Chapter 5


To complement the wholesale manhandling, torturing, and legalized killing of the Ustashi, another terrible instrument, perhaps the most execrable of all, struck with fears an already terrorized population: the "punitive expeditions" carried out by Pavelic's own special militia, the Ustashi, who in no time acquired such an infamous notoriety as to equal the most abominable human monsters of the past. These expeditions destroyed houses and villages, arrested, tortured, plundered, and often massacred their inhabitants, usually without even bothering about any excuse or appearance of legality. Whole districts, such as Bosanska Krajina, Lika, Kordun, Banija, Gorski Kotar, Srem, and regions of Slavonia, were completely laid waste by them. Numerous small towns, such as Vojnic, Slunj, Korenica, Udbina, and Vrgin-Most, were entirely destroyed, while wholesale massacres took place at a number of places, such as Rakov Potok, Maksimir (near Zagreb), the Vojnovic plateau at Bjelovar, the Osijek town park, and Jadovno in Lika. At the last named place victims were wired together in groups of twenty, taken to the edge of a 1000 feet cliff, where the Ustashi killed the first persons only, so that they dragged the others down alive with them.

Pavelic participated personally even against Croat villages—e.g. on December 1, 1941, when Cerje, Pasnik, and Jesenje were razed, on which occasion seven women, four children, and nine old men were killed and thrown into a burning house; or in 1945, when the village of Jakovlje was razed, after most of its inhabitants had been murdered.

In April, 1941, in the village of Gudovac, 200 Serb peasants were killed by Ustashi, followed by larger groups in the villages of Stari Petrovac, in the district of Nova Gradiska, and in Glina. There, in the early days of May, 1941, Ustashi from Karlovac, Sisak, and Petrinja gathered together all males over fifteen years of age, drove them in trucks outside the town, and executed them all.

Often the executions were committed in the homes of the victims, with the most primitive weapons. Some Ustashi specialized in disposing of their charges by crushing their skulls with hatchets, or even with hammers. Incredible but authenticated atrocities were committed wherever the Ustashi appeared. At Dubrovnik, Dalmatia, for instance, Italian soldiers took pictures of an Ustashi wearing two "necklaces." One was a string of cut-out eyes, the other of torn tongues of murdered Serbs.[1]

Mass deportations and mass executions, mainly in isolated small towns and villages, were well-planned operations. As a rule, the procedure was a simple one. Ustashi authorities summoned groups of Serbs under the pretext of recruitment for military service or public works. Once rounded up, they were surrounded by detachments of armed Ustashi, taken outside the village, and executed. In the mountainous regions of Upper Dalmatia, like Bosnia and Herzegovina, women and children were taken to remote spots and massacred. In Brcko, the home town of Dzafer Kulenovic, Ustashi Deputy Prime Minister, the prisoners were executed on bridges and then thrown into the river.

At the beginning of May, 1941, the Ustashi besieged Glina, and, having gathered all Orthodox males over fifteen years of age from Karlovac, Sisak, and Petrinja, drove them outside the town and killed all 600 of them with guns, knives, and sledge-hammers. The following day all the other Serbs were also murdered. The center of the massacre was in the village of Bosanski Grabovac.

On August 3, 1941, over 3,000 Serbs were Likewise massacred in Vrgin-Most. On July 29, 1941, Bozidar Cerovski, chief of the Ustashi police in Zagreb, arrived in the locality of Vojnic; having rounded up more than 3,000 Serbs from Krnjak, Krstinje, Siroka Reka, Slunj, Rakovica, and other villages, he led them to Pavkovitch, where he had them all massacred near a village mill. In the villages of Baska, Perna, and Podgomolje, Bosanska Krupa district, in the summer of 1941, 540 women and children were locked in houses, which were then set on fire.

In the village of Crevarevac about 600 people were burned in their houses. In the district of Cazin, at Mlinici Smiljanic, more than sixty women and children were burned to death. Five hundred people were massacred at Bugojno. At Slavonska Pozega, 500 peasants, brought from Bosnia, were

Ustashi cutting the throat of one of their Serbian Orthodox victims. Notice how a Ustashi is holding a vessel to collect the first spurt of blood and thus prevent their uniforms from being blood stained. The brutal crime—one of many—look place near Cajaice in 1943.

This type of execution was not exceptional. Some Ustashi specialized in dispatching their Orthodox prisoners in this manner.

Catholic priests, friars, and, indeed, even some of their pupils, followed their example. The case of Peter Brzica is undoubtedly one of the most incredible in this category. Brzica was a law student and an ardent member of the foremast Catholic organization called the Catholic Crusaders. During the day and night of 29th August 1942, Brzica cut the throats of 1300 prisoners in the Concentration Camp of Jasenovac. He was rewarded with a gold watch and proclaimed King of Cutthroats. Dr. Nikola Kilolic, a Croat and a Catholic, was an eyewitness to the deed.

From left to right: Djuro Vranjesh, the author, and Slanko Djokie.

Djuro Vranjesh, Orthodox Serb, was born at Selo Cetina, Velika, Dalmatia. His uncle, Illija A. Vranjes, one day in July 1941 was arrested by a detachment of Ustashi, who without even bothering to give any legal excuse tortured him to death, hacking him to pieces, while still alive. This they did with such horrifying fiendishness that once he was finally dead, his nephew, Djuro Vranjesh, seen above, had to use a blanket in which to collect the chopped members of the body.

On the 30 January 1942 the Ustashi descended on the village of Bosanska Ribnica, where Stanko Djokic (above, right) lived with his family. While he was up in the woods the Ustashi dragged his wife and her five children to the banks of the nearby little river of Ribaica, and without even asking them if they wanted to become Catholics, massacred the lot. Six months later, when Stanko Djokic came back, he found the six corpses of his family still lying there where they had been killed. He buried them with his own hands.

killed. In some districts of Stem, in the summer of 1942, over 6,000 Serbs were killed. At Bihac, within one single day in June, 1941, 2,000 Serbs were killed; while during July and August of the same year over 12,000 more were massacred. In the Bosanska Krupa district, in the summer of 1941, a total of 15,000 people were killed.

Such mass murders were carried out in the most systematic fashion, and were often planned directly from Zagreb. At times they were semi-legalized by statutory orders. For instance, On October 2, 1941, Pavelic issued a "statutory order" that in any case of attack against the Ustashi, as a reprisal, without any court procedure, ten persons to be chosen by the police were to be shot. On October 30, 1943, in another "statutory order" he ordered reprisals by shooting, hanging, or sending to concentration camps hostages to be chosen by the police, together with their parents, children, and spouses. On June 30, 1944, he appointed a special Deputy for pronouncing such measures of reprisal. Under these orders a large number of citizens were shot, hanged, or taken to concentration camps without any trial. At Ruma on August 14, 1942, for instance, ninety hostages were shot; at Sremska Mitrovica, on August 19, 1942, another ninety; and at Vukovar, on August 24, 1942, 140 hostages.

The worst atrocities, strange as it may seem, were carried out by members of the intelligentsia. The case of Peter Brzica is undoubtedly one of the most incredible in this category. Peter Brzica had attended the Franciscan College at Siroki Brijeg, Herzegovina, was a law student, and a member of the Catholic organization of the Crusaders (Krizari). In the concentration camp at Jasenovac, on the night of August 29, 1942, orders were issued for executions. Bets were made as to who could liquidate the largest number of inmates. Peter Brzica cut the throats of 1,360 prisoners with a specially sharp butcher's knife. Having been proclaimed the prize-winner of the competition, he was elected King of the Cut-throats. A gold watch, a silver service, and a roasted sucking pig and wine were his other rewards. A doctor, Dr. Nikola Kilolic, himself a Croat, was an eyewitness in the camp when the event took place, and subsequently testified to the authenticity of this astonishing deed.[2]

Mass murders were supplemented by the massacre of individuals and of small numbers, as part of the well-calculated policy of the Government, which had them carried out uninterruptedly in rural districts, with a view to terrorizing the populations. Cases of the utmost ferocity which occurred all over Croatia would be unbelievable were they not authenticated. In September, 1942, the Ustashi carried out a raid on the village of Dukovsko, and killed anyone on sight. Among other deeds they threw eight men into a pit. One of these saved himself by getting hold of a protruding rock. The Ustashi, noticing this, amused themselves by hurling heavy stones at him until he dropped to the bottom and died. Others—mostly people who were related, or members of the same family—were tied together and similarly thrown into a pit. In July, 1941, a youth of sixteen, Slavko Popovic, was taken by the Ustashi to a field, ordered to dig a grave, killed while doing so, and buried in it. On September 20, 1942, a group of escaping people were caught by the Ustashi. All of them—fifty-four men and women—were massacred, their bodies heaped up and set on fire. In June, 1943, the Ustashi, passing through the village of Zijimet, rounded up those who had not had time to escape—seventy-four old men, women, and children—put them into a shed, which they set on fire. All were burned alive. Among them were the aunt and her two children of Vojislav Zivanic, who lost twenty-five members of his large family, including his father and brother, massacred by the Ustashi during these raids.[3]

These were not isolated instances. The Ustashi more often than not massacred all the inhabitants of Serb villages, callously torturing and killing even children, and then setting the villages on fire. In the village of Susnjari, for instance, the Ustashi, after having killed most of the inhabitants, led away about twenty surviving children, whom they tied to the threshold of a big barn, which was then set on fire. Most of the children, of an average age of about ten, were burned alive. The few who survived, horribly scorched, were eventually killed. [4] Eye-witnesses testified to similar occurrences:

In the village of Gorevac, on September 13, 194i, children of about 3 years of age were impaled. In some places mothers threw themselves down with children in their arms, and one stake perforated mother and child. Some young girls had their breasts tied or cut, others had their hands made to pass through them. Men had their ears and noses sawn away, and eyes had been uprooted from their sockets."[5]

On April 28, 1941, Ustashi encircled the villages of (Judovac, Tuke, Brezovac, Klokocevac, and Bolac, in the district of Bjelovar,

Orthodox worshippers, when not dispatched to concentration camps, suffered the same fate us their clergy. Congregations, unless willing to change their religion, were not only persecuted, hunted down and arrested; but, at times, besides being massacred by the Ustashi bayonets or machine guns, they were killed within their own churches.

There were instances even when they were burned alive within them.

To terrorize the population into becoming Catholic, the Ustashi very often hanged lay Orthodox Leaders and their Orthodox parish priests during mass executions under the very eyes of the faithful. This was one of the most tangible methods of "persuasion" whenever the Orthodox proved obdurate.

Those who escaped with their lives were sent to concentration camps, while about 700 that is, one quarter of the total number of Orthodox priests—were murdered by the Ustashi in this manner.

Above, Orthodox priests and Serbs, hanged together for defying the policy of the Ustashi and of the Catholic clergy.

The ordinary Orthodox clergy became the target of Ustashi Catholic ferocity. Priests were imprisoned, hunted down, or simply massacred.

Orthodox priests, before being executed or hanged, very often were horribly tortured, e.g. Father Branko Dobrosavlievich, from Velinn, who had to read the obituary of his own son, whom the Ustashi killed in his presence after horribly mutilating him.

On April 20, 1941, in the village of Svinjica, the Ustashi arrested the Orthodox priest, Father Babic, and after knifing him all over buried him, still alive, in an upright position.

Within a few weeks the Ustashi, encouraged by Catholic Padres, murdered 135 Orthodox priests, of whom eight-five came from one single Orthodox diocese.

Hundreds of Orthodox clergy perished thus only because they were priests of a religion which refused to join "the true Church."

In this photograph: two Orthodox priests hanged in public, without trial, by the Catholic Ustashi.

arresting 250 Orthodox peasants, among whom was Stevan Ivankovitch and the Orthodox priest, Bozin. Having led them all to a field, the Ustashi ordered them to dig their own graves; after which their hands were tied behind their backs and they were pushed alive into their graves. This feat created a commotion even among the Nazis, who set up a Committee charged with the specific task of exhuming the bodies and taking photographs as evidence. The "oral process" was incorporated in an official document of Nazi Germany, under the title of Ustachenwerk bet Bjelovar. In a memorandum drafted by an officer sent to protect the Orthodox population of Eastern Bosnia during the terrible massacre of August, 1941, there was, among other things, the following:

During our journey towards the hill of Javor, near Srebrenica and Ozren, all the Serbian villages which we came across were wholly deserted. But inside the houses very often we find whole families massacred. We even came across some barrels filled with blood. In the villages between Vlasenica and Kladanj we discovered children who had been impaled upon stakes, their small members still distorted by pain, resembling insects stuck upon pins." [6]

In the town of Sisak the Ustashi arrested an Orthodox Serb industrialist, Milos Teslitch, well known for his kindness, and burned him alive. One of those most responsible for this crime was Catholic Ustashi Faget.[7]

To crown all these horrors, some Ustashi did not hesitate to crucify their victims. To mention only two: Luke Avramovitch, former member of Parliament, and his son, who were both crucified and then burnt in their own home in Mliniste, in the district of Glamoc.[8]

Such atrocities occurred with a frequency that shocked even the Ustashi's ideological allies: the Italian Fascists and the German Nazis. This to such an extent that on more than one occasion both the Italian and German authorities not only deprived the Ustashi of the command of whole regions, but actually ousted them altogether, replacing them with Italian or German troops, to prevent a repetition of the terrible individual and mass murders committed by Pavelic's Catholic units. It will suffice for us to mention two typical cases which led to such a replacement. On August 2, 1941, the Ustashi authorities of Vrgin-Most and of Cemernica announced that all Serbs who did not wish to be molested had better assemble on the following day at 3 a.m. in Vrgin-Most,

Mass executions, with the Ustashi, took sundry forms. Often they assembled the members of the village outside, and then shot the lot. Or they shut a whole congregation inside their church and then set fire to it. When in a hurry, however, they became experts at individual and mass hangings. Their expertise was a regular feature of their barefaced terrorization. This was particularly so during the last years of their regime.

Here are a few examples. On August 7, 1944, they hanged ten persons: on August 26 at Jablanac, near Zapresic, thirty-six people. On September 30th, between the stations of Pusca, Bistra and Luka, ten persons. On October 4, at St. Ivan, twenty-nine persons. On October 5, again at Zapresic, five persons. On October 6th, Cucerje, twenty persons. On October 9, at Velika Gorica, thirteen persons. On the same at Svetaa Nedjelja, near Samobor, eighteen persons. On December 28, at Krusljevo Selo, fifty persons.

Above, one of their last mass hangings, in Sarajevo, prior to the collapse of Ustashi Croatia in 1945.

where Catholic priests would be waiting to convert them to Catholicism. About 5,000 people followed this advice. Instead of Catholic priests, units of Ustashi, armed with machine guns, encircled the assembled crowd, who were held prisoners until the following day, when they were all massacred. Among them were thirty-seven children under ten years of age.[9]

Not long afterwards, on August 20, 1941, another unit of the Ustashi arrested all Serbs in the neighboring region of Lijevno, took them to the woods of Koprivnica, between Bugojno and Kupres, and killed them all. A few days later they arrested all the surviving families, whom they also massacred on the same spot. Before the massacre, women and even young girls were raped, after which most of them had their breasts cut and arms and legs broken. Some old men, before being executed, were blinded by way of having their eyes cut with knives or torn from their sockets. [10]

Five hundred women and children were hurled into pits in the hills of Tusnica and Komasnica, while another eighty women and children were massacred in the village school of Celebic. The Italian Fascist authorities were so shocked by such incredible cruelty that, in addition to dispatching their troops to protect the surviving population and occupying the region of Lijevno and neighbouring places, they dispersed the Ustashi and sent a protest to Zagreb.

Ustashi were committing no less abominable atrocities in other parts of the country. In the town of Prijedor, for instance, during the night of July 31-August l, 1941, they massacred 1,400 men, women, and children, leaving their corpses to rot in the houses and in the streets. The Nazis nearby, horrified at such wholesale butchery, entered the town, compelling the Ustashi to leave. The Nazis had records of massacres of their own second to none. Yet the horrors committed by Pavelic's Ustashi troops proved to be of such bestiality as to shock even them: a most crushing evidence that the Ustashi massacres had surpassed anything experienced even by the Germany of Hitler. The magnitude of the butchery can best be gauged by the fact that within the first three months, from April to June, 1941, 120,000 people perished thus. Proportionately to its duration and the smallness of the territory, it had been the greatest massacre to take place anywhere in the West prior to, during, or after that greatest of cataclysms, the Second World War.


1. For further atrocities, see Memorandum on Crimes of Genocide Committed against the Serbian People by the Government of the Independent State of Croatia during World War 11, dated October, 1950, sent to the President of the 5th General Assembly of the United Nations by Adam Pribicevic, President of the Independent Democratic Party of Yugoslavia; Dr. Vladimir Belajcic, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Yugoslavia; and Dr. Branko Miljus, former Minister of Yugoslavia.[Back]

2. This event is described in his book, The Concentration Camp at Jasenovac, p. 282. See also above Memorandum.[Back]

3. The eyewitness, Bojislav Zivanic (father, Duko; brother, Bogoljub) from Dukovsko, related these events under oath before a group of Serbs and Croats, among them Dr. Sekulich, General Mirkovic, and the author, at a meeting specially held on May 20, 1951 in London.[Back]

4. Martyrdom of the Serbs, p. 145, issued by the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese for the U.S.A. and Canada.[Back]

5. Eyewitness: Pritova, Bihac, Bosna.[Back]

6. See Dokamenti o Protunarodnom Radu i Zlocinima Jednog, Dijela Katolickog Klera, Zagreb, 1946. Also above Memorandum to UNO.[Back]

7. Assassins au Nom De Dieu, Herve Lauriere, Paris, 1951.[Back]

8. See Dokumenti o Protunarodnom Radu i Zlocinima Jednog Dijela Katolickog Klera, Zagreb, 1946. Also file of Yugoslav State Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes.[Back]

9. Eyewitness: Stanko Sapitch, of Blakusa.[Back]

10. Evidence given by a survivor, Marija Bogunovitch.[Back]

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