During a lecture at the University of Washington, Max Bergholz, Associate Professor of History at Concordia University in Montreal, spoke about the sudden and perplexing descent into extreme violence of a once peaceful multiethnic community just inside modern Bosnia which was once fully incorporated into the World War II Independent State of Croatia.
Bergholz drew on research from his new book, Violence as a Generative Force: Identity, Nationalism, and Memory in a Balkan Community. Through extensive fieldwork, the book discusses the mechanism that drove the peaceful community to commit acts of brutality.
During two terrifying days and nights in September 1941, the lives of nearly 2,000 men, women, and children were taken savagely by their neighbors in Kulen Vakuf, a small rural community straddling today’s border between northwest Bosnia and Croatia. The frenzy — in which victims were butchered with farm tools, drowned in rivers, and thrown into deep vertical caves — was the culmination of a chain of local massacres that began earlier in the summer.
Bergholz was recently awarded the 2017 ASN Harriman Rothschild Book Prize for his work, which the organization said represents a “state-of-the-art treatment of empirical research on nationalist violence.”
According to Bergholz, this story provides provocative insights to questions of global significance: What causes intercommunal violence? How does such violence between neighbors affect their identities and relations?
Max Bergholz is Associate Professor of History at Concordia University in Montreal. His research has won support from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies, and his articles have been published in journals such as American Historical Review.
Listen to Max Bergholz’s lecture below.