Reading the order to the ship operator again

Datum objave: nedelja, 11 jula, 2010
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Veličina slova: A- A+

The date on the order to get “sand”, June 20, 1941 shows us that the coordination between Pag and Zagreb, i.e. between local Ustashas and those in the capital, was excellent. As we said before, the Jews in Zagreb were arrested on June 21 and brought to Slana on June 24. Oguić had sent the ship to get “sand” three days before.

Don’t be surprised because I mention these dates several times. These dates and activities that happened before the Jews in Zagreb were arrested tell us that this was an organised activity of the Ustasha headquarters in Pag, going forward full power while hiding it from the people who still did not have to know, not even skipper Maržić, which is obvious from the order, although he allegedly protested. Why did Maržić protest when the order reads that he was getting “sand”? It seems that he had protested because he knew he would go somewhere and not to get “sand”. Sand was the code which both the Camp Officer and “Pivac” knew very well. Ship “St. Joseph” was in the service of Ustashas from that day until the 24th, so three days later, when it probably transported the people who prepared the camp. It went to Karlobag to take the first inmates and transport them to SLANA.

Camp Officer Oguić, after the first agreement (or agreements) between all organisers standing over Felicinović’s map of Pag, waited for the day when he would prepare ships for the transport of prisoners. So that they would not stay behind in their duties, “Pivac” and Oguić prepared a ship and one armed Ustasha as a guard a day before the Jews in Zagreb were arrested. It was the beginning of the ship’s two-month journey.

While we are reading the order to get “sand” and statements by the owner of “St. Joseph” Brno Maržić and his son Šime, who told us something about how they transported people, inmates, victims, and how Ustashas murdered people in front of their eyes… We get the same but rather scarce information from other ship operators who were also ordered to be available to the Camp Officer to transport “sand” or god knows what.

The Camp Officer must have sent a lot of such and similar orders to transport “sand”, orders that were not saved and which could tell us about their nature and how ready the organisers were. Josip Maržić, a ship operator from Pag had to receive a similar order! But when they found themselves amidst all the wrongdoings, the Maržić family tried everything to get out of that evil. This requires a discussion about the status of the ship operators in order to remove any doubt from those who were involved against their will. While some of them, disgusted, tried to get away the others participated and boasted on how they were throwing the victims into the sea.

Our witness, ex inmate Dr. Radan shares his view on these people: “I managed to talk to a ship operator only when they were taking us back to Karlobag on our way to Gospić, the one who offered me cigarettes. Usually they were common thieves… who together with Ustashas robbed the people they transported… as soon as we got on the ship they started to search what little things we had. I remember having three hundred dinars hidden in my sock and they never found it. Whenever I took off my sock I would do it in the way they couldn’t see. I had that money until we came back to Gospić. I remember after the war I went with my wife to Pag to visit Slano. We were transported by a skipper who told us about the atrocities Ustashas committed. That ship had transported the inmates. Then I told Štefica (his wife, author’s note) not to believe anything he said because he was one of them… “

The interview with Jerolim Katalinić in “Novi list” (Sunday, September 15, 1985, page 7) reads:

“After Italy had capitulated, our authorities found in houses of the villages under Velebit chests filled with men’s and women’s nightwear, purses, pens… This was obviously a part of the looted property of the prisoners who had been transported to Pag via Karlobag. It is well-known that Ustashas robbed the inmates and later on sold those items or gave them to their relatives”.

“When we liberated Karlobag in 1943 we captured a number of Ustashas. During the interrogation we requested information on Slana, especially on Ustashas who were in charge of the slaughter. We then found out that Ivan Devčić “Pivac”, the Commander of Slana Camp, was completely illiterate. His brothers in knife told us he could not even sign his name. He would put a cross or a thumb print.”

He further says: “Ship ‘Vranjak’ which Ustashas used to transport inmates from Karlobag to Pag, was for sale after the war, but nobody wanted to buy it. There was nobody to buy this “tainted” ship. The people gave the ship and adequate name – the “Plague Ship”.

These statements confirm that not all ship operators acted in the same way. Those who were forced to do this work, tried to get away, so as we saw before there had been some who had stayed on the job for just a couple of days. Some of them did not resist the job, and some of them agreed with it because it made good profit. As witnesses say, there were those who behaved just like Ustashas, robbed people and perhaps helped with more serious crimes. Almost all of them had hats with the Ustasha badge and made hard impressions on the prisoners even when they were not violent. All of them say that in the cargo hold they would fit and squeeze from 500 to 600 people, considering the number of people coming every day to the camp this seems plausible, but few admit in what way and how many people were killed on their ships in front of their eyes and thrown overboard. They are reluctant to admit to those stories, as if they are scared to tell the truth even if they had nothing to do with it, which ships took the groups of people who were thrown into the sea with rocks, with bellies cut opened and similar. Such murders were confessed by the culprits, but only few ship operators told such stories.

One of the most consistent statements was given by Šime Maržić, son of Josip, born in Pag on 1921, owner of ship “Sv. Šime” (St. Simon). The statement was given on December 29, 1945 in the Public Prosecutor’s Office attached to the 1st Tank Division in Kranj:

“… In August 1941 I was mobilised by Ustashas to transport construction material for the political prisoners’ concentration camp Slana on Pag in my motor[35]. I do not remember on which day I started, but I remember doing it just for 12 days. After 12 day the manager of the state company, Vinko Ružić, got me out of that terrible job, saying that my motor had to transport oil from Metković to Pag. In the meantime another ship went to Metković to transport the same fuel so Ustashas mobilised me again. I resisted from taking on that job again so the Ustasha Commissioner in Pag, Lovro Zubović, took out his revolver and threatened to kill me. As I was not afraid of his threats and remained adamant that I would not transport the material and people to the concentration camp, he gave an ordered for me to be arrested and shot immediately. My relatives reacted and managed to bribe Zubović so he released me. I went to Metković and did not return to Pag until Ustashas left.”

“In those 12 days while I was mobilised by Ustashas I transported prisoners three times from Karlobag to Slana. I also transported construction material from Karlobag to Slana 4 to 5 times.”

“In the first group of prisoners I transported there were 150 Jews, Serbs, men, women, old people, children… Some men had their hands tied behind the backs.”

“While the prisoners were getting onboard the Ustashas beat them with rifle buts so blood was pouring out of their noses, mouths and other parts of the body. Then they would throw them from the main deck into the cargo hold. Many of the prisoners were injured in the process. As their hands were bound they could not stop the bleeding. The whole of my ship was covered with blood…”

“When we arrived to Slana, while the prisoners were disembarking one of them fell into a crack in the ground and sprained his ankle. As his hands were bound he could not get up or stand because of the pain. An Ustasha approached him and started beating him up so he would get up. Later on two prisoners picked him up and took him to the camp. The next day I asked an Ustasha, his name was Zvonko, what happened to the man with the sprained ankle and he told me the mad had been shot during the night…”

“During the second transport of prisoners the procedure was the same, but there were 130 people. I must note that the cargo deck can hold only 50 people, but the Ustashas put over a hundred.”

“The third time I transported only 50 people from Karlobag to Slana”.

“One time when I was docked at Slana, a Jewish man approached me saying how he was a member of a swimming club in Zagreb. He told me he was a champion swimmer. He was tall, with dark skin and well-built. He asked me how he could escape the camp and to show him the way. I told him and he tried to escape that night. In the morning Ustasha Zvonko told me that a prisoner had tried to escape the previous night and that he had been caught in the morning and shot immediately.”

[35] He means his ship, trabaccolo „Sv. Šime“.




Pomozite rad udruženja Jadovno 1941.

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