It was only in August 1991, after half a century of silence, that
the remains of the Serbs who were thrown to their death by the Croatian
"Ustasha" into a pit at Sumarici in August 1941 were buried in the
Serbian Orthodox village of Prebilovici, near Capljina in lower
Herzegovina. Tito had forbidden mention of the massacres but, by 1991,
the new freedom allowed the families to exume the pit and bury their
dead. The village, in 1941, had a population of 1,000. Earlier, it had
given volunteers to join the Bosnian-Herzegovinian uprising against the
Turks in 1875-78, and it had contributed 20 volunteers to the Serbian
Army in Salonica in World War I and many villagers died as prisoners in
Austro-Hungarian Empire concentration camps. Croat nationalists,
however, harboured hatred at Prebilovci's contribution to the World War
I Serbian army.
Prebilovci was surrounded on the night of August 4, 1941, by some
3,000 "Ustashi" made up of the village's Muslim and Croat neighbours.
Expecting the attack, the townsfolk had fled to the hills on the night
of August 3, but at dawn the women and children returned to their homes
only to be either captured and herded into the elementary school or
killed in their homes. Atrocities began in the villages including the
killing of 50 infants who were swung by their legs so that their heads
could be dashed against the school wall. There was continuous rape of
the young girls there, and at other locations. On August 6, 150
"Ustasha" under Ivan Jovanovic ("Blacky") were joined by another 400
"Ustasha" from Capljina, and took the prisoners in rail cattle-cars to
Vranac, some 500 to 1,000m from the Golubinks pit, one of many such
natural, near-vertical cave formations in the region.
There the 550 "Ustasha" took small groups of prisoners to the pit
and, family-by-family pushed them into it. The initial vertical fall
was some 27m, followed by a 100m steep slope to the base of the pit.
Small children were thrown up into the air before falling into the pit.
One women is known to have given birth as she fell into the pit. The
newborn infant died with her under the crush of bodies.
One entire family of 78 persons died in the crush of the Golubinka
Pit in Surmanci. And after ali were pushed into it, the "Ustasha" sat
around drinking and celebrating. Only 170 villagers survived.
Remarkably, 45 survived the crush of the pits and escaped later to tell
of the disaster. Only 14 of the 550 known "Ustasha" were brought to
trial after the war, and one of the judges was himself an "Ustashi"
close to the crime. Only six were sentenced to death, the remainder
received prison sentences, majority around three years.
The remains were dug up before the Bosnian-Herzegovinian civil war
erupted in 1992, and a monument built. It has now been damaged or
destroyed by the war. But even in 1991, when the carefully and
reverently collected bones of the dead were being transported to a
burial site, the truck passed under a bridge bearing the hastily-daubed
sign in Serbo-Croat: "Come visit us again--God and the Croats.~
End quote... More detailed analysis to come...