11 Amazing Yugoslav-era Monuments Built Outside Yugoslavia
Updated: Feb 18, 2021
As followers of my Spomenik Database project might already know, I have been working extensively over the years documenting the Yugoslav-era WWII/NOB memorial sculpture and architecture across that region. However, during this time in my concentration on the many many memorial works located within the former Yugoslavia, I've had much less of an opportunity to write about the significant and ambitious Yugoslav monumental works located outside of that region, which can be found scattered around all corners of the world. While many of the Yugoslav-era monuments are growing in popularity in recent years, the examples found outside the region are not nearly as well known. So, in this article I will highlight and explore 11 such monuments which commemorate Yugoslav fighters, history, culture or events. As such, people around the world who are not able to make it all the way to the former Yugoslav region to explore its domestic monument heritage there will now have to tools to discover that similar such international works may potentially exist closer to them than they ever could have expected!
Located with the town cemetery just west along the Adriatic coast of the Italian seaside town of Barletta is a memorial ossuary which is dedicated to the roughly 1,300 Yugoslav Partisan fighters who perished during WWII in the region of southern Italy. This expansive circular monument complex, which is characterized by its tall concrete fins reaching over 11m into the sky, contains a crypt which houses the remains of over 800 of those fallen fighters. The complex was unveiled on July 4th, 1970, which was 'Fighter's Day' in Yugoslavia and was created by famous Zagreb sculptor Dušan Džamonja [profile page], who created some of the most famous WWII monuments across Yugoslavia during that era. The complex exists in good condition and continues to host commemorative events. The exact coordinates for this location are 41°19'38.4"N, 16°15'16.9"E.
Located in the city cemetery on the north edge of the town of Gonars, Italy is a memorial complex which is dedicated to the Yugoslav victims of the Gonars Concentration Camp. This camp, which was established in Febuary of 1942, was an Italian Army operated facility meant to house prisoners, primarily Croats and Slovenes who were being ethnically cleansed during the Italianization of Italian occupied areas. It is thought that over 7,000 people passed through this camp during WWII, with over 450 being killed here via execution, torture or neglect. All traces of the camp were erased after Italy capitulated from WWII in 1943. The victims of the Gonars Concentration Camp were finally commemorated when a memorial complex was erected in near the site of the camp in 1973, which was created by famous Belgrade sculptor Miodrag Živković [profile page], who was the author of some of the most notable monuments of the Yugoslav-era. The monument is characterized by a circular sunken altar which is surrounded by a flower-like blossom of stainless steel sculptural elements. Within this sanctum are interred the remains of hundreds of the camp's victims. The monument is in good condition and remembrance ceremonies continue to be held here. The exact coordinates for this monument are 45°54'03.5"N, 13°13'55.8"E.
Located at a site within in the Central Cemetery of the city of Vienna, Austria is a memorial sculpture which commemorates over 1,000 Yugoslav citizens who perished across Austria during WWII as a consequence of Nazi oppression, such as those who died in labor camps, POW camps, among other similar types of torture and violence. In Vienna alone, over 73 Yugoslav citizens perished during the war who were subjugated under forced labor conditions, all of whom are interred here at this cemetery site, along with others from across Austria. A memorial sculpture was unveiled at the burial site of these victims in 1986, which was a bronze work created by Belgrade sculptor Miodrag Živković [profile page]. The monument is composed of six large wedge-shaped elements that form a circle, which all contain a series of abstract impressions of human figures on their inner edges. The work is in good condition and continues to host annual commemorative events. The exact coordinates for this monument are 48°08'39.9"N, 16°26'13.0"E.
Located with the town cemetery just a few hundreds meters west of the town center of Sansepolcro, Italy is a monument titled "The Shrine of the Slavs", which commemorates the hundreds of Yugoslav citizens from across the region, mostly Croats and Slovenes, who were killed in concentration camps around central Italy during WWII, particuarly the Renicci di Anghiari Concentration Camp (the former site of which is about 5km west of town). Underneath the monument is a crypt which houses the remains of nearly 500 people who perished in the region during the war. This memorial sculpture was unveiled in December of 1973 and created by Belgrade sculptor Jovan Kratohvil [profile page]. The primary element of the monument is a ~5m tall abstract bronze monolith which very vaguely resembles a head wearing a crown. While the site had fallen into a state of poor repair in the 1990s, today the work is in good condition and continues to host annual commemorative events. The exact coordinates for this monument are 43°34'28.8"N, 12°07'56.9"E.
Located within the monument garden area next to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp museum (situated near Mauthausen, Austria) is the memorial work dedicated to the Yugoslav victims who perished at this notorious camp during WWII. It is unknown the exact number of Yugoslav prisoners held at Mauthausen's 49 sub-camps, however, sources recount that nearly 13,000 of them died during the war, generally from execution, torture, poor health and squalid conditions. Unveiled in 1958, this monument is officially titled "To Yugoslav Victims in Mauthausen 1941–1945. The Grateful Peoples of Yugoslavia" and was created by Serbian Jewish sculptor Nandor Glid, who himself was a survivor of the Holocaust. The monument consists of a 7m wide abstract bronze web-like skeleton sculpture placed in front of a 2m tall wall of Venčac white marble. Next to the monument are two tall thin marble pillars which are meant to symbolize the camp's incinerator smoke stacks. The monument exists in a good condition, while ceremonial and wreath laying events continue to be held here annually. The exact coordinates for this monument are 48°15'28.4"N, 14°29'56.5"E.
El Shatt, Egypt
Situated in the inhospitable desert of the Sinai peninsula just a few hundred meters away from the Suez Canal and the city of Suez, Egypt is an area called El Shatt, which was the location of a refugee camp during WWII where thousands of Yugoslav residents were evacuated to from 1944 to 1946. As German Army offensives intensified along the Adriatic coast during 1944, Partisan command attempted to evacuate roughly 30,000 at-risk civilians, who were mostly from towns and villages along the Dalmatian zone. Efforts were first attempted to evacuate them to Italy, however, because of a lack of resources in Italy at that time, they were diverted to refugee camps in the El Shatt British-occupied Egypt. A fascinating set of photos from the camp can be seen at this Daily Mail article. While the Yugoslav refugees were indeed safe at this location, over 825 of them succumb to the extreme heat and poor conditions of the camp. A memorial cemetery was established in 1946 at the camp's site directly after WWII, during which time a concrete cast memorial statue was erected at its center titled "Mother" or "Mother Dalmatia". The sculpture depicts a 3m tall matronly female figure in a traditional costume which was created by Dalmatian sculptor Ante Kostović. However, the region of El Shatt became dangerous in the decades after WWII as a result of the Arab–Israeli conflict. During this conflict, the El Shatt cemetery was badly damaged and Kostović's "Mother" memorial sculpture was completely destroyed. After the tensions of that conflict eased in the early 1980s, Kostović returned to the site and rebuilt the memorial sculpture, this time cast in bronze. It was officially unveiled in 1985. Also during that same year, he unveiled a smaller duplicate version of the "Mother" memorial sculpture in his hometown of the small Dalmatian island of Drvenik Veli. This memorial and cemetery complex at El Shatt today appears in good condition from the looks of recent photos, however, I was unable to find any reports of any commemorative events being held here any time recently. The exact coordinates for this site are 30°02'10.2"N, 32°36'47.7"E.