The Holocaust in the Independent State of Croatia

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Concentration camps in the Independent State of Croatia on a map of all camps in Yugoslavia in World War II. Fascist concentration camps in yugoslavia.png
Concentration camps in the Independent State of Croatia on a map of all camps in Yugoslavia in World War II.

The Holocaust in the Independent State of Croatia refers primarily to the genocide of Jews, but sometimes also include that of Serbs (the Genocide of the Serbs) and Romani ( Porajmos ), during World War II within the Independent State of Croatia, a fascist puppet state ruled by the Ustaše regime, that included most of the territory of modern-day Croatia, the whole of modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina and the eastern part of Syrmia (Serbia). 90% of Croatian Jews were exterminated in Ustaše-run concentration camps like Jasenovac and others[ citation needed ], while a considerable number of Jews were rounded up and turned over by the Ustaše for extermination in Nazi Germany.

Jews Ancient nation and ethnoreligious group from the Levant

Jews or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and a nation, originating from the Israelites and Hebrews of historical Israel and Judah. Jewish ethnicity, nationhood, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people, while its observance varies from strict observance to complete nonobservance.

The Serbs are a nation and South Slavic ethnic group that formed in the Balkans. The majority of Serbs inhabit the nation state of Serbia, as well as the disputed territory of Kosovo, and the neighboring countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro. They form significant minorities in North Macedonia and Slovenia. There is a large Serb diaspora in Western Europe, and outside Europe there are significant communities in North America and Australia.

Persecution of Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia persecution, killings, extermination, expulsions and forced religious conversions of large numbers of ethnic Serbs by the Ustaše regime, various Axis forces and their local supporters in occupied Yugoslavia during World War II

The Persecution of Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia, also known as the Genocide of Serbs, took place between 1941 and 1945. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Serbs were subjected to the genocidal policies of the Ustashe regime in the Independent State of Croatia during the Second World War. The policies included, extermination, expulsion and forced religious conversion.



On 25 March 1941, Prince Paul of Yugoslavia signed the Tripartite Pact, allying the Kingdom of Yugoslavia with the Axis powers. Prince Paul was overthrown, and a new anti-German government under Peter II and Dušan Simović took power. The new government withdrew its support for the Axis, but did not repudiate the Tripartite Pact. Nevertheless, Axis forces, led by Nazi Germany invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941.

Prince Paul of Yugoslavia Regent of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia

Prince Paul of Yugoslavia, also known as Paul Karađorđević, was Prince Regent of Yugoslavia during the minority of King Peter II. Paul was a first cousin of Peter's father Alexander I.

Tripartite Pact Treaty establishing the Axis Powers of World War Two

The Tripartite Pact, also known as the Berlin Pact, was an agreement between Germany, Italy and Japan signed in Berlin on 27 September 1940 by, respectively, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Galeazzo Ciano and Saburō Kurusu. It was a defensive military alliance that was eventually joined by Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, as well as by the German client state of Slovakia. Yugoslavia's accession provoked a coup d'état in Belgrade two days later, and Germany, Italy and Hungary responded by invading Yugoslavia and partitioning the country. The resulting Italo-German client state known as the Independent State of Croatia joined the pact on 15 June 1941.

Kingdom of Yugoslavia Kingdom in southeast Europe between 1918 and 1943

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was a state in Southeast Europe and Central Europe that existed from 1918 until 1941, during the interwar period and beginning of World War II. From 1918 to 1929, it was officially called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, but the term "Yugoslavia" was its colloquial name due to its origins. The official name of the state was changed to "Kingdom of Yugoslavia" by King Alexander I on 3 October 1929.

The Independent State of Croatia was proclaimed by the Ustaše - a Croatian fascist, racist, ultra-nationalist and terrorist organization - on 10 April 1941. Within the new state lived approximately 40,000 Jews, only 9,000 of whom would ultimately survive the war. [1]

Independent State of Croatia Former country, fascist puppet state

The Independent State of Croatia was a World War II fascist puppet state of Germany and Italy. It was established in parts of occupied Yugoslavia on 10 April 1941, after the invasion by the Axis powers. Its territory consisted of most of modern-day Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as some parts of modern-day Serbia and Slovenia, but also excluded many Croat-populated areas in Dalmatia, Istria, and Međimurje regions.

Already prior to the war the Ustaše forged close ties to fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. In 1933 the Ustaše presented "The Seventeen Principles", which proclaimed the uniqueness of the Croatian nation, promoted collective rights over individual rights, and declared that people who were not Croat by race and blood, would be excluded from political life. In 1936, the Ustaše leader, Ante Pavelić, wrote in "The Croat Question":

″Today, practically all finance and nearly all commerce in Croatia is in Jewish hands. This became possible only through the support of the state, which thereby seeks, on one hand, to strengthen the pro-Serbian Jews, and on the other, to weaken Croat national strength. The Jews celebrated the establishment of the so-called Yugoslav state with great joy, because a national Croatia could never be as useful to them as a multi-national Yugoslavia; for in national chaos lies the power of the Jews... In fact, as the Jews had foreseen, Yugoslavia became, in consequence of the corruption of official life in Serbia, a true Eldorado of Jewry...The entire press in Croatia is also in Jewish-masonic hands…" [2]

The Holocaust

A Jewish prisoner is forced to remove his ring upon arrival in the Jasenovac concentration camp. Jewish prisoner in Jasenovac.jpg
A Jewish prisoner is forced to remove his ring upon arrival in the Jasenovac concentration camp.
Ustase executing people over a mass grave near Jasenovac. Ustase militia execute prisoners near the Jasenovac concentration camp.jpg
Ustaše executing people over a mass grave near Jasenovac.

Anti-Semitic legislation and start of persecution

The main race laws in the Independent State of Croatia were adopted and signed by the Ustaše leader Ante Pavelić on 30 April 1941: the "Legal Decree on Racial Origins" (Zakonska odredba o rasnoj pripadnosti) and the "Legal Decree on the Protection of Aryan Blood and the Honour of the Croatian People" (Zakonska odredba o zaštiti arijske krvi i časti hrvatskog naroda). [3] The "Legal Decree on the Nationalization of the Property of Jews and Jewish Companies" was declared on 10 October 1941.

Ante Pavelić Croatian fascist general and military dictator

Ante Pavelić was a Croatian general and military dictator who founded and headed the fascist ultranationalist organization known as the Ustaše in 1929 and governed the Independent State of Croatia, a fascist Nazi puppet state built out of Yugoslavia by the authorities of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, from 1941 to 1945. Pavelić and the Ustaše persecuted many racial minorities and political opponents in the NDH during the war, including Serbs, Jews, Romani, and anti-fascist Croats.

Actions against Jews began immediately after the Independent State of Croatia was founded. On 10–11 April 1941 a group of prominent Jews in Zagreb was arrested by the Ustaše and held for ransom. On 13 April the same was done in Osijek, where Ustaše and Volksdeutscher mobs destroyed the synagogue and Jewish graveyard. [4] This procedure was repeated in 1941 and 1942 several times with groups of Jews.

Anti-Semitic propaganda

The Ustaše immediately initiated intensive anti-Semitic propaganda. A day after the signing of the main race laws on 30 April 1941, the newspaper of the Ustaše movement, Hrvatski narod (Croatian Nation), published across its entire front page: "The Blood and Honor of the Croatian people protected by special provisions". [5]

Two days later, the newspaper Novi list concluded that Croatians must "be more alert than any other ethnic group to protect their racial purity, ... We need to keep our blood clean of the Jews". The newspaper also wrote that Jews are synonymous with "treachery, cheating, greed, immorality and foreigness", and therefore "wide swaths of the Croatian people always despised the Jews and felt towards them natural revulsion". [5] Nova Hrvatska (New Croatia) added that according to the Talmud, "this toxic. hot well-spring of Jewish wickedness and malice, the Jew is even free to kill Gentiles". [5]

One of the main claims of Ustaše propaganda was that the Jews have always been against an independent Croatian state and against the Croatian people. In April 1941 the newspaper Hrvatski narod (The Croatian People) accused Jews of being responsible for the "many failures and misfortunes of so many Croatian people", which led the Poglavnik [the Ustaše leader Ante Pavelic] to "eradicate these evils". [5] A Spremnost article stated that the Ustaša movement defines "Judaism as one of the greatest enemies of the people". [5]

Some in the Catholic Church joined the anti-Semitic propaganda. Thus the Catholic Bishop of Sarajevo, Ivan Šarić, published in his diocesan newspaper that "the movement to free the world of Jews, represents the movement for the restoration of human dignity. Omniscient and omnipotent God is behind this movement ". [6] And in July 1941, the Franciscan priest, Dionysius Juričev, in Novi list wrote that "it is no longer a sin to kill a seven year-old child". [7]

Ustaše concentration camps

Already in April 1941 the Ustaše established the concentration camps Danica [8] (near Koprivnica), Kruščica concentration camp near Travnik [9] and Kerestinec, where along with communists and other political opponents, the Ustaše imprisoned Jews.

In May 1941, the Ustaše rounded up 165 Jewish youth in Zagreb, ages 17–25, most of them members of the Jewish sports club Makabi, and sent them to the Danica concentration camp (all but 3 were killed by the Ustaše). [10]

In May and June the Ustaše established new camps, primarily for Jews who came to Croatia as refugees from Germany and countries which Germany had previously occupied, and some of these were quickly killed. Also arrested and sent to the Ustaše camps were larger groups of Jews from Zagreb (June 22), Bihac (June 24), Karlovac (June 27), Sarajevo, Varaždin, Bjelovar, etc.[ citation needed ]

On 8 July 1941 the Ustaše ordered that all arrested Jews be sent to Gospić, from where they took the victims to death camps Jadovno on Velebit, and Slano on the island of Pag, [11] where they carried out mass executions. The historian Paul Mojzes lists 1,998 Jews, 38,010 Serbs, and 88 Croats killed at Jadovno and related execution grounds, [12] among them 1,000 children.

Other sources generally offer a range of 10,000–68,000 deaths at the Jadovno system of camps, with estimates of the number of Jewish deaths ranging from several hundred [12] to 2,500–2,800. [13]

In August 1941 the Ustaše established the Jasenovac concentration camp, one of the largest in Europe. [14] This included the Stara Gradiška concentration camp for women and children. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C. presently estimates that the Ustaša regime murdered between 77,000 and 99,000 people in Jasenovac system of camps between 1941 and 1945. [15] The Jasenovac Memorial Site quotes a similar figure of between 80,000 and 100,000 victims. [16] Of these, the United States Holocaust Museum says that at least 20.000 were Jews.

The Jasenovac Memorial site lists the individual names of 83,145 victims, including 13,116 Jews, 16,173 Roma, 47,627 Serbs, 4,255 Croats, 1,128 Bosnian Muslims, [17] etc. Of the total 83,145 named Jasenovac victims, 20,101 were children under the age of 12, and 23,474 were women. [17]

Other events

The destruction of the Sephardi Il Kal Grande synagogue in Sarajevo was carried out by Nazi German soldiers and their local Ustaše allies soon after their arrival in the city on 15 April. [18] The Sarajevo Haggadah was the most important artifact which survived this period, smuggled out of Sarajevo and saved from the Nazis and Ustaše by the chief librarian of the National Museum, Derviš Korkut. The demolition of the Zagreb Synagogue was ordered by the Ustaše mayor Ivan Werner and was carried out from 10 October 1941 to April 1942. The two Jewish football clubs in the state, ŽGiŠK Makabi Zagreb and ŽŠK Makabi Osijek, were banned in 1941. [19]

In April 1942, the Jews of Osijek were forced to build a "Jewish settlement" at Tenja, into which they were herded along with Jews from the surrounding region. Approximately 3,000 Jews were moved to Tenja in June and July 1942. [3] From Tenja, 200 Jews were transported to the Jasenovac concentration camp and 2,800 Jews were transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. [3]

In February 1942 the Ustaše Interior Minister, Andrija Artuković, in a speech to the Croatian Parliament declared that:

"The Independent State of Croatia through its decisive action has solved the so-called Jewish question ... This necessary cleansing procedure finds its justification not only from a moral, religious and social point of view, but also from the national-political point of view: it is international Jewry associated with international communism and Freemasonry, that sought and still seeks to destroy the Croatian people". [20] The speech was accompanied by shouts of approval -" yes! - from the parliamentary benches. [20]

On 5 May 1943, Nazi SS leader Heinrich Himmler paid a short visit to Zagreb in which he held talks with Ante Pavelić. [21] Starting on 7 May, a roundup of the remaining Jews in Zagreb was carried out by the Gestapo under the command of Franz Abromeit. [22] During this period, Archbishop Stepinac offered the head rabbi in Zagreb Miroslav Šalom Freiberger help to escape the roundup, which he ultimately declined. [23] The operation lasted for the following week, and resulted in the capture of 1,700 Jews from Zagreb and 300 from the surrounding area. All of these people were taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp. [24]

After the capitulation of Italy on 8 September 1943, Nazi Germany annexed the Croat-populated Italian provinces of Pula and Rijeka into its Operational Zone Adriatic Coast. On 25 January 1944, the Germans demolished the Jewish synagogue in Rijeka. [24] The region of Međimurje had been annexed by the Kingdom of Hungary in 1941. In April 1944, the Jews of Međimurje were taken to a camp in Nagykanizsa where they were held until their transport to Auschwitz. An estimated 540 Međimurje Jews were murdered at Auschwitz, while 29 were murdered at Jasenovac. [25]

Other ethnicities

Order for Serbs and Jews to move out of their homes in specified parts of Zagreb to other parts of the city, Croatia and a warning of forcible expulsion and punishment of those that failed to comply. Ustase order for Jews and Serbs to leave-1941.jpg
Order for Serbs and Jews to move out of their homes in specified parts of Zagreb to other parts of the city, Croatia and a warning of forcible expulsion and punishment of those that failed to comply.


Many historians describe the Ustaša regime's mass killings of Serbs as meeting the definition of genocide. [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] Some racist laws, brought from Germany, in addition to Jews and Roma, were applied to the Serbs. Vladimir Žerjavić estimates that 322,000 Serbs were killed in the Independent State of Croatia, out of a total population of 1.8 million Serbs. Thus one in six Serbs were killed, which represents the highest percentage killed in Europe, after the Jews and Roma. Of these Žerjavić estimates that about 78,000 Serbs were killed at Jasenovac and other Ustaše camps. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., between 320,000 and 340,000 Serbs were killed in the NDH.


The Ustaše regime launched the persecution of the Roma in May 1942. Whole families were arrested and transported to the Jasenovac concentration camp, where they were immediately, or within a few months, killed. Estimates of the number of victims vary from 16,000 (this figure is given Vladimir Žerjavić) to 40,000. The Jasenovac Memorial at Jasenovac, Croatia lists the names of 16,173 Roma killed at that concentration camp. Due to their way of life, many more victims are probably unrecorded. The German historian Alexander Korb and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., both estimate at least 25,000 casualties among the Roma, which represents nearly the total Roma population in the Independent State of Croatia.

Abolition of racial laws

On 5 May 1945, the Legal Decree on the Equalization of Members of the NDH Based on Racial Origin (Zakonska odredba o izjednačavanju pripadnika NDH s obzirom na rasnu pripadnost) was declared which repealed the racial laws enacted over the course of the war.[ citation needed ]

Number of victims

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum lists the following number of victims in the Independent State of Croatia:

Slavko Goldstein estimates that approximately 30,000 Jews were killed from the Independent State of Croatia, with approximately 12,790 of those killed in Croatia. Vladimir Žerjavić's demographics research produced an estimate of 25,800 to 26,700 Jewish victims, of which he estimates that 19,000 were killed by the Ustaše in Croatia and Bosnia, and the rest abroad. [32]

By site

The Jasenovac Memorial Site maintains the names of 13,116 Jews killed at the Jasenovac concentration camp. [17]

Concentration camps

Notable people




Righteous among the Nations

Over one hundred Croatians have been recognized as Righteous among the Nations. They include Žarko Dolinar and Mate Ujević.

47 people from Bosnia and Herzegovina have been recognized as Righteous among the Nations. [33]

See also

Related Research Articles

Jasenovac concentration camp

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Ustashe Croatian fascist, ultranationalist and terrorist organization

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Vladimir Žerjavić was a Croatian economist and demographer who published a series of historical articles and books during the 1980s and 1990s on demographic losses in Yugoslavia during World War II and of Axis forces and civilians in the Bleiburg repatriations shortly after the capitulation of Germany. Since 1964, he worked as an adviser in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

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Ljubo Miloš Fascist war criminal

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Vjekoslav Luburić Croatian general

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Dinko Šakić was a Croatian fascist leader and war criminal who commanded the Jasenovac concentration camp in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) from April to November 1944, during World War II. Born in the village of Studenci, near the town of Imotski in what was then the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, he became a member of the fascist Ustaše at a young age. When the Axis powers occupied the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in April 1941, Šakić, aged 19, joined the administration in Jasenovac. He became the camp's assistant commander the following year, and married Nada Luburić, the half-sister of concentration camp commander Vjekoslav "Maks" Luburić, in 1943. This marriage, as well as his fanatic support for Ustaše leader Ante Pavelić, led to Šakić's appointment as commander of Jasenovac in April 1944. He was charged in the deaths of an estimated 2,000 people who died during his six months of command at the concentration camp.

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