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Brief Details:

Name: Monument to the Victims of Fascism (Spomenik Podhumskim žrtvama)

Location: Podhum, Croatia

Year completed: 1970

Designer: Šime Vulas (profile page), Duško Rakić and Igor Emili

Coordinates: N45°22'31.9", E14°29'49.6" (click for map)

Dimensions: ~22m tall obelisk

Materials used: Poured concrete and rebar

Condition: Fair, well maintained


Click on slideshow photos for description

History Pod


This memorial complex at Podhum commemorates the victims which were executed by Axis Italian occupational forces during the People's Liberation Struggle (WWII). Documents indicate that upwards of 91 people from the area were executed in these reprisal killings, while nearly 1000 additional residents being sent off to Italian concentration camps.


World War II

When the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and its Istrian peninsula were invaded by Axis forces in April of 1941, the small village of Podhum was besieged by an Italian occupation -- in this region of Istria, the occupation was under the administration of the Italian province of Carnaro (Fiume). Within a few months of being occupied, local residents in Podhum and across Istria began to resist this occupation and formed organized resistance movements, the primary one being the communist-led rebel group called the 'Partisans'. By early 1942, the Italian's control over Istria was being threatened by these uprisings, so the Prefect of Carnaro, Temistocle Testa (Photo 1) ordered that harsh reprisals should be carried out in any towns and villages refusing to cooperate with Italian authority. Then, in June of 1942, sources relate that a group of Partisan communist activists killed an Italian teacher and his wife in the village of Podhum, then fled the area -- as a consequence, the Prefect Testa gave the order to carry reprisal killings on local citizens to avenge these Italian deaths.

A map to the location of the monument at the spomenik complex in Podhu, Croatia.
A map to the location of the monument at the spomenik complex in Podhu, Croatia.

Photo 2: The aftermath of the executions, taken by an unknown Italian soldier.

On the morning of July 12th, 1942, 250 Italian soldiers, under the command of Waffen-SS Major Armando Giorleo, entered the town of Podhum, rounding up all 'military age' males that were between the ages of 16 and 64, which amounted to an estimated 91 people. During the this round-up, it is reported that roughly 14 people resisting arrest were executed on the spot. These captives were then marched to an open field south of the village. At this spot, they were brought to the edge of a small dirt pit in successive groups of five where they were then shot with rifles and thrown into the pit (Photo 2). This continued until all the captives were killed, however, the exact number executed here not known, as some estimates range upwards of 130 men. A list of known names of those executed during this massacre can be found HERE. After the massacre, Italian soldiers burned most of the town of Podhum to the ground (over 100 buildings), with only the church reportedly left standing. After this, accounts relate that the town's remaining roughly 800 women and children were deported to forced labor camps in Frosinone, Italy.

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Spomenik Construction

Directly after the war, a modest memorial of makeshift crosses and graves were put together by locals to commemorate the tragedy. However, in 1968, the regional SUBNOR veterans group organized a public design competition to select an group to create a more substantial monument in Podhum to honor the 1942 massacre. The design concept by notable Croatian sculptor Šime Vulas was ultimately awarded first-prize in the competition and award the commission to lead the design of the complex, while the landscaping, stone work and architecture were arranged by architects Duško Rakić and Igor Emili. It is interesting to note that this was the first monument commission Vulas would partake in, with many more to come later in his career. The completed project was officially unveiled to the public during a remembrance ceremony on July 12th, 1970, a date which marked exactly 28 years since the massacre. The central element of the memorial is a 22m tall concrete obelisk-scaped structure characterized by undulating rounded protrusions. North of the obelisk are two sunken amphitheatres (a large and a small one), while there are also two square grids containing several dozen unmarked concrete markers. The whole complex is surrounded by a tall stone wall on the inside of which are hung additional commemorative markers that bear the inscribed names of executed victims.

A map to the location of the monument at the spomenik complex in Podhu, Croatia.

Photo 3: The original pre-1970 massacre memorial at Podhum

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A map to the location of the monument at the spomenik complex in Podhu, Croatia.

Photo 4: Cross fixture on stone wall


Currently, the spomenik complex at Podhum is in fair condition. It appears to be well taken care of, being in a maintained and orderly state. It seems the Podhum monument was spared much of the destruction visited upon other spomeniks in the former-Yugoslavia during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. The park continues to receive modest numbers of regular visitors, while commemorative and memorial events are still annually held at the site. Interestingly, the Christian cross motif that appears on the inner west wall of the complex is not original to the site (Photo 4), but was, according to sources, actually added in 2009. This is not surprising as most memorial sites such as this rarely contained overt religious elements, however, after the wars of the 1990s the newly independent former republics added many religious symbols to WWII memorial sites in the

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Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

At the southern entrance to the large circular stone wall area, there is set an engraved marble plaque (Slide 1) which reads as, when translated from Croatian to English:

"Here, on July 14th, 1942, fascist occupiers brutally shot 91 patriots, aged 16-60, from the village of Podhum and the legendary Grobnik Fields. These shining graves will teach future generations about the immense sacrifices and heroic deeds of the sons & daughters of the Croatian coast of Istria and Gorski Kotar and also the days of the glorious and victorious four-year liberation struggle for a new life in freedom to join Croatian Istria into the homeland and the fraternal community of nations of Socialist Yugoslavia."


In this inscription, the reference to the 'legendary Grobnik Fields' refers to an ancient battle which was said to have taken place less than 1km west of this location around Castle Grobnik in the year 1242 (Photo 5). During this battle, records indicate that native Croats struck a resounding victory against invading Mongols (Tatars) of the Golden Horde. Legends relate that this battle was one of the last Mongol offensives in Europe before they retreated back to their native lands in Asia. As such, this area is deeply sacred and meaningful to many people in the region and across Croatia.

Also around the inner perimeter of the stone wall are dozens of additional rectangular engraved marble plaques bearing the names of those who were executed at the site (Slide 2 & 3). It is important to note that the engraved stones on the wall are grouped together by family names, so that it can be clearly seen how many whole families were killed here. Also, arranged around the inside of the complex are two sets of stone markers set up in a grid that commemorate additional families who died together at the site.

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Photo 5: A view of the nearby Castle Grobnik, built in the year 1225

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This monument at the spomenik complex in Podhum, created by artist Šime Vulas, does not immediately seem to have been designed with any specific symbolic or representational attributes. The Podhum monument is very typical of other creations made by Vulas (Photo 6), which can generally characterized as towering sculptures constructed out of repeating shapes and forms -- you can see additional examples of his work at this website. However, some sources assert that the shape of the sculpture is meant to be indicative of a 'flower' shape, which is a common symbol used across many spomenik complexes in the former-Yugoslavia, generally representing 'rebirth' and 'renewal'. Extending this symbolism, the bulge shapes which make up the sculpture, of which there are 91, are said to be 'petals' of the flower representing each of the 91 victims who were executed at the site. Meanwhile, the amphitheatre elements of the site, which are designed in such a way as they resemble chunks or sections of earth simply lifted from the ground, are described by some to symbolize the 'emptiness of space' or hollowness left behind after the executions were committed.

Photo 6: Other works by Šime Vulas

Meanwhile, the setting within which the monument is placed contains symbolism and meaning of its own. The circular stone wall complex was created by Croatian architect Igor Emili. A plan of Emili's concept for the complex can be seen in Photo 7. In a monograph about Emili's work, author Rastko Švalbe makes the following observations as far as Emili's approach to designing the confines of the complex here at Podhum:

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Photo 7: A drawing by Igor Emili of his plans for the stone wall [via Idris Tutaro]

Emili's idea was to authentically define this crime scene within the horizontal landscape of the great Grobnik Field surrounded by mountains, but in a way which integrates it into its environment. As such, Emili created two high walls of soft lines which encircled the execution area and mass graves. These walls in the ground plans are semicircles, open to one another, but they do not touch, but instead slip away so that at their point of approach they create two narrow passageways. The wall is constructed from gray local stones and packed together in a drywall.

These walls softly encompass the place of death, and through the two passageways this terrible place communicates with the fields and the mountains. Contrasting with the gray stone walls are white plates bearing the names of the slain, and the rows of fragmented white stacks function as the headstones of the fallen villagers of Podhum.

Photo 8: Photo of 2016 ceremony at the Podhum monument

Status and Condition:

This memorial complex at Podhum is in relatively good condition. The landscaping and major elements of this memorial are well taken care of and it shows minimal signs of damage, degradation or neglect (though the central monument itself does exhibit some discoloration and staining from age). The grass and vegetation are well kept, while no graffiti or vandalism appears present on any of the stone walls or memorial elements. However, few directional or promotional signs along the road lead visitors to the site, yet, there are some online promotional materials informing visitors that it is a local attraction. The site continues to host annual commemorative ceremonies memorializing the massacre which took place here (Photo 8), which often play host to numerous local dignitaries and politicians. In a 2018 ceremony commemorating 76 years since the massacre, head of the municipality of Čavle, Ivana Cvitan Polić, stated that she felt that all schools in the region should include a visit to the Podhum monument in their curriculum. It is curious to note that the dedicated parking lot in front of the memorial complex has had official-looking traffic lines painted all over it for what appears to be a driving course for some sort of motorcycle or motor-vehicle skills test. In 2020, it was announced that a major restoration project for the Podhum monument would begin in July of 2021 (coordinated by the local municipalities), which would meticulously work towards repairing and improving many aspects of this complex. More recent articles relate that roughly 60,000 euro will be spent on this renovation.

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Additional Sites in the Podhum area:

In this section, we will explore further Yugoslav-era sites that would be of interest to those who are studying the region's historical, architectural and artistic heritage from that period. Sites explored here will be the ruined WWII bunkers of Kamenjak vrh, as well as the monument sites at Podrvanj and Donje Jelenje.

Mon. to the Victims of Fascism at Jelenje:

Roughly 5km northwest of the Podhum monument is the small village of Jelenje. At the center of this community sitting upon a small knoll along the main road is a small abstract memorial sculpture that is dedicated to all of the local fighters and civilian victims who perished at the hands of fascist occupation during WWII (Photo 9). The monument was erected in 1981 and is the work of Croatian artist Jasna Bogdanović. Fashioned out of raw concrete, the work stands as two stout monoliths (roughly 3-4m tall) rising from the ground in a curving explosive manner. Behind the two monoliths is a semi-circular curved concrete wall carved out of the earth that is inscribed with the names of these local victims who perished during the war. The wall lists off the names of 26 Partisans and 11 victims of fascism. In addition, this monument also honors four local Partisans who served in the 14th Primorsko-Goranska Brigade. Sources relate that the stylized shape of this monument is meant to represent that of a dancing memorial flame.

Donje Jelenje-1 [].jpg

Photo 9: A view of the Monument to the Victims of Fascism located in Jelenje, Coratia. Credit:

Today, the monument sits in good condition and is free from any significant damage or graffiti. However, I was not able to find any articles or information indicating that any memorial or commemorative events are currently being held at this location. The exact coordinates for this spomenik site are N45°23'11.5", E14°27'12.0".

Mon. to the Victims of Fascism at Podrvanj:

Roughly 3km southwest of the Podhum monument is the small village of Podrvanj. At the center of this small village is a memorial object that is dedicated to the local Partisan fighters and victims of fascism who perished during WWII at the hands of Axis occupiers (Photo 10). The monument was erected in 1962 and created by an artist that I have not yet been able to identify. The central element of this work is a bronze figurative depiction of a rifle-wielding kneeling Partisan fighter about to hurl a grenade into the air. Known as the "bombaši", these grenade-throwers (grenadiers) were one of the most mythologized Partisan figures of WWII in Yugoslavia, being depicted on hundreds of monuments across the country. Meanwhile, this sculpture sits upon a stone pedestal with two wings, upon which are installed two inscribed stone plaques that bear the names of about 30 victims of fascism and fallen Partisan fighters. On the left plaque is also inscribed a poetic verse that speaks of the peace and freedom brought by these sacrifices.


Photo 10: A view of the Monument to the Victims of Fascism located in Podravnj, Croatia. [source]

Today, the monument sits in good condition and is free from any significant damage or graffiti. However, I was not able to find any articles or information indicating that any memorial or commemorative events are currently being held at this location. The exact coordinates for this spomenik site are N45°21'50.1", E14°28'51.8".

"Rupnik Line" Bunkers of Kamenjak vrh:

Approximately 3km east of the Podhum monument are the sideslopes of the mountain known as "Kamenjak vrh". This limestone peak overlooks the valley of Grobnički polje and nestled across its slopes are numerous abandoned concrete bunkers left over from WWII (Photo 11), known as the "Rupnik Line". This fortification was constructed starting in 1937 by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in anticipation of a predicted Axis invasion from the west. The line faces towards Italy, serving as a counter to Italy's formidable "Alpine Wall" fortification. Before the subsequent Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, over 4,000 of these concrete bunkers had been constructed along the Rupnik Line. However, when the Axis invasion did occur, few were employed in the defense of the country and those few that were used were of little help. During this region's Italian occupation during WWII, most were destroyed as to prevent them from being utilized by the Partisan resistance.


Photo 11: One of the ruined bunkers of the Rupnik Line on Kamenjak vrh.

Currently, the majority of the Rupnik Line bunkers are destroyed and sit abandoned. More than a dozen of these ruined bunkers sit across the slopes of Kamenjak vrh, with several of these ruins being easily accessible from the Obelisk Viewpoint along the road up the mountain. The exact coordinates for this location are N45°22'39.4", E14°32'32.6".


From the center of the small village of Soboli, just off the A6 motorway, travel east along highway 3, which runs right through the center of the village. Follow this road roughly 350m, then you will see a yellow sign pointing towards a road on the left that goes towards Jelenje and Dražice. After taking this left, within a few meters, you will immediately see a road on the right which takes you into the spomenik complex (see Google StreetView here). Parking can easily be made here, from where you can walk to the spomenik. The exact coordinates for parking are N45°22'29.4", E14°29'49.5". Depending on when you arrive, the gate into the complex through the tall stone wall may be locked (to prevent vandalism). I do not currently know the optimal person to contact if you are interested in having the gate opened, but I am in the process of figuring this out.

A map to the location of the monument at the spomenik complex in Podhu, Croatia.
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Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Historical Images:



Please feel free to leave a message if you have any comments, if you have any questions, if you have corrections or if you have any additional information or insight you feel might be appropriate or pertinent to this spomenik's profile page.

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