Address by the President of the Republic of Srpska Željka Cvijanović to mark the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Ustasha Crime – Genocide in the Jasenovac Concentration Camp and its largest execution site in Donja Gradina:
Honorable representatives of the institutions,
Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska,
Serb member of the BiH Presidency,
Prime Minister of the Republic of Srpska,
Chairman of the Council of Ministers,
Deputies, ministers, mayors,
The surviving inmates,
Families of the victims,
Representatives of the Association of Defense and Homeland Wars,
Representatives of the associations of the Jewish and Roma communities,
Dear citizens of the Republic of Srpska,
I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to the President Vučić and the leadership of Serbia for marking the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Ustasha crime – genocide in Jasenovac in a different way today.
75 years have passed since the last detainees made their breakthrough from the Jasenovac death camps. The chances of getting out of the Jasenovac hell were minimal and only every tenth participant in the breakthrough survived, with thousands and thousands of detainees killed in those days.
At a time when the final collapse of Nazi Germany and its quisling creations such as the so-called Independent State of Croatia was approaching, the order of the Ustasha authorities was to execute all the prisoners, and the camp itself should be completely demolished in order to cover up all the evidence of its existence.
Due to the courage of the last detainees who were able to move on to a decisive breakthrough, and the subsequent testimony of the surviving detainees, the horrible truth about the Jasenovac death camps perceived the light of the day.
Since then, until today, for the Serb people, the memory of Jasenovac represents the greatest, painful wound, but also the most important historical lesson that we are obliged to learn, remember and pass on to the future generations.
That is the reason we are here today, in this terrible, sacred and holy site, to remember all the victims of the Jasenovac death and genocide camps in the region of the so-called NDH, although due to the global pandemic and the state of emergency, we commemorate differently than the previous years.
Horrors of these crimes are not only reflected in the frightening number of innocent victims killed in the cruelest way, but also in the fact that it was an institutional, state project, whose ultimate aim was the physical destruction and extermination of the Serb, as well as Jewish and Roma people.
It will be recorded on the darkest pages of the world history, that even the evil Nazis were frightened over the methods used by the Ustashas during the mass executions in camps of death.
It would be remembered that the state of Ustashas was the only one in the history of mankind which had special camps for children, who in these places suffered massively by the hands of criminals who did not recognise innocent creatures of God in those children, but the enemies that needed to be exterminated. For that, there is no moral, or adequate legal qualification.
However, there were people who were truly human beings and warm persons in such brutal and inhuman times. Therefore, today, with great respect we need to mention the name of the great humanist of Austrian descent, Diana Budisavljević, who had saved over ten thousand Serbian children.
Numerous world historians testified over the horrors of this place, and claimed that by its monstrosity the Jasenovac camp exceeded even Auschwitz. For the Serb people, Jasenovac is the site of the most massive suffering during the World War II, it is a symbol of genocide and the most expensive historical lesson. It was the lesson that has further strengthened our state-consciousness, but also our determination to defend what is ours, without endangering anyone else.
Remembering Jasenovac and other execution sites, we are not talking about wars in which armies collided, or about the great battles that counted victims – both military and civilian. We are not talking about the winners or losers of the war, or any occupied or defense military points.
As we stand here in this place, we are talking about the moral and every other downfall of the human race, embodied through the mass cruel executions that have been carried out over the innocent population, about the planned extermination and the suppression of existence – from a just born child to an exhausted old man, and about the horror of such mass suffering.
Thus, the horrors of Jasenovac, Donja Gradina, Jadovno, Drakulić, Garavica, Prebilovci, Stari Brod and many other execution sites from the World War II have been deeply engrained in the collective memory of the whole nation.
With these memories and frightening remembrances, we have later defended our right to exist.
That awareness on the importance of preserving the right to live, the right to have a hearth to live on your own, but also the right to protect yourself from disappearing or repeating evil, guided us at the times when we were creating the Republic of Srpska as a framework for our freedom and our existence.
Today, we live in freedom and we want all our future generations to live without fear of losing such a freedom. We want to live in peace with others. We wish that no nation is a hindrance to the expression of the potential, creativity and ability of any other nation in our region.
There are many people, who are not part of us, who do not understand why we love the Republic of Srpska so much. But we, who are part of our community, we know this well and understand it perfectly. We know that the Republic of Srpska is a guarantee of our lives and that it is not a barrier to anyone’s development. We are proud of our people, of the attachment we feel to each other and we are proud of our institutions which are able to quickly organise and respond to the challenges.
Therefore, our obligation is greater to build and develop the Republic of Srpska in peace. On the path to creating a better future, we must not forget the past, and it is our obligation to combat against historical revisionism and the attempts to revive the dark ideologies of the past by truth. Such attempts are not only an insult to the victims, but also an anti-civilised act and an attack to the dignity of every human being, but also of the nation.
But it is our duty to fight, by truth and with the faith in the Republic of Srpska, against the imposed false stereotypes that have followed us since the last defense and homeland war. And the victims we recall today obliged us, as well as this site we stand today.
With all the sadness and pain that a person naturally feels in a place like this one, we are proud that by our gathering, and by our existence, we show that life has triumphed over death. Our greatest victory lies in our existence and endurance in spite of everything.
I am certain that, as we have been doing so far, we will overcome all the challenges we face.
I would like to thank the citizens of the Republic of Srpska!
Thank you our brothers and sisters in Serbia!
Thank you our friends in far away Israel for being together again and for always being together.