WWII concentration camp memorial opens in Croatia

A glass wall bearing the names 70,000 prisoners - a quarter of them children - is focal point of a newly expanded memorial.

A glass wall bearing the names 70,000 World War II concentration camp prisoners - a quarter of them children - is the focal point of a newly expanded memorial at Croatia's infamous Jasenovac camp which was opening Monday. The ceremonial opening, which was to be attended by Croatian government officials and Jewish, Serb and Roma representatives - whose people suffered in the pro-Nazi Croat regime's 40 WWII camps - marks another step in Croatia acknowledging its vicious past after years of seeking to justify it. A memorial was first built on the site in the 1960s and new work on the center was financed by the government with support from Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and the Holocaust Museum in Washington. Between 1941-45, thousands of those regarded "undesirable" by the WWII Croatian puppet state were taken to Jasenovac, where they were starved, tortured and killed. The 1990s nationalist government of the late President Franjo Tudjman sought to diminish the Jasenovac crimes and revisionists put the number of those killed there at 35,000. Some Serbs claim 700,000 of them lost lives here. Independent researches today estimate between 56,000 and 97,000 died at Jasenovac and Croatia's pro-Western governments that took power after Tudjman's death in 1999 denounced Nazism and fascism. The head of the memorial, Natasa Jovicic insists the list is not complete and will be updated as new information arrive. Jovicic, who also lost relatives in Jasenovac, said "a crime of genocide was carried out here on tens of thousands of people who had names." The list's aim was to "present victims by showing their individual fates, collective and individual suffering, their plans and hopes that were destroyed when their lives were taken." The memorial also contains a multimedia information center, display of artifacts - including shackles, bandages for Jews, a drawing notebook of a child inmate and a woman's book of recipes - and an education center, where visitors could learn about fascism, Nazism and Holocaust.