Eight a long time because the institution of the Jasenovac camp – unpublished testimonies (11): “My mom, I have never even seen you!”
SVIREPI: Ustashas slaughter prisoners in 1943.
In the collection “Jasenovac Camp – Interrogations of Serbian Refugees”, among the impressive testimonies of the survivors of the camp are the joint statement of Milivoj Nikolić (1907) from Visoko and Relja Bilanović (1920) from Čipulić near Bugojno. Their lives crossed in the summer of 1941, when both of them, just because they were Serbs, first ended up in a camp in Gospić, and then, for a full six months, until February 27, 1942, they were in the hell of a death factory.
“We arrived in Jasenovac on the morning of September 2. We were immediately transferred from the station to the camp with horrible swearing and fighting. In the camp, they took away everything we had. If we have that left, because the Ustashas have already taken everything we had worth on the way from the station to the camp: money, rings, watches, etc. They put us in camp number 2. There were a total of 500 of us in one of the barracks. The food was very poor from the very beginning. We only got bread sometimes, and from November until mid-March we didn’t even see it. We worked on raising the embankment. The work was indescribably hard, and the treatment of us more than brutal. At least 20 people were killed every day. Many died of exhaustion, even in the hour while eating lunch. We know that the railwayman Petar Pojić from Sisak, Božo Božić, a landowner from Visoko, Mile Bujan, a miner from Prijedor, Vaso Malić, a barber from Visoko, Đordje Stanković, a landowner from Puračić, Kovačević, a school supervisor from Nevesinje and many others who died there we don’t remember the names. At that time, the Ustashas did not kill in large numbers, but only beat them mercilessly, especially those who, due to weakness, could not do as the Ustashas wanted, “said Milivoje Nikolic, who was with Relja Bilanovic in the camp at the beginning of his testimony. until October 10, when they separated.
Prayed for life
Milivoje Nikolic was mainly in charge of jobs outside the Jasenovac camp. Still, the shots coming from that direction would be clearly heard.
“Although the Ustashas said that they were fighting with the Chetniks, who were across the Sava in Bosnia, the people of Jasenovac knew as well as all the peasants from the area that the Ustashas were killing us. The villagers knew this especially, because they saw us digging crabs and burying corpses. Sometimes they even had to transport the dead by road to the burial place on their own. After one day, when there was a particularly heavy shooting in the camp, I was working in the house of two old men. I was accompanied by one of the better Ustashas, who left me alone. The old woman greeted me with tears in her eyes and asked me if we had survived at all after yesterday’s murder, she treated me to cigarettes, baked me coffee, condemning the Ustashas and their actions. The surrounding Croatian peasants were also attentive and friendly towards us. Whenever they could and wherever they could they gave us cigarettes and food. “If there was an opportunity for them to speak a word to us, they immediately assured us that they were not Ustashas, but ‘Macekovci’ and to condemn the work of the Ustashas,” said this witness, adding that the Ustashas also punished peasants in case they talked to detainees or they give something.
“They were sentenced to 15-30 days in the camp and then they lived with us in the barracks, ate the same food as us, and they even had to work like us, only they were not gravediggers,” said this witness.
A mad woman
Nikolic also told a terrible scene which he attended in the yard of the camp in Gospic.
“There were about 1,000 of us in the yard. On the evening of August 4, a detainee, a railroad worker from Visegrad, whose name we do not know, was killed from a revolver from behind in the yard. There was a dead silence, through which a Chetnik song about Duke Lunet suddenly broke. It was sung by a woman, somewhere in the window of the penitentiary. We heard later that she went crazy. “