Gastarbeider in Sarajevo

Na ruim twee jaar en veel verhalen in het Bosnisch uit Nederland, zoals beloofd op mijn afscheidsborrel, ook verhalen in het Nederlands uit Bosnië. Veel plezier. S.






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

Gastarbeider in Sarajevo
<< 05/2011 >>