During existence of concentration camp in Jasenovac, there were in fact three camps there: Ustashi camp, Communist Partisan camp, and Communist camp for Inforbiro supporters. Igor Vukić, whose grandfather – an Orthodox Serb – was imprisoned in the Jasenovac camp, says that Ustashi camp was a penal one, rather than a death camp. It served the function of preventing potential terrorists (mostly ethnic Croats) from carrying out their actions, as well as collecting workforce for industry and agriculture of the Third Reich, which was run mostly by slaves. Causes of death were disease, retaliation for partisan attacks, punishments for crimes, partisan attacks and Allied air raids. While total number of dead is unknown, postwar exhumations revealed remains of 725 dead.
Murdered Croatian soldiers, killed in the Communist camp, were thrown into Sava with intent of presenting them as victims of the Ustashi camp. This was successful. But Stipo Pilić and Blanka Matković state that majority of victims whose remains had been analyzed could only have been ethnic Croats.
Majority of the people imprisoned in Jasenovac were not soldiers, but rather class enemies: lawyers, judges, and especially priests. Prisoners were forced to, among other things, clear minefields – despite having had no training for such a thing. There were also random murders. Communist guards would randomly select an area into which prisoners were not allowed – but nobody would tell that to the prisoners, nor was the area demarcated. When a prisoner entered this “forbidden area”, he was summarily gunned down.
Slavko Bašić, then 14 years old, was returning in 1945. from Bleiburg in a prisoner column. When they were passing near Jasenovac camp, he saw a huge mass of corpses on a clearing. Among the corpses he recognized a teacher who was with them the last night. This was after British cameraman Fitzroy Maclean – a Tito fanboy – had filmed guards giving milk to prisoners in order to present Tito’s troops as “humane”.
Stjepan Ereš had spent ten days in Jasenovac. He had not seen murders himself, but he testified that many had, in that short span of time, “disappeared in the night”.
Dragan Ercegović from Krilo Jesenice testified that he saw hundreds of fresh corpses in the canals around camp in Jasenovac, when he was imprisoned there in mid-1946. He said that they could not have been killed by partizans, because war was over for over a year, but rather only Communists. Corpses could not have been older than a month or so. He also says that mass murders were regularly carried out in Sisak camp as well.
Dr. Ivan Paspa was imprisoned in the Jasenovac camp during 1946. He testified in 1997. that prisoners were tasked with demolishing walls of the camp, but the conduct of the guards was extremely inhumane: it was as if they were tasked with torturing the prisoners. While prisoners were demolishing southern wall, they came upon freshly dug up earth. When they poked around, they found – shallowly buried – bodies in the uniforms of NDH Home Guard. He stated that the area of fresh earth was wide some five to six meters, but very long – he could not say how long, as prisoners were chased away and sworn to silence under pain of death. Still, assuming some 100 meters length at least, there could have been easily hundreds if not thousands of bodies there.
Repairs were made to the camp through mid-1946., indicating that it was to serve as a long term prison facility. Even earlier however camp was in good enough state to be mostly functional – only damage to the camp was from Allied bombing attacks. Systematic destruction of the camp was only carried out in the 1950s, starting in 1951. Nor was there any damage from fighting – Partisans had never liberated the camp in the first place, they only walked into an already abandoned camp.
Msgr. Nikola Soldo from Petrinja was a political prisoner in Stara Gradiška for full 15 years – from 5th July 1945. He states that “Of everything, the hardest thing was digging up 900 corpses in 1946. We dug up some civillians from Zemun: some had a legitimation in the pocket. There were also many Roms, who we were told had pillaged Topola which had been abandoned by Hungarian inhabitants just prior to its capture by partisans. They had also dug up a group of German soldiers with Urlaubscheins in their pockets. Dr. Premru, who led the excavations, was unable to provide an explanation as to when and how these soldiers were killed. It should also be noted that Dr. Premru was a former inmate in Jasenovac, who had – in May 1945. – signed a false testimony to JNA, stating that Milan Duzemlić had testified that Ustashi had killed 1 400 000 people in Jasenovac. In reality – as seen from transcriptions – this was said by Mihajlo Marić.
During 1960s and 1980s, exhumations and other archeological research was carried out in the camp of Jasenovac. But the results found that it were Croatians who had been massively killed in Jasenovac. Understandably, this fact was covered up. Digs had shown that victims had many personal possessions unusual for camp inmates, indicating they were brought there en masse and executed directly. Clothing of the victims is of traditional Croatian pattern: black textile with pearls in multiple colours and many buttons. Also found were significant quantities of gold ducats – specifically, as carried by Šokci on their traditional wear. As the clothes rotted away, ducats remained in the ground.
Jasenovac camp also served as an execution site – or rather, one of execution sites where NDH soldiers were taken to and killed after the Way of the Cross. Columns of prisoners who were moving from Sisak along the Sava valley towards the east were being stopped by the soldiers of 21st Serbian division and taken to Jasenovac, where they were declared Ustashi and immediately executed. On one occasion, Communist partisans had collected 5 000 “public enemies” from random villages and taken them to Jasenovac. Captured people were then taken to a forrest. A survivor of one such execution, who was 16 at the time and survived by sheer luck, testified that a Communist officer told his group how “mrtve ćemo vas baciti u Savu i otplovit ćete do Beograda da se vidi kako su ustaše ubijali Srbe” (“your dead bodies will be thrown to Sava and will float to Belgrade so that people can see how Ustashi murdered the Serbs”). The group was killed by machine gun fire, while the witness was – again, by sheer luck – only wounded. He managed to escape after the night fell, and kept silent until 1996.
Tomislav Nikić Devćić, a nephew of one of members of the Velebit insurrection, had ended up in prison for the same reason. After some time, he developed a sort of rapport with a prison guard Ćurlija. Devćić further tells:
“Nakon dvadesetak dana premješten sam s IV. odjela u kulu. Navečer me u svoj ured pozvao stražar Ćurulija, koji je bio dežurni. Pomislio sam da će me ubiti i opravdati ubojstvo navodnim pokušajem moga bijega. No, umjesto toga rekao mi je: “Protiv tebe nemam ništa. Sin mi je student u Zagrebu. Nisam siguran što se i s njim može dogoditi. Ja sam sirotinja s Kozare. Partizani su me poveli sa sobom a onda po nalogu komunističke partije postao sam stražar u zatvoru Stara Gradiška. Bez škole sam i bez zanata. Onako mladom, svaki nalog partije bio je za mene ispravan. Ti si prvi osuđenik s kojim sam se sukobio. Žališ se na uvjete u zatvoru. Ovo je raj prema onom što se ovdje događalo nakon rata. Zatvorske sobe bile su popođene na tri četiri kata s uskim prolazom kroz sredinu. Osuđenici su na daskama ležali stiješnjeni jedan do drugoga, da se nisu mogli ni okrenuti. Smrad u sobama bio je nepodnošljiv. U jutro u dva sata nakon obroka od 2 dcl juhe od cikle, s krampovima, lopatama i drvenim ručnim kolicima u koloni išlo se na isušivanje Lonjskog polja. Mi stražari pratili smo ih jašući na konjima. U kaljuži se radilo, pilo, umiralo i pokapalo. Nakon posla, tek po ispunjenju norme, kasno bi se u noć vraćali u zatvor. Za večeru bi zatvorenici dobili opet juhu od cikle. Tako se radilo iz dana u dan.
U logoru Jasenovac bilo je još puno, puno gore. Tamo su bili zatvoreni zarobljeni ustaše, domobrani, civili i njemački vojnici. Nitko od njih nije ostao živ. Svi su pobijeni.””
“After twenty-odd days I was transferred from Section IV into tower. That evening, I was summoned by prison guard Ćurulija, who was on duty. I thought he will kill me and justify the murder with my alleged escape attempt. Instead, he told me: “Against you, I have nothing. My son is a student in Zagreb. I do not know what might happen to him. I am a poor man from Kozara. Partisans took me with them, and then by order of the Communist Party I had become a guard in Stara Gradiška prison. I had no school and no trade. Young as I was, every command of the Party was correct to me. You are first prisoner with whom I entered a conflict. You complain about conditions in the prison. This is heaven compared to what was happening after the war. Prison cells were floored on three to four levels with narrow passage through the middle. Convicts lied on the planks, cramped next to one another so much that they could not even turn. Stench was unbearable. At 2 AM, after a breakfast of 2 dcl of beetroot soup, with picks, shovels and wooden carts they went to drain the Lonja field. Us guards followed them riding on horses. In the mud they worked, drank, died, and were buried. After the work, only after fulfilling the norm, we would return to prison late at night. For dinner, prisoners would again have beetroot juice. And this went on in such a manner, from one day to the next.
In Jasenovac, things were much worse. That was a prison for captured Ustashi, Home Guard, civillians and German soldiers. None of them remained alive. All were killed.”.
This was the first time Devčić had heard that Jasenovac was a Communist camp – it was a well-kept secret.
He expected that prison guards and members of OZNA, SUP and KNOJ will be questioned by Croatian authorities after the establishment of “independent and sovereign” Republic of Croatia, but this never happened. Quite the opposite: all the Communist criminals and malefactors were protected from any kind of inqury or prosecution. As a result, their lies could continue unabated.
On one occasion, a group from Croatian Radio Television was called to film excavation of victims of Ustashi terror at Jasenovac. What they found, instead, were victims of Communist terror: metal remains of uniforms most commonly had letter “U”, but there was also insignia of Croatian Home Guard as well as items of Croatian civilians. Graves were quickly covered again, the TV team promptly returned to Zagreb, and these events were never mentioned again.