The Jasenovac camp -

Period: Second World War

Region: West Slavonia

The Jasenovac camp

The Jasenovac camp was the largest concentration camp in the Independent State of Croatia in the territory of the occuped Kingdom of Yugoslavia during 1941-1945. By death toll, it was the third, and by the level of horror, the first largest camp in occupied Europe during World War II. It was formed in August 21th 1941 in the vicinity of the town of Jasenovac and was destroyed by the Ustashas at the end of April 1945.

The “Jasenovac Work Camp” as the Croatian State Administration calls it, was in fact an organized site specifically designed for execution and torture of Serbs, Jews, and Gypsy people of all ages, genders, social, educational and other profiles, as well as  for communists, helpers and sympathizers of Serbs, Jews and Gypsy people..

The Jasenovac concentration camp system  was designed in the 1930s by Croatian fascist (Ustashe) criminal Vjekoslav Maks Luburic who was its first commander. The first supervisor of the camp was former catholic priest Fr. Miroslav Filipovic and later executioner Dinko Sakic.

The camp was built from August 1941 to February 1942. Most of the camp was located in Jasenovac about 100 km southeast of Zagreb. The camps I and II were located in the villages Brocici and Krapije, but  quickly disbanded due to frequent floods. The prisoners were transferred to the camp Ciglana (Jasenovac III) which was the largest camp and it included crematorium.

Executions were carried out in Donja Gradina on the other side of the river Sava . The detention camp for children was in Sisak and Jastrebarsko, and the detention camp for women was in Stara Gradiska southeast from Jasenovac although there were some women and children in Jasenovac itself. In Jasenovac, authorities of the Independent State of Croatia committed massacres and genocide against Serbs, Jews and Romas.

A number of Croats and Muslims were also massacred. These  were deemed to be anti-fascists, communists, sympathizers and aides to the Serbs. No Croat nor a Muslim was killed just because he or she was a Croat or a Muslim.



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The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians, the first South Slavic state, later renamed into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, was created after the First World War, with its promulgation on December 1, 1918, in Belgrade. The territory of the Yugoslav Kingdom was divided into banates in 1929 and the structure of its government was a parliamentary monarchy.

Proclamation of the first South Slavic state

The royal title was held by the Serbian Karadjordjević dynasty. It consisted of Southern Serbia, Šumadija, Raška, Kosovo and Metohija, Eastern Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vojvodina, Slavonija, a small part of Dalmatia, the Dubrovnik Republic, Lika, Kordun, Banija, Zagorje, Gorski Kotar, and Slovenia.

After the assassination of King Alexander I Karadjordjević in Marseilles on October 9, 1934, the country was ruled by regents: Prince Paul Karadjordjević, Dr. Radenko Stanković, and Dr. Ivo Perović, and the government was formed by Dragiša Cvetković and Vlatko Maček.

Belgrade's demonstration on March, 1941.

In the mid-1930s, Europe witnessed the rise of Nazism and Fascism, especially in Germany, Italy, and Spain. This led to the formation of the Tripartite Pact, on September 27, 1940, between Germany, Italy, and Japan. In the next months, this alliance was joined by the following countries: Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, etc. Thus, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia found itself surrounded by Axis Powers.

In Vienna, on March 25, 1941, the signing of the protocol between the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Nazi Germany took place regarding the passage of German and Italian troops through Yugoslav territory. Among the patriotic forces of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, this was interpreted as treason, and the British and Soviet intelligence officers organized a military coup and demonstrations on March 27, 1941 in Belgrade resulting in the overthrow of the governorship led by Prince Paul and putting on the throne a minor king Petar II Karadjordjević.

Hitler changed the plans and the armed forces' plans to attack Greece, were diverted to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.


The death toll has never been accurately determined. The camp archives were destroyed twice (early 1943 and April 1945) The Commission of NR Croatia founded in 1945 to determine a a definite number of victims, stated in a report to the International Military Court in Nurnberg that the number ranged between 500,000 and 700,000.

There is extensive documentation about Ustasha crimes. However, the authorities in the former SFRJ have never allowed it to be investigated  because of the ideology of brotherhood and unity, the foundations upon which the Communist Yugoslavia was shaped. It was also feared that this discloure would reveal that the number of crimes committed by Ustashas was far greater than those comitted by Chetniks.

Monument in Jasenovac

The victims of the camp were Serbs, Jews and Roma  because of their ethnic and religious background, and then communists and anti-fascists who disagreed with the polices  of the then Independent State of Croatia. In Jasenovac, Croats were not killed because they were Croats, nor Muslims because they were Muslims, but explicitly because they were anti-fascists, communists, helpers, and saviours of Serbs.



From December 1941 until April 1942 in Jasenovac Croatian fascists (Ustashe) killed 19.544 boys and girls of Serbian nationality, and their identities were found out later. They were massacred in different equally monstrous ways and they used to die, more frequently than adults, from diseases, famine, thirst, and freezing. Ustashe would bring small children to the river Sava, tie them together and put in a bag, and then throw them into the river. A lot of children (around 400 of them) were slaughtered in Jasenovac in the middle of September, 1942. Children were brought in 15 cars and burnt in a brickyard. 300 children faced similar fate when they were killed in Gradina in October 1942.

One of the rarely survived boys- camp prisoner- Milan Bastasic from Grubisno Polje, described its imprisonment and rescue from the camp of death in the book Bilogora and Grubisno Polje 1941-1991. The number of Serbian children up to 12 years old who died in the Ustasha camp Jasenovac was 19,544 (Croatian and Muslim children were in countless number and they weren’t killed on the basis of ethnicity). It is worth mentioning that a lot of children, around 12,000, were rescued from Ustasha’s attrocities Among others, Diana Budisavljevic, and dozens of kind Croats were rescuers, which means that the idea was to kill all children from Kozara, Potkozorje, and Krajina.

“Children brought to the Jasenovac camp in 1942 were extraordinarily beautiful and healthy. Nobody in the camp had ever seen children as beautiful, healthy and smart as those. We thought that Nazis had chosen them.”

If we had nothing more to say about the crime in Jasenovac, only the suffering of Serbian, Roma and Jewish children, if only this devastating number of the victims were known, the qualification for genocide in international law would require no more evidence. All this, along with other international legal guidelines, clearly confirms that the Independent State of Croatia comitted genocide against the Serbian people..

"When you want to kill a people, kill their children”.

Clauses in the international legal qualification on genocide: extermination of a nation, in the Independent State of Croatia, objectively need no more proof that the Croatian state structure and its development policy committed genocide against the Serbs in Jasenovac, with the already well-known and accepted fact about the Holocaust against the Jews, and the shameful fact of the genocide against the Roma (Gypsies). This genocide against the Serbs was the last committed, not confirmed, genocide in Europe.

Serbs in this historic injustice of strict ideological, national, Christian and who knows what more initiative, generously participate. They participated in the prohibition and mention of genocide because the victim and executioner were to re-create an illogical and unreasonable creation of Yugoslavia over the same, for the reason and with the same symptoms of the dead Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Only human forgiveness, had it not been given already, would have forced the perpetrator to see the truth and remember his own forgotten crimes.

In the Independent State of Croatia, the attrocities that took place still today remain undisclosed with respect to the number of victims and the methods of their execution. The victims were non-Croatian residents of Bosnian Krajina, Banija, Kordun, Slavonija, Dalmacia, Hercegovina, Lika, and Bosnia. These killings  were more than genocide. Neither legal nor moral terminology recognizes adequate qualification of this inhumanity. The truth about the attrocities of Serbian, Jewish and Roma children is not needed only by the victims but also by the Croatian children as well, especially in the later well-known constellations of Serbian-Croatian historical relations.

On October 9, 1942, Vjekoslav Luburic aka "Max" said at a ceremony in Jasenovac, which he had organized as a celebration of the anniversary of his bloody reign, in his speech he said:

"... and so we are here in this year, here in Jasenovac we slaughtered more people than Osmanli empire did during the entire rule of the Turks in Europe."



The Jasenovac Concentration Camp consisted of several camps established in short periods of time, at greater or less distance from the Jasenovac site itself. The Ustashas killed or relocated his entire population and placed a permanent Croatian fascists (Ustasha) garrison in the place.

The camp itself was a system of 5 main camps and several smaller camps and camps covering a total of 210 km² near the river Una in the Sava.

The camps were:

  1.     Camp I Brocice
  2.     Camp II Krapje
  3.     Camp III Brickyard
  4.     Camp IV Leather
  5.     Campsite V Stara Gradiska

Additional close areas with loss sites were in: Gradina, Jablanac, Uštice, Mlaka, Dubica (lime), and Granik (on the Sava River).



The preparatory work for the establishment of the new camp began no later than 24 July 1941, when the Directorate of Reclamation and Regulatory Works commissioned a tree "for the construction of wooden barges in Jasenovac". Although Jasenovac was mentioned, the first detainees were taken to Camp I, next to the village of Krapje, and to Camp II, which was located near the village of Brocice.

The camp was established from 15 to 21 August 1941, and the first prisoners arrived on 20-21. in August to make barracks at Camp I Brocice. The first detainees brought were men, Serbs and Jews who were not able to be liquidated by the Ustasha after the closure of the Croatian fascists (Ustashe's) concentration camps of Gospić-Jadovno-Pag. On 23 August, the Croatian newspaper brought news of the establishment of a labor camp in Jasenovac for the construction of dams on the Lonja Trebica rivers to drain the Lonja wetlands.

These first two camps were soon disbanded due to frequent floods of the Veliki Strug River which made it impossible for prisoners to work and stay in the camps, and the surviving prisoners were moved to the newly established Camp III Brick, located near Jasenovac, along the Sava River, where an industrial complex already existed . In addition to this largest and central function, other parts of the camp were gradually formed: the Kozara Working Group, established in Jasenovac in 1942, Stara Gradiška Camp, the second largest camp located within the former penitentiary and the Mlaka camp economy, Jablanac, Gređani, Bistrica and Feričanci.

This unique camp complex, modeled after the Third Reich concentration camps, officially named "Ustasha Defense Command of Jasenovac Assembly Camps", was under the command of the Ustasha Supervision Service (UNS), or its Office III of Ustasha Defense, whose function was establishment, organization, administration and security of the camp.

Jasenovac Concentration Camp was the first systematically constructed camp complex on the territory of the Independent State of Croatia, the only one that has operated continuously throughout its existence, the largest by the space it occupied, by the number of inmates who went through it, and by the number of victims therein.  It was a multi-purpose camp, but above all a death camp. It was a waste place for most of those who entered it who did not fit into the notion of "racial purity" (mostly Serbs, but also Jews and Roma), as well as for opponents of the Ustasha regime and their family members, regardless of national or racial belonging.

Not only men, but also women and children from all over the NDH who referred to it. Many women, often with their children, were brought to Jasenovac. The whole village of Mlaka has been transformed into a women's labor camp. They are forced to perform heavy, exhausting agricultural work in the surrounding area. The killings were carried out in the immediate vicinity of the villages of Mlaka and Jablanac.


Jasenovac is the first Croatian (Ustasha) camp to function according to the Nazi model. Max Luburic, an Ustasha official in charge of the camps, spent some time in Germany, as a guest of the Gestapo, in early October 1941. On that occasion, he visited several German concentration camps, and upon his return to the NDH, reorganized the existing camps and established new ones modeled by the camps in Nazi Germany.

Jasenovac resembled Nazi camps by organization, though the killings were done differently. As in the Nazi camps, efforts were made to utilize the labor of the inmates before liquidation. Jasenovac was also erected on the site where there were already craft and factory facilities.

Table: "Place where collect corpses"

The massacre system in Jasenovac was established as early as the fall of 1941, as more human transport began to arrive. Men, women and children would come here by train, truck, horse-drawn carriage or simply running in front of the Ustashas with their rifles pointed. Mass executions were located all over the Jasenicevo camp. Most are located on the right bank of the Sava River from Dubica downstream, and especially in the village of Gradina. According to forensic research, over 300,000 people were killed right there.

The killings of the detainees were also carried out in the woods near the Krapje camps, near the Versaj and Uštica camps, on the entire left bank of the Sava River downstream from Jasenovac to the villages of Jablanac and Mlake. In addition, there was a crematorium inside the Troika complex, which was actually a brick kiln; the Ustashas turned it into a crematorium, according to the designs of Hinko Piccili, so that the inmates could be burned in it. There were other places in the camp camp besides Piccili's stoves where people were tortured and killed, called potters, granic, bell-ringers, ghostly lakes, and so on. In the Stara Gradiška camp, torture and killings took place in the cellars of the old Austrian fortress, in the tower of that fortress and on the banks of the Sava.

The extent to which the killing system was developed is evidenced by a letter from the General staff sent on 27 April 1942 to all Ustasha units and institutions, stating that "an assembly and labor camp in Jasenovac can accommodate an unlimited number of prisoners."



From the summer of 1941 until the spring of 1945, death came in many forms. The prisoners and all those who ended up in Jasenovac were slaughtered by the Ustasha with specially designed knives or killed with axes, males and hammers; there were also shootings or hangings on trees or bundles. Some were burned alive in hot stoves, boiled in cauldrons, or strangled in the Sava River.

Srbosjek - special Croatian knife for mass killing Serbs

Various forms of torture were used here - they used to rip nails on their hands and feet with metal objects, blind people by sticking needles in their eyes, tearing their flesh and then salting them. So “special” type tools were created, such as: serbo-cutter, serbo-hitter and so on. They also dragged people alive, cut off their noses, ears, and tongues with wire cutters, and stabbed them in the heart. The daughters were raped before the mothers, and the sons were tortured before their fathers. Simply put, in the concentration camps in Jasenovac and Stara Gradiška the Ustashas went beyond anything that not even the most honest mind could imagine and implement, in terms of the brutality with which people were killed.

One of the remnants of torture in Jasenovac remained the so-called. a horror poplar where inmates are in great numbers hanging out. The people of Jasenovac were no longer human beings but objects suitable for the survival of every Ustasha whim. Even the Nazi generals were astonished at the horrors of Jasenovac.

Thus, German general von Horstenau, Hitler's envoy to Zagreb, wrote in his personal diary for 1942 that the Ustasha camps in the NDH were "the essence of horror" and Arthur Hefner, the officer in charge of transporting labor to the German Reich, wrote for Jasenovac November 11th, 1942:
- "The concept of Jasenovac camp should actually be understood as a complex of several camps, which are several kilometers apart, and are grouped around Jasenovac itself. Regardless of public propaganda, this is one of the scariest camps that can only be compared to Dante's Hell..."

Unlike the German camps where the killing was industrial, in Jasenovac the killing was savage, carried out mostly by hand, with hand tools, knives, levers, mallets, hammers.



After the allied bombing of the camps in March and April 1945, in which many of the facilities inside the camp were destroyed, Vjekoslav Maks Luburic, commander of the Ustasha Defense, ordered all the detainees to be liquidated and the camp and Jasenovac to be completely destroyed and burned. All the traces of the crime were concealed. The last group of 700 women was liquidated on the eve of April 21th.

On the night of April 21-22, 1945, a portion of the last male detainees decided to try to break through the camp, knowing that they would be killed tomorrow. Of these, 1,200 survivors were survived by 1,200 detainees. On the same day, just a few hours later, a breakthrough of detainees from Kozara began. Out of 176, only 11 were rescued.

In the abandoned town of Jasenovac and not far from it, the camp was destroyed, on May 3, 1945, the first entered the firing squads of the 1st Battalion of the 4th Serbian Brigade of the 21st National Liberation Strike Division of the Yugoslav Army. The battalion that entered Jasenovac was given the task of preserving the traces of the crime until the arrival of the State Commission to Determine the Occupier's Crime.

The first inspection of the situation at the Jasenovac III Brick Concentration Camp in Gradina and Uštica was carried out by the District Commission for Determining the Crimes of the Occupiers and Their Aides from Nova Gradiška on 11 May 1945. The Inquiry Committee of the Croatian Land Crimes Commission came to Jasenovac on May 18, 1945. Information on the appearance, organization of work, daily life and the last days of the camp was provided to the Commission by surviving inmates and breakthrough participants. A month later, on June 18, when the Sava River retreated into its bed, the Croatian Land Commission conducted a third inspection.



The death toll of the Jasenovac camp has been the subject of scientific and political debate to this day. German generals from World War II provided very different and therefore unreliable data on the number of Serbs killed in the NDH.

  • Alexander Ler gave the number of 400,000 Serbs in 1943,
  • Lotar Rendulic - 500,000 Orthodox (August 1943),
  • Hermann Neubacher - more than 750,000 (1943),
  • Ernst Fick - 600,000 to 700,000 by March 1944.
  • The 1946 State Commission of Yugoslavia estimated the death toll at 500,000 to 600,000.
  • The Israeli Jad-Vas Center reports 700,000 victims of genocide in the Jasenovac camp.

According to the findings of the Holocaust Encyclopedia of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the Ustasha regime killed over 250,000 Serbs from 1941 to 1943, tens of thousands of whom in Jasenovac alone.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles estimates that about 600,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma and Croatian anti-fascists were killed in Jasenovac. The Simon Vizental Center's "Last Chance for Croatia" project says the death toll is 85,000.

In the book, "Free History," former Croatian President Franjo Tudjman claimed that 30,000 to 40,000 Serbs, 30,000 Jews, and 10,000 Croatian anti-fascists were killed in Jasenovac.

Yugoslav historian and Tito biographer Vladimir Dedijer estimated the death toll of Jasenovac at 700,000 to 1.2 million victims.

Slavko Goldstein, president of the Jewish Community of Croatia, estimates the death toll is 60,000 to 90,000.

The figure mentioned by Croatian authorities is 50,000.

The Belgrade Holocaust Museum has a list of 80,022 names of those killed, mostly from Jasenovac. Of that number: 52,000 Serbs, 16,000 Jews, 12,000 Croats and close to 10,000 Roma.

During the 1980s, analyzes by Croatian researcher Vladimir Zerjavic and Serbian Bogoljub Kocovic came to a similar figure using demographic statistical methods. According to them, about 80,000 people were killed in Jasenovac (up to 30% error), and the total number of deaths in the NDH was between 300,000 and 350,000. According to some, these figures are too small, as they assumed a 1.1% growth rate of the Serbian population (as for the whole of Yugoslavia), while for the Serbs it was 2.4% in the period 1921-1931 and 3.5% in the period 1949 -1953.

In December 2007, the Jasenovac Memorial Center published a list of 72,193 names of Jasenovac victims. According to these data, 59,376 people were killed in Camp III Brick and 12,790 in Stara Gradiška. Of these, 19,006 were children up to 14 years of age. Nationally, the victims were: 40,251 Serbs, 14,750 Roma, 11,723 Jews, 3,583 Croats, 1,063 Muslims, etc. Catalogs include biographical information on the victims, information on the place and manner of the casualty, and the sources in which each is mentioned.

However, this list is not complete, but is constantly being updated with the new names of the victims, so that it does not represent the final number of people killed, but only those who have been registered by that moment. This was confirmed by the leaders of the center after harsh criticism of Serbian representatives at the 2008 commemoration.

The International Commission on the Truth About Jasenovac (Academician Prof. Srboljub Zivanovic) found that over 700,000 Serbs; 23,000 Jews and 80,000 Roma were killed; including 110,000 children.


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