Name: Flower Monument (Cvjetni spomenik), but commonly referred to as 'Stone Flower' (Kameni Cvijet)
Location: Jasenovac, Croatia
Year built: 1966 (6 years to build)
Designer: Bogdan Bogdanović (profile page)
Coordinates: N45°16'49.4", E16°55'42.2" (click for map)
Dimensions: ~24m high and ~35m wide
Materials used: Poured concrete, rebar and wood
Condition: Very good, well maintained
Click on slideshow photo for description.
The 'Flower' monument at Jasenovac is a memorial to the hundreds of thousands of victims who were executed during World War II at the Jasenovac forced labor and extermination camp which was set up and run at this location, on the banks of the Sava River, by the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) and administered by the fascist Ustaše forces.
After the Axis forces invaded the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in April of 1941, the Axis puppet-state of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was quickly established, leaving most of present-day Croatia and Bosnia under oppressive Axis control. Camps were set up across the region to act as hubs of the transport, imprisonment and assembly of a host of dissident and undesirable elements of the NDH, such as Partisans, communists, anti-fascists, POWs and certain ethnic groups (Serbs, Jews, Roma, etc). The Jasenovac Camp, established around July or August of 1941 by the nationalist Ustaše militia of the NDH, was originally set up as a forced labor camp for the production of bricks, leather and timber products. However, after November of 1941, Jasenovac ceased its operations of forced labor and began to operate exclusively as a death camp. Comprised of five subcamps scattered around the general vicinity, the most notorious were Camp III (the Brickworks) (Photo 1) and Camp V (Stara Gradiška) (Photo 2), as these two sub-camps hosted the vast majority of the recorded killings.
Photo 1: Entrance gate to the Brickworks Camp No. III at Jasenovac, 1941
Photo 2: Tower at Stara Gradiška Camp, 1941
Additional mass killings were also conducted on the opposite side of the Sava River from Camp III at Donja Gradina (in present-day Bosnia), which was a more remote and inaccessible location, a factor the Ustaše exploited to conduct the killings more discreetly. The majority of people imprisoned and executed at Jasenovac were ethnic-Serbs, largely civilians brought from the Kozara region in retaliation for their collaboration with Partisan rebels. Reports state that many of these Kozara prisoners were often killed immediately upon being admitted into the camps. Meanwhile, thousands of Jews were also killed at these sub-camps by the Ustaše, however, these deaths were mostly pre-1942, as after that, most were deported to Auschwitz.
Much confusion and contention have existed over the decades since WWII regarding the total number of victims at the Jasenovac camps (Photo 3). Even today, there is much controversy over the exact number of victims who perished there. Estimates of those liquidated at Jasenovac range from as few as 20,000 to upwards of 500,000 and even greater. However, the death estimates at these extreme upper and lower ranges are mired in heated debates and politicized controversies, resulting in them not being widely accepted by many historians. Meanwhile, the Jasenovac Memorial Site Museum (JUSP), who are the official stewards of the site, have an ongoing victim research project which estimates thus far that the number of victims resides somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000. Yet, it is important to stress that research and investigation into identifying further victims is a continuing process. Using the JUSP numbers, it stands as one of the largest single extermination camps in Europe during WWII (comprising roughly 1/3 of all concentration camp deaths in Yugoslavia), with Wikipedia listing the camp as the 6th most deadly of WWII. For more information on the history of the topic of Jasenovac victim numbers over the decades, see this Wiki article.
Photo 3: Victims being held at the Stara Gradiška Camp of Jasenovac, 1942
Photo 4: Ruins of the Brickworks Camp found after the the 1945 liberation of Jasenovac
While this camp had no direct Nazi involvement, the NDH's Ustaše (who ran the camp) were being directly supported by them. Furthermore, much of the basis behind the Ustaše wanting to create an ethnically 'pure' Croatia comprised strictly of Croats was the result of ideology directly borrowed from the Nazi regime. Also, accounts have reported that the brutality and inhumanity which occurred at the Jasenovac camp was far greater and perhaps even exceeded that of the German-run extermination camps. The camp was abandoned by Ustaše forces on April 24th,1945, but not before they liquidated the last of the prisoners and burned all traces of the camp to the ground in an attempt to erase their crimes (Photo 4). When Partisan forces entered a few days later on May 2nd, all that was found were ashes, charred buildings and still smoldering skeletons of hundreds of recently murdered victims.
Directly after WWII, the Jasenovac concentration camp infrastructure was largely dismantled and/or destroyed, with its material remnants mostly used for the reconstruction of ruined homes in nearby villages. Then, for 20 years after this tragedy no official or formal monument existed here to commemorate these events. A number of makeshift wooden-plank memorials and stone mounds were built by locals and survivors, but these were small scale and ephemeral (Photo 5). One reason asserted for this long delay in any sort of official commemorative construction at Jasenovac, most notably by historian Dr. Heike Karge, is that the confusion for so long over what the exact number of victims were at the camp during the war debilitated decision making for the political elite in Belgrade as far as how the space should be remembered. An additional reason often cited is that during the 1950s era that this monument was conceived within, the vast majority of WWII monuments built were to honor Yugoslav war heroes, not civilian victims. During the 1950s, commemorating via monuments the Yugoslav civilian victims of WWII was still a unconventional concept.
Photo 5: Makeshift memorial at Jasenovac, 1960
Photo 6: Jasenovac concept by Vanja Radauš, 1952
In the late 1950s, after pressure from families and victims, the Yugoslav government began to put into motion plans to construct an official modern monument to commemorate these tragic events. As a result, through the 1950s, some artists came forward with proposals for what they imagined such a monument could look like. One notable concept put forward by Croatian sculptor Vanja Radauš imagined a massive tomb adorned with skulls surrounded by mourning figures (Photo 6). Neither this, nor other similar offerings, were considered suitable. In 1960, designers Bogdan Bogdanović and Zdenko Kolacije were both individually asked by the Yugoslav government to submit their proposals for the memorial complex. Bogdanović was given the opportunity to present his proposal directly to President Josip Broz Tito himself, which was his one and only meeting with the president. The commission was ultimately awarded to Bogdanović, a choice made by Tito himself, with some sources saying that Tito's pick was contrary to the wishes of other KPJ officials. In a 2008 interview, Bogdanović made the following remarks regarding his meeting with Tito over the Jasenovac memorial:
Tito, in all truth, did not have much artistic discernment. But he understood that my monuments were not Russian monuments (at the time, unfortunately, all the best sculptors had adopted the Russian formula: headless bodies, wounded figures, stretchers...). When he saw me, a bizarre man with a surrealist biography, ready to build him constructions which weren’t Russian, he said, "Let him."
Photo 7: One of many original concept drawings by Bogdanović for his memorial
In the development of the spomenik's design, Bogdanović explained that he felt that making a monument that directly and overtly invoked images of death and horror would be ludicrous and sordid. He recounts that that when formulating the design for the complex, he was encouraged to pour over photographs, eye-witness testimony and documentation about the events which transpired at the camp, however, Bogdanović pushed that material away saying, "I knew... that I would neither look for nor find inspiration by bringing the evil back to life." Instead, he imagined a lyrical memorial that stood as a metaphysical statement on meditation, feelings of reconciliation and a "termination of the inheritance of hatred that passes from generation to generation". Before Bogdanović began his project, all of the former ruins of the camp had already been cleared and removed, which left him a sort of 'blank canvas' for his massive project. Interestingly, Jasenovac is the only major concentration camp site in all of Europe where no physical evidence whatsoever remains from the original camp structures.
Primarily aiding Bogdanović with the aspects of physical creation of the monument were Zagreb architects Lavoslav Horvat and Desanka Govekar from the Architectural Project Institute (APZ). In fact, a great amount assistance were brought in over time with the project, especially as Bogdanović's original memorial concept plans were extremely wide scope (Photo 7). Much of this original concept was drastically pared down after being presented and reviewed in 1963 by budget analysts and oversight groups. In the initial conceptual sketch of the memorial seen in Photo 7, smaller flower sculptures were planned for various spaces around the site to mark former buildings and burial sites -- however, these were never realized due to budget constraints. In some of the more extravagant ideas that Bogdanović had for the monument was the addition of a massive subterranean museum complex beneath the flower sculpture (Photo 8). However, such ideas would have been not only cost prohibitive, but also difficult in a floodplain so close to the Sava & Una Rivers. On the matter of the project's budget, it is pertinent to note that the monument's creation was financed both by federal funds from Belgrade but also by public and private donations.
Photo 8: A sketch of Bogdanović's idea for the 'museum-crypt'
Photo 9: The grand opening ceremony, July 1966
After several years of re-design, compromise, planning and construction, the monument was officially unveiled to the public during a large remembrance ceremony on July 4th, 1966 (Photo 9). Interestingly, Tito was not in attendance at this event (nor is he ever known to have visited the monument during his life). Bogdanović recounts in his 1997 memoir "The Doomed Architect" that during the inaugural address at the unveiling event, which was held roughly 1km away from the sculpture, a crowd of thousands, who were mostly sobbing women dressed in black, burst through the ceremonial guards and began running over the open grounds towards the monument, at which point they swarmed around it screaming and wailing. Bogdanović described the scene as an "unearthly sight" and expressed concern at the time that the incredible weight of thousands of people standing directly on the monument in such a way might compromise its structure. However, the structure held.
The primary element of the memorial complex is a 24m tall six petal flower-blossom shaped concrete sculpture. Below the monument, within its interior, there is a crypt that is lined at its base with railroad ties from the railroad which once brought prisoners to the death camp here. Around the landscape of the spomenik, there are large earthen mounds that mark the previous locations of death camp buildings (as all camp buildings were demolished after the war). Some suggest the concept of these circular earthen mounds created by Bogdanović, which were among the first instances of land art made in Yugoslavia, was borrowed from American artist Herbert Bayer who created in 1954 an almost identical work in Aspen, Colorado (Photo 10), which is often regarded as the first example of the contemporary land art movement.
Photo 10: The 1954 'Earthen Mound' work by Herbert Mayer (left) and one of the land art creations by Bogdanović made in 1966 (right)
Meanwhile, torture areas and graves are marked by shallow undulating mounds and hollows in the earth. Man-made lakes were also included around the camp area to create an atmosphere of reflection. Finally, a long pathway made of railroad ties (sleepers) leads to the monument from the road. The 'Flower Monument' complex, from the days of its unveiling until modern times, is regarded by many as one of the most celebrated and striking genocide memorials in the world.
Photo 11: Scenes of 1990s conflict occurring near the Jasenovac memorial site
Yugoslav Wars to Present-Day
In the years after the fall of Yugoslavia and the ensuing wars that followed, the Jasenovac site played host to scenes of conflict (Photo 11), leading to bouts of destruction and vandalism at the monument. Notably, at the outset of the Yugoslav Wars in 1991, reports relate that Croatian soldiers entered the memorial site, where they vandalized, destroyed and looted many of the exhibits, memorials and artifacts there. However, EU mission observer investigations after the wars found that damage to the memorial complex was not completely destroyed -- it was re-opened in 2006 following long restoration and refurbishment efforts. Yet, despite the memorial's contemporary restoration and refurbishment, some politicians in the Croatian government, even in current times, have been accused of attempting to minimize and diminish the cultural importance of the Jasenovac atrocities as they relate to Croatian history. These controversies have led to boycotts of official Croatian ceremonies at Jasenovac by some Serb, Jewish and anti-fascist groups, which has resulted in the holding of rival ceremonies on alternate days or at nearby locations.
"That simple happiness, the window's glint, swallow and young, or windborne garden sweet- Where? The unhurried cradle's drowsy tilt? Or by the threshold, sunshine at my feet."
Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:
Beneath the main structure of the monument, there is a wood-beam-lined sanctum with numerous concrete alcoves around its perimeter. The wood beams that line the sanctum are reclaimed materials from the old railroad track that historically brought prisoners to this camp. On the back wall of the sanctum, attached to the old railroad ties, is a bronze plaque (Photo 12) which contains a small excerpt from Ivan Goran Kovačić's poem 'The Pit' ('Jama' in Croatian), a famous Croatian anti-war poem. The excerpt reads, translated here from Croatian to English by Alex Brown (full poem text linked there), as:
Photo 12: Bronze plaque at the back wall of inner sanctum
Photo 13: A page from 1944 version of Jama which included grisly drawings by Edo Murtić & Zlatko Prica
If you read this quote from a perspective of not being previously informed about Yugoslav cultural history and the importance of the Kovačić's poem 'Jama' during that era, then this quote might at first sound confusing in the context of the monument and the site. The poem 'Jama' recounts Kovačić's personal experiences of village life before the war, which turned into a living horror during the years of 1941 onward. Such recollections include images of his wistful youth, which transform into scenes of watching his fellow townspeople be slaughtered, waiting for his turn to be killed, and ultimately being thrown and left for dead in a deep corpse-filled pit (jama). Surviving against all odds, he claws his way out of the pit following the smell of his burning village, at which point he is discovered by the Partisans and enlisted into their rebellion. The poem explores and celebrates the themes of rebirth, memory and renewal. In the quoted section of the poem inscribed on the plaque at Jasenovac, the verse is describing Kovačić's recollections of his peaceful home during those seemingly idyllic pre-war years where he lived a modest but happy youthful existence. He is having these recollections of his village just as he is approaching it and seeing it set in flames after having escaped from the pit. Perhaps the inclusion of this inscribed verse recounting the wistful and peaceful memory of Kovačić's pre-war village life is meant to act as a meditation for the viewer on peace and happiness itself, illustrating that even when faced with the most tragic and horrific memories and scenes, moments of serenity can still be achieved.
The poem was first published by the Partisan illegal presses in 1944, before the war's end. The publication of the book included grisly and graphic drawings of the horrors Kovačić describes in his poem drawn by Croatian artists Edo Murtić and Zlatko Prica (Photo 13). In the days of Yugoslavia, this poetic work was studied in elementary school by students across the country. Any child reading this plaque's inscription during the Yugoslav era would have immediately been familiar with this poem and recognized what it was referring to. However, with the change in the political climate in modern Croatia, its teaching is no longer as widespread, as many remnants of Yugoslavia's anti-fascist heritage have fallen out of favor with its current government administration.
At the main entrance to the monument complex, there is a memorial museum and archive (pictured Slide 1) called the 'Spomen područje Jasenovac'. These were built in 1968, two years after the 'Flower Monument' complex was constructed, and was designed by Peter Vovk. At the outbreak of the Yugoslav Wars in the early 1990s, violence and conflict began to pose a great threat to the archival and artifact collection housed within. As such, for the safety of the collection, it was quickly transferred to Bosanska Dubica, then to Banja Luka, Bosnia. There are conflicting reports as to what degree the memorial site itself was damaged, however, there are numerous photos of the aftermath of the destruction that was inflicted upon the museum, some of which can be seen in Slides 2 - 5.
Slideshow - Jasenovac Museum
After the wars, both the museum and monument were quickly restored and refurbished. Interestingly, bullet holes on the side of the museum were, for some reason, not repaired - some can be seen in Slide 6. The museum and archive inventory were not returned to Jasenovac until 2001. From there, this permanent collection was not officially reopened to the public until 2006. However, the final decision on the style of presentation for the new exhibit was geared towards more of a multimedia approach, with only a few of the collection's artifacts being displayed or presented. Yet, I found the media presentations and interpretive placards quite informative, especially as supplemental English translations were available for all placards and displays.
Photo 14: A view of the Dušan Džamonja sculpture at the Jasenovac Museum
Meanwhile, on the north wall of the open patio area at the front entrance to the museum complex is hung a memorial sculpture created by famous artist Dušan Džamonja (who created several of the Yugoslav WWII monuments). This sculptural relief is composed of several curtain-like structures made of electro-welded chains, around which are suspended four large logs (meant to represent human bones) (Photo 14). The iron of the chains has been corroded and damaged by weathering over the years and has had to be professionally restored multiple times. A similar sculptural relief exists at the museum complex at the Kozara monument site in Bosnia. Then, if you follow the avenue behind the museum which leads to the 'Flower Monument', you will see an old locomotive with boxcars (pictured Slide 7) installed on the right side of the road. This train, installed in 1989 as a gift from Yugoslav Railways, was originally purposed for transporting cattle, but was repurposed by the Independent State of Croatia during WWII to deport prisoners. It is the only train of its kind still existing within Croatia. The spot where it resides within the memorial complex now is the place where incoming prisoners would have arrived by train and been processed during the camp's days of operation.
Finally, on the path to the 'Flower Monument' from the road, there is a large flat bronze relief sculpture map (pictured Slide 8) that gives a good historic view of the layout and locations of structures within the former camp.
Just a few hundred meters east of the primary flower monument (in an area called 'Limani') you will find a seven mass grave sites where the remains of victims of the Camp III Brickworks facility are interred. The area of Limani, on the east edge of the Jasenovac camp, was the prescribed location that the Ustaše ordered prisoner gravediggers to bury executed and deceased prisoners. The human remains from Brickworks were formally organized into this formal memorial site during the 1960s construction of the Jasenovac complex (Slides 1 & 2). These grave sites comprise an area of roughly 1,175 m². In 2002, a large bronze plaque was relocated to this site (Slide 3) from the front of the museum, which contains a stanza from the famous poem 'Jama' (The Pit) by famous Croatian writer Ivan "Goran" Kovačić. The plaque reads as, translated into English, as:
Slideshow - Limani Cemetery
"The final light before the frightful night, the lightning swooping of the polished knife, the cry too white still in my blinding sight. The bleach-white bodies of the murderers, who stripped their torsos for their sweaty task - was dazzling even to my blinded mask."
The exact coordinates for the Limani Cemetery memorial site are N45°16'38.8", E16°56'02.6".
Donja Gradina Memorial Zone:
Across from the Stone Flower memorial and museum complex on the Bosnian banks of the Sava River is located another memorial zone connected to the events at Jasenovac which is called the Donja Gradina Memorial Zone. This wide marshy area within a deep bend of the Sava River is where thousands of victims of the Camp III Brickworks were ferried by Ustaše guards to be tortured and executed during WWII. They were then buried in dozens of mass graves across the area. Since the end of the war in 1945, over 100 of these mass burial sites have been found and excavated across the Donja Gradina Memorial Zone (over 47ha), but officials there believe that many more are yet to be found. The precise number of those killed here is not known with exact certainty (as sources vary widely on this figure), yet most agree that it was many many thousands who perished here.
Slideshow - Donja Gradina Memorial
While memorial and museum facilities on the Croatian-side of the Jasenovac Concentration Camp zone began to be constructed in the 1960s, appreciable work towards developing the Bosnian-side at Donja Gradina did not begin until the mid-1980s. When established memorial facilities and elements were finally constructed, they were operated and coordinated in a joint effort with the Jasenovac Museum across the Sava in Croatia. The central memorial element of Donja Gradina is a monument comprised of three religious symbols flanked by various white signs relating to various numbers of victim statistics of the site (Slide 1). An additional notable element of Donja Gradina is what is often referred to as the 'Poplar of Horrors', which was a tree right on the banks of the Sava which hundreds of victims were hanged from during WWII. As the tree fell down in 1976, its fallen remains have since been mounted horizontally on large metal brackets (and has a recently built shelter over top of it) (Slide 2). Meanwhile, many walking pathways and interpretive signs also exist at various locations around the memorial (Slides 3 & 4). Since the breakup of Yugoslavia and the independence of Bosnia and Croatia, these two memorial areas are now run completely separately and independently of each other. As such, information and educational materials found at either site may contain significant differences due to the contested nature between the two countries about various aspects of the legacy and events of Jasenovac. The coordinates for the main parking area for Donja Gradina are N45°16'11.2", E16°55'34.0".
The Sava Hotel:
The primary touristic accommodation for the thousands of yearly visitors coming to explore the memorial sites of Jasenovac during the Yugoslav-era was a complex called "Hotel Sava". Located right in the center of the village of Jasenovac just next to the bridge over the Sava River, the Hotel Sava was very modernist in its architectural design and was at first major hotel complex ever to be built in the area. Unfortunately, my research was unable to determine who its architect was or when it was built (though its stylings indicate that it was probably constructed at some point around the 1970s). The complex consisted of a four level tower of guest suites which was characterized by a steep sloping roof taking up the entire south side of the building. Connected to the north side of the tower was a restaurant pavillion with large patios and overlooks onto the Sava River. The hotel was so regionally renowned during the Yugoslav-era that it was featured on many of Jasenovac's postcards and promotional offerings (Photo 15).
Photo 15: Here we see a Yugoslav-era postcard showing the Flower Monument as well as views of the Sava Hotel.
Photo 16: The ruins of the Hotel Sava in Jasenovac, 2015 [source]
While the Sava Hotel was extremely patronized and popular during the Yugoslav-era, as the conflicts and violence of the Yugoslav Wars swept over the region starting in the early 1990s, the hotel was set on fire and completely destroyed. A wartime 1991 photo of JNA soldiers walking across the Sava Bridge with the hotel burning in the background can be seen at THIS link. After the end of the war, Hotel Sava was left in a state of ruins and was completely destroyed. Through the subsequent decades, the ruined remains of the hotel were left untouched and no efforts whatsoever were put towards rehabilitating or renovating the site (Photo 16). This situation of dereliction and non-intervention with this site has continued up to the present day. Even an old metal sign along the main road still points towards the hotel. The exact coorindates for the Hotel Sava are N45°16'15.0", E16°54'48.9".
In designing this monument, it was not Bogdanović's intention to make a monument that directly embodied the atrocities which occurred at this site, as it was thought having the visitor viscerally confronted with such imagery would be too horrific and sordid. In addition, it was also felt that invoking overly graphic depictions of the camp's brutality within the memorial might contribute to ethnic tensions and divisions. Instead, Bogdanović chose the form of flower petals opening up to the sky as a representational shape (Photo 17), symbolizing not only life and rebirth, but also, the overcoming of suffering, eternal renewal and, most importantly, forgiveness. In his discussions on the monument's symbolism, Bogdanović states he intended focus of the structure to be dualistic in nature, with the crypt and roots looking down towards the interred victims, while the flower sculpture would be opened up to the sky, blossoming towards the 'light of life'. It must also be noted the concept of 'reflection' Bogdanović designed into the monument space. As you approach the sculpture along the boardwalk, you see it mirrored majestically in the man-made lakes. This serene reflective effect, also seen sketched in Photo 17, leaves the viewer themselves in a very ponderous and contemplative state.
Photo 17: A early sketch of the flower monument by Bogdanović
Photo 18: The large Tian Tan Buddha emerging from a lotus, Hong Kong
Interestingly, Bogdanović did not intend for this to be regarded as only a generic flower -- instead, he specifically refers to it as a "melancholy lotus". This is a notable distinction as there is some very overt symbolism embodied within the cultural history of the lotus flower. Firstly, there are many ancient deities from multiple cultures which are portrayed being birthed from the lotus flower, such as Horus in ancient Egypt, the god of knowledge. In addition, Egyptians believed that the origins of all life sprang forth from the lotus flower. Furthermore, the 'creator' god Brahma of Hinduism is always depicted in art as being birthed from the lotus flower, as well as Buddha, the 'enlightened one' (Photo 18), who also could be considered the quintessential personification for the idea of 'rebirth'. These connections certainly demonstrate the level to which Bogdanović used the lotus symbol to reinforce the ideas of divinity, rebirth and remembrance into the monument.
However, there is a fascinating dualistic nature to the lotus symbol when evaluating its use in Hellenistic mythology. In Homer's 'Odyssey' tale, Odysseus and his men are driven to the Isle of Lotus-Eaters when their boat is struck by foul weather. While on the island, his men are fed the island's lotus flowers by its inhabitants, which left the men in such a state of blissful ignorance that Odysseus himself had to drag them back to the boat (Photo 19). So, we see on one hand the lotus acting as a symbol for roots of 'knowledge' and 'enlightenment', but, as in this Greek example, it is also the harbinger of 'forgetfulness'. This dualistic interpretation of the lotus symbol certainly would not have been lost on Bogdanović and, indeed, may have been his reason for choosing it. As Jasenovac is a site of extreme ethnic contention between Serbs and Croats, it would not be surprising if Bogdanović wished to create a monument with dual symbolism which communicated both the 'remembrance' of such tragic events, as well as the idea of 'reconciliation' in the form of 'leaving the past in the past'.
Photo 19: Odysseus pulling his men away from the Isle of the Lotus-Eaters
Photo 20: An aerial view of the neolithic burial site at Knowth, Ireland
An additional symbolic reference that Bogdanović may have inserted into the sculpted layout of the Jasenovac complex grounds is a nod to neolithic burial sites, specifically the one at Knowth, Ireland (Photo 20). The Knowth burial site, which dates back to around 3200BC, is characterized by a large central mound surrounded by a number of smaller undulating mounds. This configuration at Knowth is extremely similar to how Bogdanović arranged his undulating mounds around the Jasenovac site to mark the location of former concentration camp buildings. Bogdanović employing ancient neolithic symbols for marking spaces of death may have been his approach for creating more universal and unifying alternatives to using any nature of Christian-based funerary symbolism. We know that Bogdanović would have been well aware of Knowth and other such Irish neolithic burial sites because not only were they being excavated and publicized during the 1960s (when Bogdanović was designing the Jasenovac site), but he also wrote about them directly in his 1966 book 'Urbanističke mitologeme'.
Lastly, the wooden railroad ties (sleepers) from the old railroad lines that once brought boxcar loads of prisoners to the Jasenovac camp were re-purposed as the boardwalk planks which lead visitors to the monument from the road. Through this walk, Bogdanović intended to recreate for those visiting the site the final journey of these victims to their ultimate resting place.
Status and Condition:
This condition of this monument is very good. The monument and its grounds are maintained extremely well, with regular grass cutting and landscaping done on the vast grounds the monument resides on. No graffiti is noticeable on the monument, although there are signs some past graffiti has been covered up. The structure and state of the concrete the monument is made of seems is satisfactory, though a few cracks and chips are apparent. Signage and directional markers to the monument are abundant, even all the way back to the E-70 motorway. For the foreseeable future, all indications I see point towards this monument remaining well maintained and in good shape. In addition, the memorial complex is well visited, both by tourists and those wishing to pay homage and respect to the memory of those lost here. However, while graffiti and vandalism to the site have sharply reduced in recent years, I noticed on my most recent visit to the monument in April of 2017, that a security camera has been installed onto the monument itself.
Photo 21: A 2018 ceremony at the Jasenovac flower
Meanwhile, commemorative ceremonies held at the monument every year around April 22nd which are usually attended by +2,000 visitors (Photo 21) -- these events have continued unabated since the monument was built. This date represents the final breakout of prisoners from the camp in 1945. However, in 2016 and 2017, some Jews, Serbs and anti-fascists have protested what they have considered 'pro-fascist' stances and activities from some Croatian government officials, which has led to these minority groups boycotting official commemorative ceremonies at the Jasenovac memorial and instead of holding rival ceremonies at nearby locations. Meanwhile, in January of 2017, articles report that a public meeting titled 'Jasenovac - False Myth', organized in Zagreb by an NGO called the 'Croatian Club', challenged commonly accepted figures of the death toll of Jasenovac, asserting that they were being inflated for political reasons. In addition, they questioned the idea that Jasenovac was even organized to be a death camp in the first place, suggesting instead that it was only a labor camp. Controversy in relation to the monument flared yet again in the June of 2018 when the Australian sunglass company 'Valley Eyewear' began using images of the Jasenovac monument prominently in portions of their summer marketing campaign. The company's CEO later apologized.
This monument is relatively easy to find. As you are heading towards the village of Jasenovac along hwy 47 from motorway E-70, you'll see the monument after about 5-6km on the left in the middle of a large open field. As you approach the town of Jasenovac, take a left at the sign pointing towards "Sljuncara" and then follow this road until you reach a 'T' at the river, at which point you'll take a left. From here, you'll see the Jasenovac Museum on your left, but take the fork right to continue towards the monument. After you pass the Antique train exhibit, you'll see the boardwalk which leads to the monument on the left. Park here and continue to the monument on foot. The exact coordinates for parking at the boardwalk are N45°16'39.0", E16°55'35.6".
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