JASENOVAC CAMP III (BRICKWORKS)

With the arrival of the autumn rains it became evident that the camps in Krapje and Bročice (Camps I and II in the Jasenovac Camp system) would not survive the winter in their present locations. Preparations for relocation began in October 1941, when prisoners were selected for their knowledge of various skills to build a new camp on the site of the industrial plant belonging to the Bačić family, known as the Brickworks, about a mile east of Jasenovac village.

Camps I and II were transferred between 14 and 16 November 1941. What kind of relocation was involved is demonstrated by the fact that only 1,500 prisoners of the 3,000 or 4,000 who had been in the two camps actually arrived in Camp III (Brickworks).

The transfer of prisoners and founding of the new camp was overseen personally by an Ustasha corporal (later major), Vjekoslav Maks Luburić, who was appointed commandant of all the concentration camps in the Independent State of Croatia at the beginning of July 1941. In September 1941 he spent ten days in a German concentration camp, Sachenhausen-Oranienburg, where he gained an insight into the organisation of the camp work force and the operations of a combined-type camp (production for military purposes, isolation and the liquidation of “undesirables”), which he intended to apply in Jasenovac.

Jasenovac Concentration Camp also fulfilled various purposes, being an assembly camp (for men, women and children from all parts of the Independent State of Croatia), a transit camp (from where some prisoners were sent to forced labour in the Third Reich) a work camp, a penal camp (some prisoners were sent there to serve sentences imposed for crimes) and a prisoner-of-war camp (for captured Partisans and members of the People’s Liberation Movement, as well as homeland defenders and Chetniks), but above all, it was a death camp.

It was the last resting place of most of those who entered it, regardless of their national, religious, racial or ideological affiliation.

In Jasenovac Camp the Ustashas killed the prisoners by cutting their throats, hanging, beating or starving them and forcing them into hard physical labour.

After the Allies bombed the camp in March and April 1945, destroying many camp buildings, Vjekoslav Maks Luburić ordered the liquidation of all the remaining prisoners. The camp and the village of Jasenovac were to be demolished and burnt to the ground, in order to cover up the traces of the crimes committed.

The remaining prisoners were organised into groups to exhume and cremate the bodies of prisoners killed earlier in Donja Gradina and in front of the hospital barracks in Jasenovac Camp III (Brickworks).

The last group of around 700 women was liquidated on the evening of 21 April 1945. The same evening, the camp commandant ordered the remaining 1,073 men to be moved to the building of the women’s camp (in the eastern section of the camp). During the evening, the group leaders were selected and liquidated, and since the others guessed what was about to happen, about 600 men, led by Ante Bakotić, decided to break out from the camp on that rainy Sunday morning, 22 April 1945. Ninety-two survived.

The same day, only a few hours later, the prisoners in the Tannery attempted a breakout. Of 167 inmates, only 11 were saved.