News 07 Jun 17

Jasenovac Concentration Camp Photos Show Post-War Reality

A collection of photographs of the Croatian fascist-run concentration camp Jasenovac taken after WWII tackle unsupported claims that the Communists also killed many prisoners there.

Sven Milekic


A book containing 758 photos taken at the site of the Croatian World War II concentration camp Jasenovac between 1945 and 1947 was launched on Tuesday evening in Zagreb.

The photos show the camp facilities and the nearby village of Jasenovac, both of which were destroyed by the Croatian fascist Ustasa movement, which ran the camp.

The Ustasa deliberately destroyed the camp and the village while retreating before the advancing anti-fascist Partisan troops in April 1945.

Most historians agree that the camp was destroyed in order to cover the massive crimes committed there.

The book, initially published by the Jasenovac Memorial Site in late 2016, was produced by a historian and curator from the Memorial Site, Djordje Mihovilovic.

He gathered all the photos in the possession of the Memorial Site, as well as those in the Croatian State Archives in Zagreb, the Archives of Yugoslavia in Belgrade and the Archives of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mihovilovic told BIRN that he got the images from “existing state and public institutions, none of which were hidden”.

He classified and categorised the photos and “a sort of tool for other researchers who want to further analyse the photos; also helping them to know what is located where”.

This book offers some photos of destroyed camp buildings that were rarely seen in previously-published books, he explained.

“This is the biggest contribution of this book,” he said.

Most of the photos were taken by the Yugoslav State Commission for the Crimes of the Occupiers and their Domestic Helpers, while some were private initiatives, such as photos by Sergej Nikolic, whose father Nikola Nikolic survived the camp.

At the book presentation, journalists Sasa Kosanovic and Tihomir Ponos and historians Natasa Matausic and Milan Radanovic emphasised the importance of this book in rejecting scientifically unsupported claims that Jasenovac was a mere labour camp, downplaying the death toll while claiming that more people were actually killed there by Yugoslav Communists between 1945 and 1951 than by the Ustasa.

This claim was backed by the 2016 documentary film ‘Jasenovac – The Truth’, made by controversial Croatian film director Jakov Sedlar.

But Matausic said that the photos in the new book show that the claim that the Communists established a concentration camp at Jasenovac after the Ustasa regime was defeated are untrue.

“I agree with this [that there was no Communist camp] since this amount of photos proves that the camp couldn’t have existed there because it would have been unavailable to civilians and photographers… Anyone who knows how to read the photos will be able to read more out of them than could be got from a text. The post-war camp couldn’t have existed,” Matausic said.

According to research by the Jasenovac Memorial Site, 83,145 people – 47,627 Serbs, 16,173 Roma, 13,116 Jews and the others anti-fascists – have been identified on a name-by-name basis as having died at the Ustasa concentration camp during the war, a figure which is not yet final.

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