Jasenovac Memorial Site and the Memorial Museum were founded, according to the Act on Jasenovac Memorial Site “in order to preserve in perpetuity the remembrance of the victims of the Fascist terror and the soldiers of the People’s War of Liberation who fell in the Second World War in Jasenovac and Stara Gradiška Camps, and in order to preserve the achievements of Anti-Fascism.” (OG 15/90, 28/90 and Act on Amendments to the Act on Jasenovac Memorial Site, OG 21/01).
Although the events which took place after 18 May 1945 in the former Ustasha Jasenovac Concentration Camp do not therefore fall within the remit of Jasenovac Memorial Site, as defined in the Act, in response to a great deal of public interest and many questions about what actually happened in the location of former Camp III (Brickworks) after 2 May 1945, the Board of Jasenovac Memorial Site initiated research in the spring of 2002, in order to establish the relevant facts. It was confirmed that:
- No documents could be found in the Croatian State Archives in Zagreb concerning the existence of a Partisan (Communist) prison or penal concentration camp on the location of former Camp III (Brickworks).
- About twenty detailed audio recordings and written statements made by the villagers of Jasenovac and those who witnessed the post-war years in the area are kept in Jasenovac Memorial Site. A comparison of these statements shows that they are precise and to a great degree, in agreement with each other, which allows us to arrive at a fairly precise chronology of events and a general picture of the situation on the location of the former Ustasha Camp III (Brickworks) after 1945.
(See: text of the Jasenovac Work Group 1945-1947; Slavko Goldstein; Jasenovac 1941.-1945. logor smrti i radni logor (Jasenovac 1941-1945, Death Camp and Labour Camp), Nataša Mataušić, Javna ustanova Spomen-područje Jasenovac (Jasenovac Memorial Site, 2003 ,175-184)
- From statements given by the villagers of Jasenovac, officials who served in Jasenovac between 1945 and 1948, and prisoners-of-war who worked at the time in Jasenovac, it is clear that the buildings of the former Ustasha camp were in ruins, rendering them completely unusable for prisoner accommodation. Only the east and southeast sections of the camp walls remained standing, along with the foundations of the brickworks and the lower section of the chain factory, while all the other camp buildings were in various stages of collapse, due to shelling and incineration.
- The first prisoners-of-war who worked on de-mining the camp wall and the village of Jasenovac in May 1945 were billeted in the sheds of the former Ustasha food warehouse, opposite the school in Jasenovac.
- Prisoners-of-war who were brought to Jasenovac from Bročice and Stara Gradiška Camps at the end of 1945 and beginning of 1946, to perform various kinds of forced labour, were also billeted in these sheds. In this case, about 100 prisoners-of-war were given various tasks (disassembling the electrical generator and weapons factory, collecting scrap iron, clearing the ruins, removing the remains of the dead from the River Sava and burying them in existing mass graves on the site of the camp, seasonal agricultural work in the surrounding villages, demolishing the camp wall, collecting the bricks and loading them on carts, collecting the barbed-wire from the camp and taking it to the forestry department, repairing the Jasenovac-Novska railway line), after which they were taken back to the camps they had come from. Most were captured German soldiers and members of the armed forces of the Independent state of Croatia.
- In the summer of 1945, in Viktorovac in Sisak, a huge prisoner-of-war camp was established, which was transformed in the autumn of the same year into a penal camp known as the “Sisak Forced Labour Institution”. In the autumn of 1945 about 600 prisoners and prisoners for war were taken from this camp to forced labour in Jasenovac. The external security of the group was carried out by members of the Corps of National Defence of Yugoslavia, while internal security was in the hands of the secret service. The group was known as the “Sisak Forced Labour Institution - Jasenovac Detail” and mostly comprised former members of the Independent State of Croatia armed forces, with a few Chetniks and members of the “White Guard” from Slovenia. Some had already been sentenced to several years hard labour for crimes committed, while others were awaiting sentencing. Among them were some who managed to hide their real identities by assuming false names. About twenty of these were exposed and tried by the competent courts. Those convicted in the Jasenovac Work Detail were handed their verdicts while in Jasenovac and then sent to Lepoglava or other prisons to serve their sentences.
- The Jasenovac Work Detail was accommodated in three places in Jasenovac village – the forestry barracks, the sheds of the former Ustasha food warehouse opposite the school, and in the school itself. They worked six days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a lunch break. They were given breakfast and supper in their accommodation and lunch at their place of work. They did not work on Sundays, when they were allowed visitors who could bring them changes of clothes, letters and parcels.
- The Jasenovac Work Detail stayed in Jasenovac from the autumn of 1945 to the autumn of 1947 (Jasenovac Work Detail I from the autumn of 1945 to April 1946, under the command of Savo Šakan, and Jasenovac Work Detail II from April 1946 to the autumn of 1947, under the command of Mirko Šimunjak).
- From witness statements kept in Jasenovac Memorial Site, it is evident that during this period, there were no killings, either individual or mass liquidations, in the area of former Camp III (Brickworks). It was claimed that small groups were liquidated in the surrounding areas and near Camp III (Brickworks) – in the woods of Zelenika and near the railway line. The victims were returnees or refugees from Bleiburg, people from the surrounding areas who had been conscripted into the Ustashas or who had joined up of their own accord. As they reached home, they were cut off and killed.
- All the witness statements mention the liquidation of prisoners in a column of prisoners-of-war returning from Bleiburg, in late May or early June 1945, in the village of Trebež, 15 kilometres upstream from Jasenovac. These were prisoners-of-war taken away from the Sisak Forced Labour Institution for liquidation.
- Since many bridges had been destroyed, the columns of prisoners-of-war returning from Bleiburg did not pass through or stay in Jasenovac. Only one group is recorded as having been in Jasenovac, according to contemporary eye witness accounts, in the summer of 1946. A column heading for Novska ran into bad weather and their escort sought shelter for them in Jasenovac. They spent about eight hours in the forestry buildings, separated from Jasenovac Work Detail II, before continuing their journey to Novska,.
- In the autumn of 1947 work was completed on clearing the ruins of the former Ustasha Jasenovac Concentration Camp and about 170-180 prisoners stayed in Jasenovac, who were joined by captured German soldiers and members of the so-called “Blue Battalion” (Croatian volunteers in Nazi units). They were put to work on repairing the railway bridge over the Sava and the tracks. This group of prisoners was billeted in barracks close to the railway bridge, near the River Sava.
- When the work was complete, all the prisoners-of-war were taken away from Jasenovac in 1948.