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Source: The Sunday Telegraph - London

Jasenovac - The Croatian Disgrace

by Richard West

The chosen time - exactly a week before the celebration of the victory over Fascism in Europe - was a strong reminder of the events most Croats would like the world to forget. Moreover, this happened just a few months after the last commander of the Jasenovac concentration camp, Dinko Sakic, who had succeeded in escaping right before the Partisans liberated the camp on May 2, 1945, returned to Croatia after a long exile in Australia.

Proud of Crimes
Sakic has never been sentenced for his crimes, nor did he apologize for the evil he did in Jasenovac where at least 700.000 (some Serbs claim a whole million) Serbs, Jews and Roma were slaughtered.

Just the opposite, provoking the anger of Serbs and many opponents of the current regime in Zagreb, he said in an interview to the Zagreb Magazin:
"I regret that we haven't done all that is attributed to us, for had we done that then, Croatia wouldn't have problems today, the people writing lies would not exist...I am proud of all I have done. If I were offered the same position today, I would accept it".

The story about Jasenovac and Sakic's role in it has been recorded in two big volumes of published documents, Concentration Camp Jasenovac 1941-1945. The publisher, Anton Miletic could not be accused of pro-Serbian bias, for he is at the same time a co-publisher of the collection of documents on the crimes of the Serb Chetniks during the WW II, The Genocide against Muslims 1941-1945.

All this explains, at least to some extent, the bitterness and passions that continue to fuel the bloody war in the Balkans half a century after WW II ended.

When in April of 1941, Hitler installed Pavelic as the leader of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), which encompassed Bosnia and Herzegovina, Pavelic declared his policy towards some two million of Orthodox Serbs living there as: "one-third should be converted, one-third expelled, one-third killed". After four months of mass conversion, expulsion and massacring of Serbs, Pavelic established a number of extermination camps, including one for women and children in Sisak.

The Jasenovac camp, situated at the confluence of Sava and Una, had since September 1941, between 3.000 and 6.000 inmates at all times until May 2, 1945 when that number was reduced to less than one hundred survivors. Only a few of the camp inmates were left alive for more than three months, after which they would be hanged, slaughtered, shot, or even burned alive, according to the camp rules.

The largest grave in the Balkans
When in 1942, Hitler issued the order for the "final solution" of the Jewish problem, Jasenovac became the main extermination camp for that part of the Balkans.

Most of the victims were Orthodox Serb peasants who were transported to Jasenovac from various parts of NDH in freight trains. Many Catholic Croats also perished in Jasenovac, including a number of priests who refused to hold the Te Deum service for Pavelic.

The sentry Ljubo Milos, captured by the Partisans, described how in April 1945, he and Sakic tried to remove the evidence of killings committed in Jasenovac and neighboring camps. They dug mass graves and tried to cremate the remains. Executed inmates were usually thrown into the Sava river with ripped bellies so that the corpses would not float.

As it seems that Sakic did not come to Jasenovac until the very end of the war, the first information we have on him is dated September 21, 1944, when he gave the order to hang 20 inmates. When an inmate, Mile Buskovic cried out: "I demand to die in the Montenegrin way, from the bullet", Sakic obliged by killing him with his pistol.

A former Serbian inmate of the neighboring camp of Nova Gradiska, described the events following the murder of the Jew Ivo Folner while attempting escape: "The Ustasha sub-lieutenant Dinko Sakic immediately lined us up.
"After that, Folner's body was brought on a spike and Sakic asked if any one of us had known the dead inmate and we answered that we had known him as Folner.

The War Criminal in the Streets of Zagreb
After that he asked who had contact with him, who had slept with him in the same room, who had been his friend. When nobody answered, he asked to see the list of inmates from which he picked the names of one hundred Jews, and then he selected 25 out of that group. When the two Jews from the group that remained smiled, he called them to come near him, ordered them to lie down, and shot them with his pistol. Those were the Jews Sado Peres and Avram Montiljo".

In his second interview for Magazin, Sakic explains why he hadn't returned to Croatia earlier:
"Not out of concern for myself, not out of fear, but in order not to make problems for the President and the government, for some people could have used my presence to burden the president with the accusation that the head of Jasenovac, a war criminal, walks the streets of Zagreb".

This statement provoked indignation among those who feel that Tudjman himself had tried to minimize the number of victims of the Pavelic regime in his recently published book Bespuca (Wastelands), where he even writes that the Jews helped the authorities of the Jasenovac camp.

The Croatian satirical journal Feral Tribune writes: "Dinko Sakic is obviously not familiar with the Croatian political situation ... He might have saved the President some travel expenses, for the President might have had to travel far in order to award him with some nice medal".

In the British Parliament House of Commons on Wednesday, a Labour MP from Illford, Michael Gapes, raised the question of why the war criminal Dinko Sakic is free, and why should the Tudjman's regime be represented at the London celebration of the Day of Victory over Fascism in Europe.