Stara Gradiška concentration camp

Stara Gradiška concentration camp

Stara Gradiška was a concentration and extermination camp in Croatia during World War II specially constructed for the women and children [The Destruction of the European Jews by Raul Hilberg, Yale University Press, 2003 ISBN 0300095570, 9780300095579, page 760] of Jews, Gypsies, Serbs, and anti-fascist Croats. It was established by the Ustaše (Ustasha) regime of the Independent State of Croatia ("NDH") in 1941 near the village of Stara Gradiška [Le génocide occulté: état indépendant de Croatie, 1941-1945 by Marco Aurelio Rivelli, Gaby Rousseau ISBN 282511152X, 9782825111529, page 102] as the fifth subcamp of the Jasenovac concentration camp.

ystematic destruction of inmates

The camp was guarded by Germans, Ustaše and a few female Croatian troops. Inmates were killed using different means, including firearms, mallets and knives. At the "K" unit or "Kula", Jewish and Orthodox women, with weak or little children, were either starved and tortured at the "Gagro Hotel", a cellar which Ustaše Nikola Gagro used as a place of torture. [Koncentracioni logor Jasenovac 1941-1945: dokumenta By Antun Miletić, Goran Miletić, Dušan M. Obradović, Mile Simić, Natalija Matić Narodna knjiga, Beograd, 1986, pages 766, 921] Other inmates in the Kula were poisoned with gas.

Gas experiments were conducted initially at veterinary stables near the "Economy", where horses and then humans were poisoned using sulphur dioxide and later Zyklon B. Gassing was also tested on children in the yard, where the camp commandant, Ustaše sergeant Ante Vrban, viewed its effects. Most gassing deaths occurred in the attics of "the infamous tower", where several thousand children from the Kozara region were killed in May, and 2000 more in June of 1942. Subsequently, smaller groups of 400-600 children, and a few men and women, were gassed. At this trial, Vrban stated:

:"Q. And what did you do with the children:A. The weaker ones we poisoned:Q. How?:A. We led them into a yard... and into it we threw gas:Q. What gas?:A. Zyklon."

A witness [Zločini fašističkih okupatora i njihovih pomagača protiv Jevreja u Jugoslaviji by Zdenko Levental, Savez jevrejskih opština Jugoslavije, Beograd 1952, Pages 144-145] confirms from her angle:

"During my captivity at camp, especially from May to the end of 1942, the Ustase brought large shipments of Serb women and children (from Kozara). They instantly split the children from their mothers,and sent the women to labor in Germany. If some women were not able to work, they were murdered, as well as did their children. The children were in the ages of two months to 10-12 years. Nutrition and care for the children were horrible. Newborn infants were not allowed to receive any food and died of starvation, other caught dysentery from the spoiled food...the children slept on the floor, half-naked. 30-40 children would die each day. In July, the Ustaše picked 2000 of the children...concentrated them in one of the rooms and strangled them with poison gas...once the children were dead they tossed the bodies in the yard, in a many other cases, the bodies remained in the yard for several days"

Witness Cijordana Friedlender [The Vatican's Holocaust by Avro Manhattan, Chapter IV at] testified:

"At that time fresh women and children came daily to the Camp at Stara Gradiska. About fourteen days later, Vrban [Commandant of the Camp] ordered all children to be separated from their mothers and put in one room. Ten of us were told to carry them there in blankets. The children crawled about the room, and one child put an arm and leg through the doorway, so that the door could not be closed. Vrban shouted: 'Push it!' When I did not do that, he banged the door and crushed the child's leg. Then he took the child by its whole-leg, and banged it on the wall till it was dead. After that we continued carrying the children in. When the room was full, Vrban brought poison gas and killed them all."

According to witness Milka Zabičić, the gassing stopped due to a scheduled visit by a Red Cross delegation in 1943, which did not arrive until June 1944.

Gas-vans were constructed to kill Jewish women and children who came to Stara Gradiška from camp Djakovo in June-July 1942. During Dinko Šakić's trial, witness Šimo Klaić [Jasenovac na sudu: suđenje Dinku Šakiću by Milan Bulajić, Lazar Macura, Muzej žrtava genocida, Beograd 2001, page 308] recalled a "green Thomas", a police-van whose exhaust was linked to its trunk.

Witness Dr. Dragutin Skgratić ["War crimes horrors revive as Croat faces a possible trial", by Chris Hedges, New York Times, May 2nd, 1998] confirmed:

"He (Šakić) directed his guards to pack women and children into the vans, fitted a rubber hose from the exhaust to the interior and drove around and around the camp until the passengers were dead, 'They killed at least half the group like this as soon as they arrived'."


Stara Gradiška became notorious for the crimes committed against women and children. Examples included the torture that took place in cellar 3, the "Gagro Hotel", where inmates were starved, tortured and then strangled to death by a wire. In Šakić's trial, witness Ivo Senjanović recalled how people were locked there without food or water: "The people were gradually dying. It was horrible to hear them cry for help." As for the conditions, witness Cadik Danon [Danon, Cadik (2002). The Smell of Human Flesh: A Witness of the Holocaust : Memories of Jasenovac. S. Mašić. ISBN 8675980175, ISBN 9788675980179.] said:

"At once we spread our blankets and lay down to recover our strength. Around noon they drove us out into the yard and distributed the portion of cattle turnip with water without salt or grease; everything was the same as in Jasenovac. Immediately after the lunch, they thrust us into the dungeon and locked us."

Several criminals stood out, including Antun Vrban, Nada Luburić, Maja Buzdon, Jozo Stojčić and especially, commandant and former-friar Miroslav Filipović-Majstorović, who killed scores of inmates with his bare hands, women and children included.

The women guards were sisters or wives of the male guards and were known for their cruelty, including Nada Tanić Luburić, sister of the first commandant of Jasenovac guard Maks Luburić, and wife of the second.

Clearing the camp

In early April 1945, when the partisans were fighting nearby Stara Gradiška, the Ustaše began clearing the camp, killing some of the inmates and transporting others to Lepoglava and from there to Jasenovac, where they were to be killed. Several survivors, like Šimo Klaić, who stressed in Šakić's trial that Lepoglava "was horrible, as if all evil from Stara Gradiska and Jasenovac had concentrated there", fled from the train cart in which they were to be transported to Jasenovac. Klaić later learned, as he testified in the court, that the other two carts in the transport were torched in Jasenovac [] .

The camp was liberated in April 1945 by the Red Army.


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