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Image of the discovery of a new mass grave at Perucac Lake

Excavations of a new mass grave discovered at Perucac Lake. Muhamed Mujkic.

Back in Sarajevo. I call in on Muhamed Mujkic, who co-directed the Memorial Room film with the British documentary maker Leslie Woodhead, at his office at the Federation for Missing Persons.  His job is to document the excavations of mass graves found in Bosnia – something he has now done for 15 years.   Last year a new mass grave was found–when a damming project at Perucac Lake caused a river bed to yield up its terrible secret – their work is far from over.   

Image of excavations of a mass grave discovered at Perucac Lake

Excavations of a new mass grave discovered at Perucac Lake. Muhamed Mujkic.

The walls of their office are covered with photos of the team at work – including one of their chief wearing a miner’s lamp as he examines human remains discovered in a deep cave.  And there’s one of Bill Clinton – deep in thought during an official visit to Potocari. 

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Image of the Srebrenica Memorial Room

The Srebrenica Memorial Room, Potocari, Bosnia Hercegovina: two black towers sit in the former UN headquarters. In one a film explains the course of the genocide, in another showcases tell the stories of twenty of those killed. Jasmin Agovic.

Wood-smoke curls through the darkness as I make my way to Sarajevo’s bus station for the 7am daily bus to Srebrenica.  It’s my first visit to Bosnia since 2007 when the Srebrenica Memorial Room opened, a project initiated by Lord Ashdown, then High Representative in Bosnia Hercegovina, and supported by the IWM.

Once on the road, it’s good to see the familiar landscape – even if it is through a haze of rain.  Substantial brick houses dot the fields – they’re usually shared between families with one on each floor.  Each has a pile of logs outside – ready for the winter.

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Image of the photograph and letter from Nursing Sister D M L Crewdson (August 1918) about the award of her Military Medal

One of the collections catalogued by Dr Simon Robbins: A photograph of and letter from Nursing Sister D M L Crewdson (August 1918) about the award of her Military Medal. IWM DOCS 62/135/1

A delegation comes from the Wellcome Trust – to hear what we are doing on the medical history front.  It’s a great opportunity to let them hear and see just how strong are our collections on this topic.  Inevitably the medical treatment of wounded soldiers is a running theme in our collections – whether recruiting posters for Red Cross nurses in the First World War or films urging soldiers to protect themselves against malaria in the Second.  But there are wider themes you can explore here too – there are few aspects of war which did not impinge on health also.

Dr Simon Robbins is our medical expert and he talks through the work he has done this year – the Wellcome Trust has just supported a major cataloguing project of our collections of letters and diaries written by medical personnel.  We’re hoping to expand our understanding and online coverage of this massive subject – linking up with other archives so that specialists can see who has what.

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Image of Alicia Melamed Adams' painting Two frightened children

Alicia Melamed Adams, Two Frightened Children, c 1963, Imperial War Museum IWM ART 17458

The Muswell Hill studio is flooded with sunlight and all around are paintings of flowers in radiant reds, yellows and blues.   I have come to visit Alicia Melamed Adams, the Holocaust survivor whose paintings and whose story I wrote up as one of the chapters of Justice, Politics and Memory in Europe after the Second World War published this summerWe did the interviews in this studio a year ago, sifting through her old family photographs and going over the details of her family’s horrendous wartime ordeal.

Alicia was born Alicia Goldschlag in Boryslav, in Galicia – in Eastern Poland –  to parents who gave her and her brother Josef a happy childhood.  But during the Second World War the Nazis imposed a reign of terror, with random shootings and disappearances a daily occurrence. Alicia’s parents and brother were all murdered by the Nazis.  Her brother Josef – who had ambitions to become an architect – died in the Janowska camp in Lviv in 1942. Her parents were shot.

 

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Image of the BBC monitoring reports in storage

The BBC monitoring reports in store

The wooden library trolley creaks into our Board Room.  Piled on its shelves are around twenty boxes of transcripts made by the BBC Monitoring Service during and after the Second World War.  Around the table are gathered four academics – Professor Hilary Footitt, Professor David Welch, Dr Alban Webb and Dr Peter Busch – who have kindly agreed to give us their thoughts on where we go next with this large, academically potent collection.

The reports were compiled by specially-recruited linguists (many of them refugees from Nazi Europe), to furnish the wartime government with an additional source of intelligence –  how events were being reported on the radio within Axis and occupied countries.  The reports show what the British Government knew from this ‘Open Source intelligence’, when they knew it and how that knowledge was used.

 

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