Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

New Study Questions Values Taught in Croatia’s Textbooks

December 18, 2002
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Croatian textbooks are teaching violence and intolerance.

This was the conclusion drawn by Natasha Jovicich, who initiated a study of 23 textbooks used in Croatian elementary schools.

Jovicich is the new director of the museum at Jasenovac, the concentration camp operated by Croatia’s wartime Ustashe fascist regime. She initiated the study to draw attention to the basic values being taught to Croatian children.

The textbooks were analyzed by a group of high school teachers, with special emphasis on subjects like history and literature.

The results, which Jovicich called “shocking,” appeared in the latest edition of the Croatian weekly magazine Globus. Among the findings:

In a history book for eighth graders, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is ridiculed by being depicted as a bulldog sitting on the British flag.

On the same page, there is a photograph of a yellow Star of David, and a caption saying, “The Jews had to wear a special mark, the Star of David. This is a six-pointed star. It consists of two triangles, which symbolize the sky and the earth.” There is no mention of the discrimination suffered by those forced to wear the symbol.

The same history book shows the picture of Croatian wartime leader Ante Pavelic. The accompanying caption describes him as “a jurist, politician and the founder of the Ustashe movement,” but makes no mention of the war crimes committed under his rule.

“This textbook is a dangerous manipulation of history,” professor Rosana Ratkovchich, one of those conducting the study, wrote in her conclusion.

The book was guilty of “relativizing” fascism and the antifascist struggle to the point of rendering them morally indistinguishable, she wrote.

A caption that appears under a photo of Normandy Beach on D-Day, she wrote, creates the impression that the German army had moral superiority during the war.

Jovicich was quoted in Globus as saying that there is a “direct connection with the kind of intolerance that we find in these textbooks and the growing violence manifested by young people.”

A recent concert in the Croatian coastal town of Split, for example, attracted some 40,000 young people to the soccer stadium. Many of them wore the Ustashe insignia and waved Nazi flags.

The incident prompted some Croatian legislators to sponsor a bill that would criminalize the glorification of Nazi ideology.

The bill is still being debated in Parliament.

Until recently, Jovicich worked in Croatia’s Ministry of Education, where she initiated several pilot programs to introduce Holocaust education into Croatian schools.

In October, she proposed that Croatia join an international task force dedicated to promoting Holocaust education.

Croatia is now being monitored by four members of the task force — the United States, Israel, France and Argentina – – to see what will come out of plans to introduce Holocaust education in Croatian schools.

Meanwhile, the Jewish community of Zagreb, which has been promised $20,000 from the Claims Conference to train educators to teach about the Holocaust, reached an agreement with the Adam Institute in Jerusalem to organize a seminar on the topic.

About 16 instructors are planning to attend the seminar next month. Later, they will organize workshops and train others to teach the subject.

Recommended from JTA