Rijeka Archives and Croatia Archives in Zagreb
I wanted to title this section YELLOW LEAVES OF DOCUMENTS, but something led me to name it: golden documents. Both of them would be suitable as I see it. It is difficult to keep a cool head when we read in them about all the horror. But it is necessary to keep a cool head, more then anything in order to rummage through the piles of (seemingly) unnecessary things and dig out the solid truth.
All of the documents that we came across were mostly written several years after the crime. All of the witnesses were registered either by the Commission (or commissions) for War Crimes or by investigators in jails. Both citizens and prisoners were not always telling the truth. Some of them sometimes exaggerated, while the others tried to lessen the overall impression in order to get away more easily.
The first groups gave their statements based on what they had experienced or just seen, or heard from someone else. They did not remember it correctly, twisted it with all the excitement, they added something or sometimes tried to please the interviewer and the public, to boast that they knew more than the others, let their weaknesses interfere, remembered only their own emotions and then developed memories in their own way, etc.
Then, those who gave statements or those who wrote them down were mostly uneducated, half literate, sometimes borderline literate using stereotypical words and sentences that say something completely different from what had really been said, something more grand, but turned out to be pathetic or incomplete due to lack of skill. The worst thing is that the interviewers were not skilled in their jobs and finding out the truth. Some documents contain statements by really reliable witnesses – guards, butchers, commanders, ship and boat owners, sailors – but their records are so pathetically superficial! One of the characteristic of average interviewers is that they are not able to give the real image or essence of what is being described, because they react guided by their own moral judgement and believe this is all they need to do. And we need data independent from their moral attitude, brick by brick, which these interviewers usually lack.
The others, who found themselves in the hands of justice, it was in their interest to say as less as possible and gave statements that portrayed them as innocents and uninformed. They prefer to speak in general terms, so everything you say is already known so their story (a hoax in fact) looks real to some people. But behind is the true reality that we did not reach in time due to our clumsiness! They turned tricks on us!
This sad conclusion still does not mean that most of the crime has not been revealed. On the contrary, most of them paid for what they did and a part of their confessions are in this documentation. We have to give credit to the interviewers! We need to mention that the documents concerning interrogation of Ustashas, butchers and rapists arrested in Pag and Novalja in 1943 are completely lost and that only witnesses remember their statements, but not all of them lived to see the liberation.
All of the documents that we refer to in this file, sometimes just partially, are fully available as minutes, reports or statements recorded into archives where any citizen can use them and verify our judgement based on them and comments we will give.
The position we are in when we diligently search for the horrifying reality of SLANA is best cleared through numerous testimonies, although dry and bloodless, that have been verified with comparisons and become a treasury of irrefutable evidence of horror and evil that has rarely been seen in our century. The truth about SLANA camp is unfortunately so rich in evidence that even a mistake could not diminish it! We will go through this treasury for which we thank the conscious citizens and people that made first records, and whom we did not have the time to mention in this book:
“I remember well, when we were on our way to Karlobag, Don Joso Felicinović and one Ustasha that built barracks, employed by the Karlobag Municipality as a forester, by the name of Ivan I think, he has a scar under his chin, they disembarked and went together to Slana camp. Other people were not permitted to go there…”
From the records of Ivan Valentić, son of Božo, from Pag, manager on the ship “Ston” who transported water and post from Pag to the camp. This record was made January 8, 1946 at the Local People’s Commission of Pag.
“… On that occasion I saw that those human corpses were all dressed in their clothes, but previously had been stripped by Ustashas from all valuables such as jewellery and money, because none of the corpses had rings, watches or necklaces, and female corpses did not have earrings. My friends and I heard from people from Pag that some of the Ustasha leaders walked around Pag carrying various valuable bracelets from wrists to their elbows, and that is why those corpses had no valuable objects on them. While 35 Italian medical troops searched the corpses, allegedly to find ids which they destroyed later on, they examined the teeth of the corpses, since their mouths were wide open, and then knocked out with rocks all silver and golden teeth and put them in a crate. After the extensive search and looting, Italians carefully washed all the teeth with spirit and then divided them amongst themselves.”
From a record by Pavle Lovrić from Crikvenica, engineer on a ship that transported the Italian medical group who went to Slana to burn corpses. The record was made on January 17, 1946 at the Crikvenica People’s Commission, number 173/46.
“… One male corpse, I don’t remember his name, had in a pocked a piece of red paper, just like a summons, which had been issued by Gospić Municipality, to come to the municipal building together with his son to enrol him in school. On another male corpse was an id of engineer Ivan Brkljačić, working for the state railway company in Karlovac.
“There was one sad corpse of a mother tied with four children. I could see how one child bit its mother on the thigh in its pain and died holding her.” Pavao Lovrić, Crikvenica People’s Board, number 173/46.
Record number 185/56-V, date January 17, 1946, made in the office of the Country War Crimes Committee.
Based on a written summons from January 15, 1946, with the above number, Hugo Ribarić-Fišer, photographer from Zagreb, age 37, married, father of one, no vice, now working in a state film company in Zagreb, living at the Preradovićev Square 4/VI, after warned to his duty to tell the truth, gives the following statement:
“In late 1942, I do not remember the month, my friend Vinko Car, who worked under alias “Katjuša” as a member of the County Committee of the Communist Party, brought me some original photos from the camp on island Pag.
Those photographs showed crimes being committed over inmates of Slana camp on Pag by Ustashas, who ran the camp. There were six original photos that needed to be reproduced and delivered to the People’s Liberation Army. I remember that amongst those photographs was one showing an Ustashas holding his victim in one hand while stabbing him with a knife through the neck with another. Another one showed an Ustashas standing next to a pit stabbing his victims who fell in the pit. Also, I remember one showing Ustashas standing in a pit over the murdered victims, naked and holding in their mouths knives with blood dripping from the blades. All of these photos and negatives were destroyed in my shop in Crikvenica by Germans after I joined the Partisans in 1943.
So, I do not have these photos anymore, but perhaps comrade Vinko Car “Katjuša” could. He is now the President of the Town or County People’s Liberation Committee in Crikvenica.
Maybe you could find the photos at comrade Petar Bačić’s who was a municipal treasurer in Karlobag, and who also joined the Partisans later on, but I don’t know where he is now. I assume he is back in Karlobag.
I remember seeing those photos in 1944 in the archives of the ZAVNOBIH (National Anti-Fascist Council of the People’s Liberation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) photo group in Topusko and in Slunj, and I also know that we got those photos from the Central Committee of Agitprop. These photographs with other material came from a bunker in Javornica.”
Ivan Lončarić from Metajna gave his statement on February 15, 1945 (number 3) at the County People’s Liberation Committee of Pag (on liberated territory):
“… There were 11 ditches. They were 50 metres long. They were spreading left and right by 20 metres. They were 4 metres deep. There were ditches also on other locations: location “Točilo” behind Teklić. … near the cave in Gusta Draga (vale)… near the upper gate (called leša), in upper Slana (Furnaža)… on the flat land under Široka Glavica… in the vale behind Mrke Stijene (Dark Rocks)… in Ravna Draga at the lower side next to the sea and Furnaža… in Furnaža near the cave… on Malin near the water… on the Zaglava vale (Metajna)… under Zaglava on the beach where they dragged them by their legs, arms or hair even over rocks and in many cases threw them alive into the sea…”
On January 9, 1946 Jela Lončarić stated in front of the same Committee the following:
After sundown we were not allowed to go outside. Before we went to bed Maks Očić, who was born in Slovenia, came from the two villas and told his sergeant that one woman from the camp told him: “Ustashas why are you so boastful, Russia is not in ruins”. And two men went to get her and they probably killed her the same night, took her to the Barbat woods and killed her. We saw them taking her all maimed across the road carrying pickaxes and shovels. Later I saw that Maks Očić all covered in blood coming to our house. I warned him that he did a bad deed. He wanted us to wash his clothes, but when nobody wanted to do it he washed himself in the sea. I saw how took them to work in the village every day and I tried to give them something without Ustashas noticing, because we were not allowed to. I don’t know anything else.”
In the record number 1362/45, Petar Kustić from Metajna, farmer, age 58, gave his statement to the same Committee.
“In 1941 during summer, they transported in boats Serbian and Jewish women several times a night and put them in the villa of Dr. Triplat and another house outside the village. At first these women were free to come and get milk, even the first day they arrived. They would also come to get water at the water tank. At first they said they were fine, that Metajna is a small Zagreb for them, but their freedom was short lived. They were watched by the guards and Ustashas did not let them get in contact with the people. They came and left. The guards did not let us pass on the road next to the villa and at night we were not allowed outside our houses, nor were we able to get in contact with them. People say that three of these women were buried in the woods next to Luka. After the Assumption of Mary there were no more people in the villa. I must stress that before that, before the Assumption of Mary we were not allowed to go outside our houses. We certainly tried to help these women and make their lives easier.”
In the record number 1350/45 Tonica Lončarić, daughter of Ivan, age 23, joined this testimony.
“In June 1941, Ustasha Joža Horvat, from Veliki Zdenci near Bjelovar, working in Metajna as a scribe, told me once that some unknown Orthodox woman had been killed one night and then buried not far from Metajna. As far as I know this Ustasha Horvar was sorry for that woman. He later on was transferred to the camp in Slana, and even later he joined the Partisans, and contacted me from Bjelovar.
He told me how they forced him to slaughter people, but he could not do it, but rather he brought food to poor prisoners, even sharing his own meals.”
Witness Jakov Dokozić according to his job description probably worked on building the Ustasha administration building, which was never finished and still visible today, just above Suha beach. He confirms the same firing squad execution that several witnesses also mentioned.
“… I worked in one part of the camp in Slana for about 3 weeks in late July and early August 1941. With several workers and with the help of prisoners who brought building material, we were building a house which was allegedly to be a jail or something like that… It happened several times that all of us workers had to leave work and get inside a barracks, I guess not to see columns of people followed by Ustashas who were going to slaughter or into the unknown… One day, us workers were called and forced by Sergeant Šljivar to watch an execution of a Jew who tried to escape during the night, and two Serbs. The execution was conducted within couple of days near the camp. Six Ustashas fired from rifles in men’s chest. Since one man was not killed instantly, he got up and said “I’m wounded”, and then Maks Luburić, an Ustasha commissioner, approached him and shot him from his submachine gun until the man died…”
Witness Vilko Markovina, son of Josip, age 47, Roman Catholic, Croat, land owner, born in Novalja, warned that he should speak the truth gives the following statement:
“Right after Italians excavated the corpses in 1941 they burned them on pyres. They were the corpses from graves in Furnaža and other sites around the camp. I saw the corpses while they were burning. They were well preserved. On female corpses I could see stab marks from knives into the bellies. The female corpses were mostly naked. Both male and female corpses were huddled. The men were mostly dressed, but they also had on them deep stab marks, probably from knives. I had an impression that the corpses had been cramped into the pits or thrown alive, because they were huddled in that way. There were corpses of children mixed with the others. I remember well one woman with nail polish who had a wound on the right side of her body around her stomach. On the northern side of the gully above the camp I saw several individual graves that still had not been excavated. Around the pits I found a large amount of empty shell casings from Ustasha rifles. Next to a pit on Furnaža I saw a pile of various ids. I did not take any, because I thought that the Italian soldiers had forgotten them and would be back. I remember quite well one id issued by Ustasha authorities, belonging to an engineer, an Orthodox Christian. I also remember an id belonging to a teacher. I can say that the corpses, although had been buried for a month or two, were well preserved, waxy looking, almost mummified.”
County War Crimes Commission, Rijeka, June 24, 1945, number 1351/45 Slana
Vilko Markovina (signature)
The same Commission recorded in Petračani (March 24, 1945) a statement by Lovro Stanišić from Volarice, Sveti Juraj municipality:
“In March 1942 I was forcefully mobilised to Domobrani and sent to village Švica to my unit. One evening I talked to Mato Matijević, son of Luka, from Prizna, who was an Ustasha in Slana and he said he was horrified by the crimes that Ustashas had done in this camp. He told me how he had been on a guard post when a group of people went from one vale to another, where the slaughter was happening. Among them was a young girl, allegedly a daughter of some ex Yugoslav officer. Not far from his post the girl escaped from the vale where the slaughter was and started shouting “Please don’t kill me Ustashas, I will give you my virginity.” Not far from Mato she came across another Ustasha while running (since Mato Matijević had not stopped her) and he stabbed her in the chest with his knife and killed her. I am not accusing Mato Matijević, who did not stop her, but I think it would be a good idea to question him, because he was a guard there he will probably tell you about other cases from this camp. Mate Matijević is now at home in Prizna.”
We could choose dozens of these sad sheets while going through the archives we mention in this book. All of them tie us to the boulder of Slana and Furnaža. Here we will present to you integral statements by two witnesses, Ante Fabijanić, son of Mate, student of economics at the time, today the Financial Director of “Export drvo” (wood) Zagreb, and Ivan Bilić, Duje from Vranica, lighthouse keeper on Pag at the time. The day of the visit to Slana described by Fabijanić was our group visit with several comrades from Pag, who were Partisans later on. I believe that Bilić was the first one to inform the authorities in Pag (Italians at the time) what happened in Slana. He says in his report that he had to go to the lighthouse every day according to his duty (which is close to the camp) and that he informed the authorities personally as soon as the camp was disbanded and he saw that there were no Ustashas in Slana. He spread the news and Italians rushed themselves to conduct an investigation. In accordance with his duty, Bilić was with Italians in Slana all the time. He was semi literate so besides of materials that were destroyed, there are also things he saw but could not explain.