– The exhibition about children of the death camp Jasenovac (Independent State of Croatia) –
The exibition ” They were just children” about suffering of the 19,432 mostly Serbian girls and boys in the infamous Ustasha concentration camp Jasenovac was opened last night in Modriča, Republika Srpska.
The exhibition was opened by the Acting Director of the Museum of Genocide Victims of Belgrade, Veljko Djuric – Misima, who said that in the Independent State of Croatia / ISC / during the Second World War, Croatian Ustashas and Catholic clergy killed nearly 50,000 Serbian children .
He pointed out that the photographs and memories remain as a reminder of the evil that has befallen the NDH Serbs , Jews and Roma stressing that for the first time in history the camps for children were established in then Croatia. According to him , the exhibition will be organized in several cities of the Republika Srpska, Russia and Norway.
Below is the story from the perspective of one Croatian butcher, Mile Friganović:
“Franciscan Pero Brzica, Ante Zrinusic, Sipka and I waged a bet on who would slaughter more prisoners that night. The killing started and already after an hour I slaughtered much more than they did. It seemed to me that I was in seventh heaven. I had never felt such bliss in my life. And already after a few hours I slaughtered 1,100 people, while the others only managed to kill 300 to 400 each. And then, when I was experiencing the greatest ecstasy I noticed an elderly peasant standing and peacefully and calmly watching me slaughter my victims and them dying in the greatest pain. That look of his shook me: in the midst of the greatest ecstasy I suddenly froze and for some time couldn’t make a single move. And then I walked up to him and found out that he was some Vukasin [Mandrapa] from the village of Klepci near Capljina whose whole family had been killed, and who was sent to Jasenovac after having worked in the forests. He spoke this with incomprehensible peace which affected me more than the terrible cries around us. All at once I felt the wish to disrupt his peace with the most brutal torturing and, through his suffering, to restore my ecstasy and continue to enjoy the inflicting of pain.
“I singled him out and sat him down on a log. I ordered him to cry out: ‘Long live Poglavnik [Fuehrer] Pavelić!’, or I would cut his ear off. Vukasin was silent. I ripped his ear off. He didn’t say a word. I told him once again to cry out ‘Long live Pavelić!’ or I would tear off the other ear too. I tore off the other ear. ‘Yell: “Long live Pavelić!”, or I’ll tear off your nose.’ And when I ordered him for the fourth time to yell ‘Long live Pavelić!’ and threatened to take his heart out with a knife, he looked at me, that is, somehow through me and over me into uncertainty and slowly said: ‘Do your job, child.’ [Radi ti, dijete, svoj posao.] After that, these words of his totally bewildered me. I froze, plucked out his eyes, tore out his heart, cut his throat from ear to ear and threw him into the pit. But then something broke within me and I could no longer kill that night.
“Franciscan Pero Brzica won the bet because he had slaughtered 1,360 prisoners and I paid the bet without a word.” (Qtd. in The Role of the Vatican in the Breakup of the Yugoslav State, by Dr. Milan Bulajić, Belgrade, 1994: 156-157; from a Jan., 1943, interview with Friganović by psychiatrist Dr. Nedo Zec, who was also an inmate at Jasenovac.)
Boro Prpoš was nine years old when he was captured along with his stepmother and three-year-old brother and herded toward Jasenovac. He saw his stepmother and brother killed on the way to the camp, his brother in such a brutal way that he still cannot bear to describe the killing.
“I can forget everything. But I cannot forget my little brother. Three years old.” Mr. Prpoš fought tears and tapped his clinched fists together as he repeated, “Three years old.” He suppressed his emotions and shrugged as he said, “It was war.” He hesitated before he continued slowly. “No, it was not war. It was genocide. It was just to keep certain people away from the planet.”
Just as it is impossible for Americans to remember what they never knew, it is impossible for people in the Balkans to forget. Most Serbian, Jewish, and Roma families are poorer by a relative or two or twenty or fifty. Called the “Balkan Auschwitz,” the Jasenovac system of death camps is cited as the “third most effective” in occupied Europe—behind Auschwitz’s 1.1-1.3 million victims and close to Treblinka’s 700,000-870,000, yet the story of the camp is still buried in government archives; the victims and their families having received no apology nor reparations but only suppression under Tito and now minimizations and denials from the Croatian governments.
The exhibition is organized by the Museum of Genocide Victims in Belgrade and Serbian Cultural Centre of Modriča; the photos will be exhibited until 17 March.