Donja Gradina


There are those who believe that Jasenovac was an extermination camp and the reason is called Donja Gradina. Ustaša intended to make Croatia ethnically pure, mainly from Serbs, but Jews and Gypsies also fell victim to the Ustaša regime’s ambitions for an ethnically pure Croatia. Thousands of people (mainly Serbs) were murdered during World War II by the Ustaša regime at special execution sites. By far the largest of these was Donja Gradina across the river Ssava from Jasenovac III. Donja Gradina was formerly a village whose inhabitants were evacuated by the Ustaša regime so that it could be used as an execution site. The first executions took place in January 1942. The bodies had to be cremated in the houses because the frost in the ground made it impossible to dig graves. Most of those murdered were beaten or stabbed to death with axes, hammers, sticks, knives or other implements.

Current status: Monument (2009).

Location: 45°16'11.90"N 16°55'08.20"E

Get there: Car.

My comment:

Donja Gradina is today located right on the border with Croatia and is not part of the Jasenovac Museum. The border is formed by the river Sava with each site on either side of the river. The mass graves are scattered over a large area connected by paths. It is possible to walk across the border to Donja Gradina.

Exactly how many were murdered in Donja Gradina remains a sensitive issue and the actual number will certainly never be determined. In any case, the majority of those murdered were Serbs. Whether Donja Gradina was an extermination camp on the same grounds as its Nazi counterparts cannot be determined overnight, Serbs and Croats are too divided on this issue. But in a way, Donja Gradina has become for the Serbs what Auschwitz was and is for the Jews. According to the memorial, there are about 700 000 people buried in the area, including 200 000 children. This can be compared to the 70 000 people mentioned by the museum in Jasenovac. By 2009, 105 mass graves had been mapped over an area of 10,130 square meters and a further 22 mass graves had been found, the extent of which had not yet been determined. 

Follow up in books: Lituchy, Barry M: Jasenovac and the Holocaust in Yugoslavia (2006).