Croatian finds Holocaust education still touchy


ZAGREB, Croatia, March 11 (JTA) — A Croatian education official has come under fire for suggesting that Holocaust education needs to be improved in the nation’s schools.

The campaign against Natasha Jovicich, an assistant to the education minister, began after she returned from an international conference on Holocaust education in Sweden in late January.

Jovicich, 38, showed the conference a videotape she had made in several Croatian schools in which students talked about their desire to learn more about the suffering of Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals in the Holocaust.

They suggested collecting documentary material, books and photographs about the Holocaust, and creating a database that would help prevent future violence because “if we do not know the history, we do not know where to go in the future.”

Jovicich later proposed that Croatia join an international task force dedicated to promoting Holocaust education.

The task force currently has nine members — France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Great Britain and the United States. To join, countries must dedicate one day to the Holocaust during each school year.

Jovicich also appeared on television announcing that Croatia should improve its Holocaust education.

That was enough to enrage opponents of her plan, some of whom sympathize with the Nazi puppet government established in Croatia during World War II.

Several Croatian newspapers have accused Jovicich of fraudulently claiming she has a master’s degree to obtain her ministry post. Jovicich holds a master’s degree from Columbia College in Chicago in a form of art therapy for the blind, but her degree is not recognized in Croatia.

She also is an expert in the dangers of land mines, and is scheduled to be honored next month for her work in helping mine victims.

Zora Dirnbach, a Croatian Holocaust survivor and writer for television, says Jovicich drew criticism because she “touched a taboo subject.”

Jovicich says she is particularly upset that no governmental official has stepped forward to defend her.

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