Jasenovac concentration camp

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Jasenovac was a concentration and extermination camp established in Slavonia by the authorities of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in occupied Yugoslavia during World War II. The concentration camp, one of the ten largest in Europe, was established and operated by the governing fascist Ustaše regime lead by Ante Pavelić, which was the only Axis regime in occupied Europe to operate extermination camps solely on their own for Jews and other ethnic groups and without some degree of involvement from the Nazi Party.

It was established in August 1941 in marshland at the confluence of the Sava and Una rivers near the village of Jasenovac, and was dismantled in April 1945. It was "notorious for its barbaric practices and the large number of victims". Unlike German Nazi-run camps, Jasenovac specialized in one-on-one violence of a particularly brutal kind and prisoners were primarily murdered manually with the use of blunt objects such as knives, hammers and axes. They also used gas chambers, much like their Nazi counterparts.

In Jasenovac the majority of victims were ethnic Serbs (as part of the Serbian Genocide); others were Jews (The Holocaust), Roma (The Porajmos), and some political dissidents. Jasenovac was a complex of five subcamps spread over 210 km2 (81 sq mi) on both banks of the Sava and Una rivers. The largest camp was the "Brickworks" camp at Jasenovac, about 100 km (62 mi) southeast of Zagreb. The overall complex included the Stara Gradiška sub-camp, the killing grounds across the Sava river at Gradina Donja, five work farms, and the Uštica Roma camp.

During and since World War II, there has been much debate and controversy regarding the number of victims killed at the Jasenovac concentration camp complex during its more than three-and-a-half years of operation. After the war, a figure of 700,000 reflected the "conventional wisdom".

Since 2002, the Museum of Victims of Genocide in Belgrade has no longer defended the figure of 700,000 to 1 million victims of the camp. In 2005, Dragan Cvetković, a researcher from the Museum, and a Croatian co-author published a book on wartime losses in the NDH which gave a figure of approximately 100,000 victims of Jasenovac. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C. presently estimates that the Ustaše regime murdered between 77,000 and 99,000 people in Jasenovac between 1941 and 1945.

Atrocities perpetrated at Jasenovac

The Croatian anti-Communist émigré, Ante Ciliga, whom the Ustaše imprisoned in Jasenovac for one year, described Jasenovac as a huge killing machine, whose main purpose, like that of Auschwitz, was "extermination", although "the primitivistic cruelties of Jasenovac distinguished this Balkan Auschwitz." According to Jaša Almuli, the former president of the Serbian Jewish community, Jasenovac was a much more terrifying concentration camp in terms of brutality than many of its German counterparts, even Auschwitz.

In the late summer of 1942, tens of thousands of ethnic Serb villagers were deported to Jasenovac from the Kozara region in Bosnia, where NDH forces were fighting Josip Broz Tito's Partisans. Most of the men were murdered in Jasenovac, and the women were sent to forced labor camps in Germany. Children were either murdered or dispersed to Catholic orphanages. According to survivors' testimonies, at the special camp designed for children, Catholic nuns murdered children under their watch by gripping them by their legs and crushing their heads against the wall; these claims could not be verified or certified.

On the night of 29 August 1942, prison guards made bets among themselves as to who could slaughter the largest number of inmates. One of the guards, Petar Brzica, boasted that he had cut the throats of about 1,360 new arrivals.

Other participants who confessed to participating in the bet included Ante Zrinušić-Sipka, who killed some 600 inmates, and Mile Friganović, who gave a detailed and consistent report of the incident. Friganović admitted to having killed some 1,100 inmates. He specifically recounted his torture of an old man named Vukasin Mandrapa; he attempted to compel the man to bless Ante Pavelić, which the old man refused to do, even after Friganović had cut off both his ears and nose after each refusal. Ultimately, he cut out the old man's eyes, tore out his heart, and slashed his throat. This incident was witnessed by Dr Nikolić.