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Kraljevo (Краљево)

(KRAAH-lyeh-voh)

Brief Details:

Name: Memorial Park "14th of October" (Spomen-park „14. oktobar“/Спомен-парк „14. октобар“)

Location: Kraljevo, Serbia

Year completed: 1970 (1 year to build)

Designer: Spasoje Krunić and Dragutin Kovačević

Coordinates: N°43'47.7", E20°41'30.6" (click for map)

Dimensions: Dozens of marble pylons on 12ha grounds

Materials used: Marble blocks

Condition: Fair

History:

This spomenik complex at Kraljevo, Serbia commemorates the thousands of civilians that were executed by the German Wehrmacht in October of 1941.

World War II

During the beginning of WWII, Kraljevo was within the short-lived liberated region called the Republic of Užice, which was the very first liberated region of Europe during WWII. However, all of the towns and villages in the entire newly liberated Republic of Užice were very soon retaken by German troops just a few weeks after its declared liberation. Enraged by the killings of German soldier committed by Partisans during the German retaking of Kraljevo (and across Serbia), German Wehrmacht commander of Serbia Franz Böhme immediately carried out the new 'Hundred for One' decree, penned by German Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel. This decree stated that for every German soldier killed or wounded in a community on the Eastern Front, anywhere from 50 to 100 local civilians in that community should be executed as a preventative retaliatory measure.

Photo 1: Kraljevo citizens being marched into the rolling-stock factory, 1941

Photo 2: Executed Kraljevo citizens piled in a mass grave by rolling-stock factory, 1941

In early October of 1941, the decree was carried out in Kraljevo, prompting German soldiers to round up thousands of civilians across the city as 'hostages', mostly male workers from a local railroad-car and airplane manufacturer. They were then all taken to a disused locomotive hall of a rolling-stock factory, being told that, as a crucial war-effort work-force, they were being 'protected' from the Partisan incursions around the city which were occurring at that time (Photo 1). They were left there for days with very little food or water. Then, on October 15th, just after a group of Partisans and Chetniks wounded 10 German soldiers of the 717th Infantry Division in a skirmish nearby to Kraljevo, efforts began for the execution of the rail workers as retribution for this rebel attack. A small group of about 100 of the detained workers were taken and told to dig a long deep trench for a 'new shelter'. After the hole was dug, the workers were shot in the head with rifles and thrown in the hole they had just dug. These reprisals were overseen by the 717th Division's Brigadier General Paul Hoffmann, who later earned the nickname "The Butcher of Kraljevo". Group after group was brought in and this process of execution was repeated (Photo 2). When an excess of bodies were thrown into the holes, causing them to overflow, soldiers ordered tanks to drive over top the body piles to make more room for the yet-to-be-executed.

These killings continued for five days, with an estimated 3000-5000 were killed (most of whom were Serb, along with some Jewish civilians and Slovenian refugees). Of those executed, over 100 were reported children younger than 18 years of age. For their participation in these massacres, twenty members of the 717th Division's were recommended by Hoffmann for commendation for their actions. They subsequently received Iron Cross, 2nd Class distinctions. Interestingly, later in the war, Hoffmann demoted for refusing to execute Ukrainian soldiers who had deserted. Reports indicate that Hoffmann's time ended when he was executed by hanging during the Majdanek-Lublin Trials on the day before Christmas Eve, 1945.

Spomenik Construction

In the late 1960s, plans were initiated to memorialize the tragedy which happened at the Kraljevo railroad-car factory with an expansive spomenik complex at the site of the massacres. Reports indicate that much of the initiative behind the project were the people of Kraljevo themselves, as the wartime tragedy which occurred here in 1941 affected nearly every household in the city. Local and regional government officials organized a design competition to determine the form and shape the monument complex would take. The committee for selecting a design for the monument chaired by famous Serbian architect Bogdan Bogdanović. Of the 44 entries submitted, the competition's committee ultimately awarded the commission (Photo 3) to a concept proposal created by young Montenegro newcomer architect Spasoje Krunić and designer Dragutin Kovačević, which was for both of them their first such endeavor into such a competition. Bogdanović described their proposal as as "an exceptional solution based off of the ancient architectural tradition."

Photo 3: A model of the Kraljevo memorial used in the design competition

However, despite the project's approval, the original concept was scaled back due to budgetary constraints. As a result, a planned 'summer theatre' area of the western portion of the concept model was never realized. The completed complex was unveiled to the public on October 14th, 1970, a date commemorating the day just before the executions began on October 15th. In honor of this date, the monument complex was named the "14th of October" Memorial Park.

Photo 4: President Josip Tito (left) laying a wreath, 1973 [source]

The central focus of the complex is three rectangular-shaped grave areas, each surrounded by sets of short marble pylons (made of stones sourced from nearby quarries at Kamenica and Slavkovica). The first grave site (long southern-most one) contains the remains of massacred victims and fallen members of Kraljevo Partisan Detachments. The second grave site (smaller northwestern one) contains the remains of fallen soldiers from the Battle of Popina on October 13th, 1941. The third and final grave site (square northeastern one) contains the remains of Kraljevo veterans who have died in the years since the end of the Liberation War. To the north end of the spomenik complex is a large amphitheatre which was built into the hillside for large commemorative gatherings, celebrations and educational presentations -- its capacity is estimated to be roughly 50,000 people. Meanwhile, underneath the west end of the amphitheatre's earthen mound, a large restroom and maintenance compound was built. Finally, a green antique train car was placed at the entrance to the memorial complex - it symbolizes all of the many refugees from across the Balkans that came to Kraljevo after the end of WWII seeking salvation from the horrors of war.

Yugoslav-Era

The massacres which occurred here at Kraljevo became integral to the post-war Yugoslav memory and mentality in regards to the brutality which had been inflicted upon them by fascist forces during WWII. As such, the events surrounding the commemoration ceremonies of the massacre, known as "Kraljevačkog oktobra/Kraljevo October", became central to the cultural fixture of the city and the region. During the Yugoslav-era, these ceremonies were most notably characterized by the Kraljevo Spomen-Park being used to host mass avant-garde theatre performances, political speeches, musical concerts and other such public events. These ceremonies reached their height during the 1970s and 1980s decades, during which point they were often attended by thousands of people from across Yugoslavia and even personal ceremonial visits by President Josip Tito himself (Photo 4). The Kraljevo Massacre was so significant that a Yugoslav-produced film was made in 1975 dramatizing the 1941 tragedy. The film was titled "Crvena zemlja" (Photo 5), which translates into English as 'Red Land', however, in Western markets the film was rebranded as 'Massacre at Noon'. It was directed by Belgrade filmmaker Branimir Janković and starred Dragomir Bojanić Gidra & Miha Baloh. This film can be watched in its entirety for free in our Video Archive section.

Photo 5: Crvena Zemlja poster

Present-Day

In the years since the dismantling of the Republic of Yugoslavia, and the ensuing Yugoslav Wars, the Spomen-Park at Kraljevo has fallen into some neglect, with it sometimes being defaced by vandals and overrun by grazing horses. For many years after the wars, the local municipality discontinued holding annual commemorative events at this spomenik complex. However, in recent years, many elements of the complex have been restored and refurbished, with the 12ha grounds being more effectively maintained and landscaped. In addition, a small Serbian Orthodox chapel began construction at the memorial site (overseen by the site's original architect Spasoje Krunić), while a large cross was erected in front of the northern most grave area. While I have not been able to find information about the public reaction to these additions, other Yugoslav monument sites where overtly-religious elements were later added drew controversy, as these sites were originally intended to be non-denominational spaces for multi-ethnic remembrance and commemoration. 

 

For the large part, this monument complex is in fair shape, adequately maintained and has re-initiated annual commemorative events and ceremonies, which have been attended by hundreds from the local community. In late 2016, several million dinars was allocated from Serbia's Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Policy to repair and re-landscaping the complex. However, tragically, in April of 2017, the antique train car located at the entrance to the spomenik complex was set afire by vandals and destroyed.

"Within two factories at this site, German fascists shoot 29 female anti-fascist activists and patriots on the 16th of October, 1941."

Kraljevo Liberation War Collective,

October 14th, 1976

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

There are a number of notable inscribed and engraved elements worth mentioning here at the Kraljevo Spomen-Park. Firstly, at the east end of the complex there is an engraved marble stone marker dedicated to the female victims who died during the massacres here at Kraljevo (Slides 1 & 2). The inscription on the stone reads, translated from Serbian to English, as:

Slideshow

Then, above the door of the Orthodox chapel, there is an inscription (Slide 3). Translated from Serbian to English, it reads as:

"Waiting for the resurrection of the dead and the eternal afterlife, Amen."

Next, as you head along the main grave area, you will see several larger marble pylons with sharply angled faces cut on them (Slide 4). On these faces are engraved the names and lifespans of notable heroes from Kraljevo who were executed at this site and also who fought for the liberation of Kraljevo during WWII.

Just as you enter the monument park, you will see a small metal plaque with raised lettering installed on a thin concrete pylon (Slide 5 & 6). This plaque reads, roughly translated from Serbian to English, as:

"This cultural monument is under special protection."

This is referring to the fact that the monument is a national heritage site and is lawfully protected by the national government of Serbia. Finally, at the entrance to the site is a large white sign indicating the name of the park (Slide 7), which reads, translated from Serbian to English, as:

"Kraljevo Memorial Park"

Photo 6: A candle being placed on one of the marble pylons

Symbolism:

We can understand the collective elements of the Kraljevo Spomen-Park, with its hundreds of short marble pylons arranged in rectangles across the open field, firstly to denote and enclose the area of the historic mass graves where victims executed here were interred -- in addition, the shape of the marble pylons is meant to be representative of tree trunks cut off at their base, symbolizing the many lives cut short here before they could fully form. In addition, it is interesting to recognize that the small indentation cut into every marble tree-stump pylon. These indentations are used for the setting of ceremonial candles (Photo 6), an act which is very reminiscent of the ritual of candles being placed during Orthodox church services. While priests or religious affairs were never part original commemorative events during the Yugoslav era, the religious symbolism of sacredness and remembrance would certainly be obvious to all those involved in such an ceremony. Meanwhile, there is a dark yellowish-red cobblestone pathway around the marble pylons which some sources assert is meant to represent the blood which spilled from the piled bodies of the massacred victims as German tanks rolled over top them.

Status and Condition:

This spomenik complex at Kraljevo, Serbia is in fairly good condition. Firstly, the landscaping and grounds are well kept and manicured, with grass regularly cut and no instances of overgrown or out-of-control vegetation. Meanwhile, all of the sculptural and memorial elements at the site seem to be well maintained and show minimal signs of damage or deterioration. However, the old restroom facilities built under the west end of the earthen amphitheatre are completely destroyed and devastated. I found no indications or signs that any repairs were planned or forthcoming, as they were freely opened and it was clear deterioration was still occurring.

The complex is well promoted as a local tourist attraction and point of interest, with a number of directional signs leading visitors to it from around the city. In addition, annual remembrance ceremonies are held here on October 14th to commemorate the events which occurred here (Photo 7). Furthermore, even outside these annual ceremonies, it is clear that this memorial is regularly patronized by those in the community, which was evidenced to me by the large amount of honorific flowers, candles and wreaths around the site. In late 2016, several million dinars was allocated from Serbia's Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Policy to repair and re-landscaping the complex, in addition to serious efforts of conservation and restoration of all of the sculptural elements at the site. However, tragically, in April of 2017, the antique train car located at the entrance to the spomenik complex was set afire by vandals and destroyed. It is not clear yet if any efforts will be undertaken to repair or refurbish the train car, or whether it will be left as is, or maybe even removed all together.

Photo 7: View of the 2017 annual October 14th ceremony at the Kraljevo Spomen-Park

Meanwhile, if you are interested in more information about the Kraljevo Spomen-Park, there is an exhaustive online database resource dedicated to exploring the history of the WWII massacre, as well as the creation of this memorial park. Named 'Kraljevački oktobar' and started in 2016, this online database, presented in the Serbian language, has a significant compendium of records, books, newspaper clippings and much more. I encourage anyone interested in further info on this monument to check it out.

Additional Sites in the Kraljevo Area:

This section will explore various other notable Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial site in and around the greater Kraljevo area. Among those examples which are examined here are the Partisan Cemetery at Stari Groblje, The Orphans' Memorial at Konarevo and the Monument to Resistance and Torment at the Railway Station Park.

Partisan Cemetery at Stari Groblje:

Less than half a kilometer west of the 14th of October Spomen-Park, there is an additional abstract spomenik complex and Partisan cemetery within the city's Old Cemetery (Stari Groblje). Built in 1977 by Serbian architect Mihajlo Dimitrić, this memorial is characterized by two 8m tall concrete monoliths, around which are dozens of stone markers for fallen Partisan fighters. At the far west end of the complex, there is a large bronze medallion attached to a circular concrete setting. Among other Partisan fighters buried here is the WWII National Hero Olga Jovičić, who was popularly known as 'Rita'. Having grown up in Kraljevo, Rita was notably the first female political commissioner in the entire Yugoslav resistance army. She was killed near Prozor in 1942. In recent years, significant amounts of money has been given to Kraljevo for extensive restoration and rehabilitation work on this Partisan cemetery. The exact coordinates for the cemetery are N43°43'42.7", E20°41'01.0".

Partisan Cemetery - Slideshow

 

The Orphans' Memorial:

In the small village of Konarevo, a small village roughly 8k to the west on the outskirts of Kraljevo, there is a small pyramid shaped memorial. Located in a small cemetery near the center of the village, this monument is dedicated to the children of an orphanage in the nearby village of Mataruška Banja who perished over the course of WWII. The children were refugees of war brought to this place from across Serbia and Bosnia. It was built in the 1970s by Spasoje Krunić, the same architect who constructed the Kraljevo Spomen-Park. Its pyramid shape is meant to be symbolic of the abrupt end brought to these children in their burgeoning youth. The names of the children interred here are not known nor is it known how many from the orphanage died. Decades of neglect resulted in this memorial falling into disrepair, however, in 2017, restoration efforts have renewed the memorial. The exact coordinates for this monument are N43°41'46.5", E20°36'14.0". Historic photos can be seen here in Slides 3 - 5.

Orphan Memorial - Slideshow

Monument to Resistance & Torment:

On the west side of Kraljevo's Railway Station Park is a large bronze monument which consists of about a dozen large figures sculpted in the socialist realism style (Slides 1 - 7). Begun by Slovenian sculptor Lojze Dolinar in 1946, just after the end of WWII, this was Kraljevo's earliest effort put forward to honor the tragic events and bloody massacres which occurred in the city during the war. It depicts a collection of captured people suffering, yet also standing up in resistance to the forces oppressing them. Records indicate that the work was not formally completed until 1955, which mean it took nearly 10 painstaking years to complete this monumental work. Some sources refer to the title of the work as "Monument to Resistance & Torment", however, I have seen other name variations as well. It is intended to commemorate not only the October 1941 massacre, but also all of the other fighters and civilians who fought and perished during the course of the war. The monument is located just south of the train station, with its exact coordinates being N43°43'40.3", E20°41'30.0".

Monument to Resistance & Victory - Slideshow

Additional Sites of Interest:

  • Monument to the Serbian Soldier: In the central square of the city of Kraljevo (which is a large circular plaza) is a stately bronze figurative sculpture on a tall pedestal depicting a soldier holding a flag and a rifle. Called the Monument to the Serbian Soldier, it commemorates local fighters who perished during the Balkans Wars and WWI. Nicknamed "Milutin", the monument was raised in 1932 and is a second incarnation of a work by Serbian sculptor Živojin Lazić, the first of which is located at the New Cemetery in Belgrade. Kraljevo's city leadership had the statue removed in 1959, however, it was restored in 1982 after overwhelming demand by the city's residents. A photo of the sculpture can be seen at THIS Wiki link. The exact coordinates for this monument are N43°43'24.8", E20°41'14.5".

  • Monument to the Liberators of Kraljevo: Located at the southwest corner of Pljakin Šanac in Kraljevo is a modest sized concrete modernist memorial obelisk which commemorates 375 Red Army fighters and 45 Partisan fighters who perished during the liberation of Kraljevo during WWII on November 29th, 1944. Created in 1977 by local Kraljevo sculptor Aleksandar Vasiljević, the monument is in good condition and still hosts annual remembrance events. A photo of the monument can be seen at THIS Mapio link. The exact coordinates for this monument are N43°43'12.2", E20°41'26.4".

Directions:

From the city center of Kraljevo, head northeast until you meet the road Zelena Gora (Зелена гора), also called E-761. Take a left onto Zelena Gora road and follow it east several hundred meters until you see Blažićeva road on your right just before the large graveyard (see HERE for Google StreetView) (Photo 8). Follow the road past the blue train roundhouse on the right, then turn right at the train tracks after about 300m. Follow the road east along the train tracks for about 450m, then you will see the monument on the left just as the tracks cross over the road again. Parking can be made in front of the monument (Photo 9) (see HERE for Google StreetView). Exact coordinates for parking are N43°43'46.1", E20°41'30.1".

Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Map of the Kraljevo Memorial Park

A view of a directional sign fo the Kraljevo spomenik.

Photo 8: A directional sign for the monument

Photo 9: A view of the parking area for the monument

Slideshow

Comments:

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