Skip to comments.Balkan 'Auschwitz' haunts Croatia
Posted on 05/05/2005 10:25:27 AM PDT by Destro
Last Updated: Monday, 25 April, 2005, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK
Balkan 'Auschwitz' haunts Croatia
Survivors of a World War II death camp have been mourning the victims of Croatia's Nazi puppet regime. As the BBC's Nick Hawton and Marko Kovac report, war crimes committed long before the atrocities of the 1990s still haunt Croatia as it seeks EU membership.
The atrocities at Jasenovac shocked even the Nazis
In the vast open field, on the banks of the Sava River, the survivors came to pay their respects.
Sixty years ago, this was the scene of some of the worst atrocities of World War II.
The Jasenovac death camp came to be known as "the Auschwitz of the Balkans".
Even the Nazis were shocked by what happened here. Today's survivors glance at the point on the river where so many of their friends and colleagues were brutally murdered.
To their left is the huge concrete monument, shaped into the petals of an opening flower, in honour of the dead.
Some people have tears in their eyes. Many carry flowers. Everyone has their own memories.
"I was arrested because my parents were partisans fighting the fascist regime," says 69-year old Serb Slavko Milanovic.
"My mother had to hide me in bed sheets every morning because Ustasha were separating children and taking them away."
Many of the children were murdered.
Jasenovac was run by the Croatian Fascist Ustasha allied to Adolf Hitler.
Their victims were Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and Croats opposed the regime.
"There was a brick factory in the camp. It had a big oven that would be heated up and people were thrown in alive." says Slavko.
"They would dig graves, put prisoners in and then hit them with hammers until they died. Concrete was then poured over."
At the commemoration, survivors and their families listen to anniversary speeches by politicians and organisers.
But their minds take them far away from this place - to World War II and those who died as victims of the cruel regime.
No one really knows how many died here. Serbs talk of 700,000. Most estimates put the figure nearer 100,000.
In the post-war communist years, investigations into such crimes were forbidden. The regime did not want to rock the delicate stability of the new Yugoslavia.
"It is very important that we teach our children values that can prevent this catastrophe happening again," says Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to the hundreds gathered.
"The victory of anti-fascism over fascism is a victory for values which are threaded into modern Europe and modern Croatia."
And it is modern Croatia that is very much on Mr Sanader's mind.
This week, Croatia will try to reignite its attempts to join the European Union, at meetings with EU officials in Luxembourg.
In March, accession talks were put on hold because the EU believed modern Croatia was not doing all it could to hand over a general wanted for war crimes during the 1990s.
General Ante Gotovina has been on the run for years. The EU believes Croatia could do more to find him.
But while some people are having trouble resolving modern war crimes, for others it is the old war crimes that prey on their minds.
Croat Simo Klaic, 80, spent three years at Jasenovac in 1942-45.
Today, like every anniversary, he is here to remember his friends who died in the camp.
"This should never, ever happen again - anywhere," he says.
"And let's remember, during the 1940s, there were people who just did not know what the Ustasha were doing here.
"But then there were also those who did know what was being done here - and did nothing," he says.
Jasenovac the third largest concentration camp of WWII in Nazi occupied Europe.
The Yugoslav ethnic wars of the 1990's were an extension of World War Two. In many cases the same uniforms and insignias were worm by the various Yugoslavian combatants.
The Ustaa established Croatias first concentration camps in the spring of 1941. Among them were Koprivnica, Pag Island, Jadovno, Krucica (located in Bosnia-Herzegovina), Ðakovo, Tenje, and Loborgrad.
By October 1942, the Ustaa authorities had closed all of these camps. Between August 1941 and February 1942, the Ustaa established the Jasenovac complex of campsKrapje, Brocica, Ciglana, Kozara, and Stara Gradika. Krapje and Brocica were closed in November 1941. Ciglana, Kozara, and Stara Gradika were dismantled in April 1945 as the Ustaa fled the approaching Yugoslav partisans.
Germans and Ustaa killed approximately 32,000 Jews from Croatia between 1941 and 1945. The precise number of Jews murdered in the Jasenovac complex is not known, but estimates range from 8,000 to 20,000 victims. These numbers do not include Jews whom the Ustaa authorities turned over to the Germans for deportation to Auschwitz and other camps.
Many of the camp inmates died of starvation, exposure, and disease, or were murdered by the Ustaa guards. In addition, Ustaa authorities handed over approximately 7,000 Jews from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to the Nazis for deportation to Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and other camps.
Statistics for Romani victims are difficult to assess, as there are no firm estimates of their number in prewar Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The best estimates calculate the number of Romani victims at about 26,000, of whom between 8,000 and 15,000 perished in Jasenovac.
There are only loose estimates for the number of Croats murdered by the Ustaa. This group included political and religious opponents of the regime, both Catholic and Muslim. Between 5,000 and 12,000 Croats are believed to have died in Jasenovac.
Jasenovac Survivor Lilijana Ivanisovic recounts how Ustashi guards "separated babies from their mothers' breasts and threw them into pits." : source
Thanks for the informative post.
Those children, the women being herded like cattle through woodlands.... and the executions done by the very young looking militia... shocking!!
Look at those vicious fellows, muslims apparently holding their knives and guns over their victims( Serbs? Jews? Gypsies?)!! HOW AWFUL.
Now, what is the rst of the story on all those clergy in that one picture with the Nazis?? An Archbishop?? How dreadful.
Hey, guys take a looks at this WWII stuff. Rough stuff...
PING to you all.
Great post. The Croatian and Hungarian Catholics were exceedingly evil in WW2 as they out Nazied the Nazis. The Germans were revulsed by their barbarism against Serbs and Jews.
Thanks Lion in Winter. Another terrible and not well publicized chapter of WWII. Hitler knew how to manipulate ethinic and historical hatreds and he used ethnic strifes to secure the position of the Third Reich in Yugoslavia and Soviet Union.
I have not heard that in years. My cousin from the Bronx, near the Botanical Gardens always said it was NOT his favorite!! LOL! That guy had such a sweet tooth... that's why it wasn't... I tell ya!
2 cent plain.... LOL!!
2¢ plain is plain old seltzer without any syrup. That's what I think it is. The man who wrote the book by that name was Harry Golden, a real rascal and the publisher of the Carolina Israelite.
Sorry never heard of the author or his publication, though.
I often felt like we were on the wrong side when Clinton sent in the troops.
Thanks for the ping. Glad I had time to digest dinner before looking at some of those photos, and following links.
Remember although some of the photos were rather shocking, there are others which are far worse.
"Those children, the women being herded like cattle through woodlands.... and the executions done by the very young looking militia... shocking!!"
I believe all of us can clearly recall identical film footage and news photos of the ethnic factions seeking revenge on each other during the Balkan wars of the 1990's.
The different sides in the former Yugoslavia once again set up 'transit refugee centers' where thousands of 'Yugoslavs' were slaughtered by enemy 'Yugoslav' ethnic militias.
History demonstrates it repeats itself unless caught in time.
I live in FL too. Those Publixx lightly flavored seltzers are good. Those carbonated (CO2) bubbles are good for digestion etc
Harry Golden is a favorite of my dad, who used to own several of Golden's books. One of them was entitled "For 2c Plain." I read a few of Golden's books when I was in college 25 years ago, and enjoyed him; he was a good humorist and observer of life.