26.07.2016.

Katja Lorenz: My Internship at the Youth Initiative for Human Rights

Croatia – beautiful beaches, incredible landscape, very friendly and hospitable people – this is what lots of people in Germany think about this country or what they experienced during their summer holidays on the Adriatic coast. When I came to Zagreb I had no touristic experience – I have never been to Zagreb or Croatia […]


Croatia – beautiful beaches, incredible landscape, very friendly and hospitable people – this is what lots of people in Germany think about this country or what they experienced during their summer holidays on the Adriatic coast. When I came to Zagreb I had no touristic experience – I have never been to Zagreb or Croatia before. I did not come because of the beaches; I didn’t come for holidays and I planned to stay for six months.

After a very long journey by bus from Halle/Saale I arrived in Zagreb on the 6th April. It was a nice and sunny day. Two colleagues of mine picked me up at the bus station and showed me the office, where I met my other colleagues and later also the city. I loved the city immediately and it’s atmosphere. It was the late afternoon and people were sitting outside, drinking coffee and enjoyed the rest of the day. Everything was so exciting – I couldn’t believe that I am really here. After a coffee break and the first conversations about the war during the 90s I was brought to my shared flat, where my first day ended.

On the next day my internship started. My main task is still the supporting of the initiative for the establishment of the “Museum of Memory of Civilian Victims of War” in Petrinja. During the first weeks I did some research regarding the War in Croatia from 1991-1995 and learned more about current conflicts in memorization and commemoration in the region. The more I read, the more I heard about the Wars during the 90s the more confused I became and I am pretty sure that I will never stop being confused about this topic.

From the 10th-15th May I participated at the “Training on social integration for young political leaders” in Belgrade. I had the possibility to meet young people from political parties or other NGOs from Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. It was a very interesting and enriching experience, especially to meet all these young people and find out more about their wishes, hopes and challenges in life. We also talked a lot about processes of memorization and commemoration in the region and forms of reconciliation. I realized how important it is for the youth of the region to meet each other and have these vivid exchanges.

Back in Zagreb we organized a trip to the Jasenovac Memorial Site. Because I am also working as a freelancer at Buchenwald Memorial in Weimar/Germany it was very interesting for me to see what this memorial for a former concentration camp in Croatia looks like. Although it was impressing to see the famous flower monument, built by Bogdan Bogdanovic in 1966 and to have a very informing guided tour – the visiting of the museum was very disappointing. The exhibition consists of two small, dark rooms, without any structure or common thread. The focus lays on the stories of the victims, which are presented as interviews on screens without headphones, so there isn’t a quiet zone in the museum, visitors could need to deal with the facts. I also missed more information about the historical context of the Jasenovac concentration camp and information about the perpetrators. All in all, I have to say that the visitors get a very limited view on the past of Jasenovac.

By walking through the village Jasenovac and even on our way by train (by the way a trip in the slowest train I have ever experienced) for the first time I was really confronted with the war from 1991-1995 and it’s remains. I saw destroyed and left houses, houses with bullet holes in their facades as well as the Swastika and the Ustascha-Symbol on the walls of some buildings. It was a strange feeling – difficult to deal with that. This country is more than contradictious and it is impossible to understand it.

During the next three months I will try to develop a concept of a “Museum without a museum” which will include programs for workshops and individual education regarding to the war from 1991-1995 for young people.