Remembering Crimes Committed in Our Name

Nenad Dimitrijević

Some questions refuse to go away. What really happened during the historical period we conventionally identify as the time of wars in the former Yugoslavia? Are these events relevant today? If this past still matters, how shall we remember it? Can we identify a set of the right attitudes towards it and a correct course of remembrance? What, if anything, can we expect as a practice of memory: healing, catharsis, atonement, reconciliation? Who are the actors of remembrance?

Let me start with a personal memory. I remember my first visit to Sarajevo after the war, in spring 2011. I went to the Markale marketplace. From that personal experience, I remember mostly emotions: sadness, shame, and hopelessness. I felt the same four years later, upon visiting Srebrenica.

It may be plain that my personal memory is linked to what happened to some other people. But Markale and Srebrenica as particular ‘places of memory’ keep haunting me, not simply because I am a member of the human race who feels duty-bound to oppose – or at least not to forget – the killing of fellow human beings. I am not just any decent person disturbed by the ghosts of the innocent people murdered. I am ashamed because I am a Serbian, and I remember what some other people did in my name. Some of my co-nationals acted on the assumption that I would be better off if those children, women, and men whom I had never met were not to live on Earth anymore. And so they were killed. Had it not been for a certain ethical reading of my good as a member of the Serbian nation, they would still be alive.

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  1. Sluiter, A. (2016). Remembering the Bosnian genocide: justice, memory and denial. Institute for Islamic Tradition of Bosniaks.

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