using machines from the mines at Ljubija, dug itself those sixty-three great, black holes.
But it does not occur to anyone in this year of 2009 to lift the veil, even a little, on that darkness, and for example to support the initiative for the construction of a Memorial Centre at the former camp of Omarska. As Ed Vulliamy (British journalist who, on 5 August, 1992, together with his colleague Penny Marshall, discovered the camps of Prijedor) said, “Omarska camp, was, after Srebrenica, the most fertile killing field of the Bosnian war”.
Part Three - Prijedor - City of Genocide
Thus Prijedor, besides having been renowned long ago, since 1992 is also a city of genocide, carried out professionally and conceived with surgical precision. Not with the precision of the late Doctor Esad Sadiković, that great Prijedoran and Sarajevan, Bosniak, Serb and Croat, a Yugoslav, and above all a Bosnian. That Doctor Esad who, just like Doctors Pašić, Sikora, and Rešić, are no longer there to share a drink of Cockta and to go around Prijedor healing both “your” and “our” children. They were taken out of Omarska and then, though carefully tracked by the alert hawk-eyes of the powerful but quiet American satellites, driven for hours together with 123 other wretched victims from the camps. They were viciously shot, that steamy August night of 1992, and thrown like sacks into yet another black hole of Prijedor, just twelve hours before the arrival of the British journalists and finally the discovery of the three Prijedoran foundlings.
I say “genocide”, because in June of 2004 the Hague Tribunal, in a decision against Slobodan Milošević, characterized the events in the “renowned” Prijedor as genocide. Prijedor, the city in which in 1992, after the pogroms, the ekavica dialect was forcefully introduced (as they say, “leave no stone unturned”). I say “precision”, bearing in mind Esad’s colleague who died in a cell at The Hague, one of those thirty “artists” of the nineties, Dr. Milan Kovačević. According to him, at least as a drunken Milan himself once babbled to some journalists, “this war has been going on since the time of Barbarossa”.
“Yes”, as Roćko from ‘Pozorište u kući’ (“Theater at Home”) said, “but not in my home”.
And perhaps that precision and professionalism was best expressed, in just a couple of words, back in 1996, by yet another former colleague of Pavić and Kovačević from the Prijedoran tentacle of the Bosnian octopus of the “Demo Serbocratic Party”. The late Simo Drljača, member of the municipal crisis staff, indicted by the Hague Tribunal, said, "With their mosques, you must not just break the minarets… You've got to shake up the foundations because that means they cannot build another. Do that, and they'll want to go. They'll just leave by themselves."
This is what has become of Prijedor since 1992, every day, except for 1 April, 2009.
Part Four - Priorities of Prijedor, and the Kozarac Kvrguša
It is too soon, perhaps, for a catharsis. Because it doesn’t occur to Pavić, nor to anyone else in “Predor”, to show all 25,000 of the returnees, and in this way the entire world, through their behavior, that he and the inhabitants of this city reject that shameful past. Just a year ago the municipal Mayor publicly announced that he opposed the construction of a Memorial Center at Omarska.
Village-spa tourism and fishing are the municipal priorities, says the April first story…
But the recent history and its public record -- or lack thereof -- are not the only matter that is passed over in this article, one which fits comfortably into the category of free commercials and obituaries.
Neither Radić nor Pavić mention that for years, the returnee population in Kozarac has been struggling to acquire the necessary housing for the Volunteer Firefighters Association, founded in long-ago 1892. The firehouse was destroyed in 1992, as was practically every other building in Kozarac. This century-old association, having rebuilt itself based on donations and the hard work of the citizens of Kozarac, has yet to be included in the municipal budget.
No one mentions that the citizens of Kozarac and other returnees struggle throughout the summer and winter because of yet-unresolved problems with the water supply. (Meanwhile, there is always water in Prijedor.) Nor that reconstruction of the clinic in Kozarac was finally begun in 2008 (return began in 1998) - but again, without funding from Prijedor municipality.
No one has even shown the slightest bit of interest in the fact that the main street in Kozarac is full of potholes. A couple of years ago humanitarian fundraising by Kozarac residents and foreign organizations -- not the municipality -- provided benches, garbage cans, and dumpsters for Kozarac. And returnees are contributing to that budget, but so are the refugees who, in these postwar years, only fill the pubs and the xafss of the entire municipality during the summer.
The situation is similar in other, once burned-down places and parts of the municipality that become a “priority” to everyone only during the local elections, as was the case before the elections in 2008.
Returnees thus become a sort of mascot of the city, a Prijedor Vučko, a reason for the next Ambassador to show up, to stuff himself with the ćevapčići of Prijedor, to be told how everyone is comfortable in Prijedor, how there is a place for everyone, and to announce with one stroke of the pen that Prijedor is no longer such a black hole.
It is time for Pavić and the powerful Sarajevo ambassadors, and the lower-echelon representatives, to come and once more sample the chicken pie of Kozarac. They will always find a welcome.
Part Five - K'o bajagi...
During Vučko’s Olympic days of Sarajevo, 1984, in Belgrade a band was formed, “Bajaga and the Instructors of Positive Geography”.
The politics of today’s municipal government and of the mayor of Prijedor municipality were faithfully processed and wrapped in cellophane for the 1 April issue of Oslobodjenje. Following the example of Bajaga and the popular Belgrade musicians, it could be characterized as “Pavić and the Instructors of Positive History”.
It is clear that much more water will flow down the Sana before the Prijedor Serbs, as represented by the current municipal government that they themselves selected, will stop hiding behind the overly transparent and, to tell the truth, somewhat childish veil of silence. Their hope seems to be that someone, one sunny day, will take an eraser and simply erase that recent, tormented history of that self-stigmatized city.
It is also apparent that many Prijedorans -- today -- do not support the crimes, the mass murder, and the expulsion of their neighbors that happened between 1992 and 1995; however, they remain silent, not comprehending that in this way, they are making that erstwhile black hole still blacker.
Because until the remaining 1,559 missing Prijedorans are found, and as long as the places of the crimes are not marked in a dignified way, and until the returnees are not ensured the most basic living conditions that they left behind during that bloody May of 1992, then these sweet stories will remain simply an April Fools’ joke.
It is quite obvious, in fact, that the city of Prijedor would most gladly turn to the future, to the development of the city and its tourism. And of course there is nothing bad about that. The development of the municipality and tourism would repair the economic, cultural, and social situation for all inhabitants of the municipality, and thereby, certainly, the inter-ethnic relations. The problem is that Prijedor does not know how to do so, nor does it utilize its own potential. And that, along with the constant denial of the past, is also clear from the above-described article.
But, you see, with a little imagination, that one could attract those great crowds of tourists and travelers whom Pavić and the Instructors eagerly await, but who know Prijedor only by its black history.
How? Quite easily, my friend…
Part Six - The Prijedoran Ostrich Flock
For starters, Prijedor could introduce a symbol of the city, something that would recall a concept that is specifically relevant to Prijedor. Animals, for example, are often symbols of cities. The stork is the symbol of a city that is today dear to Prijedorans, The Hague, and an excellent candidate for our celebrated city would certainly be -- the ostrich. The Prijedoran ostrich would symbolize that pathological need of the Prijedoran to stick his head in the sand, denying his own past, thinking that while his head is in the sand, that past did not even take place.
Today, in the 21st century, such an act by the municipality would inevitably attract the attention both of the domestic and foreign media, and thus of masses of European tourists, eager for new, undiscovered, European localities. Instead of the clumsy war monuments at every turn, at least every second one of them could be replaced with a great ostrich, in all (of our) colors.
If the idea were accepted, the ostrich could also replace the four Serbian “S’s” that were stuck into the coat-of-arms of the city of Prijedor right after the pogrom of 1992. It is true that the ostrich, just like the four S’s in Prijedor, would only symbolize one, Serbian nation. But in the case of the ostrich, the Bosniaks and Croats would, after such a long wait for any kind of equal rights (and the return of the old symbol, the sun above the Sana), relinquish such a demand. The ostrich would, in addition to development of the city, bring prosperity to all, regardless of ethnicity. And that is what Pavić and the Instructors of Positive History, as well as all other inhabitants of Prijedor, desire.
Every year we could, following the example of similar presentations in other cities, hold an ostrich race, which would become traditional, and probably unique in the Balkans or even further afield. After just a couple of years, the “Prijedor Ostrich Race” would attract the masses from the Vardar all the way to Triglav. This sort of entertainment, new and completely unknown to all of Bosnia-Herzegovina, would outshine the Corrida of Grmeč. It would represent that new “high-quality concept of xafsing” and introduce an attractive element to the present, ever paler, “grey Prijedor”.
Finally, likenesses of the Prijedoran ostrich could be sold as souvenirs, emblems on ink-pens, tee-shirts, and caps with the name “Prijedor”, all following the example of the world’s metropolises. The souvenir factories, of course, would be located within the municipality. It would be best for them to be in some returnee, non-Serb settlement, so as to dispel all suspicion that the city chose its ostrich simply on a whim or out of greed, but rather as a matter of true catharsis.
The factory, as happened with Agrokomerc, certainly would grow into the largest company in the region; only Prijedorans of all colors would work there, and those couple of Indians from Mittal Steel. That mining complex, meanwhile, in the middle of the world economic crisis, would be going bankrupt and the plant at Omarska would be sold to the Ostrich Factory, which would further contribute to the development of the city.
“Ostrich” would, unlike the perfidious Mittal, immediately close the site of the former camp at Omarska and all of the locations where, in 1992, people were detained, tortured, and killed. These spaces would be converted into museums, and then, instead of searching for iron ore, the authorities would first search for the human bones scattered among the excavation sites of Omarska.
Finally, one could think about entire ostrich farms in the countryside, say, in Marićka, where Prijedorans could come with their children and visit on their days off, resting from the painstaking work in the ostrich souvenir factory.
In such a setting, now economically healthy and prosperous, the next phase would be the cultural-historical tourism mentioned by Pavić (which is, at present, truly at the bottom of the list). Prijedor, as is the case with Krakow, could develop because of its very history. Millions of tourists from around the world visit Krakow annually, and the main reason is to visit the former concentration camp at Auschwitz.
It is true that nothing in history may be compared with that factory of death, but there are few places in our recent history that, like Prijedor, have been adorned with three camps. The photographs from Trnopolje and Omarska were a direct prompt for the establishment of war crimes tribunal at The Hague, and Prijedor could utilize that fact to the maximum extent in the 21st century. With a good advertising campaign for our three camp-foundlings, those three examples of human madness which we have left where they belong, in that previous twentieth century, perhaps Prijedor could even surpass in reputation the “famous,“ but “already-seen“ Srebrenica. And Prijedor could eclipse the long-feature documentary about sniping on civilians in the besieged firing range of Sarajevo.
Let us remember that, unlike in Srebrenica, the murdering in Prijedor lasted for three whole years, and unlike in Sarajevo, the non-Serbs of Prijedor were unable to run to the basements, because their houses had been robbed and torched. These factors, along with the well-known human urge -- particularly among pampered European tourists -- to visit places of misfortune and torment, would lead to the expansion of cultural-historical tourism in Prijedor. This is exactly what Pavić and the Instructors - till now obviously lacking the right idea - have eagerly been awaiting.
And just as with Krakow, Prijedor could thus, because of the vicinity of the camps, construct an international airport and so in the foreseeable future even compete with the airports at Zagreb and Banja Luka.
At that moment, finally all preconditions for the development of the other branches of tourism would be created: environmental visits, the village-spa, and above all, fishing in that once again renowned city.
In this framework, we may not ever forget the huge number of innocent, primarily Serb victims from the Second World War. Future visits to Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje should be extended with visits to Gradina and Kozara, as well as to Jasenovac in neighboring Croatia. In this way we would honor all of the victims of our common human stupidity, but it would be clear to all, and finally to us Prijedorans, that every crime is just another crime.
All of those unnecessarily murdered, those lives senselessly taken, our common dead from the Gradinas, the Omarskas, the Jasenovaces and the Keraterms of the previous century, would unconsciously, though dead, connect us who are alive in this century.
And all of us, everyone, alive or dead, small giants and large dwarves of all colors, languages, and religions, following the example of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, would attentively observe the statue of our Prijedor Ostrich on Pašinac hill above Prijedor.
16 April, 2009
(translated from Bosnian by Peter Lippman)
Somebody is playing...
By Maja Lovrenović The iron mines of Ljubija [ly-u-bı-a] are situated in northwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the 1970s, the region was estimated to hold one of the largest reserves of iron ore in the Balkans. During the 1992-1995 war, the local Serb forces employed the mines’ technology to produce ‘ethnic cleansing’: the mines’ facilities were used to lock up, starve, rape, torture and kill the local Bosniaks and Croats. The mining pits and machinery were used to move and bury their bodies. The most notorious of those sites was the Omarska death camp (Thanks to the British journalist Ed Vulliamy, the existence of death camps in northwestern Bosnia was well documented and revealed to the international public, and in particular, to the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. See: ICTY summary indictment of 1995 on the Omarska death camp).
In 2004, the local Serb authorities sold 51% of the Ljubija mines to the world’s largest steel producer Arcelor Mittal, owned by one of the world’s richest men, Mr. Lakshmi Mittal. Soon afterwards, the extraction of iron ore from the pits was restarted, despite the fact that some 1.500 people are still listed as missing and believed to have been buried in secret mass graves across the mines’ complex (For more details, images and maps on the Ljubija mines, see the „Ljubija Mine Scandal“ dossier). In 2005, the survivors of these horrors were given a promise by Arcelor Mittal CEOs that they will be allowed to set up a memorial and commemorate freely at the site of the Omarska death camp. Yet, two days ago, according to Bosnian daily newspaper, the current Arcelor Mittal management denies having ever given such promise.
The global company argues that they do not want to interfere with the local ethnic politics, seemingly ignorant of the fact that their position in the ongoing Omarska death camp memorial debate suits the local Serb authorities in their attempt to eradicate the traces of crimes committed there. Furthermore, the company is also in the spotlight of Amnesty International, for ethnic discrimination in employment at the Ljubija mines.
This new denial of any responsibility for the purchased ‘troubled spot’ (a concept of social scientist Pierre Bourdieu) comes on top of the thwarted memorial negotiation process that took place in 2005-2006, when the company hired ‘Soul of Europe’, an NGO run by the English Anglican priest Donald Reeves, and paid it one hundred thousand euro to mediate the memorial initiative process between the survivors and the local Serb authorities. Attempting to turn the survivors’ quest for memorial into their own project of reconciliation between ethnic-religious groups, ‘Soul of Europe’ insisted on a memorial design that would include religious symbols of the Serb-Orthodox community.
This attempt enraged the survivors and family members of the death camp victims, who were, in turn, portrayed as ‘spoilers’ of the negotiating process both in media (e.g. Radio Netherlands Worldwide) and in the book authored by Rev. Donald Reeves in 2008. Thus botched mediating process opened new wounds and tensions on top of the older ones. Arcelor Mittal fired ‘Soul of Europe’ and since then the NGO had moved from Bosnia-Herzegovina on to Kosovo with the same missionary and ‘reconciliatory’ agenda. Nonetheless, in his book on the ‘Omarska Project’, Rev. Reeves claims to have shown “how it is possible to dismantle nationalism”.
Three years later, Arcelor Mittal grounds its rebuttal of the promise of memorial given to the survivors of the Omarska death camp on quite the opposite claim – that they do not want to interfere with the local ethnic politics. Of finding the bodies of those still listed as missing, nobody even speaks any more, as the extraction of iron ore in the Ljubija mines charts new highs.
Maja Lovrenović completed her Masters at the Department for Social and Cultural Anthropology at the VU. She is currently applying for a PhD position In her research she focuses on memory, violence and historical imagination in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina.
US Congress on Omarska
BAACBH would like to recognize and commend U.S. Congresswoman Sue Myrick (R-NC) and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) for their support of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the Bosnian people.
BAACBH was alarmed by the recent events that took place in Prijedor, BiH regarding the Day of Concentration Camp Detainees that takes place on May 9th of each year at the site of the former Omarska concentration camp. Omarska was one of the most notorious concentration camps during the war in BiH. It was one of three camps set up in northern BiH to rid the country of non-Serbs where around 6,000 Bosniaks and Croats were held in appalling and brutal conditions for five months in the spring and summer of 1992. Currently, the biggest steel company in the world, ArcelorMittal owns the mining complex site in Omarska; however, no memorial commemorating the concentration camp exists to this day.
In her statement before the U.S. Congress on May 23, 2011, Rep. Myrick recognized the victims of the concentration camp in Omarska and praised British journalists Ed Vulliamy, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams on their brave reporting that helped uncover the horrors of Omarska to the world. On June 14, 2011, Rep. Smith, the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Bosnia and the Chair of the Helsinki Commission spoke at length about how remembering the victims is crucial to the reconciliation process so that atrocities that occurred in Omarska are never repeated again. Rep. Smith spoke of foreign correspondent Roy Gutman who called Omarska a "death camp'' and reported on the horrid conditions, rapes and tortures at Omarska and surrounding camps. Congressman Smith concluded his speech by stating: "The horrors that took place at Omarska and their lasting impact on Bosnian society certainly warrant such a memorial. It would provide some closure to victims, and it would counter those who are still unwilling to acknowledge the horrific crimes that, in undeniable fact, were committed there in 1992. It would also serve as a lasting reminder to us all. If atrocities on the scale of those at the Omarska camp are not appropriately remembered, they are more likely to be repeated, in some other distant town or village presently unknown to us. That is why we have these memorials: in the hope we will never forget nor ever allow such crimes to be repeated. As the Chairman of the Bosnian Caucus, I encourage the present owners of the mining complex to permit and support the establishment of a permanent memorial at Omarska. I bring this issue to the attention of my colleagues in the hope they can join me in this call."
To view the entire statements made by Congresswoman Myrick and Congressman Smith regarding the Omarska concentration camp please click on the following links:
Rep. Myrick : http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-2011-05-23/pdf/CREC-2011-05-23-pt1-PgE919-4.pdf#page=1
Rep. Smith : http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-2011-06-14/pdf/CREC-2011-06-14-pt1-PgE1092-3.pdf#page=2
Who was Željko Sikora? A Czech perspective on the war in Bosnia
Despite the recent arrest and extradition of Mladic, the war in former Yugoslavia (1991-1995) has largely been forgotten. Fifteen years is, after all, a long time and many things have happened since; other wars have been waged, some are being waged at this very moment, we all have our own problems to worry about and who can think of the horrors in the world all the time?
Yet, many like to recall the splendid Yugoslavia in the times before its breakup, a country of friendly people and a captivating sea, where the Winnetou movie series was filmed; the country where people spoke a language similar to our own and where – when Czechoslovakia lacked goods – almost everything could be found.
That country dissolved as did ours, indeed as roughly the same time. Unlike our ‘Velvet Separation,’ the breakup of Yugoslavia has become notorious for its cruelty, ethnic cleansing and genocide accompanied by crimes against humanity such as mass murder, torture of civilians and the systematic deployment of sexual abuse and other forms of violence aimed at citizenry.
In this context, the concentration camps Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje established by Bosnian Serbs in northern Bosnia at the outset of the Yugoslavian conflict became known as ‘death camps.’ It is in such facilities that members of non-Serbian ethnic groups – especially Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) – were kept prisoners in inhumane conditions; where they were systematically beaten, tortured and, finally, killed. Besides Bosniaks, people of other nationalities were persecuted there, most of them Croats and also one Czech man.
I first heard of him in Sarajevo earlier this year when I spoke to one Satko Mujagić, a former inmate and survivor of the Omarska concentration camp. Life is full of coincidences that cannot be explained. Perhaps it was fate; who knows? How would you make sense of the fact that you have a long-lasting interest in crimes against humanity, especially those committed during the Yugoslavian wars in the 1990s, you even write your doctoral dissertation on the topic, and then you embark on a work-travel trip to Sarajevo that pertains to a completely different issue, and when you get there, your Bosnian colleague – a genuine, sympathetic and intelligent person, among other things – tells you that he had been imprisoned in the most notorious concentration camp during the war.
We discussed it for hours. He ordered a beer, lit a cigarette and started talking. If you didn’t hear his story, you would never be able to tell, that this man, 190cms tall with almost 100kgs in weight, had been in a concentration camp. But he had been there. At the time when Satko – only two years older than me – was tortured in prison and weighed less than 50 kilos, I was spending my summer with friends, worrying about beer and girls. He showed me a photograph of what he had looked like at the end of his devastating ordeal, when he was leaving Omarska; skeletal with eyes of a wounded animal. The same faces as those we know from the photographs taken some fifty years previously, at Auschwitz.
We were in the middle of our conversation and, out of a sudden, he said:
‘Did you know that when I was kept prisoner in Omarska, a Czech man died in one of the other Serbian concentration camps in the area?’
‘What?’ Was all I could reply.
‘Yes, there was a doctor of Czech origins in prison in one of the Serbian concentration camps close to Prijedor, it was at the time of my imprisonment. His name was Željko Sikora.’
I was deeply shaken by this information. How did a Czech end up in a Serbian concentration camp and why did he die there? Knowing that a person with Czech roots died there kept me awake that and other nights.
Dr. Željko Sikora was born in 1957 and worked as a gynecologist in Prijedor hospital. He was imprisoned in the Keraterm concentration camp, together with other representatives of the non-Serbian intelligentsia during the so-called Prijedor Genocide (also known as Prijedor Massacre) which was, after Srebrenica, the second largest massacre committed during the Bosnian War.
What follows from Minka Čehajič’s testimony given on 14 May 2002, testifying in the case of Milomir Stakić charged by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is that doctor Željko Sikora together with other scholars, doctors and prominent people of non-Serbian origin were incarcerated in Prijedor in a local police station at the end of May 1992. Subsequently, Mr. Sikora was transported to the Keraterm concentration camp. Several sources independently (of each other) stated that Dr. Sikora ‘disappeared’ following his detention and imprisonment, and it is therefore reasonable to presume that he and other doctors – Dr. Enes Begić, Dr. Osman Mahmuljin and Dr. Razim Musić – were beaten to death in the aforementioned concentration camp.
(Dr. Milomir Stakic in the court of The Hague Tribunal)
It is difficult to document precisely what had happened and how. Nevertheless, it remains certain that in 2001 a mass grave was discovered in the Jakarina kosa area, close to Prijedor, which held the mortal remains of some 372 consequently exhumed bodies. One of them was Dr. Sikora’s.
This alone is a horrifying story, but it does not end here. Not only was Dr. Sikora killed, but his name and good reputation were damaged too. The story of Dr. Željko Sikora is known as an example of intense abuse of the media for propaganda purposes during the Bosnian War with the intention of creating an air of fear, hatred and violence. Serbian propaganda deliberately produced such atmosphere, on both the national and regional levels. The aim was to produce a reason for the carnage against civilians which was later justified by the Serbian media that helped spread information which leaves us speechless even today.
The “news” of Serb civilians beaten to death in the Croatian town of Pakrac in 1991, of forty murdered Serbian children in another Croatian town, Vukovar, that same year, or of Serbian children being fed to lions in the ZOO during the siege of Sarajevo have never been confirmed. Neither has the “story” of Dr. Željko Sikora whom, prior to the Prijedor Massacre, the Serbian media portrayed – together with doctors Mujadžić and Mahmuljin – as a “Monster Doctor” who forced Serbian women into involuntary abortions if their newborn child was to be a boy, and who castrated Serbian newborn males. It is unnecessary to point out that such stories were purposefully construed pieces of fiction. In the atmosphere of deliberately stirred hatreds further fuelled by nationalist circles, this played a decisive role. The non-Serbian intelligentsia from Prijedor was stigmatized to legitimise what was about to happen. The article on a “Monster Doctor” published in Kozarski Vjesnik and the news broadcast in that same spirit on Prijedor Radio were doubtlessly used as a pretext for Dr. Sikora’s detention and they also contributed to the fact that he was then beaten to death in the Keraterm concentration camp.
I am well-aware that Dr. Željko Sikora was “only” one of at least 3200 persons killed or missing in Prijedor, although some sources talk of more than 5000 people directly from Prijedor and another 14000 in its vicinity which fell victim to the ethnic cleansing in the area. All available public sources and the testimony referred to above further state that Dr. Sikora was Croatian and not Czech. Thanks to help from Satko Mujagić and his friends, it was uncovered that Dr. Željko Sikora was, in fact, a descendant of an old mining foremen of Czech origin, who came to the Gornja Puharska region in northern Bosnia from Bohemia during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Dr. Sikora’s body was found at Jakarina Kosa, part of the Ljubija iron ore mines where his ancestors had sought work. His remains were brought to the town of Slavonska Požega, Croatia, in 2004.
I do not think it is important to know whether Dr. Sikora was Croat or Czech. What is significant is the fact that Dr. Sikora and hundreds of people of different nationalities were beaten to death in the Keraterm concentration camp, and until now there is only a small memorial plaque embedded in the grass at the site to remind the world of the camp’s existence. The same is true of the worst Bosnian concentration camp Omarska, even though since 2004 there have been attempts to raise a proper memorial there. The current owner of the property, Arcelor Mittal, now mines iron ore in Omarska and is thus reluctant to interrupt its industrial output to pay homage to those that paid the ultimate price so others would not have to. It is a sad commentary that so many people perished – in the worst conditions – for no more than an enflamed sense of national identity. It is sadder still that industrial output and quotas now prevent proper homage to the fallen.
RECOGNIZING THE VICTIMS OF OMARSKA
. HON. RUSS CARNAHAN
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Mr. CARNAHAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the victims of a notorious concentration camp in Omarska, located in northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In the summer of 1992, Omarska was the site of mass human rights violations in an attempt to drive non-Serbs from this part of the country.
When the world learned of these mass atrocities, U.N. prosecutors brought cases against many of the perpetrators of these crimes.
The ICTY found several guilty of crimes against humanity.
Remembering the victims of Omarska allows the survivors and families of the victims to mark this tragic chapter.
This is critical to reconciliation, and to the future of Bosnia.
I strongly urge all companies, municipalities, and others to allow anniversary events to take place in Omarska.
It is critical that all involved allow a memorial to be built, and for all parties to respect the commemoration of Omarska and the right of remembrance so that the horrors of Omarska are never repeated again.
3 wars in one 'small' story
"In 2014 it will be 100 years ago that the atentat of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo triggered the start of the First World War. It is important to mark this tragic historic event, a devastating war that lead to many deaths, suffering, division and horrors throughout Europe and the world. But it is even more important to mark and celebrate European unity and peace today. To reaffirm Europe's message of peace and stability, I believe it would send a very important message if Sarajevo would be proclaimed the European Capital of Culture of 2014. Not just because it was where the First World War started, but because in Europe, it is in Bosnia and Herzegovina that we had the most recent war in the nineties. During the bloody war and the siege of Sarajevo that lasted three years, citizens of Sarajevo have endured a lot. Today it is a city where despite everything that happened, it has maintained its multicultural spirit and strength. In order to recognize this, it would be a strong symbolic gesture to name Sarajevo the European Capitol of Culture 2014." says Emine Bozkurt prior to the debate that will be held this week in Strasbourg in the plenary session of the European Parliament on Thursday.
The European Parliament, with the support of the Social and Democrats will ask the European Commission whether they will support the request by the city of Sarajevo to be named, by exception, the European Capitol of Culture in 2014.
Emine Bozkurt adds: "War is devastating and leaves marks on people's lives. Sometimes it seems easier for people to forget the past to be able to go on with their lives. But it is only when we deal with our past, when we recognize and face history that we can look openly to the future. Today, we celebrate Europe Day! BiH wants to be part of the European Union. Therefore, it needs positive peaceful messages of peace and reconciliation between its peoples. Not only in Sarajevo, but throughout the country and with its neighbours.
"Today, at the place of the former concentration camp Omarska, people from Bosnia and Serbia have commemorated the deaths and sufferings that happened there, together for the first time since the beginning of the war. The sufferings of civilians during the wars in the nineties must be honourably commemorated so as to become part of public memory. Memorial initiatives, with positive messages of peace, hope and togetherness of all peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina and together with its neighbours can be an important step towards reconciliation and a multiethnic society and progress on the path towards the EU."
Experts for hatred
BY NIHADA HASIC - 06.05.2011 17:31
The Mayor of Prijedor Municipality and the President of the Democratic People’s Alliance (DNS) has a very specific recipe by means of which he’s trying to defend the citizens of Prijedor from new conflicts and discharges of hatred.
Marko Pavic is conducting his protector’s mission by opposing the gathering of the members of the Association of Concentration Camp Detainees of BiH in front of the former Omarska Camp, planned for May 9th – the Victory Day over Fascism. Gathering of the victims is considered by the DNS to be a political provocation, which may have unforeseeable harmful consequences for the coexistence in Prijedor. And how much he himself cares for the tolerance and the consequences of his “peaceable” statements is best illustrated through his elucidation as to why the gathering of former Bosniak and Croat detainees is unacceptable at the location where they were detained in the summer of 1992.
“The Day of Victory over Fascism is not appropriate for holding of such a manifestation, unless the organizer of the gathering has some connections with those who plundered Europe 60 years ago”, explained Pavic.
The irony with which the victims are brought into connection with the fascism of the first half of the 20th century is even more unacceptable as this statement was uttered by a man who has just two years ago in Sarajevo been proclaimed the best mayor of the Central and Southeast Europe. At that time Pavic spoke of his merits as to why Prijedor has become, even for the international community, a bright example of development, coexistence and prosperity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and not so long ago had it been considered, due to the war crimes committed, a dark spot in Europe.
Declaratively, the Mayor of Prijedor is all for coexistence at present as well. That is exactly why, as he claims, he’s opposing the gathering of the former concentration camp detainees whose participants shall “discharge their indignation and hatred, leaving the citizens of Prijedor with an evil seed that they shall afterwards have to be struggling with and overcoming it”. It is praiseworthy that Pavic is thinking on a long term and warning about possible consequences of other people’s statements and actions whereas he’s not thinking about what he’s achieving with his prohibition. Should he have observed the interest of his citizens and compatriots he’d surely have sustained himself from embargo and connecting victims with fascists. With his decision to, shortly before the “disputable” gathering in Omarska, additionally heat up the boiling political atmosphere in BiH, Pavic leaves an open room for prohibitions also of some other commemorative gatherings, which we, unfortunately, abound with.
As per schedule, after Prijedor, the next in line is the commemoration of the anniversary of the sufferings of the soldiers of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) at Brcanska Malta in Tuzla. The fact that on May 15th last year, when the associations from the Republic of Srpska have for the first time laid down flowers in Tuzla, there were no incidents does not mean that now it is smart to set off, through agitators’ slogans, the fury of Tuzla citizens. On the contrary. Pavic, as a public figure, should show much more political maturity and accountability than the anonymous commentators on internet forums. That way he’d be of more assistance to the local community whose interests he swears on.
In case on May 3rd last year the Sarajevan police had observed more the “wisdom” effused in forums and the “maturity” of the Mayor, Alija Behmen, the families of the killed JNA soldiers wouldn’t then, or this May, pay honour to their killed relatives in the former Dobrovoljacka Street in Sarajevo. Behmen as well talked last year, as Pavic does these days, about political manipulation, opposed the gathering in the centre of Sarajevo, by which, as he said, the aggressor and his victim would be equalized. Even the City Council of Sarajevo had supported Behmen’s decision to prohibit the commemoration of the JNA soldiers, and the session during which the embargo for Dobrovoljacka was confirmed abounded with, to put it mildly, the speech of hatred directed towards the Serb people.
Luckily, the then-Minister of Interior of Sarajevo Canton and the Police Commissioner have decided to do their job observing solely the law, and not the political instructions whoever they may be coming from. The responsible behaviour of the head of the Sarajevan Ministry of Interior had necessitated the commitment of a huge number of police officers, the city had been reminiscent of the times of curfew, but all had passed peacefully. The same scenario was repeated this year as well in Hamdije Kresevljakovica Street, except that, precisely because the politicians didn’t get involved that much by adding extra fuel, there was no counter-gathering of the “Green Berets” and other associations.
The parallel Sarajevo – Prijedor is just one of the illustrative examples as to how much the political leaders can direct the behaviour of the associations of the past war’s victims was not mentioned here either as a counter-point in a story of whose pain is the greater one. The sufferings and traumas experienced are to a greater extent more difficult and more long-lasting than the political speeches on commemorations. They shall, unfortunately, not disappear after al-Fatihas have been recited and after candles have been lit at the crime scene, but they should nevertheless not be worsened by depriving the victims of their right to remembrance and by misusing them for the purpose of increasing one’s own political rating.
The non-involvement of politics with the wounds of the war proved worth of gold two-three days ago in Konjic. For the killed members of Croatian Defence Council (HVO) and the BiH Army, a common memorial stone was laid in spite of the fact that these two armies were in the war against each other. The names of those killed found themselves on one spot as a result of the decision made by their families, who, far away from the public eye, had been preparing for this action for a long time. Once the entire arduous job had been done, again somebody was there to make profit on the parents’ tears. This time it was Zivko Budimir, the President of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. His presence at the uncovering of the memorial stone to the killed citizens of Konjic was desirable inasmuch as was Pavic’s invitation for peace and coexistence.
Welcome to Omarska, but not now :)
The municipal authorities of Prijedor are not prepared to allow the former concentration camp detainees of Omarska concentration camp to visit that location on May 9th.
The Mayor of Prijedor Marko Pavic considers this to be a “very sensitive date, since the Day of Europe and the Victory Day over Fascism are celebrated on May 9th, and the commemoration and visit to the location of the former concentration camp could lead to serious consequences”.
Pavic stated that he does not support the “political gathering” that the Association of Concentration Camp Detainees in Bosnia and Herzegovina has announced for May 9th in Omarska, claiming that “the organizers of the gathering have bad intentions towards Prijedor and that this is contrary to everything which does good to this city”.
“Association of Concentration Camp Detainees in Bosnia and Herzegovina is still not giving up on the political gathering that they have scheduled for May 9th. Once again I would like to emphasize that the Victory Day over Fascism is not an appropriate day for holding such a manifestation except if the organizer of the gathering has some kind of connection with those who had plundered Europe 60 years ago”, reads Pavic’s statement.
He also bring forwards the claim that such gathering would represent the “taking back of the national, religious and all other relations to some previous times, which is contrary to the deliberation of the citizens of Prijedor to build a better future and prosperous municipality”.
“This is a well-known action of the people who come to Prijedor to spill out their indignation or hatred on a territory and then depart, leaving the sown evil seed for us to struggle with afterwards trying to overcome it”, says Pavic and adds that he and “most of the citizens of Prijedor” are against holding such gathering, and that he expects that those responsible for this field shall act in line with that attitude.
“Let the organizers, and also those giving their consent, go just three days back and remember the Dobrovoljacka Street in Sarajevo (a.k.a. Sarajevo column case; note by translator) where it was again not possible to reach the very crime scene but only the start of the street, and the same ones who banned the gathering in Dobrovoljacka Street now want to make a political gathering on the territory of our municipality”, stated the Mayor of Prijedor.
The local Federation of Veterans Associations of the People’s Liberation War of Yugoslavia, as well as veterans’ associations, have addressed an open letter to the “Arcelor Mittal Prijedor” mine and to the Ministry of Interior of Republic of Srpska, in which they say that it is “inappropriate and inopportune that the day, which is celebrated in the whole of liberal Europe as the day of victory over fascism, is taken as the Day of Concentration Camp Detainees of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.
They say that they are not against visiting of the location where the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina perished in the past war, but that they are for it to be in the same relation and in the same way, and it would be especially good if it be regulated by legal acts as well.
The Association of Concentration Camp Detainees in Bosnia and Herzegovina intends to commemorate the 9th of May as the Day of Concentration Camp Detainees of Bosnia and Herzegovina by visiting the monument to the perished citizens of Kozarac, and also by visiting Omarska afterwards where it is envisaged to have the addresses by the members of the Association, as well as by the members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zeljko Komsic and Bakir Izetbegovic.
Approval for this gathering was requested from the Ministry of Interior of Republic of Srpska, and also from the “Arcelor Mittal Prijedor” mine which has bought through privatization the buildings of the former concentration camp as well.
Several thousand of detainees have passed through “Omarska”, out of which several hundred were killed in 1992.
(Source: Federal News Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FENA))
Will Gestures be followed by Actions?
The Royal Castle in Warsaw, located at the entrance to the Warsaw Old Town, was the seat of Polish ruling elites for centuries. This grand architectural monument, built in Mannerist early baroque style, was where the Poles drafted Europe’s second-oldest, but first modern codified national constitution, in May 1791. In its long history, the Royal Castle has been repeatedly ravaged and plundered by Swedish, German and Russian armies.
Polish Baroque Jewel - Zamek Królewski w Warszawie
On December 7, 2010, the Great Assembly Hall of the Royal Castle staged an important event. Surrounded by the statues of Apollo and Minerva, embodying the allegories of Justice and Peace, under the gigantic painting on the ceiling that depicts the Disentanglement of Chaos, the crème de la crème of international figures from the fields of politics and science gathered to celebrate an historical event that took place forty years ago. This time Egon Bahr, former Federal Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the German Social Democrats, Bronisław Komorowski, Polish President, political activists and other guests got together to analyze the past and discuss the perspectives for the future. To hold such an event in Warsaw was considered unthinkable forty years ago but over the decades it has become a commonplace.
40 years after - Panel discussions at Great Assembly Hall
From 1939 to 1945, during the Nazi occupation of Poland, close to six million Poles were killed and the country fell into ruins. After the war, in retaliation, Poland responded by expelling Germans from the country, which additionally strained bilateral relations. During the time of the Cold War, the Soviet Union installed Communist government in East Germany, and Poland became politically connected through the membership in the Warsaw Pact. Polish Communist propaganda was therefore quite positive towards the reconciliation with the East German allies and, intrinsically, utterly negative towards Germans from the West.
German Wehrmacht troops during the Warsaw Uprising, 1944
The relations between Western Germany and Poland in the mid-1960s were strained in every meaning of the word. Nevertheless, gestures that followed triggered the avalanche of change. Everyone knew the reconciliation would be a long and fragile process. On November 18, 1965, Polish bishops, led by Bolesław Kominek, sent a pastoral letter to their Catholic and Protestant German fellows. The letter was an invitation to the 1000 Year Anniversary Celebrations of Poland's Christianization. This groundbreaking act marked the beginning of a new era in relations between Germany and Poland. The letter caused a strong reaction by the Communist authorities, which infringed any further attempts by a severe, state-organized anti-church campaign from 1965, but the process of reconciliation could no longer be stopped. Several years later, on December 7, 1970, in an effort to ease tensions, German Chancellor Willy Brandt laid a wreath at the foot of a memorial honoring the Jewish people killed during the failed Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Unexpectedly and spontaneously, Brandt fell to his knees in silence. Brandt’s gesture was a striking symbol of reconciliation between the two countries. The Treaty of Warsaw signed that day gave this event a political foundation and initiated political cooperation between the two countries on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain.
Willy Brandt’s monumental Kniefall von Warschau
Willy Brandt succeeded to surprise everyone. Polish Communists were astonished, Polish intellectuals honored, yet the Polish media dominated by the regime did not publish the photographs of the kneeling German Chancellor. He was widely praised in the West and was awarded the Man of the Year by the Time magazine. But back home, in Germany, the Chancellor became an object of hatred to part of the population. Brandt received many anonymous letters saying that he should be hanged or pinned against wall because of the gesture he made. According to the opinion polls in Germany at the time, the majority felt that his humility was exaggerated. At the same time, Bonn recognized the Western Polish post-Second World War border, the line along the rivers Oder and Neisse. Brandt’s political opponents and considerable part of the population understood this as a gesture of treason and a direct slap in the face to millions of displaced Germans who had left the former Eastern Regions. Yet Willy Brandt saw it as “a symbol for politics and action… that created a new image of Germans. This is the only normal thing I can think of doing in Poland.” In 1971 Willy Brandt received the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the only German that received the award in the post-war period. During the panel discussion celebrating 40th anniversary of the German-Polish reconciliation, former German Foreign Minister Prof. Dr. Adam Daniel Rotfeld said: “Willy Brandt was a very special person. I keep meeting politicians, and nowadays they think politics are all about cynicism. This is not the main thing; you have to show human side.”
Since then, the two countries signed treaties, created economic partnerships and cultural and educational exchanges in the coming decades. It is important to note that the tempo of their socio-economic cooperation significantly increased after the fall of Communism in 1989 and reached its peak when Poland became NATO and the EU member state. December 1991 marked a milestone in Polish-German relations when the parliaments of both countries ratified a treaty of friendship and cooperation. Warsaw saw Germany as Poland's key to integration into the West. In turn, Berlin considered Poland the gateway to vast economic opportunities in the East.
Yet the process has not been as smooth. Despite many positive signs of a lasting reconciliation between Germany and Poland many Poles in 1990’s remained suspicious of their powerful western neighbor. Reconciliation is time consuming process and in the case of Germany and Poland primarily has required a consistent exchange of top-down gestures which in return produced fertile ground for rapprochement among general populations.
The results of the 2010 polling among Poles on the German – Polish bilateral relations are in favor of the progress achieved: almost 70 % of Poles have nothing against a German living permanently in Poland, obtaining Polish citizenship, holding a high office or even having German daughter and/or son in law. The perception about Poles also changed in Germany in the last several years, and Polish people are increasingly associated with diligence and tolerance.
And the process is still ongoing…
Although the scale of atrocities and political background of the Polish Second Word War experience and the 1990s Yugoslav wars differentiate significantly, they still share the universal notion of human suffering. Destruction, killings, rape, hatred, and sorrow were present on the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto, woods around Srebrenica, stables in the village of Križančevo and in Osijek homes.
Serb paramilitary troops in Bijeljina, 1992
The reconciliation process among the states of former Yugoslavia is in its infancy stages and we can see by comparison that reconciliation between the populations of Germany and Poland also took time, efforts, good politics and wise people. Reconciliation is time consuming, politically heavy, socially controversial process of everlasting dilemmas. It takes political dynamics to reconcile and look into the future, but also economic, educational, and cultural partnerships that now exist between Germany and Poland. Today there are 6,000 mixed German-Polish marriages, 650 cities from both countries signed cooperative agreements, Germans are listed in top three countries when it comes to foreign direct investment in Poland and 50,000 German and Polish students are taking part in academic exchange programs. This is the result of forty years of hard work which has not ceased but is constantly progressing and being upgraded.
Year 2010 and 40th anniversary of Brant’s “knee fall” was marked by the series of very significant political gestures in the Balkans. Can the countries of the former Yugoslavia learn from the Polish-German reconciliation experience after the Second World War? Public apologies by high officials do make a difference and send a positive signal to all others, but they must be followed by concrete actions, economic cooperation, cultural interaction and other incentives that harmonized Germans and Poles at the time.
We certainly believe that the region should move into this direction, showing that political stability is improving.
See also other publications of Think Tank Populari at www.populari.org