“The Righteous Among the Nations – Croatia” exhibition on view at NSK until 28 April 2023
On 17 April 2023, the National and University Library in Zagreb (NSK) hosted the opening of The Righteous Among the Nations – Croatia, an exhibition by Branka Sömen commemorating the Croats who risked their lives to save Jewish people from the persecution to which they were subjected during the Holocaust. Marking the 2023 Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah) and remaining on view in the Library’s side lobby until 28 April 2023, the exhibition was put on as a result of the Library’s cooperation with the Školska knjiga publishing company, Croatian Audiovisual Centre and the exhibition’s author.
Considering the large number of young people visiting the National and University Library in Zagreb, there is no better place for the presentation of this exhibition, since it will give all these young people insight into the actions of unselfish and courageous people, who in a world that threatened and denied human rights defended those rights, putting them into action regardless of endangering their own lives, emphasised the son of Branko Bauer and grandson of Čedomir Bauer, both recognised as The Righteous Among the Nations, Zoran Bauer, who opened the exhibition.
You can almost hear the stories of these rescuers, all the rescued and their fates, which, reinforced by photographs, are authentic eyewitness accounts testifying to human kindness, courage and nobleness of heart, said the exhibition’s author Sömen, a longtime journalist, columnist and diplomat, adding how not enough is known, both internationally and in Croatia, about this praiseworthy part of Croatian history and its true heroes, who protected the lives of others regardless of the life-threatening situations that they put themselves in.
We want a society that encourages diversity and ensures safety for its members. Precisely for this reason, exhibitions like the one we are presenting here today are extremely important – they are a warning, but also a reminder of the extent of change that can be brought about by a single person. A single righteous person. A great many young people, students and future intellectuals gravitate towards the central Croatian library – this exhibition will give them the opportunity to learn about many moving stories of kindness and humanity and take them with them, into their lives, pointed out NSK Director General Dr Ivanka Stričević.
Also participating in the exhibition’s opening programme were the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the State of Israel to the Republic of Croatia His Excellency Mr Gary Koren, Chairman of the Board of the Školska knjiga publishing company Ante Žužul, Head of the Independent Service for Policy Coordination, European Affairs and International Cooperation of the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education Staša Skenžić, Director of the Directorate for Archives, Libraries and Museums at the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media and Envoy of the Croatian Culture and Media Minister Anuška Deranja Crnokić, the 2010-2015 President of the Republic of Croatia and Professor at the Zagreb Faculty of Law Ivo Josipović and President of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia Dr Ognjen Kraus.
Featuring stories about 68 noble Croats, the exhibition has been inspired by the book by Miriam Steiner-Aviezeron about Croats on the right side of history during World War II (Hrvatski pravednici) and is a sequel to a homonymous exhibition put on at the UN headquarters in New York in 2020.
For the past 60 years, since 1963, guided by a famous Talmudic proverb Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire, the State of Israel and Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, have been honouring non-Jewish people who were rescuing Jews during the Holocaust. By 1 January 2022, Yad Vashem recognised 28,217 men and women from 51 world countries as The Righteous Among the Nations, including 130 Croats, the kindness, courage and generosity of over the half of which Ms Sömen’s exhibition is a powerful witness statement to. Established in 1953, Yad Vashem is both the central memorial site commemorating the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust and the world archive and research and education centre for the Holocaust.
Visitors at the opening of “The Righteous Among the Nations – Croatia”, an exhibition by Branka Sömen commemorating the Croats rescuing Jewish people during the Holocaust, on view until 28 April 2023. National and University Library in Zagreb, 17 April 2023.