The horrors of Jasenovac surpass manyfold anything we know about the dark ages
of the Inquisition. The daily mass murder orgies in which Catholic clergy participated
directly can hardly be put in words. Every day, every night at Jasenovac was a
Bartholomew's Night. Over six hundred thousand men, women and children were butchered
in the most bestial fashion. Too few survived to tell the story.
Whole families, entire villages from Bosnia and Croatia were sent
to Jasenovac system of camps. Very few out of hundreds of thousands of people --
Serbs, Jews and Gypsies -- survived the camp. Mr. Ivanović, one of those rare
survivors, felt a strong need to tell the story of his survival after
he was brought to the camp when barely 13 years old.
One can not understand what happened in Yugoslavia in the 1990's and without
knowing about Jasenovac. Very powerful
forces, including the Vatican and its Western allies, do not wish
you to know.
EXCERPT from pp. 177-178 of the above book.
I was born in 1928 in the village of Gornji Podgradci, in the
municipality of Bosanska Gradiška. My father Mile Ivanović
and mother Jovanka (maiden name Ninković) had seven
children-five daughters and two sons.
Before the war, we were living quite modestly and poor.
My parents were illiterate but intelligent people, and they took
care to educate their children. Until the war, all of us finished
four classes of elementary school except Koviljka, Nikola, and
Ranko, who were too small. Marija also finished a vocational
school. In our village and also in neighboring villages, my
father was highly respected. We were proud of that in him. He
and my mother taught us to be honest, diligent, and honorable.
Even today, after all these years, old people mention our father
When the old Yugoslavia fell and
Ustashas took over, that
honor put him in jail. Immediately, with other respectable
people, my father was captured and taken hostage. He ran
away and hid with friends in the village of Sovjak until the
autumn of 1941 when he went to the Partisans.
After the liberation of Podgradaci, my sisters Mara,
Marija, and Zorka were actively working in the National
Liberation Resistance, and all three of them were soldiers from
1941. Marija and Zorka were honored for their valor in 1941.
At the time of the [Nazi] offensive on [Bosnian Serb majority
mountain of] Kozara, Marija succeeded in
escaping toward [mountain of] Grmeč. And we, the rest
of the members of the family, stayed in the circle. My father hid a weapon
somewhere and came with us...
Except Marija, our whole family was taken to the [Ustasha held
death] camps at Stara Gradiška, Jablanac, Mlaka, and Jasenovac.
ran away from Jablanac to Gredani and later managed to go
across the Sava [a river that separates Bosnia from Croatia Proper]
and come back to Podgradci. From Jablanac,
with other peers, Ustashas took me to Jasenovac. Mother
succeeded to keep the youngest children Koviljka, Nikola, and
Ranko with her when they went through the village of
Jasenovac. The Ustashas herded them by the camp and loaded
them into a cattle car. There they separated my father from
them, and we have never discovered what happened to him.
Probably, he was immediately herded to Gradina [a part of
the Jasenovac system of death camps] and
liquidated. The oldest sister Mara was married and, separated
from us, went through the camp.
My mother with the three youngest children, after much
torturous work and traveling around villages in Slavonia,
happily managed to come home to Podgradci.
I stayed in
Jasenovac from the middle
of July, 1942, until
April 22, 1945--about 1,000 days--when, in the famous
escape of the last 1,060 prisoners, I managed to avoid the
Ustashas dagger or mallet.
I have spent 43 years in freedom, and Jasenovac’s wounds
that were etched in my soul have not healed. The memories of
all that I experienced and saw are indelible. They can’t be
Every year, on that day--April 22--survivors gather, and
every year there are fewer and fewer of us. Live witnesses of
the horror are dying, the witnesses of the hell of the
camp in Jasenovac. At the end of the war, Ustashas tried to
destroy the proof by burning bodies from the massive graves,
but they didn’t succeed in that. Still new graves and piles of
bones of murdered patriots are being discovered. And seeing
those bones haunts me. It’s as if I
hear their voices, "Write,
Ilija, write. Don’t let them forget, because you are living for
If I succeeded at least partly to satisfy that calling, I have
paid my debt to my dead peers and to other known and
unknown Jasenovac victims, and to today’s and future
generations, I have left the truth about the price of freedom.