Stairs with no Ending

project Dotrščina Memorial Park, Zagreb, Croatia
written by Sanja Horvatinčić

The commemoration of Dotrščina as a site of the greatest suffering of Zagreb’s citizens in the modern history of the city went through several stages, which involved different approaches and models of protection, planning and implementation strategies. Despite today's impression of the completion of some of the monumental complexes related to World War II in Croatia, the lasting, often interrupted, altered, or never-completed processes of memorialization were more of a rule than an exception, especially when it comes to the complex task of commemorating authentic locations of mass suffering, carried out during the fascist terror in or around most of the larger settlements where the anti-fascist resistance was present. Since there were attempts to integrate such areas into the post-war urban planning development of cities, the construction of monuments was not only dependent on the invention or talent of their authors, but also on a number of specific problems of socio-political, urban planning, and conservational nature. Numerous discussions should be added to this, along with the often fierce controversies among the many social actors involved in the process, all of whom had different expectations and visions of an adequate solution. Designing a monument through a sculptural, architectural or landscape vocabulary should thus be perceived, and therefore also valorised, as a segment of the complex system conditioned by a series of given procedures, predispositions, and requirements of the involved social and professional actors.
In order to understand the lasting articulation process of Dotrščina, it is necessary to start from the given morphology of the authentic terrain of the tragic events, and understanding of the war crime technology. Historical analysis therefore implies an understanding of their spatial dimensions and coordinates, including the forensic approach to the given location, with the aim of restoring, as faithfully as possible, the historical events that the memorial object should be reminiscent of. Based on performed field investigations and eyewitness testimonies, two separate groups of mass graves were established in the Dotrščina area: a site known as the Valley of the Graves, which stretches along the creek in the valley between the two hill ridges on the southeast slopes of Medvednica, and a group of to date unmarked graves, located on the plateaus of the eastern slope of Dotrščina, directly adjacent to Štefanovečka Road. 

A reading of the preserved documentation of the memorialization process of Zagreb's Dotrščina, in the period from the beginning of the 1950s to the late 1980s,  reveals the crucial role of the conservation departments in charge of recording and designing appropriate and often innovative strategies for marking significant World War II sites.
The knowledge of the general urban plan is important for the analysis of the development of spatial plans (memorial park, memorial site). This plan foresaw the construction of the northern city bypass, which was to connect the city with the recreation zone in the elongated valley of Medvednica, and to which, in terms of programme, belonged the subject memorial site as one of three (along with the neighbourhoods Šestinski Dol and Medveščak) radial valleys that establish a direct contact between the city and Sljeme.