On regular field work in Pag
on interviewing witnesses in the case Slana and Metajna.
Made on November 20, 1945 in Pag
Present: Dr. Stjepan Petek
Recorder: Stjepan Palčić
Witness: Duje Bilić, age 36, Roman Catholic, Croat, Manager of Pag Harbour Office, married, father of four, warned to speak the truth, states:
“In autumn 1941, immediately after the camp was disbanded I took my boat accompanied by Jure Persen, Dr. Tomo Dodoja, Ivan Sabalić and Jerolim Bukša and went to Slana camp. Our intention was to save any inmates that might had been left there, so we took guns with us in case someone tried to stop us. Just as we arrived we saw a terrible image. We came across people that had been killed, but not covered with earth well, so heads, arms and such poked from shallow graves. It was in Furnaža, southeast from the camp. We then rushed to the camp itself in order to find any surviving inmates. But we did not find any here as well. We only found remains and various pieces of trash. There were various pieces of clothes, suitcases, broken glasses, flasks, spoons, etc. We were astonished to find wooden shoes made by inmates using sharp rocks. Still looking and hoping to find someone, 800 metres north from the camp we again came across to half buried corpses covered with rocks. Walking further from the camp towards east behind the camp wire fence we found a mass grave. Wandering around, we came across several individual graves with a couple of rocks on the top. We found a lot of notes, various records, pictures (photographs). All of this was destroyed after I joined the NOV, when Ustashas raided my flat in Pag looking for me, so they destroyed all of these together with my personal documents. This was my first visit to the camp, because, before that, e.g. before it was disbanded, we could not approach the camp from any side since Ustasha banned anyone from getting near the camp site, even from the sea. I passed there almost daily in my boat going on official business to the lighthouse. I knew that they were throwing people alive into the sea tied to rocks, because I saw a couple of drowned victims. I tried to pass there as close as possible and as often as possible, more than my duty required, hoping I would save someone. But, all I could see were long columns of these wretched people going to work on the road and followed by Ustashas. Once when I was on the St. Nicholas lighthouse, one of the Ustasha guards asked me if I had seen the day before one inmate who had tried to escape from the camp and swam across the channel, got out near the lighthouse and came back the same evening. The same Ustasha told me that miserable man (Ustasha called him “a bandit”) was shot as an example for other “bandits”.
When Italians decided to go to the camp they invited me thinking that I would be more informed about the conditions and the location of the camp, since I had visited the lighthouse often, so they wanted me to accompany them to the location. With them was Dr. Stazzio from Milano, a medical doctor and Lieutenant Fraschini, Commander of Pag. Dr. Stazzio took photos of victims that Italian soldiers excavated from mass graves. There were men, women and children for which Dr. Stazzio claimed had been thrown into the pits alive and buried with rocks. This doctor then said that Pavelić and his Ustashas were “barbarians”.
I saw one woman with her belly gutted and with a child inside it, while she held another child by the hand. There were young girls, naked, with their breasts cut off. All of them had wounds from knives and some blunt objects, probably rocks. I searched for empty shell casings or bullets, but since I could not find any I concluded that the victims had been slaughtered or stoned to death. All of my notes that I made according to my observations and pictures I stole from Dr. Stazzi were gone as I described.
I was mostly moved by an image I saw after removing rocks under which were young men, students, who had their arms and legs bound and slaughtered and stoned by Ustashas. The pictures I managed to get were, unfortunately, destroyed with the other material.
Duje Bilić, signature
COUNTY WAR CRIMES COMMISSION FOR CROATIAN COAST
On regular field work in Pag
on interviewing witnesses in case Slana and Metajna.
Made on November 21, 1945 in Pag
Present: Dr. Milan Trampuž, rapporteur
Stjepan Palčić, recorder
Witness: Ante Fabijanić, son of Mato, born in Pag, age 24, Croat, Roman Catholic, student of economy, living in Pag, 16 Petra Zrinskog Street, warned to speak the truth states:
Several days after Ustashas had left Pag Island in August 1941, after the Nativity of Mary, when Ustashas had left Slana camp, I went to Slana to see this camp. I arrived to Šušac in a boat and climbed up to the camp which had two parts, southern and northern.
In the northern part of the camp were three large barracks and several smaller ones with a kitchen which was a bit higher and farther from the main barracks and on the north-west side at ten paces was a makeshift toilet made of rocks.
The toilet had only one protective rock half a metre tall and 4 metres long. The protective rock hid people from the view only of persons in the barracks. The toilet was opened to all other sides and the pit was very shallow, around 10 centimetres. There were remains of dirty female and male laundry. A terrible stench was coming from there. It seemed that this toilet was for everyone in this part of the camp. Not far from the toilet were remains of a makeshift kitchen made of rocks, which had already been destroyed. At the bottom of the vale of the northern part of the camp were three large camp barracks, where inmates lived. The barracks were very poorly built and could not protect the residents in high winds, in gale which is very strong in that part of Pag. In the barracks we found on the floor various laundry and clothes belonging to town people, but also such items that had to be from our peasants from Lika and other southern parts.
Since some items were hidden under rocks in the camp, my conclusion is that the inmates had not had a wooden floor, but lay on the rocks. There were no traces of beds. I do not know whether the barracks had windows with panes since they had already been destroyed. There were no traces of a water spring. They must have brought water from the Sušca bay, where there are springs with somewhat salty water just next to the sea. The northern part of the camp was separately surrounded with one line of wire close to the barracks.
The southern camp was from the right hand side of a stone building, which was half-built, and supposed to be a camp administration building. I also noticed remains of destroyed barracks. I cannot say how many of them were there or how they were arranged, but I could see stone foundations. I cannot give you precise information on other buildings, because Ustashas had destroyed a lot them before they left. I remember well that this part of the camp was surrounded with triple lines of barbed wire 3 metres tall and 2.5 metres wide. Nobody could get out of this wire fence. At the southern part of the camp, just next to the wire, a grave was found, not covered properly with stench of a corpse around it. More to the south from here outside the fence several graves were found. We excavated one of them and found a man, approximately 40 years of age, strong, dressed in a town coat.
According to his appearance he had been buried for 15 days. He had no IDs on him.
North-east from there, at 50 to 70 metres, we found a grave of a woman. This woman was dressed and her face was squashed by the rocks, and was not covered with a board, while the man was covered with two boards. These graves were around 20 cm deep.
Next to this woman in the grave I found one picture with an ID I could not read since water washed it. I will enclose the picture. We could not determine what sort of injuries they sustained, since due to decomposition we could not examine them. This woman had been buried for at least one month.
In the northern and southern parts of the camp we found on barracks floor some correspondence, post cards, notes, etc. from which we concluded that the inmates had received and sent mail. Some of the correspondence was dated before the camp was founded, and the inmates had it with them from the day they had been arrested.
The correspondence was both in Cyrillic and Latin alphabets and referred to Zagreb and places in Lika. Names were Jewish and Orthodox Christian.
Between the northern and southern part of the camp, outside the fence on a higher ground, there were preparations to build probably some sports field for Ustashas. I would like to stress that in the northern part of the camp we found traces of blood on rocks both inside and outside of the fence. It seemed that the rocks had been sprayed by the blood of the murdered inmates.
Several barracks outside the fence were located on vantage points around the vale and they were makeshift watchtowers from where a guard could have the view on the whole camp. According to traces there were four such watchtowers.
I would like to stress that there were a lot of graves around the camp. They were mostly individual graves.
300 metres west from the northern camp we found a large pit, which seemed to be the grave for many inmates.
I visited Slana also after Italians arrived and when they burned most of the corpses, I could see a pile of bones and remains of skulls.
Read and approved!
Stjepan Palčić, signature Stamp Ante Fabijanić, Signature
Continued on November 22, 1945 in Pag,
Witness Ante Fabijanić states:
In mid July 1941, one day I was on a ship owned by Josip Maržić, with captain Šime Maržić, son of the owner, and I could see traces of blood from the inmates, because they had been tortured and killed on the ship. On the same day Šime Maržić told me what he had told me before, how Ustashas tortured prisoners. Ustashas would throw inside the ship that can hold around 30 people 60 of the prisoners so in summer heat they would suffocate. People were literally thrown atop each other. Also, Šime Maržić told me that Ustashas took inmates from the camp telling them they would be released, so the inmates would take all of their belongings with them. Ustashas would then take everything from them, tie them with wire, maim them and throw them into the sea. Ustashas would tie their arms to their legs, then step on their stomachs with one boot and hit them on the throat with the other. After that they would tie a rock around victim’s neck and throw him into the sea. Sometimes the wire would break and the corpse came to the surface. Ustashas would shoot the bloated corpse into bellies from their rifles so that they would sink. I heard that Ustashas had raped women and gutted them afterwards with a bayonet, cutting them form genitals to the neck.
Read and approved! Ante Fabijanić, signature Stjepan Palčić, signature Stamp Dr. Milan Trampuž, signature This copy is the exact duplicate of its original claims the President of the County Commission:
Dirty fingers of priest Josip Felicinović
The pre-war Ustasha organiser in Pag, priest Don Joso the Noble Felicinović, probably thought for a long time in which way he could wash in front of the people his hands and hands of all priests from this part of the Croatian coast who got dirty with organisation or cooperation with Ustashas or directly committing crimes just as the worst war criminals. His way out of this was to distort what he was forced to say forty years after his cooperation in the creation of bloody camp SLANA on Pag in front of people who have forgotten the real truth after so much time. Years of pondering and editing of text followed. From all of that he drained nine miserable pages of typed material in which he used his old cynicism trying to deceive people, but fortunately he underestimated others trusting his cunning and revealed himself fully. In criminology it is known that the criminal returns to the crime scene. Felicinović did not think it would be necessary to prove his innocence anywhere else but on the scene of the crime in which he collaborated. His text is titled “Personal Memories”.
We will not prove how much he cooperated, but that he was an Ustasha despite being a priest. But I guess that this is common knowledge for everyone who read at least two issues of “Nedjelja”. Going through his texts, we are going to focus just on those actions I thought to be important because he could not avoid it. They itched him too much and he added stories in order to impress us like small children so he could remain what he always was – a cynical Ustasha. Some of the disputes we will have to repeat.
In the time when SLANA camp was organised, Felicinović was living in Pag as a man of the cloth in a Benedictine convent working as religious teacher in the Primary School.
Let’s start with his words. In a conversation with him (published in the “Novi list” from Rijeka, issue July 31, 1985) he says: “… somewhere in early June 1941, possibly in May, he met with Mijo Babić Đovani (personal emissary from Pavelić, an Ustasha emigrant) in a pub in Pag”. Mijo Babić told him that he had come to Pag to find a location for a camp. Mijo Babić was given a military map of the island by Josip Felicinović himself. “Mijo Babić drew with pencil around the area of Slana and said he would soon bring Serbs and Jews to that camp…”
Further: in “Personal Memories” on page 1, Felicinović writes the following: “The main organiser of the Pag camp, Mijo Babić, promised me that the treatment in the camp would be good and that the camp would be just a “purgatory”, correction facility…”
Let us try and shed light of some facts: Who did Mijo Babić, the organiser of NDH camp and the organiser of the first camp in the NDH, meet in Pag? He met priest Josip Felicinović. Where? Felicinović says in a pub. Let us believe him for now that it was in a pub and not in the Ustasha headquarters in the Pag Municipality building, which seems to be irrelevant, since you can plan a crime anywhere. At what time they had this meeting? In late May or early June. So, long before the camp was founded they talked about preparations. Who was talking? Ustasha Babić and priest Felicinović.
Let us forget about the shame that a priest is sitting at the same table with an Ustasha, consulting each other about establishing a concentration camp and that this priests gives him a map so that the location of the camp be clearer. Let us ask ourselves how come Babić did not go to see someone else, someone more “secular”, less “honourable”, because priest Felicinović in his text talks how “honourable” he is, referring to his Catholicism and spirituality (pg. 1). How come Babić did not choose someone else? Then, let us ask ourselves, why would he go to someone else? Here we have an Ustasha coming to see another Ustasha, an Ustasha ready for anything, the Ustasha who immediately brings him a map of Pag from his house, because the meeting did not happen in his house. A military map is not a prayer book to be carried around by a priest, but he rather brings it to the meeting place. Babić told him he had come to find a location for a camp and Felicinović shows him his map on which Babić “marks the Slana area with a pencil”. So, they decided on the location together.
They agreed that the place was very suitable for a “purgatory, correctional facility”. Babić explained to he how he would soon “bring Serbs and Jews” there. So that they are purged and corrected for allowing themselves to be Serbs and Jews. The Serbs have been our enemies for centuries and that is why we accepted to be Ustashas. The Jews had crucified Christ long time ago, cursed for centuries, and now they enslaved our homeland! But here, on the island, they will be fine. True, the area is a barren land from hell, but which purgatory does not have some hellish qualities! “Babić promised me that the treatment in the camp will be good and that it would be just a purgatory, correctional facility! Worried priest Felicinović now agrees with Ustashas Felicinović and agrees for Jews and Serbs to be brought here.
While reading this statement, some people might find it strange that an educated man, such as a priest, would give such stupid explanation for his actions trying to justify himself? This is up to the reader. If anyone doubts it, he can ask me or someone else, closer to Felicinović for a copy of his “Personal Memories” and see for himself!
But, why this effort, when we know that at the time in Zagreb more than one “regulation” on unsuitable, lower races, on Jews, Gypsies, Serbs, communists were published (such “regulations” started to appear from late April 1941). Felicinović and Babić see this as a national doctrine. What sort of Ustashas would they be if they don’t follow the national doctrine? And that is why they used a pencil to draw the first NDH camp, a purgatory on a map. Babić immediately points out to Felicinović that “the inmates will build a road on Pag from Povljanja to Luna and then be released, according to the principle: work will set you free.”
This pedagogical motto with which Felicinović agreed was already in all Hitler’s camps: “Arbeit macht frei”, work elevates you. Millions were given a chance to see this elevation!
Location of SLANA was developed systematically
We, the incompetent ones, wondered for a long time whether Ustashas had planned SLANA camp, i.e. before the first inmates arrived to the island or they improvised, not knowing what to do with the arrestees.
Even those miserable lucky one who in some wonder survived this camp, has been wandering for a long time if Ustashas knew where they were taking them and that the confusion in Gospić was just temporary and involved transportation and escort and not the destination. It had all been determined, our dear reluctant and conscious Dr. Radan. You, the SLANA inmates, do not have to be troubled with your conscience and be so rigorous as to say your conclusions. You were in a trap, and from that trap you were unable to assess every step Ustashas took, such as the preparations for the camp! Felicinović tells you when the preparations started, and the confusion you saw in Gospić was their normal clumsiness. My dear doctor, this was their first experience in concentrating and transporting people.
And I assure you that the gathering around the map did not happen in a “pub”, but rather, as you will see it later, happened in the “Ustasha headquarters”, i.e. in the Pag Municipality building in front of top Ustashas, headed by the camp commander and “chief” of Pag Municipality.
We, who lived in Pag with these people at the time, who were even friends with them, know well that they did not come out of their offices for days and nights and how they created an atmosphere of important decisions and solutions. They conducted discussions on the camp and other issues in the presence of Felicinović on several occasions, or rather all the time because “cleansing the Serbian and Jewish elements” was at the time the highest duty of the “national revolution” and the only political examination through which you could express your loyalty to Ustashas.
Ustashas are not Ustashas but – zealots
Felicinović, who did not mean much in the eyes of other priests and who brought more shame than good to the priesthood, in those days involves himself in the very core of Ustasha activities and the most important Ustashas around him and those high up in the hierarchy. Each reader of his texts can verify this since he himself names them and lists them as his friends: Jurica Frković, great Ustasha governor, Mate Frković, a high-ranking Ustasha official known for his misdeeds, Lučić, local Ustasha manager in Pag, war criminal Juraj Rücker, and even Pavelić “who respected me”. (All of us know that politicians respect just those people who did something for them!)
We have no reason to doubt the excellent magazine “Glas koncila” (Voice of Council) issue number 10 from March 10, 1985 in which Felicinović claims how he walked “by himself on the evangelic path” and that he was “just before the Second World War firmly connected with zealous fighters for Croatian state independence”. Further on: “In April 1941 he was one of the most distinguished heralds of a new state.”
I would like to thank the author of this article for a newly discovered attribute for Ustashas who can be called “zealots” in socialist Yugoslavia without anyone giving him a reply for this cunning attribute! Thank all of you who are watching over these poor remains of the revolutionary spirit next to which pass unchecked such spiritual assessments of leaders of the defeated past!
We only now need to listen to Felicinović himself how in the name of “zealots” and together with them takes over the authority on Pag island. Since the magazine we mentioned in its article makes a promise in case of Felicinović to “conduct a serious study on his entire life’s work”, I will make sure to help that study with a document which was written in 1941 by zealot Felicinović himself in order to boast to Ustasha on his zeal.
Is this magazine and the organisation it represents going to allow, after partial explanation of these events and publishing of documents, that their article says how through these people “Croatian church through difficult periods before, during and after the war was able to witness and preach the Gospel of Christ! I do not believe that the Church does not have any better proof for preaching its Gospel!
With our scarce material on the great crime in SLANA, a sincere confession of one participant would be more than valuable. But scared for his personal reputation, Felicinović struggles with his writing and gets entangled with more than enough words!
In a news report that I followed from June to September 1985, titled “Hell in a Rocky Desert” (Novi list), journalists sometimes referred to the obscure text by Josip Felicinović “Personal Memories”. This text would be ridiculous if it did not play with the most tragic events in our recent history and if even the historiography would not fall for this infantile hoax. Hasty journalists, but still!
Analysing this text as serious data is pure waste of time for anyone looking to find anything valuable, which makes it even more difficult for me that now I am forced to deal with it, forced by its cynicism and for the sake of this tragedy that had happened on SLANA. Although the whole text, from start to beginning, is made in order to obviously distort the truth and you could not know where to start first, I will focus, with disgust, on some parts which can be easily analysed by the reader and see how many lies would be there on other pages.
Even two years before this news report, I warned in writing several social and political organisations in Pag on the deceitfulness and shallowness of this text, but it seemed that no-one took it seriously. The Rijeka region until then had no such written incidents, and I feel compelled to stress that this text is an incident that had not been seriously studied even by the team of journalist who used it in their report, or any other organisation that has the duty to review such things!
Later in my analysis, I am going to equally warn on quotations in which the journalists referred to statements given during a short investigation in 1945 over the former camp officer of Ustashas political camp in Pag, Šimo Oguić, whose statements were equally unanalysed and given just to clear his name in front of naïve people.
He we will have to cover and shed light on the role of Jure Crljenko, a clerk from Senj, who was an Ustasha “chief” of Pag for a short while, who also tried to show himself as innocent in the events around SLANA.
Flashing with valuables
Canon Felicinović, among other things, in his “Personal Memories” fabricated a story how in his presence people excavated a corpse of a Jewish woman (who else!) and found in her hands a suitcase full of valuables. In death, the corpse still held the suitcase firmly in her hands!
I quote Felicinović: “The doctors in that commission removed a little bit of earth, about ten centimetres, and came across the first row of corpses. One young Italian doctor opened a hand of a Jewish woman from Varaždin, who firmly held onto a small suitcase and took it. In it was her chequebook, lots of foreign currency, several gold watches, women’s jewels and a beautiful cigarette box made of platinum. In the middle of the suitcase was a lot of gold surrounded by large and small brilliants, etc…”
Inmate Josip Balaž: “Often they would stop us on convenient places hidden from the view, next to the road, and searched us… Ustashas took everything. What they took from us seemed too little to them so in their rage they molested us even more… This savagery lasted all the way to Karlobag.”
Ustasha Marko Didulica “Mile”, one of the SLANA butchers, during an investigation on October 2, 1952 said: “… and Ventura with several Ustashas took all of their belongings, such as watches, pens, rings and everything else they had…”
Juraj Lončarić, who lived in Metajna near to the house where women were imprisoned: “According to the inmates, most of their money and valuables were taken from them already in Zagreb…”
Pavao Lovrić, ship owner from Crikvenica working for the Italian medical unit who excavated corpses on SLANA: “… but they were first robbed by Ustashas from all their belongings, such as jewellery, money, because none of the corpses had rings, watches, necklaces, nor did female corpses have earrings…”
I will try to take my readers on a joint journey with a female inmate, from the camp to the slaughterhouse:
Jewish women were held in houses in Metajna. According to all information and the testimony of Dr. Radan, both Jewish and Serbian women were not held with the men in SLANA. Some of them were brought here or to the Serbian camp in the end, those who were to be executed or sent to other camps. Those who were to be killed were taken past Metajna to various directions. They had been arrested in Zagreb and elsewhere, brought to Metajna in terrible conditions. Here they were used at whim, raped, beaten if they resisted, and for days! Before the liquidation their fates were sealed. Now Ustasha bandits took them from here, loaded them on a ship, took them to the beach under Furnaža and savagely unloaded them on the beach. From there they forced them up the steep rocky slope, a climb which is difficult even to a strong person. I have climbed that slope many times and I know how cruel it is! You need to climb for 200 metres. On the top the same or different Ustashas waited for them in lines in front of trenches and attacked them, draged them to the trenches, struggled with them and slaughtered them. Someone might complain on my vivid description. How else could I convince primitive people and historians not to believe lies! This image has been in front of my eyes for hundreds of times in order to verify this apparent lies in which the old deceiver tries to convince naïve people of all ages. Not even a good shirt would remain on the victim by that time, let alone an object in its hands, a suitcase, brilliants, as priest Felicinović explains! Who is he selling this story to?! The Italian officer removed some earth and immediately found a suitcase with large fortune, and the executor, a semi-literate Ustasha bastard, used to looting and robbing, did not notice the suitcase while he dragged, raped and killed her! While being slaughtered the victims only though of the suitcase and did not let go! Well done, journalists!
Felicinović was not pleased just to say these childish things, but he continues to talk how he agreed with Italian officers to throw the suitcase into the sea. And they did that, publicly, in front of a foreigner, Felicinović. The Italian officer who must inform his superiors about everything, and who despises Felicinović as a collaborator, throws the suitcase into the sea in front of all his soldiers! How moral and how very hollow!
A reasonable officer, Dr. Santo Stazzi, very disciplined and despising the culprits, gives us an image of the slaughter with a series of horrifying facts, breasts cut off, and bellies cut open, bodies in a pit smashed with rocks or buried alive and suffocated. Such image he gave us show us the terrible battle led between the weak and the strong. Such an image makes normal man’s skin crawl.
Let us remember the group of fifty Jews that were first beaten on the island and than transported to Velebit and slaughtered. Here on the island while they were beating them a real battle started. The criminal we mentioned before, Didulica, stated that on that occasion Ustasha Živko Marinković had been killed. This means that a half dead Jew managed to kill one of them. There were always battles and lootings and Felicinović claims that the Jewish woman held onto the suitcase to save her treasure even in death!
After the killings, the murdered becomes a vulture. He rummages the victim a takes what he had missed before. But after the vultures come more vultures, just like with birds. Those who are full leave, and those who are hungry arrive.
Witness, ship owner Pavao Lovrić: “… not many valuables were found on those corpses. While the Italian medical troops, around 35 of them, were searching the corpses, allegedly to search for IDs which they destroyed later anyway, and because the mouths of all the corpses were wide opened, they examined their teeth and knocked out all silver and gold teeth they found with rocks and put it in a case. After they thoroughly searched and looted corpses’ teeth, Italians washed all of the teeth with spirit and divided them between themselves.”
What accidentally the local bandits missed was now being looted by the occupying troops, bandits from Sicily, highlanders from the Alps, rascals from the towns of Naples, Taranto, Genoa, thrown across the world to fight for the interests of the leaders they had nothing to do with, especially after five to eight years being in a war and being fed thin soldier’s soup.
And Felicinović found a suitcase worth millions and threw it into the sea!
Do we need any more proof that this refined Ustasha organiser and supporter of criminals is trying to deceive us? These shallow deceptions have one thing true about them: this priest lacking humour still tries to persuade us in his old cleric/fascist thesis how Jews deserved to be persecuted before God and before our people because they robbed us! He could have come up with such an idiotic story only from such backward ideas.
If this failed “Catholic sociologist” discovered all those crimes then, at the beginning of the evil NDH, if he was so “worried” as he says, saddened, shivered, couldn’t sleep, was horrified, how come after the first “shock” he remained an Ustasha publicly until the end of the war, used the fascist salute in public, used nuns as their spiritual guide and the school where he taught to incite the use of songs and prayers to Pavelić and NDH, sung Tedeum masses for Pavalić’s birthdays, sung hymns in the honour of Ustasha holidays? He said no prayers against crimes in SLANA, for which he shamelessly blames other people staining the Church with lies, nor did he go to SLANA as a member of the Red Cross, but as an Ustasha visiting his comrades to encourage and guide them.
The motorboat owner from Pag who transported Ustashas from Pag when necessary, Ivan Valentinć, son of Božo, stated on January 1946: while sailing to Karlobag in July 1941 he docked at Slana. “… Joso Felicinović and one Ustasha disembarked… and both of them went to SLANA camp. Other people were not allowed to go there”…
SLANA camp was liquidated in August 1941, and Felicinović’s alleged visit to the crime site on Furnaža happened, according to him, right after the Ustashas left the camp. From that moment on, from that evil date onward, during the whole war, even the youngest child from Pag remembers priest Felicinović being a propagator for Ustashas, public worker and organiser of Crusaders youth whom he turned into Ustasha youths. He was unlucky because as our resistance grew these young girls and boys escaped from his grasp, besides few of them blinded by village primitivism and religious obedience, which remained with him so he could play politics and ideology. The passionate man of intrigues in small villages never gave up this indoctrination and education in the Ustasha spirit, not even in this text on SLANA and Ustasha crimes, which he tries to sell us.
I have in my hand another text by Felicinović. It is a record on SLANA he gave before the War Crimes Commission in Zadar on January 8, 1946, so 32 years before his “Personal Memories” which he wrote in 1978 when he though he could fabricate new lies. In this record in which he says that he went to SLANA in August 1941, so at the time of the worst conditions in the camp and slaughter, and renounces knowing anything about the camp, whether about organisers, the life and conditions in the camp, but he claims that the people know more than he does…”… I cannot say that I saw or know anything personally”. He, the organiser from day one has nothing to say at the time he still did not develop the concept of his defence and the others! Who to believe: priest Felicinović from 1946 or priest Felicinović from 1978? Neither. He lies now just as he did before.
Backed against the wall with the historic victory of the people against Ustasha forces, both military and political victory of those who he so openly fought, backed against the wall by the facts of evil he created, this chameleonic brother now publicly renounces the bloody culprits, at least those known to the public, in the attempt to wash himself in front of the people. He curses his comrades for being “clumsy” compromising and harming him in the long run! But, at the same time as he renounces his comrades, he does not even slightly renounce the Ustasha ideology, or Pavelić and other leaders. On the contrary, he still lets us know that they mean a lot to him. “He respected me”, Felicinović repeats twice. Nobody in Yugoslavia today would dare without shame to write for public that Pavelić and Frković respected him. This kind of daring does not indicate backward ways of thinking and shamelessness towards the new society which prevailed through blood over the forces of evil, but also a special privilege that we allow some parts of the society – the part which can get away with such hogwash without anyone complaining or requesting to see his ID and ask: from which country he came or from which century?
The Ustasha organiser, noble Felicinović would not have been what he is now if he did not portray an image of himself he thought to be suitable. In his personal memories, for example, he forgot to mention how on behalf of the Ustashas he held speeches from the balcony of the municipal building in Pag, swore people’s allegiance to Pavelić and threatened the unsuitable ones. He does not mention the words he spoke: „… There are some liars who tell you that there are shootings and killings in SLANA and people dying from starvation. We know who spreads such rumours: communists and there are only a handful of them. I can assure you, my dear people of Pag, that people on Slana live better than you”… During this rally, Oren Ružić and yours truly were standing not far away behind the people, leaning against the wall of the bar at time (the Tourist Bureau today) where we could hear every word spoken much better than the people standing under the balcony. And Mr Priest pointed his finger straight at us. We were too young at the time and too brave and we exposed ourselves there and underestimated this threat. On the balcony was the whole Ustasha retinue gathered around Ustasha emigrant Jure Pavičić who was shown to the people like an Easter relic! We stayed alive because you sometimes win something in the lottery!
These words of demonic propaganda were said by a man of cloth to his flock while several miles away people’s lives were being grinded as if in a meat machine. The noble man boasts today how he managed to pull out four Orthodox Christians from the camp, the same camp he helped to organise and put in thousands of people there! Also, he shamelessly boasts with a letter sent to him by a grieving mother from Gospić, who begs him to save her child, who was along with his father killed by Felicinović’s people in his “purgatory”. Not everyone can use the pain and feelings of a mother to create a false image of yourself in your own writing. But anything is possible with Felicinović!
In order to add some more information to this, I will share one my “personal memory”: When sister and I joined the resistance, mother was alone, evicted from our rented flat, robbed, locked up five times. One day, when there was news that I was hiding in Pag hills, when patrols could not find me on the barren terrain even when they offered one hundred kilo of corn for my head, which was worth its weight in gold on the starving Pag, this cunning priest came to my mother and lied to her that I had written to him asking him to have a conversation. He asked her to tell him in which village on the island I was so he could reply. Not believing him my mother advised him to send the reply to “the same place from which the letter came”. When I came home after the liberation the first thing my mother asked me was whether I had ever written to Felicinović, in order to verify his claims. She knew that my comrades and I would never ask such a man to join us.
This is how this spiritual guide lowered himself to the level of the worst village cop. Perfidy with the letter of a grieving mother Vukosava Đukić is equally flagrant because it goes beyond anything!
Demagogy saved your head
As I knew most of the actors in this Pag drama, I also personally knew the post office clerk in Pag, Martin called “Žicar” (Wire Man), and his wife since at the time we lived in a flat just above the post office. I do not know what sort of attribute I could give to this little man, because he wasn’t a man in human standards, but rather a pile of evil deprived of all human traits. Since the flat of Felicinović’s close friend was next to ours, on his way to her he passed under our window. Here, in this narrow passageway over the remains of old Pag walls, I often watched Martin and the priest talking politely. Let us not forget that Martin did not distribute mail so that they had to contact each other. Martin was dealing with phones and wires, hence “Žicar”. Felicinović probably did not think much of Martin, and probably did not know or care about all his trips to SLANA from where Martin came back boasting how he slaughtered people. He did not need to say that to Felicinović, which is not entirely impossible, since we know how priest Ljubo Magaš bragged with slaughter, but Marin did had friendly meetings and conversations with Felicinović. This is something you could not hide in a small town and everybody knew it, mostly us who witnessed the meetings. When Martin arrested several peaceful and renowned citizens of Pag in August 7, 1947, such as Češljarević and Raukar, Felicinović had no problems persuading Martin and his comrades to release the four men.
In order to understand why Felicinović acted in this way, we need to draw the conclusion from the situation in Pag at the time just as he did: this arrest (and murder!) would worsen and destroy the poor political positions Ustashas had in Pag, which was so much damaged by certain “communist elements” by “spreading of rumours” so that almost nobody wanted to get even close to Ustashas. Besides, the Italians were competing for the favour of the people of Pag in some new elections! This attempt by Ustashas not to destroy their image in front of the people and try to win their favour was the reason those four men and us were spared and not sent to SLANA although it had been already planned!
All this talk about the rescue is amusing even today, although it was a pure political gesture compared to thousands of people sent to their death. Also, this was a friendly gesture to Janko Rausavljević who was married to a niece of a Pag priest, and Češljarević was the son of the family who took Felicinović in after he emigrated chased away by Italians after the First World War, which he mentions on pages 4 and 5 on his “memories”.
We also need to add the requests that came from a large group of citizens who, pushed forward by us, exerted pressure on Felicinović, as a priest and responsible Ustasha, and basically forced him to intervene. The camp officer of the “Ustashas headquarters” in Pag was also forced to the rescue. They went together “… although a moment before that he persuaded me not to interfere in this case”, says Felicinović on page 4. I claim with all material and moral responsibility that the people with their “gathering” saved the lives of both of them in 1943 and 1945.
To this rescue and pressure was added the connection of “Kiža” with the Italian garrison commander, so Italians, although reluctantly, made a complaint to Ustashas which helped the release of the arrested men. So these four lives were saved and we described the rescue so that people who were persuaded would not get credit for it, the same people who are responsible for numerous other deaths.
Stumbling over those days that draw him because they are so compromising, Felicinović tries to present new lies, how he allegedly saved families Ružić and Dodoja, which is also presented without any criticism in the mentioned issue of the “Glas koncila”.
I am quite familiar who faced persecution and death because together with Oreano Ružić I was in charge with all those things that hindered both Ustashas and Italian influence on our Island and I knew the position of every man and family on it. Although under constant danger, the Ružićs did not hide anywhere, as Felicinović claims in the attempt to defend himself, nor did they have anywhere to hide. The same was with the Dodojas. Their fate was hanging by a thread, but they were saved by the circumstances presented earlier. This active Ustashas supporter, by trying to wash himself only reveals how much he was involved in all Ustasha activities! He also mentions Jure Rücker, (who was declared a war criminal after the war), a religious teacher, county representative in Pag, the person responsible for police crimes and a member of the Pag Court Marshal! None of the Ustasha activities in Pag were planned or executed without the participation of these two political priests.
The Governor of Pag at the time, old priest Ante Banić renounced both of them and did not want them near him. Unlike them he acted as a real priest.
In the home of the Pančoka family, granny Marica hid two of her grandsons, Milan and Vojo, whose father was killed as an Orthodox Christian in Gospić (or Jadovno). Scared granny Marica went to priest Banić to quickly convert the two grandsons to Catholicism and save them from Ustashas. Priest Banić was aware of the danger to children, but also aware how violent it would be to convert them without the consent of their parents. “If Ustashas ask you, tell them that I have converted the children and that they are now Catholic. If they don’t believe you they should come and see me.”
I was present when this priest spoke to Felicinović: “You deal with primitive journalism. You need to study and get to know the history. You have allowed yourself to be led by people from village pubs” (he referred to Zubović whose father had a pub in Karlobag).
Witnesses of the “good spirit of the island of Pag”
When we read Felicinović’s “Personal Memories” it is easy to notice that he has no witnesses to justify him besides Ustasha leaders and his maid. These references damask him fully: In his cheap book he talks how he knew Ustashas and how he renounced them when he saw what they did, so already in 1941. And his multipurpose house maid in 1944, so three years after the camp, took from his flat in one warm morning two freshly fried mackerels and a litre of red wine right to the first floor of the Municipal Home and put it on the table of Ustasha Major Oto Čeple. Just before that Čeple had slaughtered with a couple of stabs of his bayonet old Pag carpenter Nikola Rumor (June 16, 1944) next to his table at the entrance to the office. The dead man lay across the entrance and the maid had to jump over it to get close to the table. While the dead man was pouring blood on the office floor, Čeple calmly sat at the table and had a “snack”! Felicinović’s maid waited for their friend to finish this important meal, just as she had served Felicinović in that summer morning!
In order to prove his interventions, Felicinović too often refers to the Great Governor in Gospić, Jurica Frković who “respected” him. In order to briefly understand who Jurica Frković is, the man with whom the “good spirit of Pag” is such good friends and to whom he reports how he took over Pag from “Serbian officers”, we will take a look at an event from April 23, 1941 when Jurica Frković visited his village Tribanj. He immediately had four peasants arrested, three of which were killed in Jadovno. The rest of Orthodox Christians from that village, 68 of them, were taken under his spiritual guidance three months later to Pag, to the slaughter straight to Furnaža in already prepared graves. They never even saw SLANA camp!
Canon Felicinović was free to go and travel wherever he wanted. How come he did not gather his local priests, sextons and other prominent citizens and made a serious appeal to the higher church hierarchy to do something and save people! But even if he tried to remember hard he could not recall a single decent citizen or a clergyman who he really talked to about this!
In order to look more convincing in the childish explanation he tries to sell us, Felicinović gets entangled into visits to the camp for various reasons. He even talks about the tearing down of the barracks, as if we don’t know that the boards were used for the house of his Ustashas carpenter friend. But during this “tour”, which he probably made up using stories of people who really visited the camp, he found “a piece of paper” (who else would find it): “In the main Ustasha barracks I found on a wall a piece of paper (cardboard) on which was the record with names of women and girls and dates when they were raped and by which Ustashas” (page 7 “Personal Memories”)!
No matter the fact that there were no “main” or other Ustasha barracks, nor were there women until the last days. But we must focus on the erotic sadism as an interesting topic used by many spiritual criminals on their flock in order to excite them. This spiritual father wanted to be resourceful, but failed! If this cunning liar got hold of such list he would use it to prove his case. But this paper did not exist, just as the letter in which some woman wrote to her husband to come and protect her honour form the bullies in the camp! But in this way, using sentiments taken from the story of Genevieve, he is preparing us for more lies, very significant ones for the honourable spirit of the man who condemns violence. With great calmness this direct organiser of the camp claims how he “managed to save 30 persons from death, Croats, Serbs and Jews, and free 150 of them from Ustashas jails and German executions”. That is why he needed that erotic theme and tears of mothers who send him letters, so that we could believe his great rescues which he never facilitated, not because he maybe sometimes wanted it, but because he raised his bloodthirsty brothers on knives and grenades and exclusiveness with which he agreed when he recognised laws and racial regulations of the NDH! The policy which he never renounced makes him an accomplice of murder and violence (!). Maybe he saved someone by accident, from care, obligation, forced by pressure or fear of responsibility. Even the greatest bandits sometimes save someone from dying!
The text “Personal Memories” is a first-rate crime, a writing of a constant Ustasha who manages to trick the naive! People in possession of this text and political workers in this field should present this work as a typical enemy propaganda with all its consequences, to treat it as a material that came from political underground, but instead they quote it and all dark figures around us spread it and praise it in the defence of political crime. Have we forgotten so much that we don’t even recognise obvious attempts and deceptions?
From the first line of his text Felicinović tells lies. “As the president of the Red Cross of Pag town… I went in a motorboat carrying mail to Slana camp”. He does not say that he went there as an Ustashas and a collaborator of the Ustasha political camp and its camp officers who were always allowed into SLANA camp. And what sort of “mail” went from Pag to SLANA when he visited the camp? Nobody except Ustashas and ship owners sailed from Pag to the camp. As far as we know, food and “mail” were brought in from Karlobag. From Pag to SLANA camp Ustasha gentlemen, and so Felicinović, went in motorboats belonging to Pag Salt Factory whenever they wanted to visit each other, have a meeting or commit new crimes.
I even doubt his claim that he visited Furnaža with Italians after the camp had been liquidated. The Italians made accurate records of who was there and which actions were taken. They never mentioned him. To tell you the truth, I do not think that a single piece of information coming from him is based on truth, since they are all so transparent and embellished to deceive us.
Let us just take a look how the man who was in the centre of all events pretends to be poorly informed, how he walks around his neighbourhood like a stranger in Jerusalem, and by accident finds out from some women living near Jadovno that there had been killings there after those women asked him (of all people) if it was a sin to keep the clothes of the murdered people. At the same time in Gospić in some warehouse, a public sale of confiscated goods of killed or exiled Orthodox families was organised. Everybody in our area talked about it, but he was accidentally “informed” by some “women from Jadovno”!
His friend, manager of the County Office in Karlobag, a very “innocent” figure in the Ustasha game, tells him in wonder that he saw “Ustashas taking men and women from Gospić via Karlobag to Slana in boats” (pg.2). He treats it as news through which he found out about people being brought in, only a month after he agreed with Babić to have a “purgatory” there! But hear my flock, those things I told you before about the map, the camp and Babić have nothing to do with these things I am telling you now concerning those women and the county representative. My job is to entertain you and yours to obey me regardless of how much I joke, all in the name of Eucharist before which I tell you that I have prayed for an hour for the souls of the departed! The spectrum of this provincial surrealism is really wide!
Deception, old and new
If we had time and patience maybe it would be a good idea to analyse more thoroughly these “Personal Memories” so that those few, half literate, good intended and willing readers, for whom this was intended and some of whom still spread this half-literate lie as a believable proof on the righteousness of this Ustasha spiritual guide and provincial politician, would not be deceived. Printed word sometimes looks fascinating, especially if it came “under the table” as it was spread before, through channels of people who would not benefit from the truth about unfortunate activities of some people and organisations. The proof that this story echoed strongly, stronger than we could have expected considering the ridiculous things said in it, is that it was used and bought by our well-intended seekers of the truth about the horrible crimes on Pag.
In his provincial fabrications, in search for strong and shocking truth, this scribe among other things came up with the lie (must be a lie since Italians would have recorded such a thing!) that he had found a friar buried amongst the victims in Furnaža. It is true that sometimes victims of Ustashas were few friars or priest who had more honour that this scribe, but we must reject the notion that a friar was killed on SLANA! We know for every friar and priest where and how he was killed. In the camp in which Felicinović along with regular Don Ljubo Magaš, Don Krsto Jelenić and theologist Juraj Rücker could enter whenever they wanted, we would find out if there was one before he was executed! Unless they handed him personally to the butchers! The Orthodox priest who was really found on Furnaža amongst the victims did not disturb him!
Priest Don Ante Hadžija was taken to a place not far from Pag and killed by Ustasha in the cruellest way, but Felicinović did not move his finger to save his life because Hadžija publicly and loudly condemned Ustashas’ crimes!
In 1943, in the temporary liberated Pag, the chaplain of the county church, don Šime Meštrović held a public memorial service on the town square for fallen Partisans and victims of SLANA. Don Joso Felicinović, the “good spirit of Pag Island” as he is called by the “Glas koncila”, did not join priest Meštrović nor did he express any condolence before the raised catafalque!
At that time, while the war was still on, while there was still a possibility that his people might win, it was too soon to condemn the people whom he finally was forced to renounce! After the memorial service he refused even to see Don Šime Meštrović, and he had the same attitude when the people of Pag exiled him and even when he came back shamelessly to Pag ten years later, refusing to go to any election for years or to express his loyalty to this society in any way. He clearly expressed his passivity (read: activity!) in order to influence his fellow priests and then the people amongst whom he lived.
Once, I think it was in 1971, he brought a priest who was a political emigrant to Switzerland, to hold a memorial service to honour Stjepan Radić. He, who 1941 greeted a handful of Italian soldiers with a bunch of flowers and a smile on a bridge confirming what Italians took from Croatia with the help of the likes of him, he and his cronies are not ashamed to hold a memorial service for Stjepan Radić! These small time schemers used old women who really did not know why they were in the Stari grad (Old Town) Church, old women who always prayed for the fallen and persecuted, old women who never thought that they would be manipulated through their religious and national feelings in the freedom they also fought for, manipulated by those against whom their children fought.
Investing in intrigues, today, tomorrow, with small or large investments, investing wherever possible even in few half-literate grannies, influence whenever an opportunity rises, all of this was the constant and unrelenting practice of this political medicine man. From that evil urge came “Personal Memories” which he published in 1978, thirty years after the crime, because he believed that the real truth can be forgotten and the witnesses had disappeared. He hoped that the time had come when he could finally wave his magic wand and distort facts as it suits him, or build stories that sell us lies!
Although the time of the camp is long gone, even more distant are times when such lies could have passed unchecked! He overlooked the fact that today each small village has more intellectuals than an entire island had before the war! Church scholars and priest now think in a different way, because our future must be created together. Today small time clerks cannot spread lies in the attempt to make religious centres attempt to destroy our community.
If the Church does not object, I do not connect this Felicinović’s written deception with the attitude of the Church today (although I do not want to lessen the responsibility of the Church and some distinguished priest for their participation in crimes during the last war!) and Felicinović is himself responsible for his old and new immoral actions.
The reporters found it easier to use quotations from the text without any criticism, rather than to toil and dig for the real truth and discover this deception in the apparently convincing text, the lie which itself is an addition to the terrible crimes discovered in this investigation.
With dozens of witty ideas in the text, Felicinović adds one how he went to see Bishop Burić to tell him about the slaughter, but what a shame he wasn’t there. But Felicinović knows that Burić went to see Pavelić and beat him to it. Pavelić immediately sends a letter, blessed are the mailmen who have received such a letter, in which he says that “nobody is to be killed without a court hearing”. To this joyful news we need to add another one, because “Zagreb Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac several times advocated for various Serbs and Jews, so that the Ustasha government decided to arrest him”. You can see how far this salvation of souls by Stepinac and Felicinović goes! This forger sells both his and other people’s lies and keeps on the wall Pavelić’s picture with his signature and dedication and the high Ustasha decoration for his service as some relics to be kissed by Ustashas officials when they visit.
Renounciation too late
In his text, Felicinović finally decided to present his Ustasha Martin “Žicar” as a butcher, just as he did with “Pivac” and “Šljivar” and “Žila” and Očić and Luburić! Quite rightly so! They have deserved to be renounced because they failed to completely “pacify! Croatia and it fell into a misfortunate age in which noble Don Joso has to renounce them in order to wash his name! Finally!
It is easy for Felicinović to renounce village dogs “Žicar”, “Pivac”, “Žila”, “Šljivar” and the like. Their purpose is to be unleashed and to do their thing, and if they fail the ancient practice is to make them disappear and to be rejected by the same people who put the knife into their hands! But it is obvious that Felicinović did not renounce his Pavelić and Stepinac and his “Great Governors” of Gospić, Senj and Modruš, his dear friends and role models, not during the war and not in this text!
In few places the journalists had a shy hint whose testimony they were reporting, because Felicinović could not help himself and showed his real face, which the journalists underestimated. When you force yourself to read this Felicinović’s text more calmly you can see that he merely adds some general information and timeframes, then adds a lot of lies connected to a familiar event, uses people’s sentiments and erotic curiosity and then adds some names that were supposed to prove something in the shameless attempt to wash his hands and the hands of his friends in order to prolong the Ustasha myth as an attempt of liberation and deceive simple readers in a way that he did so many times before in the manner of a village politician! To this planned deception we need to add his casual statements on the number of slaughtered women (4000) and victims in trenches on Furnaža (8000) which he is pulling out of his hat, as if nobody cares about the accurate number or for locations where the exact number of victims had been established. He deliberately schemes around the sanctum of our island so that people would take it lightly!
The things that are true in this text are the things not new to anyone or the things we know much more about anyway. I do not understand why the hell these idiotic pages were necessary for those journalists and to what purpose?
It was certainly necessary to show Felicinović’s text to surviving SLANA witness Dr. Radan. After he had read it, Dr. Radan did not want to give any comment and threw it with scorn as a piece of trash. When asked to say a few words about it the witness said:
“The whole of Felicinović’s statement has been created so he could get away with what he did and turn himself in some sort of a benefactor. The saint of Pag! The most ridiculous thing he says is that he could not do anything so he organised a prayer in the church for the victims of SLANA. Ridiculous. Equally ridiculous are his statements on how he wrote to Poglavnik on this and that… They are just lies. The only one who did anything for us was the Papal Nuncio in the NDH. In the name of Pope he made Pavilić order that all Jews from “mixed” marriages are not to be sent to camps. This was the only thing done for us. I survived because of that because my first wife Nada Pirnat walked around proving that I was married to her. She is Catholic.
When they came to our flat on June 21, 1941 both of us were arrested.
The detective who came for us worked as he pleased. We were together taken to the Grand Fair. However, she brought with her the certificate of baptism so she was released at the entrance to the Grand Fair. Jews were arrested according to lists. These lists were made so that Jews would have to wear yellow signs so people would know who they were from afar. We had to go and get these signs, yellow stars and ribbons, to the Ustasha office in charge of that. The office was located in the offices of the Orthodox Church in the Preobraženska Street, on the outside of the church. Ustashas confiscated these offices from the Orthodox Christians. This was where those yellow signs were distributed; of course you had to pay and provide all personal information to them. So later on they arrested us based on those lists. My wife was not on the list, so they made a wrong arrest and had to let her go.
I just want to add that the signs were at first made from cloth and later were replaced by signs made of other, harder material such as tin. Some Krivičić, a merchant from Zagreb, was in charge of purchasing them. I have saved the signs and still keep them. As far as the interpretation and implementation of the mixed marriages regulation, this would not have saved me if my wife hadn’t bribed people all over Zagreb. But regardless, this was an opportunity to stay alive.
And this Felicinović’s text is pure cynicism. Look at the example of a Jewish woman with a suitcase. How possibly could she reach the execution site with a suitcase? To get there with a suitcase and then hold it firmly after death! Those thieves would have noticed it even if it was tied to her hand! Unbelievable cynicism! All of the text is just lies fabricated for his personal defence. Stepinac’s Jesuit attitude! This is the exactly the same manner in which he talked, saying his conscience was clear in every thing he was involved! I assure you from my personal experience, nobody could have entered the camp without being searched dozens of times. If you managed to smuggle something in you had to stitch it in somewhere, but very little. My watch was taken from me immediately, and the rest of the things on the ship… to have a suitcase with brilliants in hands! These are just fabrications of a cynic who wanted to clear his name and to remain what he was before. You can see that from the whole text.
It would be a sad thing if people would buy it nowadays. Felicinović mystifies things in his statements. Seldom do you hear such cynicism. But I must say that in Italy I met priests who were really exemplary, noble in every sense, helping and supporting people. They had their own ethics from which they did not deviate and they would never use such despicable lies”.
His support to Ustashas and dealings with the camp did not only degrade Felicinović in the eyes of the citizens and islanders, but also in the eyes of his colleagues, the priests. Although as an emigrant escaping Italians after the First World War he had some reputation, after this war he was never considered for any more serious duty in the church hierarchy. We need to say that many priests were not familiar with the real activities of this colleague. I do not understand why the author of the article in Glas koncila needed that word game in which he tries not to hide the truth fully because it flatters him, but also does not reveal it fully because he does not dare: “Just before the Second World War he was firmly connected with people fighting for the independent Croatian state”, instead of saying that he is an Ustasha organiser, swearing Ustashas and people to allegiance to Pavelić, and that he took over the power and participated in the organisation of the first concentration camp in his country.
We also need to say that there is an entire book dedicated to all priests who died as Anti-Fascists in the NOB (Ćiril Patešić). This noble book gives examples of moral values and dignity of those who dared to avoid and resist the traitorous role of individual priests and the sad course that almost whole church hierarchy took. However, the question arises where is the book on those priests who were Ustashas, some of them still living amongst us today. One of the first would be Canon Don Joso Felicinović the Noble.
The old Pag vicar we mentioned before, Antun Banić, who was an Anti-Fascist, man of science and encyclopaedist, renounced Felicinović even before the war considering him to be inappropriate in his public behaviour and a poor writer of sociology works. Workers on Pag also remember Felicinović well. While they were leading exemplary and difficult strikes between the two wars, Felicinović cooperated with the authorities and founded so-called “yellow unions” opposing the stand of the Salt Factory workers and their URS organisation. On his own he held seminars in the church for days inviting the workers so that he would deter them from socialism and “demonic communism”! One of the workers leaders in Pag at the time, late Ivan Herenda, was so disgusted by the actions of this priest and sociologist that while he was still alive made a special will in which he ordered his wife and relatives not to bury him in a church ceremony! All people of Pag know about this will.
Like many of the boys who were drawn to church by their upbringing and interesting props, I was a ministrant and later on a student in a seminary and had my own priest. That is how I first saw an Ustasha newspaper in the flat of the Pag chaplain at the time, Z.M, born in Prek. The name of the newspaper was “Independent State of Croatia” or “Croatian People” and they were published abroad and illegally smuggled into the country.
From those days, besides Felicinović, I remember people who were active Ustashas: a priest in the village of Zubovići on Pag, Ljubo Magaš, and my older colleague from the Šibenik Seminary, theology student Jure Rücker. When people finally arrested Magaš in 1943, I personally heard from him the confession of rape and murder of the raped girls in SLANA camp. Although, her admitted “only two” cases, saying he was mislead and that that he regretted.
I remember, when the camp was still active in 1941, after he committed the crime, this great priest boasted with his rapes to young sailor Šime Maržić from Pag, saying how he together with Ustasha Pavica raped a Jewish woman. Sailor Maržić gave his statement about this in 1945, at the time when those who could give valuable testimonies were still quiet. In 1943, Magaš repented in front of me like a chameleon, saying that he curses his crime and that he was praying day and night in his cell to God to forgive this sin to which the Devil forced him. When I told Dr. Radan about this he shouted: “Of course! They’re all the same! When I was questioning in Zagreb the famous butcher from Jasenovac, Friar Filipović-Majstorović, called “Friar Satan” he told me: “… I had lost God, but found him again!”
My other older colleague from the Šibenik Seminary Ivan Predovan, from Vrsi near Zadar, is seldom mentioned. I ran into him one day in the streets of Gospić as he was bringing a group of prisoners, taking them into a yard (of the court or Sokolana, I don’t know). He carried a rifle on his shoulders like a hunter. I could not avoid him. When I shook his hand and shouted “what is going on here, man!” he just smiled and nodded cheerfully: “This? This is nothing compared to what is waiting for them!” I managed to enter the yard waking in with him and saw some men dressed for work jumping out of a truck. This could have been one of the first groups of Jews brought to Jadovno and Slana. Later on I found out how this former cleric of the Šibenik Seminary, Predovan became one of the exemplary butchers in Slana.
And so there was a nice ring of spiritual fathers, headed by Canon Felicinović, gathered around the organisers of Slana camp and Ustasha headquarters in Pag, Babić, Devčić, “Žila”, Zubović, Bzik, Sazunić, Crljenko, Oguić and others. Everybody in Pag knows which locals gathered around these people before and during the war.
The witness from Zemunik, Jerko Fratrković, an Ustasha in Slana camp, during the investigation in 1952, while talking about the slaughter he participated in, he says: “… and some civilians who slaughtered people and threw them into the pit”. Let us use a harsh but adequate expression: slaughtering people is also hard work! You need to finish them all and there is a large number!
Let us repeat again what other witnesses have said:
Guard Josip Datković from Metajna: “Three thousand Orthodox Christians were gone in two to three days”… “I personally heard from Ustashas in SLANA camp that they took those prisoners to Velebit and threw them into a pit”. Further on for a similar group: “… they didn’t take them to the camp, but to a pit on Furnaža and slaughtered them there.”
I personally questioned this Datković in 1943, and the statement he gave in 1945 in the Pag Municipality (number 16/45) and the War Crimes Commission fully matches the statement he gave to me.
Ustasha Marko Didulica, Mile: “…When they arrived to Slana, they were taken by Ustashas immediately two or three kilometres from the camp and killed over prepared graves”.
Ustasha Slavko Baljak confirms: “…that the inmates were taken from the camp during July and August 1941 to Velebit over Karlobag and that they were all killed in Oštarije.” In a record from 1979 that I made quickly while witness Josip Balaž from Daruvar spoke, one note referred to this mass taking of people, all at once in one day: “After some time they brought Serbs from Banja Luka, around 500 of them. There was one good accordion player with them with a beautiful accordion like I had never seen. They built a barracks in a day a bit far from us. The accordion player played and sang at night. Do you know what it was like to hear a song and quiet accordion surrounded by that evil and desert? In the morning there were no barracks or people there. Nothing. We never found out what happened”.
We can only guess what happened, but you would need many hands to kill hundreds of people without firing a bullet!
Ustashas definitely did not need to go far to look for “civilian” help. We need to stress that the aim of every Ustasha local organisation, and the one in Pag as well, was to bloody the hands of their every political subject.
Looking at the quiet summer nights in the Pag bay, it seems unbelievable that there could be such degenerates amongst those meek residents who could send other people or go themselves in boats to commit the greatest savagery in our century. At first look, they were all peaceful citizens, fathers and sons of local families. But infallible eyes of their neighbours were watching. They admitted to their crimes only during the investigation after they had been arrested by the armed people in 1943 and ’45. The people of Pag often ask themselves whether all of them were punished – both the executors and those who had organised everything, or perhaps the real wolves hid somewhere in time?
Further on, I think that the statement given by Šime, son of Brno Maržić, the owner of ship St. Josip, on October 19, 1979, although horrifying in essence, is too general and not very illustrative considering the fact that it was given by a man who had been constantly transporting people and materials, as well as Ustasha guards and bosses between Karlobag, Slana and Metajna. Even the smallest child on Pag knows these general truths about Ustasha behaviour and slaughter. The knowledge and memories of a skipper who sailed day and night on this Charon’s route should have been one of the fundamental testimonies both about the camp and the events around the camp; about the inmates and those who destroyed them.
Ship operators brought people to the camp, but the same ship operators (or not always the same) were taking people in their ships to the execution sites, as we saw from the materials presented. Even if they wanted, the ship owners could not resists orders of the unleashed Ustashas, but if they wanted they could have acted just like Ustashas. Moreover, almost all of them had hats with the letter U on their heads.
The experience from bad times teaches us that such events are so much carved into people’s memories that they cannot forget it all their lives. Some of the ship operators were in this service for full two months!
So far we have established that the following ships were operating on this route:
“Marija” (Mary) – owner Nikola Barić, son of Grga, from Lukovo Šugarje.
“Sv. Josip” (St. Joseph) – owner Brno Maržić from Pag.
“Sv. Šime” (St. Simon) – owner Josip Maržić from Pag.
“Sokol” (Falcon) – owner Mirko Barić, son of Frano, from Barić Draga.
“Gospa Rozarija” (Lady Rosaria) – owner Šimo Barić, son of Filip, from Lukovo Šugarje.
“Galeb” (Seagull) – owner Vinko Barič from Barić Draga.
“Vranjak” – a ship from Karlobag or Jablanac?
“Štefanija” (Stephanie) – a ship from Barić Draga.
“Ulcinj” – a courier ship from the Pag Salt Factory.
Considering the number of ships and their crew, and also their time spent around SLANA, the statements collected from the ship owners are not even the thousandth part of what could have and should have been said. What are the reasons not to do so? Some of the members of these crews ended up in courts, but some of them became prominent members of our society who stopped being illiterate sailors and their duty would have been to present all necessary materials to reveal the crime.
Wind in stern
In my opinion we need to start this story from the beginning, i.e. from the spot where late Brne Maržić, the owner of “St. Joseph”, stopped when he stated: “… The next day I went to the Ustasha camp where I objected to it (to the order to go to Slana).” But both Ustasha Major Devčić and Ustashas Sergeant Major “Žila” who were named by the late skipper, were not the ones deciding which ship from Pag, and there were many of them, will be given an order, nor did the skipper talk to them if he wanted to make an objection. The person who gave orders from the political centre was the Camp Officer. The signature on the Order for Brne Maržić was Šime Oguić’s. He acted together with his “lieutenants”. They decided on ships, work, timeframe, compensations, etc.
As Brne Maržić had an order to go to Slana to transport “sand”, I don’t see the reason why he tried to object, to whom and why. If he has a cargo ship he should be pleased to get work, to transport sand! Now we have a question here: was he forced to do this or not. If he was forced, we need to clarify by whom. This forced cooperation should have started from the moment when “municipal guard” Tičić brought him the order.
Considering the fact that he did not say specifically who forced him to do it, we need to understand that Brno Maržić had to be considerate to his friends and family since he had lived all his life in those narrow streets and ran his business. But these “clumsy” and poor statements tell us a lot about the real facts. Consistent and voluntary testimony is the only thing that can shed the light on everything we tried to discover in this report on SLANA. Without such statements we will still use indirect truth, which we sometimes used in the absence of more solid material. We are still going to take for granted chewed up sentenced from camp organisers who deceive us! Before we know it they will start to write how they themselves were persecuted by Ustashas, as some of them already started doing in certain deceptive articles of well-known origin!
The ship operators should be the first people to say the right word both in accusation and defence. Not very pleasant things were said about them during the trials for some of them and in witnesses’ statements. We believe not all of them were involved. There were some who did not rush to do this job that made profit (they were paid), and there are those who, despite the payments, for example Šime Maržić, son of Josip and his wife, tried to get away from this unwanted and imposed task with all means, for which we have reliable information.
Most of the statements given by ship operators say that they mostly transported sand and construction material. When we look at the amount of sand and construction material used and brought to SLANA and when we look at the number of trabaccolos and the number of the days they were used, every school kid would know that someone is hiding the most important thing. The sand that was used for few concrete parts could have been brought in five to six cargos, and wooden boards for five or six roofs was certainly not a long-term transport problem. But since the ships sailed regularly between the coast and the island there was much more room for other, more horrifying forms of transport. This is what we should discuss in details.
Ustasha officials in the service of Charon
Just like Felicinović, his superior, the Camp Officer of the “Ustasha headquarters” in Pag, law student Šime Oguić from Pag, used the same cheap story to camouflage himself, and his statement was taken for granted by the public as if someone was in a hurry to overcome this ancient horrifying problem in the simplest way!
We cannot trust neither Felicinović’s nor Oguić’s testimonies on SLANA. None of them gave satisfying answers about their activities in the Ustasha ranks in 1941.
In the case of the first one, the material that was supposed to prove his activities with Ustashas and cooperation in the organisation of the camp SLANA was never completed.
Because of circumstances and unfit investigative authorities after the war, the other one never stated anything about these facts or found it necessary to provide his thorough answer about his activities at the time.
The journalists of “Novi list” use his anaemic statements as mild and light TV conversations. Get what you can! And this citizen was the Camp Officer of Ustasha headquarters in Pag (political administrator of the Ustasha organisation on the island) at the time when hundreds and thousands of people were being murdered under his political leadership!
“Novi list” in the issue from August 14, 1985 gives us a facsimile of accidentally preserved order by the Camp Officer to ship owner Brno Maržić, but nowhere in the article, filled with all kinds of inappropriate redundancies, do the journalist wonder who signed the order, just as if the facsimile of the original order was there to decorate the page! This order reads that Brne Maržić is to report with his ship to Slana and make himself available: “… on location Slana on Pag Island, from where you will be sent to get sand.” Nothing more, nothing less! Transport of sand!
And Brne Mržić transports “sand” for days and months!
Maržić was given the order on June 20 and sailed with his ship in the morning of 21st, but to see who? There was nobody on Slana at the time so that person or a group could load sand into the ship. We have already said that the ship was sailing under a dumb code. Maybe the ship did not know why it was sailing, but knew it was certainly not to get sand. Only on June 21 the first people would be arrested in Zagreb, those who will load the sand. What to do until then? Where did St. Joseph sail? Both Oguić who gave the order and skipper Maržić do not tell us. Who was sailing for three days in this ship and for what purpose?
The prisoners, exhausted and tied to a long chain, arrived to Karlobag in a long line only on June 24. The ship takes them only then to the barren rocks of Pag. They will be the main “sand” to be transported in ships. Until know we have identified ten ships that sailed on this Charon’s route. Who signed their orders?
The second question that the Ustasha Camp Officer in Pag was supposed to answer comes from the guilt of individuals, Ustashas from Pag, who were tried and executed before the people’s court for participating in the killings on SLANA and Velebit. “Novi list” in the issue from August 31, 1985, tried to collect their names and name the individual culprits from court and other documents they obtained. We need to ask, to which body they belonged when they went to do their bloody “aid” and who is the person who ran this body, chose them, sent them, allowed them, however you want to put it, and who was also responsible for them and the ship operators? Who is responsible for this and all other various things that were never investigated by the people whose task was to discover the facts!
The former Camp Officer of the Ustasha Headquarters probably found out about the series of articles in “Novi list”. He read the names of his former associates sentenced by the people’s court. It is not easy for their families who went though shocks and wondered who persuaded their people into doing this, who deployed them, who sent them. This needs to be said and confirmed. The truth will be difficult for them, but it will hurt less than the uncertainty. The political executive knows all the truth, even the cruellest one and the one which could clear his name. We don’t need the story about “curiosity” because of which people went to SLANA, but the story on organised crime.
Ship operators Maržićs have saved the mentioned order with the signature of the Camp Officer. They gave it to the journalists or someone before them. Have the Maržićs saved and handed it in to prove their innocence or to accuse the signatories? If this discovers or proves the crime or the road to crime, we agreed both in national and international conventions that the crime has no statute of limitations not for Germans, not for Italians, not for us. We know this from several recently conducted trials here and abroad. Therefore, the investigation into SLANA camp has not been finished yet! I must note: besides being responsible to make a statement as the direct superior at the time, in my opinion he is responsible as a citizen of this country to prevent shadows being cast over the revolutionary courts the people took at the time, over activist and the people’s court, but rather to show the sad reality of the crime committed on Croatian soil by its worst members so that we could tell the just from the guilty one. Why not with this help?
Casual statement about “curiosity”
Furthermore, Oguić casually states how he visited the camp out of “curiosity” and mentions Josip Usmijani. We would be so lucky if we could so easily obtain information about the camp, even with the help of Oguić! Every day we were worried for the lives of deportees and tried in every way to find out more about SLANA. We even looked from the opposite shore or from a boat through binoculars at the columns of people trying to find out how many were there, what they were doing, what was happening and how to get closer. And now I have my friend Josip Usmijani, who, according to Oguić, “walked” around the camp without informing us! Šime Oguić did not know how to justify his privilege to walk freely around the camp, which seemed to be his duty as an Ustasha, so in some short investigation in 1945 tried to involve his innocent friend, who never knew about this statement until now!
Josip Usmijani is an honourable man, Anti-Fascist from the day Ustashas appeared, arrested by them already in 1941. He later on became a Partisan officer, commander of a Partisan ship. It would be very good for Oguić if someone believed him that he had walked around the camp together with Usmijani! This smokescreen is the attempt to cover up his tracks and responsibility. It was easy to trick the investigator who questioned Oguić in 1945 with a couple of general statements, because the investigator was not familiar with the situation on Pag and he swallowed up a couple of cheap stories on bad diet and hygiene, on torn clothes and shoes of inmates and on Oguić’s visit to SLANA out of curiosity!
We need to take special attention to this statement. In it (October 21, 1945) Oguić stated in front of the Country War Crimes Commission for Croatian Coast that Usmijani together with him had managed to enter the camp. Here Usmijani met an acquaintance by the name of Ružić from Sušak and talked to him.
Statement of Shipmaster Captain Josip Usmijani from Pag (now retired living in Rijeka)
“Former Camp Officer of the Ustasha Headquarters in Pag Šime Oguić mentioned how he together with me and some other friends visited the Ustasha camp SLANA on Pag in a boat. In the interest of truth I give the following statement: As Oren Ružić’s friend and a friend of others mentioned in that statement I often sailed in Ružić’s boat across the Pag Bay accompanied by these friends. Our schools at the time closed in early summer of 1941. Young people would find entertainment in fishing on boats. On one occasion Šime Oguić was with us. As I found out later, my friends Oren Ružić and Ante Zemljar had some intentions by inviting Oguić so they managed to get him in the boat with us. He was a student just like us and our families were friends.
We got closer to the Suha Beach from which you could climb up to SLANA camp. There was a well with water on that beach. We did not go any further nor were we (unfortunately) allowed. I do not remember where Šime Oguić went that day, but according to what he claims it seems that he went to the camp. He does not deny it because he cannot! So that he wouldn’t admit other things that he withheld, he mentiones a case when he went there out of “curiosity”. The worst thing is that he involves me in his dirty business in order to avoid a real confession. He made it up that I had met “some acquaintance from Sušak” in the camp, some Ružić who was an inmate in SLANA! How did he come up with this lie! I neither know any Ružić from Sušaka, nor was I able to meet anyone, since none of us could even reach the camp! If I have ever had such a meeting I would have never forgotten it. All of us were very interested to know what was happening there, especially comrades who worked in the resistance and made unsuccessful attempts to make a contact with the camp! We were interested in every detail, and if I or any other from our group (except Oguić) went into the camp this would be a great success and I would be impossible for us to forget that we had entered there and met an acquaintance or a friend!
We can see one illogical thing here. Oguić claims that this inmate was a Ružić from Sušal. At the time Sušak was in the hands of Italians as a town that belonged to “motherland Italia”. It was annexed, not occupied. Would Ustashas dare bringing a man from Italian territory to their camp? We all know that Jews and other who managed to get away from the NDH area went to the “Italian territory”, to Crikvenica and Sušak so that they could save themselves from the Ustashas. It is unlikely that the Ustashas had the authority to imprison a Croat, now an “Italian” from Sušak!
Oguić’s statement, in which he mentions us, Anti-Fascists, resistance members, later on officers and commanders of Partisan units, is pure deception and attempt to camouflage his own activities at the time. Let Šime Oguić explain how he managed to walk around the camp while nobody else never though of that, let alone try it! Let him name his friends with whom he went there and commanded over the inmates!” Rijeka, December 30, 1985. Josip Usmijani.”
Going back to this once again (Rijeka, January 4, 1986) Captain Usmijani makes an addendum to his statement: “… I would like to add one more thing that I remember, because it has been forty-five years so the memories have mostly faded. I remember being on SLANA just once… from the side of Pag, but I have never been in Baška Slana in my life.” Speaking about the day he came close to the camp, i.e. to the Suha Beach which was from the side of Pag, Usmijani continues: “… We came to the little bay (Suha) and we stayed there for a couple of minutes. There were a couple of inmates, probably getting water.
… Immediately a couple of Ustashas came and ordered us to leave. That was it. I never stepped on the land (i.e. beach, author’s note).”
Captain’s following story about the adventure the group went to shows us how persistent and willing we were to find something out even in those impossible conditions: “When we left the bay, some of us suggested that we should sail to Metajna (where the female camp was, author’s note). We moored next to the coast in our sail boat. Ustashas met us with guns and asked how we dared coming to the camp directly. One of the Ustashas asked me: “Who are you?” For joke, I told him: “I am Mojtić” (in our area “mojtić” means “my penis”, author’s note), which he did not understand as a joke, but as a surname and asked me: “Why have you come?” I told him I was a captain and that I was monitoring the lighthouses (and there weren’t any at the time). He replied: “Disappear on the count of five, or we will kill you!”
With this simple description Captain Usmijani gave us the real image what sort of resourceful attempts people made in order to find what was going on in the camp. By the way, I must note that after a couple of minutes when the boat moved away at some distance there was a gunfire from another boat with Ustashas aimed at the boat, and that the boat got away thanks to a good sail and wind.
If Josip Usmijani had ever managed to enter the camp and moreover talk to an inmate, we, his friends, would have known that in a second! According to Oguić, Usmijani and he walked across the whole camp, because he claims he got to the “office” where on a table he saw “papers with names on it”. He claims it was in a shed next to the entrance. Where is that shed, or the “reception office”?
In the Jewish camp there was only one barracks in the beginning, and another one later. There were no offices or surgeries here. In the Serbian camp, which was to the south, were up to three barracks for the inmates. There were no “reception” barracks or a surgery. In the beginning when it was possible to get close to the beach in some way (but only to the beach), there weren’t two camps, but only the Jewish one. At the time when there were two camps, not even a mouse could get close to this area, except for official visits! Oguić talks about wire. They started putting up the posts and the wire only a couple of days after the first group arrived and worked on it until the end. This can be seen in Italian photographs where we can see that there was thick wire around one camp (Serbian), while the other (Jewish) was not completely surrounded. Dr. Radan can testify to this since he worked on putting up wire. So if Oguić reports what he saw in both of the camp and adds details (which he thinks suit him) he could not have seen it during that visit, at the beginning of the camp. It is obvious from this statement that Oguić frequently, i.e. l a t e r, during the “full capacity” walked to see his Ustashas and from those memories he gives us shady statement!
 Stevo Đukić, a seventeen-year-old from Gospić, he was in seventh grade of the Grammar School. He was arrested and killed together with his father Nikola.