News 27 Apr 15

Croatia Pays Tribute to Jasenovac Camp Victims

Croatia on Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of the last days of the Nazi-style concentration camp at Jasenovac, where at least 83,000 people were killed.

Sven Milekic
Jasenovac "Flower of Life" monument.

Victims killed in the Nazi-style concentration camp at Jasenovac in central Croatia were commemorated on Sunday at the memorial site when the notorious camp once stood.

The commemoration marked the 70th anniversary of the last prison breakout of 767 inmates on 22 April 1945, a day before the camp was liquidated and the remaining inmates killed. Only around 100 of the 767 survived the breakout.

Run by a local Croatian fascist movement, the Ustasa, at least 83,000 people, 20,000 of whom were children, died in the camp. The victims were mostly Serbs, as well as Roma, Jews and Croatian anti-fascists.

Victims were killed mostly by firearms and hand-held weapons, while some died from exhaustion, illness and hunger.

Zoran Milanovic with the Croatian constitution in his hands. Photo: Beta

Almost the complete political leadership of Croatia was present in Jasenovac, along with Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic who addressed thousands of people from various anti-fascist organizations, Jasenovac survivors and relatives of the victims.

Milanovic opened his speech by recalling the anti-fascist roots of the Croatian constitution and slating the country's new right-wing President, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic.

Grabar Kitarovic did not attend the commemoration but sent the Hollywood producer and Auschwitz survivor Branko Lustig instead.

“I would like to address you as number A3317. This is my number from Auschwitz camp, which I wore for two years and from which I managed to return alive,” Lustig stated to general applause.

“What is important that my grandfather and my family were taken here to Jasenovac. Here my grandfather Guther Emanuel was killed,” he added.

Lustig called for further studies on Jasenovac to make what happened better known to the general population, thereby preventing genocide denial and historical revision.

Delegation of Croatian Roma holding a wreath.

However, the veteran leader of the Serbian minority in Croatia, Milorad Pupovac, complained that the memorial site did not clearly say who either the perpetrators of crimes or the victims of the camp were.

This year’s ceremony included excerpts of written testimonies of survivors read out by the actor Vilim Matula.

The band of Croatian Radio-Television sang a composition “Kola bola” (“Cart of Pain”) by the composer Stanko Horvat, based on a song composed by Bosnian poet Mak Dizdar.

A religious ceremony was held for all faith groups while representatives of victims groups, political parties, embassies and others laid wreaths in memory of the victims.

The memorial centre at Jasenovac, operating on only small resources, is working on completing a name-by-name list of all the people who died in the camp, establishing their names, dates, places of birth and death and their nationality.

The Ustasa movement ran an Axix power satellite state called the Independent State of Croatia, NDH, from 1941 to 1945.

Led by the dictator Ante Pavelic, it aggressively persecuted Serbs, Jews and Roma as well as Croat leftists.

In 1941, the NDH adopted racial laws based on Nazi Germany's "Nuremberg" laws, which outlawed Serbs, Roma and Jews and led to the opening numerous concentration camps.

Although it has been established that more than 83,000 people died in the Jasenovac camp, the final number is believed to larger since some names were never registered, especially those of Roma victims.

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