KS kultura sjećanja / remembrance culture

Commemoration for convicts of Goli otok – 70 years since the arrival of the first group

July 10, 2020

ZAGREB/GOLI OTOK, July 9, 2019 (Hina) – On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the first group of prisoners to Goli Otok, the Goli otok association “Ante Zemljar” and “Documenta – Center for dealing with the past” organized a commemoration on the island on Tuesday, once again remembering prisoners and all victims of political violence in Croatia, Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe during the Informbiro period.

As Documenta reported, on behalf of the Association “Ante Zemljar”, Darko Bavoljak said that “we did nothing to mark the suffering of former detainees, and that is our disgrace, it is a shame for this state and all its citizens”.

“Although the ruling structures of our society today turn their head from the burdensome past, as an association we do not want this island to disappear in numerous shifts in history or, worse, in concrete and apartments”, said Bavoljak. He called for the place to be protected and marked in a dignified manner “before the last witness is gone from this world”.

Vesna Teršelič, the head of “Documenta – the Center for dealing with the past”, pointed out that the gathering shows respect for thousands of victims of psychological and physical torture on Goli otok and other camps for re-education of real or alleged otherwise-minded individuals in communist dictatorships.

“We want to remind the public about the importance of permanent protection of the remains of the former Goli otok prison and the necessity of preventing further devastation of the site. It is particularly worrying that the period of preventive protection of the site ended on May 31 this year, and that the decision of the Ministry of Culture on permanent protection of the site has not yet been made”, Teršelič reminded.

Former minister and parliamentary representative Božo Kovačević pointed out that “the nominal purpose of Goli otok was re-education, in a way that one Stalinist sentenced another Stalinist that strayed from the path to re-education” on Goli otok.

“If there is anything in history with which Goli otok can be compared, it is the Catholic Inquisition. Only a small number of those who were detained here, mostly JNA officers, have voted for the Informbiro resolution”, he said and added that the majority of the perpetrators on Goli otok were those whom authorities suspected of possible misjudgments.

“An authority that does not allow anyone to think differently, let alone to act politically differently, took thousands of those who they suspected of having a different opinion to Goli otok and forced them to re-educate. Many of them did not realize how they were supposed to re-educate because those that held them captive on Goli otok were those who fought together with them in the National Liberation Movement, and the supreme ideals of the USSR and Stalin sat together. They sent them to this camp, exposed them to unimaginable torture only because they believed that these people could think differently”, Kovačević said.

“The tragedy of Goli otok victims manifested itself for the second time with the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Today they are not significant to the authorities of the Republic of Croatia, which speaks of the extent to which we are an uncivilized country, although we nominally belong to the EU, which implies a reasonable relationship with the past”, Kovačević said. As it is mentioned in the statement, he also called on the Government of the Republic of Croatia to establish a memorial center at the site of the former camp for all those who suffered and died on Goli otok.

The commemoration on the occasion of the anniversary of the arrival of the first group of prisoners was organized in the wish that the sufferings of the victims of political violence on Goli otok be a warning of the universal importance of protecting the freedom of thought and freedom of action, so that such horrors would never be repeated. As pointed out at the commemoration, the memory of Goli otok should be preserved, and Goli otok turned into an island of memories, education and educational tourism appropriate to this place. At the same time, it was pointed out that the process of critical dealing with the past in Croatia, as a fundamentally important prerequisite for building a democratic and pluralistic political culture based on mutual respect and constructive social dialogue, should be strengthened.

The visit to Goli otok was realized with the financial support of the European Union through the “Europe for Citizens” program, and within the project “Staring at Goats: Propaganda, Scapegoating and Other 1918-2018”.

Documenta – Centre for Dealing with the Past