From the Editor’s Foreword
The Independent State of Croatia (1941-1945) came to being on the ideological basis of the Ustasha movement – the extreme wing of Croat nationalism, which was a poor copy of Fascism and Nazism, with strong clerical tinge. The ideological basis of the Independent State of Croatia (ISC) presupposed the creation of the “pure Croat living-space” which would enable the existence of the “pure Croat nation”. The prerequisite for that was the biological destruction of the Serbs, Jews and Gypsies who were declared “the greatest enemies of the Croat people”, as well as the destruction of ideological and political opponents within the Croat nation itself. The realization of this program was put to practice by mass pogroms and in accordance with a series of “racial laws” which outlawed the Jews as non-Aryans, but also the Serbs, who made up one third of the total population, as “disturbing factor”.
The Croat Ustasha state, all its agencies, from the Ustasha organization, political and military-police organs to the state administration, juridical and other organs, were engaged in organized genocide. The best example is the Gospić group of concentration camps (Gospić, Jadovno, Pag), better known in the historiography as Jadovno – after the camp and the largest place of execution set up by a state organ – the police administration. The Serbs and Jews were brought with the aid of state, military, police and party organs from the whole territory of the ISC to be destroyed there. Unlike some later camps, these didn’t even feature the title »working camp«. They were meant for destruction alone. They were set up and fulfilled greater part of their function even before any kind of resistence of the »disloyal« population, which is an obvious proof of the intent to destroy certain ethnic or religious communities, this being an important element in the definition of genocide. This system of camps and places of execution in the very beginning of the ISC’s existence, before the armed resistence, marks the beginning of the planned and executed genocide on the Serbian people and the Holocaust of the Jews.
Jadovno is the forerunner of the Jasenovac death camp system, the largest in the Yugoslav territory. The liquidation of the camp, due to the reoccupation of the 2nd Italian zone of occupation, meant also the liquidation of the inmates. Due to the shortness of time and the interventions of the occupation powers, part of the inmates wasn’t liquidated but sent to other camps – mostly to Jasenovac. It was they who were the first inmates there.
There is no monograph about the Jadovno-Pag system of camps, and there are few works with this topic. This is the first scholarly work which deals systematically, based on research, with this segment of the ordeal of the Serbian and Jewish peoples in a period of time that is comparatively brief but large in terms of numbers, the ways of and reasons for suffering.
The work of Dr Đuro Zatezalo about the system of Croat Ustasha concentration camp Jadovno in 1941 is the fruit of many years of research work of the author up to 1991. It comprises: The Study with the list of identified victims and the Collection of Documents. On the basis of documents the author proves in the study that over 40.000 people were killed in this camp during four months of its existence. Almost 95% of the victims were the Serbs, almost 5% the Jews and less than 0.3% Croats and other anti-Fascists. An integral part of the study is the list of names with identification data of 10.688 victims which the author managed to identify until 1990. The Serbs make up 92%. Out of that over 10% were children. The Jews make up over 7%, some 2% among them being children. Somewhat less than 0.8% were Croats and other anti-Fascists. Among the murdered 74 priests of the Serbian Orthodox Church (two bishops among them) are listed by name. The bulk of the murdered were thrown into carst pits.
The Collection of the Documents practically confirms the data from the Study. The author presents documents about the legalization of the crime, about internment and perpetration of crimes which prove the intent of the Croat Ustasha state to destroy part of its population on account of its national, racial or religious affiliation. It also contains testimonies given to the Commissariat for Refugees in Belgrade in 1941 and 1942, statements and testimonies given before the Commission for Establishing the Crimes of the Occupants and Their Abettors 1944-1946, as well as a group of documents of Italian origin.
Fulfilling its mission of keeping the lasting memory of the victims of the genocide and the Holocaust, the Museum of Genocide Victims is engaged in collecting, processing, preserving, researching and presenting to the public of data and materials about the genocide against the Serbian people in its ethnic and state territory, about the Holocaust of the Jews and the genocide of the Gypsies, as well as the human losses and suffering of members of all nationalities in the Yugoslav territory in the wars of the 20th century. Publication of this work is part of the mission of the Museum.
The editor Jovan Mirković
From the Author’s Foreword
These two books about the “Jadovno” system of the Croat Ustasha concentration camp are the fruit of private initiative and my still lively childhood memories of the trains with cattle wagons which, coming from all parts of the ISC, speeded through my native village of Donje Dubrave in the direction of Gospić. These books came into being from respect for thousands of innocent victims – men, women and children – whose bloody heads I still see crying for water with somber voices through iron grates of the overcrowded cattle wagons.
However, these books wouldn’t materialize if I didn’t enjoy the whole-hearted support of the institutions in which I researched the source materials for years: in archives, museums, historical institutes, libraries, organizations of the WWII veterans and private collections. I collected particularly valuable data by visiting many places, towns, villages, hamlets in which I found the few surviving victims. The statements of the perpetrators, preserved in the court documents from their trials, as well as speleological finds made by the Italian Fascist army already in 1941 as well as those made after 1945. All these are the truthful witnesses of the genocide committed on the Serbian and Jewish peoples in the craggy mountains of Velebit and on the island of Pag in the first days and months of the existence of the ISC.
The content of these volumes is the fruit of the research work during the period of the time until 1991. It came about gradually, through comparative research of the history of the ISC, of the people’s liberation war against Fascism, the participation of the Serbs and Croats in it and in the genocide against the Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and anti-Fascists regardless of their nationality.
The Jadovno camp was one of the first concentration camps in the Independent State of Croatia, meant for destruction of people on religious, ethnic and racial grounds, as well as of all ideological opponents.
The fact that the organized terror was thoroughly prepared in advance is proven by the first arrests, manhandling and tortures of the prominent Serbs in Gospić and other places already on April 11, 1941, the first day after the proclamation of the ISC. Incarceration and destruction of people in concentration camps started even before this system was “legalized” on November 25, 1941. Many Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and anti-Fascist Croats had already been murdered in the cruelest way, whereas some camps had already been disbanded by then. Thus the system of the Croat Ustasha concentration camps Jadovno also had to be disbanded because of the Italian reoccupation of the demilitarized zone that began on August 15, 1941 and was caused by the growth of the uprising in Lika, Kordun, Banija and Gorski kotar. The inmates who were not killed before the arrival of the Italian Army were transported to Jastrebarsko between August 19 and 21, and then to the Kruščica camp. However, the majority of the survivors were sent to the newly set-up Jasenovac camp.
»Jadovno« is a symbolic place, a place of death, horror, terror, sighs and memories. But »Jadovno« is also a place about which not a single complete work has been published in over 60 years. Out of all Croat Ustasha camps, the least was written about the »Jadovno« camp system, so the least is known about it. The inmates took the truth about this Ustasha death camp to bottomles pits and abyses with them.
The contents of this book doesn’t elucidate the theoretical genocide, but rather exposes the facts about it, about how men, women and children were captured at their homes, in the fields, at their working places, in churches, during funerals, at schools, on trips, about how they have been tortured and killed in most atrocious ways, just because they belonged to another faith, nationality or for espousing different ideological affiliation. The contents speak about crimes on newly-born children, on grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters whose voice of terror echoed helplessly for days from the pits of Velebit and from the execution places on the island of Pag.
In my years-long work on collecting and researching of the data I tried to present as many facts and fates as possible which had been unknown heretofore, which elucidate the tragic historical reality from many angles. I tried to present the tragedy of innocent women, men, children, individual and mass horrible fates which left deep marks in the authentic written sources and in the memories of the surviving witnesses.
At the same time, I wanted to point out at the importance of coming to terms with the past, but also at assiduous attempts of some in our times to cover up, diminish or revise the dark pages of our history. The truth about the death camp Jadovno was supressed, evaded and passed over in silence, and oblivion is as horrible as the crime itself.
With the contents of these books I accuse no-one and I defend no-one for the committed crimes. I only wanted to side with the victims who are not able to tell the truth for themselves.
The picture we have today of the Ustasha Jadovno concentration camp complex is more than inhuman. It shows only to the few who accidentally come across its traces all that wasn’t done for years as sign of respect for the victims of the genocidal crime committed in the first days of the ISC’s existence in 1941, before the armed resistence and the uprising against Fascism and that criminal Quisling creation. Already in 1941 the Ustasha were destroying traces of their unheard of crimes. They covered the places of execution with stones, logs, earth and sometimes with concrete. The little which remained after them was destroyed somewhat later, in 1945 and in the following years. Even the little that was modestly marked during the socialist period, above all at the initiative of the descendants of the killed and with minimal financial aid, was destroyed in 1991 and later.
However, the bowels of the bottomless pits and the places of executions with remnants of the dead remained indestructible and indelible. No-one exhumed, counted and decently burried them, because it was said »in the interest of brotherhood and unity of the peoples and national minorities it shouldn’t be done; let their bones rest in peace where they are.«
The people of good will will be glad at the publication of the contents of these books 65 years after the committed genocide. This author will also be glad if the system of the Ustasha concentration camps Jadovno is alotted the place in our historiography it deserves, and if these publications are used by the present and future generations to struggle and to work so that such crimes against innocent people, regardless of their faith, national or political affiliation never happen anywhere again.
The author Dr Đuro Zatezalo
Problems of Research and Remarks About the Utilized Source Materials | Top of Page
The basic problems in the research of the Ustasha crimes on Velebit and Pag in 1941 stem from the time of the research (1982-1991) and the time the crimes were committed (April-August 1941), the spread of the territory from where the victims were brought, the availability of the pertinent documents and the sensitivity of the topic.
The Jadovno concentration camp marked the beginning, and Jasenovac the continuation of the program of the destruction of the Serbs, Jews and Gypsies in the Independent State of Croatia. It was set up already in April 1941 and it was entrusted with the task of mass liquidation of the Serbs and Jews in the pits of Velebit and the places of execution on the island of Pag. In terms of the monstrosity of the crimes and the numbers of victims, the Jadovno concentration camp can be compared with no other in the ISC except for the death camp Jasenovac, although it was in operation only for the first four months of the newly established Independent State of Croatia.
The author dated his research to the 1982-1991 period, and the events April through August 1941.
During the last 50 years (the manuscript was finished in 1991 – author’s note) these crimes were not discussed openly, let alone written about. Already during the war, those who would mention them, and particularly those who wrote about them in the partisan press, were admonished (to put it mildly) by the leading men of the Communist Party of Croatia not to write or speak about them. Allegedly, it could adversely affect the growth of the people’s liberation movement since presenting the facts about Ustasha crimes “disturbed the feelings of the Croat people” and stirred hatred between the brotherly Serbian and Croat peoples. An example is known of the Serbian Communists and intellectuals from Kordun, members of the Propaganda Department of the District Committee of the Communist Party of Croatia for Karlovac, who had written about the massacres of the Serbs in the partisan press, and who were put before a partisan court-martial on July 13 and 14, 1944 and sentenced to death.
For these and other reasons, in the past 50 years the topic of crimes wasn’t systematically researched and in an organized way, as it should have been done in the interest of the historical truth. Nor were the documents collected, ordered and processed in an organized manner.
The traces of the crimes were being destroyed at the very time they were being committed. The Ustasha were murdering the Serbs and Jews without indictment, trial, minutes and without lists of the killed. Even in places where such lists had been made, they were subsequently destroyed. Apart from destroying the documents, the Ustasha also covered and pored concrete over part of the pits on Velebit already in mid-August 1941, whereas the Italians exhumed the dead Serbs and Jews from mass graves and burned the bodies. In that way the number of victims in those places of executions was covered up with the aim of diminishing it, as is still being done on purpose in some publications nowadays. Not even after the liberation from Fascism, and even to this day, were human skeletons in the pits counted, and even the pits themselves remained unmarked.
The strategy of organized oblivion prevented the truth about the genocide of the Croat Ustasha against the Serbian and Jewish peoples from becoming known. It is not a big step from this silence to denial that the mass crimes ever happened. The forgers of the truth used the fact that the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as a state never truthfully, by using documents, established human losses, the victims of the war and genocide of 1941-1945. The representative of the “revisionist school”, Franjo Tuđman and his close collaborators, purposefully diminished the number of victims, denying them even in such cases in which they had been listed by name, as for instance in the Serbian Orthodox church in Glina, in Hrvatski Blagaj, in the Serbian Orthodox church in Kolarić near Vojnić, in the Serbian Orthodox church in Sadilovac, in Ivanović jarak, in Banski Grabovac, in the village of Prkos and in many other places of execution. For Tuđman’s book “Trackless Regions of Historical Reality” there were no mass murders on Velebit, in the Jadovno camp, and hardly any in the Jasenovac camp.
It would be extremely difficult to reconstruct today, half a century after, all the mass crimes and everything that happened, particularly since the researchers who deal with this topic are subject to psychological pressure and even death threats.
Another problem is posed by the broad territory from which the victims were transported every day by train, trucks, drawn carts or on foot in the direction of Gospić and farther to Velebit and Pag. Even if the archival documents had been entirely preserved, in view of the large territory, it would have been difficult to describe all the atrocities.
Documents and sometimes even lists of victims sent to the Jadovno camp can be found in archival institutions throughout Yugoslavia. However, the problem is that the documents are scattered in many places, in various institutions, and for greater part unsystematized, to boot.
Nevertheless, the documents preserved provide the researcher with sufficient possibilities to depict the crimes. These are the archival funds of the ISC documents: Administration of Public Order and Security, counties, district authorities, various commands, Ustasha, Army and Gendarmerie units and others. Plans for extermination of the Serbs and Jews can be gleaned from them, the ways they were organized and put into practice, treatment of the arrested, places where the victims were murdered, the number of the arrested and, in some documents, the lists of names of the captured, as well as the time of their transportation from certain places, even the numbers of trains and wagons which carried them to the camps. The names of the Ustasha who captured the victims, beat them and escorted them to Gospić are adduced in these documents.
We learn the precise data from the documents of the Commission for Establishing the Crimes of the Occupiers and Their Abettors. Details about arrests, torture, suffering during transport to the places of executions and about murders are to be found there. We learn about the places from which the victims were transported as well as about the time, and by comparing them with the Ustasha documents, we arrive at reliable sources. We also obtain the data from the survivors, who speak as eyewitnesses in their statements about all these atrocities. In the cases where there are no such witnesses, since whole villages were destroyed, no data about the disappearance of the villagers can be found in the documents of the Commission.
In the documents of the commissions for war crimes of the republics, autonomous provinces, regions, districts and communes reports can also be found which were written at the end of the war and right after it on the basis of the reports of the eyewitnesses who had escaped from the places of executions, camps, wagons, drawn carts, as well as statements of eyewitnesses and criminals made already during the war or during trials, with the documents to that effect still being preserved in numerous court and police archives.
Important information are to be found in the lists of war damages, such as those about the people taken away from certain villages, places or towns in the direction of Gospić and Velebit. First and family names with shorter biographic data are adduced in some of them.
Apart from these documents, valuable are the minutes made in 1941 and 1942 in the Commissariat for Refugees and Migrants in Belgrade. These are statements by the Serbs who managed to escape from the ISC who had witnessed crimes in their villages and places. From their statements, which were checked on the spot, we learn about the time their fathers, sisters, brothers and fellow citizens were arrested, about the treatment of the arrested and the deported by the Ustasha, about their first and family names and brief biographical data.
Among the statements given before the Commission for War Crimes, there are some of the inmates of Jadovno and Slana who were lucky enough to survive the liquidation of the Jadovno concentration camp complex and the ordeal of other camps in the ISC. In them, we find the names of the captured and the killed, numerical data about the Serbs and Jews captured in certain places, towns and villages, we learn about the number of people brought and killed in the camp during the eyewitnesses’ stay in the camp – which, to be sure, is based on personal estimates of the witnesses. That means, their testimonies answer not only how many people were killed daily, but also how they were tortured and killed.
When these statements are compared with documents and other statements, given also by the Ustasha, as well as with numerous estimates put forward in the relevant literature, and with the documents made within the war veterans’ organizations, summing all up, we may arrive at the number of the victims who had perished in the Ustasha Jadovno concentration camp complex during the less than four months of its existence.
Numerous pits on Velebit also have the importance equaling that of testimonies about the Ustasha crimes. Although unexplored (except for the Šaranova jama which was explored first by Zagreb and then by Belgrade speleologists and the Jamina pit which was explored by speleologists from Zadar) these pits can be related to the existing documents which testify to the massivity and cruelty of the committed crimes.
Some documents about the Jadovno camp can also be found in the Collections of Documents and Data About the People’s Liberation War of the Yugoslav Peoples, in volumes II, III, IV and V, as well as in the collections of documents about the Jasenovac concentration camp published by Aleksandar Miletić. There are several Italian documents which depict in detail the “sanitary action” of the Italian Army which, exhumed and burned the corpses on pyres after the liquidation of the camp on Pag. Some German documents speak about the crimes on Velebit.
Because of the above-mentioned research problems, it is impossible nowadays to make a complete list of names of the victims of this camp. It is impossible to establish the names of all the people who were thrown into one of the 32 pits. It is also impossible to draw a line between the victims from Pag and those from Velebit or those from the vicinity of Gospić. There are many problems with the names which appear in the lists of those sent to places of execution on Velebit, because it is not possible to confirm for each and every individual that he or she was killed there, since some of those who were sent to Gospić stayed alive after these camps were disbanded, and were then sent to other camps and killed there.
The available archival documents, coupled with other testimonies such as the statements of those who escaped from the places of executions and the works published up to now, make it possible to estimate the number of people killed at the Jadovno concentration camp complex. On the basis of the list of names in the appendix of this book which was made by evaluating numerous sources, it can be established that the Serbs were the most numerous among the murdered in this camp, followed by the Jews and several Croats.
The Independent State of Croatia – the State of Genocide and Concentration Camps
The Ustasha organization, the radical wing of the Croat nationalism, had its ideological roots in the Party of Rights of Ante Starčević and the Pure Party of Rights of Josip Frank. In exile in Italy, with the aid of Mussolini’s regime Ante Pavelić founded the »Ustasha Revolutionary Organization«. He set up centres in Italy, Hungary, Belgium, North and South America and Germany, as well as training camps in Italy and Hungary. The aims, the organizational structure and execution of the acticvities of the Ustasha organization prove its terrorist caracter. The best known terrorist action in which the Ustasha took part was the murder of King Alexander I Karađorđević in Marseilles in 1934, when French foreign minister Barthou was also assassinated.
An important role in spreading and strengthening the Ustasha organization in Croatia was played by the collaboration with clerical elements, in particular with the “Catholic Action” and its organizations the “Crusaders” and others, instilling in the young generation the spirit of extreme nationalism, jingoism, racism, ethnic and religious hatred, separatism and revenge. By infiltrating the Civic and Peasants’ Guards, the para-military organizations of Vlatko Maček’s Croatian Peasants’ Party, they gained a force that, together with the “Crusaders”, would later serve as the basis for the creation of the armed forces of the ISC – the Ustasha Military, the Army and the Gendarmerie – in the days of the occupation of Yugoslavia. It would play a particularly important role in the disarming of the Yugoslav Army and in the setting-up of the Ustasha government.
The Independent State of Croatia (1941-1945) was proclaimed on April 10, 1941, after the occupying forces entered Zagreb. Zagreb welcomed the German 14th Armored Division with jubilation. The German war correspondent Gerhard Emskefer wrote:” The German troops are entering Zagreb…which welcomed us as no soldiers in a foreign country had ever been welcomed before…”
The entire action of the secession of Croatia and the setting-up of the Independent State of Croatia was orchestrated by the Germans, who were not convinced that Vlatko Maček, the undisputed leader of the strongest political force in Croatia, the Croat Peasants’ Party, would meet their requirements. At the same time, Pavelić was regarded with certain reserve due to close ties of the Ustasha with the Fascist Italy and the commitments he had made to it. The side favoring the Ustasha prevailed and the action to force Maček to withdraw was successful. On the same day, after Slavko Kvaternik had proclaimed the Croat state on the Zagreb Radio, in the name of the leader of the Ustasha organization Pavelić who was still in Italy, Maček’s statement was read. In it he called on the people to obey the new authorities and he put the whole infrastructure of the Croatian Banovina at Ustasha’s disposal.
The Roman Catholic Church in Croatia welcomed the setting-up of the Ustasha state. A significant number of Catholic priests took active part in the Ustasha movement and massacres of the Serbian population. The arch-bishop of Zagreb Alojzije Stepinac issued a circular on April 28, 1941, welcoming the ISC, not only as »the son of the Croat people, but even more as representative of the Holy Church«, calling on the Roman-Catholic clergy to take part in »the sublime work on the preservation and furthering of the ISC«.
Stepinac was certainly not unacquainted with the fact that the Ustasha concentration camps had already been set up and that the Ustasha were already arresting Serbs and Jews en masse, even before he sent his circular on the occasion of the founding of the ISC to his bishops, stating it was »a long dreamed of and wished for ideal«. Thus 504 Serbs from Grubišino Polje were packed into 30 cattle wagons and sent to Zagreb, and then to Koprivnica, only to be murdered in the concentration camp in Jadovno on the mount Velebit. On April 11, 1941 arrests started in Zagreb, the detainees being imprisoned Zagreb or sent to Koprivnica and Kerestinac. Serbian churches and Jewish synagogues were torn down (the synagogue in Osijek was torn down already on April 14). In the village Gudovac, near Bjelovar 195 Serbs were slaughtered en masse on April 27. Until the end of April 1941, 429 Serbs from the regions of Kordun, Banija and Lika were killed. Mass slaughters in Hrvatski Blagaj in Kordun on May 6-9 were to follow, when the Ustasha killed 525 Serbs without using fire arms. 340 Serbs from Glina and the vicinity were killed in the village of Prekopa in Banija on May10/11.
The Ustasha movement strove to create the “pure Croat living space” that would make possible the “existence of the pure Croat nation”. The prerequisite for this was the extermination of the Serbs and Jews who were declared the “greatest enemies of the Croat people” for whom there was “no room in Croatia”. They were joined by the Gypsies, as a non-Arian, lower race. In order for these goals to be achieved, an “internal purification” was needed, i.e. all those Croat and Muslim elements who, due to their “un-Croat behaviour” were a “stain on the body of the pure Croat nation”, were to be destroyed. The Jews had to wear “Ž« (Židov = Jew) signs, whereas in some places the Serbs had to wear blue armbands with the letter “P” (pravoslavac = Orthodox Christian). The Zagreb police ordered on May 7, 1941 that the Serbs and Jews were to move out of the best neighborhoods. Their freedom of movement was curtailed (from 8 AM to 6 PM). Entering or leaving of the city precinct of Zagreb was prohibited to persons of the Orthodox faith. They were forbidden to use public transport, public baths etc.
By a number of laws, the authorities strove to legalize the terror they have already been practicing. During the first three months of the ISC’s existence, some 20 laws were passed that legalized racial and confessional inequality and terror over citizens, and several court-martials were set up: 10 “extraordinary people’s courts”, 10 “court-martials” 12 “mobile court-martials” and 2 “grand extraordinary people’s courts”. Among many other decrees, the one of July 18, on the name of religion stands out. It abolished the name “Serbian Orthodox faith”, renaming it “Greek-Eastern faith” instead. The name “Greek-Easterners” was officially used to designate the Serbs. The Cyrillic alphabet and the confession were prohibited, the name of the people, the language and the faith were taken away – all these being phases in the process of the destruction of the Serbian people in the ISC.
The propaganda campaign promoting the Ustasha views on the “Serbian and Jewish question” in the press, on the radio, from pulpits, as well as in the speeches of numerous officials, led to the increase of arrests, tortures, incarcerations and murders of the Serbs and Jews. Parallel with mass murders, the Serbian population was subjected to forcible conversions to Roman-Catholicism and expulsions. The Archbishop’s Board in Zagreb took active part in conversions of the Orthodox population, issuing special rules and instructions for action of the Roman-Catholic clergy in the ISC (published in the Katolički list on May 15, 1941). Massacres of even those who agreed to be converted, prove just how this “voluntary conversions” looked like. Thus, for example, the Ustasha rounded up 1.564 people from the districts of Vrginmost, Glina and Bosnaska Dubica under the pretext of conversion, took them to Glina and slaughtered them between July 27 and August 3, 1941 in the Serbian Orthodox church there. The Serbs from the villages of Sadilovac near Slunj, Šibuljina near Karlobag, Kolarić near Vojnić and in many other places, suffered the same fate. Crimes were turned into the normal government system. Due to sizeable Serbian population in Croatia, the crimes of the Ustasha state took on a massive character. “The Serbian people in the ISC was made a free culling game” wrote the special envoy of the German Foreign Ministry for the South-Eastern Europe, Hermann Neubacher.
Gospić was by no means earmarked by chance to become the centre for mass destruction of the Serbs. The Ustasha organization started its activities in Gospić in the 1930s, spreading the Ustasha ideology through legal associations (»Crussaders’ Fraternity«, sports association »Victoria«, gym organization »Croat Hero«). Until 1941 it firmly took roots among the high-school and university youth. Gospić became an important centre of the Ustasha organization. The most notorious Ustasha, murderers and butchers who formed the Auxiliary Ustasha Commando which committed mass slaughters of the Serbs and Jews in the concentration camps Jadovno on the mount Velebit, Slano at the island of Pag and other execution grounds throughout Croatia, originated from the »Crussaders’ Fraternity«.
The Ustasha rule in Gospić was set up on April 10, 1941 at 5 PM. The very same evening arrests of the Serbs and the Communists started. The Auxiliary Ustasha Commando, aided by the Civic Guard, started the premeditated and organized crimes against the Serbs.
After the speach of Mile Budak in Gospić on May 2, 34 Gospić Serbs who had been tortured, manhandled, beaten and buthchered for days, were taken out of the prison, tied with wire, loaded on a truck and taken in the direction of Ličko Lešće to the execution ground in Janiče, by the so-called Macola’s Pit. Since May 4, almost every day one or more trucks would leave the Gospić prison, carrying 30 to 40 Serbs to places of execution – mostly in carst pits. The Serbs were brought to the jail every day, not only from Gospić, but from other parts of Lika too – individually, in groups or en masse, in trucks, drawn wagons or on foot – only to be taken out for execution. The time between mid-May and late August 1941 was marked by numerous Ustasha crimes in Lika, Gorski Kotar and other parts of the ISC, and by transports to the Gospić concentration camp, and then to the places of execution. Despite its spacious court-yard and corridors, the jail of the District Court in Gospić became to small, so the Ustasha set up concentration camps in Jadovno on mount Velebit and in Slana on the island of Pag. These, together with many other execution grounds provided enough space for the intake of 700 to 1.000 detainees daily.
Columns of tied men, women and children were taken through Gospić under maltreatment to be liquidated, in the sight of Italian officers and military authorities. These even sent their commissions which photographed and recorded these crimes. Whereas the Italians were helping the Ustasha without reacting to their crimes against the Serbian population during the first months of occupation, scared and endangered by the uprising of the Serbs which started in Lika in late July and early August, they reoccupied the so-called Zone Two in the second half of August. The Ustasha had to leave this area, so the concentration campsthere were closed down.
The Ustasha government organized various collection centres and camps which were run by district police authorities or local Ustasha officials. Furthermore, it organized resettlement camps and camps run by the Ustasha Survailance Service, i.e. since January 21, 1943 by the Main Direction for Public Order and Security. The first collection centers were set up in prison court-yards, district authorities’ buildings, former gyms, primary school buildings and outdoors. They were particularly numerous in 1941, but also later on, during or after larger military operations or mopping-up of the terrain. Among the most notorious were: »Danica« in Koprivnica (founded as early as on April 15, 1941, i.e. only five days after the proclamation of the ISC; the first inmates arrived already three days after its foundation, on April 18), Kerestinac (on April 19 the manor of the Ban Mihovilović was turned into a camp), Kruščica near Travnik, the Gospić group (the Gospić prison, Ovčara; the collection center at the railway station, Jadovno on Velebit, Slana and Metajna on the island of Pag, Stupačinovo near Baške Oštarije), Sisak-Caprag, Jastrebarsko, Tenja, Đakovo, Gornja Rijeka, Reka, Loborgrad; relocation camps: Vinkovci, Slavonska Požega, Bjelovar. The system of Jasenovac concentration camps deserves special mention: Krapje, Bročice, the Brick-Yard, the Tannery Camp including Stara Gradiška with its branches, economic outbuildings and execution grounds: Donja Gradina, Uštica, Mlaka, Feričanci, Bistrica and Jablanac.
The first organized extermination camp meant exclusively for destruction of entire national, religious, racial or ethnic groups was the Gospić system of camps, better known in the historiography after the concentration camp and the largest place of execution as the concentration camp Jadovno.
Bringing Captured People to Concentration Camps and Places of Execution
The Ustasha started bringing arresetd Serbs from Gospić and the whole Lika to the jail of the Gospić District Court as early as April 11, 1941. The influx of the persons arrested and brought to Gospić was increasing daily during May and June. When the building of the Ustasha concentration camps complex Jadovno was finished, transports with the arrested Serbs, Jews and »undesirable« Croats started arriving to Gospić from all parts of the Independent State of Croatia.
The daily bringing of large numbers of people to the execution grounds of the concentration camp Jadovno started in early Juny and lasted until August 21, 1941. In early July the concentration camp in Gospić was capacitated to take up to 1.000 prisoners a day. This is confirmed by the order of the Administration for Public Order and Security of the ISC of July 8, 1941 to district police administrations, that all »Greek-Easterners« (i.e. the Serbs), including those who had converted to Roman-Catholicism after April 10, 1941, were to be sent to Gospić, at the disposal of the County Police Administration in Gospić. The head of the Ustasha Police of the ISC, Božidar Cerovski sent a circular letter to all Counties and the Ustasha Commission for Bosnia-Herzegovina on July 23, 1941, ordering detention of the Serbs, Jews and persons with Communist sympathies, and their deportation to the Gospić concentration camp. In another one, he demanded lists of all Serbs, including all those who used to be of Orthodox faith, to be completed within 15 days.
Many appeals were sent asking for the crimes against the Serbs to be stopped: the appeal of King Petar II Karađorđević to the Pope Pius XII and the president of the USA Franklin D. Roosevelt of June 6, 1941; the petiton of the Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church of July 24 to the German Supreme Military Commander in Serbia, general von Schröder in which crimes against the Serbian people were adduced with the request that anything be undertaken in order to put an end to the crimes; the protest of the Mostar Muslims of September 22 and the Muslims of Banja Luka of November 12, 1941, demanding protection for the Serbian people, the appeal of Slovenian priests from Serbia of March 1, 1942 to Belgrade Arch-Bishop Ujčić to do his best against the crimes on the Serbian people in the ISC. None of these appeals yielded any result.
In this chapter the author adduces in detail, citing places and dates, cases of mass arrests and transports to concentration camps according to regions. He quotes the original archival documents, statements and testimonies as evidence. He also adduces typical examples of manhandling, mass liquidations “on doorsteps”, at churches, schools, permanent and temporary prisons, naming both the criminals and the victims.
The cruelty to which prisoners were subjected to is best illustrated by an example adduced in the study of the crimes committed against the Jews, “when a mother, put onto a truck leaving for the railway station, asked an Ustasha to put up her two years old child on the truck; he stabbed the child with the bayonet of his rifle and handed her the child impaled on the bayonet.”
A “hunt” on the Serbs, Jews, Communist- and Yugoslav-oriented Croats and Muslims started all over the ISC in May and June 1941. They were captured, penned up in local prisons or impromptu collecting places and manhandled. Many were killed in prisons or execution grounds in the vicinity, and many were sent to jails and collection centers in larger places. From there they were sent to concentration camps or straight to the camp “Danica” near Koprivica, from where they were transferred to Gospić later on. Since July transports usually went straight to Gospić.
Arrests and incarcerations in the Gospić prison started in Lika already in April 1941. Among others, some 200 Serbs from Ogulin, 35 from the village of Otok, 70 from Gomirje (abbots Teofan Kosanović and Metodije Subotin among them), some 100 from Srpske Moravice, 200 from Plaško (the bishop of Upper Karlovac Sava Trlajić with 30 priests) were deported from this area. From Karlovac and Kordun transports were sent on April 26, June 6, July 25/26 with 60 Serbs and 30 Jews, with 14 Serbs from the village of Čemernica at the time of mass slaughter of 530 persons from the area of Veljuna in Hrvatski Blagaj. 46 persons were sent from Topusko on June 28, and several women and children on August 1. To his question what would be done with all these detainees in Gospić, a guard of the transport was answered by a Gospić Ustasha, they would serve as »dung for beech-trees« on Velebit. At the same time the crime in the Glina church was committed, more than 800 Serbs were deported from Banija on July 27, more than 150 people from Sisak in mid-July, 30 Serbs and 26 Jews on July 24, and 47 Serbs on July 26.
319 Jews were deported from Zagreb in early May, and the newspaper “Novi list” wrote on June 1, that “liable for labour service have gone to work up-country”. In fact 165 of them were transferred to Koprivnica, and then to Gospić. On June 21, 800 Serbs and Jews were deported, another 700 in early July; a group of 800 Jews and Serbs on July 20/21; another group of 700 men, women and children and the third group of 150 in late June. The following transports came after them: 190 people on July 5, 400 people on August 2, whereas the last transport of 730 Serbs and Jews was sent from Zagreb to Jadovno on August 13/14. 504 Serbs were arrested in the area of Grubišino Polje on April 26/27 and sent to the Danica concentration camp and then to Jadovno, where 487 were killed. 195 people were massacred in village of Gudovac in the Bjelovar area on April 27, whereas the following were sent to the concentration camp: 70 persons on April 22, 25 Serbs from the village of Lasovac on the Orthodox Easter on April 25, 200 Jews and Serbs and some Communist- or Yugoslav-oriented Croats in late July. Some 200 people were deported from the Križevci area on April 27. 25 people were arrested in the Pakrac area on May 2, and more than 200 during May, whereas 300 persons were sent to concentration camps in June. In the course of May, June and July the Ustasha arrested and killed in the Jadovno camp some 350 Serbs from the Virovitica, Vrbovac, Ludbreg, Kutina, Đurđevac, Slavonska Požega, Novska and Našice areas.
Some 200 persons were sent to Gospić from the Slavonski Brod area on August 2-4. A mass arrest of 120 Serbs took place in Nova Gradiška on April 11; 800 Serbs and 20 Jews were transported to Gospić on August 9. During April and May 700 Serbs and 9 Croats were seized in Osijek. In the Sokol building 12 Serbs were killed, 16 were taken out of the garrison prison and shot on the bank of the Drava, whereas the rest were transported to the camp on July 21-23 after having been tortured. 345 of them ended their lives on Velebit, while the rest were sent to other camps.
101 Serbs were deported from Vinkovci in late April and the first half of May; only five of them survived. More than 800 persons were deported from Vinkovci, Vukovar, Šid and Sremska Mitrovica to Gospić during June and July.
The first group from Sarajevo was sent on May 17, and between the end of May and August 14, 1.778 men, women and children were sent to the Jadovno camp in 9 transports. A transport was sent from Zavidović in late July and on August 1; 44 Serbs were deported from Visoko. They were joined by two wagons with 80 Serbs in each, and in Doboj by two wagons with the arrested from Bijeljina and Tuzla. 28 Serbs were transported from Doboj, on August 1, and 25 on August 2; 25 Serbs and Jews from Derventa on August 1 and 73 on August 16; more than 100 people from Bosanski Brod in July, and some 800 Serbs were deported to the concentration camp in Slavonska Požega in mid-August, where the majority were murdered. During June and July some 550 Serbs were sent from Jajce in three transports. In early August 720 Serbs were arrested, mostly in Novi Travnik and its vicinity. 43 of them, together with others from Turbe and Travnik were taken to Jadovno on August 3, whereas the rest were killed near the village of Stojkovići at the place called Smrike.
Right after the murder of the bishop of Banja Luka Platon Jovanović and the expulsion of arch-priest Dušan Subotić on May 24, persecution of the Serbs in the Banja Luka area started. The Ustasha general of the Sana and Luka County, Viktor Gutić came to the mine of Maslovari on May 31 and ordered that all Serbs of this purely Serbian area, were “to convert to Roman-Catholicism or be killed and their estates confiscated.”
Most of the Serbs and Jews from West Bosnia were transported to the Jadovno concentration camp from Banja Luka, Ključ, Kulen Vakuf, Gornji Vakuf, Bosanska Krupa, Bosanski Novi, Bihać, Velika Kladuša and Vrnograč. A number of people, several Orthodox prisests among them, was arrested in the Banja Luka area in the night of July 10/11, as well as the day after.71 Jews and 28 Serbs were sent to Jadovno from Banja Luka, 60 Serbs from the Ključ area on August 2, 150 Serbs from Otoka and other villages of the Bosanska Krupa area in mid-July. Out of 300 people captured in Bosanski Novi on July 31, the majority were killed and thrown into the Una and Sana rivers; 40 had their throats cut in prison and only 15 were taken to Gospić. In mid-July 1941, 45 people from the territories of the communes of Vrnograč, from the villages of Bosanska Bojna and Rujnica were deported, and some 50 from the Velika Kladuša area on July 21. Mass arrests and murders started only five days later, and they were to last incessantly from July 25 to August 8, 1941. 4.700 men, women and children from Velika Kladuša, Slunj and Vojnić were killed on the place called Mehino stanje where anti-tank trenches were dug at the foot of the hill Ičungar.
Several dozens Serbs were deported from Bjeljina to Gospić on June 23; another group, with 25 Orthodox priests among them, on July 15, and a group of 45 on August 2. After the arrest and deportation to Gospić of the Serbs from the Brčko area on August 2, the district head demanded in his dispatch for the Posavlje County of August 5, that “unplanned sending of the Serbs to the Gospić Concentration Camp be prevented« because he deemed such arrests wouldn’t help achieve the goal, since the capacities were insufficient to send all the 40.000 Serbs to “the Gospić concentration camp and to solve the Serbian question in the region in that way«. For that reason he suggested eviction as a preferable solution, whereas only those who would remain would be rounded up and sent to the concentration camp. The Ustasha transported the captured Serbs from Modriča to the Jadovno concentration camp in July. In the district of Zvornik, 31 people from the villages of Osmaci and Gojčina were deported in August, 111 persons from the Serbian villages of Međaši, Dubica, Sarač and Miljenovac on August 9, and 13 Serbs from the village of Rajinci. 60 persons from Rogatica and some 200 from Vlasenica were sent to the camp in July.
The Serbs from the Herzegovina were transported via Mostar, Sarajevo, Slavonski Brod, Zagreb and Karlovac to the concentration camps in Gospić, Jadovno and Slana. A large number of Serbs and Jews from Mostar, Ljubinje, Trebinje, Stolac, Ljubuško, Konjic and other Herzegovinian places were deported via that route. The Ustasha Police in Zagreb ordered the Hum County which had its center in Mostar, that transportation of the Serbs to the Gospić concentration camp should ensue on a daily basis. It is difficult to determine how many trains were sent from Mostar to Gospić. However, the following transports could be identified from the available archival sources: after the mass arrest in Mostar on July 19-20, a train with 186 Serbs was sent to Gospić. They arrived there tied and crammed in three railwaycars after four full days of traveling without food or water. Another 174 Serbs came on July 22, and some 700 prisoners on July 23. Transports were sent from Mostar to Jablanica on August 1, 2, 3, whereas one group was sent straight to Jadovno. 750 Serbs were deported to Jablanica. People from Mostar, Ljubinje, Stolac, Trebinje, Dubrovnik, Konjic and some other places were among them. 700 men, women and children were sent in four transports from Jablanica to Gospić. 56 Serbs from Foča were taken to Gospić and 145, mostly women and children, were sent on July 31. People arrested in Stolac on August 2, arrived in Gospić on August 9. The Serbs from Mostar were sent to Jablanica and from there, together with others, to Gospić. The same happened to 56 Serbs from Konjic and Drniš, as well as to a larger number of Orthodox and Roman-Catholic Serbs from Dubrovnik and its vicinity.
From a survey of arrests and transportation of people from the territory of the ISC to the Jadovno concentration camp, it can be concluded that the Ustasha state pursued the plan of extermination of the Serbian and Jewish peoples on a daily basis ever since its foundation. The Jadovno concentration camp complex with its auxiliary camps and Velebit pits was the spot of systematic destruction of people on account of their ethnic, religious and racial affiliation. Although the Serbs were arrested every day, the Ustasha arrested and killed them most massively during the Serbian-Orthodox holidays: on Easter (which in 1941 fell on April 25), St. George’s Day (May 6), St. Vitus’ Day (June 28), St. Peter’s Day (12. July) and St. Elias’ Day (August 2).
Torture and Liquidation of Prisoners
If one has in mind the number of victims in Jadovno and its camps from mid-April to mid-August – in only four months – the intention of the Croat Ustasha state to destroy the Serbs and Jews becomes quite clear.
From the documents, statements of survivors and of the criminals themselves, we learn about the means and methods of torture the Ustasha applied on men, women and children from the moment of the arrest, to their stay in concentration camps to the execution places themselves. However, all these statements are but a faint shadow of a terrible reality, because it is impossible to describe all that was done to the innocent people. In their brutality these crimes surpass everything a psychologist can suppose a human individual is capable of doing.
It seems the favorite way of killing for the Ustasha was with a sledge-hammer, the so-called macola. The sledge-hammer, weighting some 3 kg, was used for killing most of the victims, regardless of their age or sex, but mostly for killing women and children – if they weren’t thrown into the pits alive. Apart from the sledge-hammer, men were also murdered with knives, and during the transport from Karlobag to Pag, the victims were hit on the head with a stone, having previously been tied to a stone, so as to sink when thrown into the sea. When screams of the living and half-living were heard from the Velebit pits, the Ustasha would kill them by throwing hand-grenades on their half-dead and mutilated bodies.
Beatings of the tied and the helpless were a daily occurrence, as well as cutting off of body parts, tearing out of fingernails, driving of nails under them or into the head, poring hot water or spreading salt into the ripped parts of the body, gouging out of eyes, breaking of legs and arms, tying the victim to a bench and pulling legs in different directions. Some were crowned with a thorny crown which was hit so the thorns would dig into the head. A brother was ordered to beat brother, a son to torture and kill his father, and vice versa. Faces and eyes were scorched with burning cigarettes. Some had their bodies ironed with a hot iron, soles of their feet cut with razors and…who could enumerate all the perversities of these sadists! The cases of murder without previous manhandling, beating or torture were very rare. Women were raped before being killed, their breasts cut off and children torn from their wombs. Some Roman-Catholic priests (Don Ljubo Magaš, Don Krsto Jelinić and others) took part in these crimes and in satisfying their sexually aberrant instincts. The victims of the Jadovno concentration camps were only rarely killed with fire-arms. Before being killed, their hands, and sometimes legs too, were tied with wire… Usually children were tied to their mothers and killed before them so as to cause mothers the worst mental suffering.
Orthodox priests were maltreated, tortured and killed with particular cruelty. In the execution places of Jadovno 74 murdered Orthodox priests were identified, the Sarajevo metropolitan Petar Zimonjić and the bishop of Upper Karlovac Sava Trlajić being among them. Metropolitan Petar was manhandled and tortured from the day he was arrested, on May 12, 1941, during his transfer to Zagreb, in the prison of the Zagreb police, in the Kerestinac concentration camp where his beard was shaven off, and finally on July 15, while he was taken to the Gospić camp where the Ustasha orgy was at its peak. He had to carry logs on his bare back, to clean the yard and the toilets, being most vulgarly insulted in the process. Under beating he had to hold sermons for the inmates as if he were in a church, which additionally spurred the Ustasha to beat him on the head and body. He and Bishop Sava of Plaško were several times taken out of the Jadovno concentration camp to Šaranova jama to watch their faithful being slaughtered, only to be murdered over the same pit with a stroke of a sledge-hammer in the back of the neck.
Dimitrije Jerković, a priest from Široka Kula near Gospić was flayed alive, his skin and hair cut off together. His beard was ripped off and he was killed over Macolina jama. The priest from Smiljan, Matija Stijačić was thrown after terrible torture half-dead into Šaranova jama together with the priest from Raduče, Grozdanović, parts of whose body were torn off beforehand. The Ustasha tore hairs from the beard and mustches of priest Nikola Bogunović from Donji Lapac, pricking his nose and whole body with red-hot needle. Priest Stevan Steva Čurčić from Ogulin was tortured by the Ustasha in the Ogulin tower, then taken to Vrginmost where he was tied and beaten, his beard torn off. Thus mutilated he was taken to the Zagreb police from where he was escorted tot the Danica concentration camp, and then to Gospić, only to be taken half dead after torture to Velebit and thrown into Šaranova jama. Priest Spasa Lavrnja from Suvaja near Donji Lapac was arrested by the Ustasha during a funeral and tortured before the whole funeral procession. After that he was taken to the Jadovno camp and muredered. In his house they cut the throat of his wife Ljubica, in the last stage of her pregnancy at that time, first ripping her belly open and tearing a child from her womb. Her four years old son was left by her dead body. The child cried for three days near the dead mother, and on the fourth day the Ustasha came and cut his throat too.
Such tortures were not done in concentration camps alone. Priest Đorđe Bogić from Našice, born in Subocka, was tied to a tree and his tongue, nose and beard with skin were cut off. Than his eyes were dug out, and when the butchers noticed he was still conscious, they ripped open his chest. Proko Pejović, hidden in the bush heard the Ustasha say: “Damn his Vlach mother, his heart is still beating, he’s still alive.” Than they shot him from the rifle.
We learn about the cruelty of the torturers from themselves. Seven Ustasha criminals were brought to justice only twelve years later, in 1953. In their statements they spoke about their crimes in the camps on Velebit, Jadovno and Slana. By the verdict of the District Court of Zadar, June 30, 1953, they were sentenced: Luka Barjašić to life imprisonment; Slavko Baljak and Ivan Kevrić to death; Jander Strika, Jerko Fratrović and Bene Barić to life imprisonment – the sentence of the last mentioned was soon converted to 20 years in prison; Mile Dudulica was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Supreme Court confirmed this sentence on August 24, 1953. Slavko Baljak had joined the partisans and was in the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) from September 15, 1944 to December 5, 1953. Jerko Fratrović was in the YPA from May 30, 1945 to June1, 1946 and Strika Jandre was in the YPA too. All of them were employed until 1952 and lived in peace with no compunction.
They, with more than 180 members of the 1st Regiment of the 5th Ustasha Division which was in the Slana camp on the isle of Pag commanded by Ivan Devčić Pivac (from June 25 to August 25) took part in mass mishandling, torture and murders of the Serbs and Jews in the camps of Slana, Jadovno, over pits near Karlobag, Baške Oštarije and the village Stupačinovo on the slopes of Velebit. In their statements they spoke about thousands of murdered on Velebit and in the area of Furnaža on the isle of Pag. The largest massacre in the Slana camp between August 14 and 15, 1941 was a present to the Holy Virgin of Pag to which the butchers were bowing with bloody knives with which they had bestially murdered 800 women and children. Having done this criminal job the Ustasha returned to the camp with knives stuck to their belts and celebrated merrily the Holy Virgin, criminal, one Luka Barjašić and an eye-witness one Jakov Dokozić, reported. On that same day 60 of them came to the town of Pag to take part in the procession – to carry the Virgin’s statue in a large church procession from the church in Slani Grad to Pag.
On Velebit and Pag the Ustasha killed anywhere they felt like doing it, so that it is today impossible to determine where all the Serbian and Jewish graves are. They usually killed without using fire-arms: with knives, sledge-hammers, with various other objects and by throwing the living into abysses or the pits they had dug out.
We learn about the crimes in the Jadovno concentration camp complex also from the reports of the Italian medics, from the statements of people whose throats were cut before being thrown into pits but who managed to survive by incredible chance, from the description by people who witnessed exhumation and burning of the mutilated bodies and from other reports.
Despite strict security measures of the Jadovno and Slana concentration camps, there were attempts at escape and at salvation from certain death.
Some managed to escape the Ustasha already at the arrest or while being transported or incarcerated or transported, even from the camps themselves. Some even managed to crawl out of the pits. Thanks to these individuals who managed to escape from the Ustasha claws, thousands of other innocent lives were saved because the people no longer trusted the Ustasha and their government. To this day (1991) 50 years later, there are those who remained the most trustworthy witnesess of the genocide committed by the Croat Ustasha against the Serbian and Jewish people.
17 incarcerated Serbs tried to escape from the Jadovno concentration camp complex. However, only the following succeded: Serđo Poljak from Šibuljina, Branko Cetina from Vrepce near Gospić, Savo Zoroja and Dane Čanak from Kuzmanovače near Široka Kula, Bogdan Lemajić from Smiljan near Gospić, Radoslav Grubor from Turbe near Travnik and three others whose names are unknown.
Even though he was wounded, Bogdan Lemajić managed to escape the massacre at the Šaranova jama. He returned to his village where he was hiding for a while. However, he was caught and beaten to death by the Ustasha Franjo Devčić who, together with other Ustasha, took part in the mass slaughter of the Serbs in Smiljan and Smiljansko Polje. Savo Zoroja, who escaped from the Jadovno camp on July 1, was killed in action as partisan in 1943. Dane Čanak, Branko Cetina and Radoslav Grubor left their written testimonies about mass murders of the Serbs in the Jadovno concentration camp.
Although he was wounded, Serđo Poljak managed to get out of the pit and escape in May 1941. The escape of Branko Cetina and his friend Savo Zoroja was also successful on July 1. Branko is today the only living eyewitness who told this author on June 17, 1990, on the very place where the camp had stood on Velebit, about how he had been arrested, incarcerated, taken to the Gospić prison, transported to the Jadovno camp and how he escaped. Only five days after him, Dane Čanak also managed to escape.
11 living people managed to crawl out of Jarčija jama in early August 1941. Janja Potkonjak was among them. She was thrown alive into the pit from which she got out, but died 30 days later of exhaustion, hunger and the traumas she suffered.
Dmitar Cvijanović, Janja Trešnjić and Janja Vujnović were captured by the Ustasha after they had left the pit, and murdered. Sava Jerković, Jela Stanić, Mara Vojnović, Mileva Cvijanović, Mile Potkonjak, a child, Marija Počuča and Pera Cvijanović had more luck. The Ustashe threw 78 Serbs from the village of Divoselo near Gospić into the Jarčija jama in Mid-Velebit, overlooking the village of Alanka on August 6, 1941. Marija Počuča with her three children was also thrown into the pit. Although she was wounded, she crawled out of the pit, as did Jela Stanić. With throats cut but not dead, some got out of pits and away from numerous execution grounds and left trustworthy testimonies about an organized and premeditated crime.
Apart from mass murders in the death camp Jadovno, the Ustasha were committing genocide in the whole territory of their state, particularly in times of Serbian Orthodox holidays: St. George’s Day, St. Vitus’ Day, St. Peter’s Day and St. Elias’ Day. The massacre of the Serbs in Hrvatski Blagaj (the Veljun masacre) took place on St. George’s Day, before any armed resistance. A massacre took place on St. Elias’ Day in 1941 in the Orthodox church of the Virgin’s Nativity in Glina. On St. Elias’ Day 1941, 113 Serbs, both men, women and children were slaughtered in the village of Bogdanić near Gospić, 48 in Lipe, 39 in Ostrvica, 27 in Barlete, 25 in Medak (hamlet of Papuče), 178 in Smiljan.
In the territory of the commune of Vrginmost in Kordun, in 1941 alone, the Ustasha killed in the most horrifying way 4.263 Serbian civilians in the following places of mass execution: in churches, in the fields and houses. Out of the total, there were 925 children under 15. These are the data about the persons killed in the spring and summer of 1941: 735 people in the districts of Gospić and Perušić between July 20 and during August, and 3.217 persons until the end of 1941; 735 in districts of Korenica and Udbina from May 28 to August 3, and 1.492 until the end of the year; 684 in the district of Gračac from May through August, and 903 until the end of the year; 775 in the district of Donji Lapac from June to August 5, and 890 until the end of the year; 1.987 in the district of Slunj between May 6 and August 19, and 2.065 until the end of the year.
The Liquidation of the Ustasha Concentration Camp Jadovno
From the occupation on April 14 till the Roman Accords between the Kingdom of Italy and the ISC signed on May 18, 1941 the Italians held military and civilian power in Lika. Under their auspices and protection the Ustasha power was soon established. From the Roman Accords till August 26, 1941, Lika was part of the so-called Second Demilitarized Zone of the Italian-occupied territory in the ISC. The rights of both parties to the agreement were clearly defined. Tus the ISC was in charge of the civilian administration in that zone.
Because in the Italian judgement Italian interests were threatened, and the Croat state being unable to prevent the spreading of the uprising of the Serbian people in the regions of Kordun, Banija, Lika and Kninska krajina, with the simultaneous spate of uprisings in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosanska krajina in late July and early August, triggered off by putting into practice the intentions of the ISC to destroy the Serbs as a national entity, reoccupation of Lika was carried out and the Italian troops took over the military and civilian power in the Second Zone again, in keeping with the order of August 15, given to the 2nd Army. The Croat formations’ activities in this area were banned, which resulted in the disbanding of the Jadovno concentration camp complex. Pavelić entrusted the task to the Ustasha lieutenent-colonel Vjekoslav Luburić – Maks. He speedily set about disbanding the camp and removing the traces of the crimes. The licquidation of the camp was understood as commission of mass murder of thousands of inmates, so the Italians would find as few as possible of them alive. Thh killing was going on every day from August 10 to August 25. We learn about that also from the report of the 1st Croat Gendarmerie Regiment of August 22 for the Administration of Public Order and Security of the ISC, in which it is stated that, due to the arrival of the Italian army the Ustasha were compelled to liquidate the Jadovno concentration camp complex. Except by killing the prisoners, other way to liquidate the camp either by moving it upcountry or by sending the inmates to other camps or prisons, wasn’t even considered. Until August 18 the inmates were sent to the Jadovno camp and murdered in pits by the side of the road or in the camp itself. The last group of 1.200 Serbs and 300 Jews was killed in the camp itself between August 15 and 20. They had to dig pits for themselves in the camp area, over which they were killed and covered with earth, whereas part of them was killed in the very vicinity of the camp, the bodies being thrown into pits 30-40 m to the South of it. The Ustasha piled stones, timber and branches on the last killed Serbs and Jews. Some 3.000 Serbs brought from the Slana camp were also killed in Jadovno in mid-August. The Jadovno concentration camp on Velebit was disbanded on August 20. On that day the Ustasha moved spades, pikes, caldrons and other equipment from Velebit to the collecting camp Ovčara.
Simultaneously with the liquidation of the Jadovno camp, the Ustasha were liquidating prisoners of the Slana camp. The camp guards were divided into three groups: one was killing on the island, the other at the sea, and the third was transporting the inmates to Karlobag and further on to Velebit where they were thrown into pits. Apart from the above-mentioned 3.000 Serbs who were sent to Jadovno, two more times 800 men, women and children were transported from the island, as well as three times 150 people who were killed over the pits of the Stupačinovo concentration camp between August 12 and 20. The command of the Italian division “Re” which arrived in Karlobag also learned about the liquidation of the last inmates on the island of Pag. A platoon in two motor-boats was sent to the island to see what was going on. On that day the Italians took 120 women and children to boats and transported them to Karlobag. They ordered the Ustasha to take the prisoners to Gospić in three trucks, but they (the Ustasha) killed them in Stupačinovo instead. The Italian command also transported some 250 inmates to the Gospić railway-station on August 21, from where the Ustasha sent them, together with other prisoners brought there from Ovčara, to Jastrebarsko.
From the prisons of the District Court on four occasions on August 17, 700 Serbs were sent in the direction of the Jadovno camp. These were the last prisoners who were taken out of the prison and thrown into the Šaranova jama. Some 1.100 prisoners of the Gospić camp, accomodated in the jailhouse, were tied with wire and the chain that run along, early in the morning of August 18, awaiting to be taken to Jadovno. Just when they were ordered to get moving around 1 PM, they were suddenly ordered to return. They were kept in the prison only until the next morning, when they were tied and transported to the railway station, where they were held at the collection cneter until night. Than they were loaded onto 13 freight cars. In the report by the 1st Croat Gendarmerie Regiment of August 22, it is said, among other things: «On August 19, between 3 and 6 o’clock, the Chetniks from the Gospić concentration camp were transported in 36 trucks to the local railway station where they were loaded into wagons and sent in the direction of Zagreb. The precise destination couldn’t be determined.«
The first train with prisoners sent from Gospić arrived in Jastrebarsko in the morning of August 20, 1941. The inmates themselves took the dead out of the cars and threw them on the drawn wagon which took them to a field near Jastrebarsko for burrial. The Ustasha took 170 Serbs off this train and took them to the prison of count Eördödi’s mansion. Several hundreds of Jews and some Croats were put up there. In the evening a train with 900 Serbs moved in the direction of the newly-founded concentration camp Jasenovac. They arrived in the morning of August 21 and were taken over by the Ustasha of the 17th Ustasha Company. Three hours after the first train was sent to Jasenovac, the second one left, carrying some 400 inmates, mostly Jews. Several Croats and Serbian and Jewish women were taken off this train in Jastrebarsko. They were put up in the prison of Eördödi’s mansion. From the Gospić prison the last Serbs and the remaining Croats were taken out on August 20. They were transported to Jastrebarsko and locked up in the rooms of the local concentration camp.
The Jastrebarsko camp was run by Gospić camp commanders: Stjepan Rubinić, Dragutin Pudić Paraliza and Janko Mihailović. They arrived to Jastrebarsko with their Ustasha with the first train from Gospić and took over the entire organization of this camp. There were 2.200 inmates in all in the Jastrebarsko concentration camp at that time, with some 140 Communists brought from the Lepoglava jail among them and a few from Gospić.
There were some 60 Serbian women with children on the train that left Gospić on August 20, whom the Ustasha didn’t manage to kill in the Stupačinovo on Velebit because of the arrival of the Italian military. The last transport was sent from Gospić on August 21, containing some 900 inmates – mostly Jews and Jewish and Serbian women with children from the Ovčara concentration camp. At the Gospić railway station they were joined by 250 Jewish and Serbian women with children whom the Italian soldiers took by their trucks from the Slana camp via Karlobag to Gospić. The inmates were brought to the Jastrebarsko camp on August 22, and they remained there until September 1, when they were taken to Jasenovac, arriving there in the morning of September 2.
After the Serbian and Jewish men were taken from Jastrebarsko to Jasenovac, Serbian and Jewish women with their children were transported to the Kruščica concentration camp near Travnik. Some 250 men and women, mostly Croats, remained in the Jastrebarsko camp. On September 14 they were taken to Koprivnica where they found some 3.000 inmates. From Koprivnica they were transferred to Jasenovac and some of them to Zagreb.
While committing crimes against the Serbs and Jews since April 1941, the Ustasha authorities and their military formations were covering up in different ways murders, mass slaughters and massacres of civilian population. In documents they were covering up the truth about the crimes, and many documents were also destroyed. However, despite various ways of concealment, due to their massive character, these acts couldn’t remain undiscovered. The Ustasha threw bombs into many pits, filled them in and masked them with branches and stones, and even pored concrete over some of them. Local population was also hiding places of crimes in various ways, so that they were gradually covered with foliage and every trace of them was lost.
The after-war authorities also prevented in a way collection and publication of the authentic sources about the mass crimes of the Croat state against the Serbian and Jewish peoples. It was seen to that that as little as possible was spoken and written about them, so that they be forgotten. Oblivion was justified in the name of peace and brotherhood and unity.
A contribution to the destruction of the traces of the crimes was made also by the Italian occupation forces. After the liquidation of the Jadovno and Slana concentration camps in late August 1941 following the arrival of the Italian military, the civilian and military administration at the Croat coast and in Lika was taken over by the command of the 2nd Italian Army on September 6. Confiscation of all documents about the concentration camps in the Lika region was ordered. Most of them would eventually be destroyed. However, several documents of the 5th Corps of the 2nd Italian Army survived. They give information about the destruction of the traces of the Ustasha mass crimes, since it was the soldiers of this Italian unit who were entrusted with that task. From the report by Dr. Finderle of September 6, it is clear that he and a team of soldiers were charged by the Health Administration of the 5th Corps of the 2nd Italian Army with the task of finding mass graves and disinfecting them so as to prevent the spread of a possible contagion. In his report he informed his superiors about what he had found: pits with corpses of those killed on Velebit, mass graves in the Furnaž area and in some other places at Pag where the bodies were buried very shallow, so that they ‘presented tocsicological and infectious danger”. On the basis of his report, the Military-Sanitation Administration of the Italian 5th Corps ordered “the bodies buried in Slano on Pag to be exhumed, and piled onto a pyre, to be drenched with incendiary liquid and burned immediately.” A special sanitation platoon with the aid of 50 more soldiers accomplished the task in September 1941 in the course of full 10 days, working from morning till dusk.
The mass graves found by Italian medics don’t exist any more. The photos the Italians made while exhuming and burning the bodies were also lost. According to the report by Dr. Stazzi of September 22, the albums with photographs and his report were sent to the Italian Ministry of War in Rome. Ante Zemljar searched for them. He addressed also the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Italy. He got a reply from the head of the Office, stating the photographs couldn’t be put at his disposal since they had been lost somewhere. This author also tried to find this evidence, as well as other documents for which he had learned that they were in keeping of certain families from the island of Pag, but without success. Thus these sources about the Ustasha crimes also remain unknown to the public for the time being.
Concentration camps and places of mass executions: Jadovno on Velebit, Slana and Metajna on Pag, Stupačinovo, Ovčara and the Gospić concentration camp, numerous pits and other places of execution remained to this day mostly unmarked or only partly marked.
Among the marks erected in this locality there are: a grave in the Jadovno camp was fenced off by a wooden fence in 1961; over time it rotted and disappeared. Šaranova jama was surrounded by a stone wall and marked by a small memorial plaque by the road passing some 70 m by it. The way to the camp remained impassible and the path to it overgrown so that hardly anyone could pass and find the place of the camp itself. Between 1951 and 1961 on the wall or near the wall of the Šaranova jama several memorial plaques were put up: in 1961 a plaque for the victims from Sremski Karlovci, the memorial plaque of the Union of the Associations of Orthodox Priests of Croatia in which 51 names of the priests of the Serbian Orthodox Church are chiseled – the names of the metropolitan Petar Zimonjić and the bishop Sava Trlajić among them . (According to this author’s research, some more names were identified.) In 1961 over a pit some 40 m away from the camp a monument was erected that is nowadays in completely dilapidated state. In 1975 a modest monument was erected on a rock in Suha, where the Slana camp was beginning.
The place of the auxiliary camp Stupačinovo, collection camp Ovčara, prison of the Gospić District Court and the Accepting camp on the Gospić railway station were never marked. Numerous pits into which thousands and thousands of victims were thrown not only remained unmarked, but are completely inaccessible. These pits, except for the Šaranova jama and Jamina, were not even speleologically explored. The places of the Ustasha crimes are today inaccessible, overgrown with weeds and out of the way, and the graves can be found only by one who knows the terrain very well.
Concluding Considerations About the Number of Victims
The first camp of mass death in the territory of the Independent State of Croatia, Jadovno on Velebit operated between mid-April and late August 1941, and its affiliations on the island of Pag from June 25 to late August 1941. These camps predated the large well-known death camps in Germany. As soon the Ustasha regime was established with the aid of the Germans and Italians, it undertook everything in order to create an ethnically pure Croatia by exterminating the Serbian and Jewish populations. While the Serbs and Jews were slaughtered in the camps on Velebit and Pag regardless of their sex and age, the Nazis were only preparing to build their largest death camps (converting the old barracks near Auschwitz into a camp started only in October 1941, whereas mass murders of the Jews who had been shipped there, started in its gas chambers only on July 4, 1942 and in Treblinka on July 23 of the same year.)
There was neither court nor court sentences for the Serbs and Jews in the ISC. They were brought from all over the ISC to the Gospić concentration camp already in the first months of ISC’s existence. Between 300 and 350 prisoners a day were sent from there to the Jadovno camp and its auxiliary camps and places of execution where almost all of the new-arrivals would be killed on the same day. The Ustasha used natural pits and utilized them as places of mass death. Columns upon columns of tied, mutilated and tortured people were hit by knife or sledge-hammer over the mouth of a pit. It was usually the first few of the helpless who would be hit in order to pull the whole column or the whole group which would, as the criminals themselves told later, precipitate into the darkness of the pit. Others were killed over the pits that had been dug up or thrown into the deep sea from ships, with stones tied to their bodies. Archival sources, statements of the survivors and the perpetrators bear witness to all this.
Due to the negligence of the authorities of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for full 50 years the human losses of the WWII were not sufficiently cared for, nor was any work undertaken on the name list of the victims of the Ustasha crime of genocide in the whole territory of the ISC. All this was done with the excuse of creating and developing brotherhood and unity and of not reminding the descendants of those whose fathers and brothers committed this organized and planned murder of men, women and children only because they were Serbs and Jews. On the other hand, also in the interest of brotherhood and unity the descendants of the victims of the Croat Ustasha crime of genocide were taught to forgive, not to speak or write about their killed grandfathers, grandmothers, parents, brothers and sisters, and even to forget everything that happened in order to be able to work, create and live in peace and harmony. They stuck to this with the wish that what happened to their most dear ones in the Independent State of Croatia 1941-1945 should never happen to anyone. Today it is all but impossible to make a list of names of the victims of the genocide and give a precise number of those killed in the system of the Ustasha concentration camp Jadovno and other Ustasha concentration camps.
Many years of work on researching the crimes in the Jadovno camp by utilizing a number of documents in which details about the number of victims, methods of torture and murder were expounded, don’t enable the researcher to come up with a definitive number of the killed people. The surviving documents don’t tell us how many men, women and children were thrown into certain Velebit pits, dug out holes or sea depths. It is even less possible to say which victim was killed in which of these places of execution.
Thus we can speak about the number of the killed based only on estimates, relying on data from the surviving sources and publications.
In the published data the numbers of the killed vary from 1.794 to 120.000.
Milan Ljuština, who stayed in the Gospić prison from April 22 to the liquidation of the camp and its last inmates on August 21, 1941, estimates in his statement that 120.000 people were sent away from Gospić, Jadovno and other camps and places of execution. Out of them, 118.080 were Serbs, 1.800 Jews and 120 Croats.
The lowest figure of 1.794 victims was put forward in the 1964 census. Lack of objectivity and incompleteness of this statistics are obvious and they prove how poorly the census was organized. They show obvious neglect of the victims and the truth. They also speak volumes about the people and government organs in charge of the task. The organizers of the census could establish names of 3.217 men, women and children of Serbian nationality, in the former districts of Gospić and Perušić alone. Out of that total, 3.063 people were killed in the mass execution places of the Jadovno camp in the ethnic cleansing even before the uprising of 1941. Comparing the estimate of Milan Ljuština and the official census and knowing the available archival documentation and everything he himself has learned during the several years of research and study, the author points out that he can accept neither the estimate of Milan Ljuština, nor the official census.
In connection with the estimate of the killed in the Jadovno concentration camp complex, apart from these two figures (the highest and the lowest) other estimates are also adduced which range between these two extremes. Franjo Zdunić Lav who lived in Gospić in 1941 and later, and who researched the Ustasha crimes, proposes 37.660 killed – based on his own knowledge and estimate. He says he arrived at this figure by a simplified analysis of daily transports through Gospić in the direction of places of execution. He claims his estimate is approximate, neither complete nor final. According to the eyewitness Terka Gojmerac, between July 20 and August 19, 1941, some 25.000 people passed through the Gospić prison alone (without those who were taken away straight from the railway station). In the computation of Franjo Zdunić the period between June 1 and August 19 was taken into consideration. However, arrests and locking-up into the prison of the District Court in Gospić started already on April 11, 1941. Thus, it can be claimed that the number of the victims was certainly higher than was Zdunić’s estimate.
Fikreta Jelić Butić quotes an estimate from July 1942 that in August 1941 alone 18.000 inmates had been killed in the Jadovno camp, whereas a statement from the Ustasha side from the same period speaks about how Jadovno camp swallowed 28.500 persons. She concludes that, according to the estimates of the surviving inmates made in 1942 and according to the post-war publications, the number of the killed ranges between 30.000 and 48.000. In the “Enciklopedija Jugoslavije” Ljubo Boban copied the data from the “Military Encyclopedia” that some 72.000 people were killed in Jadovno, and that “the Šaranova jama alone swallowed 35.000 victims.”
Former inmate Đuro Medić says in his statement that between August 3 and 20, 1941 35.000 people passed through the prison and Drago Svjetličić claims 18.000 Serbs were taken to Velebit within 16 days in August. The Ustasha sources speak about 28.500 Serbs in that month, which is corroborated by the Ustasha Marković, sergeant of one of the Ustasha units.
In other documents and statements both of the perpetrators of the crimes and the surviving inmates, the number of the killed Serbs and Jews ranges from 30.000 to 48.000 persons. These numbers are adduced also by Antun Miletić.
In the same way different numbers of the killed in the camps on the island of Pag are adduced for the time between June 25 and August 21, 1941. All of them are based on estimates of eyewitnesses, the denizens of Pag, and the numerous documents of Italian origin, as well as the statements of larger number of perpetrators of the crimes themselves.
Pavle Lovrić and a number of other locals of Pag claim 18.600 men, women and children were incarcerated on the island. Emerik Blum who spent 30 days out of the total of 57 of the camp’s existence, claims in his statement that there were10.000 people in the Slana camp, 9.000 of them being Serbs and 1.000 Jews, which corroborates the above quoted claim.
Rastislav Petrović in his book “Conspiracy against the Serbs” claims 4.500 Serbs, 2.500 Jews and 1.500 Croats were killed on Pag. In the opinion of the author these figures are incorrect, since they cannot be confirmed by any archival source or testimony.
Vicar Josip Felicić doesn’t agree with the number of the victims which the Italian military commission in charge of burning the corpses in the Slana camp, established few days after the Ustasha had left Pag. He claims, that according to what he himself had seen, and from what he heard from Italian officers about the victims in Slano, i.e. in the Furnaža area, more than 8.000 corpses had been found, whereas the report by Dr. Strazzi of September 22, 1941, says only 791 bodies had been burned.
One of the perpetrators, Luka Barjašić, stated that the Ustasha killed, mostly with “sledge-hammer and knives, 6.500 men, women and children”, whereas Ivo Bilić and Tomo Dodoja who knew the situation in the Slana camp well, claim that according to their knowledge and that of few other locals, 6.000 men, women and children were thrown into the sea.
Using all these estimates, statements and testimonies, the statements of the perpetrators of the crimes, as well as statements of few surviving inmates, and relying on his own several years long research of archival sources, literature, published articles in the press and journals, the author has reached the conclusion that 42.246 men, women and children were brought to the concentration camp complex Jadovno between April 11 and August 21, 1941, i.e. in 132 days of its existence. He arrived at this number of the new arrivals mostly by using the archival documents of the ISC, containing dates and numbers of the Serbs and Jews transported to Gospić. These are the orders of the ISC police, written communications of police administration from all over the ISC to the Gospić police administration, confirmations of railway-stations about the transports and trains containing dates and numbers of the transported Serbs and Jews, reports by district authorities for the Administration of Public Order and Security of the ISC containing numbers of those arrested and sent to Gospić.
Taking into consideration the figures from these and other documents in which national affiliation of those arrested and sent to Gospić is also registered, the author arrived at the number of 42.246 arrested and shipped men, women and children during the 132 days of the existence of the Jadovno concentration camp complex. Between April 11 and June 24, 1941, 13.346 people were killed in 74 days i.e. 180 people a day on the average, and between June 24 and August 21, 1941, 28.900 people during the remaining 58 days while executions in the camp and in its places of execution lasted, i.e. 498 Serbs and Jews a day.
Out of the total of 42.246 new-arrivals, the number of 2.123 inmates whome the Ustasha didn’t manage to kill before the arrival of the Italian Army, was subtracted. Thus the figure of 40.123 killed in the places of execution on Velebit (32.103) and 8.020 on Pag was arrived at. It follows from these data that on the average 320 prisoners were brought to Gospić every day, and that on the average 304 of them were killed.
Before the arrival of the Italians, the Ustasha herded 2.123 prisoners into the cattle wagons and transported them from August 19 through 21, 1941 to the Jastrebarsko camp. In the last transport of August 21, 1941, there were 900 Serbs who were shipped from Jastrebarsko to Jasenovac on the very same day. They were the first inmates there.
Others brought from Gospić were taken from Jastrebarsko to the concnentration camps in Kruščica, Lepoglava and mostly to Jasenovac during the few following days. Some 200 were killed in the Jastrebarsko camp itself. The bulk of those sent to other camps suffered the same fate – they were murdered in the most cruel way.
The author managed to collect names of 10.688 by the end of 1990. The break-up of the common Yugoslav state in 1991 prevented further collection of data and making of a more complete list of names.
The places of execution cried for five decades for truth, for scholarly research, processing and publication of the results of the data processing. But, the year 1991 came. The Serbian people was deprived of its constituent role and its right to statehood in its homeland. It was turned into a national minority. From 12.16% of the total population according to the 1991 census, it was reduced to 4.54% according to the 2001 census. The monuments of the ani-Fascist warriors and victims of the genocide from WWII were torn down. The monument on Velebit and the memorial plaque near the Šaranova jama, the largest mass grave of the Serbs and the Jews in the Jadovno concentration camp complex were also destroyed.
Preface to the List of the Names of Victims
During only 132 days of its existence of the Croat Ustasha Jadovno concentration camp complex the Ustasha murdered in the in the most cruel way 40.123 men, women and children, from new-born babies to the very old people, only because they were Serbs, Jews or Croats who didn’t support the Ustaha-racist regime of the Independent State of Croatia. Out of 40.123, 38.020 were Serbs, 1.998 Jews, 88 Croats and 25 others.
By the end of 1991 names of 10.688 persons were found out. The break-up of the common Yugoslav state prevented the author from making a more complete list of the victims from 1941. Out of the 10.688 victims known by name, there were: 9.831 Serbs, out of them 1.016 children under 15; 775 Jews, 15 of them children; 59 Croats and 23 others. According to the social make-up, peasants were most numerous among the murdered: 7.651, then 1.031children under 15, 414craftsmen, 353 workers, 268 clerks, 223 railway-men, 138 students, 108 inn-keepers, 93 military and police officers, 84 pensioners, 73 Orthodox priests, 65 teachers, 37 professors, 36 lawyers, 31 engineers, 25 economists, 18 medical doctors, 11 landowners, 10 industrialists, 5 publicists, 4 Ph.D.s, 3 veterinaries, 3 musicians, 3 painters and one pilot. They were brought from towns and places from all over the ISC.
The author worked for over 20 years, until 1991 on this list of names of those killed in the Ustasha Jadovno concentration camp complex. Then it became impossible to continue working on the final version of a more complete list of names of the victims. For that reason this is only a partial list of those killed in these camps and their places of execution.
While working on this list of the killed, the archival documents and memoirs kept in the following archives were used: the Archives of Croatia, Zagreb, Archives of the Institute for History of the Workers’ Movement of Croatia, Zagreb; Historical archives in Bjelovar, Dubrovnik, Karlovac, Slavonski Brod, Rijeka and Zadar; the Archives of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo, Archives of Bosanska Krajina, Banja Luka, the archives of Herzegovina, Mostar, the Archives of Yugoslavia, Belgrade, the Archives of Serbia, Belgrade, the Archives of the Institute of Military History, Belgrade, the Archives of the Vojvodina, Novi Sad, the Archives of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Belgrade and the State Archives, Rome.
Furthermore, I used the source materials of the veterans’ organizations, of district and communal commissions concerning the victims of the WWII and I noted the first-names and family-names. On the basis of a special questionnaire, many committees of the veterans’ organizations sent this author lists of victims from their respective regions killed in Gospić, Jadovno and Slana.
From all these sources one could arrive only at this partial list of the killed. The archival sources and their funds are scattered. Part of the relevant documents were destroyed already during the war, but part of them even later. The documents were taken away in a number of ways, and even destroyed on purpose.
Nobody explored the mass graves and bottomless pits. Over some of them concrete was pored already during the war. Hardly any exhumations or ascertaining of the victims’ identities took place.
Because of a base act of manipulating the victims and involvement of ideology and politics, memories of those who had been killed innocent were poisoned for decades. With due respect, they should have been left in peace, whereas the list of names of the victims of this legalized genocide, as the worst crime, should have been researched and published, without hatred and politicking strings attached, humbly and sensibly, without offending any people. For, as we know, no people is collectively guilty of crimes committed by members of that people!
The goal of the research should have been a humane one of separating the innocent from the criminals once and for all. Unfortunately and to the shame of the then society and science, the list of names of the victims of the WWII in Yugoslavia 1941-1945 was never made. It is necessary to continue researching. This will probably also supplement and correct the possible incomplete data and errors of this list.
The author wishes to thank all those who helped in any way collect the data about the victims killed in the Jadovno death camp in 1941. The Jadovno concentration camps complex wasn’t anyone’s deviation; it was an important contents of the execution of the program and the policy of the government of the Independent State of Croatia. Jadovno was the laws of that state put to practice.
Glory be to all the victims, regardless of their religious and national affiliation. They are recorded as martyrs for all centuries to come, so let their names remain holy as long as there is a trace of the human race. May they never be forgotten.
From the Preface to the Collection of the Documents
Mass crimes on racial and religious basis, as well as crimes because of political affiliation, against Communists, anti-Fascist-minded Croats, Muslims and other people regardless of their nationality or religious background were legalized by law, rules, orders, decisions and various instructions of the Independent State of Croatia.
Thus, backed by legislature, organs and organizations of the Ustasha state, groups and individuals, with the blessing of the Church and Law, committed individual, group and mass murders of men, women and children just because they were Serbs, Jews or Gypsies, whenever and wherever they liked and as many as they liked.
The Ustasha authorities committed mass murders in houses, in the fields, in forests, in schools, in churches, on roads, anywhere they could, and always in the name of God and Law, for “purity of the Croat people”. At the same time they set up a number of concentration camps where torture and mass crimes and liquidations of the undesirables were perpetrated.
The Independent State of Croatia became the factory of death for the Serbs, Jews and Gypsies where individual, group and mass liquidations of innocent men, women and children were carried out.
Exactly such a factory of death was the Ustasha concentration camp Jadovno on Velebit and the Slana camp on the island of Pag in 1941. Their numerous places of execution were also there, where several hundred of human lives was being extinguished every day, already from mid-May to late August 1941, when these camps were disbanded.
The Serbs and Jews from all over the ISC were arrested and brought there by trains, trucks, drawn carts or on foot. They were transported in freight trains in which 70 to 90 men, women and children were pressed together in locked cattle wagons, without water and food, featuring signs “Spoiled fruit”.
In order to understand the documents which follow and which concern the Ustasha crimes committed against the Serbian and Jewish peoples in the Jadovno concentration camp complex and its places of execution on Velebit and on the island of Pag, only a smaller part of the documents speaking about the genocidal nature of the laws of the Independent State of Croatia and decisions, orders of police administrations and other state organs about sending the Serbs and Jews to the Gospić concentration camp, the Jadovno camp and the Slana camp on the island of Pag was published in the first chapter of this Collection.
The second chapter contains the documents of the Commission for Establishing the Crimes of the Occupiers and Their Abettors from 1944 to 1946, minuted statements made in the Commissariat for Refugees and Migrants in Belgrade in 1941 and 1942 and the documents of Italian origin. The documents are arranged according to territorial and chronological principle. All these documents speak about the crimes in the Jadovno concentration camp complex in 1941.
These documents are kept in many archives in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, the bulk in the Croat State Archives in Zagreb, in the Archives of Yugoslavia, the Archives of Serbia, the Archives of the Institute for Military History in Belgrade, the Archives of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo, in the Historical Archives in Mostar, the Historical Archives in Banja Luka, the Provincial Archives in Novi Sad, the State Archives in Karlovac, the State Archives in Zadar, the State Archives in Rome and in several museums and libraries.
The documents came into being in 1941 and 1942 and immediately after the end of the war, i.e. already at the time the crimes were committed. They were given by the people who had been arrested, manhandled, who were in Gospić, Jadovno, Slana and Jasenovac concentration camps, and sometimes by the people who were at very places of executions but managed to escape from there.
Their testimonies – statements- are precise in adducing the given and family names of those arrested and shipped to concentration camps, as well as of the ones killed in the camps, since the survivors adduce only names of those victims whom they knew well and remembered, whereas for other persons detained and shipped with them they adduce only numbers. Unlike mentioning concrete first and family names, when talking about them, witnesses base the numbers of the killed and the capacities of the camps in their own estimates.
Particularly valuable are the statements of the survivors made right after they had left the camps or in the first days after the end of the war. The tragedy of the Serbian and Jewish peoples is clearly reflected in them, as well as the tragedy of the actions of the regime of the Croat Ustasha state in which the basest passions and instincts, stemming from the ideological basis and pogrom-like political program of the Ustasha organization reigned.
The documents are being published in their entirety, with scrupulous observance of their original texts. Only the obvious typing errors were corrected. Other errors were not corrected. Respecting their originality, no interventions were made in the text, not even in the case of abbreviations of which there are several, both terminological and textual.