THE RIGHTEOUS OF JASENOVAC

The founding of the Ustasha camps in Krapje, Bročice and Jasenovac meant that the valley of the River Sava around Jasenovac fell under a special military security regime. A German armoured train patrolled the railway line between Sisak and Novska, and boats of the Hungarian fleet patrolled the River Sava. The village of Jasenovac itself was surrounded by four rows of barbed wire, and the Ustasha Surveillance Agency (UNS) had its offices and seven prisons for investigative custody in the village. Only a dozen or so villagers from Jasenovac and the surrounding area actually joined the Ustashas.

The villagers witnessed daily transports of prisoners, who had to walk from the railway station through the village to the Command Headquarters of the Jasenovac Assembly Camps, or who were sent directly to the camp in the former brickworks of the Bačić family.

Up to the spring of 1942, when they were still allowed to go through Camp III (Brickworks) to reach their fields, at first without special passes, and later, only with passes, the villagers would try to throw food and the odd packet of cigarettes to the inmates.

In the spring of 1942 the Serbian Orthodox population of Jasenovac, Mlaka, Jablanac and Uštica was taken away to the camp and the Ustashas and their families moved into the abandoned Serbian houses in Jasenovac. A hospital was organised for their use in the village centre, staffed by inmates who were doctors.

Local Croatian people from Jasenovac and the surrounding villages also used the hospital and made contact with the inmate doctors, and so the Ustasha hospital became a central point for communication between inmates in Camp III (Brickworks) and the Tannery.

There were many individuals and families who tried to help the inmates, showing little fear of Ustasha reprisals.