After Germany and its Axis allies invaded Yugoslavia in
April 1941, the Nazis permitted the fascist
and terrorist Ustaa organization to
found the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna
Drava Hrvatska). The new regime was
highly dependent upon German support for survival.
The territory of the Independent
State of Croatia included two constituent
units of former Yugoslavia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina,
with a total population of about 6.3 million.
More than half of the population, or 3.3 million,
were ethnic Croats, most of them Catholic.
The 1.9 million Serbs were the largest ethnic
minority. Most of them were Serbian Orthodox
and some were of the Uniate faith. Other minorities
included approximately 700,000 Muslims,
40,000 Jews, and 30,000 Roma (Gypsies).
During the spring and summer
of 1941, the Ustaa regime enacted racial
laws aimed at Jews and Roma and launched a
brutal campaign to dispossess, persecute,
and murder large numbers of Serbs. Ustaa
units, often encouraged by Catholic clergy,
carried out a program of compulsory conversion
of Orthodox Serbs to Catholicism; resistance
often resulted in murder. Some Serbs, particularly
members of the elite, were not even offered
the option of conversion to avoid being killed.
The Ustaa authorities
established numerous concentration
camps in Croatia between 1941 and 1945.
These camps were used to isolate and murder
Serbs, Jews, Roma, Muslims, and other non-Catholic
minorities, as well as Croatian political
and religious opponents of the regime. The
largest of these centers was the Jasenovac
complex, a string of five camps on the bank
of the Sava River, about 60 miles (97 kilometers)
south of Zagreb. Although further research
may yield more exact figures, current estimates
place the number of victims murdered by the
Ustaa in Jasenovac during World War
II between 56,000 and 97,000.
Ustaa established Croatias first
concentration camps in the spring of 1941.
Among them were Koprivnica, Pag Island, Jadovno,
Krucica (located in Bosnia-Herzegovina),
Ðakovo, Tenje, and Loborgrad. By October
1942, the Ustaa authorities had closed
all of these camps. Between August 1941 and
February 1942, the Ustaa established
the Jasenovac complex of campsKrapje,
Brocica, Ciglana, Kozara, and Stara Gradika.
Krapje and Brocica were closed in November
1941. Ciglana, Kozara, and Stara Gradika
were dismantled in April 1945 as the Ustaa
fled the approaching Yugoslav partisans.
Many of the camp inmates
died of starvation, exposure, and disease,
or were murdered by the Ustaa guards.
In addition, Ustaa authorities handed
over approximately 7,000 Jews from Croatia
and Bosnia-Herzegovina to the Nazis for deportation
to Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen,
and other camps.
After Germany and its Axis
allies invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941, the
Nazis permitted the fascist and terrorist
Ustaa organization to found the Independent
State of Croatia. The new regime was highly
dependent upon German support for survival.
Between 1941 and 1945, Germans and Ustaa
killed approximately 32,000 Jews from Croatia.
The precise number of Jews murdered in Jasenovac
is not known, but estimates range between
8,000 and 20,000 victims. These numbers do
not include Jews whom the Ustaa authorities
turned over to the Germans for deportation
to Auschwitz and other camps.
Further research on the victims of the Ustaa
regime in Croatia during World War II is necessary
to enable historians and demographers to determine
more precisely the number of those who perished
under the rule of the Independent State of Croatia.
Due to differing views and lack of documentation,
estimates for the number of Serbian victims
in Croatia range widely, from 25,000 to more
than one million. The estimated number of
Serbs killed in Jasenovac ranges from 25,000
to 700,000. The most reliable figures place
the number of Serbs killed by the Ustaa
between 330,000 and 390,000, with 45,000 to
52,000 Serbs murdered in Jasenovac.
Germans and Ustaa killed approximately
32,000 Jews from Croatia between 1941 and
1945. The precise number of Jews murdered
in the Jasenovac complex is not known, but
estimates range from 8,000 to 20,000 victims.
These numbers do not include Jews whom the
Ustaa authorities turned over to the
Germans for deportation to Auschwitz and other
for Romani victims are difficult to assess,
as there are no firm estimates of their number
in prewar Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The best estimates calculate the number of
Romani victims at about 26,000, of whom between
8,000 and 15,000 perished in Jasenovac.
There are only loose estimates for the number
of Croats murdered by the Ustaa. This
group included political and religious opponents
of the regime, both Catholic and Muslim. Between
5,000 and 12,000 Croats are believed to have
died in Jasenovac.
There are no reliable statistics on the number
of Muslim victims. The Muslims from Bosnia-Herzegovina
were ethnic Slavs and spoke a variety of Serbian
and Croatian dialects. Croatian nationalists
as well as the radical Ustaa leaders
perceived all Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina
as Croats; the regime aimed to convert them
to Catholicism. They were persecuted for religious
and political rather than racial reasons.
Since the end of World War II, political
and ideological conflicts in the area have
made the documentation and verification of
victim statistics extremely difficult. To
cover the trail of terror and murder, authorities
of the Independent State of Croatia burned
official records from the Jasenovac camps
first in early 1943 and again upon evacuation
Dependable statistics that do exist are based
on the work of several historians who have
used census records and other available documentation
from German, Croatian, and former Yugoslav