A book by Jasenovac survivor:
"The smell of Human Flesh
A Witness of the Holocaust
This happened in Jasenovac at the beginning of April 1942.
One night I was lying next to my father in the barracks and I felt the smell of roasted meat, as from a grill. It reminded me of the fine pre-war days in Belgrade. Sunday evenings my father used to take us to a well-known barbecue maker called Janicije, to eat small grilled meatballs. We enjoyed the delicious meatballs with onions. Then the seller of candied nuts would come along and we would enjoy such sweets.
I was surprised - how come a barbecue here? I asked my father what it was and he told me that he did not know. In the meantime, I heard desperate cries which were repeated in intervals of two-three minutes. When fatigue overwhelmed me, I fell asleep. In the morning when I alighted from the third level of our plank beds, I approached the group leader of our barrack, who was my father's acquaintance and whose name was Bararon, and asked what was that barbecue smell and those desperate cries during the night. He replied briefly:
- They were throwing live people into the flaming furnaces of the brick plant, and that was the smell of the human flesh.
I looked at him unbelievingly, to which he added:
- Why are you surprised? It happens very often here.
Thanks to my father I got a permanent job in the tailor's workshop, and I was protected from cold, the permanent killings and slaughters in the camp circle. Only one tailor was working in the workshop. Papo was his name. He accepted me cordially and taught me the basic jobs of the tailor's craft.
One morning, when we had just began our work, the workshop's door was suddenly opened and a man appeared; he looked terrible. He was lean, pale and unshaven, in dirty clothes, with a lot of feathers over him. He asked in a low voice whether we would hide him in the workshop, and Papo only nodded. 1 asked him why he was hiding, and he replied:
- I have to hide. Last night I barely saved my life, but if I were seen I would be taken again to the brick plant.
We could see that he was very thin and I took a potato out of my pocket and gave it to him. He took the potato and ate it in a gulp. Ceaselessly he was throwing fearful glances at the door, afraid that somebody might enter. I asked him what was his name and where he was from. He told me he was from Sarajevo and that his name was Mordo-Mordehaj. Tailor Papo was silent and fearful, and continued his work. I was interested in what had happened to this poor man.
- Yesterday they caught me in the camp circle and took me to the brick plant. There were a lot of exhausted people there like me. When night fell, we were taken into a room above the lighted furnace. Then they would push a man with long sticks into the flaming opening. They went on throwing one man after another into the furnace. Luckily, I was among the last, and since it was dark in the room, the fire from the furnace illuminating only its centre, I lay on the floor and slowly crept out from that horrible room. In the morning I got out of the kiln, mixed with the other camp inmates and then came to your door.
We understood that Mordo was in great danger, so I proposed to Papo to hide him in a corner of the workshop which was curtained off by a piece of cloth, serving as a screen for fittings. Papo was just finishing a uniform for a sergeant, whom he expected to come and take it. He told Mordehaj to hide behind the screen.
Not long after that, the expected sergeant appeared at the door. We were standing at attention. The Ustasha asked whether his suit was ready and Papo quickly took off the ready suit from a rack and handed it to him. The latter tried the blouse and satisfied took the suit and went out. Only then did I realize in what a danger we had been. If the Ustasha had happened to wish to try the trousers he would have gone behind the curtain, seen Mordo and learned that we were hiding him. Such a deed was cruelly punished. The Ustasha would have slaughtered us on the spot. When we calmed a bit, I lifted the curtain. Mordo was sitting on a chair and looking absently at the floor. I gave him another roasted potato. Mordo was blinking frequently and his mouth was moving as if he were speaking something to himself. I crouched next to him and I heard his low voice.
- To live just a few days more - he was repeating.
It was the instinct of self-preservation, the strongest instinct in man. I wanted to encourage him so I asked him when he had come to the camp and whether he had somebody from his family. He did not reply at once. He looked at me sadly and slowly, with difficulty, he started speaking:
In September we were taken by train to the camp. We were immediately separated: me on one side, and my wife, two daughters and son on the other. They were afterwards, with other women and children, transported by raft across the river Sava to Gradina; we, men, were pushed into the camp.
While he was speaking his eyes became moist and two tears were rolling down his cheeks. He continued looking at the floor and then went silent. I, too, went silent, blaming myself for asking him at all about his family and thereby making him even sadder. I knew how his family finished, because I, too, was in Gradina. I had seen with my own eyes what was happening there. Whoever came there was slaughtered and thrown into an enormous common grave. All Mordos's beloved were killed, and he was left with perhaps few days of life. I observed him, he looked like an old man, though he was only thirty two.
The day was passing slowly in our fear that somebody might come. In the evening, when the work was finished, we told Mordo that he had to go out, promising to hide him the next day, too. He thanked us for everything we did for him and said:
- I will come if I am alive.
The next day we often looked towards the door, expecting Mordo to appear. We did not speak.
Even the day after we expected him to come, but he never appeared again. We knew that he finished his life in the brick plant's furnace, since the following nights the desperate cries were heard with the smell of the roasted human flesh.
(For a long time after the war I could not imagine eating grilled meat, because it always reminded me of the horrible time spent in the Jasenovac Ustasha camp.)
Other excerpts from the book (in HTML):
Mr. Cadik Danon, Belgrade, November 2006
Click to enlarge.
(Photographed by Petar Makara)
Where am I? PATH:
The truth will free us all.
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First posted: September 26, 2007