The dark sides of the past
ifa: How is that done, specifically in Croatia? For the conference programme, you spoke with pupils from Zagreb about the Holocaust. How are the Holocaust and the Ustasha1 collaboration regime communicated there?
Haß: I gave my lecture as part of the international 'Zagreb Jewish Film Festival'. It was one of the 'Educational Mornings', an education format for young people. As far as I know, the Croatian curriculum includes a limited number of teaching hours on the Holocaust. I cannot say whether collaboration is a topic in schools, but merely the fact that this festival exists and that school classes take part in it shows that something is happening in Croatian society. On the other hand, the fact that my lecture took place during this festival rather than during regular school lessons also shows that people are still struggling with their own attitude towards this part of the past.
ifa: Was collaboration a topic in your lecture?
Haß: My lecture was about the Wannsee Conference in general; I briefly mentioned the collaboration of the Ustasha1 regime. The pupils dealt surprisingly openly with this topic. For example, they did not justifiably defend the collaboration, but asked critical questions about it, responding to the answers with more in-depth questions. During the past few years, Croatian society has begun to deal with the dark sides of its own history. Otherwise, it would not be possible to pose these questions. A lot happens due to social pressure, possibly also to international alliances such as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)2, of which Croatia is a member.
National memory narratives in dialogue
ifa: Among other things, the objective of the IHRA2, to which 34 countries now belong, is to promote the education, research and commemoration of the Holocaust worldwide. Where do you see the opportunities for and restrictions of this intergovernmental body?
Haß: Such international alliances are meaningful and important, but there is always the danger that they will become independent or unified – and that is exactly what should not happen in a culture of remembrance. It's not about nations providing one another with 'development aid', but about the different perspectives of the Holocaust being heard on an equal footing. The opportunity lies in the fact that different national narratives meet in dialogue, in controversial dialogue as well. It can and should never be about pointing a finger, especially since our own national debates are just as restricted. Let us take, for example, Germany's colonial history, which I also lost sight of for quite a long time. Now this debate has started and we are addressing the issue, and that's a good thing. Moral indignation about the fact that it wasn't like this for a long time won't get us anywhere.
Interview by Juliane Pfordte