WHAT WAS JASENOVAC?
WHAT WAS JASENOVAC?
From August 1941 to April 1945, hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, and Romas, as well as anti-fascists of many nationalities, were murdered at the death camp known as Jasenovac. Estimates of the total numbers of men, women and children killed there range from 300,000 to 700,000. And yet, despite the scale of the crimes committed there, most of the world has never heard of Jasenovac.
Following the Nazi invasion and dismemberment of Yugoslavia in April 1941, the “Independent State of Croatia” was established as a pro-Nazi government. It was dedicated to a clerical-fascist ideology influenced both by Nazism and extreme Roman Catholic fanaticism. On coming to power, the Ustashe Party dictatorship in Croatia quickly commenced on a systematic policy of racial extermination of all Serbs, Jews and Romas living within its borders.
Jasenovac was actually a complex of five major and three smaller “special” camps spread out over 240 square kilometers (150 square miles) in south-central Croatia. Along with hundreds of thousands of Serbs, some 25,000 Jews and at least 30,000 Romas were murdered in these camps. The names of some 20,000 murdered children of all three nationalities collected thus far by historians provides only a hint of the scale of the crimes committed there against children. Jasenovac is also known for having been one of the most barbaric death camps of the Holocaust for the extreme cruelty in which its victims were tortured and murdered. Jasenovac was not the only death camp in fascist occupied Yugoslavia, but it was by far the largest and the one in which a majority of the some one million victims of racial genocide in World War II fascist Croatia were exterminated.
But its significance also lies in the way in which the crimes have been concealed. Historians have called Jasenovac “the dark secret of the Holocaust” and “the suppressed chapter of Holocaust history.” Public recognition of the tragedy that occurred there has been suppressed either partially or completely by governments and institutions for a variety of reasons. Today Jasenovac is located in the newly created state of Croatia, whose government has vandalized the site and refused to acknowledge the horrors that took place there. The failure of some leading Western academic and humanitarian institutions to fully recognize the historic dimensions of Jasenovac is a shameful omission that will tarnish their reputations forever.
But the enormity of the crimes committed at Jasenovac, the fact that the majority of the victims were Serbs who were killed simply for being Serbs, and the fact that the perpetrators included the Catholic Church, have made it an extraordinary and explosive issue that Holocaust deniers and historical revisionists cannot successfully manipulate for long should we focus all of our energies on bringing the truth to light. In doing so, we shall also unravel the whole ball of lies told about the history of Yugoslavia.
From the Brochure of the Jasenovac Research Institute, written by JRI Research Director Barry Lituchy, (c) 2000.
Entry in Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, edited by Israel Gutman, vol.1, 1995, pp.739-740
JASENOVAC, the largest concentration and extermination camp in CROATIA. Jasenovac was in fact a complex of several subcamps, in close proximity to each other, on the bank of the Sava River, about 62 miles (100 km) south of Zagreb. The women’s camp of Stara Gradiška, which was farther away, also belonged to this complex.
Jasenovac was established in August 1941 and was dismantled only in April 1945. The creation of the camp and its management and supervision were entrusted to Department III of the Croatian Security Police (Ustaška Narodna Služba: UNS), headed by Vjekoslav (Maks) Luburi6, who was personally responsible for everything that happened Some six hundred thousand people were murdered at Jasenovac, mostly Serbs, Jews, GYPSIES, and opponents of the USTASA regime. The number of Jewish victims was between twenty thousand and twenty-five thousand, most of whom were murdered there up to August 1942, when deportation of the Croatian Jews to AUSCHWITZ for extermination began. Jews were sent to Jasenovac from all parts of Croatia from Zagreb, from Sarajevo, and from other cities and smaller towns. On their arrival most were killed at execution sites near the camp: Granik, Gradina, and other places. Those kept alive were mostly skilled at needed professions and trades (doctors, pharmacists, electricians, shoemakers, goldsmiths, and so on) and were employed in services and workshops at Jasenovac. The living conditions in the camp were extremely severe: a meager diet, deplorable accommodations, a particularly cruel regime, and unbelievably cruel behavior by the Ustaše guards. The conditions improved only for short periods during visits by delegations, such as the press delegation that visited in February 1942 and a Red Cross delegation in June 1944.
|Three slaughterers and a commandant of the Jasenovac camp:
Stipe Prpic, friar Miroslav Filipovic-Majstorovic, and Jerko Maricic
|The acts of murder and of cruelty in the camp reached their peak in the late summer of 1942, when tens of thousands of Serbian villagers were deported to Jasenovac from the area of the fighting against the partisans in the Kozara Mountains. Most of the men were killed at Jasenovac. The women were sent for forced labor in Germany, and the children were taken from their mothers; some were murdered and others were dispersed in orphanages throughout the country.
In April 1945 the partisan army approached the camp. In an attempt to erase traces of the atrocities, the Ustaše blew up all the installations and killed most of the internees. An escape attempt by the prisoners failed, and only a few survived.
Romans, J. Jews of Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: Victims of Genocide and Freedom Fighters. Belgrade, 1982.
Sindik, D., ed. Secanja Jevreja Jasenovac Belgrade, 1972.
|from the JASENOVAC EXHIBITION CATALOGUE OF THE MUSEUM OF THE VICTIMS OF GENOCIDE, BELGRADE, (Belgrade, 1997).
Memorial Day for the Victim’s of Genocide was established in the Law founding the Museum of the Victims of Genocide (Article 2), on the day which commemorates the day when the prisoners of the Ustasha camp Jasenovac broke out (April 22, 1945), as a memorial to the Serb, Jew, and Romany victims of genocide.
This exhibition has been prepared for the United Nations, because in the Archives of the Concentration Camps and War Criminals in New York, there is no mention either of Maks Luburic or Andrija Artukovic, and in the register there is no mention of the Jasenovac camp. In the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva there are only 20 photographs of >>potemkin villages<<, which show the Ustasha death camp at Jasenovac as a labor camp.
On the Day of Human Rights, December 11, 1991, at the time when the Jasenovac camp was desecrated by the Croatian Armed Forces, the exhibition named Auschwitz: A Crime Against Humanity was opened, where it was stated that Auschwitz was the last of the large death camps which was evacuated, functioning at full capacity to the end of November, 1944.
At the last moment, in January, 1945, more than 50,000 prisoners who were able to walk were led from the camp. The Ustasha camp of death Jasenovac, worked at full capacity all the way to the end of April, 1945.
Belgrade was liberated on October 20, 1944. The corpses of Jasenovac’s victims, which floated down the Sava River to the shores of Belgrade, have not been excavated and no requiem sung for them, not even after fifty years.
The Ustasha death camp Jasenovac was in fact, a system of death camps covering 210 square kilometers from the Dubica lime pits to Stara Gradiska, a road of death along the Sava River.
In the discussions about a political solution to the Yugoslav crisis, about the maps dividing Croatia, the Serb Republic and Republic of Serbian KraJina, the question of the status of Jasenovac must be asked – Jasenovac, the Ustasha death camp.
It must not be allowed that Jasenovac the Ustasha death camp – is destroyed by the transformation of administrative borders into international borders.
In the name of the victims of genocide – the Serbs, the Croat-Yugoslavs, the Jews and Romanies, the antifascists – the proposal of Franjo Tudjman, the head of the HDZ and president of Croatia, must be rejected. He proposes that the memorial area of Jasenovac should be turned into a general memorial center for all the Croatian victims in the Second World War – and that would mean the victims and war criminals alike.
The exhibition “Jasenovac – The Ustasha Camp of Death” carries with itself a message, an appeal to the international protection of the United Nations to save the Memorial Area of the camp system, the structures and the burial places, as a pail of world cultural heritage, in accord with the resolution of the European Council in 1993.
Dr. Milan Bulajic
Museum of the Victims of Genocide
|I. THE CREATION OF THE INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA- 1941
After the short-lived war in April of 1941, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was divided among the aggressor countries: Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, Horti’s Hungary and Boris III’s Bulgaria. In the meantime, while the war was still being fought, the founding of the Ustasha’s Independent State of Croatia (abbreviated as NDH from the Serbo-Croatian “Nezavisna Drzhava Hrvatska”) was proclaimed on April 10, 1941; territories besides those which were traditionally settled by the Croats were grafted into this state, including all of Bosnia- Herzegovina and parts of Serbia.
There were more than two million Serbs living in the newly created puppet state, who made up one third of the entire population of the NDH. There were also significant numbers of Jews, Romanies and members of other national groups. As soon as the NDH was proclaimed, the leader of this Italo-German fabrication, the head of the Ustasha named Ante Pavelic, began to carry out the Ustasha’s program of the creation of a “purely Croatian area for living ” and a ” pure Croat nation”. Namely, since the Ustasha were extreme nationalists, chauvinists and racists, they began to build their own state and institutions which reflected those of Nazi Germany. According to their ideologists, the condition for the creation of a purely Croatian state would be the expulsion of the Serbs (“Greek- Easterners”), the Jews (“Zhidovi”) and the Romanies (“Gypsies”). Claiming that the Serbs were both racially and religiously different from the Croats, they killed them, deported them or forcibly converted them. The Jews and Romanies were to be completely annihilated as they were considered to be lower races. The Ustasha government and its jurisdiction passed a series of laws, orders and regulations by which Nazi-fascist methods of terror and ethnic genocide were made legal (the Regulation on the Outlawing of the Cyrillic Alphabet, the Regulation on Racial Affiliation, the Regulation on Citizenship, the Regulation on Conversion from One Religion to Another, and so on). Yet, the most massive crime against the Serbs, Jews and Romanies was carried out outside the framework of those laws and legal documents. The Ustasha acted on their racial, religious and national intolerance without regard for any kind of laws or norms. The Ustasha government was supported by the greater part of the Catholic clergy and the Muslim religious community, and the Croatian Peasant also pledged their allegiance to the Ustasha government.
II. THE BEGINNING OF THE GENOCIDE OF THE SERBS, JEWS, AND ROMANIES IN THE NDH The Ustasha’s organization was a typically fascist organization and its military strength was an instrument for the implementation of the Ustasha’s Nazi ideology.
The Ustasha army (>>Ustashka vojnica<<) was organized by Slavko Kvaternik, the >>second in command<< and it was made up of Ustasha units (filled out with volunteers) under the direction of the Central Ustasha Headquarters, of special police units (>>redarstvo<<) and the Home Guard (>>domobrani<<), and in August of 1941 the Ustasha Secret Service (abbreviated UNS after the Serbo-Croatian (>>Ustashka Nadzorna Sluzhba<<) was formed, with Eugen – Dids Kvaternik at its head. With the aid of these organizations, the greatest kind of genocide was carried out against the Serbs, Jews and Romanies in the NDH. In order to make it possible for only Croats and Muslims to live in the NDH, the mass physical destruction, expulsion and forcible conversion of the Serbs was carried out, along with the systematic extermination of the Jews, and the almost complete destruction of the Romanies. The mass murder of the Serbs began already at the end of April, 1941, with the massacres in the villages around Bjelovar, in Banija in May, in Lika in June, in Kordun, in Bosnian Krajina and in Herzegovina. It is thought that just in the period from April, 1941, to the middle of August, 1942, over 600,000 Serbs were killed in the most brutal ways imaginable, and during the entire war over 180,000 Serbs were deported to Serbia proper.
|Jewish children being sent to Jasenovac|
|The terror of the NDH government was especially aimed at the Serbian Orthodox Church. Three Orthodox bishops and most of the Orthodox priests were murdered by the end of 1941 in the cruelest of manners. During the war, 450 Orthodox churches were demolished. The exact number of Serbs forcibly converted to Catholicism has never been established.
III. CONCENTRATION CAMPS IN THE INDEPENDENT STATE OF CROATIA According to the example of their protectors, Nazi Germany and the other fascist regimes, concentration camps were founded in the NDH for the purpose of >>purifying the nation<< of undesirables. The Ustasha called them >>collection<< or >>work<< camps, and they were designed for the mass internment and systematic total destruction of Serbs, Jews, Romanies, and >>objectionable<< Croats. The so-called >>Ustasha Secret Service<< (or rather its) >>Department III<< which was also called the >>Ustash Guard<< was in charge of the founding, organization and management of the concentration camps in the NDH. Although they were actually the same, >>Department III<< took care of the founding, organization and management of the camps, while the >>Ustasha Guard<< was assigned to forming military units which guarded the camps and carried out the task of transporting the Serb and Jewish people from the surrounding territories to the camps, and they were also those who killed the prisoners. The first camps in the NDH were founded on the island of Pag at the place called Slano, on Mount Velebit near Gospic at a place called Jadovno, and in Bosnia at Krusica near Travnik. Besides Jasenovac, the larger camps were: >>Danicao in Koprivnica, Kerestinec, Lobograd, Stara Gradiska, Lepoglava, Jastrebarsko and Sisak. In the beginning there were no legal regulations about sending people to camps or the length of sentences. Such things were decided by Pavelic’s emissaries, district prefects, deputy prefects, camp supervisors and other Ustasha commanders. Such practices remained even later, and when the regulations were finally passed no one obeyed them.
The first commander of >>Department III<< (the >>Ustasha Guard<<) and thus of the camps as well, was the Ustasha Mijo Babic alias >>Giovani<<, who was followed by Vjekoslav Luburic alias >>Maks<>Ustasha Guard<< who carried out mass crimes directly under his command.
IV THE FOUNDING OF THE JASENOVAC CONCENTRATION CAMP The Ustasha camp called Jasenovac was founded according to the model of camps in Nazi Germany, on August 21, 1941. It was the largest place of torture and execution which ever existed in Yugoslavia. With its horrors it was the largest concentration camp, and it was the third in the number of victims in all of occupied Europe, during the war years 1941-1945. With their sadism and pathological crimes, the Ustasha outdid even their Nazi German masters.
Unlike the German camps where industrialized genocide was conducted, in Jasenovac that genocide was done in a way never recorded in the history of the human race. All which was negative, pathological and criminal, which characterized the Ustasha movement as a whole, reached its peak in Jasenovac.
The Jasenovac camp spread out over 210 square kilometers, along the Sava River from Stara Gradiska in the east to the village Krap1je in the west, and from Strug in the north to the line between Draksenic to Bistrica in the south.
The choice of the wider region of Jasenovac for such a monstrous camp was made for several reasons. One of them was certainly the suitable geographic position. The Zagreb-Belgrade railway was in the vicinity and was important for the transport of the prisoners. The terrain was surrounded by the rivers Sava, Una and Velika Struga, in the middle of the swampy Lonjsko polje area, so that escape from the camp was almost impossible. On the other side of the Sava, the Gradina region was hardly accessible and often flooded by the river, uninhabited and far from all witnesses. It was the ideal place for hiding mass murders. The other possible reason for the choice of this place were the existing factories there; these were workshops for the making of chains, blacksmith shops, locksmith shops, brick factories, lumber mills and so on, so the camp was easy to present in public as a work camp.
V THE JASENOVAC CAMP SYSTEM The Jasenovac concentration camp encompassed a system of camps along the Sava River, on the flood plain of the Lonjsko poije area.
The Ustasha’s newspapers announced to the public, on August 23, 1941, that the first barracks for prisoners had been built near the villages of Brocice and Krapje, and that the camps would be used for the draining of Lonjsko po1je. In fact, that was the founding of the Jasenovac camp, or more precisely, Camp II called Brocice – “Versaj” and Camp 11 called “Krapje”, to which the first prisoners were brought, Jews and Serbs from the Ustasha camps of Slano and Jadovno. In the beginning the prisoners actually worked on building the dike, but under indescribably hard conditions and terror. Those who did not die from the exhausting work and hunger, being immediately buried in the dike, were killed when the camp was liquidated. In November of 1941, Camp III “Ciglana” (which means ‘brickyard’) was opened – the so-called III which quickly became the camp with the central management function for all collection and concentration camps in the NDH. The center of the camp lay beneath the village Jasenovac in the area of the industrial complex where the brickyard actually was, and that is how it got its name. Three-fourths of Camp III were surrounded by a wall 3 to 5 meters high, into which seven concrete bunkers were built and which had several guard towers. In front of the wall were three lines of tangled barbed wire, and in some places they were electrified. The fourth side of the camp faced the River Sava. As an integral part of Camp 111-C there was a special Ustasha Secret Service prison for specially selected prisoners.
Camp IV “Kozhara” (which means ‘tannery’ was found in the village of Jasenovac, and prisoners worked in the tannery there under the most difficult of conditions. Camp V – Stara Gradiska belonged organizationally to the Jasenovac camp system. In the overall area of the Jasenovac camp three other special camps were organized. In the village Ustica, on the delta of the Una and Sava, an improvised “Gypsy camp” was located, where mainly Romanies were brought and killed, and the villages Mlaka and Jablanac were turned into collection camps for women and children.
VI THE PLACES OF EXECUTION IN JASENOVAC
The system of mass murder in Jasenovac was already in place in the fall of 1941, as soon as the larger transports of people began to arrive. The men, women and children arrived here by rail, truck, horse-drawn cart, or simply running at the insistence of the Ustasha with rifles. Places of mass execution were found all over the Jasenovac camp. Most of them were located on the right bank of the Sava from the Dubicki limepits downriver, and especially in the village Gradina. According to forensic science research, over 360,000 people were killed here. Murder of the prisoners was also carried out in the forest near the Krapje Camp, near the “Versaj” Camp and “Ustica” Camp on the whole left bank of the Sava, downriver from Jasenovac to Jablanac and Mlaka. Furthermore, within the complex of Camp III there was also a crematorium which was actually an oven for baking bricks; the Ustasha converted it according to the plans of Hinko Picili so that they could bum the prisoners in it. Within this circle, besides “Picili’s Furnaceo”, there were also other places where people were tortured and killed and they were called “Lancara”, “Tunel”, “Granik”, “Zvonara”, “Sablasno jezero”, and so on.
In the Camp of Stara Gradiska, torture and murder were done in the cellars of the old Austrian Fortress, in the tower of the fortress and on the banks of the Sava.
The extent to which the system of killing was developed is witnessed to by a memorandum from the Headquarters Chief on April 27, 1942, directed to all Ustasha units and institutions, stating >>the collection and work camp at Jasenovac can receive an unlimited number of prisoners<<.
VII METHODS AND MEANS OF THE MASS EXTERMINATION OF PEOPLE IN JASENOVAC
From the summer of 1941 to the spring of 1945, death in Jasenovac took numerous forms. The prisoners and all those who ended up in Jasenovac had their throats cut by the Ustasha with specially designed knives, or they were killed with axes, mallets and hammers; they were also shot, or they were hung from trees or light poles. Some were burned alive in hot furnaces, boiled in cauldrons, or drowned in the River Sava.
Here the most varied forms of torture were used. Finger and toe nails were pulled out with metal instruments, eyes were dug out with specially constructed hooks, people were blinded by having needles stuck in their eyes, flesh was cut and then salted. People were also flayed, had their noses, ears and tongues cut off with wire cutters, and had awls stuck in their hearts. Daughters were raped in front of their mothers, sons were tortured in front of their fathers. Said plainly, in the concentration camps at Jasenovac and Stara Gradiska, the Ustasha surpassed all that even the sickest mind could imagine and do in terms of the brutal way people were murdered.
People in Jasenovac were no longer human beings, but rather objects which were available for the every whim of the Ustasha.
Even the Nazi generals were amazed at the horrors of Jasenovac. Thus, General von Horstenau, Hitler’s representative in Zagreb, wrote in his personal diary for 1942 that the Ustasha camps in the NDH were “the epitome of horror”, and Arthur Hefner, a German transport officer for work forces in the Reich, wrote on November 11, 1942 of Jasenovac: >>The concept of the Jasenovac camp should actually be understood as several camps which are several kilometers apart, grouped around Jasenovac. Regardless of the propaganda, this is one of the most horrible of camps, which can only be compared to Dante’s “Inferno”.
VIII WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN THE JASENOVAC CAMP
Many women, often with their children, were brought to Jasenovac. The whole village of Mlaka was turned into a women’s work camp. Women were forced to do exhausting agricultural work in the vicinity. Executions were performed in the very close proximity of the villages of Mlaka and Jablanac.
|Children at Jasenovac|
|In the process of “purifying the Croatian nation”, Serbian children were the first to be executed, together with the adults, even if they were still on their mothers’s breasts. During the four years between April, 1941 to May 1945, more than 74.316 children were killed in the Ustasha’s NDH. The youngest were still in the cradle, while the oldest were about 14 years of age. During the Second World War, the only place where there were special camps for children was Croatia.
From December, 1941, to April, 1945, in Jasenovac, the Ustasha killed 19.544 boys and girls of Serbian nationality, and their identities were later established. They were executed in atrocious ways and also died, more than the adults, from illnesses, famine, thirst, and frost. The Ustasha would drown small children in the Sava by tying up several of them in a sack and throwing them into the river. Many children (about 400 of them) were slaughtered in Jasenovac in mid-September, 1942. The children taken in 15 horse-drawn carts to the brickyard and burnt. A very similar fate befell the 300 kids who executed in Gradina on the afternoon of October -N. 1942.
IX PUBLIC PRESENTATION OF THE JASENOVAC CAMP
To the outside world, Jasenovac was presented as a work camp. The Ustasha’s propaganda tried to present the concentration camps both to their own people and to the world as places of useful work and reformation.
The wider area of the camp was strictly guarded. Only the confirmed Ustasha with specific tasks were allowed in. Even the Germans, as “allies” and friends, were not Allowed to enter the camp freely. However, under pressure from abroad, especially from the Germans, on February 6, 1942, an “International Committee” visited the Camp to see the way of living and working in it. In that delegation, the Pope’s emissary was also included, Monsignor G. Massuci.
Three days before that, Ljubo Milos, the commandant of the Jasenovac camps, had summoned all the prisoners and ordered them to clean the camp, tidy the dining room, kitchen, and hospital. The prisoners were given the sort of food that they had never had, or would have. After this visit the photographs of “the workers at their machines”in well-equipped workshops, and of the camp clinics with the staff in immaculately clean white uniforms, were sent to the world from Jasenovac. The camp was presented in such a way that it seemed desirable to be in Jasenovac in that war time of general uncertainty, death, and poverty, without the slightest premonition of what was, actually hidden behind those photographs.
X THE BREAKOUT OF THE PRISONERS AND THE LIBERATION OF THE CAMP
At the beginning of April 1945, the Ustasha were preparing the liquidation of the Jasenovac camp in order to remove the traces of their crimes before escaping. The ultimate liquidation of the Camp was begun on April 20, when the last large group of women and children was executed. On April 22, 1945, under the leadership of Ante Vukotic, about 600 people armed with bricks, poles, hammers and other things, broke down the doors, shattered windows and ran out of the building. About 470 people were sick and unable to fight barehanded with the armed Ustasha, so they did not take part in the rebellion. The 150 meter long path to the east gate of the camp was covered by the crossfire of the Ustasha mashine-guns, and many prisoners were killed there. A large number of them was killed on the wires of the camp. A hundred prisoners managed to break through the broken gate of the camp. Only 80 prisoners survived while 520 of them died in the first assault. The remaining 470 within the camp were later killed by the Ustasha.
The captives, 167 of them, from the so-called “Kozhara” part of the Jasenovac camp, about 8 p.m. on April 22 also began mortal combat under the leadership of Stanko Gacesa and Zahid Bukurevic. 150 of them managed to break through, but they were surrounded and fired at so heavily that only 11 prisoners survived.
The Jasenovac camp was not liquidated until the very last battles were being fought. The Yugoslav Army forces entered the Stara Gradiska camp on April 23, and Jasenovac on May 2, 1945. Before leaving the camp, the Ustasha killed the remaining prisoners, blasted and destroyed the buildings, guard-houses, torture rooms, the “Picili Furnace” and the other structures. Upon entering the camp, the liberators found only ruins, soot, smoke, and dead bodies.
XI THE INVESTIGATION OF THE USTASHA CRIMES IN JASENOVAC IN 1945
It is difficult to establish the number of victims killed in the Jasenovac concentration camp, since many documents were destroyed. The prisoners’ files were destroyed twice (at the beginning of 1943 and in April, 1945) and even if they had been preserved, they would have been of little help discerning the truth, because the Ustasha often killed the newly arrived prisoners immediately, without putting their names into the files. This is particularly true of those who arrived from Slavonia, Srem and Kozara, because it was only noted down that 9,83, or 155 wagons had arrived. For instance, a very small number of Gypsies was filed, only a few hundred, while it is known that all 25,000-35,000 of them from the NDH were killed in Jasenovac. The Jewish community in Yugoslavia has established the number of 20,000 Jews that %%err killed, in Jasenovac. The numbers of killed Serbs are truly varied. The sources from abroad mention numbers from 300,000 to 700,000. Be that as it may, most of the people killed in Jasenovac were Serbs. exact number being still unknown, but it surely amounts to several hundreds of thousands.
The National Committee of Croatia for the investigation of the crimes of the occupation forces and their collaborators stated in its report of November 15, 1945 that 500,000-600,000 people were killed at Jasenovac.
XII THE JASENOVAC MEMORIAL AREA
After the end of the war, the burial of the victims and cleaning up of the camp area were begun. The inhabitants of Jasenovac and the nearby villages used the bricks and other building material in the reconstruction and building of their houses. In that way, almost all material evidence disappeared from the place of the biggest crime in the former Yugoslavia, as if there had not been any camp in that place. It seems that the state and the authorities of that time, especially certain individuals in Zagreb, wanted it to be like that in Jasenovac. Under the “Brotherhood and Unity” motto, with the aim of creating tolerance between the nations, the crime had to be forgotten as soon as possible.
|It was only 20 years later, in 1965, under pressure of the victims’ families and relatives, that the building of a monument was begun – a stone flower of which its author, engineer Bogdan Bogdanovic, said that “it suggests the idea of overcoming suffering and insanity”. A few years later, the Open Memorial Museum was built, the graveyards were put in order, and the labor organization named Jasenovac Memorial Park was formed, which functioned until the beginning of the next war in 1991.
No matter how hard the authors of the memorial Park tried, often stating that the memorial complex would not resemble a >>city park<< or an >>artificial structure<<, that is exactly what happened to it.
Looking at it from the outside, Jasenovac Memorial Park, with its modern Museum building and its stylized stone flower really resembled a nice park more than a former concentration camp of the worst possible kind. If it had not been for the obvious museum material and films, the visitor would have hardly understood what had really happened there, or grasped all the horrors. The authentic buildings were not preserved or renewed. The monuments and the memorial plates were only inconspicuous marks of the biggest execution places and the places of other camps which constituted the Jasenovac complex of concentration camps, while some of them, Brocice and Jablanac, were not even marked. In spite of that, the site of the crime in Jasenovac was visited after the war by countless numbers of relatives and friends, and since the memorial area has been opened, hundreds of thousands of visitors have come who wished to pay homage to the innocent victims.
XIII THE DESECRATION OF THE MEMORIAL AREA
Jasenovac Memorial Park is the largest graveyard in the Balkans. It has been believed for a long time that the Ustasha’s crimes committed in Jasenovac presented an eternal warning to the people from these areas. However, that was not true. “The young Croatian democracy”, as the new nationalistic Croatian authorities called themselves, under the leadership of Franjo Tudjman, immediately after coming to the scene took the Ustasha symbols, and took a series of concrete further steps (seceding from Yugoslavia, adopting laws with racist characteristics very similar to those of 1941, organizing state terror against the Serbs and so on), thus showing clearly that it accepted the politics of the Ustasha’s Independent State of Croatia.
Even before the beginning of the new war in 1991, the Croatian authorities reduced the financing of the Jasenovac Memorial Park and declared “Lonjsko polje”a natural protected area, probably in order to turn the attention from the victims to the flora and fauna of the region. Croatian propaganda and Franjo Tudjman himself tried to minimize the crime with numerous articles, “studies” and statements, asserting that there were “not more than” 20,000-50,000 victims in Jasenovac.
At the end of September 1991, the Croatian Army entered the Jasenovac memorial park by force. According to the Hague Convention on the protection of historical and cultural monuments, the Croatian Army severely broke the agreement by entering the protected area. Although the international public informed about desecration of the memorial park. there was not much of a response.
The Serbian forces liberated Jasenovac Memorial Park on October 8, 1991. During the withdrawal the Croatian Army placed explosives blew up the bridge on the Sava River which connected the two parts of the Memorial Park; they also blew up the graves, destroyed the Museum artifacts and stole the Museum equipment. Due to the courage and enthusiasm of individuals who worked at the Memorial Park, some historical materials and objects were saved.
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