Dr. Oto Radan, witness who survived Slana camp

Datum objave: nedelja, 11 jula, 2010
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While searching for material evidence, not loosing hope that someone has survived the hardship, I heard, through late author Marijan Matković, about an old and remarkable man, and I could see he was remarkable as soon as I laid my eyes on him.

Dr. Oto Radan

SERBIAN

Lawyer Oto Radan, now retired, met me at his humbler flat in Zagreb with a dachshund dog next to his feet. While rummaging through the SLANA hell and getting to know its cruelty, it becomes quite unbelievable to meet such a calm and quiet man who manages to talk with an academic dignity about everything he has been through! And he did survive SLANA from the first to almost its last day! While talking to him, I kept wondering how much of that sharp, gnarly rock those long arms must have carried! How much skin from his feet had been peeled off by the hot July rocks? I let a strong cry within myself when I thought about the long rocky line surrounded by a dry wall, still unfinished and still mirroring in the Baška Slana bay near Metajna as an accusing and irreplaceable monument! I simply did not dare to attack him with questions that were in my mind, questions born on that rock. I played for a long time with insignificant matters, which were certainly not the reason I came to see him.

I mainly wanted to verify my few personal discoveries, which I considered trivial at the time. He told me that after the war he had been in various war crimes commissions and that once immediately after the war he visited SLANA. Since he was used to evil, I was encouraged to ask him about the evil he experienced. His steady and conscious approach in which he told me about the conditions and events made me approach him with utmost trust. At one moment I felt he was cautiously using fewer words not to hurt the pure truth. He stressed he would talk like that as soon we started the conversation. And the truths he told me appeared to me solid as rock, as if they were made by the rock he was forced to work with during the day, or the rock he lay on at night with an open sky above him all the time he was there.

Difficult fate of a young lawyer

Before we hear from Dr. Radan, let’s go briefly through his biography: Dr. Oto Radan was born in Vienna, October 4, 1904, father Lavoslav Salamon, mother Irena. He lived and worked in Zagreb where he graduated from the 2nd Classical Grammar School and law school. Ustashas arrested him in Zagreb on June 21, 1941 as a member of SBOTIČ (Union of Banking, Insurance, Trade and Industrial Clerks of Yugoslavia), and brought him to SLANA in June 24 where he stayed until the end of August when he was returned to Zagreb via Gospić. At the end of 1941 he moves from Zagreb to Split where Italians interned him and deported to Calestano, Italy (Parma province) with another twenty or so Jews, men and women, together with his mother and aunt. In Calestano he got in contact with Italian Partisans, XII Brigade “Garibaldi” and, after he hid his mother and aunt in friendly houses, joined Italian Partisans, communists. When all Partisans joined into the “Comitato de la liberazione nazionale”, with predominant right-wing orientation, he and an Italian from Cremona crossed the front line near Massa di Carra, at night so he could avoid Italian fascist division “Giulio” operating there, and joined the Allies. Radan did not speak English. A black man who was in charge of the unit Radan reported himself in, never heard of Yugoslavia nor recognised it in the map when Radan showed him, and spoke only English. Using a pack of “Camel” cigarettes, the soldier got rid of the guest and directed him to Viareggio.

From there he went to a camp near Florence holding both fascist and SS troops. A sergeant with Jewish background who spoke with him in German brought a jeep after half an hour and took him to Florence, where our representatives were in the UNRA offices (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration). After that they put him in a truck and drove him to Rome, to Cinecitta, amongst displaced persons where officers of the old Yugoslav army were. He got into a contact with the NOV (People’s Liberation Army) mission who helped him to get to the Partisan base in Gravino. It was easier from then on: he joined our army, went over Monopoli to a boat and straight to the island of Vis.

His anecdote from Rome: while in Rome, Radan asked to see Pope Pius XII. He was carrying to him a letter from a priest who was with the Garibaldi division of Italian Partisans, somewhere in the central Italy, in which he asked the Pope to try and get uniforms for Partisans from the Allies. Radan was not allowed to see the Pope. The guards sent him to a vicar, a Roman bishop, who was so old that he probably did not understand what Radan was saying. The bishop extended his hand for Radan to kiss the ring, which he refused, but the bishop anyway told his secretary to give Radan an envelope with money as an aid for the trip. The bishop asked Radan not to be offended for receiving money as aid! There was around 2000 – 3000 lira there?! The uniforms were not sent to the Partisans. From the island of Vis, Dr. Radan moved with 20 Division. He worked as a lawyer in military courts in Split, Šibenik, Neretva area, then he was on the front line in Makarska, Imotski, Metković, Dubrovnik, and finally with ZAVNOH he was amongst the first people to enter free Zagreb in May 12, 1945. His first duty here was in the Military Court of the Zagreb Command.

First meetings with Dr. Radan

The first meeting with Dr. Radan I had in April 23, 1975 in Zagreb, then a few days later in his summer house in Konjušćina, in order to confirm what I had written.

In January 1986, I supplemented these conversations by recording a tape. In this text the answers have been organised according to the topic. In order to have a better overview, some events will be mentioned more than once, but only to better describe the topic. Dr. Radan was over eighty years old and his story was often interrupted with fatigue and his efforts to recall a memory. Although his presentation was as fresh as his memory, still it had been forty years since his time in the camp.

Dr. Oto Radan: “Ustashas arrested me in Zagreb on Saturday, June 21, 1941 along with another 60 to 70 Jews who were members of our Zagreb association SBOTIČ which means: Union of Banking, Insurance, Trade and Industry Clerks. It was our trade union with left orientation. After we had been arrested they brought us to a room in the Zagreb Grand Fair (the old Grand Fair on the left side of the Sava road)”.

This area of the Grand Fair was very close by for Ustashas. It was in the town centre and there was a railway used to bring goods into the Grand Fair. This was convenient for Ustashas so they could load people into freight cars away from prying eyes, which would be impossible at the station. People were taken away from here without anyone noticing.

Dr. Radan continues: “… At the Grand Fair, there were some Jewish women arrested amongst us. But when the chief of the Ustasha “police management” came to the Grand Fair – I think his name was Baraković – he decided to release all women. Amongst these were four young women who did not want to be separated from their husbands. They asked to be deported together with them and they were granted this. It was a Sunday afternoon when we departed from Zagreb on our way to Lika.

Locked in the cars at the Zagreb Grand Fair we could hear German soldiers cheering. It was the day that Germany attacked the Soviet Union. The Zagreb Grand Fair was also a convenient place for loading their transports. They were seeing off their people, cheering to the future victory. They were also greeted by Ustashas with cries: down with communism, bolshevism is finished, death to Stalin, death to Jews, etc. We arrived to Gospić the next day, crowded in cattle cars and with closed doors.”

“In Gospić they placed us in the former Sokolana, where allegedly Ustasha headquarters were, their military and political base. They were not prepared for our arrival, as we could see from their improvisations. In the beginning it seemed as if none of the people walking around us did not know what to do with us, or it was because they did not know how to transport us? Certainly, the confusion was obvious.”

“The next morning, some head Ustasha came to see us and personally decided who of us was going to Jadovno and who to Slana. Those chosen for Jadovno went there in a truck. If anyone those days survived Jadovno and was sent to Pag, he walked on foot from Jadovno over Velebit to Karlobag.”

“I was chosen to go to SLANA. We were tied in pairs with wire, and then from one end of the column to the other they stretched a chain to which they fastened us. We were moving on foot towards Karlobag, over Velebit on the old road. It was around forty kilometres long. Armed Ustashas were at the front and the end of the column. Some of those Ustashas were only recently mobilised young peasants. They could hardly handle a rifle, but they knew how to point it at us, how to pillage and how to rape. First rapes started already on Velebit, approximately where now stands Hotel Velebno. Later, one of the inmates, Ernst Brajer, my friend from Zagreb who came after us, told me that while crossing Velebit, near Oštarija, Ustashas raped his sixteen year old daughter in front of his eyes.”

Date to open the SLANA camp determined

“Thirty of us who were chosen to go to SLANA were crossing Velebit practically without any rest. When we stopped it was for the sake of escort, not us. We were terribly thirsty. They did not let us drink, nor did people from the houses we stopped by offer us any. We reached Karlobag exhausted. Here Ustashas organised some sort of demonstrations against us. They brought a group of their followers who shouted at us all sorts of things. They called us names, shouted slogans against robbers, enslavers, enemies of Croats, murderers, traitors, they cheered to Ante Pavelić and the independent state, cursed, and threatened.”

“With such a welcome we boarded some sort of freight boat waiting by the shore. They forced onto the boat and a lot of Ustashas went with us towards Pag. Before us we could only see white rocks approaching.”

“We arrived to SLANA, Blaška Slana that is, in a motorboat (‘St. Joseph’) on June 24, 1941. There were 30 of us Jews, age 20 to 25. “

Dr. Radan’s statement that he was arrested on June 21 and arrived to Pag on June 24 shows that Ustashas had already prepared their people for „Slana“ camp, probably in late June, and that the camp in Jadovno, killings in Jadovno that is, happened at the same time. It is improbable that they were deciding on Pag and Jadovno in those three days when they had already captured people and prepared them for deportation from Zagreb (and from elsewhere) and sent them to these two sites. The apparent chaos that the deportees noticed was just an illusion. After I analysed this with my interlocutor, we concluded that this disorganisation was normal for a new task. This was the first time the NDH transported people to a death camp. At that time they still did not create necessary mechanisms to function in a better way.

SLANA camp was planned already in early June

In his statement about the visit of Mijo Babić, Pag priest Joso Felicinović places the date of the conversation about SLANA in “late May or early June”.

The undisputable fact is that Mijo Babić, as ordered by Pavelić personally, went in mid June to Herzegovina where he was killed (June 28, 1941). So the conversation with Felicinović (and others!) over the map of Pag – as he nicely put it – was led long time before the first group of inmates arrived!

This conversation with Babić, a meeting more like it, held in Pag in the offices of what is today the Municipal Assembly, and “Ustasha headquarters” at the time, organised by the political camp and headed by the Chief and the Camp Commander, was when they discussed the forming of the SLANA concentration camp.

This happened after the day when Pavelić and Artuković proclaimed first laws on racial purity and other genocide enterprises (“Legal Provision on the Protection of Aryan Blood and Honour of Croatian People”, “Legal Provision on Race” – “Official Gazette, April 30, 1941). Based on these laws on June 4 the “Order on the Organisation and Purview of Racial and Political Committees” was issued.

In order to, first of all, implement these legal decisions, Minister Andrija Artuković organises the „Directorate for Public Order and Security“ headed by Dido Kvaternik. Within this organisation (which would in June form the UNS – Ustasha Surveillance Service) the „Ustasha Security Defence“ is established, part of which was the so-called „Office 3“, which was in charge of organising concentration camps. The head of both organisations was emigrant Ustasha Mijo Babić Đovani. He was the direct organiser of first camps, Pag and Velebit, i.e. camps Slana and Jadovno. He was the one who visited Pag and with whom noble priest Joso Felicinović discussed the location of the camp, spreading his military map of Pag Island before the visitor. That this early date was the time they made arrangements indicates the date typed on an order in which the camp commander of the Ustasha headquarters in Pag, Šime Oguić, orders boat captain Brno Maržić to be in Slana in the morning “from where he will be sent to get sand”. The date was June 20, 1941 and it indicates that after they had agreed on the location of the camp they started coordinating with Zagreb when to open the SLANA concentration camp even before the first Jews intended for this camp were arrested in Zagreb (June 20). A day before they were arrested in Zagreb, a boat had been prepared in Pag which would wait for them in Karlobag and transport them to the location of the newly devised camp!

Dumb language of Camp Officer from “Ustasha headquarters” in Pag

We need to take a serious look at the Ustasha order of the political Camp Officer in Pag, Šime Oguić to Brne Maržić! Oguić told Maržić to be in Slana in the morning of 21st. (“… your boat ‘St. Joseph’ needs to be at Slana site on the island of Pag as early as 6am…”!)

There was nothing or nobody at that time in SLANA, not even on the day when the first deportees arrived. They came to a completely barren terrain. In the order to the boatman he says “… from where you will be sent to get sand”. He would be sent from Slana “to get sand”!? Who would need sand on June 21 and who would load the sand when there were no inmates there yet? They were being arrested on that day in Zagreb!

The story about sand was just dumb, transparent camouflage, a code meaning something else, something terrible – a conspiracy with which they could not face the people.

Facsimile of the order by Camp Commander Oguić to boatman Brno Maržić to get “sand”.

 

Facsimile of the order by Camp Commander Oguić to boatman Brno Maržić to get “sand”.
    Independent State of Croatia
    Ustasha Camp Pag
    Number: 367/41

                        P.n.g.
                        Brne Maržiž – wood merchant

    As ordered by Captain Ivan Devčić, your boat “St. Joseph” needs to be at the Slana
    site on the island of Pag as early as 6am from where you will be sent to get sand.

                        For Homeland Ready!

                                Stamp                  As ordered by Captain:
    Pag, July 21, 1941                                     Camp officer
                                                          Šime Oguić d.r.
    
    Local People’s Board Pag

                                This copy is identical to its original confirms
                                FOR TITO AND REPUBLIC!

                                                          Secretary:

The Camp Commander knew exactly what that was about and that is why he orders the boatman to come! The boatman probably knew that there would be nobody meeting him there, or if someone arrives it would certainly not be to get sand. The only people that could have met him there were the organisers (military, political, police), and it is possible they were the people who were pondering over the map of Pag together with Babić and the others! The boatman had nothing to do on that day in Slana and there was no “sand” to get!

In the first three days “St. Joseph” was transporting organisers for their “inspections” over the island and around Slana, so we are clear that over some ham and red wine from Metajna they discussed which houses would be used for the female camp. The houses of Dr. Priplat and Dr. Hvala, which were the only empty ones, were waiting as if they had been predetermined. The village of Metajna did not know why they were there. Only on June 24, three days after the order given to the boatman, “St. Joseps was at the shore in Karlobag taking its passengers: thirty Jews and their bloodhounds.

Casual profile of an Ustasha leader

In order to better clarify this atrocity, we certainly need to study its protagonist, at least casually. That is why we need to look into the past of the first commissioner of the “Ustasha headquarters” in Pag, although he was nobody just as all of his successors were.

According to a document of the Sava Financial Directorate in Zagreb, number 8110 – I – 1934, he was “debited” from his pay because as an “account depositor” of the Korenica Tax Administration embezzled 3500 dinars (which was quite a sum at the time, three monthly wages of a better paid clerk) taking them from the wages of teacher Marija Vitković.

There is a statement at the Internal Affairs Department of the People’s District Board of Rab dated at April 12, 1946, given by Josip Maržić from Pag, one of the pre-war Chiefs of the Pag Municipality, in which he reports the damages committed by Ustashas. While explaining why he had to leave Pag, scared for his life, and settle in Rijeka, Maržić gives some biographical data on ambitions of Juraj Crljenko:

“…His national feelings after arrived to Pag – he came as a Ljotić man (a member of a fascist organization “Zbor”) and wanted to form his own party, which he failed to do. When he realized he could not do that he came to us to join our Yugoslav National Party. We knew he was a mean man so we refused him. He then joined the HSS, where he stayed for a couple of months and then joined Frankovci (Pure Rights Party). In 1936 he ran for the Chief of Pag Municipality, so on the election day he stayed in his flat waving a Croatian flag, but as soon as he realized he was bust he put up a Yugoslav flag.”

“In 1936 he became the President of the Yugoslav Library in Pag and he ruined it, because he was holding meetings there, spoiling the youth against Yugoslav SOKOL and People’s Unity. He got arrested and charged by the Gendarmerie, after which the Yugoslav Library in Pag was closed, on the order of the Governor’s Administration in Zagreb.

Crljenko put his trusted man in the shop my wife had…” As soon as he took the duty of Ustasha “Chief” he immediately, on June 12, 1941, “exercised power” on the house and the shop since he was not able to get to the owner who hid, as we said before. In order to illustrate what sort of formalist and bureaucratic language they used starting their path towards ever growing crimes, we present you with a document concerning the commissioner: “The Municipal Commission in Pag, number 2635/41, Pag, date June 12, 1941. Mrs Jelena Maržić, wife of Josip, grocery shop, Pag. Since you left Pag on May 26, 1941, and do not intend to come back, closing the shop and taking the keys, the Municipal Commission had no choice but to declare your actions an act of sabotage. Considering that the behaviour of your husband during the time of Serbian tyranny is mitigating evidence, I am placing my trusted man Mr Anto Kršulović in your shop. You need to obey him in every way, or else he will remove you from the shop and place a manager. Municipal Commissioner: Juraj Crljenko.

After an (lousy) investigation in Rijeka in July 1946, Mr Crljenko was sentenced and “Primorski vijesnik” (Coastal Herald) in issue 323 reports on his trial (also the trial for Josip Zubović from Kolani who was to blame for the death of teacher Ivan Balabanić) with an article titled „County People’s Court in Sušak gives a just sentence to degenerates and enemies of our people“.

Later on in Sisak, Crljenko once again, without any serious witnesses, tried to avoid responsibility. But the crimes he initiated on these rocks will not forget him, but reveal his true nature more each day until the true image of him is complete.

Lace-making school of Ustasha Chief Juraj Crljenko

Right during the time when the first Ustasha Chief of Municipality Juraj Crljenko was in the office, an expert team for forming a camp came to Pag: Mijo Babić “Đovani”, born in Zagreb, trained as a driver, pre-war emigrant together with Pavelić, now his personal emissary, Ustasha confidant from “Office 3” Mijo Bzik together with Ustashas from the police and defence service, and writer of Ustasha propaganda Engineer Milivoj Sažunić, Senior Clerk of the Ministry of Civil Engineering, member of the Headquarters, participated in the murder of a student from Zagreb University, Krsto Ljubičić. With them was also Drago Hornung, Senior Technician from Slavonska Orahovica, as an architect, and Crljenko says “I think that there was some ‘Devičić’ (Ivan, ‘Pivac’). The right team to establish ‘a lace-making school’! As representatives of the authority at that time, they asked me for a map of Pag advising me to establish a lace-making school in Pag. They took me to the site where this school was supposed to be built and then we parted”.

Bums, who do not have bread to eat unless they steal it, are coming to Pag to invest in a lace-making school!?

This is the statement that Crljenko gave to the Country War Crimes Commission in Sisak on January 2, 1946. “Novi list” reports this statement on July 31, 1985. This could have been forgiven to the uninformed investigative authorities in Sisak (where Crljenko hid, far away from Pag so he could be forgotten). This sort of superficial approach cannot be justified today!

Priest Felicinović, not knowing what Crljenko stated, was more realistic in his own statement. He says that he brought to Babić his (military) map of Pag on which Ustasha Babić used a pencil to circle a spot for the “purgatory”, “correctional facility”. Although he places this conversation in a pub, and does not mention that others were present, in order to admit this was a formal meeting and to remove responsibility from his associates, but he gives us information matching Crljenko’s story of the map and gives us precise dates, end of May or early June, which also matches Crljenko’s dates with the personnel roster of Ustashas in Pag at the time.

From Felicinović’s “Personal Memories” and the article from “Novi list” (4th sequel of the “Hell in a Rocky Desert” series on July 30, 1985) we give you a quote from a conversation held on June 13, 1978 in Pag: “The head organiser of the Pag camp, Mijo Babić, promised to me when he arrived to Pag that the treatment in the camp will be good and that it would only be a “purgatory – correctional facility”… He states further on that he met with Mijo Babić in a pub in Pag in early June 1941, possibly May 1941. Mijo Babić told him then that he had been sent to Pag to find a location for the camp. It was Josip Felicinović who gave the geographical (military map) to Mijo Babić. Felicinović remembers that Mijo Babić drew a circle around the Slana area and said he would soon bring Serbs and Jews to that camp…”

Priest Felicinović does not say that it is a crime to take people to a concentration camp just because they are Serbs or Jews, but rather he is disappointed, as he says, when he heard that everybody had been killed. “Babić tricked me!”

Who did he support then throughout the war when he claims he got disappointed already in 1941 and that he was “tricked”! As far as we know, his support to Ustashas did not end until the last days of NDH! And he most certainly did not incriminate the organisers.

However, Ustasha Chief Crljenko finishes his false statement by saying that after a few days the Ustasha leader from Senj, Slave Tomljenović, telephoned him asking him whether “Pivac” found the location for the camp on Pag. Tomljenović also asked why all of them came to Pag? Crljenko claims, innocent builder of lace-making schools as he was, that he told him, as he was telling the investigators, that he “did not know anything about it”. And so Crljenko “does not know anything” about it, Oguić does not know anything about “curiosity”, Jofe about “purgatory”, and journalists do not know anything when they report on Crljenko’s lies as something that should be documented as a history of Slana. In the end the people, in front of whom we spread these lies like a map which contains no hell, do not know anything! Not being subjected to further investigation, Crljenko ran far away from Pag and managed to avoid punishment for his preparation of the “lace-making school” and making thin threads with strange barbs around lacy “sticks”, “mallets” and all kinds of wondrous posts that started to grow all over Slana soon after. With God’s blessing and evangelical words “Arbeit macht frei” of the good spirit of the island of Pag, Priest Jofa, the lace would soon show its miraculous beauty! This is a place where many people will come for a visit, Ustasha camp commanders for their “curiosity”, old and new “officials” to organise, priest to encourage and rape if there are young girls around, civilians “to give a hand”, arrogant drunkards to hug and sing. Many years later, in 1985, we will listen to their humorous and stylish fabrications which will entertain us with suspense and colour, and we will choose only more acceptable parts not to scare the people! Too much! (This is how the Novi list report from 1985 titled “Hell in Rocky Desert” introduces to the main culprits of these criminal activities!

SLANA – the first task for “Ustasha leaders” in Pag

When I try to explain this spiritualists séance for the care of souls (in a pub) it looks to me like this:

Together with Ustashas from Zagreb, this séance was attended by few local people who knew the local area (“some Devčić”, Crljenko says, which was no other than the future commander, Ivan Devčić “Pivac”, an emigrant who participated in the attack on a gendarmerie station in Brušani on June 6 and 7, 1932). Indeed some Devčić, one of the biggest criminals of the century, he was the person who suggested Slana as the best location for the concentration camp. When they arrived to Pag, Babić asked his comrades, Felicinović, Crljenko and the others, to get him a map so he could show them exactly where he wants the camp to be located. They did not have it. There was no map of Pag on the walls of the municipal building (not even in the pub, if they were there). But Felicinović had one at home. He went to take it. He spread it in front of Mijo and the gang, and understandably this was where the first discussions on Slana took place. It was drawn on the map of priest Josip Felicinović. Even if they were in a pub, they ate, drank and moved to each own tasks.

In order to better understand what the individuals surrounding the “Ustasha leadership” at the time were capable of, we need to look at the circumstances under which they competed for management positions: chief of municipality, camp officer, encampment officer, adjutant, confidant, etc. This mafia that chased out of the municipal building legally elected Chief Juro Jukić from the HSS party (who was later on a member of ZAVNOH), were simply at each others throats for positions in order to be superior over the others. Crljenko removed Zubović, Zubović removed Crljenko, Oguić replaced Zubović, some pushed forward Palčić, Herenda was waiting for his turn, and for days they debated on authority, made new personnel changes and threatened each other.

By the way, not only the named people were involved in these decisions. A wider group of named and unnamed persons participated in decisions. Most of them were hungry for easy positions!

In this struggle for personal domination and positions they competed in various tasks of servility towards anyone capable of securing them a position. They were equally ready and capable of committing any crime that would enable them to lead. Which were then the merits of little clerk Juraj Crljanko, a person displaying all characteristics of a severe neurotic? For which sort of “merits” and “political history” did Oguić, a first year student, did secure himself a position of a camp officer, unless he had connections with decision makers? What were they to do in order to show their support to authorities? They were to show their value in each task that the visiting people would give them! The first task – SLANA camp!

First days of the rocky desert

With the dates provided by Dr. Radan we finally solved the dilemma when the SLANA camp started.

We also solved the dilemma when the women’s camp in Metajna started: both camps started on the same day.

Dr. Radan: “We were the first camp inmates. We arrived to SLANA on completely barren terrain. There was nothing around but bare rock. They lined us up and Ivan Devčić “Pivac” held a speech about our position and the new order in which we will be liberated through work (as it was written on all fascist camps around Europe – “Work liberates!”). He introduced himself as the Camp Commander and promised us death for every disobedience, resistance or escape. Considering the way in which we spent our later days, Pivac’s speech could be considered tolerant. To some distance around us on vantage points were Ustasha guards with rifles and machineguns. They kept the same positions in the future and guards would change. As there was nothing there we slept in the open. Huddled, Vilko Berger and I lay together. He was from Zagreb where his father had a cork factory. Only fifteen days later we finished building our barracks. It had two floors inside, i.e. it had an attic with a floor so it was suitable for sleeping both on the floor and up in the attic. To us it looked like a house. Down on the floor we even had straws on which we lay. But this did not last for a long time. The first gale that blew tore down the barracks and scattered the straws we had. We did not raise another floor after that, but we only used the roof and placed it on the rocky floor. We covered the hollow corners with dry wall. This is the barracks that can bee seen on the published photo. From day on, I slept in the open, huddled on the rock.”

“When the barracks came down we had dead and injured. People who were hit with beams which were the base of the building were killed. A man named Žiligman who was next to me was killed instantly. He was from Zagreb and had a printing company. After this experience I did not enter the barracks to sleep there. It was the same for me sleeping next to it, next to a small wall.”

“Ustashas had no barracks. I do not know where they slept. They went towards the port, to a boat I guess, or maybe they sailed off after their shift, maybe to Karlobag or Metajna. I know that the commander sometimes visited the watch tower, which had one or two squads. This would happen later, because there was no watch tower in the beginning and it needed to be built. It took some time. We, on the other hand, had two rocks on which we put a cauldron, and that was it. Here in the newspaper[5] they talk about a kitchen – what sort of kitchen!”

Dido Kvaternik – delighted with the location

“As far as we know, Dido Kvaternik personally decided to start this camp. It is clear that someone cooperated with him, someone local probably, who knew the terrain, and that person may have brought him here to see it for himself. I heard that medic Lovro Zubović is from the Zubović innkeepers from Karlobag. He is also in close family relation with people in Barbat, a village on this side of Pag, where my family comes from. So Slana and Metajna are locations he must know best. Then, both Pivac and Frković are from villages under Velebit who know Pag very well. Not to mention “locals”, Ustashas from Pag who certainly know their Island and convey information to their “commanders”!

During our stay, Dido used to come to the camp. We knew when he was coming, especially in the beginning when the guards were still young, almost illiterate peasants, and some of them were more tolerant towards us, so a word would slip and they would say a little something from which we could conclude and find out a lot. But as we were away from the camp during the day, working, collecting or breaking rocks, or building, a road towards Metajna, for example, I never saw Dido. I saw some faces, always in uniforms, and even if they were civilians they had Ustasha hats. Even the priest would walk around the camp like that.”

“Boats were sailing between Slana and Karlobag all the time. Firstly, Ustasha shifts would change, since the administration building which was being built on Suha was never finished and nobody stayed inside. There were two boats commuting. Some of them went to Metajna. What or whom they brought I could not see. I came to the port only when I was a part of a group that had to load or unload something.”

“There was no “reception office”[6] at the docks, both at Suha and in Baška Slana (bay across Suha), nor were there records of any kind.

A word on the female camp

“I had been in Slana from the first day to almost the last. I cannot say whether they brought women to Slana in those five to ten days after I left, but during my stay in SLANA there were no women. In SLANA, both co-called Jewish and Serbian camps, were only men. There were no children also.”

First women arrived to the female camp in the village of Metajna on the same day when the men arrived to SLANA, on June 24, 1941. There were only four Jewish women. They were those who did not want to be separated from their husbands and volunteered to be deported together with them. It was immediately obvious that they had been tricked and that would not be together with their husbands. They became the nucleus of the new, so-called female camp.

The female camp was located in the village of Metajna, northwest from Slana, and deep in the Pag bay. The women were accommodated into two houses (later on in a third house) which were quite a distance from the rest of the village. They were the summer houses of Dr. Triplat, veterinarian living in Karlobag at the time, and Dr. Hvale, lawyer from Zagreb. The warden of the female camp was Makso Očić, bully and butcher. Caught and shot.

After the first women, after a few days soon came those who were, at Zagreb Grand Fair, allowed to go home, thanks to the “generosity” of the Ustasha chief. Together with them were others, arrested (in Zagreb on July 9), just as the others, collected everywhere across the new state. They all shared the bitter destiny of camp inmates.

Nada Feureissen told me she had met four deported women in Metajna. They told her that on the way to there 44 women had been drowned in the sea. They were probably Orthodox Christian women who had been transported with them from Gospić or Jadovno towards Pag, but they saw neither Pag nor Metajna! It is known that every contingent in Gospić was getting smaller, because some of them disappeared in Jadovno, and as Nada tells us, some of them disappeared into the sea.

Nada Feuereissen’s testimony tells us that the second arrest occurred fifteen days after the first one, because she says they arrived to Gospić on July 13. According to this we can see how the SLANA camp grew, which is in accordance with Dr. Radan’s statements that there was first a small group who build necessary accommodations for themselves and Ustasha guards, and only after that did the worst crimes start to happen. These dates are also useful to reveal the deceptions of “witnesses” who tried to tell a filthy lie about the camp in order to wash themselves from the crimes.

In front of the County War Crimes Commission for Croatian Coast, witness Jakov Dokazić[7] (age 41, who was working in Slana as a builder), in the statement he gave in Petrčani on March 24, 1945, said:

“In the last days before this camp was taken over by Italians, a transport of women came. Since there was a commission in the camp, with Ustashas and German officers, they could not take this transport to the camp, but they took them to Caska. The next night they transported these women somewhere around the Pag gate where were pits for carcasses and I think they were all killed the same night, because I heard Ustashas arriving to the boat at the Slana dock and singing.”

Ivan Kustić from Metajna (age 42, farmer) in front of the same commission on November 21, 1945, stated:

“I do not know details of the fate of women locked up in the house of Dr. Triplat, but only one who was killed at nigh and buried next to the woods in a place called Dražica. According to Jela Lončarić, wife of Jure, this unfortunate woman was taken by Ustashas to the place where she was killed and strikes of a pickaxe could be heard. Some children found the grave three days later with no signs of blood.”

The testimony of Nada Feuereissen on later pages will give us the most accurate description of the female camp.

SLANA hell starts its harvest

“Both men and women, all of us who arrived to Pag first and all of those who came after us, we were all Jews from Zagreb, as I mentioned before, thirty of us from the SBOTIČ organisation. Around 60 – 70 of us were arrested in Zagreb and transported to Gospić, but some of us were transported elsewhere, to Jadovno, or were killed in the area. From this group only thirty of us arrived to Pag.

Right after us arrived around one hundred people from the free mason organisation BNERBIT. Their wives got arrested together with them and transported to the camp (Metajna).

After that they would get people from everywhere.”

In order to show how most people were not ready to understand this new genocide and that Jews were blamed just for being born Jewish, Dr. Radan told me an anecdote that he remembered from the camp and which was the proof that people who whole their lives had been reasonable and realistic were confused to say the least.

Dr. Ferdo Frank, an old man around eighty years of age, was the oldest lawyer in Zagreb at the time. He had an office on the Jelačić Square at the time (now Republic Square). While he was still alive, the poor man was constantly amazed as to why he had been brought to the island, saying: “I do not understand why they have arrested me? In whole of my life there wasn’t even a disciplinary procedure against me!” Lawyer’s wife was also interned. She was probably in Metajna or drowned. From Dr. Radan’s further testimony we find out details from the life there, as much as it was possible for him to remember and keep this evil memory, but all of these details are very important for the reconstruction of other dates and shedding light on a series of unanswered question.

“Besides building the watch towers around the camp, digging a primitive latrine, building walls for Ustasha’s and our kitchen, in the beginning we did whatever necessary to organise even the most primitive accommodation. Understandably, we were the first to be forced to finish Ustasha facilities for their safety, such as watchtowers, paths leading to them and then the beginning of the road.”

There were two brothers named Armut with us, age around 20 to 25, who were probably some kind of technicians. Their father had a shoe polish factory in Zagreb, somewhere in lower Ilica. They managed each more complex construction, watchtowers, road, administration building. They had a workgroup who worked under their leadership. Most of that group survived here, but were later sent to Jasenovac. In the last days of Jasenovac all of them were murdered, except for Berger who escaped in the Jasenovac inmates’ breakaway on June 22, 1945. Berger survived and returned to Zagreb.”

“I personally did all sorts of job, whatever was needed, especially until the Serbs arrived. From the boats that arrived to Baška Slana I carried first bales of hay which had over sixty kilograms. When they put it on me I could not stop nor fall, because there was no-one to put it back on me. I struggled, fighting for my life. Then we would carry boards, logs, tall posts for the fence and many coils of barbed wire. I had an impression that this wire was used somewhere else since it was all rusty. Bags of pasta must have come from a military storehouse of old Yugoslavia. We only got very little of it for our meals. We never had meat. Our strength was waning. All of us lost a lot of weight, although we had not been fat. We were all young men. I lost fifteen kilos. My knees were swollen. It was very difficult to do any work under that terrible sun, starving and tortured with even more terrible thirst. And working with rocks with no tools! It was a horrible thing to be breaking off rocks and carrying them to be built into the road or a watchtower, or somewhere else. Rocks were carried with bare hands. Silence, building, endless lines, shouting, fighting, death were all around us and threats over each of us. We were pecked up one by one, every day. For each little disobedience or clumsiness that an Ustasha guard would consider disobedience a bullet would be shot. And even without that, for nothing, for sheer pathological whim which could be exercised by any Ustasha any time. He would answer to no-one, on the contrary, he would probably praised for that and become popular.”

Enormous work of weak people

“As soon as we arrived to SLANA we gave to the common kitchen everything we had and which had not been stolen on the way. So the first two to three days were not bad in terms of food, but we were still fresh from home, and not too weak. Our cook was a Jewish man who had been a chef in the best hotel in Zagreb, Esplenada. His name was Klajn. In order to get through the journey all of us had some bacon and dried meat. As I said, that did not last for long. After that Ustashas gave us pasta. The meals were cooked in an army cauldron in the open. When the new group arrived the amount of pasta almost did not increase. In the end we only had water with some over boiled pasta circling the pot. The cook would allow the more hungry people to scrape the cauldron after the meal. This was a special privilege. There was never any fat, especially meat. The bread we got was the thing we in Zagreb called “Šubašić’s” corn bread (Ivan Šubašić, pre-war Croatian and Yugoslav politician). At first this bread would be divided into eight parts, later on ten, and in the end on twelve parts. All we had was a see-through slice. I do not know how we survived.”

“To me hunger seemed the worst in the beginning, until we got used to it. I constantly kept dreaming about a ham I left hanging in the larder at home. I though more about it than on life or death! I was obsessed with it!”

“In principle, we were allowed to receive parcels, both individually and collectively. On one occasion we received a parcel of lemons. Each of us got a half of lemon. We ate everything, the zest and all in such a way that each of us had a piece of lemon the whole day in the mouth. We did not receive a similar shipment anymore.”

“Once I got a parcel form home, but most of it was looted. All that was left was a loaf of stale “Šubašić” bread, one “Gavrilović” can (Gavrilović meat factory) and traces of biscuits and other food on the paper. That was it.”

“We could hardly move, and in such condition we did all the work. Hopefully, even today you could see at least the work we did with rock and which is difficult to erase, and you could see what sort of effort was made by half dead people, exhausted and suffering from cramps that come before death. You could say that we walked and worked while dying.”

“I personally worked a lot on mixing mortar. On Suha, just above the beach we made a frame out of boards and that is where I worked. We made long red mixers to make mortar. We put sea water into the mortar, since fresh water was scarce and we needed to make quick progress. In fact, that sort of mortar is not good since it is filled with salt. I believe this is why the buildings came apart sooner than they should.”

Ustashas washed their clothes in springs

“The first nigh we arrived, two of us were sent to get water. I was one of them. They took us one kilometre or one and a half south from the camp. There is a spring with excellent water (this spring is called Malin, not far from it is a plane with graves, Fornaža). We carried water in wooden canisters over our shoulders. We went to the spring two more times. We could not go there anymore. Ustashas used it to wash their laundry. From that moment on, we only drank water coming out of the beach in Suha. Water comes out wherever you dig. So on Suha we dug on several spots and drank that water. But we could not make a deeper well so there was always very little water there. Also, it was not real fresh water. It had some salinity and you would be thirsty if you drank it. Water was not taken into the camp, except for cooking. The whole camp used to be taken to this spring in columns. We drank because we had nothing else to drink. And Ustashas washed their laundry here as well whenever they wanted, so even the small springs were polluted or muddy. When they would bring us they did not want to wait for water to clear, but we had to drink or leave, still thirsty under the terrible sun that was scorching the SLANA bay. Thirst was one of the most difficult tortures, unbearable, more difficult than hunger.”

When asked whether contact with local population was possible, the witness said there had not been any and continued:

“Once or twice in the beginning, while we were slaking quicklime on Suha, some fishermen came to the beach beneath us. I do not know whether they were from Pag or Metajna. They threw their nets there. One of us sneaked to them and whispered to leave us some fish. They did not answer anything. They just turned and left.”

“In fact we did not have any barring, and we did not know which way we were facing. Looking towards the inside of Pag led us to believe that the long cape was the top of the island of Rab. But in time we stopped thinking about it. We stopped caring were we were or how long it would last. We could see fewer ways out. At first we used to talk, discuss, hoped for a way out, but this was quickly over and our only interest was to find out whether all of us were alive and how many of us are still somewhat healthy.”

Tasting poisonous grass

“At that time, as far as I know, and I believe I know everything that had happened there, at least in the beginning, in those first days we had a strong impulse in us. Only one elderly man died of natural causes. He had dysentery when he arrived so we had to isolate him not to spread the disease. The others who had died were killed first in individual conflicts, whether it was an Ustasha whim, or when we were lined up for punishment or retribution for a designated violation, or they took the victim in an unknown direction.”

For a moment I stopped him and asked how was Aleskandar Semnic, maths teacher in 2nd Classical Grammar School in Zagreb, handling the camp. He was an extinguished professor and teacher of extraordinary quality in the grammar school in which I went into 7th grade. He was a small man with shiny face and eyes, enthusiastic, always on the move, and his students loved him. In order to bring that man to life in our conversation, Dr. Radan told me a little camp anecdote which was quite suitable to this man of exploratory spirit. Amongst those barren rocks, Professor Semnic found a plant similar to some juicy cactus he claimed to be edible when cooked. We managed to cook it stealthily and ate it. It was bitter, but so what, it was food. After we ate it we had such diarrhoea that we were discouraged from any other such experiment. And there was nothing to experiment with. There was no grass around us at all.”

I know the plant he told me about. It is, in fact, the only plant you can find on that terrain. It is rare, but you can find it, especially on that part of the island. Fishermen pick it, chop it and use it to chase octopuses from holes or put it on the edge of their nets. Basically, when fish that are in the net try to escape over the ropes go back as soon as they sense this plant and do not escape.

The only plant which (sometimes) grows on the rocks of Slana. It is very intense, almost poisonous, and fishermen boil it to soak ropes of their nets with the juice, so that fish would not jump over the rope and escape the net. The plant is similar to a cactus. Photo: Dr. Henri Bernard, Colmar, France.

 

The only plant which (sometimes) grows on the rocks of Slana. It is very intense, almost poisonous, and fishermen boil it to soak ropes of their nets with the juice, so that fish would not jump over the rope and escape the net. The plant is similar to a cactus. Photo: Dr. Henri Bernard, Colmar, France.

Dear Professor Semnic, brought to this misery forgot to be careful. But it was all the same. He did not come back from Slana alive. At the time of his murder he had 28 years of service. Here in Slana Professor Deodora Dežma was also killed. She was also teaching in the 2nd Classical Grammar School in Zagreb.

Young man battered with rifle butts

Dr. Radan supports his testimonies and lack of perspective with memories of a horrible event.

“There was with us a slightly retarded young man, by the name of Blajher. His father had a house at the Republic Square. While we were unloading boards at Baška Slana, Ustashas were ordering us something all the time. Some of us were in the water, some of us on the shore, and we were unloading the material, passed it on or carried it up the rocks towards the camp. This young man was slightly deaf and slow to understand and did not immediately understand what the Ustasha told him to do. The Ustasha saw this as disobedience or pretended to think so. He jumped at the young man, and so did other Ustashas. The young man was finished. They killed him quickly, hitting him with rifle butts. They simply squashed him.”

First public execution

As in these camps public warnings and retributions for “disobedience”, “protest”, escape attempt, etc. were common, and were often performed in front of inmates in order to intimidate them, I asked my interlocutor if he had seen such executions in SLANA?

“The first public execution was of young Wyler[8], or some similar name. He was an Austrian Jew, one of skiing champions. Before Hitler came to Austria he moved to Zagreb to his relatives. He could not have been more than twenty years of age. I already mentioned, we thought that the cape we saw was a part of Rab Island. It was not far away. A more skilled man could swim across. Rab was in Italian hands and it could mean salvation. This is what Wyler probably thought. At Suha he sneaked out and swam in that direction. Ustashas noticed him, but pretended not to see him at first. Only when he swam far away they went after him. They let him struggle and swim to the cape. This was in fact St. Nicolas Cape on Page. They waited for him there. He was covered in blood when they brought him back. After everything they did to him while bringing him back, they lined us up, both us and the Serbs. He was shot by several young Ustashas.”

Witness Josip Balaž (communist from Daruvar), who did not know about Radan’s testimony, neither Radan knew about Balaž’s, also told us a story about the execution of an athlete who tried to escape. Balaž was first in the Jewish camp, and later on in the other one. This means that communist Croats were placed in the “Serbian” camp.

Here, in this first execution we see on the sidelines how older, more experienced Ustashas, tried to corrupt young, new recruits, who were inexperienced and could not use the rifle properly. Radan: “We could see how inexperienced these young Ustashas were when on that occasion a young Ustasha stated that he did not know how to fire. And there, in front of us and in front of the condemned man, they showed him how to fire.”

But we know that Ustashas worked quickly to introduce their young personnel with every skill of murder. In order to give them opportunity to wallow in blood quickly and deeply, they even used tricks to cause them insecurity, to make them feel in danger, faking panic, crying for help and claiming they were attacked by inmates! This is what Dr. Radan remembers. He was trying hard to recall the name of the Ustasha (probably a pathological character or a cunning schemer) who used such tricks to cause deaths of innocent people. Dr. Radan was unhappy because he could not remember Ustasha’s name[9], and he knew him so well that he believed his name would pop out:

“One of Ustasha commanders, who we believed had hallucinations, seemed to me was sometimes pretending. He must have made his mission to methodically get young Ustashas used to killing. Suddenly he would walk towards the camp and started shouting that a few inmates attacked him while working (or when and wherever he would think of it) and tried to kill him. Ustashas would jump up immediately and took two or three inmates and shot them. In this way this psychopath would “harden” his young guards. From that time executions were very common, almost every day.”

Bitter taste of cooperation

“I have already mentioned that for special jobs Ustashas separated a group of young men, students of architecture, technicians, builders, and similar experts. They had some tools so they could work. For example, they carved the rocks built into the administration building and the east watchtower, etc. They had “crosses” for tracing the route towards Metajna, they managed and conducted works on this road, etc.”

“Everyone other had no tools for work. We did everything with our bare hands. We did not even have a shovel. My hands were always bloody and my wounds healed only when I came back, in prison in Gospić. Work was not the only problem. Problems were everywhere. For example, my shoes completely fell apart. I had very strong shoes, black boots from the old Yugoslav army. The soles came off completely and I tied it up with wire so they wouldn’t fall off. Peasant’s shoes maybe lasted for a longer time, especially those stitched with rubber. Those sharp rocks would destroy everything. Even our clothes were more rags than clothes. In clothes we had we had to get into the sea when we were unloading materials from boats. The port was very shallow and boats could never dock close to the shore. We had to walk through water going over out waist to pass the materials. Clothes we had disintegrated very quickly in salty water and under such Sun. How to shield ourselves from sun, where to get away? During my whole stay in SLANA I did not know what shade was. On Sundays we did not work. They would take us to the sea to wash ourselves and what we had on. Salt ate through everything. Everything tore during work and rags were hanging from us.”

“In order to manage us more easily and efficiently, Ustashas entrusted some individuals to sometimes carry out their orders. Some of these inmates in time became or at least looked like real collaborators. Ustashas made them so dependant that they would carried event the worst order more strictly than Ustashas would. They started as our insignificant representatives, and ended up being the worst collaborators: Dijamantštajn, and with him some Pajtaš, later on.”

“Miserable Dijamantštajn, even when we were on the road, seemed to be very brave and resourceful. He has some sort of energy and confidence that he could stay alive, or in the beginning he had the idea that he could save some men in that way. Already in Gospić, while we were in Sokolana, Bruno Dijamantštajn advised us that we could send postcards to our families in Zagreb. All of us wrote postcards that he somehow got hold of. In the afternoon an Ustasha came to us, collected all postcards and tore them in front of us, shouting, threatening and insulting us.”

“This thing in SLANA started quite innocently the first day we arrived, out of a small, threatening situation:

“When Commander Pivac finished his speech, he saluted with the Ustasha salute ‘For Homeland!’ None of us replied. He then started shouting at us, swearing, cursing our Jewish mothers, that he would show us, threatening in numerous ways. Then Dijamantštajn found some strength, stepped out and said: ‘Sir Ustasha, the authorities banned us Jews from using the Ustasha salute. We are an inferior race.’ Pivac was surprised. He lowered his voice immediately and said: ‘Oh, is that so? Alright, alright, I will ask around about this ban’. That was all. From that moment on, everything they wanted to communicate to us they would do through Dijamantštajn, and later on through Pajtaš. Among other things, these two even had to choose who would be punished and shot. From that moment on until the end, Dijamantštajn and Pajtaš got food form the Ustasha pot.”

To this description of collaboration, Dr. Radan adds the story of the unfortunate end for the both of them. Two of them were not killed in SLANA. They headed the group that was returned alive, transported to Jasenovac.”

Miserable fate of collaborators

“Without wanting it, Dijamantštajn became a collaborator. For example, there was no list of us inmates. So, when an Ustasha would come and asked for fifteen people for work or unloading, for example, or to form several groups, he would tell Dijamantštajn to pick. So it came to that that Dijamantštajn would choose people to be killed. We could see that he chose older and weaker people, and somehow tried to save us younger men. So his collaboration started. Also, they had better food. I personally saw that Pajtaš and he ate from the Ustasha canteen. They could not hide it. And it went on further and further. A man named Liht had a similar role in Jadovno. Basically, an inmate becomes miserable, a nothing, and in that case many people are ready to do anything for a piece of bread. Something like that happened also in Auschwitz and elsewhere, in all camp. A man gets lost in there.”

“This group of men who were withdrawn from Pag were the first inmates in Jasenovac. Jasenovac actually started with them. This group, led by Dijamantštajn, who was permanently in charge of it, first spent some time in Jaska, in Erdorije Castle, and when Ustashas took over the leather and chain factories in Jasenovac, they were transported there. With this group Ustashas turned the chain factory into a blacksmith shop. The camp developed gradually, and grew in numbers very quickly. It also got emptier just as quickly with killings. This group of Jewish young men stayed alive to the very last end, and then they were all killed, except for Berger who managed to save himself in the breakthrough.”

“Dijamantštajn and Pajtaš were from Zagreb like us. I know that Pajtaš was a son of a grocery shop owner at the corner of Jurišić and Drašković streets. Both of them had special tasks in Jasenovac. They moved as free men, they would come to Zagreb to shop, get goods necessary for the camp or for individual Ustashas from Jasenovac. One day Ustashas entrusted them to carry a case to their relatives in Zagreb. That case contained gold collected from inmates or taken off the dead. Dijamantštajn and Pajtaš boarded the train and put the case on the shelf for bags. The case somehow opened or fell and the gold was all over the floor. They were not alone in the compartment. With them was an Ustasha officer or official who immediately called the police. It was over. The two got arrested and they had to point out Ustashas who entrusted them with the task. One or two Ustashas were allegedly hanged. The two were handed to some violent Ustashas who used to work in the Gavrilović meat factory. They tore pieces of flesh from their bodies and killed them in this horrible way. “

“The rest of us deportees in SLANA had no contact with Ustashas. I remember that from time to time, only when necessary, Ustashas had to come closer to an inmate.

For example, there was a medic with us who together with one dentist provided medical care, if you could call it care. But Ustashas would ask for help when they got sick. For example, Commander Pivac had trachoma. The medic started giving him some medications. He would go and see him in the watchtower and he would bring us a piece of bread or something like that.

Composition of guards changed

Dr. Radan could not remember and tell the names of the guards in the camp. But while he was talking about growing repression over inmates, I asked him if he knew from where these brave men had come and whether there had been difference in their behaviours? He repeated that the repression had been increasing and that Ustashas had become crueller as their groups changed, whether coming from same or different units. According to his memory, first there were men from Lika. “They were”, he claims, “in a human sense the most tolerable. Among them was a carpenter who worked with us on building the first barracks, the one that came down during gale. He gave us instructions and commanded, but we felt he was somehow compassionate to our suffering. He would spare us for a moment and help us as much as he dared, I suppose.”

“After the men from Lika came Ustashas from Dalmatia.” The witness does not remember whether they were Ustashas from around Zadar, those who were tried in Zadar after the war (Baljak and others?), but he remembers that after them came Ustashas from Zagreb (or its surroundings?). “Their accent gave them away and we managed to find out some details along the way. We discovered their identity, although we came from different worlds. At the end of all, as the biggest evil, came Ustashas from Herzegovina and Bosnia. They were the most bloodthirsty. During their time we lost the last hope that someone could come out alive.”

It is probable that only part of Ustashas changed in SLANA, or they strengthened their ranks getting ready for cruel murder. Feeling the growing presence of death, the witness connects it to the new faces of guards, so he probably did not notice then (just as he does not notice now) that there were guards and murderers who were there permanently, from day one until the end. There where guards there from Pag and its surroundings, “local men”, although not in many numbers, but still there permanently from the beginning to the end. The witness agreed that it was possible that he linked his feelings of fear with memories of different groups. Although it is unknown according to which criterion did the guards in SLANA changed, we know they were from the 13 Ustasha Battalion commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Devčić “Pivac” until the end. Other Ustasha commanders with him were Major Ivica Brkljačić, Captain Joso Matijević and Quartermaster Antun Remenar. After Mijo Babić got killed, management of the camp was taken over by Vjekoslav Luburić Maks, who was until then Babić’s deputy. Luburić took experience from SLANA and transferred it to Jasenovac and other camps that were emerging.

SLANA – main Ustasha School

The Ustasha guards in SLANA, executors and butchers, were mostly recruited from the poorest people, with no land, or class unconscious workers, slackers or starving riff raff who were always on the lookout for something to steal. Before this service they did not even have money to get drunk, until they got a “professional” licence to threaten, take, force and confiscate. Unleashed under the new authority, and indoctrinated with imaginary fight for Catholicism and Croatia, just like Medieval Teutones became more and more merciless. In the SLANA camp and in JADOVNO, first camps in the NDH, they soon achieved their goal. A persecuted man who was released into their hands was worth less than an ant. The surroundings itself inspired them on how to treat their victims, the barren land where the inmates were located. People familiar with these rocks, where inmates died, will never be amazed by any other crime committed by Ustashas. Putting them on these rocks was a crime bad enough.

Ivan Devčić “Pivac”, in late June left Zagreb with a company of around 100 Ustashas (from 13 Battalion) and went to Karlobag. This company took over Slana. There people from Bosnia, Dalmatia (especial from Kotar around Zadar), Lika, some from Podgora. According to statements of Ustashas tried in 1951, Slavko Baljak, Jerko Fratrović, Ivan Kevrić and others, when they arrived to Slana they found a couple of Ustashas there and a small number of inmates, mostly Jews and Orthodox Christians.

The Slana camp was to be built and used permanently, and that is why the whole “construction leadership” came there, headed by engineer Sažunić and technical student Hornung. The stories how resident of Metajna went to see Pavelić with a request not to move them, tell us that Ustashas had a serious plan to expand the Slana camp. Somebody had already been asking questions where these peasants could be moved, when their village Metajna is commandeered for the camp. Someone already tried to make a deal.

In the camp command (for administration and murder) people changed as they did within the unit, but Slana remembers the names which will be carved deeply into our face with dark letters[10].

An extract from Šime Balen’s book “Pavelić”[11] (pg. 78-90) he wrote in spring 1942 during the interrogation of captured 19-year-old Ustasha from, Lika Joso Orešković, has become a classic. This former student of the Gospić Grammar School was captured by partisan just as he had been trained for mass slaughter around Korenica. This extract is very interesting since it gives a clear illustration of how impossible was to survive in the Slana camp in which they trained and prepared young men to become butchers: “As a six-grade student of Gospić Grammar School – says Orešković – in 1939 I joined the organisation “Crusaders”. There is where they trained us to become Ustashas under the pretence of faith. Jurica Frković and Juco Rukavina would come to our meetings and hold lectures against communists and Serbs. Our slogan was: In the name of Christ – kill the antichrist! Antichrists were Serbs, Jews and communists. We organised our strike unit who attacked leftists during the night. When war came and the Yugoslav Army disbanded we took their weapons. We immediately joined Ustashas, because we thought it to be our national duty. I was sent to the Slana camp, on Pag, together with some people from Gospić. There were mostly Jews and Serbs there, but some of them were left-wing Croats. When I came there I was shocked to see how they were torturing those people. They slept in the open surrounded by wire. For food they gave them only salty fish, but gave them no water, so they could have gone insane from thirst. Then a new group of prisoners came. Commanders ordered us to take 200 prisoners from the first group, take the out at the sea and kill them. Some of my friends and I could not do it. They started to shout at us calling us bad Croats and Ustashas. They said that a real Ustasha had to be happy to kill a Serb, Jew or a communist. In order to make us kill, they gave to us younger men wine and liqueur. They would bring in front of us captured girls, stripped them naked and told us we could take them, but that we had to kill them after. Some young men, drunk with wine and passion, started killing in that way. I couldn’t. I was disgusted and I said it publicly. After a few days some high-ranking official came from Zagreb to the camp. His name was Luburić. He came to see how the camp was working. Then the real slaughter started. The sea around Pag was red with blood. They reported to Luburić that I and some of the others did not want to kill. When he heard that, Luburić gathered all Ustashas, lined us up and held a speech saying that those ho could not kill Serbs, Jews and communists are traitors for Ustashas. After that he asked who was the ‘usraša’ (coward) who would not kill. Some of us stepped forward. As I was the first one to step forward, Luburić told me to stand in front of the line and asked me what sort of Ustasha was I when I could not kill a Serb and a Jew. I told him I was ready to give my life for Poglavnik, that I thought I could kill the enemy in combat, but that I couldn’t kill unarmed people, especially women and children. He laughed and said that that was also a combat and that Serbs, Jews and communists are not human beings, but beasts and that it was our duty to rid Croatia of that plague, and who did not want to do it was the enemy of Poglavnik and Croatia, just as them. Then, he called a man from his escort and whispered something in his ear. The man left and came back with two small 2-year-old children. Luburić gave me one child and told me to cut its throat. I said I couldn’t. Everyone around me started laughing, mocked me and shouted ‘usraša not Ustasha’. Then Luburić took out a knife and cut the child’s throat in front of me saying: ‘This is how it’s done’. When the child screamed and blood sprayed my head started spinning. I almost fell. One Ustasha held me. When I came to Luburić told me to raise my right leg. I did and he put the head of the other child under it. Then he commanded: ‘Hit it!’ I hit with my leg and squished child’s head. Luburić approached me, tapped me on the shoulder and said: ‘Well done! You will make a good Ustasha!’

This is how I killed the first child – Orešković concluded his chilling testimony. After that I nearly drank myself to death. While drunk, together with some friends I raped few Jewish girls and then we killed them. After that there was no need for me to get drunk. Later on, when the Slano was destroyed and all its inmates killed, I was sent to Korenica to clear it from Serbs. You know what I did there…”

Numbers are melting

Not even Dr. Radan could not say a precise number of people deported to SLANA. He only talks about numbers when he is making his personal estimate, i.e. how many prisoner he used to see, mainly in his surroundings, in the Jewish camp, those who were together for a longer time, shared that life longer, until they faded away as if they melted. Every day the camp got emptier, then filled in and getting smaller again.

The situation was even more terrible in the other part of the Slana camp, in the so-called Serbian camp. This camp contained mostly Orthodox Christians, Serbs, but there were Croats, communists and Gypsies, all arrested around Lika and Bosnia. The permanent number only appeared permanent. This camp emptied and filled more quickly than the other. As Ustasha guards arrested by the authorities later on claim, not all people that came over Velebit, through Karlobag, and send to Pag, came to the camp. For example, records show that several groups were taken directly to Fornaža, to the slaughter. They did not even see the camp. This happened to enter the records by accident when some of Ustasha were interrogated. For how long the group from Šibuljin survived in Slana? What about people on whom there are no records? We know the names of people form the Šibuljin group, because all of their names and on a plaque in their village.

Lets pay attention to Italian documents, where medic Lieutenant Vittorio Finderle reports to his Command on the pit called Jamina (above village Mandalin under Velebit), where he says that “hundreds of victims were thrown in it, many of them people from the concentration camp on Pag.” (This quote is from the “Second Day” of his disinfection task).

[5] Radan is referring to the inaccuracies in the article “Hell in a Rocky Desert” which reports Oguić’s statement on the layout of the Slana camp.

[6] Radan refers to Oguić’s statement that there was an “office” there containing lists

[7] Jakov Dokazić, mason, must be that civilian, working on the construction, for which Dr. Radan claims to be the only one with human compassion. Dokazić was building the Ustasha administration building near the coast of Suha, and Dr. Radan was making lime and mortar. Both Dokazić and Radan could not see from this low terrain what was happening around them, let alone on the other coast, in Karlobag Slana or in the Serbian camp, in a dale southeast from them. According to the terrain configuration, there must have been a small barracks next to the building under construction, because Dokazić says he was sometimes locked up in the barracks so he could not see what was going on. Ustashas claim that when they were taking groups to be slaughtered they would leave clothes and other thing in the storehouse.

[8] Dr. Radan remembers him as Wyler, Zlatko Vajler, or Kajzer. Does it matter? The crime over this young man is important, a hero who refused to have his eyes covered, who turned to face Ustashas with dignity. His image will fly high over Slana!

[9] Ustasha’s surname was Mandekić

[10] – Ivan Devčić Pivac, Ustasha lieutenant colonel from (Devčić) Draga, born in Zagreb, trained as a driver, participated in the Ustasha coup in Brušani, commander of Slana Camp.
– Pavao Devčić “Žila”, Ustasha captain from Draga, deputy commander.
– Maks Očić, Sergeant, commander of the female camp in Metajna.
– Ivica Brkljačić, Ustasha major in the camp command.
– Ivica Matijević, captain in the camp command.
– Antun Remenar, captain and quartermaster.
– Maks Luburić, Ustasha lieutenant colonel, supervised and managed the destruction of Slana. At the end of the Jasenovac camp its commander and administrator.
– Ventura Bajak, Ustasha lieutenant colonel, from Poličnik near Zadar.
– Slavko Baljak, Ustasha captain.
– Engineer Milivoj Sažunić, clerk in the Ministry of Construction, built Slana, indicted for the pre-war murder of student Krsto Ljubičić at Zagreb University.
– Drago Horung, technical student from Slavonska Orahovica, alleged architect in Slana.
– Don Krsto Jelenić, priest in Poličnik, previously a chaplain in Pag.
– Don Ljubo Margaš, from Vinjerac, priest in Barbati on Pag.
– Lovro Zubović, medic from Karlobag, alleged doctor in Slana, one of many camp officers from Pag. Emir Jonić accused him directly to Pavelić for stealing gold from inmates.
– Fea Milković, sergeant major, on duty in Novalja.
– Ivan Predovan, Ustasha captain from Vrsi near Zadar.
– Mile Sjauš, Ustasha sergeant major from Tribanj.
– Mile Barišić, Ustasha 1st lieutenant from Pašman.
– Marko Didulica “Mile”
– Duje Pastočić from Pag.
– Josip Zubović from Kolani on Pag.
– Jadre Strika, Rudi Cupas, Frane Slivar, Jerko Fratrović, Ivan Kevrić, knife and pit experts.
During the slaughter in Slana, in Pag in the Ustasha headquarters these people from Pag worked as leaders:
– Juraj Crljenko, Ivo Borin Palčić, Šime Jurin Oguić, Vicko Herenda, ex priest Juraj Rucker, priest Don Joso Felicinović, Benko Pastorčić, Vjeko Falčini “Sudija” (judge), Ane Fabijanić Njakulin, confidant at Solana.
All of the above did not escape justice, but there are those who did, just as they escaped from this list.

[11] Šime Balen, “Pavelić”, published by Journalists Association of Croatia, 1952.

Source: Ante Zemljar – “Haron i sudbine”, 04. jul Beograd

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