About 100 kilometres south of Zagreb lies the small town Jasenovac with around 2000 inhabitants. When Germany occupied Yugoslavia in April 1941, it was divided between Germany, Italy, Bulgaria and Hungary. Former yugoslav republics of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina formed a new state called the independent state of Croatia. It was ruled by dictator, Ante Pavelic, leader of the national fascist movement Ustasha, in reality it was a puppet state to Germany. The Ustasha regime set up a number of concentration camps and the most famous and largest was set up in August, 1941, in Jasenovac. The camp was located along the Sava river and consisted of four labor camps. It was in these camps that the majority of the victims of Ustasha were murdered. The camp in Jasenovac was called Jasenovac III and was the main camp. It was set up at an existing brickworks whose Serbian owners fled and the prisoners of the camp were forced to produce bricks. The camp was surrounded by two rivers which made it difficult for prisoners to escape. In addition there was also a wall surrounding the camp.

The camp was largely organized as the Nazi concentration camps but Ustasha called it labor camps instead of concentration camps. It was guarded and administered by representatives of Ustasa who ran all camps in Croatia without German interference. The conditions in Jasenovac were as primitive and devastating as in any Nazi camp. The Croatian guards were perhaps, if possible, more brutal than their Nazi counterparts. The camp was located right next to the Sava River and on the other side of the river, at a place called Donja Gradina, thousands of prisoners were murdered in the most primitive ways. There were no gas chambers in Jasenovac, but the prisoners were murdered mainly with bludgeons, hammers, iron pipes, axes, sticks, knives and buried in mass graves. According to the museum, it is possible to establish more than 70,000 deaths, of which Serbs accounted for the majority of victims. The Ustasha regime sought an ethnic cleansing of Croatia free from Serbs but also Jews, gypsies and political opponents were murdered in Jasenovac. In april 1945, Yugoslav partisans approached the camp and in connection with this, about a hundred prisoners rebelled. Only a few managed to escape while the others were murdered. Soon after, the camp was liquidated and destroyed by Ustasha and the remaining prisoners were murdered. On April 30, the partisans liberated the camp.

Current status: Demolished with museum (2009).

Location: 45°16'40.2" N 16°55'42.7" E

Get there: Car.

My comment:

In 2009 the museum in Jasenovac has been criticized outside Croatia for not dealing with the Ustasha regime’s collaboration with Nazi Germany. The museum focuses on the prisoners and very little is mentioned about the criminals. If you as a visitor are interested in the Ustasha regime, you have to go into the museum’s database. Ustasha’s direct relationship with Hitler is not something that is considered necessary to highlight, the only thing that exists was a photograph of the leader of the Ustasha regime Pavelic when he was received by Hitler at Berghof in 1941. There was no information about any commanders or guards who served in the camp, nor was there any information about what Ustasha actually represented. In short, the signals that the museum provides are dual, Ustasha was guilty of war crimes against the Serbian people, but they also represented a nationalism that it want to preserve by not highlighting Ustasha in the exhibition.

The nationalism that Pavelic represented is still supported and for many Croats, Ustasha has become a symbol of resistance to the Serbs. Exactly how much support I do not know but it is not insignificant and it is spot on. Not for nothing, Ustasha members were greeted as heroes when they returned home from exile after Croatia gained independence. Under such conditions, it is more or less impossible to agree on what Jasenovac really was, it all depends on who gets the question. For Croats and Serbs, the time between 1941 and 1945 is still worth charged in a way where opinions differ greatly. Among other things, they disagree about the number of victims, Croatia mentions 70 000 victims, from Serbian the figure is 700 000, not entirely a insignificant difference.

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