Lipa, a small Croatian village, some 170 km from the capital of Zagreb, appears a peaceful beauty in the spring rain, and it is hardly to image it was here 269 villagers, including 121 children at age of 7 months to 15 years old, were killed by Nazi-led soldiers 71 years ago.
"Lipa Remembers, a memorial center commemorating the victims of the massacre, reopened a few days ago to mark the 70 anniversary of the Second World War", Vana Govic, the head of the center told Xinhua.
Lipa is the unique in Croatia in terms of commemorating WWII atrocities as its houses have been left untouched since the massacre and memorial center was located at the school which stopped operating after the day of the killings on April 30, 1944, she said.
In the center, a Multimedia exhibition tells what was happened on the Sunday of 1944.
On the sunny Sunday the 150 German, Italian soldiers entered the village starting retaliation on villagers for their supports to partisans who killed four German soldiers a few days earlier.
"Soldiers were spread around the village searching and stealing everything they could find. Around 4 p.m. the massacre and burnings started" said Danica Maljavac, a history teacher and former curator of the first Lipa memorial center which opened from 1968 until 1989.
There were mainly women, children and the elderly in the village that day, while some older men were tending livestock in the hill nearby the village, Maljavac said, adding "Most of young men were in the concentration camps or in the National-Liberation Army at that time".
At beginning Nazis went house by house searching and killing. Later they gathered more than 200 villagers into last house of the village, No. 20. Then the soldiers threw incendiary bombs. No one survived.
Lipa, together with French Oradur sur Glane and Czech Lidice, are the only three European villages in the United Nation's book as completely burned and destroyed villages during the WWII by Nazis, Govic said.
The exhibition displays eight original photos taken by German soldiers, according to Govic. The German soldier, who took photos in 1944, to develop film in the town of Ilirska Bistrica where he stationed. The photographic studio Maros made duplicates in secret, Govic said.
The photos were saved as the only document which shows what exactly happened in Lipa.
One of the photos matched the memories of a survivor of Smajla family, Govic told Xinhua, adding the five members of the family were among the six survivors of whole village as the mother saw the soldier killed the grandfather in front of the door and hid her four kids and herself under stairs. They saw what the soldiers were doing through the chinks of house.
Young Smajla was nine years old at that time. She had said they survived but her mother never recovered from the tragedy.
The exhibition also put all the names and ages of victims in little houses which symbolize their burned homes and how old they were when they were killed, Govic said.
Lipa holds commemoration every year in front of the house No.20 where has turned into a cemetery and a permanent monument of the victims.
"During 1968-1989, the first memorial center was operated , about five to ten thousand visitors were visiting the center per year," said Maljavac.
On the day Xinhua visited, a group of visitors were watching the video recording the memories of the villagers who escaped the killings due to being out of the village that day.
Petar Mijkovic, a teacher of architecture, said although he learned the Lipa tragedy from history lesson in high school, visiting the center brought him a strong impression of the atrocities that took place 71 years ago.
He said he knew Japanese soldiers did same burnings and killings in many Chinese villagers during the WWII, "people suffered a lot from the war, we do not want it happen again".
Maljava, who is the first girl born in the Lipa after the killings and also a co-writer of "Lipa remembers" that was published in 2014, hopes the reopened center will become a site to tell young generations what happened in Lipa and the importance of learning from the past.
Maljevac believes it is necessary to keep the memory of this event and said: "This is a warning to younger generations who should constantly carry out to prevent such atrocities in future."