Tuesday, April 24, 2018

JADOVNO Concentration Camp / By George Djuro Budimir / "Britic" April 24, 2018

April 24, 2018
By George Djuro Budimir

Jadovno Concentration Camp

Background. In April 1941, after the invasion of Yugoslavia, Hitler rewarded Croatian Fascists, known as Ustashe, by carving out of Yugoslavia a Croatian state “The Independent State of Croatia,” with Ante Pavelić as its leader. Their official policy was the establishment of a “Pure and Catholic State,” a unique creation responsible for one of the bloodiest pages of Church history.

On June 2, in his speech given at Nova Gradiška, Milovan Zanić, the Minister of Justice revealed his government’s plan: “This state, our country is only for Croats and for no one else. There are no ways and means which we Croats will not use to make our country truly ours, and cleanse it of all Orthodox Serbs.” Mile Budak, the Minister of Education in an address at Karlovac on July 13, 1941, did not hesitate to declare “the movement of the Ustashe is based on religion.” Unsurprisingly, a considerable number of Catholic clergy were participants in the forcible conversion of Serbs, or their complete elimination. Then there was Archbishop Ivan Šarić of Sarajevo admonishing any reluctance on the part of his priests, stating that “it would be stupid and unworthy of the disciples of Christ to think that struggling against an evil could be done nobly with gloves.” (Katolički Tjednik, June 15, 1941) The worst crimes could hardly have been surpassed by the deeds of these individuals, the vilest betrayers of God and of man.

Modern-day Croatian Ustashe protesting at the Jadovno site

Operation. The planned conversion and extermination spelt one thing: the total annihilation of 2.2 million Orthodox Serbs living in this newly-minted state. For this “Great Mission” the establishment of concentration camps – 26 of them – were set up across the land of Croatia. One of them being a notorious Gospić-Jadovno complex in Lika, established between 11 and 15 April. This was the first camp for the elimination of Serbs, Jews and other undesirables. By the beginning of May 1941, train-loads of arrested Serbs were arriving daily at the collection camp in Gospić, where they were treated with indescribable brutality. Then, wired together in groups of 450-500, they were taken to Jadovno concentration camp located in the mountains of Velebit, 21 km. from Gospić. This was truly a death march, the walking dead. Indeed, many died along the long march, summarily executed as they struggled to keep up. Upon arrival, exhausted and hungry with many showing signs of torture, the victims were moved inside the camp, surrounded by three rows of barbed wire four metres high. Armed guards and lookout towers were posted around the camp perimeter. The camp commander was a notorious Ustasha Juco Rukavina.

The camp. Here, in Jadovno camp, the extent of hatred and bestiality reached its culmination, a place where the victims were tortured and murdered in the most savage ways.  Particularly chilling were the scenes of children being snatched away from their mothers. Only days ago, their world was suffused with warmth and affection. On that day, these achingly young kids were taken away to be murdered. Their parents, and all the other victims, bound to each other by wire, in groups of twenty, were taken to the edge of a pit, where the Ustashe would kill the first one in line whose weight would drag the others down alive with them. Not acts of war, these were plainly acts of evil.

Death toll. We know now how colossal the loss was. According to the many years of research by Dr. Djuro Zatezalo, 40,123 people were murdered at Jadovno (38,010 Serbs, 1998 Jews, 88 Croats, 11 Slovenes, nine Muslims, two Hungarians, two Czechs, one Russian, and one Roma). Listed among them were 1,029 children (1,014 were Serbs and fifteen were Jews), including 71 Serbian Orthodox priests, and two bishops. However, according to Dr. Zatezalo, those numbers are not final as some of the 33 recorded pits were not explored. Šaranova Pit/Jama, being closest to the camp devoured, most of the victims. Only one man, Serdjo Poljak, managed to crawl out of his pit and saved himself. Three other men managed to escape Jadovno concentration camp: Branko Cetina, Sava Zaroja and Mane Čanak. They were outside the camp perimeter felling trees and managed to evade their guards.

Aftermath. The camp was closed on 21 August 1941 by intervention of Italian occupation troops. The last group of captives was moved by train to Jasenovac camp and its extermination facilities.

A monument commemorating those who perished in Jadovno was erected in 1975 but it was removed in 1990, just a year before the violence of the Croatian War of Independence. A replica of the original monument was constructed and dedicated in 2010, but it disappeared within twenty-four hours of its inauguration.

In the post-war communist years, the Jadovno camp was never discussed in public or in print. The traces of the camp were carefully hidden, some pits cemented over, Mother Nature reclaimed its own, and the veil of silence fell over Jadovno.

In 2005, in his search for Jadovno, Dr. Dani Novak from Ithica College, N.Y. U.S.A. wrote “after much hardships in searching, I found the derelict location of Šaranova Pit that claimed four of my family.” And in today’s Croatia the historical revision still goes on, still reducing the extent of crimes and numbers of victims, constantly defying the clear evidence of recorded history.

Of all the still-evocative better-known names of World War II concentration camps– Jasenovac, Jasterbatsko, Stara and Nova Gradiška and other execution places – here’s another name: Jadovno, a synonym of disgust and shame.

  • From Kosovo to Jadovno by Atanasije Jevtić, Belgrade 1984
  • First International Conference on Ustasha Concentration Camp in Jadovno-Gospić 1941, held in Banja Luka 24-25 June 2011.
  • Personal archives and documents.


If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at ravnagora@hotmail.com


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