Kinder Sculpture

 

Aug 2012 Journal

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In memory of Yugoslav victims of the Holocaust

Five members of the Child Survivors’ Association of Great Britain-AJR
(CSA-AJR), including one born in Croatia, attended the annual conference of the European Association of Jewish Survivors of the Holocaust, hosted this year by the Jewish community in Zagreb on 1-3 June.

On the Sunday we joined over 200 members from Jewish communities of the former Yugoslavia for a commemoration service which is held each year on the first Sunday in June at the cemetery in Dakovo. During the occupation there were six concentration camps in Croatia, including one in Dakovo. Housed in a derelict mill near the railway tracks, it was a camp for women and children, the bulk transported from the Sephardi community in Sarajevo, which dated back to the sixteenth century after the expulsions from Spain. Dakovo was run by the Ustase, Croatian fascists, and many of the women and children died under the cruellest conditions. In the six months the camp was in operation, nearly 600 women and children, a fifth of those interned, lost their lives there. Uniquely, the bodies were not disposed of anonymously but buried individually in the local Jewish cemetery. The gravedigger, Stjepan Kolb, protested against the ruling that the corpses be buried without clothes, and ensured that they were buried in a respectful way. He kept meticulous records as to who was buried where. Looking down on the rows of plaques with the names, ages and places of birth in the section where the infants are buried, it was impossible not to imagine the terrible suffering they had endured.

In total, just under 30,000 Croatian and 14,000 Bosnian Jews were murdered. Of the 5,000 survivors of these communities, the majority had escaped into the Italian Zone by the Dalmatian coast or over the mountains into Italy.

As we recited Kaddish in memory of the Yugoslav-Jewish victims, my thoughts went back to the summer of 1942 and the kindness of the unknown policeman who saved me from a similar fate during the ‘round-up’ in Paris. It is estimated that 1,500,000 children died during the Holocaust. We, the handful who survived as children under occupation, owe it to those who did not to ensure they are not forgotten.

Joan Salter

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